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The country is bleeding to death

The founding Prime Minister of Singapore, Lee Kwan Yew, has admitted that the choosing of English in preference to Chinese or Malay made Singapore what it is today. This is in comparison to the failed states that adopted the language of the majority to please the majority community just to grab power, thereby earning the wrath of the remainder.

This revelation of a stark truth by the head of a highly successful state leaves ample evidence for the now failed states to ponder into their past misdeeds in the name of nationalism. Sri Lanka, nay known as Ceylon then, has been cited as a failed state with racial, language, strife and religious conflict due to its romantic ideas to revive a mythical past of greatness and culture.

Be that as it may, the wrongs committed thus far by the state under the two major political parties at regular intervals taking turns whenever they come to power by every means possible brought this land to the edge of disaster without ever regretting their unpardonable sins and follies committed in the name of one nation, one language, one race and one religion merely to achieve and hold on to power.

However in this context the rare unprecedented apology tendered by the Prime Minister Ratnasiri Wickremanayake on behalf of the government for evicting Tamils from the lodges of Colombo on June 7 deserves the highest of praise from every Tamil in Colombo and more so from the victims of this dastardly inhuman deed.

Retired Major General Lalin Fernando while writing on the subject to the press a few dates later showered bountiful praises on the Premier for his frank and sincere apology for the unwarranted incident and went on to add a soul stirring confession on the atrocities committed in the past on the Tamil community.

This is the best time as any for every Sinhalese politician to apologise in a similar manner for all the wrongs done to the Tamils since independence when they pandered to the majority to capture power. The wrongs include the violence in the racial riots of 1956, 1958, 1977, 1981 and 1983, the opposition to pacts which would have resolved the differences that kept the Tamils from sharing state power such as the B-C and the D-C pacts, the declaration of ‘war’ on the Tamils in 1977, the burning of the Public Library in Jaffna in 1981 and finally the excesses in the ongoing 25-year-old conflict which have largely gone unpunished and unacknowledged by the state, resulting in institutionalising abuse of power including murder, rape and abductions.

Had only the late S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike implemented a language policy similar to that of Premier Lee Kwan Yew, the destiny of this little isle would have been a different kettle of fish. The country would have prospered without bleeding to death, as it is today.

A. R. S. Mahalingam
Colombo 6


Pensioners’ fervent appeal to the Public Administration Minister

The poor and middle class segments of the population, battered by an unprecedented and galloping cost of living, would no doubt hopefully look forward to the forthcoming Budget proposals for some measure of relief. Among such hopefuls, pensioners, the large majority of whom are dependent solely on their pension for survival, appear to be a forgotten section of the community who has to endure silently many a health problem and domestic hardship.

Inarticulate as they are, they can wield no clout with the authorities in the same manner vociferous others in the service and elsewhere are prone to act to win their demands. Pensioners, being a category of senior citizens, now in the evening of their life, feeble with age, who have given of their best in the service of the motherland throughout the better part of their life, deserve recognition and better treatment.

Anomalous situations in the calculation of pensions do still prevail despite certain ad hoc steps taken from time to time by successive governments to rectify some anomalies. But no government has so far been able to go the whole hog to evolve a realistic and reasonable scheme of pensions in accord with the present situation and current needs despite promises. Appeals to the authorities in this regard by pensioners appear frequently in the print media. But these appeals have been of no avail.

With the assumption of office of the present Public Administration Minister, however, pensioners heaved a sigh of relief hoping that the reasonable and rational proposal, to which he himself was a party in the not too distant past – that is the revision initially of all pensions via the relevant salary scales prevalent in 2004 and thereafter the updating of pensions with every subsequent increase of salary in the Public Service, based on the revised scales – would at long last materialise. But these hopes too have been shattered.

With Budget time approaching, this fervent appeal is directed to the genial Minister requesting him, as a matter of priority, to discuss with the President, who is also the Finance Minister, the plight of the pensioners and the necessity of implementing the above proposals to which the Minister himself sincerely contributed. Pensioners, I believe, can rest assured that the President who is known to give ear to genuine grievances from whichever quarter they emanate, would no doubt comprehend the plight of the pensioners and agree to this reasonable scheme if the Minister earnestly takes up the issue with him.

The Treasury is likely to oppose the move adducing the paucity of funds as the reason. But the fact remains that pensioners are a fast diminishing group. Death beckons them sooner than later. Moreover, the extra expenditure involved in giving the desired relief would be comparatively negligible weighed against billions spent on other pursuits and the enormous amount of public funds lost through rampant wastage, neglect and corruption as recent revelations illustrate.

Further, the economy is reported to be resilient and performing well despite the heavy expenditure on the anti-terrorist front. So why grudge relief to a small group of hapless and needy elders most of whom are silently trying hard to eke out an existence?

A. Abeygoonawardhana


Ban the loudspeakers

As a resident of Koralawella, Moratuwa, who has to put up with the indiscriminate use of loudspeakers at all hours of the day and regularly at around 4:30 a.m. I will be profoundly grateful to any government that completely bans the use of loudspeakers in the open.

I am not sure why this public menace continues unabated; it is a sad reflection on our society which has no respect for the comfort of others and the law. Nuisance values have no place in religion. Continued exposure to these loudspeakers is a sure path to deafness.

The only way in which to avoid these loud noises is to completely insulate oneself, which means air conditioning, which is expensive, not available to all, and environmentally damaging.

If our neighbouring countries have had the courage to ban the use of loudspeakers, why can’t we? May I exhort the government to take immediate measures to afford the general public relief by banning such noise levels and removing these offensive and damaging pieces of equipment from our society?

D. M. Balasuriya


CMC crisis!

As a rate payer of the city of Colombo, I was amazed to read in the newspapers that the Colombo Municipal Council (CMC) is to be suspended on September 20 and the present Municipal Commissioner to be vested with the powers of the mayor and the Council as a special commissioner.

During the past one and a half years an incompetent group was vested with the affairs of the council on account of the UNP misleading the voters of Colombo to cast their valuable vote to the spectacle group as the UNP was disqualified by the Election Commissioner for having presented an incomplete nomination list.

Your newspaper has time and again pointed out the wrong doings of the council and the Municipal Commissioner for violating laid down procedures.

Vasudeva Nanayakkara protested against such misdeeds and wrong doings and complained to the Western Province Chief Minister, the Governor and even to the President and finally a one man Commission of Inquiry was appointed to inquire into the financial irregularities and the misuse and abuse of power.

As the commission is expected to complete the inquiry and submit the report within 90 days, there is no reason to suspend the Council and vest the powers with the incumbent Municipal Commissioner, who also contributed towards messing up affairs at the CMC.

In this context, in the best interest of the citizens and the rate payers of Colombo, the President should await the report of the Commission before taking any action in this regard, such as suspension of the Council and appointing ministerial sub­committees as it would not have any impact in the short term.

On the findings and the report of the commission, the Governor and the Chief Minister could advise the President to take the best possible action to bring about progress and good governance for the City of Colombo.

J. M. Farook
Colombo 9


Pervez Musharraf in danger

As the time for president and parliamentary elections draws nearer, the situation in Pakistan is very explosive. The latest explosion in Rawalpindi on September 4 killed 24 people and injured 68. General Pervez Musharraf after ordering the massacre at the Lal Masjid in Islamabad on July 10 and 11 believed that the whole affair could be swept under the carpet and forgotten.

The assault on the Lal Masjid and Jamia Hafsa by Pervez Musharraf’s commandos left hundreds dead, most of them women and children. Not to be outdone, pro-Taliban elements who supported Moulanas Abdul Aziz and Abdul Rashid Gazi of the Lal Masjid retaliated, promising to make Pakistan worse than Iraq.

In the two weeks following the Lal Masjid assault, hundreds of soldiers and paramilitary personal have been killed in such places as Swat, Dera Ismail Khan, Miran Shah, Kohat, Hangu and Hub in the far south of the country. There was also a bomb explosion at a lawyers’ rally in Islamabad on July 17, killing 19 people and injuring 50 others. Chief Justice Iftikar Muhammed Chaudry who was supposed to speak at the rally was apparently the intended target, but had not arrived at the rally when the bomb went off.

Like US President George W. Bush, Musharraf is committing heinous crimes in the name of fighting terrorism. Like the US he has tried to frame the struggle in Pakistan as being between the ‘moderates’ – meaning people like himself – and the ‘extremists,’ by which he means anybody who opposes him. His ‘enlightened moderation’ includes the disappearance of hundreds of people suspected of political activities against him and the cold blooded murder of thousands of civilians in military actions against the so-called terrorists in remote areas of the N.W.F.P and Baluchistan, long before the assault of the Lal Masjid in Islamabad.

The recent September 4 attack proved that the pro-Taliban elements are a force to reckon with and they will continue their attacks on Musharraf. Although Musharraf has the support of the US, it is likely that these determined pro-Taliban elements using suicide bombers may assassinate Musharraf, who has survived three earlier attempts on his life.
A report released by the US Intelligence Chief on July 17 said that the fight against “terrorism” in Pakistan was going badly and that both al-Qaeda and the Taliban had regrouped and are now more effective in carrying out attacks. It appears there is an ominous creeping danger enveloping President Pervez Musharraf that may be his nemesis sooner than later.

Saybhan Samat


Corruption in Colombo’s Central Mail Exchange

The Central Mail Exchange in Colombo is not only the nerve centre of the mail services – it is also the nerve centre of corruption in the Postal Department.
In the past when the employees were disciplined and honest and the officers handling the administration were competent and knew rules and procedure, overtime quotas and limits were approved annually. But since 1995, that has not been done. The workload has come down and the staff requirements are much less now, but overtime is incurred as prior to 1990 without the approval of the higher authorities. This is robbery.

Employees do not report for work on Saturdays. Their absence is not felt as there is no work. The staff is listed as a matter of routine. Though they do not report for work on Saturdays, their presence is marked on Mondays and the Saturday allowance is claimed. This has the backing of these who deal with the attendance registers, for which they are looked after. The superiors are compelled to turn a blind eye to such dishonesty as even the Ministry does not act against the employees.

A large number of employees claim overtime without being at work. Employees on rotational duties leave three to four hours early before their duties end, pending the arrival of the successor. The result is that the work is affected. The monthly overtime expenditure in the Central Mail Exchange is about Rs. 15 to Rs. 16 million a month when the amount can be reduced by 50%.
In addition, losses and pilfering of mail are going on unabated. The Department claims that the services are run at a loss. Postage is increased to cover up unwarranted expenditure. The malpractices should be stopped without increasing postage.
Retired Postal Employee

W. K. Gunawilrdena









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