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Letters


Readers please note it is essential that all Letters to the Editor carry the full name and address of the writer, even if it has to appear under a pseudonym. This applies to all email letters as well.

 

Mothers!  Use your time wisely

We see many mothers who come to leave or collect children from schools and tuition classes, wasting valuable time while waiting for their children. Many of them stand on the road, twiddling their thumbs, subjected to the assault of weather hot sun and pouring rain. Why not organise some worthwhile classes for these mothers in schools or tutorials such as spoken English, hand work or even Home Maintenance?

Instead of paying for the teachers/ classes they can even teach each other some hand work like crochet, knitting, patchwork etc. or even get together and plan some Social Services. Libraries for them also can be built up slowly.
Of course, this has to be arranged by some parents in consultation with the school / institution authorities.
Almuslimaath, a voluntary organisation of women and girls, conducts free classes on cookery and sewing at Station Road Dehiwela. One may get the details by calling 2736577.

I only hope that following this article, some pea-brain doesn’t come up with the idea of putting up an idiot box otherwise known as the television in a room for all mothers to sit and watch, to make them waste their time away in comfort!    
Dr. Mareena Thaha Reffai,
Dehiwela.

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Pity the borrower

Credit cards a debt trap

Banks have had a boom time over the years.  Bank lend money at high rates of interest ranging from 15% to 27%.  If payment is not made on the due date, a penalty rate is imposed.  Sometimes borrowers pay more than 200% of the capital sum borrowed. 
Banks are money lenders but the Money Lending Ordinance No. 2 of 1918 as amended does not apply to any duly incorporated and registered Banks.

It is clearly stated in Section 2, that the maximum rate of interest should not exceed 15%  for monies lent by a money lender.  Under Section 5 of the Ordinance the maximum amount of interest recoverable should not be in excess of the amount then due.   In other words if a person has borrowed Rs.1 million and if he has paid Rs 500,000/- to the lender in repayment of the capital,  then the lender can recover as interest only a further sum of Rs.500,000/- and no more.   Unfortunately these salutary provisions of the Money Lending Ordinance do not apply to Banks.   As a consequence borrowers are called upon to pay unconscionable amounts by way of interest, and very often lose their property kept as security.  

It must be observed that the Money Lending Ordinance became law in 1918 during colonial times, when there were only a few banks who funded development in the country.  

There is a need today to amend the Money Lending Ordinance to prevent banks (who are in fact money lenders) from exploiting the borrowing public. There have been however instances when the banks have not been able to recover money due on loans, because loans have been approved by dishonest bank officials without proper security  and/or because loans have been given at the request of politicians by state banks.  

To make matters worse for the borrower the Debt Recovery Act permitted banks to recover money due to them without filing a regular civil Action. The Board of Directors of the bank, to pass a resolution giving particulars of the amount due on the money lent by the Bank, publishes the same in the news papers. Thereafter the bank could apply to the District Court to enter a Decree Nisi in respect of the total amount claim including interest. And thereafter obtain an order to sell the property mortgage to the lender of the borrower. This law was not available to other financial institutions and was discriminatory and denied the right to equality to other money lenders. A serious attempt should be made to curb corrupt activities of politicians to prevent the misuse of public funds.

Debt trap

Bank also have the right to issue a credit card granting credit facilities to the credit card holder. If one does not pay the amount due, a high rate of interest are charged. There is also a separate charge for late payments. Credit card companies have adopted aggressive marketing strategies and enticed young persons to obtain Credit Cards  . When the card holder fails to pay, after several telephone calls some credit card company resolved to debt collectors to threaten card holders to recover money due to the company. In one instance the credit card company obtain a decree in the civil court. But since money could not recovered they complained to the Frauds Bureau . He was remanded and in remand he was severely assaulted. Credit card companies now resort to extra judicial methods to recover money to due to them.

And the mother of the credit card holder sold her residential house to pay the creditor. The police action was not prosecuted further.  The young persons are completely unaware of the trap they have got into..          
A. Fernando

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Should rector of a college be president of its OBU ?

My writing, without prejudice, stems from a real situation which prevailed when the Rector of a school faced legal action instituted on him by two old boys over a dispute in the activity of its OBU.

The dispute had gone far; old boys had signed a petition to the Archbishop of Colombo but no solution materialised, culminating in the two old boys seeking legal intervention. What is unfortunate is that the two old boys who instituted litigation against the Rector did not mean to target the Rector himself, but filed action against the Rector merely because the Rector was President and at the helm of the OBU Committee who committed the original sin.

My contention is that the Rector should not be the President of the OBU. The President of the OBU should be one elected from the membership of old boys. My suggestion drew the reply that the Archbishop of Colombo must be the Patron and therefore the Rector has to be the President. This is not acceptable to me.

The Archbishop does not attend the AGM of the OBU. Is there any point in His Grace being the Patron ? But if the Archbishop is to be retained as the symbolic Patron of the OBU, then make the Rector the Vice-Patron. This is beneficial to all, viz (a) it indemnifies the Rector from all possible litigation, (b) it justifiably allows the old boys to elect a President of the OBU from among the old boys themselves which will generate nostalgia and better camaraderie; (c) it affords a distinguished old boy the opportunity of Presidency of his own OBU, instead of a priest from some part of the island being appointed the Rector, which automatically makes him the President of the OBU although he has had absolutely no affiliation to the school, and (d) when the elected President is an old boy of the school, decisions can be challenged and perhaps with an SGM the President (old boy) could be replaced - not so when the President is the Rector.

The position of the Rector being the President of the OBU has its evil alliances. For example, when I questioned the emptiness of a table in a tightly packed ballroom at the school’s annual dinner dance, I was assured the table was reserved for Fr. Rector and his entourage. One hour later they arrived. To me this is evil, because the presence of a Catholic priest at a dinner dance is not in keeping with the spirit of celibacy. It is certainly not the arena for a priest. The ensuing argument claimed that Fr. Rector is the President of the OBU that organised the dinner dance, and therefore it was obligatory Fr Rector be invited, as President, to attend, otherwise he would get offended. To me this is absolute rubbish.

A dance hall, as I have seen, and as we know, is a platform, inter alia, for ladies to rightfully bare their ups and downs as fashionably as they can. Accepted. It is therefore not fair at all to see Catholic priests mingling with the old boys and their wives in the foyer, nor within the four walls of a ballroom. Though the presence of the priests is to have dinner and leave, why invite them at all into an arena that is not in keeping with the attributes and the sanctity of priesthood. This embarrassing situation would not arise if Fr. Rector was not the President of the OBU.

Having a Rector of the School as the President of its OBU could be detrimental and embarrassing to the whole school, and to the catholic entity in the island and old boys abroad, when the Rector is summoned to court merely because he is the President of the OBU, (as proven by the case in point). Those at the helm of affairs in the OBU must act with Knowledge and Virtue. Priests of God are sacred, consecrated individuals and are dedicated to the work of the Lord. Let not even a single priest be ridiculed in any way. Catholics must protect their priests, help them at every turn to focus on their chosen cherished vocation in life, not open them to ridicule by making the Rector of a school the President of its OBU.
Neville Joseph Overlunde

Dehiwela

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Colombo – A walled city

First, it was a portion of the Galle Road at Kollupitiya opposite Temple Trees that was closed to the public – causing unbearable traffic blocks and inconvenience. Now it is the stretch of the Galle Face Road from GFH to the old Parliament. The same fate has befallen the road opposite the Hilton Hotel in the vicinity of the Treasury Complex where the recent bomb – targeting a bus of Policemen – went off.

The closure of these vital traffic arteries results in tremendous traffic snarls where the public is not only inconvenienced by long waits but motorists have to burn off expensive fuel. There must be some way for the Police and the armed forces authorities to conduct their policing and safety-oriented measures without inciting public wrath. The totally unannounced closure of roads in Kollupitiya, Maradana and Fort areas is now an occurrence several times of the day. This is said to facilitate the movement of political and armed forces VIP’s. It is often mentioned that others of lesser importance, in unrestrained fits of vanity, also resort to these road-closures. It is not only the closure of roads but members of the public (I might say voters who brought this government to power) are often chased away by poorly trained Policemen rudely into the nearest by-lanes as if they carry some kind of infectious disease. Although the number of motor vehicles has multiplied many a fold in the recent times, available parking space has been reduced drastically – adding to the anger and frustration of an already suffering public. We know the President is a good and reasonable man who may not want his voters to undergo this suffering. Yet, the people are subjected to this tremendous trauma.

Putting everything on the LTTE is a monotonous joke that has long lost its sting. Even the learned Chief Justice commented, “All the checkpoints and severe security measures did not stop bombs and explosions attributed to the LTTE.” In old Greece, one could have looked heaven-wards and prayed to those handsome Greek gods to come down and fight on their side. But ancient Greece is a thing of the past and we are struck here in Sri Lanka consigned to the Bard’s, “to be or not to be” mode. Perhaps the President’s trinity of wise men – Cabraal, Jayatilake and Wijesinha – might sneak in a clue or two.
K. Arvind

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Bill Gates’ 11 rules

Bill Gates recently gave a speech at a High School about 11 things they did not and will not learn in school. He talked about how feel-good, politically correct teachings created a generation of kids with no concept of reality and how this concept set them up for failure in the real world.
Rule 1: Life is not fair – get used to it!
Rule 2: The world won’t care about your self-esteem. The world will expect you to accomplish something BEFORE you feel good about yourself.
Rule 3: You will NOT make $60,000 a year right out of high school. You won’t be a vice-president with a car phone until you earn both.
Rule 4: If you think your teacher is tough, wait till you get a boss.
Rule 5: Flipping burgers is not beneath your dignity. Your grandparents had a different word for burger flipping: They called it opportunity.
Rule 6: If you mess up, it’s not your parents’ fault, so don’t whine about your mistakes, learn from them.
Rule 7: Before you were born, your parents weren’t as boring as they are now. They got that way from paying your bills, cleaning your clothes and listening to you talk about how cool you thought you were. So, before you save the rain forest from the parasites of your parent’s generation, try delousing the closet in your own room.
Rule 8: Your school may have done away with winners and losers, but life HAS NOT.
In some schools, they have abolished failing grades and they’ll give you as MANY TIMES as you want to get the right answer. This doesn’t bear the slightest resemblance to ANYTHING in real life.
Rule 9: Life is not divided into semesters. You don’t get summers off and very few employers are interested in helping you FIND YOURSELF. Do that on your own time.
Rule 10: Television is NOT real life. In real life people actually have to leave the coffee shop and go to jobs.
Rule 11: Be nice to nerds. Chances are you’ll end up working for one.
With kind regards,
M. Zulkifli Nazim

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Central Bank Annual Report 2007 - A remarkable and noble achievement

I had just purchased a copy of the latest Annual Report of the Central Bank.
As, I normally do, I went through the report briefly and found it as usual ‘very educational, informative, full of substance’ and a ‘storehouse of knowledge,’ which indeed, is entirely due to the efforts of the officials of the Bank.

Another item that struck me, which is very imperative, is the price at which it is sold to the public, a nominal price of Rs. 300. I am fully aware of the fact that it is heavily subsidised, by the government of the day, which I personally think, is a very correct, and noble act, by the Bank. This is especially with the runaway inflation in the country and the high cost of living, as it would be affordable not only to institutions and libraries but also to the average student and average individual to purchase same, to enhance ones knowledge and educate oneself in ‘every field of learning,’ be it banking, economics, political or social. This book is definitely the ‘ultimate source of knowledge’ on Sri Lanka.

It is my earnest hope and desire that the Central Bank continues to publish the Annual Report and other publications at the subsidised price, so that it is within the reach of all and sundry, as the team of the Central Bank, have been doing so for so many years. And I hope that the Central Bank Annual Report, be a shinning example to the other ‘so called’ publishers, booksellers and other institutional publishers who demand ‘blood money,’ for their ‘so called’ great publications. These publishers do not care ‘two cents,’ for the average person, who barely can make ends meet, to enhance ones knowledge and inculcate the noble reading habit among all and sundry. They are only interested in profiteering and increasing sales.

I salute the Central Bank and its officials, for this remarkable and noble achievement.
Once again, it is my earnest hope and prayer that the Central Bank officials continue this noble and humanitarian service of publishing the Annual Report, which is a Bible of knowledge, for all and sundry, at this concessionary rate, and the other publishers and booksellers, would some day follow the example set by the Central Bank.
Amyn Chatoor
Colombo 5

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                                                                                       Appreciations                                                                                   

B. H. S. Jayewardene

Remembering Bassa, a unique, humane, sincere friend

Sometime in the mid-fifties students from colleges in the south were sent to Jaffna schools, virtually the last hope for concerned parents, as Jaffna schools had a reputation for education and discipline. Some of us entered the portals of Jaffna College Vaddukoddai. About this time students from Malaysia were also being enrolled, because college education in Ceylon, as this country was then known, was said to be better than in Malaysia. We entered the college as boys with a shaky past and uncertain future.

We left as men well equipped to serve our nation. Most of the Malaysians went back and held responsible positions. Those who stayed back did extremely well too.
One amongst us at Jaffna College was Briareus Hercules Susunaga Jayewardene, popularly and affectionately called Bassa. Quiet at first, not only because like the rest of us he was coming to terms with the environment, but more so because he had lost his dear father, Francis Jayewardene the Crown Proctor of Kuliyapitiya, a few months before. In general conversation he often referred to his father whom he was proud of. It is fitting, therefore, that his ashes lie beside that of his father in the family grave at Kuliyapitiya.

As time moved on and he took to journalism as his profession, he acquired more aliases, BHS, Jaye among them, Mahes called him Briareus. His personality changed to portray the character that each alias was expected to project. He was, however, at his natural best as Bassa, in the company of close friends and colleagues. Bassa did himself proud at Jaffna College. After an initial misunderstanding with the Faculty, he was liked, respected and much sought after, specially after he left the institution, manned by the then stalwarts of the education system of that era in the North: Rev. Bunker, Dr. Rockwood, President and Vice President of the College, Dr. Holmes, K.A. Selliah and Lyman Kulatungam, Principal and Vice Principal, K.C. Thurairatnam, who taught English, which was one of the subjects followed by Bassa and Prof. Dr. K. D. Arudpragasam, hostel warden, amongst others. Early in life he developed the ability of moving with persons holding responsible and respectable positions in society. His room mate K. B. Y. Seneviratne, an ex-Trinitian like Bassa, now an established Kandy lawyer, mentioned that he was the favourite of Gordon Burrows the house-master of Alison house.

He enjoyed hostel life, and though he wanted very much to be part of the action, was cautious. When his mates went on fowl raids, he would trail behind, because he was nervous that if detected, his size would prevent him from making a quick getaway. He was sporty enough though, to lend his only sarong which was soaked in water, to cover the unsuspecting fowls roosting on the branches of neighbourhood trees. On those special sarong less nights Bassa slept between the bed sheets; his reward was one leg of chicken! His generosity went beyond the sarong, to the extent of giving Manikam, the bare bodied hostel cook, a generous hand- out every Wednesday which was mutton day in the hostel. The cook responded by giving him an extra large serving. The writer sat next to Bassa and got the crumbs which fell off his plate, which was substantial! His roommate KBYS composed a baila about Bassa’s rotund bottom which was sung lustily at baila sessions. Bassa played the cymbals in the hostel band. Though his timing had room for improvement he made enough noise to be noticed.

Gajendran and Bassa were the poets in our group. Their romantic poems reflected their hopes, feelings and frustrations. The subjects of their poems were two co-eds, whom they eventually married. The writer standing on a table in the hostel lobby, would read the poems aloud, accompanied by appropriate actions, as light hearted entertainment to a ready audience. Little did we know that cupid was shooting his arrows in the direction of the women’s hostel. Gaj and Bassa were at different times Associate Editors of the Northern Undergrad, probably now defunct, when the editresses were Elizabeth Verghis and Mahes Kandavanam respectively. Eventually Elizabeth also known as Sheila married Gaj and Mahes married Bassa. It is said that marriages are made in heaven. These were made at the printing press! It is correct to say that Bassa cut his journalist teeth and honed his caring ways at Jaffna College.

Many tributes have mentioned that he always went that extra mile to help his colleagues and friends, to whom he freely gave both financial support and advice. While he gave freely, unfortunately, he hardly accepted, specially advice given in good faith. This tribute would have been many moons away, had he heeded advice. Bassa had a keen sense of humour and enjoyed a good story often inventing his own. The story is told that he phoned his daughter Romaine and told her that her mother and domestic who were taking their sick dog to the vet, had taken off in a three wheeler, leaving the sick dog behind!

The Asian Tribune for which journal he was the Colombo correspondent, in their tribute said that his family was his universe. He and Mahes invested in their children’s education; of the three girls, two are accountants, one a Ph.D in Mathematics and a Senior Lecturer at the University of Colombo and their only son a Chartered Ship Broker working in Malaysia. To them, he and Mahes were their guides on the journey to adulthood, teachers of moral values. They listened to their problems and helped to find solutions. They were their friends sharing good and bad. His children respected and trusted him and loved him because of all that he was to them. He disciplined them without compromising his love and care.

The dedication, love and commitment of Mahes, his wife of 47 years and the children were visibly demonstrated, and commented upon by the doctors and nursing staff when he was unwell. We have reason to believe that he was overwhelmed by the care and love they gave him. During this time he was able to reflect and build his relationship with his Creator.

Hercules was his middle name, a Greek mythological hero, famed for his courage and strength and cleaning in one day the Augean stables. Bassa may not have had physical strength, but the courage and strength of his convictions, his attempts to rid corruption, were demonstrated time and time again in his journalistic career, even losing his job in the process.

After Bassa’s death, Mahes discovered a few pairs of new unused shoes in his wardrobe. These shoes were offered to relations and friends. They fitted nobody. This is symbolic of the man - nobody can get into Bassa’s shoes! He was unique. He was Bassa.
Bassa will be missed with the going down of the sun and in the morning; he will be missed when we next meet at the Wadiya to reminisce and recount the mad and good old days which Rajan Kadirigamar a teacher during our period and later Principal of Jaffna College described as the ‘golden era’ of the College. We will miss him when we want to discuss the latest political situation in the country and have his interpretation of same. We will miss his brand of humour and his chuckles.

To Mahes, Ianthe, Romaine, Tamara, Sanjeeva, his in-laws and grandchildren, to whom his home was always halfway point, a haven, we extend our sincere condolences and pray that Bassa will rest in peace in the near presence of his Creator.
C. S. Edwards
Colombo 5

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My friend Dalrine

Dalrine, who was affectionately called ‘Dal’ by her loved ones and friends passed away on May 1, this year. When I heard, on the day prior to her death, that she was in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) of the Asiri Hospital, I rushed to see her. As I peeped through the glass pane of the ICU and saw her lying on the bed, I soon realised that our friendship was coming to an end. At that point the thought which arose in my mind was that all mortals have to one day breathe their last breath and that is an inevitable reality.

In the year 1991, I was being treated for para-typhoid fever at the Nawaloka Hospital, Colombo. Towards early noon on a warm July day, in walked Dal and Nimal to see me in my room, my husband Rama having told them about my illness. Dal carrying a bag full of oranges in her hand, sat on my bed, introduced herself and started chatting. I was frail and weak at that time. She insisted that I had a glass of fresh orange juice, immediately. In her own inimitable style, she got a member of the hospital staff to prepare an orange drink for me, and also saw to it that I drank the full glass of orange juice. I recall how well and refreshed I felt at that time after having had that orange juice.

Like a duck taking to water, I took to her at that very first meeting. As time went on, I realised what she had done for me that day was not something unusual. That was typical of Dal. My husband and I had enjoyed Nimal’s and Dal’s generosity and hospitality on many occasions. Those who knew Dal and associated with her, and those who were the beneficiaries of her generosity and hospitality will always remember her with great affection. She was generous, helpful, kind and selfless. These qualities are all too rare in a society that is increasingly becoming materialistic in the assessment of virtues.

Into each life, whatever the degree of its lustre, some rain must fall. All human beings at some point of time in their lives experience rejection, disillusionment, failure, death and personal tragedy. I too experienced immense sadness in great measure in my own personal life, not too long ago. At that time Dal stood by me like a solid rock, always available and caring.
As a friend, Dal was world when you were lonely, a guide when you were searching, a smile when you were sad and a song when you were glad.

She was a great culinary expert. About 10 days prior to her death, she sent some homemade goodies to me with a note, “With love to you Deary.” Little did I realise then, that this would be her final act of hospitality to me. She had the capacity to enjoy little things in life. There was always the hidden little girl in her. Her hospitality was boundless and spontaneous.

With her charming ways, she was able to win friends wherever she went. All those who associated with her, her friends, her acquaintances, even her subordinates will miss her for a long time to come.
My heart goes out in sympathy to Nimal, Imran, Merza, Ghazi and other members of her immediate family.
May the fragrance of her memory live on
May her soul rest in peace
There is a link death cannot sever
Love and remembrance last forever.
Mano Ramanathan

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