|Thursday, 25 March 2004|
Please forward your letters to email@example.com in plain text format within the e-mail message, since as a policy we do not open any attachments.
The recent pensions Circular No. 06/2004 issued with so much ballyhoo and fanfare by the former Minister of Public Administration professing to remove all pension anomalies, has failed to address the core issue. Instead it has only touched on the periphery and left the glaring anomalies untouched.
The circular lays it down that in the case of those who have retired on or before 31.12.1996, their retiring salaries be converted on a hypothetical basis to equivalent salary steps as applicable on 31.12.1996 without the benefit of incremental or other credits, and their pensions be revised accordingly.
True it would benefit certain categories of pensioners specially those teachers who had retired before the creation of the teachers service in 1994 and the armed forces whose salary scales saw frequent revisions in the past whenever a bomb exploded in Colombo or the LTTE mounted an offensive.
Anyway one must be happy that at least some pensioners are benefitted by the present circular. But in the case of all other categories of employees, barring the Health Services perhaps, the major salary increase came into effect on 01.01.1997 with the B.C. Perera Salary Commission recommendations wherein the salaries of public servants were raised almost by 80 - 100 per cent.
So what effect will the present circular have on the pensions of those who have retired prior to 31.12.1996 without seeing any revision of their salaries? Absolutely nothing; they are left in the lurch. The Minister of Public Administration cannot be unaware of the wide disparity that exists between the pensions of those officers who retired before and after 01.01.1997.
The latter category are indeed super pensioners. As such, what the Minister should have done was to address this issue head-on and convert the salaries as on 01.01.1997 or adopted the recommendations of Senaratne Ekanayake Committees without introducing half baked palliatives and discriminatory adjustments. The Minister's claim that the present circular would remove the anomalies and benefit some 375,000 pensioners is a hollow one.
P. G. A. HENRY - Matara.
Should the poor patients suffer?
I remember to have read a letter written by Dr. (Mrs) Mareena Thaha Rifayee, saying that it is improper and against the faith for Muslim medical officers, striking and ignoring the sufferings of their poor fellow beings.
Visiting a patient at his sick bed, inquiring in to his ailment, reminding him of Allah and his mercy etc. is said to be an important sunnah of the Holy Prophet Mohammed (sal). If it entices all faithfull laymen in Islam, there is no doubt Allah expects something more from the professionals, as he has gifted them a pair of curing hands such responsible members of the society have no excuse to eschew the expectation.
Often they go after the trade unions which may be ultimately engulfed in political pandamonium and impose more hardship and extensive damage to the poor mass whose hard earned money that goes to run all the services. In the case of muslims it is a challenge thrown before their faith v/s worldly benefits. It depends how do the muslim medical professionals act upon.
For further clarification we may call upon the Board of Ulama to enlight the matter in conformity to the Islamic perspective.
In an interview conducted among the patients in hospitals by the Sirasa T.V. most of the patients question as how could the striking unions get their demands when the Parliament is dissolved and the nation is facing an election, in other words the Public accuse the medical men for indulging a meaningless hardship on the poor patients at a perilous moment.
U. C. H. Mohideen - Geli Oya.
Summoning courage to Tightrope walking is not an easy thing. At great risk one does it.
Similarly, expressing your views on the current issue when things are hotting up for the D-Day - for the All Powerful Person, irrespective of his status, be he a roadside beggar, or a Constitutional expert, each given just one ballot paper to exercise his birthright - one does it at great risk.
While balancing, in case you fall on to the left side, you may be called Reddish Blue sympathiser, on the other hand you tilt towards the right you are termed a person with a touch of capitalism.
As a Tamil, as my name clearly indicates, I don't like to identify myself with any party.
All I want is to breathe some fresh air, which I have been deprived of, merely because I carry a Tamil name.
In my contribution, some time back to the media, I likened the position of the Tamils to a game of Snakes & Ladders. With great expectation you climb the ladder to reach the balcony for fresh air, down you come disappointed through the mouth of the snake.
The all powerful king for one day, will give his decision on April 2.
P. C. P. GNANADURAI - Uduvil.
The shocking incident where an expectant mother had to deliver her baby at the gates of a Teaching Hospital, as the hospital was closed due to the doctors strike, makes me write this.
Strikes may be the legitimate weapon of a trade union but should be used judiciously and only as a last resort. In the case of doctors it could mean life or death to the patients. Today in Sri Lanka not only the health service but the entire public service, universities etc, seem to be having the freedom of the wild ass and strikes and hartals are called out at the drop of a hat.
I am reminded of some tough action I took in one such hartal when I was Medical Superintendent, Anuradhapura Hospital in 1975.
A labourer whom I had fined for stealing food from the hospital kitchen, climbed the hospital water tower and was threatening to jump down if the fine was not withdrawn. I immediately summoned the JMO to hospital and ordered him to standby in readiness to do a post mortem if the man carried out his threat.
This information was conveyed to the man at the top by his supporters and the man hastily climbed down and disappeared. There were no more aerial protests after that.
In 1963 there was a doctors strike in which I too participated as a GMOA member. At that time almost all the specialists were GMOA members and this strike was actually led by our former teachers at Medical College who were well known specialists. We were cocky and confident that with such reputed leaders, the government would give in to our demands.
The Prime Minister at the time was Sirimavo Bandaranaike a very tough lady. The Health Minister was Badi Uddin Mohammed also a strong character. Mrs. B gave a blunt ultimatum to the leaders. Come back in 24 hours or else the government will pass legislation to seize all movable and immovable assets of the leaders.
That was the end of the strike and we went back to work. Strike pay was deducted from our salaries and I remember that two hundred odd rupees being deducted. That was a fair sum those days. I am told that now when doctors go on strike they are put on full pay for the duration of the strike. This is absolutely shocking and such puerile weakened capitulation should be stopped.
Today some people ask why Sri Lanka which has million times more resources than Singapore, cannot emulate that country. Let me give a few reasons why.
This story was told to me by an English Singapore Airlines pilot who later joined AirLanka. In the late seventies the pilots of Singapore Airlines went on strike demanding the same salaries as pilots of Qantas (Australian airline).
The Prime Minister Lee Kwan Yew summoned the striking pilots for a meeting and told them that if their demand was that, then he as Prime Minister was entitled to demand that his salary should be the same as Australian Prime Minister.
He said that was not possible as Singapore was still a developing country and they could not afford that. Looking them straight in the eye he told them. "It is I who built up this airline and unless you come back in 24 hours I will close down the airline and build another one without you. "The pilots saluted and said "Yes Sir" and came back.
For doctors strikes, a former GMOA President and present Vice President of the Sri Lanka Medical Association has quite rightly proposed Arbitration Boards some years ago. What is the difficulty in implementing this? According to reports in the papers it is due to foot dragging and bureaucratic inertia of the Health Ministry, which was described even in the sixties as a "sick giant".
It looks as if what has been happening is that whenever there is a crisis and the unions threaten action, the Ministry officials make piecemeal adjustments without taking to account the whole structure. By these the responsibility ultimately comes on the Minister with whom the buck stops.
Therefore even at this late stage the Minister should take immediate action to implement Arbitration Boards. Also when parliament meets after elections all political parties should get together and pass legislation to stop paying salaries to any public servant during strikes.
Dr. K. N. K. WIJAYAWARDANA - Battaramulla.
The guidelines prescribed by the Election Commissioner for voters on election date are short and simple. Avoid displaying the party symbol when you enter the polling booth to cast your vote.
Only candidates can display their respective party symbols. However during the coming General Election there is a poser which only the Election Commissioner can give a directive. What is the position of a voter displaying a betel leaf and then chewing same inside the booth? The people of this country, a considerable section of the Sinhalese, Tamils and Muslims are rice eating and betel chewing crowd.
To prevent and charge him for chewing betel inside the polling booth deprive him his fundamental rights as a citizen in Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka.
HAMILTON SENANAYAKE - Panadura.
Coconut lands in Sri Lanka are vanishing rapidly due to the land sales. Main purpose of these land sales is providing building blocks to construct houses.
In that case by these land sales land owners as well as auctioneers are benefited. But only thing is in the future Sri Lankans have to import coconut for the daily use.
In that case they do not think by land selling they lose an item they require daily.
These land sales have been commenced nearly 3 decades ago.
Actually due to this good number of coconut estates have been sold out to auctioneers.
In fact coconut was one of the items we had foreign exchange those days. In that case authorities concerned have to take early steps to save our coconut lands for the future generation.
M. G. Asoka Karunaratne - Pannipitiya.
I read with sadness an article "The Beauty Rip Off" about a perm, that almost turned fatal recently. How much of suffering this lady has had to undergo because of a careless mistake.
It is tragic that such incidents happen due to the limited knowledge of staff who fail to understand that the wrong chemical on a sensitive skin could produce fatal results. Some assistants of beauticians are given the freedom to practice their learning skills independently without the supervision or consultation of the head of that particular institution/department and may be ignorant of this fact.
It is the same in the medical profession where patients suffer from diverse allergies, some life threatening, which are caused by drugs such as Pencillin, Erythromycin, Voltoron etc., prescribed by doctors who administer them without knowledge of the side effects caused by these drugs. They work on a trial and error basis, because after all, it is not they who might suffer but the patient.
Recently I had an unhappy experience when I sought medical treatment from a doctor in Mt. Lavinia for my daughter who was running a high temperature. My daughter has a serious allergy. This doctor never asked me the exact nature of the allergy or extent of suffering she underwent.
He was off-hand because I asked questions, which in his opinion were 'stupid' - what do you expect from a mother who is worried and scared about her daughter's allergies? I have watched my daughter suffer many times and I feel so frightened because I don't know what to do! Has this doctor seen it, or can he imagine what I go through? Gone are the days when doctors took time to interact with their patients and put their minds at ease about medical problems.
Some time ago I was abroad on holiday when I came in for a severe bronchial wheeze. The doctor I visited listened to me very patiently, asked me a lot of questions, and took time to refer to a medical catalogue which listed all the drugs and their allergies and side affects, before prescribing them to me.
She was very cautious in treating me and initially gave me a very mild dose of the drug she prescribed. I was even able to discuss my daughter's allergy with her and she took time to give me valuable insight into my daughter's allergy.
I was a foreigner in a strange country, not a regular client, and someone whom she would probably not see again, but that did not stop her from not only treating me, but also taking time to help me in my anxiety - and I did ask some very stupid, foolish questions.
NOELINE S. - Nugegoda.
Produced by Lake House