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Here lies the Millionaire

As one grows old and hold is low
Life a mere existence and bore
Richess in vaults acreages held
Deposits fixed bills and bonds
Shares and stocks dividends lot
Weighty on head a nightmare.

Forgetting where what and when
How and why slips in mind
Kith and kin snatch your wand
Tables turn advance retreats
Commands frequent obeisance demand
Powers usurped a king turns slave

Ponder much ere too late
Disasters avert remedies in time
Deeds written gifts bestowed
Votes passed treasury used
Shares fair deserving each
Squabbles free all at ease.

Balance saved for future’s good stead
To eat well, sleep well, feeling free
Enjoy life with regrets none
All this better done than said
Lest the epitaph on your tomb stone cynic
Will read “here lies the millionaire”.

Ranjit Jayaweera Bandara


Education system needs reforms, not privatisation

Our education policy followed since 1943 requires the schooling of a child in the mother tongue. This is the policy followed in other countries too - developed or developing, rich or poor. Accordingly, the medium of education in our schools should compulsorily be Sinhala and Tamil.

The use of any other language is contrary to this policy, illegal and anti-national.
However, the international schools where Sri Lanka children study have English as the medium of instruction, which is a serious violation of the country’s education policy. Yet the functioning of these schools has been permitted and those institutions carry on with impunity.
Would any other country allow a privileged section of children of that country to be educated in a foreign language especially where the elementary and secondary education is concerned? Will America permit Arabic or Sinhala to be the medium of schooling for their children or will Saudi Arabia permit English or Sinhala to be the medium of schooling in that country? No country will tolerate such flagrant violation of their education policy though we have allowed.

What are the implications of such alienation of our education system?
The alien culture-based education imparted in the international schools will, to a large extent, prevent our children attending those schools from acquiring social values and the ability to live with others learning customs peculiar and essential to our country. The children passing out from those schools will form a new social class with snobbish values, and will be inclined to consider themselves as a superior lot who have received the best education and even look down upon those educated in the Swabasha or Government schools. Can we permit such an education-based class division which is not in the national interest? It goes further.
A news report published in a newspaper recently quoted a student attending an international school as having said, “Who wants to learn Sinhala? What can you do learning in that language? Can you get a job with a good salary? No doubt, it is the practical thinking”.

The international schools will certainly provide the opening for the children of the elitist class to secure more lucrative employment here and abroad leaving the lesser jobs for the ‘not so fortunate’ children educated in the Swadasha.
With the privatisation programme in full swing it will be English medium educated children of the affluent class who will reap the harvest. That, in turn, will pave the way for future class conflict and even an upsurge of violence.

It is a pity that there has been no public outcry against this dual system of education, which is in operation against the national policy. Perhaps, the masses have still not had the time and the opportunity to analyze and understand the implications of the system, as the issues have not been placed before them in its correct perspective, and the educationists surprisingly have continued to keep mum.
It could be argued that education in the English medium is nothing new to us and that it has helped the country.
English was imposed on us during colonial times and with it came the spread of the Western culture as well. English and westernisation at the expense of our own language and culture were thought to be good at that time and this thinking and practice continued long after independence.
This is because of the dominant part played by our political elite that sprang from the westernised English speaking fraternity throughout.

English, no doubt, is a world language and is our interest to get our children to learn the language. However, there is no justification to permit the moneyed class to adopt English as the “mother” tongue in respect of their children for the purpose of economic expediency and social uplifting to the detriment of the vast majority of the population. The people will not endorse the replacement of Sinhala and Tamil with English as the medium of schooling in our country. If they do, then that will be fine. Otherwise, we have to teach English as the second language only and that should apply to the entire student population without exception. English should not be the adopted mother tongue of a selected lot only, whether be they Sinhalese, Tamils or Muslims as long as they are Sri Lankans.

Our University education has been of international standard or even more at a time but standards have come down now. Hence, before even thinking of allowing the establishment of private universities giving room for foreigners to enter the university education ‘market’, we have to ensure that our university education is brought back to former levels.

The private universities proposal, besides being a move to commence the process of privatising education institutions, helps the stabilisation of international schools as an integral part of the education system.
If a private university be established, it will be an English medium run fee-levying institution. For whose benefit will that be? No doubt, exclusively for the rich.

It is, therefore, a subtle move to introduce an education system that favours the rich. Perhaps the permanent establishment of an English educated ruling class obedient to westernised mannerism is the ultimate aim.
Education should help students to get at the good things in the world materially, in intelligence and knowledge. That possibility should not be made available to the privileged only. It is, in that context, not fair or proper to allow the advantages of education to be reserved for the rich and the powerful only.

Our education system needs a change. It is the responsibility of the educationists to take the initiative to propose necessary changes, with the advice and guidance of the economists, sociologists and politicians.
People should be vigilant to oppose and stop the imposition of any system that does not suit our culture or meet our national aspirations.
What is required is the strict implementation of a national education policy.

Upali S. Jayasekara
Colombo 4


Credit card merchants flouting basic rules

It was only just over two decades ago that our state-owned banks started issuing credit cards to their constituents.
However, the constituents of globally-renowned banks and reputed financial organisations were able to use this product for their convenience for quite some time.
At present, the usage of the credit card is very common, primarily, for their benefit and secondarily for convenience.

It all depends on the cardholder’s option. It has to be emphasised that one need not carry physical cash as all purchases and various bills could be easily made via the globally accepted credit cards.
All credit cards, at the time they are handed over or taken possession of, have to be compulsorily signed on the reverse with the cardholder’s usual signature on the white strip allocated.

All credit card merchants have been properly educated and instructed by the related bank officials and those officials in the respective credit card institutions the correct manner in which to accept credit cards from clients for purchases at super markets, Sathosa outlets, SLT regional centres and various other organisations where payments could be effected for various other services.
However, despite educating these merchants with all the necessary advice and precautionary measures to be taken, all of them totally flout the instructions by not adhering to the basics.
They never verify the signature the client places with that on the reverse of the card.
I am aware of so many who entrust a third party to purchase their needs from a supermarket by giving their credit cards, which are not at all transferable.

On the contrary, when a genuine cardholder makes an inquiry to find out the balance or any other information about his/her card over the phone, several questions are posed requesting for vital information such as NIC number, billing address, last deposit made, the present credit limit, mother’s maiden name, the profession etc.
After a lot of harassment only the query is answered. In the event a client fails to deposit the minimum payment on the due date, reminders via telephone calls are given and the cards are kept on hold until the minimum payment is made.

It is my fervent hope that immediate precautionary action would be taken by the related bank personnel and other officials in financial institutions to advise the credit card merchants not to flout the basics, but to adhere strictly to the instructions furnished when a credit card payment is accepted and more particularly to be more lenient when inquiries are made by genuine card holders as they have to hang on to their mobile/land phones for a fairly long length of time to obtain the necessary information.

Sunil Thenabadu
Mt Lavinia


Of cabbages and Queen

None to reign on her parade
Time-tested with grace
Amid empires, colonies and memories
Big hats and nothing shady
Republics are a reality.

Irene de Silva
Colombo 5


Politicians banking on fresh issues

The year 1931, when Ceylon was given universal adult franchise, could be stated as the beginning of party politics in our country.
Since the candidates seeking election have to woo the electorate, language was a subject of misuse by the candidates for decades. Hence the civil war and all that went with it.
Now that the war based on race is over at least the military part, the message of the time is that our party politics are picking up other subjects.

The UN, the war crimes, the Tamil diaspora and the role of the so-called first world seem to be on the agenda of today’s Sri Lankan party politics.
This shows the bankruptcy of Sri Lankan party politics.
My reading of Sri Lanka today is such that the 225 in Parliament along with the Executive President do not seem to be interested in addressing National Reconciliation, Poverty, Bribery and Corruption and Human Rights violations.

On the other hand, the Government of Sri Lanka seems to be flying kites on using the power in Parliament to change the Constitution to suit the ruling party. This is like the 1978 Constitution of the UNP.
Constitution making is a subject that belongs to the entire country and not to the party in power.
In this reality, it is good to hear that the old left specially the likes of Vasudeva Nanayakkara are protesting about the envisaged changes to the Constitution.

In this context, the silent majority has to wake up from the slumber. Being a rural agricultural-based society we will not take to the streets like in the Philippines of Marcos’ time. However, some of us are still dreamers.
We are dreaming the dream of Sri Lanka coming to terms with the reality that we are a nation with diverse communities and hence the Government of Sri Lanka must accept this reality.
Over to all those who love Mother Lanka.
Sydney Knight


Please do not conduct exams during Ramadan

Competitive examinations viz. the Year 5 Scholarship Exam, the GCE (A/L) Exam and Accountancy exams conducted by the ICASL, were held during the holy month of Ramadan, causing a lot of inconvenience to the Muslim students for whom fasting is compulsory during this period. It was announced over the radio that a very few candidates have missed sitting for the GCE (A/L) exam as they have overslept, which is very likely, after the early morning meal if one goes for a nap.

These students do attend late night prayers which also contribute towards their inability to wake up on time.
Moreover, taking into consideration that these students are fasting, it will be very much appreciated by the Muslims, if these exams could be scheduled either before or after the fasting period.
We hope the officials of the Education Ministry and those institutes responsible will prepare, in the future, the timetables for these exams not to coincide with the fasting period. Because of the above situation, it is obvious that these students have to wait for another year to sit for the above exams and what about the stress that these students must be in having missed the exam.

Mohamed Zahran
Colombo 3


Menace of foreign paedophiles

The foreign paedophile menace raises its ugly head again slyly in the costal belt villages of the Western Province.
The sources reveal that the children of low income families have been the victims of those paedophiles through local touts.
Specially, tourists locations such as Kalutara, Payagala, Beruwala, Aluthgama and Bentota are vastly affected.
Some foreign paedophiles are residing in local houses which have been built by them with their own resources and with the collaboration of local touts engage in their nefarious activities.
They use children for pornography too.
When people make complaints regarding these abuses to the Police and the relevant authorities, surprisingly they always turn a deaf ear.
Very often some of these foreign tourists possess expired visas and stay illegally, hence the Department of Immigration and Emigration has an important duty to apprehend those illegal visa holders and deport them.
Besides, the National Child Protection Authority and the Ministry of Social Services have a great responsibility to curb these malpractices ruinous to our country.

C. M. Kamburawala



Colonel Azlam Fazly Laphir

Homage to a war hero

At the end of a vicissitudinous war, it is not unusual for disputes to emerge among the victors on the military and the political ingredients that contributed to their final success and, even more specifically, on who deserves credit for the victory.
Such disputes have been much in evidence in Sri Lanka since the military defeat of the LTTE about 14 months ago.
Moreover, it is invariably the leaders of the successful operations against the enemy – especially, the coup de grâce – that are accorded recognition as heroes of the war. Past failures and setbacks tend to be forgotten in the post-war euphoria.

Perhaps the most ‘forgettable’ among the episodes of failure in the course of the ‘Eelam Wars’ were the debacles at Mullaitivu (July 1996) and Elephant Pass (April 2000) at which the losses suffered by Sri Lanka included many thousands of men in arms and large hauls of battle-field hardware.
This brief essay is intended to spotlight a true hero of one of these episodes – a man who laid down his life in a partially successful attempt to save the lives of several hundreds of his comrades-in-arms under circumstances of almost total despair.

The occasion for this tribute is the 14th death anniversary of that hero, Colonel Azlam Fazly Laphir, He was posthumously awarded ‘Parama Weera Vibhushana Medal’ – the highest military honour in Sri Lanka for battlefield gallantry. He, it should be noted, is the senior most officerof the Sri Lanka Army to be so honoured, and one of the very few commanding officers to die while leading his men in the battlefield.
Born in Matale in 1958, he completed his school education at St Anthony’s College, Kandy. In accordance with the wishes of his father, the late Dr Laphir, who wanted his son to become an engineer, on completion of his schooling, young Fazly secured a scholarship to proceed on his higher studies in Libya. However, his lure was in an entirely different direction which was to join the Sri Lanka Army – at that time, a relatively small but glamorous outfit.

From the very outset, his army career was featured by dedication, skill and exceptional overall competence. He was one of the pioneering officers in the first Gajaba Regiment. When Lt. Col. Vijaya Wimalaratne inaugurated the ‘Special forces squadrons’ scheme to counter the intensifying threat posed by the guerrilla war tactics of the LTTE, Fazly was appointed the officer in charge of the first such unit which had several skirmishes with the fledgling militant groups in the North among which the most successful was the operation in Ambuweli in 1983. He was a founder member of the ‘Thirty-Five Gang’/’Combat Tracker Team’ formed in 1985. He was a member of the “Rapid Deployment Force” formed in the nineteen eighties.
As a pioneer member of the First Regiment of the ‘Special Forces’, Fazly’s involvement extended to all its aspects including even the design of the cap, badge and the insignia.
His reputation for physical courage earned him from his colleagues the affectionate nickname of “suicide express”.

One of the memorable demonstrations of his willingness to risk his life against almost insurmountable odds is found in the annals of the rescue mission he took part in across the Jaffna lagoon to reach the troops besieged in Jaffna Fort. Over time, he acquired a mastery of the ‘military geography’ of the Jaffna peninsula.
This, according to well-informed sources, turned out to be invaluable in the re-establishment of government control over that region in 1995.

Meanwhile, he was also involved in strengthening the army camp at Mullaitivu which was mainly intended to control the LTTE smuggling operations along the north-east coast.
His fateful day came when the Sri Lanka army camp at Mullativu was surrounded by the terrorists on July 18, 1996.
Mullaitivu was of strategic significance to the Tigers because of its central location along the north-eastern seaboard.

Although a massive SL army garrison had been placed in its command area of 8.5km, the camp was vulnerable to enemy attack, being relatively isolated – the nearest main SL army camps being at Welioya 35km to its south and Elephant Pass 55km to its north across hostile forested terrain.
The Tiger forces surrounded the camp and started their attack at 1.30am.
An operation code-named “Thrivida Pahara” launched by the SL Army to defend Mullaitivu was severely handicapped by the fact that no reinforcements could be dispatched to Mullaitivu either by land or by sea because of the impenetrable blockade by a larger number of Tiger battalions armed with heavy artillery and a large Sea Tiger force. It was in this situation of total despair that Lt-Col Fazly Laphir volunteered to lead a “do-or-die” air-borne rescue mission manned by 275 combatants of the “Special Forces” under his command.
Fazly was stationed at that time at the Maduru Oya camp.

From there, he and his men were conveyed by helicopter via Trincomalee to Alampil (5km south to the Mullaitivu base) around 4.30pm on the same day.
As expected, they encountered stiff resistance from the guerrilla forces.
Earlier reinforcement operations by the Sri Lanka Air Force and the Navy had been thwarted, the resulting damage included damage to two helicopters and the gun-boat ‘SLN Ranaviru’ which was blown up with its entire crew of thirty-six. Some of the most fierce fighting of the entire ‘Eelam War’ were witnessed over the next few hours.

Since helicopter landing on open beaches was excessively risky, Fazly and his troops had to descend to the ground along ropes amidst heavy firing.
Both in the hazardous task of descending and re-grouping as well as in the deadly close-encounter combat against several thousands of well-armed Tigers, Fazly is reported to have displayed such extraordinary leadership skills that his men persisted with their task, achieving a fairly degree of success and causing heavy losses to the LTTE forces.

They advanced amidst fierce mortar fire but lost communication with the rear.
Fazly at their vanguard was fatally wounded by a shrapnel that pierced his brain on the morning of July 19.
Though receiving no medical care, he went on fighting until, later that morning, he succumbed to his injuries.
His body was evacuated three days later.
Heroism shown by Fazly in the annals of Eelam wars, and especially his commitment in the battle of Mullaitivu was unique.

We moan the fact that he was not destined to enjoy with us the fruits of victory.
The least we must, therefore, do is to accord to him an everlasting place in our collective memory.
‘Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lays down his life for his friends’

Dr Saman Nanayakkara
The University of Peradeniya




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