|Letters to the Editor
03rd January 1999
Very recently I had the most harrowing experience during a visit some of us had to make to the Colombo Municipality Dog Pound at Borella where ownerless dogs that have been rounded up are destroyed. It was a pathetic sight to see those dogs put in four kennels, puppies separated from their mothers, all looking at us with pleading eyes. To think that in a couple of days they would be done to death in one of the cruellest ways possible in the world was unbearable. And for what fault of theirs?
This dog pound I feel is a dirty disgrace to this country. Our country has four great religions in the world, being practised by its people and of these Buddhism and Hinduism, religions practised by a majority, stress the value and sacredness of the life of All Beings, not merely of human beings. So why does this dog pound exist, solely maintained for the purpose of destroying enmasse, in one of the most cruel ways, the life of innocent helpless animals completely at the mercy of human beings ?
We are being given to understand that this is the method adopted to control the threat of rabies and the proliferation of ownerless dogs (whether only ownerless dogs transmit rabies is another matter). Then one cannot help wondering why we still have so many ownerless dogs and rabies because this brutal practice has been going on from the time of British rule and is perpetuated to this day even after independence, notwithstanding the fact that Buddhism, the most humane and compassionate of religions of the world has been enshrined in our Constitution and there is a Ministry of Buddha Sasana and a Ministry of Religious Affairs to boot.
It is high time that we looked for some other, more effective, humane method of solving this problem as is done in most civilized countries without taking cover behind archaic laws, procedures, rules, regulations etc. Those responsible for formulating policies, procedures, laws or whatever, should urgently take necessary action to do away with this barbaric practice, and go in for a humane method of tackling this problem. Immunizing and controlling birth could be adopted as is done in some countries. After all the maximum life span of a dog is only about 13 to 14 years and if we adopt this method which may take a little more concerted effort than rounding up and brutally killing them, we would be able to see satisfactory results in a couple of years.
Human beings should remember that dogs and cats, even cattle (people make a big fuss about "stray" cattle also) were living in the forest which was their natural habitat according to their own Dharma without in any way interfering with man and it was the man who caught them and domesticated them to serve his own ends.
So human beings have no moral right to treat beings the way they do because they are not really ownerless but belong to all humanity whose ancestors domesticated them in the first place.
One cannot help but wonder whether one of the contributory factors for the misery that this country is going through is the retribution of the collective Karma of the silent witnesses, indirect prompters, direct contributors and active participants who are responsible in relative measure over the years for the terrible agony that these animals must go through in the gas chamber before they die.
The government has decided to hold the Provincial Council Elections, because as it says, the climate is now stable. At this stage I wish to make a special appeal to all parties and their leaders to be realistic and magnanimous by acting according to the present atmosphere in the country.
Since independence 50 years back, we have had a number of governments, mostly of the two major parties, at times assisted by various smaller parties, ruling the country. At the early stages we did have some leaders who sincerely believed in the welfare of the people. Making money and enjoying all the perks in creation was not their motive. It is said that SWRD had to mortgage his property; Dudley had only Rs. 125/= as his bank balance; C.W.W. Kannangara did not have a proper house to live in; Pieter Kueneman had only eight perches of land and NM was no better off.
Then dawned the "Dharmishta Era", of Junius Richard Jayewardene. The whole structure of the nation was changed with the huge majority they got in 1977.
With decentralisation, funds were allocated to Ministers, MPs, PS members etc., to be spent on various projects. The salaries of Presidents, Ministers, MPs etc. were increased. All of them were made pensionable after five years of service. Duty free luxury cars and inter-coolers, free petrol and diesel, allowances for attendance, free trips round the world, five star hotel food at Rs.15/= or so and many other perks were granted.
Then came the PA government of Chandrika B. Kumaratunga. A vast change was expected. A change of the Constitution and absolute transparency at all levels of society, we thought were imminent. Bribery and corruption were to be completely wiped out of the face of this land. Now we find the entire Bribery Commission silent. Perhaps the PA regime has not been able to achieve the desired results due to the North East war. But, all of them - PA, UNP, LSSP, TC, DULF, CWC, TULF, EPDP, CP etc.- are enjoying the perks and facilities provided by the JR regime's constitution with no signs of grumble.
In this atmosphere, whoever is elected is of no benefit to the innocent voter who has no alternative but to endure.
Let all the parties nominate new faces as candidates for the elections. Today all those who have been in office, their kith and kin, bodyguards and 'catchers" have all become rich and pensionable. So let a new set of people now become pensionable and receive the same perks and benefits.
I reside in Kollupitiya and I wish to bring to the notice of the relevant authorities that I have been noticing strange things. One way signs have been moving up and down, vanishing and reappearing.
They have removed the one way sign from Alfred Place on the Galle Road side. This is not a good idea as the road is narrowed by vehicles parked on either side with people coming to Durdans hospital.
Bagatalle Road has acquired a one way sign from the Galle Road side.
Alfred House Gardens Road has one way signs on either side of the road, making you wonder whether you are expected to drop in by helicopter.
Pentrieve Gardens had the one way sign from the Duplication side but now it's from the Galle Road side, while in the case of Simon Hewawitharane Road the vice versa has happened. They juggled with the boards within this week. Why didn't they think of it in the first instance?
Apart from this Walukarama Road, Deal Place and Abdul Gaffoor Mawatha have also been made one way.
The year of grace 1999 will dawn amidst the deafening sound of crackers, and pealing of church and temple bells.
As usual, from every side we receive and reciprocate the cheery good wishes for another 365 days, which are laden with sincere wishes for a bright and prosperous New Year.
If we have any hope for the future, if we have made any resolutions we ought to begin today to put them into effect. We must promise ourselves that each day of the New Year shall be a fresh beginning of a better life.
Let us wish that nothing will make the world poorer; that nothing will
bring pain or privation to our fellow men throughout the world.
D. G. Ratnayake
As prefect of Games and M.I.C of cricket at St. Anthony's College, Kandy at the time that Murali was blossoming into the great schoolboy cricketer, this article of mine is meant to serve as a tribute to two great sportsmen - Murali himself and his mentor Sunil Fernando.
Murali came under Sunil's wing at the tender age of 11 years. From then on till he left school Sunil guided Murali's destiny in the sphere of cricket.
Spotting early the youngster's diminutive build, this far-sighted coach transformed Murali from the paceman he wished to be into the match-winning spinner he subsequently became.
One hundred wickets in two consecutive Under 19 Division. One Inter School seasons is no mean proof of what this duo achieved. Their intense dedication to the task they took on certainly paid rich dividends. Murali went on to great heights and is certainly the world's most feared spinner.
He is still as unassuming as ever and adds to his credit as a sportsman in every sense and a gentleman to his fingertips. It is both this simplicity and deep sense of gratitude that he displayed in the fine gesture of presenting his tutor and guide Sunil Fernando with a generous cash award.
Murali's qualities as a true sportsman, a fighter and a fine team man were amply evident even when he was in the Under 13 team. Playing in a key game he was injured and on doctors advice was deprived of further participation in the match. However, the moment his parents brought him back from the nursing home he raced down to the field and extended his full support to his team from behind the ropes. Even today he continues to inspire his team mates. His handing over a stump that he had collected as a souvenir to freshman Bandaratilleka in an international encounter showed the gentleman in him.
Jayantha Dhanapala, erstwhile senior Foreign Ministry official presently attached to the United Nations Organisation, is reported in The Sunday Times of December 13th as having said that foreign mediation by the United Nations Organizations should be considered as a solution to our present ongoing conflict with the Tamil guerilla fighters.
His suggestion is regrettably both unnecessary and reprehensible. The ongoing conflict is essentially an internal matter for the nation state of Sri Lanka. Two once friendly communities in our country are now locked in conflict because of mistakes, arising from erroneous thinking on both sides. What has sadly and sorely been lacking has been wise statesmanship. The call of the hour is for a bi-partisan agreement between the ruling party, the opposition, and enlightened Tamil citizenry.
They will be supported by our security forces who are bravely doing their best, and by all civic conscious citizens with patriotic fervour. The ultimate goal is peace with honour in a sovereign state with no separation. This is the challenge.
The well known lines of the great bard Shakespeare are relevant to our situation. "There is a tide in the affairs of men taken at the flood, leads on to fortune, omitted, all the voyage of their lives is bound in shallows and in miseries."
I read with interest the article in The Sunday Times of December 6, explaining the constraints faced by the Dept. of Motor Traffic in rendering a prompt and more satisfactory service to the public and the woes of the public who might have to do anything with the department in the present circumstances. It is well known that the department takes well nigh six months or thereabouts, to issue a driving licence or to register the transfer or whatever other matter pertaining to a vehicle. The Commissioner attributes these delays to the shortage of staff. But judging by the confusion that seems to prevail at this office on any working day, spatial constraints must also be a contributory factor of no less significance. It is good news that both these problems are being addressed and the public can hope their woes to be mitigated if not altogether eliminated, in the not too distant future.
The long delays experienced in the transaction of business with the department today, reminds me of how it functioned four decades back in the tranquil fifties when I worked in the department, having just entered the public service. The kind of delays that are now considered a matter of course, were unheard of then. If any such delay was detected and found to be due to the negligence or carelessness on the part of the subject clerk, he was severely dealt with and if he failed to mend his ways in the short term after due caution, transferred out without further ado. In those days it didn't take more than three weeks either to issue a driving licence or to register a motor vehicle. In fact it was the norm laid down.
The procedures involved were simple and straight that it required no profound knowledge of rules and regulations. Any clerk with an average intelligence could pick up the work and its procedures within a matter of days. Driving licences were issued in a separate branch called the Technical Branch manned by about 15 clerks. The registration of motor vehicles and all matters ancillary and incidental including the maintenance of records relating to the recovery of licence duty in respect of motor vehicles kept in the Colombo district, were handled in several branches, each branch dealing with a particular series or two.
A subject clerk was assigned around 2500 vehicle files depending on the quantum of work involved. The small transfer fee of Rs. 5.00 or Rs. 10.00 as the case may be, was recovered by way of stamps affixed to the application. No other payments were levied. The only documents that were necessary for the registration of a transfer were the Certificate of Registration, Forms MTA 6 and 8, revenue licence, an insurance cover and where the vehicle was subject to any finance or mortgage arrangements, a letter of consent from the parties concerned.
As soon as the papers were received in the branch, the subject clerk would get down the relevant file from the record room and register the transfer or attend to whatever other matter. If all papers were in order, the entire procedure didn't take more than two weeks and the owners would get their documents within three weeks the most. There was not so much of bribery and corruption in the registration branches as of today. In the issue of driving licences of course, it was a different story. Bribery and corruption in this area was universally known even in the past. It has survived all attempts by successive Commissioners at its eradication and probably will remain so until the society learns to assert its rights and honour its obligations. Bribery thrives on the connivance of two parties - the giver and the taker both of whom are to be equally blamed.
The times I have spoken of above relate to a different era, gone forever. It was a time when the population of the country was just about nine million and the number of vehicles in the registers did not exceed 80000. They may not be applicable today with a population of more than 19 million and a close upon 1.3 million vehicles on our roads. Still I have reminisced on those times thinking that the readers might be interested to know how a much criticized department today, worked 40 years back. Even at that time, it had to face a fair share of criticism. Being subject to criticism has been a part of its existence. It might have to live with same for quite sometime, I am afraid.
It is well known that one of the main reasons for the recent floods in Colombo, Chilaw etc. were due to blocked drains.
Besides negligence by authorities to clean them regularly, the important cause of the blockage was due to non-bio degradable material disposed nonchalantly by the people. Right on top of this is the sili sili bag.
It is indeed silly for people to use these bags knowing the hazards it causes to the environment, but who cares? As far as the manufacturers continue to produce them and people feel it's a "free gift" campaigning against it is not going to be effective.
So the next best thing to do is to promote its recycling, at least one manufacturer in Mt. Lavinia buys the bags back for recycling. This scheme not only keeps the environment, clean but will also bring some pocket money for the housewives. Anyone interested can contact 716528 for further details.
Dr. Mareena Thaha Reffai
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