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Monday, 18 March 2013

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People must use public transport

There is no argument that public transport in Sri Lanka should be promoted to meet the increasing needs of the people. Public transport is the best transport option when we consider the environmental and resource aspects of the transport sector. The system provides facilities for a higher number of passengers in an efficient manner at minimal pollution, low cost, and saving on foreign exchange on fuel imports. There is a need now to encourage people to use buses and trains instead of their own vehicles.

There were efforts like the 'Park and Ride' where people were encouraged to travel using buses. More recently the SLTB commenced a luxury city service around the capital of Colombo. However these were not successful as anticipated. Railway transport could be increased by optimising its usage. Many possible passengers tend to use buses and private vehicles although they can use the railway. Since passenger transport is comparatively cheaper, railway transport benefits the passenger. Further, goods transport was a major income for the railway since its beginning.

However with the advent of motor transport this has declined in importance, during recent times. There is an effort initiated recently to improve goods transportation including container transport via railways.

There is certainly a possibility of improving goods transport using train services. However road sector developments have raised concerns with the increasing rate of accidents. Further the discipline of bus drivers is known to be bad. Private bus drivers blaring horns incessantly are a common sight and VIPs escorted by security guards are known for running races and usually disregarding traffic lights. Civil society actions seem to be lacking in the transport sector when compared to the other sectors intervening.

Sri Lanks's transport sector development should not be limited to the road sector. The railway system too should be developed. The Kelani Valley railway line should be expanded along with the reconstruction of the Northern railway infrastructure from Medawachchiya to Talaimannar and Omanthai to Palali.


Implementing LLRC report

Rajpal Abeynaike has spoken loud and bold like Chapman in translating Homer, and deserves the plaudits of the patriotic independent citizens of our country for his article on a topic of much importance at this hour.

First of all, it is an internal report and Parliament could consider its contents if so inclined and arrive at a decision, or place the relevant recommendations before the people if the consequence of their implementations were to have far reaching effects.

It is certainly not a matter for western nations, to decide that the report should be implemented.

The people of this country and those western nations should turn their attention to more urgent and pressing problems of the world like environment pollution and global warming which have a bearing on Human Rights, than directing their attention at trivialities on a speck in the Indian Ocean.

O Tempora, O Mores!


Panadura Crematorium

A copy of my letter under the above heading in the ‘Citizens Mail’ column of 31.1.2003 was forwarded to the Chairman of the Panadura UC who informed me that steps are being taken to commence work soon and complete it within the year. He has also stated that about Rs. 300,000 is due as arrears from rate payers. With this money and along with any other source of funding, it is hoped to complete the work. I thank the Chairman for his prompt attention in this regard.


St. Patrick’s Day

For most people, St. Patrick's Day is a day of parades, parties, leprechauns and green beer. But just as Christmas is about more than commercial fun, so too does St. Patrick's Day have a deeper meaning. St. Patrick's Day began as a religious holiday to honour St. Patrick - a Bishop sent to Ireland in 433 AD by Pope Celestine 1 to draw its people into the fold of Christ's universal church.

Upon his arrival on Ireland's shores, St. Patrick encountered many setbacks and persecution by the superstitious Druids who had employed magicians to maintain their stay over the Irish race. Despite severe trials, St. Patrick was able to convert all of Ireland and conquer paganism. He is thus credited with driving the Celtic snakes out of Ireland. St. Patrick is credited with many miracles and is responsible for the building of several Catholic schools, monasteries and churches throughout Ireland. He is known for his powerful exposition of the principles of the Catholic faith. He even employed the ordinary, little three-leaved shamrock plant to teach people about the Blessed Trinity. He was called to his heavenly reward on March 17, 461. St. Patrick was a humble, pious gentleman whose total love, devotion and trust in God should be a shining example to each of us.


Need for Sugar Cane Minister

Sugar cane cultivation began with state patronage over 60 years ago by the Agriculture Department in Kantalai. The sugar factory at Hingurana commenced production on July 4, 1962. During the first harvesting and crushing season 290 tones of white sugar was produced. The Gal Oya Sugar Industries was detached from the Gal Oya Development Board and on 1.10.1967 along with Kantalai Sugar Industries was vested in a new corporation known as the Sri Lanka Sugar Corporation.

Sevanagala Sugar Industries came up in 1970 at Moneragala to distribute cane tops from Hingurana to farmers in rain fed areas and to those who could do lift irrigation. This was a popular project by the SLFP government and it spread to distant places like Hiniduma in Galle. About 40,000 acres of land were under this crop. I co-ordinated this operation and though requests at that time for a minister was not considered by the high command, the government in 1970 got Bradman Weerakoon of the CCS to resolve land disputes. I was also involved in this work to some extent in my capacity as the senior aide to the Sugar Plantation Manager, to whom the lands in sugar areas belonged to. Hingurana was finally sold to one S. Arumugam in 1994 for Rs. 128 m when the actual government assessed value was Rs. 800 m. He paid Rs. 25 m and died.

When President Mahinda Rajapaksa took over this government, he had for inspection only the skeletal remains of the state sponsored industries. As a man on a mission with a vision, he saw the revival of these industries as a massive undertaking and an elephantine task to complete. He created the Supplementary Crops Development Ministry and placed sugar amongst other crops under the late Dharmadasa Banda who was with us since the inception of Hingurana Sugar Industries. When it came to the stage of expanding plantations under the Mahinda Chinthana to various parts of the country, the President created the Sugar Cane Industries Ministry and installed Lakshman Seneviratne as minister. This is what we expected 48 years ago and if that had been implemented the industry would not have faced the catastrophic end it met.

Minister Lakshman Seneviratne said during an inspection tour, that some Opposition quarters ridicule his appointment. The minister need not worry about utterances made by those who failed to protect the industry from a catastrophic end but must be happy about becoming the first Sugar Cane Industries Minister in Sri Lanka.

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