Sorry, we 90-year-old pensioners have no time for waiting games Pensioner Mr. Abeywickrema (Sunday Times, January 20) describes the shocking plight of pensioners who are deprived of their legitimate entitlement after giving years of dedicated service to the country.  As he pointed out, the salaries and allowances of Parliamentarians, including the Head of State, were [...]

The Sundaytimes Sri Lanka

Letters to the editor


Sorry, we 90-year-old pensioners have no time for waiting games

Pensioner Mr. Abeywickrema (Sunday Times, January 20) describes the shocking plight of pensioners who are deprived of their legitimate entitlement after giving years of dedicated service to the country.  As he pointed out, the salaries and allowances of Parliamentarians, including the Head of State, were increased and prompt action taken to pay the increased amounts along with arrears.

Consequent to the salary revision for public servants, the pensions of pre-2006 pensioners were also revised and payments made accordingly. At a gathering of pensioners at Temple Trees, the President promised to rectify the pension anomaly of the pre-2006 pensioners.I am 90 years old, and there are pensioners like myself who are trying to survive with the paltry pensions we get. Much of the little money we get goes on medicines and milk foods, which are expensive.

The revenue that would go to pay out pensions after making the pension anomaly adjustment is trifling compared to the heavy losses the Government has incurred as a result of hedging, investing in Greek bonds, purchasing sub-standard fuel, and the wasting of fabulous sums on Mihinair.I appeal to the President to place pensioners on a new pension scale after adjusting the anomalies and to pay our arrears as soon as possible.

R. M. L. Ratnayeke, Matale

How would MPs like it if their ‘pensions’ weren’t given as promised?

I found a September 2010 copy of “Sahana”, the monthly bulletin of the All Ceylon Government Pensioners’ Association. The then Minister of Public Administration, Mr. W. D. J. Seneviratne had given an assurance in Parliament that pension anomalies would be rectified, as promised by the President in the Mahinda Chintanaya.

On January 14, 2010, the people-friendly President invited 5,000 pensioners to Temple Trees and promised that pension anomalies would be rectified.Mr. S. Abeywickrama of Nugegoda wrote a strong letter on the subject – “Pension arrears – waiting till all pensioners die?” (Sunday Times, January 20, 2013).

Who is responsible for this stupendously unjust action of withholding what is long overdue to the hapless pensioners waiting in the departure lounge to proceed to the Great Beyond? The pensioners are requesting what is their due, what has been promised them. The clock is ticking. Time and tide wait for no man or woman.The Golden Rule sums it up: “Only do unto others as you would have done to yourself.”

Nanda Nanayakkara, Matara

Splendid Sri Lanka

Where has it all gone –
The harmony that lasted centuries?
Where is the co-existence of
Brothers of multi-faiths?

Our diverse ethnic strands –
Sinhalese, Tamil, Muslim, Burgher –
Woven together from ancient times;
We lived in Harmony
In a Sweet Symphony –
Why unleash now the serpent of hate?
Who are these maniacs, fanatics?
Are they blind to the harm they instigate?

My mother Lanka is a citadel of sanctity –
Dare we forget the clashing of terrorist cymbals,
The massacre of innocent babes, the
Destroyed schools, temples, churches, mosques?

Hearts indelibly scarred still feel
The anguish, yet we survived.
Recall the days when the British
Hunted with vengeance
The Sinhala King of the Mountain Kingdom –
A brave Muslim lady saw the
Sovereign hide but never betrayed him;
Mercilessly did the soldiers beat her
Till her soul departed;
The King from his arbour emerged,
Looked at the pool of blood
Lifted the lifeless patriot
And cried: “Maa raka le”
A phrase that with the passing of time
Became “Marakkalaya” to
Responsible Muslim citizens.

This is how the legend goes.

Around my Splendid Isle
Benign spirits hover –
An invisible power will
Save our places of sanctity.

May peace prevail in our Paradise Isle –
Weep not, Mother Lanka,
Let us see your Benign Smile.

Nafeela Mukthar

Too bad how people in high places talk about each other

As a public servant of yesteryear, working in what was once hailed as the best administrative service in Asia, I am saddened by the way responsible people in high places talk about each other. Minister Wimal Weerawansa – who is often portrayed in cartoons as “carrying the bucket” and frequently referred to as “kuliyata kahinawa”, someone hired by the Government to cough – has described the Secretary to the Treasury and his staff as “thakkadiyas”. The English equivalent of “thakkadiya” is “scoundrel.”

In the old days, if someone had a problem with a senior Government servant such as a Secretary to a Ministry, he would make representations to the Head of State. All Secretaries to Ministries are appointed by and directly answerable to the Head of State. If no action was taken, but there was some truth in the allegations, these honourable officers holding responsible positions would step down without hesitation.

Whether we have such honourable officials of that calibre these days is a different matter. Minister Wimal Weerawansa has, as the Sinhala saying goes, “Vidde havata, vadune pandurata” – aimed at the Rabbit, the Secretary to the Treasury and staff, but hit the bush, the Government or the Minister in charge.

President Mahinda Rajapaksa may overlook the actions of Mervyn Silva, who has challenged the President by saying no one can oust him from Kelaniya,. But Wimal Weerawansa is different.

He is ambitious and bent on achieving his goal. It reminds me of that old story about Yasa and Kusa: The king and the courtier look alike. They decide to have some fun. The king requested the courtier to dress as the king, and the king dressed as the courtier. The day this took place, the courtier, now seated on the king’s throne, commanded the other courtiers to take away the real king, as he had laughed in court.

“Tranquil”, Nilambe, Galaha

Faces sans smiles: Lanka’s emerging reality

Despite external invasions, and long periods of internal turmoil, our country is known as a paradise isle peopled by friendly, happy, smiling natives.
This state of affairs is about to end. I, for one, wear a permanently bewildered and disgusted expression brought about by the antics of our politicians.
One of the more intelligent amongst them now rants and raves about halal-labelled products, insisting on their ban.

Halal should not affect a good Buddhist, as beef and chicken, one presumes are not on his menu.If he cares to read the Prophet’s pronouncements, he will see they have a scientific basis.The eating of pork is prohibited, as pigs are scavengers, and therefore prone to be carriers of bacteria. There is a serious problem in West Asia, where pigs are infested with the parasite “cysticercosis” which could cause a fatal disease, when transmitted to man.

Similarly, draining the blood from a carcass will minimise the incidence of bacterial infection.The more powerful Mafia of politicians, who consider Sri Lanka their private property, are guilty of far more than letting off “hot air”.Their egoistical ambition is insatiable. In the massive ‘development’ enterprises undertaken [several of them redundant ego-boosting projects], they have lost sight of the people.

Consider Colombo for instance, certainly it looks beautiful now, but for whose benefit is this facelift?Population enclaves which have occupied areas for over three decades are being displaced.Third and fourth generation householders in suburban sea-side areas had their walls ‘come tumbling down’ without notice. They [several of them in their seventies] now, sans security, are at the mercy of house-breakers and thugs.

According to a news item, the environs of Beira Lake will be transformed by a massive development project. The whole area will be ringed by hotels. There will be the inevitable ‘jogging path’, with its attendant landscaping.I feel that in the not too distant future there will be more hotels in Colombo than private residences and more jogging paths than joggers!

This is not America, where jogging is a national pastime.In the meantime, we see recently renovated roundabouts being reconstructed and perfectly good pavements being shattered. Do our rulers delude themselves into thinking they have the Midas touch? By spending millions of dollars of borrowed funds for purely cosmetic purposes, the people are given short-shrift.

Some 80% of Sri Lankans, who are struggling to survive, derive no benefit from this tourist oriented development.But of course, there is the Divineguma scheme devised for the uplift of the rural masses! It distributes seeds to householders amid much publicity. Its aim is for each householder to achieve self-sufficiency where vegetables are concerned.

What will be the fate of the poor vegetable farmers, comprising a large segment of the rural population? As it is, he is unable to sell his produce, due to the non-performance of the Government, in the collection, storage, and distribution process, whereby fresh vegetables can be marketed with minimum wastage.

No wonder the smile has disappeared from our faces!

Premini Amerasinghe, Kandy

Fresh milk should be the preferred customer choice 

The Government has been importing high-yielding cows from Australia to increase local milk production. While cows are being imported to boost local milk production, why do we continue to consume artificially produced powdered milk and not liquid milk in its original and natural form? When are we going to change our milk consumption habits?

Up to the late Sixties, infants were fed powdered milk products such as Lactogen, Cow & Gate and SMA, etc. Doctors discouraged breast feeding. The rural masses fed their growing children liquid milk. Hotels and milk vendors boiled milk in compartmentalised charcoal water boilers.

Why has powdered milk become so popular and secured such a commanding place in the local market?The milk industry here imports milk powder in bulk and repacks it in attractive 400-gram and one-kilo packets. Milk powder is readily available in different forms – “instant”, “non-fat”, “enriched” (with calcium and vitamins), and for different age groups. Powdered milk can be made into a beverage any time you want and needs no refrigeration.

The powdered milk industry advertises heavily, using all media – TV, radio and newspapers. They promote their products with attractive competitions and prizes.
The price of powdered milk goes up regularly. As milk is an essential item in most homes, people continue to buy it, price notwithstanding. Powdered milk uses up a lot of foreign exchange from our agricultural country. Our society has become addicted to powdered milk.

Liquid milk on the other hand has its own natural form, taste and colour, and a balanced composition of nutrients, minerals and vitamins. It is formulated and produced by Nature. A complete liquid diet does not require alteration or adulteration.

Powdered milk is relatively cheaper than liquid milk. The marketing margin for the transport, semi-processing, packing, advertising, re-distribution and retailer profit of liquid milk is Rs. 115 per litre. On the other hand, a 400-gram packet of powdered milk costs Rs. 325, and is equivalent to 3.5 litres of liquid milk. On this basis, one litre of powdered milk costs only Rs. 93. Thus liquid milk consumption has become a luxury and is affordable only to high-income families.

For liquid milk to compete with powdered milk, it should be readily available; sold in hygienic containers or bottles; get heavy promotion and advertisement, and be reasonably priced. Liquid milk generated in rural areas goes to the Narahenpita milk factory for processing and then goes back to the same rural areas with the addition of transport costs. This is added to the product price.

There should be an arrangement through co-op societies to take the lead in liquid milk promotion. The community should be encouraged to drink the liquid milk produced in their own areas and the excess sent to urban areas. The milk should come direct from the farmer to the local collecting centre and then to the consumer, at minimum cost.
Self-employed young people could sell fresh milk door-to-door in selected areas, just as the fish vendors and newspaper distributors do. They could also supply milk to tea kiosks and hotels.

The State should subsidise liquid milk production and distribution, as in the case of dairy farmers, and keep the price below that of powdered milk.
A healthy society should cultivate the habit of drinking fresh liquid milk.

Chandrasiri Nanayakkara, Kuliyapitiya

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