Letters to the editor

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15th June,  2003  Volume 9, Issue 48















Suspension of peace talks - a Tamil view

The suspension of peace talks by the LTTE in respect of the donor conference held in Tokyo, is a matter of much concern to both Sinhalese and Tamils in particular. It is also a rebuff to the UNP government, which had depended on the LTTE to rejoin. The explanation by the government for the suspension is that the LTTE had been snubbed by the US by not being invited to the pre-donor conference held in Washington.

The Tamils are certain, that the reasons for the suspension go much deeper. Most Tamils are aggrieved that the promised funding for the NE has not materialised, except for assurances.

The LTTE now insists that the funding be made firm, steps taken to ensure that the funding will be honoured, and that the Tamils have a concrete say in its disbursement. Mere assurances will not do, as shown to Japan, when it tried to coerce the LTTE to rejoin. Although belatedly, the UNP is trying to cover up its faux pas in coercing Japan to delegate most of its funding for southern development instead of the original plan to uplift the NE with funds. The LTTE is now insisting on concrete plans to assure that the Tamil region is not kept in the same position, with its war devastated economy in shambles.

The UNP leader may have patted himself on the back, when he persuaded the Japanese delegate to divert most of the funds to the south instead of the NE and may now be trying to undo the damage. The gambit of Japan in trying to force the LTTE to attend has not borne fruit.

The Tamils are also aggrieved that the NE remains still a war devastated area, with hardly any improvement, except for the showpiece-public library. The LTTE cannot be fooled by such baubles. The Tigers sacrificed their precious lives for the cause of Eelam and although the LTTE had modified it to federalism, they have not given up the rights for total autonomy of the homeland region.

The Tamils have been disappointed that the UNP had freely donated the oil tanks in Trinco, the land bridge to Mannar, various facilities to the US without any consultation with the LTTE. There will come a time, when the LTTE would demand its dues fully in the north east. The UNP has tactfully tried to make the Muslims in the east demand a separate region, the EPDP to remain in power, and other tactics, which the Tamils rightly condemn.

If war is restarted, then the blame will fall squarely on the UNP. The south is insisting that courts and the legal systems be enforced in the north east, ignoring the fact of the laws delays, and expenses. The LTTE has the right to manage its own legal systems and courts which resulted almost in a crime free region, when in power. Now it is the reverse.

Also, the insistence of the Sinhala southern child conscription's rankling, since it is felt that this insistence is primarily due to the concern with LTTE recruitment of youth. The government can afford to pay nearly Rs. 12,000 to each soldier, while the LTTE has to depend on patriotism to join. It would be noted that a Sinhala parent can hand over a child to the temple to stay celibate for life without the consent of the child. This right is denied to the LTTE on the basis of human rights.

The West is concerned with human rights and selfishness, while the East considers that the duty to society is higher, and that man is born to fulfil his dues to society. The LTTE is of that view. It would be tedious to quote eminent men who have declared that man is born selfish, and must be moulded by society to give precedence to society ideals.

The UNP and the LTTE are playing their cards in this game of politics, and who will blink first is the leading question. The Tamils are confident that the LTTE will safeguard the rights of the Tamils, whatever the case may be. 

T. Balasingham

Minister Choksy hit the nail on the head

Minister of Finance, K. N. Choksy hit the nail on the head when he said recently that our banks make too much profit. He went as far as to state that a one percent return on turnover was a very satisfactory return for a bank. No doubt our bankers will disagree with him most vehemently. They may even wonder whether he has taken leave of his senses!

Banks are among the highest profit makers in our country, bar the state owned banks whose financial results are affected by bureaucratic lassitude and political machinations.

Recently a new high rise "tower" was inaugurated by a front-runner bank. It was touted as the most lavish and luxurious of all such towers.  This tower with its vulgar opulence shamelessly flaunted in our faces is further testimony to the towering profits generated in the banking sector.

Does it surprise anyone that despite the gloomy economic environment of the recent past and the uncertainty of the present, banks keep raking in increasing profits year after year? Banks occupy that enviable niche in the business sector in Sri Lanka where high profits are guaranteed, come what may.  There are several reasons for this enviable situation which do not require any major cerebral output to determine.

The Central Bank of Sri Lanka is the bankers' best friend. Their regulatory policies and measures are weighted in favour of the banks rather than the clients. The recent collapse of a prominent bank in Colombo had a catastrophic effect on hundreds of investors who were literally shell shocked to find their hard earned savings vapour-ised. The fact that this particular bank, with its peculiar practices introduced by directors of dubious rectitude, carried on for so long is condemnation enough.

Political patronage is another factor, but this type of favour is spread throughout the business community in equal measure. The ultimate blame must lie with the Ministry of Finance which has condoned sharp and questionable practices adopted by banks in their routine dealings with their customers.

Banks, quite naturally, make their profits by lending money on interest. We customers all concede this. But what of the great disparity in interest rates charged by banks in Sri Lanka as compared with those in other countries?

The interest rates prevailing in our country can only be described as crippling, even now, though the Ministry has woken up to the horror of high interest rates foisted on the public, who have no option but to take it -to their great detriment. However, if one wishes to invest money one would normally get about 50% of this rate.

Then again project funds from international lending consortiums and donor agencies which are granted at minimal interest rates are channelled through our banks to would-be entrepreneurs at extortionate rates, after having secured the loans with lethal mortgages. This is money for the proverbial jam! It is absolutely disgusting and discouraging that the government overlooks this profiteering on the part of the banks. Banks are supposed to be honourable and only charge a just commission and not look upon such assignments with open avarice.

Yes, indeed, the time has come for the government to exercise a much more positive role in regulating banks and banking practices, if not dismantle this enclave of financial power whose stranglehold on our economy will spell disaster.

   The entrepreneur and the self employed will be sucked dry and discarded.  Minister Choksy, you know the saying even the road to hell is paved with good intentions.Come, translate your good intentions to reality with speedy implementation. 

John W. Hardene
Colombo 3

The toxic south: coming soon

A failed idea travels to another landscape to mar its existent beauty. Sri Lanka should certainly drop this idea for a coal fired power plant. The latest suggested place to put this is Hambantota. Sure, let the southern regions become the recipient of heaps of industrial pollutants.

Please do not forget that currently this district is the home of many industries that are sustainable. Like its fisheries, salt industry and tourism. If the belching stacks of smoke from burning coal is added to this atmosphere surely, these sustainable industries will be ruined! Studies show that areas where the ash from the burnt coal settles suffer decreased yields. This phenomenon is attributable to the decrease in the amount of sunlight that crops can absorb when partially covered by coal ash.

Add this to the toxins spewing from the proposed oil refinery and the Hambantota area becomes an ecological write off. The jungles around Kataragama, Yala, Bundala are bound to be negatively impacted. With an increase in oil tankers dropping off their crude oil for refining, the chances for a catastrophic oil spill will go up. It is a difficult coast for any ship to navigate.

If these projects go ahead and when a pristine area is made home to heavily polluting industries, what person or tourist in their right mind would come to such an area?

Most likely those who profit from these ill conceived mega-projects will live nowhere near the toxic areas they will be creating. Lets keep the polluting industries out. Do not let the old boys (BOI) mislead us again. 

L. Alexis
Nuwara Eliya

Telecast parliamentary proceedings

Nowadays people have instant access by TV to see their favourite international cricket matches and also to listen to simultaneous expert comments almost ball by ball, but it is an irony of fate that the mass of the people have been denied viewing and giving ear to the performances and acts of their representatives in parliament.

Although some political high ups have seemed now and again inclined to get across to the people the proceedings in the House, the inalienable democratic right of the mass of the people in this regards has not yet been realised. Like justice, the case of democracy would be adequately served not only when it is ventilated by the representatives in the august assembly, but also is seen by the mass of the people to be done so.

In fact, it would go a long way for the exercise of supervision and control by virtue of the sovereignty of the people if uncensored proceedings of the House are made available over the air.

The adoption of the course of action to disseminate the necessary information would avert tendencies to filibuster or speak and act in an otherwise untoward manner, which would devalue the image of any representative or party before the public. In addition it would lead to saving of much money and effort of the nation by preventing the rather frequently occurring adjournment of sittings for the purpose of maintaining disciplinary control.

In the circumstances, there is no doubt whatsoever that the fervent hope of many is that those in authority would ensure live telecasts of uncensored proceedings of parliament.

D. Kuruneru

Compensation sought for land acquisition

Residents living along the Peradeniya - Gampola road will be most obliged if you could kindly highlight our plight in your newspaper so that the relevant authorities will take some action to compensate us for the land acquired for the road expansion as early as 1996.

In 1995, we were given notice that portions of our land were to be taken over for road expansion and then, these lands was taken over. The road expansion work was completed well over an year ago and no compensation has been paid to anyone living along this road up to now.

This matter was taken up with the RDA and they understand that the delay was with the divisional secretary's office. We have on many occasions tried to contact the divisional secretary, but the answers we get from his office are mere excuses.

We sincerely hope that the RDA, the minister in charge, or even the funding organisation which we understand is the Asian Development Bank will look into our grievances and compensate us even at this late stage

Affected resident Gampola

Doctors - a thankless job

Much has been written about doctors in the print media for some time. There have been praise as much as condemnation. Bouquets and brickbats have been thrown at the medical fraternity time and again.

The medical service is special. It is sacred, noble and holy. It is not merely a job or a profession as such. There is much more in this sphere. Humanity at its best, kindness and love at its warmest and a high sense of sacrifice are essential criteria apart from their professional qualification, vast knowledge and expertise.

We have come across many incidents of medical negligence and callousness on the part of doctors and nursing staff some of which have even resulted in fatalities. Many are the instances when people are quick to criticise even the slightest medical misadventure, mistake or faux pas. We are wrong if we are to expect all to be perfect all the time. Mistakes do occur accidentally, certainly not willingly or purposely. It is very wrong to think that doctors and others in this noble profession would deliberately hold a patient's life to ransom. Many outside issues such as stress, strain, tiredness, lack of mental and physical rest, overwork etc. can cause medical negligence but it is the duty of all in the medical profession to try to minimise such risks by a collective and concerted effort.

As much as people are quick to criticise any wrong step or a mistake of the medicos in public, it is our duty to pay tribute and credit where such is due as it is only fair and deserving. I wish to highlight two recent incidents involving my family. My daughter eight months in expectation of her second baby had an unfortunate fall at home slipping in the stairway on April 2 noon. Fortunately for all of us she and the baby were saved but she suffered a compound fracture on her right leg, just above the ankle. On the advice of the VOG, we rushed her  to a private hospital bleeding profusely from her leg injury and immediately  taken into the emergency room where she was taken care of and later warded.

By the time we arrived at the  hospital, theVOG had already contacted the hospital and given necessary instructions. Surgery was performed that evening to clean her wound and adjust the broken bones and her leg was plastered from thigh to toe by the ever-smiling, most understanding army surgeon, Dr. S.D. Karunaratne who explained the repercussions and consoled my startled family.

The eight days she was warded she received the best medical attention from all the doctors, very loving personal care from the sisters and nursing staff, and even the minor staff.

Ranjith C. Dissanayake

Very little happening in the Wanni

D.B.S. Jeyaraj in his article titled "The role of SIHRN in the north east" in The Sunday Leader (April 27) refers to the postponement of the SIHRN meeting and the need for the LTTE to play an active part in such meetings. A special fund (NERF) has been set up and Norway as well as the Japanese government have contributed us $ 2.7 million and Rs. 35 million respectively.

It is also reported that the "government in cooperation with and funding from ADB, WB, UN agencies, bilateral agencies and NGOs is actively involved in a number of projects aimed at improving livelihood and production capacity."

Very little is happening in the Wanni. The only significant benefit has been the opening of the A9 highway. There is a free flow of goods and people and the huge market in the north has been opened up for the traders from Colombo mainly. The only produce (surplus) from the north is limited to onions, tobacco, some plantains and dried fish.

Resettlement and rehabilitation deserve high priority. At the same time short term projects that would rapidly step up production of agricultural, fisheries and small industries should be given high priority. This would make the people less dependent on relief measures, create employment and raise living standards. Even the limited produce surplus receive low prices due to poor roads and traders do not visit production areas.

We are told that studies have been made and short/long term plans have been formulated. Some ADB and World Bank financed projects are being implemented.

No one knows what and where these are located and the expected benefits. Those genuinely interested could contribute useful ideas, if development plans are made known.

R. Rajaratnam

Al Haj Ahmada Ilham


Have you met a Sri Lankan businessman who told you, payable when able? Definitely no, isn't it? But in my case, there was one - probably the only one the Almighty has installed on this serendipitous island. Most of the customers entertained at the Bambalapitiya showrooms of Rite-Shu witnessed this unique versatile quality of the late Al Haj Ahamad Ilham Thowfeek (39) who was the proprietor of this exclusive customer care centre.

He was a caring and loving marketeer of the first order. A down-to-earth hospitable man. Not only for his valuable clients, but for his staff, friends and relatives too. A live wire of the Bambalapitiya Holy Family Convent Parents Forum too.

When he breathed his last on May 5, he was under the medical care at the ICU of a leading private hospital in Colombo, following a surgical operation on his abdomen.

While Aqeeela and Nadhira will miss their beloved father, I at "Live Line" will miss a gentle human being who generously backed most of my novels, not for profit-based projects, for the past ten years.

"The time may hide the sadness. A smile will hide the tears but pleasant memories of  you will last forever"

Brother Ilham, I pray for you a successful life in the hereafter, wholeheartedly.

Haji Abdul Kareem Nandasena
Facilitator, Live Line

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