Plus - Letters to the editor

What really went wrong with the Sinhala only policy

Former President Chandrika Kumaratunga is reported to have said that her father’s decision to make Sinhala the language of administration was a mistake. I disagree. The late S. W. R. D. Bandaranaike made the correct decision when he made Sinhala the official language. What was wrong was to have continued to use English as the language of administration after Independence, although English is a world language.

The bigger mistake was the failure to give Tamil its due place, in the context of the country. That failure sowed the seeds of discord among the Sinhala and Tamil-speaking people of this country. Attempts at corrective measures were sabotaged by racialist and extremist elements led by power-seeking politicians. Neglect of the study of English, the link language between the Tamils and Sinhalese, exacerbated the problem.

The Marxists and the Socialists were then raising communal cries to keep themselves afloat in the political arena. I wonder where Mrs. Chandrika Kumaratunga was then.

In 1966, there was opposition to the Tamil Provisions Bill introduced by the then UNP Government. The Marxist Socialist combine organised a protest against the Tamil Provisions Bill. The protest started as a peaceful procession that set out from the Vihara Maha Devi Park and was to end at Temple Trees, the Prime Minister’s official residence. The procession was stopped by the police at the Kollupitiya Junction. The demonstrators, who included persons in saffron robes, became violent. The police fired shots into the crowd, resulting in the death of a politically minded monk. All this is history we should be ashamed of.

A statue of the slain monk was put up a few yards from the Kollupitiya junction. It stands as a monument to political hypocrisy of the then Marxist/Socialist combine, while putting the Maha Sangha in a negative light, representing as it does the divisive politics of Bhikkhu Ratnasara and his ilk, all of which is against the teachings of the Sakyamuni.

I am of the view that the statue should be removed so that irritants of the past may be forgotten.

Upali S. Jayasekera, Bambalapitiya

Electoral reform: a reader’s recommendations

This letter is a response to Professor Herbert A. Aponso’s letter on electoral reforms (Sunday Times, December 4. 2011). I wish to offer alternative proposals for electoral reform. My proposals are designed to altogether eliminate the “manape” system in the selection of candidates.

1. 225 MPs on the proportional representation (PR) system: The present system of selecting MPs on a district basis will continue. The number of seats allocated to each party will depend on the number of votes polled by each party in the district. The nominated MPs will be appointed as under the present system.

2. Selection of MPs: Candidates will be nominated to each electorate of the district by the political parties, and they will receive the votes of the registered voters of the allocated electorate. The winners in each electorate will be eligible for appointment as an MP. Because the number of MPs depends on the number of seats won on the PR system from the district, a merit list is prepared for each of the parties contesting the district.

The merit list will be based on the Z score of the winners. The Z score is obtained by dividing the number of votes obtained by the winning candidate by the number of votes obtained by the candidate who comes second in the electorate.

This system will reduce expenditure. The voting process will be simplified, with voters casting their vote against the party symbol with only one name.

Ranjan L. Alwis Via e mail

Endless walk to see BMICH exhibits

The BMICH is a popular venue for exhibitions held by private and government organisations. Exhibitions have become popular among ordinary people, the young, and especially schoolchildren. One can learn a lot visiting an exhibition. This is why I visit exhibitions, no matter what the theme.

Not everyone comes to see a BMICH exhibition by vehicle. The majority, like me, come by bus. But sadly there is no bus halt close to the entrance of the BMICH.

Coming by bus from either direction, one has to walk quite a distance from the bus stand to the BMICH entrance gate. And, as everyone knows, it is another good distance to walk from the gate to the exhibition halls.

Then, after viewing the exhibition, one has to again walk a great distance to the closest bus halt. A person walking from the gate to a bus halt has to hope and pray it will not rain because there is no place of shelter on this stretch of the road.

The authorities should put up modern halts close to the BMICH main gate.

B. Joseph, Wattala

Steel flyovers – those UK leftovers – are ugly, costly and risky

To the best of my knowledge, no one, including City Planners, politicians and professional bodies, has commented on those monstrous overhead steel structures known as flyovers that mar the city skyline. You do not see such unsightly structures in neighbouring countries such as India, Pakistan, Malaysia or Singapore.

Built to take on extra traffic loads, these steel structures were common sights in Britain 50 or 75 years back, but not any more. In the UK, they have switched to the more elegant concrete flyover, which can be contoured as bridges that look aesthetically pleasing. Concrete flyovers can be built over rivers, lagoons, and places where the sea comes inland. They add to the beauty of a city, unlike the crude-looking steel flyover.

The source of these second-hand steel flyovers is the UK, which started selling their dismantled steel flyovers to corrupt regimes in under-developed countries in Africa and Asia. Greedy decision-makers in this country seized the opportunity to make a fast buck because these imports no doubt came tagged with a fat commission for those who swung the deals.

No doubt these flyovers offered a quick solution for over-utilised roads. Nevertheless, a city’s beauty should never be sacrificed for short-term solutions. The Roads Development Authority (RDA) would have been well advised to build concrete overhead bridges, rather than use ugly discarded steel flyovers.

In most countries, even less developed ones, the detailed design of a bridge or flyover or a grade separated interchange never goes to the drawing board or computer until the design and concept is approved by competent urban design authorities.

I wonder whether those responsible for these awful structures have ever gone to a Bridge Architect for advice.

As I understand, these flyovers were given to Sri Lanka by the British government on a “supply, design and build” basis, under a so-called Technical Assistance Programme. The cost of the exercise has to be borne by the Sri Lanka tax-payer, and the money will go back with interest to the British Exchequer.

Steel flyovers should be completely done away with. The maintenance cost is excessive, and besides they have a much shorter “life span” than concrete bridges. Without a structured maintenance programme, there is a real danger of corrosion and decay on steel flyovers.

Tilakaratne Ranaweera, Consultant Chartered Engineer

New Matale road needs pavements and dengue treatment

The carpeting of the Matale municipal council road started about three months ago, on the eve of the Matale municipal election. The carpeting of this road has been completed, but the two sides of the road remain untouched. There should be two pavements, for pedestrians to use so they do not get in the way of vehicles. As a result, the roads have become virtual death traps for pedestrians.

Adding to the inconvenience, there are ditches and accumulated water on either side of the road that have become a breeding ground for mosquitoes, especially the dengue type.

Very recently, the Matale Municipal Council authorities visited the homes near to the residence of a patient who is being treated for dengue at the Matale Base Hospital.

This is a good gesture on the part of the authorities. It shows they are serious about dengue eradication. We hope the relevant authorities will see to it that the Matale road and environs are attended to before the dengue menace spreads.

B. M. L. Ratnayake, Matale

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