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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.

 

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.

If so;
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 considerable interest.
• 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.

Sydney Karunawardhana
Anglia Ruskin University
Cambridge

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Candidates from ‘Outside’ -  A damaging and dangerous argument

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 corruption.
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 the country.’

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 run.
They should learn not to talk sucking their toes at the same time.

Edward Gunawardena

Battaramulle

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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 India.
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 also non-aligned.

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 adopted.
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.

S.A.P. Subasinghe

Alawwa

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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 the nation.

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.

Ranjan Amarasinghe

Nugegoda

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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

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Appreciations

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Chandana 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 Kaluarrachchi .
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 manufacturer.

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 him.

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 peace.

Lalin I De Silva

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Ratna Seevaratnam – An outstanding gentleman

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 cadetting.
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

Director
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 of Presidency.

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 faith.
– Lt. Gen. Desamanya Denis Perera, VSV Commander of the Army (1977 to 1981)

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