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Letters


 

 

 

 

A word to Ranil Wickremesinghe

UNP leader, Ranil Wickremesinghe, perhaps with a view to appease the west and uphold the principles of the International Democratic Union, of which he is the Vice President, has virtually taken an anti Buddhist stand and is on course to criticise the Sangha.

Ranil appears to have been angered by the advertisement placed in the “Rivira” of July 1, 2007, by the Eksath Bhikkhu Sangamaya (United Bhikkhu Front) in which he has been accused of acting against the interests of Buddhism and being committed to the International Democratic Union, an organisation that looks more fundamentalist than being democratic,

No person with even a little understanding of Buddhism and having some respect for the Thrividharatnaya - Buddha, Dhamma, sangha - will use un-Buddhistic terms to criticise the Sangha. Buddhism has been protected by the Maha Sangha of the calibre of Ven. E1lawala Medhananda Thera in the past, and not so much, by those who meditate in seclusion (this does not mean that their contribution to the cause of the Buddhist Philosophy is being underestimated). It will be so in the future too. Hence, the Maha Sangha cannot be allowed to be criticised or ridicu1ed by ‘tempered’ Buddhists and foreign funded NGO Agents.

The UNP leader has been found making offensive or wrong statements in referring to History, Geography and Religion from time to time. Was he not the UNP leader who wanted to celebrate the 500th anniversary of Portuguese Colonisation of Sri Lanka - a period most brutal?

In the interest of the political party he leads, the UNP leader should refrain from making statements without studying their accuracy and appropriateness. He should be more national than international.
Upali S. Jayasekera
Colombo 4

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Residents of Nawinna in fear

The Railway Department fixed two iron poles on either side of the unprotected railway crossing near the railway station in Nawinna to instal a bell. This was following a request made by the people in the area who voiced their concerns that crossing the railroad at that place was unsafe. The poles have been put up near Arpico Super Centre in Nawinna.
However, the bell has not been installed to date. The people in the area wish to draw the attention of the railway authorities as to why the bell hasn’t been installed yet!
A resident

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Appreciation

Upali Chandra Senanayake

Upali Chandra Senanayake, youngest son of Deshabandu F.R. Senanayake of Grassmore, Colombo 7, demised a decade ago. He hails from a distinguished Sinhala Buddhist family from Botale Walawwe, Mirigama, who were the pioneers of the struggle for independence from British rule, through the Temperance Movement. Upali Chandra Senanayake was educated at Royal College, Colombo.

He excelled in studies, sports and cadetting in College. He took to Agriculture as a career. He developed arable farmlands islandwide, as Chairman, Freedom from Hunger Campaign, under then Prime Minister of Ceylon, Dudley Senanayake from 1965-1970. There were bumper harvests in paddy, as he encouraged school children for their voluntary participation in one day weeding campaigns, as rice is the staple food of the masses. He was a champion golfer of the Royal Colombo Golf Club and the Nuwara Eliya Golf Club.

A keen historian, he organised and established the Sinhalay National Heritage to restore the grandeur of Sri Lanka by repairing, reconstructing and restoring wewas, tanks, dagobas, viharayas, paddy fields, temples and villages, which were neglected during colonial rule, which could be seen even today in Anuradhapura, Polonnaruwa, Mahiyangane, Dambulla, Tissamaharama, and Kurunegala, which was Buddhist Civilization for over 2550 years.
His sons, Dr. Ranil F. Senanayake and Rohan Senanayake have taken over the leadership of the Sinhalay National Heritage.
May he be born among us, till he achieves Nibbana in his journey in Sansara.
Capt (Rtd.) L. B. Lanka Jayaratne
Secretary Sinhalay National Heritage

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Fuel prices: a different take

The section of society that is most perturbed by the hike in petrol and diesel prices are the private vehicle owners. They are the affluent strata which, though rich, is also niggardly. They selfishly think of only themselves and never the country. They shout “unbearable” but, remain in the shadows, pushing to the fore the bus driver, the lorry driver and the three-wheeler. Those categories make good their additional costs from those who engage their services, and are no poorer by paying the higher price.

Though people are worried by price increases, the money going to the Ceylon Petroleum Corporation is money for the State coffers, to be utilized for ‘Gama Neguma’, ‘Maga Neguma’, ‘Palan Neguma’, ‘Wev Neguma’ and similar ventures. Citizens should be happy, for a new prosperous era will dawn. Prices may rise, but with State spending, there will be more money in the hands of the citizenry. The Rupee is depreciating against the Dollar, with war expenditure that has been forced on the Government, but export competitiveness accelerates, and if the opportunity is grasped by producing more, with a surplus of export, the prices will come down, while the State coffers will fill.

It is senseless for the State to absorb price increases in fuel. It is fuel that oils the wheels of Industry. All profits from fuel must be directed to enhancing Agriculture and Industry.
The money, like a boomerang, will swing back to give the citizenry a cosier life. Subsidizing fuel will amount to gross foolishness and stupidity. The rich will benefit.
Clifford Ratnayake
Dehiwela

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Step-motherly treatment to State pensioners

Pensioners are pensioners - be they Members of Parliament (MP), Ministers or, humble ex State employees. Then, how come, the humble ex State employee is given step-motherly treatment.
Taking into consideration the ever increasing cost of living, the salaries of MPs, Ministers and State employees were increased in 2007. The politicians themselves were given enormous increases over and above State employees.

By an act of Parliament, by the present MPs, pensions of retired MPs and Ministers too have also been increased proportionate to the enormous increases. Accordingly, financial allocations were requested from the Treasury, to make this payment with arrears. This Act also envisages the automatic increase of pensions of retired MPs and Ministers in the event of any future salary increase.

The State employee earns his pension after about 30 or 40 years of dedicated service to the country, under difficult and trying conditions, in all parts of the country. In the past, he was granted a propionate increase in his pension, every time State employees received a salary increase.

With the introduction of the 1977 Constitution, this right of the pensioner seems to have been dropped. The 2003 Tissa Devendra Salary Anamolies Committee, however, recommended the reintroduction of this pensioners’ right. This recommendation was accepted by the then government but, has not been acted upon the salary increases affected in 2007, in respect of ex State employee pensioners.

Thus it would be seen that ex State employee pensioners faced with the rising cost of living, same as all other pensioners, is meted out step-motherly treatment. The only solution to this glaring anomaly is to ensure, by an Act of Parliament, that a proportionate increase be given to ex State employees whenever their counterparts in State receive a salary increase. We appeal to the Minister of Public Administration to grant this reasonable request without delay.
Pensioner,
Gampaha.

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Bank’s anniversary celebrations, whither pensioners?

Bank of Ceylon - the leading State Bank, will be celebrating its 68th anniversary on August 1, 2007, and hope that the pensioners who were ignored in the previous years, will be duly honoured by the new Chairman and General Manager. Anniversary celebrations are held by Institutions to respect, honour and reward past employees, who were the pillars of the Institution in achieving this milestone but unfortunately, in the Bank of Ceylon, priority is given to those in service, who obtain their lion’s share and the pensioners have to collect only the crumbs with humiliation!

It is also regrettable to note that the long outstanding grievance - pension revisions, have still not been implemented, and as a result, recently retired Junior Officers, in most cases, are drawing a pension, almost more than double that of the same grade of officers who re­tired a few years back, thereby degrading and devaluing the services rendered by the Senior Officers. The reason given by the Management in not granting and increase for the pensioners is due to insufficient funds in the Pension Trust Fund but, this excuse cannot be justified; if the funds are not available to grant an increase to the existing pensioners, how is the Fund going to pay future pensioners, after a fantastic increase in salaries! This clearly indicates that the Fund has not been properly managed, in not providing adequate transfers from the profits, to meet the increased pension, whenever salaries are revised. Further, the Fund is compelled to invest in Govt. Treasury Bonds and Debentures, which Interest rates do not cover the rate of inflation and in addition, the Fund has paid taxes amounting to Rs. 38.5 million in 2006 and Rs. 89 million in 2005, as withholding taxes on these, which further depleted the Funds, due to these negative returns. The only way left now is for the Fund to seek complete exemption from all these taxes or, in the alternative, the Government to pay the Commercial rate of interest on the Fund. If this is not implemented, the pensioners will never be able to get any increase to their Pensions in their lifetime. The Bank will also not be able to im­plement the policy as stated in the “Mahinda Chinthana”:-

(1) Pensions will be increased in line with increase in salaries.
(2) Revision of Pensions by eliminating anomalies to enable Pensioners to live with self respect.
Already, the Pension anomalies of Govt. Servants have been rectified up to January 1997 and in the case of Parliamentarians, pensions of retired Parliamentarians are concurrently revised and equated with those in service. Hence, Parliamentarians elected by the pensioners and other senior citizens, have a moral obligation to treat the pensioners too in a like manner and to implement the “Mahinda Chinthana” policy without any further delay.

A few years back, pensioners and senior citizens of this country, were not afforded their due respect and were treated as an unwanted species. It is to rectify the grave injustice done to senior citizens, the “Protection of Rights of the Elders Act No. 2000” was passed in Parliament·, and under this Act, affluent children, who neglect and do not give proper care for their parents, could now be prosecuted.

This Act should be extended, and amended to include the affluent Institutions which boast of making billions in profits, but, completely neglect and are insensitive to implement even the legitimate dues and rights of its past senior (citizens) employees. The same policy should be implemented in the Revision of Pensions, for all Pensioners - as stated in the “Mahinda Chintana” and there should not be any discrimination! Over to you Chairman, Legal Aid Commission; National Council of Elders, S.S. Wijeratne, for a speedy settlement of this discriminatory treatment!
Ex Bank Pensioner

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Beheadings in Saudi Arabia

I worked in Saudi Arabia for eight years in one of the Saudi Government Institutions in the oil rich Eastern Province of Dammam, the Eastern Fort city by the Arabian sea. There were small numbers of Sri Lankan, Indians, Pakistanis and Bangladesh in various branches of the company. The top managerial posts were held by highly qualified and trained Saudi nationals, Americans and Englishmen.

We had a five-day work week with Thursday and Friday completely off, unless there was some urgent work to be completed, which was restricted to Thursday only. The extra work on a Thursday was paid separately to our monthly wages.
On Friday large crowds came to the city of Dammam, the largest Fort city in the Eastern Province of the Kingdom, the third largest city after the port city of Jeddah and Riyadh the capital. Being free on Friday morning, I visit Dammam city to buy my provisions. It was also the day for expatriates staying in camps, to buy their weekly provisions, as they did their own cooking.

On a Friday when there was to be a beheading, Dammam City was on full security alert, especially, in the area where the beheading was to take place – the compound next to the Dammam Grand Jumma Mosque, where his Royal Highness Prince Governor of the Eastern Province attended Friday prayers. Armed policemen were stationed even on top of buildings close to the grand mosque. The heavy security was a sign to us that a beheading was to take place that day. Being curious to see a rare occurrence, I took up a position close to the compound where the beheading was to be. There was a fairly large crowd gathered there. We were directed to be outside the cordon put up around the compound.

Just after Jumma prayers at the Grand Mosque, the condemned man was brought in a fully covered security vehicle and placed in the middle of the compound by security aides. The prisoner was attired in a long white dress, blindfolded and kept in a kneeling crouching position with his head slightly bend so that the neck was open to the executioners sword. He was motionless, looking sedated. The decree for the beheading was read out in Arabic, by an official of the governor, mentioning the crime he had committed and the sentence passed.

No sooner the decree was read out, the executioner, a tall young man, may be in his early thirties, with a good physique carrying a long well sharpened sword, came forward and chopped the neck, severing the head from the body. In one stroke he wiped the bloodstained sword on the white cloth used to cover the body. He then wrapped the body and placed it in the vehicle that brought the prisoner. The vehicle drove off immediately with a security escort to an undisclosed destination for burial. Sand was strewn on the large patch of blood where the beheading was. The onlookers were asked to applaud and anyone not complying was summarily whipped by police personnel manning the cordon, with long whips they held. I asked a Saudi colleague what the applause was for and he said it was to rejoice carrying out a judgment befitting a grand crime. We were told to disperse immediately after the van carrying the slain body left. “Yalla” they shouted, and we all vanished.
I have seen beheadings of Indians, Pakistanis and Bangladeshis, during my stay in Saudi Arabia. Honesty and truthfulness are two qualities I learnt with pride and honour during my employment in Saudi Arabia.
Nevis Fernando
Nattandiya

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