Letters to the Editor

15th June, 1997

Mirror Magazine


A nation called 'home'

Recently I met a high ranking officer of the Sri Lankan Army and the discussion turned to military matters..... Here was a man highly decorated by the government, a genius behind many of the military planning in recent times and very high on the LTTE hit list. He told me that after he took office, he had pacified his area of control. But I wonder on the futility of Eelam War 3.

I told him in a decade, if not a couple of years from now, the same area prised with so much bloodshed and sacrifice will be controlled by his erstwhile enemy. His unspoken answer doubtless would have been "ours is not to question why, but to do and die." Such is the nature of war and such is the nature of politics. Afterall, war is politics, a reason for enjoying high living standards as economic refugees abroad and it is good business, at least for some people.

Next year, Sri Lanka will celebrate 50 years of independence. People need freedom. Yes, but freedom implies the freedom to live by the choices we make and the responsibility for those choices.

I met an old Tamil gentleman who wants to go back to Jaffna. I asked him why. He said, "It is true there is no electricity or pipe-borne water there; houses are damaged, medicine is scarce and peoples' lives are ruined, but it is still home to me and where I belong...... to me, this war is futile. It represents a war that seems ultimately to be a futile gamble with the lives of precious men and women, like many other things in this country, another lottery. Few winners, many losers.

A nation is not about soil or territory. It is about people. What is distinctively Sri Lankan is not the topography of the land, but the ethos of a people; are we tolerant of dissent? Home is where the heart is; and our heart should be with the people. If the Jaffna people do not welcome the presence of the Sri Lankan Army, they should be permitted to choose their own saviours. Afterall, who are we supposed to be liberating.

A nation is hallowed by the visit of the Lord Buddha only if his philosophy is made evident in the lives of his followers. This craze for 'mine' and 'ours' and subsequent alienation of 'others,' is another aspect of 'thanha'. People who have the knowledge must set the example.

In this nation of competing nationalism, where we are defined as Sinhalese or Tamils first, and as Sri Lankans a losing second; I prefer the vision of Edith Covell who said in the midst of another war (was it during world war 1)

"To me, patriotism is not enough. I must have no hatred in my heart". The only way to defeat an idea, is by a more satisfying idea.

Shantha Pieris


Shock treatment for Srimani

Srimani Athulathmudali, the former Minister of Transport, Environment and Women's Affairs has apparently received shock treatment during the recent cabinet reshuffle. Her performance as a Minister of the People's Alliance Government had been good and transparent.

But such personalities were held in high esteem only upto Dudley Senanayake's last cabinet which was formed with patriotic men like M.D. Banda, U.B. Wanninayake and the Prime Minister himself. They were not academics, master strategists, far sighted visionaries, economic wizards or super efficient politicans. But they were regarded as thoroughly honest, sincere and hard working representatives of the people.

Perhaps after a long lapse, Srimani shone brightly in such a political firmament as a pleasant and candid member of parliament. The exceedingly high percentage of votes she received during the last general election bear testimony to that fact. It was her first attempt to enter parliament and she was swept in with a massive flood of votes from the Colombo District. Lalith Athulathmudali's genuine love for the country also could have inspired her to serve the people.

The majority of voters in the Ratmalana electorate and others from the surrounding areas in the Colombo District who elected Srimani have been rebuffed by the People's Alliance. Srimani's massive vote haul pushed the presidential candidate over and above the expected percentage. Therefore the virtual sacking of Minister Athulathmudali is like throwing the chair at the people who voted for it in the Colombo District and elsewhere.

She now shares the fate of her late husband who campaigned bravely to end the era of violence and the fear psychosis that enveloped the whole country. She has also joined the former LSSP stalwarts, all popular political giants in their heyday, who were cast into an eternal political wilderness inspite of them being held in high esteem by the people. Time has not yet healed the wounds of that shocking political manoeuvre. But Srimani seems to be organising her party to fight back the injustice meted out to them by not calling for explanation or holding a disciplinary inquiry before allegedly breaking the agreement within the People's Alliance.

Meanwhile, the dearth of experienced politicians and professionals in all cabinets of Ministers since independence seems to be the only consistency in the most important group of legislators that take decisions which affect even the day to day life of people for better or for worse.

Sunil J. Peiris


This town of misery

Unlike other municipal towns, Negombo has been in a continuous 'recession' due to the attitude of 'dolce far niente' adopted by the city Fathers. Bad roads, unsatisfactory garbage disposal, the mosquito menance, unclean beaches, uncontrolled sea erosion, a neglected public playground which has now become a squatter's settlement, creating a serious health hazard in a populated area, unreasonable levying of taxes sans an equitable return in the provision of amenities etc. are a few of the innumerable shortcomings.

To add to our misery, Negombo has had no MP for quite some time. Those elected over the past decades were of course all 'Honourable Men' but, unfortunately, they would not descend from their ivory towers to help a lame dog over the stile, but would turn a blind eye to the operation of hooch joints or casino gambling parlours.

The main Post Office in Negombo has for long decades been housed in a centuries old Dutch building at one end of Main Street aloof from the commercial centre. Facilities for the staff and the public have been woefully inadequate.

Two decades back, The Union of Post & Telecommunication Officers - one of those TU's which has never been tainted by politics of any hue - interviewed the PMG, and obtained approval to make an in-depth study and submit its recommendations. This was done. A plot of land adjacent to the Negombo Railway Station was found which in extent and location was ideally suitable for a Central Post Office. A valuation for the land was obtained from the Govt. Valuer and the owner of the land consented to dispose of the land accordingly.

Unfortunately, the Local MP vetoed the issue, stating that if the Post Office was moved from its present location (which was a stone's throw from the Courts of Law) Attorneys-at-law would have to go out of their way to purchase revenue stamps for their work.

Subsequently, the building for the local branch of the Bank of Ceylon was erected at this same site.

In the absence of an MP., Negombo has retreated in all its activities.

O tempora! O mores!

A Resident


It doesn't hurt to be polite

I write with reference to an incident that happened to me on May 16 at around 5.45 pm in Colombo 7. As I do daily, after work I was awaiting my van to leave for home, but since it was a very rainy day and traffic being very heavy, I must have waited for about 30 minutes or so since the van was delayed.

While I was waiting, two men covered completely in rain coats and normal helmets came up to me riding on quite a big mobike along the pavement and almost knocked me down. When I looked at them they wanted to know what I was doing there. I wanted to tell them it was none of their business, but then again to avoid an incident, I just told them why I was waiting.

Then they asked me for my ID card. Then again completely annoyed, I ignored them until the rider yelled at me demanding it about three times.

When I was just about to give in since I didn't want to be yelled at for no reason at all, I noticed the word "Police" on the side of the mike, but I guess it was too late then and then they used very harsh language at me. Had I known and was able to see that they were from the Police I would not have refused to co-operate.

What I would like to point out here is that:

1. It would have been very pleasant indeed if they came up to me, told me that they were from the police and then asked me for my ID, without scaring the living daylights out of me.

2. If they want the general public's support, there is no way they will get it if this is the way they are to treat us.

3. There is a way of speaking to a female and I like to point out that this is not the first such encounter I had with the Cinnamon Gardens Police.

4. Even if such an incident occurred accidentally, I would have felt a real admiration towards them, if they had apologized and were nice to me subsequently, without yelling at me and having all the traffic come to a standstill to watch me being treated that way.

Michelle Gunesekara


Why this indifference?

The residents of Nawala are experiencing a rapid deterioration in the basic services provided particularly by the Local Government Authority, now elevated to the status of a Municipal Council. The service afforded by other authorities also responsible for providing services and amenities to the residents of Nawala has been most unsatisfactory and disappointing.

Nawala is ravaged and plagued by mosquitoes. There are no meaningful arrangements whatsoever for systematic spraying of malathion, despite the Government Health Authorities regularly advising of the dangers of Malaria and Dengue. The waterlogged areas, discarded cans and receptacles which are ideal breeding places for mosquitoes are never sprayed.

Nawala is dotted with garages, welding shops and factories which have sprung up all over. In residential areas these garages and welding shops are permitted to operate unabated despite these establishments being unlicensed and not provided with basic fire precautionary measures. They are positive fire and health hazards. Mushroom garment factories operate without the required licence. Apparently both the U. D. A. and related authorities are indifferent and not concerned that these unauthorised establishments are set up in close proximity to dwellings. The inconvenience to the rate payers in the immediate neighbourhood is apparently of no concern to the local and Government Authorities. Some of these establishments work right through the night and the noise caused is a positive disturbance.

The road maintenance is afforded very low priority. Only the roads that lead to the Parliament are their concern.

Electricity failures occur with disturbing regularity both during the day and night.

The attitude of those in the various departments of the MC office is most disappointing. Most of them are indifferent and written requets are rarely actioned.

Hema Ratdeniya


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