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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.

 

                                     Destroying the LTTE’s air power                                   

For the fifth time, the LTTE has dropped two bombs at Weli Oya, according to recent media reports. It is a crying shame that we have miserably failed to destroy the two toy-like, short range low-lying aircrafts of the LTTE. Do we not possess radar systems by which we could track these planes and bring them down with ack-ack guns or fighter planes?

If we do not possess anti aircraft guns to engage enemy planes together with essential equipment such as radar systems predictors, height finders, search lights, night flares, etc., it is high time we obtained such equipment without any delay so that the two planes belonging to the LTTE could be destroyed.

In an earlier letter written by me and published in The Nation, I stressed the importance of providing the necessary equipment so that we could completely irradicate this menace of the LTTE.
R. M. L. Ratnayake, JP

****

Sri Lanka law is not – implemented by private bus owners

I do not know why private buses plying on some of the roads in Sri Lanka do not issue tickets to the passengers. I have travelled from Kottawa to Borella and even on the High Level Road without tickets recently. Another problem is getting the balance money from these bus conductors.

Sometimes, we give notes as we do not have coins. In that case, when we question about the balance, these conductors inquire from us what was the amount we gave him. In fact, they are even unable to be kind, as there are a good number of passengers in the bus. Sometimes, we have to fight with the conductors to get the balance. I do not know whether instructions are given by Prabhakaran not to issue tickets. Otherwise, these bus conductors must comply with Sri Lankan law.
M. G. Asoka Karunarathne
Pannipitiya.

****

               Rotten apple left over by Emirates inside SriLankan cabin!             

After the SriLankan-Emirates ‘divorce’ at the end of March 2008, one would have expected hiccups and teething problems in computerised systems as Emirates dominated this area throughout their marriage, which ran over a decade.

But, who would have expected to find the odd rotten apple, mixed among the cabin crew, which would defy President Rajapaksa’s morale boosting speech recently to the airline staff to take pride in our ‘own’ National Carrier?

Colombo-London SriLankan flight UL 503 on May 1 was quite contrary to what President Rajapaksa would have expected from the cabin crew: To maintain ‘ape kama’ (national feeling) when serving passengers on board.

The case in question was a steward who, while serving a round of drinks to front cabin passengers, refused a request made by a female passenger seated next to me for two cups of tea, point blankly saying, ‘we are very busy madam, it’s a maid service’! When the passenger pressed the service call button next, this steward immediately switched off the seat indicator in a quite high handed manner! This was immediately after observing tea being served to a couple (white foreigners), who were seated in front of the lady passenger. The defiant lady passenger was courageous enough to question the steward about his unacceptable behaviour and summoned the Check Steward, who was on board during this flight. Two cups of tea were brought by a charming hostess with a smile, only after such a complaint.

About 90 minutes prior to landing at Heathrow Airport, the passenger toilet near the front cabin section was locked (by the staff) as the cabin crew sat next to it and relaxed while this male steward in question stood near the ‘kitchen’ area chatting to them and directing passengers who were queuing up to use the toilet to a far away toilet at the tail end of the plane.

Having waited opposite the ‘engaged’ door for more than 10 minutes, (thinking a passenger was using the toilet) a white passenger and I were also directed to the tail end toilet with the comment ‘there are two more toilets at the other end sir!’ What was obvious during this flight was that not a single announcement was made in Sinhala or Tamil throughout, but only in English – much to the contrary of the President’s advice. This was also the case at the Bandaranaike International Airport (BIA) terminal where a Sinhala lady with two young children was seen nonplussed, probably not being able to understand English announcements. A ground hostess’s explanation to this was because there were lots of foreign passengers in the flight. However, when reminded her that SriLankan Airlines was our National Carrier she remained silent.

Another passenger, seated next to me during the flight explained his experience at the checking-in counter at the BIA. He was an ex-Sri Lankan Air Force Officer who is now working and residing in London. He was taken aback, according to him, when a white woman right in front of him in the queue was upgraded to business class at the airport. When queried as to why there was discrimination and Sri Lankans are given step-motherly treatment, she too had become intentionally silent.

The majority of the foreigners who travel to Sri Lanka are on cheap package tours to Maldives, and are on transit in Colombo. The irony is that they seem to get the best of attention and upgrading etc, while Sri Lankan passengers who pay much more in fares are, at times, treated shabbily.

SriLankan Airlines seem to advertise more about the Maldives during in-flight service, while nothing is shown about Sri Lanka! Three hearty cheers to our National Airline and ‘ape kama!’ The time is ripe for our own national carrier to learn from the mistakes at the very onset in our own operation and put them right and make Sri Lankan passengers also feel that they get equal and quality service.

It is not going to pay in the long run, to see some of the staff still preferring to keep on bending into two and three in front of white faces and say ‘yes sir, no sir three bags full sir!’ After all, has the SriLankan crew forgotten the fact that it is their bounden duty to serve passengers courteously? It is their living and their job. It’s the Sri Lankan passengers who pay a full fare and not the tourists who come on cheap holiday flights that help them to take bacon home at the end of the month!
Dr. Tilak S. Fernando
London - Passenger 11F

****

    Constitutional Council and the appointment of members to the various commissions   

There is a hue and cry and media reports regarding the appointments to the various Commissions by the Speaker, Prime Minister, Leader of the Opposition and one person nominated upon agreement by the majority of the Members of Parliament belonging to political parties or an independent group to which the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition are appointed by the President.

There was a disagreement among the majority of the MPs and independent groups, and to prevent any conflict and breakdown of the institutions, the President, in good faith, correctly appointed independent members with integrity and free from any political aspirations, to the various Commissions.

For example, members appointed to the Public Service Commission (PSC) comprised of a president, who is a retired Supreme Court Judge, three university professors, a President’s Counsel, two retired, very senior Administrators (Secretaries), a senior reputed Educationist and a senior Consultant family physician, totalling nine independent members without any political aspirations.

As you will observe if the appointments are according to the 17th Amendment, all the members will be political appointees. For example, the Speaker, Prime Minister, Leader of the Opposition and the member appointed in consultation with the political parties, appointed by the President. This why the President cannot appoint reputed persons to the various Commissions.

The Judicial Service Commission (JSC) too is represented by a panel of highly respected individuals without any political aspirations.

These Commissions have been functioning quite efficiently for about two years and are not influenced by any political party, individuals or the President.

There are 10 sittings per month. They have to sacrifice their valuable time and expertise at work voluntarily and at a financial loss, for their service to about 600,000 public servants.

The present president of the OPA contested the appointments in courts and the courts held the appointments valid. As such, the appointments to the Commissions, could be construed as legally appointed. One member of the PSC held the position of forum member of the OPA and could have been the president of the OPA.

I humbly request all parties who have any personal animosity towards one or all the members of the Commission, to refrain from making any advice or comments, and allow the Commissioners to work independently and impartially, without political influence or bias.
Dr. Bernard De Zoysa
Nugegoda

****

13th Amendment will open the door to separation

There is no military solution to Sri Lankan conflict. So says the American Ambassador, Robert O. Blake. He is in illustrious company, for much of the Christian priesthood, probably with dark motives hidden away beneath their cassocks, echo the same refrain.

This conceited pronouncement comes ill-timed, when the east has been wrenched from the LTTE and the armed forces have turned north, where the insurgents harbour, The pompous utterance is reminiscent of the cocky swagger of the American Yankee as he strutted about following Pearl Harbour and end of World War II.

Western ambassadors mistake Sri Lankan geniality for timidity and make comments that are unworthy of their exalted positions. They forget that they are permitted residence as observers and defenders of their countries’ interests in the land they serve in. Comment on the mode of governance in the host country is well beyond the ambit of the Ambassador and his embassy.

Ambassadors should be conversant with the history of the country in which they serve. The swords of the Portuguese, Dutch and the British brought Sri Lanka, with a 2,550 year history down to its knees, but it never kissed the posteriors of its captors, or belly-crawled. Now, with 60 years of independence, and a President of the calibre of the present incumbent, the country holds its chin up.

Ambassadors should be familiar with the constitutions of the countries in which they serve. Oh, Robert Blake, you should have known, that the Sixth Amendment to the Constitution of 1978 was certified on August 8, 1983, distinctly saying that “no person shall directly or indirectly promote, finance, encourage or advocate the establishment of a separate state within the territory of Sri Lanka.”

Is it misguided etiquette, or a hangover of colonial subservience, subtle diplomacy or plain disinterest that any government agency has not told the Ambassador that he should hold his tongue lest he be declared persona non grata and asked to leave Lanka’s shore within a stipulated time?

Blake should have read the author John Perkin’s best seller Confessions of an Economic Hit Man to know the shocking story of how America took over the world. America has not retreated. It seeks to continue on the same arrogant, repugnant path, and looks askance at Iran, possibly to lead the world into an inextricable catastrophe.

The 13th Amendment will open the door to separation. It is the secret ‘open sesame’ to separation. The country knows the bitter taste of the provincial council set-up, where the corrupt in the land battle for positions only to feather their nests, and not to render service to the province.

The APRC headed by a person who is believed to be a Marxist, backs the 13th Amendment, which will perpetuate friction leading to intermittent war. The situation calls for an intelligent leader like the incumbent President to intervene, brush aside the vexatious Articles of the Constitution, and go for improvised district councils, which will ensure peace throughout the country for no one ethnic community is likely to predominate, to be a source of irritation.

The President has the powers to do it, and thereafter seek ratification by Parliament. The district council will be a small manageable unit in full view of the public where the rogues and the corrupt cannot cover, and be easily spotted from the Presidential Secretariat, to ensure good governance and prevent political fiddling by foreign visitors with their own secret axes to grind. One could be the introduction of Christianity to Buddhist Sri Lanka!
– Ivor Samarasinghe,
Dehiwala

****

Tamil ‘Rajaratnams,’ listening to Sinhala Radio

Casting your eye on the heading of this article you may think that we have written another fascinating story on that so called ethnic issue. As this thinking pattern has been put into the mind of our people, forcibly or tactfully and gradually by some interested parties, this is the order of the day.

This is a real eye opening experience, faced by me recently, while participating in a live radio programme on ‘Youthfulness’ on a national Sinhala radio channel. Through the internet, listeners from other countries could participate in this programme as well.

It was mentioned that youthfulness could be retained till end of life, if we really concentrated on our psychological stability. The reality that someone looks older at a younger age and someone appears young at an older age; was explained with reference to relevant individual factors. Apparently, if someone does not take day to day stress seriously, it will not be a difficult task to retain youthfulness until the end of life. Furthermore, the importance of active life patterns and healthy food habits were stressed in achieving this task.

During the programme I had to take a call and it was from a far away country, the Netherlands. Though there is a difference in pronunciation, he was speaking in Sinhala. He said that, his parents, sisters and brothers are living in Sri Lanka. He is a Tamil named Rajaratnam. As a habit, listens to Sinhala radio, through the internet during the weekend, to savour the taste of the motherland while living in a far away country.

He was talking in Sinhala while listening to our programme. He observed that our comments were correct, giving himself as an example. According to him, even at the age of 52, he appears young. He assured that his friends were expressing their surprise at his appearance. He questioned this phenomenon of looking young versus real age, as he wanted further clarification.

“Doctor, though I look young, I too have problems. My parents, sisters and brothers live in Sri Lanka. They are facing enormous problems as a result of the prevailing situation. They are living in fear with disturbed minds. Therefore, it is a burden for me too, though I am here.”

I joined the latter half of the programme after returning to the studio as usual. Then we continued to talk on the topic of youthfulness, while the voice of Rajaratnam was continually disturbing my mind

Today, most of the Sinhala Rajaratnas in Sri Lanka are searching for the patches and stripes in every Tamil Rajaratnam living in the Netherlands. Therefore, the Tamil Rajaratnam, who listens to Sinhala radio through internet, is relating an important story for today and the future. Though he feels that his parents, sisters and brothers are in fear in their home country, he is prepared to listen to the radio in the language of the other nationality without any hatred.

Being Sinhalese, we should realise the truth ourselves and the immense work, to be done individually by us for our better future. A preferential vote, which is turned into non preference in a minute, after an election or a non governmental organisation which converts peace into an account, does not offer a sustainable solution to these problems. Therefore, it is essential to increase the number of Sinhala Rajaratnas and Tamil Rajaratnams, who are not listening or tolerating the ideas of division. Sri Lankan print and electronic media has an important and major task in building up this social harmony.

When I was small, I remember a Tamil apothecary who was talking in Sinhala very fluently while giving drugs, in our village hospital. Furthermore, we have heard that the owner of a Sinhala bakery; was selling bread while talking in Tamil to the people in the north. The muniyandies on the estates, used to visit our homes with an innocent smile showing the effects of beetle chewing on their brownish teeth, after taking a bit of alcohol, during the Sinhala and Tamil avurudu season.

The Rajaratnams who love Sinhala songs, dancing, folk poems, stories and Rajaratnas who love Tamil songs, dancing, folk poems, stories, have the ability to change this vicious world.

Sri Lankan print and electronic media should come forward, not to break the hearts of Rajaratnams and Rajaratnas, who are willing to join, but to strengthen their bonds of brotherhood. If so, the dream of peace will soon be a reality.

Dr. Shantha
Hettiarachchi

****

War is a Vision!
 
If you don’t retaliate
All will be dead.
 
War is a white elephant to some
More trouble than it is worth the run
 
To all, a sort of sacrifice...
War is a vision that never dies.     
 
 Irene de Silva
Colombo 5

****

Title of Dr. denigrated!

Why is it that the media (both print and electronic) continue to refer to the obnoxious Mervyn Silva as Dr. Mervyn Silva? Is it a legal requirement that a man who may not have passed even the seventh standard be recognised as one with a doctorate?
There was a time when honorary degrees were conferred only by recognised institutions of higher learning, but now karate associations, acupuncture associations have started conferring doctorates, and worse these are being recognised by the media.
What next? If the drug dealer’s federation confers an honorary degree on Kudu Nuwan will he be called Dr. Nuwan, or if the Maligawatta Underworld Incorporated confers a doctorate on Potta Naufar will the media refer to him as Dr. Naufar?
Cyril Gamage
Dehiwela

****

                                                                                      Appreciations                                                                 

Gnaneswari Singham

As a tribute to my mother, I wondered how I could condense a lifetime’s relationship with someone so special, into a few minutes. I decided that, I would dwell on what I learned from her attitude towards the questions of life and death.
My mother would always be willing to listen to those in need and try to help in any way she could.

My mother was a voracious reader, and widely read too, so that, one could converse with her on almost any topic.
I am certain that, she would have agreed with Robert Ingersoll’s philosophy of life that: “Happiness is the only good. The place to be happy is here. The time to be happy is now. The way to be happy is to make others so.” My mother lived according to that philosophy. She would try to help others be happy and then share in their joy.

I also learned from my mother the importance of being kind and friendly to others and treating everyone, without exception, with respect.

I learned from her that it is a waste of time whining to others about your own problems, because they have problems too. It is better to just face up to whatever hand that life gives you, deal with it as best as you can, and then move on. Life is too precious to be spent on self-pity, and constantly complaining about your own misfortunes doesn’t get you anywhere.

I think that it was this lack of self-absorption that attracted people to her. Just as she was always willing to help others, people helped her in all manner of ways. They did not do this out of pity. People enjoyed helping her because rather than being self-pitying or mournful, she faced up to life’s challenges cheerfully. Her positive attitude to life, her graciousness, and her playful, even occasionally mischievous, good humour seemed to bring out the kindness and goodness in others.

Her attitude towards death, like her attitude towards life, was also very matter of fact. She saw death as part of the cycle of life and did not fear it. When I was in Sri Lanka in January, in most of our conversations, we recalled all the good times that we had shared. But we also spoke about death and she did not shy away from this topic that people tend to avoid, even though she sensed that it was imminent. But she reassured me many times that she was not afraid. She said that she had had a long and good life. She had done so much, had such good health until the very end, experienced so much of the richness of life that, to wish for even more, to ask that it be extended indefinitely, was to be greedy and ungrateful.

Her faith in God, undoubtedly, played an important role in her ability to face death so matter-of-factly. She told me that she believed that God would not give her a challenge that she could not meet and so she had put her life in God’s hands and was ready for anything.

To the end, my mother was preparing us to not be sad when she died, typically worrying more about our happiness and welfare than her own. I know that she would want us to celebrate her life, not to mourn her death.

I would like to thank all of you here for being a part of that life. I know that all of you meant a lot to her. Each one of our lives is a thread that she used to weave the glorious tapestry of her own life.

We are all fortunate to be alive. Although we miss her terribly, I know I also speak for my sisters when I say that that the three of us had an extra share of good fortune to have had such a kind, generous, fun-loving, and altogether wonderful person as our mother.
Dr. Mano Singham

****

Kingsley Angammana

Kingsley Angammana, retired Customs Officer, passed away recently and his funeral took place at the Maharagama Public Cemetery before a large gathering. In fact he passed away during a pilgrimage in India. He passed away in Bodh Gaya and later on his body was brought to Sri Lanka by Mrs. Angammana, who accompanied him.

Angammana and his family members were helping the Vidyalankara Pirivena as they live close to the Vidyalankara Pirivena. A religious and kindhearted, person we never imagined his sudden death at the age of 62 years. In fact, as a kindhearted person, he associated us in such a way.

I got to know Angammana 15 years ago as he was visiting the Vidyakara Dahampasala with his children. At the same time he was visiting Vidyalankara Pirivena frequently. Angammana is no more with us but we are unable to forget him easily. May he attain the Supreme Bliss of Nibbana.
– M. G. Asoka
Karunarathne

****

 

 

 

 

 

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