Govt. giving scant attention to reducing expenditure The President came on national television recently and explained in a matter of fact way,  that the government has to reduce the tax-free allowance from the planned Rs.200,000 to Rs.100,000 as the IMF wanted it so. Otherwise the government would not be able to achieve the target of [...]


Letters to the Editor


Govt. giving scant attention to reducing expenditure

The President came on national television recently and explained in a matter of fact way,  that the government has to reduce the tax-free allowance from the planned Rs.200,000 to Rs.100,000 as the IMF wanted it so. Otherwise the government would not be able to achieve the target of a primary account surplus by 2024/25 and the people will again have to stand in queues and suffer more.

But a surplus can be achieved in two ways – one by increasing revenue and the other by reducing expenditure. Reducing expenditure is given scant attention. This is all about system change and reforms that people are clamouring for! But no, the government is busy trying to create a surplus so that once again these same crooks can rake in their commissions.

The country and the people have been brought to their knees; 1/3 of the population does not have enough food to eat; malnourishment among children is soaring; students are discontinuing schooling as they cannot afford the bare necessities; many mothers and fathers are lamenting that they are unable to give food to their children; many elderly and sick are dying as they cannot access life-saving treatment and medicines. As Ven. Elle Gunavansa Thera asked recently, “what have parliamentarians/ politicians sacrificed when people are reduced to such unheard of levels of impoverishment?” Have they offered to cut their fuel allocations; their security units; give up their fuel guzzling limousines for more modest vehicles?

With all these massive perks – given nowhere else in the world – the people might be still willing to condone these if the parliamentarians contribute to pull the country out of its plight. But what do we see? Parliamentarians and other politicians demanding more ministries, more positions, more benefits.

This government hatches all their plans for getting the country out of this mess, without any consultation with those parties that are affected (stakeholders), in particular with regard to taxes, import restrictions etc.

People are asked to further tighten their belts, but the very politicians and officials who plunged the country into this catastrophic plight are given a state pension and also tight security. Where is the justice and accountability or good governance or the sovereignty of the law?

If parliament and politicians are not willing to bring in the system changes and reforms in earnest, then we the people will have to usher in the needed people-friendly system changes and reforms ourselves.

Henry de Mel  Via email

Sound pollution in the name of religion should not be allowed

My humble abode is fortuitously located in a ‘sacred area’ surrounded by five temples, a Catholic church, and a mosque in addition to a public park where musical shows are held. The multicultural, multi-ethnic, multi-religious mélange of loudspeaker sounds, includes Buddhist chanting from the five temples, Sinhala Christian music from the church, and the five times prayer calls from the mosque.

Three weeks ago the church had their feast with round the clock prayer sessions, with continuous loud noise blared for hours from loudspeakers for one whole week. The words of Mother Teresa in her book titled ‘Silence’ came to my mind: “We cannot find God in noise and agitation. Nature, trees, flowers and grass grow in silence, the stars, sun and moon move in silence. Silence our eyes, silence our ears, silence our mouths, and silence our minds; in the silence of hearts God will speak.”

At the end of the church feast, the Buddhist temples have taken over the ‘meritorious task’ with Vas and Katina rituals taking place in October/ November. On the last day, hundreds of devotees, the majority lower middle class, travel miles in procession preceded by elephants hired at Rs. 150,000 each, with dancers, fireball acrobats, drums, horns, whip crackers, fireworks, loudspeaker-mounted vehicles, one in front announcing the details of the event while a second follows at the end transmitting recorded stanzas.

The extremely noisy processions commence around 3.30 a.m. from a dayaka’s house, and usually travel a circuitous 2 to 3 km course to reach the temple, which in most instances is just a stone’s throw away from the dayaka’s residence.

Discipline in the Buddhist context comprises observing our own behaviour so that we do not harm others.

“Benefit could be derived only, by listening intelligently and confidently to pirith sayings because of the power of concentration that comes into being through attending wholeheartedly to the truth of the sayings. Blaring forth the sacred suttas and disturbing the stillness of the environment, forcing it on ears of persons who do not invite such chant is the antithesis of the Buddha’s teaching.” -The Buddha’s Ancient Path: pp 17–by Ven. Piyadassi Thero of Vajiraramaya.

Prophet Muhammad ordered his treasured companion Omar (rali) to lower his vocal sound, when he recited sections from the Quran in congregational prayer.

In FR case -38/2005:Ashik vs Bandula and others: 2007 – Before Sarath N. Silva, C.J. Tilakawardane J. Somawansa J – the bench affirmed strict conditions and directions for issuing permits for loudspeakers/amplification of noise under section 80 (1) [Police Ordinance].  Delivering the judgment, the CJ stated, “No religion recommends that prayers should be performed by troubling the peace of others nor does it speak that they should be through amplifiers or beating of drums…”

The term ‘noise’ is derived from the Latin “nausea,” meaning unwanted sound. A leading authority describes unwanted sound as “a potential hazard to health and communication dumped into the environment regardless of the adverse effect it may have on unwilling ears.”

In the name of religion, events which disturb old or infirm persons, students, or children in the early hours should not be permitted.  In several sermons it is related that when ascetics of other cults saw the Buddha visiting them, they resolved: “Be quiet, don’t make a sound! It is the Gotama who is coming. He is a lover of appasaddá, (quietness/ silence)].

According to ENT consultants, victims of noise pollution show signs like hypertension, irritability, stress, lack of sleep, and ringing noises in the ear.  Loud music in public parks after 10 p.m. is a serious offence that is prohibited in developed countries. A few years ago the Central Environment Authority (CEA) was working on a draft to set standards for permitted noise levels, which needs to be revived as a priority.

K.K.S. Perera  Panadura



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