The Sunday Leader

Proposed National Railway Museum

  • Pleasant Memories Of Railway Evoked by…..

It is reported that Transport Minister Kumara Welgama has submitted a cabinet paper to set up a national railway museum at Kadugannawa. This brings to my mind the pleasant memories of the short spell of my service in the Railways [Way and Works Dept] in the 1950s.

During this period of my service, I was appointed to carry out a verification of stores in the Central District Engineer’s Division at Dematagoda. While checking with the list given to me, I came across an item where two motor trolleys were entered. On physical verification, I found there was only one in use. When questioning the motor trolley driver, Wickramasinghe, an implicitly honest and diligent worker, I was told there was another old trolley in a shed in the Dematagoda Yard and none on earlier verifications had cared to verify.

I was then taken to a shed covered with creepers and when opened, there was the trolley covered with cobwebs. Hastily we cleared and found that it was operative and it would be possible to restore it to its old grandeur.
When I inquired for the other accessories, lamps etc., I was told they were locked up safely in the stores. Sure enough when opening an old box, there were those brass Carbide lamps, a bulb horn and few other items. When I told him that I need to restore the trolley, he enthusiastically supported. Then I met the District Engineer, N. A. Vaithialingam, a name which the Way and Works Dept men will never forget, for his dedication to work and welfare of his staff from labourer upwards.

He inspected the trolley and wanted it to be a showpiece. With that encouragement, Building Foreman, Dematagoda undertook painting of the trolley in the colours which were visible in some parts. Wickramasinghe, the trolley driver, polished the brass lamps and other items to a sparkling finish. Being a good motor mechanic himself, he repaired the engine, which I believe was Ford V 8 and made it work.

Seeing the majestic, colonial look of the trolley, Vaithialingam was overjoyed and wanted it to be transported to his office premises, under a huge Mango Tree. A shed was constructed and the trolley was brought to the new site by laying a temporary railway track. To add beauty, an abandoned pond close to the shed of this magnificent trolley, cleaned and turned into a lotus pond. Wickramasinghe, being an old bachelor, spent his own money in getting lotus plants, ornamental fish and took personal interest in looking after what he considered was his achievement.

I left the good old CGR a few months later with fond memories of my short stay. Later, the Minister for Transport M. H. Mohamed set up a museum at the Fort Railway Station, the entrance to which was via Mac Callum Road, now termed D. R. Wijewardena Mawatha, and I was told the trolley was taken there. Sad to say, a few years later when I went to see a friend of mine to Fort Railway Station, the neglected trolley stood there pathetically and vagrants were sleeping inside. Again this railway museum was shifted to Captains Garden, where the old Railway Stores were and thereafter I am unaware of what happened to the trolley.

Although the Minister of Transport Kumara Welgama has proposed Kadugannawa to locate this museum, Minister of Higher Education suggests Panideniya in his electorate is more suitable, while Minister of Sports, Mahindananda Aluthgamage needs it to be at Nawalapitiya in his electorate for a valid reason that Nawalapitiya is a central location, and it also has a Trains Control Room and Transportation Superintendent’s office.

In my opinion, Nawalapitiya is the best because Kadugannawa already has a PWD museum. Furthermore, Nawalapitiya is the main Railway Town. For the proposed museum the now abandoned or under-utilized Running Shed can be renovated and taken.
The Turn Table there could add as an item to the Museum. This site is ideal in all respects, its salubrious climate, scenery, over-looking the Mahaweli River, the Grookoya Bridge and the huge propped up rock. On clear days Adams’ Peak could be seen at a distance. The development works carried out for setting up a Sports Stadium to international standard, and the surrounding tea estates and factories qualify the claim.

As an alternative it is suggested, the old railway station which has an approach road from Dolosbage Road, be renovated. It should not be forgotten, the British selected Nawalapitiya as the central town for easy administration.
As President Mahinda Rajapaksa had given the option of selection to Minister of Transport, Kumara Welgama, it is expected that he will be impartial to select the best, which of course should be Nawalapitiya.

The energetic Minister of Sports and MP for Nawalapitiya is relentlessly pursuing this matter with the Minister of Transport, Kumara Welgama convincing him of the suitability in having this Museum in the historic Railway Town. Let this letter catch the eye of the Transport Minster Kumara Welgama.

G. A. D. Sirimana


Transfers Sans Replacements Cause Impacts

Recently I was asked to conduct a four-hour seminar on English for the children sitting for the upcoming December GCE(OL) examination. I undertook it on the presumption that the students would have covered the syllabus and equipped to face the English Language Test paper one and two confidently.

It did not take me long to find out that these children were struggling to answer basic questions on simple grammar like nouns, verbs, adjectives, conjunctions, etc. They were like frogs in the well. Their pathetic lack of understanding of these elementary facts is not their fault. The teachers who handled them at the primary and junior secondary levels are responsible for this lapse. The parts of speech of the English Language, it seemed were never taught to them

The mechanical learning of a language according to my knowledge does no good to anyone. When I pointed out the objects inside the classroom and asked them whether they are recognized with nouns or verbs, not a single student was able to answer. They have not been taught that objects they see and touch inside and outside school, home and in the environment are nouns. And they do not know about the action verbs and non-action verbs. It was like Greek to them. This is the unfortunate situation in most of the schools. One reason is mother tongue is used too much to teach English.

What is the reason for the annual mass-scale failure of children in the subject? They have not been grounded at the intial stages. The four skills: listening, speaking, reading, and writing are half-heartedly practised. The reason being the classrooms are congested and the noise all around. It exists only on paper. Most teachers want to finish off the syllabus, and whether the pupils have understood everything is nobody’s business. The Teacher’s Guide issued by the Dept of Education has become the bible of most teachers. They lack innovative teaching techniques to inspire and motivate their charges.

The students I handled had not covered the syllabus. Their English teacher was transferred in February under the 10-year rule. They were without a teacher for eight months. A teacher was appointed in October, a little over a month before the exam! It is simple logic that when a teacher is transferred, he or she should be replaced with another. The mandarins in the Zonal Education Office had taken eight months to appoint a new teacher. This is a grave blunder and a gross injustice committed on these poor children. The appeals of the principal and the SDS did not shake the officials from their deep slumber.

Their dereliction of duty had caused the students to suffer immensely. Who is accountable for this lapse? This is the type of Cinderella treatment meted out to poor and small schools. Go to a prestigious school in the city, you would find pedagogues sitting pretty in school, even after serving 10 years. They enjoy all the influence with high political patronage. The rule-wielding officialdom will not touch them, even with the bargepole! Like everywhere else, sharks have their say, the small fry left on the way. And sometimes kissing goes by favour in matter of promotion, too.

The school I have mentioned wears the name of a former minister of education in Colombo. Failure to appoint a teacher for eight months deserves an inquiry. It would reveal whether the zonal director or the transfer board (if any in the zonal office) is responsible. The basic principle is to fill the vacancy caused by a transfer. Why deprive the poor children of their right to learn English? If this situation visits their children, will the officials tolerate?

Some bumptious bureaucrats are thick skinned. They think they have carte blanche to hoodwink the superiors and get away from a tight spot like in the aforesaid instance. Over to the minister concerned to wake up the zonal office.

M. Azhar Dawood


At The Helm Of The OPA

At the Annual General Meeting of the Organization of Professional Association held on Friday, October 25. The President elect V. Ganesh was inducted as the 33rd President of the OPA. He takes over from Benedict Ulluwishewa.
OPA is the National APEX Body of 44 Professional Associations and it has a membership of over 50,000 professionals.
Mr. Ganesh is a fellow of the Institute of Supply & Materials Management (ISMM) and he currently serves as the CEO of the Nawaloka Group of companies. He has been a member of the OPA Ex-Co & forum since 2001 and has served as a Vice President for over 4 years, since 2007.

He was the president of the ISMM from 2002 to 2005 and has represented ISMM at several International seminars and conferences of the International Federation of Purchasing & Supply Management. (IFPSM).

Mr. Ganesh has been at Unilever Ceylon Ltd. for 33 years and ended his carrier as the Chief Buyer and Head of Logistics. He has been the Leader of several regional and global buying teams of Unilever worldwide. After his retirement from Unilever Ceylon Ltd. he served as General Manager of Amico Industries before joining the Nawaloka Group of Companies.

A public schools athlete and a sportsman, Mr. Ganesh has served as the Vice President of the Mercantile Hockey Association and as Senior Vice President of the Sri Lankan Hockey Federation.–


Where Is The Kandy Mayor?

I refer to the letter published in The Sunday Leader on October 17, 2013 with a large headline – ‘Where Is The Kandy Mayor?

I would expect you to check and recheck the letters you receive before publishing them, being a responsible newspaper, especially, when a letter is slanderous. Even the common decency demands checking the contents with the party slandered – in this case they are the KMC, its Mayor and employees. Hence, I decided to express my displeasure of the letter published and its writer.
I have made inquires into the matter and I was surprised when I found out that there is no a living member of a ‘Kandy Rate Payers Association’ by the name ‘Vernon James Senanayake’. Thus, it would be an anonymous writing and deserve only a place in the trash bin.
For anyone familiar with the activities of the KMC, it takes no time to guess the name of the writer of the article by observing the following facts: He appears to have: I) a knowledge of the KMC activities; 2) been a member of the Council and rejected by the voters; 3) served in the sports committee of the KMC; 4) had a grudge against the employees, at the least with the present set of employees; 5) been famous for abusing female employees of the KMC; 6) had a special relations with some of them by dubious means, 6) good writing skills; 7) been a user of the car park for activity other than for its purpose – in particular, known the ones stated by him in the article; 8) shown vulgar taste to the public and employees of KMC, etc.

Quite contrary to what has been stated in his letter, the Council administration has been strengthened and streamlined. It has full transparency in its affairs and the rate payers and the public trust it. As for the details of new projects carried out hitherto and intend to carry out by the KMC’s new administration, it intends to inform the public there in a separate news letter and would not wish to spoil such an exercise while replying to this person’s article.

If the writer has personally met me and is still living in my area, I wish to invite him to identify publicly and make a direct statement.
I only know that I do not discuss the good or bad side of our own administration with vagrants and passersby and I request the public to await the outcome of the public announcement. Kindly give the same or better publicity to this article to pacify persons who are going through immense mental pain due to the article published in your paper.

Sena Dissanayake,
Deputy Mayor of Kandy.


Butcher’s Assertion

Leo Tolstoy in one of his pamphlets titled, From The First Step (1891), has shown how a butcher think of his act of killing animals:
“I visited the slaughter-house in our city of Tuna. The slaughter-house is built according to a new, perfected method, so that animals killed shall suffer as little as possible. When reading the book, Ethics of Diet, I had made up my mind to visit the slaughter-house, in order to see with my own eyes the facts of the case, which are mentioned whenever vegetarianism is mentioned.” Meeting an inexperienced butcher on the road, and on inquiry whether he did not feel sorry that he had to kill animals his response was, “Why be sorry? This has to be done.” When he was told eating meat was not necessary and he agreed, “It was a pity to kill but what is to be done? I have to make a living. At first I was afraid to kill. My father never killed a chicken in all his life.”

On fasting Leo Tolstoy wrote in one of his pamphlets, “Everything reduces to the question of eating. So strong is people’s disgust at any kind of a murder; but by example, by encouraging men’s greed, by the assertion that this is permitted by God, and chiefly by habit, people have been brought to a complete loss of this natural feeling*.”

As Tolstoy wrote convincing people not to eat beef or any meat is the most effective way to prevent them from eating meats. Therefore, the Buddhists without agitating for closing meat stalls, they should convince others to give up habit of eating meats.
*Extracted from the book, Last Steps–The Late Writings of Leo Tolstoy edited by Jay Paring, Professor of English at Middlebury College in Vermont.

Kasi Silva

Future Of The Cup That Cheers

The Tea Industry plays a crucial role in the economy by creating employments, increasing export earnings and overall national products.

It is a fact that Sri Lanka is no longer the number one tea exporter. Tea Industry faces many difficulties such as rising cost of production, declining productivity, management challenges, labour shortage which are only a few. It is doubtful whether the tea industry could achieve the export targets of the government.

Some prominent persons who are directly involved in the industry has said that it has a very good future with the prices in the world market reaching the highest in the past four decades, productivity improving in spite of the many challenges faced in the recent years.
It is true. But there are many unresolved key issues such as declining tea yields, slow progress in re-planting and infilling along with some of the issues mentioned above.

Very vital issues have been highlighted at the 22nd Annual General Meeting of the Sri Lanka Tea Factory Owners’ Association held recently. The tea smallholder sector is contributing over 70 percent of the national production. The Minister of Plantation Industries, Mahinda Samarasingha who delivered the keynote address at this meeting too has admitted that there are a lot of challenges faced by the tea industry.

The potential for the industry locally and internationally is very encouraging. The government is also looking at every possible aspect of ensuring the long-term sustainability of the industry but the question is when we are going to take corrective measures to overcome these issues rather than discussing over and over at every forum.
The responsible authorities must come out with some sort of acceptable solutions to retain the younger generation on the estates. If not there would be an acute labour shortage, which is not only a main issue in Sri Lanka but also in many tea growing areas in the African continent.

British planters, taking advantage of favourable agro-climatic conditions, introduced tea to quench their thirst and unfortunately we have miserably failed in making sustainable and viable solutions for the problems to protect and promote our industry.
The time has come to stop all unnecessary discussions and to focus on a long-term strategy that guarantees stability to the country’s tea industry.

It is hoped that the government, the relevant institutions, politicians, trade unionists and the authorities of the regional plantation companies would take corrective measures to consolidate and develop the industry not forgetting the ethical aspects such as housing, education, health, other welfare facilities and the dignity of the labour force.

Lalin I. De Silva

Christmas Carols With LG Singers
LG Singers will be singing at Bethel Chapel of the Seventh-day Adventists, 7, Alfred House Gardens, Kollupitiya on Friday December 16, 6:45 p.m. The service will include 16 Carols presented by the singers. From 6:30 pm onwards a group of instrumentalists will also play carols in the church.


St Anthony’s Church,
Mt. Lavinia 150th Jubilee

St Anthony’s Church, Mount Lavinia celebrates its 150th Jubilee on Sunday (1-12-2013).

The Roman Catholic Church located at No.11, St Anthony’s Road, Mount Lavinia presently referred as St Anthony’s Church and it is popular among thousands of Roman Catholics, non Catholics as well as among the people belonging to other faiths.

On November 25, 1863, the foundation stone was laid to build the present church, which was then dedicated to St Sylvester by Monsignor Hilarion Sillani O.S.B, Apostolic Vicar of the Southern Vicariate. At the beginning the Sylvestrine-Benedictine Monks were in charge of the church and the mission. It is believed that in or around 1945, devotion to St Anthony had begun at St Sylvester’s Church in Mount Lavinia which eventually led the Mount Lavinia Church to be known as St Anthony’s Church.

In the year 1968 the church was made an independent parish. Rev. Fr. Ronald De Silva, who was an assistant parish priest in Dehiwala (1968 – 1975) was appointed the first priest of the Mount Lavinia parish.

The parishioners of Mount Lavinia church will mark the 150th Jubilee of their church with solemn Vespers Service at 7p.m. on Saturday, November 30 with Rev. Dr Maxwell Silva, Auxiliary Bishop of Colombo as the Chief celebrant at the Vespers Service. The Jubilee High Mass will be celebrated on Sunday, December 1, at 8.30 a.m. by Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith.


Bottleneck For Students Of Uva Maha Vidyalaya

I started my education at Uva College (now Uva Maha Vidyalaya) in 1947 and I finished my education there in the year 1957. In this duration and many years after, all sports practices and extracurricular activities of the school were carried out in the nearby Veils Park. Every morning there was Drill display from every class before commencing their studies.

But it is regrettable that today that all these privileges and benefits that the Uva Collage student population enjoyed are being denied by the authorities who are responsible for using the Veils Park for commercial events. If someone goes through the annals of Uva Collage since its inception in 1827, it will reveal the administrative procedure then followed and adhered to by the college and the authority of the Veils Park.

President Mahinda Rajapaksa has taken great effort to provide playgrounds for every school to develop sports. Within this backdrop, parents of Uva Maha Vidyalaya students cannot understand why only their children are denied their long enjoyed benefits and privileges by converting the Veils Park into a hub of commercial events.

D. Sivarajah



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