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Centralised smart traffic lights systems needed



This refers to the article by Raja Wickremesinghe titled ‘An accident every 3 hours’ and the use of cameras.

May I suggest that the authorities install mobile cameras in every public bus? The cameras thus installed will be inaccessible to the bus crews, but could be remotely monitored (and recorded) by the centralised Police unit, which also monitors the Street CCTV cameras. This will be similar to making the naughtiest child in class the Class Monitor. The greatest violators of Traffic Rules are the public busses, and this will force them to be on their best behaviour. The ‘big picture’ gained from these mobile cameras will help authorities to comprehend what is happening. Centralised Computers could vary the timing of the Green Lights in accordance with the time of day (and Traffic congestion).

The reason for having traffic lights is because it is physically impossible for a human being to continuously control traffic for long periods of time. The mechanical, semaphore type signals were invented by an entrepreneur named Garret Morgan, who was a son of a slave in Ohio USA. (He was also responsible for inventing the Gas Masks used in WWI). General Electric (GE) Company bought the patent and fitted lights on them. The Red lights were already being used by the Railways. Having policemen controlling traffic physically in the morning and evening during rush hour time, is it really helping? I think not. There is always a policeman at the top of a traffic jam. I believe the objective should be to feed in a few cars at a time and keep the traffic moving. This is humanly impossible. Some of us will remember the movie ‘Patton’ and how the good General personally directed traffic at a four way junction and kept them moving. A few vehicles at a time. There are some traffic lights in USA which have signs that says “Three Cars per Green Light”

Isn’t it better to computer control the light sequence after a proper study of the motor traffic for the specific time of day, and have only one office


There are some traffic lights like the one near Medical College, Carey College junction, which barely allows two cars to turn from the Prof. Nandadasa Kodagoda Mawatha to Kynsey Road, from the mortuary side. Nobody complains about it. Some Traffic Light posts are twisted and pointing in the wrong direction (not aligned) causing organized chaos. The stop lines drawn on the R A de Mel Mawatha and Galle Road, make the front cars lose sight of the lights. Isn’t there a mobile unit that travels the roads to check these traffic lights out? The telephone numbers for the driving public to complain should be prominently displayed.


r to oversee the operation of the lights? The presence of just one policeman will force the road users to be on their best behaviour. The other policemen could be ‘off the hook’ and more effectively distributed at the more critical areas.

With traffic lights installed at roundabouts, it reduces their efficiency. To borrow a phrase from Air Traffic Control, the objective must be safe, orderly and expeditious movement of traffic. It is accepted that the most efficient way to negotiate a junction of many converging roads is the use of a roundabout. The present road users have lost touch with the proper use of the principle of ‘right of way’. One has to only look at the chaos at the Thunmulla Junction. To make matters worse, one roundabout lane is blocked. Road courtesy is non-existent.

The police don’t seem to know the basic road rules themselves. They also don’t seem to know and use proper hand signals. Recently, one policeman at a busy junction was observed to be using his gloved hand, the palm facing forward and signalling the oncoming traffic to move. As a result at one point when the hand is forward extreme, it looked as if he was asking the traffic to stop. Do these policemen undergo any refresher courses to improve their skills? Maybe, some of them do not have driving licenses In fact, one policeman wanted me to switch my hazard lights on, to indicate that I was moving straight ahead. I had to wind my shutter down and tell the young man that it was not in the book.

There is another group of traffic policemen who ask the motorists to proceed when the traffic lights are showing Red. Isn’t it negative reinforcement? The day the driver runs a Red Light and has an accident, we all wonder what happened. Most of these problems could be fixed by having ‘smart traffic lights’ coupled to computers, cameras and road traffic sensors with minimum human intervention.



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Regulate sports in popular schools ahead of big matches



The Big Matches between popular schools in Colombo and main outstation cities are round the corner. In the past school sports was in the hands of former sportsmen and sportswomen who loved the game as well as their school. They devoted their time and money to coach the budding youth without any monetary gain for themselves.

But, see what has happened today. Sports coaches selected by the schools demand millions of rupees to coach the students. And this is readily agreed and paid by the school authorities. In the good old days the members of School teams were provided free meals during match days and also Sports equipment. But it is not so now. The school earn millions of rupees from big matches played for a duration of two, or three days in some cases, and this money could be utilised to buy the required cricket gear such as bats, pads gloves, boots, etc,. I understand a pair of cricket boots is in the region of Rs.18,000 to 25,000. Can a poor village lad who is enrolled to an affluent schools in Colombo, based on his performance in Education and Cricket afford this? These lads should be given all the support to continue in their respective sports rather than drop out due to financial constraints

Coaches in some schools are in the payroll of big-time businessmen whose children are, in the so called pools. Parents of children engaged in a particular sport should not be permitted to come in as sponsors as this would be rather unethical.

The Big Matches between popular boys schools are around the corner and I suggest that the Sports Ministry ensures performance based selections rather than on other criteria.




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‘Post turtle’ revisited




I have written about this amusingly thought-provoking creature, the ‘post turtle’ to ‘The Island’ around three years ago (appeared in the opinion column of The Island newspaper on the 19th of June 2018, titled ‘The post turtle era’). The story, which I am sure most of you have heard/read already, is obviously not a creation of mine and I happened to come across it somewhere, sometime ago. 

And for the benefit of those, who haven’t heard the story, it goes like this:

“While surturing a cut on the hand of an old Texas rancher, the doctor struck up a conversation with the old man. Eventually, the topic got around to politics and then they discussed some new guy, who was far too big for his shoes, as a politician.

The old rancher said, ‘Well, ya know he is a post turtle’. Not being familiar with the term, the doctor asked him what a ‘post turtle was’.

The old rancher said, ‘When you are driving down a country road and you come across a fence post with a turtle balanced on top, well, that’s your ‘post turtle’.

The rancher saw a puzzled look on the doctor’s face, so he went on to explain. ‘You know, he didn’t get up there by himself, he doesn’t belong up there, he doesn’t know what to do while he is up there, and you just wonder what kind of a dumb ass put him up there in the first place’.”

Now I was having this nice, little siesta, the other day and suddenly there appeared ‘the turtle’ in front of me, sitting on a fence post, seemingly doing a precarious balancing act as the post itself was too high for it to give it a try to jump down to the ground. Not that it probably wanted to do it anyway for it looked quite contended and happy sitting there doing absolutely nothing. And no doubt some loyal and dumb all rolled into one, must have put him up there and been feeding it well too, for it looked quite contended and fat showing a thick head that kept turning to the left and then to the right, while its tongue kept on lolling out as if it was saying something, which must have been absolute gibberish and rubbish anyway.

What a fitting and symbolic representation, 

I mean this ‘post turtle’, of the lot, or the majority of it sitting across ‘the oya’, I mused on after I woke up from my snooze.

Many of them get there thanks to the gullible voter, who while ticking the boxes, thinks: he/she will surely deliver the goods this time as promised! 

And those two-legged post turtles inside the edifice, bordering the Diyawanna, like the one in the story, keep uttering sheer rubbish and spitting out incomprehensible mumbo jumbo, all in return with thanks to those, who tick the boxes in their favour.

Their statements such as ‘what is oxygen for, to eat?’, is just one among many such stupendously stupid utterances of theirs and I don’t want to tire you with the rest, for they are well known and far too many.

Now I have only one question for you before I end this:

When are we going stop being ‘those dumb asses’, once and for all?

Laksiri  Warnakula  

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Abuse of use of title Professor



I read with much interest the letter by Mr. Nissanka Warakaulle, regarding the above matter, in the issue of the Sunday Island of 18th April 2021. I agree fully with the contents of his letter. He should be very familiar with the regulations as he is a former Registrar of the University of Colombo. I wish to highlight another instance where it is abused. In the 1970s, the title of Associate Professor was created. Until then there were only three categories of Professors. Firstly the holder of the Chair, secondly a co-Professor and thirdly, an Emeritus Professor. There were also, Lecturers, Senior Lecturers and Readers. The title of Reader was replaced with the title Associate Professor, which is meant to be a designation, to be used after the name. However, this category of academics started using it as a pre-fix, dropping the word Associate!

Profesor Sanath P. Lamabadusuriya MBE
Emeritus Professor of Paediatrics,
University of Colombo

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