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Letters


Give due regard to democratic norms and practices

This is with reference to Sirisena Coorary’s interview, reported in The Nation, April 7, 2007:
In his interview Cooray states, “One important thing is to give self government to the people elected in the north and east. For instance, take the de-merger. I think that was a wrong move. Even our constitution says that provincial councils can be brought together. I think it is high time that we think practically.”
It is one thing to look for practical solutions, but in doing so, to disregard basic democratic processes is to veer away from the principles that he himself seems to advocate. 

The merger was brought about without the consent of the people.  No referendum was carried out as was the legal requirement as well as that of the Indo-Lanka Accord. Therefore, to say that the de-merger was a wrong move is to support the merger that has denied equal protection under the law for the people of the Eastern Province.
The Supreme Court did the right thing by declaring the merger invalid.  It is up to Parliament to go ahead with any new proposals for the Eastern Province, but to do so giving due regard to democratic norms and practices. 
Dr. Mahes Ladduwahetty
USA

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Liquor – Bane of the nation

The crime rate is rising rapidly. Most murders or crimes are connected in some manner to consumption of liquor. Both illicit liquor as well as licensed liquor is playing havoc in the country as if in competition to determine which could bring about more deaths.
Recently a man under the influence of liquor killed his wife for having accidentally broken his bottle of arrack. Are we waiting until the crime rate rises sky-high for the authorities to wake up to take punitive and preventive action to curb and control consumption of liquor?

Since the majority of the Sri Lankan people are Buddhists, it is pertinent to start with what the Buddha taught about the consumption of alcoholic drinks. According to the Singgalovada Sutta, the ill-effect of taking suramera (fermented and distilled), which the Buddha calls an apunnayathana (institute for sins), is as follows: loss of wealth, loss of health, becoming quarrelsome, loss of honour, loss of decency and weakening of the ability to think (wisdom).
A large percentage of indoor patients in government hospitals are either suffering from illnesses caused by consumption of liquor of due to liquor related violence.
What had happened to Sri Lankans, who had no culture of drinking? A survey conducted in the Gokarella area in the Kurunegala District revealed that around 34,700 people spend about Rs. 3.8 million a month on liquor alone. If this money were diverted towards their food, clothing, housing and children’s education, how pleasant and healthy would their lives be?

Many hard drinker are no doubt unable to pay off loans, they place the blame on the government and on others, and sometimes even commit suicide. At national level, 30% of the population (that is 60% of all males) are addicted to alcohol. In Anuradhapura, 70% of those who commit suicide are alcoholics.
Some time back in Kalutara, a 30-year-old man raped his own mother under the influence of liquor in the presence of his children. Aren’t such incidences sufficient for the nation to sit up and take remedial measures?
Liquor is threatening the very fabric of our society with moral and spiritual values being cast aside. Why can’t the moralists, law enforcement authorities, human rights activists, peace and health workers, religious leaders and omnipresent NGOs view this problem in its right perspective and warn the government before it gets out of control?
For the last 25 years, successive governments encouraged the consumption of liquor because it brought money in billions to the Treasury. The effect it had on the people, especially those who were poverty stricken, did not seem to be of any concern.

A war on illicit liquor alone would not help to overcome this national peril. What is equally important is a clear cut national policy on the production, sale and consumption of liquor.
For most Sri Lankans, any place is appropriate to take a drink. Be it a religious ceremony or a funeral, both are equally good occasions to booze.
Anti-social, criminal and immoral acts invariably go hand in hand with liquor. It is time that our politicians and religious leaders, the Buddhist monks in particular, instead of fighting other crimes and terrorists, first fight the mother of all evils, the institute for all sins. Otherwise, the country will soon be morally, spiritually and economically depraved.

One should have watched the Children’s Drama Festival and the International Women’s Day Festival at which the stage plays presented with a rural background in general displayed how families are ruined and peace shattered due to drunkenness of men in the family.
Why are we blind to this reality? Is money in the national coffers more important than happiness in homes?
Total elimination of liquor may not be possible. Even in certain Islamic countries where liquor is strictly prohibited, if one so wishes he can obtain the prohibited brew without much difficulty. However, there are no brawls, no liquor related crimes, no drunken driving or domestic quarrels due to alcoholism. That is what we want; not to make life miserable with state patronage.
The people, the women and children should organise themselves to eschew and resist the advance of the habit of drinking. Many cannot afford to lose man hours and domestic harmony. If not for our women, families would have collapsed and the children would have lost their future.
In the present social context, most of a man’s salary, overtime pay and other allowances is spent on drinking, gambling and smoking. The more money they earn, the more they spend on immoral and illegal activities. If one is addicted to liquor, it is his or her family that suffers the most.

Revenue that goes to the Treasury through the manufacture and sale of liquor whether licensed or not is soaked in woes, worries and tears of families and that money could bring misery and mayhem.
Remove free access to liquor and the social status attached to it. Wipe off the illicit brew that kills the spirit of the poor while enriching the dealers and their political accolades. Then the hospital beds will be almost empty of patients, the crime rate will drop, corruption will reduce, election violence will vanish leading to clean elections, and as a result, the men will be sober, energetic and healthy, spending their earnings wisely.
Moreover, people will be spiritually and morally stronger and the essence of human life will be within their reach. If we fail to realise this and act fast, the lion in us will be in ruins.
E. M. G. Edirisinghe

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State sponsored colonisation in the east

The feature article appearing in your esteemed newspaper The Nation dated April 8 under the title “Eastern Muslims face threat of colonisation” has caused much concern to the authorities, at a time when the government is embarking on large scale development programmes with the improved security situation in the Eastern Province.
The aforesaid article allege that the government is actively engaged in grabbing every inch of unutilised land in the Ampara District and adjoining areas to ensure occupation of Sinhalese population from the south. It is also mentioned that state aided colonisation is fast progressing in Pottuvil, Deegavapiya, Norachcholal and Akkaraipattu. The depiction of two government parliamentarians, Petroleum Minister A. H. M. Fowzie and Deputy Minister Hasan Ali with their comments add credence to the article which has caused the Governor, Eastern Province to probe into the mater.

District secretaries of Ampara, Battlcaloa and Trincomalee Districts in the Eastern Province under whose purview the divisional secretaries, grama niladaris and other government officials who directly control the affairs of the population emphatically denied any knowledge of the alleged colonisation process presently conducted or planned by the government for the future. Please find attached photocopies of letter addressed to the Governor by the respective district secretaries which are self explanatory.

On Minister Fowzie, the Governor had been informed minister got this information from some persons but he had not ascertained the veracity, and was contemplating on broaching this subject with the President. Minister Hasan Ali, while confirming that there is no government sponsored colonisation has informed the Governor that there is some rift between the pradeshiya sabhas of Pottuvil and Lahugala which needs to be resolved.

Under the circumstances, it would appear that some interested parties with an ulterior motive to disrupt the development programmes envisaged in the Eastern Province in order to uplift the economy and livelihood of all tree major communities are spreading false information.
I am directed by the Governor to request to kindly initiate corrective measures to eradicate any misconception the aforesaid article may have caused.
S.H. Mohamed (Media Coordinator to the Eastern Province Governor)

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Social responsibilities: Be responsible citizens!

I believe that it is the duty of the government to maintain law and order. However, people also should cooperate and extend their support in this regard. I quote below the following:
(1) Accidents
Whenever accidents occur, people take the law into their hands and assault the driver of the vehicle. This is wrong. The correct measure would be to inform the police and make arrangements for medical relief. Due to this fear of manhandling, most drivers vanish from the spot to avoid identification.
(2) Protest
People have the right to protest against the government or institutions showing their dissatisfaction. However, they should refrain from damaging properties. For e.g., burning/stoning motor vehicles, buildings, etc. We should realise that whether it is a private or public property, it is our money which will be used for repairing the damages caused and by this foolish act, the money which could have been used for development will be wasted.
(3) National flag
The national flag and the national anthem are very important and must be respected by all citizens. But we must bear in mind that national flags and national anthems of other countries too should be respected. Our dignity could be maintained only if we respect other people’s feelings. On several occasions I have seen the national flags of other countries being destroyed at various protests.
I consider it necessary to mention here an incident when India gained independence on August 15, 1947. A question arose as to who would lower the British flag and Mahatma Gandhi, categorically stated it should be done by the Viceroy of India and nobody else. This suggestion was highly appreciated by all concerned and was followed.
(4) Security measure
It is a difficult task for the armed forces to maintain law and order as any lapse could result in disaster. Some people amuse themselves by giving bogus information which creates panic amongst the general public, and also misleads the forces. There have been many instances where flights were stopped due to bomb scares, and there was an incident in Sri Lanka where a female passenger died of shock.
I suggest that the people should realise the gravity of the situation, and not encourage or entertain anybody giving false calls to the security forces and others. All citizens should cooperate in this regard.
(5) Statutory dues
It is the paramount duty of the public to settle their statutory dues. Employers should pay provident fund, trust fund, retiring gratuity, etc., to their employees on time. Taxpayers should settle their dues on time.
It could be observed that our budgetary expenditure depends heavily on income from taxes, and therefore, all should cooperate in settling their tax dues on time. You should be proud to be an honest taxpayer.
I hope the public at large will take note of the above, and act as responsible citizens.
S. R. Balachandran
Colombo 6.

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