Recently, we planted 3,000 thibbatu plants around the Beira Lake. We did this to help cancer patients as thibbatu, which can be prepared as a vegetable dish, has anti-cancer properties. We have a responsibility to work for the future. This is so not only in the field of health, but also in administration. When we [...]


Putting the countryon the correct path


Recently, we planted 3,000 thibbatu plants around the Beira Lake. We did this to help cancer patients as thibbatu, which can be prepared as a vegetable dish, has anti-cancer properties. We have a responsibility to work for the future. This is so not only in the field of health, but also in administration.

When we think of the problems that came up with regard to the appointments to high offices in the recent past, we wonder whether we could find loyal people who are prepared to work with commitment. Though many of these appointees are educated, they lack practical knowledge. Educated and capable persons have left our country to live and work abroad. We have lost their knowledge and labour and as a result our development plans have been affected. This lack of skills affects not only the labour grades but higher grades also.

Many have now joined the public sector or security forces since they prefer an easy job. When we visit a ministry or other state institutions, we have to wait for a long time to meet the officer concerned. No more do we see the era when public servants attended to the affairs of the people speedily and efficiently. If a poor man wants to get something done he will have to wait till the officer is free. I believe that this situation needs to be checked and action taken to rectify it. Otherwise, people will be forced to continue to bribe officers to get their work done.

This is an era when technology allows us to do our work with speed and efficiency. Instead of the hand- saw we now have the machine-saw. Expressways have come up. For household work, there are various electrical appliances. In earlier eras, it was not uncommon to have ten children in the family, but now we have only one or two.

With these comforts we need to be more progressive and lead more orderly and meaningful lives. With comfortable living there should be more time and leisure time. But it is not so. Most people are not able to do this at home or elsewhere. Whatever the progress, we see little by way of relaxation, peace of mind or good health.

Producers and traders should be made aware that they exist because of consumers. But most of them think otherwise. They produce or sell poor quality or unhealthy items to consumers. Millions of consumers are being harassed and exploited while the cost of living is soaring.

Earlier, doctors prescribed medicinal drugs after feeling the pulse of the patient. But today thousands of rupees are spent for tests and medicine while hospitals and medical centres are overloaded with patients.

There are many reasons why people fall ill. One of the main causes is the consumption of unhealthy food and drinks. Therefore producers and traders must stop selling such unhealthy food to consumers and act according to their conscience. Take our transport service; it would be difficult to find drivers or conductors who are kind to passengers. Most buses are in bad condition and this because, they are driven on a contract basis. Drivers and conductors share the spoils.

In religious matters, the clergy need to be aware that they should guide the devotees. But if the clergy get involved in astrology or fortune telling, how can they devote their time to the matters relating to their devotees? How can they maintain peace and work for the betterment of the village and the country? We need to reflect on these issues.

These days there is much talk about the Central Bank and the Value Added Tax (VAT). It is the Gangaramaya that gave the idea of VAT to the late President R Premadasa. When he took office, he said the Treasury had only Rs. 5 million. When I heard about this I gave him the idea of VAT and the social protection fund. Mr. Premadasa accepted this and started VAT at a rate of 1.5%. This, I think, helped the President to manage the affairs of the government and develop the country.

We began the centre to give vocational training to young men and women. At that time a Catholic priest in Kotahena had started a radio laboratory and training institute. Inspired by this, I obtained foreign expertise and started workshops and schools throughout the island to teach woodwork and other trades.

JAICA is a leading development organisation in Japan. It assists programmes that seek to offer technical knowledge. We were not getting this help and I took the initiative to inform the then Youth Affairs Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe and National Youth Service Council chief Charitha Ratwatte of Youth Services Board. Through them we got the services of JAICA. They sent experts first to the Sri Jinarathana Technical College and by now JAICA has become one of the leading aid donors to Sri Lanka. Sometimes, we do not make full use of JAICA aid because we do not act on time or sometimes because of our inefficiency or lethargy.

Some are not giving priority to vocational education. During the administration of President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga, Mahinda Rajapakse was the Minister of Youth Affairs. He started a technical school at a Kataragama temple to teach computer and other technical subjects. I too was involved in this. But the officials did not show much interest. Teaching staff were not paid properly. The benefactors lost interest and the institution was closed down. Such institutions were started with much publicity but were closed down due to the lethargy of officials. This happens often and we need to challenge public officials now. They must to a better job and ensure that public institutions work efficiently for the common good of the people.

Once Charitha Ratwatte told me that since most Sinhala people did not know Tamil it was difficult to have the Sinhala Hansard or government notices translated into Tamil. He said the government spent a large amount of money to get this done on contract. To solve this we started the Tamil Diploma Course at Sri Jinarathana College. In the first batch, 50 graduates were trained to translate the Hansard to Tamil. But government did not give them a proper salary. So they went away to take up teaching jobs. The training given was in vain. I am not saying this in anger, but to show the tragedy that occurred.

We need to take a fresh look at the root causes of the terrorist crisis. There were people who lost almost everything and became destitute due to the war. Others lost their belongings because of looting and riots. We need to honestly to look at our past and learn the right lessons for the future. So I am appealing to governing leaders: Let us look at our past and plan for the future properly.
Please write your views to Ven Galboda Gnanissara Thera, Podi Hamuduruwo,

Gangaramaya, 61, Sri Jinarathana Road, Colombo 02, Telephone: 2435169,2327084.

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