The Sunday Leader

Protection Of The Rights Of Elders In Sri Lanka

You may give your children your love but not your thoughts, for they have their own thoughts. You may house their bodies but not their souls, for their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow,which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams- Kahlil Gibran The Prophet.

An Elder’s Home in Sri Lanka

This  column dedicated to the notion of making Sri Lanka the Wonder of Asia turns its spotlight today  on the protection of elders in Sri Lanka as our society aspires that our elders should be respected and protected from ingratitude.When parents shower their love upon their children and give them everything they possess on earth they little realize that some children are indeed ungrateful and do not think twice of the misery they bring upon their parents when such parents are evicted from their abodes and are forced to often live in elder’s homes or reduced to begging on the streets. As Khalil Gibran very correctly said the souls of your children live in the house of tomorrow and parents cannot visit such houses even in their dreams. This portrays the unpredictability of the manner in which your children may choose to treat you in your old and infirm age. The Protection of the Rights of Elders Act No 9 of 2000 amended in 2006 and National Charter Policy for Senior Citizens all set out various rights for older people in the areas of Independence, Participation, Care, Self fulfillment and Dignity. The Protection of the Rights of Elders Act (No. 9 of 2000) as amended in Section 27 provides for the issuance of maintenance  orders on the children as follows: -27 (1) The Board may, on an application made to it under section 25, make a maintenance order for the benefit of the applicant, if it considers that it is just and equitable that the respondent should maintain the applicant and that-
(a)     the respondent is able to provide maintenance to the applicant, after meeting his own requirements and those of his spouse and children ; and
(b) the applicant is unable, despite efforts on his part, to maintain himself. Section 27(2)  provides that In considering such applications the Board shall have regard to the following:
(a) the financial needs of the applicant, taking into account reasonable expenses necessary to ensure the provision of basic amenities and  the fulfilment of his basic physical needs ;
(b) the income earning capacity, property  and other financial resources of the applicant and the manner in which the applicant has spent his savings or dissipated his financial resources ;
(c) any physical or mental disability of the applicant;
(d) the income, earning capacity, property and  other financial resources of the respondent;
(e) the  expenses incurred by the respondent in supporting his spouse or children ;
(f) the contributions and provisions, whether financial     or otherwise, which the respondent has made for the maintenance of the applicant.
All great religions teach the importance  of caring for one’s parents. Sri Lanka is one of the few developing countries in the world which has an ageing population equivalent to that of a developed country and is also faced with one of the fastest growing ageing populations in Asia. It is predicted that the population over 60 years of    age will double in less than 20 years with the percentage of the over 60’s  rising to 18% in 2020 and 27% in 2040. With few meaningful social safety nets for older people and gradual break down of the extended family, older people are often left isolated. Although progress has been made many of these rights remain unfulfilled.
Helpage Sri Lanka in its web site states that: Through field surveys and work in the aftermath of the Asian tsunami, HelpAge Sri Lanka has found that older people are often unaware of various rights and entitlements; they are also seen as a burden by many younger community members and government officers. With the percentage of older  people increasing significantly year by year, this action seeks to assist them in playing a key role in their future individual development, the sustainable development of their communities and the development and implementation of a realistic strategic ageing policy for Sri Lanka. With funding for two years from the Commission of the European Union, HelpAge Sri Lanka is helping to empower vulnerable and marginalized older people to realize their rights and entitlements under the Sri Lanka Protection of the Rights of Elders Act No 9 of 2000.  Working in six Districts:  Batticaloa, Ampara, Hambantota, Matara, Galle and Puttalam the project is raising awareness of older people and aging issues, delivery of services, cooperation and coordination between key actors from the government, NGOs and the private sector who have commitments under Elders Rights.’ Project activities include: Establishment of village and divisional level Senior Citizen’s Committees (SCCs), Educating elders in their rights and entitlements and guiding them to access available facilities/services Assistance with obtaining elders identity card. Conducting seminars for relevant officials, Conducting Mobile Medical Health and Eye clinic, Distribution of publications to Elders about their Rights and available services, Livelihood support to Elders via grants to start up revolving loan funds
The law also provides for the revocation of deeds of gift on grounds of ingratitude or ill treatment of the donors. It is also     advisable that such deeds of gift contain such provisions for revocation and also provisions for the reservation of life interest. The ruse adopted by children to get the life interest revoked is to apply for loans keeping such properties as surety, wherein the banks request that provisions for life interest be revoked. The parents should not fall in to this trap unless they have other sources of income of their own.
As usual may I conclude in lighter vein with a humourous episode.An elderly lady decided to stay in a small hotel, when she visited     Colombo from the suburbs. She let the porter take her bags and followed him but when the doors closed her face fell. She said:’ Young man, I may be old but I am not stupid. I paid good money for the room and it is nothing like the standard I expected. It’s too small, there is no air conditioning and     there is not even a bed. ”Ma’am,’ replied the Porter’ This isn’t your room, this is the lift.”

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