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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.

Jayashantha Jayawardhana

Faculty of Business Studies and Finance
Wayamba University


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 depositor.

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 persecute them.

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 approach.

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
Colombo 4


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 than fiction.

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.

Mohamed Zahran
Colombo 3.


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???

The once 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.

S. Rajaratnam
Colombo 6


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 return.

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 being.
I wish for her the eternal bliss of Nirwana.

Menaca Calyaneratne





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