Friday, 13 August 2004  
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Grade One admissions

It is laudable indeed on the part of the President and the educational authorities to enunciate a clear cut policy with regard to admissions to Grade One in National Schools.

As we all know it is a rat race among the parents to use all the ploys and subterfuges at their command to circumvent the law relating to these admissions. But Secretary of Education Ministry Tara de Mel and her assistants seem to be overly determined to overcome all the subtle moves on the part of unscrupulous parents to get their children admitted to prestigious schools.

As I have come to know all the initial steps taken in this direction, especially the summoning of all parents of applicants to a meeting where they will be thoroughly acquainted with the rules governing admissions, seem to be already showing noteworthy progress. Let's hope that the whole exercise will ensure a corrupt free and fool proof system.

Understandably, parents who are unsuccessful in their efforts to admit their children to National Schools move pell-mell looking for openings in Governments aided private schools which no doubt are doing a yeoman service, if not for their narrow-minded policy of marginalizing efforts of non Christian parents desperate on admitting their children.

In this context, it is worth examining if this kind of discrimination takes place in National Schools where thousands of non-Buddhist receive their education. These private schools which accept large donations, although State - aided and following the national syllabus of studies, ironically do not come under the 'No donations' stipulation planked on National Schools.

It cannot be gainsaid that this is a predominantly Buddhist country, where Buddhist children must be given recognition when effecting admissions. But lamentably a good many of these so called private schools, according to unsuccessful Buddhist parents, insist on baptizing the child before given the green-light for admission. But certain Buddhist parents, none the less, have managed to admit their children to these Government - aided private schools by tapping the avenues that matter.

Finally, I don't wish to inject a rebellious tone to this letter but when a law against proselytization is in force, can the education authorities in this country condone forced baptizing at the door of school admission. Isn't the time ripe for our far-seeing President and the erudite Educational Ministry Secretary to step in and take immediate steps to rationalize admission on procedure to private schools without allowing a caucus of prejudicial individuals to rule the roost sans justice, tolerance and fair play.

Bandula m. Abeywardene, Battaramulla

Threat to life - CMC not worried

Sometime ago trees crashed at Cotta Road destroying the houses of the people in the vicinity. That was of sheer negligence of the CMC despite the matter was apprised to it. There are several trees of which the roots are dead and of some others huge branches are hanging threatening to crash at any time. Such trees specially on traffic laden road sides will bring a lot of casualties.

Trees near the Technical Junction and down the Central Road, Colombo 11. (Opposite the road leading to the Kachcheri) require immediate action by the CMC. What makes the citizens sad is that whatever brought to the notice of the CMC is not cared till something happens to the life and limbs of the people.

Sometime back the CMC said that it had identified some buildings that need demolition as they seem to be hazardous. But with that it was silent.

The old structure of the recently burnt building at Gas Works Junction will collapse at any moment due to the vibration of the hundreds of heavy vehicle that pass it. But as usual, if cases have to be filed, approvals have to be obtained, tenders have to be called to dismantle this perilous structure it will be too late and, would be able to see human destruction only, let those two deaths caused by a collapse of a building at 4th Cross Street, Pettah, a few days ago remind the CMC their own statement of 'identified dangerous buildings'.

If CMC does not take action for these matters at least let the UDA do something to save the life of the innocent people without each other finally saying 'this does not come under our purview'. I must also take this opportunity to question the CMC as to why 'it does not take action to rehabilitate Fifth Cross Street' despite various letters written about the worst situation of this road, specially during rainy days.

It is adamantly waiting till the UDA, which demolished the unauthorized buildings under the PA regime, rehabilitate the whole area of this particular road. Beyond the temple towards Main Street, it is totally dark and action has not been taken even to brighten the area.

Why does not the CMC provide its services where it is very necessary? Over 13 street light posts at Galle Face Centre Road from Galle Face Hotel side have several of their joint wires insulated and left out from their lower compartment meant to cover them. Exposed to the sun and rain the insulated tape will drop and live wires will be naked. This is a place where a lot of people including children visit the Green on weekends and big crowds on days of festivals and other celebrations.

There is a possibility for children to mischievously touch or handle them by which they will be electrocuted. Why did those who handled this did a shoddy job without realizing its deadly reaction?

Who was the officer in charge of that job and what action will CMC take on him having read this letter? Like in Singapore officers responsible for serious negligence of duty should be severely punished for others to be conscious of their accountability. Thank God nobody has been electrocuted so far and had something happened to a life, the CMC will only regret the matter or pass the blame to CEB.

When a tree is cut down or is crashed on the public road, the CMC will cut the branches and remove them only after several days leaving the huge trunk as it is or cutting it into two or three pieces never to be removed. Why are the District Office Engineers of the CMC too do not care to perform their duties in their allotted areas?

The city is filled with broken, damaged and unused season ticket issuing huts covered with creepers, unused temporary wooden structures left by pavement businessmen, partly dismantled cars and lorries including steel carts provided by CMC to some hawkers. These are not only an eye-sore but also an obstacle to CMC scavengers for their sweeping and cleaning of the roads, streets and lanes as well.

So having read this long letter what will the much spoken Town Planner the Mayor of Colombo do? As usual will he just read it and tell his Secretary to put a copy in the office file or take some positive action at least to what has been mentioned here?

NAZLY CASSIM, Colombo 1

Internship

I am pleased to read a letter being published on the above. I was appalled to hear recently from a son of a friend of mine, that he is still waiting for his internship after completing his MBBS more than a year ago.

What a waste of a young man and his education. Internship is compulsory anywhere in the world. In New Zealand as soon as they qualify they are given posts as 1st year house officers to do their internship before they could obtain general registration.

No wonder over here they do not recognise our qualifications now, as they see these young men have had gaps in training as they are not allowed to continue their training and they waste time after hard work learning to be a doctor and spending money to receive an education. We are in need of doctors in Sri Lanka, but we don't look at the needs of the country.

What are the Universities doing about this and also the Medical Council? The Medical Council should be jumping up and down demanding that the graduates commence their internship as soon as they qualify. Please start agitating, as there is a new Government. They might understand and listen.

DR. NOEL FERNANDO, New Zealand

Trade unions and pensioners

Numerous letters appeared in the newspapers during the past two years about the reduced interest income of the pensioners under the ever escalating cost of living. Such letters do appear even now, but the authorities are deaf and blind to this situation.

In contrast to the Government pensioners who were given some relief by a 10 per cent increase of their pension, the private sector pensioners (mercantile and plantations) and Government corporations, who solely depend on the bank interest were subject to a drastic reduction of their income from 18 per cent to 6.7 per cent.

The plight of these retirees is clearly shown in the following example:-

Two years ago a retiree who deposited, say Rs. 500,000 out of his terminal benefits at 18 per cent interest per annum received Rs. 7,500 a monthly interest, but now he receives a monthly interest payment of Rs. 2,791 at 6.7 per cent per annum, which is barely sufficient to keep the body and soul together even for one person. These people have to pay for their food, clothing, shelter and medicine with this meagre income.

Most of these pensioners are feeble and are not fit for work any more, living in quiet retirement and therefore become a burden to their children who are compelled to support them. The authorities are silent on this matter, despite the numerous letters in the newspapers, because there is no spokesman to take up their issue with the authorities.

The present membership of these trade unions will face this same problem when they retire from service. The provident fund, etc., will not help especially the feeble pensioners not fit for work, if they have no opportunity to invest their terminal benefits to generate a monthly income, because the banks will not change their policy to accommodate them.

A separate financial institution and a scheme therefore may have to be thought out and set up with the assistance of the Government for the retirees to invest their money to receive a reasonable interest commensurate with the cost of living. I appeal to the labour unions not to limit their obligations to the members upto retirement but to go beyond to help them when the need arises.

A.C. DE SILVA, Dehiwela

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