Letters to the editor

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11th July, 2004  Volume 10, Issue 52

















How can we identify a Buddhist monk now?

I am a Christian and I write this to seek information. I have read Buddhist philosophy. I respect the Buddha. I respect His disciples. My problem is, how do I identify His disciples?

The Buddhist monk is not supposed to be a man with a short hair cut, wrist watch, tinted eye glasses, with mobile phone, elevator sandals, carrying a brief case and dressed in a Roman toga of red, maroon or brown colour.

So who is this man or men like him. They are increasing in number. Am I to get up and give him my seat in a bus? Where do we draw the line? If this man comes in a green or blue coloured toga am I to consider him as a Buddhist monk?

When will the people of this country realise that when there in this type of men there is potential for inter religious, if not, civil conflict?

Etul Kotte

  • With state media dancing to her tune....

President playing havoc with people's freedoms 

I am an old man, a retired journalist. In my day there was only one newspaper worth talking about. It was the Gospel, the Oracle. It reported the country's daily life with power and authority. But now, I am told, that people have begun to call it by all kinds of names like, The Daily Noise, The Daily Joke and such. Yet, I know people who think it is still a great buy in this day and age when real toilet paper is so very expensive.

Do I still buy this paper? Sure. For the advertisements and death notices. It's a habit, you see. Increasingly, like a bad habit because I can't believe a word of what it says. How can you when a newspaper thinks that all in the government are cowboys (and girls) and all in the opposition are crooks? Surely there must be a cowboy or two in the opposition too! Something seems to be very rotten in the Republic of Sri Lanka when characters of good men and women are daily assassinated in screaming headlines by this newspaper which is expected to be the model for all others.

What is frightening is that all this bare-faced lying is accompanied by a kind of hubris, a shameless daring. They seem to be enjoying what they are doing. Don't they see their shameless wallowing in the political mire as polluting all genuine journalists and journalism? There seems to be a calculated conspiracy, an editorial policy to hoodwink this country into a Mugabe's Zimbabwe, a military junta's Myanmar, or a Hitler's Germany. Are they trying to compel us into a cult of the dear leader as in Kim's North Korea, where, the 'Dear Leader' is all over the newspapers and the walls; where the 'Dear Leader' is busy making nukes while the people go hungry? How else can we explain all the words and the noises of the President daily editorialised and glorified while news about the plight of the country is glossed over or misreported?

As one connected to the institution in the past, knowing the standards we had always maintained there, the question I have is: aren't there at least a few good men over there who will stand up to this sham, this great deception? If I am to believe all what people say: that the walls of that great House by the Lake are studded with the eyes and the ears of the Big Sister watching and listening: that there are Sandanaya goons (mainly the JVP kind who have the necessary expertise) with guns behind the desks; and that the place is teeming with spies reporting directly to the Presidential Secretariat?

Then, I can try to understand this new KGB here in Sri Lanka. Could it be possible that all the infamous muck of the Beira Lake and the sewage lines of Colombo have converged on this institution to produce this poisonous stink?

From what I see, this beloved country is in deep trouble and there seems to be no way out: A President playing havoc with people's freedoms and the state media dancing to her tune and singing her praises!

To whom can we appeal? To the Supreme Court? To the Chief Justice?

Retired journalist

Madame Hitler and her Gestapo

Madame Hitler may be away but her Gestapo is in action.

The attempt to abduct Ravi Karunanayake was aborted and the A.S.P who had been entrusted with the task, looked distinctly sheepish and foolish, being unable to provide any valid reason for the attempted abduction. But it was frightening in its implications.

It was too closely reminiscent of the JVP abductions of former years when opponents were forcibly taken away from their homes, never to be seen alive again.

Are we sliding back to the horrible deeds of that period? Are opponents of the P. A. / JVP (mis) Alliance to be abducted like this? If it can happen to a prominent MP, what hope for humble 'puravasiyo' like us.


'Best Speaker' did not deserve the accolade! 

Let me introduce myself as a lover of the English language. I have attended virtually all the All Island Best Speakers Contests held in Colombo year in year out.

The last one was no exception. Armed with an invitation, purchased for Rs. 100, I took my seat by 5.20pm at the Colombo Plaza and waited expectantly for the show to begin.

In the past I have been enthralled by the sheer speaking genius of wonderful public speakers of the calibre of Mohamed Adamally (if I remember right, was the first 'Champion Speaker' of this contest) followed by equally gifted, top quality speakers such as the suave Rajiv Gunatilleke, talented stage personality Feroze Kamaldeen, the eloquent and articulate Dyan Seneviratne; lady champion speakers such as ex TNL's news anchor Michelle Perera and the well known English teacher, Jamna Pathmanathan.

With the memory of such unforgettable entertainment etched in my mind and starved of good English events I eagerly awaited this year's contest.

What a rude shock I received. Standards had dropped alarmingly, epitomized by the 'performance' of the eventual, pathetic winner. Most well informed, unbiased non Toastmasters in the audience felt that the so-called winner did NOT deserve the accolade of A 1 Public Speaker of the Island for 2004.

I prefer to live with the memory of those great champion speakers of the past and shall never attend this so-called All Island Best Speakers Contest again. Shame!

Basil C. Fernando,

Hobson's choice for Muralitharan 

There appears to be a tug of war, regarding Murali's visit to Australia.  On one side High profile persons like Ricky Pontin,Shane Warne and John Howard, (now with a complete turn around) are inviting Murali with open arms. Some sections of the biased media, and sinister unseen hands seem to hold the other end of the rope.

The other day a query about Murali was raised by a member of the Channel  7-news panel. The leader of the panel without even inquiring what the query was, at the sound of Murali's name, went into a xenophobic fit.  He exclaimed: "Muralidaran!, So what about him? If he is a chucker, he is a chucker, and if he is a cheat, he is cheat."  Now his arrogant, puerile outburst was on national TV. These words would have been music to the ears of people who are already biased against Murali.

Under these unfavorable conditions , we fully appreciate Murali's decision not to come to Australia. It appears that a stage is set for another bout of humiliation and insults.

After all he not only holds a world record, but he holds a squeaky clean record both on and off the field. He was never accused of ball tampering, boorish and uncouth behaviour, match fixing, drug abuse or sexual misconduct.

He is head and shoulders above the rest of the high profile sportsmen. The humiliation, insults and innuendoes not only

 hurt him but millions of his admirers and  the country he represents. So Murali rest on your laurels and keep doing whatever you are expected to do in Sri Lanka.

F.S.R. Jayamanne

Priorities for Amunugama and Jayasundara 

Despite the difficulties and opposition from the JVP, it is clear that the new Minister of Finance, Dr. Sarath Amunugama, and his Secretary Dr. P. B. Jayasundara, are keen on adopting economic policies which will not be harmful to the country in the medium to long-term. Whatever promises given at election time these two seem to have realised that promises are easier to make than to fulfill. Now it is upto them to convince others in the cabinet, particularly the JVP'ers who know next to nothing on public finance, and of the need to follow sound macroeconomic policies. Otherwise, inflation will pick up, prices will rise and the government will be voted out of power.

What is most difficult would be to convince the JVP'ers who only yesterday were blissfully giving election promises, one after another, not pausing to think how to fulfill them. This has always been the case with even other political parties. But having been in and out of power for the last 50 years, failing to fulfill election promises was not an issue to the UNP and SLFP. But the JVP is not prepared to let down the masses without a fight and after all, their reputation is at stake. This will make the task of the Amunugama-Jayasundara duo next to impossible.

But there are other far easier ways in which this duo could help the small and medium sectors involved in agriculture, industry, horticulture, fisheries, acquaculture, transportation, power generation and so many other sectors that actively create employment, by way of direct and indirect taxes. A major mistake of the UNF was to neglect these sectors totally. Not only were they denied any exchange and tariff based protection but they were also deprived of the services available from the only two main long-term lending institutions, DFCC and NDB. Both these institutions were set up for the specific purpose of meeting the medium and long financing requirements of the important small and medium enterprises (SME) sector. This type of lending is known to be more risky than short term lending, requires long-term deposit bases and also multidisciplinary project evaluation skills, which the normal commercial banks seriously lacked. Equipped with all these and led by visionary and unselfish CEOs in the 1970s, 80s and 90s' both DFCC and NDB were able to inspire confidence among multilateral lending agencies and NGOs who readily channelled their credit lines through these tow lending organisations.

As a result, DFCC and NDB were able to play a very important role in the high rates of economic growth achieved and jobs created during the past. Of course all credit for this success was taken by the politicians of that era. Since then, due to the shortsighted policies of the new authorities at DFCC and NDB, they decided to gradually  give up development banking and thereby lose focus on this important function. At their behest, the former Treasury Secretary, Charitha Ratwatte, was even contemplating amendments to the DFCC and NDB Acts of Parliament. It was a major mistake, which was only avoided by the timely dissolution of parliament.

The result was a steady decline in the number and type of SME projects financed by DFCC and NDB, forcing these two to depend even more on commercial banking to maintain the bottom line. With over 25 commercial banks already in operation, that also proved to be difficult, weakening both institutions. Finally, their priority became maintaining bottom lines and not financing and upgrading the SME sector. The final loser was not DFCC nor NDB but the last UNF regime.

That's why the Amunugama - Jayasundara duo should use all their authority to bring back the old glorious days of DFCC and NDB when they were funding job creating industrial projects and not playing the stock market and engaging in commercial banking which market is already saturated. That would be the far easier and more practical way of fulfilling election promises  for the new UPFA regime.

Cleatus Jayawardena
Thalangama South

Vendetta of a cheap government 

If what happened to Ravi Karunanayake, a respected parliamentarian is not a vendetta of a cheap government with a petty minded cabinet, then where do the public and fair minded journalists who have been trying to expose evil stand?

At the will and pleasure of a scheming head who organises all these conspiracies with a crafty smile and surreptitiously runs away overseas on one of the many pleasure trips to enjoy the ill-gotten wealth accumulated between 1994 todate.

Has Ranil Wickreme-singhe realised that gentlemanliness and clean politics do not pay in this country. He is paying for the sins of omission in not impeaching her and a few others who are ruling the roost in these past three months again and abusing power to the extreme.

The national media is a public disgrace. It is amusing and ludicrous to observe the new media minister mouthing falsehoods and profanities and abusing TV.

Trouble shooter

 Chandana Aelian Cooray 


On March 11, one of the most eminent public servants this country passed away at the age of 83.

C. A. Coorey (Chanda to his friends) was a person who had a truly outstanding academic record. His performance at Royal College which he joined in 1930 and left in 1937, was probably unparalleled. He won every single form prize. He was my cousin ( I was seven years younger than he was) and all of us younger cousins of whom there were many because the Jayawickrama clan (of which Sargo was a famous figure) was prolific and held him in awe. I remember one day when I was holidaying at his home in Panadura ( a lovely mansion called 'Leelamal') he took me to his room and pulled out from a drawer a carefully preserved sheaf of school reports. I believe he did this to inspire me to try to emulate him. What I saw was something extraordinary. Term after term, year after year, he had been placed first in his class. Never second or third - always first.

He won a number of prizes in school, apart from the annual form prize. Among them were the De Soysa Science Prize, the Governor's Prize, The Old Boy's Prize for the Junior Cambridge, and the Turnour Prize for Best Student. My brother, Dr. Raja de Silva, recalls the fact that the Principal, L. H. W. Sampson, had announced one day at assembly, that C. A. Coorey had won the Turnour Prize from the Fifth Form beating a brilliant competitor (whom he did not name, though the cognoscenti knew he referred to the fabled S. A. Jayawardena) who was in a higher form.

Chanda had an equally brilliant contemporary at school, in the person of Baku Mahadeva who always came first whenever he was in a parallel class.

Chanda went on to get the inevitable first (in Chemistry) at the university. He was awarded the Coomaraswamy Prize for Science, the Bhikaji Framji Gold Medal for Chemistry and the Government University Science Scholarship for post-graduate studies at Balliol College, Oxford University . He was unable to proceed to Oxford because of the war but went on to lecture in chemistry at the university.

I remember one night at Leelamal when I was chatting alone to his father Dr. Henry Coorey, he told me he would prefer Chanda to sit the Civil Service examination rather than continue his career as a lecturer in Chemistry. He was concerned that there could arise some undesirable competition between Chanda and my elder brother C. L. de Silva who was also a lecturer in chemistry, having got a first and won the government scholarship to England two years before Chanda. Be that as it may, Chanda did sit the civil service examination and pass it as everybody expected. I believe Baku Mahadeva and he came first and second that year.

Thereafter, Chanda's career was what you would expect of a brilliant civil servant. He spent much of his time in the Treasury and ended up as secretary to the Treasury. He was a strict and punctiliously correct man who earned the soubriquet of 'Dr No'. In 1975 he was appointed executive director of the ADB, Manila, for Sri Lanka, Laos, Afghanistan and Vietnam. He returned to Sri Lanka in 1979  to set up the National Development Bank of which he was the founder chairman.

It was about then that I became the founder chairman of Lanka Orix Leasing Company Ltd (LOLC). Chanda, as chairman of the NDB that had, among other institutions, invested in LOLC, was one of the first directors of LOLC and we worked together from 1980, until 1989. I was able to observe the sharpness of his intellect at first hand. I was fortunate enough to have that other towering intellect, Baku Mahadeva take this place on my board, when Chanda and he swapped the chairmanships of the DFCC and the NDB in 1989.

In recognition of his services to the country Chanda was awarded the Desamanya in 1993.

Throughout his long and illustrious career Chanda had the support of his wife, Lakshmi, daughter of Dr and Mrs Alfred de Silva of Kalutara. I recall, with pride, being a junior member of the family group that accompanied Chanda on the occasion of his betrothal.

To sum up I would say that Chanda was a wonderful example of an upright, fearless, dedicated, public servant who never sought any favours from politicians.

Desamanya Charitha P. de Silva

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