The Sunday Times on the Web Letters to the Editor

30th May 1998


Employment of minors

We appreciate the campaign to prevent children being employed as domestic servants. According to the Employment of Women and Children's Act, children under 12 cannot be employed. Children under 14 can be employed with necessary rest periods.

However there is widespread belief that persons under 18 years cannot be employed as domestic servants after the Penal Code (Amendment) Act No. 22 of 1995 was passed. The police have taken employers of domestics below 18 into custody and this has led to serious inconvenience.

In this particular amendment, there is no provision to say that the minimum age for employment is 18.

It discusses cruelty to children under 18 years and not employment. Can the police take the employers of persons under 18 into custody on a complaint made by the neighbours?

It would be important for the public to be informed by the IGP the minimum age at which a child can be employed and under what circumstances the police can take the employers of children over 14 for questioning. In a recent instance an employer of a girl of 17 had been put into great inconvenience by the police.

The girl was kept in police custody apparently for no reason.

I would like the Department of Labour and the IGP to clarify the present legal position as to the employment of children under the labour laws and the Penal Code .

Anoma Gunaratna
Colombo 10.

Pensions and the Public Service

One of the main attractions of the Public Service, was and is the payment of a regular monthly pension at retirement.

It was reported in the press recently that the Governor of the Central Bank has warned that it will not be possible for public servants recruited in the future to be entitled to pensions , unless a huge increase is levied as taxes.

Scrapping pensions would remove the main attraction to the public service and further lower standards.

This could be conveniently done as there will not be much protest because it is going to affect the future recruits.

On the other hand, ways and means to find the increased sum necessary is going to raise a hornet's nest, but that appears to be the right thing to do.

At present the statutory non-taxable allowance given to an individual is Rs. 144,000 per annum, which works out to Rs. 12,000 a month.

A person who gets a monthly wage in the private sector is taxed on this basis and the income includes overtime as well.

The government servant is not taxed and this includes some who draw very high salaries.

Then there are the parliamentarians, who apart from the monthly salary and several perks and almost a free lunch at the expense of the rate payers, are not taxable, and to cap it all, they get a pension after five years of service.

What is required is a scheme of taxation, which will include all and sundry, both private and publis sectors and the raising of the statutory non-taxable allowance, as a measure of relief to the lower income group.

For the country to get out of the existing mess and improve, certain measures should be taken, some of which may be unpalatable to some, but to do all that, the rulers, who are entrusted with good governance, must set the right example by making sacrifices themselves.

S Thambirajah,
Colombo 3.

Concessions to elders

This is the International Year of Elders and government pensioners are eagerly awaiting the additional 20 percent increase recommended by the B.C Perera Commission.

Ten per cent has already been given.

The expenditure on the on-going conflict makes it difficult for the government to implement the recommendation.

The pensioners understand this. But it is a matter of regret that parliamentarians are to get increased salaries which are termed "allowances".

Travelling allowances too will be upped. The suggestion to tax them is resented.

Let them lead the way to austerity which the common man has to accept.

However, there are a few concessions to elders which socialist countries have granted.

Free transport with reserved seats, medicine and exemption from queues are some concessions which should be given to elders. The government will not be poorer by this.

HelpAge has so far done nothing on these matters. Their efforts are concentrated only on the destitute.

Let this NGO be true to its name and agitate for elders.

J.A Abeyratna,

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