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DateLine Thursday, 18 October 2007

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Unique and novel contribution to human resources development

Introduction

Sri Lanka has a very high literacy rate as well as a very high primary and secondary school enrolment for many decades. Government policy over the past six decades to provide education free of cost in his mother tongue to every child has enabled very positive results in these areas.

However, the successful results of such policies have not been realized in respect of post secondary education.

Though such tertiary education in the Universities, Colleges of Teacher Education, Technical Colleges and similar institutions have also been provided free of charge for the past five decades, the numbers of places available particularly in the state managed/financed universities have been extremely small.

Furthermore, Universities have been established without any policy or planning whatsoever but essentially for political purposes resulting in much unnecessary expenditure, with minimal return by any yardstick including increase in student numbers.

The consequential problems have been further compounded by the reluctance of the government to officially recognize and permit institutions and organizations to award degrees either through private Universities or other similar institutions as is the practice in many countries throughout the world including Asia.

The cost and quality of graduates produced by the State university system have been further compromised over the past three decades by providing many courses of study in three media, political interference, encroached into University autonomy and absence of a coherent and sustainable higher education policy.

The establishment of the Institute of Chemistry Ceylon

When the Chemical Society of Ceylon (founded 1941), was transformed into a Professional body titled the Institute of Chemistry Ceylon in 1971 (incorporated by Act of Parliament No 15 of 1972), four of the twelve aims and objectives in the Act made specific reference to education & related matters, namely

i) to promote education in Chemistry at all levels

ii) to promote the acquisition, dissemination and interchanged of chemical knowledge by establishing and maintaining libraries.

iii) to conduct or provide for the conduct of qualifying examinations for all grades of membership of the Institute and to promote, provide or approve courses of study for such examinations.

iv) to conduct or provide for the conduct of examinations for the award of diplomas, certificates and other distinctions in such branches of Chemistry as the Institute may from time to time deem necessary and to prescribe, approve of provide courses of study for such examinations.

At that time there were only two Universities producing Science and Chemistry Graduates in Sri Lanka; its potential membership and actual membership of the Institute were also relatively small; there were only a few active members and officials, all of whom had to carry out the organization of their professional body at their respective work-places; the Institute had hardly and funds, no office and no employees.

However, our forefathers who laboured very hard for the establishment of this body of Chemists recognized & realized (that in the context of the very limited post secondary educational opportunities available, particularly in any of the basic scenes) the urgent need to facilitate and provide for human resource development in Chemistry through its own efforts, however difficult and daunting the challenge appeared to be.

Ironically, the seventies were also characterized by an era of acute foreign exchange difficulties and consequent shortage of even basic food items leave alone chemical and laboratory equipment for post-secondary educational courses; this made the anticipated task of the Institute even more acute and problematic.

Laboratory Technicians Certificate Course (LTCC) subsequently transformed to a Diploma in Laboratory Technology (DLTC) programme in Chemistry

Researchers as well as academic & school teachers need trained laboratory technicians / technologists at a middle level to perform support/routine tasks in their respective laboratories. However, up to the seventies, there was no programme in Sri Lanka to train technicians or any of the basic science areas.

Our Institute therefore recognized that it was its primary duty and obligation to fill this lacuna: a two year programme was therefore formulated and academic input was provided to commence and sustain such a programme at a leading educational establishment known as Aquinas College of Higher Studies.

Using unused science laboratories (formerly used for B.Sc London external degree programme) available there, the LTCC programme has thereafter been conducted without any break with all the academic expertise provided by the Institute.

During the Silver Jubilee year of the programme in 1998, the LTCC programme was upgraded to that of a Diploma in Laboratory Technology in Chemistry (DLTC) with an enhanced/ revised/lengthened course content.

The 33rd of such programmes was commenced in 2005 in our own headquarters building (Adamantane House) at Welikada, Rajagiriya. A total of 621 LTCC/DLTC diplomates have been so far produced through this pioneering programme of the Institute.

This programme remains even today as the only such programme in any of the basic sciences. The shift of the programme to our own premises also resulted in a drastic increase in the student intake to over sixty from less than thirty earlier.

It is with joyous pride and a feeling of accomplishment & achievement that we record that these middle grade personnel produced by our Institute have readily obtained appropriate employment in laboratories in both the public & private sectors in Sri Lanka. This programme was commenced as a service to the needs of the scientific community in Sri Lanka without any projected financial benefit to the Institute or its members.

Such a laudable and exemplary effort of our forefathers needs our everlasting tribute and acclamation! The Sri Lankan government through its Scientific Affairs Ministry made a modest grant contribution towards the programme in its initial years.

To be continued


Questions and Answers

Revision of Pension-Retired before 10.01.1997

Question: I am a pensioner drawing my pension from the Divisional Secretary, Kelaniya. Though I have written to the Director General Pensions with a copy to D.S. Kelaniya neither of them has replied informing me whether my pension has been revised. (Copy of the above mentioned letter is attached.)

I was in the category of Middle Level Technical Officers at the time of retirement from Government Service and am entitled to the revision according to Salary scales of the above category. I would be very much obliged if OPA could persuade the Director General of Pensions and D.S. Kelanniya to revise my pension accordingly and if my Pension has been revised already to inform me the procedure adopted with details.

Answer: The Pension No. given by you is incorrect. We contacted the Divisional Secretary, Kelaniya and he informed that the proper procedure has not been followed by you when requesting for a revision in the Pension. Therefore you may contact the Accountant at the Divisional Secretariat Office at Kelaniya (Telephone 2920047)

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W & OP for a Mentally Affected Child

Question: I am a retired Graduate Teacher. I have a mentally retarded male child who is 28 years old now. After my demise my wife will be entitled to my pension to be paid for the upkeep of my mentally retarded son. In order to make this possible what are the actions I should take now. Please explain in detail.

Answer: Your mentally affected child is entitled to get your pension after demise of your wife or yourself if you happen to outlive your wife. Your child will be entitled to this pension until his lifetime.

In this regard you have to request the Pensions Department with the photocopy of the Medical Certificates relating to the state of mental illness of your son along with your W&OP number and other details.

The Pension Department will issue an application form to be filled by you which will be forwarded to a Medical Board appointed by the Pensions Department. You will have to appoint a guardian who will be authorized to receive and manage your sonís pension allowance after the demise of both parents.

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Historical Survey Plan

Question: How to obtain a copy of a Plan of Kandy during 1930 depicting historical sites drawn by the Survey Department for educational purposes.

Answer: Old Survey Plans drawn by the Survey Department are not available for sale in the Department. These Plans are available with the Department of National Archives and a tracing or copy could be obtained from them after giving them the purpose for which it is needed on the payment of a fee.

The procedure to be followed in obtaining a copy can be inquired by telephoning 2696917 or writing to Director, Department of National Archives, No. 2, Reid Avenue, Colombo 7.

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Unfair Trading Practices

Question: A leading dealer in Electronic items insist on a 100% pre-payment when the equipment to be repaired is with them, and they have a lien over it for non payment in case of default by the customer. Payment should be only on delivery. Further the Company insists that the customer should deposit the money into their Bank account without accepting money at their office.

This is for them to cut their costs and put the burden of depositing cash collections to the customer. They should accept credit cards and even cheques since delivery is only after receiving payment from the Customer. Will the Consumer Affairs Authority take action to stop this type of practice adopted by Companies?

Answer: According to the Consumer Affairs Authority while running a business every possible measure should be taken to reduce the burden on the customers. Further the following practices too should be considered.

* Insisting on the customer to make 100% pre-payment for the repair at the time of handing over the article/equipment.

* Not making arrangements to accept money at your office but insist on depositing money into your bank account.

* Making no arrangements to accept credit cards and cheques for the easiness of the customer.

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Licence for Graphite Mining

Question: There is graphite available in a land owned by me. I need to obtain a licence in my name for mining. Although I approached the Divisional Secretariat office I was not given any clear instruction. Please let me know how I should proceed to obtain a licence.

Answer: The licence for mining is issued by the Geological Survey and Mines Bureau at No.4, Senanayake Building, Galle Road Dehiwela. They issue 2 types of licences, one for surveying for the pressure of graphite and the other for mining.

You have meet the Deputy Director mining in order to find out the procedure to be followed in obtaining a licence. They also have a regional office in Ratnapura where also details can be obtained. Tel No. of the Dehiwela Office is 0112725751, 0112725746.


Corruption

Public Funds are peopleís money, and have to be expended for the benefit of the people. If we want to eradicate corruption, we have to have stringent laws. Corruption, is not only taking bribes, but if politicians and public servants expend public money for their exclusive benefit-that is as much corruption. We should have legislation introduced or, tell the people that legislation must be introduced that:

a) if politicians and public servants award themselves car permits, when they have already been allocated official cars, free petrol and free drivers,

b) awarding themselves tax-free salaries, when everyone else over the threshold has to pay taxes,

c) expending 80 million rupees per bullet-proof cars for ministers, when each minister is allocated 4 other cars anyway,

d) expending valuable foreign exchange on unnecessary trips abroad, in this age of teleconferencing,this way the quality of politician and public servant will improve.

Scandinavian countries and Singapore have very strict laws to curb expenditure by politicians, of public funds on themselves.

If they refuse to pass these laws, we should go public, and tell the people that they want to continue to use their money for the use of politicians.

If any politician or public servant does not submit to the relevant authority their assets, within a period to be decided, they would be disqualified from holding such office, and should be prosecuted. If Parliamentarians pass laws conferring benefits on themselves though clothed in legality, it is as much corruption.

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