of luxury fuel guzzling vehicles on road
The rate and frequency at which fuel
prices are increased makes one think how realistic such
increases could be. There are instances when world market
prices fell, but the local prices increased for unacceptable
Going back to the '70s, the price of a
gallon of diesel was only Rs. 5.30 making the cost per litre
Rs. 1.17. This when compared to the present price per litre of
Rs 46.00 works out to an increase of 3931.6%. Working
backwards the price of a barrel of crude in the '70s should
then have been (at $50 ) to US cents 1.27, which is also
Let us now compare how diesel prices
increased locally from 1978 to 1983, from Rs. 5.30 to Rs 35.00
per gallon in 1983, the increase works out to 60%. No one
spoke of subsidies then. The word subsidy was a recent
political invention to put petrol car owners against the
diesel car owners and vice versa, so that while the fights go
on, the real culprit remains hidden.
Let us put the blame for this on the
Arabs, and let us examine how the road tax which has no
connection with world market prices rose during the same
For a certain category of car known to
me the licence fee of Rs 187.50 (1978), saw an increase in
successive years to Rs. 750.00 to Rs. 1,500.00 to Rs.6000.00
in1983, giving the percentage increase as 3,200 per cent. This
has nothing to do with world market prices. So it is obvious
that the motorists were compelled to pay through their noses
for something happening between the Arabs in the ME or our own
Accepting the present crisis situation,
even now it is possible to give some relief to genuine car
owners by imposing Rs.1.00 per litre as road tax and abolish
the annual licence fee to partly reduce the burden, and close
down a section of the CMTs corrupt organisation. This too
cannot be done because our brilliant economists want persons
who travel less to pay more and those who do unlimited travel
to pay less. Don't we really have brilliant
"economists"? So it is not the economist who runs
our treasury but the burdened motorist which is why there is
such a high demand for free travel in government vehicles,
again paid for by the poor people and causing severe traffic
congestion on our roads.
The only major project we can think of
funded locally was the construction of the new parliament at
Kotte. And it was during this same period that prices of
petrol, diesel, arrack, cigarettes went up and up
uncontrollably. Has anyone thanked the motorists for this
Serious doubts emanate from these facts
that some other game is going on for which we are made to pay
dearly. No government can make up for budgetary gaps or other
losses due to high living, corruption and waste by raising
fuel prices. The way out is to commence intelligently planned
development projects which will attract investments, increase
productivity, create jobs, reduce brain drain and improve the
quality of life of our people.
The people will bear any hardship for
the sake of our country but not otherwise. At a time when
prices are soaring and the cost of living affecting the poor
people we can see thousands of luxury, fuel guzzling vehicles
unsuitable for our roads (some having V6 and V8 engines),
coming into our country and the massive fuel bills the
government is made to incur to maintain the government's free
travel facility to thousands, all paid for
by the poor people. It is also worth saying that rarely
mentioned are the rising prices of oil and lubricants which
also go the same way as fuel prices.
Can an honest / competent gentleman
from CPC challenge these figures with his own arithmetic?
Please do so for the sake of our country before a major
quick-fix needed to prevent bus accidents
It will take a very long time for the
powers that be to formulate and put in place a plan to prevent
accidents, due to the negligence of bus drivers. Till such
time, a quick-fix is necessary to rein in drivers, who care
not a cent, for the lives of the passengers in the bus.
I suggest that the mindset of the
driver (and conductor) and the commuter be changed, so that
the latter assumes the status of the 'owner', of the bus. This
idea must be built into the psyche of both parties; that the
passenger is in command and that the driver is his employee.
It should be made mandatory with
immediate effect, that all buses, private and public carry a
large board prominently displayed inside the vehicle, in all
three languages; "Commuters have the right to restrain
the driver if he drives in a negligent manner." This will
mean that any passenger will feel comfortable to speak to the
driver, kindly, firmly or forcefully, if he feels that the bus
is being driven in a manner dangerous to the commuters.
Some drivers are not in their proper
senses, due to overwork, taking liquor or medicine. Most, with
the connivance of the conductor are hell bent to make as much
money as possible. These reasons lead to the fact that bus
driver handles his vehicle with the safety and care of his
passengers not uppermost in his mind.
In the absence of 'authority' in his
bus, the driver feels he is the master of the situation. If he
is made to understand that he owes obedience to the reasonable
request/order of the passenger, he could be made to drive with
Upon the driver and the conductor
having to read this board, on a daily basis, several times a
day, due to its prominent placing, their mindset will be
moulded subconsciously, to treat the commuter as their master.
This will compel them to automatically heed the advice of
their passengers. At the moment, the commuter feels inferior
to the driver and conductor. He thinks he is being done a
favour, by being given transport. But in reality, it is a
symbiotic relationship, each needing the other, equally.
Therefore, neither party is second to the other, but equal
partners in this project of transportation.
In this scenario, the commuter has the
right to object to overpacking of the bus, and to the
negligent manner in which the bus is driven which results
invariably in horrendous accidents. The commuter should feel
comfortable to order the driver to handle the bus with care,
for the safety of the passengers. He should also be able to
object to the bus being overloaded beyond the limit of comfort
of the commuter. Overcrowding leads to the invasion of
privacy, to unwanted attention, theft and even to the danger
of the vehicle toppling over at bends.
This board announcing the right of a
passenger, hung inside every bus, will notify everybody, who
is the boss during a journey. It will build up very quickly, a
mentality, that the bus is manned by the employees of those
who are its passengers.
All employees understand that they have
to obey a reasonable request of the employer. Employers know
that if their employee is negligent, he has to be spoken to
firmly, sometimes using force on him, to avert a huge disaster
to all concerned. This will lead to safe and pleasant
commuting by bus.
I am sure bus owners (private and
public) will welcome this simple, cheap and quick method to
prevent accidents, that give unnecessary heartache and expense
to themselves too.
at the crossing: time to act now
The tragedy at the rail crossing which
caused the death of over 35 passengers and caused injury to
nearly 50 others could have been prevented had the Private Bus
Owners Association, the national Transport Commission,
Ministry of Transport and above all, the Police Department
done their duty.
I say "above all, the Police
Department" with good reason. Daily you find private bus
drivers going against the red light, overtaking byzpassing the
double white lines and driving in the most reckless manner.
But are they nabbed? No. But if you and I go through even an
amber light there will be a ticket given to you. This attitude
towards the private bus drivers by the police cannot be
understood. The IGP must look into this.
The head of the Private Bus Owners
Association has said that "there is a surplus of buses on
most routes" I don't think he has travelled by bus
recently or else he could not have made this statement
considering the way buses are jam packed. Is he aware that
there are buses with three hand rails for standing passengers?
If what he said is true, how can he account for this
particular bus carrying nearly 100 passengers?
He has blamed the government and the
provincial authorities for failing to impose standards. Will
he now, solemnly and sincerely, promise that he will ensure
that his unruly bus drivers and conductors will not strike
once the standards are imposed?
The Prime Minister, after announcing
that Rs. 25,000 would be given for the funeral expenses of
each dead person, has said that a fly-over is what is required
but failed to mention about any deterrent action that should
be taken against suicidal drivers. Of course, a fly-over will
cost only a few hundred million - which is nothing to a
country like ours, but, the benefit to the few lucky ones can
only be imagined.
Some questions from the Ministry of
Transport. Is it not a condition that all buses carrying
paying passengers should be insured? If not, why? Should it
not be a condition, before the route licence is given, that
all buses must be insured against any injury or even death of
its passengers? If not, will he make it a condition now? What
is the liability of the owner of this bus towards the
As for the National Transport
Commission, is it not time that you thought of the passengers,
who get a rawer deal that cattle - overloading of cattle is an
offence but not the overloading of human beings? Why has not
any action been taken about the number of standing passengers?
If there is any law why isn't the police insisting on
enforcing such rule? Are you also insensitive to the torture
that bus travellers undergo daily?
Let this accident - I cannot call it an
accident but an action of a maniac - be an eye opener to all
concerned in the road passenger service. Nothing much can be
expected of the politicians who travel in luxury cars, in
armed convoys and make promises before elections but let the
others who can do something to prevent this type of accident
act now. Tomorrow will be too late.
W. R. de Silva
to JR's rule and his horrendous constitution
How many, I wonder, remember the
tumultuous politics of the late '60s. The older generation has
probably forgotten and the younger set are conceivably
Dudley was then the Prime Minister and
chose his "loyalist" JR as the all powerful minister
of state. Soon, however, the trusting, placid and affable
Dudley was made aware of his 'loyalist's' grass cutting
tactics. He was naturally incensed by this and was hell-bent
on sacking JR. This led to the law courts.
Not to be outdone, JR sought SLFP
membership, which Mrs. B. wisely rejected.
Had JR succeeded in joining the SLFP,
its fate would have been predictable.
Had JR succeeded in his application,
what then of the country! It would surely have been saved from
(1) His post '77 unbridled free market
economic policy which was heralded by his infamous invitation,
"Let the robber barons come."
(2) This policy which led to a massive
closure of local industry and its attendant unemployment.
(3) This policy which also resulted in
the total abdication to the whims and fancies of the World
Bank and the IMF that enmeshed the country in a 'debt-trap'
even as of today, which has made the poor, poorer.
(4) The promulgation of the horrendous
constitution that was designed primarily to prevent UNP
debacles as in '56 and ' 71, by doing away with the 'first
past the post system'. Indeed, even in '94 when the UNP
managed to get a sizeable presence in parliament due to
proportional representation, it yet managed only to win
Mahiyangana which produced the well-crafted and pithy slogan,
"Veddah nathtan reddath ne"
(5) His anti-India and anti-Indira
foreign policy which saw that country for the first time in
its history establish a southern military command.
(6) The holocaust in 1983 which was a
direct result of the massive triumph of Hector Kobbekaduwa in
the north and east at the 1982 presidential election.
(Yes, I am a Cassandra because I
remember saying to a Tamil friend of mine that his community
was now in for a huge mauling).
(7) Provoking Mrs. Gandhi in her
undoubtedly misguided policy of nurturing Tamil militants.
(8) A presidential reprieve to Gonawela
Sunil for the "small" offence of abduction and rape
in broad daylight at Ward Place. He would perhaps have yet
been above albeit languishing in jail.
Such then are the quirks of fate that
guide the misfortunes of a country.
Sidat Sri Nandalochana
Reading comments made by a reader
recently about SLBC's holiday bungalow, I wish to make some
comments mainly about the Commercial Service (English section)
and its pathetic state of affairs.
Most of its programmes are done in a
very haphazard manner. There is hardly any professionalism or
enthusiasm on the part of the presenter. Instead, it is
centred around the presenter, most of the time commenting
about himself/herself, or serving themselves with 'self
delivered bouquets'. In this regard one cannot help but come
to the conclusion that some of these announcers are suffering
from some sort of 'cheap-popularity-syndrome', and this is all
done at the expense of the taxpayer's money. This is in
complete contrast to other radio stations, very particularly
those private stations that always put the listener before
them and act in a more responsible manner.
Then listen to some of those so called
request programmes They are inundated with batches of names
supposed to be coming from the listeners, but even a child can
guess most of them are bogus ones. Even the songs played are
done according to the whims and fancies of the announcer. Some
of them are too lazy to compile a good programme and some of
them seem to be only interested in collecting a few bucks from
These time servers are taking the
listener too much for granted. But little do they know they
are only driving away the listener to other radio stations.
Also, it is high time they induce some experienced young blood
into the announcing staff instead of having grand mamas and
papas whose voices are so feeble, unpleasant and repulsive.
Listening to some of them, one can easily guess they are well
past 80 years, and perhaps even on dentures.
In short, the Commercial Service is a
big burden on the taxpayer with hardly any commercials or
sponsored programmes. Anyhow they should be greatly thankful
to BBC for salvaging it from its utter bankruptcy and near
collapse, by entering into a long lease contract, thereby
forfeiting a good part of its prime time broadcasting hours.
We understand it is with the money derived out of this
contract they manage to pay the salaries of its staff and meet
other overhead expenses.
pirith sermons at street corners - a disgrace
The trend that has taken root to erect
Buddha statues and broadcast at full blast, pirith in the
mornings and evenings from every junction, nook and corner of
towns and suburbs, is unethical and a disgrace to Buddhist
It is most regrettable that temples and
other Buddhist institutions of the respective areas, encourage
this practice. The initiative for this disgraceful practice is
taken, mostly, by uneducated and unemployed youth, who hang
around at junctions, threewheeler drivers, private bus crews
and undesirable characters in towns. The general public of the
area for obvious reasons, comply with them with cash
contributions in muted silence.
As an age-long practice, we have had
pirith sermons early morning and in the night, in the tranquil
atmosphere in our homes.
Does this noisy broadcasting of pirith
serve any useful purpose other than demean our religious
principles and ourselves as Buddhists.
de Silva Jayasundera (Welikala)
It has been an honour and a privilege
for me to have known this remarkable person; in all honesty, Nelum
had all that it takes to be the perfect person, whose life could fit
into the teaching of all religions on this earth.
Her qualities were kind, loving,
unselfish, compassionate, tolerant, content and many more, and it is
these that have set Nelum aside from most people that have met in my
walk of life. Nelum was the ideal wife that unhesitatingly,
unconditionally and not counting the cost, gave all that she had to
her husband and daughter
She was able to make the best of any
situation that she was placed in and she had a philosophical outlook
to life in general. I admired her for these qualities and people
like her made the drab fabric of life sparkle with threads of gold.
Nelum was way ahead of her time in her outlook on life. She walked
through this impermanent world, which is so full of sadness and
intolerance, with compassionate love
Nelum was truly a shining light to
others, much as a lighthouse would be to a ship's captain on a grey
and rough sea. As I sit writing this I can hear her gentle laughter,
inquiring after my health, and giving me sisterly counsel. Nelum has
touched the hearts and lives of many who came to know her, and she
knew the power of love that can destroy all bonds of evil, hate and
The more I look into her life the more
I see how imperfect most of us are and how we, who are on this
earth, can learn to live like her and to this extent I firmly
believe that her mission in life was to show us the way. The brave
manner with which she faced her illness is another lesson that Nelum
has taught me. My heart is filled with sorrow that I was not there
physically to say how much we love and admired her, but we were
there in sprit.
We all live this life but once, and the
clock of life is wound but once, we don't know the time or the hour
set aside for each one of us, tomorrow is not promised to anyone, so
lets live the life that Nelum has shown us. Leave no regrets and be
sure one day all of us shall meet.
Nothing can break the chords of love
that bind our hearts to Nelum - we were privileged to have had you
in our family.
Our thoughts and prayers are with all
the loved ones you have left behind and I am sure friends and
relations who have gone before will meet you on the other shore.
Rohan De Silva Jayasundera