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World Affairs








Pre-election violence in the NCP

Seeing is believing! What happened to Dr. Johnpulle’s house with the dispensary and office prior to the NCP elections is heart-rending to anyone with a conscience. This episode was well described in the newspapers and TV channels. Civilised people could not believe this incident.

Proceedings in the Magistrate’s Court are revealing and confirm the facts. Hence it should not puzzle the IGP and the Defence Ministry.

Dr. Johnpulle was injured. Damage to property is estimated at Rs. 50 million. What about the medical records lost? Who can estimate it?

Above all, it has created history! Yes, police history, an invaluable one, going beyond Minister Silva’s record of crimes.

A question one would ask the police is, isn’t arson which according to the Penal Code — the bible of the police — punishable with up to 20 years rigorous imprisonment?

If no one is liable for this incident, as it seems now, the President should reward the Anuradhapura police high-ups, which is what would eventually happen.

G. Amadoru

Kalutara North

Bank of Ceylon howlers anger customers

Angry customers of Sri Lanka’s premier state bank are asking how some of its staff got into the banking service when they do not seem to know the basics.

Some of the recent criticism is directed at the Bank of Ceylon branch at Nugegoda where gaffes are becoming a way of life.

Two incidents in recent months are sufficient to show the inefficiency and ignorance of Bank of Ceylon staff at this particular branch.

A Sri Lankan living in the UK was in Colombo in July and issued a cheque from his Lake House Branch account which is almost as old as the branch itself.

Some years after that account was opened it was made into a joint account with his wife who was a senior lawyer in the Bank of Ceylon’s Legal Department.

When the recipient of the cheque tried to have it credited to her account, an employee at the Nugegoda Branch refused to do so saying it was a company account and required the seal of the company stamped on the cheque.

It was clearly not a company cheque but a private joint account but designated a staff account as the account holder’s wife was on the staff at the time.

It seems that staff at the Nugegoda Branch are unable to distinguish a private account from a company account thus inconveniencing the bank’s customers who have also to spend their time trying to educate the staff.

The other incident also involved the same account holder in the UK, who has had a long standing account at the bank’s Kollupitiya Branch now designated a ‘super branch.’

When he was in Colombo in March this year he issued a cheque from that account. When the recipient of the cheque took it to the Nugegoda Branch to have it credited, he was told that the account was dormant and the cheque was handed back saying it could not be credited.

When the account holder came to Colombo in July he was told that the Nugegoda Branch had claimed his account was dormant and had returned the cheque.

The account holder found this strange as he had withdrawn money from that account both in March and shortly after he arrived in Colombo July. So he went to the Kollupitiya Branch to find out why.

That account too is a joint account with his wife and is designated a staff account. At Kollupitiya he was told that the account is not dormant and they could not understand why another branch claimed it was so because it had been active since January this year.

Just to clarify he asked the Customer Services Manager what a dormant account was. He was told the account had to be active. He pointed out that money was being regularly deposited to that account.

But that is not enough, said the officer. Money must be withdrawn from the account to make it active.

That came as a surprise. Most banks would welcome money being deposited to accounts as it increases the bank’s deposits. But it seems the Bank of Ceylon wants customers to withdraw their money rather than deposit it.

If that is so why did the Nugegoda Branch refuse to honour a cheque when money was actually to be withdrawn from the account?

It seems the bank’s left hand does not seem to know what its right hand is doing.



Monks out of control

I thought I would write this as an attempt to call for some rationality with regard to the conduct of certain Buddhist monks. Before the usual accusations are hurled at me (i.e. Christian, NGO worker, LTTE supporter etc.) let me hasten to establish my credentials as a born and bred Sinhala, Buddhist who has served a full term as a Basnayake Nilame for a temple venerating Lord Vishnu, who ironically enough is charged with the sacred duty of protecting Buddhism in this land.

There is an element of the Buddhist clergy that is way out of control in this country. They are being egged on by moronic ‘devotees’ who play on the fragile egos of these monks. These individuals have in most cases, taken to the robe as a free meal ticket and a ‘safe’ living. The insidious laymen concerned combined with TV stardom in some cases, make them feel that they are supreme beings.

These individuals and those aspiring to be ‘monk Superstars’ (I hesitate to call them monks) should realise that they have taken the vows of upasampada (ordination) and as such are bound by them. Furthermore the laymen concerned should realise that creating a division among the maha sangha (which will be the ultimate result of these activities) is one of the worst sins that a person can accrue, according to the doctrine.

Weak leadership both from laity as well as the senior clergy with of course a generous helping of political deviousness has resulted in this situation. A statement from the Asgiriya Mahanayake has been issued since, castigating this type of behaviour by the monks but a deafening silence prevails from Malwatte and all other ‘mahanayakes’ not to mention high profile Buddhist lay trustees. Expel these monks now from the holy order created by our great teacher before they destroy the very philosophy that they were created to preserve.

Passing the buck to the judiciary should be seen in the true light that this despicable action has been carried out in. A simple ploy to try and reduce the ‘popularity’ that the chief justice has been gathering for himself due to certain highly visible actions taken by him.

There is no room for bending the rules of the vinaya (code of conduct) in the Theravada Buddhist culture that we venerate in this country. What is highlighted in the papers is a mere tip of the iceberg as far as breaking the law goes by members of the sangha.

Stop it now before this last refuge of the ‘purest’ form of Buddhism loses its increasingly fragile hold on our society.

Raja bhawatu dhammiko! (May the rulers be guided by the Dhamma!)

R.A. Ratwatte


SriLankan sure to pick up under the new CEO

The article in The Sunday Leader of August 31 highlights the present financial crisis at SriLankan Airlines. It is evident that income generated from ground handling and catering done for foreign airlines has subsidised the heavy losses incurred in 2007.

This represents the supplementary or ancillary business of the company whereas the ‘core business,’ which comprises passenger and cargo sales, suffered a loss of Rs.5 billion. As the income from sales in earlier years had not been reported, the reason for such a loss is not known.

With the escalating cost of aviation fuel, which amounts to 35% over the cost for 2007, which was 50% over the previous year, the airline hopes to break even during this financial year. However the anticipated refurbishment to the A330s and A340s which has been forecast to cost around Rs.10 billion may not be possible without funds from external sources.

The action plan also envisages leasing of a ‘nearly new’ A320 for short haul operations which yields fuel economy and ensure slow maintenance costs. The leasing cost will obviously be higher. Again from where are the funds coming?

Assuming fuel prices to be constant or volatile, fuel conservation and hedging have been adopted by airlines via daily fuel monitoring. To minimise fuel usage unproductive destinations and flights below break-even with poor load factors are being slashed. On the other hand it is better to concentrate on long-haul routes such as the London (non-stop) route and Indian sectors which yield more revenue — almost an 80% load factor.

Overseas stations and city offices manned by Sri Lankans are top-heavy and much foreign exchange is spent in their maintenance. As a cost-cutting measure GSAs are appointed by airlines retaining only a country manager or station manager as necessary. If really necessary the ticket office can be relocated away from the expensive metropolis.

The decision of the CEO to move the headquarters to Katunayake is welcome. This was suggested in the mid ’80s when the administration building was built, but only certain sections not needed in Colombo were moved there. The saving derived from this move is considerable. The staff may not agree with this move; but considering the present plight of the airline they would all agree, I am sure.

Overseas on-line advertising is generally expensive, and airlines have included this item in their cost cutting measures. This is taken charge of by well-known advertising companies. Similarly, publicity and promotional events in foreign destinations can be postponed for later days.

It is heartening to note that the unions have extended support to the CEO’s Action Plan. For the first time newsletters from the CEO will be circulated in Sinhala for the benefit of bottom line staff. Being well educated in Sinhala, he is able to have a dialogue in Sinhala, which the expatriate was unable to do.

Deepal N. Thenabadu

Former Secretary, Board of Airline Representatives

and Airline Operators’ Committee of Sri Lanka

Looking after the injured soldiers

As the present military drive gains momentum we need to prepare for a rise in the number of fatalities and injuries. Most of the injured are likely to be sent to the main hospitals geared to treat them.

We should not forget that most of our soldiers come from poor homes. Most of these families are unlikely to even have the money to pay for the journey to visit their sons/husbands lying in pain in hospital. Most of these families who may make the journey will obviously not have a place to spend a night and no money to rent a room or even pay for the food. They should not have to suffer further heartbreak.

It is considering this unfortunate situation that I propose that immediate arrangements be made for temples in around Colombo and other areas where the injured soldiers are likely to be hospitalised to cater to providing shelter to these poor folk. The dayakas, I am sure would come forward to provide the meals. We need to at this juncture show our gratitude to these valiant men and women who make up our armed forces and the police, the people who sacrifice their lives to keep us safe and protect our country. In these last stages of a war that has taken over 25 years, we all need to rise to the occasion.

Shenali Waduge

Med. students a disgrace

First of all let me express my displeasure on the recent assault of journalists by medicos of Colombo Medical Faculty. It is a disgrace to one of Asia’s oldest medical colleges and all its graduates who serve throughout the island. People who were involved should be sought and punished as early as possible.

Doctors should practise healing, not harming and I guess those who were involved never knew anything about the Hippocratic Oath which has a statement "I will prescribe regimes for the good of my patients according to my ability and my judgment and never do harm to anyone."

I am a product of this prestigious Colombo Medical Faculty and I was also a member of the Colombo Medical Faculty Students’ Union eight years back. But I was very sad to hear the very same union defending the assailants. I am also a photographer and a member of several Sri Lankan photographic societies in Sri Lanka and maintain two of my own photography web pages on the internet.

The triggering point for this unruly behaviour as highlighted in the media was taking photographs inside the hostel premises! My query is, whether taking photographs is a crime in Sri Lanka? Is it illegal outside the high security zone in the city of Colombo? Is there a rule pertaining to photography restrictions in Sri Lanka?

Being an ardent lover of photography, I remember several similar incidents where my photography colleagues were harassed by law enforcement authorities for "shooting" photographs. In one incident the photographer unfortunately was near a police station. Even after proving that he was not a terrorist and that this camera did not shoot bullets, he was kept inside the police station for hours still my photography teacher came and ‘bailed’ him out.

Cameras do no harm to security. Any terrorist organisation now has free access to city maps from websites like Goggle. Even small houses could be detected in these maps and one can easily obtain locations in the entire Colombo city if one is computer literate. And speaking of photographing important buildings and VIPs, anyone having access to the internet can easily search for images of virtually any building or any important person.

Cameras are private property, and I consider my camera a second wife. No one can grab other people’s belongings, and it’s similar to pick pocketing or worse.

According to the media reports these journalists including a female journalist were attacked by a mob of medical students. Medicos are taught on mentality of mobs in their Behavioral Stream Psychiatry lectures during the first few years at the Colombo Medical Faculty. I still remember our lecturer explaining how a group of people can easily be provoked to do anti social activities as a mob.

If a person is a member of a mob, he gets a false sense of security that the crimes performed by him are diffused amongst the clan. When people think they are anonymous, they will behave in anti-social ways because they believe they cannot be singled out among the crowd and be evaluated. Either the student culprits in this incident did not attend the lecture on mob psychiatry or they did not put their valuable knowledge to practice!

I wish photography were given better recognition and prestige in this war torn country with civil unrest. It is a form of art and is not a violent hobby. And I sincerely hope that our dear lecturers in the faculty help the law enforcement authorities to punish all those who were involved in this incident. Let us keep in mind that the same media institutions helped a female medical student in this very same faculty to collect funds for her ailment several months back through providing publicity.

Dr. Himantha Athukorale

Radawana Government Hospital


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