Despite the promises made, successive governments have failed to tackle the cost of living, which has been rapidly rising bringing in its wake hardship and misery to the majority of the population. Therefore the present government’s agenda will have to give top priority to the matter, since the measures taken already by it since it took over the reins of power in 1994 have not yet produced the desired relief. Since the problem is of a crisis nature, some drastic steps are called for to control a daily deteriorating situation.
It is indeed distressing and frustrating that infrastructure services such as lighting, water, fuel and telecommunications are of exorbitant cost to the middle classes: the various authorities sponsored and established by government to administer these services are in effect competing among themselves to raise prices proffering excuses, some of which are really due to top heavy management and mal-administration. The consumer is also groaning under the heavy burden borne by way of rises in the prices paid for basic food items and transport. In point of fact, the consumer has been caught up in a vicious circle of price increases and exploitation on the part of many sellers of goods and services.
The MPs and Provincial Councillors have been immunized to the rigours of rising costs since they have from time to time themselves fixed at high levels their rates of remuneration in respect of their salaries, pensions, allowances and other perquisites.
They have the privilege of using the spoon in their hands to serve themselves when the poor people who voted them to power are suffering in silence. Oh democracy! “thou art fled to brutish beasts and men have lost their reason!”
Now that MPs have enjoyed princely benefits for over three years, it is advisable that they should consider foregoing a reasonable percentage of their remuneration temporarily - That is until the end of the raging civil war or the termination of the life of the present Parliament, whichever occurs earlier. This course of action will be highly appreciated by the voters as it will be tangible sacrifice. It will inter alia, spur the legislators without uncompromising and dilatory tactics to arrive at a consensus for speeding up the termination of the war situation and impel them to take meaningful action to bring down the cost of living to some manageable level by thrifty spending. Therefore a lead will be given to the country to adopt an austere lifestyle and effect the necessary savings on wasteful expenditure. In the process a deflationary effect is likely to occur.
The sacrifice referred to above will be much less than the supreme sacrifice of the security forces in their thousands. Our religious authors have consistently preached and practised a simple lifestyle shorn of racial and caste discrimination, jealousy, hatred and arrogance and leading to the path of an egalitarian social order. We should determine not to stray from that ideal path. The affluent classes should realize that their temporary survival on this spaceship called earth, is dependent on the fraternal approach they have to adopt in dealing with the wants and aspirations of the economically underprivileged people. Therefore, the clergy of all religious organizations have in this connection a very onerous commitment to intensify their sermons with a view to soliciting the necessary sacrifices of the affluent classes.
Unless timely and stern measures are almost immediately planned out and implemented to remedy the malady of our nation, the hopes of rescuing it from its dire plight will be in vain.
After the brutal murder of Jailor Upali Tennakoon, the Ministry of Justice, the Department of Prisons, and the community are very concerned in regard to drugs and corruption in prisons. The media gave wide publicity, to malpractices in the prisons. The Secretary to the Ministry of Justice has said the relevant laws will be enacted and stern action taken against corrupt officers. If any Prison Officers are responsible for the death of this Jailor, it displays, the extent of corruption in the prison. Jailor Tennakoon paid the supreme sacrifice, for his commitment, to eradicate the drug menace in the prisons.
The two main reasons, attributed to this unfortunate situation are the lack of staff and inadequate laws for punishment. These are marginal issues. Section 73 of the Prisons Ordinance stipulates that carrying liquor, tobacco or drugs into prison is an offence. The punishment stated is a fine not exceeding fifty rupees or imprisonment for a period not exceeding three months or both. Section 202 (ix) of the Departmental Standing Orders states that trafficking is an offence. Therefore what is necessary is an amendment, enhancing the punishment.
The causes for corruption are much more complex. Earlier, the items that were brought into the prison were opium, ganja and tobacco which was minimal. But with the influx of heroin addicts to the prisons, trafficking in heroin has reached an alarming proportion, since it is easier to be smuggled to the prisons and it is a very lucrative trade.
The Ministry of Justice should give priority to the opening of a Drug Rehabilitation Centre and locate all drug addicts in this centre; instead of the normal prisons. Specially selected trained staff should be deployed to this centre.
The over-crowding in the Colombo Prisons is another aspect hampering effective management. The closure of the Hultsdorp remand prison, to construct the Court complex, the Koggala Work Camp for the opening of the Free Trade Zone, location of political prisoners in the Magazine Prisons and increase in crime in the country have contributed to the congestion in the Colombo Prisons, which are bursting at its seams. The Ministry should as a long term policy initiate action to build a remand prison, not only to relieve the congestion but also to keep the remand prisoners away from the prisons where convicted prisoners are located.
At the very top, strategies should be adopted to combat the drug menace. Therefore there should be a relentless campaign with the enforcement of regulations for the prevention of bringing drugs to prisons.
Edither G. Perera
We understand that the authorities have planned to give Kandy a face-lift in time for the Independence Day Celebrations in February. The walls of every building need to be whitewashed. All roads will be re-surfaced, new telephone lines and electrical cables laid out, street lights installed, water and drainage pipes re-laid, bus stands and car parks re-located. We could anticipate a stately historic city ready to greet foreign visitors arriving for the celebrations.
Important questions deserve the attention of the Minister-in-Charge , the Mayor and other top officials.
Roads: We have seen the questionable way in which the roads are re-surfaced. There is no proper rock base and macadamizing of the surface. The workmen merely fill up the pot-holes, pour barrels of hot tar and sprinkle sand, to give a seemingly new surface, that breaks up within a few weeks, revealing even larger pot-holes! Would there be responsible contracting and supervision to ensure no wastage of public funds?
Telephones: Much has been promised, but today telephones are often out of order and new lines paid for are not installed, while the monthly bills have shot up more than two-fold. Why is Sri Lanka Telecom deaf to the peoples’ complaints?
Electricity: While new street lamps and other installations are being set up, the mains supply voltage has gone down to 200V during the day and very much less in the evening. Is the CEB not liable for resulting damage to the household appliances due to the very low voltage?
Drains and drainage: What a sorry sight is seen during a heavy shower of rain, with the roads like flowing streams. Is the Municipal Council alive to the grave problem of drainage?
The transformation of the City should be more than a mere “whitewash”, with the pockets of some people well-lined in the process. Instead, the transformation must be visibly flawless and long lasting, with impressive whitewashed buildings and carpeted roadways, efficient communication infrastructure, scenic gardens, and streets lined with colourful displays. And the people must be there to greet the visitors.
Dr. Upali de Silva,
Christmas means so many different things to many people; however, to most it is a joyous family festival, a time for giving.
But do we give? Certainly, we do. We spend hours shopping, spending more than we can afford, to buy something for rich Aunty and Uncle Perera which they don’t really need; ridiculously expensive books for their spoiled children which they won’t read; and the silliest greeting card for the boss which usually ends up in the waste paper basket.
Doting parents make several trips to the more exclusive toy shops trying to make up their minds into buying the most expensive imported toy for their offspring. They end up by buying two or three different kinds, imported of course, just to see the satisfaction on the child’s face on Christmas morning.
Do we think of the lonely, the elderly - no matter what their religion - who live alone, the terminally ill? We do not even offer them “A Merry Christmas”, let alone a Christmas present! Still we bask in the Spirit of Christmas oblivious of the fact that Christ, born in a cattle shed in Bethlehem, is the very personification of the humble, the lonely, the unwanted. At this time the story of Nicholas is worth repeating.
Nicholas, Bishop of Myra, was a man whose deeds became legendary and around whom developed many of our popular Christmas traditions. Our current concept of gift-giving is directly connected to the charity of Nicholas. A man who inherited great wealth, he spent it all to help the needy.
As his fame spread across Western Europe, he began to develop into the person of Santa Claus (from the Dutch for Saint Nicholas, Sinte Klass) who rides the sky on a white horse. Although the name was changed, the white horse exchanged for reindeer and sleigh and the bishop’s robes for a fur trimmed suit, one thing remains the same: Saint Nicholas, our present day Santa Claus, is the continuing symbol of selfless giving - the true meaning of Christmas”.
Yvonne A. Abeysekera
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