|Letters to the Editor
12th July 1998
Although nominations are going ahead pell-mell, there is every possibility of the P.C. elections being postponed "until the war is over". As to when that will be, only God and General Ratwatte seem to know - six months according to the latter. The reason for postponement, it is said, is the difficulty of releasing about twenty thousand personnel from the battle areas for election duty. I fully agree with that.
However, to postpone elections even at the worst of times is for the government to court unpopularity and also lay itself open to the charge of subverting democracy. This is a very serious matter. Therefore a viable alternative has to be found. This, may I suggest, can be done by a very simple manoeuvre, that is to "stagger" the elections as often done in India, so that instead of having it all in one day, it could be "one council at a time" which can be repeated in the different provinces every three or four days, with the ballot boxes held in spirit proof conditions until all the provinces are covered, after which the counts can be proceeded with.
If this procedure is followed, no personnel at all from the embattled areas need be de inducted, leaving General Ratwatte free to finish off the war within his stipulated period of six months, while keeping Mr. D.E.M. O'Cracy (not to mention L.I. Bertie, Miss T. Ruth and significant others) alive and kicking. Over to you, the powers that be.
Dr. Felix Fernando,
The article in The Sunday Times of June 21 under the heading "Where will they go from here" is very intriguing, because these children always have a "home" to go to. There is no Deaf and Blind School at Ratmalana. There is a School for the Deaf and a School for the Blind certainly and each of them has its own Principal.
These two schools are the oldest Schools for the Deaf and the Blind in this country and after an existence of well nigh 86 years, having commenced their missions in1912. Is it to close down now, due to a financial crisis when it had weathered across worse storms in the past, notably during the Second World War, when the school had to shift, lock, stock and barrel to Yatiyantota in a number of bullock carts and the military over-ran the school premises at Ratmalana until the end to that war.
Also, how can there be a financial crisis when all the teachers' salaries are paid by the Department of Education. The Department of Social Services gives a grant of Rs 300/= per student per month and we are aware that parents of students too help by making a monthly contribution to the school towards the upkeep of their children (Most parents are not so poor these days) in the school. It was only in recent years that the Government grant was only Rs. 120/= per student per month and our Federation also had a voice in the increase of this grant to schools. If there is possibly a surplus of staff, why does the school not prune the number within manageable proportions?.
We do not dispute what is stated concerning the School for the Blind, but the School for the Deaf does not prepare students for the G.C.E (O/L) or (A/L) examinations.
Most deaf students are intelligent and experts in Sign Language which is a unique language in its own right and which is as eloquent as the spoken language. The fault is with all teachers of deaf students who do not use that language to impart education to their students, preferring to use the (teachers') oral method instead, which is of no use to the students for the simple reason that they cannot 'hear' with the result that they do not grasp what the teacher states.
Granted that the cost at the present time are more than double and treble what it was a few years ago, which should have been expected when the costs of everything, including salaries and living costs go up.
With its many years of experience and with proper planning of the annual budget etc. this could have been foreseen, averted and or remedial steps taken to ward off any unexpected crisis. Even his Lordship the Bishop of Colombo is reported to have stated that the deficit would be underwritten. So where is the crisis?
After close to a century of service, it makes no sense and it is unthinkable to visualize the closure of this pioneering school and if the crisis is as grave as it is made out to be, we would unhesitatingly suggest and urge that the Department of Education and Social Services be requested to take over the entire management of the school.
Even at this late juncture, we do not think it would be amiss to invite the Government to take over the Schools for the Deaf and the Blind at Ratmalana. The Government can and will be magnanimous, as it readily took over on request , what is now know as the "Vocational Training Centre for the Handicapped" at Liyanagemulla in Seeduwa and which was then under the Board of Trustees of the Ceylon Schools for the Deaf and the Blind under the name of "Sheltered Workshops for the Deaf and the Blind"
Chairman-Protem, Board of Trustees Sri Lanka Federation of the Deaf.
The cricketers performed beyond all expectations on Tuesday night in a thrilling contest of runs, wickets, and a dramatic climax.
What a pity then that the evening was spoilt for so many people by the Board of Control for Cricket in Sri Lanka's inept handling of ticket sales.
Hundreds queued outside the ground with valid tickets, unable to get in. Inside was not much better. We arrived half an hour before the start of play and were just lucky enough to find eight empty seats.
Within the next half an hour we witnessed dozens of people arriving with "A1 Upper" tickets only to find they had no seats. We are sorry if the BCCSL finds this unreasonable, but for Seven hundred and fifty rupees, people expect to get a seat - along with a view.
Although the tickets had numbers, the chairs had none.
A free for all is bad enough, but it looked suspiciously like the BCCSL had printed more tickets than there were seats.
Those arriving later, had nowhere to sit - and no way to claim a refund from the BCCSL Directors who were sitting comfortably in the grandstand to our right. If this was bad, there was worse to come. We came and went freely through the entrance to the stand - without having to show our tickets.
People from the lower stands were soon "upgrading" themselves. And not long after, many others from elsewhere had joined them. The aisles and exits were blocked, our kids were forced to peer over the heads of people squatting in front of them. Putting aside the disruption to watching the match, what about safety?
In its greed to get people into the ground, the BCCSL showed no care for their safety. Not just incompetent then, but arrogantly dismissive of the vast majority of supporters' well being. Where were the ground staff? Where was the crowd control?
Will somebody in the BCCSL have the decency to apologise to the hundreds of people whose evening was spoilt by its mismanagement of ticket sales and seating? Better still, will someone from the BCCSL take action to make sure this fiasco won't happen again.
In a secular democracy, there has to be a clear separation of "Church" and State. In a predominantly Buddhist country that also means a separation of Temple and State.
It is futile for the government through the columns of newspapers to selectively give undue prominence to a few Mahanayakes. The Mahanayakes do not speak for everyone, nor do they speak for all Buddhists.
It is not quite ethical for the government to give prominence to their views on postponing elections when it suits the State whilst ignoring their views on devolution.
The government should not use these views of a tiny minority to postpone elections. That would only enable those opposed to peace and democracy to gain ground again just as they did from 1977-94.
It is in the people's interest for the government to conduct Free And Fair elections when they are Due.
Please respect the masses wishes even if they are contrary to the government's intentions. That is the only honourable wish one could hope from a government which lifted the curtain of fear that pervaded this country for too long. Establish a secular democracy now! Only this President can do that!
University of Georgia.
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