|Friday, 25 July 2003|
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It is reported that the Dept. of Inland Revenue has fallen short of its VAT collection to the tune of Rs. 20,000 million. It is also reported that this short-fall has made it difficult to bridge the budget deficit. The Govt. now made to consider ways and means to meet the gap.
As per reports it appears that some big companies about 56 in number have not paid to the Dept. the Value Added Tax which they have collected from their customers. The failure on the part of the Dept. to collect this tax could be attributed to either their inefficiency or in the alternative may be malpractices. It is therefore time to streamline activities by the establishment of the proposed Authority.
What is due and not recovered cannot be attributed to suppression of sales as has been suggested by some Tax Analyst. That has nothing to do with the present crisis. Sales not correctly declared is a subject completely different from non-collection of what was due. Or could it be an overestimate of the expected revenue.
What the Secretary to Treasury should explain to the general public is that knowing well this situation why he did authorise the payment of incentives?
Does it mean that non-activity qualifies for incentives? Whatever be
the reasons a complete overhaul now is a sine qua non.
I am a teacher of French for over 25 years and have coached students for the above examinations. After receiving various complaints from former students, I have decided to write this letter.
In year 2000 examination there were 80 per cent students received failing grades and as the President of the French Teachers' Association I made a formal complaint to the Ministry of Education. A commission was appointed and a report had been handed over to the Ministry of Education. Even after two years, still the above examination is too difficult for the candidates. The students have barely two years to study French from the beginning and face an examination containing difficult passages from French literature. For example one of the essay topics has been: "Lack of discipline is the origin of a lot of social evils. Do you agree? Discuss".
Only a student having studied the language for over four years can write a successful essay. University lecturers preparing the questions for this examination make it so hard that only a handful manage to pass with average grades. However, only about 16 per cent of the candidates sitting the examination enter the university. I wonder how the candidates failing this examination find employment.
I would like to know what strategies have been planned by the Ministry
of Education to remedy this situation. This examination has been a major
cause for the frustration of young people in Sri Lanka. This is of prime
importance as it is applicable to other subjects as well.
Hippocratic Oath is an ethical code of conduct attributed to Hippocrates (460-377 BC), the Greek physician born on the island of Cos. Parts of the Oath are still being used in medical colleges throughout the world, to encourage young medical graduates to abide by the Oath, at the time of their being admitted as members of the medical profession.
According to the Oath, they solemnly pledge to dedicate their lives for the service of mankind, with health as the primary objective, and not make use of the prestigious profession for the exploitation and abuse of patients.
The Oath reads: "I swear by Apollo the Physician, and Aesculapius, and health, and All-heal, and all the gods and goddesses, that, according to my ability and judgement, I will keep this Oath and this stipulation, to reckon him who taught me this Art equally dear to me as my parents, to share my substance with him, and relieve his necessities.
"If required, to look upon his offsprings in the same footing as my own brothers, and to teach them this Art, if they shall wish to learn it, without fee or stipulation, and that by precept, lecture and every other mode of instruction, I will impart a knowledge of the Art to my sons, and those of my teachers, and to disciples bound by a stipulation and oath, according to the law of medicine, but to none others.
"I will follow that system of regimen which, according to my ability and judgement, I consider for the benefit of my patients, and abstain from whatever is deleterious and mischievous. I will give no deadly medicine to anyone, if asked, nor suggest any such counsel. In like manner I will not give a woman a pessary to produce abortion. With purity and with holiness I will pass my life and practise my Art.
"I will not cut persons labouring under the stone, but will leave this to be done by men who are practitioners of this work. Into whatever houses I enter, I will go into them for the benefit of the sick, and will abstain from every voluntary act of mischief and corruption and, further, from the seduction of females and males, of freemen and slaves.
"Whatever, in connection with my professional practice, or not in connection with it, I see or hear, in the life of men, which ought not be spoken of abroad, I will not divulge, as reckoning that all such should be kept secret. While I continue to keep this Oath unviolated, may it be granted to me to enjoy life and the practice of the Art, respected by all men, in all times! But, should I trespass and violate this Oath, may the reverse be my lot!"
An overall view is that doctors should never strike because the lives
of the patients are in their hands. The public should not be made stooges
to achieve their ends and for their personal benefits. In fact, doctors
should be prohibited from resorting to strike action, similar to the
Police and Armed Services, considering it an essential service.
Here is another perspective to the Pinnawela elephant stories that have been getting so much prominence in certain sections of the Press. The situation at Pinnawela is that there are far too many elephants for the limited extent of land.
Furthermore there are more bulls (male elephants) than cows. This leads to very aggressive (sometimes uncontrollable) behaviour during musth. Therefore Pinnawela is a time bomb waiting to go off.
The Minister is looking at various alternatives to diffuse this situation. One is to move some of the elephants to another location.
Another is to train some of them to participate in Pereharas which would then remove the necessity to donate elephants to the temples for this purpose.
These trained elephants can be hired out to the temples under supervision from Pinnawela for the duration of the perahera.
There is also a need for well-trained monitor elephants to participate in the capture and trans-location of seasoned crop raiders. This type of monitor has not only to be carefully trained but also must have the correct behavioural characteristics.
Selecting and training monitors is a task that the Pinnawela herd is ideal for. The current practice of winching tranquillized elephants onto lorries by steel cable can then be stopped. The main aim of this thinking is to handover some elephants to suitable, experienced private individuals (whilst retaining state ownership) to train them properly, get them healthy and use them for the above jobs.
There was also a plan to facilitate breeding in captivity, something that has been completely neglected in this country and something that certain Ayurvedic veterinarians have generations of experience in.
To think that you can simply leave fully grown elephants who cannot due to excessive interaction with man, be released to the wild, to wander around in a very constricted space... is rubbish. Something must be done and the Minister is the only person who has shown the courage to try.
Of course the big deterrent is uninformed criticism from "greenies" who mean well but have no constructive input to offer. With all due respect to the "well meaning" people both within and outside this country, please look at the whole picture before you jump to conclusions.
Frankly if those people base their decisions to visit countries and buy
their produce on half baked and biased evidence, good luck to them! We
certainly don't need them patronizing our country.
Just before Wesak, my work colleagues became embroiled in a very noisy and lively discussion. Half in English, half in Sinhalese, their gestures were plenty, smiles big and eyes very wide as their many opinions overlapped each other simultaneously, layer upon layer of noise. Finally, their intentions transpired.
This little group of devout Sri Lankan Buddhists and Catholics, wanted (according to my excellent translation) to put their money together and buy a 'job-lot' of meat wholesale, and share it out amongst everyone, thus saving money. They were asking my permission to proceed. Being a vegetarian I wasn't as excited by this plan, but made lots of encouraging "Yeah - great idea!" affirmations, enthusiastic head movements, and matched their wide-eyed smiles.
The discussion continued for an inordinately long time, and I became fidgety and anxious to get on with our work. Finally, the money collection commenced and I tried politely to explain that I didn't eat meat, and so wouldn't be in the collection. Graphic pictures of raw lumps of meat being cut and chopped and divided between everyone, floated unwanted across my mind's eye. It took all of my self-control to maintain a fixed smile and swallow the lump in my throat, as the negotiations continued. Unfortunately, my 'opting out' brought all discussions to a swift end, and everyone stared at me with disappointment and dismay.
At which point, a more fluent translator stepped in to ascertain my lack of participation. Apparently, I had got it all wrong - what they wanted to do was set free a cow!! Obviously!!
Now completely confused, I blinked rapidly as my mind filled with balaclava-clad colleagues, hitching up their saris as they conducted midnight assaults on farms. Cows all over the island being set free. "Run run, you're free now Daisy!"
My mystified silence and rapid blinking ensured further explanation: The cow is a sacred animal according to Sri Lankan Buddhists, hence, it is an honourable act to 'save' as many as possible from slaughter. It is a standard practice to approach a meat wholesaler, and 'buy' the freedom of a cow that is destined for the abattoir. This 'freedom' is bought at a high price (approximately Rs. 12,000), thus many people need to put their funds together, however, the rewards are apparently spiritual and plentiful.
Still slightly dazed, my first reaction was "Where are we going to keep Daisy?" The thought of adopting and keeping a cow, whilst lovely, and full of benefits for my soul, sounded expensive and inescapably smelly!
However, this was all planned for and taken care of. The cow would be handed over to a priest, who then puts it somewhere (presumably out in the open!) safe and oversees it. As tidal waves of relief washed over me, it was quickly replaced by the street-wise, hardened, cynical side of me - the unpleasant side!
How do we know if the cow is handed over or not? Are we sure we're being sold a good, healthy one? How do we know the wholesaler won't rip us of? Are we sure where the cow will be kept? these skeptical concerns spewed from my mouth as I imagined the Del Boy of Cow Freers selling us a cow, knowing we can't look after it and then sending it off for slaughter anyway. But my trusting colleagues all looked at me with utter bewilderment and surprise, "But the priest will be responsible, and he will give milk to poor people!" they protested at my faithlessness. The ensuing conversations became very complicated, with perhaps a little of the concern that my distrust had injected surfacing. In the end, the kitty began with my contribution of Rs. 100. Which by my calculations now makes me the proud owner of a Freed Cow's left nostril!
I now look at the meandering cows of Sri Lanka, who obviously and
calmly assist in traffic pile-ups and road rage throughout the chaotic
roads here, in a new light. After all that might be my left nostril that
just lurched past!
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