Letters to the Editor


A borrowed concept, a President, his million house project and a gesture

While watching the proceedings on T.V. to commemorate the 13th death anniversary of one of our greatest statesmen, President R. Premadasa, I was reminded of the man’s magnanimity and large-heartedness when he paid a sincere and ungrudging tribute to a man in the lower rung who pioneered the concept of self–help and inspired Premadasa to adopt the same principle to the million houses programme.

Herein lies an interesting tale.
When Brixious Samarasinghe of the Kandy Kachcheri was entrusted with the task of restoring the Kandy Public Servants’ Housing Scheme at Watapuluwa (having staved off the threat of the estate being handed over to the Kachcheri minor employees) building operations began with the support and encouragement of then Housing Minister T.B. Illangaratne. Housing loans were granted in stages to the members of the Housing Society. It was then found that a few officers used the loan instalments to go on a drinking spree, thereby neglecting the construction of their houses. This led to tragic consequences when these officers were compelled to give up their building blocks and face a disciplinary inquiry.

It was at this stage that Samarasinghe mooted the concept of self –help and insisted that the public servants concerned and their families should get themselves personally involved in every stage of the construction process, rather than leave the work in the hands of the building contractors who sometimes did a shoddy job of work when there was no supervision or interest shown by the house owners themselves. This had the approval of the joint Chairmen, Board of Directors, N. Sivagnanasunderam and Newton Edirisinghe, District Judge and Add. District Judge, Kandy. As a result, there was a great surge of activity on the part of the house owners and their wives on the construction sites. Some of them even mortgaged family heirlooms and items of jewellery to hasten the building process when needed.

Premadasa who watched the success of this innovation with admiration decided to adopt the same principle of self-help when he launched his one million houses programme in the rural areas many years later and encouraged the beneficiaries to make their own contribution with personal involvement in the construction process. It was a tremendous success. It was then that Premadasa confided in his senior officer in the N.H.D.A. who accompanied him in all his inspections that he was willing to allocate a house to Samarasinghe if he did not own one already. A magnanimous gesture indeed!

All this happened many years ago when I was an Asst. Land Settlement officer prior to my migrating to Australia with my family.

Upali Jayasundera

‘Aksharaya’ - Victim of cultural dictatorship

We are at a loss to understand why Asoka Handagama’s latest creation ‘Aksharaya’ has been banned by the Secretary to the Ministry of Cultural Affairs, after it was viewed and passed for public view, by the Public Performance Board. The PPB consists of eminent scholars appointed by the state and is it not the best body to pass judgment on the moral suitability of the work?

A still from the movie

It seems that the ministry has been pressurized by other interested parties, who are obviously, against the views and philosophy of the director of the film. This is a serious matter, infringing on the works of art that express views contrary to such individuals and groups.

This is the reason a PPB is empowered to pass judgment, on such works and the PPB represents all views and scholars, who look into all aspects of the work, including religious, social, cultural and ethical etc. To succumb to pressures of various groups is not a healthy policy, as works of art will be subject to the whims and fancies of groups, having their own views on various sensitive matters. No doubt the director touches on controversial subjects in his work, but it does not mean his creation has to be rejected wholesale.

Even preachings of religious leaders in their times, were controversial, as theywent against vested interests of various social classes and groups and the ruling elite, but had been accepted as universal doctrines, subsequently.

Asoka Handagama

Controversy is not alien or strange, in all human activities, but as a measure of control various bodies in every sphere, be it sports, art, science, technology etc., have been appointed to pass judgment. This is operative in all civilized societies in the world and if individuals or groups exert pressure on the decisions of the duly appointed body and higher authorities yield to the pressures, will there be justice, fairplay and impartiality? Who rules on moral suitability, body or individual?

Pray saner counsel will prevail.

Unbiased Viewer


Will they, won’t they help us?

In the face of the murderous attacks mounted with impunity by the LTTE, it may be pertinent to ponder whether the Americans will come to our aid with armed assistance. I recall a statement by the American President, George Bush, in the aftermath of the September 11 bombing by the Al Qaeda terrorists that the U.S.A. is ready to dispatch armed forces to any country being devastated by terrorists.

The American Ambassador in Sri Lanka also warned the LTTE of ‘serious consequences’ if they kept away from the peace talks in Geneva.

This deterred the LTTE from making any show of force immediately. But, now Prabhakaran is said to be laughing openly at the threats made by the American super power which he sees as probably vague promises which will never be carried out. How true is this?

The United Nations has helped restore peace and order in many countries like Haiti, for instance, by dispatching armed forces to such trouble spots of violence and turbulence.
After all these solemn assurances will President Bush watch idly while small and friendly nations like Sri Lanka are being ravaged and brutalized by evil forces? America, the world’s only super power, will reign for another century and retain her strength and fire-power. And Prabhakaran knows this. It is vital that President Mahinda Rajapaksa, briefs the American President on the threats to our nation by the LTTE

Prof. D.M. Jayasuriya,
University of

More changes needed after time change

The change of time, that is turning the clock back by half an hour, is a good move provided the school hours, office hours, or the private sector working hours and most important of all, the railway time table are advanced by half an hour to counteract the half an hour time difference.

Now the working masses leave home late, but when they return around 6.45 p.m. or 7 p.m. it is quite dark.

Especially the girls working at the Katunayake Trade Zone could fall prey to chain grabbers when they return after work.

Another disadvantage is that people use half an hour more electricity than before as the TV programmes are scheduled according to the new time.
I think the TV programmes should be advanced by half an hour to prevent the use of extra power.

M.D.B. Goonetilleka



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