Lessons to be learned from Australian parliamentary elections

Australia is a great country where more than 190 ethnic groups and religious people from other parts of the world live in peace and harmony, speaking 200 languages, including 45 indigenous languages.

At the recently concluded federal parliamentary elections more than 13.6 million voters had to elect their representatives to the Federal Parliament in Canberra. The polling stations were opened from 8.00 a.m. till 6.00 p.m. There were 1421 candidates and 7723 polling places around Australia, voting being compulsory.

Everything was very peaceful, and everywhere things were calm with no disruption of traffic and people going about their normal duties, like any normal working day.

The counting and results came by 10.00 p.m. and nearly 80% of the results were known by midnight.
Australia’s 26th Prime Minister Kevin Rudd had promised he would be Prime Minister for all Australian, during his election campaign. He also pledged greater attention and support to the migrant community and a fair deal to everyone under his labour government. His cabinet of ministers is limited to 40 members.

Sri Lanka has to learn a lot from Australia on how elections are conducted in a very peaceful manner, with no violence before or after the results were announced.

It would be better if the Sri Lanka government sent officials from the Department of Election, Police and the Rupavahini on a study tour to Australia to see how the the elections were conducted in Australia.

In Sri Lanka the taxpayers money was wasted by the President Mahinda Rajapaksa taking jumbo delegations to visit foreign countries. Particular mentor may be made of the trip to China this year with 266 of his close associates. This absolute waste of taxpayers money, could have been used as an investment for sending technicians, research professionals, environment officials and other like to developed countries such as Australia, Britain, Canada, France and Germany or even India, Singapore and Japan for training.

This will enable these officers to learn the techniques and gain the know- how of implementing the strategies to keep the cities, country and investment clean.

F. A. Rodrigo Sathianathan


We are not “differently abled”: a plea from a disabled person

Please don’t give us labels. We have certain problems, and our problem has been described by the WHO as disability. This term is recognized all over the world and by all people with disability. What this word means is that because the way our body works, or because of what we do, or the way we do it has changed, we face various barriers in our lives. These barriers are caused mainly by the attitudes of society. - which see only that we cannot do certain things. So when we do those things they are surprised. And because of this recently we were first given the label “differently abled,” and now “otherwise abled”. These terms have been made up by individuals who do not have disability, and are used by-them. I have not yet come across any person with disability who uses them. What will be their next label, I wonder?

Before you give us any more labels, please would you remember that we are all people first. We are human beings first. See us as individuals like you. We have feelings and needs like you. And we have problems like you. The difference is in the type of problem and how severe it is. If our society accepted us as people like them, we could together overcome the barriers that we face. We could work together to make our environment suitable for us to use the abilities that we have as people, and to do what others can do, like go to the same schools, do the same jobs and so on.

Because many in our society do not see us as human beings, they are surprised when we do the things that they do. They are surprised and clap their hands because we do not do them the same way that they do them. But we are able to do so because we have intelligence and can use the common sense that all of us have. As human beings we can work out solutions to our problems. So when we have no hands we learn to use our feet, and we can do this not because we are differently abled, but because we have the same abilities all human beings have. We have intelligence, innovation, motivation, creativity - the abilities that all human beings have.

So please see us in the way that disability is now defined.- that we do We have have DISABILIY, and we ARE DISABLED PEOPLE because our society has disabled us. Having disability is not our fault, we are not ashamed of it. I think it is because society feels guilty about us that they like to give us labels to tell us how clever we are.

This kind of labelling is PATERNALISTIC AND ARROGANT. I hope the media will help us to have this unjust labeling removed.

I am not differently abled because I can look after myself although I use a wheelchair. I am an individual who cannot get a job because I use a wheelchair. I am a person who has disability.

A Disabled Person
S. B. Wijesinghe

Colombo 5


Jaguars for Judges, a luxury too expensive?

The news is that the Justice Ministry is ordering Jaguars, the most expensive cars in the market, for our judges. It is well known that these luxurious cars are about three times the cost of standard cars.

This act of coarse selfishness, sets a very bad example in a poor country at war. We must not forget that every day, in this country, young men and women are sacrificing their lives in the battlefield. What is the justification for those living in the safety of Colombo, to buy with public money, the most expensive cars in the market?

We all know our politicians are doing the same thing. But it is a fact that as a class, politicians are hated in this country. The infamous Mervyn Silva incident at the Rupavahini, illustrates the public loathing for these people. In our system, decent people don’t come into politics. But most believe that judges are more public spirited and are playing the role of supervising the politicians under the law. If this is the case, the Judges must set an example. Why cannot the Ministry order good Japanese cars, which are less expensive, but equally good?

I retired from the Public Service in 1986, after more than 30 years of service. Although we worked hard, our remuneration was pitiful. But we took pleasure in the fact that we were serving the public of this country. What is happening now is scandalous.

The public is also aware that this kind of expensive purchase, as a rule, is based on corruption at high levels in the Ministries. We are waiting for our Judges to set an example, which politicians and society may follow.
J.C. Weeraman


Noise pollution near Bolgoda Lake

This is to bring to the notice of the relevant authorities of an incident where gross violation of environmental laws and the Public Nuisance Act has occurred. So far, all complaints to the relevant authorities have not yielded any favourable result.

The general public is aware that new laws have been enacted preventing even places of religious worship including temples, churches, mosques and kovils operating loudspeakers at public places. Hence, it is obvious that hotels and reception halls have to abide by the same law. This is to safeguard the general public from noise pollution.

A new hotel has been opened up in the peaceful and quiet area in the village of Dampe in the Piliyandala Police area, which was initially an eco-friendly tourist hotel, approximately 200 metres from my residence. However, it is now operating as a reception hall with blaring music from loudspeakers, particularly during weekends, which are fixed to the area overlooking the beautiful Bolgoda Lake.

The Bolgoda Lake is a public area owned by the government and people of Sri Lanka. Hence, no one can disturb the peaceful serenity of this place with loudspeakers at anytime as done by this hotel without obtaining special permission from the Police and the Kesbewa Pradeshiya Sabha.

This hotel is owned by a prominent political organiser for the Piliyandala area. Hence, all protests about this loud noise to the hotel owner and the relevant authorities have fallen on deaf ears.

I hope that your newspaper will give adequate publicity to this gross violation of environmental laws and the Public Nuisance Act.
S.U. de Silva


An open letter to the Leader of the Opposition

You have no descendants to call upon and force them into any posts, for no prince or princess must you ensure a throne, nor should you increase your wealth for any future generation. Not for these, but for the people alone, you do strive and seek to protect them all.

So why not you do it please, before it is too late. Yes, of course, you could see the plight of the suffering masses – how on earth can anyone survive today, facing the escalating cost of living, which is seemingly going up and up, so unbearable to anyone at all. How can we, even the middleclass, afford to face a situation of this nature?

Added to the bargain, public transport is always in jeopardy, with the ever increasing fares
And the JVP and the JHU, with their verbal diarrhea – trying to monopolise the whole show, can they ever rule a country? It will be the biggest joke in the whole world.

They openly reject you and the UNPers, through mere jealousy and hatred and now they have abrogated the CFA, and the APRC too will be bogged soon perhaps.

War had been there for many decades, with hard terrorism, but today it is being made a scapegoat to hoodwink the masses, since there are some who actually believe. So what we all need is a quick remedy to solve this situation.

The UNP should stand up, as it is the only party that can campaign the rights of the people to resolve through viable plans.

You could even get help from foreign sources, to curb this menace which is a must, since the country now is in dire danger.
So please wake up dear opposition leader – You got the brains, with much intelligence, to cope up, with your exceeding capabilities, since you have been a distinguished and charismatic person throughout your life.

Though some have damaged your good image, we, as your voters, remain still the same, to have you once again as our leader to rule at any time.

We need some kind of relief to see a better tomorrow.
May peace and goodwill prevail soon to see a better world to live in harmony!
All good luck to you!
A concerned citizen


Galle Fort – 38th World Heritage site

The Galle Fort, which has received wide publicity in recent times, is one amongst the seven UNESCO recognised world Heritage sites in Sri Lanka. The others are, Singharaja Forest Reserve, Ruwanweliseya, Anuradhapura, Sri Dalada Maligawa, Polonnaruwa, Dambulla Ran Viharaya and Sigiriya. This bears ample testimony to Sri Lanka being a rich repository of cultural treasures and monuments.

However, what is lamentable and cause for concern is the threat Galle Fort, which is also the 38th World Heritage site, is currently facing. It is speedily being transformed into a tourist resort with almost one hundred houses and other premises now being owned by foreigners. A number of these buildings have been converted into hotels, motels, bars and shops.

Such commercial activity in this one time highly residential area is a cause for deep concern amongst the locals who have resolved to stay put in the Fort despite these constraints. This much cherished heritage site is gradually losing its old world charm.

Although the government introduced a 100% levy on foreign purchase of property, the foreign buying spree is going apace unabated. Has the government benefited from the 100% tax? What we learn is that various ruses such as forming of BoI projects and buying on long lease have been adopted to avoid the tax.

It is universally accepted that a World Heritage site is an invaluable asset a country can boast about. Its archaeological and historical value is immeasurable. Other countries which possess such sites have introduced numerous measures to preserve those sites from natural decay and from other threats such as pressure for development, tourism etc.,

These antiquities and monuments are also subject to neglect and sometimes wanton destruction due to lack of adequate physical and legal protection, as rightly emphasised by the eminent Justice Dr. A.R.B. Amerasinghe in his recent book on cultural heritage and cultural property. He also refers to the lack of public sensitivity as a cause for neglect.

Justice C.G. Weeramanthri in his review of that book points out, “In Sri Lanka there is a danger that exploitation of these resources may well occur in the areas of some of our precious historical sites. Whatever financial benefits to be gained from such an enterprise, we cannot afford it and this is a matter which needs most careful consideration, not only by the authorities, but by the general public as well.”

Hence Galle Fort, the only historical monument recognised as an archaeological reserve and World Heritage site in the whole of southern Sri Lanka, needs to be preserved at all cost from the vagaries of modern development efforts and foreign cultural and social intrusion.

The almost 90 acres land and buildings in the Fort of Galle are prime property and hence should be precluded from foreign ownership or in the alternative should attract a special levy over and above the current 100% tax applicable to foreign purchase of property.

Many important personalities who hailed from the Galle Fort and other intellectuals have, from time to time, highlighted the vulnerable position this invaluable monument is currently facing. However, the response on the part of the authorities has so far been only indifference and failure to comprehend the magnitude of the problem.

Dr. Weeramanthri rightly stresses, “All threats to cultural heritage and cultural property need to be addressed by a concerned public, a vigilant administration and a more sensitised legal system.”

Therefore, it is the duty equally of the people and the administration to ensure that this cherished World Heritage site is preserved as a native owned treasure with its old world charm and native culture intact.
M. I. M. Mubarak
Fort - Galle








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