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|Ministers’ families on official tours
|The Nation Politics column in The Nation on September 20, 2009
reported that the President had berated the Foreign Minister Rohitha
Bogollagama for his alleged irresponsible conduct. The Presidential
rebuke seemed to have been triggered by the embarrassment our
Premier had to suffer on his recent tour to Japan on an invitation
extended by a leading Buddhist temple in Kobe to be the Chief Guest
at a ceremony at it. Immediately after the incident, Sri Lanka`s
Ambassador in Japan, Jayantha Palipana, was ordered home. It is
still unclear whose fault it really was.
However, the purpose of my article is hardly to shed light on
this embarrassing diplomatic blunder, to be frank, it is the least
of my concerns. Therefore, I would like to draw our readers`
attention to a far more serious issue that has been brought into the
spotlight in the aftermath of it. It is an open secret that, for a
long time, it has almost been a tradition among our politicians and
top-ranking government officials to accompany their families on
official tours sponsored by the State. As a matter of fact, Minister
Bogollagama is hardly the first Cabinet Minister to do that; nor is
he the last person to do so. On several previous occasions, this
practice had drawn sharp criticism as it would amount to the abuse
of power and privileges. But, I think a warning or a rebuke was all
punishment administered to the culprits in all those instances.
There is no doubt that the representatives of the public are
entitled to certain privileges that the ordinary citizen of the
country may not be able to enjoy. In a way, they are the rewards
offered to them for the service they render and the sacrifices they
make on our behalf. Hence, as the general public, we do not mind
politicians and/or high-ranking public servants like ministry
secretaries and the like taking their families on official tours as
long as their expenses are not charged to the account of the State.
But, when their families` expenses too have to be defrayed by the
State itself, it is reasonable for us to raise objections against it
as it is we, the tax-payers, who are going to have to bear the tax
burden at the end of the day. Why should we, at all, pay for
something that does not add the slightest value or make the smallest
contribution towards the development of this country? And, for this
reason alone, it is extremely unethical for them to misuse what
privileges they have been granted to serve the country.
To remedy this, I would like to propose that Parliament pass a
bill completely prohibiting this practice. If that is impractical -
I do not think it is impractical at all with all those draconian
moral laws being passed in the House these days - at least they
should be formally demanded to reimburse such expenses to the State.
Hopefully, such a course of action will deter this practice. As this
is tantamount to the embezzlement of state funds, it is incumbent
upon the authorities concerned to put a halt to this highly wasteful
unethical practice at the earliest possible moment.
Faculty of Business Studies and Finance
|Senior citizens and income tax
|In terms of the Income Tax Guide Senior Citizen’s [over 59
years] interest earnings up to Rs. 200,000 (from any special deposit
scheme in State Own Banks are exempted from Income Tax. But due to
personal reasons and convenience some retired persons maintain
accounts in Private Banks. Such deposits are mainly Provident Fund
balances and ETF payments. Some are liable for tax as their pension
payment is about Rs. 30,000 (per month, without any other income,
other than the monthly interest income from deposit accounts. From
pension payments payee tax is recovered. The Tax Free Allowance of
Rs. 300,000 considering the current cost of living and other
expenses should be increased to a minimum of Rs. 450,000.
Some elderly persons maintain ordinary savings and fixed deposit
accounts being unaware of the requirement to maintain special
deposit accounts, thus a distinct privilege is being provided to
persons who maintain special deposit scheme accounts, as such, the
exemption privilege should be on any type of deposit account
maintain in any bank. Otherwise it will be a special privilege
provided mainly to persons with substantial financial means. For
deposit accounts of Senior Citizens, all banks pay a high rate of
interest but not on accounts where monthly interest is paid and some
banks the higher rate is paid for deposits over Rs. 50,000 or Rs.
100,000 Thus a discriminative attitude prevails for the small time
Banks though they provide a very satisfactory service, yet,
they are often over crowded for no fault of the Banks, mostly as
some prefer banking only with State Banks for reasons of security
and confidence. Promoting private enterprises is the Government
Policy as such to deny the Private Banks a privilege granted to the
State Banks contradicts its own policy.
Thus a suggestion is made for the Finance Ministry and the Tax
Department to allow for the period 2008/2009 the tax exemption for
interest on accounts maintained in any state or private bank If the
suggestion is accepted a notice could be published in all newspapers
in all languages.
Pensioner Senior Citizen
|International community insults SL judiciary
|That was the caption in a daily paper, but a misnomer, for
specifically it was the West. The political aroma of the West stinks
to high heaven and is distinctly against Sri Lanka, though
newspapers fight shy to publish forthright observations of readers.
A letter written by me in reply to a question posed in a newspaper,
‘Is the West against Sri Lanka’ wherein I spared no pains in
exposing what dignitaries of the Christian Church (not the Christian
lay) is doing against Buddhist Sri Lanka, but it has not seen the
light of day. In The Island of Thursday September 10, 2009 there is
a very revealing news item with the title, “Bail refused to
Secretary, National Christian Association.” The Executive Secretary
was arrested with a consignment of compact discs depicting the
Security Forces engaged in harassing Tamil nationals during the
Humanitarian Operations which concluded in May this year. The
Secretary was taken into custody under the Prevention of Terrorism
Act along with CDs which were to be distributed in Foreign
Countries. This is parallel to the British C 4 fiasco.
I. L. Perera
|Press Freedom - Should journalists take sides?
|The journalists are protesting against certain provisions in the
Press Council Act which are not in the best interests of press
freedom. There is no doubt that Press Freedom is a sine qua non in a
democratic set up. The people have the right to know the truth and
press freedom ensures that. Bribery and corruption in the public and
private sectors need to be exposed. That investigative journalism,
which should not be blocked or prevented through draconian laws. The
source from which the truth is elicited should not be forced to be
revealed. That will prevent bribery and corruption in high and
powerful places coming to light. The people expect bribery and
corruption being exposed, the culprits punished and wrongly amassed
wealth nullified or confiscated. The government, therefore, should
encourage journalists who unearth the truth to rid the nation of
bribery and corruption and crime, and even reward them. Not
That however, does not mean that irresponsible press freedom
should be permitted. Those who publish false news wantonly or resort
to defamation should be made answerable and punished. The Act should
provide for that. The law should provide for corrections sent in by
readers to be published and apologies tendered.
Recently a Sinhala daily published a news item which was totally
incorrect and misleading. I sent in a correction but even afterone
month my letter was not published, despite reminders. That I believe
amounts to misuse of press freedom whilst being an egoistic
Journalists are expected to be independent and not take sides.
That is possible if permitted by their proprietors. There are those
who are obliged to reflect the views of their bosses, individuals
who are powerful, politicians, social and religious institutions and
governments. If they do not, they run the risk of being fired from
their posts or eliminated physically or intellectually. The
independent journalists as such face risks constantly. On the other
hand, a journalist being expected to merely record an issue or event
with all accuracy as, say, done by a camera (there too the angle
taken may show a different picture, is not humanly possible.
What should therefore be prevented is wanton wrong reporting,
publication of false propaganda and character assassination. The law
should be meant for that.
Upali S. Jayasekera
|To Professor Stephen Long
|Your article should make Hillary Clinton realise what a fool she
is in the eyes of the people who know the real facts. Unfortunately
Americans like you who have visited our country and learned facts at
grassroots level are just a few, while the vast majority is those
who live in America and pass judgment on our brave soldiers based on
what they read in the newspapers. The Tamil diaspora has mastered
the technique of churning out false propaganda using the media for
many years and the government of Sri Lanka finds it difficult to
counter such false propaganda probably because truth is stranger
The LTTE has been an evil force that has caused so many deaths
and destruction in my country for thirty long years. If people like
you do not come forward and speak out the truth when Hillary
Clinton, the Secretary of State tries to resuscitate this evil
force, probably because she received funds from them at one point of
time, the American people will never realise the truth. As Edmund
Burke once said “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is
for good men to do nothing.”
I too have been a Battalion Commander once and I know how much
time and effort we dedicated to train our men to become, perhaps,
the most disciplined soldiers in the world today. We trained our
soldiers never to loot and plunder. We trained them to treat
prisoners of war with respect and to treat the injured enemy with
compassion. We trained them to consider women as their mothers and
sisters and therefore, rape is considered as an unacceptable crime
by our soldiers. These were the very reasons that enabled our
soldiers to defeat the LTTE so convincingly. Good had to succeed
over evil if our country was to survive as a nation and it did.
Thank you Professor for speaking out the truth so loud and clear
to drown the voice of a woman who was speaking like that parrot
brought up by pirates.
Lt Col (Retd.) Anil
|Why people become politicians?
|Editorial of the Daily Mirror (22.09.2009) speaks volumes of why
the people of Sri Lanka want to become politicians, what the writing
does not tell, tells ample about the true state of our politicians.
Yes, the very one that should be topping the list, that is, to serve
the motherland is not there on the list at all!
Yes this is the truth and it is so well known and accepted that
it may be superfluous to state it. But then, are we to let it be so?
How long can we keep saying the politics is a dirty game and
therefore, none of the decent people want to get into it? Wouldn’t
it just keep the same corrupted people monopolising it and there
will be no hope for the common man of salvation at all?
It is high time the list had the reason to serve the country at
the top and some politicians are groomed for it. The youngsters
should come forward with this sole purpose and the sincere caring
elders should give full support and encouragement. It is time the
scurrilous scoundrels are shown the door and the country is taken
over by genuinely concerned leaders and truth, honesty and decency
becomes the norm.
As long as one believes the truth will always win, there is hope.
It is said that if you think you can, you can. If you think you
cannot, you are right.
We can, certainly, insha Allah, if only we try. Why not?
Dr Mrs. Mareena Thaha Reffai
|World Teachers’ Day
|A leading English daily carried in the front page (as an inset)
a news item captioned “World Teachers’ Day today” in its issue of
Monday, October 5. It was mentioned that “World Teachers’ Day, held
annually on October 5 since 1994 to commemorate the anniversary of
the signing in 1966 of the UNESCO/ILO Recommendation concerning the
Status of Teachers.” It was further mentioned that “it is an
occasion to celebrate the essential role of teachers in providing
quality education at all levels.” I would like to know why the
schools celebrated this important occasion on Tuesday 6 and that
includes not only my son’s school but my daughter’s as well. Has the
date been changed or any mess up with the date? Over to educational
authorities for a response.
|Visas to India
|This matter still continues to cause heartburn and inconvenience
to Sri Lankans. Up to now the Indian High Commission refused to
recommend to Delhi to reciprocate Sri Lanka “Visa on arrival”
facility that we allow Indian nationals coming here. The reason was
that LTTE activists may use the open facility to enter India and
cause mayhem. The other lame excuse was that Pakistani terrorists
will misuse the privilege and infiltrate India from Lankan soil. The
attack in Mumbai not long ago when over a dozen Pakistan terrorists
entered the city and created mayhem gives this the lie. It is
universally known if terrorists want to attack any place they
usually will - in spite of all the precautions of even the strongest
security. This is something we have to live with. The US did not
close their borders to anyone after 9/11 ¬surely???
feared LTTE is no more. The Indian government at its highest levels
have confirmed this. So it is time the Indian High Commission took
the initiative to cause relief to our people without any further
delay. Furthermore, several sections of the Lankan Press took the
side of our nationals who have to reluctantly go to the IHC for
their Visas. It is said it is corruption that is in the way within
the IHC. The Press highlighted this. IHC refuted this - somewhat
weakly. But now they have no reason to carry on this farce this
anymore. The Press should also appeal to the new Indian Foreign
Secretary Mrs. Nirupama Rao to take suitable action in the matter.
Having served here for over 3 years, she will know the actual
situation at first hand.
It is time the Press came to the help of our harassed Indian
visa-seekers. Apparently, our Foreign Minster or his Ministry are
not taking any interest in the matter. They either do not know about
the plight Lankans go through, do not care or they have absolutely
no influence with the Indian government.
|Bandara Menike Kariyawasam
|A life of unconditional giving
|She was the only Athamma 1 knew, because when 1 was born both my
paternal grandparents and my maternal grandfather were dead. Even my
earliest memories of her are full of the ‘giving’ that she did
during my days in Badulla. There were about 10 men, women and
children from the village of Kalugalpitiya up to Rockhill and
beyond, visiting her kitchen on a daily basis for tea, lunch and
snacks in between. Her kitchen was the resting point for all of them
while all of them also ran errands and did chores for her. All were
welcome. Her kettle was always on the hearth and each of these
village-folk had their own chosen tea cups hanging in a row on the
plate rack. My Athamma was always making tea for them and she did it
so happily. Whoever visited her whether it was the villagers,
relations, friends and the door-to-door salesmen like bothal
paththara collector and parana coat, no one went away without being
treated to the best of her hospitality. She expected nothing in
She truly lived by the Dhamma. 1 never heard her tell a lie or
speak ill of anyone. She prepared the best meal when it was her turn
to send the dana to the temple. And even during her last days, all
she spoke of was to prepare dana for the temple.
I remember the days when my parents, my sister and brother went
in the morning to work and to school. 1 used to howl and cry on a
daily basis wanting to go with them. When 1 hung on to the door of
my father’s Volkswagen, it was my Athamma who carefully released my
clutch; one finger at a time - so careful not to hurt me. Then
onwards 1 received the best of home based childcare where she taught
me to cook while she did. 1 prepared real lunches in my little clay
pots. How wise of her to teach me like that and also keep my mind
away from my missing family? She loved her grandchildren and they
loved her even more. And she was lucky enough to see so many great
grandchildren. And whenever she saw them, she would search in her
tiffin box and pullout a biscuit or a toffee to give them. My son
Prashastha who had the most frequent interactions had a special bond
with her which even I could not understand.
During the paddy harvesting we used to love going to the paddy
field with her. Playing on the hay stacks and ‘driving’ the
buffaloes as they went round and round was great fun and she always
taught me the different traditions that were followed in the paddy
harvesting. She had a lovely sense of humour and she was amused by
the two farmers, ¬Sudu Banda who was dark and Kalu Banda who was
fair. Being the youngest and the smallest in size 1 was her obvious
choice to send into the atuwa in her kitchen to place the paddy.
The newspaper delivery man, I think just loved my Athamma because
she bought us all the newspapers from Dinamina, Divaina, Riviresa to
Mihira, Wijeya, Nawayugaya, Tharuni and even Siththara and Madhura
if we asked for them. My sister, brother and I, we all, read
newspapers and books and we still do, thanks to her. She may have
studied up to grade 5 in her day, but she had the wisdom to know the
importance of reading. And she read until her final 99th year and
her prized possessions were a few Buddhism books which she kept in a
corner of her bed.
Athamma never feared death. After she passed her 70’s she always
said that she is ‘awaiting the telegram’ from the other world. I
think it is because of the way she lived. She was such a generous,
kind and gentle woman that she did not have to fear anything. She
lived all the ten decades a human possibly can and enjoyed the
tender love and care from all around her till her last day. And when
she went so peacefully in her sleep, she had taught us all she knew
and more about how to live life to the fullest. Our Athamma, I know
for certain, is in a better place for being such a magnanimous human
I wish for her the eternal bliss of Nirwana.