Plus - Letters to the editor

Mind-boggling lack of state interest in plight of 450,000 poor pensioners

Allow me a little space to highlight the grievances of the hapless pensioners who have been badly let down and grossly neglected, despite all the Mahinda Chinthana promises.

The Mahinda Chinthana (MC) portfolio, with its many features designed to appeal to the voting masses, was projected while preparations were under way for the Presidential Elections in 2005 and 2010. Rosy promises were given to pensioners and senior citizens.

Let us look at just two of the many promises:

1. “Their pensions will be increased in line with the public servants’ salary increase”. This appears in the MC of 2005 under the category, Respected Senior Citizens Programme.
2. “I will synchronise the pensions of the government servants who had retired prior to 2006 with the respective salary structures of 2006 and make the necessary provisions from the next budget”. This is in the MC 2010 under the heading, “Support to our Pensioners.”

On January 14, 2010, the people-friendly President invited 5,000 pensioners to Temple Trees and told them that in the next Budget, pension anomalies would be corrected and brought in line with the January 1, 2006 salary scale for government servants. The Budget came and went and nothing was done for the pensioners, who are hoping against hope.

Will we see a repeat of empty MC promises this time too?

The pensioners have made requests, have appealed, pleaded and begged. All this seems to have fallen on deaf years. Do politicians ever read the newspapers to know what grievances the people are moaning about?

Former President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga was recorded as saying that pensioners “eat, drink and do nothing.” The UNP administration went one better by denying retired pubic servants their pension rights. Unlike those two worthies, the current President stands tall with his humane approach and his genuine efforts to win everyone’s heart.

The pensioners – people who once manned the public service – are now relegated to the limbo of forgotten things. Times without number they have voiced their grievances and spoken of their desperate financial needs. The majority of our pensioners are elderly persons, many of them victims of the many diseases that accompany old age. They are compelled to live on the breadline, and are forced to get by with the high cost of food and drugs.

All along, pensioners have been discriminated against and misled on the matter of pension increases and living allowances. While the Ministers and the MPs enjoy a thumping good monthly remuneration, the pensioners must be satisfied with the crumbs that fall from the rich man’s table. High living costs affect everyone, pensioners and senior citizens alike. It is amazing that nobody in high places gives a thought to the plight of the pensioners. Pensioners too have dependents to clothe and feed.

These are people who are in the evening of their lives. They need rest, nutritious food and peace of mind. How many people in their dotage enjoy the good things in life? We have seen senior citizens going to work after retirement. They are compelled to earn a few rupees to supplement their measly pensions in order to survive.

Pensioners have no influence or bargaining power. Most of them have been “written off” by their families, who see them as “waiting to meet their Maker”. Pensioners are loners in the wilderness.
Every successive government has disappointed or short-changed pensioners in matters of cost of living allowance, transport and hospital concessions, homes for the elderly, and so on.

There are some 450,000 pensioners waiting for a better deal. Will the people-friendly President do something for these long-suffering people who are in the final lap of their lives?

M. Azhar Dawood, Dehiwela

Beach jitters and urban living risks

The letter from Siva of Nugegoda on the dangers of being hurt by bats and balls on Wellawatte beach (Sunday Times, November 6) demands prompt action. Families should be able to enjoy the beach without harassment, instead of being threatened by unruly gangs.

It is also dangerous to park your vehicle along the beach-side roads, exposed to drug addicts and people living in beach huts and other unauthorised structures.

The proliferation of illegal structures along roads and canal banks is a growing urban problem.

Similar problems prevail in residential areas close to shanty areas. Boundary walls and walls at the end of dead-end streets and lanes are illegally breached and thieves prowl at night. They take away anything they can find, from radios and TVs to flower pots and clothes left out to dry in the garden.

Residents are nervous about taking a holiday and leaving their homes even for a couple of days.

Most residents are reluctant to take their complaints to the Police, because they do not want the hassle of court cases and police procedures.

Why are the authorities not taking action, so we can live our lives in safety and in peace?

Concerned Citizen, Colombo

Ancient surgical practices lost through lack of documentation

I read with great interest the article titled “Surgery in an ancient kingdom” (Sunday Times, October 30, 2011). Although the article was inspiring, I have my reservations about accepting Professor Arjuna Aluwihare’s theory to explain the decline of the advanced medical practice prevailing in ancient Sri Lanka.

Prof. Aluwihare attributes the decline to “in-fighting among medical professionals”. I think it was rather the failure – deliberately or otherwise – of those who had the knowledge and skills to document that knowledge for posterity.

Our ancestors were not only advanced in medicine, they also possessed advanced technology in irrigation, architecture, agriculture and the production of metals. We lost all this technology because none of it was documented. The loss of undocumented knowledge and technology is compounded by wars and natural disasters.

A few decades ago, Prof. Aluwihare described a new operation to correct abnormalities of the terminal part of the intestine in new-born babies. He published his work in an international medical journal, and the medical procedure is still practised by surgeons around the world.

Similarly, there are many medical luminaries who have done an enormous service to medicine but have not documented and published their findings. Everything they have learnt has been lost with their retirement or demise.

Dr. Anuruddha M. Abeygunasekera, Via e mail

Prices and sizes

The Consumer Affairs Authority’s ruling that prices be displayed on all consumer products at all sales points is highly commended. Sizes too should be prominently displayed. All garments should be clearly labelled Large, Medium, or Small.

W. Meadows, Dehiwela

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