|Thursday, 3 April 2003|
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I am thankful to Professor S. Ratnajeevan H. Hoole for enlightening us on how academic titles are misused by our academics and academic/research institutions (Doctorates and Titles: Truly and self-conferred. 24 March 2003).
However, I beg to disagree with Prof. Hoole when he talks of "old standards." Consider the transition of University of Ceylon to Sri Lankan administration as attested by many academics of that period who are still around as Emeriti.
The great Sir Ivor Jennings was stepping down as Vice Chancellor in 1955, having been appointed Principal of University College Colombo in 1940 and thereafter the first Vice Chancellor of University of Ceylon in 1942. Despite his two higher doctorates in Law and Literature he was a simple man who himself drove his own ramshackle car when he drove but mostly walked his way about the campus in Peradeniya. It was the greatest period of the University. If "old Standards" ever existed, it was then.
The year 1955 was the time for a local successor to carry on the "old standards" that Sir Ivor had carefully set and nurtured. The then Act pertaining to the university simply stipulated that a VC on reaching the age of 60 should retire at the end of the then ongoing academic year.
The leading candidate for VC was 62 years of age at the time and with an LMS had no proper first degree. His ingenious supporters successfully argued in what was then "The Court" of the University that the Act spoke only of retirement and did not preclude appointing someone who was over 60. Upon appointment, he conferred on himself a D.Sc. Honoris Causa at the first convocation. A black Mercedes Benz was ordered and a chauffeur hired. The VC arrived daily in his new car from the VC's lodge to the Senate across the street.
Having passed the age of sixty he could not reach the age of 60 and was therefore VC for life, as it were, until student disturbances forced him out when he was into his second or third term as VC. An Emeritus Professor who was a lecturer then informs us that the VC's early letterheads in correspondence he received gave after the VC's name D.Sc. (h.c.) but in time the (h.c.) vanished giving the impression that the D.Sc. had been earned.
These were the new manipulative standards of self-grandeur that eroded everything in Sri Lanka and brought us to where we are today. And we berate the evils of colonialism! Where then were the "old standards" that Mr. Hoole alludes to? I am afraid they never existed. If Sir Ivor's university stood for colonialism, I want a lot more of it.
Observes the Emeritus Professor quoted above, sadly surveying the state of our universities today: "Sir Ivor Jennings and we thought that by working hard we could leave behind monuments to mankind's genius.
How wrong we were! We had forgotten the laws of physics on energy: Every society settles down to its natural state."
SENATHI THAMBIRAJAH - Colombo 6
According to a news report (DN Feb. 24) under the above caption, the appointment of a Railway Management Council has been proposed with members vested with wide decision-making and implementation powers.
Also to investigate and report on the prevailing shortcomings and remedial measures for the improvement of the train service.
It is a conjectural deduction that there is a serious lack of confidence in the General Manager to manage the Railway and in the Secretary of the Ministry to investigate into prevailing irregularities and direct those concerned on measures to be adopted in preventing them.
The futility of the exercise and the resulting confusion is worse confounded by the appointment of Railway officers who are serving in a subordinate capacity to the GMR but vested with implicit powers to direct the Chief Executive officer and even the Secretary of the Ministry.
A clarification is solicited by the writer on the foregoing for his information and the general public, commuters, in particular who are expecting a better train service devoid of disasters.
However, the writer has already referred to the Head of the proposed council a few longstanding irregularities indirectly retarding the progress in the Railway affecting the train service for investigation and rectification.
S. AMARASURIYA - Ex-GMR Ratmalana
Over eight years ago with great fan fare work on the much talked of Marine Drive in Colombo between Wellawatte and Milagiriya was commenced. This was to ease the heavy traffic during school time in the morning and also after office work.
Whilst the traffic police have in recent times implemented certain traffic arrangements to help motorists; work on the Marine Drive is at a standstill for over five years. A short distance of about 100 years between Rajasinghe Road and I.B.C Road at Wellawatta has to be macadamised to enable the smooth flow of traffic. Why is no work being done when all land owners have now been given compensation for acquisitions?
Will the Minister for Colombo Development, the Mayor and the DIG Traffic Police with the help of the Road Development Authority look into this without further dalay?
UPALI SALGADO - Colombo.
Though the Constitution of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka specifically states under Chapter III Fundamental Rights that "Every person is entitled to freedom of thought, conscience and religion, including the freedom to have or to adopt a religion or BELIEF OF HIS CHOICE", lately a few movements under the guise of protecting their religions have emerged in many parts of the country, to suppress the free thinking and the right to believe in a faith of own choice.
Sponsors of Human Rights and Freedom Fighters seem to be conveniently ignorant of this virus which has an ultimate motto of resisting human beings specially those who are living in sin and spiritual darkness, from being transformed into a new and righteous life. An individual embraces a new faith once he is convinced of the failure of his old faith in the sphere of deliverance from sin, sickness, mental agony, darkness of ignorance etc., and not merely or only for deliverance from poverty, as these movements try to make it.
Further, it is evident from the recent revolts by the so termed 'saviours of religions' that they too are sadly in need of deliverance from alcoholic, druggist and murderous spirits and the bondage of other sins.
Let us honour our Constitution by refraining from forcing anyone to accept a new faith against their will and simultaneously not forcing anyone to continue in a faith against their will.
H. J. MONEY - Dickoya.
New offences imprecisely defined and unsafe convictions will be the result of the proposed new law to prevent organized crime, fears the Civil Rights Movement (CRM). While the organization appreciates the need to take seriously the problem of organized crime, it is both pointless and incorrect to resort of serious departures from norms of investigation and fair trial for the purpose of securing convictions.
A democratic legal system cannot tolerate a situation which encourages unsafe convictions in criminal cases.
Indeed the normal rule is that the more serious the possible outcome, the more stringent are the safeguards for the accused. This is why, for instance, while a civil claim is decided on the balance of probability, a criminal charge must be proved beyond reasonable doubt.
The new Bill seeks to bring into the normal law several of the most drastic provisions of the emergency regulations and the Prevention of Terrorism Act. And this at a time when the emergency is not in force, and the repeal or drastic revision of the PTA is said to be under consideration, as part of a general policy of repealing undemocratic laws, as well as in the context of the peace process.
The proposal must also be viewed in the light of the known predilection of elements in the Police to resort to torture. Furthermore, while currently dealing with "ordinary" crimes, once it is considered acceptable to dilute the standards of investigation and fair trial for certain purposes, it would be easy for any government to amend the law to include offences with a political element, and thus use the new law against its opponents.
Organized criminal groups are adept at diverting suspicion away from themselves, and sometimes have the backing of other powerful and corrupt elements in society.
At the same time there is pressure on the Police to make arrests, to secure convictions, and not to leave crimes "unsolved". One can thus envisage major criminals going free through use of money and influence, making way for innocent scapegoats to fall victim to the drastically diluted standards of the new law.
Among the concerns voiced by CRM in a commentary on the Bill are:
The imprecision of the concept of an "organized criminal group" The creation of new offences including the very fact of being a member of an "organized criminal group".
Departure from the general principle of criminal law which draws a distinction between preparation and attempt.
Innovations in and possible misuse of the offence of "harbouring" Production on arrest need not be before the nearest Magistrate (a contravention of the Constitution)
The provision for seven-day Police custody, where no rules of conditions of detention and interrogation apply, and the principle that persons should not be held in the custody of their interrogators is contravened.
The admissibility of confessions to the Police and confessions made in police custody. The admissibility of a witness statement not subject to cross examination (contrary to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights).
Provision that a statement withdrawn by a witness can nevertheless be acted on and the witness charged for perjury without proving which statement was false (also contrary to the Covenant).
The admissibility of a previous offence to prove present culpability of not only the offender but also other persons.
The denial of bail (contrary to the principle, upheld by the Supreme Court, that the complete exclusion of judicial discretion in the granting of bail is unconstitutional). The admissibility of a document without calling its maker. The possible non-eligibility of convicted persons for normal remission of sentence for industry and good conduct. Harsh enhanced punishments and mandatory minimum sentences.
SURIYA WICKREMASINGHE - Civil Rights Movement of Sri Lanka
While the country has come to value peace, and the freedom to move about freely, occasionally, this harmony is blasted to pieces by some (very few, thank goodness) politicians blasting their horns and flashlights in broad daylight, rushing to where god only knows, harassing the motorists on the road.
Now, where are they hurrying to? If they are late for their appointments, it's their problem. They had better pay the price not us, the ordinary citizens. Please set out early if you have to reach a destination on time. Whatever makes you think your appointments are more important than anybody else's?
Dear Politicians, if you think you are showing off your colours by shooing away motorists by disrespectful gestures of those on your motorcade, you are sadly mistaken.
You are only irrigating the motorists and pedestrians who are already suffering in the traffic, what with the narrow roads insufficient for the large number of the vehicles, and irresponsible drivers.
DR. MRS. MAREENA THAHA REFFAI - Dehiwela.
I agree with Aryadasa Ratnasinghe's letter (DN 21st). I am sure Manel Abeyasekera would have not lost a relation or a friend in a brutal way that is why human rights crept in. Thousands and thousands of innocent lives are devoured daily especially ladies.
Recently a young lady was stabbed to death just to grab her gold chain, actually if the culprit is caught he should be stoned to death then and there. We all neighbours do hope our Minister Amaratunga would have the courage to enforce the Death penalty which is a must to Sri Lanka.
E. WICKRAMARATNE, Kiribathgoda.
The ghosts of war
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