31st October, 2004  Volume 11, Issue 16

First with the news and free with its views                                     First with the news and free with its views                             First with the news and free with its views                                    


  • Blow to our national heritage

Vultures at Colombo Museum
destroying historic artefacts?

New brooms sweep clean, they say. So, with the coming of the Sandanaya government and with a JVP minister of cultural affairs we observe the uprooting of all the stone sculptures - the moonstone, the balustrades, the Gajaba Brahmi slab inscription, the Mahameru etc., from the main galleries of the Colombo Museum. These are now dumped on the corridors of the museum, leaving three galleries bare.

Not satisfied with this vandalism, now the teak paneling and showcases in the 'Polonnaruwa Period' galleries are being removed behind closed doors. Eventually the entire ground floor of the main building will be closed to the public including foreign visitors who pay a higher admission fee to view a museum without exhibits. This is at the premier national museum of the country.

The title of this exercise is 'Reorganisation of the Exhibition Galleries of the Colombo National Museum.'

Recently, a sum of Rs. 5 million has been donated by a leading private bank to meet these expenses. Now, some 'cronies' who have no clue about the workings of a museum have teamed up to 'vulturise' this five million.

Is there no expertise available within the Department of National Museums who could undertake this reorganisation step, by step exercising the due care necessary when dealing with what is left of our irreplaceable national heritage?

Is this another of the soda bottle techniques of the JVP ministers famous for 'big shows' which will end up in both waste of money and loss/damage to our historic artefacts?

Museum Lover Rajagiriya

 All must pay tax as per earnings

Private sector skinned while govt. sector is now well off

I fully endorse the sentiments expressed by R. Kehelpannala in your issue of October 3, about taxpayers and non-taxpayers, government officials and politicians being exempted from tax. It is not fair as every citizen has to contribute his mite to the government to run the show and help provide the needs of the nation.

The notion that government servants and politicians are poorly paid is a lot of hogwash because gone are the days when it was actually so. In contrast now, their salaries are well compensated with allowances and other perks and they are the lot we should call as enjoying both worlds, i.e. they don't pay tax but at the same time enjoy all that the taxpayers pay for. Feathering their own nest and that of their siblings as well, is what they are in office to do.

Besides we all know how duty conscious most government employees are. They put in less hours of work compared with their counterparts in the private sector. Even whilst on duty it is hard to find a government employee at his desk for long periods. The canteen or sports room would be the most likely place he would be in. Politicians shout themselves hoarse about serving the public but no sooner they assume office, they hasten to embrace all they can for themselves and their generations. They never miss a trick in the book, most even place their own family members in their ministries as secretaries etc., so that the income is hedged in. So, it is only fair that all citizens be asked to pay income/Paye tax as per earnings.

Whatever public facility that is maintained with the taxpayers' money is also used by these two categories as well. So why should they be tax free whilst another section of the community is asked to pay? From the way I see it the government is not only skinning the private sector employers but also taking them to the cleaners, so to speak.

In the private sector only you find the honest citizen who has PAYE recovered from his salary and has to pay VAT and tax on everything purchased. Inland Revenue Dept. officials are busy finding ways and means to squeeze rupees out of the private sector. Instead, it is time they looked at some means of extracting some much deserved money out of the government sector, even under a separate tax table.

G. Perera

Subsidised fuel for super rich!

Petrol and to a higher extent diesel is said to be subsidised by the government. But there is blatant waste of fuel by owners of air-conditioned vehicles. It is a common sight in front of supermarkets and other places where owners remain inside parked vehicles with the engine running and the air conditioner on. Give them a hard look and they  will stare back at you as if to ask 'So what? My money , my petrol, so what do you care.' Owners of jeeps are the biggest culprits. Invariably the drivers employed by the super rich do the same. Sri Lanka must be the only country providing subsidised products to the super rich.

Although there are no laws to prevent burning of fuel in this manner, civic-minded citizens should be bold enough to walk up to these vehicle owners and remind them that fuel is subsidised. Policemen on duty should be asked to do the same. Like my neighbours, there are people who keep the vehicle air-conditioner running even while parked in front of their house, just because the fuel bill is paid by the employer.

Civic Minded Citizen
Colombo 6

Spread the tax net wider to catch high income earners

The worst fears the middle, lower middle and working classes had about a PA/JVP coalition have been confirmed by the recent Income/PAYE Tax circular sent by the Department of Inland Revenue. This 'party of the working classes' has been even better than the capitalist UNP in wringing out whatever remaining strength of the office and factory workers.

Their new directive has stiffened the UNP proposals while at the same time increasing the rates of taxation. Another totally unacceptable feature is the retrospective provisions permitting the taxes to be backdated to April 1 meaning that taxes uncollected due to administrative delays can be collected from future salaries. No previous regime has ever imposed such grossly unreasonable tax rules and once implemented, there will be no take home salaries for a few months for most of us.

The new rules smack of vindictiveness. It is only the PAYE taxpayers who honestly pay tax because it is taken out of the salary and remitted to Inland Revenue Department. There are hundreds of thousands of businessmen and landowners who earn several times more but do not pay a cent as taxes because there is no one to monitor their income. They often file tax returns showing bogus charges and losses, and thereby pay very little or no taxes at all. Inland Revenue Department assessors are well looked after by these businessmen through financial gratifications and favours such as employment for their children. We poor salary earners who are not in a position to offer such favours are taxed directly through PAYE and also indirectly through Withholding Tax and VAT. And where we pay excess, getting a refund takes years.

This is highly unfair and the so called workers party of PA/JVP should correct the anomalies created and instead spread the tax net wider to catch those high income earners who habitually avoid taxes, hoard their wealth and finally take cover under tax amnesties. The PA/JVP alliance will have to undo this damage in the next budget, if they are truly a party of the working class.

Clarence Yatagama

No one audits the auditor

The photogenic chief of Chartered Accountants, has agreed that "more needs to be done to effectively enforce accounting and auditing standards for which the Institute of Chartered Accountants (ICASL) is responsible." Facing a googly bowled at him at a recent news conference, he has not offered any stroke at all.

I beg to disagree with Indrajith Fernando. With regard to monitoring of accounting standards all what is required had been done. The Sri Lanka Accounting & Auditing Standards Monitoring Board (SLAASMB) funded by the taxpayer (not by ICASL) is effectively monitoring compliance with accounting standards. However, there is absolutely no interest shown by any authority to monitor compliance with auditing standards and laws are unlikely to be introduced in this regard, whilst ICASL considers itself responsible for it.

The statutory name of SLAASMB itself implies it was intended that, this regulatory body should monitor the auditors. But probably due to conflict of interest this role is conveniently dodged by SLAASMB. Will the chiefs of Chartered Accountants and SLAASMB care to enlighten the investing public please?

Hopefully the depositors of Pramuka Bank will sue the auditors in the interest of the investing public. Such action will create public awareness on a topic which does not receive due attention of the authorities concerned. Had the auditors been sued for negligence instead of being warned, when several finance companies of Sri Lanka collapsed some time back, it would have gone a long way to improve auditing skills and also to set up a mechanism to audit the auditor.

L. Somapala


Edward Ian Gray


Death is certain, and the curtain fell on Eddie Gray (as he was popularly known) in Melbourne, Australia on Tuesday, September 21 after four score and five years. It is with gratitude and affection that I pen this message as a tribute and testimony to my colleague, friend and compassionate human being.

Historically, Eddie will be remembered eternally for the role he was involved in when Sri Lanka's first Prime Minister, D.S. Senanayake, fell off the horse he was riding at Galle Face Green on that fateful morning. Eddie who was the late Premier's bodyguard, clasped him in his arms in the last moments of his life before succumbing to injuries in hospital.

On reflection, both Eddie having retired from the Police as O.I.C. for Mounted Division and I straight from college were employed at Colombo Assurance Ltd. in 1956 and worked under the late Mr. F.C. (Fritz) Scharenguivel who had just retired from the police force in the capacity of DIG and also head of the M.I.S. Division of the police during the premiership of Sir John Kotelawala. During our stewardship at his organisation, I realised Eddie's multifaceted talent not only as a sportsman but also as a professional, which qualities he amply displayed with zeal, determination, courage and conviction. To further realise and substantiate this statement, it is worthy of mention that 'great achievement required great perseverance', and Colombo Assurance Ltd had been most fortunate to have on its staff this gentleman par excellence, whose contribution to the organisation was immense and fruitful.

Another salient feature which comes to mind was the selection of the captain of the Colombo Assurance Ltd cricket team for the mercantile tournament. The obvious choice for the job was Eddie, considering his seniority and fine leadership qualities. However, he declined the offer in my favour as he believed in grooming youth for the future. Although I was bestowed with the honour of skippering and leading the team, it was conspicuous to note Eddie's humility - a distinguishing characteristic of an unselfish and honourable man.

Eddie was an officer and a gentleman in every sense of the word. He was meticulously clad at all times, a discipline he professed, and insisted on the need to be punctual in life, to all and sundry, as these positives are means to be successful in any endeavour. I could state unhesitatingly, with utmost sincerity and without an iota of doubt that Eddie, through his impeccable disposition had, throughout his life time respected the state of feelings, passions and affections of those who associated with him, be they students, sportsmen or professionals. His journey through life encompassed two facets: the dignity and regal bearing of a noble person combined with the love and affection he had for ordinary folk.

Perfection is something hard to accomplish on earth. Absolute honesty and worshipful idols are rare, however much one may endeavour to search, but this officer and gentleman had stuck to his ideas, set high standards and performed his onerous tasks with distinction and great aplomb through dedication, courage, commitment and selflessness, hallmarks of his success. In addition he was a gifted all-round sportsman.

Eddie migrated to Melbourne in Australia nearly three decades ago not by wish or desire, but simply to unite with family. Yet, he never distanced himself from his Sri Lankan identity, but continually remembered his country of birth nostalgically. Being characteristically a famed sportsman and lover of sport, distance or time did not prevent him travelling to Sri Lanka to witness the 125th Royal-Thomian cricket match this year.

Eddie was a righteous man and a devout Christian. I quote below the words of the late Bishop Horsley, Bishop of Colombo in paying a tribute to this exceptional and charismatic personality

"I expect to pass through this world but once. Any good, therefore, that I can do or any kindness that I can show to any fellow creature let me do it now. Let me not defer or neglect it for I shall not pass through this way again."

On our visit to Australia a few years ago, my wife and I were fortunate to visit and dine with Eddie and his charming lady, Yvonne, at their home in Melbourne. He had reserved a room of the house specially for photographs portraying his captaincy of the Royal College teams of boxing, athletics and rugby: ground photographs as head prefect of Royal College and Ceylon Olympic Team in which he was a member led by our famed Duncan White.

One of the photographs that caught my eye was the one portraying Duncan White leading in the hurdles event, and looking back almost on the 'finish line' which incident cost him the gold medal at the Olympics that  year. The impression the room designed by him created within me was that of a man who cherished sport beyond measure: during and even after college upto Olympic level.

To Eddie - a legend in his time;

"Farewell, my colleague and friend
Memoirs of you and all you meant to me will live forever
Your void will never be filled
God Bless You"
Clarence (Bobby)

Blossom Tambayah

It is with a deep sense of loss that we pay this tribute to Blossom who passed away just a month ago. It is also fitting, we believe, that this In Memoriam is a celebration of an unflawed, enduring friendship of well nigh 70 years, shared by herself and Nannette and me. It was a friendship pertinent to the lives of all three of us as there was, throughout these years, constant dialogue and almost on every occasion, a meeting of minds. Sadly we realise that human life must come to an end, but it is also comforting to know that in the conduct of her life Blossom has earned for herself heaven of endless peace and rest.

Born of virtuous parents, she lived a life attuned to Christian values and ideals - a disciplined life 'far from the madding crowd.'

Graduating from university, she did a stint of teaching. Then came marriage and motherhood in the most fulfilling segment of her life. As the wife of a senior civil servant she performed all the social obligations required of her but never did she fit into the elitist class. Elitism was not in her vocabulary. She was a very 'private person', simple, but very dignified. Remaining in the background, she cared for and supported her husband through his official career, whilst at the same time nurturing and bringing her unerring sense of judgement to bear on the upbringing of her two sons, and in the shaping of their lives.

Apart from all this she shared time and thought for her intimate friends. Sober and restrained as she was she also loved to unwind and share with us our youthful reminiscences. These indeed were joyous occasions but also very meaningful, for, though young at heart, we were advanced in years and able to review our lives, for our selves in restrospect, and profit by our shared experience. We were invariably edified by Blossom's frankness and guilelessness and her deep abiding faith in God.

We must not, however fail to menton that she had much to suffer. Frequent bouts of illness and hospitalisation disturbed the even tenor of her life. On all these instances her sons Navam and Joe and their families repaid their debt of gratitude to her by their unflinching loyalty and devotion.

Although worthy of emulation, Blossom's sterling qualities were unknown to many outside her family. Gray's Elegy comes to mind -

"Full many a flower is born to blush unseen

and waste its fragrance..."

But in truth, in tribute to Blossom - in tribute to friendship we have imbibed and will continue to imbibe her fragrance.
Renee and Nannette

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