Plus - Letters to the Editor

Four hours to clear a single crate!

Now that the country is free of terrorism and great opportunities are presenting themselves in this country, lots of Sri Lankans living overseas are coming back. Recently, President Mahinda Rajapaksa appealed to the Sri Lankan diaspora to return to this beautiful nation and contribute towards its development.

I have come home after 20 years of life overseas. However, the agony I recently went through to clear a single small crate sent by sea makes me wonder whether I have made a mistake. It is as if there are forces waiting to sabotage our efforts resettle in this country.

I am happy to be back, but the red tape and bureaucracy here is enough to make one want to go back to where we came from. While I was overseas, I gave a small crate to a leading Sri Lankan baggage transporter to send to Colombo.

In the past, whenever I came on holiday, I would clear my baggage at the company’s warehouse in Bloedmendhal Street. I had no complaints. Everything was done in a systematic way. Numbers were issued to clients and you waited till your name was called to clear your baggage.

This time I was told that I would have to go to a warehouse in Wattala. I went quite early to the warehouse, where a handful of people were waiting. As I sat patiently, waiting for my turn. I noticed people who had come after me moving ahead of me in the queue and clearing their boxes and leaving in quick time. How was this possible?

When I was about to get my documents signed by the officer to have my crate opened for inspection, an agent jumped the line and thrust a bunch of passports at the officer, in order to clear the baggage of other customers. Why is this sort of thing allowed?

The attitude of the Customs officials was infuriating. There were only a very few officers on duty, and only one was doing serious work, while three other officers were looking after their favourites. It took me about four hours to clear my small crate, while big crates were cleared and sent out in double-quick time.

I hope this letter will catch the attention of the relevant authorities. I hope they will take immediate steps to improve things, and put an end to bribing and favouritism.

Frustrated Lankan, via e mail

A pittance for pensioners

Before the Presidential elections, pensioners were invited to Temple Trees, where they were entertained and assured that pension anomalies would be corrected, and pensions would be based on the 2006 public service salary scale, and also that four years of payment arrears would be included.

This assurance was given to several Pensioner Associations in Gampaha and the South. The media too indicated that this would be implemented.

All senior citizens, especially those who had retired before 1985, waited anxiously for a confirmation, but nothing was announced. They then waited anxiously for the much-anticipated 2011 Budget, only to discover that they would be paid a mere Rs. 300 more.

The government should have at least considered the worst affected pensioners, those who retired before 1985 and get a pittance of an allowance.

I urge the Director of Pensions to consider the plight of the poor pensioners and do something fast.

A Pre-1985 Pensioner

Mother Lanka’s Noble Dream

With 2011 will dawn a brilliant era,
Visions miraculous will unfold,
The endless war has ended,
The New Year promises progress.

Let’s lead our country to true prosperity,
Let’s forgive the sins of recorded history;
Let’s pledge to transform Sri Lanka
Let’s create the Wonder of Asia.

Let prosperity sprout in every corner,
Let Asia’s miracle happen,
Let’s fulfil millennium dreams.

Let’s pay homage amidst
Rapturous applause;
Let’s show our Spirit,
Under One Banner.

Let’s appear on the World Map
As a proud, powerful entity;
Let’s make a greener nation;
May wisdom guide us, and
Let the Light banish tears and fears.

Our Motherland is on the threshold
Of a flourishing tomorrow;
Let’s restore the lustre of this
Pearl in the Indian Ocean.

Kumari Kumarasinghe Tennakoon

‘War crimes’ is not a label to be loosely used

Whenever “war crimes” becomes the topic of discussion, Big Mouths in the Ruling Party automatically turn to the United National Party (UNP) and call its members “traitors.” As a contracting partner to the UN Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, the Sri Lanka government should act in more responsible manner.

The atrocities that took place during World War II in the name of “ethnic cleansing” were the main reason for creating the convention. At the time, world leaders felt the need for a mechanism that would ensure that such atrocities would not happen again. The UN-appointed International Court of Justice and International Criminal Tribunals probed war crimes committed during World War II and offenders were punished.

The same judicial process was activated in recent times in connection with war crimes in former Yugoslavia. The process is ongoing, and there were heads of state and senior military officers who were tried, found guilty and punished.

But using the “war crimes” label to control political opponents in Sri Lanka is irresponsible, foolish and short-sighted, and only gives ammunition to the real enemy – the LTTE and its proxies.

J. B. Ellegedara, Balangoda

Let’s work on making a clean and beautiful country

Congratulations to the authorities for taking so much trouble to clean up and beautify the city of Colombo and its suburbs, as well as other towns in the country. The ugly posters that spoilt the look of the city are largely gone.

We wish the authorities would take stern action against those who continue to deface private and public buildings with obituaries and other notices. Awareness programmes should be launched to educate the public on keeping the city clean and attractive.

We are quick to praise clean and beautiful cities and countries around the world. Why can’t Sri Lanka and Colombo be like those countries and cities, and even better? We boast about “beautiful Sri Lanka”, but we do little to keep the country beautiful.

Here is an example of public and state indifference to how the city looks: Two years ago, for some reason, cement slabs covering a drain were removed from near the large mara tree near the Mahabage bus halt. To date, these cement slabs have not been replaced. The drain is open and garbage is collecting.

The authorities and the public must co-operate to make our land a beautiful country that we can all be truly proud of. Then the government can confidently go about promoting tourism in a big way.

B. Joseph, Wattala

Young and disillusioned teacher

I hope this letter will come to the attention of the Minister of Education. I am a young teacher who looks older than her real age because of the stresses of the teaching profession. I took up teaching five years ago. However, lately I find I am not teaching but doing lots of paper work, writing assessment plans.

I love teaching. I think most teachers believe they are doing a service and gathering merits. But endless, repetitive paper work turns teachers into robots.

I want to share my knowledge with my students, but useless paper filling gets in the way. I work late into the night, learning new things to share with my class. Meanwhile, my husband tells me not to bring the school into our home. He points out that I never take the home to my school. He may soon ask me to move into the school and stay there.

Teaching is a service on which you cannot put a price tag. But we need money to live. We work hard, but we are poorly rewarded for our services.

I write on behalf of the young generation of teachers. We hope conditions in the teaching profession will improve.

Sanjeewani Priyangika

Why throw Rs. 4.5 billion worth of cement and bricks at a lost cause?

A proposal to build a new, 25-storey headquarters for the Sri Lanka Cement Corporation at a cost of Rs. 4.5 billion (Business Times, December 12) raises a few questions:

Question 1: Is it not true that the production and marketing of cement has been taken over by a private company, and that the Cement Corporation has no major business role to play any more? Did not the SLCC chairman admit that the corporation was running at a loss, and that its land in Kollupitiya was under mortgage,?

Q. 2. Would it not be more to the point for the SLCC management to first start streamlining things and making the corporation a viable operation before imposing a Rs. 4. 5 billion burden on tax payers?

Q. 3. The SLCC already has a headquarters building. Is it justifiable, or ethical, to use the colossal sum of Rs. 4.5 billion in public funds to put up a building for an entity that is running at a loss, especially when we know that it is most unlikely that this money will be ever repaid?

Let’s hope this letter catches the attention of the Secretary to the Defence Ministry, which is responsible for Colombo City development.

U. M. G. Goonetilleke, Mattegoda

Teens romancing in public: an embarrassment

Teen-aged boys and girls in school uniforms behaving like about-to-be married couples, or modern Romeos and Juliets, billing and cooing inside buses, is a common sight to those who use public transport.

It is nauseating to see students embracing like lovers in a movie. Clearly, parents and teachers are unaware of what goes on with their children and wards after school. These teens are setting a bad example to the younger school-goers. What must these children think when they see the older students behaving like this?

Our future depends on our children. What will happen to our collective Sri Lanka dream of being the “miracle of Asia” if our children are sailing off course like this? True, students should have the freedom to enjoy a chat with their peers of the opposite sex. But what we see goes beyond the limits of decent behaviour in the public eye.

Unlike in the West, our society still regards a school-going teenager as a dependent, living under the watchful eye of adults. Society is bound to frown on teenage couples who are over-intimate in public.
We all share a part of the blame for this kind of behaviour among our young people, but the mass media is the most culpable. The media and the movies project sexual misconduct among teenagers as something normal.

Parents and schools are supposed to discipline young people. If our young people don’t learn how to behave when they are children and teenagers, then when will they learn?

Jenings Priyashantha, Homagama

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