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Whither Metrication

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 measurement units.

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 survey plans.

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 internal battles.

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 broadcasts.

DR. G. M. S. DE SILVA - Moratuwa


Post-Geneva: reflections

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 and ignorance.

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


Quintessential diplomat now the Global Candidate

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 accurate.

Mahipala 'Mike' Udabage

(NY Herald Tribune 1958)

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