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Sri Lankan ethnicity

I read with interest the article titled ‘The evolution of an ethnic identity’ (Reference DN March 8) by Tissa Jayatilleka, good friend of mine from the Peradeniya days. I was also a student of Prof. Indrapala.

As an Australian citizen born in Sri Lanka, I am deeply saddened to see the chasm that has developed between the Tamils and the Sinhalese.

I feel at the early stages of this new millennium, it is time we move from narrow constructs of national identity derived from ethnicity alone.

It is time we understand that the Sri Lankan identity need not be a unitary one - we are all layered identities and every aspect of who I am enriches me in different ways - I am a Sri Lankan, Tamil, Hindu, Australian woman who is an educator, who loves music and dancing the list can go on.

From Prof. Indrapala’s and Tissa’s arguments, it is clear that it is time we build a bridge between people based on things that unite us, our commonalities rather than dwell on obvious differences such as ethnicity.

Ethnicity has never stood in the way of forming close relationships with the people in my life. my many friends from Sri Lanka have so many things in common though some may be Sinhalese and some may be Tamils.

May be we should focus on how to help build bridges and not on digging deep trenches between communities.


Development of tourism in Sri Lanka

I agree that some money is needed to be spent on advertising tourism in Sri Lanka. That part of the strategy is pretty good. (DN Jan. 27).

However, the most important part of tourism is to look at the ground situation in the country. This is where most of the improvement should come in on the basis of a strategic plan.

We have been talking about importance of tourism over the last so many decades but we have not been able to attract even one million tourists a year.

If we want more tourists to come we need to improve our standards. This does not mean that more and more of five star hotel chains to be built but lots of other things.

Of them, we got to be able to implement law and order in regard to traffic management and general law and order, assurance of security at all times at the bus interchanges, railway stations, parks, religious places, historic sites and other leisure sites including the beach and lagoons etc.

Another important aspect is to seriously look at the hygienic standards of hotels and restaurants. It is sad to mention most of the people working in many restaurants have had no training whatsoever on hygienic standards.

Last year when I was visiting Sri Lanka I walked into a well known restaurant in a major city and I was about to be served a Chinese roll by the bare hands of the waiter? I shouted at him and walked away from that restaurant having complained to the manager!

Very little attention is paid to the maintaining and cleanliness of the toilets in most of the restaurants, including those in the capital city (my first hand experience). You need to have some standards for these important utilities.

Look at the situation in regard to the modes of transportation. Most of them are operating with severe overloads. In the buses and trains there is absolutely no room for getting in or getting off.

There appears to be no rules and regulations to control the carrying capacities of the various vehicle types.

Of course, some argue that the tourist would not use the public transportation systems and therefore who cares!

No, that is not acceptable as the average tourist would like to maximize returns to his/her expenditure in a foreign land! Talking about transportation, just look at the attention given to the vehicle parking areas in the capital as well as high volume tourists destinations like at Negombo! It is pathetic to tell the least!

Just look at the other tourist facilities such as tourist information centres! Where are they? Are they found only in Colombo? Look at the standards of maintenance of public toilets in most of the major tourist destinations!

All in, ‘the entire house’ is in terrible disarray and, consequently, who wants to visit here though we may want to advertise all over the world saying that Sri Lanka is a Paradise!

In a strategic sense the future of tourism in Sri Lanka has to develop on the basis of a sound research programme and certainly not on an ad hoc basis, lack of any of strategy! Research needed to be focused on international visitors, national visitors (which is totally neglected at this stage) and major visitor destinations.

While it is important to profile the general characteristics of the average visitor, it is also important to measure/assess the general customer satisfaction through these surveys, so as to focus attention for further development of facilities which really matters to the tourist.

The country needs to establish a fully fledged Tourism Research Centre (may be named as Tourism Research Lanka TRL).


Dr. Karunarathne’s clarification

On February 28, 2007 the Daily News carried a news item about my visit to Europe with many errors and lapses and I wish to clarify the following:

R. Srikanthan’s report on February 28 is interesting and it would have been informative too, if not for the following lapses.

Firstly I have claimed the LTTE to be a liberation movement since its inception, in spite of its capitalist socio-economic perspective and terrorist methods of which Comrade Annamalai was a victim. Secondly I am yet to receive any contribution from the LTTE.

I have accepted all contributions and help from everybody that were prepared to donate, including my friend President Mahinda Rajapaksa. But all these were used for my aims and perspectives.

Thirdly, it is true that I spoke in a meeting with two liberal democratic MPs and a Libdem European Parliament Member, a baroness.

However it is lunacy to maintain the both, that I presented the view of a ferocious guerrilla organisation and also helped the election campaign of English liberal barons!

Presentation of a consistent democratic way out for the Tamil and Muslim people may have helped the liberal campaign. As a Marxist I did not advocate separation.

On the contrary, I made a strong appeal for unity, based on substantial autonomy for the Tamil speaking people.

In any case if I am a loony then those who took me seriously and bestowed awards, such as then Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa who presented a certificate with a trophy for distinguished service to the working masses and also the academics of the universities of Peradeniya and Cambridge who gave me certificates of distinction, must also be loonies.

Finally Srikantha is silent about my campaign against the development strategy of the Mahinda regime which has made the corrupt rich richer while the poor has become miserable with inflation beyond 20 per cent, at the same time all social services are reduced, ecological recourses are plundered, over 2500 years of both Sinhala and Tamil cultural assets are destroyed and labour and media have lost their rights.


Bread at different prices

An agreement on price stability of essential commodities was recently signed by the Government and the Pettah Wholesale Importers’ Association. We, the consumers are very thankful to Minister Bandula Gunawardane for initiating the best trade mechanism in the interest of the consumers.

The Minister should note that the Consumer Affairs Authority has so far failed to exercise the powers of the Consumer Protection Act and stabilize the price of bread which is now available in the market at different rates.

One should understand that the bakery owners should not be permitted to bake different types of bread with different taste and maintain their own price structure.

The clever and money loving bakery owners bake limited amount of bread to sell at control price for 30 minutes and later they introduce their profitable bread at higher price.

Concerned authorities should please note that bread is the most essential commodity that would come on the top of the list, since it is the national food of poor people of the country.


Bus horns menace

I fully agree with Vimal Perera whose letter titled ‘Blaring horns of buses’. (DN March 01) As a resident close to a very busy bus stand in Colombo and a victim of these bullhorn menace for a long time, I have written many letters to the authorities such as Police, Environmental Authority etc. requesting to take action against these bus drivers who use such loud bullhorns senselessly.

However, I have not got a single reply up to now and the situation is getting worse. Therefore I too join with Mr. Perera to request the authorities concerned to formulate laws on this subject and enforce these laws without delay, so that poor traffic police officer who is standing and suffering helplessly will be able to fine these menace drivers.

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