The Sunday Times on the Web Letters to the Editor

26th April 1998


Consumers should be looked after

Privatisation should bring relief to the consumers; but unfortunately it ends-up in heaping additional burdens on them. Regulatory Commissions should primarily look after the interest of the consumers. However, in Sri Lanka they look after the interest of the suppliers more than the end-users. Gas Company was privatised followed by a sharp increase in their prices. Telecom was privatised and the consumers were given a good dose of bait with free calls for two festive days and the charges went up like a bullet from the following day (15.4.98).

The Telecom monthly rental has been increased by 80%, from Rs 100 to Rs 180. The duration of a unit for a local call at Peak Rate charges has been reduced by 30.2% (i.e. from 86 seconds per unit to 60 seconds) and that for the Standard and Economy Rates reduced by 25% (i.e. from 120 seconds to 90 seconds and from 240 to 180 seconds, respectively). Secondly, for long distance calls, the duration of a unit at Peak Rate has also been reduced by 16.7% (i.e. from 36 seconds to 30 seconds).

In the past (i.e.until 1996), there had been only two types of Rates, namely, a Standard Rate from 8.00 am to 6.00 p.m. and a Cheap Rate from 6.00 p.m. to 8.00 a.m. The duration of a unit for a local call had been 120 seconds (Standard Rate) and 240 seconds (Cheap Rate) and that for a long distance call had been 50 seconds (Standard Rate) and 100 seconds (Cheap Rate). Also a lower rate had been charged for the first 200 units and a higher rate for 201 units and above.

However, with the privatisation of Telecom and the establishment of a Telecommunications Regulatory Commission, now all customers whose usage exceeds 200 units will be charged the regular rate of Rs 1.65 for all units consumed. However, the customer will not know how much he is consuming till he gets his monthly bill.

To look after the Telecom (apparently not the consumer), a Telecommunications Regulatory Commission was established. What did they do? They did not consult the consumers but with “private consultations” allowed the Telecom to increase the rates and the government to add the GST and Defence levy.

In the eyes of the consumers, it appears that the TRC is an inefficient body and it is prudent to close it down and save the public funds.

Today many domestic users have Internet, e-mail facilities etc. which they use for teaching and educational purposes, communication etc. The internet is becoming increasingly popular all over the world.Considering the above, the government should withdraw all taxes imposed on domestic telephones and the Sri Lanka Telecom should revise the published rates and implement the following charges at least for the domestic telephone users:

1. As in the past, have only two Rates i.e. a Standard Rate and Cheap Rate.

2. Standard Rate should be from 8.00 a.m. to 6.00 p.m. from Monday to Friday and Cheap Rate from 6.00 p.m. to 8.00 a.m. on week days and for the full 24 hour period on Saturdays, Sundays and Public Holidays.

3. The duration of a unit for local calls should be 120 seconds for Standard Rate charges and 240 seconds for Cheap Rate charges and that for long distance calls should be 50 and 100 seconds, respectively, like in the past (until 1996).

4. Monthly rental for domestic telephones should remain at Rs 80.

5. The proposed charges of Rs 1.10 for the first 200 units should apply to all and all units consumed above 200 should be charged at Rs 1.65 per unit.

6. A concessionary rate should be implemented for Internet users as they have to be stuck on the lines for long periods to down-load the required material and also to encourage the use of the World Wide Web both by the students and the interested public. In Malaysia, a cheaper rate is available for Internet users. Besides this, it is predicted in the US, that the television sets will start moving to the garbage bins after the year 2000 due to increased use of the World Wide Web sites. Sri Lanka should also be prepared for this.

7. The GST and Defence Levy charges should be withdrawn for domestic land phone users and the telephone should be considered as an essential domestic item.

8. To boost the income of the Telecom Companies, the public should be encouraged to use the telephones more often than to keep gazing at them as luxury items.

9. Any Company which wants to reduce the installation charges or provide cheap rates to the consumers should be allowed to do so; the government or regulatory bodies should not cast obstacles at them but encourage competitiveness in pricing.

10. As a matter of policy, the government should have only one Regulatory Commission for all essential items and services and not one for Telecommunications and one for another etc. It will be only a waste of public funds.

11. The public should be consulted and adequate notice should be given before increasing the rates, charges or prices of essential goods and services; otherwise it will end up as a political suicide for any government in power.

Dr. A.R.Mohamed

University of Peradeniya

At last it gets a great name

I am happy to inform you that as a result of my letter in The Sunday times of 1.2.98 regarding street names, the CMC has now changed the name on the name board which earlier read as ‘Dharmapala Mawatha’ to “Srimath Anagarika Dharmapla Mawatha’ (in Colombo 3) not withstanding the opposition from certain quarters.

This is in keeping with the original resolution of the City fathers when they decided to change ‘Turret Road” to an indigenous name and name it after a great national and Buddhist leader of Sri Lanka. Srimath Anagarika Dharmapala was besides a great religious leader of world repute also a great national hero from Colonial times to present time.


Colombo 3

They are fleecing us !

I read with interest the responses to an article in a newspaper on Immigration lawyers as I too have been deceived by a so-called migrating counsultant. Although all the writers instructed the public on how not to fall into a trap, no advice was available for victims who had already hired these lawyers in good faith.

For example, I had no reason to suspect the white Canadian lawyer I hired. After the “assessment” all I was assured was a “quick” visa due to my qualfications. More important, I was neither asked to do anything illegal like providing false documents nor was I offered a job. This led me to believe that I could trust in his professionalism and integrity.

Many moons later, I am still waiting for a word from the Canadian High Commission, through my lawyer of course, and it is getting harder and harder to contact the man. Therefore I would be grateful to any person who would let me know the following.

1. Since these lawyers are allowed to operate with the full knowledge of the Canandian Embassy, is there any department in the Canadian Government or the Embassy where one can go for help?

2. Is there any section in the Sri Lankan Foreign Ministry one can complain regarding these unscrupulous lawyers who should not be allowed into Sri Lanka to fleece us?

3. Is there any International Watch Group one can complain to, to stop these “lawyers” from operating in any other third world country?

With all the hype about “globalisation” it is a pity that the “white men” are still allowed to exploit the “natives” with impunity and apparently with the full blessings of the representatives of their governments.

A very mad victim


They are children, not labourers

I do not know what is behind the Education Department’s decision to limit the April school holidays to just 10 days. Over the last 15 years or so the school year has gone up from I believe 180 days to 220 days. We seem to forget that we are dealing with children and not a gang of labourers. As a parent a teacher and a student counsellor I have seen the great harm done to both children and our society by this needless pressure created by short sighted actions of the Ministry of Education.

April holidays were always something special in our day. We closed school a week before Holy week of the Christians usually the first week in April and reopened in May. It was a good 5 weeks. There were well thought out reasons for this. The month of April was the hottest and most humid month of the year. It gave the Christian families time to get their children through a religious week and it was soon followed by the happiest two weeks of the Sinhala New Year time. We had time to play, prepare for the New Year, help our parents in the preparations and when New Year came to enjoy it and carry on to the next generation our much loved customs and traditions. We had time to visit the temple, and our relations and above all to relax from school. The education we received was certainly not of poorer quality. On the contrary I am tempted to think aloud whether it was the other way round.

Today the children need even more time to relax. It is a hard rat race. From year one it is a case of preparation for the year 5 scholarship examination, English, Elocution- things we hardly did. In addition today both parents work in most cases. More parents are abroad or in the forces. The tension on them and society itself is quite different



Only a sugar coated antidote

It had been pointed out by the SLT authorities that the recent free call gesture would help them evaluate average calls by a subscriber, average call duration, traffic pattern, etc. I wonder whether an analysis done on data obtained in a ‘free call’ period will reflect the true scenario. It is said that all exchanges in the country were working in full capacity the couple of days the ‘gesture’ was in force. This situation seldom arises even during the peak period of trunk usage on normal days.

International call rates are reduced in foreign countries to ‘favourite’ destinations only. That is, if there is a sizable traffic to Sri Lanka from any country (say UK) then UK reduces the call charges to Sri Lanka by a certain amount. Sadly, I have seen that we don’t usually fall into such a category anywhere in the world. I feel the ‘free call’ package was only a sugar-coated antidote given to the public .



We are astounded and saddened

Open letter to the Mahanayakes

As Buddhists we were astounded and saddened by the decision to present you with Benz cars at our expense, and by your decision to accept them.

Among other reasons, Benz cars are associated with wealth and affluence, but Buddhist monks are supposed to practise austerity and simplicity. The timing of this act is a cynical one especially since the opposition of the majority of the country to the devolution proposals including yourselves, is quite clear. Even the LTTE which is supposed to represent the Tamil people and with whom the Government wants to devolve power, is opposed to it. With whom, then, is the Government trying to devolve?

The Sangha of sri Lanka have been at the forefront of safeguarding our religion and the Sinhala people over the past 2000 years. We therefore suggest you auction these vehicles in a lottery and place the monies realised in the dalada Maligawa Restoration Fund, which is badly in need of such funding.

This act will reinforce and restore the faith we Buddhists have in the Malwatte and Asgiriya Temples. this will also indicate that such acts will not be condoned by the Sangha, sending those in power a clear warning to do the correct thing by the people of Sri Lanka, not the expedient thing to remain in power with the Tamil vote. It will also show the public that the leaders of the Sangha are worthy of the name “Venerable”.

S. R. Nanayakkara


Don’t deprive her of this glory

I called on the Lord in Distress.
The Lord answered me and set me in a broad place.
The Lord is on my side; I will not fear
What can man do to me.
The Lord is for me among those who help me;
Therefore I shall see my desire on those who hate me.
It is better to trust in ther Lord;
Than to put confidence in men.

Psalms 118 Verses 5-8
I start my letter with the above verse from the Bible in order that Susanthika may draw faith and courage in the Lord and not lose her confidence owing to what is happening around her.

It is not my intention to judge Susanthika’s innocence, but it seems so obvious that she is being singled out and is being harassed for reasons which are obvious and known to all. It is the duty of every Sri Lankan to fight for justice on behalf of Susanthika who is our only hope at the present moment, to bring back to our Island the elusive Gold Medal from the Olympics in the near future.

Prior to the urine sample being sent, Susanthika protested at the manner in which it was all handled. With due respect to the committee, it is my opinion, that the members of the committee, who are to give another hearing to Susanthika, should not be hampered in any way whilst making the decision.

Susanthika is our national treasure. It is our duty to protect and shield her when those in the international arena try to throw mud at her. This whole episode reminds me of the joke that is said about us Sri Lankans. I am sure most would have heard the joke.

The world was conquered by Aliens and every country was put into a deep pit and heavily guarded. The Alien General whilst doing his rounds found one pit unguarded, and pulled up his Major who replied saying “it is the pit of the Sri Lankans Sir, and we do not need any guards. Every time one tries to climb up and out two pull him back”.

I take this opportunity to call upon our President to intervene, amidst her busy schedule to ensure that justice is done, as the whole episode now seems so murkily confused. We should not by unfair means or for unfair reasons deprive Susanthika from bringing glory to her motherland.

S. Nirmalaseelan


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