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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.

 

Unacknowledged donations

Many Sri Lankans residing in Victoria, Australia, whom I met have expressed their disappointment that they have made donations to several charitable institutions such as elder’s homes, orphanages, handicapped children’s homes, schools etc., in Sri Lanka These institutions have written to them to make donations to upkeep their institutions.
Once they have received these funds by way of money orders, bank drafts, cheques, food and clothes etc, that is the end of it. They do not have the common courtesy to acknowledge the receipt of these donations sent promptly.
Several Sri Lankans living in Australia who had generously contributed towards the rehabilitation of the 2004 Tsunami disaster are too disappointed and angry that their generosity did not reach the needy. They collected money, clothes, food items, medicines, building materials, beds, tents etc., but have found to their horror that these items did not reach the people they were really meant for.
It is very important that these charitable institutions should remember that to get continued assistance from Sri Lankans in Australia, they should be in close touch with the donors and forward their annual progress reports etc, and acknowledge promptly any money or kind sent from abroad.
Ingratitude is an unpardonable crime in society. Perhaps this letter may catch the eye of these institutions.
Now the war has been won and the Sri Lankans living in Australia are prepared to help the people really affected, and with the escalation cost of living, specially the poorest of the poor, who are suffering in silence in Sri Lanka.
We hope and pray the people will now live in peace and harmony in Sri Lanka.

Fred Rodrigo-Sathianathen
Melbourne
Australia

 

Education system needs reforms, not privatisation

It was reported in the press that opening of private universities has been proposed, which no doubt, is another move towards the privatisation policy and practice that would lead to the eventual elimination of the free education system of our country.

How would the proposal if implemented affect the future generations, especially the poor, which constitute the vast majority of the population? This question cannot be left entirely in the hands of the political elite.
There is, it has to be conceded, no perfect education system in our country.
We have been experimenting but without any substantial improvement to meet the county’s needs for national consciousness, unity and development.

The system therefore needs change and should continue to be changed as and when the need arises.
Any changes in the education system should, however, be introduced only if such changes suit the economic and social structure of our country.
There has not been an effort made to study those aspects realistically. If any study was undertaken, the proposals have not been made public.
Hence the proposal is nothing more than an attempt to expand the privatisation process to the education system without the slightest concern for the country’s needs on a long term perspective.

Importance

Resources, capital, machines and labour are instruments of power which could be acquired and used in a practical and purposeful manner only through education. Education, as such, being part and partial of economic and social development, schooling is an investment contributing to the wealth and well being of a nation.
It is these reasons and the necessity to make opportunities for education available to all alike without discrimination on the basis of wealth, class or creed that the right of education has been included in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
The UN Convention against Discrimination in Education asserts the establishment and maintenance of separate educational systems or institutions for persons or groups of persons which are not of equivalent standards as discriminatory.

This would mean that the maintenance of educational institutions which help the richer sections of the society to steal a march over the rest of the community or the maintenance of schools of unequal standards for the rich and the poor is discriminatory.
The craze to admit children to the so called prestigious schools, projects the existence of educational institutions that are not of equal standard and it is well known that corruption and political interference in admission of children to prestigious schools exists and persists. That situation should be arrested.
Then again, teaching standards in schools have nose-dived paving the way for the spread of “private tuition” at high cost.

There is no doubt that the competitive nature has also contributed to private tuition mania.
It is said that when the child is unable to attend the tuition class due to sickness or other reasons, the mother attends the class and takes down notes for her child. Teaching standards should therefore be improved and school principals and teachers should be held responsible for falling standards.
Education therefore has to be based not only on equality of opportunity but also on equity, if we are to move towards social equity and economic development whilst adhering to ethics and standards as proclaimed by the UN.

We should not permit international money lenders and their agents to undermine or override those lofty ideals taking advantage of yearn for foreign loans and investment.

Discrimination
Our education system, even as it is, on one hand, does not meet our national aspirations, whilst on the other, falls short of the UN Convention provisions.
There is no national system of education that suits our culture and society meeting our needs for economic development. Discrimination in education exists and persists.
The village school is without good and specialised teachers, and is often under-staffed. The facilities there cannot be compared with those where the affluent have access to.
The denominational schools, though not open to other beliefs on the basis of merit, receive government grants over and above what is given to rural schools which procedure does no exist even in the western countries, which standards we aim at.

The denominational schools, should, in the first instance, be democratized in respect of school admissions.
Religious discrimination in admission or admissions on the basis of financial contributions (highest bidders) should be done away with.
The existence of such discrimination is a shame on our education system.
We have been led to treat the English-speaking gentry as the educated elite. The Swabhasha (Sinhala and Tamil) educated do not come within this parameter. Those from so-called prestigious schools and rest of the other schools do not mix. This then is a division based on the discriminatory system of education that exist, which certainly does not help foster national unity and amity.

What is needed to be done is to change our education system, to remove the voluntary and involuntary discrimination that exist between the rich and poor, the rural and the urban children and different religious groups.
The tragedy is that, whilst no measures have been adopted to remedy the situation, discrimination has been permitted to become more and more deep rooted.

Upali S. Jayasekara
Colombo 4

 

Police view on rights of motorists

The readers of your newspaper are thankful to Dr Mareena Thaha for publishing the rights of the motorists, and a couple of other related matters.
We are thankful if the Traffic Police enlighten us on the official stand of this issue so that one can respond the traffic cops accordingly!
Nazly Cassim
Colombo 13

 

Smuggling of contraband items

The smuggling of contraband items and drugs is on the increase in the mid-sea strip of Beruwala area.
It is reported that some wealthy racketeers have been carrying on this illegal business since a considerable period of time.
Large quantities of foreign made tobacco products, electronic items and drugs are among them smuggled into the country, coming mainly from India, Pakistan and the Maldives.
The people of this area are wondering why the law enforcement authorities are turning a blind eye to this illegal activity.
C M Kamburuwala

 

Bloodsuckers

These bloodsuckers come in swarms
With droning buzz, their nightly charms.
Their appetising food - blood of Homo sapiens
Continue to pester and prey on them for aeons

Like the terrorists who strike at any time
These flying creatures cause havoc in every clime
They’re armed with the sting; the other the gun
Deadly, dangerous they’re we fear, we shun

Rich and poor, high and low, everywhere dread
Because of danger in the diseases they spread
These weightless creatures of the deadliest kind
For a long time, the dangerous enemy of mankind

The household they visit like some special guest
But their presence the host very much detest
And in privacy of rooms like robbers they invade
To launch an attack presenting their serenade

They dance and glance, displaying their talent to sing
And cause pain and suffering with their vicious sting
These ordeals we are subjected to daily
As victims of terrorists which are deadly

They buzz and buzz; oh, the buzzing they make!
Force the household to break rest and keep awake
These tiny, spineless enemies enjoy immense power
To conquer the hapless mankind at any hour

Man’s deadly enemy number one is the mosquito
He is to be blamed for the growth of its embryo
He is callous; his surroundings in a poor state
He reaps what he sows; and that is his fate!

M. Azhar Dawood

 

Hailing Hambantota

The port of discovery
Toward trading and maritme history
Amid Chinese expertise
Awaits Indian Ocean’s tiger economy
May all beings be neighbourly...

Irene de Silva
Colombo 5

 


Appreciations


Vidya Jyothi Dr Philip Revatha (Ray) Wijewardene

An outstanding and innovative scientist

Sri Lanka lost an outstanding scientist in Dr Ray Wijewardene earlier this week.
An engineer par excellence, his contributions to agricultural development will be remembered for a long, long time.
A legend of the modern times, he used his training in engineering to focus on agricultural development very effectively.
Dr Wijewardene was the inventor of the two-wheeled tractor, well known in the farming community as the Land Master, the first brand of two-wheeled tractors made in England.
Although his desire was to continue to make it in Sri Lanka (Ceylon then) he did not succeed in doing it, much to his regret.

They are now made under number of brand names in Japan, Korea, China etc. and is a testament to the success of the machine. It has become an invaluable farming machine to small farmers, not only for cultivation purposes but also for haulage.
He was an outstandingly innovative scientist, always with an inquiring mind. He loved things mechanical, and would tinker with anything new which came his way. He was far ahead of his contemporaries, and would never give up experimenting with new ideas, however theoretical they may be.

In the 80s, his business card carried the GPS co-ordinates to his house when very few people knew about GPS positioning. He had a penchant for inventing. He honed his skills during his tenure at the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture in Nigeria. In the late 80s, he invented a 3-wheeled bicycle which looked outrageous. However, he took great pains to explain to me the aerodynamic properties of it, and demonstrated the ease with which it could be pedalled, with him riding it in a prostrate position. I was persuaded to try it, which I did in his drive-way, but I soon discovered how easy it was to ride with a minimal effort that I took it to the main road and continued to ride it for a while.
I was privileged to be closely associated with him when he served as a Member of the Coconut Research Board and in its Research Committee for almost a decade. His incisive mind contributed greatly in focussing on new areas of work.
He would challenge the researchers into new thinking, but always understood the difficulties faced by them.
In the early 80s, he together with Dr U P de S. Waidyanatha, authored a well illustrated booklet titled Conservation Farming.

This was at a time when the term conservation was hardly heard.
He brought out the thesis of conserving soil moisture, particularly in the dryer areas of the country by avoiding such agricultural practices as tilling, clean weeding etc.
He challenged the scientists to think about these aspects.
He would often lament that paddy farmers flood the paddies merely to control weeds; an extravagant use of a precious commodity, water.

He demonstrated how better rice yields could be obtained using much less water. Agricultural practices built on saving soil water were not well practised in the country; perhaps because soil water deficits were somewhat uncommon those days. Yet he saw what the future would be, and on every possible occasion, extolled to virtues of conserving soil moisture. The booklet, Conservation Farming, is even more relevant in today’s context, and the booklet was translated into Sinhala last year.
Dr Wijewardene was an avid aviator.
It was his hobby to build all sorts of aircrafts. He would fly them to Karawita tank to get to his estate. One of his small planes was used in a James Bond Film.
In the 80s, he fell out of the sky but refused to blame the plane – rather he admitted that he did not complete the check-list before flying.
Many have forgotten that he represented Ceylon at the Olympics in Mexico at sailing.
He also participated in Asian Games held in Manila and won a silver, but was very unlucky to have the missed the gold.

Working more on soil moisture conservation, he was a strong promoter of cover cropping for improving soils conditions, and to bring back the age-old practice of ‘green manuring’. Gradually, he started work on Gliricidia. In the hill country, he strongly advocated Sloping Agricultural Land Technology (SALT) to reduce erosion and to enrich the soil, and turning sloping lands into productive upland farms. Likewise, he started popularising Gliricidia planting in coconut lands, and persuaded the Coconut Research Institute to undertake research on it. Later on, he ventured into using Gliricidia wood as a source of power, and was a strong advocate of dendro power as an alternative form of energy. He demonstrated this by installing a small power plant powered by burning Gliricidia wood in his estate, which not only became self-sufficient in electricity but also had a surplus. He canvassed the authorities for a long time to have reasonable tariff policies for purchase of dendro power. He was a very happy man when the Government made the changes in support of his submissions.

He was a competent agronomist as well.
Although he had a Harvard Business School degree, he felt that economics of agricultural practices should take into account long-term effects.
He would argue that poor returns today would not necessarily mean poor returns in 10 years.
His estate, Kohombe, was a veritable research field with all manner of experimentation. He could afford to do it, and used his wealth for the benefit of research.

He was a rare persona, who would apply research to test how it works, truly an applied researcher.
He loved his estate, and I had the privilege and good fortune of accompanying him there several months ago.
It was an exhilarating experience to engage in discussions with him, on any subject, be it agriculture, engineering, on the construction aspects of his little stilt house at the estate and the bata pelali that unconventionally folds to the floor, the bats that visit from the nearby thickets, or the gassifier. It was rare opportunity to gain knowledge.
Dr Wijewardene lived a good life.
He was a colossus, a truly great son of Sri Lanka.
His loss is irreparable, and we shall sorely miss his friendship, camaraderie, and above all, the wisdom he imparted. May he attain Nibbăna!

Ranjith Mahindapala


Jain Ramanayake

Kind-hearted and unassuming

The death anniversary of our dearly loved mother, which fell on August 12, was remembered with deep sorrow by her loving children, grandchildren and other relations and friends.
She was born in Kandy in 1899.
Her father was an Ayurvedic Physician of much repute and respected by so many who came to consult him day and night for the efficacious treatment of all ailments of the body (sarwanga).
He did not charge any fee as he was a very wealthy landlord. The prescriptions were of family heritage for his generations were Ayurvedic Physicians.

She was educated in Sinhala and English.
She also had a colloquial knowledge of Tamil having come to live at Talawakele, an area of predominantly Indian Tamil tea estate workers, after her marriage to my father, the late V. K. V. Ramanayake, Korale Mahathmaya of Dimbula Korale in the Nuwara Eliya District. He was the one and only Korale Mahathmaya of Dimbula Korale as the post of Korale Mahathmaya was abolished in 1945.

My father was working at the Nuwara Eliya Kachcheri and as his work was excellent, the Government Agent, E.T. Dyson, (an Englishman) created a post of Korale Mahathmaya for Dimbule and appointed him.
Our mother was blessed with five children, Damapali Jinadasa, Budhaprema, Gunasoma and Ariyawansa.
She passed away very peacefully after a brief illness on August 12, 1930.
We were told by the elders that vast crowds paid their last respects, among them was the GA, AGA, N’Eliya Kachcheri staff, planters, businessman of the Korale, which consisted of Talakele, Kotagala Watagoda, Great Western, Dindula, Dimbulle.

The funeral procession was very long, spanning from the residence to the general cemetery, a distance of about two kilometres. It is said that never in the history of Talawakele such a vast gathering was seen for a funeral.
All business establishments of the Korale were closed as a mark of respect to her.
All sons and daughters contributed Rs. 10,000 each towards charity in memory of her. The eldest in the family, Jim Ramanayake, offers an almsgiving annually and confers merits on her.
She actively participated in the religious and charitable activities of her husband. She went on pilgrimage to Anuradhapura, Tissa, Kataragama, Dambana and Sri Dalada and Maligawa for she was deeply religious.
She was a very kind-hearted, unassuming with gentle manners. Whenever less fortunate ones came to her, she helped them financially and never sent them without refreshments.
Merits so gathered will surely help her to attain the Supreme Bliss of Nirvana.

V K B Ramanayake
Maharagama

 

 

 

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