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Newspapers should accommodate rational views
Rev Sydney Knight, a person who contributes plausible ideas to newspapers, writing to (The Nation on Sunday, October 17, 2010 has made a candid observation that the Colombo-based press has a finicky, picky, choosy dispensation when handling letters of responding readers.

Economists abroad and within Sri Lanka have commented on the amazingly rapid ascendance of the Island’s economy and its infrastructure but newspapers pay scant respect to the phenomenon that means so much to the islanders. It behooves the Fourth Estate which is the national gazette to shed its parochial, insular, and even narrow minded attributes and gird itself to assist in taking the country forward.

It should dispense with its parish pump features and contribute, to play its role in a progressive advancing economy. The media should endeavour to publicise all progress and accommodate cogent views of its readers, forwarded as ‘letters’ and ‘opinions’ setting aside any prejudice.

The Fourth Estate should open out and entertain the varied views that would enable the nation to bloom. Political opinion is welcome. Political parties should run their news sheets. Conforming to the views of Sydney Knight, let us all hope that dailies and weeklies will provide space for the opinions of their clientele, the ordinary people who contribute to forming ‘public opinion’. Advertisements do help to keep papers afloat but the significance of the daily paper should not be relegated to the background.

Such an attitude by the Fourth Estate would spew a barren nation! Thanks to two Sunday journals a spade may be called a spade. Let us all hope that papers will go back to the laissez-faire-stance of the good old days!



Re-carpeting parliament, a thoughtless extravaganza
A news report says government is to spend Rs.1.2 million on carpets for the parliament.
Surely, there is no guarantee that there will not be another bout of floods at the parliament for it is built on marshy land. I am sure there won’t be any permanent rectification of the drainage system, knowing our politicians – they believe in short-term solutions, stopgap measures just for the moment.
So instead of courting loss again, why not just tile the whole place? Even if they use the most expensive tiling, still it will not get damaged by the floods. When the masses are suffering with floods without a solution in sight for their loss, this sort of thoughtless extravagance will bring the wrath of the people in the government.
The Internet is flooding with mails regarding the idiotic smiles of the politicians while they were being evacuated, while the people had to “grin and bear” their suffering.
Decisions seem to be made by a few nitwits without consulting the experts on solutions. No strategy, no long-term plans, just a few knee jerk reactions and the whole matter is swept under the carpet until the next year, the next rain and next floods. Then the whole episode is repeated. No permanent solution.
There is a limit to the patience of the common man. Let’s hope the decision making goons do not stretch it too thin.
Dr Mrs Mareena Thaha Reffai


Resume ‘My Life’ on SLBC

The above favourite programme of mine presented by Shareefa Thahir (whom I fondly address as Lady Gaga whenever I call her) on Wednesday evening at 9 pm is not on air anymore. I think with the presenter having gone overseas, this programme, where important personalities/celebrities are interviewed, has been temporarily put on hold. I suggest that Soundi Thawam or Fathima Razick present this programme till the arrival of usual host Shareefa. Over to Radio Sri Lanka to oblige by continuing this entertaining and interesting programme.
Mohamed Zahran


Only crumbs for the masses

The other day, I met a senior citizen at a Budget Shop. He lamented. “A month ago, the price of 500gms of sugar was Rs.46. Two weeks ago, I had to pay Rs.47. The budget was on November 22. After five days, the price has shot up to Rs.49.50. But, the price is not marked. And mind you, it’s a state co-op outlet.
He continued: “we poor folks haven’t got any relief from this budget. Prices of medicines and consumer goods are escalating and we, seniors are struggling to make ends meet. What can a pittance of Rs.300 do to ease our woes? All our expectations have been dashed. We’re left in the lurch in post-war Sri Lanka.”
This is the consensus of opinion of the common man. The working class and the pensioners have been overlooked. The development-oriented budget has not brought relief to the working class, to cushion off the high cost of living which keeps on increasing by the day.
We could sum up: “Only crumbs for the masses; wealth and luxury for the ruling classes.”
M Azhar Dawood


Festive season – Cheerful December

Festive season of cheerful Yuletide
Holy month, true spirit of Christmastide
Customary burning of Yule log fiesta for mirth
Anglo Saxons called December, the Yule month.

Christ’s birth solemnly, genuinely, to commemorate
Not forgetting the less fortunate, homeless in frustrate
Sharing, caring, loving, giving, time to celebrate
Shed differences, treat alike the suffering in desperate.

Tinsel streamers colourful heartrending cribs displayed
Wonderful hamper gifts, fancy goods prices incredibly slashed
Mist wee dew gently sprinkling time
Making the environment pleasing vision salubrious clime.

Fairyland atmosphere glittering shopping malls
Packed classy hotels, banquet halls
Last minute mad shopping sprees
For décor sparking Xmas trees.

Lovers tie nuptial knot in misty, chilly December
For true love to last, never to part forever ‘n ever
Seasonal bridal extravaganza in glamour
Dramatic drapes exotic colour.

Church bells sweetly chiming
Carols, choirs, cheers, echoing
Kids impatiently await much loved Santa Claus
For gifts enthrall young ‘n old every soul
A month for peace ‘n goodwill a call
A season to fete for all.

Kumarasinghe Tennakoon


Fish consumers fall prey to black marketeers

Since a long time, the public has been making requests from the Fisheries Corporation to install fish stalls in Maggona, Magalkanda and Payagala towns. But the corporation pays no heed at all.
There is abundant of marine fish catch in the southern coast nowadays. Although the consumers have to buy fish from the private vendors at exorbitant prices and the poor consumers are always become prey to the exploitation of the black marketeers. The corporation possibly can maintain fish selling outlets in the above areas and even dispatch mobile delivery vans to inland areas too.
If so, the corporation will be able to make a sizable income also, but the consumers say the corporation shows no concern to the public pleas.

C M Kamburawala


Long walk to freedom

This passage appears on the last page of the autobiography of Nelson Mandela’s Long Walk to Freedom and I was so moved by it, that I thought it deserved a larger audience.
Everybody should share his feelings and thoughts about freedom. The cover of the book says: The riveting memoirs of one of the great moral and political leaders of our time - An international hero whose accomplishments won him the 1993 Nobel Peace Prize. Since his release in February 1990, Nelson Mandela has emerged as the world’s most significant moral leader since Mahatma Gandhi.
As President of the African National Congress and spiritual figurehead of the Anti-Apartheid Movement, he was instrumental in moving South Africa towards black majority rule. And throughout the world, he is revered as a vital force in the fight for human rights and racial equality.

Says Nelson Mandela: “I was not born with a hunger to be free. I was born free - free in every way that I could know. Free to run in the fields near my mother’s hut, free to swim in the clear stream that ran through my village, free to roast mealies under the stars and ride the broad backs of slow-moving bulls. As long as I obeyed my father and abided by the customs of my tribe, I was not troubled by the laws of Man or God.
“It was only when I began to learn that my boyhood freedom was an illusion when I discovered as a young man that my freedom had already been taken from me, I began to hunger for it. At first, as a student, I wanted freedom only for myself, the transitory freedoms of being able to stay out at night, read what I pleased and go where I chose. Later, as a young man in Johannesburg, I yearned for the basic and honourable freedoms of achieving my potential, of earning my keep, of marrying and having a family, the freedom not to be obstructed in a lawful life.

“But then I slowly saw that not only was I not free but my brothers and sisters were not free. I saw that it was just not my freedom that was curtailed but the freedom of everyone who looked like I did. That is when I joined the African National Congress, and that is when the hunger for my own freedom became the greater hunger for the freedom of my people.
“It was this desire for the freedom of my people to live their lives with dignity and self-respect that animated my life, that transformed a frightened young man into a bold one, that drove a law abiding attorney to become a criminal, that turned a family loving husband into a man without a home, that forced a life loving man to live like a monk.

“I am no more virtuous or self-sacrificing than the next man, but I found that I could not even enjoy the poor and limited freedoms I was allowed when I knew my people were not free. Freedom is indivisible: the chains on anyone of my people were the chains on all of them, the chains on all of my people were the chains on me.
“It was during those long and lonely years that my hunger for the freedom of my own people became a hunger for the freedom of all people, white and black. I knew as well as I knew anything that the oppressor must be liberated just as surely as the oppressed.
“A man who takes away another man’s freedom is a prisoner of hatred - he is locked behind the bars of prejudice and narrow-mindedness. I am not truly free if I am taking away someone else’s freedom, just as surely as I am not free when my freedom is taken from me. The oppressed and the oppressor alike are robbed of their humanity.

“When I walked out of prison, that was my mission to liberate the oppressed and the oppressor both.
“Some say that has now been achieved. But I know that, that is not the case.
The truth is that we are not yet free; we have merely achieved the freedom to be free, the right not to be oppressed. We have not taken the final step of our journey, but the first step is a longer and even more difficult road. For, to be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains, but live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others. The true test of our devotion to freedom is just beginning.
“I have walked that long road to freedom. I have tried not to falter. I have made missteps along the way. But I have discovered the secret that after climbing a great hill, one only finds that there are many more hills to climb.
“I have taken a moment here to rest, to steal a view of the glorious vista that surrounds me, to look back on the distance I have come. But I can rest only for a moment, for with freedom come responsibilities, and I dare not linger for my long walk is not ended.”

Dr W B Wijekoon


Pensioners are in dire distress

With the presentation of the Budget 2011, pensioners expected that the pension anomalies that arose from the salary increases granted to public servants effective January 1, 2006, would be rectified especially since that promise is found in the Mahinda Chintanaya (page 15).
However, once again, the pensioners have been sadly let down. And, adding insult to injury, with the five percent increase in the salaries of public servants provided for in Budget 2011, the anomaly will be further widened.
At the National Pensioners’ Day held on October 8, 2009, Minister Wimal Weerawans - the only invitee, who attended (cabinet ministers who were invited and who had confirmed their attendance, were conspicuous by their absence and. were represented by their private secretaries or ministry officials), accepted the memorandum addressed to the President and in his speech Minister Weerawansa promised to hand over the memorandum to the President with a view to have the anomalies removed.
The then prime minister and then minister of Public Administration, when delegations from the Pensioners’ Associations met him, assured that action will be taken to have the anomalies removed and bring relief to the pensioners.
On January 14, 2010, when around 5,000 pensioners invited to Temple Trees before the last presidential election, the President gave an undertaking that anomalies arising from the salary increases granted to public servants effective January 1, 2006 would be removed in the ‘next budget’.
When a delegation from the Pensioners’ Associations met Minister Wimal Weerawansa to invite him to the Pensioners’ Walk and Rally to mark the National Pensioners’ Day on October 8, 2010, he stated that he would participate only if he could bring good tidings. He did attend, and addressing the pensioners gathered in front of the Fort Railway station after the walk, said that steps will be taken to remove the pension anomalies in question.
However, the feeble old aged pensioners, victims of various ailments that affect old age, who awaited the ‘next budget’ to receive their dues to die peacefully, have been badly disappointed.
There were around 450,000 pensioners, who were affected by the anomaly as from January 1, 2006, to start with. According to the Director General of Pensions around 6,000 pensioners die every year. Thus, since 2006 a large number of pensioners have passed away without receiving their dues. The passing away of the rest should not be awaited to avoid the expenditure.
I hope that the President will make amendments even at this stage in keeping with the promises made.

Upali S Jayasekera


WWII wreaths and apologies

When will they ever learn?
Sri Lanka yearns
An apology for
A 30 year provoked war
May the UN reckon
‘A thousand apologies’ should be sufficient

Irene De Silva



A tribute to past peacemakers

The month of August is a month of memorials and remembrances for many in Sri Lanka today.
On August 8, 1992, we lost Denzil Kobbekaduwa and all those who travelled in that vehicle. On August 12, 2005 we lost Lakshman Kadirgamar and on the same day four years ago Kethesh Loganathan and on the same day three years ago KC Kamalasabayson PC.
All of the above except for the last name were victims of the 30-year Sri Lanka civil war. Denzil Kobbekaduwa wanted a permanent solution. He looked into the sufferings of an ordinary soldier and wanted to begin from the point of strength.
Lakshman Kadirgamar from the same school in Kandy like Denzil Kobbekaduwa used his office, the Sri Lanka Foreign Ministry, to fight the LTTE in and through our missions overseas. Kethesh Loganathan, a former freedom fighter, opted to work for peace. All these men and several others were the victims of violence and abuse of power in the worst ever movement of the world.
We must thank God for them along with all the victims of the war remembering their loved ones.
Kamalasabayson spent all his years contributing to the legal system in our country. We must thank God for his legal contribution and also remember his family.
May all these deaths make us value life! Very specially in post-war Sri Lanka.
As Mother Lanka endeavours to build a new Sri Lanka after the events of May 2009, may we all Sri Lankans endeavour to look after all the persons from Point Pedro in the North to Dondra head in the South! May this be the task of Sri Lanka today!

Sydney Knight

Donald Jayapalan Kanagaratnam

We need the likes of Fr Donald today

If Father Donald as we called him affectionately had lived on March 8 this year, he would have been 83 year old.
In today’s Sri Lanka, those of us who knew Fr Donald miss him very much. Why do I say this?
Recently, when we went to Vavuniya on our way to Jaffna, my thoughts went back to Donald and his ministry in Vavuniya.
He was more than an Anglican Priest. He was ecumenical in the best sense of the term. He attempted to work with all Christians, with the people of other faiths and no faiths, with those with ideologies and with all human beings.
When he died in February 1995, the LITE helped to get his body from Kopay, where he died to Vavuniya, where he lived. Those who came for the funeral which included the Armed Forces and Police were a testimony to his ministry in Vavuniya.
When Fr Donald left Pilimathalawa after the sad and tragic racial riots that took place in 1977, he moved to Vavuniya. In Vavuniya, it was his dream and vision to make Oppuravillam come alive. In that house of reconciliation peace and justice, Fr Donald wanted to work for national reconciliation.
We need the likes of Fr Donald to build a just society. Those of us who were touched by his life and work must, therefore, work for justice in an unjust society in Fr Donald’s name.
We shall always remember Fr Donald with love and gratitude and certainly Aria, his wife and thus his partner in mission.

Sydney Knight

Mohamed Najumudeen

His most admirable trait is humility

Some time during 1996, I retired from the plantations and came to Kandy, joined Kandy Sports Club after my earlier stint with the club in the year 1969 to 1972,1973,1974 and 1975 captaining the last year.
In 1997, I took up the position as hon. secretary of the club under Dr Sarath Kapuwatte as president and Malik Samarawickrema as trustee, the team that year was captained by Lasantha Wijesuriya, the current rugby chairman became the Triple Rugby Champions for the first time. The distinguished and controversial sports writer of that era Hafiz Marikar told me that he wished to introduce me to an extraordinary man from the stands. He took me to a person named Mohamed Najumudeen who was seated on the terraces in his white national shirt and sarong.
I have never been aware that he had any other names, but later found out that he was named “Mara Rugby Kandak” of Kandy with the highest respect and regard by all spectators. For me this meeting had the sort of significant effect on my life which one rarely experiences.
Najumudeen was a man of much thinking but few words and when he did speak you had better listen because his words were so well worth listening to as it was all about rugby, rugby and rugby and in particular of “Kandy Sports Club”.
He told me that he was educated at Zahira College, Colombo and moved over to Akurana in 1960s on business. Since 1972, he followed rugby at Kandy Sports Club big time during times the team was at its lowest ebb, but still continued to travel to witness all matches played by Kandy Sports Club only.
He faced difficult times in the early 1990s when the contest with both CR & CH was tight and in some instances ended with brawls inside and outside the grounds, but still supported the games and travelled where ever the Kandy team went at any costs personnel to him.
His personal standards were impeccable, he was slow to accuse and very quick to forgive, he was without malice. I once asked him what he considered to be the most admirable trait and his response was immediate – humility.
I don’t know why I was surprised because his humility was demonstrable. Physically he was big made, and a strong man whose attitude and knowledge of the game fascinated me. His sense of humour was slightly mischievous but never at another’s expense: Some of his anecdotes even had him laughing out loud.
Mohamed Najumudeen was a man of the highest quality and integrity whom every body loved and respected. He was a great gentleman; there can be no stronger compliment. At 64 years of age he says “goodbye” to all loved ones, Kandy Sports Club rugby and the rugby loving public of Kandy.
“To Allah we belong to him is our return “

Iswan Omar




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