|Saturday, 8 February 2003|
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Elephants have always been a source of danger and loss to farmers in Sri Lanka and various methods have been used to keep them away from crops which they virtually annihilate within a few hours. Many lives have been sacrificed to the elephants and it has always been a losing battle between elephant and man as a result of the inroads made by man into elephant territory which has for centuries been their natural preserve.
Various methods have been tried to keep elephants away from raiding plantations, such as by lighting fires, exploding crackers and as a last resort, by shooting. All these methods have been only partially successful but in East Africa a method which is gaining popularity today is the use of the humble Chillie plant to keep elephants at bay.
It was discovered that elephants are very sensitive to the Chillie plant to the point of being allergic to it. Chillies contain a substance known as Capsaicin which is a strong irritant and the mere scent of Chillies scares them away. It is interesting to record however that whilst most animals do not usually feed on Chillie plants, birds seem to favour the ripe seeds.
The method of choice used in Africa today is to mix about 5% dried red chillies which are ground up into powder in fresh elephant dung which is moulded tightly into a tubular shape. This can easily be done by stuffing the chillie/dung mixture tightly into a used tin can, open on both ends, which is then left to dry in the sun. This mixture is lit at night and the size of the can is adjusted in order to ensure that it lasts till morning as it is slow burning and gives off a lot of smoke. Many such time bombs can be placed in strategic places on the perimeter of the plantation to ensure that elephants get a full dose of the smoke if they come anywhere near the vicinity. The smoke which is wafted in all directions keeps the elephants at bay as their trunks are extremely sensitive to the chillie/dung smoke and the safety of the plantations is thereby assured. It was also found that the smoke was an effective mosquito repellant.
Another method which is also used with equal success, is to plant Chillies in beds of about a meter in width on the perimeter of the plantation which is normally raided by elephants. It was found that elephants seemed to be sensitive even to the scent of the chillies plants which they did not like to cross, and what is more, the chille crop was also a source of additional income to the farmer.
I would suggest that this method of keeping elephants away from raiding plantations is tested here in Sri Lanka and this can easily be done by instructing the Grama Sevakas in the areas which are often attacked by elephants to use this simple method of eliminating this menace.
J T DE LIVERA,
The newsreport (DN, Jan 25) disclosed that a sum of Rs. 200 million is being spent annually by the Anti-Rabies Campaign, to control the spread of rabies (hydrophobia) in Sri Lanka. This is a colossal sum to be spent on dogs,when facilities and medicine in hospitals for the sick lag far behind. Other than National Hospitals, those in rural areas need doctors, nurses, other medical staff and sophisticated equipment to save the lives of people needing emergency treatment.
With all the expenditure, there are about 1000 victims bitten by dogs annually, and seeking treatment in hospitals. Why not we follow the example operative in England? There are no stray or street dogs in that country. There are domesticated dogs in homes properly vaccinated and well looked after.
The Rabies Ordinance No. 7 of 1893, and subsequent amendments to it, have provisions for the prevention and spread of rabies, but they are not implemented properly. The law remains restricted to the statute book. The flaw is not in the law, but on those who are supposed to implement it. Just giving orders at random would not meet the purpose.
I do not insist that all stray dogs must be destroyed. What I mean is that the Campaign must carry out an islandwide survey, and vaccinate all bitches to prevent pregnancy, and dogs from spreading the viral disease. This can be done within a year. The owner should be fined Rs. 500 for every domesticated dog found on the road. All steps taken must be firm.
When public interest is the issue media had been and would be the watch dog and in addition to the write ups and the articles appearing in the newspapers, useful contributions are made by civic minded citizens to the LETTERS TO THE EDITOR column where a wide array of issues are brought to light.
With the fall of the Pramuka Bank there had been allegations and counter allegations made on Central Bank and the Auditors. Whilst it is usual to be wise after the fact, in this case one wonders whether certain clear messages given to the Regulators and the Auditors by the media had been totally ignored resulting in the disastrous end to the Pramuka Bank.
As a regular reader of this column I have observed many writers trying to draw the attention of the Central Bank on issues which were unethical, harmful and dangerous to the general public. Some of the issues which had been regularly highlighted in this column for the past several years are:
1. Payment of off market interest rates by financial institutions.
2. Offering numerous gimmicks such as lotteries etc. to attract deposits
3. Development Banks which are not monitored the way normal Banks are monitored trying to canvass deposits posing off as normal Banks.
4. Devious methods used by one Development Bank to inflate their profits by taking into account unearned profits of an Institution where they have invested in shares.
5. Development Banks making attempts to take over other financial institutions by formation of unholy alliances such as Holding Companies.
6. Unscrupulous parties trying to get hold of Banks by acting in concert to name a few.
If some of these things have been taken note of by the Central Bank the damage done at Pramuka and the saga involving the aborted take over attempt by one Bank on another could have been nipped in the bud without damaging the public confidence in the entire financial sector.
When Central Bank is contacted on issues such as the ones mentioned above their usual response is that "no action can be taken until a formal complaint is received".
This attitude of the Central Bank is shocking. A regulator should always keep his eyes open and ears to the ground and should not hesitate to investigate or inquire into any kind of information alleging a serious breach.
The "Pundits" at the Central Bank should learn to be proactive and close the stable door before the horse bolts. If not they should gracefully bow out without playing with the lives of unsuspecting depositors.
Wake up you ladies and gentlemen at the Central Bank. At least take note of the issues which are highlighted in the media. After all you are paid by the public to do a job of work. So work for your salary or depart.
S. D. RAJAKARUNA,
Distributing Free exercise books to all school children (in the Galle District) is highly awarding and stimulating. What is very significant of the project is that this process is carried out without government expenses and the donors contribute to the entire expenditure of the project to provide children's exercise books for the year. Although one would find out many a shortcomings of this process, this is really an honest work which would benefit both parents and children equally as it eases the burden of expenses of their children's education.
The pioneer of this project, honourable Vajira Abeywardene seemed to have followed Mr. C. W. W. Kannangara, a southerner, who introduced the Free Education in Sri Lanka. We wish our honourable Minister to extend this service in providing free exercise books to the rest of the children in the country.
I refer to the letter (Jan 20) and the Editorial comments on the following day regarding the excessive fees imposed on foreign tourists to enter certain places of tourist attractions in Sri Lanka.
I wish to mention in this connection that Sri Lankans too face the same type of discriminatory treatments, as foreigners in other countries.
As I have the experience of visiting India and Nepal on several occasions as a pilgrim and a tourist, I found that the Indian archaeological authorities also have imposed exorbitant amounts on foreigners as entrance fees to sites of Archaeological interest, such as Saranath (Isipathana), Nalanda, Vaisali, Sravasthi (Jetavana), Sanchi, Agra Red Fort and National Museums etc. Entrance fee for the TAJMAHAL along cost Indian Rs. 960 (Sri Lankan Rs. 1,920) for foreigners whereas the Indians have to pay a nominal amount.
Therefore under these circumstances, I suggest that this matter should be taken up at an international forum, to consider whether there is any possibility of extending the facility of imposing concessionary rate of fees for the benefit of the citizens belong to commonwealth or SAARC countries.
Further I wish to mention that the tourists of "SAARC' countries who visit the world famous Buddhist Stupa (Boudhnath) in Kathmandu, Nepal, got to pay a nominal entrance fee only. As such we Sri Lankans expect at least India and Sri Lanka would follow suit.
A. B. GAMAGE,
This refers to the valuable and thought provoking article under the caption "Extend mandate of Police Commission to cover protection of human rights", appearing in D.N. of January 21.
Apart from the need to oversee the administration of the Police Department, the writer has emphasized that the Commission's mandate should cover the protection of human rights of the people due to the prevailing acute politicisation. There exists yet another area where Police Officers misuse their authority, in the absence of any political pressure, to harass the people. Being a Senior citizen, I vividly remember two such instances.
About four years ago, on a clear day, we were travelling by car along Wijerama Mawatha, Col. 7 at a speed of 50 kmph, when a car approaching from a by- road on the left, instead of halting on the white line, suddenly accelerated and crashed on us causing extensive damage to our vehicle.
It was obvious to us that this accident was due to an error on the part of an inexperienced teenaged driver who stepped on the accelerator instead of the brake pedal. However, after the owner of that vehicle visited the spot in the company of H.Q.I. Borella, the Police openly acted to save the offender.
Our appeal to Police Head Quarters resulted in our receiving a letter to attend an inquiry, which was already held.
It will thus be seen that the mandate of the Police Commission should not only cover human rights of the people, but also afford protection to the people from misuse of Police powers. This in no way implies that the good work performed by the Police is not appreciated.
In the present day metropolis, a significant proportion of the office work force consists of the fair sex. This feature has a growing tendency as parents of all the girls who pass out of secondary schools, universities and other tertiary educational institutions aspire to find some form of appropriate employment for their daughters.
It is an undisputed fact that the employed ladies also look forward to playing the noble role of motherhood bestowed on them by nature, which, of course is essential for the society's perpetuation. Problem starts when the working ladies become working mothers. They need somebody to look after their young ones while they are engaged in their official duties. Housemaids have become a rare breed these days with their mass exodus to the Middle East in search of greener pastures. The young mothers employed in offices are facing an enormous problem of coping with this situation. Their output will naturally diminish as their minds will not be at peace when the homefront is in disarray. Frequent absenteeism will irk their bosses. It is up to the employer bodies and the society in general to address this problem in a positive angle.
It would be mutually beneficial for the employer as well as the female employee if a suitable solution could be evolved to ease this social issue. Either the associations of employers such as the Employers 'Federation of Ceylon or other entrepreneurs should consider setting up 'creches' or 'day care centres' whatever name they are called by. Such institutions exist in other advanced countries. It is high time we too embarked on similar ventures. Employers 'Federation of Ceylon or the Mercantile Service Provident Association can launch such institutions as welfare measures while the private entrepreneurs may run them as profit earning ventures.
Government authorities too should give consideration to this issue as there could be a detrimental effect on the nation's population in view of the fact that working couples are inclined to have only one child in their families due to the difficulties they encounter in bringing up children. This situation may result in a negative growth in the population in the long run.
For very valid and convincing reasons Public Service pension entitlements of the pensioner is passed on to the surviving spouse of the pensioner. We need not reiterate the reasons for same except to cite same as one that should be retained and extended to others enjoying the pension rights.
I am a state bank pensioner. I enjoy certain pension rights but when I am no more my surviving spouse does not receive the same amount of pension though she has to continue to bear the same family responsibilities which requires at least the same monetary outlay, that I require now.
The situation is made worse by the state banks still adopting the "Widows and Orphans" pension basis of the sixties.
The People's Bank concedes only 20% of the pensioner's last drawn basic while in service as the basic pension for his surviving spouse. The Bank of Ceylon has increased the basic to 50% but both are yet to adopt the public service basis of dispensation. i.e. surviving spouse receives the same pension the deceased spouse received.
State Banks have substantially adopted the Public Service pension scheme for the retirees but have failed to extend same to the surviving spouse.
Pensioners or their spouses do not last long. Average life expectancy after retirement cannot exceed a decade or at the most two. Thus the commitment or the 'burden' to the institution if any is minimal. The pensioner's contribution to the growth of the institution during their tenure of service far exceeds their derivative benefits. They have earned every cent of it by the sweat of their brow. It is something built in their past contributions in many ways.
I would fervently request the state banks to formulate or at least adopt the existing scheme in Public Service to enable the surviving spouses also to receive at least as much as the deceased spouses' entitlement.
Produced by Lake House