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.
Eco-tourism Hotel rapes Sinharaja Forest Reserve
Sinharaja Forest Reserve is visited annually by many people and, in most cases,
the ecotourism is contributing positively to the conservation of the rainforest
and to the species that inhabit it.
Sadly, however, there have been some rumours that construction of an
‘eco-tourist’ hotel has been taking place for some time now within the reserve.
As a result of the hotel construction, many trees are being felled both for the
actual construction and for resort infrastructure. Recently, a contributory to a
local river has been dammed causing many species of both flora and fauna to be
displaced. The water from the newly dammed river will act as a source of
drinking water for the hotel residents.
The problem is that the construction of this hotel is being backed by the
‘eco-tourism’ bandwagon and sadly, as yet, concerned local people are not seeing
the benefits of the eco-tourism business, that is to say that, so far, they have
had no involvement in the planning or the construction of the hotel and it is
widely believed that many species of animals including one elephant, have been
killed as a result.
As I understand it, the tributory has been completely dammed and therefore many
species have been displaced as a result. If such conservation organisations,
such as IUCN and WWF (among others, I would assume) are providing funds for
management plans and programmes (IUCN summary 405, p70) then surely such
activities must have been properly evaluated and approved before hand.
Why has the river and so many species been affected?
Who has evaluated beforehand the construction of the hotel?
What exactly is protected under World Heritage Protection?
As Sinharaja Forest Reserve is, and I cite the Justification for inclusion on
the World Heritage List as recommended in the IUCN summary 405,
• Earth’s evolutionary history. Sinharaja’s flora is a relic of Gondwanaland and
thus is of importance to our scientific understanding of continental drift. The
presence of the Sinharaja basic zone is also a geological feature of
• An on-going Biological Evolution. The reserve is the last remaining relatively
undisturbed tropical humid evergreen forest in Sri Lanka.
• A habitat for Rare and Endangered Species. At least 139 endemic plant species
are found in the reserve. Fauna endemism also exceeds 50% and there are various
rare birds, reptiles, fish and insects.
Anglia Ruskin University
Candidates from ‘Outside’ - A damaging and dangerous
In the run-up to the Provincial Council polls of the NCP and Sabaragamuwa, an
argument raised by some politicians that candidates have been brought from
‘outside,’ meaning that they have no roots in the province or locality has
received much attention.
This contention, would have had some validity in times gone by when the ‘first
past the post’ system prevailed. The party system did not exist and roots or
popularity in the area mattered. It was common for persons of the area to come
forward as independent candidates and win. Nevertheless, there were instances
when, ‘outsiders’ were accepted, particularly in localities where caste or
religion were overriding factors.
The selection of candidates on the party system virtually saw the end of this
parochialism. As far back as the ‘60s saw parties nominating candidates who were
rank outsiders to the electorate. Many such candidates won. It was evidence that
democracy was making progress in the country.
Today, when the party system has taken firm root, it is surprising that there
are people in politics who have not changed their thinking; or is it that they
are so bankrupt to raise frivolous arguments of this nature?
When parties nominate candidates for prestigious office such as Chief Minister,
the tendency is for the selection of candidates with national standing. There is
also the argument that such men will be better accepted as they have not
developed local interests.
Invariably, those who vociferously oppose ‘outsiders’ are politicians who are
bent on building family pocket boroughs and retaining power for their family and
friends for all time. The bringing in of fresh blood from outside is a threat to
the ambitions of these ‘local’ politicians steeped in nepotism, favouritism and
Furthermore, the argument that ‘outsiders’ have no place runs counter to the
concept of the ‘unitary state where citizens enjoy equal rights in every part of
Politicians who shoot their mouths out with such petty arguments do not realise
that these same arguments can be turned to their advantage by the Eelamists who
bandy their ill-founded theory of ‘traditional homelands’ at every turn. They
can very well say Sinhalese are outsiders and only Tamils could contest
elections or seek office in the Northern and Eastern Provinces! The argument
could be used even in the plantation areas. Thoughtless, frivolous rubbish that
some politicians talk can certainly be most damaging and dangerous in the long
They should learn not to talk sucking their toes at the same time.
Streamlining Sri Lanka’s legal system
A few months back I witnessed a report in our media of a judgment given by a
court of appeal in an outskirt Indian state that anybody, irrespective of the
nationality, has the legal right to settle down and live anywhere in any part of
We all are aware that India is our closest neighbour – also the largest
Democracy with over 20 states (provinces), anyone of which is larger than the
whole extent of Sri Lanka. It is a multi-ethnic, multi-lingual and a
multi-religious country where everybody enjoys the full freedom and benefits of
social, political, economic and welfare status. As a sovereign nation, India is
Sri Lanka, however, after 60 years of independence, and 36 years since becoming
a Sovereign Republic in 1972 cannot be proud of the existing age-old legal
system inherited from the colonial rulers. It is, presumably, mostly Roman-Dutch
law that has been incorporated into the system. As the current constitutional
developments demand, uniformity throughout the island is necessary, given that
Sri Lanka is a Unitary State. For instance, there are different marriage laws
for Kandyans and Muslims and acquisition of property in the Jaffna Peninsula is
controlled by the Thesavalamei law. As at present, only the Tamils are able to
acquire property, build houses, settle down and live anywhere in the island.
So, along with the eradication of terrorism to prevent the building up of ethnic
enclaves and for the determination of equal opportunities in a sovereign state,
just like in India, we too have to follow suit. Therefore, it has become a
necessity of the day to give a facelift to the legal systems in Sri Lanka in
order to streamline them.
It is needless to say that our legal requirements have to be based and
concentrated on the social and cultural inheritance of the inhabitants of the
country and when drafting and implementing the laws, the same norms should be
It is also worth mentioning here for the attention of the legal luminaries that
the very slow pace in the proceedings of cases, especially land partition
disputes, most of them are not concluded, at times even in the lifetime of a
party in the case.
I myself have the experience of a land partition case filed in mid 50s, which is
still being dragged on without a settlement. Although I am now not interested in
the case being heard, I still recollect the file number of the case to be No.
28,486 at the District Court. So, such is the sordid situation of the legal
system in the country.
Let us hope that the above comments will draw the attention of the responsible
authorities in order to rectify, or to give a redress to the nation as a whole.
Press freedom - A must in a democracy
In any democracy press freedom which is regarded as a sine qua non in
establishing and maintaining good governance, plays a dominant role in
disseminating news to the general public. In this context the role of the
journalist is of paramount importance for he or she is duty bound to be
impartial in performing their task.
Ironically in many African and Asian countries journalists are frequent1y
threatened with bodily harm and death by powerful forces belonging to the ruling
party of the governments of those countries.
Therefore it is apparent that the causes of these brutal killings will never be
probed independently, and such gory incidents will remain as a reminder to the
fraternity of journalists about the vulnerability, and also about the perils of
their chosen field.
In many African and Asian countries where there is civil unrest, journalists
transmits news, such as corruption, nepotism and malpractices of powerful
personalities of the ruling party, well knowing the possibility of having to
face the deadly repercussions for their daring actions.
In any democracy, in which the rule of law is only given lip-service, there is a
tendency to spawn the nefarious forces of indiscipline with impunity. In such a
precarious set-up, the pen of the scribe, is often threatened, by making him or
her a primary target, whom they find treacherous, for not bowing down to their
whims and fancies.
Unfortunately the task of a journalist has become very risky, very specially in
countries, in which the state has to cope with a ruthless Terrorist organisation.
In such a trigger-free situation, journalists may willingly or unwillingly
impose self-censorship fearing that their exposure especially about military
matters, may lead to a speedy warrant of summary execution.
Admittedly, there may be areas, such as safeguarding military secrets, which
should not be disclosed, due to their sensitive nature. In such a situation, any
journalist, worthy of his or her salt, will accept such constraints as a
necessary measure, which would have beneficial effects in the long-run.
Media as we know consists of newspapers, magazines, and television and is
venerated as the Fourth Estate, for it plays a cardinal role as the watchdog of
It is true that the state which represents the mandate of the people in a
democracy, and the media which enlighten the masses about the state of affairs
in the country, can be superficially regarded as allies, with kindred sprits.
However sooner than later they are bound to become arch rivals, who never get
tired of vilifying each other. This animosity should be regarded as vital, as
the media will ensure that they scrutinise the seemingly innocuous activities of
the powerful officials of the state with vengeance.
It is in this context that scribes, must be vigilant of possible maneuvering by
the state who would like to embrace them with a tender kiss stinging them
simultaneously with deadly venom.
It is no exaggeration that almost all the journalists have learnt the fine
points of their trade by making minor or unpardonable blunders. However
allowances should be made for such lapses as they too are human and bound to
make mistakes again and again. Besides, if any journalist willfully makes any
atrocities such as character assassination, the grieved party can find redress
by filinga case against such a journalist in a court of law.
It is also claimed vehemently or even light-heartedly by some noble and
righteous souls that scribes can be easily won by offering them strong sprits.
Admittedly attending cocktail parties after the culmination of press-conferences
is part of their itinerary, as its affords them a chance to hobnob with elite or
literati at these social gatherings.
However these tamashas seldom have any undue effect on their mental faculties
for writing copy with good judgement.
The job of a journalist is thus by no means a glamorous profession, and can be a
very stressful one that requires stamina and determination.
Tuberous Sclerosis – What can we do as a team?
I am Kumari, a mother of two children. The eldest is a daughter and the youngest
who is seven years of age is a son. This is about my son, Kevin.
My son is suffering with a rare genetic disorder called Tuberous Sclerosis (TS).
TS affects many organs and causes tumors in the skin, kidney, brain, heart,
eyes, lungs, teeth, oral cavity and other organs. Patients may be initially
diagnosed because of involvement in any or all of these organs.
The severity of TS can range from mild, such as skin abnormalities to severe,
such as seizures, mental retardation or renal failure. There is no permanent
cure for this particular disease and no predictable future.
My son’s brain and skin have been severely affected by TS. He was born on April
27, 2001 as a perfect baby. After two weeks since his birth, small white patches
emerged on his trunk and limbs. The patches and seed bumps are developing
further. When he was about six months old, he had a seizure and after obtaining
various kinds of tests, the doctors confirmed that my son is a TS patient.
During the first four years, he suffered with various form of seizures, such as,
drop, stare, scream, laugh, turn his neck while moving lips and pupils to his
right, and sometimes his right arm and leg get temporary paralysed, etc.
Everyday he suffers from at least two to three mild seizures and has strong
seizures once in two weeks.
He is on a cocktail of anti epileptic drugs. His present situation:
1. Speech is garbled and very poor
2. He is suffering from irregular bowel motion and nausea
3. Unreasonable behaviour
4. Poor cognition
5. Attention deficit
The one of the most frustrating things about TS is that we never know what the
next day may bring. Because TS is so variable, it is not possible to predict how
an individual will change and which symptoms of TS he or she will have. The
uncertainty is sometimes difficult to deal with and can cause a great deal of
stress for an individual and their families.
Sometimes I feel as I am walking through a minefield. Soon after I came to know
my son’s sickness, I wrote to many hospitals and other institutions around the
world and enhance my knowledge about the disease. As a result of the effort, I
received books, magazines and other relevant information.
The facts I learnt through all these materials helped me to treat and understand
my son up to certain extent. But I wonder whether the other parents, guardians
and patients have some sort of knowledge about TS for them to lead a productive
life, minimising the unknown issues created by the disease.
It will be a great advantage if it is possible for us to form an association to
exchange the experience and other medical information to enhance the quality of
the lives of the patients, as TS is very complicated disease. The critical issue
is the lack of knowledge of TS in Sri Lanka. Though we know that TS is incurable
and unpredictable, there are so many things we can do in order to provide them
with a good quality life. Let’s find out what we can do as a team.
Our children are just like a bird with broken wings. It is our duty to assist
them to fly and enjoy the world as that is the only way we can pay our gratitude
for their unconditional love.
(Kumari Martenstyne, mobile no: 0714899788), Dehiwela
Kaluarrachchi – A colossus in the planting field
It is with a sense of admiration and love that I write this tribute for a
colossus in the field of plantation. He is none other than Chandana
The passing away of Chandana at a time when it was least expected has sent shock
waves among all of us. He passed away on August 8, 2007 at the age of 56.
I will be failing in my duty if I do not pay this tribute as one who had been
associated with him over several years although I doubt whether I could do
adequate justice through this short note.
The sad news that I received about his death sent me in to deep thought about
the beginning of my connection with his family.
I still remember clearly my first meeting with this fine gentleman way back in
early nineties at the Madulsima tennis club. Whenever he visited my bungalow, he
would make sure that he brought something for us .If I called him to inform him
about some achievement on EL – Tab Estate, he would say that he was very proud
of me and that I should keep it up and try to do even better next time. He
always encouraged me and was happy to help me with my work, and offer me advice
especially when I was at Balangoda Group. He was a good low country tea
He was ill for some years and endured his illness with fortitude and was never
depressed. Because of his positive attitude towards sickness and also because he
overcame every hurdle, all of us took him for granted, and we all depended on
him for various things.
It is with very heavy heart and deep sadness that I recollect some past memories
of this remarkable friend Kalu as we used to call him. He was an excellent
administrator, a duty conscious person and a disciplinarian, who took his work
seriously with a keen sense of responsibility. He always believed in quality and
only enjoyed the satisfaction of a job well done. His guidance and advice was
readily available and those who worked under him had immense love and respect to
He was a very knowledgeable person and displayed a wealth of knowledge in all
areas. I still recollect the arguments he had with our good friend Rohan
Kobbekaduwa at the Madulsima tennis club after a few shots. He was also happy to
be with his two daughters. He was anxiously waiting to see his eldest doughter
Chandishni become a doctor. She is now a final year medical student at
Peradeniya campus where her father too was an under graduate.
His sudden demise will be an irreparable loss to his wife Chandrika and the two
daughters Chandishni and Hirariya. He has left with all of us very valuable
memories, which will not fade away with the passing of time.
Finally, in bidding farewell to you Chandana, as a Christian, I believe that you
are not alone in that beautiful shore till we meet again. May your soul rest in
Lalin I De Silva
Ratna Seevaratnam – An outstanding
I was very sad to learn of the demise of a very outstanding gentleman, sportsman
and travel agent tour operator in the tourism business very recently.
He hailed from a very respectable and very outstanding Hindu Tamil dynasty in
Jaffna District. He was educated at Royal College, Colombo 07. He excelled in
his academic studies, sports, particularly in cricket, and rugby, football and
He captained the college Rugby Team and also was Sergeant Major of the Royal
College Cadet Team which won the Heran Loos Cup for College.
Since leaving college, he joined as a Aitken Spence & Co Ltd. as a management
trainee and he was involved in company affairs with regard to shipping, tourism.
plantations, export, hotels, printing, and other industries.
He was given responsibilities to develop tourism business, which he did in an
excellent manner. There was lucrative tourism business during his term of office
as Director Tourism. He rose very gradually, culminating as Chairman of Aitken
Spence & Company Ltd., which position he held from 1997 to 2001.
Ken Balendra of John Keells Group of Companies was his contemporary in the
tourism business and they were very good friends who rendered great services to
develop travel/tourism business worldwide.
Aitken Spence & Company took the initiative to go to Malawi Islands and
constructed hotels on the islands to promote tourism when Sri Lanka tourism was
at a low ebb due to LTTE terrorism since 1983 to date.
I came to know him well particularly in the plantations industry and eco tourism
as I too was engaged in the tourism business. Our deepest sympathies to his
beloved wife and children.
– Capt. L. B. Lanka Jayaratne
Sinhala Travels Pte. Ltd.
Air Chief Marshal Harry Goonetilleke
A colleague’s tribute
I have read many tributes paid to Harry by his subordinates. Harry and I were
Service Commanders together and I pay tribute to him as a colleague and friend.
During our tenure as Commanders, we did not have an ‘armed enemy’ to deal with,
but there were several situations which required the involvement of the armed
forces to overcome unruly situations and restore normalcy. The media sometimes
mistakenly refers to the armed forces at that time as ‘ceremonial forces.’ None
of the Service Acts provide for ‘ceremonial forces’ to be maintained at public
expense. ‘Military Ceremonial’ is a phenomenon which is essential for
maintaining the morale of the forces and is resorted to in war and peace. Even
currently there are many military ceremonials in Sri Lanka.
Harry Goonetilleke, Basil Goonesekera and after him Alfred Perera (Navy Chiefs)
and I worked as a close-knit team and presented our views to the government in
unison and not resorting to one upmanship. One result of our joint effort was
the appointment of a Pay Commission in 1979, after which the Services were
provided with many benefits, such as rent allowance; ration allowance etc. etc.,
and though the quanta have increased in keeping with the escalating costs, no
revision of pay and allowances have been examined since then. Another
outstanding landmark of our joint effort was the establishment of the General
Sir John Kotelawala Defence Academy (now a University) after I negotiated with
Sir John for his property to be used for that purpose. The Revolution of
Military Affairs (RMA) had been in vogue since the end of World War II and one
of the requirements of this new thinking was that the Army, Navy and the Air
Force had to work in unison and their officers had to learn ‘jointness’ from the
very beginning of their service career. This phenomenon has, I hope, helped our
forces to work jointly in the operations against the LTTE. We also worked
together to prepare regulations covering Honours and Awards for armed forces
personnel which was non-existent before.
After retirement Harry and I worked together in the Association of Retired Flag
Rank Officers (ARFRO) particularly in assisting War Widows. Harry lost one of
his pilot sons in the anti-LTTE conflict and was very much motivated towards
assisting war widows. He spearheaded an island-wide counselling service and
raised funds to assist widows to follow vocational training classes to keep them
occupied and also to assist them to earn some extra money (they are all entitled
to pay and pension from the government). He organised exhibitions of their
handiwork and raised funds to assist them in numerous ways.
About 12 years ago, ARFRO (Harry was the motivator) arranged for 20 widows of
LTTE persons and a child each to be flown to Colombo and lodged at the
Sugathadasa Stadium. An equal number of widows from the armed forces and a child
each were brought into join the party from the north. Though language was a
barrier, after four days they were sorry to part company. The children in
particular got on very well and the widows had common problems which were
discussed through interpreters. ARFRO continues to do the work initiated in this
connection by Harry.
Harry and I were both Presidents of the Sri Lanka Ex-Servicemen’s Association at
different times. I was from 1993 to 1996 and Harry a few years later. The
welfare of ex-servicemen and servicewomen was our primary concern and in this
respect the Veteran’s Home at Bolegala near Katana was well cared for in
addition to numerous other projects we initiated during our respective periods
Harry and Marion were blessed to have a son who rose to command the Air Force
today, like his father. This is perhaps unique and Harry showed me a letter he
had written to the publishers of the Guiness Book of Records. They had said they
were verifying whether this was unique.
I salute Harry as a friend and colleague and wish him all blessings of his
– Lt. Gen. Desamanya Denis Perera, VSV Commander of the Army (1977 to 1981)