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Letters


 

This is my nation’ has got it all wrong

I am a regular reader of your newspaper and I consider it to be one of the two best in our country. In the circumstances, you would understand my deep disappointment reading your column ‘This is my nation’ - A mountain of labour produced a mouse!, in the last Sunday issue. My problem is not with your caption with which I agree entirely, but I am certain that I express the feelings of thousands of your readers on the stand you have taken on the merger. You are absolutely wrong to advocate the merger of two provinces. Surely Mr. Editor, your columnist should know that the east of our country was never a part of any traditional homeland of the Tamil people of this country. You would of course know that when Robert Knox was arrested at a place north of Trincomalee, he was taken to Kandy where the king reigned, not to Jaffnapattam.

I regret to state that the comment indicates certain lack knowledge of the history of the present Eastern Province and a lack of understanding of what our fellow Tamil citizens are attempting to achieve; it is nothing short of a land grab.

The fact that the Indo-Lanka Accord sought to merge the two provinces, but conceded that a referendum should be held after one year to ascertain the view of the people and the fact that the LTTE and other Tamil parties have never allowed the referendum to be held, should have made the political commentators realise that it was not a merger that the people want. A fact known to many who have lived in the Eastern Province, has now come to the surface; the Tamils of the east are of a different breed to the Jaffna Tamils, who consider themselves superior to the eastern Tamils (more of it anon.). The merger was something forced upon us.

The north and east of this country were never recognised as the ‘traditional homeland’ of the Tamil people. To quote the language used in the Indo-Lanka Accord: “Recognising that the Northern and Eastern Provinces have been areas of historical habitation of Sri Lankan Tamil speaking people, who have at all times hitherto lived together in this territory with other ethnic people.” The Government of Sri Lanka was compelled to accept the formulation “areas of historical habitation” because of the pressure exerted by India at the insistence of then Indian High Commissioner in Colombo Jyotindra Nath Dixit, whose knowledge of our history could have been able to be written on the back of a small five rupee stamp.

The fact that President J.R. Jayewardene insisted on a referendum before such a merger could be effected is proof that he did not accept that the Eastern Province was the traditional homeland of the Tamil or the Tamil speaking people – this cannot be but emphasised. This is also evident from the compromise formulation “an area of historical habitation,”- they had missed out on the word “recent’ in the context of our 2500 year history, as would be indicated anon.

There is overwhelming historical, archaeological, epigraphical and anthropological evidence to prove that the present Eastern Province was never a part of any traditional homeland of the Tamil speaking people. Although there was of course a sub-kingdom of Yalpattam, not an inch of the present Eastern Province belonged to that sub-kingdom. There is indelible evidence left by Portuguese, Dutch and English travellers in the 16th, 17th, 18th and 19th centuries that the Sinhalese Kings exercised suzerainty over what is known today as the Eastern Province.

I am certain that at least some members of the panel would have read Queros, the Portuguese historian or the Dutchman Baldeus (who had lived in Jaffna for many years) or Donald Ferguson (The Earliest Dutch Visits to Ceylon) or even Prof. Arasaratnam who has stated that the Kandyan Kingdom included Trincomalee and Batticaloa. Surely, the experts should know that Knox was arrested by the ‘King’s soldiers north of Trincomalee in 1660. It should also be recalled that it was the King in Kandy (Keerthi Sri Rajasinghe) who, by a treaty entered into with Dutch Governor Flack, ceded parts of the east coast and a part of the west coast to the Dutch.

What is the origin of Tamil settlements in the Eastern Province? Percival in his book An Account of the Island of Ceylon states how Tamil settlements in the east originated. Tobacco was a major crop in the Jaffna peninsula long before onions and chillies came to be grown there. Labour for the tobacco cultivation, which was labour intensive was, according to Percival, brought from South India. Percival refers to “non-native Tamils” and states that when the Tobacco boom ended these “labour class Tamils” from South India were sent out to the Wanni, Trincomalee and Batticaloa by the caste conscious land-owning Vellala Tamils of the peninsula. This is why the Jaffna Tamil considers himself to be superior to the Wanni and Eastern Province Tamil. During British times the surplus labour from the estates after the coffee boom collapsed, had also been settled in the east. Yet, another group of Tamil mercenaries who had assisted the British to crush the rebellion in 1848 had also been settled in the east, according to a dispatch by Governor Torrington (reference Professor K.M. De Silva’s The Rebellion of 1848).

Furthermore, there are over 135 Buddhist archaeological sites in the present Eastern Province and the inscriptions speak for themselves.

On the matter of how the ‘Eastern Province’ itself came into being; after the annexation of the Kandyan Kingdom, the British first set about dismembering the former Kingdom. They next created five provinces for convenience of administration; they were the Western, Southern, Central Northern and Eastern Provinces. The North Western Province was created in 1845; the North Central Province in 1873, the Uva in 1886, and the Sabaragamuwa Province in 1889. By that year the British had arbitrarily created nine provinces for the convenience of administration.

Respected Professors Gerry Peiris and K.M. De Silva, in addition to Queros, Baldeus, Percival and Ferguson, have produced incontrovertible evidence that the present Eastern Province was never a part of any Jaffna Kingdom or traditional Tamil homeland. What the LTTE and others seek to do is to indulge in a land grab by conquest or by other means.

Your columnist has referred to the Supreme Court judgment – the Supreme Court with the Chief Justice presiding has held with eminent counsel H.L. De Silva that there has never been a valid merger of the Northern and Eastern Provinces. It would be recalled that President J.R. Jayewardene on September 7, 1988 declared that the Eastern Province should be merged with the Northern Province to form one administrative unit and continue to be administered as one unit conditional on the taking of a poll to enable the people of the east to decide as to whether they wish to remain merged with the Northern Province or have separate a Provincial Council of their own. The poll was scheduled to have been held before the December 31 of the same year, monitored by a committee, to be presided over by the Chief Justice himself. But this poll has not been held for the past 18 years and annually extended on the presumption that the original order made by President Jayewardene was a legal order.

It has now been held by the Supreme Court that President Jayewardene’s order made under the emergency regulations under the Public Security Act was ultra vires the Constitution and hence invalid. In the words of the Chief Justice, “The power reposed in the President by Section 5 of the Public Security Ordinance to make Emergency Regulations amending any law has to be read subject to the provisions of Article 155 (2) of the Constitution, and an Emergency Regulation cannot have the effect of amending or over-riding a provision of the Constitution.” Eminent Counsel H.L. De Silva also submitted that President Jayewardene’s order under the Public Security Ordinance did not come within any of the purposes provided in Section 5(2) of the Ordinance. The section empowers the President to make emergency regulations for

1) public security and the preservation of public order
2) the suppression of mutiny, riot, or civil commotion
3) for the maintenance of supplies and services essential to the life of the community.

It was submitted that “the regulation cannot be reasonably related to any of the aforesaid purposes.”
There was also the fact that in terms of Act no. 42 of 1987 there were two conditions which had to be met before the merger was to be effected; namely, there had to be a surrender of weapons and ammunition and there had to be a cessation of hostilities and all acts of violence. These two pre-conditions had to be met before a merger of the two provinces could take place. These conditions were never met.

The government is reported to be intending to hold local government elections in the Eastern Province for the people of the province to once again enjoy the privilege of governing themselves at all levels. This is indeed a tremendous victory for democracy and for the people of the Eastern Province, if they could hold these elections. The government should invite observers from the EU, SAARC and the Commonwealth to monitor the election. To my mind this is the most significant achievement of the military operation to clear the Eastern Province.

The strategic importance of the east cannot be over emphasised. The region has the longest coastline for any province of this country; its beaches are among the best in the world – a gold mine for the Tourist Industry. The east has one of the finest natural harbours in the world at Trincomalee. The Eastern Province is also the granary of this country and the importance of controlling the waters to the Mahaweli basin was brought home with the closing of the Mavil Aru anicut by the LTTE.

There is no doubt that the Eastern Province is more than a valuable prize for the separatists and to concede control over the province to a merged North – East Provincial Council is not in the national interest.

Charles Wijetunge

                            Our columnist replies                        

We thank Mr. CW for his learned argument. However, where CW errs is when he presumes that we have ‘advocated’ a merger of the two provinces. CW then proceeds to list historical and legal data against a merger. What we have pointed out is that since the temporary merger did not appease either the extremists or the moderates in the Tamil community, the issue needs to be revisited. By completely discarding the merger issue – as has now been done – there is a danger of alienating even the moderates of that community. This is a pity because President Mahinda Rajapaksa - unlike Ranil Wickremesinghe - carries the confidence of the southern voters who believe they will not be betrayed by him. Hence, he is in a better position to clinch a deal with moderate Tamils by offering them a genuine package to devolve power. Unlike CW, we do not believe that considerations such as natural resources and tourist industry potential should be considerations in deciding an issue of this nature. That smacks of a ‘them and us’ mentality which has been a stumbling block in resolving Sri Lanka’s ethnic issue for over five decades now. CW, of course, is entitled to disagree with us.

****

The Buddhi Anshaya: A new breed of Police?

On the afternoon of Independence Day, travelling towards Colombo along the Piliyandala Road, I was flagged down by what appeared to be a bunch of young boys in ragged civvies. Many others were standing in the middle of the road. I thought that this was another marketing stunt or that they were looking to raise money via a ‘car wash’ for some charitable cause. But that impression disappeared when one popped his head into the car and asked for my ID. Taken aback, I asked for his ID and he responded that they don’t carry IDs nor produce them as they were from the ‘Buddhi Anshaya.’ I understood that he was trying to tell me that they were from ‘Intelligence!’ I refused to give my ID. A lone women police constable appeared and I produced my ID. She merely looked at my ID, without a scant look at me. Some Buddhi Anshaya! IDs are checked looking only at the ID and not at the person carrying it! After returning my ID they proceeded to ask for my driving licence! What the ‘Buddhi Anshaya’ was doing on the Piliyanadala Road checking IDs was beyond me. I thought that they operated in the ‘deep background.’ Besides, is this the way that checking of IDs is done? I thought that there was a system under which this is done. Under the ‘new’ Buddhi Anshaya system, a bunch of local thugs can now at a moment notice, begin to flag down motorists on the pretext of checking IDs. One can only imagine where this will lead.
Romuls Silva
Pannipitiya

****

Anandasangaree on the right to live as equals

I write with reference to the statement by V. Anandasangaree, the President of the TULF, published in The Nation, Sunday, January 27, 2008.
V. Anandasangaree states in paragraph 3 of his statement: “We have joined this assembly today to show our solidarity on behalf of the Tamil people, for the re-birth of a nation where we, the Sinhalese, Tamils, Muslims, Malays, Burghers and members of other small groups live as equals in all respects...”
In my opinion V. Anandasangaree has failed to say “...live as equals in all respects in whatever part of the country they choose to live in.”
This is very important because, a large part of the Tamils live peacefully among the Sinhalese, Muslims etc. in Colombo.
The question I pose to V. Anandasangaree is whether the Sinhalese, Muslims etc. will have the same rights to live peacefully in the North among the majority Tamil people under a proposed Federal system.
Ananda Dharmapala
Kelaniya

****

Postal Department - Promotions manoeuvred

A large number of officers have been discriminated against in the matter of promotions in the Postal Department, which has resulted in their having to go on retirement without being granted their due promotions in time. As a result, they have lost monetarywise as well. Then again, there are others in service covering vacancies for years without being granted their due promotions.
A certain Deputy Postmaster General, now in retirement, had seen to it that no steps were taken to grant promotions on the due dates. The interviews were arranged wantonly, after those who were entitled to promotions went on retirement and that too, in certain cases, after having covered the vacancy for several years. The PMG at the time, took no steps to adopt corrective measures, despite the fact that the correct procedure was to have taken steps three months in advance to fill the vacancies as from the due dates. The trade unions looked on unconcerned.

This was despite the fact that Section 612 of Chapter 11 of Volume 1 of the Establishments Code reads as follows:
“Where an officer himself is in no way responsible for the delay in the decision regarding the promotion which results in such decision being taken when he is not in service or is deceased, the promotion should be given after his claims for promotion have been examined from the due date, even though the officer is already retired or deceased by the date of the decision. This will be applicable only in the case of grade to grade promotion in a service.”

The same DPMG is alleged to have denied the payment of certain allowances to officers in terms of Public Administration Circulars, due to a personal grievance. The allowances were finally paid after the DMPG retired, on appeal to the Ministry of Public Administration as the DPMG was sitting on the papers. The DPMG even made her own decision to pay the allowances in certain instances, with effect from the date the application for the allowances were forwarded by the officers, contrary to the provisions in the circulars.

Even as at today, there are hurried moves to appoint persons on the results of an examination, when their service records are not satisfactory and or disciplinary cases are pending or had sat the examination when they were not qualified to sit the examination when they applied to sit the examination. It is also rumoured that a certain complaint against one of those who has passed the examination is being suppressed to grant him the new appointment.

A retiree on service extension is supposed to be at the bottom of these corrupt moves.
The Public Service Commission needs to be alerted to these manoeuvres with a view to thwart such moves.
The President should have these probed before things go out of hand and reach bursting point.
Upali S. Jayasekera
Colombo 4

****

 On Sixtieth Independence Day

Voice of Wailing Mother Sri Lanka

When did Sri Lankans begin to feel discrimination?
Who’s to blame, for sowing seeds of racism, degeneration?
We’re gasping for breadth socially culturally, economically
To some, nation fractured, unsteady vision politically.

Let’s empower mother land with renewed vision, determination
Let’s echo chimes of independence gained by evolution
To bless future generation with warm felicitation
To bring all my children under one banner for great celebration

We know clearly THEY led us to bloodless Freedom
We boldly, bravely followed their footsteps genuine dictum;
On this sixtieth anniversary day we should be filled with dedication
When commemorating our humble emancipation.

On this historic day may the spirit of true Independence
Burn brightly in every heart sans a ray of vengeance
We must emphasise high ideals of equality and unity
By breaking bonds of lust for power and self-glory.

With the dawn of another 4th February with amity
We still fan the flickering flame of Independence for unity
Unprincipled party polities cause of disaster untold
Can’t we lift national problems from quagmire politics?

I natured numerous alien children with love
But now diverse communities in chaos situation
With real Sri Lankan touch in utmost dignity
Let’s renew our pledge of sincere fervent loyalty

Kumari Kumarasinghe Tennakoon

****

Peace, the quintessential goal!

Now, the time is ripe for us to realise and be good! Everybody in our country prefers absolute national unity, peace and harmony, to prevail for all of us to joyfully live without any fear, panic, tension and anxiety! All religions too preach the very same in the interest and betterment of humanity! As my contributions to the needed peace let me quote here the following gems of great sayings that may be very useful in a little way at this juncture to the whole nation in order to solve the ethic conflict and misunderstandings that are indeed still visible:

‘Peace Quest’

“Overcome anger by love and evil by good;
Overcome the miser, by generosity, and the liars by truth!”
Dhammapada (223)

“Genuine peace can only be solved by cultivating the feelings of consensus and fraternity. Hatred and revenge can achieve nothing!”
S. W. R. D. Bandaranaike, (Ex-Prime Minister of Sri Lanka)

“The new and terrible dangers, which man has created, can only be controlled by man!”
John F. Kennedy, (Ex-President of USA)

“Democracy’s real test lies in respect for minority opinion!”
Ellery Sedgwick

“The voice of conscience is the voice of God, and it is the final judge of the righteousness of every deed and every thought!”
Mahatma GandhiIndia’s Father of the nation (Bharatha Matha)

“You can fool all the people some of the time,
And some of the people, all the time,
But you cannot fool all the people,all of the time!”
Abraham Lincoln, Ex President of USA and Father of Liberty

“How amazing is the spirit of man, in spite of immeasurable failings, man throughout the ages, has sacrificed life and all he held dear, for an ideal, for truth, for faith for country and honour! That ideal may change, but that capacity for self-sacrifice continues and because of that much may be forgotten to man and it is impossible to lose hope for him!”
“- Great things can be accomplished by great sacrifices only!”
Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, Ex-first Prime Minister of India (Bharatha Matha)

“Where there is no vision, the people perish!”
A Biblical Proverb

“Let our advance wearying, become advance thinking and planning!”
Sir Winston Churchill, Ex-Prime Minister of England War period!

“Do not be afraid to advance forward
God is with you!”
The Koran

“Behold how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!”
“Arise, awake and stop not till the goal is reached!”
Swami Vivekanandaji

S. T. Arasu
Dehiwela

****

Have a fixed day to pay pensions every month

575362 11/2007 14,428.87 0.00 0.00 0.00 1,062.50 15,491

January 11 (Friday)
February 08 (Friday)
March 08 (Saturday)
April 05 (Saturday)
May 10 (Saturday)
June 12 (Thursday)
July 12 (Saturday)
August 09 (Saturday)
September 11 (Friday)
October 04 (Saturday)
November 07 (Friday)
December 12 (Friday - Full Moon)

(Pension payment system developed and maintained by SLIDA)
The above pension slip sent by the Divisional Secretary, Kesbewa Pradeshiya Sabha, gives the proposed pension dates for the year 2008. It will be observed pension dates for the year 2008. It will be observed that in the months of March, April, May, June, August, October, the pension date falls on a Saturday and in December, Friday a Full Moon day. As we know, Saturday and Poya Days are non-working days in banks and post offices and therefore no transactions are done, unless of course the Pension Department has made arrangements to pay overtime on holiday pay to these officers.

Or could it be that the Pensions Department together with SLIDA (Sri Lanka Institute of Development Administration) had fixed these dates according to the Lunar month? If so, the Pensions Department should be told that we old timers still go by the normal calendar month. Therefore, I would make a simple suggestion. Fix a date in a month say 10th of every month, and make payments on that date. If that date falls on a non-working date, the day after or before may be reckoned as the date. It is hoped that the Minister Karu Jayasuriya, Minister for Public Administration, who restored the pension slip will instruct the authorities concerned to consider this suggestion or continue the Lunar month.

Arising out of this error, it could be suspected that the computation of salaries conversion could be wrong as we the pensioners have no way of finding out, as we do not have the relevant data. I suspect this, as a friend of mime who retired along with me drawing the same salary, receives a higher pension than me.

“Alert Pensioner”
G. A. D. Sirimal
Boralesgamuwa

****

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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