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Letters


Note to readers
All contributors to the letters page please limit letters to no more than 500 words. Letters longer than 500 worlds will be edited.

 

 

Loudspeakers and Muslims

I read with much concern that Muslim MPs have all come together to demand that the government brings legislation to overturn the Supreme Court ruling on noise pollution. As a long suffering resident close to a Mosque and two Buddhist temples, I wish to state that this practice of a loud call to prayer through amplifiers and Pirith through the night broadcast to one and all, is a violation of my right to peace and quiet.

I am a student of the preaching of the Prophet; though not a Muslim, I am an admirer of those who practice Islam. I am also at one with the Muslims who confess directly to God without intermediaries (Mullahs or Imams only lead the communal prayers). Islam prescribes attitude of mind and specific duties, most important is the acceptance of the uniqueness, the power and authority of almighty God. Islam’s fundamental duties, practices and beliefs are: the profession of faith, daily prayer (six times a day), Zakat or the giving of a portion of ones earnings to the poor, fasting to realise what starvation the poor go through (it is also a great self-discipline) and finally, the pilgrimage to Mecca to strengthen their faith.

The religion is essentially practical and is indeed its strong point. The dead are buried within 24 hours before putrification sets in, though some believers attribute another reason based on the concept of ascension. Even the concept of Halal can be understood in the context that the Prophet did not wish people to eat the flesh of dead animals – just as the eating of pig meat is forbidden. Alcohol is prohibited for obvious reasons; commerce is advocated and encouraged, though I do wish there were drugs in those times and involvement in any form with such substances was also prohibited.

To the all important matter of prayer; could one think of a better way to come within one’s self than to pray? Prayer in any form is also a meditation and cleanses one’s self --- and praying six times cannot surely be a bad thing. A Muslim does not need a particular place to pray but mosques have been erected because it affords a place for communal prayers. Now to the summoning to prayer; at the time of the prophet there would not have been clocks and it was necessary to remind the faithful that it was time to pray; hence minarets were erected from where the human voice carried to the village and called the faithful to come to the Mosque or pray where ever they may be at that particular time. Minarets certainly had a useful purpose in those medieval times, but do Muslims of the 21st century need to be reminded to pray or to come to the Mosque, through a powerful public address system? No, I do not think so; devout Muslims know their obligations to themselves and to God. The believer knows when the hour of prayer is; he can recite the Shahada and say Allahu Akbar ‘God is great’ without any prompting or reminding through a loudspeaker. He could praise Allah, pledge obedience to Him, the supreme one, the only deity to be worshipped, pray and recall His glory and seek his protection. Yes, he should be able to discharge his principal obligation without disturbing any one. I am certain that Allah would not wish the old, the sick and feeble, also infants and children to be disturbed by a loud call to prayer of another religion. We do hope that our Muslims brothers will understand that in the name of the compassionate and merciful Allah they should not disturb other citizens.
C Fernando
Wellawatte

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After LTTE what next?

The above letter by “Raja Bhawatu Dhammiko” of 17.02.08 in all newspapers is a forewarning, if Mahinda Rajapaksa has read it and taken action, before it is too late.

In the letter, the writer speaks of the behaviour of Dr. Mervyn Silva, Deputy Minister. Due to the pressure brought by the journalists and the most respected Buddhist monks, Ven. Dr. Bellanwila Wimalarathana, Ven. Sobitha Thero of Kotte Rajamaha Vihara and the Congress of Religions, Minister Silva has been asked to resign.

The next “Raja Bhawatu Dhammiko” mentions is the two Western Province Council Ministers whose inquiry over fraud, forgery, embezzlement had been completed by the committee appointed by the SLFP, held by Minister W. V. J. Seneviratne and handed over as far back as 13th January, 2007 to Minister Maithripala Sirisena, Secretary of the SLFP.. Since then no action has been taken as alleged by party members of the SLFP in the Western Province Council – refer Sunday Times of 07.10.07 titled “Disgruntled SLFPers seek Justice”.

Will the General Secretary of SLFP, Mr. Maithripala Sirisena, MP and Minister, keep the voters informed of the present position, although over a year has passed. Or is it his ploy to sweep this case under the carpet to safeguard these culprits? If that is the attitude taken by the party hierarchy on complaints made by its own party members, what can we voters expect?

It is hoped that journalists, the Congress of Religions, the Venerable monks, those who seek peace, justice and disciplined politicians, would pressurize, President Mahinda Rajapaksa, to expedite action against the culprits. If not, who will be held responsible for his promises made at the Presidential Elections for a disciplined society. As readers we would like to remind him that voters had implicit faith in him when they voted for him. Let him not betray that trust.
R. Ranchagoda
Homagama

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Violation of fundamental ‘humane’ rights

Being a citizen of Sri Lanka resident in Maharagama and following the Buddhist faith, I was driving along Rajakeeya Mawatha around 11 a.m., with lunch ‘almsgiving’ to Buddhist Monks resident at a temple attached to Maharagama Dharmayatanaya and situated in Colombo 7. I was signalled to ‘Stop’ opposite the ‘Boake Gates’ of Royal College. Although I braked instantaneously, thus damaging the flask containing the soup, I may have travelled about two meters prior to the car coming to a halt owing to the time-lag of my reflex action. The armed guards insisted that I take my car back. In my anxiety, I reversed into the car behind me. The Traffic Police personnel at the venue found fault with that car too for having come forward so much. Mind you, the guards were at the end closest to Reid Avenue on the triangular island at the Reid Avenue/Rajakeeya Mawatha Junction. However, I settled the issue by paying the cost of damage caused to the brand new Tata car.

The time was 11.15 a.m., and I tried turning the car and taking another route to try reaching my destination in time for the almsgiving as the monks attached to this temple strictly follow/observe ‘Vinaya’ Rules of Discipline similar to monks in monasteries and do NOT partake of any food after 12 noon. If not informed of an almsgiving in advance, these monks would go on ‘Pindapatha’(begging for food) with the alms-bowl. In this instance, we had informed the temple that this almsgiving was in memory of my parents on the death anniversary of my beloved father. Whilst I was turning the car the other vehicles in the traffic jam including a motorcyclist moved their vehicles to help me to turn. At this moment, the Traffic Police officer came running to my car and I indicated to him that I am carrying food for an almsgiving to monks and that I am in a hurry. He said “You can’t go; it is one-way”. Now, I said it was ‘not - one way’ but ‘no way,’ as I was neither allowed to go forward nor turn back. I consider this action as a gross violation of my Fundamental Human Rights to ‘Freedom of Movement’ enshrined in the Constitution of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka. Being a vegetarian Sinhala Buddhist, I hereby claim that these Police officials acted in contravention of the Constitution of Sri Lanka by deprivation of a Fundamental Right of the majority race and religion of the island which regained independence from colonial rule sixty years ago.

To add insult to injury, whilst I was waiting in my car opposite the ‘Boake Gates’of Royal College, I saw a convoy of vehicles ‘whizzing’ past along Reid Avenue in the direction of Independence Square Junction from Bambalapitiya which appears to be another violation! It is in the opposite direction on this ‘ONE-WAY’ Reid Avenue. I presume the occupants of these vehicles were citizens of Sri Lanka, and, according to the Constitution of Sri Lanka, all citizens should have equal Rights!! Thereafter, the road was reopened for normal traffic and having had to drive within the stipulated 30 km/h speed limit on this so-called ‘one-way’ road I failed to reach my destination on time to serve alms before 12 noon. In view of the foregoing circumstances, it was disheartening to note that these aged monks, one of whom is over four score years of age and another over 75 years of age and on a ‘pace-maker’ after a recent by-pass heart surgery had to be ‘starving’ till ‘heel-dana’ or morning meal the next day.

I wonder whether our elected representatives or Human Rights activists either here or abroad would take this episode seriously. Even the Jathika Hela Urumaya MPs should voice their protest and NOT ‘turn-a-blind-eye’ just because they enjoy sumptuous meals in Parliament at the expense of the Sri Lankan Tax Payer!!
Anonymous

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Electrocuting the people!

The people are most despondently and despairingly awaiting the electrifying news from the C. E. B. Probably in no country in the world, unless under the rule of a despot are the people so assailed from all sides. One is reminded of the Sinhala adage, “water always flows down the to the lowest point” The ordinary people are at the highest point only prior to an election. Thereafter they are pushed down by the very Parliamentarians they elected.

It is a fact that electricity gives only one shock. But the government on the same issue is delivering at least three shocks:.
1. The people pay huge salaries, innumerable perks, pensions, etc to ministers with the fervent expectation that they will organise the institutions under them to be efficient cost effective and people friendly. The C.E.B. certainly does not live upto this expectations. Instead they force their customers to undergo shock treatment..

2. The employees in the C.E.B. have publicly defrauded and spirited away colossal sums of money collected from the people. But they carry on regardless. The people thus have to undergo this shock as well, while the minister concerned is either ignorant or indifferent.

3. The Board members , inspite of the fact that they claims to be in the red,. continues to add to their cadre, indulge in purchasing luxury vehicles, tolerate wanton waste and corruption and help themselves to untold privileges.

So this is another shock that people have to undergo.
The question on every one’s lips is what exactly the Minister is doing. Surely he must be at least now aware of the state of the C. E. B. after the scathing report on the C.E.B. The whole country is waiting with bated breath for some kind of reaction from the government, since any positive action would certainly bring some relief to the burdened people. But just as most other similar institutions,. Will this long wait of the people bring futile results?

The Minister of Power and Energy does make his appearance before the mass media with forebodings and warnings, almost implying that it is the people who are responsible for this pitiful situation, and that he is helpless. He also offers false concessions to fool the people. The people are certainly more knowledgeable than that.

In this context, following are some of the questions that demand a direct and truthful answer from the Minister:
1. Have any new appointments been made to the Board. which allegedly is running at a loss, thus heaping further burdens on the people?
2 Has the Minister taken any steps to recover the people’ s monies fraudulently taken from the C.E.B., in order to improve its financial status? Or is the Minister trying to offset these losses by taking more money from the people?.

3 Is the Minister still permitting the payment or bonuses. purchasing or luxury vehicles and ostentatious public shows etc to continue as before, while doling out dark and dismal stories to the people?

If the Minister can come before the people and truthfully admit that he has taken every possible step to conserve expenditure in the C E. B., and there is still a shortfall, the . people will no doubt rally round him and ungrudgingly try to help him.. But in the present situation the people will certainly feel they are cheated, exploited and robbed due to Ministerial interference. The people are called on to switch off lights while the road lights keep burning..

The price structure proposed is blatantly unjustified irrational and definitely callous. The Postal Department has evolved a system where one pays a lump sum for a certain number or words and thereafter only a unit payment for each extra word.

The CE.B. should also adopt a similar structure which will certainly be acceptable to be people. The rate per unit may be increased appropriately between the slabs. For example if a stipulated slab is 90 units and if a person uses 1’01’ (for example 05 units) he should pay only the original amount for the first 90 units together with 5 x (unit cost above 90) and so on. The present system is certainly a burden on the people and can in no way be accepted. The present unconscionable and punitive increases imposed on a user as he crosses a slab is most heartless and even vindictive. We make this recommendation to the direct attention of the Minister and particularly’ to the President, who is stridently claiming that this government is fully focussed in alleviating the burdens on the people. The people should certainly not be called upon to pay for the fun and frolic or the CE.B. The people are already making huge sacrifices and also suffering grievously both physically and mentally from the effects of the on-going war.
Asoka Devendra

****

Vigilance committees and lethargic police

The news-item of Friday, 30th November, captioned “IGP orders probe into Kohuwela Police inaction” states as follows; “The IGP has ordered an inquiry into why Police failed to respond when informed of a suspicious parcel” and “Kohuwela Police refuted the charges and said they rushed to the place on hearing the explosion”, Well said!!! This clearly shows that the officers of the Kohuwela Police Station do not understand “Emergencies” and Priorities”! They wait for the explosion to occur before acting on information they have received!!!

The IGP should NOT be surprised. This is the usual practice at the Kollupitiya Police Station too! There have been similar instances of “inaction” which I have experienced within the High Security Zone of Colombo. Disabled three-wheelers have been pushed into “No Parking” Zones clearly indicated by “No Parking” sign boards and yellow markings. When Police personnel attached to the Terrorism Investigation Division were informed they turned “a blind eye. There response was “It is not our duty; Inform Traffic Police”. When we telephone “Police Emergency” they do not turn-up “in an emergency”, if any fatal incident has not occurred!!!

We are not living in Paradise Isle Sri Lanka but in Sri Lanka which is a “FOOLS’ PARADISE”!
Organising Vigilance Committees alone cannot solve problems unless Police personnel are trained in “COMMON SENSE” and also instructed to respond immediately to calls from the public, although most of which may end up without any positive dangerous incident!

Lankeeka Purawesiyek
Kollupitiya.

****

The electric shock-The new killer

Further to the proposed new rates for Electricity as published in the Ceylon Daily News of the 21st February (Page 20), copy of which is attached herewith, even those who consume a minimum of 30 units( the poorest of the poor) will also have to pay Rs.48/- more and from 31 units, the additional amount would rise to Rs.91/30. It would be 50% more.

From this point, the new rates continue soaring. For a consumption of 60 units, the increase is Rs. 129/- and at 61 units, the increase amounts to Rs. 280/-, which is an increase of almost 80%. For a consumption of 90 units, the increase is Rs.270/- an increase of almost 80%.

Then at 180 units, the increase is Rs.only 443/- or just 20% but at 181 units, the increase is Rs. 1454.44/-, an increase of over 60%. Then at 360 units, the increase is Rs. 1290/- or 20%, but at 361 units, the increase soars to Rs.7786.20 . It is a 140% increase.

Then at a consumption of 600 units, the increase is Rs.9,411.60, an increase of over 75%- The cost of a unit here is Rs.20.46 per unit, and then comes the killer for 601 units, it is Rs.31, 840.00, an increase of 150% or Rs.52.99 rounded per Rs.53/- per unit.

God save those who consume over 601 Units , as the charge will certainly be a staggering one or a knockout blow to those who consume over 600Units. The charge here could be Rs.50, 000/- or even more. Whilst, it may be said that those in this category should pay more for a greater consumption., the Department has to ask for this killer increase from this group. Is this the average charge for electricity in other parts of the world? According to these rates, our charges for large consumptions of electricity are unconscionable and disastrous, and probably the highest in the world.
These new rates will not only be applicable to private users , but will also be applicable to Commercial Institutions, which may be asked to pay even more than private users.

It is time the Government realises that, these increases in the rates of electricity are not fair. As its burdens are now becoming unbearable on the people, who are already called to pay soaring costs of food, this additional or high increase in the rates of electricity, (which is so vital for every citizen of this country) will certainly deal a near death blow on an already suffering people.

It is time the Government realised the burden it would be on people, who are already heaped with many other problems. Please give the people the relief, they are asking. Otherwise it may pave the way for people to lose all hope of any relief from the Government, and look for relief elsewhere.
- Anonymous

****

Elucidation from the US Ambassador

An article in a widely read Sunday newspaper on February 17 ref¬erred to the Oath of Allegiance taken by Gotabhaya and Basil Rajapaksa when they were granted US citizenship. According to this article, a person taking the Oath declares that he/she would give up allegiance to any other sovereign state.

If this is correct, as it very probably is, how are these persons and others of their ilk, who were ‘imported’ holding important state positions here? (Incidentally, dual citizenship is granted only by the President).

These persons are virtually running (or more correctly, ‘ruining’) the country. Is this morally correct or acceptable? The ethics of the matter demands that they renounce allegiance either to the US or to Sri Lanka.

Mr. Ambassador, can you throw some light on the matter? Is it cor¬rect or not, that such persons must give up allegiance to Sri Lanka or any other country, when they take the oath of Allegiance to the US.

It is a dangerous situation. The ‘gentlemen’ concerned are likely to make a dash for safety, as they did before, if the situation turns ugly. The country would then be in a worse mess than that created by these ‘gentlemen’ and the Company.
God save Sri Lanka!
A.A.B.’
Attidiya

****

Noise polution regulations

I have read with much interest the recent news releases, letters to the editor etc on the subject of noise pollution and I would like place on record where I have been a victim due the loud noise twice a day on a daily basis from the loudspeaker just opposite my house.

This all started in June 2004 when a group of people in the area built a Lord Buddha Shrine with a loudspeaker. Thereafter, the chanting of pirith twice a day on a daily basis and addition activities on poya days commenced.

Once the pirith chanting is over at 6.30 am, Science College, which is also opposite my house, commences another dose of pririth chanting and also the school announcements which should be limited to the teachers and students.

I have duly made a complaint to Mt Lavinia Police Station with no action being taken, although certain action was taken when I made a complaint to the DIG Western Province. The discussions had with the then SSP did not receive any results, he mentioned that he has the same problem where he lives from the neighboring church.

I have had discussions with the neighbourhood Buddhist temple where I visit for my religious activates, they have no control. They too use loudspeakers on Poya Days and other days of importance, but it is not heard outside of the temple premises. Incidentally, this particular loudspeaker is heard to the temple but the temple loudspeaker is not heard to my house.

In the event, this group of people wants to perform their religious activities there are four prominent and well known temples within a 200 yard radius. Presume they do not want to join one of these said temples as they do not benefit from the collection, otherwise I see no other reason.

However, finally one Head Quarter Inspection of the Mt Lavinia Police brought the concerned people and explained to them that what they are doing is illegal and as it is a religious activity to use the loudspeaker without being a nuisance to the neighbourhood. They recorded a statement ref; CIB II dated 23/03/2006, page 206, para 578. I agreed to the arrangements made by the HQI as indicated in the statement in order that this operation will be legalised shortly. But, I have doubt that the loudspeakers are used legally.

I have informed the Dehiwala - Mt Lavinia Municipality and no action has been taken in this regard.
Now, I would like ask the following simple questions from the relevant authorities, please correct me f if am wrong.

Police - I presume one has to obtain a permit from the HQI of the area of the Police Station, if not why is the Police not taking any action? When one is found guilty of parking offence, they are penalised, which I feel is a minor offence compared to using of loudspeaker which is of a nuisance to the public.
Municipal Council - How is a construction allowed without having a legal deed of ownership, plan approved prior to commence of the construction and on completion.

CEB - How is it that an electricity connection is provided without the necessary legal documentation.
NWS & DB - How is it that a water connection is provided without the necessary legal documentation.
Ministry of Religious Affairs - Why is it that Lord Buddha Shrines are allowed to be placed in every nook, and corner with loudspeakers. To my reckoning, Lord Buddha statues should place in very sacred areas with cleanliness etc. Further, no one stops and listens to the prirth chanting over the loudspeakers which are normally placed in noisy street corners etc.
Finally, with the recent regulations announced by the authorities, I presume this social menace shall be eliminated in Sri Lanka.
In the event, anyone needs copies of my correspondence, I would be glad to provide them on request and also be present at any forum.
D. R. P. Abeysinghe
Mt Lavinia

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