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Morning Spice by Ginger
Pension for private sector employees

Again the question of pensions for the private sector employees has bobbed to the surface of government thinking by itself: it is an excellent idea because it would buffer many a citizen against an uncertain future, at the rate. The cost of living is shooting up and interest rates are coming down. Today’s investments may not amount to anything very much, unless there is some additional source of income and this is where a pension could come in rather handy.

Of course, the scheme needs all the encouragement, so long as it does not make any inroads into EPF or ETF contributions. If it does so as one could gather when reading that news item, then it would be nothing short of forcibly embezzling the poor worker by fiat. On principal, it could be dangerous to fiddle about with EPF or ETF contributions, because it could lead to terrible hardships as there could be delays in both sources of a livelihood due to red tape involving the transfer. Furthermore, it would be just another case of squeezing the poor to replenish depleting coffers.

Many forms of treatment

There are so many forms of treatment for so many diseases today, that trying to relieve one symptom could lead to another being affected. Now take the case of the pace maker you may have in your chest. You will have to be careful about those matress pads that are used to relieve the pain caused by arthritis or muscle pains in case you get them.

All depends of course on where you get them. It is dangerous, if you have to use them near your chest because those therapeutic magnets in the pads can deactivate those implantable heart rhythm regulators. It would be better to wear smaller magnetic gear on your wrist or feet and at least, 15 cm from your shoulder.

Violation of privacy rights

Personal privacy is considered important in many countries and any infringement could lead to quite a public outcry. Canada’s Human Resources Minister Jane Stewart ran into quite a storm recently. She was compelled to dismantle what the people of Ottawa called the Big Brother Data Base.

This database was supposed to have thousands of different types of information on almost all Canadians like Income Tax returns and other personal needs. A privy commission brought this to light and opposed it on the grounds that personal information was being shared by different government departments as such, it could lead to possible privacy rights violations.

Discipline and indiscipline

I have often heard our friends and relations, complaining bitterly about the indiscipline that prevails in our country. The commonest complaint is about the traffic and the gross negligence displayed by specially the van drivers.

One has to follow a private bus for a few miles to see for oneself the absolute disregard these drivers display for common rules of the road. I have yet to see a private bus flagged down for any of the numerous offences they commit. If the Traffic Police plead that they are understaffed, there are about hundred very senior retired Police Officers who will come out to help - say one day in the month, using their own vehicles (along with Police of course) to nab these errant drivers.

Speed traps are often set on Poya days on straight and open roads when there is no other traffic, to detect private car drivers exceeding the limit by a few MPH. This, they say, is a useless exercise and only serves to harass motorists.

I feel certain that if the Police succeed in bringing discipline to our roads, then that discipline will seep down to all members of the public in all spheres and make our country a better place to live in.

I cannot over emphasize the importance of discipline in all walks of life. May I suggest that lesson be given in schools on "Discipline and indiscipline".

Those who have been lucky to visit foreign countries, return and describe the absolute cleanliness of these cities, the superb arrangements for traffic, no sounding of horns except in the face of imminent danger, the politeness and courtesy of people to one another etc. I will not be far wrong in saying that the majority of our people do not seem to know what discipline means, be it when driving, or disposing rubbish

It would probably take us a hundred years to achieve what most other countries have in all these respects, unless a conscious and concerted effort is made to remedy the obvious ills.

Protect our wild elephants

This has reference to the article published by Ginger which requested the government to give guns to farmers to control their cultivation from elephants.

In this regard, I wish to state that the real farming community who lived in villages bordering jungles were never against wildlife including elephants. Wildlife and humans co-existed without interfering with each other. But today, due to forced and illegal settlements, people who are not properly educated and guided on the importance of maintaining the balance between development and nature, destroys on their own of assisting others in the destruction of our country’s very valuable natural treasures. Why are the authorities turning a blind eye? When are we going to realise our follies?

We expect tourists to visit our land and enjoy the beauty of this land where wild elephants play a major role. Are we not duty bound to preserve elephants for future generations? There are problems as regards elephants. The answer is not definitely destruction of elephants, but to resort to other scientifically accepted methods like growing crops that are not palatable to elephants, removing and preventing of the domestic animals like cattle straying into jungles thus preserving the grass etc. for elephants, cutting trenches etc. These suggestions are not impracticable and costly when compared to suggestions like air lifting of elephants.

Our wildlife authorities should remember that they exist because of these creatures and should take more positive steps to preserve these beautiful animals who live on their own in the jungles. The vast sums of monies received for preserving wildlife should not only be spent on foreign trips and seminars, but to save these animals.

We should remember that it is we who have encroached on wildlife boundaries in search of greener pastures. We should not be selfish in our pursuits. The motto should be to live and let others live. Most of the farming community are Buddhists and Buddhism is against destruction of any form of life.

Thus, in this Buddhist society, why are we resorting to guns to control elephants? It is a well known fact that guns previously given for such reasons have been grossly misused. Thus provision of weapons to farmers is certainly not the answer in the control of elephants.
D. Fernando

Ragging at the Faculty of Medicine-Ragama

I read the letter written by "A.C.P. - Colombo" on the above subject published in a news paper on June 12.

There is no doubt that if it is true, as he says that the ugly word ragging is now raising its head at the Faculty of Medicine - Ragama, affiliated to the Kelaniya university, every effort should be made to stop it. There cannot be an argument about this. I am sure, that the Dean and the teachers of the faculty have always taken and will also in the future take all necessary actions to curtail it. This was why ragging at the Ragama Medical Faculty has been minimal so far.

But when you read his letter, you would encounter many attitudinal problems and I would like to discuss those for the benefit of the others.

He says that "...and also a lot of worries to the parents. Some of these parents are tax payers, on whose money these universities are maintained". Is he implying that it is OK to worry other parents who are non tax payers (in other words poor, who do not have enough income to come within the taxable income group) but not the "tax payers" (in other words the rich), as they are a special group?

He then says "One can expect isolated incidents of ragging in any other faculty of a University, but not in a Medical Faculty, where students are trained to care for the sick including those who are mentally sick". That means he is prepared to accept isolated incidents in other faculties (because it is sort of normal thing) but not in the Medical Faculty because his child is in the Medical Faculty. And also, if you are not undergoing training to care for the sick, an isolated incident of ragging seems to be OK!. Come On! Sir/madam, you are worried about ragging now because your child is affected. If ragging is bad, it is bad whether you are in the Arts Faculty or in the Medical Faculty or anywhere else, for that matter. This is the Sri Lankan style. If my family and I are going to be affected then it is bad. Otherwise anything is all right.

He also writes "The writer’s child is so disgusted by the way their seniors abuse them for no reason, (the words used by these "senior medical students" cannot be written here) and is even considering of terminating the studies at this faculty". I am very sorry for his/her child. I think the child needs help, support and counselling. This is the beginning of his life as a doctor. I am sure that he does not (or should not) have to face this unnecessary abuse and stress of life. But I can assure you Sir/madam that this is not the first and the last abuse he is going to face as a doctor. In days to come, he will be abused by teachers, doctors, nurses, hospital labourers, patients, patient’s relatives, politicians, administrators, friends, wife, mother-in-law and many others including his parents, if he finds an unsuitable partner when he decides to get married. Is he going to run away everytime this happens?

Then most Sri lankan children should run away from their parents. NO sir/madam, ask him to resist and fight back. Give him courage. You go and meet other parents, Teachers and students to sort out the problem. But how can you do that? You are also hiding behind the label "A.C.P. -Colombo". Come out of this and help the people who are trying to bring a permanent stop to this unwanted harrasements in our Universities.

He also says "the pathetic situation is that, a handful of senior students who are studying in this faculty on tax payers money are bringing misery to hundreds of juniors, and doing so, bring the whole Faculty of Medicine to disrepute". I have no argument about that too. But why is he bringing over and over again, the argument about the tax payer and the tax payers money. At the present time, aren’t all Sri Lankans tax payers including A.C.P. of Colombo’s child and the senior raggers? Don’t we all pay GST for every single item we decide to purchase. Isn’t this also a kind of tax? So in other words, present day students are self funding their education at least to a certain extent. So you cannot claim to be in that elite class of "tax payers".

He also writes, " will a responsible person from this Faculty advise the new students that they have a right to resist ragging?". I am shocked. Are these senior children still unaware that no one has the right to rag, but everyone has the right to resist?

The whole problem is that the present day students do not have any common sense. (Mind you, I am speaking through my experience). They are just bookworms and do not read anything other than what is necessary to pass the exam and do not find out what is happening in the Universities before they come in. Most come with their "pampers" and "soothers" still on, and some are even not properly weaned of breast feeding and the Medical faculty staff has to do lot of "baby sittings" before they can find their feet in and around the university leave alone in the outside world. If they at least read the daily papers, then they would have known by now that ragging is illegal in Sri Lanka. He is talking about " a responsible person from the faculty to advice the students". What about Mr. or Mrs. A.C.P of Colombo?.

Isn’t he/she a responsible person? why didn’t he or she as a responsible person tell the child to resist?

Why didn’t he or she as a responsible person without hiding behind "A.C.P. - Colombo", come out and complain so that some one can take action. Or is this responsible person like many Sri lankans waiting for some other responsible person to do the job for him/her, so that he/she is relieved of unnecessary troubles but will be able to reap the benefits afterwards?

Then he writes "Hope the Minister of Education, who brought in legislation in Parliament without a division to ban ragging in Universities ..." So he/she knows very well that ragging is banned by law and this government has done its part and it is the citizens now should see that all obey the law. But A.C.P. is behaving irresponsibly by not educating the child about his/her rights regarding ragging and not complaining about a violation of criminal law to punish the culprits. But talks about others’ responsibility.

He also writes "If not, we can expect more students like Varaprakash sacrificing their lives at the hands of these Hooligans". It is the responsibility of the parents to teach their sons and daughters not to become hooligans in schools, universities, working places and in the society at large. If any parent wants to know who made his child a hooligan please look in the mirror. It is the parents who create hooligans. They will not, or cannot control the hooligans and do not allow others to do so either.

He finally writes "If such things happen, will the bodies of juniors be used as specimen for dissection by these "seniors’ to improve their knowledge on Forensic Medicine?". I can assure you Sir/Madam that it is highly unnecessary as the LTTE, Politicians and the Society at large continuously supply us with more than enough of those.
Prof. Jayantha Sirisena
New Zealand

Welcome action against ragging

Hats off to the Peradeniya University authorities who have at last gathered courage to mete out due punishment to a bunch of sadists who call themselves university students and might some day in the future become our legislators, administrators, social reformers etc. The whole country has been aghast and watched with utter disgust and dismay the disgraceful indecent, inhuman, vulgar ragging that went on for decades.

Had similar action been taken - about twenty five years ago, when that poor girl from Ambalangoda had to jump from the upstair of the hostel to escape the brutalities of perverts and after long confinement to a wheel chair took her life in desperation, by jumping into a well, our universities would have been pleasanter places where any well brought up child could have gone to, without fear of being manhandled and most indecently treated.

Let us earnestly hope that the Peradeniya University authorities will stick to their decision without being moved by appeals for mercy or swayed by pressured from any quarter and that the authorities at other universities will also have equal courage to take stern action to stamp out this terrorism euphemistically called ragging or sheer, harmless fun.

In recent times, there have been several instances of ragging in schools, too. The latest reported in the Lankadipa of 22/06 is from Nochchiyagama where a student who could not stand the continued extortion, though not physically molested, committed suicide by taking poison. This type of ragging in schools has to be nipped in the bud. We expect the Minister of Education to ensure that all miscreants are severely dealt with, so that the disease will not spread to other schools and schools will not become training grounds for raggers at university level.
S. Abeywickrama

Harassing the public

With reference to M. N E. Sethwala of Colombo, 4, appearing in the Island of June 15, "Loss of driving licence", it is strange that the R.M.V. has for well over 17 months remained silent as allaged and has not had the courtesy to reply on such an important issue which may even tend the writer to prosecution by the police. He has even visited the office on several occasions, but was given the belated excuse "that there is a delay in processing the documents".

Very strangely Does it take 17 months to do the processing? Why are legitimate licence holders held to ransom due to indifference or inefficiency of the department? Does the department derive some sadistic pleasure by subjecting the licence holder to agony. Take another instance, the Pensions Department, that seems to be unfair to pensioners in delaying payment of pensions due to them legitimately, in spite of their visiting the department with the hope of settling their question , but the department has been giving lame excuses for the delay.

It is but a matter of courtesy for the department to at least give a reply and inform them when their requirements will be met instead of remaining silent and being indifferent to their plight in the evening of their lives.

These pensioners who had served their respective departments faithfully and loyally and with dedication, to be treated in such a shoddy manner is the most unkind.

In the pre-Independence days we used to get prompt replies to our queries by able administrators then manning the departments.

Courtesy is the best policy of every department of the government.
R. Gurusingham
Colombo 4

Sri Lanka: A friend betrayed

Linda Duffleld, British High Commissioner in Colombo in her message (The Island of June 17, states that the Foreign Office Minister Peter Hain condemned the recent acts of terrorism by the LTTE in the strongest possible terms. This is very laudable-indeed; but mere words alone are not sufficient to counteract terrorism. Britain still permits the LTTE to maintain an official information centre in London, for propaganda and political activity.

The LTTE enjoys the fruits of democracy here in London; whilst it has eliminated its political opponents in Sri Lanka, both Tamil and Sinhalese.

LTTE terrorism is not of ‘recent’ origin. It dates back to 1983, since when it has slaughtered countless numbers of innocent civilians, both in the towns and rural villages, attacked places of worship, carried out ethnic cleansing in Jaffna, bombed an aircraft killing innocent foreigners, assassinated Rajiv Ghandhi and made an attempt on the life of president Kumaratunga and carried out other well-documented acts of terrorism through the cowardly use of suicide bombers. Yet Britain has not proscribed the activities of the LTTE here in the UK. The United States has done so, and severely curtailed its influence over there.

Peter Hain describes Sri Lanka as a ‘close friend’. Is it not strange then that Britain permits the LTTE to maintain its activities in London when the friend’s citizens are being slaughtered by the terrorists? The citizens of Sri Lanka would like to see more action from him rather than mere words to help counteract terrorism.
Dr. S. De Silva

Increase in bus fares

With the increase in diesel prices the bus and rail fares would go up, but the increase in fares should be on a reasonable, realistic basis. A litre of diesel has been increased by Rs. 3.30. If it is assumed that a bus does 5 km per litre, the increase in diesel price would raise the cost of running a km by about 75 cents.

A bus carries on an average at least 25 passengers. Hence the increase in cost per passenger per km is only 3 cents. For an air-conditioned bus, this may be 4 cents. Hence, an increase of the bus fare by 50 cents for every 10 km is reasonable for both passengers and bus owners.

It is mostly the low and mid-income earners who travel by bus. They are already faced with the problem of high cost of living. An unreasonable, unrealistic, ad-hoc increase in the bus fare would exacerbate the problem of high cost of living which the above categories of people are already faced with.
Stanley Weeraratna


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