|Friday, 13 February 2004|
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With regard to the resettlement and rehabilitation of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs), Sinhalese and Muslims chased out by the LTTE from the North and East appear to have been excluded from the on-going programme. I fully agree that all IDPs should return to resume their normal lives away from the hell-holes that are the refugee camps and the festering shanties in and around Colombo. Irrespective of ones ethnicity, all IDPs have a right to be rehabilitated and resettled.
Government land distribution programme that the Minister of Lands sought to implement in the Trincomalee District, I guess, is connected with the resettlement of IDPs. If it was so, the LTTE objection to his visit for this purpose seems to be justified for obvious reasons.
What the Lands Minister and the opposition Parliamentarians should remember is that the government is only the temporary custodian, but not the sole owner of the lands to distribute it at their will and pleasure.
There is no gainsaying the fact that land should be equitably distributed among the landless. But in doing so, they must first recall the precept that "charity should begin at home". Has any politician worth his salt, given any thought to the pitiable plight of the impoverished Kandyan peasantry who were dispossessed and driven away by the colonial rulers to avenge the historical Wellassa Uprising of 1817/18, which was put down with a ferocity unparalleled in British colonial annals? Admittedly, the answer is a resounding NO!
If then shouldn't our worthy politicians even at this late stage focus their attention in the restoration of lands usurped by the British and correct this age-old injustice perpetrated on a patriotic people whose only crime was to take up arms against an invader in defense of the honour and integrity of their motherland.
Though the British quit over half a century ago, these impoverished people continue to be fleeced by local invaders. They are neglected, rejected and consigned to the limbo of forgotten things. What price then is patriotism?
Fast on the heels of the protest by passengers from Colombo to the more-frequented Indian destinations, comes the news of a call to boycott Air India and Indian Airlines in the Dubai/Sharjah-Indian sectors by the Gulf-based All India Airport Users Forum claiming to have 300,000 supporters (Hindu - 2/2/2004).
The President of the Indian Association in Sharjah has appealed to the Indian Government to cause early and necessary action on the part of these two Indian Government-owned airlines to review their exorbitant fare increases announced recently.
Significantly, it is also learnt that a move to start a Budget airline from India to the profitable Gulf sector to come to the aid of passengers frequenting these sectors from being "fleeced" by rapacious pricing has also been abandoned on pressure from these two airlines. If one were to go by previous happenings. It is almost certain the Indian authorities will carefully consider the protest of their air passengers and cause early and visible relief to them. In spite of all the faults of this "functioning anarchy" Indian government officials usually protect their public in such situations.
But what of the suffering passengers in Sri Lanka frequenting Indian destinations now forced to pay massive increases in their air fare? Responding to complaints from passengers highlighted by the press here, an un-named senior official in the Aviation Ministry came out with the unacceptable and strange explanation - "with the opening of the sector to two Indian private airlines the pressure on seat-availability will be considerably eased."
However, with regard to the more important question of a reduction of the fare from Colombo to Indian destinations that was recently increased totally to disproportionate costs - this official rather insensitively suggests "Air fares will be settled by market forces and there is very little we can do to get airlines to bring prices down." The airlines concerned could not have hoped for a better spokesman.
Passengers frequenting this sector forced to carry the severe burden of exorbitant price increases - which have no relationship to the actual costs of operation to these Airlines at all - looked upon their governments to come to their rescue.
Unfortunately, this particular official is totally unsympathetic to come to the assistance of the public inspite of the fact he has a tenable issue to successfully take up with the airlines. I hope the Minister and the Government at its highest levels will please realise this matter has now reached a stage to warrant their immediate intervention.
Thousands of passengers are "paying through their noses" and hoping not only the Government of Sri Lanka - but also the Indian Government at their side - will come to the rescue of the public patronising these busy sectors - namely Colombo-Chennai/Trichy/Trivandrum/Bangalore/Bombay/New Delhi.
On the payment of a monthly bill recently at the Teleshop located at the W.T.C. building at Fort, I was issued a computerised receipt which contained several data but sans the name and the telephone number of the holder which is what is more important to the customer.
When I inquired about this from the Teller, I was told that all I have to check is whether the invoice number on the receipt tallies with the number printed on the bill. As customers are more concerned inter-alia the correctness of their names and telephone numbers on the receipts rather than invoice numbers which change every month, the S.L. Telecom should immediately resume issuing receipts with the above data as was done earlier.
It must also be pointed out that payers only take the paying slip at the time of payment which is retained at the office and there is no other way to check the correctness of the invoice numbers. This matter needs prompt remedial action by the authorities concerned.
M.T.M. DE SILVA,
In Sri Lanka, workers are more concerned over their rights than their duties. They demand for salary increases whereas their output of work remains the same. The Trade Unions are more concerned abut the workers' rights and demands than over their output of work. So, there is no equilibrium. Political Trade Unions always protect workers who are politically in the good books of the politicians.
The Trade Unions thrive on members' contributions, and hence, they are compelled to support the workers, whether they are right or wrong.
The workers take this weakness as advantageous to win their demands. Even for a minor issue, they act as a catalyst to use the strike weapon, regardless of discomfort and inconvenience caused to the public. To solve the problem of a handful of workers, the public have to suffer. Lightning strikes have become the order of the day.
The Police and Armed Services cannot strike in order to maintain law and order in the country. Services such as medical, transport, electricity, postal, water supply and other important services too must be declared Essential Services, to prevent paralysing the State machinery. What happens today is that when a passenger assaults a bus driver or a bus conductor, the whole transport system, on that particular route, becomes at a standstill, for the annoyance of the travelling public.
It is most important to make the medical service an Essential Service, because when doctors strike the lives of patients are a stake. Doctors are the cream of society, and they must maintain their respect and dignity than other workers. Some specialists charge Rs. 300 from every patient as consultation fees and, therefore, they should never go on strike jeopardising the sick.
The crime wave in Sri Lanka is increasing annually, and in 2002 the number of crimes was 49,095.
When compared with the country's population of 19,370,000, the ratio 1:395 (i.e., 1 criminal to every 395 persons). When we look into the past, during the 13 years, from 1990 to 2002, the total number of crimes was 667,241, which posed a serious social menace to every peace-loving citizen of the country, majority of whom are Buddhists.
Rape, burglary, arson, auto-thefts, robbery, prostitution, embezzlement, fraud, forgery and counterfeiting, bribery and corruption, larceny, distillation of illicit liquor, trafficking in drugs, driving under the influence of liquor etc., are some of the offences that are taking place in the country, despite the long arms of the law, very often due to weaknesses in law enforcement, and meagre penalties imposed under old statutes. Of these, murder rates high, presumably due to not implementing the death penalty.
For example, under section 151(1) of the Motor Traffic Act, the maximum fine that could be imposed on a person driving a car under the influence of liquor is Rs. 2,000 and Rs. 3,000 for driving a bus. If the vehicle meets with an accident and causes injury to a third party, the fine is Rs. 3,000 with or without jail term.
Under the current economic index, this amount is 'just for gram', and hence, is not a deterrent punishment.
People commit murder under grave provocation. But, today, people are mercilessly killed or gunned-down for political reasons, with the support of the politicians, who safeguard them from being prosecuted, by the Police. During the colonial days, no one interfered with the law, and allowed justice to be carried out independently.
The present crime wave is more likely to subside, than what it is now, if the law enforcement officials take the matter seriously, and provided, politicians do not involve themselves with the law of the land, in protecting criminals.
Produced by Lake House