Thursday, 1 April 2004  
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Mihintalava - The Birthplace of Sri Lankan Buddhist Civilization

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No facilities, but higher Airport tax?

As a frequent traveller through Katunayake Airport, I noticed recently (February) that they have taken away the free telephone service given to the arriving passengers to call their homes or relatives for transportation or to inform their arrival.

This was a very useful thing for most arriving passengers whose receiving parties wait outside. This may have happened only for that day. (I hope better that way). But whatever it is I would like to question the authorities concern, is this the way you treat passengers with a higher Airport tax? What facilities you are giving the passengers for the 1,500 rupees you charge as Airport tax? Do you have any plan to increase the tax to Rs. 5,000 once the aircraft access bridges are in operation?

Can we raise some funds to have a responsible officer in this authority to travel to Singapore's Changi Airport and see what kind of facilities it offers free of charge with the tax they charge?

A.F.T., via email

Ruining accountancy education in Sri Lanka

In Sri Lanka we have several accountancy institutes providing high quality world class education at affordable costs to local students. The local accountancy qualifications are the most suited for the country because their curricula are designed taking into account local business and commercial environment.

However in the recent past, CIMA has started to dominate the local accountancy education. Only rich and affluent students can afford to do CIMA.

The massive publicity and advertisement campaign carried out by CIMA has almost shut the doors for talented underprivileged students who do the local Accountancy courses. Even fully qualified AAT students cannot find jobs because CIMA part qualified persons get the priority in the job market due to the massive advertisement campaign carried out by them. Underprivileged students who follow local accountancy courses have been left in the lurch. Very clearly and definitely CIMA is creating a big divide between rich and underprivileged students in this country.

Allowing CIMA and other accountancy bodies to operate here without any restrictions or regulations is defeating the very purpose of setting up of local accountancy bodies. It is a shame for the whole country that our politicians rush to patronise most of CIMA's public events. CIMA's syllabus is entirely related to British business and financial environment. CIMA students have to study British accounting standards, British company law, British economy, British tax laws and other British commercial regulations. Therefore CIMA is not the most suited accountancy qualification for any country other than UK. CIMA has no place in any other SAARC countries.

In Sri Lanka CIMA has appointed a marketing manager. Annually we lose foreign exchange to the tune of around Rs. 100 million for keeping the students' registration renewals alone. Another Rs. 250 million is squeezed from the students for the examinations. CIMA charges various other fees, which would be around Rs. 200 million.

I urge the authorities concerned to immediately investigate the activities of CIMA, prevent the loss of job opportunities for underprivileged students following local accountancy courses and stop the colossal loss of foreign exchange.

S. G. TILEKARATNE, Colombo 6

Anomalies Committee

My letter published on March 9, resulted in several inquiries from pensioners, anxiously awaiting the increase. As stated in that letter, the Circular No. 6/2004 issued by the Director of Pensions, relating to the contemplated increase and conversion vis a vis the appropriate salary scale in the public sector has been fixed at 31.12.1996.

In this context, it needs to be pointed out that a revision of salary scales to the public service came into effect on 01.01.1997. We are now in the year 2004, i.e. 8 years after 1996. Therefore, the Government of April 2, 2004 (Election day) should take steps to see that all living pensioners are given revisions vis a vis the salary scales currently in force in the public service. It is only then that the anomalies will be completely removed.

In this context, it is also pertinent to point out that ad hoc piecemeal anomalies committees, to meet demands of sections of the public services which are on strike or work to rule will result in a warped and discontented public service.

The public service should be treated as one unit as was done in the distant past. Salaries Commissions covered the entire public service. Every Salaries Commission was followed by an Anomalies Committee. Thus leaving no heart burning and there was general contentment in the public service, which is a sine qua non for an efficient service.

It is also totally incorrect for Anomalies Committees to examine anomalies, having in the mind the availability of funds to make payment. Removing anomalies is one thing and payment of arrears is another. Anomalies must be set right, once and for all.

If no funds are available to pay then it should be stated accordingly that payment will be made as and when funds are available.

In regard to finding the necessary funds, if our politicians to whatever shade they belong to stop their extraordinary lavish living and luxury at sate expense, put the country before self and party, work with sincerity and dedication, then the empty Treasury Coffers will start filling.

The large majority of the citizens in this country will not know that just before Independence the Ceylon rupee as compared to English pound was 7 to 1 and today, half a century plus six years later the Sri Lanka rupee as compared to the English pound is 170 to 1.

S. Thambyrajah, Colombo 3

Dhamma and science

The article on Dhamma and Science by Kingsley Heendeniya (March 15) provides a very interesting and thought provoking view point.

Many feel that learning Dhamma or the propagation thereof has to be supported by the findings of science. Dhamma is for anyone and everyone, with no religious boundaries. The follower of Buddha Dhamma does not have to be labelled as a Buddhist (it is interesting to ask the question, was Buddha a Buddhist?) Above all, Buddha Dhamma does not require science as a crutch. On the other hand learning the basic differences between the two will allow greater enjoyment of life.

Science makes observations from an external viewpoint, often using light as a tool, then makes deductions based on these external observations. Science has its limitations since its deductions cannot be accurate and precise when the observation itself changes and modifies the behaviour of the 'Observed'. This is where mathematics come to the rescue.

The contribution of science to the way we live is immense, yet it has its limitations. Whereas science uses external observations, Buddha Dhamma is founded on internal observation of the behaviour of the mind.

Not only does Dhamma teach one how to observe the mind but it gives you an effective prescription to eliminate absolute unsatisfactoriness the man of Dhamma and man of Science can be the same person without any difficulty.

The wise man will learn Dhamma and experience life to the fullest, with the objective of removing absolute unsatisfactoriness while completely enjoying the removal of temporary unsatisfactoriness that science has helped to achieve. Dhamma does not preclude enjoyment of life experiences. in fact, it tells you how to do that to the utmost, but without pain, by not being attached to these experiences.

Knowing these differences as well as the end objectives gives an excellent framework of reference for the man of Dhamma who also happens to be a man of science to make effective decisions in daily life, both professional and otherwise.

LAYA ALLES, via email

The Galle Fort

"The uniqueness of Galle Fort has been eroded due to new owners reconstructing buildings inside the Fort." This is a quote from your article on the above. Without a knowledgeable Authority to approve new building plans and not having a building code for the buildings within the Galle Fort, Sri Lankans as well as foreigners can now buy, renovate or re-decorate houses within the Fort as they please.

I lived on Middle St. for about seventeen years, from 1937. Back in the 1960's and in the early 1970's, some local new owners had removed the lattice work from the front walls of the houses and had it replaced with ground-to-roof brick walls. That was not only an erosion of the uniqueness of those houses but also may have greatly reduced the flow of fresh air into the houses.

On every visit I pay to Sri Lanka, I have visited the Galle Fort. Large areas of the original mortar have fallen off, thereby exposing the inner brick and stone work to the elements. Over-grazing by cattle and the drought had made the grass dry and patchy. Loose cement-work and stones fallen off the Clock Tower had not been attended to. Iron gates and fences, an eye-sore, had been erected to prevent access to the two bathing areas at the foot of the Fort. On each subsequent visit I saw more graffiti written on the walls. Obviously by emotionally-charged local Romeos to their Juliets!

The Galle Fort needs a knowledgeable Authority to oversee new building plans; a building code for new buildings and renovations and a work-crew that will carry out timely repairs to the Fort if its architectural uniqueness is to be preserved.

Tony Perera, USA

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