Letters to the Editor

13th April 1997


‘Our roads belong to all of us’

Recently, publicity was given of the possibility of a Pajero or a double-cab being used for a likely bomb attack of the future.

To most genuine motorists who have had unpleasant experiences by the presence of too many double-cabs and Pajeros, the news item may not come as a surprise.

Whoever travels in this type of vehicle, appears to be exempt from all road rules. Being larger in size they can easily get an advantage by bulldozing or intimidating other road users. Even law-enforcing officers are reluctant to prosecute or bring to book such errant drivers of Double-cabs and Pajeros - an ideal situation for a terrorist. The law enforcing officers then turn their attention on the genuine car owners and harass them.

In this situation several unpleasant features emerge (1) The show-off aspect (2) The arrogance of those driving such vehicles (3) The inappropriateness of such vehicles on our roads.

The show-off business is clearly seen from the glamour visibly expressed with such vehicles being fitted with all manner of crash bars painted or electro-plated, plated three-inch diameter steel tubes bent into different shapes and fitted to the cab part of the vehicle, extra lights of different colour fitted above the hood, couple of antenna and of course the usual tinted glass and the cell phone in hand.

The arrogance is visibly expressed by the scant regard shown to other road users mainly because of the size of the vehicle and the driver’s advantage of being seated about three feet above the heads of the car drivers. This is further proved when some double-cabs display in writing things like “TUF STUF” a sign of arrogance.

The inappropriateness is even more clear when some of the double- cabs openly call themselves “OFF ROAD EXPRESS”. In fact in other countries such vehicles are used “off-road” in farms and not widely used in city roads. It is difficult to believe that we have so many farms in Colombo to warrant the use of such a large number of double-cabs. Even baby-farms do not need double-cabs.

Still worse is the phenomenon of using extra large balloon size tyres on such vehicles, some tyres protruding about four to six inches outside the edge of the body. If a man is run over there is no doubt that he can easily end up as corned-beef.

All these comedies imply the need to take a closer look at the man who is responsible for allowing unchecked entry of such vehicles to this country. Certainly they are not utility vehicles and guzzle quite a bit of our so-called “subsidised” diesel fuel and also make use of the advantage of lower road taxes and diesel levy, while the genuine non-profit making private car owner is made to pay through his nose.

A similar look must be taken of the man who happily registers such vehicles unconcerned whether we need them in such large numbers or whether he is going to wait till our capital city is nicknamed as “The City of double-cabs and Garbage”. Imagine the day when all of such vehicles seen in the different car sales centres get on to our roads?

While we leave the higher authorities to deal with the above two gentlemen, there is still one way of checking the growing menace.

These extra large vehicles, double-cabs, Pajeros, extra large jeeps etc., fitted with balloon size tyres will be ideal for our war effort - one way of winning the war faster. So the Army can commandeer each of these vehicles for one month’s free service in the north per year, preferably with the user as the driver. This will then bring down their arrogance and bring them down quickly to earth.

Remember in the late 1980s people hated the Pajero. Many of them ended on pyres using their own tyres. Let not such a situation build up again by allowing such mean advantage to the owners and users of these vehicles.

“ Our roads belong to you
Our roads belong to me
Our roads belong to all of us
To use in harmony”.

Many years ago the fastest moving vehicles were cars. Today racing buses, lorries, vans, double-cabs, Pajeros and even low-bed trailers leave cars trailing behind. It is madness of the highest order not seen anywhere in respectable parts of the world, while our law enforcing officers grin and wait as if in ignorance.

I hope the relevant authorities will open their eyes before the people take the law into their own hands.

K.D.A.H. Nanayakkara,


Was it really free and fair?

Another hotly contested Local Government Election has finally come to an end. The question now being asked is, “was it free and fair”?

At the election campaigns carried out in 1994, the United National Party (UNP) was repeatedly accused of carrying out a campaign of mud-slinging.

As a resident of Colombo it is interesting to take a look at the recently concluded campaign in the whole island in general and particularly in the Colombo Municipal area.

Looking back at the campaign trail of both, the PA and UNP, it was obvious from the very inception that members of the PA and those Independent Groups backed by the PA (with the exception of the DUNLF), carried out a campaign of mud-slinging, slandering and personal vilification of its opponents.

In contrast, the UNP carried out a campaign in grace and dignity, despite all odds, basically pointing out the main factors of misrule and broken promises over the past two and a half years, whereas the state-run electronic and print media was monopolized by members of the government, and even vehicles of government authorities used for canvassing.

Blatant violation of the Election Law was carried out by candidates in the very act of indiscriminately pasting posters on all and every available space in the City, making it a virtual eye-sore.

Further, several incidents where poll cards were robbed, impersonation, burning of ballot boxes, denial of civic rights to vote; chasing away of Polling Agents and mass scale rigging of ballot boxes have been reported.

In the wake of the above, the holding of the Local Government Elections under free and fair means is undoubtedly questionable.

It is ironical that every effort was being made to suppress the comments and criticisms of the opposition and their supporters and the state-run media was being used to an extent which was hitherto never witnessed.

Has democratic values and ideals which the Government is supposed to foster and cherish eroded to such an extent? It is sad to note that in order to stay in power, human values have dropped to such low standards.

Bryan Nicholas

Colombo 4

Duty-free vehicles

I would like to add a few more words to the letter headlined “Give duty-free vehicles for Lankans in ME” in The Sunday Times of March 9.

I strongly suggest that anybody who had remitted 50,000 US dollars or equivalent money in Sri Lankan rupees to the state banks within a time frame of 10 years, be given a chance to import a duty-free vehicle for his/her own use, once he/she returns to Sri Lanka for good. This facility should be given to them once in their life-time and not every five years or so as some others enjoy.

At the same time such incentive to foreign workers, will no doubt encourage them to remit more and more foreign currency to Sri Lanka.

It is a well known fact that workers outside Sri Lanka contribute a lot to the government's coffers in the form of foreign exchange.

Gunasena Dangampola,


Influx of foreign qualified medical graduates

It is common knowledge that many Sri Lankan students who fail to enter into the State Medical Faculties pursue their Medical Education abroad. In the past, the number of such students were a handful. But since the early 90 s the number of students pursing medical education in foreign Medical Faculties has reached alarming numbers. Many of these students are from Medical Faculties situated in countries that comprised the former Soviet Union. Since the collapse of the Soviet Union and Communism, many of these Universities lost funding from the State.

The most alarming sight of these advertisements is the entry requirement for such Medical Faculties are a mere pass at the Advanced Level Examination. At times even with ’O’ level qualification students could enter such Medical faculties if they pay fees for an extra educational semester. This is a far cry from the entry requirement needed to qualify for local Medical Faculties. Almost all these students pass out as doctors within four to five years and return to Sri Lanka and are absorbed into the State Health Service. The most unfortunate occurrence is that no one tests the competency of these doctors before they are allowed to treat patients who seek treatment at State hospitals. All these doctors could do their internship and even post intern appointments without a test of their Medical knowledge. The only examination conducted for such doctors known as the Act 16 exam is not compulsory for doctors in the state health sector. The Minister of Health has stated the State Health Sector is almost saturated and that he will be unable to grant doctors with jobs in state hospitals in the near future. In this context it is only reasonable that the Government employs doctors passing out from State Universities. as much has been utilized from the government budget to educate them. Since it takes almost eight years after the advanced level examination for a local Medical graduate to get his basic qualification it is quite disheartening to note that those with significantly less Advanced level results who pursue their Medical education abroad are absorbed into the Health service almost within five years of their A/Ls.

I think it will only be prudent for the authorities to make the Act 16 examination compulsory for all those who study medicine abroad before they are granted internship in Sri Lanka. This is the practice followed in any country with an organized health structure and also in all the other professions (eg Law) in Sri Lanka.

Shivantha Fernandopulle

University of Colombo

AG’s comments cause concern

The report published in a Sunday Newspaper concerning Attorney General’s file No. CR1/28/94 and the interview given by him has roused the concern of attorneys-at-law, throughout the island. The statement of the Attorney General in reply to a question:- “So you say it is correct to hear a case where your brother-in-law is suspect?” Attorney General:- “Yes of course, subject to the position that you won’t decide in favour of the person. For instance, the rule in the Attorney General’s Department is that you don’t disclose relationships. If you disclose relationships, say to a junior officer, if it becomes known for instance, that R. Arsecularatne’s brother-in-law is involved, it may be in the back of the junior officer’s mind, that this is so and so’s relative. We don’t want that to happen.”

This statement sends a wrong message to our Justices of the Supreme Courts, Court of Appeal, Justices of the High Court, District Judges and Magistrates. This statement of the Attorney General amounts to saying ‘’If you have to hear a case in which any of your family members are involved, never disclose your interest but carry on and do the needful.” This is far from the practice prevailing in our Courts.

Our Judges in the Magistrate’s Court, District Court and Justices of the High Court, Court of Appeal and Supreme Court have a nobler way of dealing with those cases where they have an interest. A Judge of the District Court or Magistrate’s Court, if he comes across a case where the parties are known to him, they often refer the case to another brother Judge or get the Judicial Service Commission to appoint a Judge of another Court to hear the case.

It appears that the Attorney General is out of touch with the normal practices in our Courts. Further, we are sorry that the thinking of the Attorney General is followed by the senior Crown Counsels in the Department. The answer of Mr. Arsecualratne to the question:-

“So you knew this was the case?” (his brother-in-law’s case) Answer:- “Yes I knew”

Question:- “Did you not want to withdraw at this stage”? Answer:- “I did not. What for”?

This is just in keeping with the thinking of the Attorney General. Mr.Arsecularatne’s answer is an insult to all the attorneys-at-law attached to the Attorney General’s Department. From my knowledge of the Crown Counsels, I can assure the public that they are honourable men. Most of the lawyers attached to the Department do not work in air-conditioned rooms. They often travel by bus to their assigned Courts, and execute their duty without favour or prejudice.

The attitude of the Attorney General after the whole episode was disclosed, deserves condemnation.

Instead of seeking how the secret of hide and seek leaked out any right thinking officer would have accelerated the process of law and brought the culprit to Court, brother-in-law or not.

A. L. M. Hashim,


More letters to the editor * Travesty of justice in the Middle Ages * The Saga of the Koha * Captain George Ferdinand - a man of valour

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