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. Todays 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
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. Canadas 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
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
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 countrys 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
Ragging at the Faculty
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 writers 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, patients 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, arent all Sri Lankans tax
payers including A.C.P. of Colombos child and the senior raggers? Dont we all
pay GST for every single item we decide to purchase. Isnt 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
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?.
Isnt he/she a responsible person? why didnt he or she as a responsible
person tell the child to resist?
Why didnt 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
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
Prof. Jayantha Sirisena
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
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.
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.
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
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 friends
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.