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Whither our parliamentarians?

A shocking news item, which appeared in an English newspaper of March 23 titled "Parliament: One sitting costs taxpayers eleven million," and two other news items under the captions, "Behaviour of parliamentarians in Sri Lanka," and "A case for full time parliamentarians," prompted me write this letter.

It is disheartening to read these newspaper articles because they make one wonder whether it is really worth maintaining a mammoth parliament, which is a white elephant and eats up the poor taxpayers' money. Is it worth maintaining these worthies spending so much of money when the taxpayer himself is leading a hand to mouth existence?

While the taxpayers are at grips with the escalating cost of living, parliamentarians, especially the 110 ministers in the jumbo cabinet enjoy all the perks possible.

These ministers get free meals, Rs. 100,000 as house rent per month - although most of them have houses in Colombo - unlimited free fuel, do not have to pay electricity bills, water bills and telephone bills, especially bills for the mobile telephones they use. How fortunate they are!

They receive salaries for being a 'member of parliament' and also an allowance for attending parliament sessions! What about the retinue of security personnel? It is the taxpayer who is unable to afford a square meal for himself and his family who has to bear the brunt of all this.

With the current unbearable cost of living the taxpayer has fallen from the frying pan into the fire. While the citizens are struggling to keep their body and soul together, the parliamentarians are enjoying life to the utmost because they themselves are not sure whether they will be elected to power again. So, they enjoy to the hilt, making hay while the sun shines.

Unlike the public servants,  parliamentarians have only a limited number of days to attend parliament sessions, and that too a limited number of hours per day. As highlighted in the print and the electronic media what took place in parliament on March 6, is deplorable. The quorum bell had be sounded five times as there weren't enough members in the chamber during the debate to pass five tax laws.

If the public servants had taken that step, i.e. not reporting to work without notice, what would have happened to them? Do these politicos deserve all the perks they enjoy? Government servants toil hard from 8.30 a.m to 4.30 p.m from the day they join service till they are 55, to qualify for retirement. As opposed to this, most parliamentarians serve only themselves and not the country. Is this justifiable? Hats off to the JVP parliamentarian who has suggested that MPs' pensions be done away with.

Although parliamentarians don't attend parliament regularly, on the days that parliament sessions are held the roads leading to parliament are closed for hours in the morning and in the evening causing a lot inconvenience to the ordinary people.  I am a resident of Kotte and have suffered terrible inconvenience as a result. We cannot even walk on the roads. It is true that the lives of the parliamentarians have to be protected, but what about us the poor citizens?

Parliament is the law making assembly of a country. It is up to the parliamentarians to behave properly and maintain the dignity and decorum of the august assembly. Since they represent the people, they should set an example to them. But it is pathetic to see the way they behave, the way they insult and sling mud at one another, the derogatory remarks they make and the unparliamentary language they use. There have been instances, when the Speaker had found it difficult to control their unruly behaviour.

What has happened to this beautiful island of ours, which was once called the 'pearl of the Indian Ocean?' Corruption, violence, bribery, abduction, rape and waste are rampant. Who should be blamed for this utter chaos? We should all blame ourselves for electing them.

Why have the politicians taken the law into their own hands? Speaking of election violence;  election offices of opposing candidates or sometimes even candidates belonging to the same party are attacked in the manapey war.

Concerned Citizen


Finance companies: History repeating

Are the officials in the Finance Ministry deaf, dumb and blind?  Many letters have appeared in the press about the atrocities committed by the Kotelawalas under such headings as "Deal with the Kotelawalas firmly," "Remanding the rich and the poor," and "Desperate investors seek justice," etc.  What have been written therein is true.  But why are the authorities silent on this matter?

I congratulate The Sunday Leader for writing the whole truth about the swindler Lalith Kotelawala.  But he shamelessly rests in comfort at the Merchant's Ward as his wife does in a hospital in Singapore.  For how long will she abscond?

Justice is so perverted in this country today.

Nobody cares for the poor depositors who invested not millions but may be a lakh or less in registered finance companies or Ceylinco, which the Central Bank advertised as safe heavens for depositors.  What do they have to say now?  History has repeated itself.  The Central Bank has created a mess as it did when the HPT failed in 1990.

Over to you Minister of Finance.  Where have all our monies gone?

Despondent Depositor


Overflowing sewers

The sewer lines around Lorensz Road and Duplication Road, Bambalapitiya have caved in. The authorities have diverted the lines to the 100 year old condemned sewer line which is also blocked and now only the overflow works. This has been going on for months now.

Our toilets work.The lines overflow onto the road. School children from Hindu College, Ramanathan Hindu Ladies College, Muslim Ladies College and St. Peters College all walk over this filthy water not knowing that it is from the sewers.

It is a major health hazard. Our pleas fall on deaf ears.  When will the relevant authorities finally look into this?

A Helpless Resident

Arrogance of corporate bosses

I must congratulate your esteemed newspaper's efforts to highlight corporate governance issues. Without your continuing to draw public attention an unsuspecting investor will be put at risk and the financial consequences can injure many families.

The on-going saga of the Golden Key scandal is a case in point. Watchdog units including the Central Bank and other authorities should not have waited for this tragedy to occur, although those who were greedy to make quick money - which is never the way the world works - have rightly been punished. At the end of the day, however, the corporate bosses will very likely get away.

Let's wait and see  the Golden Key matter as it unfolds.

An example where the corporate boss got away is the case of John Keells. The highest court in the country - the Supreme Court - found that the Secretary of Finance and the Chairman of JKH had colluded against the public interest.

In a landmark judgment the Supreme Count ordered the removal of the Secretary to the Treasury, Dr. P.B. Jayasundera, the highest ranking civil servant. The President of the country had no option but to ask him to step down. But, the Chairman of JKH, who was not only named but also fined by the court, continues to remain at his job.

What is happening in the finance companies combined with the arrogance of the top bosses of the corporate sector needs to be exposed so that the public know where to invest and where not to. I do hope you'll publish this letter as another step in exposing our careless, carefreeand arrogant corporate bosses.

Suresh Prakash

Colombo 12

Study Hitler

Mahinda Rajapakse and his government does not seem to know anything about planning. They should have studied how Hitler handled the extermination of Jews.

He built thousands of camps with all facilities - shelter, hygiene, food, and recreation for millions of Jews before they were taken as prisoners. They were unaware that they weregoing to die.

Why is it that these facilities cannot be provided to the Tamil people now streaming in to camps? If the government asked these people to come out of the LTTE controlled areas it should have been prepared to accept them.

There is no point now in asking ordinary people to send cooked food and water. This basic fact shows the incompetency and ignorance of the government on the situation at hand.

A Citizen

Father forgive him for he does not know what he says

I read the letter written by the Bishop of Ratnapura to The Sunday Leader and published in its issue of April 19. As a Catholic I was embarrassed to read that disgusting letter. The best he could have done was to keep his mouth shut under these circumstances. If at all he wished to respond he should have apologetically given an explanation as to how he acquired that kind of money, not how he spends the interest accrued from that substantial deposit. His thinking is warped and he cannot even write a public letter without making so many spelling mistakes, so unbecoming of a learned Bishop.

I have had a Catholic education at St. Joseph's College in the '50s and '60s under Fr. Peter Pillai and Fr. Don Peter. During that period Christian values were inculcated in us that still stand us in good stead. The Bishop's letter is therefore very unpalatable and unchristian to say the least. Let me explain in detail.

         How did he acquire such a large sum from as he says, a poor diocese.

         How come this Church money was deposited in Golden Key at an above average interest rate? Is it greed? He surely knows that this kind of interest smacks of something irregular. Lesser mortals like us put our money in legitimate institutions.

         Did he know that he is evading income tax. Even Jesus Christ wanted tax paid. ("Give unto Caesar.." etc.)

         He responds with a threat to both the Leader of Opposition and the Editor of The Sunday Leader. Jesus Christ said "If someone slaps you turn the other cheek," but the Bishop hits back and threatens to hit harder if an apology is not made!

         He seems to indulge in politics and threatens his statements could alter the outcome of the provincial elections.

The Bishop should answer the three questions asked by the Editor of The Sunday Leader and be ashamed of the unchristian attitude demonstrated by him in public.

Ananda M.N. Perera


Dr. Nalin Rodrigo

It was the voice that struck you first.

Loud, stentorian, authoritative and, if some students or underlings were around, laden with expletives. The walls of the wards or the office shook and reverberated long before the man himself was visible.

Rotund, stern faced, eagle eyed and immaculately dressed, he radiated confidence, authority and sheer intelligence. Nalin himself used to say "We Rodrigos never won beauty pageants" referring to his complexion. He was one formidable figure of a man.

It took us, his obstetrics students and I, his sole administrative understudy, years to learn what his family always knew; that once you come under the guidance of Dr. Jayatissa Nalin Rodrigo, you had a mentor, guardian and a friend for life.

His was a life lived to the full; of aristocratic origin, an impeccable academic record, an unblemished professional life and a successful and complete family. As the doyen of Sri Lankan obstetrics, his achievements as a doctor alone would have ensured his legacy. But his legend was built more on his outlook as a man.

Although he was the scion of one of the most prominent families in the country, he appreciated values other than aristocracy in people close to him. "He is from good stock; his father was a well known poet," he would say of a now very eminent obstetrician. The fact that my father was a professor, as was his own, made him look beyond my own limited academic achievements and groom me as a medical administrator.

He regarded life as a joyous journey where having fun took pride of place. Ward rounds, lectures, and even meetings, were regarded as occasions to enjoy rather than be serious about. When it came to patient care, however, he was seriousness itself, and everyone from the highest in the land to the most humble patient at Castle Street Hospital can testify to his diagnostic genius and surgical virtuosity.

In the journey of life, his principal ambition was to clear the path, so that the journey became easier for those who followed in his footsteps. The numerous obstetricians who adorn our country today, will testify to the value of the Double Sponsorship Programme initiated by him that enabled them to study abroad and become consultants.

Now that three years have passed since his demise, we take stock of our own lives and of those who lived in his shadow. His gracious wife and loving children have weathered the storm of his passing and have carried on their own successful lives. The achievements of his daughter and son in their respective spheres have become the best testimony to their illustrious father.

His students have become eminent professionals and their pioneering work, as well as their compassionate attitude to their patients, pays silent tribute to the values instilled in them by their mentor. All of them not only take time out of their busy schedules to enjoy the fruits of life, but clear the path for  those who follow them, by actively engaging in the teaching and grooming of budding obstetricians working under them. 'Boss' would have been truly pleased.

In the three years after his passing, whenever we gather, Dr. Nalin Rodrigo still forms the centre of conversation among us. Strangely, we never discuss his passing, the tribulations of his final illness or the void that he has left in our lives. What we talk about are the many anecdotes of his colorful life and the joyous moments that we spent around him. More often than not, we end up raising a glass in his memory and saying from the bottom of our hearts, something that we have said countless times during his life... "Thank you, Sir!"

Dr. Janaka Weeratunge









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