Letters to the Editor15th April 2001
The fires have already started, destroying the once verdant forests and lush grazing ground. At least 10 acres adjoining the SLBC (medium wave) sub-station at Ambawela have been set alight, with the charred land standing out amidst the greenery.
The vans, which snake up to Nuwara Eliya and Horton Plains in large numbers during 'long' weekends, are the worst offenders. I am now convinced of this, after witnessing an incident of arson, very recently.
I work and live a mere 25-minutes' drive from both Nuwara Eliya and Horton Plains. Whilst atop a hill, adjoining the Hakgala strict natural reserve, on my rounds, I heard the usual cacophony associated with merry-making drunks. I saw the familiar sight of people spilling out of their van, clutching bottles and tumblers and dancing on the centre of the road.
Then I saw some of them lighting what appeared to be newspapers and throwing them into the bushes nearby, promptly setting the area ablaze. I could only shout from the top of the hill, which caught the attention of some workers who ran down the hill with me. By the time we reached the fire, the miscreants had bolted.
The dry scrub jungle on either side of the roads in the hill country is combustible. So is Horton Plains, with its bio-diverse and unique eco-system, nestling 7,000 feet above sea level.
Remember the major fire that destroyed much of Horton Plains and the surrounding jungles a few years ago, apparently sparked off by some irresponsible schoolboys?
May I propose, even at this late hour, that Horton Plains and all our sanctuaries be declared fire-free zones. That would mean no smoking and no cooking (except at approved camp sites). Arsonists caught in the act should not be given bail. More powers should also be granted to those patrolling our forests and sanctuaries.
Horton Plains is beautifully maintained now, thanks mainly to private sector organisations, which have silently and without fanfare tackled the litter and garbage disposal problem effectively. The eye-catching signboards in all three languages would hopefully deter would-be litterbugs.
That day, we managed to douse the fire with much difficulty, preventing a conflagration that could have destroyed much of the Hakgala natural reserve. We were lucky.
But what about the next?
Although the politician had no connection whatsoever with either Royal or S. Thomas, he reportedly watched the match in 1991 (according to the Daily News of the following day) flanked by the heads of the two Colleges. Further, when I was leaving the grounds on the second day, a security guard said "xxxxxxxxx avilla", his tone implying that the politician had come in without a ticket.
The above incident is not similar to that referred to by Neville de Silva, as in the latter case a Thomian was given standing accommodation. The politician (referred to by me) is well known as he harassed a distinguished old Royalist (and politician) and if the latter was not killed he would have held a prominent place in the affairs of Sri Lanka.
I think Mr. Tennekoon had used his discretion and any other sensible person in the same place would have acted in the same way.
Incidents of similar nature tend to discourage old boys and families from watching the match.
I too was discouraged by the incident in 1991 and have depended on the radio after that.
In fact, a radio station promoted the match this time as the number of spectators had decreased considerably.
Irwin de Silva
The Minister should consider introducing the English medium for science and maths in O/L classes too. General science and maths, can be taught as only two teachers are needed. Then more students, especially those in Maha Vidyalayas will surely benefit from this project.
The students can concentrate on two subjects with little effort and obtain credit passes very easily. With that basic knowledge, they can pick up A/L work. If the students start learning general science and maths in Standard 9, they have three years to cover the O/L syllabuses. The Ministry of Education also has time to prepare the groundwork for A/L teaching - selecting and training teachers, and preparing simplified textbooks and also glossaries.
Meanwhile, for the students sitting A/L science subjects in the English medium for the first time, two years are not sufficient. They have to learn the subject matter and also gain fluency in English. Therefore, the students should be given at least three years.
Teachers, principals, educationists and parents should present their views and opinions to the Minister.
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