The hassle at BIA
I walked out of the aeroplane and yes...Colombo International Airport has evolved even though some things never change in this sunny island.
Aerobridges have come up. What a convenience. Hay, behold... arriving passengers walk through departing passengers.. never seen this before. As you approach the finish line of your walk, you would see the President of the country beaming on the upper wall. He is alone... where are the Prime Minister and the Minister of Aviation? Perhaps sanity is creeping back, ever so slow though. Who looks at those pictures, anyway, except the
political stooges around?
At the end of the walkway there sits a huge white Buddha. During Vesak the surrounding area too was appropriately decorated. What a religious country? Unlike in any other airport in the world, do they want the whole world to know that the majority of its citizenry is Buddhist?
Then for a foreigner to have such a first impression of the country , surely it must be living up to the expectations created at the airport. No wars, no killings, no rape , no arson, no bribery, no corruption, no jealousy, no indiscipline, no intolerance ..etc. What a place this should be.
On second thoughts, in a democracy, then where is the statue of Jesus Christ, where is the representation of the Muslim faith, at least to mention the major religions in the country? Perhaps the monk MPs did not want that. Ah, never mind, whatís this comparing to the elephant family that who stood there in the arrival hall under a previous regime.
Immigration counters.. wow! more counters and more officers. Finally young faces instead of the tired and eternally inebriated old guard. I would have preferred to see some smiles on their faces or if they indulge in casual talk with passengers.
Ah, never mind with experience they will develop that. When many countries are automating the processes and doing away with immigration cards or reduce the information asked, we develop them further. Thatís what Sri Lankans are experts of and I should have known it anyway.
Through the duty free shops, down the escalator , no difficulty in locating my baggage delivery area and I found my bag. but where are the luggage trolleys, are they in short supply? May be they are being used. Get them back once the usage is over. Perhaps I arrived at the wrong time, during a busy hour, and Iíll remember that on my next visit.
My last formality would be the customs I suppose. Nothing to declare I approached the prominent green channel and the officer grudgingly demanded my passport . While grabbing it from my fingers he frowned at me, possibly wrestling with the thought, how can this Asian looking creature hold a foreign passport?
Sleazily he flipped through the pages and gesticulated... there ! Where? I was confused and asked him where. He rudely uttered some English sounding words, surely the customs officer could not speak English, perhaps not a criterion, but through the movement of the hands I guessed there should be another green channel exit. I wandered and eureka!
I found the green channel for foreigners. Thatís more like a tunnel and hope itís not an entrance to a gas chamber because when there were so many customer officers in white staring at the passengers walking through that channel reminded me of how the SS officers would have stared at the Jews who entered the concentration camps where Arbeit mach man frei.
As I walked out of the customs exit door, I heard voices like in a Sunday market. Nangi, nangi, mehenna. Sir you want to change money? Akke enna enna. Madam come. Akke salli maaru karanna enna. I have never heard or seen anything like this before in my whole life at an international airport. Bank officials are calling customers to their stalls with all possible hand movements .
Slowly I approached the final exit, looking around and I saw an unattractive counter with a statue like lean figure behind.
Sri Lanka Tourism is promoting Sri Lanka at its counter at the international airport of the country. I went across and requested some literature on Sri Lanka, if anything has changed after independence because its 58 years since then. An absolutely unimpressive display, a solitary staff member, and only an accommodation guide is available to be given away to inquirers. no maps of Sri Lanka, city maps are out of stock, no
literature on the islandís attractions.
When I was a child, 35-40 years ago, what a peaceful place it was and is this the price we pay in the name of development or is this the price we pay for the growing population? I do not understand.
All what I know is , next week I have to leave through this airport.
Looking into change in school hours
A news broadcast of the SLBC on may 2 said that a cabinet sub- committee has been appointed to go into the change of the starting time of schools.
The arbitrary decision of the previous head of state to advance the time by one hour was taken 10 years ago. Then again it was reduced by half an hour. We have been carrying out our day-to-day activities half an hour earlier much against our will and the natural time bestowed on us by the almighty . There were no consultations with the parents, intellectuals, educationists etc. to advance the time and later to reduce it .
Everything was done arbitrarily.
Before the time change took place schools started at 7.30 a.m. and all students happily attended schools.
They returned home half an hour early unlike nowadays without much exhaustion.
Each and everyone at present welcome the change of time to the original (God blessed) time, so that they may get on to their daily routine half an hour early without much hesitation.
We are very much grateful to the incumbent president for the change in time. A nice job perfectly done!
The change in time of the school hours was done by the education experts at the education Department alone. No politicians were involved. Nowadays politicians are far away from education except for a few.
A committee has been appointed to inquire into the change in school hours and there will be sittings and hearings from the public. No member of this committee will dare do honorary service.
There will be remunerations, batta involved and a lot of money spent only on a matter of half an hour. Ultimately it is the taxpayers, the general public who will have to shoulder the unnecessary burden of this pointless expenditure and a colossal waste of precious time and money for the sake of 30 minutes.
There are a lot of other things to go into by sub - committees leaving aside this half an hour matter.
I think it is most appropriate to leave this matter to the Education Department (after all they are paid for it) and save money and time.
An old timer
Turmoil and bloodshed
The planetary scenario for Sri Lanka in the coming weeks forebodes ill for the people of this land. The portents are ominous. The conjunction of two malefies ó Saturn and debilitated Mars in the zodiac sign of Cancer on the morning of May 24 presages conflict, violence and possible bloodshed.
As the days pass the two malefies come into exact conjunction and there is likely to be more turmoil in the country leading to a massacre.
The contending parties will blame each other but the people will suffer. Loss of lives and economic chaos which will follow the break up of law and order will result in untold hardship. There is every sign of a holocaust in which case, a curfew will be on the cards.
Individually, those born under the zodiac signs of Leo, Cancer and Sagittarius are likely to suffer most. Loss of power, wealth, position, physical disabilities like injuries from falls, broken bones, bloodletting, cardio vascualr illnesses, haemorrhages and embolisms are likely. They are advised to be on their guard.
Sudden or instant death from heart seizure or failure is also possible. This largely depends on the planetary positions of their individual charts at birth.
Congestion at Navam Mawatha
Since the bomb blast incident at Army Headquarters the police have barricaded Navam Mawatha causing heavy congestion.
The Ceylon Chamber of Commerce and many other offices are situated there and they have made this road two way and all vehicles have to come through Slave Island only.
The police to satisfy their two way political masters have closed the roads causing inconvenience to the public and also affecting businesses especially at the Chamber of Commerce where they have regular seminars tea auctions etc.
What the police should have done was to barricade the road towards Temple Trees from Navam Mawatha and kept the way to the opposite direction towards Galle Face open for traffic so that the general public can use it.
This is not the first time the Police have done this kind of thing without thinking of the general public and only safeguarding the interest of politicians.
C.S. de Silva
Most violated Act of Parliament
Media reports during the last few weeks clearly show that major shareholders of DFCC and NDB are fast changing the original charters of helping the small and medium role entrepreneurs to one where only the interests of the majority shareholders are being looked after.
Both, NDB and DFCC were set up by Acts of Parliament under full government ownership for the specific purpose of mobilising capital from Overseas Development Finance Institutions (DFIs) and on lending to deserving small and medium scale enterprises (SMEs).
Though owned by government, they were run on the best of private sector discipline. However, due to the shortsighted acts of the then governments, majority ownership and management control has passed onto two parties whose reputations are highly questionable. DFCCs majority ownership is now with a conglomerate controlled by an individual who has several charges of tax and custom duty evasions against him pending investigation.
NDB is in a similar plight with the banned pyramid scheme operator being the single largest shareholder. Another common feature is that both shareholders are in violation of the Banking Act but Central Bank is for some reason not taking steps as required by law to order reduction of the ownership limits. Perhaps the Governor and Director, Bank Supervision are waiting for the situation to get worse before taking action.
The games governments play
The games governments play are less apparent to the eye than the games people play. For years the public has been taken in by the apparently grave and pompous roles of governments in human affairs. But now most people know that politics is "theatre" and the politicians are actors. To be a good actor is not to know oneself but to know oneís evidence. They all act the parts to achieve and
retain power and aim for the spoils of society with strategems.
Perhaps the best saying was by a politician in a foreign country: " The most essential qualification for a politician is the ability to foretell what will happen tomorrow next month, next year and explain later why it did not happen."
They play many types of games, like impressive six year plans, of beguiling slogans like rice from the moon, bread, peace, Sinhala , the state language, free mid- day meal to school children and party resolutions promising all things to all people. These games have wonderful, simple and appealing labels once the masses subscribe to these.
But a time comes when these games get reversed. During this time, societies, unions and other groups become unmanageable.
At this point, the governments say ĎOh the people must be protected from the devil, referring to the people seeking power.í
Through all these games , they say "we could give you the impossible right away and the possible will take time."
Then comes a time where governments wish to create an impression of power over evil. Blackmarketers will be jailed, nationalisation of private banks, vigilance commissions for the corrupt will be set up. But somehow with all the defections, corruption, illegal selections and elections, the punishments do not fit the crimes.
The final show is the independence day celebrations. Itís a typical Sinhala circus with a touch of war, and a touch of peace, tamashas with something for everybody.
Another Peradeniya friend has gone to the that Great Beyond. We at Peradeniya knew him as Hariz Zuhair. And those of us very close to him called him Zu.
It was in 1960 that I first met Zu . We were that yearís Peradeniya freshers. Moreover, we were in the same hall, Marrs.
From the time we met at Marrs till we went our own ways after Peradeniya, we were very close friends. In fact before the seniors arrived in 1960 we had already forged life - long friendships. Some of us freshers at Marrs had a very special link with some at Sanghamitta. So we had a group of freshers mainly from Marrs and Sanghamitta.
Memories flood the mind as I in this tribute to a dear friend now departed remember those years at Peradeniya and thereafter;
The studies that we did together, the games we played, table tennis, badminton and certainly cricket. During our time Marrs hall won the coveted Gold Cup.
All other Peradeniya activities that kept us together, the debates, drama; the hikes to Hantane and discovering the surroundings of Peradeniya.
The time that we spent with Doric de Souza learning to be young socialists. The magazines we got from Amaradasa Fernando and shared.
The freshers being welcomed by the seniors. participating in Hall politics. Those bicycle rides down the Marrs hill doubling Zu.
However, there came a time when we lost contact after Peradeniya. But Zuís illness that led to his death enabled me to see him again and also meet his folk. I knew his family when we were students for I was a frequent visitor to his Ratmalana home.
It was sad to see him ill. But those visits to his sick bed and those telephone conversations when he used to be at home at Dehiwala enabled us to catch up with those lost years.
Zu was always faithful to his Islamic faith. When I met him after many years, I saw a zeal in his practice as a follower of Islam.
Zu, thank you for the friendship that you gave us. In a sense, you gave us your very best. We shall hold on to those Peradeniya memories and remember you with love gratitude and affection.
To his family, all I can say is that their Zuhair was a person whom all of us loved and respected.