Democracy is like pregnancy. Either you have it or you don't have it. There is no half-way house. Therefore the Draft Constitution conceived and delivered by the PA government of President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga for the people of the Republic of Sri Lanka should be adopted with minor amendments, if any, with the blessings of all sensible and farsighted Sri Lankans, irrespective of narrow parochial party affiliations, ethnic differences and religious bigotry.
The people of our country who can be proud of a literacy rate of 88 per cent (age five years and above - 1986/87) should pause for a moment and look retrospectively at the disastrous lifestyles we have led since Independence in 1948 to date on account of a gross lack of statesmanship among our leaders, thus creating a rolling hotch potch society of corrupt politicians, insensitive public servants and corporate high-ups spawning nearly five generations of disenchanted youth. The introduction of the Sinhala Only Act with Tamil Also, was clearly a recipe for national disaster. Tamil party leaders should now close their ranks in support of the President on this most crucial issue and the Buddhist clergy on their part advise and extend their blessings to our energetic President as they have done for the past 2500 years. On the other hand, any peaceful resolution would of course appear as a nightmare for the LTTE as "..... the LTTE's dilemma may lie on a more fundamental paradox. It may well be that its greatest asset in the past - the unbending, militant vision of Velupillai Prabhakaran - is today its greatest liability. Whether the autocrat at the centre of an almost religious cult of uncompromising martyrdom can function as a man of peace in any democratic dispensation remains uncertain. To date, the record is hardly encouraging."
-Anthony Davis in ASIA WEEK - July 26, 1996.
The recent stance adopted by our Leader of the Opposition Ranil Wickremesinghe, who till recently found a comfortable position straddling the fence, to have a meaningful rapport with President Kumaratunga on the Draft Constitution and with it the devolution of power, is most refreshing. Under this dispensation the Present Official Language law as enunciated in Chapter IV of the Constitution the Official Languages of Sri Lanka are Sinhala and Tamil while English is the link language. This would no doubt ensure "fair play and justice with a sense of commitment in the public service and a respect for each others languages will help understand each one's heart and feelings" - a gem of a speech delivered recently to senior public servants by the Commissioner of Official Languages.
Over ninety nine percent, repeat ninety nine percent, of Sri Lankans resident abroad dearly love their mother country. Whenever I think of her I am reminded of the ancient poet who sang in praise of Jerusalem. Taking the liberty of substituting that ancient city for Sri Lanka please do permit me to recite as follows:
"If I forget Thee Oh Sri Lanka
Let my right hand lose its cunning
If I remember Thee not in Thy time of trouble
Let my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth"
As an affected parent I write to draw the attention of the public to what is now a well known scandal which places large question marks on the Ministry of Education and, more particularly, the Department of Examinations.
Children who sat their London 'A' Level exams this year were shocked to learn that whilst the whole world commenced receiving their results from 12th August 1997, no Sri Lankan results were available. The reason - believe it or not - was that the Department of Examinations in Colombo had FORGOTTEN to mail the answer scripts to the UK. This was only discovered late July and then despatched with the result that even at the time of writing (19-8-97) the children are receiving grades piecemeal as and when their papers are corrected and UCAS informs colleges in the UK where children have applied.
It is scandalous that this state of affairs should have occurred and, apart from the anxiety, stress and unnecessary expense involved in contacting UCAS/colleges in the UK there is a possibility that Sri Lankan students will be placed at a disadvantage due to delayed results. If this youth is frustrated and left wondering about a future in Sri Lanka, very little can happen. As an expatriate living in this lovely country I feel very strongly that the Department of Examinations has heaped shame on the country and as such this callous deed must be investigated fully to prevent a recurrence in the future.
After going through so many letters on the above subject, published over the last few weeks I felt that I should express my views as my two daughters too are attending an International School. Most of the writers do not seem to understand the feelings of the parents. It is obvious that all those articles were written in sheer jealousy or not knowing what is going on in these institutions. Highly qualified scholars who are retired from state service or returned from abroad run most of these schools. True they are profit-making organizations, after all many other professionals' e.g.:- Doctors are selling their services for money. So I see no reason why the people who can afford to, pay for their children's education whether in an International School or for private tuition.
Take a look at the Graduates who have passed out from our Universities. Most of them, with a basic degree get into state jobs and work for very low salaries because they can't spend more money on further education. But some do study further, get more professionally qualified and get into more lucrative careers. This is not done free. They spend a lot of money to come to these standards.
Do you blame all these people, their parents or the state for allowing them to do so? What I want to say is that everybody should have a right to give whatever the type of education they want for their children.
The parents should take full responsibility for what they are doing. They should do a thorough study of the International School. Like the fees, who is running the place, whether there are qualified teachers, whether they have all the facilities a child will need throughout her stay, whether they have extra curricular activities etc. I am proud to say that I as a responsible father found out all these facts to my satisfaction. I even questioned the Principal of the school to satisfy myself and am proud that she was giving me all facts and figures about the school. Then only, I decided that I would admit my child to that school.
When I wanted to admit my second child to Pre-Grade she was 4 Yrs and 9 Months. In spite of my being a very close friend, the Principal flatly refused saying that the Government rule says that the minimum age to enter was 5yrs. Such is the discipline of this International School.
Finally I would say that there is no harm in the government having a little control over these institutions. There can be a Special Authority to monitor these schools and look into complaints but certainly not to interfere with them. Well nobody bothers about the affairs of the Private Nursing Homes and their running, although much have been said. But very few patients or relatives complain.
While very many suggestions are being made about improving the transport services, it is imperative to consider for a special place for women in the buses. Needless to say, the womenfolk undergo untold atrocities at the hands of perverts and other inconsiderate fellow passengers.
We, as a Women's group appealed to the earlier Minister of Transport to run 'Women Only' buses. However, the trial scheme failed for a valid reason which was overlooked by the planners. Obviously the women travellers were reluctant to leave their husbands and boyfriends and proceed alone. Except the few who were travelling alone, the others preferred to stay back to travel in the common buses, however crowded they may be.
The only possible solution for this is to reserve one side of the seats as 'Women's seats' as practised in India and Pakistan successfully. The men are allowed to sit in these seats only if there are no women passengers standing.
Obviously this idea will succeed only if the number of buses plying our roads are increased and the number of standing passengers are limited.
We hope the minister will consider implementing this suggestion to alleviate the suffering of thousands of our women who are compelled to travel by public transport for one reason or other.
I telephoned a Senior Health Officer of the Dehiwala/Mt. Lavinia Municipality on August 12 to inquire about the present status of a complaint I had made over one year ago regarding thousands of bats (Vavulo) who are living in an abandoned apartment and causing serious inconvenience to the residents of Gangadara Mawatha and Templer's Road, Mt. La-vinia.
These bats I also understand are a dangerous health hazard as they can carry Rabies.
The reply I got was that a case had been filed against the offending house owner, and that he, the officer, is not in office to catch bats.
How does one deal with this type of bureaucrat who does not care too hoots for the rate payers on whom he depends for his daily' bread?
The recent astonishing achievements of the Sri Lankan Test team filled me with great joy. As a great admirer of Sri Lankan cricket, and the foster-father of a 5 year old girl in Deniyaya, I feel a sense of pride in Sri Lanka's magnificent achievement of making the highest score in Test Cricket. I also derived some personal satisfaction from presaging Sri Lanka's success.
For, after witnessing the whole of the Australian tour of Sri Lanka in 1992, I forecast, in a report in the journal of the Australian Cricket Society (Pavilion 92), that Sri Lanka would become the best cricket side in the world within the next five years. Two subsequent visits (in 1994 and 1996) confirmed these opinions.
I have recently published an article in the splendid English magazine, "Cricket Lore", entitled "The Aesthetics of Batsmanship - Objective Fact or Subjective Opinion?" In this article, I sought to establish specific criteria by which (a) the most artistic, (b) the most exciting, and (c) the finest batsmen can be determined. Undoubtedly, some
batsmen are more stylish than others. Can style be measured by objective standards? I believe that it can, by giving merit points to specific shots (e.g. 9 for a late cut, 7 for a cover drive, etc.).
Can "excitement" be measured? Yes, I think so. This is easier to gauge than style. It seems to me that it can simply be measured by determining the percentage of a batman's total runs that are scored in boundaries.
According to my theories, Viv Richards would be one of the most exciting players of the last decade, Mohammad Azharuddin one of the most stylish.
On these criteria, I believe that Jayasuriya and Aravinda de Silva would have to be rated within the top 5 most exciting batsmen that this world has seen in the last 30 years.
They are, in my view, the two most exciting current test batsmen in the world today.
It is also arguable that Mahanama is within the top 5 of the most stylish contemporary test batsmen.
Last night I had a beautiful dream ....Ricky trotting smartly, head held high and tail wagging. This is how I will remember that dog we knew for a short time but grew to love so much.
Before I relate my story I would like the reader to understand that I am not one of those crazy dog lovers; I'm not the type that hugs and kisses dogs and takes them to my bed. I'm a regular, tough person but right now, I cannot look at another dog, without tears stinging my eyes - that is how badly I am affected. I cannot believe that we, humans can inflict such misery and pain on a dumb, innocent animal.
One night, a week ago, I heard a dog wail. I looked out of the window and saw a ball of fire rolling along the road howling; I fainted.
This dog cried throughout the night, but could not be spotted. Mid-morning the next day we found a horrible thing huddled by our pond. I have no words to describe it. Battered, flesh torn, testicles charred ... it could not move and barely open its eyes. We knew we had to help this helpless thing.
We took it to the veterinary surgeon who was closest to us. The dog could not walk and he had to be carried. He was treated with antibiotics and we were assured that dogs from the street could endure and survive anything. But, it was too hard for us to watch the torment this dog silently bore.
Not once did it growl or snap at us, strangers; I am sure we would have hurt him many times trying to feed him and clean the wounds. He would only look at us beseechingly. In his position, I would have mistrusted any human that came near me. It was confirmed to us that this was not the result of an accident but deliberate torture.
My daughter Nadine, almost 13, was amazingly strong. She would tie a mask around her nose and care for the doggy - we even named him Ricky, he was ours now. Over the last two days she spent hours feeding him milk through a pipette. She would wash his face to spruce it up before going to the vet.
On the sixth day, the strain was too much for us, it was unbearable to see his rotting flesh, we went for a second opinion I feel proud that we have young people so dedicated and caring. The Pet Vets clinic was different to anything 1 had seen. After a brief examination we were told that Ricky had one in a million chance to survive and we wanted to end his agony. They conferred among themselves and agreed that it was not fair to make this animal suffer anymore. With so much love and tears in her eyes an injection was given while another held the dog whispering comfortingly. In a flash our Ricky was gone.
The doctor refused payment - I don't even know her name. I would be proud if my daughter grew up to be like her.
This morning, Nadine was picking flowers for Ricky's grave. I am ashamed to tell my child that this is what we, humans did to this innocent dog and had tried to pretend to her that it must have been a car accident. I am sure she will not understand how anyone can be so cruel. How can she, when I can't ? I do not want my child to be aware of this hard, cruel world where there are people who can inflict pain, not only on dumb animals but are capable of doing the same to fellow beings, but I know I cannot shield her much longer. As I wonder what I can do to help make this world a better place for our children, the pain-filled, imploring eyes of Ricky haunt me and will continue to haunt me for a long, long time.
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