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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.

 

Some facts on the Sabaragamuwa and NCP Provincial Councils Elections

The UPFA won the Sabaragamuwa and North Central Provincial Councils Elections convincingly.
The UNP and the JVP will now find various excuses for their defeat as had been done by political parties in the past when they lost elections. Violence and rigging is nothing new to elections, both here and abroad. None of the political parties can claim to be Mr. Clean or saintly. You cannot point a finger at one single party over violence. All are guilty of it. The failure on the part of the party political leadership in the two provinces to discipline their membership and prevent violence, no doubt, led to bloodshed, violence and damage to property. The Police too should take a part of the blame as their lethargy, inefficiency, inactivity and partiality also contributed to violence and destruction of property.

The two UNP nominees for the Chief Ministers’ posts polled the highest preferential votes (of course no rigging there!). That was because they were both ‘outsiders’ and the UNPers thought they were more suited and could be trusted as against the tested locals. It also proves that among the four contestants the two UPFA nominees were not as popular. In fact, the two UPFA nominees should now make way for two younger and more popular persons in the UPFA to take over.

The JVP lost the elections badly. The JVP should accept the position that they are losing popularity among the rural voters and the working class. The downward trend started with their joining the Chandrika Government. On the other hand, their attempt to use the unsuspecting workpeople, job crazy Bhikkhus and unruly elements among university students, to exhibit their power and strength appears to be counter productive and has resulted in the voter losing faith in the JVP.

The UNP has again proved that it cannot win elections under the heavily pro-west leadership which cannot move with the man in the street, do not understand the signs of the times and unable to cope with the political, social and economic problems realistically with a national outlook, which need to be liberal, socialist - democratic and religious. A change of leadership should come sooner or later, if the UNP is to face the future with confidence and continue in the political arena as a force.

The ruling party using state machinery and vehicles for electioneering is nothing new. The UNP did that and the SLFP followed suit. The JVP is also not too innocent. As I was a public servant, I can quote chapter and verse in that regard. That is wrong but repeated by political parties in power. Perhaps, under-developed politics in a developing country!!

The Provincial Council Elections’ victory was a personal triumph for the President. There is no doubt about it. The rural voter has faith in him and his leadership. They see and feel the development work in progress in their areas with satisfaction.

The UPFA, though victorious, failed to increase it’s vote base as compared to that of the UNP, which of course had the advantage of the SLMC votes tilting towards the Elephant. However, the rising cost of living, economic hardships, allegations of bribery, corruption and waste of public funds too went against the government to some extent.

Corruption, indiscipline, lethargy and inefficiency are rampant in the public service. That goes against the government. The Minister of Public Administra­tion and Home Affairs has had little or no success in his attempt to cleanse the public service. He cannot do that single handed. Support must come from the other ministries too. The country cannot progress with a corrupt and inefficient public service.

The President therefore needs to turn his attention to these, with all seriousness, with a view to adopt remedial measures as otherwise; when the war ends he could end up as the British Premier Winston Churchill did.
Upali S. Jayasekera

****

One World One Dream

The above theme of the Olympic Games this year is most appropriate and suits the present times, where many conflicts are in progress, including ours as well which is more than a quarter century old.
Accordingly, the above theme should be a solution for peace to the entire world, where humanity is tired and exhausted of experiencing conflicts.

The above theme is so precious and soothing to our lives, and to achieve and experience the same is everyone’s dream. Accordingly, similar to other events this exercise too needs concentration and determination, so that in the next Games, this theme will become a reality. Let us pray that the world may come together by sharing peace with one another, which would be the remedy for most of our prevalent problems including those to come.
Tommy Wanigesinghe
Kurunegala

****

Global perspective of education

According to the concise Oxford Dictionary of synonyms the word ‘education’ has over twenty synonyms the most significant of which can be cited as disciplining, indoctrination, enlightenment, development, edification, training, nurturing and fostering. Another dictionary, New Concise Dictionary, defines education as the act or process of acquiring knowledge by formal institution, the theory of teaching and learning and particulars kind of institution or training. The question now is how far have we achieved the above principles of education?

Way back in 1980, I had the privilege of travelling on a teaching appointment to Nigeria a giant of Africa, currently developing fast in the field of education with foreign influence from the UK, US and France (especially in the Francophone countries) who have planted a number of international schools over there. I too had the opportunity of pioneering an international school which adopted a global perspective of education where we were wholly committed and dedicated to the goal of developing students who will become confident, ethical and responsible citizens of the nation, and the world at large. Since we live in a globalised world today, it is imperative that we should be part of this global perspective of education.

Let us now examine what ‘global perspective of education’ is, The vision of the global education is to develop committed citizens with a global outlook to life and who are able to make a positive difference in their world, thus contributing to the betterment of the global society in the world scene.

This brings us to the question of who a global citizen is. He is one who:
* Is aware of the wide world and has a sense of his/her own role as a world citizen.
* Respects and values diversity.
* Has an understanding of how the world works economically and environmentally, technologically and environmentally.
* Is outraged by social injustice (eg. apartheid in South Africa and colour or social discrimination)
* Participates in, and contributes to the community at different levels from local to global.
* Is willing to act and share views to make the world a more sustainable environment, and takes responsibility for his/her actions.
* Seeks to nurture a sense of hospitality and friendliness, illegality and community among its members to exhibit a peaceful coexistence.
* Supports the concept of service to the human family without dissemination.
* Promotes programmes which nurture understanding and appreciation of the different cultures in the various nations within the vast continenent of Africa.
* Embraces a world view which celebrates human unity in diversity.

In the context of its mission and philosophy of education the association adopts the following objectives.
Reflecting on the above objectives it is pertinent that we in Sri Lanka change our paradigm and focus on education, and keep pace with other nations. No doubt in the past we have experienced set backs time to time due to some short-sightedness of certain political leaders and administrators. Nevertheless it is high time we took cognizance of the fact we need to turn a new leaf, by changing our perspective on education in the international scene, for the benefit of the present and future generations.

I wish to applaud the timely action taken by our President to give English language its due place. In the past our elites who had the privilege of having their education in the citadels of institutes abroad such as Oxford, Cambridge and Harvard eventually returned to their motherland to preach a different sermon with political ambitions to make swabasha the medium of instruction in schools, thereby shutting the doors for other students to proceed to those institutes and acquiring greater heights in education and academic achievements.

When just ideals could not be inculcated among the youth they resorted to an insurrection, as a protest.
The stage has now been set for a remedial Sri Lankan English for the less privileged youths in the nation to eliminate the racial and cultural differences, and pave the way for a peaceful coexistence among the future generations of Sri Lanka.
Ruth Rani Silva

****

Lo! and behold

Of sungod, sins and cyanides,
She came, heard and authored,
‘The light at the end of the tunnel
Is perhaps towards a moving train’
Unforgettable!
2008, Enlighten the Endgame.
 
Irene de Silva
Colombo 5

****

Why such long delays to realise personal cheques drawn in foreign currency?

All commercial banks in Sri Lanka whether state or otherwise have established their corresponding banks throughout the globe, to help in the realisation of any type of foreign bank draft or personal cheque, to assist their clients obtain the value equivalent in Sri Lanka rupees, when foreign drafts or personal cheques are deposited and also for other trading transactions..

In the case of international money orders and foreign drafts, all banks purchase them and give immediate credit equivalent in Sri Lankan rupees to the account holder, even if the beneficiary is a non customer. The commission charged is a very nominal amount, which is undoubtedly a worthwhile service.

In the case of personal cheques drawn in foreign currency the cheques are collected and accepted to be credited on realisation. The normal time taken for this exercise in almost all banks is approximately one calendar month. The beneficiary has no other option but to wait for this stipulated period to obtain the proceeds in Sri Lanka rupees. It is pertinent to mention in all instances the personal cheque drawn in foreign currencies is debited to the drawers account in an overseas country, within five working days. The cheque in question is sent on a collection basis to the corresponding bank of the client’s bank in Sri Lanka via a courier service. It is difficult to understand that with more innovative modern technology that exists now, why all banks whether state owned or otherwise, keep the client here, waiting for three more weeks after the personal cheque in question has already been debited to obtain the proceeds equivalent in Sri Lanka rupees.

It is time that those responsible headed by the authorities Central Bank of Sri Lanka, take the initiative and advise the banks to reduce the inordinate delay in order to bring redress to those who deposit personal cheques drawn in foreign currencies, which have been given to the kith and kin here to meet urgent expenses.
Sunil Thenabadu

Mount Lavinia

****

Devolving more powers to PCs not feasible

Devolution of power to the PC’s in Sri Lanka seems to be merely a delegation of some of the duties of the central govt. to the provinces at present, and cannot be compared in any way to ‘ devolution’ in big countries such as India, USA, Canada etc.
Therefore our PCs here do not possess ‘legislative bodies’ in their individual units. They (PC’s) merely implement the policies of the central govt. making use of the funds/grants allocated by the Govt.

The system in Sri Lanka has been forced upon us by India and Westerners as a solution to the so-called non-existent’ ethnic problem. So the Govt. of the day is taking decisions about the allocation of powers to the PC’s..

It is a pity that the authorities and ministers who demand and insist on powers like land powers and Police powers for PC’s do not understand the exact situation and the nature of the problems faced by them.
Please be good enough to note that there has been an office or Dept. called “The Land settlement office/dept” at the ‘Treasury’ building in Fort from the colonial times..

Obviously what we can gather from that is that land powers has to be with the central govt. and cannot be vested with the PC s for allocation and distribution as uniformity has to be maintained in all a provinces.
Similarly Police powers too cannot be given to the PC’s as they come under the defence Ministry and as inter provincial harmony and coordination has to be maintained in implementation by the central govt. This cannot be maintained at the whims and fancies of the PC’s.

So in devolving power to the provinces asymmetrical devolution is not feasible and in consequence I presume that APRC will never get the opportunity to forward the political solution which is intended by the Govt. as it may not be acceptable to all ethnic groups. Even if a new Constitution is to be drafted to that effect, it is likely to be an another ‘dream’ like the Eelam of Prabhakaran, because it will be biased aiming at the ‘aspirations of the Tamils..

So in a sense PC’s are a mockery and we are being bullied by the foreign intervention as our successive govt. had no backbone to resist them. Needless to say they will also be a burden on the tax payer.

S. A. P. Subasinghe

Alawwa

****

In defence of the foreign service – a reply

Mrs. Manel Abeysekera has shown great agility and sprung quite unbelievably fast to respond to the article that the members of the Sri Lanka Foreign Service are not really professionals in the true meaning of that word. She has in effect confirmed my thesis, for she gives the game away in her response. We shall return to that later, but for the present permit me to state that long years ago I visited Bonn from London (I also visited Frankfurt Köln and Düsseldorf too) and I was delighted to learn that our Ambassador in Bonn was carrying herself well both literally and figuratively, that the Ambassador had class and was a credit to our country, that Ambassador was no less a person than this same Mrs. A !, the daughter of that famous Scout Commissioner of my time to whom she bears an unbelievable resemblance. So I do conceded that though they have become diplomats by merely passing the Foreign Service exam (without undergoing specialised training) some of them were as good as any who represented their countries. She was also not alone. I have visited some other places too in Europe and discovered that our reps had class and were focused and effective; but this does not mean that our Foreign Service officers do not need to be trained in the manner that foreign Service officers of other countries are trained. We have indeed met many who were wholly unsuitable even if they had training, they had neither personality nor class, and were mere administrators.         

 Mrs. A may not have played Rugby like her one time Minister, but she has side-stepped the issue and tried to sell us a dummy as the late LK was known to do on the Rugby field. The subject of my article was that there as no difference between the members of the SLOS and the  SLAS. Both learnt on the job, our Foreign Service Officers became diplomats on passing the Foreign Service exam, not through undergoing professional training. She does not deny this instead she seeks to draw a red herring and sets out the details of a training programme which she had prepared for a batch of Foreign Service recruits under instructions from the late Minister Kadirgamar (a training programme for the first time in 60 years of our Foreign Service!). The programme had also been aborted after the assassination of Minister Kadirgamar. Mrs A’s programme has been a part-time affair where officers were expected to spend four hours twice a week after working a whole day at the Ministry. This does not seem to have been a serious training programme to produce professional diplomats after merely listening to a series of lectures; it does seem almost a joke. Minister Kadirgamar certainly would have wanted to professionalise the Foreign Service but even he does not seem to have conceived of this project in the manner other countries do.

 Though some ‘training’ would have been better than no training, permit me to ask what constitutes training a diplomat? Mrs. A packs her response with the highlights of Minister Kadirgamar’s inaugural speech – the Minister has referred to the qualities a diplomat should possess, but we are not informed of the manner in which ‘students’ were going to be inculcated with these qualities. We next come to the real issue Mrs. A is concerned about; namely that Secretary Palith Kohana who is being, I guess affectionately, referred to in newspapers and by friends as Pa Ko (short for his name no doubt), has summarily cancelled the lady’s contract and terminated the programme. This appears to be a grouse which the lady has quite justifiable aired. So, at the end of the day what are we left with is a Foreign Service that is no different to the Administrative Service. And there I rest my case.     Ch W 

****

Appreciation

Deshamanya Al Haj Bakeer Markar

It gives me great pleasure to write a few words regarding the gentleman whom I had the pleasure of serving when he adorned the highest seat of Parliament, as the Speaker of the Parliament of Sri Lanka, for a considerable period of time. The late Al Haj Bakeer Markar was the first Speaker who had the distinct privilege of serving as the Speaker in the new Parliament, at the time it was ceremonially opened in 1982.

I knew that the late Al Haj Bakeer Markar was truly a Sri Lankan in all respects and he enjoyed serving the masses with dedication having started his political career as a Member of the Beruwela Urban Council where he had implemented various programmes for the upliftment of the community. He was committed to serving both Sinhala and Muslim communities equally. He was a humble, kind hearted, deeply religious leader, who wanted to do the utmost for the people, since he was truly the people’s representative.

According to the records available, the late Al Haj Bakeer Markar entered Parliament for the first time in 1960, having won the Beruwela electorate. Thereafter, in 1965 he was re-elected to Parliament for the second time. Subsequently, he was elected as a Member of Parliament back again in 1977 when the UNP Government got a massive landslide. On this occasion, the late Al Haj Bakeer Markar was unanimously elected Deputy Speaker and became the Speaker when the late Hon. Anandatissa de Alwis relinquished his post to take up a Ministerial post in the Government under the late Hon. J.R. Jayewardene.

It was my privilege to come to know him very closely, when I was called upon to attend to various duties, entrusted to me personally by him in my early twenties. At that time, I was lucky that I enjoyed the unique privilege of working for the then Speaker one of the most renowned sons of Sri Lanka who was also a great humanist and a gentleman par excellence. In my view, as a politician, his only ambition was to serve the country with sincerity to the best of his ability which he did with dedication. He attended to his duties with a deep sense of responsibility and a commitment.

I must very sincerely state that his traits have been a great inspiration to all those who worked under him, including me. I have no doubt that, his simplicity and down-to-earth outlook; made him an affable politician, having won the hearts of everyone from all walks of life.

Furthermore, I have been very fortunate to serve him even more closely when he was the Chairman on Public Petitions, as I was the Head of the relevant secretariat at that time. Al Haj Bakeer Markar enjoyed performing his duties as its Chairman in order to ensure justice and the welfare of the petitioners who came before the Committee seeking redress. I could recall very well instances when he was personally overjoyed to grant redress for those deserving cases who came before the Committee on Public Petitions seeking necessary relief.

The late Al Haj Bakeer Markar similarly took no time in turning down appeals when there were grounds that an appeal could be rejected. I believe this was because he was a true disciplinarian who upheld the values, who regarded rules and regulations with utmost respect. This is the man who taught me to be firm for reasons and to be courageous when you need to seek justice. He took great pains to explain matters and showed us the path in order to be efficient, so that petitioners could be granted expeditious relief. He added that justice delayed is justice denied. Due to this kind of training I have no doubt the petition secretariat at that time earned the highest respect, appreciation and the recognition from everyone.

It reminds me of a few words of ‘Rudyad Kipling’ which goes “if you can walk with Kings and Queens and not lose the common touch” and Al Haj Bakeer Markar was a shining example who did not lose the common touch and was able to move with masses with admirable humility. This quality, I suppose, stood him in good stead as a politician, who was loved by all communities in our motherland.

I must add that he served the Supreme Legislature for 16 years and more than 5 years as the Speaker and another 5 year term as a Minister. However, he enjoyed very much being the Chairman of Public Petitions Committee, since he was able to do an enormous service to the petitioners through the Committee to his heart’s satisfaction. At that time, The Petition Committee met on every working day, including all Sitting days in Parliament. As I have stated above, he was overjoyed when he was able to deal with difficult cases and grant redress because he was a true Muslim and he always said that he was proud to serve the people and he truly enjoyed serving mankind.

The late Al Haj Bakeer Markar had the distinct advantage of being fluent in all 03 languages. He associated with people of all classes, religions, races and was able to move happily with the rich and the poor, the educated, the uneducated, etc. with ease.

As a lover of human beings, he enjoyed advising them perhaps again, due to his desire to ensure the upliftment of his fellow beings. I have seen how he exchanged views, even with Heads of States. I was able to witness the contributions he made at several International Conferences, both here and abroad.

He was a respected Speaker in the Parliament of Sri Lanka. His simplicity, sincerity and affectionate ways were the characteristics that endeared to all who came in contact with him.
I would be failing in my duty, if I did not mention his ambition towards providing the necessary facilities, welfare activities etc, for the staff under him. He relentlessly fought for the introduction of trousers for the minor staff, along with the courage and support he received from Mr. Sam Wijesinha, the then Secretary-General of Parliament.

Al Haj Bakeer Markar was full of sympathy for those who deserved sympathy of the Hon. Speaker. In my view, he developed the quality of leadership not only among the Muslim community, but also the Sinhala and Tamil communities as well. His desire to carry out his duties towards the people, with perfection, had no barriers and he had nurtured these qualities to be a perfect politician with dedication for social work.

He was always prepared to serve mankind. I have associated with him very closely, even after he left politics, having completed his term in the Southern Provincial Council as Governor. He enjoyed our presence at his Beruwela residence and treated us with hospitality, like a typical Sri Lankan. As I myself come from down south, he insisted that I should drop in at his residence at Beruwala on my way home when time permits. He enjoyed my visits so much and we happily discussed various issues, including what he did in order to uplift the quality of the staff of Parliament. I must mention that I had the same feeling and respect I had for my own father, for the late Al Haj Bakeer Markar. .

He may have had enemies, but he never carried vengeance. He was full of humour; he enjoyed helping people and his style of benevolence knew no limitations.

I was able to see him as a true party man; he always said that he was proud of being an UNPer. He stood firmly and never hesitated to standby despite odds, which stood against him when there were hardships that befell him.

I must also mention that I have the highest respect and affection for his eldest son Al Haj Imtiyaz Bakeer Marker, the former Minister of Mass Communication who is also ably carrying forward his vision while following the noble steps of a legendary father, in order to fill the immense vacuum created by the late Al Haj Bakeer Markar.
Lacille de Silva
Director (Administration)
Parliament of Sri Lanka

****

 

 

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