Plus - Letters to the editor

Total disgrace – the way government pensioners are being treated

Much has been written lately about the woes of the government pensioners. These people are senior citizens who worked hard during the better part of their lives. They have worked with dedication and loyalty in the public service.

It is therefore a total disgrace that the pensioners’ contribution towards the development of the country is not recognized or appreciated. Enfeebled by sickness and old age, these people are a marginalised segment of the population.

There are several thousand government pensioners, and the majority draw modest pensions of between Rs. 12,500 and Rs. 15,500 a month. This money includes all allowances. Pensioners’ living standards have been deteriorating with the steady decline in the value of the rupee. There has been no attempt to factor inflation into the pensioner’s pension.

Furthermore, pensions have not been brought in line with the 2006 salary revision. This failure by the public service to act on behalf of the pensioner is totally unacceptable.

This was understandable in the context of the separatist war that raged for 27 years in the North and the East. The government had to give priority to the war effort. The pensioners, for their part, tightened their belts and stoically put up with the hardships.

But it is two years now since the war ended. The government should give immediate relief to its pensioners and other economically vulnerable sections of the population. In the midst of plenty, these unfortunate people are condemned to a life of hardship.

G. Liyanagama, Matara

When shadows and puppets come alive

In response to the article "Passionate about our puppets" featuring Kalabushana Gatwari Premin published in the Sunday Times Plus of October 16, I am sending this poem I was commissioned to write for a commemorative book published on the occasion of the first International "Puppetry of the World" festival in Yogyakanta (Wayang Sedunia)


That is what they are made for
for laughter and dreams
and sometimes, sadness;
a miniature universe
dazzling and beautiful
Where children can imagine the impossible as real.
In this manipulated fantasy
shadows and puppets come alive;
they straddle the blurred line
between illusion and reality.
body, heart and mind. Love and cruelty,
false pride, hypocrisy,
longing and tenderness; tyranny; jealousy -
a looking - glass reflecting the story of our lives
but taking us beyond our limited horizons.
Only a shadow on the wall,
some scraps of cloth, a bunch of sticks, beads and string
and strands of wool - and yet the tiny actors still enthrall and talk to something deep within us
to recreate the mystery of childhood's hopes and fears.
We travel with them where they choose to take us
enchanted by their world of mirrored passion
and watch their faces change expression
and how their eyes are sometimes filled with tears.

Anne Ranasinghe, Colombo 7

Bouquet to Matara Hospital staff

My wife underwent cataract surgery two decades ago and continued in her teaching career without vision problems. She taught at the Royal College, Colombo, for more than three decades. Recently she complained of a dimness in her left eye. I met a well-known consultant eye surgeon at a private medical centre. After examining my wife, the eye surgeon told me she needed a costly injection, which was not available locally.

The treatment was more than our meagre pensions could afford. The eye surgeon then told us he would obtain the injection from the Ministry of Health, at no cost to us. I heaved a sigh of relief. We were told that we would receive a telephone call when the drug was obtained. On October 20, my wife received a call from the hospital, telling her to report to the Matara Hospital on October 20. The injection was given by the surgeon himself, and she was discharged on the 22nd.

The commitment and dedication of the supporting staff of Ward 15 deserve special praise. My was given a comfortable bed and was well looked after during her hospital stay. A fragrant bouquet to the Consultant Eye Surgeon and his supporting staff at Ward 15 of the Matara General Hospital.

Nanda Nanayakkara, Matara

Senior citizen matters should be handed over to Ministry of Defence

While we welcome the idea of an Electronic National Identity Card, or ENIC, the state should consider the plight of those who hold a senior citizen’s NIC.

On the back of the card, it says that senior citizens are given preferential treatment at health and transport centres, post offices, banks, police stations, and so on. But this is not the case in reality. Elderly people are made to stand in queues, just like the others. No thought is given to the discomfort and inconvenience the elder person must endure.

Either the state gives strict orders to government departments on the treatment of elderly persons, or the government should do away with the issuing of such cards. If the Ministry of Defence were put in charge, senior citizens would be well looked after.

M. M. M. Yusuf, Galle

Shakespeare shouldn’t have to wear a sarong

The Annual Interschool Shakespeare Contest has come and gone. It was three days of great activity. This year more than 30 schools participated, and it was fantastic to see the talent that some of our young people have.

I have been attending the Shakespeare contest every year, almost, and I enjoy the experience very much. Lately, however, I have noticed a change creeping in, one that not everyone in the audience would welcome.

I am no author, critic, actor or director, just a lover of Shakespeare. The love for Shakespeare and the classics was planted in me by my father when I was 10 years old, and it has grown in me and with me. What I feel is that the contest should not be localised.

 The actors should wear the kind of costumes worn by actors of those days, not sarongs, banian, jeans or T-shirts.

 The language should be Shakespeare’s own, not modern English or “English as is spoke!” Think on this: how would the Sinhala literary intelligentsia react to a performance of Maname or Sinhabahu in a modern Westernized style, with top hats and tailcoats, and an altered language mode and context. I doubt such changes would be received in a positive way.

 The best actor/actress should be chosen at a preliminary judging and not during the finals. There were many good actors and actresses among the schools that did not enter the finals.

If costumes, language, context and pronunciation are not important, then this competition should be called “Shakespeare Localised”, and not “The All Island Shakespeare Drama Competition.”
This is just my humble opinion, and I do not wish to cause any ripples.

Kay Es

Ban bats and balls on Wellawatte beach

Beaches are meant for leisure and pleasure. Colombo has only a few beaches, and these are visited by thousands.

Too bad that the beauty and peace of Wellawatte beach, which people like to visit on weekends and week days, after a hard day or week at the office, are disturbed by unruly youngsters who use the beach to play cricket, football, volleyball, and so on.

These boys have no respect for anyone; they come in gangs and dominate the entire seashore. Often, the balls and bats hit children, elderly persons and tourists relaxing on the beach.

The tourist authorities along with the tourist police should bar games on the beach, at least in the evenings, and especially on weekends and holidays.

Conditions that apply to the Galle Face Green should be introduced at Wellawatte beach: team games should be banned and only walking, jogging and running should be allowed.

Siva, Nugegoda

Bashing public servants

Bashing public servants seems the order of the day. The most criticized are the lower and middle-level public servants, especially the clerical hands and similar grades who are described as indifferent or lazy.

The politicians criticise the executive officials, when they fail to get their requests (mostly illegitimate) promptly carried out.

Those in the ministerial and ruling hierarchy bash the senior administrative officers when their political programmes fail. (Most of these programmes are short-sighted, poorly thought out, politically inspired, and impracticable.)

Another setback is the inability of administrators to obtain practical work and cooperation from their subordinates, both in the field and the office. This is mainly because of indiscipline among subordinate staff.

The administrators of today are not in the same mould as administrators of the past, who possessed a high degree of integrity, honesty and justice.

Today’s administrative officials are cringing, “yes, Sir” types.

R. M. A. B. Dassanayake, Matale

Dutch partners

Tony Saldin’s interesting article on William Lumanauw (ST Plus) brought back many memories. The article, I may add, also needs some corrections.

Mr. H. De Wildt was not a “Dutch Burgher” as described. He was, like my father, a Dutchman commissioned in Holland for service in the Holland Ceylon Commercial Co., and sent to their branch in Ceylon as young executives in the late 1920s.

With the closure of that company, the two Dutchmen teamed up as partners and started a firm called Bogstra & De Wildt in 1933. That partnership ended in the 1950s, and Mr. De Wildt, who was already the Honorary Consul for Holland during their business partnership, continued as full-time Consul until the creation of the Dutch Embassy. My father was Acting Consul, and he acted for Mr. De Wildt on many occasions.

As a child I remember visiting with him the ship “Plancious”, where a big fat Dutch captain entertained us the whole day – Dutch gin and cigars for the elders.

Mr. Lumanauw arrived on such a trip and was taken by my father to Mr. de Wildt, in view of his knowledge of Dutch, to work at the Consulate.

W. L. Bogstra, Kotte

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