|Friday, 30 April 2004|
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Much has been written and spoken about the contemplated changes to the present constitution. A plethora of arguments have been adduced for or against what is being proposed. I read an article today, published in a daily newspaper under the caption 'Justice-Insights on issues relating to structural injustices in society'. I found this article to be very illuminating and instructive.
The author has taken the reader through the fundamental and imperative principles governing changes to the prevailing Constitution. To my mind, the issues involved are quite clear, and I do not see why anybody endowed with average intelligence cannot comprehend the significance of what is being written.
At this stage I am sure it will be transparently clear to all right thinking people who are without bias or prejudice, what is the driving force that lies at the bottom of all the desperate attempts to change the present Constitution; and this at a time when so many problems of a greater magnitude confront this unfortunate nation. Once this basic fact has been grasped everything else should be crystal clear to all discerning citizens of this country.
It is a matter of common knowledge that this country has been duped time and again by self seeking and power hungry politicians whose duplicity and treachery has been obvious to many. In my opinion, the tragedy that has overtaken this country stems from the fact that we still continue to support such anti national elements for our own selfish reasons.
We lose sight completely of the overall interest of the nation and our responsibility to protect our future and that of the unborn generations by safeguarding the hallowed principles on which democracy and democratic institutions are structured. If we allow or support or fail to oppose such aberrations that are patently undemocratic, in essence we too are guilty of constructive treason.
No matter how vociferously or intensely a politician articulates his or her commitment to Democracy, these pronouncements can be objectively evaluated with recourse to empirical evidence that is available to all and sundry, and if they care to look for and digest such evidence with impartiality then the possibility of fooling even some of the people some of the time will cease to exist.
At this stage when our beloved island nation is facing a critical crisis situation, let us all firmly resolve to understand clearly the situation on the ground and take whatever corrective action we deem necessary to protect democracy, and completely rout any semblance of autocracy or anti democratic endeavour in whatever guise they may emerge to deprive us of our cherished democratic rights and institutions.
In conclusion, it must be emphatically stated here that what is being proposed in the foregoing paragraphs is not resistance to changes being made to the existing Constitution, but insistence on the manner in which it should be done.
If Members of Parliament are convinced that changes are necessary, then the Sri Lankan polity should insist that such changes should be made in terms of the Constitutional provisions for change and in a transparent and patently democratic manner.
Perhaps it would be appropriate to end my message with a quotation from the article referred to above "Procedural scrupulousness is important because Constitutional rigidity is meant to ensure that precipitate and capricious political machinations inimical to the best interests of the people are more difficult to pull off".
RIENZIE DE ALMEIDA -
The newly elected Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa has had his complete secondary education at Thurstan and he continues to be identified, as a Thurstanite although he has had his primary education at two other schools.
Mahinda Rajapaksa joined Thurstan in 1957 to grade 6 class. Prior to Thurstan he was at Richmond and Nalanda. Mahinda comes from a well-known family from the Deep South, the Rajapaksa's. His father the late D. A. Rajapaksa was a founder member of the SLFP with the late Mr. S. W. R. D. Bandaranaike and was the Member of Parliament to Beliatta from 1947 to 1963.
The mantle of the good work that his father began has now fallen on Mahinda being recently joined by his elder brother Chamal. Mahinda at Thurstan was just another mischievous schoolboy, although he was the son of a Member of Parliament who sometimes travelled from Sravasti, the official residence of MPs.
He was at the receiving end of the ire of our discipline master the late Lt. Col. Kingsley Fernando many a time. Mahinda was very fond of sports, he participated in athletics, cricket and rugby. At that young age he showed his prowess at public speaking, he was good and powerful debater. Mahinda passed his O/L's and A/L's and left college in the mid sixties.
He worked for some time at the Vidyodaya Campus before he took to full time politics in the late 1960s and in 1970 he was elected at the age of 24 years as the youngest parliamentarian from the Beliatta seat, when the SLFP was swept into Parliament.
Being a backbencher, he did the wisest thing by enrolling himself in the Law College and passed out as an Attorney. When he was unseated in 1977 he began a very successful and lucrative practice as a lawyer with a large clientele.
Not only did he practice diligently at courts, at this time his roving eye met a pretty lady who had won the Miss Sri Lanka title a few years back who became his wife. As the saying goes, behind a successful man there is a lady and his wife Shiranthi has been a source of strength in his political life.
They with their three sons make a very happy family unit. His eldest son Namal has achieved much as a schoolboy rugby player and surpassed the achievement of his father as a sportsman.
He made a significant contribution to bring PA back to power in 1994 and was rewarded with a Cabinet portfolio and thus became the first Thurstanite to hold a Cabinet rank. When the OBU felicitated him after he resumed office, the demand was such that all tickets were snapped up within four days and we had to disappoint many. those were the days when many identified themselves as Thurstanites.
Mahinda has crowned himself as a Cabinet Minister and his work at Labour and Fisheries has been much appreciated by the public at large and the officials.
If ever time permitted he never refused an invitation to attend any college function and has helped college in many ways and was instrumental in furnishing the College Hall with a set of chairs, a testimony of his love for his alma mater.
Mahinda was honoured with the title "Sri Rohana Jana Ranjana" by the Buddhist prelate in 2000 for his vast popularity with the masses and also being a devoted worker. He is the second person to be honoured by the prelates, first being the late Premier Sirimavo Bandaranaike.
In the year 2001 Mahinda was elected as the Leader of the Opposition as the majority felt that he is the person who could give leadership to the parties in the Opposition.
He has been a longtime Senior Vice President of the Sri Lanka Freedom Party and for over 25 years, he has been the President of the Sri Lanka-Palestine Friendship Association.
At the conclusion of the election held on April 2 Mahinda was one of the few SLFPers who were able to win the district while in all other districts which the United People's Freedom Alliance won, it was the members of the JVP who topped the list, beating many stalwarts from the PA.
He also obtained percentage wise the highest number of the polls received for an individual for a district in the whole island.
For his dedicated service to the party for well over 35 years, which his father, the late D. A. Rajapaksa was instrumental in forming with the late Premier S. W. R. D. Bandaranaike he has now been elevated to the position as the 19th Prime Minister of Sri Lanka and the 13th person to hold this coveted position.
Mahinda is a person who feels the pulse of the people in the country and we could expect him to resolve some of the burning issues facing the people in this country.
We wish him well in this arduous task of nation building and leading the country into prosperity and good governance.
PRIYA PARANAVITANE - Joint Secretary,
I wish to bring to your kind notice the following facts which no doubt is a violation of the right of a person to make a complaint at the Human Rights Commission in Canada.
My brother who is wanted by the LTTE fled to Canada and is a refugee. He is wanted by the LTTE as well as the Security Forces. He has provided all documents (whatever that could be procured including the warrant issued against him) to the authorities in Canada.
He has gone to the Human Rights Commission in Canada, and was informed that he should make the complaint through a lawyer. He has gone to a lawyer and he wants Canadian Dollars 4,000 (Four Thousand) as his fees, which is an exorbitant amount, and he cannot afford to pay. How can a refugee without any money pay a lawyer $ 4,000?
Is it the position of the Canadian Government to prevent people from making direct complaints to the Human Rights Commission?
Is it the position of the Canadian Government to discourage direct complaints, which they are aware that the refugees cannot afford to pay $ 4,000 to the lawyers?
How can a refugee afford to pay a lawyer $ 4,000 to make his complaint to the Human Rights Commission?
This alone is a Human Rights violation by the Canadian Government to prevent those wish to make complaints, when they are in a desperate position.
Western countries are making a huge fuss about human rights violations in Asian and African countries, but by their own actions, they too are violating the rights of humans. I feel if your country is concerned about human rights violations, you should make arrangements in your own country to afford FREE legal aid to those refugees and others who are in need.
The international community are speaking of human rights violations, but they themselves are violating same by imposing restrictions (monetarily) and preventing the poor refugees to make complaints directly to the Human Rights Commission.
I feel that the Canadian Government should review their attitude, and treat the refugees as human beings, and afford them basic rights.
M. Velumail -
I wish to make two comments on Kandappa's very appropriate and well deserved tribute to the PM (April 20).
Mr. Kandappa's astounding assertion that "most Sinhalese have come to terms with the acceptance of the reality of Tamil Eelam" is totally wrong. This is a favourite tactic of propagandists who seek to uphold a cause which they would like to win.
Secondly he refers to "rejection of consistent demand of the Tamils for acceptance of a Tamil homeland that was in place when the Portuguese arrived in 1619". The Portuguese arrived in 1505 and not 1619 (which clearly shows Mr. Kandappa's poor acquaintance with history).
The claim to a Tamil homeland in the entirety of the Northern an Eastern provinces has been consistently debunked, not by politicians but by academics and historians of repute (eg. Prof. K.M. de Silva, Prof. G.H. Peiris, Dr. Indrapala of Jaffna, A. Denis N. Fernando, Dr. S. Arasa Ratnam, etc. not to speak of the entire corpus of historical and archaeological research by, scholars like Mr. H.C.P. Bell, Mr. A.M. Hocart, Codrington, Prof. Paranavithane, the Diaries of British Government. Agents of Jaffna, Trinco and Batticaloa, the very epigraphical record in particular in the Eastern Province and the Southern part of the Northern Province.
SARATH GUNASEKARA -
Whilst endorsing views expressed by Rienzie Wijetillake (April 20) as an agriculturist and a coconut planter, I wish to add the following:
The support given by the Government to motivate the Agriculturists/planters needs re-thinking with a view to motivate the growers to increase production. Government assistance to obtain a reasonable farm gate price should be given highest priority.
Extending the subsidy for fertiliser is a compulsory requirement and assistance to overcome threats to the coconut industry, such as, import of raw materials and manufacturing vegetable oil in Sri Lanka, acquiring productive coconut land for so-called industrial zone should be stopped with immediate effect.
Therefore we hope, the new government and the Ministers of plantation industries will make a note of this situation and take remedial action, with a view to increase the productivity of our coconut industry.
J.V.R. DIAS -
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