|Monday, 23 December 2002|
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That erudite doctor K. Subramaniam is now not in the land of the living. Nevertheless, his social service to "Homo sapiens" will remain here for ever.
Due to various problems (mainly financial), I was in a terrible state of mind. When I read practically in all English newspapers, Dr. Subramaniam's review of the book titled "Laugh Awhile" published by the State Printing Corporation and sold for only Rs. 60 a copy as a matter of social service, I went to the Corporation to buy that book.
I was told that all copies of the book have been sold like hot cakes and to await the second edition then already in print. As I did not want to wait that long, since my condition was deteriorating, I went to see Dr. Subramaniam personally, and that Doctor, who was not only a Doctor of Philosophy, but also a Master of Arts, gave me the following advice:-
"Read the book 'Laugh Awhile; as soon as the second edition is out and recite the following prayer daily. "God, grant me the serenity to accept the things that I can't change, courage to change, wherever necessary, the things that I can change and the wisdom to know the difference."
Suffice it to say that I, who wanted to commit suicide at one stage, am living to tell the tale, owing to that good doctor.
As Christmas 2002, gets under way, there seems to be an unholy competition between Commercial Enterprises, Government Departments, Christian Organisations etc to spread seasonal cheer and bonhomie, in every sort of imaginable way. Glittering illuminations and expensive decorations adorn streets and shopping malls, while entertainment extravaganzas and carol concerts vie with each other to get the attention of the spending public. Even old-fashioned carol singing has lost its spontaneity and have now become specialised features, with generally, highly priced Festivals of Carols, at selected venues. The media, electronic and print especially, have all got into this seasonal frenzy and contend with each other to extol every consumer gimmick, from high fashion to Epicurean food and drink.
Juxtaposed with all this razzmatazz are the flimsy, makeshift structures of wooden planks, cardboard and plastic, abutting roads and pavements, housing humans, children and even infants. Of course, they are the small sops to the carburise of Goodwill. A proportion of underprivileged and needy children may get a treat or a present from Santa, at highly publicised 'charity' events.
To what extent will this sustain them, when they are hungry, sick and malnourished, during the rest of the year, when the wind and the rain blow away their rickety roofs and only the sun shines on their squalor? At least they are in good company! After all, Baby Jesus, whose birth, all this Christmas glitz is supposed to celebrate, was also born in a stable, among the lowly cattle!
There have been many banner headlines recently proclaiming the good intentions of all and sundry i.e. the business community getting together, to plan to assist underprivileged children etc, etc. Has goodwill to be coated in sumptuous and enchanted happenings? Have the icons of high fashion to struck and pirouette in glamorous outfits, to raise a few rupees? Or are they just 'feel good' exercises and excuses for another social events? It would be an interesting topic for research, to find out what percentage of the proceeds of these so called benevolent and much publicised occasions, actually reach the really deprived and what difference it has made to their lives!
It is not, as if, there is no crying need. Countless abandoned children still abound in many institutions, scattered throughout Sri Lanka. Horror stories about such places at Kuruwita, Ambanpitiya etc were highlighted and documented, in the national media recently. Children, with a variety of needs, may be hidden from sight in such places, that are difficult of access or they may be strikingly visible, as they stretch out their hands, in streets bustling with consumer goodies and last minute shoppers, but they are also a reality, this Christmas!
This is in response to a letter by F. A. Rodrigo-Sathianathen (DN, Dec. 4) under the heading "Cut the waste in the S.L. Railway" the writer has correctly highlighted the waste in the S.L. Railway.
If the Railway was privatised the Scrap/Iron/Steel which is lying over the Railway network in the country, would have been disposed of by now, and the prime lands reclaimed would be put for better use, particularly in the Pettah area. Even the Parana Yakadaraya would have made a fortune in this line of business. In the Daily News of the 4th December 2002, there was a news item that over 200,000 sleepers are reported to be lying idle at the Dematagoda railway yards for the past several years, due to lack of funds to instal them.
According to railway employees the sleepers are worth around Rs. 600 million are sufficient to build a new rail track covering 100 kilometers.
Surely, if these 200,000 sleepers were lying for the past several years due to lack of funds to instal them, the Commercial Manager should have found a market in the South Asian countries, and earn foreign exchange.
As at present, there is no way out for the Railway coming out of its financial crisis, it has to be privatised or else a Task Force should be appointed immediately with professionally qualified persons to go into the day to day work of the Railway Department.
EARNEST KAHANDAWELLA- Wattala
It was good to see and hear Prabakaran's war heroes' day speech this year in its entirety, in the electronic media.
In contrast, the step motherly treatment given to the Dedication Ceremony of the National Remembrance Park and to the Remembrance Day ceremony this year, in the State media with only a 2 minute news coverage, gives an indication of how our country honours its own heroes who have given life and limb in the defence of the peace, unity and sovereignty of our Motherland.
The National Remembrance Park (NRP) honours 21,000 Service and Police personnel lost in action since the day of Independence in 1948. The speech of Her Excellency the President of Sri Lanka at the Dedication of the NRP, had no coverage at all in the State electronic and print media. Thankfully the private print media published Her Excellency's fine speech in its entirety.
Since Independence in 1948, the one hour Remembrance Day ceremony has been broadcast in full and during the last 30 years televised live in the State electronic media. This year, for the first time this religious and military ceremony had no live coverage with commentary.
Chairpersons and Editors of the state electronic media should realize that giving coverage to national occasions honouring the battle heroes of the nation is not against the peace process. Military and police personnel in the armed services are the first to desire peace with honour - they are the persons who sacrificed life and limb and endangered themselves on behalf of the rest of the nation. To give full coverage to Piriprabaharan and the ceremony in the North and to delete in full the speech and ceremony at similar occasions in the South is nothing short of being traitorous. Shame and sad!
I hope the state media will realize the demoralization they have caused to our Rana Viru and their families and correct this unpatriotic attitude. It is still not too late to print and broadcast the recorded national ceremonies.
DR. NARME F. WICKREMESINGHE- Rana Viru Seva Authority
I take this opportunity to highlight an excellent job done by Dehiwela Police, a few days back. At a time when the Police get blamed for the slightest offence, it is the duty of every right thinking person to bring to the notice of the public acts such as this that would nullify to some extent the bad image the public has on the Police and its officers.
One night when my wife and I were relaxing watching the T.V, we heard a thundering sound which really threw us a couple of feet up! The next moment immediately after I came back to my senses I noticed that the middle window glass in the lounge had shattered and within minutes it was in pieces. I ran towards the gate in seconds followed by my wife and son.
We noticed two men standing about twenty five feet up on the road and one was shouting in filth and was admitting that it was he who did it and telling me that he is not scared of the Police and if I inform the Police he would kill me etc, etc. I immediately recognized the man and to make a long story short: this person undertook to do some work in our garden but, as he didn't complete the job I had to pay him half the agreed amount that he willingly accepted.
However, as we could not gulp down any more of the verbal diarrhoea, we locked up the gate and closed the main door and sat down trying to bring our senses back to normal. It did not take even five minutes, another stone was thrown and the second glass of the window was broken to pieces. A shower of stones damaging the lower roof of the house followed this and for the first time in my life I felt how helpless one could become when faced with a situation of this nature. The entire neighbourhood was awake watching this drama, but no one dared to confront the thug who went on a demolition contract. Bin Laden hid after bombing the WTC but this Bin openly admitted and started to demolish our property that gave us shelter for twenty years, in front of a shocked audience, who themselves were helpless.
During this period we managed to contact the emergency number of the Dehiwela Police and believe it or not the mobile patrol of the Dehiwela Police appeared at my doorstep within five minutes! We offer our humblest gratitude to, the OIC of Dehiwela Police who is an officer and a gentleman, the Inspector who settled the conflict displaying the highest standards of conflict resolution, and to the entire staff who paved the way for us to live in peace with dignity.
NEVILLE PERERA- Mt. Lavinia
It is heartening to note that the present Education Minister Dr. Karunasena Kodituwakku is taking corrective steps to re-introduce history in the school syllabus after a neglect of nearly four decades by successive governments. At the conclusion of a seminar organized by the National Institute of Education to discuss the subject of re-introducing history from grade I to XI curriculum Dr. Kodituwakku in his concluding address has very rightly said that "history is a must to build a good nation.
One must know history to build his present and future. That is a universally accepted fact" (Daily News 26/11/2002). These remarks shed a beacon of lights for a future generation to know the history of the country, which has a recorded history for over three thousand years. When our own leaders removed history from the school curriculum it is worth re-calling what the foreigners said about teaching history to the school children.
The Director of Public Instruction in Ceylon J. Harward in early 1900 had this to say in his Foreword in Marie Musaeus Higgins book on "Stories from the History of Ceylon". "It is surely un-natural that Ceylon children, especially Sinhalese children should be brought up on stories about King Alfred or Robert Bruce, and should have no familiar associations connected with Sita or Dutugemunu. It is to meet this want that the author of this book has told in simple language some of the tales of Old Ceylon, beginning with the fine old story of Rama, which belongs to Ceylon no less than to India". We neglected a recorded history of over two thousand five hundred years to merge with a subject introduced as social studies a blender of civics history and other subjects that were taught separately in the school syllabus. As a result a generation of students did not know the history and culture of their motherland.
They could not appreciate their traditional culture and heritage of their country. If they could they would not have been treasure hunters and sold our artifacts as antiques. The cumulative effects of this long neglect of decades saw the culmination of organized gangs of treasure hunters and artifacts smugglers in the guise of antique traders. Any person with an iota of knowledge of history would have second thoughts before defacing Sigiri frescoes or using moon stones for building purposes.
The long neglect of unknowing the history of the island is the manifestation of lot of social evils and crime in the present day society. Worst of all a new history is taught in the LTTE dominated areas in the country. They have inculcated into the younger generation a concept of their own homeland when such a thing never ever existed. This concept of traditional homeland on ethnic ratio is the worst tragedy that we face today due to removing history from the syllabus. Successive governments who neglected teaching history in schools are responsible for todays predicament.
The report quoted in the Daily News (26/11/2002) further states that guidelines will be formulated to teach history in schools to fit the 21st Century. History is a record of facts and events and it cannot be manipulated to suit our whims and fancies. Even in recently found countries which are less than two hundred years history is taught as a compulsory subject. Medical undergraduates entering Universities have to answer a history paper before admission to the course.
In the bygone days we had Ceylon history and World history taught in our schools. There were subjects like European history, Indian history taught in higher classes. I am unaware whether it is the same today. Some scholars have expounded a theory which says that the teaching of history in schools have been neglected after the introduction of a free trade economy in 1977. With the open economy it is said that subjects like Commerce, Economics and Management were more popular and in demand due to the pecuniary gains attached to such subjects. Hence subjects like history which have no immediate pecuniary benefits were dropped from the school syllabus. Even in Hong Kong and Singapore which are mainly business centres children learn history in their schools.
We have seen in TV panels how our politicians interpret history totally distorting facts to suit their aspirations. For instance those who say that North-East is their homeland argue that settlement of people in colonization schemes in those areas should be based on the ethnic ratio that existed in 1928. They conveniently forget the fact that the entire North-East was a Sinhalese area even before Vijaya landing. The area was under the kings of Kandy up to 1815. This lack of knowledge or pretension has led to the destruction of our ancient ruins and places of religious worship. It is accepted that if there is no history there is no culture. The culture we boast of cannot survive long if we neglect history.
The future generations should know our history and culture. Therefore, we should be grateful to the Minister for his efforts to re-introduce history in the school curriculum as a compulsory subject at least up to secondary level. He may encounter problems with finding competent teachers to handle the subject. But with modern techniques and teaching methodology such problems may be minimized.
It is only by teaching the history of the land that we can mould the future generation to appreciate their culture and heritage. If this aspect is neglected in our content in education it will not be too far when there will be claimants for separate entities on denominational basis.
Such denominational based violence is seen occurring almost daily in India, Pakistan, Indonesia and such neighbouring countries in South-East Asia. Let me quote two opening sentences of a submission to the Director General of UNESCO by the then Minister, Cyril Mathew in 1983 to end this letter "considering that cultural property of a country constitutes a basic element of civilization and national culture and heritage which should be preserved for posterity in its prestine glory for the purpose of encouraging mutual understanding among the peoples and thereby serve the cause of peace.
Considering that the pre-historic, proto-historic and historic monuments and remains which are the products of the cultural traditions of the people whom they belong support the contemporary civilization and its future evolution". The submission was to safeguard and preserve the cultural property in Sri Lanka endangered by racial prejudice, unlawful occupation or willful destruction.
Produced by Lake House