Recently the Sri Lanka Air Force sent a response to an article this Seeya wrote in The Island. Excerpts of which are given below.
“The newspaper article in concerned has caught the attention of the Commander of the Sri Lanka Air Force. As stated in the article, the Commander has not declared on behalf of the SLAF, that there is no objection for the removal of the wall and replacing it with a fence. On the contrary, he had, in fact, stated that a collapsible wall could be put in place of the permanent wall which should have a solid finish obstructing the view from outside due to security reasons.
In addition, to date there has been no incident/accident reported at the Ratmalana Airfield related to the wall along the Galle Road. Further, vehicles such as passenger coach/container, etc., travelling on the main road would be taller than the wall in question and according to the article, the main road would also have to be closed every time an aircraft is approaching or taking off from that end of the runway. International runways, with due limitations can also can be considered as hazardous to flight safety. The SLAF consider Flight Safety is a paramountly important factor as an organisation which operates different types of aircraft over the years from this airfield.
It is pertinent to mention the wall concerned was erected by the SLAF before the year 2009, with the consent of the Airport and Aviation of Sri Lanka (AASL) to address the security concerns at that time and maintained to date. The outer perimeter security of the Colombo International Airport at Ratmalana is being provided by the SLAF free of charge over the years. As a measure of gratitude, with the consent of AASL and the approval of the Ministry of Defence (MOD), SLAF authorized to erect hoardings along this wall and to utilize the funds generated for welfare measures of airmen.”
WADC Wijesinghe (Group Captain SLAF)
Today is a very sad day for ‘Air Safety’. That hazardous wall remains and the advertisements are reappearing. Perhaps they think that “dogs may bark but the Caravan moves on”, how sad! However, we have to be thankful for small mercies. The SLAF, has removed the continuous solid concrete beam strengthening and retaining concrete blocks of which the said wall is constructed. Therefore, this will certainly weaken the strength of the said wall and collapse more easily on impact, but won’t solve the problem that has been pointed out. If there is a significant overrun or an under-shoot of an aircraft of any size, there could be serious damages and even loss of life.
The war is over
There is no war now and arguably Ratmalana is the busiest civil training airports. You could drive any morning down the airport road and watch aircraft on the runway. This wall goes against the spirit of being ‘Proactive, Predictive and Preventive’ as recommended by the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO).
The SLAF Safety Record
SLAF says that for them Air Safety is Paramount. We need to compare the number of fatal accidents/ incidents that have occurred during the past 10 years in the SLAF and the Civil Aviation operations. From any point we look at it, the number of fatal accidents in the SLAF exceed that of civil operations. The latest thinking by Air Safety experts is that an organisation’s ‘Attitude’ is foremost, when it comes to causation of accidents. Then and only then comes Skill and Knowledge in that order. ‘ASK’ is the acronym used. No one denies that the SLAF pilots are skillful and knowledgeable.
The hazardous wall adds insult to injury and only goes to prove the ‘bad attitude’ of the gentlemen of the SLAF. They seem to be thumbing their noses at well thought out and proven ‘Air Safety’ principles which should be the cornerstone of any ‘high risk’ operation.
Captain A. G. Lamplugh, a British pilot from the early days of aviation once famously said “Aviation in itself is not inherently dangerous”. But to an even greater degree than the sea, it is terribly unforgiving of any carelessness, incapacity or neglect.”
This observation still holds good. The SLAF have grossly neglected to recognise ‘Murphy’s Law’ which says “Anything that can go wrong will go wrong”. Ratmalana Airport can do without a man-made wall on the landing or take-off path. These air safety principles are set in stone and nothing new. By now the SLAF should know these facts of life (and death).
Public looking into the airport
Group Captain Wijesinghe, on the Commanders behalf, further states that the said wall prevents the general public from peeping into the Airport. If he saw what happened on the 3rd and 4th of February this year where the general public (men, women and children) parked their cars down the Airport Road and peered through the barbed wire fences from strategic places at the Ratmalana Airport to watch the formation take offs and landings of helicopters and fixed wing aircraft, for the fly-past. What would he now say? Will the SLAF want to wall those places up or build a wall right around the Airport perimeter?
Isn’t it a terminal inexactitude to justify an unnecessary and dangerous wall at Galle Road end by the SLAF?
These days we all have access to ‘Google Earth’. If one looks at the distance of the said wall to the first SLAF hangar on the Attidiya (North side), it is at a distance of 1,266.32 Metres. In contrast,the distance from the fence at BIA on the Negombo Road to the first SLAF hangar is only 1,011.61 Metres. In other words, the SLAF Katunayake Base hangar is closer to the main road than the distance the Ratmalana wall to the SLAF hangars at Attidiya. So will the SLAF want the BIA perimeter fence be replaced by a wall? Walls are generally not built on the airport perimeters the world over. On the other hand, fences are the industrial norm Aviation
Isn’t it another terminological inexactitude to justify the presence of an unnecessary and dangerous wall?
This Seeya believes that facts have been misrepresented to the Ministry of Defence (MOD) with a host of ‘terminological inexactitudes’ to keep the wall for the purely the purpose of hoardings and earn easy and quick money for the welfare of the SLAF. Will the said ‘Advertiser’ be willing to accept collective accountability with the SLAF when a fatal accident (God forbid) takes place at the Galle Road end at Ratmalana?
Question of ownership
Group Captain Wijesinghe, SLAF also states that wall was built with the consent of the Airport and Aviation (AASL). So is the AASL the real owner and the SLAF and the MOD are just tenants? This Seeya is aware that millions of Rupees were paid to the SLAF by the original owner, Civil Aviation Authority, Sri Lanka (CAASL) for them to move from the South side to the North Side of Ratmalana Airport. So is CAASL the registered owner? After the AN 32 fatal crash at Hokandara on 12th December 2014, why did the Director of Operations SLAF and later its Commander, Air Vice Marshall Kapila Jayampathy, request by letter (Reference SLAR/ 72/1/DAO of 27th January 2015) to the Director General CAASL, to install an appropriate navigational aid at Ratmalana? Clearly he admitted to all and sundry that the SLAF were not the real owners of the Ratmalana Airport. Building that wall is an absolutely high-handed act of a local ‘Chandiya’ (strong man). Thus sadly reflecting the bad attitude of the SLAF. The ownership of the Ratmalana Airport is certainly a Grey area. Will the real owner of the Ratmalana Airport please stand up?
Acts of omission
Will AASL be held accountable by not withdrawing the permission to the SLAF to build a wall? Interestingly, this Seeya remembers that when this wall was built, the then Director General of the CAASL was in shock and not even asked and was heard to remark “it looks as if this wall was built by non-aviators” (In those days the CAASL was the owner of the Airport and AASL was regarded a ‘Service Provider’.) There is no war now and seems like ‘an act of omission’, on both AASL’s and CAASL’s part. Do both parties have cold feet because the SLAF have got the MOD involved? As late Capt George Ferdinand (who had the distinct honour of being the Manager Operations in both Air Ceylon and Air Lanka,) would say jocularly, “It is time the real owner/s put the foot down with a firm hand”
SLAF welfare at what cost?
Credibility in governance through elections and not security forces
By Jehan Perera
President Ranil Wickremesinghe’s warning that he is prepared to declare a state of national emergency and use the military to suppress any public protests for change of government would reflect the pressures he is under. The manner in which he has used the security forces to deal with the protest movement has been unexpected. His words and deeds are contradictory to what he has previously stood for as a five-time former prime minister. This is especially true in the case of the ethnic and religious minorities who have consistently voted for him and his party at elections. They have felt safer and more secure under his governments which always sought to reduce the heavy hand of state oppression in which national security is given pride of place. He has always promised them much though he has been unable to deliver on much of what he promised.
Notwithstanding the unfortunate rhetoric and actions of the present time the belief still persists that President Wickremesinghe is the best of the available options. Recent pronouncements of the president have reignited hope that he will address the problems of the religious and ethnic minorities. He has stated that he does not want to leave this problem to the next generation. He has said that he wants to resolve this intractable national problem by the country’s 75th independence anniversary on February 4 next year. The hope that the president will make a fresh effort to resolve their problems has led the main Tamil party, the TNA, to desist from voting against the budget which passed with a relatively small majority. Their spokesperson, M A Sumanthiran said in Parliament that due to the president reaching out to them, stretching out his hand, they did not vote against the budget although they disagreed with it.
It is not only in words that the president has reached out to the ethnic and religious minorities. Reports from the north and east indicate that the Maveer (Heroes) Day commemorations this year took place without incident. During the past two years scores of people were arrested and a massive presence of security forces blocked the people from participating in public events. On this occasion the security forces did not get involved in any attempt to stop the commemorations. University students distributed sweets and even cut a birthday cake to celebrate slain LTTE leader Velupillai Prabhakaran’s birthday. The analogy that the president drew to himself being seen as a Hitler who exterminated ethnic and religious minorities is misplaced. The release of those held under the Prevention of Terrorism Act for engaging in similar acts in the past would further contribute to the reconciliation process.
In this context, the president’s use of militaristic rhetoric can only be understood in relation to the growing economic crisis that shows no sign of abating. The anticipated IMF bailout package is at risk of getting indefinitely delayed. It was initially anticipated to come in September then in November but now January is being targeted. Japan’s top brokerage and investment bank, Nomura Holdings Inc, has warned that seven countries – Egypt, Romania, Sri Lanka, Turkey, Czech Republic, Pakistan and Hungary – are now at a high risk of currency crises. Sri Lanka is in third place on the table of risk. The next devaluation of the rupee could see another spike in inflation that will make the cost of living even more unbearable to the masses of people.
The president is on record as having said that the economic crisis will get worse before it improves. Both anecdotal and statistical evidence indicates that it is indeed worsening. University teachers at the University of Sabaragamuwa reported that attendance in their classes was down by at least a quarter. Students who come from other parts of the country are unable to afford the cost of meals and so they stay at home. A study by the Institute of Policy Studies has shown that about four percent of primary, 20 percent of secondary and 26 percent of collegiate students had dropped out of school in the estate sector, which is the worst affected. The future costs to the country of a less well educated population is incalculable and inhumane.
As it is the situation is a dire one for large swathes of the population. Research from the University of Peradeniya has revealed that close to half of Sri Lanka’s population, 42 percent (up from 14 percent in 2019) are living under the poverty line. Professor of Economics Wasantha Athukorala has said there is a dramatic increase in the poverty level of over three-hold across the past three years. In 2019, nearly 3 million people lived below the poverty line, but that number has increased to 9.6 million in October 2022. In these adverse circumstances stability in a polity can be ensured either through legitimacy or through force. It would be tragic if the latter is the choice that is made.
President Wickremesinghe has been stressing the importance of political stability to achieve economic development. His recent statement that the security forces will be used to negate any unauthorised protest is a sign that the government expects the conditions of economic hardship to escalate. The general public who are experiencing extreme economic hardship are appalled at the manner in which those who committed acts of corruption and violence in the past are being overlooked because they belong to the ruling party and its cliques. The IMF has made anti-corruption a prerequisite to qualify for a bailout, calling for “Reducing corruption vulnerabilities through improving fiscal transparency and public financial management, introducing a stronger anti-corruption legal framework, and conducting an in-depth governance diagnostic, supported by IMF technical assistance.”
It is morally unacceptable even if politically pragmatic that the president is failing to take action against the wrongdoers because he needs their votes in parliament. As a start, the president needs to appoint a credible and independent national procurement committee to ensure that major economic contracts are undertaken without corruption. Second, the president needs to bite the bullet on elections. The country’s burning issues would be better accepted by the country and world at large if they are being dealt with by a statesman than by a dictator. Government that is based on the people’s consent constitutes the sum and substance of democracy. This consent is manifested through free and fair elections that are regularly held. Local government elections have been postponed for a year and are reaching their legal maximum in terms of postponement. These elections need to be held before March next year.
Elections will enable the people to express their views in a democratic manner to elect their representatives for the present. This would provide the government with guidance in terms of the decisions it is being called to take to revive the economy and place the burden in a manner that will be acceptable to the people. The provincial council elections have been postponed since 2018. Democratically elected provincial councils share in the burdens of governance. The devolution of power that took place under the 13th Amendment was meant to promote ethnic harmony in the country. The president who has taken the position that he is for a solution to the ethnic conflict should seriously consider conducting the provincial council elections together with the local government elections se their financial costs. By doing so he will also gain legitimacy as a democratic statesman and not a dictator.
WEDNESDAY – Movie Review
The Addams Family is back with a new tale to tell! Originally created by Charles Addams as a comic strip published in The New Yorker, it offered readers a sarcastic take on the ‘typical nuclear family’ by substituting it with a more macabre bunch of strange and eerie individuals. Since then the titular family has been adapted on to the big screen many times, from live action movies to animated versions, the Addams Family has gained many fans throughout the years. Created by Alfred Gough and Miles Millar, with Tim Burton working on four episodes of the eight-part series, Wednesday is a welcoming tale for young fans, but unfortunately fails to think outside the box and remains anchored to the floor with a messy storyline.
Dead-eyed Wednesday Addams (Jenna Ortega) is a stubborn, independent and intelligent teenager in this new series. Her penchant for attracting trouble wherever she goes alarms her parents, Morticia (Catherine Zeta-Jones) and Gomez (Luis Guzmán). With an already strained relationship with her parents (specifically her mother), Wednesday is enrolled at Nevermore, an academy for outcasts like herself. Having attended the academy themselves, Morticia and Gomez are hopeful that their daughter will ‘fit right in’. Caught between trying to build her own identity and other teenage complexities, Wednesday soon finds herself in the middle of a twisted mystery.
This is the first time audiences are introduced to a teenage Wednesday, which allowed the creators to build a new world on their own terms, but while keeping true to the original nature of the character. The creators do a fair amount of world building by introducing other outcasts like the Fangs (vampires), Stoners (Gorgons), Scales (sirens) and Furs (werewolves), among others. Nevermore Academy itself is beautiful and comes with the classic package of creepy crypts, hidden rooms and secret societies. The series also offers a decent amount of gore, although they could have added more given Wednesday’s proclivity for gore-related activities. The series deals with classic young-adult tropes which includes teenage crushes, bullies, relationships and even prom, among other things. The series navigates through Wednesday’s journey of self-discovery, which is a new avenue for both the character and the fans. From understanding and displaying her emotions to discovering her identity and understanding her peers, the series takes a deep dive into heavy material.
Ortega’s performance as the titular character plays a major role in keeping audiences glued to the screen. This is also the first time viewers are shown a teenage Wednesday Addams, which works to Ortega’s benefit as she depicts more dimensions to the ghoulish, morose character many are associated with based on previous renditions. Her facial expressions and ability to deliver on seriously emotional moments strengthens her role as the lead. The rest of the Addams Family, even with limited screen time, lack the eccentricities their characters should have. Hopeless romantics Morticia and Gomez seem incompatible in this version and Uncle Fester is far less crazy than he ought to be. The only member worth mentioning is the Thing—a severed hand— who brought more character and spirit to the series acting alongside Ortega. With barely any room to develop a majority of the characters are prosaic and tedious, even though they remain vital to the plot.
Apart from Ortega, Gwendoline Christie and Emma Myers deserve honorable mentions for their roles as Nevermore’s head teacher, Larissa Weems and the peppy Enid Sinclair respectively. Enid quickly became a fan favorite as the character was the polar opposite to Wednesday. Her character is vital to Wednesday’s character development and their journey to find common ground as mismatched individuals is amusing.
Christina Ricci who played Wednesday in the 90s returns as ‘normie’ teacher, Miss Thornhill and unfortunately barely stands out and this in large part due to the messy storyline. The series is bogged down with numerous subplots and overlapping tropes and the characters with potential for growth are completely overlooked. With love triangles, bullies and killer monsters on the loose, the series self-destructs and the climax sinks into disappointment.
At the end of the day, Wednesday plays to the beat of the new generation and touches on new themes, which is welcoming seeing as the character should grow up at some point. While not everyone may relate to Wednesday’s teenage perils, it is interesting to witness her growth and her journey as an ‘outcast’ or ‘weirdo’. And while Wednesday doesn’t exactly offer a distinctly unique story, it gives audiences a small taste of what Jenna Ortega’s Wednesday is capable of. Creating a story around a well-established franchise is a difficult task, and in this case the creators fail to add value to their visions. If the series continues, the creators will have the opportunity to think further outside the box and push the limits to Wednesday’s character and give audiences a bone-chilling experience. Wednesday is currently streaming on Netflix.
Stage set for… AWESOME FRIDAY
The past few weeks have been a very busy period for the new-look Mirage outfit…preparing themselves for their big night – Friday, December 2nd – when they would perform, on stage, for the very first time, as Donald Pieries (leader/vocals/drums), Benjy (bass), Niro Wattaladeniya (guitar), Viraj Cooray (guitar/vocals), Asangi Wickramasinghe (keyboard/vocals), along with their two frontline female vocalist, Sharon (Lulu) and Christine.
They have thoroughly immersed themselves in their practice sessions as they are very keen to surprise their fans, music lovers, and well-wishers, on opening night…at the Peacock, Berjaya Hotel, in Mount Lavinia.
Action starts at 8.00 pm and, thereafter, it will be five hours of great music, along with EFFEX DJs Widhara and Damien, interspersed with fun and excitement…for the whole family!
Yes, opening night is for the whole family, so you don’t need to keep some of your family members at home – kids, especially.
Working on their repertoire for Friday, bassist Benjy says “what we will dish out will be extra special, with lots of action on stage.”
It would be interesting to see Sharon (Lulu) doing her thing with Mirage, after her early days with the Gypsies, and, I’m told, a dynamic performance from Sharon is what is in store for all those who make it to the Peacock this Friday
While the band was at one of their practice sessions, last week, they had a surprise visitor – Edward (Eddy) Joseph, a former member of the group Steelers, who is now based in Germany.
Eddy is here on a short visit and is scheduled to return to Germany, tomorrow (30).
He spent an hour with Mirage, at their practice session, and says he is disappointed that he would not be around for the group’s opening night.
However, there is a possibility of several well-known personalities, in the showbiz scene, turning up, on Friday night, to experience the sounds of the new-look Mirage, including Sohan Weerasinghe and Joey Lewis (from London).
Rajiv Sebastian, too, says he is keen to be a part of the fun-filled evening.
You could contact Benjy, on 0777356356, if you need to double check…their plans for AWESOME FRIDAY!
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