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DateLine Thursday, 24 May 2007

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Government Gazette


Elders, a top priority

It was a busy day not so long ago, when I met President John Thamber and Committee members of the NGO Forum on Ageing, at a meeting in Colombo South. Venetia Gamage, past President and co-ordinator of this project, had arranged with an officer from the Elder’s Secretariat, G. Karunaratne, to issue the vital card to persons who were eligible.

The Forum has performed this service on previous occasions, at various Centres in Colombo, recognizing the fact that Sri Lanka is one of the fastest ageing countries and the reason why the NFOA was launched in 1999, the Year of the Older Person. At the meeting, over 200 persons were waiting to be issued with a Senior Citizen’s Card.

It was an important day for the elderly. They were looking forward to possessing this card, and relieved, that at last the authorities had decided to recognize the hopeless situation of the elderly. How many others, over the age of 65 years, are aware that they are entitled to a Senior Citizen’s Card and its facilities, we wondered?

I decided to question an elderly woman at a shopping mall on the subject. I asked her “have you heard of the Senior Citizen’s Card?” With a look of surprise, she replied, “what card and, where and who issues it?”, she inquired. Obviously, this information had not reached the elderly in her neighbourhood. I filled her in briefly, and informed her about the meeting to be held.

The same day, I met a retired teacher, who was already in possession of this card. To my question, “has this card helped you in any way?” Her reply was curt. “Pretty little! Most pharmacies, banks, hospitals, clinics and similar establishments, are clueless about the card and its benefits. So, what is the point in having this card?”

There is a severe lack of awareness by the Government authorities, on what should be the purpose of and the facilities afforded by the Senior Citizen’s Card. To whom should it be issued? What benefit would the elderly receive?

The private sector is also guilty! Very few offer this information to their staff. So, in the end, it is the voluntary, social and welfare organisations, which take up causes such as this. They try in a small way to reach the elderly, performing this service free of charge, and, with little or no funding to back them!

How should an elder setabout obtaining a card? Perhaps, the appropriate Government authorities at the Elders’ Secretariat could circulate this information through Associations, clubs, offices, supermarkets, banks, media etc., alerting persons reaching the age of retirement, the procedure to obtain this card. Correct and useful information, to be attached with the card.

The public must be made aware of the benefit the elderly could count on, when the card is produced. A well-known Government organisation offers a discount to the elderly, on medicines purchased.

The National Identity Card is required. Surely, a Senior Citizen’s Card could also identify an elder? All Government and private establishments could make it known that the elderly are offered discounts on purchases and services.

Derana television, who were present at the meeting, in their Sinhala programme, inquired from some of those present, about the aspirations and hopes, once they were issued with this Card.

They said, “any help would be great! Our needs are little, our purses empty, but our hopes are high!” Actually, much more can be offered by the card and what is offered must be stated in it with greater clarity.

Would you wish to join this Forum on Ageing, as a volunteer member? A contributor? A well-wisher? To help this worthwhile cause? Please contact Chandrika Fonseka, Secretary, Tel No: 2584315, or Estelle Joachim Tel No: 2581315. You can be assured, that any free time you give the Forum, would be time well spent.

I. E.

Open letter to Dominick Chilcott, High Commissioner for UK in SL

We are amazed and worried to read your speech published in a daily newspaper of May 19, 2007, on the topic ‘Troops unwilling to take Karuna’. In your speech made at a reception held at the British Council the main points referred to are as follows:

1. Sri Lankan troops are unwilling to take on Karuna

2. The fighting between LTTE and Karuna fraction is not doing any good

3. Government intervention to stop this infighting is insufficient

4. The Government’s recognition of the services rendered by non Governmental organisations is insufficient.

With great respect I bring to your notice of Article 3 of Vienna Convention adopted on April 16, 1961 in which your duties and obligations as the Head of the Mission are given in detail.

It reiterates that it is the duty of the Head of the Mission not to interfere on internal matters as pronounced in detail in the Preamble of the instrument, and throughout the meaning and spirit of the Convention which is more fully described in Article 3 as follows:

The functions of a diplomatic mission consist inter alia are:

1. represent the sending State in the receiving State

2. Protect the interest of the receiving State and the interests of the sending State and of its nationals, within the limits permitted by international law.

3. negotiating with the Government of the receiving State

4. ascertaining by all lawful means conditions and developments in the receiving State, and reporting thereon to the Government of the sending State

5. Promoting friendly relations between the sending State and the receiving State, and developing their economic, cultural and scientific relations.

It is sorry to note that you are acting outside your powers and obligations by making very sensitive remarks when the Nation is going through a difficult and decisive period. Our Missions abroad strictly abide by the Convention and accepted norms and obligations required by International Law and International Relations.

All our previous attempts to communicate with you on similar matters of mutual interest have not been successful. The Officer in Charge of the Reception receives our messages but no appointment was given nor written to us on various subjects that we have tried to communicate you with.

While bringing this matter at our serious nature to you and to the British Government, we wish to continue to communicate with you to seek an appointment to meet you discuss this and many other issues which are of mutual interest and grave need relating to international law and international relations.

Sarath Wijesinghe
Committee for International law and International Relations

Debacle at De Soysa’s

It is an unbelievable occurrence and would never have happened at the hands of a professionally skilled doctor that led to the tragic death of a mother of two. None could discard this incident that took place at the above hospital as an unavoidable one. The wide media coverage leading to the tragic death of this mother bears ample testimony to medical negligence.

The husband of the deceased who spoke to the media stated that his wife was admitted to the hospital much before the due time for admission.

The reason for this, according to him, is that she has conceived after a lapse of 10 years! As a layman, he himself was of the opinion that there can be physical variations due to the prolonged period of infertility. Under such circumstances, clinical examinations would have given indications or clues which could raise doubts for a normal delivery.

On the other hand, the mother had continuously complained to her relations and attending nurses of experiencing severe complications. This condition calls for the attending doctors to at least have a second opinion or to seek the advice of their seniors? But the doctors still maintained that it will be a normal delivery.

Eventually, the mode of confinement confirmed by the professional doctor did not take place; instead the infant was saved after a Caesarean operation at the cost of the mother’s life.

With the facility of having most modern medical equipment which could peep into every organs of a human being, this innocent mother laid down her life leaving motherless infant.

Why few doctors in the name of medical ethics neglect the duties of this highly humane vocation ? In conclusion I would like to quote here a small part of the Hippocratic Oath taken by the doctors: “I shall pay utmost respect to human life from the moment of its inception”.

M. R. A. L. Gunasinghe

The final exit

My congratulations and appreciation to Dr Keerthi Jayasekera for his excellent article (Reference DN May 14).

I have studied the subject deeply, myself, and am fully committed to putting it into practice. Funeral all paid for (as just an immediate garbage disposal job!) and all preparations for ensuring that I am no burden to any-one else (least of all to my family) if ever I cannot take care of myself.

Like Dr. Keerthi, I do not blame Karma and well appreciate that at 83, I can be thankful to have lived over-long beyond by ‘allotted’ three-score-years-and ten.

So try to live as usefully to others as I can for as long as I can. And when I cannot, that will be time for the final exit.

Dr. Keerthi writes well and thinks lucidly and rationally.

R. W.
via email


Gamin Gamata - Presidential Community & Welfare Service
Villa Lavinia - Luxury Home for the Senior Generation

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