|Friday, 9 May 2003|
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Another Sinhala/Tamil new year has passed with the usual pomp and ceremony, providing yet another chance for us to have a glimpse of the traditions of the past, nevertheless modified to a certain degree in keeping with the pace of the changing world.
This adulteration makes it difficult to expect the real essence of some events associated with a national function to be there any longer. Except for a few live telecasts from far-away place of the island where such traditions are still respected, many other television programmes beamed during the festival time were tailor-made for the occasion, bringing on the painful realization that some of the traditions and games highlighted in them are not in existence at present. This has a close resemblance to the unearthing of archaeological treasures that reveal the rich past of a lost culture.
The main reason for our traditions falling into oblivion is the overwhelming Western influence on our society at present. This has adversely affected not only the activities related to the new year, but also almost all other age-old customs as well. As a nation, we seem to be losing our traditional identity at an alarming rate, so as to be completely submerged in cultures alien to us. In fact, this has loosened many of the ties that have held family members together for a long time, with due respect for each other, eventually engulfing the entire nation with its bad influence.
Though many traditions seem to be old-fashioned by now, yet they have the power of retaining social values through their observance at various functions, whether cultural or national. Effectively used, they are instrumental in causing inter-relationship among the nation at large, which has become an urgent necessity at the moment.
This is one of the reasons why old traditions should not be discarded as being worthless, however obsolete they may seem against the fast changing world outside. Essentially, this may not be a justification to be conservative either, but a means of priding over one's heritage, the uniqueness of which is peerless. However, only a few can grasp the real meaning of this without being swept off by the Western influence which has its tentacles mercilessly over all aspects of our society at present.
It is indeed that many such traditions now come alive only as entertainment during the particular season to which they belong, without their real purpose and meaning not felt in the pulse of people.
The tendency is such that, every year some of our traditions fall out of usage, only to be revived as a thing of the past, later to brighten up an occasion that has some affiliation to it. Unfortunately, only a few feel the importance of the influence that various such traditions had over the lives of us in the past, so as to make them a part of our heritage.
Many who belong to the younger generation careless to keep old traditions alive any longer, as they are lost in a labyrinth of present-day trends. However, going with the tide is something, and getting drowned in the deep is yet another!
As many of our old traditions are steadily on the decline, it would be worthwhile to have then revived by making the best use of the state patronage for looking after the cultural affairs of this country through the particular ministry. However, it is doubtful that this difficult objective could be successfully achieved in a country torn apart by a mini civil war and beset with a myriad of economic and social problems, where human values and ethics are insensibly over-ridden by the greed of power and gain.
Manil Gunawardene, Talangama
It is learnt that the Government is going to hold a referendum to ensure people approve the on going peace process. This is a good move. Perhaps there may be people who do not want peace. There are some, who do not want the present peace initiated by Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, however "sweet" it could be.
This is the world! We also hear that the Government is considering re-imposition of death sentence in order to arrest the crime wave which has engulfed our society. This is a very good proposal which has the blessings of all law abiding citizens.
But there is a hue and cry against the death sentence from the NGOs, a Bishop and the so called "intellectuals." These well to do, town bred, English educated individuals, who rarely go out of Colombo, never travel by public transport, are not exposed to the dangers of life to which our villagers are always prone to. They do not read Sinhalese newspapers which basically report murder and rape cases, which is not treated as "news" by the English speaking people in this country. hence, their knowledge on serious crimes is very poor. Therefore they cannot comment on the death sentence, a subject of which they are ignorant of.
Obviously these NGOs are more concerned about the foreign funds they receive rather than the welfare of the Sri Lankans, who suffer. They quote from various sources and try to justify their case. They were not at all concerned when a gang of six, raped and killed Janaki Kumari, a 15-year-old girl at Polonnaruwa or when a 5-year-old school girls was raped and strangled to death by an army deserter in Horana or when Madushani Dissanayake, a 14-year-old school girl from Badugehinna, Galewela who was raped a few days ago by a gang and subsequently strangled to death with her school tie.
We should not get the religion mixed up with death sentence or law and order. The founders of the great religions have never interfered with the government machinery. On the contrary, many a clergy have been sentenced world over for rape, murder and more particularly for homosexual offenses.
Now that the war is over, we must arrest the ever-increasing crimes. Law and order must be maintained by the Government which should protect its innocent citizens.
I wonder why these NGOs did not raise their voice when Fr. Aba Costa was assassinated, cold blooded for preaching against drug dealers? What have they done about the rape and murder of Madushani?
W. ANTHONY FERNANDO, Chilaw
The article, 'From wasteland to conservation park' Daily News 26 April) was very interesting and educative.
In para 6, it reads as follows. "We then heard the sound of some screeching insects emanating from the deep forest. Mr. Ang Thong Bah explained that an insect called Cicada was making the noise." Actually the insect called Cicada is non other than the Rahaiya which is found abundant in almost all our forests. Anyone who passes the Melsiripura forest strip or enter the Sinharaja could hear the noice of Cicada which is a very common phenomenon is Sri Lankan rain forests.
M. H. MOHAMED YAKOOTH, Colombo 15
It is pity that the money doled out by the President's Fund turns out to be more of a punishment than an act of generosity. The Government gives only part of the money needed for medical/surgical treatment for major illnesses.
Those who receive the promise of assistance from the President's Fund go from pillar to post to collect the balance, since only 65 - 75% of the total expenditure is paid from President's Fund. Where are they supposed to find the balance from? It is pathetic to watch them collecting rupee by rupee from various donors.
Quite a lot of the donation is lost on the travelling and survival of the near and dear ones who visit various organizations and individuals to collect money. Further many vultures do feed on these poor, ignorant villagers by accompanying them and sometime collect unscrupulously even after the surgery is over.
A few of the newspaper appeals have been false, someone collecting in the name of another, unsuspecting patient. We have come cross of all sorts of rackets attached to this system. It will be much better to evaluate the applicants carefully and then pay for the total cost directly to the hospital. This way, it can be made sure that the money is utilized for the intended purpose. Those who seek treatment will have the assurance of full financial assistance. After all Sri Lanka provides free health services, why not extend it to the really needy as well?
On the other hand, it is also a kind of stupidity that most of the money paid from the President's Fund seems to go to the private hospitals. The excuse seems to be that there is a long waiting list in the Government hospitals. Though it's true in most cases, sometimes the appeal to get the surgery done in private hospitals come from false prestige or from the notion that the private hospital treatment is better, which may be true in some situations.
It will be much more prudent to -
1. Improve the government services, utilizing all the excess money spent on the private nursing homes.
2. More consultants should be employed, and if not available locally, even by bringing in foreign experts. The consultants should be paid for overtime if necessary, and more private surgeons should be encouraged to work in the government hospitals and all given expert training in-service.
This way we would not only have better services and shorter waiting lists but also money left over for improvement of the government hospital services! Most of all better service will be available for the rich and poor alike. Though the expenditure on the consultants may appear to be exorbitant, comparatively it will be much cheaper when compared to the money spent on private hospitals. The money saved can be utilized to improve the Government hospitals so that no poor patient need to go abroad or to a private hospital for major surgeries.
It's time the health authority gives careful consideration to this matter and rethink on President's Fund allocations.
DR. MRS. MAREENA THAHA REFFAI, Dehiwela
It was reported in the Daily News of 12.04.03 that a high profile subcommittee on traffic management had mooted the current traffic management scheme to reduce the congestion on Galle Road.
However, it is regretting to note that this committee has not completed the job and is expecting the Traffic Police to perform their duties without implementing the recommendations of the complete scheme.
Has this subcommittee taken steps to provide parking bays, a map marking the parking spaces and a parking management plan? Half the work required to implement this new scheme is not done by the departments concerned but the Traffic Police are expected to do a splendid job. Is this fair?
Traffic Police are on duty in the mornings and evenings but how can they perform their duties if the required facilities are not provided.
The roads are not lit properly and road repairs are not done when necessary. Another matter that should be highlighted is that it is well known that vehicles should not be parked on the seaside between 7.00 a.m. and 12.00 noon and on the landside between 12.00 noon and 7.00 p.m. However, many vehicles park blatantly breaking these rules and when the police take action, these individuals try to show off their powers by arguing with them and throwing a couple of big names to impress or frighten the Police. This is a weakness that is there in some individuals.
Recently, it is announced on the TV channels that the minimum traffic fine is increased to Rs. 1,000/- from the existing Rs. 150.
This is an excellent move and I hope that the police will implement it to the very letter.
The high rate of the fine will deter those who try to break the law. The highest traffic offenders are the bus drivers.
Traffic Police should take very stern action against these reckless bus drivers and impose fines to the maximum.
Many innocent lives have been lost recently due to the negligence on the part of these drivers and deterrent punishment has become necessary. I hope that these facts will be taken seriously by the relevant authorities concerned and speedy action taken to rectify.
W. AINSLEY, Colombo 5
A few days ago there was an alarming news item from Anuradhapura where a couple of adherents of a fundamentalist cult had refused a blood transfusion for their son on "Religious" grounds.
The boy died. Neither the Hospital nor the Police apparently interfered to prevent this manslaughter and deserve to be charged as accessories.
I am writing this letter to bring to their notice, and that of the general public, a recent landmark decision in Britain. parents belonging to the identical cult (which bans blood transfusion) were preparing to let their child die - to the tune of their 'hymns' and howls. The Hospital authorities in Britain took a strong pro-active stance and took the matter to Court.
The Judge promptly declared the ailing child a 'ward of Court' and ordered the transfusion. This child lived!
Members of the public, please do not hesitate to report to the authorities any such cases of attempted manslaughter by lunatic cultists - and bring the British case to their notice.
Chitra de Silva, Colombo 7
Most of the buses that ply in all routes in the City of Colombo are dangerously driven by drivers who are not accustomed to the roads and signals.
Lives of the pedestrians and even the passengers in the public transports are not safe. Vehicles are driven pell mell along crowded highways. Most of the vehicles are not roadworthy. Ramshackle and belching vehicles are put on the road causing environmental pollution.
The buses stop at every places to pick passengers and they do not wait till the passengers get down or get into the buses. There are the old and the feeble, sick and pregnant women and school children travelling in buses, but the drivers or conductors do not care for the lives of people.
It is time that the Traffic Police check the vehicles and see that buses that are unfit and not roadworthy should be removed and their route licences and their driving licences to be cancelled indefinitely. Prevention is better than cure.
A.M.M. REYAL, Mount Lavinia
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