Wednesday, 14 January 2004  
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Mihintalava - The Birthplace of Sri Lankan Buddhist Civilization

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Abuse of children

The word abuse is used very superficially when it comes to children we assume either sexually abusing them or physically harming them only to be real abuse. Rather teaching them false values, sheatingon their childhood, using them for ads with bad manners all are abuse indeed.

Our society seems to be abusing our future generation systematically in many other ways. Watch the TV ads teach them all wrong values.

A child hiding things from the teachers, another breaking all the rules laid by the mother trusting just one kind of concoction to protect her from all ill effects of cold, cough, phenomena and what not; another, inviting loads of friends for drinking and dancing as soon as the parents back is turned and hide the fact when they return.

We teach them to spend by not only giving so much of importance to consumerism but also encouraging them to use credit cards at tender ages.

We, the elders are telling the children of today, that it is okay to cheat, lie and steal. Some unscrupulous morons without principal makes up these ads and all responsible, right-thinking adults just let them pass by.

What we are doing is to give wrong signals to our youth and desensitize them to all what is wrong. Lets clean up our acts and allow only what is good-nothing but the good - to prevail.


Violence in children's teledramas

It was a scene from the children's teledrama telecast at 7.00 p.m. on Dec. 26. A band of teenagers portraying 'Little Adventurerers' accosts an old caretaker and a bitter argument ensures.

The young brats insult the old man in very abusive language and without stopping at that, stoning the man injuring him on the forehead.

It was shocking and disgusting episode to watch an old man being manhandled by these 'heroes' who wanted to show off their machismo.

Didn't the producers of this film have the forethought to avoid depicting such violent acts that may corrupt and poison young minds and incite them to emulate their so-called adventurs in real life and commit misdeeds?

Isn't it the responsibility of the television stations to censor these films for their suitability before screening?

The children's programmes shouldn't be telecast only for entertainment; they should be carriers of knowledge and good moral values as well.


Lighter side of S.W.R.D.

"Today he is here as the Minister of Local Government and Health. Very soon he will be back here as the Prime Minister of Ceylon"; so said my uncle principal C.C. Raja at a function where he presided.

That was more than half a century ago when S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike came to Jaffna officially as the Minister of Local Government and Health. As a teenage student, I had the privilege of standing close to S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike when he addressed the gathering.

True to my uncle's prediction he became the Prime Minister of Ceylon;. But he never came back to this part of our country. He was assassinated by his own people before he could come as the Prime Minister.

Had the Bandaranaike-Chelvanayakam (B.C.) pact been allowed to materialise Prime Minister S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike would have received a very warm welcome here in Jaffna and there wouldn't have been the necessity for a Prabhakaran to fight for the cause of Tamils.

Since there are some on both sides of the divide who are anathema to Bandaranaike's name, I shall confine myself to the late Prime Minister's readywit and sense of humour, which I share with my friends quite often.

Once during the time of Prime Minister Bandaranike, the Member for Vavuniya C. Suntharalingam was holding the floor.

Seeing the Premier inattentive and biting his fingernails the member for Vavuniya got annoyed and remarked "I would like the Prime Minister Solomon West Ridgeway Dias Bandaranaike to listen to my speech instead of biting his fingernails".

Gently rising to his feet the Premier declared "I have no objection to the Member for Vavuniya biting any part of his anatomy".

At another occasion a newly elected member was taken to Premier Bandaranaike by a senior member to advise him to accept a marriage proposal. "Sir this young man doesn't want to accept this good proposal because she is Kundasale educated and wears jeans".

Calling the young MP close to him and looking up, he said "What is there in the dress, you must visualize her without the jeans" adding hurriedly "I mean in the dress you would like her to wear".

That was Bandaranaike.

Colombo 6.

Innovation and self reliance - Kulasinghe felicitation

There have been some inadvertent mistakes / ommisions in the above article published in DN Jan. 01. These will be corrected in toto if the following is added to the article replacing the paragraphs beginning as given.

To make this point clearer two examples may be given, one from the earliest days of the open economy, and the other from this week's TV news. In 1978, design and construction of the Maduru oya earth dam had been awarded to the Central Engineering Consultancy Bureau (CECB) and the River Valleys Development Board, (RVDB), respectively.

Sri Lankan people have been building earth dams from pre-Christian times to the present day. The total estimated cost for the CECB design for the Maduru oya earth dam was Rs 640 million.

Work had already started on the most important foundation preparation work by the RVDB, successor to the Gal Oya Development Board, (GODB) - fondly known as the Good Old Dam Builders - when it was announced that the dam would be built under Canadian aid!

Thereafter, a new design was prepared by foreign consultants for a rock-fill dam to be built by foreign contractors, at an estimated cost of Rs 2600 million, of which the local component alone, to be met by Sri Lanka, was 25 per cent or Rs 650 million!

Of course apologists have said that the actual local cost was less than the nominal book cost of Rs 650 million, and that the foreign cost included generous grants and deferred payments.

But, who knows the actual nature of these aid projects? Certainly not the man in the street. And, was there a valid reason to take the project from a competent local agency and give it to a foreign so-called aid program, when the foundation work was already nearing completion?

The second example is the dredger purchased by the Port Authority of Sri Lanka as announced on Christmas day 2003, costing Rs 473 million.

Ms. Moonesinghe and others should refer Chapter 3 by the late engineer S. M. B. Dolapihilla, in the Kulasinghe Felicitation volume Innovation and Self Reliance, to learn how a dredger was imported in the 1950s in completely knocked down or CKD condition, and assembled by the Colombo Port Commission department.

Later, dredgers were designed and built in the 1960s, by the State Engineering Corporation, as described in Chapter 10 by engineer R. M. De Silva, both these projects under A. N. S. Kulasinghe.

In fact the degree of innovation was such that a hydro-kinetic drive invented by Kulasinghe was installed in the SEC dredgers, said to be one of the first such innovations anywhere in the world!

Later, in the mid 1970s, the Colombo Dockyard Corporation was set up under A. Ragunathan, another of the Port Commission's able mechanical engineers, which carried on the good work without any need for foreign funded projects.

Ragunathan later emigrated to England where he continued his work in one of the leading ship-building firms in the world. One wonders what has happened in the Corporation he helped to set up, since his departure?

The general readership should be informed of the extent to which local engineers have been demoralised by the influx of foreign consultants and contractors, who undertake projects at inflated prices, under the ubiquitous credit lines.

This is often discussed in the Newsletter of the Institution of Engineers, Sri Lanka, and in the Newsletter of the Peradeniya Engineering Faculty Alumny Association (PEFAA), in articles by eminent local engineers like M. Chandrasena, S. de S. Wijesundera, Parakrama Jayasinghe, and M. K. Chandrasekera, among others.

It is feared that if this goes on unchecked, local engineers in the not too distant future will be competent only to prepare bankable proposals for foreign credit lines, thereby leading Sri Lanka deeper into the globalisation Debt Trap. O tempora! O mores!

In conclusion, I am sure that many engineers would join me in appealing to Ms Moonesinghe to lend her support to help us in fighting this situation and Regaining Sri Lanka in the truest sense by restoring the spirit of innovation and self reliance, whatever the odds.


Postal fraud - a clarification

A Masilamany writing (DN Dec. 10) under the heading 'Postal fraud' has lamented over the non-receipt of postal orders sent to him from UK and delay in receiving a reply to his complaints forwarded to the Postmaster General and Controller (Investigations).

The final reply or action over complaints of loss of foreign letters, bank drafts etc. will take some time as inquiries have to begin from the posting end. Nevertheless the acknowledgement of the complaint or informing the position in regard to the inquiries conducted is a must and should not be delayed.

Though the correct procedure is to first acknowledge receipt of a letter as the first step, that is rarely followed in the public service from the Ministries downwards. That no doubt is a clear sign of the plummeting standards in the public service. Mr. Masilamany may perhaps be the victim of that malaise.

The corporatisation/privatisation move handing fire for the last ten years or more has resulted in the postal services being allowed to be run down. For purposes of reducing staff, vacancies have not been filled and due promotions have not been granted. Out of a required cadre of 62 Investigating Inspectors of Post Offices only 12 are functioning to cover the whole island.

Is it therefore natural that inquiries into public complaints are delayed and investigations being slip-shod as the 12 officers are over-loaded with work. The Controller (Investigations) is working part-time in the post as he has to cover the work of the Controller (Money Order Services) as well.

Isn't it natural that work should suffer? That is the scenario in all branches of the Department. The Controller (Postal Operations) is in addition covering the duties of the Director (Philatelic Bureau), the Senior Administrative Secretary has also to work as the Regional Administrative Officer (Colombo Central).

The Deputy Postmaster General (Operations) covers up the duties of the Deputy Postmaster General (Western Province), the Assistant Superintendent (Investigations) works as the Personal Assistant to the PMG in addition, the Assistant Superintendent (Liaison) is also working the Co-ordinating Officer (National Savings Bank).

The different offices are housed in buildings situated far and apart resulting in the officers having to shunt from one building to another. Out of 48 Main Post Offices only 6 have Chief Postmasters and 42 offices are managed by junior officers, a large number of post offices have been placed in charge of those who have not passed the qualifying examination to be in charge of post offices.

Most of senior officers are acting or covering the duties of the posts without being paid. Can the officers, in those circumstances, have any satisfaction in the work they do or put their best foot forward?

My appeal to Mr. Masilamany is to bear with such losses or delays until the situation is improved if and when it is decided to do so.

Colombo 4.

Pensioners climb

When I visited the Dehiwela Divisional Secretariat to find out if I had to call over there personally to collect my pension voucher from January 2004, I was directed to a lady who informed me that the old procedure of sending the vouchers by post still prevails.

She was a very understanding officer and her sympathies were with the old pensioners.

She made it quite clear to me that how could one expect these elderly people to stand in a queue, and then walk up the stairs to collect their vouchers when most of them are in the evening of their lives.

Whoever was responsible for the issue of this obnoxious circular appears to have lost his or her sense of reasoning.

When most of the old pensioners' long standing grievous issues have been swept under the carpet this move by the Pensions Department only adds insult to injury thanks.


Murali's new delivery

It seems that the arm action of new delivery of Muttiah Muralitharan is creating doubts among cricket writers and commentators all over the world.

However, the specialist test batsmen who faced Murali, declared that they still found it difficult to judge or differentiate the type of ball coming from Murali's arm especially when the ball turns the other way.

I think the best judges are the batsmen in the middle and not the other pundits. Therefore, my question is how these writers and other critics can say Murali's new ball arm action is illegal.

Mt. Lavinia.

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