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Fair play and integrity - essential factors

I am a much travelled Sinhala Buddhistic Senior Citizen, having, several seasons ago, notched the Psalmist’s span of three score and ten. Undiluted patriotism prompted the return to my Motherland in the mid-sixties, after a decade in the west.

Additionally, having won national honours in sports and in administration, on several occasions, and also being on the verge of celebrating 50-years of wedlock to a Christian of foreign origin, I deem it sufficient qualification to pass some critical comments on current affairs in Sri Lanka.

It grieves me, pains me and horrifies me to witness the gradual degradation of a once resplendent, peaceful and prosperous isle. There appears to be no bright opening at the end of a near invisible tunnel!

Having sought, fought and gained Independence in 1948, after a bloodless revolution, with the support of the Tamils, Muslims, Burghers and Malays, the majority Sinhalese appear to have abandoned their former allies. Consequently, murder and mayhem by radical elements, have taken centre stage. Sixty years of impaired Independence have witnessed 25-years of conflict and gory battles. Reason and fair play must go out and, in keeping with most politicians’ professed partisanship to religion, magnanimity and trust should be extended, in the search for peace. The country burns and innocent lives are being lost.

I am no scholarly historian, and am venturing out cautiously on the subject. Claims of a 2500-year old culture, sound irrelevant and hollow, if peaceful co-existence with fellow beings, is unattainable.

It is an undeniable fact that Tamils such as Sir Ponnambalam Ramanathan, Sir Ponnambalam Arunachalam, Sir Kanthiah Vaithianathan, Malays such as T.B. Jayah and a mass of others from the minority communities, whose names I fail to recall, were, along with Sir Baron Jayatilleke, E.W. Perera, Anagarika Dharmapala, F.R. Senanayake, D.S. Senanayake and S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike in the forefront of the struggle for Independence. That their progeny should be denied equality in the sun, in subsequent years, is grossly unjust and regrettable. That politicians, in their greed for power, created the rifts, is an accepted actuality.

Despite being a Sinhala Buddhist, I cannot help but concede to the reality that the farcical “SRI” on vehicles, “Sinhala Only Bill”, in 24-hours, and innumerable unfulfilled promises given to Tamil leaders, since Independence, exacerbated, resulting in the catastrophe of July 1983.

Presidents, Prime Ministers, Ministers and almost every politician have deceitfully practised the saying in “promises and pie-crust are made to be broken”! The catalogue of untruths, half-truths and unfulfilled promises are too numerous to mention. They put to shame Lankan leaders of the past quarter century.

Having mingled with the reasonably rich and the pauperism populace in our poverty­ stricken, war-torn Sri Lanka, it sickens me to continuously witness the extravagant life­styles indulged in by those referred to, by a former President, as “Servants of the People”. Ironically, these “Servants of the People”, garbed in gaudy silken finery, to cover their perfumed “rhino-hides”, practise unadulterated hypocrisy, by appealing to the famished families to tighten their belts, while they loosen theirs!

Sri Lanka’s political elite and their acolytes have promoted and practised indiscipline over decades, with scant consideration for the Rule of Law, decency, integrity and punctuality. The vile, vitriolic vocabularies flowing freely from the foul mouths of these irresponsible legislators, depict a poor picture of a country known worldwide for its politeness, sportsmanship and hospitality.
Sri Lanka’s misfortune, since Independence, has been her ability to produce power-hungry politicians, not Statesmen. A Lankan version of Lee Kwan Yew or Nelson Mandela or even, a Fidel Castro or Hugo Chavez would have done fine. But alas, lowly Lanka has been plagued by Marcoses and Mugabes. The country is engulfed in corruption, nepotism and various other ills, which, for obvious reasons, are glossed over, closeted and ignored. Not surprisingly, the country bleeds, and appears to have gone beyond redemption.

The flickering embers of democracy and decency are still being gallantly rekindled and preserved by a Dr. A.C. Visvalingam of the Citizens Movement for Good Governance (CIMOGG) and the revitalized Organization of Professional Associations (OPA). Whether the embers could be enlivened or extinguished, hinges on the civic mindedness of the intelligentsia and moaning masses.
Glittering like a beacon in the dark, fighting lion-heartedly against mighty odds, is Chairman of COPE, Wijedasa Rajapakse, and his trusted troupe. Displaying Integrity, with a capital “I”, of high order, they have stood firm by their convictions and vehemently exposed the latest “Duty Free Vehicle Racket” and dozens of equally outrageous swindles resorted to by politicians and priests and their stooges, in recent years. May his tribe increase to save Sri Lanka from extermination and ruination.

President Rajapaksa’s much proclaimed and acclaimed “Mahinda Chintanaya” has remained largely dormant of late, despite claims to the contrary. The All Party Representative Committee (APRC) has shunted to and fro, much like a Yo-Yo, with indecision the hallmark, despite the tireless efforts of Prof Tissa Vitharana. The return of ex-President, Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga, has added to the incumbent President’s woes. The extremist elements in the parliamentary coalition, have also heaped more coals into the fire. All-in-all, he wears an uneasy crown. Few civilians would envy him, as he struts nervously, steeped in worry, surrounded by his retinue of security personnel.

Sri Lanka’s immediate need is a righteous leader, who will play a straight bat and act as a Statesman. If President Rajapaksa deems it possible, then he can still resurrect a dying cause, by granting primacy to the “Rule of Law”, which is the bedrock of civilized society.

Stanley Jayasinghe
Talangama South


Is rice flour another avenue for quick bucks to opportunists?

Corruption and fraud are treachery, chicanery and above all embezzlement which holds down the economic advancement of the Country .Many involved in the wheat flour trade should be reported to COPE or the Bribery and Corruption Department.

The practice of importing wheat flour commenced during the reign of foreigners. Their food specialists and half baked scientists, who were in the pay of business, propagated the notion that wheat which grew luxuriously in temperate climes, was superior to rice which was a staple food of those in the tropics. In reality it was the other way about. The occupying country condemned everything that was raised in the suppressed country and exported what their homeland produced, be it wheat or even a nail!. Everything local was condemned as inferior. Coconut oil received the same treatment and only imported food oils were approved for use as wholesome. When Ceylon was under the jackboot of Britain the tea industry was in the hands of the white men.

The Tea Research Institute had an Englishman as head chemist, who after lengthy and costly investigations made the great discovery that local limestone was inferior to British limestone though chemically they were the same and any schoolboy would have made the same pronouncement. In keeping with the chemists findings a British company operating in Ceylon, made haste to import a branded product named ‘Limbux’. It was plain and simple chalk, cut down from the extensive white cliffs of Dover. All White superintendents on tea estates obediently used ‘Limbux’ after pruning the tea bush. The money went to Britain, whereas the cheaper local limestone quarry owners who would have otherwise profited were left in the lurch.

Now locals are gearing themselves to do the same to rice and line their pockets. With research on rice as a substance to turn out bread, some who care have come out with a 50 percent rice flour loaf of bread. With much fanfare a machine to produce rice flour has been turned out, but that limits the use of rice flour to those who could afford the machine. What about the housewives who presently turn out wheat flour bred in their homes? The wheat flour comes in packets. If rice flour too comes in packets with know how and seminars for those interested in rice flour bread it would be giant step to the elimination of wheat flour imports.

There is a capacious flour milling venture in Trincomalee, which imports wheat or buys it off the State, and mills it for distribution to users. Import of wheat results in foreign exchange leaving our shores. To ensure the continued use of wheat, wheat producing countries, when faced with the disposal of bumper harvests which threaten a break down of the market, buys it off the farmer at a fair price, and either sells it abroad cheap or gifts it to a country which may switch to an alternate source of food; thereby ensuring the continued use of wheat, buttressing their farmers. It is a subtle device to keep their vulnerable farmers in affluence and out of threatening penury.

Earlier this year the Government was compelled to export. rice to the Maldives, faced with a surplus in the country. Building up· a demand for rice in the international market will be wise step. Above all the country must investigate how it could use it indigenously. Rice flour bread to replace wheat will reduce a considerable burden from state coffers. Wheat flour bread is a 100% wheat flour loaf. Our research community should leave no stone unturned in turning out a 100% rice flour loaf. Rice unlike wheat is a superior health food and if the loaf finds its way to the table it can be gulped down with a mug of Goat milk resulting in a healthy Nation.

To revert to corruption in the opening paragraph the government must ensure that the receipt of commissions by anyone involved in rice is a non- bailable offence; and if found guilty will receive a 15 year mandatory jail sentence. Put democracy on the back burner and let the country make do with a little bit of Authoritarianism.

Anthony Fernando


Retired senior police officers join anti-corruption crusade

By taking the initiative together with Transparency International to organise the anti­corruption Seminar entitled, “Civil Society Demands Corruption free Governance”, at the SLIDA Auditorium on 23rd August the Retired Senior Police Officers Association (RSPOA), has emerged strongly as a national civil society organisation that can contribute meaningfully to the well being of the country.

With a history of over thirty years the RSPOA, with the exceptions of a few, consists of all the retired senior gazetted officers ranging from retired IGP’s to SP’s and ASP’s resident in the country and even abroad. Each with over 30 years of service, this is a socially and intellectually well-knit group of mature individuals. As a body the RSPOA is primarily committed to the welfare of its members and to contribute in every way possible to help uphold the dignity and honour of the Police Service to which they have dedicated the better part of their lives.

The knowledge and experience that these individuals possess are indeed varied and unique. They have performed duties in almost every conceivable social environment in the country often under trying circumstances. Even in the remotest places in the island, they are conversant with the people, their customs, their manner of livelihood, their behavioral patterns and even their thinking and attitudes to life in general.

Most of these senior officers have received extensive training not only in police work as the layman understands; they have been exposed, some even at University level, to the sociological aspects of crime and violence. They have proven investigative skills; experience in mediation and the settlement of disputes, conflict resolution; rehabilitation of criminals, juvenile delinquents and drug addicts; experience in legal procedures and knowledge of the criminal law and forensic science.

A good many of them have confronted rebellious situations, student unrest, industrial unrest and even organised uprisings and insurgencies against the state. More than a few of this elite body have played responsible roles in the security of the state, drugs control, administration and highway traffic administration. Truly, they remain men of standing with unmatchable experience eminently competent to effectively influence public opinion.

Public perception of police functions is based on the widely visual open basic activities of law enforcement, and the regulation of non criminal conduct such as motor traffic control. Little is known about the intense study, discussion and planning that senior officers toil over for the execution of police tasks- tasks that affect the day to day lives of all citizens, more than any other state activity. It is also a little known fact that the reports senior officers have to write on criminal acts, on public order situations and events of a threatening nature to the security of the state require extensive knowledge, skill and analytical thinking. These are subject to scrutiny at the highest bureaucratic levels of government prior to submission to the Head of State.

What motivated the RSPOA to play a leadership role in the anti-corruption crusade that is gathering momentum today? It is reasonable to surmise that many of its members who served the nation with dedication in the days when corruption was relatively low and service discipline was rigid (even constables leaving on patrol had to declare the cash they carried, or if a senior officer bought a land or built a house he had to inform the IGP how the money was obtained), would have been hurt by the findings of recent surveys of some research organisations listing the Police Dept as one of the most corrupt.

Be that as it may, the COPE revelations are so shocking and unimaginable where staggering billions have been artfully swindled by people in national leadership positions, and spread over such a wide spectrum of state activities impacting adversely on the quality of life particularly of the ordinary citizens, they would have even scandalised the most hard hearted bribe taking cop!

It is indeed admirable that the RSPOA, a little publicized civil society organisation, has come forward to actively support COPE, led by Mr. Wijedasa Rajapakse, and has, by highlighting the misdeeds of the ‘mighty’, created a national consciousness to rid this country of the bane of corruption. The Executive Committee of the RSPOA led by the much respected Retired DIG Anton Jeyanathan deserves the commendation of all right thinking people for its role in organising the seminar of August 23.. The keen interest taken by Rtd. SSP’s Upali Seneviratne and S. B. W. de Silva deserves special mention. Indeed they have shown that the RSPOA as a civil society organisation can make a noteworthy contribution to stamp out corruption in the country.

The role played by the media for the successful conclusion of this seminar cannot be underestimated. The publicity it received before and immediately after, awakening the conscience of the nation to the gravity and extent of this alarmingly unprecedented sate of corruption in the country, with Mr. Wijedasa Rajapakse’s observations making the headlines of virtually every newspaper, would certainly have been the eleventh hour catalyst for Parliament to make its momentous decision to unanimously refer the COPE findings to the Bribery Commission.

The mood of the nation is such that the approach to and progress of the Bribery Commission’s investigations will be eagerly followed. With corruption beginning to seriously eat into the very quality of life, apart from sober intellectual bodies such as the RSPOA, the more vociferous and volatile organisations at grass roots level, Trade Unions, Farmer Societies & Student Organisations to mention a few, are likely to be compelled to be drawn into this growing anti-corruption crusade. The ball is now in the Bribery Commission’s Court. With Parliament itself being the complainant, it is reasonable to presume that the Commission will receive the unstinted support and co­operation of all concerned particularly the Attorney General’s Dept. and the Police,for the accomplishment of this task of national importance - perhaps the most challenging responsibility thrust upon the Commission since its inception.
Edward Gunawardena


Plea to amend Widows and Orphans Pension Scheme

In a cultured society, special care should be shown towards elderly people, incurable people, patients, widows etc. Widows are unfortunate people who have to bear mental agony especially when they are not having adequate earning capacity and finance. A widow may prefer to re­marry due to the following reasons:

* To continue the pleasant life she enjoyed in the past (why should she waste her youthfulness when she loses her husband early in life?).
* To have financial and other support to look after her family.
* To take part in social activities without being ignored by society.
* To be taken care of when she is sick and old by her family members

A widow should have the option of re-marriage and it is our duty to encourage re-marriages. In India Mahatma Gandhi fought for education and re-marriage of widows and to a certain extent, I feel in India this problem has been solved.

In Sri Lanka, when a widow re-marries, she has to forgo her pension. This is the main hindrance for her to get married again as she is in fear of financial loss if her next husband is not financially sound to look after the family. In fact some years before in the budget proposal it was mentioned that widows could continue enjoying 50% of the pension after her second marriage. Regrettably no action has been taken to date to implement this proposal. You have to admit that in the present war situation, this is a major problem and we should not allow our unfortunate sisters to suffer mentally.

Unmarried Daughters
At present, an unmarried daughter could enjoy the pension only till she is 26 years old. Thereafter unless she is handicapped no financial support is given. Due to the prevailing situation in Sri Lanka, the ratio of eligible males is low due to death / leaving the country for employment etc. Even inter-community marriages are scarce. Therefore, it should-be admitted that all girls are not blessed with married life and it is the duty of the government to look after their needs till they get married. There are parents who are highly worried about the future of their unmarried daughters after their demise. Due to this problem, I feel several girls are leaving the country on foreign employment knowing very well , agony they are going to face in the future. Therefore, I propose that unmarried daughters should continue receiving their father’s pension until they settle down. If the government feels that material funds are required, there are several ways of raising funds and patriotic people should be prepared to assist in solving this problem

I make an appeal to all ministers, members of parliament, charitable organisations, religious leaders and the media to consider these proposals seriously and help to wipe off the painful tears of our unfortunate sisters and parents.
S. R. Balachandran
Colombo 6










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