Wednesday, 21 January 2004  
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Instant rewards a must

The action taken by the Army Commander in promoting the soldier who overpowered and apprehended the armed man who shot and killed Dhammika Amerasinghe is very good.

However it must be mentioned that promoting this gallant soldier to the next higher rank is not at all sufficient. This soldier was brave enough to rush and overpower the assailant even though it was not a duty assigned to him.

It is well known that soldiers and even senior officers of the Army who deserted their posts and were virtually on the run retreating when killed by the enemy have been promoted posthumously to the next higher rank.

Therefore I suggest that a cash reward of at least Rs. 100,000 plus a double promotion to this brave soldier will spur other civic minded citizens as well as those in the armed services to act in the greater interest of the country.

TILAK FERNANDO, 
Colombo 6

Intolerable arrogance - reply

This has reference to the letter contributed by 'XDRO' and published in DN Jan. 6 under the heading 'Intolerable arrogance'.

Former President Jayewardene had his faults as most other politicians also had. However, it is most uncharitable to have referred to the late leader as 'old fox'. It is not our culture to refer to the dead in degrading terms. The use of that term, no doubt, is a sign of cultural degeneration.

President Jayewardene, then as Minister of State, appointed Mr. Ananda Tissa de Alwis, a colleague in politics, as the Secretary of his Ministry. However politicisation of the public service officially started with the 1972 Constitution, which brought appointments, promotions and transfers of public servants under the Cabinet of Ministers - effectively under different Ministers. That was when Mrs. Sirimavo Bandaranaike was the Prime Minister. Thereafter bureaucrats started changing their ties from time to time to play sucker to the politicians.

The 1978 Constitution introduced during the tenure of office of President Jayewardene was passed in Parliament with those in the opposition not opposing.

There were no protests or rallies against the Constitution and the public accepted it without dissent. Hence, it is wrong to say that it was foisted on us. Despite its shortcomings the present day politicians seem to relish the 1978 Constitution in practical terms though they condemn it theoretically.

UPALI S. JAYASEKERA, 
Colombo 4

Forced Conversions by the Portuguese

Goebbels said that a lie often repeated becomes accepted as the truth. So it is with regard to the view that the Portuguese made conversions to Christianity by force.

But what are the facts? To learn about history we have to go to historians. T. K. Abeysinghe wrote a book on the history of the Portuguese period titled Portuguese Rule in Ceylon published in 1965. He has a separate chapter on Missionary Activity. He states that missionary activity in Ceylon began with the arrival of the Franciscans in response to the invitation by the king of Kotte Bhuvanaka Bahu VII. The official policy with regard to conversions was as stated in an official document of the Church it is not licit to bring anyone over to our faith and baptism by force with threats and terrorism.

On page 209 of his book he specifically addressed this issue of forced conversions. Here is what he says: These facts should enable us to resolve the vexed question whether conversions in Ceylon were effected by force or at the point of the sword. At the outset, it may be stated quite categorically that there is no evidence that conversion by force or at the point of the sword was attempted. The policy laid down in the council at Goa was adhered to.

Of course, all conversions were not genuine and with the tide of war the number of converts rose and fell as explained by Abeysinghe. He refers to the criticism of the Portuguese historian Queyroz that the Sinhalese make religion a matter of convenience. This was particularly applicable to the refugees who fled war and battle and moved under the Portuguese. But all were not political converts. He explains the attraction of Christianity to the fishing caste (who were the largest number of converts) as follows.

A community whose occupation involved the violation of the first precept of Buddhism and the fishing classes would be beyond the pale of traditional society. But in Christianity they found acceptance. Hence the appeal of Christianity to those whom the old society for religious and cultural reasons was not willing to accommodate within its fold.

The Portuguese were involved in continual war with the Sinhalese kings and then as even now it was considered that all is fair in love and war. The combatants destroyed what was considered sacred to the enemy. So the Portuguese destroyed temples and the Sinhalese destroyed churches and killed missionaries, just as the LTTE attacked the Dalada Maligawa and the Sacred Bodhiya in Anuradhapura and the Government troops bombed churches and kovils in Jaffna.

After the revolt of 1603, priests were killed and churches destroyed by the Sinhalese. Here's what Abeysinghe says; The Catholic priest and the church became the first target of rebels or enemies such as Edirille Bandara, Kanganaarachchi or Nikapitiye Bandara.

Many converts reverted to their old faith after the territories were captured by the rebels.

Abeysinghe refers to documents of the missionaries which refer to converts were living in the manner of the gentiles that is to say they had virtually gone back to the older faith. So what Citizen D asserts that once a convert by force will continue to be a convert is not correct.

The converts really became established in their faith only after the departure of the Portuguese and during the Dutch occupation when the Catholics were persecuted. This point too was made by Abeysinghe. He says if they (the converts) had all embraced the new faith from motives other than those of sincere conviction, there is no explanation for their loyalty to Catholicism during the years of the Dutch persecution. So, if the Christians continue to hold to their faith, it is not because of force or material inducement as stated by critics.

R. M. B. SENANAYAKE, 
via email

Govt. employees' strikes

I read with interest the letters by Karunaweera and Ratnayake (DN 08/01) on the above subject, and totally agree that these strikers are a "heartless tribe". It is also true that Govt. authorities are also to blame for this menace. Worse confounded, except for 2 or 3 institutions, the service dished out to the general public. To go into detail would be an absolute waste of time because we have not got the right people at their jobs.

The big question is DO government employees have a right to strike?

In answer I would like to quote an Indian Supreme Court Case verdict recorded in the India Post of Aug. 15, 2003, in its India News column consequent to a strike by 200,000 (Two hundred thousand) Tamil Nadu government employees.

".........In a major judgement to rid the society of the menace of strikes the Supreme Court ruled that government employees have no fundamental, legal, moral or equitable right to go on strike and hold the state machinery and citizens to ransom.

Trade Unions though have a guaranteed right for collective bargaining on behalf of the employees but that too have no right to go on strike.

No political party or organisation can claim a right to paralyse the economic and industrial activities of a state or the nation or inconvenience the citizens.

Government employees cannot claim that they can hold the society to ransom by going on strike to ventilate their grievances. As it results in total chaos and misadministration.

There were long queues of eligible persons aspiring to take up jobs and there cannot be strikes in these organisations on any grounds......." unquote.

The weakness of the authorities is shown by their submission to such threats. It is regretted to note that one particular Trade Union enjoys full pay while on strike, and these are public funds!

Would any authority or trade union care to comment?

MELVILLE ELANGAGE, 
Kotte

Wealth creation - who is against it?

I refer to Dr. Mahinda Silva's purported criticism of an article written by me titled "Wealth Creation as National Policy". My article published on Dec. 9.

The purpose of my article was to point out that by adopting policies that encourage wealth creation the nation ultimately stands to gain. Nations that have created wealth can afford to provide their citizens a superior lifestyle. Surely, general impoverishment is not in anybody's interest. These are obvious propositions and need not be debated.

Various countries, like individuals, have created wealth in different ways. Dr Silva who counts many years in Western countries can perhaps enlighten some of us on methods of creating wealth. I am glad that he took the time to give us a glimpse into his thinking on the subjects of history and wealth creation in his critique, which was published in DN on Jan. 6. It is for the reader to decide whether there is any validity in his arguments.

But I wish he had read my article of Dec. 9 a little more closely before he put pen to paper. I do not think that his interpretation of certain aspects of my article is fair. For example, I did not say that to create wealth one must find oil or invent electricity. If that were the case Nigeria which is a big oil producer would be a rich nation.

We already have electricity. It will be obvious to any unbiased reader of my article that Dr. Silva has unfortunately missed the point. I cannot however agree with some of the arguments that the good doctor is advancing in his article.

He says that universal franchise makes our politicians beholden to the "uneducated and irresponsible masses". And he further states that in the 1970s the government was forced to impose restrictions on consumer goods, which made it unpopular with the "pampered masses".

I do not think that the people of this country are uneducated and irresponsible. On the contrary, it is their intelligent use of the inalienable right to the franchise that has advanced this country. Countries without democracy are generally much poorer than democracies.

It is an arrogant insult to the people of this country to label them as uneducated and irresponsible.

As to the denial of so-called consumer items in the 1970s by edict, this was the time when many Sri Lankans lost hope and began to look for greener pastures in the Western countries. Dr. Silva should perhaps talk to some of them.

Ravi Perera, 
Colombo

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