changed since black July '83?
years have passed since the horrendous events of July 1983. I wonder
whether this is the first time since then there has been a cessation
of hostilities till the end of July. It is good to reflect on those
events, so that their memory will help us not to repeat them.
I was a graduate
student in London at the time, and did not experience the horror
very fact of being away may have caused those events to make a greater
impression on me.
The BBC gave
coverage to President J.R. Jayewardene before President Ronald Reagan,
although it was publicity that we could have done without.
There had been
race riots in our country earlier too even as close as the late
seventies. But did we ever think before 1983, that our Tamil friends
would have to jump over walls to escape marauding thugs, have their
homes and possessions go up in flames and even be killed on the
streets? I guess other atrocities have occurred since then but who
is to judge whether one atrocity is worse than another? All should
We must also
not make the mistake of thinking that something is atrocious merely
because it happens in Colombo. July 1983 was a turning point for
I found that
many "liberal" Sinhalese (who would previously have been
aghast at such events) had hardened their hearts against the plight
of the Tamils.
filtered through only slowly since I was in London. I was shocked
to discover a "serves them right" mentality in some quarters.
of course, many Sinhalese who risked life and limb to protect their
Tamil friends and colleagues, but was this more the exception than
point was the birth of a Tamil diaspora, as thousands of Tamils
left the country. This itself has been a thorn in the side of successive
governments - i.e. the LTTE support base overseas.
have probably never stopped feeling like "second class citizens
in their own country" since July 1983. As a result we have
seen the ranks of professionals and scientists depleted. Most Sinhalese
don't mind this and even welcome it as there are more jobs for them.
It is also
more "convenient" to have only two languages (i.e. Sinhala
and English) to cope with. Besides, almost all Tamils still appear
to be suspect - could they be LTTE agents, willingly or unwillingly?
For myself, I think the loss of Tamil academics, scientists and
professionals is inestimable.
This is not
because I want to project myself as a liberal-minded Sinhalese,
but because I believe that diversity is the fount of creativity.
We need people of diverse backgrounds for progress. It is bad enough
that we have lost most of the Burghers. Even now, we should try
to woo them back.
In the current
euphoria about peace, have we really reversed the mindset created
in July 1983? Do Tamils feel they are full-fledged citizens of Sri
Lanka? Do the Sinhalese feel that Tamils (and indeed Muslims) are
essential to go forward as a nation?
that national leaders, from the then President downwards, when they
finally spoke to the nation after the riots, had no hint of apology
for the Tamils.
Then came the
Sixth Amendment to the Constitution that required all public servants
to take a pledge against all acts of separatism and an oath of allegiance
to a unitary state. It is not that I was or am against the sentiments
of the amendment.
But I felt
the timing was wrong. It was like rubbing salt into the wounds of
the afflicted. What did the amendment achieve?
Did it stop
the move towards separatism? On the contrary it resulted in TULF
MPs (who were not able to sign the pledge) having to resign their
seats in Parliament, and from then on the political leadership of
the Tamils moving from moderate politicians to armed terrorists.
My own papers
were sent to me in London for my signature. I had to go to the Sri
Lankan High Commission just a stone's throw away from where I was
living in Bayswater, to sign them before an official. I wondered
many a time whether I should take a stand against this and refuse
was only a young Assistant Lecturer at the time, and didn't want
to jeopardize an academic career. So, in the end I did sign. I wish
I had the strength of character not to.
who buy fish at the St. John's market in Pettah wish the Mayor of
Colombo will visit it early morning, preferably in a pair of Wellington
opens around 5 a.m. and the filth is deplorable. The floor is full
of holes filled with ankle-deep mucky water with pieces of rotten
fish in it. Due to the crowd and men carrying boxes of fish on their
heads, shouting at you 'Yanawa Ooyi' it is impossible to take a
step forward or backward without stepping into a puddle.
There are no
checks in the market. Vendors place their fish boxes and fish on
the ground leaving no room to walk. This is deliberately done to
make buyers move at snail's pace looking at the fish.
on which the public can check the weight have been damaged by the
vendors and withdrawn by the Municipality but not replaced. The
vendors' scales are adjusted to give them an advantage of 50 to
A smooth drive from Kollupitiya to Wellawatte along Duplication
Road is denied to motorists due to a stretch of land not given for
road development by Muslim Ladies' College. The reason cited is
that the school has to sacrifice its play area.
at some cost is to duplicate the play area on concrete columns and
slab with sufficient clearance for vehicles to pass under.
This is the
only solution which meets both goals -keeping the play area and
freeing the road.
the cost may seem enormous, but the overall benefits will be invaluable.
of land to relocate the play area will not be necessary.
* Traffic pressure
on Galle Road and Havelock Road will be reduced.
* The overall
commute on Galle Road, Duplication Road and Havelock Road would
be 10 minutes less each way.
* Those whose
properties have been acquired would finally feel the exercise was
Dear VAT, who ever you may be
Let me take this opportunity
To thank you for all your high ideals
Your 'lending hand' in our hour of need.
In the newspapers and on TV too
They say our roads are made by you!
The city's being cleaned and all that free food
And uniforms and textbooks and all that good
Is done by you! Our very smiles
Are there because you stopped awhile
To help us, dear son-of-the-soil, one of noble birth
Though your name's rather odd, much is your worth!
Now aged and old, I may die in peace
To know that you're there for our country's ease.
No taxes, no levy - our money... intact
Hurrah! Three cheers! Long live this fellow "VAT'
A Senior Citizen
of lone gate-keeper
The Pilimatalawa railway crossing was unprotected for many
years with only signal lights to indicate oncoming trains. Then
during President Premadasa's time a bamboo gate was erected.
The only access
to government and private institutions, private hospitals and schools
is through this level crossing. The number of vehicles using this
route has also increased rapidly making the services of one gate-keeper
inadequate. The gate-keeper runs hither and thither to pull the
bamboo down in front of the fast moving train.
authorities should put in a more efficient system to prevent accidents
and avert a disaster.
pockets the stamps?
Applicants for birth and death certificates or national
identity cards are required to submit self-addressed stamped envelopes
along with their applications to the District Secretariat in Moratuwa.
Then the applicants
wait for a long time. When they make inquiries, they are directed
to visit the Grama Sevaka who hands over the documents. Who pockets
the uncancelled registration stamps on the self-addressed envelopes?
Over to you, Secretary, District Secretariat, Moratuwa.
C.I. Terence Fernando
created barriers such as class and caste differences and these decide
a man and a woman may love each other deeply and find they are compatible,
they cannot build a life together because of these obstacles.
disregards them, he/she is cast aside by society.
like caste and class differences affect relationships? Certainly
tied up in uniform red tape
I am a parent who is affected by the new policy of the Ministry
of Education which stipulates that all children who need uniform
material should indicate their requirement by filling numerous forms
and register with Grama Sevakas, to be eligible for this right,
they have enjoyed for so long .
husband and I are both working in the private sector, we have always
used the uniform material given by the government for our two boys
studying at a leading boys' school in Colombo. This time, the red
tape we have to go through to get this material is ridiculous. If
this new scheme has inconvenienced people like us, one can imagine
the difficulties the more disadvantaged parents face.
told me that she had to go thrice to the Divisional Director's office,
fill several sets of forms and stand in long queues for this process
which was so simple last year.
Does the Ministry
want us parents to suffer more than we already do, in this struggle
to give our children an education?
to the Editor' should be brief and to the point.
Address them to:
'Letters to the Editor,
The Sunday Times,
P.O.Box 1136, Colombo.
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