SRI LANKA is supposed to have changed over to the metric system of
units around 1975. The planning of the change over was carried out by
the National Metrication Board, as part of the then Bureau of Ceylon
Standards (Present Sri Lanka Standards Institution).
The implementation of the change over was carried out by a newly set
up National Metric Conversion Authority.
The Chairman of this Authority was the Head of the Weights & Measures
Division of the Department of Internal Trade (Presently known as the
Measurement Units, Standards & Services Dept.).
However, this Authority did not carry out the conversion to its
completion. It allowed both the old imperial system of units and the
metric system to exist side by side for certain sectors of the economy.
The result is the confusion that prevails today in the use of
The weights and measures and units to be used in the country are
governed by an Act of Parliament namely the, Measurement Units,
Standards and Services Act No. 35 of 1995.
The legal units to be used for commercial transactions are given in
schedule 3 of this Act. These are only the units of the International
System of Units (the current metric system).
However one notices that both the electronic and print media using
illegal units frequently, namely the old Imperial units. For example,
the units, 'inch', 'mile', 'foot' and the 'acre' are being used in
television news broadcasts and newspaper articles.
The Irrigation Dept. is apparently using 'Acre-feet' to measure the
capacity of reservoirs. The law is heavily transgressed in land
transactions where an old Imperial unit known as the 'Perch' is commonly
used. The correct units to be used for land area measurements are the
square meter and the hectare (10,000 square metres).
The illegal units are even written in present day legal documents
such as land deeds. Also some licensed surveyors still use (after 31
years of metrication) Acres, Roods and Perches to indicate land area in
The Dept. primarily responsible for the implementation of the law,
namely the Measurement Units, Standards and Services Dept. (MUSSD) is
silent on these transgressions. It happily carries on fighting its own
Most schoolchildren and young adults must be finding it difficult to
comprehend these illegal units as they are no longer being taught at
school or in the university.
All the subjects taught in schools and universities use the metric
system. If these illegal units continue to be used by the older
generation, the metric change and the consequent advantages of the
metric system would never accrue to Sri Lanka.
India for example converted to the metric system as early as 1956 and
today no semblance of old Imperial units can be found in day-to-day
activities. One can understand this as older Sri Lankans (including
those who run television and newspaper offices) are still heavily
dependant on things British.
They cannot come out of their colonial yoke.
However, this does not mean that the younger generation should be
committed to this bondage and made to suffer.
It is high time that the MUSSD woke up and carried out its
responsibilities correctly. In addition the media should also educate
their staff to use correct measurement units in their publications and
DR. G. M. S. DE SILVA - Moratuwa
STRANGELY no newspaper has yet called for the common man's views on
the Geneva (CFA) talks. But people who, after all, put the leaders in
the seats of power though few leaders acknowledge the people's power
after they obtain all-powerfulness, will have their say even in their
arm chairs or Kopi Kades.
What struck me was the polarization of the two sides, Your, Our, We,
They. Not the Government but Your Government. Your Mahinda Chintanaya.
Our leader's vision.
So, where are we? In an already divided country.
And do not blame the CFA for it, the Agreement signed in 2002. Be
honest and go back to several years before political independence and
all these years after. To the re-writing of history. To the imposition
of one language on a country where 3 distinctly separate languages,
English, Sinhalese, Tamil were claimed as their mother tongue by the
people of a pluralistic society.
The position given to one religion above the others. The political
finger-poking into every aspect of life and times. The gut suspicions
and mistrust of the majority for the minorities.
The innumerable acts of sheer discrimination against the minorities
by the majority.
So, what have you? Them and Us, Your, Our, We and They. War and
violence and killings without number. The death of young men, refugees
suffering, displaced in the land of their birth. Torture chambers, hate
and suspicion infecting even little children, fear and terror, poverty
A people willfully kept poor and ignorant, so that their votes can be
bought by untruths and filthy lucre or so they say.
A Government dignitary brazenly emulating an ex-president's antics on
expense account and giving different answers, so it was reported, in
English and Sinhala. Gull the majority into a false euphoria and
threaten and intimidate the few who deal in Truth.
"What is truth"? said Jesting Pilate but did not wait for an answer.
The main pro-occupation of millions is how to find the next meal while
the leaders eat caviare and drink the finest wines.
So be it in a country seriously flawed and seemingly already divided.
A thousand pities in all one can say and more so when even reporters of
events are prejudiced and find it in their reportage to win kudos for
themselves from the rulers.
"Those who run may read". Some will respect the truth tellers who
risk their lives to bring the common people the facts. The obvious fact
is that Sri Lanka is a country no longer one and the Geneva Talks made
it all too evident. Now the future is in the lap of destiny.
MAUREEN MILHUISEN SENEVIRATNE - Colombo 5
I wish to make some brief comments on Lucien Rajakarunanayake's story
on The Quintessential diplomat now the Global Candidate (CDN 04/03).
Lucien says that in 1957 as a 19 year old youth from Ceylon, Jayantha
Dhanapala won an essay competition in the 'Herald Tribune'.
The topic according to Lucien's understanding were Jayantha's
expectations for his country. The topic for the NY Herald Tribune all
island essay competition during Jayantha's year (1957) and every other
year was 'The World We Want'.
Readers will note the significance and relevance of this topic to the
office Jayantha Dhanapala is seeking at the end of this year.
Lucien in his story also says that Jayantha Dhanapala went to
Washington in 1957 having won the 'Herald Tribune' and was taken to meet
President John F. Kennedy.
The President of the United States in 1957 was General Dwight D.
Eisenhower whom Jayantha met on his visit to the White House as a 19
year old. During this trip Jayantha also met Congressman John F.
Kennedy. These comments are made to keep these historical records
Mahipala 'Mike' Udabage
(NY Herald Tribune 1958)