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Protect sanctity of Buddhist temples

Buddhists visit the Sri Maha Bodhi for religious observances venerating the Bodhi. In the Uda Maluwa, in one of the covered areas meant to offer flowers and pay respects to the Bodhi, two or three kapuwas, standing in front of a picture of Kalu Kumara Bandara shout prayers to him with misled devotee gathered round them handing over panduru to them. What relevance has the ritual to the place of worship?
The ritual disturbs the devotees offering flowers and reciting gathas and those meditating. It is wrong for laymen to be allowed to commercialise the premises with rituals that have no relevance to Buddhism. Those kapuwas should be removed from the precincts of the Sri Maha Bodhi.
Then again robes are offered to the Bodhi by devotees and they have to hand them over to a person with a sash on, invariably an employee of the place. He takes the offerings to the Sacred Bo Tree area. I noted that this person insists on currency notes being placed on the offerings as panduru. What happens to the panduru? Are they accounted? I believe that the person concerned pockets the panduru. That too is not a pleasant sight and should be discontinued. Even at the Dalada Maligawa in Kandy, a receptacle made of palm leaf (wattiya) is placed for collection of money under the watchful eye of a member of the Sangha. This too does not seem to be pleasant sight within the building where the most venerated Sacred Tooth Relic is housed.
Commercialism should not be exhibited in places of Buddhist religious worship.

Upali S. Jayasekera


Reduce ticket prices of ODI cricket series

The curtain raiser of the ‘Micromobile’ Tri Series ODI matches commenced at the Rangiri Dambulla International cricket stadium in Dambulla as a day/night encounter between the visiting India and the New Zealand teams on August 10.
As in the concluded test series, the gigantic worldwide TV coverage was made by the Ten Sports based in Dubai.
It was once again very pity to see a very sparse number of spectators witnessing this match.
Perhaps, the writer is of the strong belief that the players including reserves, officials and ground staff exceeded the number of spectators who witnessed the match.
This is not the only occasion where a sparse number of spectators were present at an International triangular series encounter played in Sri Lanka, when we were not a participating team.
This fact should have been in the foremost in the minds of the organisers, Sri Lanka Cricket, who have employed so many and delegated functions to them to see that every department is looked into.
They should understand that an ODI match will not be successful without an audience.
Knowing very well about the low spectator interest, strategies should have been drawn to attract spectators by offering many types of incentives such as low priced tickets, refreshments at cost price, easy transport facilities etc.
The authorities should know that the telecast is watched by millions of cricket lovers worldwide.
The obvious low attendance reflects badly on our cricketing infrastructure, administrators, most of them are only bothered about their comforts and their lucrative emoluments.
This is going to be the pattern in the forthcoming world cup fixtures too. In fact, the parachuted Suraj Dandeniya expressed at an interview with Tony Greig at the P Sara Stadium during the recent third test that tickets involving Sri Lankan matches have all been sold out.
It is a total lie for we as cricket lovers never saw any advertisements in our media in this regard. If that is the case, there will be sparse crowds at even world cup fixtures that do not involve Sri Lanka.
In this context, it is time that strategies are adopted now itself to draw spectators to witness other ODI matches in the ongoing ’Micromobile’ tri-series matches that do not involve Sri Lanka.
This should be treated as a priority. It would be a good idea to price tickets at very low prices and have free enclosures for the cricket crazy non-affluent.
Our SLC administrators should very well realise that cricket is not only for the affluent.

Sunil Thenabadu


Decent work culture is need of the hour

About 550 million workers around the world toil under extremely poor service conditions, earning a wage below a dollar a day.
While the majority of them are from rural areas, those from semi-urban areas and those engaged in urban unorganised employment are also exploited in the informal economy. 60% of the working women lead lives of extreme poverty and 88m youth, between the ages of 15 and 24 are out of the labour force due to unemployment.

The incidence of child labour in precarious employment in the informal economy and the increase of child domestic servants, temporary employees and part-time workers in the labour market herald an informal work environment in the formal sector, too.
The adoption of the Decent Work agenda at the 89th session of the International Labour Conference in 1999 can be accepted as a mode for workers and trade unions to overcome the adverse situation fermenting in the labour market then.

The basic objectives of the agenda, such as consolidating fundamental rights and privileges of work, promotion of equal economic and employment opportunities for women and men, assistance for improvement of social security and promotion of social dialogue have become vital necessities in the world today.
They facilitate overall development objectives and thereby eradication of poverty.
In order to establish a decent work culture, the policy makers should gain awareness of the living conditions of the majority of the labour force.

Appropriate policies should be drafted to address job security, poor earnings, unprotected working conditions, minimum opportunities for benefits such as loans and training, discrepancies in the labour market and exploitation at the workplace, etc.
For this purpose, the state should pursue steps to increase opportunities for employment generation, training and development, promotion of loan and welfare facilities, preservation of health in factories and consolidation of the rights to organise and bargain collectively.

The International Labour Organisation points out that it is the role of the state to eliminate forced labour, engagement of children in precarious employments, discrepancies in the labour market and hazardous employment, through its labour policies, and to monitor the implementation of such policies.
At this moment, when 11 years have lapsed since the adoption of the decent work day by the International Labour Organisation, the National Trade Union Federation considers the commemoration of the day for the third time as an urgent need rather than conducting a ceremonial event together with other international trade unions because the government has adopted the 18th Constitutional Amendment suppressing the 17th Amendment, thereby posing an uncertain future for the working class.

At this moment, when the government is preparing to usher in a dictatorship suppressing democracy, the National Trade Union Federation, comprising the Lanka Jathika Estate Workers Union, the Jathika Sevaka Sangamaya, the Public Service National Trade Union Federation, the Jathika Adyapana Sevaka Sangamaya, the National Estate Services Union, the National Health Services General Employees Union and the National Organisation for Self-Employed emphasises the necessity of all trade unions to unite and campaign for safeguarding the rights of the working class and for improvement of its working conditions.

The world financial crisis has caused the termination of 34m workers and cast 64m into acute poverty.
Consequent employment situation and poor living conditions have necessitated continuous global attention for preparation of an environment appropriate for decent work.
Accordingly, the National Trade Union Federation endorses the following themes for commemorating the World Day for Decent Work 2010.

  • Growth and decent work are essential requirements to overcome the global financial crisis and poverty.
  • A decent public service is essential for sustaining financial stability. It consolidates a decent living as well.
  • The financial sector should address the real human needs within a real economy to compensate for the damage caused by them.
  • The Federation, at the same time presents the following message of the Organisation for consideration.
  • The principal challenges before us is the creation of a decent work culture for the workers in the informal sector. We demand the immediate implementation of the National Policy for Migrant Workers adopted in 2008, benefiting these workers who are the second most contributors to the national economy. We stress the importance of granting the voting rights to these citizens numbering 1.8m.
  • We also demand the granting of privileges enjoyed by the workers in the formal sector to workers in the informal sector, comprising 2/3 of the total work force, safeguarding all their rights and particularly improving the working conditions of women workers and establishing a social security scheme, at least, for informal workers.
  • We demand the government to intervene to pressurise the employers to implement the conditions of the Collective Agreement signed between plantation workers and employers and to take steps to improve the infrastructural facilities of these workers and to develop their occupational skills.
  • We also demand the government to activate the Public Service Commission which was embodied in the 17th Amendment, now suppressed by the 18th Amendment and thereby assure the right of the public servants for a decent work situation.
    We devote ourselves firmly to create a future for Sri Lankan workers to raise their heads with pride and respect. The National Trade Union Federation requests all workers to join hands with the Federation to realise this goal.

K Velayudam
President - NTUF


Blaming the past not right

Politicians continue to blame the predecessors for omissions, weakness, and ill-planed policies. But public officers have not been in the habit of blaming their predecessors in public instead they aspire to perform better, resulting in progress in any field of activity.

But an educated, knowledgeable consultant on banking had said: “The lack of leadership from the industry as a whole has resulted in Sri Lanka’s failure to become a financial hub despite this being on the drawing board for over 30 years.” If it is so, the blame as a whole in relation to banking should first fall on the place she functioned earlier. It may be the reason that she was not considered fit and suitable to be appointed as the head of the institution. It is difficult to apprehend how, at least, within the last 20 years or so the banks failed the nation, while on the contrary their contribution, in spite of varied obstacles, has resulted in their growth and with financial assistance assisting industry, agriculture and service organisations, though for progress the sky is the limit.
The present head of the same bank blames the past economic policies of previous governments. These are statements generally made by politicians and in another 20 years, the then politicians will blame the past policies and specially the present policies. This is an endless chain of events.

He also seems to be unaware that before 1977, how the people suffered to be in long queues to obtain certain food items and they had to produce the old bicycle tyres to purchase new ones and the difficulties to obtain torch batteries and other essential items. Not more than 10 kilos of rice could be transported without a permit. If in a morning hour a telephone call was booked at the telephone exchange, as it was the practice, from a town in the deep south to a person or office or hospital in Colombo, one is very fortunate if the connection was received at least by late in the evening. Very often the connection was received on the following day.
But though free imports were allowed after 1977, they were without placing any restrictions on certain items that were locally manufactured or assembled, but the people after the introduction of the new economic policies were able to purchase freely in most shops their essential requirements, a directly dialling telephone system and many other essential features were introduced including a national television system.

The economic policy change helped the middle class persons with their personnel transport to work places with the import of motorcycles and for other travelling the imported three-wheeler was available. Yet, for the last 10 years, the economic strategies have not helped the local production and free imports of the locally manufactured items at low prices have hampered the local manufacture. We cannot blame him, as he is new to the field of banking and to win the appreciation of higher authority, blaming the past policies and supportive political linked speeches could ensure his continuous presence as a guest in an unknown territory.

Grandiose ambitions on economic development are heard from speeches made from numerous pulpits by numerous people in authority and those are not different from that emanate from politicians’ speeches. Walter Elkan in his book, An introduction to Development Economics says of economic development: “if the whole of an increase in output devoted to building up a county’s military strength or putting up monumental public buildings with which to impress the population and foreign visitors, then that is not economic development.” Thus the blaming habit of politicians will continue, but public officers should refrain from such criticism in public.


Advertisement at any cost...

It is amusing to see some workers pasting loads and loads of posters – sometimes of a tuition class, sometimes of a cinema over other posters for the whole length of a wall/parapet wall on main roads. This shows the mentality of our nation!

On the one hand, it shows the mentality that it does not matter who is already there, whose poster get pasted over, let me have my say, my advertisement at any cost.
On the other hand, “saying it once is not enough – let me say it thousands of times for it to sink into the thick skulls of our paradisians.” Same as the irritating TV advertisements repeated umpteen times, you are ready to vomit the next time you hear it. So the same poster goes for yards and yards - albeit in small letters which no motorist will ever read.
Now, who decides whose poster stays and whose gets pasted over? I wonder whether any payment is due for these free space advertisements! If not, how come the one pasted over keeps quite - or do they come the next day and paste over?

It will be much nicer if those who want to advertise their product make large posters with minimum lettering so that it will be beneficial for all – easy on the eye and easy to remember.
And it will be pertinent to ask who gets preference – or for these whether there is a payment due to the government or the owner of the wall.

It will be a good idea to rent out these walls for specific times for all to benefit – the advertiser and the onlooker, not forgetting the owner of the wall.
And hopefully some sense will prevail on the beauty of the city when it comes to stipulations of the posters.
Instead of them being eyesores as they are today, let them be a beauty, as well as a source of information.

Dr Mrs Mareena Thaha Reffai



Warren Ranjithan Breckenridge

Heart-wrenching loss of my father

‘For Life and death are one, even as the river and the sea are one -- Kahlil Gibran
It is one year since my father passed away.
As I gaze out towards the horizon, standing on the shores of Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, memories come tumbling into my mind like the tide, in waves swollen and full, and others, haphazardly crashing in.
I look at the sky streaked in pink and orange and remember the many occasions he pointed it out to me in Kandy.

My father taught me to enjoy the simple pleasures in life, from the beauty of a flower to the grandeur of the sky.
He was very much attuned with nature and drew my attention to the landscape around us as we took long walks from Upper Hantana in the campus to the Botanical Gardens in Peradeniya.
He loved gardening and his favourite flowers were the bougainvillea in its riotous colours and chrysanthemums in brazen yellow gold, deep wine and brown coppery tones.

Memories of my childhood with him are on the Peradeniya campus where we spent most of our lives. We first lived in the Maha bangalawa in Mahakanda, then at Upper Hantana before moving to North End near the Wijewardene Hall and then finally to Old Galaha road.
I frequently visited the Zoology Department with him and became acquainted with the staff and students.
When I was little, he ironed my school uniform, made my lunch and helped me clean my shoes using Swan to make it perfectly white. There were piano lessons, band, choir and drama practices and school programmes for which he patiently drove me in the Volkswagen. I remember my first ‘perm’ when my father came to pick me up from the hair salon.

He politely did not say a word but had difficulty getting up from the chair he was seated in as he was in a state of shock! He merely nodded a few times and kept a straight face. When he departed on a sabbatical to Canada, I counted the days for his return. I missed his footsteps returning home from work and the jangling of the keys and coins in his pocket.

My father instilled in me his love for music, the arts and literature. For this, I am deeply grateful.
We watched old movies together at the American Centre and spent many hours reading at the British Council. We attended concerts in the campus in the Engineering faculty.
I remember him singing ‘Raindrops keep falling on my head’ at a party, nonchalantly resting his elbow on the piano. I also recall my father singing to me ‘All things bright and beautiful, All creatures great and small, All things wise and wonderful, The Lord God made them all”.

I believe the last book he was reading was the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam. In it, my father wrote a note which said, “From Simon Senaratne, a fellow appreciator of the bard - July 2009”.
The book was half open on the writing desk in his study. I found two more versions on his bookshelf, one signed by Simon in July 2009 and the other which belonged to my uncle Karen dated January 1954.
Dad could be serious and thoughtful and equally carefree and fun loving. I smile as I recall the parties at home with my parents and their friends.
They were happy occasions filled with laughter. There were the numerous trips to Yala, Wilpattu and Trincomalee.

I remember a frightful incident where he fell asleep on a tube which drifted off to sea and fearing for his safety, a fishing boat was rapidly sent to his rescue. My father insisted he wasn’t asleep and knew what was going on all the time! To this day, I remain skeptical.
My father’s name Warren was derived from a character in a play. The role of Frank Warren, a crime novelist was played by my grandfather. The play was called The strange case of Blondie White performed by a group of actors in Kandy called the ‘Kandids’.
My father was born on December 10, 1938 and the play was performed the night before. Thus Warren he became!

People have said to me on many occasions how wonderful my grandfather was. Unfortunately, I never had the opportunity of meeting him as he died long before I was born.
I tell my children how fortunate they are that they were able to know their grandfather. I am confident people will say to them one day how wonderful their own grandfather was.
W R Breckenridge was a man of strong principles and I am proud of the way he bravely stood up to what he believed was right. My father was kind. He never belittled anyone, and he did not speak harsh words. He was gentle, humble and considerate of others at all times and a forgiving man who was always grateful for the littlest thing one did for him. Many of my friends when sympathising with me for my loss, acknowledge his kindness and their love for uncle Breck.

I remember him saying to me when my children were born, there is no sacrifice big enough for a child. I was reminded then of the quote:
“You give but little when you give of your possessions. It is when you give of yourself that you truly give”. - Khalil Gibran

That describes my father. He gave of himself to his beloved school, Trinity College, the University of Peradeniya, his family, friends, colleagues and students.
I am blessed to have had such a father.
To say I miss him is like drinking a cup of tepid tea, just not strong enough to express what I feel. It is a heart wrenching loss.

Nadine Rodrigo




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