The Sunday Times on the Web Letters to the Editor

30th August 1998


S. Asia voice: no thank you

On August 19, the People's Alliance Government celebrated the fourth anniversary of its election to office. As part of the celebrations, the state-run a daily newspaper enthusiastically brought out a colourful supplement with the cover page graced by a life-size photograph of President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga.

The President was designated as "The Voice of South Asia". Coming as it did two weeks after the SAARC Summit was held in Colombo that designated the Sri Lankan President as the chairperson of SAARC for a year, the slogan sounded handy enough. One could debate the logic of all the euphoria, but I am not going into that.

My intention here is to appeal to the PA Government, especially the President herself to look once again at that cover page, and consider what it takes for a political leader to be crowned as "voice" of a region.

The first thing about it is certainly the basic minimum knowledge of what that region is. According to the newspaper, President Kumaratunga is the voice of a region where one of the component units is "East Pakistan".

As a Bangladeshi I am appalled and disgusted, to say the least. I also feel pity for the President's media team.

If twenty-seven years after former East Pakistan emerged as Bangladesh as a consequence of a glorious war of liberation that also transformed the geo-political landscape of South Asia, her media experts are not aware that there is no more East Pakistan in South Asia - it's a real shame. As a South Asian concerned about the future of inter-state relations in this region, I must say with no hesitation that South Asians do not need a "voice" that has no knowledge of history and geography, not least any sense of respect to the identity and dignity of a friendly neighbour.

It was doubly appalling to see an 'apology for regret' appearing in an unnoticeable page and corner of the newspaper the next day, August 20. Apparently persuaded by repeated telephone requests from the Bangladesh High Commission in Colombo, the editor of the newspaper put his signature under the following: "The background map showing South Asia appearing in yesterday's Special Supplement was an old copy dating back to 1950.

Inadvertently, the name East Pakistan was not erased. The error is regretted." Then, after another round of pleading, in the next morning's paper, equally reluctantly he used his editorial expertise (?) to change the line to read: "Inadvertently the name East Pakistan was carried instead of Bangladesh".

I suggest to the Bangladesh High Commission in Colombo that it should lodge a formal protest in strongest possible terms with the Sri Lankan Government.

The matter should also be urgently brought to the notice of the Government of Bangladesh for appropriate diplomatic action.

Ifthikar Zaman

In defence of Super-Secretary

The article captioned "Those who made money during UNP regime and their "Ambassador extraordinary" appearing in The Sunday Times of August 16, and concealed under the anonymity of "Paakshikaya" merits a response not so much for what it says but for the insidious slant in what it says wearing the garb of anonymity.

It is true that during the political regime referred to, there functioned one whom the anonymous writer prefers to identify as Super-Secretary. He was a senior member of the Lanka Administrative Service, vested with the required authority, who exercised his powers promptly, decisively and effectively so that he was able to deliver results while others wallowed in indecisiveness and preferred to engage in discussions without reaching decisions.

On the officer, whose appointment the anonymous commentator questions, the facts are plain enough. At this time there remained a critical issue of vital interest to Sri Lanka concerning the nature, the scale and the enforcement of quota limitation on the import of garments into USA.

In the result, the officer, whose appointment is under issue saved the day and secured for Sri Lanka garment industry the benefits it still enjoys. If the anonymous Paakshikaya wants to know the truth, instead of indulging in carping diatribe, he should enlighten himself by seeking from the garment exporters to USA the correct knowledge he deplorably lacks.

If he will shed his convenient anonymous cloak and disclose his identity in any subsequent response, he can expect an identified response from.

Anti Humbug,

Bouquet for AirLanka

At a time when brickbats are the norm, I would like to place on record, my appreciation of the exemplary manner in which a recent difficult situation was handled by Air Lanka at Heathrow.

I was a passenger on UL 506 on Sunday August 16, scheduled for departure at 10.55. Immediately prior to boarding, we were informed of a delay due to a technical fault ( a defective wheel) Two hours passed and anxiety set in. Meanwhile an Air Lanka staffer was seen moving amongst passengers assuring them that they would be kept informed. This personal touch, as opposed to blunt public address announcement, was much appreciated.

Passengers grouped together and demanded some light refreshment. The Air Lanka representative who I now know to be Station Manager, Vernon Abeywardena, responded very quietly. He made radio contact with aircraft, visible from the lounge and urged the engineers to report back with a time frame. We were then courteously reassured that the delay would not be more than a further two hours and that passengers were welcome to a complimentary lunch at any of the departure lounge restaurants. We boarded the aircraft by 3 pm and were further delayed from take off only because we had lost our slot in the world's busiest airport.

In conclusion, it was indeed "Usually Late" but made bearable by sensitive and efficient public relations. Well done!

L. C. Wickramasinghe.

It's a survival of the fittest

The strength and the solidarity of a Government, lies in the ability to keep the people contented without giving rise to misdemeanours and faux-pas which are quite unprovoked and unnecessary. These are the fundamental principles which need to be preserved without violations which are totally inconsistent with good government. Arrogance and the sense of power are often responsible for such situations which can well be avoided.

Some instances from the recent past cry to high heaven for justice and decency. The appointment of a Judge from the academic field with limited experience, raised a hue and cry and an unprecedented protest from all quarters - the legal profession, judges and all sane persons who cherished the ideals of an judiciary comprised of legal luminaries.

It was evident that the sponsor in this case was a pre-eminent legal expert who is floundering in some difficulty at the moment.

As for the eating, drinking and idling pensioners, one has only to see one of them on his bicycle going out to buy a pound of bread at the current price to observe his plight.

He can even pick the crumbs from Marie Antoinette's cake, but he has a long way to go to feed the family. There is no time at all to indulge in the pleasures of idling.

Hence he has to find some supplementary income either as a scribe or as a shop assistant etc. to keep body and soul together and ward off the pangs of hunger. It is survival of the fittest in an uneven society.

Citizen Silva

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