Tough punishment needed to prevent child abuse, violence against women It is a tragedy that in this country where people seem to be religious, we hear about rape and child sex abuse cases almost daily. It is said that incidents of rape have increased by 100% over some time. The gruesome killings at Kahawatte and [...]

The Sundaytimes Sri Lanka

Letters to the editor


Tough punishment needed to prevent child abuse, violence against women

It is a tragedy that in this country where people seem to be religious, we hear about rape and child sex abuse cases almost daily. It is said that incidents of rape have increased by 100% over some time. The gruesome killings at Kahawatte and the rape and murder in Tangalle are more than an eye-opener to us.

Many reasons such as child pornography on the internet are cited for this sad state of affairs. However, I believe that although there are more news reports and much more awareness now than ever about the issue, it is inaction that allows the high incidence of these crimes.

Child sex abuse is associated with numerous short and long term psychological problems, ranging from low self-esteem to interpersonal difficulties such as aggression, withdrawal, lack of trust and excessive sexual activity. Sexually abused children are a high risk group for teenage pregnancies. In the West many have come out openly against priests who had committed these crimes a long time ago.

What exactly is the situation here? It is good that the National Child Protection Authority (NCPA) has started to take some action on complaints. If the NCPA publishes the results of its actions, it will help public health and police officers in their work and also activate the criminal justice system to be more vigilant and impose stringent penalties.

Many workshops have dealt with child sex abuse, domestic violence and rapes. NGOs have failed miserably in their duty to protect women and children in this country. I believe that there are limits to the public health approach to prevention of domestic violence and sexual violence. A framework based on public health guidelines alone is not enough to understand the problems and suggest the solutions. It is time that Sri Lanka looked to other approaches, such as the rights of women and children and implementing the provisions of the justice system in this country.

Public health will be successful in areas such as tobacco prevention and using car seat belts, but ending domestic violence and sexual assault has more to do with reforming society in which women’s rights are violated, women are bullied at workplaces and sex is solicited from them to admit children to schools, give high grades at examinations or grant promotions. We must change how we manage our relationships with others — men with women, boys with girls and relationships among family members — and how power is used over others by politicians and officials of high authority.

Arranged marriages still thrive. Even in this 21st century, many girls are forced to marry men they have not associated with before. Many marriages end up in divorce because of this with women, especially from villages, trying to get out of these loveless marriages by travelling to the Middle East. It seems they prefer torture by employers than to get abused by the man at home.

We have to educate parents about the rights of their children in choosing their partners. We also must promote mixed schools where boys will learn to respect the rights of girls and women.

Finally, I believe that even as a short-term measure the death penalty should be carried out in cases where death has been caused by violent rape by individuals or groups. This will definitely make people think twice before committing these crimes. In all other cases, a minimum sentence of ten years of rigorous imprisonment at least should be imposed to make it a deterrent for committing rape and child sex abuse.

Dr. Pradeep Kariyawasam Via email

Merits of cutting temple power subsidy

A recent news item said the Public Utility Commission of Sri Lanka (PCUSL) had recommended the discontinuation of the subsidy so far enjoyed by places of worship.

This is a welcome move. Almost every Buddhist temple calls on devotees to donate for lighting up of the temple premises and accrue merit.

The donations far exceed the actual monthly bill and the surplus is spent on other matters. In any case, the removal of the subsidy will not curb the electricity consumption. Many temples will use electricity indiscriminately since the bill is met with the donations.

G.A.D. Sirimal

What makes CEB a sick giant

The CEB is in the red and the only way out it says is a hike in electricity rates. Does the CEB expect any intelligent person to agree to this solution? Now what are the elements of costs involved in the production and transmission of electricity (atomic power excluded)? The costs involve hydropower generation, construction of dams, reservoirs, thermal power stations, the purchase of fuel and coal and maintenance. In addition, there are transmission and other costs. Now none of these costs can be avoided. If this is so, the story ends there and the rate hike is justified.

Now what about manpower requirements? Has the CEB worked out a rational cadre base to run the system efficiently? Has a rational organisational structure been prepared? Has the CEB compared its labour productivity with that of other developed and developing countries?

It appears that the CEB maintains a manpower requirement far in excess of the rational requirement. The cost incurred over salaries and wages has made the CEB a sick giant. Neither the unions nor the politicians talk about these utterly unnecessary hidden costs for selfish reasons.

It’s like posing a question if one man takes 10 hours to dig a pit 8ft.x4ft x6ft, how long will 10 men take. Answer 10 men are far too many to work in such a small area hence about 2-3 will work while the others idly stand by.

Ananda Aryaratne, Atigala- Hanwella

May Day: Brickbats and bitter truth

May Day is celebrated the world over in memory of the selfless pioneers who fought for workers’ rights. But in Sri Lanka, how many are conscious of the significance of the day?  Trade unions, except for a few, are affiliated to political parties and their leaders are at the beck and call of politicians with May Day rallies virtually ending up as propaganda meetings.

Slogans, a common feature at the processions that precede the rallies, are often statements of personal slander that border on obscenity at times. In a May Day procession prior to the 1977 Parliamentary elections, some women, probably hired from a local Billingsgate, were heard shouting, “Heththe hathe – ………. nathe”.

“Dudley-ge bade masala wade” was another empty slogan that brought out the bankruptcy of a leading left party that once stood for parity of status for both Sinhala and Tamil. The traditional left which boasts of their service to the workers’ cause often cites the 1980 general strike, which ended up with thousands of strikers losing their jobs, to brand the J.R. Jayewardene regime a tyranny. Whether the strike was a genuine trade union struggle or a concerted effort by the Left parties to topple the then government, is questionable.

In fairness to JR, two far-reaching proposals that benefited public sector workers were included (if I remember right) in the very first Budget of his government (1977-1982) by the then Finance Minister, Ronnie de Mel. Up to that time, the government servants’ pensions were calculated based on the number of years in service. A worker who had served 40 years was entitled to a pension equal to two thirds (2/3) of the salary drawn at retirement (40/60 formula).

However, de Mel’s proposal reduced the qualifying period for the pension to 10 years. The pension was raised to 85-90 % of the salary at retirement, depending on the grade of the worker.

The second proposal was to raise the Widows & Orphans pension, which had been calculated up to that time based on the contributions to the W&OP fund by the worker. The dependents of the worker were entitled to the full pension of the worker on his demise, according to the new scheme.

Since then the public sector employees have been enjoying the benefits of these two revolutionary proposals. One is reminded of the famous Sinhala saying ‘ Yaka hithana tharam kalu natha’ (The progressive measures referred to above belie the exaggerated picture of the ‘working class enemy’ painted by the critics.)

On the contrary, what did the so-called left leaders who were ministers in the Sirimavo Bandaranaike coalition do for workers? N.M. Perera, the then Finance Minister (of ‘21 demands’ fame, when in the opposition) did away with the pension scheme in respect of the new recruits to the public service. Once in power, the 21 demands, to which the Galle Face Green will bear testimony, were completely forgotten.

The stark truth is put in black and white for the edification of those who matter. I am a retired public servant, an octogenarian, who has immensely benefited from de Mel’s worker-friendly budget proposals.

Coming back to the May Day celebrations, it is my candid opinion that it is a colossal waste of resources and energy, which would otherwise have been fruitfully used for workers’ welfare. At the end of the day, nothing is left except an unpleasant memory of an exchange of brickbats and catcalls. (“Natapu netumakuth natha. Bere paluwakuth natha.’!)

J. Abeygunawardhana, Homagama

Difference between the natural coca leaf and processed cocaine

I think there is a misunderstanding of the properties of the coca plant as the article published in the Sunday Times Plus last Sunday suggests. One cannot obtain cocaine directly from this plant as cocaine is obtained through a complex procedure where chemicals are added.

The coca plant was the sacred plant of the Incas and was used as medicine and to perform religious rituals. The site explains “The coca leaf and cocaine are not the same. Most people view the coca leaf only as a refining process input in the production of cocaine. In the US, this incorrect view is influenced by the government-pushed media attention given to cocaine over the past 30 years, the same time period of the US Drug War.

Cocaine is to the coca plant as paper is to the pine tree: cocaine and paper are products created by humans through extractive chemical processing. Mike Adams stated it well when he said cocaine “is an abuse of the gifts this plant has to offer”. Clearly, there is a difference between the natural coca leaf and processed cocaine.

“The coca leaf is the plant in its natural form, not a good produced by drug cartels or corporations. The coca leaf is medicine that grows naturally and its properties are beneficial. It is a sacred medicine and cultural symbol to the Andean people.”

Sri Lankan authorities should contact institutes in Peru and Bolivia and get more information about its cultivation and use. Destruction of these plants will destroy a natural source of health for our people already used to Ayurvedic medicine.

Rossana Favero-Karunaratna Via email

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