Monday, 19 July 2004  
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Save youngsters from smoking

A doctor recently ordered a smoker, 59, suffering a serious lung problem, to stop smoking and have some tests done. Feeling like a fish out of water, the patient lamented that he started smoking by taking a few puffs from a friend's cigarette at a wayside restaurant, in downtown Karachi, on his 17th birthday. The few puffs turned into few cigarettes and then packs. Two years later, his uncle saw him smoking and advised him to quit. He promised he would and tried many times, but his attempts were feeble and he failed; had he been stronger willed, he would have quit then, and the present problem might not have occurred.

We know that smoking can cause cancer, but now it appears it could also cause heart problems, even to passive smokers, particularly family members. Even if no serious problems occur after years of smoking, irritants like smoker's cough, unpleasant breath and stained teeth remain, and some harm is done to the general health, so why forsake the blessing of fresh air for smoke?

In spite of being unnecessary, harmful and wasteful, why do so many smoke? The main reasons appear to be: many start young by imitating adults - it seems the proper thing to do, or to show off, or inducement by unwise friends. Once started, most continue for the rest of their lives, often regretting, but finding it difficult to quit.

Therefore, young people must receive special attention. Adults who smoke, but would like to save youngsters from smoking, could either quit or try not to be seen smoking.

Guardians must make youngsters aware of its harmful effects, and explain there is nothing to show off by smoking - even monkeys can smoke, so why not try gaining recognition in sports, intellectual pursuits or the arts, etc.


Fertilizer subsidy for coconut

Coconut occupies 2.5% of cultivable land, only behind rice, which is the staple food in Sri Lanka. This is a greater area occupied by rubber and tea together. Despite coconut being the major plantation in Sri Lanka, its sustainability is challenged due to high cost of production. Around 57% of the coconut holdings accounting for about 24% of coconut land are less than two acres.

Coconut production under standard Management give only return around 11% per acre when coconut are sold at Rs. 7 per nut, the price that processing sector can survive. At this rate even a grower with three acres will be considered to be living below poverty line.

Therefore, coconut cannot be considered a rich man's cultivation but the Government which were in power so far has given a step motherly treatment to this industry. They have been deprived of other facilities given to tea and rubber.

sometime back the Government gave 50% coconut fertilizer subsidy which was withdrawn long time ago. Last year Coconut Cultivation Board announced a subsidy of Rs. 5,000 per metric ton will be given for lands that are fertilized before end of December, 2003. I fertilized my land situated at Hiripitiya and applied through Coconut Growers Associations which I am a member.

As I didn't receive the payment I contacted the Manager of the Coconut Cultivation Board at Kurunegala over the phone who were kind enough to go through records and informed me that my application has reached them later the specified date January 31, 2004 and payment cannot be done.

There was prevailing drought in the dry zone in the latter part of 2003 and one must ask how the Coconut Cultivation Board expect to fertilize our lands before December 31, 2003. Anyhow I purchased the fertilizer before December 31 and submitted papers in January, 2004 and I was able to fertilize my land only in April 2004 with the coming rains.

I can't understand this criteria of time frame and this is a case of high handed pick pocketing. Being an officer attached to Dairy industry in this country for over 30 years I can remember, the Coconut Cultivation Board acted in the same manner giving time frames during the drought period for pasture growers which deprived the subsidy for so many growers.

K. P. NIHALNANDA - Kurunegala

Disruptive attitudes in Parliament

In the DN of May 27 the chief opposition whip Mahinda Samarasinghe speaks of the need for the parliamentarians to behave in keeping with the dignity of the assembly. He should be careful in making statements of this nature because he is disagreeing with his leader the former Prime Minister who condoned absolute misconduct of his members who behaved in a manner, similar to berserk monkeys in opposition to the President who was addressing the assembly. We, the people saw on TV the then premier looking absolutely entranced at the behaviour of his then parliamentarians.

Even in dens of thieves, and in places of ill-repute of other orders, there must come a time when they to themselves will realise that time has come for order and decorum within their culture, if their ways of life is to proceed properly.

So now the chief opposition whip has realised that there is need for discontinuance of the tactics of misconduct of parliamentarians.

It is not only attitudes of misconduct which he should seek to change, but also expressions of misconduct. We hope that he will succeed.

DENROY - Etul Kotte

Carnage in Colpetty

The death of four police officers and another eleven very seriously injured could have been avoided.

When a suspicious looking woman is taken in for questioning, it is for a legitimate reason. She could have been a narcotics carrying courier, a girl looking out for a political enemy, but when under questioning she admitted, that it was to meet Mr. Devananda, the alarm bells should have started to ring.

It does not need much intelligence to suspect her as a suicide bomber, and when a body search was started, the first thing that should have been done was to make her lie face downwards and immobilise her hands. She could have been carrying a loaded revolver or a hand grenade. But she was prepared to kill and die. That she did it to perfection. The target was wrong but the results very tragic.

Officers who ordered this body search within a police station, without basic advice given, should be punished.

Their annual salary increments and higher rank promotion should be stopped for five years. Better they should be compulsorily retired as on this day.

P. L. U. DIAS - Kirulapone

'English' in Sri Lanka

The word 'English' could mean many things to people in Sri Lanka. Whatever the meaning, the very word 'English' frightens many Sinhala and Tamil educated people who have little knowledge of English culture and language. The environment created by the English educated elite mainly causes this Anglophobia in Sri Lanka.

Today some influential English educated people in Sri Lanka live in a fantasy world and try to emphasis the 'Oxford' or 'BBC' English as the correct and accurate English, which should be used in Sri Lanka. In a way these people are trying to keep colonial Victorian English alive with an emotional attachment to this type of language which made them, or their relations, masters of other Sri Lankans under colonial rule. What they have not realised is the fact that today, even in the 'Oxford' or 'BBC' type language culture in the UK, it is hard to show a homogeneous type of the English language or pronunciation as, for example: the BBC particularly tries now to function as an area in which people with a wider variety of regional accents and with language structures from all over the world are included.

Not only in these areas but also in many parts of the world, with the influence of globalisation, people are using English in a multiplicity of ways for communication.

The culture that these English educated elites have created in emphasising so called 'Oxford' or 'BBC' 'English' has been humiliating many Sinhala and Tamil educated people, giving the impressing that they are 'fools' or 'uneducated' in Sri Lanka. Often these English educated elites suffer from 'teacher mentality' and keep on correcting the little English used by Sinhala and Tamil educated people to show their authority over them. It is the responsibility of Sinhala and Tamil educated people to take measures to prevent this teacher mentality to allow the majority of the population to learn English without undue pressures in the society. Sinhala and Tamil educated people should not be misled by these elites as they come from the same tradition as the people who stressed - after independence (specially after 1956) - that Sinhala and Tamil are enough for SriLankans.

In a country like Sri Lanka it is useful to stress English in two different ways. First of all, it is the link language that is used to bring together various ethnic groups in Sri Lanka. Secondly English is the best international language to enable all Sri Lankans to widen their horizons in order to gain exposure to the rest of the world.

The best example for this type of usage of English is found in our only immediate neighbour and big sister India.

It is high time for Sri Lankans to promote English for communication with basic grammar and a clear understandable accent and to eradicate the elite approach of keeping English as a way of life for their superiority survival.

Keerthisiri Fernando - UK

Cattle slaughter

Noel Ranasinghe comments that those who promote the introduction of cattle slaughter legislation are hypocrites.

He probably does not know that the cow and the bull are the most cruelly victimised animals who have been most useful to man, unlike the others he has mentioned. Hence more kindness and compassion is shown towards this innocent animal. This ban exists in India and home slaughter is banned in most of Europe. Does he consider these people 'Hypocrites'?

Consumption of flesh cannot be completely banned, although it is a good thing. So, let us first concentrate on the cow and not be extremist to ban everything.


Calculation of pensions

A 10 per cent increase of pension payments was granted by paragraph 14 of the Public Administration Circular No. 15/2003. The above paragraph contains only two sentences. The first one says that 10 per cent of the present basic salary (without allowance) be added to the pension effective from 01.01.2004.

The second sentence states that the 10 per cent allowance already being paid under a previous PA circular be calculated on the new basic pension.

As the new Circular was issued in December 2003, the present basic pension is that which was paid during 2003 and the new basic pension is the sum arrived at after adding the 10 per cent, which is valid on 01.01.2004.

Certain Divisional Secretaries have wisely taken action on both requirements of the Circular while other officers have merely added the 10 per cent and not take any action to implement the next requirement in the second sentence thus causing a financial loss to the pensioners most of whom are ignorant of these circulars.

Even the Accountants of the Pension Department seem to have forgotten this Circular requirement.

If this omission is not rectified, pensioners would be more adversely affected in providing relief under Pension Dept. Circular No. 06/2004 when calculations are made on this half-way basis.


Pension funds - time bombs

How many of us are aware of the danger faced by some of the well run Companies due to their pension liabilities not being recognise and provided adequately. Pensions and other payments due for past services, are time bombs that would explode thus making such well run Companies non-viable over a period, if they do not recognise them well ahead and address the issues and dangers.

While we talk about the Companies in general, it is a fearful prospect when it comes to institutions whose financial strengths and stability would have a bearing not only on the retired employees who would completely lose their livelihood but also the general public to a great extent. The Banks, Insurance Companies, Finance Houses who collect deposits by various means are falling to this category. If any of these Companies go bust due to excessive pension liabilities, they are compelled to meet, not only the pensioners and the shareholders of that Company but also depositors who have placed their funds in deposits debentures, life policy funds etc. Too will be in great trouble.

Being a person involved in financial field, I have taken special care to study the Annual Reports of these high risk Companies. Sad to say except one Bank who had recognise this time bomb and stated in their Annual Report to the effect that action is being pursued to remedy the situation, all others have not even recognised this danger. Are they aware at least, that they are sitting on a time bomb which is ticking and ticking fast.

During the last PA Government, reforms were introduced at Central Bank and some other State institutions if I am correct, to remedy the problems. Anyhow Government Institutions, even if they face the danger they can raise the necessary finances, but private sector will be compelled to close up and allow pensioners and existing employees to starve, then the high risk Companies mentioned above will compel the general public who had invested with confidence also to starve or commit suicide.

It is time the Government, (we are fortunate to have the same Government which recognised this danger and planned meaningful action, in power) introduce necessary laws or tax incentives to compel at least these high risk Companies to look at the problems realistically and make necessary arrangements to look after such liabilities, which could bring such Companies and the country down.

D. S. P. de Silva - Moratuwa

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