|Friday, 30 April 2004|
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Sustaining the development tempo
Plans to provide 27,000 job opportunities for unemployed graduates, followed up by 25,000 more jobs for other categories of unemployed, educated young persons, proves the seriousness of the Government in addressing the vital needs of the people. In fact, it is acting on a number of fronts to meet popular aspirations and we hope it will maintain the pace.
The tempo for meeting the socio-economic aspirations of the people was set by President Kumaratunga who has put into motion a number of pro-people projects, ranging from salary reforms and educational upliftment to Express Highways and power-generation ventures, not forgetting the crucially important peace process.
All this has been happening within the first few days of UPFA governance and the popular hope is likely to be that development would get on to a fast track from now on.
We also warmly applaud moves by Finance Minister Dr. Sarath Amunugama to siphon extra taxes raised from casinos, liquor bars and the like, to the development process. Besides testifying to the social conscience of the Government, this is a rational plan to fuel growth.
We hope that the rest of the administration would take the cue from President Kumaratunga and put a halt to actions which could be interpreted as political victimization. Her instruction is that no one should be victimized on political grounds, unless he or she is a wrong-doer. This is solid advice to bring into being a culture of tolerance.
All this has to proceed alongside a quickened development drive. The President is in the forefront of this initiative and her Cabinet colleagues need to give her ample support by being up and about.
The reduction of Urea and fertilizer prices would be a substantial boon to farmers but there are a number of other chores which ought to go along with it, such as the effective marketing of farmer produce and the diversification of rural agriculture.
We also note with satisfaction that the Government is attaching top priority to the implementation of a National Youth Plan. Social discontent has its roots in disappointed hopes of the young and an all out effort needs to be made to bring the best out of our youth.
Providing our youth with jobs is fine but the adult world needs to set them an example in clean, ethically-correct living. If not they tend to be disenchanted and frustrated.
The upcoming Anti-Corruption Bill could prove vital in this respect but this piece of legislation shouldn't merely remain on paper. It has to be effectively implemented and corruption uprooted if Lanka is to proceed to a better future.
No Spanking Day
Spare the rod and spoil the child, goes the popular saying. It implies that a child cannot be brought up as a good citizen if he or she is not punished for doing a wrong thing. Spanking of children by parents, family members and teachers is common in societies all over the world.
Most of us have vivid memories of getting spanked at home and at school. Fights among brothers and sisters inevitably resulted in more work for the cane.
Some students considered getting caned an 'achievement', though admittedly of a dubious kind. Bad eggs in the class were perennially at the receiving end of the cane, even when they were not the culprits. The merest sight of the cane was enough to frighten the more squeamish students.
In retrospect, caning is no laughing matter. It is a rather humiliating and painful experience. In children's eyes, only capital punishment is worse than corporal punishment. The physical scars of caning fade, but the mental ones last a lifetime. After all these years, one can still recall the tinge of pain and the sense of shame.
Spanking is now widely recognised as a child rights issue. Child rights campaigners have designated April 30 as the 'World No Spanking (SpankOut) Day' to highlight the need for doing away with corporal punishment.
A leading child rights organisation explains: "Children, like the rest of us, have a right not be hit. Smacking hurts children - and not just physically. The aim of a no-hitting day is to get parents to stop and to think about it; to recognise that there are many positive and non-violent ways to encourage the behaviour they want from their children; and to realise they never need to hit a child again."
Several countries have enacted laws that prohibit violence against children in any form. Sweden was the first to introduce such legislation. Sri Lanka too has strengthened child rights laws, under which a person found guilty of inflicting physical harm on a child can be sentenced for up to 10 years in prison.
The Education Ministry Circular 2001/11 expressly forbids physical punishment of children. The National Child Protection Authority and a number of other organisations will be starting a heightened campaign against corporal punishment from today.
This does not mean that parents and teachers should look away while the children do as they please. As guardians, they must be vigilant about the activities of children and guide them on the correct path through a gentle approach. Discipline is essential in childhood, but choosing violent methods to enforce and instill it is counter-productive. Childhood is an age of innocence. Adults should help keep it that way.
Produced by Lake House