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The brain drain saga

This refers to Dinesh Weerakkody’s article on the brain drain. World Bank Country Head in Sri Lanka, Naoka Isshii must get her facts right before she starts painting a rosy picture to please the egos of a bunch of irresponsible politicians in Sri Lanka.

The facts that are stated by Weerakkody are startling and represent what is actually happening in this country. I believe that we are getting pushed back economically by the day. The present brain drain has the potential of making Sri Lanka a failed state. Most of the qualified and experienced people have begun to leave the country and if we continue to see abductions and poor governance, only the people who cannot get out due to poor language skills will finally remain in this country.

Today this is quite evident by the long queues in front of foreign embassies that have skilled migration programmes. In fact, from my batch of Management Accountants, most of them are already living in Canada, Australia and New Zealand. Sadly, the remainder too is attempting to leave.

The mobility of skilled migration is quite evident today. For example in our IT company, we have repeatedly tried to select a few top engineers to work for us. So far our recruitment track record has been very poor. The problem is that most of the candidates don’t come close to what we are looking for. The few good candidates around demand a huge premium.

As a direct result we end up pushing salary scales to unbelievable levels. Then in order to retain the good people we have in the organisation we have to offer them high salaries, top perks and good training, in the long-term, this trend could have an impact on our international competitiveness.

In addition, Isshii does not realise that most of our graduates in the country are only qualified to work as government officers where productivity levels are low and there is poor work ethic. No private sector company will employ our local graduates in a hurry because of this situation.

The World Bank would do good to put its money into more productive HRD efforts in consultation with the private sector so that Sri Lanka’s so-called educated labour force is well-positioned to benefit from the globalisation that is sweeping India and China.

Finally, for a change as Weerakkody says, the government and the private sector also need to be more imaginative about attracting, developing and retaining our best talent in Sri Lanka and abroad. Perhaps the World Bank can at least help us to do that!
Darshana de Silva


Loudspeakers and noise pollution

Loudspeakers are being used throughout the country without any consideration for others. Loudspeakers are not only used by religious institutions but also by ice cream vendors and sweep ticket sellers. If the volume is kept low, at least the ear drums of the public would be preserved.

In most developed countries, the use of loudspeakers is banned between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. If the law permits loudspeakers to be used indiscriminately, the rights of others to a noise free atmosphere is violated. Public peace should not be disturbed.
The Indian Supreme Court has held in Alam vs. Police Commissioner (A.I.R 1956 Cal 9.59) that loudspeakers should not be used if the public peace is disturbed as it violates the rights of others.

The Court observed, “A sharp distinction must be drawn between religious faith and belief and religious practices. What the state protects is religious faith and belief. If religious practices run counter to public order, morality or health or a policy of social welfare upon which the states have embarked, then the religious practices must give way for the good of the people of the state as a whole.”

The citizens are entitled to a noise free neighborhood in terms of the regulations framed under the Environmental Law. which are universally accepted norms in respect of noise pollution. 
Anton Fernando


Roaming in the gloaming with no hope for tomorrow!

The country is faced with an ever-increasing ageing population – the burning question is what is being done about it? We are now talking in terms of medical tourism to attract money into our much depleted coffers. Such awareness of an emerging industry is great but why do we, as a nation, turn a blind eye to our very own elders?

There is a large population of elders, still able to work and support themselves, quietly retaining their dignity and happy to do so, but with no place to call home. Most of them are abandoned by their own. The end result is that most of them live alone and die alone – does anyone care?

As a country what do we offer our elders? We have homes for the aged but to get into one of them is a mad scramble; some of their charges are awesome, their waiting lists are miles long, their requirements unreasonable. Yet, our eyes are constantly assaulted with electronic and media advertisements boasting residences, condominiums, luxury apartments and God knows what else.

In this paradise isle, do we see anyone offering residences for the elderly? Even if they can pay, there is nowhere to stay. Take insurance for example – try asking for a policy for those who are 60 and over and you are met with absolute consternation and total astonishment!

No one, absolutely no one, has or is willing to give insurance cover, even medical insurance cover to anyone in their 60’s and over. When insurance is required, medical or otherwise, where do they go? Most of them want to pay, they can pay but they can’t get insurance. How do you describe such a situation?

Let’s take a look at those who cannot work and have nothing and no one to fall back on – where do they go, whom do they depend on for their daily sustenance? Unlike in other countries, Sri Lanka does not give her people the dole, no coupons for food, no special concessions for travel and no privileges to visit places of religious or cultural interest. In short, nothing!

Most other countries protect and care for their elders as though they were a national asset and why shouldn’t they? When they were young they also did their share of nurturing, providing, training, caring, paying taxes and attending to their civic responsibilities. Are they also not citizens of this country? Did their vote not count to bring you into power and now that you are in power, what have you done for them? Do you spare them a thought, perhaps – No, because if you did, the elders of our country would be cared for. Is this not a matter of public concern?
We have to address the issues that are crying out today:
• Build more homes for the aged
• Have more residences where they can stay and go to work from
• Initiate a viable insurance scheme for those who can afford it
• Give them concessionary passes for bus and train travel
• Supply food coupons to those who have no income whatsoever
• Create district -wise awareness programmes
• Give them priority at government hospitals
Let us get together to care for those who cared for us. If we try to make one human being feel loved and wanted, perhaps in our old age we won’t feel unloved and alone.


Infamous select committees

We have been informed that another of the infamous select committees has been appointed to look into deals with the LTTE going as far back as 1989.

A very interesting feature of these select committees is not only that they comprise of parliamentarians representing all the political parties in Parliament, but that each of them are likely to have been party to  the allegations that are to be investigated.

Even the public cannot place which Member of Parliament had been with which party at any given time because of the crossovers which have become part and parcel of Sri Lanka’s democratic system. With such a cocktail of political parties in Parliament, it becomes a farcical venture to hand them the accountability to find the culprit or culprits of any of the allegations being investigated.
Having said that, the present select committee tasked to investigate deals with the LTTE, with the probe to go as far back as 1989, indirectly insinuates the then leaders of the various governments that have ruled Sri Lanka to date. Judging by the moral records of most of the parliamentarians through Sri Lanka’s parliamentary history, we can safely deduce that these probes are very likely to end in a stalemate. It is akin to asking a thief to point out another thief.

The furor for a select committee probe has been based on the allegations of Mangala Samaraweera and Sripathi Sooriyarachchi, who claim that the LTTE was paid to bring Mahinda Rajapaksa to the presidential throne. If President Rajapaksa is guilty of striking a deal with the LTTE, then Samaraweera is also guilty of having being instrumental in setting the grounds for such a deal – he was after all very much part of the presidential campaign, having defected from the arms of the outgoing President Kumaratunga.

Why is it that Samaraweera’s moral consciousness surfaces only when he has been denied privileges and portfolios – was he not holding the most number of portfolios in the Rajapaksa government and wasting away the state’s wealth for refurbishments and foreign trips with the very knowledge that the LTTE helped bring the President to power? Why the crocodile tears now?

While parliamentarians will continue to amuse the public with their parliamentary theatricals, what remains true is that the public will continue to pay for their own mistakes of voting them into power as their representatives in Parliament.

So long as personal gains, parampara allegiance and blind faith triggers the voting system of Sri Lanka, there is likely to be more comedies of errors in Sri Lanka for generations to come. Despite the failure of the Executive and the Legislative system, there still remains some saving grace in the country’s Judiciary – perhaps it should take over these investigations?

What remains to be said is that so long as the people are at fault for voting the parliamentarians into power, we cannot wash our hands by only blaming the parliamentarians – the fault, after all, lies with us for voting them into power.
Shenali Waduge


The blessed days of Ramazan

These are the days of blessed Ramazan. Allah has given special commandments for this month and has emphasised on their compliance. Those who are on a journey or are sick, have been commanded to fast later when their journey is completed, or when they are healthy enough to fast. But for others, during the day, both eating cohabiting with their spouses, are prohibited.

Eating is essential for the preservation for self, and cohabiting with one’s spouse is necessary for the preservation of the human race. But in Ramadan, Allah has commanded that we desist from both during the day time. .

Allah has made this month of Ramazan, for the purpose that when man is engaged in all other work during rest of eleven months and he eats, drinks and cohabits with his spouse, he should desist from these things for one month during the day. Why? Because Allah wants him to do so.  

During this month, he has also ordered that man should read the Holy Quran, and give Sadaqa (charity) as well. During the month of Ramadan, there should be lot of supplications, reading of the Holy Quran and maintaining the values of Ramadan. It has been written in the sayings of the Holy Prophet (PBUH) that for him who fasts during this holy month with faith, and seeks sawab, his former sins will be forgiven.

Some people say that during this month, their expenses soar. But this is because these people are unaware of the value of fasting. At time of sehri (breakfast) early in the morning, they stuff themselves so much that they tend to develop indigestion. They also eat the tasty dishes in Iftari ( the evening meal) like gluttons and due to this they become sluggish and fall into deep sleep.

They do not realize that fasting is an exercise for self-control.They must remember that the Holy Quran was revealed in this month, and that it is the guide and light for the people who believe in it. We should act according to the guidance provided by this Holy Book. Remember that real comfort comes when one dies or by desisting from evil deeds. Fasting also brings comfort. With it, man can attain nearness to God. Allah says, “I am near. When some one calls Me, I answer the call of him who supplicates.”

The Holy Founder of Ahmadiyya Muslim Jama’at Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad (peace be on him) - the Promised Messiah and Mahdi has said:-

“The third pillar of Islam is fasting. People are unaware of its true significance. Fasting does not mean to remain hungry and thirsty during this month. It is a fact that the less one eats, the more self-purified is his self while his spiritual power is also strengthened. By fasting, Allah wants man to reduce one food in order to strengthen his spiritual power. During this time, man should draw close to God so that he may learn how to remain aloof from worldly pleasures. Therefore, fasting means that one should forsake the food which nourishes only the physical body, and acquire another food that nourishes the human soul. Those who fast for the sake of God alone and are regular in this exercise should keep busy in Tasbih and Tahleel which may provide them spiritual food” (Malfoozat vol. IX pp 122 - 123).)

The Promised Messiah (peace be on him) was asked about fasting during a journey. He said: “From the Holy Quran, it is very clear that those who are sick or on a journey, should not fast and this is an injunction. If one who keeps fast during travel and bears that hardship and tries to please Allah by manifesting his strength, does not seek Allah’s pleasure by humble submission he is misguided. True faith demands obedience of the divine commandments and abstentions prescribed by Allah the Almighty” (Al Hakam January 26, 1899).

At another place he says: “If someone fasts in the month of Ramadan while travelling or when he is sick, he is disobedient to the clear divine commandment. Allah has clearly commanded that the traveller and the sick are not to fast. A traveller should fast when they reach their destination or regain their health. They should obey the divine commandment because deliverance is by grace alone. Allah did not say whether sickness is mild or severe or journey is short or long. The injunction is compulsory. So if a traveller or a sick person fasts, he will be regarded as being disobedient”(Al Badr, October 17, 1907).

The Promised Messiah said about fidia: “Allah has based Shariah on convenience. Travellers and the sick who can afford, should pay fidia instead of keeping fast. Fidia means to feed a destitute” ( Malfoozat volume 9 p 430 - 431).

(A. Abdul Aziz.)
Press Secretary,
Ahmadiyya Muslim Jamaath, Sri Lanka.
Tel: 0777 753440 / 031 4923016.


Why not women drivers?

When one glances through the newspapers regarding drivers, it’s always about male drivers. Why not female drivers? Women are today trying their hand at several manual jobs –even as masons and carpenters. Why isn’t the simple vocational training of driving being promoted? This will have many advantages.

On one hand, husbands will feel safe and comfortable sending their wives or daughters with a driver, if it is a ‘she.’ Especially in the case of Muslims, it’s prohibited for a non-mahram man and woman to be alone. As a result, the lady of the house always needs a third person to accompany her if she is to travel with the driver. Girls also will feel quite at ease if the home driver is a lady – she may even double as a tutor or maid depending on her education level.

Today’s maid’s salaries are comparatively higher than they were five years ago, and when a family has to employ a maid and a driver, the cost is more than doubled. Why not get the maids to be trained in driving as well?

At a time the cost of living is spiralling, this will help women earn a decent buck even working part time. After all, a driving training requires only about Rs. 10,000, quite a small sum for a job which will pay this same sum almost every month.
Any NGO willing to try this out?

Dr. Mareena Thaha Reffai










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