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Sri Lankan pensioners living in Australia

It is very sad that the Director-General of Pensions in Sri Lanka without giving any notice stopped the monthly pension payments from November 2009 to all overseas pensioners without stating any valid reason.
It is illegal to stop payments of pensions to pensioners in the Commonwealth countries. Sri Lanka is a member of this great organisation, having signed the bi-lateral agreements etc.
Perhaps, there may be a possibility of abuse or fraud by some, if the pensioner dies and the other partner living (non-pensioner) can continue to draw the monthly pension by forging the signature of the real pensioner (dead). This applies to pensioners in Sri Lanka too.
To avoid this type of irregularities, the Director-General of Pensions in Sri Lanka can request the pensioner to report to the Sri Lankan High Commissioner in Canberra or to the nearest Consulate for Sri Lanka in Australia at least once a year.

In the case of pensioners, who are sick and feeble and are living in Elders’ Homes can be asked to forward a Certificate of Health by a doctor to be forwarded to the Director-General of Pensions in Sri Lanka.
On the other hand, to open a new savings account at the People’s Bank, Queens Street Branch, No.38, D. R. Wijewardena Mawatha, Colombo 10, the bank lays down a condition which reads “(3) The pensioner should personally attend the bank to withdraw money when he visits Sri Lanka.”

This is very unfair. Everyone cannot make a trip to Sri Lanka to withdraw the pension. Many are old and feeble, and have passed the biblical three score and ten (70) years, some are in Elders’ Homes. These people should be given some concession as at present some pensioners are living with their children and others with their in-laws.
I am aware of Sri Lankans who had worked in the United Kingdom for about 10¬15 years and have gone back to Sri Lanka and when they reach the retiring age of 65 years, they inform the Home Office in London and their pensions are thereafter remitted direct to pensioners’ bank accounts in Sri Lanka or to any other Commonwealth country where they now live in retirement.

The average pension of a Sri Lankan pensioner living in Australia is about Rs. l0,000 and if he/she retains his pension for a period of one year, Rs. 120,000 is accumulated in a Sri Lanka Bank. When he/she decides to travel to Sri Lanka to withdraw his/her pension he has to purchase a return ticket both ways. In today’s market it will cost him between AUD $1,200 and AUD $1,300 (exchange equivalent of Rs.137,000). While collecting the pension of Rs.120,000 he has to incur a further Rs.17,000 and what about the other expenses such as board and lodging and other incidental expenses while in Sri Lanka for about two weeks.
Is this trip worthwhile, to whom to tell (kata kiyannada)?

Fred Rodrigo-Sathianathen
Melbourne, Australia


Sanctions against Iran

The Western controlled mass-media is in a big way ratcheting up the US-Israel determination to enforce crippling sanctions on the Islamic Republic of Iran in order to halt her nuclear development programme for peaceful purposes, despite Iran not having broken any of the treaties and laws of the Non-Proliferation Treaty.
The US has worked itself into a frenzy of even threatening to bomb Iran and repeating the time-worn cliché “all options are on the table.” Israel like a parrot repeats it and keeps up the war rhetoric. Both the US and Israel know that they dare not risk war as war is not only going to cause damage to themselves but to the whole world. What the US and Israel are engaging in is psychological war.

China more than Russia is disinclined to vote for crippling or any other sanctions against Iran because of Chinese oil interests in Iran and because Iran pumps as much as 540,000 barrels of oil a day to China. Secret meetings are being held to coerce China not to veto the US led resolution of sanctions at the Security Council against Iran. A high level Israel mission to China including Governor of Israel’s Central Bank Stanley Fischer, visited China in late February, according to a solitary news report in the Financial Times. It is not hard to imagine that when an all important economist like Fischer goes to China and explains to the Chinese the US led planned sanctions regime against the Islamic Republic of Iran, something is brewing.

The Chinese are cool on the whole issue. They are hell-bent on their development progamme and want to be the number one super-power in the world. Their progress and determined efforts so far point to the likelihood that in the near future they will achieve it and all Asians are going to be proud of it. Oil is sine-qua-non for this ambition to be fulfilled. In fact, every drop of oil is necessary. So, China will not cave in to US and Israel demands and Asian wisdom will prevail.

It is indeed sickening to listen and read the propaganda against the Islamic Republic of Iran on this issue. Iran has abided by all conditions of the Non-Proliferation Treaty, in the last 250 years it has not invaded any country, abided by UN conventions, have the support of the 118 Non¬ Aligned nations, have good political, socio-economic and cultural relations with all countries except US and Israel and also have the support of the Islamic Conference Organisation and it is beyond comprehension why Iran is treated as a threat and one in “the axis of evil” and a terrorist country.

The all-powerful media has conditioned the minds of the people to believe that Iran is a threat. However, the discerning knows otherwise. In the real world the Israelis are afraid and hurting. The waves of Aliyah - tens of thousands of “Jews” who were moving to the “Promised Land” from hither-and-yon are now history. Hizbullah missiles have scared them. The demographics of the Holy Land are quickly shifting. Record increases have occurred in the numbers of Muslim and Christian Arabs who now live in the Holy Land. Islamic self-determination is on its way in; secular and ungodly political trends are on their way out. The US can no longer afford to foot the Israel bill free of charge as was the case in the past half century. Even Israel’s first line of defence, the Palestine Authority, is crumbling like a house of cards. A breaking news item says that the Fatah faction of the Palestinian Authority in Lebanon, a group of over a thousand that has been with Mahmud Abbas - has gone over to the pro-Iranian Hizbullah.

Mubarak, who is attempting to recover from surgery in Germany, is badly immobilised. Who knows what will happen in Egypt which has close relations with Israel? The octogenarian rulers of Arabia are dying off along with their credibility. The Jordanian tribal regime is taking away Jordanian citizenship from the Palestinians. It deems to be “security threats.” Israel in these circumstances is in mortal danger as it should be. It knows this better than anyone else. Will it buy itself more time for survival by going to war? Can it avoid a back¬lash in the US where treasury and troops have been stretched to the breaking point all the way to Afghanistan and Pakistan to protect Israel?

These thoughts have caused Israel officials nightmares, there seems to be no way out, but a one-state solution where all citizens in Palestine - Christians, Muslims and Jews live in a democratic set-up with equal rights for everyone to practise their own religions and cultures. Of course, then the State of Israel will like the Soviet Union disappear from the map of the world. Will the Zionists accept this?

Saybhan Samat
Social Justice Movement


Second death anniversary of Dr Lionel Algama

Renowned and gifted music maestro

May 18, 2010 marks the second death anniversary of the late Dr Lionel Algama, the renowned and gifted musician, teacher and composer of songs. He was also ‘A’ grade singer in Hindustani and Bengali as well, examiner, ‘A’ grade instrumentalist, ballet-stage-film-teledrama-director, conductor, inventor of the original instrument called the “Soorthar” and the sophisticated ‘Sree Veena’ comprising of 39 strings, which had taken him about 15 long years to complete after continuous research.

He obtained his Doctorate after successfully writing two theses, ‘Teaching of Music, and ‘Development of Chordophones East and West’ in the years 1978 and 1979. For his achievements in the field of music he was acclaimed and hailed by critics as an accomplished musician with accolades such as ‘Music Maestro’.

He was a native of Gampaha born on March 24, 1935 who had his primary education at Veyangoda Central. His father, Jinadasa Perera, was a wealthy businessman, financially very sound, who loved to enjoy life, owned and ran his own theatrical company mainly for amateurs and for his own personal gladness and enjoyment. It was a routine every evening for amateurs to conduct rehearsals at their residence where all guests and friends were well entertained. He naturally learnt art and musical skills while he grew in these surroundings. His uncle Jayasinghe Perera was an expert exponent of the harmonium. In such a soothing musical environment it was automatically natural for him to be drawn into the world of music. His enormous talents were easily identified by his father in this creative field who decided to make arrangements to send him to Visva Bharathi University, West Bengal Shantiniketan to complete a degree in Bachelor of Music in the year 1955 when he was just 20 years old. He obtained his degree in music after four years of strenuous theory and practical courses. He studied Bengali and Hindustani under reputed professors in 1959. Having been identified his talents he was selected as a member of the broadcasting team of the University as an Instrumentalist..

He had an aptitude and a keen interest in designing various musical instruments and experimenting with various types of sounds. He used his natural skills combined closely with practical knowledge of other musical instruments and invented through rigorous research an original instrument termed the ‘Soothar’. He is the only musician in Sri Lanka who had invented a musical instrument. The ‘Soorthar’ is basically based on the blending of sounds transmitted by the sithar, hawaian guitar, sarod, santoor, harp and goothawadyam. Besides his own ‘Soorthar’ he mastered the sithar, sarod, harmonium, piano, organ, mendolin, tennor, banjo, guitar, esraj, torshani, santoor, violin and the tabla.

He had made several solo performances in several countries. He had humbly admitted that when he played his Soorthar or any other conventional instrument and sings, fans had been subjected to rare aesthetic nourishment, especially when he performed to spellbound audiences in concerts in many parts of the world. He had excelled at classical and jazz concerts, ballets in New Delhi, Calcutta, Bombay, Benares, Jaipur and Pakistan between the years 1955 to 1959. Subsequently after evolving his own distinctive style he had performed in Perth and Tasmania in Australia with the Chitrasena ballet troupe and at Broadcasting and T.V. Singapore in 1963. He had also performed in musical recitals and concerts in U.K. and all Scandinavian countries.

From the year 1959-1989 for a period of three decades, he had a long tenure of teaching in the Department of Education. He had a long stint at Thurstan College as a music teacher. He was instrumental in creating the college theme song which exists even to date. The music composition of the ‘Daham Pasel’ song is also his creation. In 1975, he was assigned as the Cultural Development Officer in the Ministry of Cultural Affairs. He was also entrusted with the duties of the Examiner of Music both theory and practical at the Faculty of Aesthetic Education, University of Kelaniya. He served as a Supervisor in Music, Ministry of Education, in the Republic of Maldives in 1983 to1984. He earned the distinction of designing the North Indian classical music syllabus for the Institute of Asian Culture, University of Windsor, Ontario, Canada.

He composed and directed music in several films, ballets, dramas and tele-dramas in Sri Lanka and had won a number of awards for the Best Music Directions in the years 1961, 1963, 1966, 1976, 1984, 1996 and 2000. The musical score of the award winning film ‘Parasathumal’ and the music composition of the theme song ‘Paravunu Mal Wala Suwande Athethe’ sung by Sujatha Perera was also his. He had made several musical melodies for a countless number of popular artistes. The composition of musical melody ‘Thanha Asha’ sung by Maestro Amaradeva was also his.

The names of some of the dramas for which he had composed music were Naribena, Romeo and Juliet, Kusa Pabawathie, Tikirimalie and the ‘Horror of Mahahena’. The names of some ballets where the music compositions were his are Karadiya, Nala Damayanthi, Sakunika, Ginihora, Rankikily, Isolation etc. In addition, he had organised, composed and conducted music for several feature programmes in Hindustani - classical and light music. The contribution he had made individually to the field of music in this country is very extensive and enormous.

The ‘Sree Veena’ instrument is the first of its kind produced in the world and could be used exclusively for a solo concert. He played and demonstrated his new instrument ‘Sree Veena’ in a solo concert at the Elphinstone Theatre, Maradana on January 7, 1996. The Professor of Music, University of Delhi, Ajit Singh Paital was the Chief Guest and had this to say, ‘The Sree Veena’ innovated by Algama had unique sound quality of many Indian instruments like sarod, sitar and swar-mandal, all combined and blended together in one instrument. Algama’s performance, it was said, was marked with highly skilled technique as he was fully conversant with several Indian and Western musical instruments. It was a unique experience to listen to Algama playing on the ‘Sree Veena’, the Indian ragas with such depth.’ A certificate confirming his marvelous performance was also issued.
Since his demise there had been many family discussions to find a manner to dispose the instrument. Their efforts to obtain assistance from our Cultural Ministry and other related higher sources have proved futile. They lack knowledge and integrity to appreciate such a valuable product, the only one of its kind in the world. It is the fervent hope of the family members that someone will come to their rescue in regard to the disposal of the unique instrument the ‘Sree Veena’ which has to be preserved for posterity.

May he attain Nibbana!
Sunil Thenabadu
Mt. Lavinia


Dehiwela traffic police need guidance

Parking vehicles where ‘U’ turns are allowed was a problem both at Wellawatte and Dehiwela. After one letter to the papers (or even may be their own decision) immediately a ‘No Parking’ sign appeared opposite the Rathaas’ shop (next to Delmon Hospital) and there are no traffic jams anymore at this place. But Dehiwela is another matter. Despite repeated letters still vehicles are allowed to be parked in front of Waidya Road and opposite 2nd Lane. Many a time the traffic cops are present and instead of asking the parked vehicle to be removed, they hurry the motorists who are trying their best not to cause an accident reversing, taking the difficult ‘U’ turn with vehicles in front and traffic behind.

To make matters worse, traffic cops descend at Waidya Road junction between 6 p.m. and 7 p.m. and dissuade people to take ‘U’ turns. These people have to go all the way to the junction to take a ‘U’ turn and come back. Even when the traffic from Mt. Lavinia side is not coming because of the light being red at the junction, still the cops insist all the vehicles should go all the way to the junction. This causes quite a traffic jam at the junction since the vehicles can go single file only on the side lane where the vehicles have to reach the ‘U’ turn at the junction.
The Dehiwela overhead bridge was made to lighten the traffic but thanks to these cops it is as bad as ever or even worse!

Obviously, they have been given instructions to make matters easy by using their discretion. But they just follow orders blindly like robots without thinking intelligently. Or is it a sense of superiority when given power of ordering about, that makes them act stupidly?
It is time some intelligent senior officer gave the traffic cops some training on intelligent thinking.

Dr Mrs Mareena Thaha Reffai


Senior citizens in for a bit of luck

The Government of Sri Lanka has decided to pay a bonus of 20% on interest received on savings and fixed deposits pertaining to rupees deposits of senior citizens with licensed banks with effect from January 1, 2010.
The much aged senior citizens who are sexagenarians, septuagenarians, octogenarians and some centenarian require extra nourishment, unlike others to revive their weary bodies after having toiled for the country in their long career, some having worked even for over 40 years. Forty years in the life expectancy of an individual is a considerable length of time. After retirement some are not fit to do any other job.
For their nourishment they have to purchase foods like butter, milk foods, Marmite, Nestomalt, Horlicks, soups, plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables.

They always get about in three wheelers as they cannot walk long distances and neither travel by bus, as they are so feeble and require extra assistance for walking.
Their medical bills are considerable and consultation fees for doctors cost them a tidy sum. I spend by way of consultation fees Rs.1,200 per consultation. I am expected to see the doctor every month. The medical bills to purchase prescribed medicine too are considerable. I am prescribed Madoper. I require one tablet a day which was earlier Rs.45.25 and now it is Rs.48.75. With other medicines, costs are about Rs.7,000 for medicine and doctors fees per month.

The pittance of a pension the senior citizens get is not enough for their other bills, water, electricity etc. This extra payment by the governments is most welcome. Hope it will not be an election gimmick and continue even after elections.

V. K. B. Ramanayake


To the Editor

I refer to the article published in your Letters/Appreciations page sent by one G.A.D. Sirimal of Boralesgamuwa headlined “Giving foremost place and fostering Buddhism?” The explanation of the writer referring to “Maame Baala Samagamo” is: ‘Mame’ means uncle and children call elders ‘Maama or uncle; ‘Baala’ means ‘fools, imbeciles’. The perception of the writer or the explanation given is totally wrong. The text ‘Maame Baala Samagamo’ is a Pali text and the meaning of it is ‘not to associate with people with inferior mental capacity and inferior qualities’. If the writer did not know the meaning of the Pali text it would have been better for the writer not to have written garbled versions! I trust that the Editor will correct it for the knowledge of the public at large.

Jagath Fernando


Giving foremost place and fostering Buddhism

All those who wish to foster and give pride of place to Buddhism and the world to acknowledge Buddhism as a great religion will certainly appreciate the courageous and forthright letter of G. A. D. Sirimal which appeared in your paper of April 18. It is also commendable that you published it for the authorities - Mahanayaka Theras, Buddhist leaders and the government - to give serious thought to stop any more sacrilege to this noble religion - Damma of Lord Buddha. If definite steps are not taken, Buddhism will be ridiculed in the eyes of the world merely because some men in yellow robes parade as Buddhist monks with ulterior motives for material benefits.
It is hoped that more letters of this nature will appear in the press to enlighten the public and the Maha Sangha. Unless we lay Buddhists show our contempt and disgust, this kind of behaviour and utterances will continue regardless.
To quote from the Dhamma Pada - Bhikku Vagga - Verse - 4
Ya mikhasannato bikkhu mantabhani anuddto
Attam dhammana ca dipeti madhuram tassa bhasitam
(The Bhikku who is in control of the tongue, who speaks wisely, who is not arrogant, who explains the meaning of scriptures - sweet indeed is his speech.)

– Asoka Kularathna


Island of drums
(Ceylon/Sri Lanka)

Spirit of exorcism
Southern comfort or chaser
Booze or coconut water
The belief unmasked
The devil is no stranger!

Irene de Silva
Colombo 5




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