While your journal of December 24, 2010 gave encouraging details of a
Railway Electrification Project proposed anew by the Institution of
Engineers Sri Lanka (IESL) and submitted to the Government, published in
a Sunday news paper in its issue of 23rd instant reported that Railway
Electrification will come at last, but rather suddenly, after having
overlooked many urgings by different professional groups over the years.
The report of December 24 encouragingly mention of a maximum use of
local resources, but the little news item of January 23 is mum on this
aspect. Are these the same or two separate projects? This Sunday’s news
item seems to warn of an element not conducive to Mahinda Chintana’s
“Self-reliance”. Both the commuters and the general tax payer would be
keen to know what’s what. Why shouldn’t the local engineering
professionals do it, through the Mahidna Chintana encouragements at
least? Is history of 1998 going to repeat in a different way? “What
history?” your readers would like to know.
History of 1998
On an initiative by the IESL in 1997/8 followed by the request of the
then Transport Minister, under this very Political Government, the IESL
prepared its project recommendations after a detailed study of several
foreign feasibility reports/proposals for electrifying the suburban
railway. The IESL then had produced a Project Plan of many benefits to
the country, particularly when looking back, very compatible even with
the present Mahinda Chintana slogans, “Self-Reliance” and “Taking
Challenges” - almost 90 percent self-reliant.
self-reliance in that proposal reached a peak in that for the latter
part of the electrification the requirements of the electrical power
sets were to be assembled/built in the country by our local engineering
workforce. The engineers behind this assurance are still in the SLR. It
was a total challenge for the dynamic dedicated local engineers. It also
was going to be a model to prove how to achieve international standards
in a small country with limitations. The then Cabinet scrutinized that
proposal at two stages and approved it and instructed the Ministry to
set up the Government owning Implementation Company and proceed with the
electrification. It was to be a pride of Sri Lankans. Things looked so
encouraging that within six months or so commuters between Fort and
Ragama (Stage I) were going to enjoy the luxury travel first. Then
suddenly the project sanctioned by the Cabinet had been scuttled by
unknown forces. Those answerable had some alibis. Today, despite “My
country” concept, local engineers have to work in such a dangerous
This new IESL project proposal, though may not be that comprehensive
or conveniently manageable as the scuttled 1998 proposal was, very
importantly, is compatible with the above Mahinda Chintana principles.
As news percolates, this IESL proposal had been submitted to the
Government in 2008 when the Mahinda Chintana was in vogue. It is
believed that within months of its submission, the Transport Ministry
could have gone to the Cabinet for approval, for millions and millions
of Dollars were at stake. What held it up or pigeon-holed it, is
Morale of local engineers
Since the IESL’s comprehensive Project Proposal of 1998, that was on
the verge of taking off, excessive avoidable foreign exchange had been
spent on importing diesel locomotives, and power sets, not to mention
costly diesel fuel to run them. The many vital benefits, primarily, the
saving of dear Forex, had been overlooked. If that 1998 comprehensive
proposal had been implemented the profession itself would have
cumulatively gained much through new experience. Further, the local
engineers would have been so encouraged, their morale boosted, their
professional boldness and dynamism promoted, the Governments turning to
foreign contractors for the present Infrastructure development could
have been curtailed. The local engineering profession would have further
built up its prowess to persuade the Government to obtain a considerable
part of the technical work for execution by local engineers – despite
most of the funding coming from foreign countries.
The Sunday paper revelation seems to indicate some doubt that the
spirit of the IESL,ie the exploitation of the local Engineers’
capabilities and resources to the maximum, would ever be upheld. If the
IESL’s new electrification proposal had been with the Government for
about two years, while diesel locomotives and power sets were being
imported, what was the IESL doing without offering its services to the
highest authority of the state to expedite matters and save the billions
in Forex and rupees, and serve the country – no courage? After all, the
IESL was incorporated by Parliament to serve the country, pioneering
IESL once the live wire
That revelation also says the IESL and the Moratuwa University had,
ironically, pledged assistance. In the 1998 Proposal, the IESL was the
live wire and not an assistance pledger. Our dynamic head of State has
been over and over again asking the professionals in the Country to
rally round to develop the country. Here most of the many connected
projects are engineering based. Apart from the age-old railway
electrification, aren’t there also so many development projects the
IESL, as the apex corporate body of the Eng. Profession in the country,
could have courageously contributed to in diverse ways. Has the IESL
ever had a dialog with our vibrant and bold HE the President and found
out how it could contribute to its maximum ability to serve the country?
If the paper reporting is correct, by the complexion of the totality of
that little Sunday report it appears as if the electrification will come
as a turkey job over the waves, and the IESL or the University of
Moratuwa will have another decade to wait until it gets a chance to keep
the pledge. The country would wish we had more engineer representatives
in the Parliament as in India, or better, more engineers in the Cabinet
as in China, so that it can reap more benefit from its local creative
Eng. Arya Subasinghe
For the past few weeks Sirasa TV had been telecasting, what they
identify as - “A new version of Ganga Addara Song - sung by Sirasa Super
Star finalist Surendra Perera, just before 7 pm and 10 pm news
telecasts, to be sold as Ring Tones for Mobitel, Dialog and Etisalat
mobile services. The titles of this ‘new version’ carry the following
Original vocals – Vijaya Kumaranatunga
Vocals – Surendra Perera
Lyrics and Music – Nimal Mendis
This song had been composed and lyrics had been written by
Presidential Award winner Augustus Vinayagaratnam – and no one else can
claim authorship for this song. Sirasa TV is doing a great disservice
and is showing great disrespect to a renowned, accomplished composer who
had died more than 25 years ago, by accrediting the authorship of this
song to someone else.
It’s high time for the composers of songs of yesteryears and at
present to get together, and form an Association with adequate
resources, authority and clout, to bring the perpetrators of these kinds
of frauds to Courts, under the Intellectual Property Act. If this trend
continues, all the composers of the day, will someday be victims of
powerful TV channels.
A random survey done by me at a Super Market, in Nawinna on January
16, shows the exorbitant cost of living for a government pensioner.
How can a pensioner exist with the Rs 300 increase of allowance
granted from this month? Beggars earn more than our total pension.
In our deteriorating health we need a good soup, plenty of fruits and
other nourishment like eggs and butter. To spend their leisure time they
need few magazines, books and national news papers. These too cost a
If the administrators stop waste and corruption, it will be easy to
find the money to pay the pensioners. Please increase the pension from
at least Rs 1,500.
Many motorists driving through Balapokuna Road, Kirillapona, use
Jayasinghe Road exit to reach Dehiwala via Dutugemunu Street and
Hospital Road. There is a heavy traffic flow in the mornings and after
office hours in the evenings. Patients travelling to Colombo South
Hospital too use this road reguarly.
About 200 feet at the exit point to Dutugemunu Street, this road is
too narrow – not more than eight feet wide, and no two vehicles could
pass at the same time. A long vehicle queue is seen often at either end
of this narrow strip of the road.
A section of Jayasinghe Road was developed last year under the Maga
Neguma program while allowing this alley to remain undeveloped. The
hundreds of motorists who use this road will be thankful if the
authorities take action to widen this alley which is a great obstruction
to daily travellers.
U D J Jinadasa
Kalutara North Heenatiyangala Siri Seevali Maha Vidyalaya has been
disregarded and neglected by the officers and the Western Province
Education Department. The school suffers from serious shortcomings and
problems related to the students’ education and the administration of
the school. School’s computer unit has been closed down for want of a
computer trained teacher. As a result, the students are deprived of
learning computer lessons. After the retirement of the carpentry
teacher, the responsible officers have not yet sent a teacher for the
carpentry subject. The school badly needs an Agriculture teacher, as
many children are keen on learning agriculture.
The science teacher too is very helpless and facing untold hardships
due to non-availability of a proper place to keep the science equipment
tools and other necessary materials.
At the moment, some of the scientific equipment and other objects are
stored in a Grade one class which was made empty due to the lack of
sufficient number of children.
Siri Seevali Maha Vidyalaya’s children and the tutorial staff members
are very uncomfortable with regard to toilet facilities. The school
needs a system of toilets, in addition to the available two toilets.
Teachers face various difficulties for want of a staff room. At the
moment, they are made to go here and there for meals or drinking tea
during the school interval. The building which was earlier used as a
staff room, has been badly damaged in the recent cyclone. Nobody has
repaired the building, though the principal has informed the authorities
to look into it. Instead of repairing the building, the wrecked building
has been covered with two tarpaulin sheets, supplied by the Kalutara
Disaster Management Centre.
Parents are reluctant to admit their children to this school. As a
result of this the number of children admitted to Grade One class, this
year is, very less than the previous years.
This school, was very popular and prominent among other schools
regarding educational and other extra curricular activities. Due to the
ill-treatment and disregard of the responsible officers, the school is
in a very deplorable condition.
H L Sunil Shantha
Wadugoda Kanista Vidyalaya and Wadinakanda Kanista Vidyalaya in
Payagala were closed due to inadequate students.
These two government schools are in the Beruwala electorate attached
to the Kalutara educational zone.
The public have urged the Kalutara zonal education Director to
re-open these schools as they are very reputable and stand in the most
suitable hub of the area.
Owing to the closure of these two schools, the poor parents and their
children have greatly inconvenienced and faced grave difficulties.
Thanks to the government policy to advance the healthcare of people,
it is good to see, in almost every village and town, that the
environment becomes very healthy due to the cleaning activities
organized by the local government authorities. The PHI and other related
officials are very much concerned over the healthcare in the territories
under their control, and give their best to make them healthy places for
Kahatowita, a small village in terms of area, with around 2000
families, is situated in the Attanagalla division of Gampaha district.
This has been one of the areas with a higher population density in the
district. When compared with the population, this village is lagging far
behind in facilities such as pure drinking water, one of the very
important requirements of mankind. Further, our people are heavily
suffering daily without essential facilities such as waste water system,
sewer discharge system, garbage disposal system etc., which cause deep
concerns over healthcare of people and pleasant environment.
We appreciate the laws and regulations that the Government has
imposed regarding disposal of wastes. Also we appreciate the system of
fining the law breakers. Because, it is obvious that we can’t have an
environment with a high level of cleanliness without the laws and
regulations as well as fines. Unfortunately, the village of Kahatowita
badly suffer an acute shortage of land for habitation. This has caused
acute hygienic issues. For example, most of the dwellings in our village
have been put up in a land with an extent of five to six perches.
Drinking water wells, septic tanks, waste water disposals etc., all
these have to be located in this small extent of land. Further, the
garbage is also going parallel with these issues making the “issue” much
The garbage disposal unit has been scheduled once in a week, but it
is not happening regularly. Even the unit comes once in a blue moon, the
whole garbage dumped, in place to place, are not taken off fully, and a
part of garbage remains unclear. How can it be possible to maintain a
healthy surrounding in this manner, if this crippled system continues,
specially during rainy days. Further, lots of residents have built their
boundary walls, blocking the natural flow of rain water. Water stagnates
everywhere. In some areas, stagnated water flows through another
person’s land or house. We could not have a solution for this problem
even after several complains were lodged in the police.
In this situation, many people have been fined for not maintaining
their surroundings properly.
Minister, we humbly request to take necessary action to reduce the
burden for everyone, in our village, taking all the above matters into
your kind consideration.
We need a healthy life. We will be able to breathe in pure air only
if the surroundings are clean and pure. Then only we can lead a healthy
life. We request the government to provide the facilities to keep our
environment clean and healthy.
Regarding Miflys letter on the above subject appearing in a daily
paper, I wish to submit my opinion as he has requested for same from
other readers. I, as a Muslim, who has lot of colleagues who are
non-Muslims working with me are not only very friendly, co-operative but
also very helpful. It is so with my neighbours from the majority who
have a very cordial relationship with all the Muslims. They are ever
ready to help us at any time. Therefore, I completely disagree with his
accusation that the Majority community looks at Muslims as intolerant
As regards his comment number three, it is the West who looks at
Muslims as enslaving the women and not the majority community of our
island as alleged by this writer, who has nevertheless come out with a
As regards his main concern about cruelty to animals, it is only a
very few, infinitesimal, who object to the slaughter. This, of course,
will be there in any community. We do have these conflicting situations
even within our own family circles, which I think no one can deny.
I also wish to point out that he has forgotten about Aqeeqah which is
sacrificing goats on behalf of a new born child. According to the vast
majority of scholars in Islam, it is a highly recommended practice
(Sunnah). There is, however, a small minority of scholars who consider
Let me also point out that Brother Mifly has not given any thought to
the predicament of those Muslims who are either directly or indirectly
associated with this trade. How are these people going to survive when
people are already finding it extremely difficult to make ends meet?
Although it is true that the consumption of beef or meat is not
compulsory or obligatory for us in terms of our religion and on the
contrary it is permissible.
Being aware that Muslims have the right to slaughter enshrined in the
Constitution of Sri Lanka, I foresee that the proposed ban will not see
the light of the day and I humbly pray that it be so. Hope, our minority
rights are not trampled and that we are given the freedom to practice
our religion but also permit us our other usual customary practices,
without any encumbrances whatsoever, as we have been to date. In short,
please let each and everyone in this island practice his/her religion as
has been the practice to-date.
Let me congratulate the President for his bold decision to issue duty
free Car Permits for the Government Executive Officers and for the
Officers of the Three Forces and the Police. It is a far sighted and a
Earlier, the practice had been to hire vehicle for the use of such
eligible Officers from a Rent a car company, at an exorbitant monthly
rent. This decision of the President will undoubtedly save unnecessary
However, it is with great regret to inform the Authorities concerned,
that the Rules and Regulations contained in the official circulars,
governing these duty free car permits had been enacted years back and
are obsolete. The contents of these circulars do not fit into the
present day context. According to the existing circulars, the officer
concerned is not allowed retain the vehicle overnight at his residence.
After dropping the officer at the residence, the vehicle should be
either brought to the authorised place of night parking or should be
parked at the closest Police station. Except for very Senior officers,
this is especially applicable to the offers in the Forces, who are
eligible for the facility of using a vehicle. This will only result in
exhausting the approved monthly mileage of such officers unnecessarily
and it will be an utter waste age of approved monthly mileage. Hence,
this procedure should be amended to suit the present day context, and
allow the vehicle to be parked in the night at the place of residence of
the officer concerned. This will enable to officers to save their
approved monthly mileage.
Further these instructions are not uniform. From department to
department, the implementation is different. What is being implemented
in government departments differs from what is being implemented in the
three Forces. Further, it is observed that the officers responsible for
the implementation of this scheme adopt a very indifferent attitude.
There had been certain instances where they were reluctant to implement
them. It appears that they resort to these tactics with the connivance
with the Rent a Car Company Officers, for reasons best known to them.
Even within the Forces it differs from one Force to the other. Some
forces allow the spouses of the officers to purchase or lease out and
rent their vehicle to the Force to which the officers are attached to
and such officers are paid a transport allowance, instead of hiring a
vehicle from a Rent a Car Company and pay them exorbitant the monthly
rent. In this scenario the officers are more benefited and vehicles they
could obtain are almost brand new. However, it is known that this scheme
is not applicable to every force.
In the State Banks, the eligible officers are granted a loan facility
to purchase a vehicle and a vehicle allowance is paid to them to meet
the monthly loan obligation. In private sector too, this system
prevails. They do not pay exorbitant monthly rents to Rent a Car
When a vehicle is obtained from a Rent a Car Company on monthly hire,
only a limited mileage is allowed for that particular monthly rent.
Anything above, extra payment has to be paid for each kilometre.
Whereas, if a vehicle is obtained from an Officer of that Department, on
rent, monthly mileage is not limited. Also, it is pertinens to mention
that the date of manufacture of these cars rented out by the Rent a Car
Companies, is nearly 10 years old. However, the Government is spending
about Rs 45,000.00 to Rs 50,000.00 per car, monthly. Also, these Rent a
Car Companies are very reluctant to attend to repairs and they fail to
comply with the terms and conditions of the agreement.
Hence, to implement the decision of the President effectively, to
enable to meet the purpose for which this facility is granted, I call
upon the Secretary to the Treasury and the Defence Secretary to draft a
new set of Circulars to streamline the entire procedure to have some
uniformity among all the Departments and the Forces and the Police, in
implementing this decision.
It may also be mentioned that the most of the eligible officers may
not posses enough financial means to purchase a vehicle using the duty
free car permit. In such situations, such officers will be tempted to
sell the permit, which in turn will not meet the aspirations of the
President. To prevent such a situation and to implement the President’s
decision meaning fully, I would suggest that when formulating the new
set of regulations, hiring of vehicles from a private Rent a Car Company
should be totally done away with. Also, provision should be included for
the head of the institution/the Forces, to liaise with a State Bank or
any other Private Bank and arrange leasing facilities for such eligible
The provision should be made in the new circulars, to pay an
allowance to such eligible officers, a sum equivalent to the monthly
rent, hitherto paid to Rent a Car Companies. Such an act will definitely
satisfy the officers and also relive them of their financial burdens.
Reference is made to the article on the above subject, on the front
page of a Sunday news paper.
It’s heartening to note that the Government has given serious thought
to introduce Domestic Air Transport to the country. The Government could
not concentrate on such a move due to 30 years of terror in the country.
The article deals at length of the various existing Air Fields earmarked
for development and also locations earmarked to establish new Airports.
On perusal of locations earmarked for development of the existing Air
Fields, mentioned in the article, one could observe the glaring omission
of the existing Air Fields situated at Sigiriya. I am unable to
understand why the authorities concerned failed to identify this
location when all the infrastructure facilities are presently available
and instead, they concentrate on new locations, at Puttalam and Nuwara
Eliya. It’s a well-known practice among the tourists that they prefer
road transport when touring the up country, specially to view the
greenery and the water falls when climbing the hills.
The Sri Lanka Air Force had been using this Air Field for a
considerable length of time ie for 26 years, during several phases of
the Eelam war, for the transportation of their armament, from their
Armoury at Sigiriya.
The ‘Sigiri Fortress’ is supposed to be the eight Wonder in the
world. It has become the cynosure of almost all the tourists, visiting
Sri Lanka. The tourists, on their way to visit the famous ruins at
Anuradhapura and Polonnaruwa, invariably make a visit to this Fortress.
Tourists, who call over at the Kandalama hotel, too very rarely miss the
opportunity of visiting this Fortress. In addition to visiting this
Fortress, they visit Kawudulla and Minneriya to view large herds of
elephants, flocking at the Kawudulla and Minneriya reservoirs,
especially in the evenings. This is an unbelievable and is a very rare
sight. I have been to this place several times with tourists from all
over the World. All these tourist attractions are based at Sigiriya.
In addition, Sigiriya is centrally located. The visitors to Sri Lanka
could use the Air Base at Sigiriya, when developed, to visit the
neighbouring Anuradhapura and Polonnaruwa to view the ruins and ancient
sculptures. This will undoubtedly save their precious time.
The existing Air Field at the Sigiriya should be developed only to
accommodate light Air Craft and Helicopters and not for the use of Air
Buses or Jets, so that the environmentalists will not oppose such a
move, in the pretext of vibrations caused by the movements of the Air
Craft. As stated previously, the Sri Lanka Air Force had been using it
earlier and there were no objections what so ever from the
environmentalists, to this effect.
In view of the above, and considering the massive influx of tourists
since of late to Sri Lanka, I feel it is prudent to focus attention to
initiate development of the existing Air Field at Sigiriya, on top
A Tour Guide