The Sunday Times on the Web Letters to the Editor 

29th November 1998

  • It's a lonely and eerie place today
  • Good times only for a few
  • Bloemendhal or Balumendhal flats?
  • Show your guts and not your gutturals
  • Let us identify the disease first
  • Keep up the attack with the pen
  • Truth about Diesel and Petrol Prices
  • Ghastly flaw in the Law

  • It's a lonely and eerie place today

    The tarred road that stretches at a steep angle towards what seems like eternity, is empty. No hurrying feet step on the narrow pavement. The wind does not carry voices hailing each other for cups of tea, or inquiring about lectures missed. The middle-aged woman with the packets of lunch, the cobbler, the old man with his tin can have disappeared. Only the sounds of the birds remain.

    The gates of the Kelaniya campus are heavily padlocked. An eerie sense of loneliness prevails. The atmosphere recalls the quiet of a death vault. A hospital without patients. A school without children. A university without undergraduates. Few other places in the world could be more lonely.

    Nothing remains to show traces of the brawl that had closed the university gates against the undergraduates with such force. The trees and the walls stand mute, not revealing the gory details of the bloodshed that has started at one in the morning on Thursday, the 19th of November 1998.

    Elections were near. Tensions between the rival factions were unavoidable. Triggered by outside forces the violence that erupted had led to utter chaos, until most knew not, what the cause of the fight was. By twelve noon stones were being thrown around damaging passing vehicles and injuring innocent commuters.

    A meeting was held by the authorities at the administrative office and a decision taken to ask the students to vacate the campus before 3 o'clock in the afternoon.

    As buses filled with students left the campus grounds under police escort, the drama that had begun when two students had been tied to a tree, at the round-about called the Thel Bamma, drew to an end.

    Yet the road continues to stretch on. The wind continues to blow, but carries no voices with it. There are no shadows to block the sunlight that falls on to the lecture rooms... the University of Kelaniya remains closed.

    Meanwhile, out of the many questions that come to mind; who was responsible; who started it; only one - who is paying for it - has an answer - the average, harmless undergrad.

    Aditha Dissanayake


    Good times only for a few

    The article titled "Will there ever be sanity in this chaotic House?" in The Sunday Times of November 15, should be an eye opener to those who regularly inhabit the hallowed precincts by the Diyawanna Oya. But will it? Our politicians are indeed a strange lot. Nothing anyone says will affect them. No sir, nothing indeed ever will.

    What can be the reason/s for the sad but steady deterioration of standards in present day Parliament? I believe it is the lack of discipline in every walk of life and in every sphere of activity, lack of moral values and lack of maturity. Lack of literacy cannot be a reason as, even men of learning resort to cheap schoolboy tactics of ridiculing others and perhaps deriving a sadistic pleasure out of it.

    Lack of maturity is a serious setback in Sri Lankan society today. Most of our boys and girls never really grow up, do they? Compared with their western and far eastern counterparts, our young men and women take much longer to attain intellectual maturity.

    Lack of discipline and restraint are nothing new in this country. People are so patient when it comes to waiting for public transport; they will wait for hours without batting an eyelid for the next bus or train. But put them behind a wheel and they are in such a tearing hurry that they create traffic blocks by their own folly.

    We have a long way to go to even consider becoming a developing country. It may be fashionable to belong to the "G 15" but why fool ourselves? We don't really belong there, do we? Has quality of life improved for the majority of the people? For a few, yes. A fortunate few dwell in the most unimaginable luxury while the majority wallow in the depths of agony and suffering, not knowing when they can have the next square meal. 

    We are stepping into the 21st century with a whole heap of burning social issues for which solutions are yet to be provided by the legislators. Increased homelessness, destitution, addiction to drugs, escalating crime and rape including incest are some of the real problems that plague the country today.

    Before tackling all other social issues our politicians should take a long hard look at themselves. They must ask themselves why they are called the people's representatives. The people of this country did not appoint them to serve themselves but to direct the country on the path of economic prosperity. 

    The people of this country appointed them to provide jobs to thousands of educated youth. The people of this country appointed them to create a crime-free environment in which people can live without fear. 

    But nothing of the sort has happened. All we see is petty party politics preceding national interest and cheap rhetoric gloating over past misdeeds. The present day voter cannot be fooled with mere eloquence. 

    Geetha Bibile


    Bloemendhal or Balumendhal flats? 

    Stray dogs have proved to be a great menace to the residents of Bloemendhal Flats. It has virtually gone to the dogs and could aptly be called "Balumendhal Flats."

    Though it is a stipulated condition that rearing of dogs and other canine animals are prohibited in flats, yet residents do not heed such regulations. Most of the dogs are unlicensed and some are even rabid. 

    Several kids playing in the vicinity have fallen victims to these dangerous animals and had to be treated at the hospital.

    Authorities at the Municipal Dog Pound should intensify their daily rounds and rope in these stray animals who could otherwise pose a veritable danger to society.

    A Resident,

    Colombo 13

    Show your guts and not your gutturals

    Women, shouting slogans and displaying placards against abuse of women will never help to prevent crimes against them or to improve their social standing. They must necessarily understand that all sexual crimes, those on women in particular, are always committed after consuming liquor, whereas liquor is always consumed after committing any other crime. Thus crime is interrelated to liquor either as an inducement or a refreshment.

    Therefore, all women should first get together and declare war against the sale, distribution and consumption of licensed as well as unlicensed liquor. Then, not only the abuse of women but also many other crimes, above all poverty, will be greatly reduced, if not eliminated. It is time for women to show their guts, and not gutturals specially when the women have now taken over the economy and social welfare from their drunkard husbands.

    E.M.G. Edirisinghe,


    Let us identify the disease first

    When Chandrika Kumaratunga was elected President in August 1994 by an overwhelming majority, it was hailed throughout the country and there was jubilation everywhere. 

    Thereafter a deputation from the President went to meet a deputation of LTTE in the North. Here again the TV news showed the people of this country the tumultuous welcome received by this deputation. Everybody, not only in Sri Lanka, but also the world over was focusing attention on the discussions of the deputation.

    Alas! all our hopes became dupes. It would be wrong to attribute the failure to the President or to any particular person or group, because this has been the time dishonoured order of events. All concerned have to share the blame. 

    In the context of the 'Package', I would like to recall the text of the speech made by the Ven. Sobitha Thera, opposing the 'Package'. He was reported to have drawn an analogy, an interesting one too. There was a king who had a horse, which was his pride. The horse was limping and the king spared no pains to get the best of treatment to attend to it. But the limp continued. One early morning, the king, very concerned, looked outside his window at the sprawling lawn and saw his horse grazing. The horse-keeper was moving around and the king noticed that the horse-keeper was limping, exactly as the horse did. It dawned on the king, that it was the horse-keeper who was having the ailment and needed treatment and the faithful horse was proudly imitating its keeper. I agree with the Venerable Thera's analogy.

    The need today is to identify the disease . The disease is in my opinion the 'political party system of government', which over the last 50 years has caused enough damage. 

    S. Thambyrajah,

    Colombo 3

    Keep up the attack with the pen

    In The Sunday Times of Nov 22, 1998 two articles: "Did minister get gangster out?" - by Chris Kamalendran and "Lake house reporter attacked again" - by Shane Seneviratne, caught my eye.

    If such incidents are not nipped in the bud, politicians will rule their domain like dictators. How are we to stop this? Only mass mobilization and anti-corruption moves by repeated exposure without fear of future reprisals from thugs parading as elected officials, can stop such acts.

    There will be reactions from affected parties and their goondas. But it is up to every journalist to keep relentlessly writing through the media with public support. Otherwisethe journalists will find it difficult once this kind of rule become entrenched.

    Keep on printing these stories and canvass the opposition, although when in power they would do the same.

    Siva Nallaiah Windsor 

    Ontario, Canada.

    Truth about Diesel and Petrol Prices

    The present price of crude oil in the international market is about US$12 a barrel. Therefore, diesel and petrol both cost about US$20 a barrel, including freight, storage, distribution and (reasonable) administration costs.

    One barrel has 159 litres. One US dollar is now 66 rupees. Therefore, the price of a litre of diesel or petrol at your filling station should be Rs. 8.30 per litre.

    But the present price of diesel is about 50% more than its actual cost to the Government. Petrol is sold at 6 times its actual cost.

    There can be no truth in the recent statement of the Government that fuel was given cheaper during times of higher oil prices, and therefore Ceylon Petroleum Corporation has incurred losses. The highest-ever price of diesel and petrol, even during the worst oil crises of 1970s and the Gulf War of 1991, was US$ 40. For example in 1991, when the exchange rate was Rs 41 to a US$, diesel and petrol should have been sold at Rs 10 per litre. Was it so?

    No !. Then, diesel was sold at Rs 11, and petrol at Rs 30. The huge distortion in the petroleum market, the imbalance in refinery operations, and the massive problem of air-pollution from diesel vehicles we have today, all originate from the misconception (created by Finance Ministers, never protested about by the CPC, conveniently forgotten by the environmental lobby) that diesel is cheaper than petrol. All Finance Ministers during their budget speeches over the past three decades, have suppressed the truth about oil prices. Where has our Energy Ministry disappeared into ? Apparently, no such Ministry exists now. Haven't all those overseas scholarships, Masters Degrees, Workshops, Conferences, Seminars on Energy Planning and Pricing, attended by Energy, Finance, Planning and Petroleum Officials given them the slightest idea of how a petroleum market should be managed?

    Is there any other commodity, in any country in the world, sold at a price six times its actual cost?

    If the objective of maintaining a four-fold price differential between diesel and petrol is to keep the costs of public transport low, why then are private diesel-driven vehicles allowed to be imported ? How many officials who are responsible for developing the national budget and the prices of petroleum products, ride in diesel cars, while declaring in their official reports that Diesel is "subsidised" for public transport, for the benefit of the poor ?

    Dr Tilak Siyambalapitiya


    Ghastly flaw in the Law

    The Law's an ass, there is no doubt,
    From every roof-top let us shout.
    The mother of age seven child 
    Who found her child had been defiled
    By an uncle who took in his van
    The innocent to rape did plan,
    But failing, forced to oral sex-
    All decent human beings to vex-
    In frenzy threw some water hot
    Upon the suspect on the spot
    Was charged and remanded to jail,
    The suspect being enlarged on bail.
    The victim's father is abroad
    And she perforce a hapless ward
    Of Aunt, the very suspect's wife,
    By a strange quirk of cruel life.
    If such occurs within the law,
    Revise with speed the ghastly flaw.

    Mervyn Casie Chetty,

    Mount Lavinia

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