|Monday, 1 March 2004|
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According to the Indo-Lanka accord under which the Northern and Eastern provinces were temporarily merged such a merger could only be made permanent IF and ONLY if it is duly accepted by the people of the Eastern Province through a referendum.
Regrettably such a referendum could not be held as long as those who supported the merger was armed and would have prevented those who wanted a de-merger from casting their votes.
The April elections however provide a golden opportunity for those who oppose the merger to express their wish freely at the same time they cast their votes at the elections.
All what is required to be done is for the returning officers in the Eastern Province to be provided with an additional referendum ballot paper to be issued to voters related to the N-E merger.
Since no names, symbols or MANAPA are involved, printing the referendum ballot papers for the Eastern Province is unlikely to be any problem.
If for any reason it is decided not to hold the referendum along with the April election, the President could de-merge the provinces herself by mutually agreeing with the Indian Government to delete the provision in the Indo-Lanka accord for the temporary merger.
Whatever means are used, it is the duty of the authorities to take necessary steps to pay heed to the voice of the vast majority of the people in the Eastern Province, who have clearly expressed their preference to de-merge sooner rather than later.
In this connection, it would be relevant to note that the late President J. R. Jayewardene himself, who ordered the temporary merger, stated categorically that if he was in the Eastern Province he would vote for a de-merger at a referendum. Accordingly, and on the basis of feedback from supporters in the Eastern Province, it is unlikely that the UNF Government would oppose holding the referendum along with the April elections.
If the UNF opposes holding the referendum on April 2, the country in general and the Eastern Province in particular has a right to ask the UNF Government as to whether and when the referendum promised by the Indo-Lanka accord would be held.
BERNARD WIJEDORU - Mount Lavinia
I read with interest a letter from a retired mercantile sector employee urging the senior citizens not to vote for the UNF as the present government was responsible for the reduction of their income on account of the reduction of interest income.
As an ex-mercantile sector employee let me also add to this. I did not retire but was sacked two years ago for participating in a strike. But the loss of employment did not matter as my two children working in the middle east increased the allowance sent home to compensate for the salary I lost.
But Mr. Choksy with his financial measures reduced the rupees I got for my dollars. Besides the interest income earned on bank deposits also reduced. There may be many others who would have had to undergo such difficulties.
I am sure the new government will take action to increase the payment to a dollar. To make up for our losses under the present regime at least Rs. 150 should be paid to a dollar without delay.
The interest income should be increased to at least 20 per cent per annum. My advice to those who are renewing deposits currently is to renew the deposits only until mid April.
A better interest rate can be expected after April. The services of the retired employees are available to the new government free of charge.
But we all know who politicians are. The Sri Lankan voters are not fools.
K. NANDASENA - Ratmalana
I am prompted to relate the following anecdote on reading Derrick Schokman's informative article captioned 'Why are there so many shades of human skin?' (Feb. 17).
It was in 1952 and I was then a Treasury employee in Dar es Salaam the beautiful sea front capital of Tanganyika (now known as Tanzania after its union with Zanzibar in 1964). One hot Saturday afternoon I was on a shopping spree and visited one of several textile shops owned by expatriate Indians.
The shopkeeper was in conversation with a pompous Englishman who appeared to be a regular customer. I couldn't help overhearing their chat which went something like this.
Englishman: "How come you Asians are of various skin colours - brown, black and fair. But we Europeans are of the same uniform white colour".
Shopkeeper: "Well, let me explain Sir. Take the horse. You get black, white, tan and also piebald ones. Now take a good look at the donkey. All of them are of the same colour!'
I still have vivid recollections of a flustered and red-faced Englishman rushing out, slamming the door of his Morris Oxford and speeding down Acacia Avenue - dar es Salaam's main street. My parting remarks to the nonplussed shopkeeper was "perhaps you just lost a customer."
SISIRA MAPAGUNARATNE - Moratuwa
Many animal rights activists have protested against keeping killing dogs under inhuman conditions. The Mayor defends the slaughter of stray dogs as a move to prevent the spread of rabies. The question is why do these animal rights activists talk only about dogs.
Why not talk of thousands of birds, rats, frogs, rabbits or other animals caged for months and months for testing various types of drugs and conduct other experiments only so help the humans. They are tortured, sometimes for years. The birds to caged are not allowed any movement and their nails grow around the iron-wires. Why can't they voice against bull fights or chasing bulls along oiled slippery roads on which they fall and break limbs.
Isn't a fashion to protest when dogs are tortured and not so when other animals are tortured, specially those whose flesh they relish? So now we have to save only man's friend dog like cockroaches, leeches and centipedes who are man's enemies.
E.M.G. EDIRISINGHE - Dehiwala
The much talked of in-coming calls to mobile telephones, free of charge, is strongly believed to be another ruse on the part of the Telecom, high officials to lend a helping hand to the Mobile 'phone companies and the gradual liquidation of Residential 'phone services.
Isn't the payment for calls taken to mobile 'phones from residential 'phones, a double charge? At this stage I would also refer to the news item that appeared in the Readers' Forum of Dn Nov.23, 2003 written by W. R. C. Costa of Negombo on the printing of SLT invoices on expensive art paper incurring much expenditure, which is ultimately passed on to the commuter through invidious means.
All these superfluous gimmicks suggested by those at the 'Top' to satisfy a certain class of 'Top Notch' administrators, in the long run, go to undermine the services rendered by the Telecom and finally pave the way for commuters to pay through their nose for the sins of those at the 'Top'.
If all these meaningless suggestions are not implemented and a good service rendered, the public strongly feels the Telecom could do away with the so-called Monthly Rental from commuters (Rs. 594) withdrawing the free 200 units offered.
D. SAMARASINGHE - Matale
I have read in the print media that the Commission to Investigate Allegations of Bribery and Corruption is defunct in the absence of the third member to man the Commission. The vacancy had arisen with the demise of Justice Abeyweera in February 2003.
It is said that two retired Judges had applied for the post but the Constitutional Council had not approved their appointments. It is also learnt that a simple amendment is needed to the 17th Amendment of the Constitution.
Whatever the circumstances may be, it is in the best interest of society if the Commission to Investigate Bribery and Corruption is re-activated sooner than later. The re-activated Commission should also be made to investigate corruption in the private sector in addition to the public sector.
Graft ultimately increases cost and may be passed onto the innocent citizenry who may be called upon to bear the brunt.
All political parties may include, in their own interest, proposed ways and means of eliminating bribery and corruption in their hustings with the creation of a vibrant anti corruption drive.
NANDA NANAYAKKARA- Matara
This refers to A.A. Gomez's letter (Feb. 13) replying Wimalasiri de Mel on his advice to businessmen to mind their own business.
I see some point in De Mel's admonition to businessmen. Imagine a set of high-flying businessmen holding placards, picketing in the hot sun. Does it seem realistic? Won't the sensible people question their honesty?
Each one needs to make one's contribution in a manner fitting and acceptable. It is in this context De Mel's admonition gains validity.
Minding their business by businessmen needs to be interpreted as doing the most expedient thing in their capacity as businessmen.
I ask whether holding demonstrations on political matters is the best businessmen can do?
A.P. FERNANDO - Negombo
During the period that I was associated with the administration of St. John's College Jaffna I had the opportunity to get to know several of the Old Boys. We well remember the difficult days the school has been through during the 80s and the 90s. For me, it was a very sad experience to see the school evacuating its much-loved premises in Chundikuli and having to relocate itself in Kilinochchi. Several Old Boys stood with the school in those dark days and helped the school to continue its work under the trees. St John's is privileged to have such loyal and devoted Old Boys to stand by it and help it through thick and thin.
Everyone knows that St. John's is an Anglican CMS Foundation and though the number of Christians in the school may not be large, it continues very much to uphold Christian values and traditions. In that sense it continues to be very much a Christian school. In this endeavour we have had the active support of so many Old Boys of other faiths, because they had no difficulty in supporting the school to uphold its high ideals. This has made the school a model of inter-religious co-operation.
It is my own belief that the school has a very important role to play in the Sri Lanka of the future, the Sri Lanka that we dream of. The key to a prosperous and pluriform Sri Lanka will be good inter-religious collaboration. If people of different faiths work together in peace making, community development, the relief of poverty, education and health for all, the whole country will soon get the message that if the religions can work together so can the different ethnic communities and other social groups in our country.
Indeed this will not be anything new for St. Johns, because in years gone by so many students from the South came to St. John's to benefit from the excellent education available there and today they adorn the political sphere and the professions of our land.
To make this really happen, the Old Boys have a task. They must ensure that excellent teachers of English serve the College and if necessary they can help us to obtain the services of even foreign English teachers, so that we may overcome the present crisis in English education experienced throughout the island. The Old Boys can also help with Information Technology and make it possible for our students to work with computers and access the Internet, which is so much a part of modern education. For too long the students and teachers of St. Johns have been confined to the peninsula because of the unsettled political conditions that we have experienced. It will be very much appreciated if the OBA can help organise exposure programmes for the staff and students both in Sri Lanka and abroad.
I am indeed a cricket fan and long to see the Johnians taking on the best Colombo schools and winning. The Old Boys can make that happen too!
My very good wishes and prayers for the OBA and for the school.
BISHOP KENNETH FERNANDO
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