The letter from Sumith de Silva appearing in your issue of September 17, refers only to disturbing sounds emanating from a Buddhist temple. As if to give added strength to this article, you have introduced a drawing, showing
a Buddhist temple etc., thus giving, what appears to be an editorial endorsement to the letter.
Of course, everybody is aware that this practice of disturbing the neighbouring environments, throughout the country, originated not from Buddhist temples, but from mosques, which practice is still continuing.
Readers should, therefore, clamour for a total ban on sound pollution, emanating from all religious establishments in the country; instead of pointing their finger at a particular establishment.
This writer is a frequent visitor to Australia where total religious freedom is available to all religions, but sound pollution similar to what is found in our country is legally prohibited in respect of all religious establishments. We could take a leaf from Australia on this controversial subject.
In conclusion, I would mention a statement made by a famous philosopher in respect of freedom of expression— "I will never agree with your views; but I will die for your right to express those views
Restore monthly pension receipt
I happened to read the excellent editorial in a Sinhala weekend newspaper of September 14, and learnt about the travails of pensioners at Dambulla and Nugegoda. Pensioners consist of sexagenarians, septuagenarians, octogenarians and perhaps a few nonagenarians. They suffer from various ailments attendant with senile debility. A great majority suffer from cardio-vascular disease and arthritis, so
even a tyke could understand their pathetic plight.
I am now compelled to echo the frustrations of certain pensioners belonging to all walks of life, from the highest social strata to the lowest, with whom I associate and they are scattered all over the island. My acquaintances who have given of their best during their hey-day and now existing on life long medication in the last lap of their lives (includes me as well) and who do not possess the wherewithal to scribble have
requested me in person as well as over the telephone to plead for clemency on their behalf.
From time immemorial pension receipts and W. & O. P. receipts were made available monthly by post to all concerned.
In this connection my letter under the caption "Payment of pensions" appeared in an English daily on Thursday, January 12. The last paragraph of that letter reads as follows: "We are yet to experience how the proposed new system would work. At the moment every argument is based on speculation. Let us also not be pessimistic! The Ministry of Public Administration might do well to issue a communique through the print
media for information of the public which would allay fears, thus ensuring transparency as a means of good governance. Let us then resolve our problems if any."
I telephoned the assistant director, public relations / policy and planning, Pensions Department on telephone 2329580 who informed me that instructions had been issued to do away with the pension receipt from next month. The mindset of the present day bureaucrats (except a handful) borders on sadism. More helpless an oldster is, more pleasure derived by them — a fact that I dare lay down with disgusting personal experience
with the Department of Pensions. Quite a plethora of my letters appeared in the print media.
The pension receipt consists of 11 columns. Column 10 specifies the abetments which generally vary. Some pensioners contribute to the Government Officers’ Benefit Association and the Public Servants’ Mutual Provident Fund Association and some to the Education Department Co-operative Thrift Society etc. Some pensioners obtain loans mainly to meet medical bills, and monthly deductions are effected by way of recovery in addition
to the monthly contributions.
How on earth could a pensioner ascertain the position in the absence of a pension receipt? The monthly cost of living addition of Rs. 180 I presume — which was announced recently was not included in this month’s pension. A glaring example in support of my argument!
These are matters that should engage the attention of those in authority. These are basic considerations that the pompous panjandrums of the Public Administration Ministry and Pensions Department also should have considered.
The senior citizens are disenchanted that the government has reneged on its promise of catering to the needs of the elders. The decision to do away with the pension receipt (W. & O. P. receipt included) is certainly to the consternation of all affected scattered all over the island. It is of paramount importance and is connected to our very lives in this mundane world.
It is also well known that politicians enjoy limitless perks far in excess of what they deserve and live in clover while the masses are suffering. Under the circumstances we hope and pray that the all important monthly pension receipt is restored forthwith by the powers that be.
A colossal waste of public funds
A news item proclaimed that the President was proceeding to the UN with a large entourage of nearly 60 persons. This is unbelievable. Even the President, lavish as he is with the use of public money has not reached such heights before. All this for a six minute speech.
Even more astonishing, if this report is accurate, is the news that the First Lady even took her hair dresser along on the trip. All this, remember, is paid for by the poor tax payer. How can such wasteful misuse of public funds by the President be condoned when the citizens of this country are staggering under an unbearable load imposed by an escalating cost of living, which no one in authority cares about.
Such actions are nothing short of revolting when the ordinary man is finding it impossible to feed his family. We are going through virtual hell while those who have taken us there are bent on gallivanting all over the globe with their families and sycophant boot lickers. How can the country be pulled out of the mire it is in, when those in power have a complete disregard for the plight of the ordinary citizens? God save Sri
Why exempt state employees from income tax?
Private sector employees are said to be better paid than state employees and are liable to pay income tax; but not apparently, the less paid, state employees. Is this the actual situation? Is their salaries the only remuneration they are entitled to?
This is a myth when one takes into consideration the other benefits they are entitled to besides their salaries such as rent allowance, three railway warrants for them and their families, 52 days leave in all, and now an enhanced living allowance up to Rs.2,100 and a pension to boot after retirement. This is not all — they are entitled to overtime even exceeding their monthly salary, not to speak of being paid when they go on
strike at the drop of a hat; the unethical sick note campaigns; work to rule with full pay etc.
There is of course another source of hidden income, except for a few. It must be remembered that there was a time when public officers paid income tax when Dr. N.M. Perera was finance minister and T.B. Illangaratne was a cabinet minister — both trade union leaders. It was only after politics crept into the public service and politicians were more interested in gathering votes; not service to the public, that payment of income
tax was abolished. Thus this discrimination between the public servants and all others began. What is suggested is that there be a level playing field. Everybody who by law is expected to pay this tax should pay it — I wonder whether this would precipitate a general strike
Anyhow, it is hoped that public sector employees will take this in good spirit and would not mind paying a small percentage of their salaries as taxes and feel proud and grateful repaying in some small measure, mostly the poor, who provided them with a free education.
Service charge on current accounts
I am a senior citizen aged 62 years. I was working in the private sector and hence do not get a pension. I have a current account at the Katugastota Branch of the Bank of Ceylon for the last 23 years. My income depends on my children and my bank balance is always around Rs.2,000.
In spite of this the bank deducts Rs.60 monthly as service charge which is taken off my account. When I inquired from the bank they said the minimum monthly balance should be Rs.2,500 and a monthly service charge would be collected from accounts that have a balance of less than Rs.2,500.
This practice is unfair and I think senior citizens who do not have any income should be given some relief and allowed to maintain a minimum balance of Rs.2,000 in their current accounts.
Professor sobitha Sanjaya Panditharatne
September 2 marks the first death anniversary of Professor Sobitha Sanjaya Panditharatne. He was the eldest brother of my classmate and friend Abhaya. I first met Professor and his wife Manel when I was living with Abhaya in his old ancestral house at Nugegoda during my A Level examination, way back in the 1960s. Theirs was a very united and loving family.
Having joined the Department of Anatomy in 1962, he rose to be the Professor of Anatomy at the Faculty of Medicine, Colombo, which post he held for more than 25 years till retirement. He worked very hard and was meticulous in his work and had the charisma to inspire his staff and students to greater heights. His achievements could be gauged by the many students who are now holding senior posts as consultants, professors and
lecturers, here and abroad.
He was also singularly responsible for all the dissections and created a comprehensive Anatomical museum, which is on par with any museum in the world. Upon retirement he was made an Emeritus Professor in recognition of his valued services.
Furthermore he was an examiner to MS Surgery Part 1, MS Dental Part 1 and Radiology Part 1 for many years. In 1989 he was conferred with a ‘Honouris Causa’ fellowship (FCCP) by the College of Surgeons of Sri Lanka.
Subsequently his inbuilt character and excellent leadership made him an automatic choice for the post of Registrar of the Sri Lanka Medical Council. During his 11-year tenure he made the council financially viable and was responsible in housing it in the new showpiece fully furnished building at Norris Canal Road, Colombo 10.
His busy schedule did not deter him from his obligations. He was much interested in the accomplishments of his two daughters. His was a unique academic family where he and his wife Manel, his two daughters and two sons-in-law are all doctors and specialists. He was a horticulturists and an avid orchid grower. He was in his element in his garden, tending the plants he loved.
In his later years, failing health made him give up his multitude of interests and lead a happy retired life under the tender care of his loving wife, Manel, who was a tower of strength to him.
He was a simple person who was very content with life and never wanted more. He always helped anybody who wanted his advice and was happy with other people’s success. He was a wonderful person who led a very accomplished life. He has helped both my wife and me in numerous ways for which I will always be grateful.
May he receive all the blessings of the triple gem in his journey through samsara.