23rd July, 2006  Volume 13, Issue 2

First with the news and free with its views                                     First with the news and free with its views                             First with the news and free with its views                                    


President told : time is running out

Set down your plan for devolution

Mr President , the ball is in your court...

If you stand firm on a negotiated settlement and are truthful and mean what you say, set down the basic outline of the devolution package you have in mind for the people of this nation under a federal system of government within a united Sri Lanka, and then call the LTTE for talks, whether it be in Kilinochchi or wherever.

It has to happen soon, and cannot happen so long as you play for time on inviting them for talks, which the people of intelligence know can never happen without a genuine devolution proposal which you and they could discuss. You have already studied the federal system and know what is just and must be done.

We the people of this country, are tired and disillusioned with politicians and their power seeking politics which have got us deeper and deeper into the mire, and led us all to the brink of disaster from which there is no looking back.

You have been conferred with constitutional power. If you are genuine about your responsibility to the people of Sri Lanka, now is the time. You will have the support of honest representatives, in parliament and the common man and women they represent, and will need no other props.

The Mahinda Chinta- na is obsolete. It is not political parties that matter. It is the people. Do it for us.

Vox Populi

Flashback to Rajiv Gandhi and the Tigers

Anton Balasingham’s controversial utterance of purported sympathy and remorse on the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi has become the joke of the year. It has also become quite absurd because he had earlier denied LTTE involvement in it.

Now that the Tigers are being shunned by most of the countries (which have been once a safe haven to them), Bala has scooped out something quite unpleasant to his advantage. He is supposed to be an expert negotiator and should know that the people’s mind cannot be changed according to his whims and fancies. A feeling of sympathy is a spontaneous outflow and not something that can be forced out of anyone.

India should hang its head in shame for the treacherous way it was acting at one time against Sri Lanka during the regime of Rajiv Gandhi. India seems to have purposefully and conveniently forgotten this matter. This is also a matter that India would like to hide now as best as possible lest its projected image as a friendly neighbour will end in smoke.

But the indelible history that takes note of every incident is very staunchly circumspect in meticulously recording such happenings and revealing them in the appropriate context.

At last the world at large should know now that it is India that welcomed these Tigers with open arms, offered them asylum, gave them military training and other facilities to develop their skills in order to commit murder and mayhem in Sri Lanka.

The Tigers being overwhelmed by the cordial reception given to them in turn reciprocated by depositing the loot plundered from the financial institutions and the civilians of Sri Lanka. This unholy alliance survived for a considerable period and with the Tigers, being emboldened, began to hunt their enemies in India. But soon the situation soured and India was compelled to cage the Tigers by adopting harsh methods.

Then the wheels of justice, began to turn culminating in retribution — claiming the life of Rajiv Gandhi a tragic incident indeed. It is only then that the India realised to its horror that Rajiv had been feeding milk to snakes but it was lamentably too late. The track record of India with regard to its relations with neighbours is somewhat questionable.

When Pakistan ordered 14 fighter planes from the US, India objected but India has proliferated its armaments several fold with the assistance of Russia including nuclear submarines to boot ! India adopts a belligerent attitude towards the neighbouring countries which cannot be gainsaid. Destabilising its neighbours is one of its avowed policies: India was partly responsible for the creation of Bangladesh which was West Pakistan earlier.

The despicable destruction of a religious institution belonging to a minority community in India was boldly carried out by the fanatical BJP zealots led by Lal Advani (who was at the helm of the state). The inescapable question how India which has the fifth largest army in the world suddenly became impotent to provide adequate security against a few zealots is so penetrative that there can be no defence whatsoever.

On the question of the ever -bleeding Kashmir, the UN resolved and gave a mandate to Kashmir to resort to a plebiscite so that the people could decide for themselves with whom they should align — Pakistan or India . India , fearing that the final result of such a plebiscite may be unfavorable to it on account of the predominant Muslim majority, disastrously sabotaged any attempt towards a peaceful settlement, as a result of which human suffering to an unmanageable extent still continues.

It is quite pertinent to mention here that when Sri Lanka made a request on an official level to hold a parley in India hosting Sri Lanka and the Tigers, India flatly refused to do so. The Indian ploy is to project an image of a good samaritan but in reality it would be happier if there is trouble and turmoil in the neighbouring countries. This is really similar to the case of rocking the cradle and at the same time pinching the baby.

G. Sellahewa

Cabraal at helm : from frying pan to fire

Ajith Cabraal has been appointed as the new Central Bank Governor irrespective of the opposition to his appointment and now that he will not resign, the country is prompted to have confidence that he will act prudently and responsibly without prejudice in the greater interest of the country.

Central Bank is expected among others to discharge its fundamental responsibility to maintain monetary stability , regulate the banking system and promote economic growth. For such a prestigious institution the staff at the highest echelon should be academically qualified economists and experienced bankers. The first Governor, John Exter is reported to have had a degree in economics and law and subsequent appointments were never controversial.

Even the appointment of the last Governor, Sunil Mendis was not disputed because of his track record in the private sector , though the qualified and experienced career Central Bankers or alternatively any others from the commercial banks were not considered.
This is the first occasion that a person directly involved in politics and who had contested parliamentary, or a provincial or local government election was appointed as governor .

With these two appointments the Central Bank has been made to understand that qualified and experienced staff, even with exposure abroad and in prestigious international institutions related to the IMF or the World Bank cannot aspire to become the governor. Career Central Bankers, thus, may not give their best and in the course of events some may become ‘Yes men or women’

Is the country falling from the frying pan to the fire?

Amor Patriae

Humour in politics

I never thought that there could be humour in politics. Hats off to The Sunday Leader for higlighting appointments of misfits, relations, friends, supporters etc. to high posts. I wish to illustrate this with a story.

An old acquaintance of the President visited him at his residence. The President wished to give him a place. Thus encouraged , the visitor who is a reasonably good man but wholly inexperienced in public affairs , not much educated asked for a high office like the head of a corporation etc.

The President was aghast and said " Good gracious , why don’t you ask me to be the secretary of state."

Afterwards he said : "well , now I never thought that he had anything more than average ability, when we were young men together. But I suppose he thought the same thing about me, and...... here I am!"

S. Wijesekera

Why was Gen. Kulatunga denied accommodation?

Many have read and talked about the issue regarding the late General Parami Kulatunga’s request for accommodation at Army headquarters and the refusal of his request.

The question is who is really responsible for denying this officer this basic security facility? Is he the commander- in-chief, the president or defence secretary or the chief of staff or the Army commander himself ? It is hard to believe that the army commander, supposedly an important colleague of the late General Kulatunga , did not have the clout to accede to the request of accommodating this much admired officer.

It is sad that such unbelievable stories emerge only after the damage is done . In this instance , it is hard to explain to the people that the army could not accommodate its No 3 man in its premises despite the availability of space. Even if there was problem of space, surely there should have been a way to accommodate the late General.

It is an indictment on the army administration itself and sadly both the Commander who was unfortunately injured in a bomb blast and the President (Commander- in- Chief ) should be held responsible.

Let us hope that such chaotic situations will never arise again and those at the top in the security forces will be protected to the maximum by the people csncemed.

R. de Silva

The missing medication

Methylphenindate tablets , with the notable brand name of Ritalin has been out of stock for months.

Necessarily prescribed to treat hyperactive children, its non availability is stressful to parents who have no option but to give up hope of restraining the overactive behaviour of their children afflicted with this medical malady called ‘attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.’

The SPC, the sole importer of this drug is passive in this predicament. No private sector drug or importer has attempted to provide a cheap generic, which needs no medical promotion. There are a number of generics that have an oversupply of branded products yearning to be prescribed.

On frequent occasions when Ritalin went out of stock, the contraband product used to be freely available. Today the contraband drug too is not to be found.

Mervyn Burrows


Peri Sundaram

Today marks the 116th birth anniversary of a great son of the Upcountry Tamil community, Peri Sundaram . The late Peri Sundaram had several unique records.

Commencing his education in an estate school where the policy at the time was described as, " a little too much education and unaccustomed luxury than necessary would unfit the children for their calling or indeed for anything," he got admitted to Trinity College, Kandy, later to S.Thomas Mt Lavinia and then to the Ceylon Law College.

He proved his mettle by going overseas and obtained the Master of Arts and Bachelor of Law degrees from the University of Cambridge. He showed his prowess as an orator and was elected President of the Cambridge Indian Majlis and twice elected committee member of the Cambridge Union Society.

He was called to the Bar in England in 1916. Thereafter , he returned and practised as an advocate of the Supreme Court of Ceylon. Peri Sundaram was an outstanding lecturer at the Ceylon law College , acting principal and examiner in law to the Ceylon Civil Service.

Peri Sundaram threw himself into the movement for political reform and national independence, and was a founder member of the Ceylon National Congress formed in 1919 , with the avowed objective of getting Independence.

Peri Sundaram has many qualifications to his credit and so also a number of firsts, which are too many to enumerate. Suffice to state that he was elected to the first State Council of Ceylon in 1931 from the Hatton electorate uncontested and served as the first minister of labour Industries and commerce from 1931 to 1936. Subsequently for many years he was a senator and was also deputy president of the Senate.

The responsibility thrust on Peri Sundaram was enormous, but his intellectual capacity and determination were equal to the tasks he was called upon to do. He recognised that it was in the national interest to strengthen links with Ceylon‘s close neighbour India. In 1932 he led the Ceylon government trade delegation to India.

The labour portfolio presented Peri Sundaram with the greatest challenge of his career. There was an abundant supply of cheap ‘captive’ labour to work in the plantations , maintain roads, railways and the Port of Colombo to transport and ship the cash crops which were the order of the day. The question of workers’ rights did not figure at all in colonial administration. The files of the Department of Labour will reveal Peri Sundaram’s professionalism , authority and knowledge of the subject.

He brought about radical legislative proposals, overcoming opposition with his skill and authority as a legislator par excellence. Some of the landmarks to his untiring efforts are the Trade Union Ordinance, the Wor- kmen’s Compensation Ordinance and the Minimum Wages Ordinance which embody the basic rights of workers. These are a lasting tribute to the pioneering effort of Peri Sundaram to free the workers from their bondage and enjoy social justice.

Peri Sundaram was also responsible for the appointment of a commission which led to the establishment of the first national bank — the Bank of Ceylon. His record of service clearly illustrates a lifetime of dedicated service to the nation and the people of the country.

In 1919 he formed the first labour union in the country — the Workers Welfare League, of which he was founder secretary. He also founded and became the first secretary of the Ceylon Workers’ Federation. He can justifiably be regarded as the father of the trade union movement in this country.

Peri Sundaram was mainly responsible as a co-founder in inaugurating the Ceylon Indian Congress (CIC) in 1939, a merger of over 25 Indian community organisations in Ceylon , the forerunner to the Ceylon Workers’ Congress (CWC) to which he was elected president. This came about after Pandit Nehru’s visit.

Soon thereafter in 1940 the Ceylon Indian Congress Labour Union (CICLU) was formed and Peri Sundaram was elected the first president of the CICLU with 180,000 members, the largest trade union in the country. In 1952 he was elected president of the CICLU and the CWC. The government of Sri Lank issued a special postage stamp in honour of this patriot, freedom fighter and workers’ champion at his centenary celebration in 1990. Peri Sundaram passed away on February 4, (Independence Day) 1957.

S. Thambyrajah
Colombo 3

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