|Wednesday, 2 July 2003|
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The daily papers, TV and radio have given adequate publicity that Sri Lanka has been blessed with US $4.5 billion as aid to re-develop the war affected areas in the North-East and Southern Province.
Also to meet the expenditure on other development activities in the country. Several other countries too have expressed their willingness to assist financially at this hour of need. It is now up to the authorities concerned to commence as early as possible the projects in the pipe line without conducting conferences and seminars and purchasing new luxury vehicles on the pretext that they would be used for the projects.
To expedite action, appointment of an Administrative Body with autonomous powers to carry on the activities even without referring them to the Cabinet of Ministers as they would be undertaking the responsibility of executing the outstanding development work where no policy decisions are involved. It should see that these funds are utilised for the purpose they are meant for and monitor the progress monthly: not by calling for Progress Reports but by personal visits.
It is well-known that several projects launched by ministries have been failures or stopped halfway. According to papers the report on Poverty Alleviation submitted to the World Bank in 2001 was not accepted by the World Bank because it was only confined to a nicely prepared brochure.
Conducting Workshops in Five Star Hotels spending around Rs. 250,000 or more on each Residential Workshop and processing of questionnaires will not help achieve the desired goals.
A team of officers has to move with the poorest of the poor in a selected area. Visit them daily staying in cheaper hotels or Rest Houses, study in detail their day-to-day lifestyle and evolve methods to ameliorate their living standards by providing at least cadjan or wooden houses and grant financial assistance to engage themselves in some small ventures to earn a living. Government Red Tapes have to be cut down wherever possible provided the dealings are honest.
To achieve success the officers have to sacrifice a lot and perform a devoted service.
At TV panel discussions projects such as water supply and drainage, supply of electricity, road constructions, poverty alleviation etc. are mentioned.
These are projects the external resources department is struggling to get through for the last three to four years.
The delay may be due to funds not being released on time by the Ministry concerned. At these discussions it is also revealed that what the citizens need is not discussions but immediate action.
Hence all citizens, literate and illiterate of Sri Lanka will keep their eyes open to see whether funds received are properly utilised.
K. U. Pushpakumara's letter on the above subject ("Daily News" of 19-6-03) states that my letter which appeared in the "Daily News" of 11th June, 2003 misleads the reader. He further states that banks do not benefit both ways (i.e. a service charge as well as a minimum balance in the current account for which the bank does not pay any interest).
I wish to categorically state that my bank which is a well-known private bank charges a service charge every 3 months (quarterly charge) and insists that I maintain a minimum balance of Rs. 5000 in my current account. Thus, the bank benefits both ways.
I hope the Central Bank will look into this matter and instruct the banks not to resort to these unethical means of earning profits.
H. B. ELKADUWA
The Department of Social Services has, undoubtedly, to be thanked for its thoughtfulness in issuing the above identity cards to senior citizens. They will, undoubtedly, be handy for elders, who have physical handicaps but do not show them.
The snag, however, is that there does not seem to be adequate public awareness of such identity cards; it, therefore, takes time for them to know what those cards mean. In order, therefore, to create public awareness of such identities, the Department might do well to give more publicity to them by displaying the cards themselves on TV and by means of posters at public places. While the writer has been thinking on the above lines, there was a letter by the holder of such an identity, in the local press. There is no doubt that he himself had realised the point through experience.
May I appeal to the Director of Social Services to give serious consideration to the above suggestion, in order to ensure that elders, who are holders of these cards will not suffer embarrassment at the hands of those unaware of the significance of Elders' Identity Cards?
There had been much publicity from time to time recently, in the print media about the commencement of the above Ferry Service, but, to date the vessels that were due to have set sail about a year ago seem to have been anchored either at the Sri Lanka or Indian Harbours.
It is learnt that the delay is due to a tussle between interested parties in our Shipping Ministry, who are vying with each other to have vessels of their own "choice" sailing on this route.
Secondly, there appears to be a move by local and foreign airlines to scuttle the ferry service project obviously due to the anticipated drop in air travel from Sri Lanka to India and vice versa and the consequent loss of revenue to these airlines. Further since there are many Sri Lankans and Indians who would like to make use of the cheaper sea travel fares for holidaying, pilgrimages, and sight seeing but the most important fact, however, is that the cultural and religious ties between the two countries could be further strengthened by these visits.
Besides, the Shipping Ministry should give thought to the enormous tourist potential that lies with the inauguration of this ferry service and the revenue the Government is losing on account of each day's delay due to the internal bickering and selfish motives of those in the Ministry.
B. R. FERNANDO
What Sri Lanka needs today is unity. All parties, races Sinhalese, Tamils, Muslims, Burghers, get together and build a united Sri Lanka. Then peace will come automatically.
Whatever religion one may practise, whatever spiritual exercises one may do or pilgrimages one may make unless one succeeds in getting rid of impurities in the heart (that is power hungry) life will remain worthless and meaningless. Purification of the heart is the essence of all spiritual teachings, say all religious leaders. Our leaders quote sayings of great leaders and the Buddha during Vesak and important events, but are they themselves practising what they preach.
The world today needs leaders and citizens who can work towards ensuring stability and engage in dialogue with the enemy no matter what kind of aggression or assault that may have endured. I wish to end with the quoting of the Buddha who said, "Defeat anger with loving kindness. Then the whole world will be a better place to live."
DR. D. N. NILLEGODA
Recently I happened to visit a hospital situated at Mahabage. We channelled the doctor, and was told to wait for some time till the doctor come, We were given the room number of the doctor concerned. This room was the last room on the first floor. As there were many patients we had to keep standing by the small space (balcony).
To our great surprise there was a big pit filled with dirty stagnated water, just below the balcony and one could not bear the smell of that pit. That pit of water was full of breeding mosquitoes and flies. Many advertisements and programs are shown on TV and elsewhere to educate the people to keep their garden and surroundings clean, but this Hospital where learned doctors and the public always gather is having a pit of breeding mosquitoes.
I hope that the needful would be done by the educated doctors who always advise the public of the awareness of the dreadful diseases like Dengu etc. caused by mosquitoes.
The Ministry of Public Administration has by circular No. 07/2003 made provision for those public officers stagnating at their maximum salary steps, to receive further salary increments without any break if they qualify for such increments in all other respects.
Under the earlier scheme of things an officer had to serve five years at the maximum salary point before qualifying to receive any further increments. It meant that very rarely did anybody qualify for this stagnation benefit. The present decision is a welcome change and without doubt would benefit a large number of officers stagnating at their maximum salary without any prospects of either promotion or salary increments.
What I cannot understand, however is, why this decision was made effective from January 01, 1997 going as far back as six years? Under normal circumstances when a change is introduced to the existing procedure, it should be made effective from thence onward for the future. By making this decision effective from January 01, 1997 even those pensioners who have retired since that date are brought within its ambit and any officer who had thus retired after stagnating at his maximum salary is now entitled to have his or her pension adjusted with incremental credits on a hypothetical basis.
It is well and good; but what about those who had retired before the effective date?
There must be so many officers who had retired prior to 01.01.1997 under similar conditions. The writer himself is one such officer. By making the present decision applicable only to a section of the pensioners the Ministry is creating an invidious anomaly among two groups of pensioners. So let it be made applicable to all the pensioners without any discrimination. Otherwise it would amount to denial of equal treatment; a negation of a fundamental right.
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