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The need to remind the US of its sordid record
Sri Lanka is perhaps one of the few countries in the world where all manner of
human rights activists are allowed access to prisoners, including those detained
for suspected terrorist activities.
Almost all the Western NGOs and the UN, which are heavily biased towards their
main funding country the United States, backed by a few local NGOs – also
receiving lavish grants from western donors – appear to have ganged up to launch
a well orchestrated campaign to tarnish Sri Lanka as a violator of human rights.
The Western press appears to be ignorant of the facilities, particularly the
access that the prisoners have to their family members and their lawyers. They
have recourse to the law and there are numerous instances when law-enforcement
officers have been convicted and punished for torture etc.
It also needs to be noted that Sri Lanka is one of the few democracies where
‘fundamental rights’ is justifiable; and unlawful detention, torture and inhuman
and degrading treatment are distinct violations of the fundamental rights. Many
are the instances when the state had been ordered to pay compensation to such
victims by our judiciary.
But why is it that the Western media, vociferous organisations and human rights
observers, including the American Ambassador here, display ignorance of, and
observe a deafening silence on, the repulsive and gruesome deeds committed by US
agencies with the full knowledge and tacit approval of the American President
The reasons are clear. America, backed by its white Western allies, is
desperately striving to retain its place as the world’s only superior. It is
alarmed at the dramatic resurgence of Asia and the West Asian oil rich Iran and
Iraq. To divert the attention of the world from its own dismal human rights
record, the US is all out to find fault with others. The guilt of the genocide
of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the Mai Lai massacre and the oppression of the blacks
in their own country remain indelible. The blacks continue to remain black! Even
Barak Obama has become vulnerable.
Peter Singer in his best seller on George W. Bush, The President of Good and
Evil (Granta Books, London 2004) has in four pages given the reader a vivid
insight into the methods of gruesome torture resorted to by state agents of the
US in Iraq and Guantanamo Bay.
When Singer wrote this book, perhaps ‘water boarding,’ a method where the victim
is put through the trauma of drowning had not been discovered by the CIA; and
they keep on experimenting to devise new methods of torture.
The excerpt quoted below from Singer’s book illustrates the cruel, calculated
and prolonged nature of the torture methods resorted to by the US Government:
“Though imprisoning people for months or years, when they have not been charged
with any offence is a clear violation of human rights, the treatment of captured
alleged AI Qaeda members held for interrogation by the CIA in Afghanistan and in
Diego Garcia is even more disturbing. Neither military lawyers, nor the Red
Cross have access to these prisoners.”
Referring to the Guantanamo Bay detention camp, Singer has written, “For the
first few months, the prisoners - many of whom were, after being held for more
than a year, acknowledged to be innocent and released – were kept in small wire
mesh cells roughly six by eight feet in size. The cells had a wooden roof, but
the sides were open to the hot afternoon sun, as well as to wind and rain. In
that tiny space, the prisoners slept on the ground, with just two blankets and a
prayer mat. They also went to the toilet in their cells. They were able to leave
the cells only once a week for a one-minute shower.
But for an occasional isolated incident resulting from the behaviour of an
undisciplined soldier or Policeman with a depraved mind, it is unimaginable that
sustained, cruel and degrading torture of the ‘American type’ as described above
could have taken place or would take place in Sri Lanka. Human rights activists,
UN observers, NGO’s and diplomats who make assessments of the human rights
record of Sri Lanka should be people who are unbiased with a thorough exposure
to human rights violations the world over, particularly the western regimes from
which they invariably come. Or else their judgement could be seriously flawed
and most damaging to the country or countries concerned. If only the US
Ambassadors, prior to being accredited to Sri Lanka, are candidly briefed by the
US Foreign Relations Committee on the state of the detention camps in Guantanamo
Bay and Diego Garcia they are bound to mistake prisons and other detention
centres in Sri Lanka for recreation centres!
What I cannot understand is that when the country is being labelled as a
barbaric nation that violates human rights, why the government is taking a
defensive stand. Our genial and erudite Minister Mahinda Samarasinghe must take
a more aggressive stand. He should challenge the accusers to cite specific
instances of rights violations.
On this specific issue, the might of the US and the aid agencies should not
deter his thinking. Someone needs to have the courage to remind the US of its
infamous past and its heartless role in the ongoing killings of innocent
civilians in Iraq, Afghanistan and Somalia; and tell that it should look inwards
to find the places where torture is endemic and conducted with impunity!
Why standards in Postal Department have declined
Dissatisfaction over the declining postal standards has been expressed in the
print media. The new Minister of Posts too expressed concern, and referred to
inept bureaucracy. He also talked of running the Post on business lines.
The main reasons for the present situation in the Post could be attributed to:
i) Interference in recruitment, promotion and service extension.
ii) Public service working hours / overtime culture
iii) Work norms promoting low productivity
iv) No proper utilisation of staff / excessive staff/less staff
v) Arbitrary and corrupt decisions
vi)Low education qualifications for recruitment to officer grades/ examination
viii) Favouritism and discrimination in the enforcement of discipline
ix) Absence of accountability
x) Wrong placing of staff - square pegs in round holes
xi) Interference in tender processes
2. Low Income
Existence of an excessive network of offices without commercial justifiability
ii) Tariff cover for only salaries and overtime payments to a large extent
iii) Inadequate revenue streams
iv) Financial losses - high operational costs
v) Dependence on government subsidy
vi) Non-collection of terminal dues properly
vii) Poor maintenance, under – capitalisation, offices poorly furbished
3. Lack of Service Culture
i) No clear targets and planning - changes not supported
ii) Low customer voice
iii) Absence of grade to grade training
The new Minister of Posts needs to make a start from his own office - the
The administrative head of the Ministry - the Secretary - should have been sent
home long ago. He is a retiree on service extension. A Supreme Court decision
(Case NO. SC/FR/No.129/2002) determining that awarding of a tender was
arbitrary, unreasonable and unlawful, awarded Rs. 1,500,000.00 as compensation
to the petitioner to be paid by the State. The wrong awarding of the tender took
place when the present Ministry Secretary was the then Postmaster General. The
compensation was paid from postal department funds which was not proper. But no
action was taken to find out those responsible for the unlawful award of the
tender by the Ministry Tender Board, of which the Postmaster General who
recommended the award of the tender to the wrong tenderer, was a member, with a
view to punish the guilty, though the necessity was brought to the notice of the
authorities concerned. The same officer, as the Ministry Secretary, has sent EMS
parcel No. EE 001613194 LK on 5th April 2007, on “State Service” to a relative
of his in India, without paying the charges due, and without declaring the
contents, bypassing the customs, which is an illegal act, (a photo-copy of the
declaration form of the EMS Parcel in question is enclosed). However, he is
still deciding on disciplinary cases against others. Worse still is that he has
taken action to have the case against him suppressed, and promote the officer
who helped him in this illegal act, on the basis of favouritism, when in fact he
should be under interdiction by now.
Then again the case of a questionable competitive examination for promotion to
the grade of Asst. Superintendent, has come to light. PMG’S Circular No. 18/204
dated 17th November 2004 was issued calling for applications from departmental
officers to sit the examination for promotion to the Asst. Superintendent grade.
The circular issued under the signature of the Secretary, Ministry of Posts,
Telecommunications and Upcountry Development had the closing date of
applications as 10th December 2004. However the examination failed to be held in
2005 or 2006. But Circular No. 11/20/890/204 (06) dated 26th July 2006 was
issued under the signature of the Deputy Postmaster General (Administration)
extending the closing date to 2nd August 2006, nearly two years after the
original closing date. It is rumoured that the signature appearing therein is
not that of the DPMG (Administration). Several questions therefore arise over
Why was the exam not held in 2005 or 2006? Was it fair by the applicants to
delay the holding of the exam?
Was it in order for the DPMG to extend the closing date fixed by the Ministry
Secretary? The proper authority to extend the date of closing was the Ministry
Secretary. Accordingly the DPMG’s circular had no validity. The applications
received too became null and void.
Was the exam not held and the closing date for applications extended to
accommodate certain favourites of the authorities?
Was that done to legalise the applications of those who were not qualified to
apply under the Secretary’s Circular, but who had applied and had been
Was it in order to have given training to 14 officers who passed the
questionable exam, without being interviewed and the PSC approving the
appointments? Now that the training had been stopped should not the expenses
involved be recovered from the officer who approved such training?
Was that done to by -pass the disciplinary cases pending against some of them?
It is yet to be seen whether it is political patronage that the Posts Ministry
Secretary, on service extension even against the Public Administration
instructions, and the suddenly appointed Actg. Postmaster General (A SLAS trade
unionist), are expecting, that has emboldened them to appoint and train certain
corrupt and indisciplined officers with disciplinary cases pending against them,
even against the orders of the Public Service Commission .Whether the foolish
arrogance of the two public servants or the legal orders of the Public Service
Commission, the Commission appointed under the Constitution, will prevail, is
interesting to see.
The Minister should also consider the necessity to have a head of department who
has experience in the department as against a complete outsider.
What is happening in the post reminds me of the Sinhala saying, “Wetath Niyarath
Goyam Ka Nam, Kaata Kiyamida a Ammaruwa” which means “If the fence and the bund
(of the paddy field) eats up the paddy, to whom can the complaint be directed.
How appropriate can that be?
Upali S. Jayasekera
Double sessions can increase number of students resolve
Finding schools for the increasing number of school going age children in this
country has become a big problem. It is clear that the way to resolve this
problem is by establishing more schools.
It is also time to use existing schools to have double sessions. If this works
we should be able to double the present number of students in each school.
At the moment large numbers of students travel even 30-40 km up and down. If
these students can get up early, schools can start early and end early to take
in the second batch.
Hope the government takes this suggestion seriously.
Kenneth R. Peiris
A Genteel Parliamentarian
Anura Dias Bandaranaike
Many tributes have appeared in the Press, since the sad and sudden demise of
Anura. May I be permitted, to add my own small mite, my two cents worth, rather
belatedly to a gentleman Parliamentarian par excellence, with whom, I had the
privilege of associating over the last 30 years, ever since he made his debut,
in the then National State Assembly, as a young callow youth of 32 years,
representing the Nuwara Eliya electorate as the SLFP second member of that multi
member constituency. Since that time my friendship with him has grown
steadfastly, over the last 30 years, until his sad demise.
Anura had his early education at Royal College and amongst his distinguished
classmates were Ranil Wickremasinghe, Dinesh Gunawardena and I think, the late
Neelan Tiruchelvam. He had a deep seated affection for his Alma Mater, and used
to grace many of the annual Prize Givings and other College events. Since I was
and old boy too, he often asked me about the College, its present activities and
the welfare of its Principal and students. In fact in recognition of this, the
present Principal insisted that the College is well represented, both when the
body was lying in State at the Parliament premises, as well as at Horagolla to
pay our final tribute, to a distinguished Alumni, so the Principal heading the
body backed by prefects, students and old boys paid our respects, lining up on
either side of the red carpet, in Parliament premises. Even though, the protocol
did not permit us to drape his coffin that day, with the Blue and Gold Flag of
the College, we were permitted to do so, at Horagolla.
After Royal, he proceeded to UK, and read for a degree successfully at the
University of London.
During his tenure as Parliamentarian for over 30 years, he distinguished himself
as a Leader of the Opposition, for five years from 1983-1988, as Minister of
Higher Education, as Speaker of Parliament from 2000 to 2002 changing his
constituency, from Nuwara Eliya to Gampaha, and even as a National List Member.
Few random incidents and anecdotes come to my mind, as I trace his career, which
I would like to share. I would say that, his eloquence as a Speaker in the
thrust and parry of debate, was almost unparalled. He no doubt, inherited this
inborn talent from his late revered father, who shone in all the debates, he
participated without parallel. His silver tongue oratory came to him, without
the slightest hindrance.
What I recall with great nostalgia, is the contribution he made in the House,
when we had invited the Margret Thathcher, then PM of Great Britain to formally
address the House, when she visited Sri Lanka to inaugurate the Victoria Dam,
under the Mahaweli Scheme. As Prime Minister Premadasa was abroad at that time,
the task of giving the Vote of Thanks was handed over to Major Montague
Jayawickrema, then leader of the House. We afforded the opportunity of seconding
the vote of thanks to Anura. On that occasion, he spoke with sheer brilliance
and eloquence.I still recall how the entire Government benches loudly applauded
his speech, and even took the unprecedented step of crossing the well of the
House to congratulate Anura, shaking both his hands, an incident which I have
never witnessed in my 30 years of service. I can recall Madam Thatcher
personally congratulating Anura at tea, which was served on the well manicured
lawns on the second floor in Parliament.
In his eloquent speech, he recalled his own student days at the University of
London, reading History and how he had even demonstrated against the education
policies of Mrs. Thatcher, and how he had avidly followed her long march, from
Grantham to Whitehall, and her ascent from professional life, to political life
through a pioneering trail, as the first woman leader of the Conservative Party,
and the first woman leader of the opposition, preparing her to be Britain’s
first woman Prime Minister, yet gently reminding her that, we in Sri Lanka,
produced the first woman Prime Minister in the world; his own mother and were
two decades ahead. Naturally, this chord endeared himself to her on that
The other significant stand out occasion was, when he delivered a historic
ruling in the House, in June 2001. The occasion was when the Supreme Court
issued a Stay Order restraining the Speaker from appointing a Select Committee,
to inquire into the conduct of the Chief Justice, consequent to a Motion of
Impeachment, against him being forwarded, to the Speaker. Few months before his
appointment as Speaker, unanimously with both sides of the House agreeing, he
asked me to come and assist him, in his Parliamentary duties. Initially, I
refused, since I was reluctant to return to the House. I had left earlier,
having retired as Secretary General, after over 30 years of service. He insisted
and phoned me three times at my home, and then out of respect and regard for
him, I consented. When this motion was handed over to him, I had gone abroad
(with his permission) with my family, for a short holiday. The High Commissioner
in Singapore immediately contacted me, and conveyed Anura’s message, asking me
to return home immediately in view of this new problem. Having returned
forthwith, over the next few days Anura and I sat together, both in Parliament,
and in his gracious book lined library, in his Bawa designed Rosmead Place
apartment, discussing the pros and cons of this Motion, the alleged interference
by the Judiciary with Parliament, and its impact on Parliament. He wanted me
also to consult outside expert legal opinion, which we did so, so we could draft
Anura was so familiar, with the intricacies of Erskine Mays treatise on
Parliamentary procedure, and the Indian treatise, by Shaul and Shakder, that it
made our task so much easier. We toiled together over it, for hours and hours
researching every known similar Parliamentary problem, from Sri Lanka to the UK,
to India. Finally on June 20, 2001, he announced his historic ruling; I wish to
quote here, what he personally put down in the last paragraph:
“In conclusion might I be permitted, on a personal note to say that, I am indeed
proud to belong to a family, that has had the unparalled and unique privilege
of, continuously serving the legislature of this Nation, since 1932 for nearly
70 years. Therefore I deem it a singular honour that, fate has bestowed on me as
Speaker of this august Assembly by affording me the historic opportunity, of
reaffirming the principles underlying the supremacy of Parliament. Since I
commenced my Parliamentary career in 1977, I have often quoted in this House,
the words of the Bard from Stratford on Avon, William Shakespeare in his
monumental play Hamlet, he spoke thus:
This above all to thine own self, be true. And it must follow as the night, the
day Thou canst not be then, be false to any man’
Honourable Members of Parliament, throughout my political and parliamentary
career, I have had to face periods of difficulty, great turmoil and greater
perplexity, which required me to make important decisions and painful choices. I
have done so unhesitatingly, by doing the correct thing, and have acted
according to the dictates, of my conscience.
I thank everyone, my Honorable friends from both sides of the House, for their
attention and patience”.
Needless to add, within the next few months, Anura received congratulatory
messages, for this land mark ruling from the House of Commons in London, the Lok
Sabha and other Commonwealth countries.
I immensely enjoyed his company, and the conversation I had with him ranging
from books, poetry and literature to the film world, and film stars of
yesteryear, and his deep knowledge. His library walls were lined with film
posters, depicting Sir Lawrence Oliver (his favourite actor) Gary Cooper, Clark
Gable, Humphrey Bogart and Marilyn Monroe. Few months before his demise, he
invited me to a ‘one to one’ lunch at Visumpya, and over a delicious rice and
curry, we talked of personal politics, falling standards in public life, men and
I end quoting his favourite author Shakespeare, and his favourite play Hamlet:
‘Good night sweet Prince”
May the angels of Mercy sing thee to thy rest”
Sam Molligoda: Everyone’s friend
On his 32nd death anniversary
Born February 16, 1936
Died March 31, 1976
In sunshine and every flower – we see you
Every song reminds us of you
Life was bright and happy when you were with us.
So many thousand times we wish
You still are….
Like the flash of lightning,
You were taken in a second
On that sad dark rainy April eve
You went to eternal rest as you lived - everyone’s friend
So many years have passed by…
But your memory still lives with us,
In our hearts, minds and thoughts -
With your smile un-faded
The voice – so sure
The love so gentle and warm
We love you more and miss you more than ever…
Your wife Brigette, children Sharmani, Niromi, Shalini, Shandewa, Dammitha and
In-laws Asoka Attygalle, Malcolm Perera, Kingsley Jayaratne, Buddhika
Jayatilleke, Anne and Dilanthi
Grandchildren Amandha, Eranda, Ruwandha, Rajintha, Mewantha, Malindi, Shavindi,
Eshandha, Devanda, Deshada, Heman.
Plight of ‘Maw Sevana’ inmates
We are a Home for Destitute Boys at No. 12, Centre Road, Mattakkuliya. We cater
to the needs of destitute boys, now in our care, for the past 30 years. All
their needs, their accommodation, their schooling, healthcare, and every other
need is provided by ‘Maw Sevena’, without any charge. The Institute has been
running on the contributions from donors in Sri Lanka, and from abroad. In view
of today’s soaring cost of living, additional difficulties are now cast on the
management, to cater to the needs of the Destitute Boys, in its charge, in our
mission, to provide them with, better living conditions in the future, preparing
them to find jobs, to help them earn their own living, through the medium of
suitable vocational training, etc.
At present, we are having additional problems, with the cost of electricity from
the CEB increasing, up to three times or 300%, to what we have been paying in
the past. Up to the end of February 2008, we have been paying around Rs.7000/-
to Rs. 8000/-, but the current bill dates from 1/3/08 to 1/4/08, has soared up
to Rs. 22,019/-. For a Home like ours, this is something, we cannot afford. We
may have to keep the boys in complete darkness in the night, and even deny them,
their opportunity, to study at night.
It is unfortunate that, the government should levy this additional charge, for
electricity, particularly for a Home like ours, and it is time the government
realised that, these soaring rates be brought down immediately, if homes like
ours, are to exist.
Secretary, Board of Management