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Preventing road accidents



It was a hard decision for me to write this piece because many letters/articles penned on this subject, for decades (1981 to date), have fallen on deaf ears.

After my training, under a WHO Fellowship, in 1988, on the subject of road safety, two seminars and exhibitions, using a physical model 16’X 8’, were held at the OPA, in 2000 and 2003, under the caption: “Introduction to the Basics of Lane Discipline”; which, like all good things, were completely sabotaged by the very same people who should have benefitted from it. (see The Island of 22,23,24 September, 2005, for more details)

Lane Discipline is not just a word. It is a whole subject that can be easily understood, even by a student, who has done mathematics up to the “O” levels. So, our attention first goes to our driving schools, and the multiplicity of organizations, with well paid staff for doing nothing. Their only qualification is perhaps that they are somebody’s somebody.

The recent tragedy at Passara, killing 15 innocent people, for which the ill-trained truck driver is to blame, is a good example. Judging from the video clips shown:

(1) the road narrowing was seen on the side of the truck driver who should have stopped and given way to the oncoming bus

(2) the truck driver failed to give right of way to the bus which was climbing while the truck was descending

(3) The bus driver would have been helpless, because if the fully loaded bus was forced to stop when climbing, he would have had difficulty in controlling it.

While our well-paid gentlemen, engaged on road safety, will read and forget, till the next tragedy occurs, but for me it is a reminder of some of the most gruesome fatal accidents I have recorded, or seen, with my own eyes. (1) A pregnant young girl pillion rider, on her way to her mother’s place for her first confinement, died, on the spot, when knocked down by a tipper driver, carrying sand, on Parliament Road, (2) A double decker driver, on the Kelani Bridge, rammed into a hand cart, pushed along on the wrong side, carrying a load of bamboos. One bamboo went right through the stomach of the poor boy. Sure these two drivers are still driving on our roads. (3) A young lady doctor, on duty, lost her life, travelling in an ambulance, of the Ministry of Health, that met with an accident, at a time when we are made to believe that an ambulance is the safest vehicle on our roads. In this connection, I hesitate to mention another lady doctor, who was Secretary to the National Council for Prevention of Accidents (NCPA), who got rid of all the engineers, from the NCPA, and renaming it as NCPI, as if only meant for doctors, should now examine her conscience.

The saddest day for me was the day I participated at the so-called launch of the proposal to create the NCRS, describing it as a white elephant to employ relations and friends of politicians. The sponsors succeeded to mislead the Prime Minister to approve the creation of this white elephant. Their performance, during the so-called their own decade of action (2011 to 2020), is proof of their inability to solve this problem. Now, on to the second decade of inactivity (2021 to 2030) what we can expect was seen during the month of January 2021 itself, with a sharp increase in road accidents.

The subject of road safety should rightly come under a separate branch of the RDA called, “Traffic Engineering Branch”, as in Singapore, consisting of civil engineers well-trained in road safety matters and responsible for correct road markings, road signs, operation and maintenance to traffic lights. (see The Island of 03-01-2020 for more). The police will engage in law enforcement only.

There will be a ray of hope if President Gotabaya Rajapaksa takes this subject under him, personally, and appoints competent professionals with the aptitude to road safety matters and sufficient foreign driving experience to work together to find a solution. They should not be given anything more than three months to submit their findings. It is best that this subject is removed from outfits such as NCPI, Ceyspa, AA, NCRS, etc., and save funds and use them for better purposes.



Chartered Civil Engineer

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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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