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Immortal speech

President Mahinda Rajapaksa's address at the Parliament has gone to annals of Sri Lanka as the most impeccable and exemplary speech ever made by a politician or a Head of the State of our country.

It will reverberate within the wall of our House of Legislature generation after generation, and resound in the hearts and minds of Sri Lankans of all communities until they depart.

It drew parallel to the speeches made by prominent leaders who lived in the world in different epochs.

It has gone to the history of world like Sir Winston Churchill's speech after defeating Nazi Hitler at the 2nd World War Sri Jawaharlal Nehru's address to Indian nation at the dawn of independence from British imperialism and General De Gaulle's message to his fellow citizens when his country was met with a severe political and economic crisis are most memorable.

Let us join hands forgetting the bitter past and give our utmost contributions to build up the devastated North and develop the country wishing our uncrowned King who deserved to be crowned, a Long Live!

R. D. P. Gunawardena - Kalutara


Commemorative (Public) 'Holidays' - let's follow our - President's example

The President, a practising Buddhist, spends a little over an hour on a Poya morning, listening to a Dhamma sermon, and thereafter engages in the usual administrative activities of the State.

It is well-known that this has been his routine from the time he became our Prime Minister. What a beautiful example of commemorating the special significance of the day, but not failing to fulfil his obligations to Mother Lanka, as her 'caretaker'.

It is an accepted fact that we Sri Lankans 'enjoy' too many holidays. In fact we have the largest number of holidays when compared with the rest of the world.

This of course affects adversely the smooth and efficient functioning of statecraft and the economy of the country. Successive Governments have made attempts to rectify this situation, but without an acceptable solution.

In the year 2009 the declared Public Holidays amount to 25; six commemorative events fall on Saturdays or Sundays, and therefore effectively this number is reduced to 19 holidays, apart from all the Saturdays and Sundays.

Since we have a five-day working week, we will be 'holidaying' for almost another four weeks, in addition to all the Saturdays and Sundays.

Can we, a developing nation, afford such a large number of holidays, together with the 'holiday mentality' (preparation for the holiday and its aftermath) that spreads beyond the actual 'holiday', further eroding into the working hours and days?

Can the declaration of a National Holiday, in commemoration of an event, where the majority of the people will do nothing connected with the event, be justified?

A closer look at the list of public holidays shows that there are only two days that are common to all sections of the society, i.e. the Independence Day and the May Day. To this may be added another eight days considered to be of the highest importance to all our ethnic and religious groups: Thai Pongal, Sinhala and Tamil New Year (2), Vesak (2), Poson, Ramazan and Christmas.

Apart from the Independence Day and May Day, on the days of Thai Pongal, Sinhala and Tamil New Year, Vesak, Poson, Ramazan and Christmas, there are large scale religious observances, social events and/or family reunions. This group of ten could form our National Holidays'.

The remaining ten Poyas, Hadji, Prophet Mohammed's birthday, Mahasivarathri, Deepavali and Good Friday could be made full working days, with the exception that the first two hours i.e. 8 to 10 be spent in an activity devoted to the significance of that particular day's event.

As an example, on a Poya Day there could be Bana preaching/meditation session; on Hadji and Prophet Mohammed's birthday, a program on some aspects of Islam and the life of the Holy Prophet; on Deepavali and Maha Sivarathri Day a Hindu religious/cultural program and on Good Friday a Prayer Service, talk and discussion on the life of Jesus Christ.

This will ensure that everyone will at least spend some time meaningfully, in observance of the particular event commemorated on the day.

It will also promote understanding of the different religions and cultures, and integration and harmony amongst the different religious and ethnic groups, as all separate groups will jointly be involved in making arrangements and participating in each other's function, and getting back to work after partaking in fellowship and refreshments.

One should not forget the fact the comparatively only a small number of Buddhists observe Ata-Sil on most Poya Days.

As Ata-Sil observance need not necessarily be on the Poya Day, arrangements could be made to hold such observances on Sunday following or preceding the Poya. In fact most schools arrange their Ata-Sil observances on the school day preceding the Poya.

Thus it will be seen that this proposed scheme, as well as taking a cue from our President, will curtail the number of holidays and increase the number of working days, thereby helping the country's smooth administration and economy; it will also promote better understanding and appreciation of each other's cultures, build bridges, facilitate cross faith interactions and regain inter community trust which is essential for ensuring harmony and oneness - particularly important in the coming days of nation rebuilding.

Dr. L. A. W. Sirisena - Colombo 8


Our national anthem

I am in full agreement with the opinion of Mahamaharajah that the national anthem of Sri Lanka must be only in Sinhala. I believe it is ridiculous to have the national anthem of a country in two or more languages.

But the reasons Mahamaharajah quotes in support of his argument smack of racialism and Sinhala chauvinism. The national anthem of India is not in Hindi as he says.

It is the song of Nobel Prize winning poet Rabindranath Tagore written in Bengali language - a language of a minority people of India. The Hindi speaking majority in India never protested against this.

Also for his information, let it be known that not only the Sinhala people have no other country than Sri Lanka in the world, so also are the Hindi speaking people who have no other country than India to call their own.

The Prime Minister of India Dr. Manmohan Singh does not belong to the Hindi speaking Hindu majority community of India. He belongs to a minority community - the Punjabi speaking Sikhs who profess Sikh religion. Two years ago, it was the case of the President of India being a Tamil speaking Muslim minority Dr. Abdul Kalam while the Prime Minister was Dr. Manmohan Singh.

I. A. Hameed


Cancer hospital project

I understand that the cancer hospital project initiated by our cricketers will be dropped due to shortfall of projected funds. Several donors had not fulfilled their commitments. This is a very important project and I suggest that a drive for fresh fund collection be started on the following basis:-

(a) A day be selected in June for public contribution.

(b) A special bank account be opened and published accordingly.

(c) All those who are employed could contribute a minimum of Rs. 10 per person.

(d) Business enterprises should contribute material amounts. They may be granted tax concessions as well.

Further accommodation facility at Maharagama Hospital for outdoor patients also should be improved. Some kind-hearted Buddhist priests are looking after this and we must extend our support to them.

I suggest a recognized organization should takeover this task and request public contribution. I appeal to all Sri Lankans even those who are abroad to contribute towards these projects which need urgent attention.

S. R. Balachandran - Colombo 6


We shall remember them forever

With chants of Impermanence, saffron robes in line,
Lanka mourns her dead taking terror strip North.
Blood of her blood were they, pride of her pride,
Fallen freeing a people terrorized.

Solemn the drums herald heroes ascending the higher realms,
Songs of sorrow sadden the Deva abodes.
Liberty's music thrills the released land,
Glory wipes a welling tear for soldiers returning no more.

They went with valour to battle; they were in their prime,

Strong of limb, firm of mind, steely eyes aglow,
With compassion in heart, fighting enemy's heavy guns with light,
They fell saving the innocents from Tigers' jaws of death.

Their duty done, in restful sleep far from their beloveds' touch;
Beholden faces of the Saved etched deep in their cold-warm hearts;
Their debt repaid to Motherland beyond any worldly measure,
They rest from their labours; happy for a Nation reborn.

Till the Sun and the Moon light the Land of Lanka,
We shall remember them.
We shall remember them.

(The famous poem of Laurence Binyon 'For the Fallen' (1914) motivated me to write this short poem about the heroism and the compassion of the Fallen Sri Lankan soldiers in the Vanni)

- Lakshman Wickramasinghe

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