Saturday, 6 March 2004  
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Mihintalava - The Birthplace of Sri Lankan Buddhist Civilization

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A naive notion

At a time when the authorities are straining every nerve and sinew to conduct a trouble-free, credible poll, comes this preposterous proposition by the UNP that the election be conducted in the uncleared areas of the North-East too. This call should be regarded as a gauge of the desperation which has seized the party and of its naivete.

Fortunately, for the country, the Elections Commissioner wouldn't have any of it.

Although he has authorized cluster polling booths in cleared areas for the benefit of voters in the uncleared areas too, he has been judicious enough to shoot down the idea of polling booths in the uncleared areas, which, of course, could not be supervised by the authorities on account of Ceasefire Agreement conditionalities.

One such condition is that Sri Lankan security forces and law enforcers cannot enter uncleared areas. If this is so, who would be ensuring a free and fair poll in the uncleared areas if the decision is taken to open polling booths in these Tiger-controlled areas? It should be plain to see that the Election Commissioner's writ wouldn't be allowed to be extended to the uncleared areas by the LTTE. Consequently, it would be totally unrealistic to expect an effective, State-supervised poll in these areas.

If the proposition is gone ahead with, the election may well be tampered with by the Tigers, since they would be militarily dominant in the uncleared areas. Could the Tigers be allowed to hold the country to ransom?

Apparently, the UNP bigwigs are blinded by covetousness. Despite seeing one of their candidates brutally gunned-down by the LTTE in an area in the East, where the authority of the government is writ large, they entertain this naive expectation that the Tigers would stand passively by as the polling takes place.

So passive are they, that the UNP has not uttered one word of condemnation of the LTTE for killing a UNP candidate.

No scheme could be farther from reality. If a poll is held in the uncleared areas, the Tigers would brazenly tamper with it and twist it to their advantage, this is for sure.

So, there is no question of the poll being conducted in the uncleared areas, but every effort must be made by the authorities to ensure that voters of the North-East are not prevented from reaching the cluster booths to exercise their franchise. This is essential if the civic rights of this section of our people are to be upheld.


Jurassic lessons

In the film 'Jurassic Park', two small dinosaurs are about to devour Sam Neill and his gang. As they cower in fear, a gigantic T-Rex thunders in and smashes the little ones into pieces. Neill and others escape as the T-Rex lets out a deafening roar. A roar that has not been heard for 65 million years.

Millions of dinosaurs once roamed the Earth. Scientists regularly find fossilised remains of dinosaurs, who perished en masse. But what caused their extinction, which paved the way for the rise of mammals ? The popular theory is that a giant asteroid collided with the Earth, triggering a huge climatic change that wiped out the dinosaurs.

Biologists cite the 200 Km-wide Chicxulub crater in Mexico as a telltale sign of the asteroid impact that led to the disappearance of dinosaurs at the Cretaceous-Tertiary (K-T) boundary 65 million years ago.

New research has literally drilled a hole in this popular theory. An article in this week's issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, USA, disputes this claim, pointing out that a core drilled out of the crater's middle suggests it dates back more than 300,000 years before the K-T boundary.

This finding supports another hypothesis that the dinosaurs were wiped out in a series of disasters that changed the climate. There are other craters dating to this time and none is big enough to have caused world-altering changes by itself. Researchers believe that the asteroids hit during a period of volcanic activity as well as when greenhouse-type atmospheric warming occurred.

This is still relevant, as global warming caused by the excessive use of fossil fuels threatens to shift climatic patterns, which could eliminate hundreds of thousands of species in decades. The dinosaurs' extinction has given us an inkling of the consequences of global warming.

Another fear inspired by dinosaurs is the possibility of Earth colliding with a giant space object. Astronomers are always looking for celestial bodies that could collide with the Earth and have calculated the orbits of several asteroids that will come really close.

The death of dinosaurs enabled mammals, including humans, to climb the evolutionary ladder. Gaining an understanding of how they died will probably help us to survive.

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