|Tuesday, 1 July 2003|
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Do the Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka, the Centre for Policy Alternative and other so called human rights protectors know that in ancient Sri Lanka (Seylon) that a young woman with a valuable precious stone could walk from Dondra in the South of Seylon to Point Pedro in the North and East safely without being molested or waylaid and robbed? The Death Penalty was in force in Seylon at that time. Today an old woman may not go a few feet out of home without being molested or robbed of a few cents in her possession.
At present a debate is going on in Parliament as to the re-introduction of the Death Penalty.
Many views have been expressed, chiefly among them is the HRC of Sri Lanka in the forefront leading the debate outside Parliament to influence the MPs.
Its main argument is that imposition of the Death Penalty violates the human rights of the individual. Who are these people whom they are going to protect? The IRC (Island Re-convicted Criminals), the Army deserters, who it is said now number over 60,000.
Among the main offenders who commit rape which is rampant perhaps than any other part of the world, house breakers, 'Kappan' collectors, underworld gangs are these criminals whom the so called Human Right watchers going to protect. What's the criteria for their backing? i.e. to protect the perpetrators of violence and not the victims? They do not speak a word for the victims against the criminals. Are the lives and human rights of the victims not valuable by their standard?
The HRC as a law-abiding organisation, with the so-called educated people among them are mainly lawyers.
Now, they say the Govt. must imprison the offenders and feed them at the expense of the nation.
The prisons are full. These IRC prefer the prison to their homes. They bribe the officials and get what they want. They, I hear, even go home and come the next day. Should the Govt. aid them by sending them to life imprisonment instead of sending them to gallows?
Another argument put forward by the HRC of Sri Lanka is that the criminals when sent to life imprisonment suffer the mental agony of knowing that they have to serve their full life in prison. As I have explained earlier they like Life Imprisonment better than Gallows as the Prison is their first home. So that argument is pointless and futile.
In countries where death penalty is in force, like the Middle East such crimes are almost nil. Much could be said on this subject, but it is suffice to say that anyone's life is important.
V. K. B. RAMANAYAKE, Maharagama
While it is gratifying to note that the Organization of Professional Associations (OPA) has taken the responsibility of mending the ways of errant MPs, one gets the eerie feeling that this latest effort too will go the way of all previous efforts. That is to say that nothing of significance will come of the efforts of the OPA.
Looking at the draft proposal of the OPA, one is bound to be impressed by the use of the phrases and principles behind the document. The OPA is quick to throw out all the catch phrases of the debate such as public duty, integrity, accountability and transparency into the equation. At quick glance the use of the language and the scope of the guidelines are likely to lull one into a sense of complacency. After all, no one is going to question the call to make our MPs more dutiful, more honest, more accountable to their masters, the public and one cannot but be pleased by the call for transparency in matters relating to the public interest.
Actually, when you give the guidelines more vigorous thought, you couldn't but feel that the OPA is merely stating the obvious. All of the guidelines and principles enshrined in the document should be self-evident to all that have finished secondary education.
The mere fact that these have to be reiterated to the members of the highest elective body of the land who are entrusted to act in the best interests of the public, should cause grave concern to all. If the lawmakers must be reminded, it seems like every time there is a new sitting of the Parliament, then we as the public should ask the question whether it makes sense for us to be saddled time and again by the responsibility of choosing a group of people as our representatives who are incapable and unwilling to subject themselves to the laws of the land.
In such a situation does it not make more sense to revise the process that select the people who come before us at an election? Sensibly thinking, it may make more sense to have more stringent guidelines at the qualifying stage to weed out the bad apples than to do the same once all the apples are collected into a basket.
It is obvious that the OPA is looking at ways to change the conduct of the MPs by putting the onus on the members themselves. Not only is the OPA asking the membership of the Parliament to change their behaviour on their own, the OPA is also expecting the membership to monitor themselves. Come on folks, can we realistically expect a tainted group like some MPs to suddenly see the error of their ways and change for the better?
Pigs may fly someday, but probably not in the near future. It should be obvious to all that, at minimum, the process of monitoring, evaluating and judging the legality or illegality of MPs behaviour should come under the purview of a body outside the Parliament. At a minimum this will make sure the evaluating process will be less meddled with by the accused.
When the history of abuse by the Members of Parliament is studied at length, it will show that there has been very little credible effort for change that has come from within the Parliament. The OPA should go back to the drawing board on this matter and give it a lot more thought. Otherwise, all their good intentions will come to nada, just as on all previous occasions.
NIHAL PERERA, Nugegoda
I refer to my previous letter on 'Re-introduction of Capital Punishment published in the Daily News as far back as 7th July, 1999.
Several letters have appeared in the Daily News; ninety per cent in favour. This shows that people need it. Have we, the Sri Lankans, had ever experienced the type of looting and shooting incidents during the colonial era, perhaps once in a blue moon.
Most of the citizens of Sri Lanka would not treat the re-introduction of capital punishment as a cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment but accept it wholeheatedly as an appropriate action at a time when the number of shooting, looting, raping and child abusing is on the increase. Specially Government officials, officials in the Banks, private Sector Businessmen and helpless innocent citizen live in fear as they do not have sophisticated weapons to protect themselves like the politicians and influential persons.
When majority of the citizens would accept the re-introduction of capital punishment, there seems to be a sudden feeling of sympathy on the innocent victims who had been hung after trial and the culprits exculpated on the evidence placed before the judiciary; mainly due to the capabilities of the eminent lawyers.
There could have been a few cases in the past. But it is beyond ones comprehension as to why suddenly the highly literate groups, who were very silent all these days, protest against the re-introduction of capital punishment.
Is it to safeguard individuals? They will realise their folly when they themselves get the bullets on to their heads. Only those families whose members have been succumbed to unfortunate calamities at a point of a gun would definitely appreciate the re-introduction of capital punishment, but not the others.
Those involved in these lucrative contracts of killing human-beings for money cannot be corrected or convinced by any other method. A pig cannot be washed and kept cleaned as it would always prefer to be in the mud.
Hence sympathising with these hard-hearted scoundrels and referring to their civil and human rights will not put them on the correct path as they are concerned on earning money and denying the rights of others to live in peace. It is time that the Government decided to frame legislation and re-introduce Capital Punishment.
The procedure followed during the colonial era is acceptable and no loop-holes should be introduced to enable the powerful individuals to have access to the decisions of the judiciary. In any case there is provision for murderers to appeal to the Appeal Court and subsequently to the Supreme Court. I feel it should stop at that.
The only feasible solution is to apply the law of the country without any discrimination on those who deserve and get them eliminated after trial. Hence re-introduction of capital punishment is 'A MUST'.
HERBERT SILVA, Moratumulla
I totally agree with the comments made by A.M. titled Fines for traffic offences. (Daily News May 23) Fines have not reduced the accident rate.
It is well-known that some bribe more than the fine, specially the rich who are caught near 5 star clubs in the wee hours of the morning under the influence of alcohol. Our drivers are clever; driving at high speed in narrow roads really needs high skills. What they lack is knowledge (although tested) and attitudes. What is important to reduce accidents is a change in behaviour of drivers by education.
Some attitudinal changes are required. "I go first, before you". A change of attitude to respect the other driver - our roads would definitely be a better place. "The sense of urgency when one gets behind the wheel." Our people are never punctual but are in a mighty big hurry when driving. Speeding, disobeying traffic lights, dangerous over taking, cris- crossing are all part of this syndrome.
They fail to understand a traffic light would delay only 1 or 2 mins; reckless high speed makes you quicker by 5 mins only, if at all.
About 25 years ago I was charged for having numbers in black on a white number plate. I was called to attend a class at Echelon Square, Traffic Police HQs. I stood under a Bo tree for 2 hours till the sergeant arrived. About 50 of us "criminals" which included taxi drivers, 3 wheel drivers, bus drivers and professionals like me together sat on wooden benches for two hours listening to his sermon, questions on and off mixed with arrogance.
Obtaining the attendance certificate was another hassle. That punishment was good enough to me to never repeat another.
I do not know if the requirement to go through a registered driver training school is applied today for licensing. Even if so are those trainers trained trainers.
There is an urgent need to accredit scientifically these training schools. All workplaces, private or government have professional drivers. Most bus operators are members of some authority. The employer could take the responsibility of conducting in-service scientific training. This might cover a fair number of drivers. Changing behaviour of adults by education is difficult and it is a specialised job.
Dr Ranjit De Alwis, Kuala Lumpur
Not far away from my neighbourhood, there stand three mansions cheek by jowl on either side of the road. One, with much wooden carvings from top to bottom, belonging to a middle aged businessman reminds me of those seen when one travels through Kuruwita, Ehaliyagoda and Ratnapura and owned by gem mudalalis.
Another is an eye-catching three storied structure now owned by a 70 plus years old gentleman living all by himself who complains to me of his near inability to attend to its daily maintenance even with the help of his servant boy. His two children are married and living abroad.
The other one is an old affair walauwa-like in architecture, with overgrown weeds and a thick layer of fallen leaves scattered all over the garden uncleared for months and a brownish dusty interior unswept for weeks.
Its leaky roof speaks volumes. It is an invariable sight to see an old feeble couple, the sole occupants of it, mutely seated in the verandah staring aimlessly towards the road. Their two children were given away in marriage to far away places long years ago both of whom have died in their 50s.
Whenever I go past these buildings, it occurs to me how enthusiastically they must have constructed these in their young days and with what hopes. Symbolically speaking, aren't they comparable to Loba, Dosa, Moha trio taught in Buddhism? The trio means greed, competitiveness and ignorance.
No doubt, man needs shelter that being one of the three basic human needs. But why such huge ones when, in fact, all that is finally necessary for him is just a 6 ft. by 3 ft. floor area? Of course, I am well aware that all this is more easily said than understood.
DHARMAPALA SENARATNE, Gothatuwa New Town
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