Plus - Letters to the Editor

Senior citizens overseas enjoy benefits from state and private sector

The letter from Mr. Upali Jayasekera, Vice-President of the All Ceylon Pensioners’ Association (Sunday Times, February 20, 2011), highlights promises that are not fulfilled.

In the weeks preceding elections, politicians are full of good intentions, telling everyone in the public and private sectors, including farmers and pensioners, what they can expect after the elections.
However, often after elections the financial situation changes because of internal and international pressures. Excuses and delays in implementation follow, while politicians hope their promises will be forgotten in the course of time.

The Pensioners’ Association should produce researched reports, backed by a sample survey on the plight of pensioners in various categories. The survey should highlight pension disparities between retired school principals, teachers and senior government servants, compared to the bigger pensions drawn by minor staff who have retired in recent years. This disparity is an insult to the dignity of past public servants.

The Pensioners’ Association should stress the wastage, loss, corruption and profligacy of state institutions. Consider the salaries, allowances and perks given to Parliamentarians, such as the duty free import permits for luxury vehicles (Rs.15 million each). Pre-election promises are forgotten until the next election comes around.

Pensioners could be offered Government Pension Bonds payable within a year or two. The provisions for elders are embodied in the National Elders’ Act of 2000, which established a Representative National Council for Elders and a National Secretariat for Elders under the Ministry of Social Services.
The National Council for Elders represents elders, NGOs, and professionals in the area. The Council includes a representative from the Pensioners’ Association. However, during my term on the Council, from 2000 till May 2011, there were no substantial representations from the Association.

Holders of Senior Citizen’s ID Cards are entitled to an additional 2 per cent on deposits with the NSB and 5 per cent reduction on medicines purchased from Osu Sala. Ministries and Departments have met to discuss increasing the concessions, but so far nothing substantial has happened.

Senior citizens in countries like Canada and Australia enjoy numerous benefits from state, local authorities and the private sector in consumer goods and services.

J. V. Thambar, Member of National Council for Elders, Via e mail

National Anthem: This is the time to build bridges

The National Anthem in Sinhala had been aptly translated into Tamil with the same tune and was being sung at national occasions in the Tamil-speaking areas. This practice had gone on for years uninterrupted and there was no objection raised until recently. The recitation in Tamil has now ceased completely.

It is interesting to note that opposition to singing the anthem in Tamil was being voiced following the successful elimination of the Tigers and one would have thought this to have been the best time to build bridges among communities.

Recently, the Minister of National Languages and Social Integration, Vasudeva Nanayakkara had stated at a ceremony in his office that it is quite in order to sing the National Anthem in Tamil as the Government has accepted Tamil also as an official language and that legal action would be taken against those who obstruct the recitation of the National Anthem in Tamil. Thus, it appears that there is some ambiguity regarding this matter.

I would appreciate some clarification, while adding that the anthem be sung in Sinhala followed by a recitation in Tamil too when the need arises.

M. Ratnam, Point Pedro

Ten years back, Sir Arthur put Lanka in Oscars spotlight

Sir Arthur and the film director Stanley Kubrick shared an Oscar nomination for the best screenplay for their landmark film, “2001: A Space Odyssey” in 1969

This year’s Oscar Awards ceremony, to be held today in Hollywood, marks an anniversary of sorts for Sri Lankans. It is exactly 10 years since Sir Arthur C. Clarke was invited by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (the Oscar organisers) to be a presenter at the 73rd Academy Awards ceremony in 2001, to give away the Oscar for the best screenplay.

The year too – 2001 – was significant. Thirty years earlier, in 1969, Sir Arthur and the film director Stanley Kubrick (who died in 1999) shared an Oscar nomination for the best screenplay for their landmark film, “2001: A Space Odyssey”, considered the best science fiction movie ever.

Unfortunately, Sir Arthur, who suffered from post-polio syndrome and was confined to a wheelchair, was unable to fly to Hollywood. However, his presentation was filmed in advance in Colombo, possibly a unique happening in Oscar history.

“I quite enjoyed recording my presentation,” Sir Arthur said after making the recording. “But even I don’t know who the winner will be. I had to record five video clips presenting each nominee as the winner. I hope they’ll play the right one that night!”

Asoka Weerakoon, Kandy

More beauty tips for Colombo city

Coming to Sri Lanka after being away for a couple of years, I was surprised to see the vast changes in the country, especially in the city of Colombo. All the changes I see are for the good of the country. I must first congratulate all those concerned who are responsible for these. To start with the one-way traffic arrangements in many places seemed so appropriate. Due to these arrangements a lot of vehicular traffic congestion has been eliminated. The new overpasses also help the smooth flow of traffic.

However, more overpasses are required in many places. I notice that a lot of unauthorized structures need to be demolished and more space taken for roads. But sad to say even if this is achieved vehicle drivers and pedestrians have to be more disciplined to get everything running smoothly. The drivers I am referring are, to some, and not all 3-wheel drivers and private bus drivers. Their road manners have much to be desired.

I also notice that the city looks very clean. I do not see garbage dumped haphazardly. In most places the boundary walls and public places are free of dirty looking posters. I understand that the police have now a special unit to oversee environmental problems. This seems to be a good idea. Here again I see a lot of people have to be disciplined and made aware of their duties towards society. Strict laws like in other countries must be implemented to teach people to respect cleanliness and healthy habits. They must be taught not to throw rubbish on roads, drains and water ways and the policy of live and let live in a healthy atmosphere.

However the city of Colombo I feel lacks sufficient public facilities where thousands of people who come daily to the city can ease themselves.

Another good sight that welcomed me in the Pettah and Fort areas were the clean pavements and the absence of the pavement hawkers. My congratulations to the person who had the bright idea of building special places for the pavement hawkers. Over passes for pedestrians to cross the roads are required. Fort and Pettah areas can be made more beautiful if more greenery is brought in the way of plants to be grown where ever it is possible.

More colourful bus halts could also brighten up the city. I believe the authorities will have to spend more on paint as many places need a new coat of paint and a lot of drab places should be repaired and made tidy.

Before I leave Sri Lanka, I would like to congratulate the present government for taking these initiatives and I do hope things will look much better when I visit Sri Lanka again.

B. Joseph, Hendala

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