|Thursday, 23 December 2004|
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The biggest danger to the UNP
A strong public opinion and an alert citizenry are the only safety guards against outrageousness and misuse of power by politicians. An unbiased strong judiciary can bring the misuse of power to book with sovereignty of the people.
Politics today has become synonymous with never ending greed for self-glory and ultimated power. Statesmen in the calibre of D.S., S.W.R.D., Dudley, Dr. S.A. and Dr. N.M. are no more. Public life of the aforesaid leaders provide a beacon of light to the present day so-called party leaders, who have lost the way in the confused alley of conflicting loyalties and despicable temptations.
I wish to draw your attention to the noble attitude of that great lady Sirimavo, how she acted in solving a critical national problem of the country during her tenure of office and Dudley Senanayaka as the leader of the opposition and UNP Leader, helped her.
Though invited Dudley could not accompany the PM in the delegation to India regarding Sirima-Sasthri discussions as he was taking treatment in London for a prolonged illness. But Dudley as a statesman provided all authentic data and necessary valuable information to make the discussions a success. During the discussion, daily reports were sent to London for Dudley's comments.
Sirima-Shasthri agreement is a cornerstone of Indo-Lanka relationship. Democracy can flourish on in an environment of openness and trust.
Today, the President of the country, Chandrika Kumaratunga is undergoing all atrocities and machinations of the Tigers and their fellow travellers, yet she is graceful enough to settle the current national issue, reaffirming all communities that they must live in an undivided united Sri Lanka with equal rights.
Then what is this guile behaviour and indecent hurry of Ranil Wickremesinghe to be an acolyte of Prabakaran and his henchmen in Parliament, thus sacrificing a great party and betraying and insulting all patriotic past leaders of the UNP.
JINADASA NIYATHAPALA, Former UNP Secretary and Kotte MP
TV cricket commentators
In your issue of 28.10.04 Richard Dwight's comments on the TV commentators was most opportune.
All this time we had been saddled with a single commentator of our own, be it in Australia, India or England.
It is a welcome change to hear another commentator. Foreign commentators who give us commentaries on the TV make it a point to speak about the history, geography, sociology etc. as far as they know. For instance, Tony Greig talks of the luscious pineapples, the stilt fishing on the coastline etc. while Ravi Shastri talks of the Buddha statue in Kandy etc.
Our man at the mike only talks of the cricket and nothing outside. And that too, merely repeats what the other man says in different words. He knows only the 22 years in front of him and does not utter a word outside of it.
In fact, the Galle Esplanade or Dambulla grounds are steeped in history. He never mentions anything about any of these.
At least he could read up some brochures put out by the Tourist Board and use it for promotional purpose to the large audience that would be viewing the matches. But he only talks of the grass on the wicket, of the cracks on the pitch and nothing outside.
DR. CHANDRA WEERARATNE, Ratmalana
State intervention to bring down CoL
Former MP Dhanapala Weerasekera is one who argues for an increased role by the now virtual defunct CWE (DN - 7/12/04 Cost of Living and the CWE). Even before the sale of CWE (Retail) to a private consortium, I have argued for a greater role by the CWE from their role of importing-distributing less than 7% in the 1980-2000 period from their original role of nearly 100% in the pre-1977 times.
If State import-distribution agencies are appropriately empowered, this will enable the State to come to the rescue of the consumers in times of high prices such as now. I differ with Mr. Weerasekera's observation "When the globalisation policy of JRJ regime took over one of the first targets was the destruction of the CWE system and closing down of hundreds of CWE branches in the electorates...."
There is room to argue the CWE played its most vibrant role, in terms of the volume of imports and distribution of essential foodstuffs, between 1980-1994. The PA administration that followed in 1994 continued to rely on the role of the CWE till 2001.
Therefore, it is clear the usefulness of the CWE role was acknowledged by the above party and doctrinaire considerations and should have been continued without 'throwing the baby with the bath water'.
In 1970-77 during the ministership of T.B. Illangaratne to which Mr. Weerasekera refers to; the longest-serving CWE Chairman R.I. Obeysekera, now President's Counsel- ran the organisation without blemish and controversy. Consumers were protected from the rapacious clutches of black-marketeers by the CWE making available daily essentials through their national network of outlets.
It may be recalled that was a time characterized by exchange-control and the upheaval caused by the first oil-shock in 1973. I believe, with all visible current shortcomings of State institutions like the CWE, the STC and other larger Cooperatives like COOPFED, MARKFED can still be restored to usefully and economically serve their original objectives - with political will and determination at the highest levels complemented with good and experienced managerial skills in the institutions concerned.
In fairness to the traders in the private sector, I am aware many a times they are forced to sell Big Onions below cost. But in trying to recoup past losses selling an essential commodity at nearly 200% profit cannot be considered very civic-oriented action. The cause of this over-supply problem, as I have pointed out several times, lies in importing much more than what is required resulting in squandering the country's scarce foreign-resources.
This applies not only to onion imports but also in respect of rice, dried chillies, sugar and many other. The sooner the authorities sits down with the import trade and finds a solution to this will be good both for importers who lose by importing much more than required at a specific time and also in the interest of saving foreign-exchange by importing just about what is required.
Whatever the immediate priorities of those at the helm of our political-economic affairs the sooner a more active role for State intervention is devised the better.
One does not have to be possessed of clairvoyant capabilities to predict the above-mentioned Big Onions saga repeating itself in the immediate future in many essential daily needs if timely action is not forthcoming.
A. KANDAPPAH, Colombo 3
Regarding reader H.T's somewhat draconian proposals for expanding the tax base of the country, it seems unfair and indeed somewhat twisted to penalise vehicle owners, consumers of electricity, users of telephones, travellers abroad etc.
In a progressive country, it seems somewhat questionable to be taxing those very fruits of progress and efficiency.
A simple, elegant and equitable solution would be to make every wage-earner in both public and private sectors pay tax, do away with the duty-free and government-subsidised perks that most officials incur on the backs of the tax-paying public. That way, there would be no requirement to carry out extensive investigations and incur additional costs to count how many lightbulbs does person-X have in their home, how many phone calls did so-and-so make etc., It's a futile, wasteful exercise and highly susceptible to abuse.
I cannot see why the greater population of the public service (including ministers and party hacks with their princely lifestyles) should live off the backs of the tax-paying private sector.
If both segments of the working population paid their fair share, as they do in many countries - there would be much more to go around.
S. D., Bambalapitiya
The way out for PBOA
I was amazed to read in a newspaper that the President of the Private Bus Owners' Association (PBOA) is planning to increase the bus fares to cover the anticipated increase in fines to be imposed for traffic offences.
The PBOA finds any excuse to enhance their daily takings, never mind the burdens they have been heaping on commuters by regularly increasing bus fares, not to mention the buses packed to overcapacity, the rude bus conductors and drivers, some of them even behaving crudely.
Instead of increasing bus fares, the President of the PBOA should conduct classes in good behaviour, observance of road rules, prevention of accidents caused by bus drivers and fatal accidents mounting daily. If this is done, then the fines they have to pay will be largely minimised.
One has only to follow a bus to observe the callous manner in which buses are driven, stopping at unauthorised places, speeding to overtake their rivals and other vehicles.
I would like to ask the President of the PBOA whether he has ever organised his Association to even threaten strike action against his errant bus drivers and conductors or tried to offer a better bus service for the convenience of the commuters. These people are like the GMOA-strike only for their benefits. Will the GMOA please tell us whether they have ever struck work to improve health care for their patients, more beds in hospitals, better food and clean toilets?
If the PBOA is permitted to increase fares to cover anticipated increase in fines, then the Government will have to allow Three Wheeler Drivers (another menace on the roads) to increase their fares and even owners of private vehicles should be allowed a reduction in the Licence Fees and Insurance Premium to cover anticipated increase in traffic fines.
I hope the Minister of Transport will not permit the PBOA to increase fares any further and heap burdens on hapless and helpless commuters.
DAVID PERERA, Nugegoda
I wish to draw the attention of the authorities concerned to the plaque on the monument erected in memorium of the child hero Madduma Bandara which reads "Erected in memorium of the lion herted child hero."
This indeed is an insult to the child hero because this monument is erected opposite the Dalada Maligawa in the middle of the Mahamaluwa, which is observed by thousands of local and foreign visitors to the sacred city of Kandy.
The word on this plaque Lion Hearted is misspelt. Whoever erected this monument had not taken an interest to peruse this carefully and it is very earnestly urged that this error be rectified soon.
LESLIE PERERA, Kandy
The shattering events of war, killings and violent behaviour escalating in our Nation continue to shock, frighten and sadden nearly all of us - except those violent few whose everyday reaction is vicious action. We have knowledge and skills to calm our society, starting from home base - the heart of the family.
Numerous studies, national/international seminars repeatedly condemn indifferent sluggish attitudes to commonly occurring abuse of women and children; 'road rage' syndrome; dishonesty and abuse in workplaces, and especially intimidation of those doing their jobs with integrity and morality.
We cannot allow violent behaviour to rule our lives. Children learn from what they see and hear, so we must protect and nurture them, treat all children as our own. Psychologically damaging toys, guns, etc., must be banned. Violent television programmes should not be imported.
Come on, NGOs, Women's and Children's organisations and government institutions help us start neighbourhood teams of capable and committed people to combat this devastation. Working together we can root up and destroy these evils of ruin and decay in our own immediate areas, before we destroy ourselves.
FAITH RATNAYAKE, Colombo 5
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