|Wednesday, 15 January 2003|
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With reference to the recent massacre of Colombo crows by commercial hotel interests, may I recall a historical event in the reign of Parakramabahu I (1153-1186). "Yet another miracle never before seen or heard was manifest in him who was rich in the virtue of pity rightly exercised.
To that (medical) hall there came, tortured by great pain, a crow suffering from an ulcer that had formed in her cheek. As if chained by the strong hands of his pity she sat as if with clipped wings, motionless outside the hall, moaning piteously.
The physicians who rightly recognised her condition, caught her and cured her at the Great King's command. Her disease cured, the King set her upon an elephant and having made her walk round the town, her right side towards it, he set her free.
Where, when and by whom was ere such exceeding great mercy even to animals seen or heard?" (Culawamsa)
The Dehiwala-Mt. Lavinia Municipal Council has distributed its notices of assessment of properties for the year 2003 doubling and trebling the assessment tax.
No doubt there is a clause in the Local Government (Special provisions) Act of 1971 under which the assessment tax can be revised every 5 years. The Dehiwala-Mt. Lavinia Municipal Council is abusing this privilege to fleece the residents by its habit of increasing not decreasing the valuation and the tax, and that too by 100% or more. This is to use the Shakespearean language - the most unkindest cut of all on the residents, who are already being crushed by the upper stone of low income and the nether stone of high prices of goods. Moreover it is not fair to base the valuation at the commercial rate now prevailing as the properties are not for sale or for renting out to outsiders.
High time that the residents organise a mass protest - a peaceful one, of course - against this type of extortion.
The Municipal Council should get rid of its political stooges and officers who have been working there for more than 4 years and establish an efficient Internal Audit Unit and a Flying Squad to get hold of errant employees and take disciplinary action against them. The Mayor must personally look into all these, put his house in order before subjecting his citizens to pay for the sins of commission and Commission of the culprits he is harbouring!
It is heartening to note that the Labour Minister is taking steps to find opportunities for white-collar Sri Lankan workers in the Gulf. (report DN Jan 2).
However, the attitude of Foreign Employment Bureau staff at the Colombo Airport towards white-collar staff borders on harassment. Many professionals such as accountants, who are doing well in the Gulf, were almost stopped from boarding flights at the Airport by the FEB staff, merely because they have not paid money and registered with the bureau.
This is a violation of a person's fundamental right.
The FEB did not find them the jobs. And in countries like Bahrain, there is no Lankan Embassy to help Lankan workers.
The FEB should not treat white-collar workers like labourers at the Airport.
A professional who had been pursuing a stable career in the Gulf for the past 20 years, was forced to shell out Rs. 10,000 at the Airport recently as registration fees. If not, he would have missed the flight and maybe his job might have gone to people from other countries such as India.
It is hoped the Minister would streamline the checks by FEB staff at the airport.
This caption has become all too frequent in the news since of late.
Those collecting and transporting cash from bank or post office are sitting ducks in any ambush even with police protection, the point of payment becoming the second target.
The loss of life and limb in this senseless exercise and problems to employer, employee, insurer, Police and State are entirely avoidable.
Opening savings accounts for all employees and issuing pay cheques individually or direct to Bank or Post Office would eliminate the problem.
Though some of the "Pay Day" joy and celebrations could be lost the "Pay Packet" would be safe and the added benefit of a saving habit could be a bonus.
A little common sense applied to reduce opportunity for crime could ease the immense work load heaped on the Police and Courts.
Here in Australia, I must have been watching quite a different series of cricket matches (both live and on Television) involving the Sri Lanka (SL) cricket team.
Contrary to what E. C. Kalpage (letter, Jan 9) asserts the only humiliation that the SL cricketers were subjected to was on the cricket pitch. And yes, without question they were humiliated by a second-string Australian cricket team no less.
However, rather than dwell on that humiliation the SL team to their credit resurrected themselves and in a sterling performance at the Sydney Cricket Grounds redeemed their reputations as worthy 'One Day Cricket' contenders in the triangular competition (seeDaily News Friday, 10 January 2003). Perhaps the 'humiliation' of the previous 48 hours was the 'positive' spark they needed to perform to the best of their ability.
Now, isn't that a much better claim than the hearsay, dangerous bigotry and unmitigated garbage that an individual of Kalpage's professed academic standing has made in his letter?
It reminds me of a pompous white South African woman who, finding herself seated next to a Kaffer on a British Airways flight out of South Africa demanded alternative seating as she did not wish to be contaminated by 'that piece of human rubbish' as she called the Kaffer. The Captain of the aircraft, concurring with her sentiments, had the Kaffer relocated in the first class cabin much to the dismay of the woman and to a standing ovation from the other passengers nearby. There is a lesson in that story, one which all of us humans have to learn if the peace and harmony we wish and pray for so desperately in our world is to become a reality.
Looking down our collective noses at other humans, on the basis of comparative cultures, colours or creeds, is certainly not one of them. Besides who amongst us can, in all honesty afford to 'throw stones when we live in glass houses?'
Reading the recent letter by Dr. Thenuwara Gamage on the terrible state of affairs in garbage collection and disposal prompts me to contribute my two cents worth here.
Having lived and worked in Sri Lanka during my first 28 years, I am familiar with the varying levels of cleanliness that exist in our cities.
I agree with everything that Dr. Gamage states, but in my view what is needed is a two-pronged approach. First, a national campaign to educate and change the minds of our younger people who will be adults tomorrow.
Second, as Dr. Gamage points out, local governments must establish some reasonable goals, say for 5 years, and enact regulations and fines to reach these goals.
Improving cleanliness of our cities MUST be for ourselves and NOT for the sake of tourists. Sure, improvements will have huge paybacks in tourism etc. but the primary objective must be for better health and safety for all Sri Lankan children and adults.
On my occasional visits to Sri Lanka with my family my main concern/nightmare has not been bombs but disease and healthcare. Living in cleaner environments may have made us all more vulnerable to germs than if we lived in Sri Lanka. Drinking water problem may have been solved by plentiful bottled water but garbage piles next to restaurants and in residential areas still pose huge health risks to all. On our visits to Sri Lanka we spend time at my wife's family home in Fort Galle. Almost exactly in front of their house is the back gate of a palacial home of a wealthy and respected family.
While the front (and most surely inside) of this palacial house is the epitome of cleanliness they continue to dump smelly garbage at the back gate right next to their neighbours.
I am sure this is not uncommon in Colombo too. I recall dumping garbage into a pile on our street down Beach Road, Mount Lavinia, but nobody complained.
As a kid I loathed this task of garbage dumping as well as having to pass by the pile each day, and also having to retrieve our cricket ball from this pile.
When the municipal garbage cart picked up the garbage it provided a very brief relief. This, I am sure, has been practised for years and will not be easy to change.
I wish that people that live in nice and beautiful homes not consider this a problem out of sight and out of mind.
The flies and germs that spread from these neighbourhood garbage piles reach everyone, tourist and resident alike, with equal ease.
DR. CHANDRA JOSHUA,
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