On track to the future
A front page news item in
yesterday’s issue of the Daily News disclosed that more railway
stations would be added between Polonnaruwa and Batticaloa and
that the train service itself would be improved between these
two key points.
This is a welcome move, especially in the context of the
Government’s Eastern Resurgence programme and the Batticaloa
Polls which will be held on March 10 to elect representatives to
several local bodies including the Batticaloa Municipal Council.
This will lead to the restoration of full civil administration
in an area which had been suppressed by terrorism for a number
These two factors - rapid development and civil
administration - will be an impetus for forging greater links
between the Eastern populace and the rest of the country. One
example is the creation of a larger market for Eastern agri
Now that more paddy lands have been made available for
Eastern farmers, it is only a matter of time before a bigger
harvest is obtained from the region. And rail freight will be an
ideal solution for transporting such rice stocks to Colombo and
In fact, we have not yet realised the potential of the
railway for goods transport. A goods train can haul a far bigger
payload than even the longest multi-wheeler land vehicle. It
will also be far more cost effective.
Transport Minister Dallus Alahapperuma has translated words
into action, bringing in a substantial number of power sets and
carriages to improve the rail service, still the most affordable
form of public transport.
The public would not certainly mind paying a few rupees extra
for a faster, cleaner, more comfortable train service. There
should be a strict maintenance programme for the new power sets
and carriages to ensure that they are always in a prime
condition to meet the expectations of the commuters.
Much has been written about electrifying Lanka’s rail system.
The authorities must seriously consider the possibility of
electrifying a few of the busiest routes. A subway system for
Colombo and suburbs, which has already been proposed, will be a
boon for travellers who now have to wriggle into jam-packed
buses and trains at rush hours.
A computerised ticketing and reservation system for the train
service is also essential. Sri Lanka should work closely with
India on the proposed Trans Asian Rail Network, which will link
27 Asian countries. Just imagine embarking a train in Colombo
and disembarking in Beijing. And if all goes well, it will be a
reality by 2025. Railways can indeed be a harbinger of amity,
locally and globally.
The landmark Court ruling on the
unauthorised production and sale of Mahagamasekara’s songs and
the acclaimed film Sarungale on CD/VCD is a step in the right
direction. The notion of Intellectual Property is still not
ingrained in the collective conscience of the population and
this judgment will serve as a reminder that those who openly
violate existing intellectual property laws cannot go scot free.
Sri Lanka, along with Malaysia and China, has become a hotbed
for piracy. The latest Hollywood and Bollywood movies are
available on DVD for as little as Rs.120 on sidewalk stalls,
which is a crime by any means.
Sinhala films and Sinhala MP3 CDs are also available at these
illegal outlets. And if you think that such stores are confined
to the pavements, just enter any shopping mall in the City and
visit the DVD shops, where pirated copies go for as little as
Rs.200 with plastic cover.
What is surprising is that Police are turning a blind eye to
such blatant violations of copyright laws. Ironically, we have
seen policemen themselves perusing these VCDs and DVDs rather
An original DVD costs anywhere between Rs.750 to Rs.2,000,
which is plainly not affordable to the majority of the people.
They cannot also afford satellite and cable channels, which show
the latest films.
With theatre tickets costing more than Rs.100 each, that
option is also out for most families. Thus there is a thriving
market for illegal copies. This is where original content
provide should step in to provide originals at lower, more
Customs and law enforcement authorities should maintain
vigilance to intercept stocks of pirated DVDs and CDs entering
the country. In a novel initiative, Malaysia has deployed
so-called DVD dogs to catch DVD smugglers. Such steps, though
seemingly extreme, should be taken to end the menace of piracy.
Sri Lanka has a raft of strong intellectual property laws
which are rarely observed. The recent Court case proved that
artists and copyright holders should take a pro-active stand on
this issue. If they themselves let pirates have a field day at
their expense, it is unlikely that law enforcement authorities
will be keen to take action. Artists, copyright owners, original
content producers/importers and law enforcement authorities must
work together to stamp out the piracy of copyrighted material.