Letters to the Editor

11th March 2001



People's Forum

Pensioners please note

An amendment to the Widowers and Orphans Pension Act no. 24 of 1983

The above Act has been further amended to grant an option to those female pensioners who had not joined the scheme earlier to join the scheme which entitles their husbands and children to receive a pension after the death of the female pensioner concerned.

The amendment reads as follows: "An officer holding office on the appointed date may before such date as may be appointed for the purposes of this subsection, by the Minister from time to time, by Notice published in the Gazette, elect to a contributor to the Pension Scheme. Where any such officer has died prior to the coming into force of this subsection or dies before the date appointed for the purpose of this subsection without making an election as aforesaid, she shall if she leaves a husband or child or a husband and child or husband and children, be deemed to have elected to be a contributor to the Pension Scheme.

Any person who elects to become a contributor under this subsection or in the case of a person who is deemed to have elected to become a contributor to the Pension Scheme under this subsection, the person administering the estate of such deceased person, shall pay to the Pension Scheme in such instalments as may be determined by the Minister by notice published in the Gazette all arrears of contributions for the period commencing from the appointed date until the date of election, retirement or death as the case may be, with compound interest thereon at the rate of four per centum per annum.

Where a contributor or the person administering the estate of a deceased contributor is unable to pay the arrears of contributions, such arrears shall be recovered from the pension payable to the widower or orphans of such contributor, in such instalments as may be determined by the Director.

Maternity leave

I am employed in an organisation that works a five-day week. I work in the consumer department which is open to customers for three hours every Saturday. Could you please let me know how maternity leave would be calculated in my case?

U. Fonseka

Labour Department officials say that according to the Shop and Office Act, an employee is entitled to 84 working days as maternity leave for the births of the first and second children plus the statutory holidays and 1 1/2 days for each intervening week end. This works out to approximately 105 days.

Pension entitlement

I am a pensioner. I have our marriage certificate and my wife's W & O.P. certificate, but her birth certificate could not be traced. In the event of my predeceasing my wife, please let me know whether she will be entitled to her pension.

W. Don Vincent

The Secretary and Accountant, W & O.P. at the Pensions Dept., says that the birth certificate is not necessary to draw the W & O. pension. The marriage certificate could be submitted along with the W & O.P. number and other details to the Divisional Secretary of your wife's area of residence when the need arises.

In the meantime, he says you could also send by registered post, a copy of the marriage certificate and the W & O.P. membership number along with a covering letter to the Secretary & Accountant, W & O.P, Pension Department requesting the details to be included in your W & O.P. file, Maligawatte.

ETF insurance

I was an employee of the Trincomalee M.P.C.S. Ltd. When I was 58, I fell ill and had to leave my job. I have been contributing to the E.P.F. and E.T.F. under No. 445.

I would like to know whether I am entitled to any insurance and if so, how I could get this money to pay for my treatment.

P. Vamadevan

The officer concerned at ETF office says that there is a Hospitalisation Medical Insurance Scheme for non-government personnel. But to get these benefits one has to be in service. If you have been hospitalised before you retired, you could submit the details for reimbursement to the ETF. The application has to be made within one month of hospitalisation. Consideration will however, be given up to about two months after the date.

EPF claim

I am 70 years old and have been trying to recover a few thousand rupees lying to my credit at the EPF Dept. Repeated letters and visits have not been fruitful. On my last visit to the office I was informed that due to an error in my membership number, the papers have been sent to a branch office at Horana for verification and that the claim will be settled soon. That was 18 months ago.

In December 1999 I received the enclosed note from the Central Bank. I shall be much obliged if you would please help me.

G.B. Fraser

The Superintendent, EPF at the Central Bank says that your account has been credited with the payment. However, to draw the money, you need to make an application at the Labour Department on forms obtained from them. They will forward the application to the Central Bank, after which the payment will be made to you. So far they have not received your application from the Labour Department.

You are OUT!

Listening to the commentary on the last day's play of the 1st Test match between Sri Lanka and England, I was 'appalled' to hear the 'appalling' comments by the commentators.

The question is: What is the role of a commentator? Is it to give a commentary on the play with any other relevant information or to keep on harping on the umpire's actions?

Comments such as "no way can that be given out" or "that was an appalling decision" are not expected from commentators.

The commentators have the luxury of an air-conditioned cubicle and also television facilities, which the umpire does not have. They have all the time to have a look at the replay and find fault with the decisions taken by the umpires.

One point that stuck out as a sore thumb was when the "pundits" kept on repeating - with reference to the catch taken by Sangakkara off Atherton - "if there was a doubt it should have been referred to the third umpire".

I do not think we have to teach the English their own language, but what these commentators failed to realise was that this was required only if there was doubt.

Obviously, an umpire would rule a batsman out only when he has no doubt. He will refer to the third umpire only when he has a doubt. It therefore follows that if he has no doubt, he will not ask the third umpire.

The standard of umpiring is a different question altogether. There are good umpires and bad umpires in that their judgement is good or poor.

But it is not for the commentator to give a judgement on this. May be the match referee could report on the standard of umpiring.

A question I would like to ask these pundits who were commenting on the umpires is:

"Have you ever umpired a cricket match?" If so, "Were you always correct?"

Mr. Commentator do not be like the donkey who tried to do the dog's job and got kicked for the effort.

W.R. de Silva

Coal should have come a decade ago

The news item 'CEB in dilemma over coal plant' (The Sunday Times, February 4) succinctly identifies all aspects of the problem.

The story demonstrates evidence of environmental mismanagement in setting up a coal power plant,

Any textbook on environmental management would show the procedure to be followed in development activities.

A good Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) needs to take into consideration not only earth, air, water, animals and plants, but also the people, their cultural and religious heritage and their daily activities.

An EIA generally leads to an Environment Management Plan (EMP), where the mitigation measures are in place to reduce the impacts. Before the EMP is finalised there are a few rounds of community consultation and a public display of the draft plan. Naturally, the revisions will take into account the concerns of the community, and introduce further measures. Assessments and community consultations should be objective, transparent and far from vested interests and political influence. All conflicts should be amicably resolved and the process completed according to a time-table.

Coal power should have come to Sri Lanka about a decade ago. The best site for a coal power plant is in the south, away from potential terrorist attacks. The plant would provide employment to the southerners.

The emissions could be controlled with filters or other means and cooling ponds could reduce the impact on fisheries.

CEB engineers should have worked closely with environmental scientists (e.g. Department of Environmental Science, University of Colombo) throughout the process.

CEB failed in community consultation, communication and public education, and hence in developing a meaninful EMP. The inability to consider alternative sites and approaches is a result of inadequate options in the Feasibility Study.

A case study on the coal power plant in Sri Lanka, outlining the problems, issues and procedures that should have been followed could be the subject matter of an MSc. thesis in Environmental Science.

All Australian coal power plants have gone through this process.

Today all major development activities require an EIA, and minor activities such as laying a pipeline require a review of environmental factors for approval. In developing the 2000 Olympic site at Home Bush Bay, a team of sociologists, ecologists and communicators managed the issues on industrial contaminants and the endangered Green and Golden Bell frog at the site.

In Sri Lanka we need to establish good environment management procedures and legislation.

If such procedures were in place, Mirisawatiya would never have been plastered and "completed" and all factories will be operating with a licence from the Central Environmental Authority.

Dr. Leonard Pinto

Cricket loverly cricket

The newspapers say we thrashed England by an innings in the Galle cricket Test. I saw some of the play - thank God only a part.

Blatantly, incorrect decisions were made against England (and was it a decision against ourselves?)

We are a hospitable people and have a tradition of kindness and benevolence towards all visitors. Appealing for everything and nothing is not our way. A newsphoto of an umpire giving an Englishman out, grinning in glee was disheartening.

I am ashamed. I have lost interest in cricket.

V.D. Samarasinghe
Pita Kotte

Sir John's breakfast with Lankadeepa cartoonist

When Sir John Kotelawela visited the Girls' Farm School at Kundasale in Kandy during his time, he had seen a few girls bathing a bull.

Sir John had silently watched the girls washing, scrubbing, brushing and tenderly caring for the bull. The Farm Manager had told him that the girls were bathing a stud bull. To this, Sir John had quipped, "I wish I would become a stud bull in my next birth."

The next day's Lankadeepa had carried a cartoon of a bull having the face of Sir John being bathed and scrubbed by farm girls with the caption, "I wish I would become a stud bull in my next birth".

The same morning the cartoonist, G.S. Fernando, had been asked to report at the Prime Minister's residence immediately. When he went to Kandawala like an unwilling schoolboy, Sir John had been in a sarong. Seeing him Sir John had held him by the hand saying, "Umbada G.S. Fernando kiyanne" (Are you G.S. Fernando?). Then he had led him to the breakfast table and served him with egg hoppers.

Over the meal Sir John had asked him about his family and how a cartoon was drawn and printed in a newspaper. Later he had thanked him and sent him back to the office in the Prime Minister's official car with the lion crest.

Back at the newspaper office Fernando's colleagues had gathered round him to find out what happened. When they were told that he had breakfast with the Prime Minister they had been surprised, for they had expected P.M.S.D staff to burn down Fernando's house.

That day Fernando had resolved never to draw such cartoons again to embarrass a gentleman like Sir John.

P.A. Binduhewa

How to recognise a Buddhist?

This is with reference to 'Who is a Buddhist?' (February 25), wherein the writer seeks answers to many questions.

How can one recognize a person as a Buddhist?

It is not possible to recognize a Buddhist through labels such as birth. A true Buddhist will gain spiritual development and lead a life according to the teachings of Buddhism.

A person will not be a Buddhist for the mere reason that he goes to the temple but follows other faiths, which are contrary to the teachings of Lord Buddha. Understanding along with belief in the Triratna is vital to be a true Buddhist.

What should a person do to be a good Buddhist?

A good Buddhist is a person who has sought refuge in the Buddha, Dhamma and Sangha (Triratna). Seeking refuge means that the follower of the Triratna recognizes that the Buddha is the teacher, the guide who will indicate the path to the cessation of suffering.

This path is indicated by him in the Dhamma and the follower has to have complete belief in the efficacy of this path.

He seeks refuge in the Sangha, in the complete belief that the Sangha will teach him how to tread the path of deliverance, showing by example how to do it.

As a Buddhist, should one criticize other religions?

We should not either criticize other religions or try to mix Buddhism with other religions.

Could a person, who praises and respects other religious teachers, not be a Buddhist?

A Buddhist should be certain of his stability in Buddhism while he praises and respects other religions. Respecting other religions does not mean that a Buddhist should follow other religions.

A true Buddhist has no need to follow any other religion or seek refuge in gods or deities.

He need not go to kovils or churches or mosques or any other places of worship than Buddhist temples and sacred places to receive guidance in progressing towards Nibbana.

A true Buddhist should keep his eyes open and have a questioning mind. He should maintain focus on the Eight-fold Path.

Nirvana, the ultimate aspiration of Buddhists, is not a mystic state but one in which the mind is purged and purified of ego-conceit and traces of attachment/greed, aversion/hatred, and delusion.

Buddhism is not something that has been revealed from heaven to fulfil a divine purpose, but something that has grown up on earth to satisfy the deepest of human needs.

It is not based on divine revelation but on human discovery.

Buddhism is not dependent on blind faith and worship but on the understanding of experience through the use of human intelligence.

It is not based on history or a story, which if proved false would tumble, but stands on the hard rock of direct personal experience.

The practice of Buddhism is not based on the idea of punishment and reward, but on selflessness and love, nor is it following the commandments of a creator, but basing one's actions on a feeling of responsibility for oneself and others.

Buddhism also does not regard man as a sinner who is incapable of anything better than appealing to the creator for forgiveness.

It regards man as capable of rising above all human weaknesses and cultivating a divine mind through his own efforts.

One cannot be saved by any external means but has to save oneself through one's own efforts.

Manjari Peiris

Pilgrims don't progress

Various impediments discourage pilgrims from visiting sacred Dambadiva in Nepal and India.

Around 12,000 Sri Lankans visit Dambadiva every year, of which 85% are from the middle and lower income groups. They venture out on this journey taking with them cooked and dry provisions from Sri Lanka. They do their own cooking and consume the food in the places they stay overnight and at halts on the way.

The long train and bus journey, which causes much hardship, is undertaken to minimise the cost. Most pilgrims use a lifetime's savings or borrow from children to visit these shrines.

A majority of Sri Lankans cross the Indian border to visit Lumbini, in Nepal where Prince Siddhartha was born. They spend only about four hours in Lumbini and get back to India to continue their pilgrimage. One reason, perhaps, may be the lack of a pilgrims' rest for an overnight stay at Lumbini.

However, the visa-fee charged by Nepal is a high Rs. 3100 per pilgrim. Now most pilgrims are compelled to worship Lumbini just by looking in its direction from the Indian border, as they cannot afford to pay the visa fee.

A few years ago visas were given to Sri Lankan pilgrims gratis, on production of a letter from the Buddha Sasana Ministry for a service charge of Rs.150.

The Indian fee too has been increased from Rs. 440 to Rs. 510 for a double entry visa, which appears to be comparatively reasonable. From last month, the Indian archaeological authorities have imposed an entrance fee to be paid in dollars at all Buddhist places of worship, which were hitherto free of charge. They vary from $5-10 and total $60 inclusive of the Taj Mahal which is a world wonder and a must-see.

Oil price hikes and the devaluation of the rupee have resulted in pilgrims having to pay more for the airfare, ground transportation and hotel charges.

It has now become an impossible dream for the vast majority of Buddhist pilgrims in retirement, middle and lower income groups to undertake this journey.

The government should take these issues into consideration. As we are part of SAARC, Sri Lanka should urge India not to charge a fee to enter Buddhist archaeological sites.

Mt. Lavinia

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