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Letters


Readers please note it is essential that all Letters to the Editor carry the full name and address of the writer, even if it has to appear under a pseudonym. This applies to all email letters as well.

                                                                                                                                                                                                  

War, inflation and the cost of living

Having read the indictment of the Ceylon Mercantile Union in the Sunday Island of February 24, it was truly saddening that a trade union like the CMU, has not understood President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s ‘Chintanaya’ for the economic upliftment of the country. If the President’s plans are intelligently apprehended by the CMU, which embraces a wide segment of workers, the work of the Government will be simplified.

At each stage, all organisations within the country should assess the work of the State, in terms of what it is achieving, in the overall welfare and progress of the country. In his New Year message, he speaks of sharing power. The word is a misnomer. What he obviously could have meant was, that all citizens will be recipients of equal comfort, freedom and democratic serenity, commencing with the New Year.

If the President, made no mention of inflation and the high cost of living, it may be because, it is the consequence and outcome of the development, he has initiated as the Minister of Finance. If the prices of food, essentials are reduced by subsidies, it will certainly have a favourable impact, on the lives of the citizenry, but will there be a surplus to develop the country, as envisaged in the ‘Chintanaya’?

In the Budget speech of 2008, he outlined that, the first undertaking was the military defeat of the insurgency, but with it, to pay attention to the development of the economy, and to proceed in tandem. For development of the country, money is getting into the hands of all categories of workers, introducing a degree of inflation, as the money spent does not bring results immediately. It takes time for any venture to yield. When the produce grows, prices will resultantly move down, true to the economist’s rule of supply and demand.

Impatience and unfamiliarity with economic laws, introduces restlessness and restiveness in the country. Union leaders should ponder well, and make representations to concerned authorities, detailing their difficulties as citizens. A full and complete understanding of the Government’s efforts, to ameliorate and develop the economy, is available, through discussion and not gossip.

Chicanery, like decrying the size of the Cabinet of Ministers and their life styles, goes ill with a Union leader with a large membership. Such criticism only misleads them, which does not augur well for the Country. He lives free in the sumptuous new Union building, with all his needs too, supplied free. ‘Playing to the gallery’, is truly unworthy of a Union leader. He speaks of corruption. Does he know, what goes on, around the world. If he is observant, he will know that, with the President, corruption is minimal, for he is straining every nerve and sinew, to eliminate or reduce it. Human society will always tend to be corrupt. It is a fact of life .Even the Union has once lost money through a cashier / clerk .

The ‘colossal expenditure’ on Defense and National Security, has been brought about, by the LTTE, that is in search of an Eelam, in the Unitary State of Sri Lanka. The Central Bank is printing currency to meet the cost of the war. It is a figment of the imagination that it is ‘without proper fiscal control’. It is correct that, it is responsible for inflation, as more money is getting into the hands of soldiers, and all who cater to the logistics of the military campaign, which has been thrust on the country.

If inflation is at 20%, it is a reason for merriment, for it is the harbinger of an economic upswing. China, which competes with India and the USA, inflation was galloping, but, with domestically produced agricultural commodities and its industries bearing fruit, inflation will reduce to the joy of the Chinese, when there will be more go around, at lower prices.

Inflation is a good index in assessing progress, but it must be vigilantly monitored, to assess the per capita income, and the movement of the price index. Inflation has hit Cambodia. Thus, what the country produces is insufficient, for the population. However, a growing interest by foreign investors, and a real estate boom is changing the pattern, though inflation remains high, with the work that the Government has undertaken, like repairing derelict irrigation tanks and channels, including waterways, in rural areas and bridges. New bridges and tunnels shorten travel.

Restoration of dilapidated roads and opening up new wide concrete roads, to minimise driving time, and the wear and tear on vehicles, thus saving foreign exchange, on import of motor spares.
The criticism that inflation is low in Europe, is because, it enjoys a developed economy. There is every possibility that, Asia will someday supersede, Europe.

If the Rajapaksa Government is unwilling to compel employers, to grant wage increases, to private sector employees, it is a sensible decision. The Government has the public sector to deal with. It is for the private sector unions to negotiate with the employer unions, for an adequate increase in pay. Expecting the President to intervene all affairs of the Unions is not fair. In the 2008 Budget, the private sector is being encouraged to move on, at full speed, to develop their lot. Chairman of the Ceylinco group of companies commented that, it was a rare budget, devised to step up all activities in the country, especially the private sector, the engine of growth.

Introducing legislation to compel employers, to make wage increases, is to kill the private sector business, and with it, the employees. There is adequate legislation for unions, to have discussions, with employers. The unions’ proposals have a dictatorial veneer, which will be used by critics of the Government, to pin a dictatorial bearing on the President.

Unions can discuss their grievances with employers, and go for arbitration, in the event of a deadlock. Some people propose fundamental changes, in the 1978 Constitution, eliminating the Executive Presidency. Do they know how Singapore under Lee Kwon Yew, and Malaysia under Mahathir Mohammed, came to be Asia’s economic giants?

Mahathir Mohammed was in Sri Lanka, on the invitation of the business community, and at the lecture he emphasised that, what Sri Lanka lacked most, was a little bit of authoritarianism. State subsidies will eat into the capital, that is being used to develop the economy, following the ‘Chintanaya’. As for the North East conflict, there cannot be a ‘democratic political solution’, with a hoard of bloodthirsty terrorists. Unless the LTTE is crushed to smithereens, blood will continue to flow. The surreptitious aided by the West, appears to suppress Sri Lanka. The Tigers will do the heinous work.

The home of the Dravidian Tamils is South India. When Tamils sought a State in South India, their ‘homeland’ India, outlawed the agitation and successfully suppressed it. Now India makes the sardonic suggestion that, Sri Lanka should come to a political agreement. Such a solution will ensure and perpetuate sporadic enmity and war, in the clandestine attempt by the LTTE, to expand its ‘homeland’.

The pernicious alternative will be to concede Eelam, to the LTTE, whose desires will not be satiated by the gift, but will want the entirety of Sri Lanka, driving the Muslims and Sinhalese, as fugitives to neighbouring lands. The General Secretaries assertion that, President George Bush has been unable to suppress ‘terrorism’ in Iraq and Afghanistan, for they are not terrorists, but freedom fighters warring to reclaim their lands, which they lost to terrorist Bush of the USA, in his search for ‘Black Gold’. They fight the mercenary collaborators paid by the USA.

If the World Court is not defunct, Bush should be arraigned, for the heinous crime against Arabs and general humanity. If ‘terrorism in all its forms’ is not uprooted ,one third of the land area and two thirds of coastal land, will be ruled by the LTTE, whose despotic leader ordered all Muslim, Sinhalese and Burghers to leave the North, within 24 hours on pain of death, for disobedience. They left leaving their lands and houses. Recalcitrant Tamils who did not yield to his cherished ideas, he mercilessly killed.

Burdening the Government with the atrocities of murder, abductions and robberies is a puerile imputation. It is known that the richest terrorist group in the World, the LTTE pays and buys over weak kneed, advocates and defenders of violence. The Secretary of the CMU does not believe that, a military defeat of the LTTE, will serve to bring ‘freedom’, from racial discrimination and oppression of the Tamil and Muslim people, in the North East. Will the General Secretary enumerate, the acts of racial discrimination and oppression of the long suffering Tamils and Muslims? With his legal training, he should avoid gibberish, but clarify what he means by the imputation. He sees the Constitution as undemocratic, and wants the elimination of the Executive Presidency. Let him look around the World, and he will see all successful countries governed with an element of authoritarianism. Is not Eelam a despotic land? It will be converted to democracy, with the military take over. The Secretary, with his flamboyant rhetoric, is accustomed to majority votes in the conduct of Union affairs. The governance of a country is different. It requires a firm hand for success. With many years of political experience, the President, has it imbued in him that, Parliament serves as an advisory and legislative body. Governance is his responsibility. The Mahinda Chintanaya was a dream. He now faces reality.

Does the Secretary propose the Balkanisation of Sri Lanka, with his cry for self determination. What about the Tamils and Muslims in the South and West? Why does he drag the silent Muslims into the fray? Has he ganged up with Rauf Hakeem? If Muslims do not now live in the North, it is because of the dictatorial demeanor of the LTTE, that evicted them to the East and Mannar in the North West? The Secretary, if he was observant, should know that the security forces are on the streets, twenty four hours each day, because of terrorism, that threatens the land. Taking joint action with other Trade Unions, to demand appropriate State subsidies on essentials, will be welcome by the Government, for it will provide an opportunity, to explain to the Unions, the reason for the escalation of the COL and not give ear to Tamil prejudices. Tying it up, with the political demand for a ‘political solution’, is a subterfuge, outside the ambit of a trade union. The Secretary will be worthy of his hire, if he finds time to explain to the membership, that the Government is embroiled, in the development of the country, when the COL will be within the reach of the ‘poorest of the poor’, and Sri Lanka will once again be the “Pearl of the Indian Ocean”.
Ivor Samarasinghe
Dehiwela

****

History Slyly Repeats

The Gandhian-dynasty spat
The ‘tiger’ is back
Too late for regrets....
 
History slyly repeats
Gandhi’s off-spring are back
To forgive and forget.
 
Geo-politics slyly repeat
The silent thief is back
As Sri Lanka mourns...
“It’s our fight.”
 
Irene de Silva
Colombo 5

                                                                                    Appreciations                                                                                       

Rev. Dr. Willie George Wickremasinghe

Dr. Wickremasinghe is no more. He breathed his last in the wee hours of the morning on last Good Friday. It is a strange coincidence, that he expired after 2008 years, after his beloved Lord and Master Jesus Christ was crucified.

Dr. Wickremasinghe was born to a very staunch Baptist family. His father who worked on an estate, passed away while Dr. Wickremasinghe, was at a tender age. The upbringing of his brothers and sisters, fell upon the shoulders of his devout and disciplined mother, Mrs.Alice Wickremasinghe.

Dr Wickremasinghe’s family consisted of two brothers and three sisters. His elder sister Jeanette was also a Sinhala trained teacher, and was married to my fathers’ younger brother Walter. His younger sister Mrs. Pearl Welagedara was also a teacher, who specialised in teaching English, as a second language. Incidentally her daughter, Hemamali is the present Principal of Bishops’ College Colombo. His youngest sister Mrs.Laura Somawardena was a Graduate teacher, and vice Principal of the B.M.S. Girls’ School in Matale. Dr.Wickremasinghe’s three sisters were very close to him; were devoted to him and admired him. His younger brother Wally was a Postmaster, attached to the Kadawatha Post Office for a number of years. His daughter Shyama is married to my younger brother, Sarath. They are domiciled in Australia.

Dr.Wickremasinghe as he applied to be a candidate to the Baptist ministry, was selected by the Ceylon Baptist Council, and was sent to the Serampore University for training. At this University, he successfully completed the Bachelor of Divinity examination, and on his return, was sent as the minister to the Hendala Baptist church. Whilst being attached to this church, he met his first wife Resta de Alwis, who was the daughter of a very successful proprietory planter, Mr. Robert de Alwis. Resta was a pretty, vivacious young lady, who was an ardent church worker. They fell in love and married.

After marriage, Dr. Wickremasinghe and his wife proceeded to England, and Dr Wickremasinghe entered the Regents Park College in Oxford, to follow a course in Theology. At the end of this course, he was awarded the M.A. in Theology. On his return to Sri Lanka, he served as the Minister at the Baptist Church in Moratuwa. Thereafter, he was released by the Baptist Council, to undertake a post as a lecturer, at the Serampore University, where he served, for a few years.

On his return to Sri Lanka, Dr. Wickremasinghe was appointed, the Principal of Carey Baptist College. He served as Principal of this school, for a number of years. He and his wife Resta, undertook several new building projects for the school, as the existing buildings were old and dilapidated. Several new classrooms were built and a new Hall was also constructed. The live wire in the construction of these buildings, was his wife Resta. She worked tirelessly to collect funds.

When Dr.Wickremasinghe took over the administration of Carey, he had to face an unpleasant incident. The staff protested about the termination of the former Principal Rev. W.M.P. Jayathunga. This did not deter Dr.Wickremasinghe, who with his strong personality and Christian faith, tided over these problems. Dr.Wickremasinghe was a disciplinarian, who never used the rod, unless absolutely necessary. He settled all disciplinary matters by discussion and goodwill. This made him very popular, with his students.

When he was Principal at Carey College, he was appointed President of the World Baptist Youth Alliance. Subsequently, he was-conferred a Doctorate in Divinity, by a prominent American Christian University. He also underwent a course of training at the University of Colombo, where he successfully completed, the Diploma in Education.

Dr. and Mrs Resta Wickremasinghe were the parents of three lovely girls. The eldest Neela was born in England, and is presently the Vice Principal of the Lyceum International School, in Wattala. The second daughter Sharmali, was the one time president of the Y.W.CA. The youngest daughter Chrisanthi married a doctor. She passed away a few years ago. Dr and Mrs.Resta Wickramasinghe and their daughters, were a very closely knit family.

The biggest blow that Dr. Wickremasinghe received in his life, was the passing away of his beloved wife Resta. She died about 30 years ago. The second blow he received was, the passing away of his youngest daughter.
About 25 years later, Dr. Wickremasinghe remarried Iranganie Hettiarachci, who was the singing teacher of Carey College. Irangani was a very talented musician, who was a glorious soprano. She was trained by the best mezzo soprano we had, Mrs.Lorraine Abeysekera.

After being the principal of Carey for a considerable time, Dr. Wickremasinghe retired from this post and took up the appointment as principal of Trinity College, Kandy. He and his wife Irangani did a considerable amount of work for Trinity. A few years ago he retired from Trinity.

Dr. Wickramasinghe was the President of the Sri Lanka Baptist Sangamaya, for a number of years. He also held a number of posts in the World Baptist Alliance. With regard to Protestant ministers, who held ecumenical posts abroad, there are only two from this country. The first is Dr.D.T.Niles, who was the President of the World Council of Churches and the other is, Dr.Wickremasinghe who held posts in the World Baptist Alliance.
Apart from being a scholar, Dr.Wickremasinghe was greatly interested in cricket and other sports. He represented the Serampore University, in the inter Univrtsity cricket matches, in Calcutta.

He was always present at the inter school cricket fixtures, of both Carey and Trinity.
1 have known Dr.Wickremasinghe from my childhood. He was a straight, upright, God fearing gentleman. He was the best dressed person, I have ever come across.! am certain that on last Good Friday Dr. Wickremasinghe met his Maker in His heavenly mansions for eternity.
H.S.Jayasundara

****

Mohamed Rafeeq Moosa

“Life is finite and accruals matter not a whit unless they are of the philosophical kind! We harvest, then we gather and we gather yet once more, and we capriciously yearn for yet another harvest of riches only to find Death as the farmer, which is when we cower in fear at the sight of our mortality in all of its dismal glory!” This is an extract of the note I received from my brother when I informed him of my shock, sadness and grief at the sudden demise of Moos (as he was affectionately called by his friends). Moos actually accrued nothing material during his lifetime and this is a fact; his was a life only full of memories, experiences and righteousness. Moos had always told me he wished his departure would be like a bolt of lightening and that was just how it was. He never wanted to be a burden on anybody. His family suffered a double tragedy when his only brother Abdul passed away in the same house, no sooner Moos’s mortal remains were carried away. His wonderful mother whom Moos cared for and doted on, is left floundering in unimaginable grief.

Moos belonged to the lively “friends for ever” 1962 batch of Royalists and networked faithfully with them all the way. He never missed a class reunion. Although a keen Ruggerite, he excelled as a cadet and as Platoon Sergeant won the coveted Herman Loos Trophy for Royal beating over 100 schools at Diyatalawa. He was also chosen to take the salute in front of Indian Premier Indira Gandhi during their Republic Day Celebrations in New Delhi. He was a live wire at Royal and later in the RCU, supporting every sport and activity with gusto. He was appointed a Prefect which was at that time a very prestigious achievement because only 12 made it. His attachment to Royal is unique in that he remembered minute details of specific matches that were played over the years, and never missed a Bradby or a Royal-Thomian. Passa’s bus and The Stallions will surely miss his “sobering” presence!

His memory and ability to recall specific incidents and relate spicy anecdotes involving masters, minor staff and class mates at Royal is indeed legendary and has been fortunately recorded by his 62 group. To celebrate 50 years since joining Royal he visited the primary school with his childhood buddy RH, and took photos outside his first class room, and then one riding a swing(!) and another with “ducky” at the RCU. Such was his attachment to his school and the memories he cherished.

Moos was an outstanding A division rugby referee and went on to become the President of the Referee’s Association later on. He was also called upon many a time to take up duties as an Assessor of Referees during International matches and was also a die-hard member of the CR&FC. He coached the Royal Junior teams with great enthusiasm and there is many a player who went on to represent the first XV and play club rugby who remember him with love and gratitude.

Although Moos was about 5 years my senior at Royal we always recognised and acknowledged each other, whenever our paths would briefly cross. By a very happy circumstance he commenced working for my Company in 1995, where he remained until his demise. Moos was truly a remarkable human being, and as the years went by, my respect and love for him grew. He was an exemplary employee and his Punctuality, Loyalty and Integrity was absolutely unquestionable. It was so easy with Moos to implement our code of business ethics because it was exactly what he believed in. He was loved and respected by all his colleagues because he never hesitated to reach out with kindness to assist, advise, inspire, motivate and empower anybody who needed it. In his 13 years of dedicated service to the Company I can’t remember him taking even a single day of leave! He was a whiz at working cryptic crosswords, word games and mind games and never started the day without unscrambling “Jumble”. There wasn’t a day when Moos would not stroll into my room, sit down, cross his legs and shoot the breeze. The topics we discussed were diverse, ranging from, politics, hospitals and pharmaceuticals, to the origin of life, UFO’s, corporate social responsibility, farming, sport, where the youngsters of today were heading and, how our generation existed and enjoyed life with almost nothing in our pockets.

Moos loved his family and supported them unconditionally. He gave of his time (at any time) to his mother and until the end went shopping by foot for her groceries. He took her to Mecca to perform Hajj, shielded her during the fire and stampede amongst thousands of sandals left behind, and brought her home, safe and free. Although a devout Muslim, he never allowed his beliefs to come between himself and his friends or, anything for that matter. He was cosmopolitan in the true sense.

Above all, Mohamed Rafeeq Moosa was a simple man and lived a simple life. He took nothing from life excepting some happy memories. There was a certain sadness about him, which I could not take away. I wish I could have.
Jomo Uduman

****

Herman Fernando – a devoted family man

The second death anniversary of Herman Fernando, my father-in-law, falls on April 28. His untimely and early death created a great void among his family, close relatives and a wide circle of friends. His outgoing and friendly nature is still missed by all of us.
He was the Chairman of Odeon Motor Engineering (Pvt) Ltd. He was an exemplary employer who always looked after the welfare of his large number of employees, even to the extent of assisting them in their family problems. The year-end party he gave his employees annually was an event we looked forward to – full of fun and entertainment and with gifts galore to his employees.

In the 1980s he was a very active participant in the Lions Movement. He initiated several successful fundraising projects, which were of great benefit to the needy. With the increasing pressure of his business activities, he had to give up these activities with great reluctance.

He was a devoted family man and very religious. He was especially fond of his only granddaughter (my daughter). He had great plans for her future and was impatient to see her grow up.

He faced a great personal tragedy which broke his indomitable spirit. His younger son, Cresenta, attached to the World Bank was caught up in the 2004 Boxing Day tsunami at Unawatuna and was swept away by the treacherous waves without a trace. His father’s hopes for his future were all shattered with this tragedy. He was never the same man again.
He died two years ago, broken in spirit, leaving us bereft of the love and affection of a good and devoted parent.
May his soul rest in peace.
Nirupa Fernando,
Rajagiriya

****

 

 

 

 

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