Wednesday, 4 February 2004  
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Indo-Lanka Accord and proposed Defence Pact

It is indeed heartening to note that India and Sri Lanka would shortly enter into a defence pact thus reaffirming the long standing cultural, economic and political relationships the two countries have had.

It will amongst many other things help Sri Lanka to regain her position as a committed member of the Asian community rather than a mere appendage of the West.

This current reality was also clearly demonstrated by the pathological servitude demonstrated by our permanent representative to the UN at a recent meaningless US resolution on Iran.

One matter that must be incorporated in such a pact is the reaffirmation of the 1987 Indo-Lanka Accord which has been and would continue to be very much in force.

UNTIL and UNLESS the accord is mutually terminated by the two heads of state. This was also the opinion of the late President J.R. Jayewardene even shortly before he passed away and categorically maintained by all Indian Foreign Ministers ever since the accord was signed.

It was indeed regrettable that certain unfortunate circumstances resulted in India and Sri Lanka not being able to honour certain provisions of the accord fully. That does not however mean that either party should permit undermining the effectiveness of the outstanding provisions of the accord.

One of the specific clauses in the Indo-Lanka Accord which was included at the specific request of India was the temporary merging of the Northern and Eastern provinces.

There was however a specific provision that such a temporary merger could be made permanent ONLY if it is confirmed by a referendum in the Eastern province.

It is hoped that the Indo-Lanka Defence Pact would explicitly deal with the implementation of the clauses in the Indo-Lanka Accord related to the temporary merger of the Northern and Eastern province.

The best interest of both countries would no doubt be served by ensuring that such a long overdue referendum would be carried out peacefully and as soon as possible.

BERNARD WIJEDORU 
- Mount Lavinia.

Sri Lankan banks and royalty

Recently a leading bank changed its corporate colours and along with it all its signboards. What is mostly shocking is that this bank which was always identified with the common man has suddenly decided to align itself with Royalty.

Actually no Royals have been in Sri Lanka since 1815 and obvious link is with the British Royalty.

The other inference is that the link is with Royal College. There is absolutely no reason why the Sri Lankan banking giant should pine for the British Royalty anymore, after 55 years of independence.

If the inference is to Royal College so many others can ask why not Ananda, Nalanda, Thurstan, St. Joseph's or for that matter Ibbagamuwa Central and many such schools and Colleges that have produced many great citizens.

It also smacks of male chauvinism because girls schools are left out. Does it mean that only those who have been fortunate to attend one school are welcome to open accounts at this bank? I, for one, a loyal old boy of Thakshila Vidyalaya, Horana is seriously thinking of closing all my personal and business accounts with this bank after this ill thought change.

This trend of trying to placate a few leading schools is not confined to one bank alone. Many other banks have gone out of their way to issue Credit Cards with the names and logos of a few leading schools implying that those such as us who studied in the lesser known schools are not welcome to hold their Credit Card.

It is time that all Sri Lankans other than Royalists seriously reconsider why they should continue to deal with banks that are bending over backwards trying to please those from only the elitist schools.

DEVAPRIYA ABEYSINGHE 
- Polgasowita.

Doctors' strikes

It is truly frustrating to watch the Health Ministry and the staff playing pandu with the lives of the citizens. However, while trying to beat one another, the staff must remember that they are committing a major sin when they send in sick notes.

Lying, in any religion is a major sin. In Islam specifically, there is no such thing as a little lie or a while lie. In fact Prophet (SAL) said a Muslim may fall into the sin even drinking alcohol and be considered a Muslim, but when he commits the sin of lying, he is not a Muslim. In fact, he forbade lying severely and said, 'If a person lies, hell lie again and again, until he is written as a liar'. A Muslim never lies'.

The elite, highly respected professionals the doctors, one and all, lie to the nation that they are sick and the whole nation takes it in without a hum! Is there no sense of shame among us at all?

A Muslim doctor, according to their religion, cannot give even a false sick certificate to a patient: How can they submit sick notes?

I call upon all Muslim doctors do not fall into the pitfall of committing major sins following some shortsighted decision-makers. Do not transgress the limits set by Allah. Desist from lying. Find means to have a dialogue with the Ministry even calling for a third party mediation and try to solve the problems in a mature way. Remember on the day of the akhira the GMOA will not be there to defend you.

DR. MAREENA THAHA REFFAI 
- Dehiwela.

Payment of pensions

I have read quite a few letters in your journal regarding the above subject recently. They have all criticized the changes the Director of Pensions seem to have in mind or have already put into effect in some parts of the country which is a departure from the existing practice.

There are two versions current at the moment.

1) The pensioners to call at the respective District Secretaries' office in the first few days of the month and obtain the payment voucher and thereafter to call again at the payment centre wherever it maybe on or after the day of pension payment of the particular month.

2) I understand that 12 blank vouchers will be set to the pensioner for the year and it is expected that he/she will fill the voucher pertaining to that particular month and present it for payment on or after the date of pension payment.

I am given to understand that this is a recent tactic on the part of the Director of Pensions whoever it maybe to reduce the cost incurred in the payment of the pensions.

The reduction in costs I believed is envisaged in reducing the number of officers engaged in the Pensions department as well as the Divisional Secretaries offices who are engaged in matters pertaining to the payment of pensions.

Both these schemes to my mind are short-sighted and lack sufficient thought in the problems, difficulties and fraud if any that would entail;

The difficulties:- Taking my personal case; I served for well-nigh 40 years and retired at the age of 60 years, 28 years ago. I am therefore 88-years-old.

I am now: 1. A heart patient

2. An amputee as my left leg has been amputated above the knee and I need a wheelchair to get about even in the house. I do not have to relate in detail the difficulties I shall encounter if I have to call at the Divisional Secretaries office to collect my pension voucher monthly.

There maybe hundreds nay thousands who have difficulties similar to mine. There are also bedridden pensioners who have to be helped in every need of theirs. There are also those who are blind due to old age.

The list of disabled pensioners and their difficulties in transport etc., to and from the Divisional Secretaries office without chaperones are numerous, never ending.

b) If the other method of sending blank forms to be filled up by the pensioner is adopted, there is every possibility of fraudulent use of these in case the pensioner dies and the forms fall into the wrong hands.

How many of the poorer class of the pensioners out of some 350,000 - 400,000 now receiving pensions have the facilities to fill up these forms correctly to obtain their monthly pittance without difficulty and being driven from pillar to post to get this done.

Taking all the above stated difficulties into consideration I have taken some pains to enumerate at my great age of 88 years and those I have failed to mention but would be noted by others, I earnestly request the Director of Pensions to give up the hair-brained schemes and let the present practice of sending monthly vouchers by post, prevail.

R.M.

Enhanced electricity bills

Some time back when the electricity tariffs were increased so that the amount on bills virtually doubled, it was stated that this was a temporary measure.

However the temporary nature has become permanent. Forgetting this, they are now taking of raising the prices again.

The recent price hike in the Telecom has send shock waves through the lower middle class and the pensioners where suddenly the amount in the bill more than doubled the reason being that the SLT is expanding. One wonders what we are heading for.

The authorities would do well to probe what is happening in the CEB because sometime back the chairman resigned when certain things were brought to light may have also to cut down on overheads and waste.

We are told that we are paying per unit of electricity the highest in S. Asia. What does the CEB hold for the future?

S.C. 
- Ratmalana.

Lack of facilities at Children's Hospital, Borella

Dr. Vimal Jayantha, Director of Children's Hospital, Borella in his report has said that 73 children died in this hospital out of heart ailment in 2002.

He laments the fact that these deaths were due to the lack of facilities in this hospital. Facilities available in this hospital are not enough.

That children died in their tender age - just in their bloom is a serious situation and a matter of serious concern.

We can't afford to lose the precious lives of the young tender children and the country will suffer. The Ministry of health should take a serious view of the sad situation.

S. SABA SUBRAMANIAM 
- Wellawatte.

Security checks at B.I.A

On the night of December 31, 2003, I left Sri Lanka for Taiwan with a group of Acrobats to perform there.

At the BIA where the baggage is opened and checked by BIA Security personnel, I was asked to deflate the tyres of the two small bicycles I was taking with me. They gave me no reason for this. It was only at BIA that this is done as at Bangkok airport on my onward journey I had no problems.

The Security personnel also asked my group if we had any curry powder or chillie powder in our checked baggage. Is it prohibited for a Sri Lankan to carry curry powder in their checked baggage? Is this a rule for only Sri Lankans as many tourists carry curry powder with them?

I hope the authorities will properly train the security personnel at the BIA.

The SLAF personnel manning the entry points were in contrast very courteous and added a bit of humour too when they saw the two old cycles I was taking with me.

PUSHPAKUMARA 
- Taiwan.

Railway and chartered engineers - reply

I am glad that J. B. Muller - a Chartered Engineer has responded to my letter (Dec. 11, 2003) by the above captioned letter in your edition of 25.12.2003.

He is complaining that because the Government enforced a Motor Transport Act in 1948 the railway was doomed. And engineers could not do anything about it.

Next the politicians are corrupt and public service is politicized thereby engineers could not do anything about it also and I have conveniently forgotten same. Then the standards of professionalism were bequeathed to us by the British and the Institutions like that of engineers follow same.

Another reason emphasized in his letter is that poor standard of governance and corruption in high places-excepting perhaps Chartered Engineers - and the non-voting of funds make the Chartered Engineers helpless.

Accordingly the well studied professional opinions of Eng. D. C. D. K. Wijewardana and J. B. Muller are to close down the long distance railways as same is no more safe and is dangerous for travel.

And I presume the Chartered Engineers now do not travel by train in view of the above-learned opinions. The travelling public too must follow the good advice given as responsible caring concerned professionals and avoid train travel.

Finally J. B. Muller not only labours to give various excuses to admit that the Chartered Engineers neither can do anything and nor are responsible for any political activities - which of course is true as Engineers are so silent in that field which governs a country whether one likes or not - but slanders me for expressing a "warped" opinion on behalf of the ordinary bus and train commuters.

BTC 
- Kandy.

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