Thursday, 18 December 2003  
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Committee stage - Power and energy votes

"Despite the fact that the UNF Government was against the Norochcholai coal power plant, the Bishop gave the blessings to carry out the project. But now we have decided to build it elsewhere, he pointed out" (Quoted from the speech made by Power and Energy Minister, Karu Jayasuriya).

It is very strange that the Minister should have made the above statement at the Committee Stage of the Budget, when as we all know - the public - that the Minister himself encouraged the CEB to hold seminars, TV shows and discussions to educate the masses to undertake the coal power project at Norochcholai.

Not only did he encourage the CEB, he was the chief guest at a well attended seminar organised by the Sri Lanka Institute of Engineers, where it was unanimously decided that this project should be undertaken.

What is more, the energy advisor to the Government, Dr. Mohan Munasinghe addressed several seminars and workshops supporting the project. It is also well-known that the Minister and his officials called on the Bishop several times, as reported in the daily papers, to get his blessings.

For the Minister now to say "despite the fact that UNF Government was against the Norochcholai coal plant" not only makes the CEB engineers frustrated and let down but also the entire engineering fraternity - The Sri Lanka Institute of Engineers, which took great interest, not to forget the strong editorials specially in the Island, voicing the wishes of the people. Is this the manner in which the government calls upon professionals to help the government 'to kick start the economy' as one important Minister said at a seminar.

To add insult to injury, the minister says "but now we have decided to 'built it elsewhere'." Could he not have informed the CEB that the Norochcholai project should not be undertaken and avoided unnecessary seminars, TV discussions waste of time, energy and funds, to educate the masses?

The most unkindest is that he gives no reason for abandoning this project, though the Bishop of Chilaw has now given his consent, which he objected at the beginning. What could be inferred is that the Minister has only safe-guarded the Bishop who was harshly criticized for his unreasonable objection, even within his Church. This project was mooted at a very unfortunate or inauspicious time when the Provincial Council and general elections were to be held, when the Bishop elicited a promise from both political parties not to undertake this project. Is it the same situation surfacing with the rumour of a general election in the offing?

I believe, this letter will ease the frustration, sense of being let down by all those - advisors, consultants both foreign and local, CEB engineers, Sri Lanka Institute of Engineers and ordinary electricity consumers.

G. A. D. SIRIMAL, Boralesgamuwa

Change of election system

The present parliament elections conducted under preferential voting system is being highly criticized by the people and it is understood that a committee has been set up to review the existing system and to make recommendation for a better system.

People see under mentioned weaknesses in the present system.

1. Entire district is considered as single electorate and present system results in non representation of an MP for certain electorates and several MPs for a single electorate. Therefore, the development work of electorates without MPs might get neglected.

2. Candidates have to concentrate on securing votes from the entire district and therefore they compel to spend heavily on election campaigns and adopting cut throat methods even within the party.

3. Inability to file an election petition when a candidate won by violating the election rules.

4. Inability of the ruling party to test the public feeling over the Government through an interim election, time to time.

To overcome the above weaknesses I would like to suggest holding the parliament election by adopting a mix system of the present and the previous "first past the post" systems along with an introductory elimination process.

1. Number of seats won by each party including bonus seat for an Electoral District to be decided according to the present system depending on the total number polled by an each party,

2. Percentage of the votes received by each candidate (of the candidates of the parties which secure at least a seat from the district) against the valid number of polls of the respective electorate to be computed and prepare the list of candidates on merit, party-wise, accordingly.

3. At the first round, elect the candidates (excluding bonus seat) from the leading party who secure best percentages and appoint them as MPs for the respective electorates. The candidates from other parties of the aforesaid electorates to be eliminated from the candidate list of the respective party and will not be considered for further selection.

4. Then elect the candidates of the second winning party from the balance candidate those who were not eliminated at the first round according to the highest percentage secured and appoint them as the MPs for respective electorates. The candidates from the other parties of the respective electorates to be eliminated from the respective party list and will not be considered for further selection.

5. Similarly, the winners of the other parties could be appointed adopting the system of percentage and elimination process from the candidates not eliminated from the previous rounds.

6. Bonus seat will be allocated to the best looser (who lost with a least margin as a percentage) from the winning party and the respective electorate will be honoured with two MPs.

The above system will enable the voters to have their own MP from the electorate. No preferential voting and therefore voters can vote for their most preferred party/candidate. They can file election petitions against the MPs who won by violating election rules.

It is very easy to recount the votes when disputed. MPs could start concentrating over the development of their electorates and losing candidates could review the reasons for loss and overcome their weaknesses.

S. Mahendre, Ja-ela

Trinity gets new principal

Let's be honest with ourselves and not call a spade a garden implement.

The Board of Governors of Trinity College, Kandy deliberated and made a unanimous choice from three contenders, a Sinhalese, a Tamil and an Englishman to be the seventeenth principal of the school in its long history of 132 years as one of the best schools in the country.

A few dissident voices complain against the selection. Are they not exposing their craftily concealed agenda? Re-phrased, do they have their own candidate? Do they prefer the Sinhalese or the Tamil? Will there not be a spate of protests from either camp if a choice is made between the two Bhoomiputras?

Even though the incumbent principal, Professor W. R. Breckenridge took office with more goodwill from old boys, parents and students than even the legendary Rev. A. G. Fraser who came to College, "found it brick and left it marble," nevertheless there were a few dissenting elements. A foreigner as the principal of Trinity College assumes office without any hang-ups. He has no bias on race, caste or creed. He will be the CEO, delegating authority to competent lieutenants of whom there is a plethora in both the academic and the administrative fields.

Mr. Rod Gilbert will adorn with dignity the office of the Principal of Trinity College, Kandy much in the manner of illustrious men who "tanned the hide of us" - Rev. Collins, Rev. Garret, Rev. Hodges, Rev. Perry, Rev. Napier-Clavering, Rev. Ryde, Rev. A. G. Fraser, Rev. McLeod Campbell, Rev. R. W. Stopford and Norman Walter, his fellow Englishmen all of them who would have earned in abundance had they not been smitten by the love to spread knowledge with a missionary zeal.

The present principal has kept the College on an even keel. The new principal will not be faced with the back-biting, sectarianism that is rampant in today's Trinity Society which is a mafia of a kind. These "concerned" old boys who send unsigned Kelapaththaras don't even send their sons to Trinity unless, of course, they reside in the Kandyan reservoir.

The principalship is like a relay. It is his turn to run the lap. He may hand over the baton or he may not to a Bhoomiputra, depending on the issues at stake at the time.

The vast majority of right-thinking, loyal Trinitians are not parochial in their views and are without hidden agendas and will wish Mr. Rod Gilbert the best of British luck as he will not be shackled by the trials and the tribulations that the incumbent principal had to face.

The bottom line is that the highest authority where Trinity College is concerned has made a choice and it is for everyone to accept the decision and comply.

SHARM DE ALWIS, Kiribathgoda

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