19th February, 2006
Volume 12, Issue 32
Pension anomalies not resolved
The pension increases given so far have not benefitted the majority of pensioners because of the anomalies that exist. May be a few categories have benefitted. With the spiraling cost of living, price hikes in
medicine, inability to afford a private hospital even for a few days or pay even a home for the aged, the pensioners are in dire circumstances.
One such example is where lecturers of teacher training colleges who have retired are paid a pension less than that of those whom they trained and have later retired; the anomaly is glaring.
It is reported that the initial basic salary of a government servant is over Rs. 11,000. A person with a post-graduate or equivalent qualification in the lecturer grade even with 35 years of dedicated service does not get this amount as pension after retirement. Is this fair and democratic?
The pensioners associations have so far failed to bring any redress. Most pensioners are ailing and are not fit enough to take up these things direct with the authorities.
What is needed is a commission/committee to be appointed by the government to look into pension anomalies and correct them. This should be publicised so that even a person sick in bed could write direct and seek redress. The whole process should end within a limited time frame.
Pensioners had been a neglected lot for long and the result is what I have highlighted. It is upto the minister of finance to take speedy action.
Live it, love it, that is Hong Kong
Rigid European discipline and fierce technological advancement blended with the natural Asian hospitality and warmth created a few vibrant and efficient places such as Singa-pore and Hong Kong. They ended up being economic tigers too. Discipline, security, and convenience are a few factors one
will be obsessed with in this part of China.
I as a free individual think we should lease our sunny island for 99 years if we are ever to develop!
Recently I had a brief sojourn in Hong Kong. Hong Kong is a truly vibrant, diverse and efficient place. This economic tiger is situated in South Eastern China, and gets its income from finance, logistics, services and tourism.
Until August 20, 2005, we Sri Lankans were granted visas upon arrival in Hong Kong, and that was our main gateway to China. When holding a Sri Lankan passport was considered a crime in most parts of the world, we travelled through Hong Kong sans visas, to Japan, USA, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.
Mostly Sri Lankan students, government officials, businessmen and tourists made use of this facility. But thanks to our own Sri Lankan brethren who are languishing in Hong Kong jails; for either overstaying visas, robbery or even murder, we Sri Lankans now need visas not only to enter Hong Kong, but also to travel to other countries through Hong Kong. However, one should not forget the star studded Sri Lankan community there. The
doctor who discovered the SARS virus is a Sri Lankan, and is in Hong Kong in addition to the few professionals who make us proud.
Anybody arriving in Hong Kong on SriLankan Airlines is greeted by a well equipped army of immigration officials who would separate the ‘browns’ and the ‘blacks’ from the ‘whites’ and ‘yellows.’ This is humiliation at its best.
Wearing the usual artificial smile they would want to see your travel documents to ascertain whether you have a visa. They are looking for Sri Lankans who arrive sans visas!
If they are successful in finding one which is rare, they would sell a visa to the passenger and refer the case to the courts where the airline would be fined up to HKD 10,000. But if you arrive by Cathay Pacific Airways to connect another Cathay Pacific Airways flight you are not required a visa. That is how that government helps the airline of a territory, whereas ours is simply sleeping. Surely we are Sri Lankans indeed!
The saga does not end there. When you go through the initial humiliation and approach the ‘proper’ immigration control, despite the fact you are in possession of a valid visa, more often than not, you will be taken to a stinking interview room where you will be grilled for many hours (sometimes up to eight hours) to ascertain the purpose of your visit. Only ‘browns’ and less affluent ‘blacks’ could be seen in that
Many Sri Lankan professionals such as doctors, bankers and genuine business travellers have gone though this humiliation and I hope they would rise to this call.
Profiling, judgment, discretion and authority are words you do not find in the lexicon used by the Hong Kong immigration — might as well employ some robots. Yet their government fiercely promotes business and tourism with the outside world. I do not venture to describe the other discriminatory acts you would experience once you are in Hong Kong. ‘Live it. Love it.’
What has our Foreign Ministry or the Sri Lankan Embassy in Beijing done about this bizarre act of blatant discrimination? Sweet nothing! I am not surprised; because we are Sri Lankan.
Pro bono Publico
Unbowed and fearless
The Sunday Leader is the most outstandingly daring and frank investigative English language weekly, the like of which has not been seen in this country in recent history.
Its clinical reportage on many a national issue has brought about the best investigative journalism totally unrivalled. It is the hallmark of a truly independent press, to remain unbowed before truth and adversity in its sublime duty by the nation.
What better service could be expected of the media than to expose the social blights that have been heedlessly and selfishly heaped upon this nation by those very people who keep masquerading before gullible people as their saviors?
The state media true to form, lackeys for the authorities in power and the unpalatable truth is often garbled and kept away from the people. In such a situation the onus of playing the role of watchdog in a fledgling democracy, and truly protecting it from arrogance of power — a constant plague in our politics — has fallen on the private media.
Despite allegations of being partisan they perform a highly commendable role in their chosen profession and in this, your newspaper is immensely forthright in its comments and has exhibited a noble rarity amongst newspapermen where you never hesitate to expose a culprit, be it even from your chosen camp.
At a time when rumblings against media freedom are being constantly drummed up and many a journalist had been felled by the assassin’s bullet, your valour in speaking the truth is much appreciated and admired.
Plan to increase Railway revenue
The railways and transport minister is expecting to introduce more freight transport by rail hoping that this will increase the revenue of the Railway Department.
The Minister of Railways and Transport A.H.M. Fowzie is perhaps not aware that this will increase the losses of the Railway Department and will lead to even more bottlenecks in route capacity, expenditure on maintenance of rolling stock and track repairs, and will become counte-productive to passenger transport.
More heavy haul by the rail freight service will increase the distortion of the already unstable rail tracks resting mostly on the weak formations and fundaments once designed by the British for a ‘light railway’ with an axle load of a maximum of 10 tonnes. Since the British left, the formations and subgrades have not been re-engineered to make them fit to carry a modern, stable rail road with concrete sleepers serving a
modern, diesel hauled train service.
It was wrong ‘fundamental rail road engineering work’ to fiddle only with the superstructure (sleepers, rails, fastenings) over decades and not engineering stable formations and subgrades in the required profiles and support moduli.
Especially the heavy axle diesel locos, Class M4, M6, M8 and M9, distort the weak rail roads and sharp points (turnouts).
Under the present passenger service load the tracks distort faster than they can be repaired or maintained. Despite that the present signaling system sans automatic train protection hampers a denser and higher route capacity, a more heavy haul will increase the maintenance and repair expenditure for rolling stock and rail tracks. By more rail freight the operation of SLR will become more uneconomical as long as the rail roads
have not been re-engineered according to well known engineering standards, to a high initial track stability with a slow deterioration rate.
SLR already faces a shortage of well trained loco drivers, well maintained locos and freight wagons. In addition there has been no comprehensive training of civil engineers in fundamental rail road engineering works.
Before more rail freight is put on the tracks the formations and subgrades of the rail roads have to be re-engineered and the superstructure nourished with a strong ballast cushion according to well known profile standards.
Dr. Frank Wingler
My earliest memory of the legendary cricket coach of Ananda, P. W. Perera, is of a strongly built man with a commanding presence directing operations at the centre of the grounds that Ananda shared with Nalanda at Campbell Place. With his weather-beaten face, sleeves rolled half-way up his muscular forearms and the top button of his white shirt unbuttoned he reminded me of some of the
great West Indian cricketers of that era.
In was Ananda’s good fortune that "PW" as we fondly called him among ourselves (officially he was, and still is "Sir"), returned to coach Ananda in 1966. Of course, his reputation had preceded him, having achieved great things coaching Ananda during the ’50s, but we did not know what to expect. The Big Match Souvenir showed that he had the record for the best bowling performance in the Ananda-Nalanda
series (8 for 51 in 1941, the year after he captained Ananda) but we knew little about the man himself.
The first thing that struck me was his emphasis on discipline, dedication and the honour associated with playing for Ananda.
Our predecessors had to overcome prejudice as well as be much better than the others to be considered equals worthy of respect and opportunity. However, PW harboured no bitterness. His response, which we in turn adopted, was to counter with relentless determination and consistent performance but always in keeping with the high traditions intrinsic to cricket.
So when the time came for battle, we were ready physically and psychologically. P.W. was a non-intrusive coach. He didn’t try to change a cricketer’s natural style and instincts to fit a pre-conceived mould. Instead, he would focus on spotting talent, getting the basics right and instilling the right attitudes. There was never any doubt that Ananda and the team’s interest came first— always.
PW had an instinctive feel for the psychological aspects of coaching too. He would, when he felt the time was right, thrust players into situations which would make them extend themselves and discover their capabilities. A test of fire!
I well remember the first day of our match against Trinity College in 1968 when our usually reliable coach suddenly announced that I, a seasoned tail-ender, would bat at No.3 despite our strong line-up. I ended up scoring my first and only century in any form of cricket! I realised later that he took that risk to make me grow as an individual - and, of course, strengthen Ananda’s team for the future.
P. W. Perera grew up during a period when the resurgence of national consciousness was in full flow. Homegrown institutions like Ananda, Nalanda and Dharmaraja were not merely schools but centers where the collective conscience of emerging, independent Sri Lanka was being formed. Even sports, like cricket, were not just amusements but part of the struggle to conclusively prove that the ‘natives’ were capable of achieving
excellence and taking care of their own affairs. PW was a student at Ananda between 1935 and 1941, playing for the college for four years from 1938 to 1941. In his final year he set up that famous Big Match bowling record and went on to captain the Combined Schools team — the first Anandian to do so. This was a period when no one from outside the anointed circle of schools and clubs could hope to be considered for the national team. So PW played club
cricket and Sri Lanka missed out.
He started his coaching career at Dharmaraja College, Kandy shaping the team up to beat teams like Ananda, Nalanda, Trinity and St. Anthony’s. He then joined the Prisons Department in 1944 and thereafter, coached schools wherever his job took him to — St. Mary’s College, Negombo, an eight year stint with Ananda, and St. Servatius’ College, Matara, another eight years with Ananda,and St. Anthony’s College, Kandy and on
to D. S. Senanayake Vidyalaya (where a young Aravinda de Silva was rising fast). Finally, PW took charge of all the junior teams at Ananda in 1982 and kept going until he finally retired at the end of 2004.
When PW completed 50 years of coaching, it was felt that the match between Ananda and Dharmaraja, where he started his coaching career, would be the most appropriate occasion to celebrate his contribution. The P. W. Perera Trophy was finally presented to the College and PW’s contribution acknowledged at the Ananda Colours Night on December 10, 1998. When PW walked on to the stage of Kularatne Hall that evening, he received a
spontaneous standing ovation from the entire audience, many of whom could have been his great-grandchildren, and he was visibly moved. In response to my letter of congratulation, he wrote —
"Believe me, if I have achieved any success as a cricket coach, it was completely due to my love and absolute devotion to the job treating each pupil alike and, in my humble way, trying to make him a complete cricketer and a complete gentleman as well."
That sums up the man and his character precisely. May he attain the supreme bliss of nirvana.
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