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Easing traffic congestion

People living in this polluted unplanned collection of brick-built shacks with narrow pot-holed access roads lined with stinking garbage on either side, called Colombo and those who have to come into it should be grateful to Y. G. R. M. Lafir, the officer who is actually planning and executing traffic management in Colombo for what he has done so far.

It is gratifying to note that there is at least one officer who is intelligent and at the same time dedicated to his work. He has been at this for quite some time and now he is showing results may be that his present boss is not standing in his way. So we have to be grateful to his superior as well for doing what he is expected to do.

When I spoke to Mr. Lafir on the phone he told me that he welcomes any suggestions from the public. His fax number is 232 6006. In this connection I must point out that Mr. Lafir's moral and official duty is to contribute to the national economy by saving countless billions of rupees in wasted human resources.

To give just one example, the right turn to Station Road at Bambalapitiya was being made available for the convenience of the few privileged people living near Bambalapitiya to go to the Majestic Plaza at the expense of the Northbound traffic of the entire Southern Province.

A beautiful solution is available for the Kollupitiya junction if all the shacks on either side of the traffic lights are levelled to the ground and a layout made by the Moratuwa University with information being provided by Mr. Lafir. It should never ever be given to the Colombo Municipality or the RDA.

They are both totally incompetent. The crimes they have committed against the nation will fill an entire book.

We should not forget the fact that over 200 years ago Pettah was a market town located by the side of the harbour. The British laid out three bullock cart roads from Pettah, one to the East, one to the South and the other to the North to collect all the produce from the estates. That road system has not changed since then.

They are still the bullock cart roads of undefined width as stated in the Thoroughfares Ordinance of 1871, 146 years ago, the latest amendment to which was made in 1988. The RDA has not amended many hilarious clauses, one of which is clause number 38 (5) which states that whoever shall hang up or otherwise expose any mats, clothes, or other substances on or at the side of any road, in a manner calculated to terrify horses or endanger the passengers will be subject to a fine not exceeding fifty rupees.

Though the RDA says that they have four classes of roads namely A, B, C and D they are all officially bullock cart roads of undefined width that are widened ad hoc here and there. They cannot produce a drawing defining for an A class road let alone a B or a C or D class road. They cannot, because they have not understood what they have defined.

Mr. Lafir has sorted out one section of Galle Road from Bambalapitiya to Kollupitiya and from Thunmulla junction to the Town Hall but not beyond. As I see it the only solution to this will be to make Union Place traffic one way from Lipton Circus to Kompannavidiya and find another one way for return traffic.

If Ward Place traffic is made one way from Borella to Lipton Circus, there could be some easing of congestion on Maradana Road. It is easy for me or for anybody to give ideas but the hard part of it is that Mr. Lafir will have to test their feasibility.

In this connection, the Moratuwa University could be very usefully employed to assist. Mr. Lafir needs such help and he deserves that help. The expense involved will be fully worth it. They have vast human resources in terms of students guided by a professor.

Every time one move is made, it will give rise to problems somewhere else but I have confidence in Mr. Lafir that he will sort the traffic congestion in the city, the vast bulk of which winds up in the 'Mecca' of Pettah which should have been located in Greater Colombo with proper access roads outside the commercial traffic areas. Pettah traffic is not commercial traffic. It is parasitic traffic that should be eliminated in the interests of the national economy.

Just fifty years ago the High Level Road was a country road and Nawala Road was a country lane. If the RDA had over fifty years ago laid down the building line along these original bullock cart roads beyond which no new buildings can be built today we could have had a six lane dual carriageway (not a motorway which would be very expensive) to Homagama and beyond initially starting with four and adding another two from the central median later.

Today the entire stretch from Colombo to Hambantota and from Colombo to Homagama is a ribbon development bearing the stamp and seal of the RDA.

Mr. Lafir has access to information to verify that the so-called Marine Drive was a four lane road. What did the RDA do? It built a two lane bridge at Wellawatta for this four lane road. Only the RDA could make such a performance. Fantastic, but that has resulted in the loss of billions of rupees of wasted time in human resources year after year on account of this bridge alone.

The excess lane will now be taken over by squatters and the Municipality would give them assessment numbers and that could be one of their vote banks. Just one more thing that the RDA did is the new road from Moratuwa to Panadura.

They did not provide the building line and neither did they provide even a shoulder and side walks. Squatters built right up to the carriageway and the country had to spend colossal amounts of money to make it at least partially usable. It would be useful for Mr. Lafir to keep all this in mind when performing his duty to the nation.

L. JAYASOORIYA,
via email

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Thank you Dr. Anthonis

I am so much indebted to Dr. P. R. Anthonis for his great service to medicine. (Reference DN Jan. 20). I still remember in 1952 when I was suffering from appendicitis, he immediately operated on me when my father who is a doctor himself took me to Colombo.

I was at a boarding school in Negombo then my father was in a rural hospital in Matale. After many days of high fever my father was informed about it then he came immediately and found out the reason from Negombo hospital. That time he had to hire the ambulance to go to Colombo because it was not recommended by the hospital. I was barely conscious and physically absolutely weak.

My father said Dr. Anthonis examined me then said I had to be operated immediately because it could burst if left even a day. I am so grateful for his precision decision to save a child. Soon after the operation I had phenomena, another complication on top of the operation.

I remember this great person for another reason. My father himself had a serious operation under his genius techniques. My father had an ulcer on the back that covered up to the shoulders and more half way down the back. I was just nine or less when he was working at Watupitiwala Hospital. When it healed I saw the scar, it couldn't be covered with a plate.

The backbone could be seen here and there. He had to lie down for months face down. I must say that must have been a major operation.

That must be the reason my father had so much faith in this great man as he saved his life. This is the first time I am writing to show my gratitude to this great surgeon. These are living gods, worthy of worship. We as Buddhists have a history of gratitude that was the first lesson taught by the Buddha when he attained Buddhahood. He paid his respect for the tree, which gave shelter while he was struggling to become the Buddha.

He let down the opportunity to take up a job in UK and returned to his mother country to serve the fellow citizens. I am sure the whole nation appreciates the services rendered by Dr. P. R. Anthonis. Many happy returns on his 96th Birthday.

DR. HECTOR PERERA,
via email

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Pensions Department not so bad

There have been recently some adverse references in the press on the hassles pensioners go through to comply with cumbersome procedures.

My own personal experience last week shows that there is also a brighter side to the picture which should not remain unsung.

I happened to visit the office of Mr. Thilakaratne, Director of Pensions recently to sort out an anomaly in my pension which had remained unresolved for a long time. I was ushered into his waiting room which itself exudes a very pleasant atmosphere - refurbished, air conditioned with very comfortable seating accommodation for the pensioners. In such a surrounding, waiting is not a drudgery but a pleasant interlude.

The Director sat at one end of the spacious room interviewing the pensioners. Most of the pensioners, who came to meet him, were old, feeble and poor. I watched him extending the same courtesies and consideration to everyone of them, as he listened to their woes.

The most striking feature was the transparent and quick decision making process he adopted as he strove to solve the pensioners' problems.

He did not follow the normal Government bureaucratic procedures by calling for reports from various sources. He did not ask the pensioner to meet him again on another day.

He made on the spot decisions after consulting over the phone where necessary, the relevant officials in other departments.

When my turn came, he studied my representation, discussed the case with his Chief Accountant and another official and issued a letter on the spot addressed to the District Secretariat, correcting the anomaly. All this process did not take him more than 10 minutes.

It is indeed refreshing that we have a public servant of this calibre who reaches out to serve the pensioners in the midst of his enormous workload arising from administering the payments of nearly 500,000 pensioners.

T. Sambasivam,
Colombo 4

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