|Monday, 01 November 2004|
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It is reported in the Daily News (Oct. 26), that the Ministry of Public Security, Law and Order, is deeply concerned over the sale of Babul betel to schoolchildren, since it has an intoxicating effect.
Reported to be imported from Pakistan, this betel is sold by peddlars near schools, and children who chew the stuff become addicted to it endangering their health. Many youths are said to have become addicted to it, which is supposed to be worse than drug addiction.
It is time for the Sri Lanka Standards Institute (SLSI) to probe into the matter, on the quality of the product, and to ascertain whether the betel is safe for human consumption. If not, legal action should be taken to punish the peddlars. The law enforcement officials must prosecute them for trading in the illicit product.
Under section 77A (1) of the Poisons, Opium and Dangerous Drugs (Amendment) Act No. 13 of 1984, "Notwithstanding anything to the contrary in section 116 of the Code of Criminal Procedure Act No. 15 of 1979, a Police officer may submit any drug, substance, article or preparation seized by him, or any portion thereof, or any sample taken by him in relation to an offence committed under Chapter III or Chapter V of this Ordinance, to the Government Analyst for examination".
Whether the Babul betel falls within the purview of the Act No. 13, for purpose of legal action, is a matter to be decided by the law enforcement officials. Whatever it be, the Government should act immediately to put a stop this sale of Babul betel to schoolchildren by the imposition of deterrent punishment and severe penalties.
The principals of schools must also enlighten the students on the harmful effects of the Babul betel, specially to teenagers, who become easily vulnerable to the intoxicating product. It is very important that the politicians must not interfere in the matter, but allow the Police Narcotic Bureau to act impartially.
Otherwise, it will be similar to what is happening to the 'kasippu' business, which is thriving on the death bed of the addicts.
ARYADASA RATNASINGHE - Mattegoda.
I refer to the letter by G.B. Senaratne (DN Oct. 18) under the same title.
He laments why we spend millions of rupees in foreign currency every year for acquiring foreign accountancy qualifications when local bodies such as Institute of Chartered Accountants, Society of Certified Management Accountants and the Association of Accounting Technicians operating in the island.
He also laments that foreign qualifications cover only foreign country specifications and legislations. He alleges that mostly children of affluent families can afford to follow these foreign courses.
However we all know that the super rich send their children for overseas education spending something between Rs. 3 million to 5 million on average in order to acquire a resident foreign degree.
It is the upper middle class children who resort to local courses since their parents cannot afford overseas expenses but where the children are intelligent and willing to pursue studies. Otherwise what do we expect these children to be?
Consider the foreign qualified accountants serving in high places, they are well disciplined and better informed on global matters in addition to accountancy.
Our local accountancy bodies adopt a system of passing a certain percentage every year. So there are some years when the pass marks are enhanced and idea is to deny the qualification to deserving students. We have accounting local Pundits who will take one month to design a tough paper which the students are required to answer within a matter of few hours.
Take for example the institute of Bankers' examination. Bankers are not necessarily required to be top accountants. But the Banking final accounts paper is equivalent to University level or even higher standards.
There are several bankers who are unable to obtain banking full qualifications because after several attempts they cannot get through the accounts paper. Therefore, they cannot pursue further studies too.
Local examinations must be tested to a reasonable level to test the students capability and encourage willing students to continue studying. May be our 'A' Level Examination is conducted in a way to limit passing students as we have limited space in the local universities. But do we have to adopt the same limiting attitudes to all examinations?
Already I have seen foreign courses being conducted locally carrying advertisements with slogans such as "Why do A Levels when we can help you".
Besides foreign qualifications like CIMA entitles the students to bid for jobs in the global market with possible emigration advantages.
If these students are not recognized by our local bodies, what is wrong in their parents spending their private money to enable them to migrate to greener pastures?
RONNIE FERNANDO - Moratuwa.
The professional competence and integrity of the Chartered Accountants have been challenged globally. But locally it is not the case.
Some chartered accountants expressed concern over the controversial tax amnesty bill not in the interest of the national, but because it deprived them the much needed revenue from the tax defaulters. More tax evasion means more work for tax consultants.
Recently at a taxation seminar a prominent tax consultant expressed his concern that, tax holidays given to BOI companies by successive governments was a barrier to collect the much-needed revenue due to the state.
Whilst the secretary to the Ministry of Finance remarked that fifty per cent of GDP comes from BOI companies.
Majority of the BOI companies are approved with foreign capital.
Can someone please enlighten the readers why the foreigners should come and develop our country, if they do not have tax concessions? There are no other countries that want their money? Our high productivity considering the public holidays and closures for strikes etc.? Our superior infrastructure facilities, uninterrupted power supply etc.?
It is mind boggling as to what moral right some professionals have to preach ethics to the business community when all what they are interested is their personal gains.
This is a subject that needs to be taken up for discussion at seminars and conferences of professional bodies.
The professionals in this country should not conduct themselves like politicians.
RANKOTH PREMATHILAKE - Seeduwa.
I have read with much interest many articles appearing in the daily papers about public servants, trade union leaders agitating for the implementation of the Tissa Devendra Salaries Commission report which has recommended a 70 per cent increase of salaries to public servants, to be implemented in the forthcoming budget, and also statements by ministers and deputy ministers that a 70 per cent salary increase would be granted.
This is very welcome at this moment as with heavy fuel prices, transport costs, and the unbearable cost of living, public servants are justified to ask for such an increase.
But very sadly I have not heard any news items of any minister saying that pensions of retired government servants will also be increased.
Successive Finance Ministers in the previous budgets gave larger amounts in salary increases to public servants due to pressure by trade unions etc; but adopted the unfair practice of giving a small pittance of a few hundred rupees to pensioners solely for the purpose of making statements to the media saying that "Pensions have also been increased" but these small increases had a negative effect on pensioners as the cost of living had escalated much more.
Most of the pensioners depend on drugs. It is a well-known fact that prices of popular drugs used by elderly people are increased every two months or so, if they buy a drug to-day, within one year, the price of the same drug will be doubled or sometimes trebled.
Pensioners are people who spent most of their lives serving the public, they are now in the evening of their lives, the majority of them have no other income other than their pensions.
I have met many old and feeble pensioners, both male and female who meet me when I go to draw my pension and some of them told me that they spend as much as Rs. 3,500 to Rs. 4,000 each month of their drugs alone, as their lives depended on it.
So I make this earnest appeal to the Ministry of Finance to grant an increase in the pensions to be equal to whatever salary increases are given to public servants in the forthcoming budget, as the cost of living affects everybody alike.
The majority of the pensioners voted for the UPFA Government at the last general elections, who in turn promised to grant much relief to pensioners, the pensioners and their families are eagerly awaiting the outcome of the forthcoming budget.
CLIVE RYDE - Balangoda.
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