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Multi-faceted personality with variety of interests

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Hundredth birth anniversary of A.R.P. Wijeyesekera

We commemorate the 100th birth anniversary of our father Arananda Rajamini Piyasena Wijeyesekera on 22nd November.

He grew up among eight siblings along with seven elephants including the ‘Maligawa Tusker’. They also owned a rubber plantation. It was a hard time for the family during the depression. Rubber prices plummeted. The dairy helped them to survive.

ARPs’ secondary education was at Royal College. After leaving school, he enrolled to the Auxiliary Fire Service. One day he was late to work only to find that his office building had been wiped out by a bomb!!.

Thereafter he worked in a number of private and government institutions. Among them were the Ceylon Government Railway, Unilever, Lanka Sugar Corporation, State Hardware, and Richard Peiris Co Ltd

Hestarted his acreer as an engineer, but his interests widened to many other areas during his career. His engineering training began at the CGR workshops at Ratmalana. He spent time in England while studying for his IMechE exams and further training.. He was also trained on diesel electric locomotives in Canada. The Queen visited Ceylon during the time. He was proud to say that he was in charge of the train in which her Majesty the Queen travelled to Kandy.

ARP had several stints at the CTB. He first worked as the Chief Engineer. During his tenure the transport sector was nationalised. He had to take over the depots and a fleet of buses.

In 1968 he was appointed as Chairman CTB. He standardised the fleet with Fiat, Ashok Leyland and Tata Benz. They were used in the up country region. This minimised spare parts. He wanted centralised control.

To us his role as Chairman of the CTB was interesting. Not only did we get to travel with him around Sri Lanka but we also received an insight on the influence of politicians on those holding senior posts in the government service. Our father refused to yield to the dicates of the politicians and resigned from the Chairmanship within a short period after assuming the particular office a second time

He tried his hands at entrepreneurship. He started Tractors and Road Ways Pvt Ltd.. He had pride in Walauwewatte Industries, He nutured the family coconut property, Walahena Estate. He started a dairy on this property. Then as an out grower he tried his hand growing foliage plants.

Our father also shared his wide experience on a number of Professional bodies . He was elected the President of the Institution of Engineers of Sri Lanka in 1980. He organised a course at the Institution of Engineers for students to obtain a professional degree. The lecturers were from the faculty of Engineering at the Katubede and Peradeniya Universities an, professionals. He wrote to the then Prime Minister R.Premadasa and he got the Thais down for weather modification. There was also a seminar on this subject at the Institute of Engineers.

President of the Chambers of Commerce and Industries, Chairman of the National Chamber of Industries were two other professional bodies he headed.

He was staunch UNPer and was the joint secretary of the committee responsible for the first draft of the 1977 UNP manifesto. This report included a section on the protection of local Industries.

His interest in the protection of local industry was also reflected in his work as a Member of the Board of Directors at IDB. He was also appointed as a member of the Presidential Commission of Tariffs.

He was a man of many parts as a golfer, filmed with a 8mm cine camera and a still camera. He was a keen wild life enthusiast. He was a fine cricketer and an ardent radio enthusiast.

Our father was a journalist par excellence. He wrote in a number of magazines and newspapers. Study of the archives of media Institutions could unearth many a treasure.

He was always fearless and intelligent. He simplified the complicated. He believed to work across disciplines.

His motto was ‘Do not ask what your country can do for you but what you can do for your country.’

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Opinion

Send them back to school!

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We are not talking about our children going back to school but about the request made by the Chief Opposition Whip Lakshman Kiriella to allow parliamentarians to enrol in the Sri Lankan Law College, or any other university, to further their studies. How about the basic qualification to enter university? Talking about the basic qualification we remember there was a talk some time ago about some members who have not got through even their GCE (O)Level, a bare minimum qualification, required even for a peon in a recognised organisation or in government services. We request the Chief Opposition Whip to request, on behalf of these members, to allow them to go back to school, no matter how old they are.

We remember one SAARC member country brought in a regulation saying that all those who come forward to contest a seat in the parliament should possess a university degree and at the submission of nomination the officials detected that nearly 20% of the certificates were fake. Anyway, we are proud that such things are extremely rare in our country.

Finally, I urge Kiriella to include schools, too, for MPs, who need the basic qualifications for university admission.

S. H. MOULANA

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Opinion

Compensate victims of gas explosions

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There is no shortage of hot topics for the media these days, the latest being the unusual occurrence of gas related accidents. Any ordinary person would understand that the present series of accidents are certainly due to the release of newly arrived consignment of gas cylinders whose composition ratio of propane and butane has been altered to maximise profits.

The responsible institutions and authorities as well as some ambidextrous politicians are defending the culprits who deny any change in the gas composition. The special committee appointed by the President to investigate into the matter, seem biased. The other day the public saw (through the TV news footages) that these so-called experts were trying to bully the innocent victims of these accidents, accusing them of the use of worn out hoses and regulators as the main reason for the incidents. Why the hell can’t they figure out the fact that these accidents are all due to the use of the newly bought wrongly filled cylinders. A committee of this nature is useless if its aim is to serve the vested interests. Instead of blaming the victims, one compulsory question they should ask is if the cylinder is newly bought or an old one. It is sad that this Kekille committee of experts is also trying to put the blame on the innocent consumer and defend the businessman.

All that the government should do at this critical hour is to introduce a mechanism to collect the data of the victims of these explosions and pay due compensation to them forthwith at the expense of the concerned gas company. The ministry in charge should also issue an urgent order to the company to recall the return of all these defective gas cylinders distributed to all districts and take immediate action for refilling them with the correct prescription of the chemical composition and issue with a new label giving all required instructions. In the meantime, the Consumer Protection Authority must ensure that accessories like the hoses and regulators, conforming to the SLS standards, are available in the market at least from now on for the safety of the consumers.

M. B. Navarathne

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Opinion

Banks make a killing at depositors’ expense

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The motive of the government decision to lower the interest rates of deposits was predominantly to engross the banks to lend at lower interest rates for entrepreneurs to boost the economy of the country which is in dire straits. However, would this proposal prove productive?

Owing to this absurd stunt senior citizens and pensioners have been left high and dry high and dry, resulting in unprecedented agony and anguish. Many victims have highlighted their grievances on behalf of the distraught senior citizens and pensioners. This much spoken of government’s harsh decision to lower interest rates has made the lives of senior citizen’s and pensioners miserable with the escalating high cost of living, skyrocketing cost of medical expenses, etc. It is pertinent to mention that monthly interest rates on fixed deposits, which they mostly rely upon, have been reduced to alarmingly low 4% and 5 % which has added to the woes already the senior citizens face.

All senior citizens who are not receiving or entitled for a pension, depend solely on monthly fixed deposit interest as the regular source of income for their living. As a result of lowering interest rates of deposits, their plans have all been shattered causing them to be wondering how to make ends meet.At this dire juncture, the intervention of the President is needed to revoke this unreasonable decision of lowering the interest rates of deposits.

The only redress the senior folk benefits is by the Central Bank’s special scheme of 15% interest for senior citizens. However, in this too the senior citizens have been slapped and battered with a Rs 1.5 million ceiling.

In comparison to the reduction of interest rates of deposits, if one takes into account the number of loans granted to entrepreneurs at lower interest rates the answer would be very negligible, particularly as the bank’s do not take risks to lend to entrepreneurs whom they believe to have projects not viable. The banks of course, would show enhanced profits at the end of the year as they have paid the depositors lower interest rates which reflects as plus mark for their balance sheets. This is a blessing in disguise for the management of banks at the receiving end of impoverished pensioners and senior citizens.

In the above contest the intervention of the President Gotabaya Rajapakse is most needed to bring about redress to ‘distressed” senior citizens and pensioners

Sunil Thenabadu

Brisbane, Australia

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