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                                    


July 8, 2007  Volume 14, Issue 3









Abduction of Muslim businessmen

Apropos the abductions of top businessmen in the country for ransom it is distressing to note that a very senior cabinet minister had to defend the government by insulting the Muslim community!.

Please ensure letters to the editor 
are short, to the point, and
 do not exceed 300 words

The minister concerned referred to the abductions of Muslim businessmen as false by saying that these abductions were ‘staged’ by businessmen to be away from their wives and spend time with their mistresses. This is ridiculous and should be considered as an insult to the Muslims.

I am at a loss to understand the stony silence of our Muslim MPs and ministers sitting pretty with the government over this insulting remark on the Muslims, and the community by extension. Their plight is understandable.

However, it is interesting to note that one individual referring to the minister’s remark has commented that the minister was ‘joking.’

The minister concerned is regarded as an elderly man of the community, but never respected for his views, because he is a joker.

Azad Mohamed

Take a cue from India

On reading the letter of W.A. Weerakoon titled "Why do we have to fight terrorism" in The Sunday Leader of June 10, I find that Weerakoon has got his facts wrong.

It is nothing but a travesty of truth to say that Tamils inhabit the entire globe. Surely, one does not find Tamils in countries such as China, Korea, Japan etc. Like other Sri Lankans, Tamils too live in the UK, France Australia etc.

There are a large number of Sinhalese from towns like Madampe, Marawila, and Wennappuwa living in Italy and the economic impact it has on these towns has made people to call these places ‘Little Rome.’

Weerakoon has conveniently forgotten the fact that the 16th Amendment to the Constitution passed on December 16, 1988 made Sinhala and Tamil official languages, and English the link language. Hence the government owes a duty to have all name boards painted in all three languages. The constitutions of countries such as France, Canada, and the UK etc. do not accord Tamil such status and one cannot expect name boards in those countries to be in Tamil.

Tamils in Sri Lanka have a history that spans many centuries. That is the reason why they demand language rights equal to that of the majority community. The Bandaranaike-Chelvanayagam pact of 1957 and the Dudley-Chelvanayagam pact of 1965 were manifestations of this inalienable right.

Tamils in France learn French; so do the Sinhalese and people of other nationalities. It is something all immigrants have to do including the Tamils.

Weerakoon has trotted out a threadbare slogan about 60% of coastline being claimed by the Tamils. India provides a good example that shows the emptiness of this rhetoric that is often bandied about by all and sundry.

Uttar Pradesh has an area of about 93, 000 sq. miles and a population of about 166 million. Madhya Pradesh has an area of about 119, 000 square miles and a population of about 60 million. On the other hand Kerala has an area of about 15,000 square miles and a population of around 32 million. When the state of Kerala was formed in 1956, Hindi-speaking people of Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh did not rise up against the central government demanding that Kerala should not be formed as it was getting a long coastline whereas these states were not getting an inch of coastline.

The Hindi speaking people were magnanimous enough to view the coastline factor as a geographical fact and accepted it with grace. Perhaps W.A. Weerakoon and others of his ilk could take a cue from the Indians.

Asking minorities who cannot pay allegiance to the language of the majority to leave Sri Lanka is not asserting the rights of the majority, but it is hegemonism of the majority.

If at all Tamils were to go to Tamil Nadu in India, they do not need to know a word of Hindi as all business is conducted in Tamil and English. Tamil is one of the 14 official languages in Tamil Nadu and Hindi is the national language. Hindi speaking people form only 30% of the Indian population and as such Weerakoon’s contention that Hindi is the language of the majority is factually incorrect.

K. Baskaran

Divided loyalties

The media had reported many conflicting versions about the recent evacuation of Tamils from Colombo. The PM according to these reports took full responsibility for the evacuation and apologised for this action.

Then we had Minister Jeyaraj Fernandopulle critiquing the PM for ‘letting down the forces.’

Now we have the Defence Secretary defending the evacuation.

All three are persons representing the government of Sri Lanka. What then is the message? Is the government divided on this issue?

Moreover the Defence Secretary has said that these Tamils should go back to their homes. What then is the problem about the traditional homeland of the Tamils?

Does this idea of going back to their homes apply to all Tamils living in Colombo or is it only for those Tamils not permanently resident in Colombo? Is Colombo only for those permanently residing there?

The government which is fighting the terrorists has by these evacuations given enough ammunition to the terrorists to continue their war till they get their ‘land.’ How foolish on the part of the government! Who advises the government on this war?

A report said that two of those who call the shots in Colombo — a part of the government — are dual citizens of Sri Lanka and the USA/Australia! Those who have left us for greener pastures are now part of the government. How can they be loyal to us?

Over to all who want to free Sri Lanka from these persons and their foolishness!

Sydney Knight

Don’t touch the judiciary!

Three cheers to the Chief Justice and the judiciary for resuming their time-honoured role of protecting the constitution and the law of the land! I am proud of the CJ although I had occasion to be critical earlier. The judgments on the Tiran Alles affair and the evacuation of Tamils from Colombo lodges, are priceless. Justice Sarath Silva is a very able judge and he is very erudite on the law. The judiciary is the last bastion of freedom for the citizens in Lanka — their final refuge from the onslaught of politicians.

It is rumoured that moves are afoot to force the CJ to retire early. Strange parallels to Pakistan! There may be attempts to even kick him upstairs. This would be a further black mark for the government in the human rights area.

Given that power has passed on to vile politicians who have no qualms, self-respect, or shame, the judiciary’s steadfast independence is all the more important.

The government is moving rapidly on the road to catch up with Mugabe although that tyrant is still well ahead. This trend has been created against the background of the objective need to fight terrorism. Nobody objects to the quelling of Tigers. However, the implementation of laws towards this end must be done with great care, caution, and responsibility. Our politicians assume private ownership of the assets of their office and this is the psychological root for the hubris and arrogance they display when in office. They think they can ride roughshod over the people and that they can harass political opponents at will. They are doing that misusing the Prevention of Terrorism Act. As ‘private owners’ they also try to make money. The judiciary must take a hard look at both these aspects.

The constitution, to a very large extent, guarantees the independence of the judiciary. However, if judges become cheap and politically pliant in their behaviour as ordinary government officers do, they will forego that independence. This will surely denude a great heritage that modern Lanka has had.

In the recent past, there indeed have been instances where controversy was rife. Let’s bury those memories and regain the heritage.

Shyamon Jayasinghe

We pay for others’ sins

The TV on the evening of June 29 brought into our sitting rooms the images of our Prime Minister along with other ministers, to brace viewers of impending price increases. Reasons were freely touted in support of these price increases, the main among them being the heavy losses incurred by the Petroleum Corporation.

The question I have is, how have such heavy losses accrued? Haven’t fuel prices been increased regularly on this same excuse? And more importantly, haven’t these heavy losses been due to inefficiency, mismanagement and corruption within the corporation? And we the public are called upon to pay for the sins of others. How unfair!

If the jumbo cabinet of this government is trimmed down, and the excessive perks extended to politicians are cut down, I am confident the public would be spared these unreasonable and regular price increases.

Of course one has to consider the effects of such action. It could perhaps be the end of Mahinda and his Chinthana. Can that be allowed to happen? So we the gullible public, have to suffer in silence.


Nobody’s children

There is a kind of child abuse that is going on with the consent of parents and right in front of all of us every day. That is the ‘child beggars.’

One can see daily, happy children skipping joyfully begging from car to car, while their parents — often a mother — sit a little far away and keep watch over them. These children may not even be their own.  

Sometimes when I see these children I ask them whether they do not attend school. They avoid answering me but are intent only on getting some coins. My heart shudders to think what future these children have; none other than being beggars for life. 

As much as it hurts me I have stopped giving these children money. I tell them I will call the police and they run away — only to the next car, and often are happy to receive a two-rupee coin.  

Where are the police who recently took a mother into custody for beating her child? Which is worse — beating her own child to teach a lesson or teaching them begging? But then, nobody cares. These are nobody’s children. They have parents, yet are orphans.

Isn’t there a law against child beggars in our country? If there is where are the law enforcing officers?

Dr. Mareena Thaha Reffai


Prof. V. K. Samaranayake

The man who iconized Information Technology, moulded multitudes of youth into successful professionals and useful citizens and tread the computer world as a colossus, departed this world so suddenly whilst on an official tour overseas.

An epitome of class and finesse, a gentleman par excellence and an embodiment of integrity, he will long be remembered for his academic brilliance, his selfless service and his monumental contribution to computer science. He was ever so unassuming and unpretentious. Simplicity and his charismatic smile in any given crisis were his forte. He would confront every problem with his ingenuity and vast knowledge of his specialty; such was our dear guru, Professor V.K. Samaranayake.

He attained the pinnacle of his career through sheer dint of hard work and commitment and was renowned for his decorum and elegance. A simple man with an even simpler life style he was loved and respected by his subordinates and his vast circle of friends. As a boss he enjoyed the confidence of his subordinates and respect of his peers alike.

The news of his death reached me in Canada almost immediately. Literally shattered on hearing of his demise I slipped into a space that can best be described as a permeating sadness, a sensation that lingers around still, and a feeling that surely is shared by those who knew and loved him.

I like so many of my colleagues owe my professional career to the Professor at whose feet we learnt our A B C in Computer Science and obtained employment at Cintec, considered the Mecca of IT. I have never seen him lose his cool or vent his disappointment on us the lesser mortals. A strict disciplinarian he brooked no nonsense from any quarter be they the political heavies or the elite of the professional or social stratum.

Samaranayake was a man of moral courage with an incredible capacity for compassion and understanding. He was blessed with an abundance of goodwill, integrity and empathy and renowned for his incorruptibility. Equally he had a deficit of guile, deceit, craft and malice. He lived by a rigid code of discipline and professional ethics.

A man deeply committed to the cause of lasting peace in the context of a ruthless war that has ravaged our beloved country; he possessed an abiding love and deep concern for all kinds of people and drew no distinction between the high and the low, or between the rich and the poor. He had no bitterness in his heart or rancour in his soul or revenge in his mind. For him all people irrespective of race, caste or creed were equal; and in imparting his wealth of knowledge in the field of computer literacy he held the scales evenly.

He would be remembered for his many achievements in the furtherance of the field of information technology with scrupulous emphasis on quality, equality, equanimity and fairness. He was a unique professional and a symbol of honesty who bore no ill will towards anyone.

He stubbornly refused to submit to injustice from anyone but sought to conquer untruth with truth and in resisting untruth he was subject to many a setback in his illustrious career.

This kind and gentle soul was interred before his beloved family and a mammoth gathering, which comprised his peers, friends, students and a cross section of those who had even fleetingly touched this gracious man.

The state funeral accorded to him was testimony of the esteem and reverence he was held in by the state as well as those who knew him.

He graced the history of Information Technology in Sri Lanka. For those of us who knew and loved him he graced our lives. He will always be a part of my soul, an amazing boss and a lovely human being. He was God’s gift to our country — nay the world.

At this hour of grief I pray that his beloved wife and children would find the strength and courage to contain the sorrow and the irreparable loss of an icon and a man of great virtue and character.

Dilrukshinie Adolphus (nee de Silva)



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