Letters to the Editor

14th May 2000

What an insult to nursing

When "Turn anger into resolve! mobilise!", by Susantha Goonatilake, caught my eye, I, an expat anticipated a hard-headed, tough but sane call to Sri Lankans to put themselves on a war-footing in their troubled but beautiful country. I was shocked by the diatribe that followed.

Strangely, it ends with a proposal to "take a leaf out of World War II.... when Britain had its back to the wall". The author and a few others are scarcely doing what Britain did then, close ranks, mobilise to fight a common enemy and give all support to the incumbent leadership. 

What really shocked me, however, was the uncalled-for racism in Mr. Goonatilake's reference to the ex-bedpan cleaner of white excrement!"

I asked a Sinhalese friend to enlighten me about this remark. He told me that Mr. Liyanage is a Sinhalese broadcaster who was once a nurse in England.

What an extraordinarily racist statement, apart from its irrelevance to Mr. Goonatilake's argument.

He certainly holds some very old-fashioned, not to say backward, ideas. "Excrement", Mr. Goonatilake, like blood, is the same colour, whatever one's race. It is only affected by things like diet and state of health.

Ignorance, apart, why the revulsion for white as opposed to black excrement?

Not only is the remark crudely racist but it also reveals a contemptible attitude to the nursing profession, to which I happen to belong. Unfortunately, married to a Britisher working here on contract, I am unable to practise my profession except, from time to time, in a voluntary capacity.

I realize the attitude here to nurses is somewhat strange. They do not seem to be regarded with quite the respect given them elsewhere in the world. I also find that certain duties which western-trained nurses take in their stride, like washing patients, fetching and cleaning bedpans, are handled here by attendants. Hence, perhaps, Mr. Goonatilake's contempt for a former nurse who performed such duties in England. 

If Mr. Liyanage looked at the colour of his patient's face before he consented to bring him a bedpan he wouldn't have lasted long as a nurse. And I assure Mr. Goonatilake that if he were a patient in Britain, the colour of his faeces would not make a dedicated nurse shrink from performing her duty.

To reduce the profession of nursing to that of a "bedpan cleaner" only reveals the writer's contempt for nurses and nursing.

Thankfully, in all my years of nursing, I have rarely had a patient who was not grateful for my care and attention. "You do more for me than my own daughter would," is something we nurses often hear. And we are proud of that; not ashamed. 

White, black or brown, my patients are human beings, some suffering great pain, others great loneliness - unvisited. I have even had patients from Sri Lanka, most of them charming, friendly and appreciative. If Mr. Liyanage was once a nurse, then he must have had some sense of humanity and service. To abuse such a person in the way that Mr. Goonatilake has done, says nothing about Mr. Mr. Liyanage, but speaks volumes for Mr. Goonatilake. 

-A British Nurse

Home-grown prejudice

I was disgusted to read Susantha Goonatilake's article "Turn anger into firm resolve! Mobilise!" (Point of view, The Sunday Times).

There seems to be a disparaging reference to Mr. Liyanage's previous career as a male nurse in the West.

I am not a listener of the BBC's Sandeshya broadcast and I am not interested in defending Mr. Liyanage's editing of this programme. 

However, I am appalled that a once respected academic should resort to such ugly abuse to vent his frustration over a difference of opinion. (Could Mr. Goonatilake enlighten us as to whether there is something exceptional about "white excrement as opposed to black excrement" or " brown excrement?"

Nursing is one of the noblest vocations man can aspire to. The fact that as part of their duty they have to remove and clean bedpans in no way demeans them or their blessed profession. 

It seems Mr. Goon–atilake suffers from an acute form of "crippled mind syndrome".

However, in his case the cause is not big, bad "Western colonialism", but home-grown preju–dice. 

S.L. Navaratnam
Colombo 7

Bouquet for hospital

My husband was admitted to the Kandy General Hospital in February when the medical service was not functioning due to strikes. I was worried as my husband's condition was serious.

Unable to seek assistance from Colombo I was at the mercy of the hospital staff and feared it could be too late to help my husband.

A kind woman doctor attached to the Intensive Care Unit who was off duty and on her way home, hurriedly completed a CT scan and directed him to Ward 12. 

From then onwards, the efficient hospital staff gave my husband a new life and his family fresh hope.

Chitra D. Weerasooriya

Boozing till two

Although the Excise Ordinance clearly states that all liquor shops should close at 9 p.m. most of them in the Kegalle town close as late as 2 a.m.

It is surprising how this escapes the attention of the Excise Department situated in the heart of Kegalle town. 

People walking the streets in the vicinity of these taverns have to tread warily to avoid drunks getting in their way.

Added to this is the fact that there is a garment factory in the town and working girls feel it is unsafe to get about. 

Will the Excise Commissioner please look into this?

K. Panditharatne

Paradise lost in N'Eliya

Unprecedented crowds thronged Nuwara Eliya during the recent festive season.

For the holiday-makers, mainly people in vans which were their living abodes, toilets were the lush green grass that gives beauty to Nuwara Eliya. They were cooking meals in the open air, polluting the surroundings.

Some young folk were crowding the roadsides during the day obstructing pavements.

Others were dancing with music at peak volume, casting derogatory remarks at women.

Until recent times, caring and respecting others, was the order of the day among the Nuwara Eliya holiday-makers. The serene atmosphere in years gone by is no more and one could well imagine what the future holds for this resort if action is not taken.

Upali Horadagoda

SLT: Wrong billing… and real bungling

Sri Lanka Telecom (SLT) is planning to increase the charges again.

The SLT advises customers to take telephone calls during off-peak hours. But, a short call, during off-peak hours is not cheaper than one taken even during peak-hours. 

A local call of 60 seconds costs the same whether it is taken during peak period, standard period, economy period or discount period. 

The same applies to a long distance call of 30 seconds.

Thus, a customer has to pay the cost of a unit irrespective of the time at which it is taken. It would be reasonable if the unit time (30 seconds) is charged at different rates depending on the time of day the call is taken. 

This is the system used in many countries but the SLT is trying to maximize profits using its monopolistic advantage. 

Meanwhile, customers who have taken 199 units per month have to pay Rs. 1.10 per unit while a customer who has taken 201 units per month has to pay Rs. 1.65 per unit. 

Similarly, a customer who has taken 499 units a month pays Rs. 1.65 per unit while a customer who has taken 501 units pays Rs. 2.25 per unit. This is extremely unfair as the customer does not know the number of units he has used until he gets the bill. Will the SLT look into these anomalies?

An SLT customer

I was billed for an overseas phonogram I was purported to have made and the bill was sent to me along with the bill for August 1999.

I protested to the Regional Engineer, Maradana and settled the bill for the particular month minus the fee for phonogram. Later I received the usual reply that I should pay for it. 

In January, I appealed to the Chairman, Sri Lanka Telecom and demanded an inquiry. My letter was referred to the Head of the Billing Section who directed that the charge on the overseas call should be deleted. 

On March 24, I spoke to the Assistant Superintendent of Telecommunications to whom the decision was conveyed and he assured me that action would be taken to delete the amount in due course. I promptly settled the bill for March.

To my dismay my line was disconnected on March 29. I reported the matter to 121 and was informed by the Kelaniya Exchange that my telephone had been disconnected. 

On representations made by me the connection was restored at 9 a.m on May 2. But I had been put into great inconvenience specially during the May Day weekend. 

Nanda Nanayakkara

Those ads: Alive & kicking

The tobacco industry is a menace and now it is after our children. 

Recently my child came home and told me this strange story. At his tuition class, as the teacher had not turned up the students had gone into the town. 

These students had seen girls and boys, who were certainly not from Gampaha, carrying backpacks which had cigarette brand names on them going here and there, smoking - sharing cigarettes, laughing and generally giving the impression of having FUN! 

All the while the children from the tuition class had stood and gaped at this spectacle! And because they were free, he and his friends had followed these young things around and seen them getting into some vehicles, one of which had been parked quite far away. This last one had logos painted on it. That was when it had dawned on them that this was a planned promotion. 

So, now we know!The tobacco industry has found lots of undercover ways of promoting their particular brand of death targeting children, the young adults! Show that you need a smoke to have fun, associate smoking with being modern, "cool", with it, sophisticated, smart and beautiful!

Imagine the plight of the poor young things who were paid to act out this charade - they will end up being smokers themselves and over their short lives pay back to the industry many times what they were initially paid!! 

How did the industry fool their parents to give permission to take part in these activities?

Does the industry have no shame? How could they claim to say one thing and brazenly do another? Why target our children - the future of this country? Satan is Satan in any way he comes - so are cigarettes! 

Ms. D. Perera

Welcome road banners

Congratulations and thanks to the Traffic Police and the Merchant Bank for the pertinent and timely, bright yellow banners that have appeared along the main roads in Colombo.

What an excellent form of public education - the humorous sketches and witty slogans are really eye-catching! The constant reminders, it is hoped will reform self-centred, indisciplined drivers and pedestrians, minimise road accidents and eliminate chaos.

However, public education must be accompanied by rigorous monitoring by the Traffic Police.

Irangani H. Fernando
Colombo 9

A better deal for seniors

More than 500,000 pensioners are living amidst hardship without any hope.

At a time when these senior citizens should live in peace enjoying a life in retirement, it is disheartening that they are compelled to continue doing ad hoc jobs to keep the home fires burning as their pension hardly suffices to eke out even a hand-to-mouth existence. 

Even their little savings are eaten into when medical bills come, due to old-age ailments. 

Unlike in the United Kingdom, the pension scheme in our country is static and is not adjustable in keeping with the increasing cost of living. The pensioners do not have the right to resort to strike action and to force their demands through any trade union. 

They seem to be a forgotten lot who just wait in silence and are compelled to take whatever they are given. 

But the pensioners are hopeful that the President would review this position from a humanitarian point of view and grant redress by re-modelling the pension structure. 

Don Sarath Abeyesekera 


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