Plus - Letters to the Editor

No protection for Lanka’s elderly

Consider the plight of the widow pensioner, 92 years old, who had tried so hard to get her due arrears and live in peace before her demise. She had sent countless letters, by registered post, to the Divisional Secretary, Thimbirigasyaya, and the Director General, Pensions – and all to no avail.

I am a retired public servant, and I have been made to suffer through bureaucratic indolence. Over the past 20 years, I have sent countless letters, by ordinary and registered post, to the Secretary and Director General, Health, who has violated Establishment Code Section 3:8, Chapter XXVIII by failing to respond to my appeals for help.

After appealing to the Ombudsman, there was an agreement followed by three inquiries in 2002, but these have since been dishonoured.

I appealed to the Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka, which on three occasions summoned the Secretary and Director General, Health, who defaulted. The Human Rights Commission too failed to take action. The President, Prime Minister and Cabinet Ministers too have intervened and instructed the bureaucrats to see that justice is done, but these requests have been ignored.

Who knows how many hundreds, or thousands, of other senior citizens are in a similar plight? Are these bureaucrats unaware of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Code of Conduct for Public Officials, in UN Resolution 52/59, Protection of Elder’s Rights Act No. 09 of 2000?

Don’t they know that they too will some day become senior citizens? Perhaps relief and redress to long-suffering pensioners and widows will come posthumously, when we are all in Heaven.

M. Chandran, Balagolla, Kengalla

‘Unwanted’ trees? Pardon me, we need every tree we can grow and save

A recent news item said the Minister of Environment proposes the planting of trees in catchment areas. This is a most commendable idea. The biomass of trees absorbs high volumes of carbon dioxide and releases oxygen, thus reducing global warming.

But there is also a proposal to remove “unwanted” trees, and the news item said that pine trees would be the first to go. That is a disastrous suggestion indeed. For decades, pine and eucalyptus clothed the now denuded and degraded catchment areas and watersheds. Intensive research shows that indigenous broad-leaved trees cannot grow on degraded land without irrigation and heavy fertiliser input.

The biomass of pines is greater than that of most broad-leaved species. Pines absorb more carbon dioxide and emit more oxygen. This is important to note in environmental shaping. Pine and eucalyptus have higher transpiration rates than most tree species. They are the only species that thrive on dry, denuded, erodible land. The important thing to note is that these trees do not require irrigation and heavy chemical fertiliser input.

When it comes to global warming, we should know that no tree or form of foliage or vegetation is “unwanted”. Indeed, it would be disastrous to remove such so-called “unwanted” trees. I spent two years in the Himalayas, which are covered with millions of hectares of pine. I have seen vast swathes of land covered in pine in other countries too. Nobody in those countries considers these trees “unwanted.”

In view of the fact that the present Conservator General of Forests is a non-scientific, non-technical person (though quite honourable), may we suggest appointing an advisory body of young technocrats-environmentalists of proven calibre, as well as planters, to advise on such proposals? Such a body of well-informed persons is the need of the hour. Let us guard against actions or projects that could cause severe environmental damage, retrogression and instability.

Forty years ago I sounded a warning that was splashed on the front page of the newspapers: “Do not spike the Mahaweli at its source.” My warning today is: Do not take irrational and retrogressive action to spike our watersheds and catchment areas.

W. R. H. Perera, Retired Conservator of Forests, former chairman State Timber Corporation

On the Gauthama Buddha

Dr. D. Malwatte Mohatti’s letter (Sunday Times, May, 15) is misleading. He argues that English language readers would have to be Pali and Sinhala scholars to understand the term “Gauthama”. He also argues that no prefix is necessary to identify the Buddha.

In this eon, there were three Buddhas prior to Gauthama Buddha (Maha Bhadra Kalpa): they were the Kakusanda, Konagama, Kasyapa Buddhas. Maithreya Buddha will be the last Buddha of this eon, and he is yet to come.

The average reader in English knows that Gauthama is the personal name of the Buddha. Dr. Mohotti need have no fears that the words “Gauthama Buddha” would cause confusion among our schoolchildren, who are making every effort to learn English.

J. Abeygunawardhane, Homagama

Doctors are not robots

A letter from a patient (Sunday Times, May 15, 2011) complaining about the income of medical specialists is not fair. Such attacks will only boomerang on those who depend on the services of doctors. Doctors are not robots, they are hard-working people who sacrifice comfort and leisure to attend to their patients.

If a doctor is late, it is usually because he has to attend to his primary duty of treating the poor masses who flock to government hospitals. I don’t think any consultant stops to think about the paltry sums of money they get at channel centres. They are treating us as a duty, as part of their noble service.

Dr. D. Malwatte Mohotti, Bandaragama

One could visit this island though it was not officially opened

Whilst congratulating for the fine thought-provoking editorial of May 29, which factually portrayed the present dilemma in this country, I am disappointed on your carrying the stale news "Pigeon Island wildlife sanctuary opens to the public" in the Photo focus column by Amadoru Amarajeewa in your esteemed journal the same day.

Though it may have not been officially, Pigeon Island was open to the public two years ago when the war ended. I visited this enchanting sanctuary at Nilaveli in Trincomalee in May last year. In comparison to the famous Nilaveli beach, I must say that another beach by the name "Marble beach" in Trinco is a better one maintained by the Sri Lanka Air Force and one should not miss visiting it - of course by prior permission from the concerned authorities.

Raju Sally, Moraketiya

The vegetable home garden is the new ‘in’ thing

Whenever I travel outside Colombo, I make it a point to buy vegetables to encourage our farmers.
Recently, I bought a kilo of beans for Rs. 60, a kilo of pumpkin for Rs. 40, and a kilo of kekiri for Rs. 25. I was amazed at how prices had dropped. Not long ago, my wife complained that green chilies cost Rs.100 per 100 grams, beans Rs. 100 per 250 grams, and carrots Rs.100 per 250 grams.

We should thank the Government for coming up with the home gardening concept. It appears to be bringing dividends.

I hope the government will implement a scheme to control vegetable prices. If the home garden trend continues, farmers may have a hard time selling their produce.

R. de Fonseka, Panadura

Bright idea!

The Ceylon Electricity Board, Matara branch, deserves a big bouquet for setting the pace for a novel system for reporting faults – by SMS on your mobile phone.

Electricity breakdowns and other power supply problems can be reported this way, and the problem will be speedily looked into. In the bad old days, we would wait for days before anything was done.

The Minister of Power, Champika Ranawaka, should consider introducing this system to all Electricity Board branches across the country, including the city of Colombo.

T. M. N. Aniff, Colombo 13

Magnetic answer to seagulls’ mystery deaths

Your report on the mysterious death of 16 seagulls (“Seagulls fall out of sky over Colombo, Puttalam”, Sunday Times, May 22, 2011) mentions that all the dead birds happened to have metal rings attached to their legs.

I have heard that there is an unusually strong magnetic field in and around the Puttalam area. Could it be that the metal rings reacted to this magnetic power and drew/pulled the birds towards the ground, causing their deaths?

C. S. Lenora, Piliyandala

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