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National unity the need of the hour

The strife is o'er, the battle done; these words from a favourite hymn echo again and again in my mind. Is the strife really over? Are we really free to travel the roads and to have freedom of expression?

It is my belief that the way to national unity is not through hordes of unruly people on roads shouting filth against communities and individuals or in insulting posters of political opponents. This is the time to win hearts and influence people by meaningful deeds and not by mere words.

We have to stop thinking that every Tamil is an LTTE supporter or that the other minority communities are not Sri Lankan. This country belongs to us all, and not only to the Sinhala Buddhists. We have to build up an atmosphere where any Sri Lankan can occupy the highest office in the land like Obama did in the US.

To begin with, the Sinhala and Tamil New Year should be renamed National New Year. Name boards of roads should be in all three languages, official letters from government departments should be in all three languages. Racist groups; particularly those within the government should be barred from making racist statements and remarks which incite hatred between ethnic groups. They continue to make irresponsible statements far beyond subjects within their purview.

Children starting from the kindergarten should not be separated into classes according to race. Years of war has made us lag behind the rest of the world in a myriad spheres. If we want to move alongside if not ahead; there are changes which have to be made. The time to do this is now while the war euphoria is still alive.

It is up to the majority to be magnanimous; whether we like it or not. English is an international language and can be the unifying one. Sinhala is spoken only in Sri Lanka and predictions by authorities are that it will die out in a couple of decades. There is something radically wrong with our education system when we insist on 'Sinhala Only' in education and when young people seek jobs, they fail in their attempts due to a lack of knowledge of English.

The task ahead is immense, time consuming and needs the support of everyone. Ridiculing opposition parliamentarians is not the answer as they are needed on the road to recovery. Thousands of disabled and injured soldiers need rehabilitation and occupation. The same attention has to be given to the IDPs.

I would like to quote from a statement made by the Anglican Bishop of Colombo, the Rt. Rev. Duleep Chickera. As an Anglican I am proud that he has not lost his voice like some others who are like tame poodles; deaf and blind when lies are told about religion.

 'Consequently we require a visible shift from sympathy for the IDPs to an affirmation of their rights and dignity as Sri Lankans.

 These persons cannot lose their rights as Sri Lankans because they were trapped by the LTTE in the Wanni. In fact, they crossed over at great risk in a courageous demonstration of their right to movement as Sri Lankans, and this must be recognised.

Also the travails of war and displacement that prevents them from producing documentary evidence does not make them any less Sri Lankan than the rest of us. But if a lasting solution to our larger and more tragic conflict is ever to be reached we need to engage in two more crucial shifts.

The first is to overcome the tendency to see ghosts of the LTTE in every Tamil. If not an entire community will be held under surveillance for the rest of their lives, some of whom will inevitably be drawn into the next Tamil militant resurgence. The second is the need for a just and speedy political response to the grievances of the Tamil people. These grievances must be heard and can best be articulated by a cross section of independent Tamil leadership.'

Educational programmes in schools and in the electronic media would do much to inspire children and to change attitudes in those with a racist outlook. I was visibly shocked recently when an educated young woman commenting on the arson attack on a TV station said that it didn't matter as the station was pro Tamil.

This kind of attitude among those who should know better, will only hinder progress and unity and has to be changed. Assaults, attacks, murders and abduction of journalists have to stop if we want to be recognised as a civilised nation. Unsolved murders have to be solved forthwith. The queues for visas have increased during this past week. This is not a good sign as it shows a sense of insecurity even after the war victory. 

We must take a look at Singapore which is an excellent example. It was the vision of one man- Lee Kuan Yew - who relentlessly pursued his objective till he succeeded in converting his dream into reality. Singapore is the best example of a multi racial society of equal citizens. There, a person's contribution is recognised and rewarded on merit, regardless of race, culture, language or religion. It reminds us all what a cohesive multi racial society can achieve.

Lee Kuan Yew undoubtedly had the decisiveness and political support to override grassroots prejudice to advance his country's interests. This is the time that those in power can make these changes here before it is too late. Meritocracy above all else must be the name of the game.

Perhaps our tragedy has been that we have had too few Lee Kuan Yews and too many 'I Con Yous!'

Ilica Malkanthi Karunaratne

The road less travelled

"And it rained.

the drops of water

washing away the sins,

the tears of a thousand lives,

as I watched them

barrage down

from a white sky

and drench me

in its forgiveness."

Purifying the stench which had, until this day, become a symbolism of our life, and the fear psychosis that bred hatred, suspicion and despair,  the unending days of watching blameless ones killed for no apparent reason, wailing loved ones, and nonchalant news anchors bringing us the same story, just different venues and set ups.

This was how we had grown up for the past three decades, and this was how we thought our lives would progress, if we made it past the bombs. Those richer among us got their visas made, went to foreign lands, married and settled down. but those of us who had to make-do the best way we could, lingered on, nearly always not of choice.

A once beautiful and blessed isle had become a breeding ground of hatred, and blood: its beauty was instantaneously forgotten, forfeited, and cursed. The curse prevailed for long years; taking with it uncountable lives. hope seemed a far off place, unseen and unknown. until this day.

As euphoria flooded street upon street, as news that the country had been rid of a phenomenon known only as terrorism made it across, an unfamiliar emotion no doubt engulfed the hearts and minds of a nation that had become as of habit, an unemotional, pessimistic, subdued, and submissive one. A nation that had, no doubt, imagined a lifetime of fear ensconced in its every action, in every move, a bomb blast in every town, breaking news on every channel, a shaking of the head, a quick call to loved ones to see if they're safe, most often an equally quick sigh of relief, or not. this was how they thought their lives would pass by...

Now, as those of us who so indulged, get past the crackers, the sweetmeats on the streets and the celebration, and begin to settle down into routine once more, it will appear that a completely alien concept will have to take course: a Renaissance of sorts.

This will similarly apply to those who, at this juncture of military victory over the scourge of terrorism, felt, not unnaturally, a sense of uncertainty and fear over the manner in which things were progressing, fearing for their rights, as they too return from a state of limbo. The time then has come for both these elements to unite, on common ground, rid themselves of any previous prejudices and let the process of healing take its course.

It is a renaissance of the mind that is needed, one of the spirit, of hopefulness, and belief. That we, as a nation, can indeed move forward, with no bounds or shackles to tear us apart. It is this moving of the mind that can bring about miracles, make us hopeful of a future where we would live and love together.

Let us then tread this less travelled road, erase the prejudice, and start. The time has come.

Sonali Wanigabaduge

Weeping widows of the Bank of Ceylon

The Bank of Ceylon widows are a marginalised lot.  For years they have been agitating for an increase in pension which has fallen on deaf ears. The usual reply has been that there was not enough money in the Widows' Fund.

When Rohini Nanayakkara was general manager, Bank of Ceylon she boasted to the print media that the Bank of Ceylon reaped billions of rupees in profits.  It would have been a humanitarian gesture if some of it was directed to the Widows' Fund.  The icing on the cake was when the employees of the Bank of Ceylon with 25 years service were given a gold sovereign each. The widows didn't even get the crumbs falling from the table.

Again they have hit the widows below the belt by not issuing the yearly diaries.  It is reserved for the pensioners only.  It was our husbands' sweat and tears that made the Bank of Ceylon grow to its present heights.  At that time the salaries were very low and there was no overtime payment.  They left for work at 7 a.m. and returned home sometimes after 9 p.m.

Please give this matter your urgent consideration for as senior citizens the astronomical medical bills coupled with the skyrocketing cost of living is making our lives a nightmare.  Over to you Mr. Chairman, Bank of Ceylon for corrective action.

R. Ilakunathan

On behalf of Bank of Ceylon Widows

Funds for hearing aid

Ref. the article "Politicians main beneficiaries." by Dilrukshi Handunnetti in The Sunday Leader of May 17.

Although the disbursements statement in the article shows Mr. E.L.B. Hurulle (my late father) receivedfunds for Medical Treatment the article's paragraph does not mention it whilethe others are mentioned having received as medical expenses.

My late father received funds to procure an 'In The Ear' digital hearing aid as he went deaf in one ear as a result of the explosion in parliament in1988 which killed District Minister Keerthi Abeywickrema, and injured the late Lalith Athulathmudali and my late father.

I would appreciate if this could be mentioned in the next issue of The Sunday Leader.

Themiya Hurulle

Reporter's Note:

With regard to your response to the article written by me, I am in no doubt that some of the legislators mentioned in the list had justifiable medical expenses and made legitimate claims.

The parliamentary documents however, did not disclose the specified reasons for the disbursement of money for any of the listed MPs, except to differentiate between ex gratia payments made for those who did not qualify for the pension for parliamentarians and those who sought financial assistance to meet their medical expenses.

As such I was not privy to the extra details about each payment made as the parliamentary records did not include such details.

People should be careful in their comments

Apropos the many newspaper  reports and letters on The Golden Key scam.

In a democracy every citizen has the right to his/her opinion but, I am prompted to reply to the letter written by  Brian Jansz published in The Sunday Leader of  May 10.

Whether or not The Sunday Leader is the "unofficial journal of the UNP" as claimed by His Lordship the Bishop of Ratnapura, is another matter.

It is, however, surprising that  Jansz has chosen to pick on the Bishop of Ratnapura  for criticism. His Lordship should, in fact, be commended for having placed on record his indignation.

His Lordship had the magnanimity of giving a breakdown as to how the monies earned as interest from this deposit are spent. If that does not satisfy you dear  Jansz, what will? From where the monies came cannot be judged by anyone - "Judge not and ye shalt not be judged." (Mathew Chapter 7 Verse 1).

If the Venerable Buddhist monks have been discreet and not made a big brouhaha of the deposits made by them at GK, Dear Jansz, to refresh your memory, it is only because Buddhist precepts preclude them from dealing with money. It is for this reason that dayaka sabhas are appointed to  Temples, to deal with matters pertaining to its finances. However, as far as I am aware, no such rule applies to the Christian faith.

As a depositor at The Golden Key myself, it is my personal opinion that the publication of the names of depositors and amounts deposited in itself is 'unethical' and against all norms of good journalism, thus deviating from the Code of Practice of The Editors' Guild of Sri Lanka.

In the society we live in today, where thuggery, threats and intimidation is the order of the day, where would we depositors stand the day we are repaid our deposits? Needless to say, having had our names published in the newspaper, we would find the best of the underworld on our trail.

If you were a depositor you would have understood the trauma, anguish, agony and pain of mind that we depositors, most of whom depend solely on the income generated from the deposit are undergoing.

It is obvious that  Jansz is not a depositor at The Golden Key, and therefore immune to the anguish and sufferings of, not only the depositors like the writer, but also the Staff of GK who have not received their remuneration since January this year.

Therefore, it would be advisable for all those who do not claim a stake in GK to either keep 'mum' or confine their epistles and advice to more familiar terrain, where they are stake holders.

If it is an embarrassment to note the worldly ways of a part of Christianity which embraces the principles of pecuniary investments, what would one have to say about the worldly ways of a part of Christianity which embraces the principles of adultery? (Mathew Chapter 5 Verses 31-32 - Mark Chapter 19 Verses 11-12).  It is a matter of "Fools rushing in where angels fear to tread."

Bryan Nicholas

The Ceylinco Group mess

The Ceylinco Group of Companies headed by its chairman, who acted as a benefactor, good samaritan and saviour have led the people down the garden path, thus, exposing his nakedness.

People, after serving the government or private institutions for long years have invested their pensions, gratuities, E.P.F. and other life long savings in the Ceylinco Group to withdraw in a time of need or during their dotage.

F & G Property Developers and F & G Real Estates have failed to pay the monthly interest to their investors since December 2008. Although the investors have not been paid their monthly installments since December 2008, the Ceylinco Chief had been paid a gratuity of nearly 26 millions from the F & G capital, which was spotlighted in the media. One of the senior directors of Ceylinco Shriram who had played out billions of rupees from the assets of the company and had transferred the assets in his wife's name to get out of the legal issues  has divorced his wife, as a part of his plan.

The Deputy Chairman of F & G has mismanaged the Group's assets and has squandered the capital by leading a princely life. He has recruited his young sons who are not so qualified and also inexperienced, as directors,  paying them princely salaries and giving them luxury cars, free petrol and other fringe benefits.  While he and his cronies lead princely lives, the depositors have been reduced to paupers.Some of the depositors have sent their children abroad for higher education and they are unable to remit the money abroad for the upkeep of the children.

 Most of these depositors live in rented houses and pay the house rent from the monthly interest. These unfortunate persons have been ejected from their houses for non payment of rent, while some have postponed their by-pass surgeries. Cancer patients who solely depend on the monthly interest have been deprived of  drugs badly needed for their survival.

Entrepreneurs have stopped investing in ventures or improving their existing enterprises, which will result in ultimate retrenchment of staff, thus making the government unpopular and also affect money circulation specially in the Western province adversely. It is thus prudent for the government to intervene in this problem, as it is apt to create social problems without allowing the relevant parties to go into protracted litigation.


Patron F & G Depositors' Association









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