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Citizens' Mail

Importance of rule of law

We want our society to be ruled by rule of law. We do not want our society be controlled by arbitrary decisions taken by a small group of men who happen to wield public and private power at any given point of time.

What is the concept of rule of law? The principle that all people and institutions are subject to and accountable to law that is fairly applied and enforced.

The government as well as private actors are accountable under the rule of law.

The laws should be clear, publicised and stable. Should apply evenly. Should protect fundamental rights.

The rule of law means that the law applies equally to everyone. No one is above rule of law.

Rule of law is important, because, it checks abuse of power by authorities. It empowers individuals with rights which cannot be easily taken away. It treats everyone equally without discrimination.

Rule of law should apply to all citizens, including government officials, law enforcement officers and judges.

The clearest way to show the rule of law means to us in everyday life is to recall what has happened when there is no rule of law.

Rule of law is the foundation for all our basic rights.

Without the rule of law, it is extremely difficult to control corruption.

We enjoy freedom and rule of law on which it depends, not because we deserve it, but because others before us put their lives to defend it.

Transparency and rule of law are touchstones of success of a country.

We cannot build foundation of a state without rule of law. A land without rule of law is like a land of wolves.

Sri Lanka faces many problems. Indiscipline. Corruption. Political instability. Debt crisis. Weak economy. The main reason for all this is that we do not respect the rule of law. It is the duty of President and Prime Minister to give top priority to rule of law.

D. Weeratunga
Nugegoda

 


Expedite local low-cost remedy for unprotected rail-crossings

We now witness more tragic accidents taking place (Veyangoda, Thudella, Jaela etc.) with unfortunate death tolls. Again, low cost ‘humps’ on either side of the crossing would have prevented these tragedies.

It is reported that the government project to install initially 200 railway gates with electric bell and light systems at a cost of USD 6.4 Mn. is being denounced by the Railway officials as an unsuccessful venture probably owing to their past experiences. At the current exchange rate, it works out to an astounding Rs.5.9 Mn. per gate with the total direct investment exceeding Rs.1,000 Mn!

Harking back to the past, it was reported on March 2, 2015 that the Railway dept. had installed 20 railway gates with electric alarm bells at a huge cost of Rs. 10 Mn per gate! Thereafter, the Transport Ministry had recommended a proposal by the Previous Govt.(Appearing in the media on May 18, 2014) to install 200 similar Rail gates with bell and light systems at a much lower figure of Rs. 4.15 Mn.(Still high in our view) in collaboration with the University of Moratuwa and a private firm.

The present move is clearly a resurrection of the latter proposal being considered at a higher exchange rate for the Dollar. We are at a loss to understand why such extravagant and ineffective technical solutions eating into our meagre forex reserves and billions of tax payers’ monies are recommended at a time when our deeply indebted country is afflicted with debt repayment and balance of payment problems?

In the wake of a series of tragic accidents at Railway gates, the writer proposed a low cost, viable alternative for rail-gates which was first published in both Sinhala and English press as far back as in the year 2013, followed by several reminders through the years 2014 to 2017.

As mentioned in my proposal, these electric rail-gates entail high maintenance costs. Further, they are prone to frequent breakdowns due to rainy weather, excessive heat etc. Besides, as proved in the Wanawasala, Batuwatte and Hideniya tragedies, electric bell and light systems have become ineffective due to exposure to elements. A valid comment by an eye witness at the Wanawasala tragedy sums up my point: “No one can rely on that bell. Sometimes when it rains heavily it rings continuously till someone fixes it. Vehicles with their shutters closed and the radios on, wouldn’t hear it on most occasions.” These tragedies repeatedly point to the fact that negligence of drivers over-rides high-cost technical solutions such as barrier gates and bell and light warning systems. Constructing overhead bridges for motor vehicles at rail crossings is another costly solution. No doubt, this danger can be curtailed by railway gates but certainly not at such enormous cost!

As a viable low-cost alternative to this high-cost rail gate systems, I suggested that concrete speed- breakers (Humps) be installed at a safe distance (5 to 7 metres) ahead of each crossing on both sides of the road. In order to adequately warn the vehicle drivers, a visible red coloured danger signal with appropriate lettering (Luminous) should be painted on the face of the Hump itself so that it would be clearly visible even during the night.

The gradual but forced slow-down or stoppage of the vehicles due to the presence of the speed breaker and ‘Hump’ will enable the motorists to clearly read and see the danger signal and exercise caution before crossing the railway track. It should be mentioned that Sri Lankan motorists are quite responsive to ‘speed breakers’ and ‘Humps’ and we have not come across any major accidents caused by them.

To make this preventive measure more effective I would suggest the following additional steps.

1) Lay about 50 metres of flat concrete strips as speed breakers ahead of each hump to progressively slow down for the oncoming ‘Hump’ They are already in use on some roads.

2) Clear the immediate vicinity of the railway crossings of trees and shrubs to improve the sight of an approaching train.

3) Instruct all Railway engine drivers by circular to toot the engine horns adequately to attract the attention of those passing the railway track at any railway crossing.

Though belated, the Railway Dept. started responding to my proposal and by May 2017 they were reported to have installed 111 ‘humps’. I have requested the Railway Dept. to update me with the present status of the ‘Humps’ for the benefit of the public. It is unfortunate that Hindeniya, Omanthai, Veyangoda and Thudella rail crossings were not protected by ‘Humps’ which surely would have averted these tragic accidents.

With so much money being spent on carpeted and concrete roads, why not the concerned authorities speed up the installation of these permanent, quick to construct, low-cost, maintenance-free, effective speed-breakers also referred to as ‘Sleeping Policemen’ at all possible crossings and prevent further unfortunate accidents and wastage of scarce foreign exchange?

Bernard Fernando
Moratuwa

 


A winning candidate from the UNP!

I very strongly welcome and sincerely appreciate Science and Technological Minister Sujeewa Senasinhe’s stance of not allowing any other candidate for the forthcoming Presidential election except from the United National Party. Because, the UNP is a renowned party, having ruled the country successfully for many years.

No supporter could allow the party’s devastation in the hands of other intruders. Because there are eminent UNP stalwarts to be contested for the next Presidential election in the party itself. Only matter is to choose the right and hopeful winning candidate, wanted by the people. It lies in the hands of the present UNP leader.

Z. A. M. Shukoor
Aranayaka

 


Sewerage water polluting the roadway

This is to bring to the attention of the Sewerage Department of the Municipal Council that during the last 2-3 weeks I have noticed sewerage water from the rear of Kotahena Sinhala Kanishta Vidyalaya flowing towards the Ayurvedic Dispensary - Armour Street. The patients visiting the Dispensary, the flat dwellers of Armour Street, the worshippers going to offer their prayers to the Masjid Al Munawwara Mosque and other passers-by are very badly inconvenienced as they have to tread on this dirty water on their way to the above places.

Over to the Mayoress for prompt action to stop the leakage of the sewerage immediately.

M. S. M. Shiraz
Colombo 12

 


Heedfulness, the only remedy

Appamado amatha padan, we have heard it enough.

How subtle that maxim is: “Act now and do not postpone!”. This should be our motto, with much depth. Who of us it cares for it until death comes to claim us all?

Then isn’t it too late to achieve or realise this maxim? When somebody is sick and ailing, the well-wishers wait until death to pay the last respect. We will rise from the seats out of courtesy to go and see the deceased.

However, our inner soul postpones our own day when others will have to pay the last respect. Until then, we rejoice when actually we should lament.

Why not act now?

E. N. Jayaratne
Muruthalawa

 


Different parties, one ideal!

According to news reports there appears to be objections as to the formation of United Nation Front (UNF) by some within the United National Party (UNP). Doesn’t both refer to the same? It means the same ideal.

The formation of the United National Party, at its inception, was to represent all nationalities – Sinhala, Tamil, Muslim, Malay, Burghers. Hence, is it necessary to form another political alliance called UNF, when the UNP means the same, grouping/uniting all minority races or nationalities.

G. D. Sirimal
Boralesgamuwa


 

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