Letters to the Editor

18th August 1996


The working of the Party system in Sri Lanka

The contest of parties in Sri Lanka has long been carried on with a ferocity and viciousness unworthy of a civilized people. The last elections is a case in point. That there was corruption on a large scale is indisputable. That there was oppression and high discontent is equally indisputable. But whether the foul invectives uttered in the coarsest language by a party that stood for a clean government was in keeping with those lofty ideals or betokened a good administration is open to question. It was not all the rosy promises so recklessly given of an Utopia that decided the people. It was the solemn and sound promise to abolish the executive Presidential system as soon as elected to office that made the people decide. It was also the common bond that joined the constituent parties of the People's Alliance. The other parties knew perfectly well that without a united effort the ruling party could not be dislodged. The results proved the point. The majority in Parliament was just one. It confirmed the reservations the people had of the ability of the coalition to govern. The disillusion came sooner than expected and the remedy proved worse than the disease.

It did not take long for the heady must of absolute power to infect the new government. It announced that the Executive Presidential System could not be abolished under the existing circumstances. This argument is specious and was treated as such by a disillusioned people. The constituent parties voiced their dissent but were reluctant to withdraw. They could not sacrifice the perks and the privileges for principle. It is only when others deviate from principle that it is heinous and culpable. Principles mattered little. A little bit of power mattered much. So they remain silent. At this point silence is golden.

It would be relevant at this stage to consider the necessity or the wisdom of having a multiplicity of parties with special reference to those solely on an ethnic basis. There are six or seven Tamil parties supposed to represent the northern peninsula only. They are divided among themselves. Some represent only themselves. They have no support from the masses in Jaffna or in the South. Yet they are given recognition and protection in the metropolis. Even after Jaffna town was cleared of terrorists, they cannot go to their own country for they are not wanted there. Then what is their status here? It is only for the numerical support they give the PA?

They say they cannot go back without arms to Jaffna their own native land!!! They find themselves secure here. Then on what basis are they recognized as political parties? The other ethnic and religious party has wrought division in their own community and the rift is widening. They are everywhere in the island and are recognized as Sri Lankans. They are under the same laws of the land as the others. Then why is this cry for special representation? Yet another is the tea estate population controlled by one man who shifts his loyalties to the government in power.

With all these divisions within this small area of land, it is impossible to come to a consensus on anything concerning the whole of our population. Britain consists of English, Scot, Welsh and Irish peoples having their own languages and yet they have only one parliament; and they are one people - the British. Why should we divide ourselves in this small island? We are all Sri Lankans and proud to be such. The recognition given to parties on an ethnic basis should be reconsidered and for the sake of unity, be banned.

This seems a digression but it is still on the subject of parties and is therefore relevant to the subject.

It is an anomaly to have an Executive President and Parliament without any power or status. Parliament is just an ornament, a very costly one at that and so are the D.D.C.'s and Provincial Councils all in wh ich politicians control the executive or are executives themselves.

Members of Parliament should confine themselves to their strictly legislative functions and not pry into every detail of the executive administration. The administration should be left to those trained in administration and not interfered with in their duties. The administration must be separate from the legislature. Much more important is independence of the judiciary, for that is the corner stone of justice. Any interference with the course of justice is unpardonable. Under the Presidential system even this has been done, which necessitated this reference.

As long as the Executive Presidency, and the multiplicity of parties on an ethnic basis, and interference with justice exist no peace or prosperity can be expected.

R. Kirthisinghe,


Compute all pensions

on basis of 100 percent of retiringsalary

When the public sector salary review committee appointed by the President last year called for memoranda pertaining to their terms of reference, it was observed that the committee had not been mandated to undertake a revision of the scheme of superannuation benefits of the retired public officers. As convenor of the National Front of Government Pensioners, prompt action was taken by me to have this inadvertence raised in Parliament through a Member of Parliament and in consequence, the mandate was subsequently expanded to cover the pensioners as well.

Pending this course of action through the appropriate channel, a memorandum was submitted to the salary review committee on June 9, 1995 seeking:

(a). increase of emoluments of all pensioners by a percentage equivalent to the salary increase conceded for the respective grade, the pensioner belonged to at the time of his retirement;

(b). payment of all allowances payable to public sector personnel to pensioners as well;

(c). elimination of all anomalies and discrepancies in disbursement logistics and payment procedures;

(d). computation of all pensions on the basis of 100 percent of the retiring salary of the officer.

Most of the anomalies of pensioners stem from the fact that arbitrary dates and arbitrary rates are applied to the computation of pensions. It is the accepted practice in most of the civilized democratic countries that whenever a salary revision takes place, pensions are adjusted on the basis of the salary increase granted to the particular service/grade/class to which the pensioner belonged. This process is automatic and needs no agitational campaigns by the pensioners who are recognized to have passed the age of militant, aggressive agitational strength and vigour. It is also recognized by the government that those who have been superannuated are those who have rendered yeoman service to the country and should not be subjected to any vagaries of economic hazards and should be allowed to enjoy a peaceful retired life and not be forced to the 'begging bowl'. Even a bull engaged to pull a cart gets kind, compassionate and peaceful treatment in retirement at the hands of a civilized carter.

As regards the computations of pension at 100 per cent of salary at retirement there is precedence in this country in the superannuation benefits payable to the President.

It may also be appropriate to recall the private member's resolution presented in Parliament by the present Minister for Cultural Affairs, while in opposition, urging Parliament to resolve that every public servant retiring from service be paid as pension one hundred per cent of the salary at retirement in keeping with the practice of paying hundred percent of salary at retirement as pension to the President (of course not for a full span of a career service but for serving a short span of less than six years as President). The intentions of Lakshman Jayakody are extremely sincere and honest.

W. Gamini Epa,

Colombo 10.

General Practitioners can give jobs to new Doctors

The doctor/patient ratio in Sri Lanka is very low compared to even India. Some Sri Lankans still believe that Sri Lanka is more developed than India. There are only seven hundred General Practitioners (family doctors) in Sri Lanka. Thousands of quacks treat poor patients. Many more GPs are necessary specially in remote areas. Many new doctors are qualifying in Sri Lanka and abroad.

The Minister of Health recently stated that the government was unable to employ new doctors due to the lack of funds and facilities in government hospitals. Hence I suggest that new doctors after completing their internship of one year should be attached to General Practitioners throughout the island. They could be paid a monthly salary of rupees five thousand by the GP and rupees five thousand by the Department of Health. After two years these doctors should obtain a loan from a bank and set up in private practice.

Lionel. J. Seneviratne,

Mt. Lavinia.

More letters to the editor - Do away with night power cuts * Our cricketers and our soldiers * SLBFE clarifies * Outdated method of teaching English

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