|Wednesday, 2 October 2002|
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October 1st is being declared as a 'Day of the AGED'.
Let us know clearly - i. Who are the Aged. ii. Who are those who need help/welfare from the State/Public/Home etc. and iii. Who are the Aged who can be Helpers, rather than be helped? Who are the specially qualified in the rare high level Sciences and Technologies who can still serve as Experts/Resource persons - and in what work/specific projects?
(We have presumed the Aged as those above 60 years of age; the normal retiring age and also the age limit of the economically active labour force being 60 years)
An arbitrary analysis of the Aged population amounting to around 25% of the total national population: We may for the purpose of estimating wants, work capabilities and service types on our mission, work out on the following the approximate breakdown:- *50% may be the oldies who are physically unfit and in need of external support *20% may still be physically fit to serve as workers in grey collar jobs in the industrial fields - 10% may need no change and prefer to stay as they are *15% can be physically fit, and mentally/emotionally balanced and qualified/experienced in high level competencies capable of directing projects say on Socio-Economic/Industrial Enterprises/PEACE Making etc. Since problems are versatile and numerous, but the required number of experienced personnel to tackle the problems are presently not available.
For example the sectors dealing with matters related to Conflict settlement/Emotional Maturity Peace-Making & Keeping, Human Rights/Obligations observance, Tolerance and Ethnic harmony, Teaching of English/Specialist subjects etc. lack sufficient skilled personnel.
As internationally prescribed the capable among the Aged, not tapped often, can be a good resource. Further the Aged will not be on the look out for excessive returns like commissions - much remuneration, promotions, political power etc. in their old age; the main hope may be self-satisfaction in national service in the final innings in life.
Hence what is urgently needed is to identify the said 20% and above from those in retired lists and deploy their services; the country needs such knowledgeable/experienced/emotionally balanced people at least to advice/guide/evaluate the work of policy planners, decision makers, tender board technocrats, administration bureaucrats etc.
Experienced Elders, non-aligned to any political party/ideology/communal group, will be ideal resource helpers. Interpreting the thoughts in UN circles, we may have to change our own retirement systems as most of the Aged will need to be considered as a professional force capable in undertaking appropriate socio-economic services etc.
This means that all the Aged should not be wrongly listed as a socially liable group living on sympathy and charity. It is unfortunate that in SL the latter concepts are always highlighted in Charity boxes, Help-Ages etc.
The 4th Global Conference of the International Federation on Ageing held in Montreal, Canada in September 1999 on the theme "AGED professional Educators for the Training of Adults" did endorse the UN concepts in treating most of the Aged capable to be resource persons as reflected in the UN Declaration on Ageing in 1991.
UN Declaration in 1991 highlighted the following aspects on the *Rights of the Old, *Services to the OLD etc:-
i. Independence: Access to:- *Adequate Food, Water, Shelter, Clothing, Health, *Work and other income generating activities, *Appropriate continuing Educational programs, Live happily in the home or in safe homes...
ii. Participation - Opportunities to:- *Participate in formulation/implementation of social policies and to share skills with the young *Serve as Volunteers in fitting positions *Form movements/associations of Elders...
iii. Care - With adequate access to :- *Community protection and Health care for well-being/emotional balance *Social and Legal Services and National and International aid to develop these services and autonomy
*Enjoy full impact of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedom respecting their dignity needs, privacy... iv. Self-fulfilment :- on adequate access to *develop potential on Educational, Spiritual, Physical etc aspects....
v. Dignity :- Facilitate for *Older Persons to live in Dignity and Security, irrespective of gender, ethnicity Etc...
Extracts of the Montreal Declaration and Recommendations to the UN and Member States:
*Declare a Decade of Older Persons *Member States to adapt a National Plan on Ageing to include older persons in development and in strategies for implementation/evaluation *Ensure that member states assure that ageing concerns are systematically incorporated into the agendas of Commissions/Committees etc.
*Expand the human and financial resources for the UN program on Older Persons assuring the UN the full participation of older persons in social, political, cultural life of the communities *Elimination of employment barriers and providing for training, work opportunities, appropriate conditions of work... *Strengthening Public and Private Institutions to work together for the good of the Old.
Among the other main matters that were emphasised to the Ministers, UN, WHO etc personnel who participated were on Retirement, Employment, Re-training Old Professionals, Providing Economic Security, Help on Learning, Memory Loss, Illnesses - Osteoporosis/Arthritis and other illnesses of the old, Physical disabilities - Eye, Ear, Ageing in Asia with China presenting many socio-medico practical studies done to improve health of the old to live longer....
Our Hopes: The Social Services Ministry needs to spearhead a more active policy in adapting the UN principles on the AGED. The urge is more on concessions to the Senior Citizens on *Medical aid - easy access to Hospitals, purchase of medicines, Specialist Consultations etc. (in most countries Seniors are allowed half rates on Medicines, etc)
* Travel, Sports/Aesthetic Entertainment etc - concessions are being given in some countries wherein tickets are priced half * Deploy the services of the Emotionally stable, experienced elders in the PEACE/Development processes on a time-based activity program with 'More Work, less Talk-shops' time-based plan as *Immediate *Very Early". Short-term" Long term ...
It maybe a bit of fun for the Accountants at the NWSDB to sit down periodically and open up slots and enter figures revising water rates upwards. In fact this is the fifth time rates have been revised within the past 44 months.
Mr. Leanage (letter, Aug. 14) has missed a point. The paying consumers are paying not only for the water they are using in their homes sparingly. They are paying for water running continuously off taps fixed by the roadsides for bathing, washing clothes, pets, vehicles, pots and pans, etc. Almost all these taps are kept open for at least 15 hours a day with water flowing away non-stop. If the Government feels they should provide water free of charge to a section of the community as stated above the Ministry of Social Welfare should give a grant annually to the NWSDB to defray its costs so that the burden will not be passed onto the paying consumer.
The NWSDB officials are fully aware of this wastage but least worried as that mass of water is paid for by the guinea pigs represented by the likes of Mr. Leanage and this writer.
This time the increases are of an unprecedented high percentage. Those using up to 20 unites 27%, 25 units 38% and 30 unites 60%. This high increase is due to the lower usage blocks, 21-25 being increased by 54% and 26-30 by 88%.
Householders using 1 unit a day (30 units a month) covers only the basic household chores and not washing vehicles, watering gardens, swimming pools, etc.
It will do well if the Minister acts wisely and order the Board to revert to the previous rates at least up to 30 units when other Ministers are falling head over heels reducing bus fares by fifty cents and tinned fish by fifty cents.
METTHANANDA WIJEKULASURIYA- Polgasowita.
The Daily News of the 14th instant, at page 17 carries a review of this book written by Bella Sidney Woolf, who is said to have married Rober Lock. This name however is incorrect.
Leonard Woolf writing in his autobiography growing for the years 1904 to 1911, the period he served as a member of the Ceylon Civil Service, states that "When I arrived in Jaffna, I was met by the Office Assistant, Wilfred Thomas Southorn, who eventually became Sir W. T. Southorn, Governor of Gambia, and who married my sister Bella.
Bella stayed with her brother in Kandy from the end of 1907, until he went on transfer on a promotion as the Assistant Government Agent of Hambantota, which post he assumed duties on Friday, August 20th, 1908 and served till Saturday, May 20th, 1911.
He sailed from Colombo with his sister, married to the Assistant Director of the Peradeniya Gardens, for England.
Sir Thomas Southorn served as Governor of Hongkong and later as Governor of Gambia. Bella wrote a book on Gambia, incorporating her experiences as the wife of the Governor.
W. PANDITARATNE, Retired Senior Assistant Government Valuer -Kandy.
Dharmasiri Peiris' masterpiece on the above theme is not only an interesting journey through 37 years of service in the public sector, but also gives a revealing insight into the working of the public service. The book contains a good collection of varied case studies which should be used by public sector training institutes in their management development training programmes. The book describes numerous problems and issues faced by executive officers in the state sector in situations such as decision making and implementation, dealing in crisis, and relations with politicians, without compromising or sacrificing principles and codes of ethics. It is a book which should be read by every executive grade officer in the public service in all disciplines.
The analysis of the public service made by Minister Milinda Moragoda at the launching ceremony of the book and reproduced by you in your issue of August 8th, and also his comments made on an earlier occasion, are a refreshing change from the conventional approach of politicians who use the public servant as the scapegoat and whipping boy to cover their own deficiencies.
Minister Moragoda has, quite aptly described the requirements of a good public servant and has done an extremely good analysis of some of the root causes which hamper the realization of these requirements. Every government after coming into power blames the last government for all the ills in the public service and pledges to reform the service. They appoint administrative reforms committees which make very important recommendations.
Action plans for their implementation are made. After some time they are shelved when they go up to the political level. (I state this from personal knowledge, having worked for two such committees). Perhaps the best recommendations came from the report of the administrative reforms committee of 1986, popularly known as the Wanasinghe Report which did an excellent analysis of the issues in the public service and made far reaching recommendations for reforms. If only these recommendations had been implemented, this country would have had a reformed, efficient, and learner public service.
The present government should take administrative reforms seriously and strive towards achieving the ideal public service, based on the models of countries such as Singapore and Malaysia. Only with such a service can the qualities which Minister Moragoda would like to be seen become a reality.
NIMAL BHARETI- Mount Lavinia
Yes, that is true - if you belong to a family of four, your average consumption of water will be 25 units p.m. Over and above 25 units, a bath using 22 galls. of water will cost you Rs. 5.00! A low-income family with more than four persons will certainly have to ration their baths. This, of course, will no doubt have a deleterious effect on their health.
Water is an essential human commodity. We have substitutes for electricity (e.g. candles) and for LP Gas (kerosene) - but we have no substitute for water. The Water Board has a monopoly in the distribution of water in urban areas. They hold the whip-hand and they lay down their terms. We are forced to submit to them and accept their 'take it or leave it' policy - or else - disconnection!
According to recent Press report (D/N of 24/7), the Water Board has made a huge profit of 220 million in year 2000. Despite this, it has increased its Tariff Rates twice since - in Jan. 2001 and in June 2002. Protest letters have appeared in the Press (D/N of 14/8 and 4/9), but the Water Board remains silent. There is no explanation as to why they need so much profit for a public service - not to be stacked in Bank vaults, we hope!
Further they are not satisfied even with this as I have personally experienced recently. My water meter had got stuck and was not registering for several months. I was given 'estimated' bills which, though somewhat above my average, I paid without protest. With the recent increase of Tariff Rates in June 2002 however, the WB decided to double my estimated bill and this resulted in my being asked to pay about SEVEN times my actual bill! I thought enough was enough and protested to the WB.
My protests were of no avail till finally I was compelled to petition the Ombudsman for inquiry. One week before the inquiry however, the WB relented and sent me a letter acceding to all my requests, realising they were all quite legitimate. At the inquiry my problems were all resolved to my entire satisfaction - with a large amount in overpayment being credited to my account.
I have during the past few weeks asked several persons about their water bills and found that most of them have genuine grievances against the WB. I would urge them to petition the Ombudsman for inquiry. Few people are even aware of the office of the Ombudsman and its functions.
I would also please request the authorities in charge of the Water Board to kindly take immediate steps to curb this 'greed' on the part of the WB for profits. Many governments have come into power or collapsed due to decrease or increase in the prices of essential items like bread and rice. Let this not be the case where water is concerned. We pray to God: "Give us this day our daily Bath"!
DR. RILEY FERNANDO- Mt. Lavinia
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