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National integration and 13A

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National integration would mean that in a country, which is inhabited by several ethnic communities, everyone would harbour similar feelings and thinking about matters of national interest, like independence, territorial integrity, sovereignty, etc. Development of such sentiments cannot be forced on a people. In this regard, what the Indian philosopher S. Radhakrishna said may be of relevance. He has said national integration cannot be made by brick and mortar but should be allowed to develop through education. Without a mutual feeling of respect for one another’s language, religion and culture among people, national integration, of the type defined above, is impossible to achieve. Such feelings would come only with education. It is perhaps this truism that made Radhakrishna utter those words of wisdom. Laws and Constitutions cannot impose something that only education could instill by a gradual process. There may not be any other method, or substitute, capable of bringing about such a change.

The Constitution of a country should not be an obstacle to the development of such feelings in people of different faiths, languages and cultures. It must ensure that all are equally treated by government institutions, have equal opportunity in education, employment, and space for economic and cultural development. However, the Constitution, whatever form it may take, cannot force national integration on people, whether they are a majority or a minority. A Constitution can only provide for laws that would prevent obstacles being put in the way to national integration. For instance, discrimination of a particular communal group would be an obstacle to national integration. The Constitution must provide for the enactment of laws that act against discrimination.

It is in this context that the 13th Amendment should be viewed. It is often said that the implementation of the 13th Amendment to the Constitution, which came into being as a result of the Indo-Lanka Accord, entered into, in July 1987, would result in national integration. The 13th A provides for Provincial Councils which attempt power-sharing at provincial level. As mentioned above, the Constitution, if it is to facilitate national integration, must treat all the ethnic communities equally and must not try to satisfy one group at the expense of another. If it does, it would be an obstacle rather than a facilitator for national integration. This may happen if political power-sharing is attempted with the provinces as the unit of devolution. Most of the Provinces in Sri Lanka have multi-ethnic populations where one ethnic community is in the majority, while there are enclaves of other communities who would be minorities in a particular province. Creation of autonomous territorial units out of these provinces would result in these minority groups losing their umbilical connection with the central government to a significant degree, and being brought under provincial power. In other words, a law which attempts to solve the problems of minority communities would create new minorities with attendant issues in each of these Provinces. For instance, in the Eastern Province, Sinhalese would be a minority with regard to political power and they may be concerned of being discriminated against. Such an eventuality may not facilitate national integration.

Further, several authoritative world-wide surveys have shown that power-sharing measures, as a solution to ethnic conflict have not been successful. There had been 78 countries in Asia, Africa, the Middle East, Eastern Europe, former USSR and the Caribbean which were in intense ethnic conflict during 1980 to 2010. Of these only 20 managed to conclude inter-ethnic power sharing arrangements, many failed, some experienced genocide eh. Rwanda in 1993 and others ended with secession, eg. Sudan in 2005. Only four to six achieved stable arrangements but even these have serious political instability (Horowitz D, 2014).

Following are a few extracts from these research works: ” The core reason why power-sharing cannot resolve ethnic conflict is that it is voluntaristic; it requires conscious decisions by elites to cooperate to avoid ethnic strife. Under conditions of hypernationalist mobilisation and real security threats, group leaders are unlikely to be receptive to compromise and even if they are they, cannot act without being discredited and replaced by harder-line rivals” (Kaufmann, 1997). “Proposals for devolution abound, but more often than not devolution agreements are difficult to reach and once reached soon abort” (Horowitz, 1985).

That Sri Lanka provides ample evidence in support of the above research findings could easily be seen in its experience with its own Provincial Councils. Of the nine PCs, the worst failure was seen in relation to the Northern PC, where it was supposed to be essential for the solution of the ethnic conflict. Its Chief Minister, after willingly contesting for the post, made use of the opportunity to loudly engage in secessionist rhetoric and propaganda. Some Tamil leaders, who engage in such treacherous activity are believed to be funded by pro-LTTE Tamil Diaspora. How could anybody believe that the full implementation of the 13th A would not provide greater opportunity for such secessionist activity, with greater collusion between internal and external separatist elements.

In consideration of the above, what would be more suitable for Sri Lanka is a power-sharing mechanism at the centre, which would suit its geography of ethnicity where in most areas there is a mixture of ethnic groups, and 50% of minorities live outside the North and the East. If all possibility of discrimination of majority or minority communities is avoided, and people are allowed to learn to respect each other’s different cultures, there would develop common feelings and thinking about national issues, which would be the national integration that has eluded us all these years.

 

N.A.de S. AMARATUNGA

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Opinion

Amend Cabinet decision on new Rajagiriya – Nawala Canal bridge

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The Cabinet, at its meeting held on 09.11.2020 granted approval for the construction of a new bridge across the Rajagiriya-Nawala Canal (Kolonnawa Canal), connecting Angampitiya Road, at Ethul kotte, and School Lane, at Nawala.

As a resident of Nawala, I would like to make two proposals in this regard. One is to reconsider the suitability of the proposed link between School Lane and Angampitiya Road to connect Nawala with Ethul Kotte. The second is to make an additional link between Narahenpita and Nawala, by constructing a new bridge across the Kinda Canal, which flows past the Wall-Tile Showroom on the Nawala-Narahenpita Road and the McDonald’s outlet at Rajagiriya. This will provide a direct access from Narahenpita to Ethul Kotte, and at the same time avoiding congestion on Kirimandala Mawatha and Parliament Road, during peak hours.

The decision to construct a bridge, linking Nawala and Ethul Kotte, is commendable, but the selection of the site for the bridge needs reconsideration. Once Ethul Kotte is linked with Nawala, through Angampitiya Road, and School Lane, one would expect a substantial increase in the volume of traffic on these two roads. Located on School Lane is the Janadhipathi Balika Vidyalaya, a popular girls’ school in the area. Even at present, the area around School Lane has heavy traffic comprising mostly school vans and other vehicles bringing children to and from this school, in the mornings and afternoons. Linking School Lane with Ethul Kotte will make this traffic situation worse, causing congestion.

A better option is to connect Ethul Kotte with Nawala, by constructing a bridge, linking New Jayaweera Mawatha in Ethul Kotte, with Koswatta Road, in Nawala. A by-lane, branching off from the Koswatta Road leading up to the canal, at an appropriate location, could be used for this purpose. On this link, only a short distance of roadway about 250 m, needs to be developed, whereas the School Lane extension needs development of at least 700 m of roadway. Earlier, motorists used Koswatta Road as a shortcut to access Parliament Road. Now, turning right, at the Parliament Road junction, is not permitted, and hence, there isn’t much traffic on this road at present.

One advantage of extending the Koswatta Road, to Ethul Kotte is that it could be linked in the other direction, with Muhandiram Dabare Mawatha, on the Narahenpita side, providing a direct route for motorists coming along Thimbirigasyaya Road to go to Ethul Kotte. With this link, it will be possible for traffic to avoid both Parliament Road and Chandra de Silva Mawatha, Nugegoda, the only two access roads to Kotte, from Colombo, available at present.

To complete this access, it is necessary to construct a bridge across Kinda Canal, linking Galpotta Road with Muhandiram Dabare Mawatha, after extending both roadways up to the canal. This area is still not developed, except for a reservation made for a playground on the Nawala side. A new roadway, which is only about half a km distance, is necessary, and this could be built without any problem linking these two roadways. Galpotta Road could be linked with Koswatta Road via Ratanajothi Mawatha, which crosses the Rajagiriya–Nawala Road, at Koswatta Junction.

The construction of these two new bridges, one across Kolonnawa Canal and the other across Kinda Canal, will provide a direct route from Colombo to Ethul Kotte, via Muhandiram Dabare Mawatha, Galpotta Road, Koswatta Road and New Jayaweera Mawatha. This link will reduce congestion, at present experienced on Kirimandala Road and Parliament Road.

 

Dr JANAKA RATNASIRI

Nawala

 

 

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Opinion

A tribute to my mother-in-law

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Appreciation

My mother-in-law, Mandrani Gunasekera, nee Malwatta, passed away peacefully in our home a few weeks ago. The funeral arrangements were complicated by the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic situation, and the resultant weekend curfew in Colombo.

It is a privilege for me to reflect on my mother-in-law and her role in our lives. Vocationally, she was a practitioner of one of the noblest professions on earth, that of being a teacher, with the responsibility of educating and molding young lives. First in the public-school system, then overseas, and finally in Colombo’s leading international schools. As someone who topped her batch at the Peradeniya University, teaching was an unusual and perhaps unglamourous choice, but it demonstrated her commitment to the service of others.

In private life, she, was a mother to two daughters, one of whom is my wife, and their strength of character are a tribute to her. Her four grandchildren, including my two sons, are, I am sure, left in no doubt, that their mothers were raised in the home of a teacher, with a strong commitment to both education and discipline. I saw first-hand, that my mum-in- law, was an enabler and facilitator, guiding and molding her family. Her eldest grand-daughter, Thisuni Welihinde’s wedding late last year, was a milestone for her and we were never sure who was more excited, the bride or her grandmother.

To me, she was always “Ammi” and having lost my own mother when I was very young, I was determined to treat my wife’s mother, as I would my own. After my father- in- law’s death, a decade ago, it was a joy to care for my mother-in- law, in our home. Ammi was retired and lived a life of leisure. Which was a good counter balance to our own lives, which always seemed to be so hectic and rushed. I also learned from my mother -in-law, that being effective did not come from being prominent.

Ammi was also regular at Church, every Sunday, and was also an active member of a mid-week ladies Bible study, and prayer group, who were also her group of friends. They always ended their meetings, with brunch if not lunch. It was special joy that we were able to celebrate her 80th birthday with a “surprise party” at home, with her friends, about six weeks before her passing.

Ammi enjoyed the simple joys of life, and of our home, whether it was meal times, the constant chatter and boisterous behaviour of her two teenage grandsons, our weekend activities or family vacations to most of which she accompanied us. She was also an avid rugby fan, especially of Royal College rugby, since her brother had captained Royal and now her grandson was playing. In fact, she used to attend many matches and the 75th Bradby encounter last year, held in the shadow of the Easter Sunday bomb attacks, was her last, to witness her brother honoured on the field with other past captains and her grandson take the field, as a junior player.

This strange Covid-19 pandemic year, and its unprecedented lockdown ,enabled us to spend lots of time together, as family. Our lockdown daily routine, which included lots of sleep and rest, was centered on the daily family lunch, either preceded, or followed by family prayer. Ammi became the most committed and enthusiastic participant in our family mid-day gatherings. It was a great blessing, in disguise, that enabled us to spend the last few months, with noting much else to do, but enjoy each other’s company. While we miss her, we have the hope that she is with our Lord Jesus Christ. Her favourite Bible scripture in Psalm 91, states “He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High abides under the shadow of the Almighty …. and with long life I will satisfy him and show him, My salvation”.

 

By Harim Peiris

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Opinion

The Benefits of Homeschooling

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COVID-19 has changed our normal activities. What we were used to doing in 2019, is no longer a routine in 2020. In the midst of this pandemic the schools were closed down, and the decision to reopen schools by the Sri Lankan government and the trade unions speaking against it, made me ponder on an alternative.

Education in developing countries have often been a sensitive topic, Parents would leave no stone unturned to put their child to a ‘Big School’. How many of the classrooms in ‘Big Schools’ are capable of making seating arrangements by keeping a distance of one meter in accordance with the COVID-19 regulations?

Online Teaching has been introduced as an alternative, but isn’t there something better than that?

This would be the best time to introduce Homeschooling.

Homeschooling is where parents and guardians teach and groom their children. There are many parents capable of handling children and providing a comfortable atmosphere at home for a child to grow up and learn; there are parents who are skilled in particular trades and crafts, and teaching these to their children at a younger age gives the child an opportunity to be a skilled individual.

Several decades back the role of a Governess played an important role in upbringing children in Sri Lankan households. Many would have read about Helen Keller, a deaf and blind student who went on to be a graduate; she was groomed and taught by her governess Anne Sullivan, who taught her at home, this is a successful example of Homeschooling.

It is an arrogant attitude to scoff that parents groom their children into good citizens without sending them to school. Inferior Schooling and Teaching Methods have been a bane to a child’s psychology and mentally handicapping the confidence of a child. The truth is, schools no longer groom students, they have become Examination Centres, that judge the performance of their students through results.

It will be interesting to look into some of the criticisms made by sceptics on homeschooling. One is the subject knowledge of the parents; let’s be honest, how many of us use Titration in Chemistry in our daily lives, do we even want to try it? How many of us want to know the Chronology of the Kings that ruled the Country, has it ever disturbed us?

On the other hand, Homeschooling does not mean that teachers would no longer be needed, the teacher can play a broader role as a governess or a trainer to fill in the subject gaps that the parents are unable to provide for their child.

Another criticism is that children will not learn to socialise without schools. Isn’t Covid-19 regulations discouraging socialising by asking us to avoid public gatherings and maintaining a distance of 1 meter, isn’t socialising with a bad friend as disastrous as a deadly disease?

It will be interesting to see how the trade unions are going to respond to this if homeschooling becomes successful, as they will be the worst affected. But they could always become good Governesses or Subject Experts and play a guiding role in the homeschooling venture. This country now needs more Florence Nightingales to treat the sick and more Anne Sullivans to groom the kids.

 

HASALA PERERA

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