|Monday, 7 July 2003|
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It was amusing to read about the airport embarkation tax being increased from Rs. 1000 to Rs. 1500 for a period of 8 hours and then reversed immediately. This is a typical example of actions without sufficient thought or planning. There is no correlation between charges made and the use of funds to improve services to those who pay it or meeting the long term goal of promoting tourism. It is not the Rs. 500 that matters but the poor impression created when random decisions are made.
Conditions at the airport are not in keeping with the drive to boost tourism. With the revenue from embarkation tax, more could be done to keep the place clean and offer better rest room services and clean bathrooms. Although conditions are better than in some countries in the region, we can do better than to live up to the reputation of a Third World country. The baggage handlers are of no help to lift luggage from the belt. When the passenger does the heavy lifting, they take over pushing the cart and shamelessly wear vests that say "Rs. 50 per bag" claiming payment even if the passenger helps themselves. Five to six hangers on come close to a vehicle when baggage is to be loaded.
They don't help much but blatantly ask for foreign currency. This needs to be checked because it is an annoyance and a risk to passengers arriving in the country. Paying generously for the service is justified but they ask for money for no service.
Another sore point is the attitude of the immigration and customs officials. They are obviously not a part of the tourist promotion. many do not greet visitors with a smile leave alone a welcoming demeanour to encourage tourism. Sri Lanka does very good job at promoting the country without the trickle down to make sure that all else is in sync with the goals of its tourist promotion. Tourism promotion should include some training in public relations for the first line officials meeting visitors at airports - after all this is the first point of contact for a visitor to the country.
We boast of the revenue brought back to the country by housemaids but one wonders when the facilities provided at the airport makes even a cup of tea beyond the reach of those who contribute to the coffers of the country. These poor people get the least respect if they are in trouble or need help. They are only a statistic in the foreign exchange revenue to the country.
Sri Lanka looks toward those who bring $$$s to the country but provides only a 30 day stay without a visa. Due to the hassle involved in getting a visa, the country loses revenue from visitors who may want to stay longer but choose not to because of the difficulty involved in getting a visa. At the Sri Lanka Embassy in Washington recently, a Sri Lankan-American who visits Sri Lanka often and helps various charities, had a rough experience with getting the correct visa form and shoddy treatment in the hands of untrained staff. Having learned of the treatment she received, it is not surprising that many others may get turned off.
Of course it will definitely be argued by the bureaucrats that developed countries charge huge visa fees and restrict visitors in addition to making it a hassle. However, it can be counter argued that precautions used to prevent illegal immigration should not be applied to a small country like Sri Lanka that is looking for the tourist dollars.
Tourism is the barometer that measures the coming of prosperity to the island. When terrorism impacted the arrival of tourists, often we heard politicians use the arrival of tourists to announce that things are getting better.
When an expatriate like me points out shortcomings, it is normal to be shot down by those who despise expatriates and label us unpatriotic and critical. We are not being critical for the sake of being critical. We would like to see higher standards and improvement in our country because we take pride in it. However, the culture of the country focuses on expatriate bashing but when needs arise; the first appeal goes to the expatriates - where else? The expatriates raise funds for socio economic needs of the country while politicians and some of those in power build financial empires at the expense of the county's development. We see so much and shake our heads in disbelief at the wastage! But, we dare not speak. Working abroad and donating to help the country is not viewed as patriotism. Living in fear in Sri Lanka and being complacent while corruption, crime and indiscipline grow to unprecedented levels is probably the new definition of silent patriotism.
ANJALIKA SILVA, USA
In connection with a housing complex to be built in Colombo, a politico is quoted as saying that his priority is to the people of the area and not to outsiders. He has seen to it that the outsiders who will reside in this housing complex will not vote for his party.
That's beside the point, but his statement illustrates a major problem in our country. The failure of many to accept that all Sri Lankans irrespective of where they reside are entitled to enjoy equal rights and benefits.
Recently a lady from a housing scheme coming under Kaduwela Pradeshiya Sabha wrote to the papers on the harassment they are subjected to by the local thug of the area.
Despite 4 complaints made to the local police station no action had been taken. All because they are labelled as "pitagankarayas".
It is true that the politicians are voted into power to serve the people of the electorate. However, every Sri Lankan should have the freedom to reside wherever he wants and have the right to enjoy the benefits extended to others. One cannot expect the local thugs to understand this.
It is up to the political leaders to make all Sri Lankas feel that they will be treated equally irrespective of where they choose to reside.
I agree with T. S. Fernando who wrote to your papers recently. The UDA was established to help have a planned city. T. S. Fernando mentions the lonely planet book on Sri Lanka which some tourists read before coming to Sri Lanka.
In the book not only do they mention the lush and Greenery of Cinnamon Gardens but the big mansions and gardens.
Next time lonely planet writes about Sri Lanka, they may mention the shops and offices also coming up fast instead of trees in the Colombo 7 area. There is a furniture shop in Horton Place, Advertising firms all over, vans come to pick up employees tooting their horns.
I agree that the UDA is responsible for the ruination of Colombo. Let Colombo and Sri Lanka be clean and green. Not a concrete slum or over-built like Bangkok. Today, people are very environmentally conscious especially tourists.
E. JAYAWARDENE, Colombo 8.
Certain grades of public servants are provided with uniforms. Other than the Armed Forces and the Police, other officers very seldom or never wear uniforms when on duty.
The Govt. is spending a colossal amount of money in providing uniforms to public servants.
For instance, if you visit a Railway Station, you will not know who the station master, policeman, Karyala Karya Sahayaka is. Because they mostly do not wear uniforms when on duty.
Therefore it is very necessary that the authorities take stern action against officers who do not wear uniforms when on duty.
J. P. WICKREMASURIYA, Gampola
You can depend on the Sri Lanka Telecom to make the lives of subscribers ever more difficult. Now, they have thought up a new gimmick in the form of a new bill. You have to have magnifying glasses to read the idiotically small type. Even with your reading glasses the writing and figures can't be read, except with difficulty.
If SLT is trying to save paper one can understand. But this is not so. They waste three and a half inches on both sides of the sheet, i.e. seven inches giving themselves and advertising boost, some good wishes and some decoratives.
The vital information which the subscriber has to peer at is in the smallest possible writing you can find on a computer. You have to ferret around to find out for which month the bill is. It is tucked away in a corner while seven inches are lost on nothing that really matters.
The previous bill which was perfectly readable and served the purpose for which it was meant.
R. BOTEJU, Moratuwa
I live at Iruthayapuram West, which falls within the Municipal Limits of Batticaloa, and write this letter on behalf of all the residents of the area who suffer in silence due to the "brown out" consistently imposed by the Ceylon Electricity Board.
Daily from 6.30 p.m. to 10.00 p.m., the power supplied to this area is as low as 90 volts, even an energy Savings Lamp would not light up.
We have to keep the fridge, TV and other electrical appliances idle, as they would definitely go out of order if kept on.
Leave alone the electrical appliances, the category most affected are the school going children. They are unable to study or do their homework as the lights are so dim.
A candle gives brighter light than a 60w bulb during these hours. Believe me, most of the students study under the light of candles or Kerosene lamps, straining their eyes.
The Ceylon Electricity Board when contacted during the period of turbulence, said that they have to instal a transformer in the area to regularise the power supply, but would not do so as they fear that the transformer could be damaged if installed.
Now one year has passed since the dawn of peace, and not a single transformer or public property had been damaged, anywhere in the North-East.
So, why not the Ceylon Electricity Board during this time of peace take immediate steps to provide normal power supply to the residents of Iruthayapuram?
I hope that this letter will catch the eyes of the authorities concerned and prompt them to act immediately.
S. RAVEENDRAN, Batticaloa
I write in response to the recent letter from Deshapriya Rajapaksha (Daily News June 6th 2003) concerning the MBA programme in Sri Lanka. I am unclear as to why he suggests that MBA holders might consider themselves "too good" for anything.
He goes on to posit that the MBA programme is achieved of personal "CV decoration" only, without consideration of the future needs of Sri Lanka.
May I point out to him that the mission of the prestigious Postgraduate Institute of Management (PIM) includes the following statements:"... our aim is to embody the knowledge and practice of management in the fabric of socio-cultural humanism and politico-economic holism in Sri Lanka", and "Our task is to develop leaders who will create value in their enterprises for the benefit of the larger society."
Clearly these statements do not promote a selfish or egocentric view of management development.
The MBA programme in Sri Lanka is a rigorous award, developing multi-disciplinary managers who are able to take their place in the international arena and are particularly well fitted to assist in the development and growth of a country which has the potential to assume a significant competitive role.
I base this view upon the findings of a recent 6 month investigation into MBA programmes at Colombo, Peradeniya, Moratuwa, Rajarata, Ruhuna University and PIM, funded by my UK University (Anglia Polytechnic University).
The MBA programme in Sri Lanka is easily equal to its overseas counterparts, having the additional benefit of Sri Lankan experts from all disciplines and functions contributing to the programmes, thus giving a Sri Lankan perspective.
My knowledge of Sri Lanka includes 7 years experience of working with the National Institute of Education on a British Council funded project, completing a PhD on leadership in the Western Province, teaching on the MBA programme and working as advisor to the then Ministry of Education and Higher Education. It is evident to me that Sri Lankan managers demonstrate a commitment to personal professional development, organisations growth and the wider needs of their country that is truly impressive.
Sadly, too often bureaucracy and politics disable MBA graduands from utilising their abilities and encourage some to work overseas, a huge loss to Sri Lanka's economic recovery. What is needed is to recognise the worth of managers, MBA or not, and to create an environment in which they are empowered to implement effective change, in both the private and public sectors.
Dr. P. HOOD, Colombo 4.
We are happy that Minister of Interior explained that rounding up operations and checkpoints on principal roads were not directed at the Tamil people but were to apprehend the criminals and underworld gangs who have been responsible for the escalation of violence and crime in the country.
Thus the Tamil people need not get alarmed and worry much about this matter.
C. VIGNESWARAN, Mabole
We're surely in world of make - believe values
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We do not fail to celebrate Valentine's Day
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False values creep into our day to day lives
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The 'KKS' becomes the 'CCS' for all intentions and purposes,
- LLOYD FERNANDO
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