Monday, 21 July 2003  
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Ray of hope for the disabled!

This refers to the article titled "Ray of hope for Disabled" by Dr. Ajith C. S. Perera, published in your on line edition of Daily News on 14th July.

In most of the European countries, facilities provided for handicapped and senior citizens is a common sight in almost all public places. As Dr. Perera points out, such facilities are not even thought of in Sri Lanka. We should applaud and commend the organisations such as Sethpawana and those dedicated volunteers who had the vision to embark on such great projects. Giving happiness to somebody, particularly to those physically impaired probably is the best that any of us could do in our lives.

If the number of disabled people in Sri Lanka represents over 10% of our total population, providing such facilities is an obligation of the society.

They are even more in number, than some of our ethnic minority groups. The nature of their plight is such that they are not in a position to take up arms against the majority for not granting their rights. They are a group of people who is appealing for our assistance to help them to be on their own.

All we have to do is to educate people and draw their attention to do something towards this worthy cause.

We Sri Lankans have got in to a habit of shedding more fuel to the ethnic war, which generates more and more disabled people to our society. None of those so-called patriotic sons of the soil have even thought of raising their voices for these unfortunate brothers and sisters. It is a great social service for your esteemed newspaper to give some publicity for such activities. We should create an awareness among our own people about the suffering undergone by these wheelchair users due to non availability of access paths to wheelchairs in religious and public places.

At a time our people are going to the extent of thinking of setting up "red cities" to satisfy some of the fortunate citizens of our country, we should not forget the plea of these unfortunate citizens as well.

Let us all get together in educating and convincing all around us that physically handicapped people are a part of our society and they too have the right to enjoy all the facilities available to non handicapped citizens.

Most of them have got in to this unfortunate situation by being in the war front fighting for the country. On the other hand, arranging such facilities is not going to cost " a fortune" for the investor. All what is required is to convince those politicians, planners, businessmen and the general public about the importance of developing such facilities in our country.

If we all get together, the day the wheelchair users realise their dream of becoming independent will not be too far.

LAKSHMAN RUPASINGHE, Saudi Arabia

A pilot project to discharge Army deserters

The Sunday Observer of the 15th of June carried a news article under the above heading. The projected scheme is to advertise calling Army deserters to report to their respective Kacheris whence they will be absolved of the serious military offence of desertion and their release from Army service effected with the issue of a discharge certificate by a team of Army officers tasked for this purpose.

This pilot project is to commence from the Gampaha district. It is also envisaged that if this project is implemented instead of the current legally applicable military procedure a saving of Rupees three billion would result. This article ends with a ludicrous statement that the Government has decided to pardon all deserters following the alarming rise in crime'.

In the past there has been a remarkable rise in the crime rate. Most of the violent crimes reported have been attributed to military deserters. Particularly from the Army. It will be naive to assume that by the grant of pardons to all the Army deserters by the Government would arrest the rising crime rate. On the contrary, it would have a reverse effect and most likely it would result in an increase in the Army desertion rate and therefore the crime rate too.

Furthermore the legal provisions applicable to desertion do not provide for 'Pardons' as envisaged in the said news article. Discharge of soldiers from the Army should only be under the provisions of the Soldiers Service Regulations. Desertion by itself is not a ground for discharge but conviction for desertion would be.

There are good and worthy officers and soldiers who strive to maintain the highest military standards in soldiering. Desertion is viewed by them as a very serious military offence and unworthy of a good soldier. This pilot project if implemented would seriously undermine the existing military legal provisions systems and procedures applicable in relation to desertions rom the Army. It would also be prejudicial to the entire disciplinary structure of the Army, as the due concern for it would also be diminished and ultimately the Army being reduced to rabble.

It has to be acknowledged that the British have been the most successful and experienced in war. The existing Army administrative and legal provisions applicable to the very serious offence of desertion have been adopted from the British. They are time tested comprehensive and effective. Therefore it would be a grave mistake to disregard them and resort to imaginary pilot projects, amnesties, pardons and other similar incentives. It is a requirement in the military interest that this grave military offence of desertion is viewed in its correct perspective and dealt with accordingly. It is otherwise probable that if war breaks out, the desertion rate would rise to further uncontrollable heights.

Brigadier H. F. Rupesinghe VSV (Retired), Nugegoda

Dream of a house turned into a nightmare

This refers to your article on the above caption written by Sunil Thenabadu (DN June 24). I have one through misery and pain of mind in regard to the unbelievable sums of interest recovered off my equated instalments for a loan of Rs. 200,000 granted on 10th April 1990 from the State Mortgage and Investment Bank. The repayment period of the housing loan in question which is barely sufficient to build a house was extended to a period of 20 years. The interest rate applicable was 17% per annum. I was compelled to pay an equated instalment of Rs. 2,940. The total amount I had to pay if I continued to pay in 20 years would have been Rs. 756,000.

For a most essential need of a person this amount is highly exorbitant and very unfair. Why have not the authorities of Central Bank of Sri Lanka intervened into this matter? I did my own calculations prior to thinking of settling the entire loan by obtaining a loan from my estate Provident Fund. Up to February 2002, I had paid continuously 132 monthly equated instalments of Rs. 2,940. The total sum paid was Rs. 388,088. I was adamant to repay the loan as soon as possible. The amount I was asked to settle to pay the loan in full was Rs. 161,350.

The total amount paid by me for the housing loan of Rs. 200,000 for ten years was Rs. 549,430. The interest charged was an unbelievable sum of Rs. 349,430. Isn't the dream of a house turned into a nightmare?

LALITH THENABADU, Tebuwana.

Tribute to national hero

While we all are grateful to Dr. Neville Karunatilake for his very informative and endearing tribute (DN, 7/7) to Edward Henry Pedris, the unsung hero for over six decades, until 1978 when Dr. Karunatilake himself published a book entitled "Life and Times of the National hero Edward Henry Pedris; and thereafter annual commemorative ceremonies have been organized with Dr. Karunatilake for his part contributing a feature article to this esteemed journal.

Vis-a-vis this article, it behoves me to enlighten readers that Edward Henry Pedris was not "the only son" of that mighty philanthropist D. D. Pedris, for, he had another equally remarkable in his own way; a very noble son of a noble father in the noble profession of medicine.

He was the late Doctor James Pedris who served the sick and the ailing in the remotest corners of the island with such dedication and sincerity. Truly, an unsung hero in his profession. It is said the best doctor is the one you run to and can't find - and James Pedris was that doctor!

LLOYD FERNANDO, Ratmalana

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