Friday, July 31, 2009


An wonderful tale from the Island of 31-7-09, one we can all take a lesson from.

I'm posting it as it is here with a link back to where I read it


The new bridge spanning the Mahaveli Ganga at Katugastota, declared open by the President has relieved the people of the suffering they had endured for nearly a decade. The perennial traffic snarl that was in front of my house on the Katugastota road has disappeared overnight! Naturally, the new bridge has 4 traffic lanes with a long island in the middle. It has dispelled our nightmares what it would have been once the A9 was re-opened for normal traffic.

The purpose of this letter is to recall a fascinating story that my mother told me of the old bridge, when I was a little boy. My mother died in 2007 having lived 102 years.

She said, in those days, when the work on old bridge (then brand new) was completed and before it was formally opened for traffic (mainly bullock carts then), the British engineer who constructed the bridge wanted to test its strength. On an appointed day, he arranged for 2 long processions of bullock carts full with a load of rubble drawn by two elephants to cross the bridge. People had gathered in their hundreds on either side of the river to watch this spectacle. As the procession of carts entered the bridge from the Katugastota end, on the Kandy side of the bridge sat the engineer on horse back with his revolver aimed at his head! The message was clear. The situation was tense. And the people watched this rare spectacle all aghast. The engineer finally put down his revolver only after the last bullock cart had slowly cleared the bridge in front of him. And the tensed people broke into cheers lighting crackers. "Ol warasan dunna" were my mother’s words.

Much later in life I realized that this story was about Accountability so rare in our country today. One day, while crossing this bridge on foot I related this story to my son. Now I have got an opportunity to tell it to the whole country, especially now, where 30 bridges on the new Southern Highway are reported to be badly constructed while one has already collapsed on the head of a student killing him. The wheel of accountability seems to have turned a full circle.

Gamini Gunawardane

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