About 700 troops of the Sri Lanka armed forces are presently serving
in Haitti. They are part of the United Nations' Peace Keeping Force,
along with soldiers from several other countries.
The Sri Lanka troops were drawn from the 'Teeth Arm' which in
military parlance means Fighting Units. The first contingent of Sri
Lanka troops were sent to Haitti about 4 1/2 years ago. Newspapers
quoting an army spokesman announced that it was the first time that Sri
Lankan troops were leaving on a foreign UN Peace Keeping Mission. This
letter serves to set the record straight.
In 1958 riots broke out in African Congo aimed at ousting its Prime
Minister Patrice Lumumba.
When the situation turned into a civil war the UN sent a Peace
Keeping force to maintain law and order. The UN requested for 100
soldiers from Sri Lanka but all that Prime Minister S.W.R.D.
Bandaranayake's Cabinet could approve was only 14. At that time there
was only a ceremonial army in this country. The soldiers selected to
serve in the UN Peace Keeping Force in the Congo were all from the elite
1st Battalion The Ceylon Light Infantry, the only fighting unit at that
time. The Peace Keeping Troops was led by Major Cecil T. Caldera and my
grandfather Company Quarter Master F.A. Perera was also selected to the
contingent. The contingent completed its task excellently, and every
member was awarded the UN Congo Medal in recognition of his service.
Caldera subsequently commanded the Signals Corps and later on became
Brigadier, and held appointment as the Chief of Staff. After his demise
his set of medals including the UN Congo medal and his UN blue beret was
presented to the 1/CLI by his wife and was on display in the regimental
museum at Panagoda. I have photographs taken of these displays.
I hope that I have now made it clear that the first UN Peace Keeping
Mission of our soldiers was not to Haitti but to Congo.
The resting hall of the Melsiripura bus stand is in a dilapidated
A part of the roof which was crumbling was removed several years ago
but has not yet been repaired and replaced. The authorities concerned
seem to have turned a blind eye to this situation.
Passengers are greatly inconvenienced especially on rainy days.
They request that the authorities concerned take immediate steps to
fulfill the shortcoming.
Along with our families and relatives we recently made a visit to the
Northern area. The bus in which we were travelling, unfortunately
happened to break down along the Mullaitivu - Mankulam road near the
Nedunkerni junction late in the evening. This was in the recent past, a
heavily infested LTTE area.
We were very worried as there were a few little children too in our
However some army personnel patrolling the area stopped by. We were
extremely happy and relieved to see them. They were in fact, a God send
at that time. The officers were down-to-earth gentlemen who immediately
took care of the situation.
They got down a mechanic from Nedunkerni who was able to repair the
break down, and soon we were on our way to Jaffna.
Once again on the way back to Colombo, we experienced the same
problem in Pallai when our bus engine stalled for the second time. Like
in the earlier instance, some army personnel in that area came to our
They were very kind and helpful that they arranged a bus from Jaffna
for us to get back to Colombo.
They even provided food to the children who were with us. We are
really grateful to these gentlemen in uniform. They are a pride to our
Have you ever checked your CEB and Water Board bills to find out if
your meter reader (MR) has come on the same day of every month? MRs
never report on the same day of each month. MRs assigned to our and my
friends localities never appear on the same day. They are late by 7-8
days. Our water MR came on March 15, April 20, yet to come this month
(today is May 28). The CEB readers appearance is a little better but
monthly late by 3-4 days.
When questioned, they show a chart saying that it is compiled by
their Boards to compensate for the late arrivals - consumers are not
The Water Board's gazette notification No. 1588/26 dated February 13,
2009 giving water billing rates are still in force. According to this
the fixed monthly charges (MC) are based on monthly consumption of units
(in addition to metered usage). For 21-25U MC is Rs 100, for 26-30U Rs
200, for 31-40U it is Rs 400. If a consumers regular monthly consumption
for 30 days is around 22-25 units, MC will be Rs 100, but if the MR gets
delayed by six days and the units utilized goes up to say 31 units, then
he has to pay Rs 400 as MC. Four times more than what he has to pay if
the MR came on the regular date or one day late. Written complaints are
never replied. Even website feed back/complaints are only an eye wash.
They do not want to commit themselves by putting the method of
computation in writing.
The MRs are permanent employees of the Board. If other statutory
Board employees can report for duty on time on a daily basis, why are
these MRs allowed to take the law into their own hands - not reporting
for duty on the correct date? Even if they are contract employees duly
paid by the Boards they have to adhere to some basic regulations like
reporting daily for duty. Can they also be brought to work under govt
When steps are being taken to develop Colombo, the District Engineers
of the Colombo Municipal Council too have their responsibilities to
attend to repairs and shortcomings of the areas falling under them.
Though in some cases main roads are attended by way of such services,
most of the roads and sidewalks of several places have been totally
ignored. Roadsides and street corners are broken here and there, debris
mixed with mud and litter are permanently left in the open broken and
blocked drains are untouched, and this has been so for so many years.
Actually, all such places require the attention of the CMC and it is
very clear that District Engineers have never inspected them.
In many instances they entrust a piece of work or instruct their
workmen to attend to a service without supervising them at least a
couple of times, despite having been provided with an official vehicle.
That is why shoddy work is mostly done, and they require to be attended
again. Repairing or replacing broken pavements with concrete slabs is a
wastage of funds as it has no concrete at all. Patch work is another
As far as Pettah is concerned there are so many places which need a
little face lift. Of course, all the by-roads require carpeting and
repairing of the pavements.
Pettah businessmen pay big taxes but their door-steps are filled with
muddy water. People too cannot walk along roads in Pettah on rainy days.
One could see a few areas attended, and with those the relevant District
Engineer seems to be satisfied that his duty is done. Patch work is no
solution and if he visits the beginning and the end of Fifth Cross
Street, he will see the ‘swimming pools’ there. It seems that he has
never been through Prince Street and its by-roads. Further, it makes
people scorn the way it has been macadamized around the roundabout at
Sea Street, where one cannot cross the road due to the huge stagnation
of rain water. The Engineer concerned may be just driving his vehicle
over it, he is not wading in it.In the city of Colombo on main roads,
gullies are built metres away from one another along the edges of the
pavement for the rain water to seep through them.
But as the road reaching the edges of the pavements have been
constructed unevenly the rain waters stagnate between the gullies
creating a horrible situation to the pedestrians. People cannot board or
alight from buses as they have to step into the muddy waters.
Further, speeding vehicles splash muddy water on those waiting for
buses or walking along the pavements. Apart from all these they give an
ugly sight to the city.
These scenes could be seen on rainy days and for days following. This
has been going on for decades but it seems that the Colombo Municipal
Council has done nothing as far as this matter is concerned. No doubt
several Mayors and Commissioners would have noticed this, but no one
ever took any action to rectify the situation.
Of gullies, some are clear but others are clogged. Even if those
clogged ones are cleared, the water will be stagnant as the surface
between the gullies are not level. It is this that appears to be the
Being a victim getting my trousers splashed by muddy waters, I have
often cursed the relevant authorities at such times. However, in my
thinking, the solution is to cut a four inch drain against the edges of
the pavement between the gullies, so that the waters will pervade
through the drain straight to the unclogged gullies. Last but not the
least, I have read several letters in newspapers informing the CMC of
various shortcomings, advices and suggestions of preventing danger to
the life of pedestrians and other matters but unfortunately no action
has been taken to solve these issues. I believe that nobody is worried
in serving citizens and visitors to the city.
Why not the CMC provide the people with a four digital telephone
number like those of the Water Board, CEB and the Police to apprise it
of required services. The UDA should monitor the city if it is to have
its dream of making Colombo the ‘Best in Asia'.
Identifying an area and beautifying it, presently like Torrington and
Colpetty, spending billions of rupees will not make the citizens happy
unless their basic requirement are fulfilled. This requires ‘vigilance’
on the activity of the Municipality.