By Dr Janaka Ratnasiri
(Continued from yesterday)
If the Cabinet wishes to cancel the project for other reasons, it certainly has the right to do so, but should say so directly without giving invalid justifications putting the blame on environmental issues. This will naturally undermine the credibility of the Cabinet. Needless to say, it will make foreign governments losing trust in and respect for Sri Lanka which certainly will not do any good for the country.
It may be recalled that the vision of some of our past leaders was to make Colombo another Singapore with high rise buildings scattered all over. Having an LRT was a part of this vision as such urban rail systems are common in other countries including India. The Ministry of Megapolis was established for the purpose of converting Colombo into a mega-city.
With this mandate given to the Minister-in-charge, naturally he had to initiate this LRT project to emulate other cities, which the present Government is not willing to support. Hence, it is far better to tell the Japanese Government that the present government has other priorities and does not wish to pursue the project rather than cancel it giving flimsy excuses.
For example, many parts of the city get inundated whenever the city receives heavy rainfall as witnessed recently. This is despite the government spending many billions of rupees to improve the drainage around the city, but with little success. As described by the writer in his article appearing in the Island of 21.07.2020, a master plan study on flood protection in the city undertaken by JICA at great cost ended up in cleaning canals around Borelesgamuwa and Rattanapitiya but nothing in the city! Hence, there is much more to be done to solve this problem after understanding the issues properly.
REDUCE WORKERS COMING TO THE CITY FOR WORK
With the cancellation of the LRT system, the government will have to look for alternative ways and means of reducing the traffic heading to the city. Such traffic will comprise people coming for work, attend to business matters, purchasing goods as well as those passing through from the South to the North and vice-versa.
During President J R Jayewardena’s tenure, both the Parliament as well as several administrative complexes were brought to Battaramulla with a view to easing traffic heading towards the city. But many of the commercial premises are still located in the city and they may be encouraged to have branch offices in suburbs where customers could get their services without travelling to the city. Today, on-line transactions are becoming popular and people should be encouraged to use such services as most people today are in possession of smart hand-phones through which such services could be obtained.
During the curfew which was imposed island-wide for several months because of the COVID 19 issue, all the offices both in the public and private sectors were closed down and the staff were asked to work on-line at home without having to be present physically in the offices except for a few to attend to urgent business. This brought down drastically the number of people travelling to the city for work.
This practice could continue wherever possible making it optional for the staff to attend the offices only once or twice a week. It is economical for the government to provide concessionary loans to the staff who do not possess IT facilities at home enabling them to attend to their office work from home. This however needs self-discipline among the work force and the government will have to introduce new mechanism to monitor the work being done from home. By implementing these proposals, the number of people coming to the city daily could be significantly reduced.
MAKING FORT AREA ACCESSIBLE TO EXISTING HIGHWAYS
With the construction of the Outer Colombo Highway linking the Southern Expressway with Kadawatha and Kerawalapitiya, traffic from the South heading for North or Kandy and vice-versa could do so without entering the city, again reducing the city-bound traffic. An elevated highway is being planned from the New Kelani Bridge (NKB) to Rajagiriya with a later extension to Athurugiriya Exit of the Southern Highway. It also has a spur to Dematagoda. These could be used by motorists travelling on highways to enter the city.
Another highway is being planned from Orugodawatta Junction of the NKB ending up at Galle Face to take Fort-bound traffic. This highway going past Kotahena will have an access to the Port and it will be mostly container traffic heading towards Colombo Port that will be using this highway. With the increasing number of 5/7 star tourist hotels recently built or under construction in Fort, Slave Island and Kollupitiya areas, a considerable amount of tourist traffic is also expected from the airport to this area of the city. Also, there will be many local passengers coming along Negombo Road and Kandy Road heading towards Fort. Instead of building an elevated light rail system for them, an extension to the existing highway as proposed could be built.
The writer proposed to the Road Development Authority (RDA) an alternative trace for a new highway linking the NKB with Fort, when public comments were invited for the new elevated highway, but without receiving any response. The NKB could be extended with a highway built on pillars over St. Sebastian Canal commencing from the Orugodawatte Junction up to Panchikawatta. It could then be diverted parallel to the Panckikawatte Road and cross the Maradana Road and the railway lines on pillars and terminating on Wljeyawardane Mawata. Exits could be provided for traffic moving along this link both towards Fort and Darley Road.
By this means, traffic coming from the Airport Highway as well as from Kandy Road could have access to Fort within the shortest possible time. Even the traffic coming in the Southern Highway could reach Fort using this link after coming along the proposed elevated highway via Rajagiriya from Athurugiriya exit. Motorists and buses from Malabe, Battaramulla and Rajagiriya could use this highway to reach Fort making the LRT train redundant.
REDUCE THE NUMBER OF BUSES COMING TO THE CITY
Currently, all the long-distance buses coming to Colombo have their destination as Pettah. This needs not be so, as it increases congestion in Pettah and also creates a problem for the private buses to find parking space to wait until they get their turn for the return trip. The long-distance buses coming from the North and East along Negombo Road and Kandy Road could terminate their travel at a bus stand built at a suitable location north of the Kelani Bridge.
Similarly, buses coming from the South and SE along the Galle Road, Horana Road, High Level Road and Low-Level Road could terminate their travel at a bus stand built at a suitable location south of the city. A shuttle service could link these two bus stands which are routed through different points in the city such as Pettah, Fort, Slave Island, Town Hall, Maradana, Kollupitiya, Bambalapitiya, Thimbirigasyaya etc. This shuttle service should run continuously at short intervals in both clockwise and anti-clockwise directions through these locations. A traveler reaching the city could use this shuttle service to get to any place within the city.
Ideally, such a circular shuttle service could be provided by an elevated LRT system operating within the city only rather than in radial routes as proposed in the current project. This service will, however, benefit only the bus travelers because with the availability of highways island-wide, the motorists will continue to use them. But it will solve the parking problem for private buses plying on long-distance routes waiting for their turn.
The other option is to re-introduce the trolley bus service which provided a very good service in the fifties and early sixties. It was an electrically operated system with power supplied by overhead lines and managed by the Colombo Municipal Council. Regrettably, it was closed down as a solution to an industrial dispute with the workers and the buses sold for scrap. If properly designed and managed, a trolly bus service could serve as a shuttle service, which will be cheaper to introduce and manage than an LRT system.
The decision of the Cabinet to cancel the LRT project may be desirable when there are alternative means to reduce traffic heading for Fort area. However, it is important that the Cabinet divulges the real reasons for taking such a decision without hiding behind environment issues.
The government should also give priority to implement projects that would reduce inflow of traffic to the city such as on-line working and on-line transactions and on-line purchases. Priority should also be given to complete the planned and on-going projects to build highways that would divert traffic coming to the city.
The government should also give serious thought to terminate long-distance buses before entering the city and run an efficient shuttle service for the benefit of travelers coming in these buses to get to different locations in the city and as a link between the two terminals.
I usually end up totally exhausted when I finish reading the local newspapers from the Pearl. There are so many burning questions and so much is written about them but there are no conclusions and definitely no answers. For example, we seem to have three burning issues right now and this is not in order of importance.
We have a lengthy report that has been published on the Easter Sunday carnage. Everybody knows what I am talking about. However, no one, be it an editor, a paid journalist or a single one of the many amateurs who write to the papers, has reached a conclusion or even expressed an opinion as to who was responsible. At least not a believable one! Surely there are energetic and committed young people in the field of journalism today who, if asked, or directed properly will go out and find a source that would give them at least a credible hypothesis? Or do conclusions exist and has no one the courage to publish them?
At least interview the authors or should I use the word perpetrators of that report. If they refuse to be interviewed ask them why and publish an item every day asking them why! Once you get a hold of them, cross-examine them, trap them into admissions and have no mercy. It is usually geriatrics who write these reports in the Pearl and surely a bright young journalist can catch them out with a smart question or two, or at least show us that they tried? The future of the country depends on it!
We have allegations of contaminated coconut oil been imported. These are very serious allegations and could lead to much harm to the general populace. Do you really believe that no one can find out who the importers are and what brands they sell their products under? In this the Pearl, where everyone has a price, you mean to say that if a keen young journalist was given the correct ammunition (and I don’t mean 45 calibres) and sent out on a specific message, he or she couldn’t get the information required?
We are told that a massive amount of money has been printed over the last few months. There is only speculation as to the sums involved and even more speculation as to what this means to the people of the Pearl. Surely, there are records, probably guarded by extremely lowly paid government servants. I am not condoning bribery but there is nothing left to condone, is there? There are peons in government ministries who will gladly slip you the details if you are committed enough and if you are sent there to get it by a boss who will stand by you and refuse to disclose his sources.
I put it to you, dear readers, that we do not have enough professional, committed and adequately funded news organisations in the country. We can straightaway discount the government-owned joints. We can also largely discount those being run by magnates for personal gain and on personal agendas. As far as the Internet goes, we can forget about those that specialise in speculative and sensationalist untruths, what are we left with O denizens of the Pearl? Are there enough sources of news that you would consider willing to investigate a matter and risk of life and limb and expose the culprits for the greater good of society? Can they be counted even on the fingers of one hand?
In this era when we have useless political leaders, when law and order are non-existent when the police force is a joke, it is time the fourth estate stepped up to the mark! I am sure we have the personnel; it is the commitment from the top and by this, I mean funding and the willingness to risk life and limb, that we lack. Governments over the last few decades have done their best to intimidate the press and systematically destroy any news outlet that tried to buck the usual sycophantic behaviour that is expected from them by those holding absolute power.
Do you think Richard Nixon would ever have been impeached if not for the Watergate reporting? Donald Trump partially owes his defeat to the unrelenting campaign carried out against him by the “fake news” outlets that he tried to denigrate. Trump took on too much. The fourth estate of America is too strong and too powerful to destroy in a head-to-head battle and even the most powerful man in the world, lost. Let’s not go into the merits and demerits of the victor as this is open to debate.
Now, do we have anything like that in the Pearl? Surely, with 20 million-plus “literate” people, we should? We should have over 70 years of independence built up the Fourth Estate to be proud of. One that would, if it stood strong and didn’t waver and collapse under pressure from the rulers, have ensured a better situation for our land. Here is Aotearoa with just five million people, we have journalists who keep holding the government to account. They are well-funded by newspapers and TV networks with audiences that are only a fraction of what is available in the Pearl. Some of the matters they highlight often bring a smirk of derision to my face for such matters wouldn’t even warrant one single line of newsprint, should they happen in the Pearl.
Talking of intimidation from the rulers, most of us are familiar with the nationalisation of the press, the murder and torture of journalists, the burning of presses to insidious laws been passed to curtail the activities of Journalism. These things have happened in other countries, too, but the people and press have been stronger, and they have prevailed. We are at a watershed, an absolutely crucial time. It is now that our last few credible news sources should lift their game. Give us carefully researched and accurate reports with specific conclusions, not generalisations. Refuse to disclose your sources as is your right, especially now that the myopic eye of the UNHCR is turned in our direction.
All other ways and means of saving our beloved motherland, be it government, religion, sources of law and order and even civil society leadership seems to have lapsed into the realm of theory and rhetoric. Our last chance lies with the Fourth Esate and all it stands for. I call for, nay BEG for, a favourable reaction from those decision-makers in that field, who have enough credibility left in society, DON’T LET US DOWN NOW!
The world sees ugly side of our beauty pageants
Yes, it’s still the talk-of-the-town…not only here, but the world over – the fracas that took place at a recently held beauty pageant, in Colombo.
It’s not surprising that the local beauty scene has hit a new low because, in the past, there have been many unpleasant happenings taking place at these so-called beauty pageants.
On several occasions I have, in my articles, mentioned that the state, or some responsible authority, should step in and monitor these events – lay down rules and guidelines, and make sure that everything is above board.
My suggestions, obviously, have fallen on deaf ears, and this is the end result – our beauty pageants have become the laughing stock the world over; talk show hosts are creating scenes, connected with the recent incidents, to amuse their audience.
Australians had the opportunity of enjoying this scenario, so did folks in Canada – via talk show hosts, discussing our issue, and bringing a lot of fun, and laughter, into their discussions!
Many believe that some of these pageants are put together, by individuals…solely to project their image, or to make money, or to have fun with the participants.
And, there are also pageants, I’m told, where the winner is picked in advance…for various reasons, and the finals are just a camouflage. Yes, and rigging, too, takes place.
I was witnessed to one such incident where I was invited to be a judge for the Talent section of a beauty contest.
There were three judges, including me, and while we were engrossed in what we were assigned to do, I suddenly realised that one of the contestants was known to me…as a good dancer.
But, here’s the catch! Her number didn’t tally with the name on the scoresheet, given to the judges.
When I brought this to the notice of the organiser, her sheepish reply was that these contestants would have switched numbers in the dressing room.
Come on, they are no babes!
On another occasion, an organiser collected money from the mother of a contestant, promising to send her daughter for the finals, in the Philippines.
It never happened and she had lots of excuses not to return the money, until a police entry was made.
Still another episode occurred, at one of these so-called pageants, where the organiser promised to make a certain contestant the winner…for obvious reasons.
The judges smelt something fishy and made certain that their scoresheets were not tampered with, and their choice was crowned the winner.
The contestant, who was promised the crown, went onto a frenzy, with the organiser being manhandled.
I’m also told there are organisers who promise contestants the crown if they could part with a very high fee (Rs.500,000 and above!), and also pay for their air ticket.
Some even ask would-be contestants to check out sponsors, on behalf of the organisers. One wonders what that would entail!
Right now, in spite of the pandemic, that is crippling the whole world, we are going ahead with beauty pageants…for whose benefit!
Are the organisers adhering to the Covid-19 health guidelines? No way. Every rule is disregarded.
The recently-held contest saw the contestants, on the move, for workshops, etc., with no face masks, and no social distancing.
They were even seen in an open double-decker bus, checking out the city of Colombo…with NO FACE MASKS.
Perhaps, the instructions given by Police Spokesman DIG Ajith Rohana, and Army Commander, General Shavendra Silva, mean nothing to the organisers of these beauty pageants…in this pandemic setting.
My sincere advice to those who are keen to participate in such events is to check, and double check. Or else, you will end up being deceived…wasting your money, time, and energy.
For the record, when it comes to international beauty pageants for women, Miss World, Miss Universe, Miss Earth and Miss International are the four titles which reign supreme.
In pageantry, these competitions are referred to as the ‘Big Four.’
Better use of vanity projects; Cass apologises, and New Year graciousness
A wise one, with the interests of the country at heart, calling himself ‘A Member of the Silent Majority’, wrote in The Island of Friday, April 9, offering an excellent solution for the better and genuine use of the Mattala Mahinda Rajapaksa International Airport which was built at a stupendous cost to both the Treasury, and wildlife abundant in the area, to satisfy an ego and sycophants’ cries of Hail to the King. Even sans Covid and lockdowns and shut downs of airports, the Mattala Airport was a white elephant, endangering and displacing the black elephants, roaming along their familiar corridors; receiving such few airplanes. Thus, as the writer Cass mentions says, convert the airport to a super hotel with excellent and sure-fire access to wildlife watching, like referred to hotels in Kenya and elsewhere. Yes, it will definitely be a bigger money earner than an airport waiting for a plane to land. Expensive equipment going rusty could be transferred to smaller airports being developed all over the island. There was such a hue and cry when storerooms, within the deserted airport, were used for paddy storage, but not even a whimper of concerted protest when the vanity projects were being built. We also heard that on the rare occasions a plane was to land/take off, peacocks in the area were shot at to prevent them flying into the planes. Aney, what a sin, just to have a name on a nameboard! Use the Suriyawewa Cricket Stadium too for a better purpose and less costly to water and maintain green in near desert climate conditions. What about a residential training institute for youth, perhaps in small industries? If the king-sized ego demands the name be present, OK, leave it. What’s in a name?
Any matter, financial or economic, with benefit to country buttressing it – refer to Dr Harsha de Silva and Eran Wickremaratne. Likewise, anything pertaining to fauna, flora and preservation of natural habitats ask Devani Jayathilake. Cassandra would give two years of her life (she does not have 10 left, she suspects) to know what the answers of the three wise and sincere ones mentioned would be to the proposal to convert the Mattala Airport, oops sorry – Mattala Mahinda Rajapaksa International Airport – to a 7 star hotel for wildlife watching and then tourists proceeding to Yala and other places that were touted to be reached easier if planes brimful of tourists, landed in Mattala. Pipe dream even sans Covid-19.
The thought of the millions, nay billions, our country was indebted to China to construct these vanity projects aka white elephants of the Rajapaksa fiefdom sends Cass’s blood racing in her contracting veins. And now another hair-brained scheme is being exposed, not new but re-exposed: that of the stupendous amount sent direct from the Central Bank with no nod, as reported, from the then Cabinet or Parliament, to an American-resident con-man to improve our appearance on the world stage or at least American stage. My word!! Cosmetics of creams and colours and such like can improve the face of an already beautiful woman. But a country that was once beautiful, glorified, accepted internationally and then politician-spoilt, cannot be redeemed by PR work, however expensively. Nivard Cabraal was the then Govenor of the CB. Of course, as every Banda, Singho and their women say, nothing will come of this. Powerful political sweeping under the carpet in the presence of cardboard administrators and sycophantic hosanna singers, makes the matter disappear and not merely hides it. Unless of course there are enough intrepid outers-of-truths and persistent protestors, brave and national minded enough to continuously tease the matter like a cat its caught rat. Ranjan is locked away in hard labour for four solid years, losing his Parliamentary seat for misusing the gift of his gab, while convicted murderers of the right colour attend Parliament, escorted and all.
To the reigning Mrs World, Mrs Caroline Jurie, for crowning, uncrowning and recrowning of the winner of the recent Mrs Sri Lanka contest. Caroline Jurie took this stride because the winning contestant was four years on the way to being a divorcee, which status forbids a woman from attempting to wear the crown of Mrs…. (country) with a view to becoming Mrs World. This title and honour is bestowed on a woman who promotes, holds sacred the institution of marriage and is a married woman. Cass castigated Caroline Jurie without knowing then the fact that Jurie had protested about this candidate being considered due to her impending divorce; and allowed to contest. She said she withdrew from the panel of judges since her point was not taken by the others. WHY is the Q. Easy to answer. The new beauty queen of shaky married status was a loud speaker in favour of Presidential Candidate Gotabaya R in Polonnaruwa (captured on social media) and probably spoke on stages for SLPP Parliamentary candidates. So of course she was slated to win; vision impaired over rules and future probabilities, She has her height – one advantage. Beauty can always be dexterously rubbed and painted in. But honesty is important and cannot be cloned or grafted in.
Cass now definitely faults the new Mrs Sri Lanka. She should not have contested, having her papers sent in for divorce and not retracted. What happens when she wins the divorce (or her husband wins it, however the divorce was first mooted). Another local contest? And if the divorce was still pending and she went overseas at great expense and won THE crown or a lesser one. To be returned forthwith when she has to remove the present gold band from her third finger, which probably she has already removed but hastily wore for the contest and when preparing for it? This is why Cass avows that many young women particularly, are so very selfish and forward and uppity and even dishonest now. In Cass’ time and even a decade or two later, a girl would never do what this new beauty has done, flipped aside a core rule and necessity of the contest, just to win by honest means or foul. Way the country’s going, my friend.
Post – Aluth Avurudhu
Cassandra is stuffed gill-high with kavun, aluwa and crunchy kokis, preceded by kiributh and lunumiris. She is fending for herself because a dip in Covid numbers and having had the jab, her domestic wished to enjoy a family new year having missed the last one, locked down as we were. Cass made her own kiributh – tasting somewhat like it should, but the sweets were all gifted her. So, also the offers of help, sleep-ins at others’ homes and solicitous frequent inquiries of ‘how are you?’ Kind and gracious relatives and friends, acquaintances too are thanked; and the most appreciated being neighbouring kitchen helps and care givers. Three-wheeler drivers who spin Cass around on errands too make enquiries. And thus her thoughts when resuming work at the nekath time and word processing this article. Sri Lankans are such good people: kind, caring, willing to share and genuine. And then specters themselves on this very sunny landscape: the dishonest, selfish, revengeful and disgraceful. Shrug them off, clear the mental picture and pronounce thank goodness for goodness around.
May all of us (decent people) have a very good year to follow today –Subha Aluth Avuruddhak!
Govt. MP Wijeyadasa strikes discordant note on Port City Bill
Buddhism and all beings’ right to life
7-billion-rupee diamond heist; Madush splls the beans before being shot
Unfit, unprofessional, fat Sri Lankans
The Burghers of Ceylon/Sri Lanka- Reminiscences and Anecdotes
Opinion7 days ago
Monumental blunders paralysing Sri Lanka
Features5 days ago
How confidence has been eroded
Sports5 days ago
When failures boast of success
Features6 days ago
A senior cop remembers April 1971
Opinion4 days ago
A Cabinet reshuffle needed
Politics6 days ago
The British will not learn English, let’s not kid ourselves
news7 days ago
SLC funds amounting to Rs 29 mn in US bank: SLC caught lying before COPE
news4 days ago
Proposed law will turn Port City into a province of China – JVP