|Wednesday, 10 March 2004|
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Everybody talks about the peace initiative and about the prevailing peace in Sri Lanka. On March 4, I was coming with a friend of mine from Kandy. At 6 p.m. near the 73rd km post on the Colombo-Kandy Road, we heard a horn blaring behind us. Then a police jeep overtook us where a white gloved policeman was ordering everybody to move over.
This jeep was followed by a Mercedes Benz car which had UK registration plates, followed by another police jeep with a white gloved policeman on the left front seat, followed by a Pajero and a van. All of them were going fast.
When questioned, my friend who was driving, told me that there was a politician in the Mercedes Benz. He also indicated that this was quite normal. Having seen Royalty, heads of state, Sheiks and others going on their journeys without all the security escorts, to see the politicians here going around makes one wonder if this talk of peace is in fact true.
If there is peace, why all the security and why use the taxpayers money for that purpose? It is also ironic that in a poor country like Sri Lanka, our politicians ride the biggest Mercedes and BMW cars whereas in countries more prosperous than ours such as even India and Myanmar, the politicians tend to use smaller cars. I feel that these politicians want to be recognised and the way it can be done is by showing off. If they were to go about their normal business in normal vehicles, I doubt if anyone would look twice to see who is going.
I vividly remember, way back in 1954, when Sir John Kotelawala visited an irrigation project with his one security police officer, he jokingly said that he had to look after the security officer! As most people know, the likes of Sir John were officers and gentlemen, who had the courage of their conviction.
My family and I were travelling to Zurich that early morning and after check-in ourselves we all queued up for immigration clearance, when the official who was manning the desk suddenly abandoned his work and left the desk, leaving many of us awaiting clearance, surprised and confused.
After patiently waiting for good 10 minutes for him to return back or else another official to replace him, my wife walked up to one of the offices on the left hand side to request someone there to come and attend to us. First, we had a flight to board in about 40 minutes and second, my wife was in some discomfort, perhaps due to medication administered as she discharged from Apollo hospital a few hours earlier after being admitted there for food poisoning.
When she explained her plight and requested assistance for speedy clearance, he was ever willing and requested her to bring passport to him. Without even warning, his mood immediately changed when she mentioned that her three children and her husband too were still in the queue awaiting clearance. He shouted "if you want me to help I will help you but not everybody".
When she protested he became more agitated, angry and hostile and started shouting "Umba palayan polimata aye" (go back to the queue) and hurling unwarranted verbal abuses at her. At that moment she had no other option but to retreat and join her family and many other passengers awaiting clearance.
A little while later another official arrived at the desk and cleared all of us without much hassle or further embarrassments. After the clearance my wife and I went to the Senior Authorised officer's room with the intention of obtaining details of that rude official to lodge a complaint about his behaviour on my return.
Initially he too was reluctant to furnish us with requested details but was trying to pacify and persuade us not to go ahead with an official complaint. Later because of our insistence only did he agree to oblige us. That very moment a well-dressed gentleman walked in to the office and introduced himself as the Controller of Immigration.
When I tried to narrate the whole incident, he politely mentioned that I do not need any further explanation because he himself was a witness to the whole ugly incident involving one of his officials.
After profusely apologising on behalf of the department he promised to initiate an investigation in to the incident on his return, as he was on an official visit abroad that night.
Therefore this submission can be treated as my official complaint regarding the above-mentioned incident.
The second and last purpose is to thank the Controller of Immigration for his prompt intervention and his promise to investigate the matter and whereby restoring and reassuring our confidence that there are still some good and effective civil servants among us in our ever deteriorating civil service sector.
I am a Sri Lankan citizen living in Canada as a permanent resident. Recently I came to Sri Lanka for a vacation along with my wife. We travelled from Toronto to Colombo via Paris and Doha Qatar. When we arrived in Colombo we were informed that our baggages have been sent to a different location and that the baggages have not arrived.
We were told to come on a different date to collect the baggages. The same thing also happened to another group of passengers who travelled with us from Toronto to Colombo. But they were told that their baggages will be delivered to their homes.
I was surprised by this move and when I questioned the relevant officer I was told that since I hold a Sri Lankan passport I have to come all the way from Panadura to the airport to collect my baggages whereas the other passengers although they were Sri Lankans, since they hold a Canadian Passports (Hence Canadian citizens) they will receive their baggages to their homes.
This is the treatment that Airport authorities give the citizens of their own country. Whereas if you go to any other country in the world they always give the priority to their own citizens.
PRADEEP MANOJ GOONETILLAKE,
I admire the mission of Dr. W.W.L. Modder, the new President of the National Academy of Sciences of Sri Lanka (NASSL) as described in your report (DN, Feb. 24).
If I understand it right, he plans to identify the Sri Lankan issues in which science is involved; spend time discussing all aspects bearing upon the issues; coming to the best reasonable recommendations on them, and sending the recommendations to the appropriate authority.
Paid experts and expert committees will, I suppose be beyond the reach of NASSL, which, as its Immediate Past President Dr. U. Pethiyagoda said recently, is hamstrung for money.
One way out might be to appoint voluntary committees to do the work. I for one will be glad to serve on a voluntary committee to identify the issues in which science and technology are involved.
The article 'Campaign to popularise use of bicycles' (DN, Feb. 19) on bicycles was informative. This was subsequent to a conference arranged by both the Sri Lanka Association for the Advancement of Science (SLAAS) and Intermedia Technology Development Group South Asia (ITDG). Not only that, ITDG initiating and leading a propaganda to make aware the public the personal benefits by using bicycles is worth mentioning.
Actually, this convenient mode of transport, both for the men in the village for their multi-purpose use and the rich in the city for their weekend works and physical exercises, would have convince them its value a lot.
Further, as the transport system of our country is not upto the required standard or expected satisfaction, the government of the day should make all possible arrangements for all citizens to own a bicycle offering various concessions in general.
To mention a few, to reduce or exempt import duties and VAT on bicycles and components and on other relevant importations, to buy through hire purchase scheme, to amend the bicycle loan procedures compelling to buy it, etc.
The fact that surfaced about 3 million bicycles are used in our country is a clear indication that the 2-wheeler is an asset for them in every way. Yet in comparison to the population the bicycle users figure is insufficient. So let encouragement be made by authorities concerned for every citizen to own a bicycle through their support and assistance.
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