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Opinion

CB injustice to vehicle leaseholders

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A vehicle leaseholder, Mr. X, whose only livelihood is his single taxi business, is being treated unjustly by the Central Bank (CB). He is not alone in this. There are others, too, in a similar situation. All activities of The Finance Company (TFC) have been shut down and only a small office is operating, just to collect the lease payments of vehicle leaseholders. The Central Bank is investigating TFC, and they say the matter is in the courts, and it will be a long time before a resolution is reached.

Meanwhile, all assets of TFC are frozen and in the hands of the CB, including the Record Books of the vehicles of the leaseholders. During the ongoing pandemic of 2020, and the months-long shutdown, from about March 2020, Mr. X and others like him, were unable to earn a living with their taxis, but were still compelled to pay the monthly lease for their vehicle to their finance companies. While the companies gave them a little relief in accepting delayed payments, in small instalments, the accumulating debt is now getting too much to bear for the leaseholder. Mr X has a current debt with TFC of about Rs. 800,000.

Finding it difficult to continue, Mr. X decided to sell his vehicle, settle the remainder of his lease payment in full, and keep a small amount for the urgent current daily needs of himself and his family. The reputed company, from whom he bought his vehicle brand new, three years ago, undertook to handle the sale. They very quickly found a buyer who was prepared to pay the amount, asked for by Mr. X, in ready cash. With that amount of cash, he would have paid off the whole of his remaining debt to TFC, the exact amount being what they had indicated in a letter to him, and he would have had a small amount in hand to help him out with his immediate living needs.

But, in the final stages of the deal, all the parties concerned learnt that the original vehicle Record Book was with the CB, and they would not release it since the matter was in the courts. The buyer withdrew from the sale and now Mr. X realizes that he will never be able to sell his vehicle until the CB completes its investigations of TFC. He will have to continue paying the monthly amount to TFC. and also pay off the accumulated amount he owes.

One fails to understand why the CB cannot consider the funds retrieved from the sale of Mr. X’s car as an ASSET of TFC, and release his vehicle Record Book. Stating that everything is now in process with the courts, is a lame excuse. If the TFC, the CB and the Courts really cared about the vehicle leaseholders who make a difficult living trying to run their taxi services in these pandemic times, then some solution could be reached to this problem. But it seems they don’t care. If this is not an injustice, then what is it?

 

ROBERT CRUSZ

Colombo 5



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Opinion

Venturing into health tourism and unlocking a world of benefits for Sri Lanka!

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by Dr. Gotabhaya Ranasinghe

Sri Lanka is blessed with natural resources and scenic beauty. Famed for the hospitality of the friendly people, the country has a lot more to offer than just delicious food, comfortable lodgings, adventurous nature trails, and the green-blue seas.Sri Lanka is facing a grave financial crisis, of which the repercussions are viciously experienced by many citizens. Its inability to bring in enough foreign exchange has exacerbated its woes.

How can we as medical professionals help the country during a forex crisis? Besides the short and medium-term plans that encourage many foreign donations to the country, shouldn’t we also look for a long-term plan to revive the economy?

Sri Lanka has one of the best education systems in the world and produces skilled professionals to many industries. Sri Lanka’s medical professionals are considered to be highly skilled, and I, as a medical professional myself, feel that there are endless possibilities for us to serve the country if the right opportunities are created.Tourism is a major forex earner, but what about health tourism, which is one of the largest growing segments of wellness and medical tourism?

What is health tourism?

Health Tourism allows people to travel to different countries to receive health services to increase their quality of life, enabling them to improve their physical and mental well-being.

Health tourism allows you to engage in activities, treatments, and therapies that benefit your health and contributes to a healthier physical, mental, and spiritual health.

Why is health tourism becoming a popular segment?

Affordable treatment

Professional health services

Long waiting lists in countries of residence

Insurance coverage-related matters

Benefits of native treatment

Confidentiality

Combination of treatment with holiday

Faster recover in a different environment

Availability of best and professional care / personalised care

Better access to technology and specialists

Availability throughout year

What are the benefits of health tourism?

It’s the perfect gateway for tourists to receive high-quality healthcare at affordable prices.

Why should Sri Lanka contribute to creating a health tourism segment?

Health tourism is a growing industry. The global pandemic (covid-19) made people more cautious and aware of their health, and they are keen and make health and well-being a top priority. People are on the lookout for affordable holiday destinations and combine therapy, treatments, and access to medical procedures that may sometimes be unavailable in their residing country.Sri Lanka is a well-known holiday destination and it is easy to attract tourists who seek the bliss and comfort of health tourism.

Our country possesses skilled and specialised medical professionals who are:

Reliable and possess the required language skills

Empathetic and well-trained to care for patients

Comparatively cheap labour than European countries

Comparatively cheaper overhead costs and expenses

The ability to furnish patients with comfortable lodgings

Sri Lanka is a tropical country and the warm & sunny weather is known to be immensely beneficial for our health.

What treatments can we offer?

Cardiology

ENT treatment

Eye surgery

Dental/dentistry

Dermatology / Cosmetic/plastic surgery

Orthopaedics

Bariatric surgery

Transplants

Fertility treatment

Native treatment, oil therapies, and access to alternative treatment

Spa therapy

Medication and yoga centers

Rehabilitation

Weight loss or healthy eating retreats

What is stopping us?

I must frankly admit that to cater to the health tourism sector, the state-runt hospitals may need more time to undergo improvements such as patient-friendly lodgings and environment. This might seem a difficult task at a time like this due to lack of funds, but the private hospitals and treatment centers are equipped to engage in health tourism.With some innovative thinking, the private sector is capable of catering to professional health tourism industry.

What we are capable of offering!

Highly specialised medical professionals and well-trained staff

Internationally accredited, state-of-the-art medical facilities

Personalised care – The comfort and the convenience of a private room, interpreter & support staff while receiving treatment and other tailor-made services designed for the patient’s comfort.

Round-trip-travel-support. Teams can offer services from medical treatment to travel assistance to a hotel of the patient’s choice, reservation assistance, visa procedure, etc.,

Significant cost reductions for the international patients Immediate access to treatment – no waiting lists

Aftercare programmes

A change of attitude will make us ready to serve a wider community!

No matter how skilled or specialised our professionals are, there are a few obstacles we are yet to overcome for us to open the country to health tourism. We need to get together as a team and turn a new leaf.

1. The country should introduce a simple visa procedure and allow hassle-free entry for the visitors.

2. Over the years as a medical practitioner, I have noticed that the private hospitals in Sri Lanka don’t quite meet the required standards and quality of patient care. I sometimes wonder if the private sector is far too commercialised and concerned only about earning money and not patients’ welfare. Are the medical support staff trained and experienced enough to care for patients, and to assist with their wants and needs? Are the patient rooms comfortable and clean? Does a patient have complaints about the available facilities even after paying money to obtain services? The specialised skilled services surely require to be more structured and organized.

3. Of course, I understand that private hospitals are profit-oriented commercial ventures. But, are they utilising their profits for the benefit of the patients? Some private hospitals are not equipped with modern or advanced technology on par with standard treatments, especially when it comes to cardiology and perhaps in other areas too. Shouldn’t we address this issue as a national priority? Our private hospitals need improvement in comparison with neighboring countries like the Maldives, India, Singapore, etc., engaged in health tourism.Dr. Gotabhaya Ranasinghe, Consultant Cardiologist, Institute of Cardiology, National Hospital of Sri Lanka

I kindly urge relevant tourism authorities, the Ministry of Health, medical professionals, and private health caregivers to consider these views and create opportunities to implement a growing and nourishing health tourism sector in Sri Lanka to enhance the inflow of foreign exchange.Dr. Gotabhaya Ranasinghe, Consultant Cardiologist, Institute of Cardiology, National Hospital of Sri Lanka.

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Opinion

Ex-Prez’s hotel bills; modesty of Indian PM; opinion on MPs by an expat Sri Lankan

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There are many who feel sorry for him as the least evil when in absolute power in his family of power men. But we the people recollect the past. Pity he had to suffer, while others who did worse by Sri Lanka are living free, easy and in comfort. The master mind of his presidential bid and the previous spendthrift are well away. They are even coming out but highly protected and not yet in public.Unanimously, we admire Mrs Gotabaya R. She has been true and faithful and followed her husband in his travails. For her sake, we hope they can return to safety here or in the US.

Poor Mr Gotabaya Rajapaksa becoming quite the wandering ex-Prez. He is far from homeless having a large home here down Pangiriwatte way and, reportedly, a truly palatial mansion in LA or California with two or three more owned large houses to select from over there. Now, where is he? Living off a suitcase in hotels, the governments of foreign countries he takes refuge in giving him limited time within their borders. Can you imagine a worse fate for a proud person who wielded such power since our civil war began and later, the power increased with him being the sole occupant of the pinnacle of Sri Lankan authority? But his stubbornness and wanting his own way even in matters governmental, aided and sycophantically encouraged by foolish/incompetent/self seeking advisors, he dug his own hapless future. The shame of it all, slinking from one country to another. The worst is the fear he has been imbued with, and home meaning Sri Lanka taboo as of now and the US not giving him a visa to return to that home.

There are many who feel sorry for him as the least evil when in absolute power in his family of power men. But we the people recollect the past. Pity he had to suffer, while others who did worse by Sri Lanka are living free, easy and in comfort. The master mind of his presidential bid and the previous spendthrift are well away. They are even coming out but highly protected and not yet in public.

Unanimously, we admire Mrs Gotabaya R. She has been true and faithful and followed her husband in his travails. For her sake, we hope they can return to safety here or in the US.But one certainty is that people with hubris and shot through with power and consider themselves above all else and invincible, should look at this ex-prez; there lies a warning example. Act foolish, you suffer; disregard, belittle others and lack humanity, you fall from a great height; act vile, evil comes to you as sure as the sun rises in the east or night follows day.

A question tossed around with fair fear is: who pays Gota‘s bills of suite occupation in ultra luxury star hotels? Not the government we hope, accompanied in the second breath by a vehement – why should we pay after all the damage done, especially to the entire agricultural sector, including tea, and beggaring farmers? He must pay his bills as the country pays ex-Prez’s and widowed spouses and offers them a home and security if and when they are resident on home turf. Incidentally this and pensions for MPs after just five years in Parliament are two very extravagant expenses that must be eliminated in the new constitution being drawn up.

India and its PM to be admired

India and Pakistan celebrated their 75th anniversaries of Independence from British rule and birth as a free nation respectively, on 15 August. India has progressed streets ahead in all spheres of a country’s wellbeing and for the benefit of its people. Battered, bruised and badly bloodied during partition, carrying a very heavy load of poverty and disease, ignorance and growing population, India is now so advanced that even the US approaches her seeking good relations with the power balancing sub-continent.

I invariably look forward to 15 August to relive memories of a sound and light show enjoyed at the Red Fort in Delhi and to watch Prime Minister Modi arriving to deliver his Republic Day speech. Ever since his first delivery of this momentous speech, I wait to see his headgear, remembering the elaborate red with mixed colours turban he wore that first time, a style representative of one indigenous culture of the vast country. This year he looked extra elegant in a white turban streaked in red and green patterned entirely different on one side where the turban was pleated. It had a long trailing scarf at the back, making Modi look plenty royal.

He has acted majestically magnanimous in donating the only bit of land he owned, No other assets except a mite of money. He has declared his assets and thus other MPs will have to follow suit. When ever will our 225 do this, and the R brothers, son and nephew?

Delayed Chinese ship received with aplomb

Wonder who ordered that the Yuan Wang 5 be rapturously welcomed to the Hambantota Port. Stupid, Cassandra labels the reception offered the controversial ship that almost launched a diplomatic row of offending either India or China and little Sri Lanka wedged uncomfortably between the two trying to maintain peace, show non-partisanship and act non-aligned. Orders were sent out delaying the ship’s arrival from 11 August to 15. And then the welcome reception by Chinese Embassy Staff and Lankan politicians. Of course, the former are to be expected on land in Hambantota to welcome its prime spying and intercepting –oops sorry – scientific ship, but what were our politicos doing in the reception line? For publicity? To gather benefit in whatever way? Mentioned in the newspaper is that MPs Dr G Weerasinghe, Vasudeva N, Sarath Weerasekera, Atureliye Rathana Thera and Wimal Weerawanse were present and WW even made a speech of welcome, no less. It must be mentioned however, that he made a very important point: “We hope China will help Sri Lanka in the form of investments and not loans.” Wimal W extended no begging bowl, rather a request for a helping hand and very wisely not charity but investment. He has promised plenty cheap petroleum fuels from Russia which will not be jeopardized by rendering honours to the Chinese.

Shame Blame

A must read for all: the public, politicians and particularly MPs, is a strong opinion vehemently expressed in The Island of Wednesday August 17 by Channaka Gooneratne of LA, Calif. He titles his opinion: Shame on today’s Opportunistic Politicians! echoing the sentiments we constantly expressed and now, after the initial Aragalaya, have hope that the shamelessness of politicians to grab opportunities for gathering illicit wealth, power, or currying favour with leaders or parties for self promotion, will be reduced. People are no longer abjectly fearful of shouting stop thief; you cannot get away with that crime; your powerful leader will not be able to extricate you from due punishment.

Channaka takes Harin Fernando as his example to explain his thoughts and opinions. No better choice than this time server and loud mouth. Channaka ends his excellent expose thus: “They (the public) see you as unintelligent, opportunistic, third rate politicians. Please do not forget that, EVER.” We totally agree and can get an entire thesaurus of words to depict their stupidity, venality and selfishness.Cassandra says no more, until she comes out with more crit next Friday. Bye for now!

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Opinion

Muslims’ contribution to Sri Lanka and the world: Some little known facts

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by Ifham Nizam

The Island spoke to Asiff Hussein, Vice-President, Outreach of the Centre for Islamic Studies (CIS) about cultural contribution of Muslims and misconceptions about the Islamic faith.

Q:

You have lectured extensively on Muslim Cultural Contribution. So, how would you describe such contribution both locally and internationally?

A:

Islam has throughout history been a very dynamic force, extensively borrowing from cultures and contributing to them. In the early years of Islam, the influence of the Byzantine Empire, also known as the Rome of the East was considerable. Thence came the domes of our mosques and the crescent symbol which was originally the symbol of Constantinople, the capital of Byzantium. When the Ottoman Turks took it in 1453, it became the symbol of Islam. The Muslims in turn improved on the architecture and so we have the onion domes of the Kremlin and the pointed towers of Castle Neuschwanstein in Bavaria resembling Islamic minarets as you see in the great mosque in Medina and the Blue Mosque in Istanbul.

In medicine, the early Muslims borrowed from Greece and the medical tradition known as Unani (literally Greek) was born. The Muslims in turn improved on it and passed it on to Europe, so much so that Ibn Sina’s (Avicenna’s) Qanoon Fit Tibb or Canon of Medicine was a standard textbook in European universities until as recently as the eighteenth century.

Even in Sri Lanka, we find Muslims have made a very meaningful contribution in terms of food, dress and pastimes. Sinhala sweetmeats such as aluva, dodol and bibikkan, accharu pickles, savoury sambols, articles of dress like sarong and karabu and pastimes such as the rabana and kite flying all owe their origins to the country’s Moor and Malay communities. Nose ornaments widely worn by Tamil women were also introduced by the Muslims. Arab and Muslim women widely wore such ornaments in the good old days.

Q:

Has Islamic fundamentalism taken hold of the local Muslim community and if so what can be done about it? 

A:

Fundamentalism might be the wrong word to use in this context since a Fundamentalist is literally one who sticks to the fundamentals of the faith. The proper word to use might be extremist rather than fundamentalist. There have been some extremist interpretations of Islam by Saudi-inspired Salafi scholars locally, especially where matters such as niqab (face covering) are concerned. However even in Saudi Arabia, these extremist attitudes are no longer being tolerated and that’s a good thing. In Islam what is required is to dress modestly and cover all except the face and hands. To say that the faith requires covering more than that is going beyond Islamic teachings and no doubt an expression of extremism. Nevertheless I still believe it should be a choice for the woman herself if she opts for niqab. Individual freedoms are also important, so long as it is not forced or coerced using religion among other things.

However, this extremist thinking has not made much headway in Sri Lankan society and is rejected by the vast majority of Muslims. In fact, the Easter Sunday bombings of churches and hotels shook and shocked the community as we never imagined even in our worst nightmares that such a thing could ever happen. As things are turning out now, there were other sinister interests behind these terrorist attacks. What these terrorists did went against every teaching of Islam including striking religious places of worship and killing innocents among other things.

Q:

You focus a lot on the Past as an Inspiration for Co-existence between Muslims and people of other faiths. Why do you do that?

A:

Muslims have co-existed with the other communities of this island for well over a thousand years. They never arrived here as invaders but as peaceful merchants who made an immense contribution to our country by way of supplying essentials to isolated communities such as the Veddas and the landlocked Kandyan kingdom for centuries at a time when it was surrounded and at times blockaded by the colonial powers. They also intermarried with both Sinhalese and to a lesser extent Tamils. This is probably why you find Kandyan Muslims still bearing Sinhala ge-names. It has also been established by genetic studies that Sri Lankan Muslims are the least exclusive of all of the island’s races.

This means they have been the most inclusive and have DNA that closely resembles the Sinhalese. This is mostly true of maternal lineages which proves that the early Moors settled here intermarried with local women. However there are Sinhalese paternal linages of Moors as well which shows how close these two communities were in the past. So how do we create awareness of this fact? Simple, by publicizing it in every possible way, that we are one with the rest of the communities that have made this beautiful island our home.

Q.

There is a misconception that in Islam women are not treated as equals. How far is this true? 

A:

This is a common misconception, mainly because of the way Islam is interpreted in certain countries like Saudi Arabia. In Islam, women are free to own and manage property and transact business in their own right; they are free to marry partners whom they choose and may do so even sans the consent of male guardians such as father or brother. Unfortunately many of these rights given in both the Qur’an and in the ahadith or traditions of our Prophet (Peace Be Upon Him) are trampled in countries like Saudi Arabia which are more concerned about maintaining their tribal traditions than the true laws of Islam.

In some cases, the West deliberately complicates the picture, especially when it comes to matters like Female Genital Mutilation. True, Islam has nothing to do with FGM, but we do have something called female circumcision, which like male circumcision involves the removal of a little bit of skin, the prepuce covering the clitoris and ensures a lifetime of genital hygiene and enhanced sexual pleasure. But the West perpetuates this myth equating it to FGM as happens in certain African countries. Fortunately Islamic organisations and publications have now begun addressing these topics. A case in point is the leading international Islamic magazine Al Jumuah carrying its cover story on Islamic Female Circumcision, making a very good case why it ought to be obligatory and outlining its many health and sexual benefits. Thus, it is not only the manner in which Islam is interpreted in certain societies that is the problem, but also how the West portrays it to be.

Q:

Sharia Law is commonly thought to be a very harsh set of laws and unsuited for the modern world. What is your take on this?

A:

Shariah Law is not at all what it is commonly understood to be. You wouldn’t believe me if I were to tell you that it was until recently, one of the most, perhaps the most lenient of legal systems the world had known. But that’s the fact. Take amputation of the hand for theft. Do you know that to cut off a thief’s hand that at least thirteen conditions should be met and that if any one of these conditions are not met, the penalty cannot be applied. In fact, in Ottoman Turkey where the Shariah was applied for well over three centuries, there were only a handful of cases where thieves had their hands cut off.

Why, because the legal conditions that required the penalty to be carried out were so difficult to establish. The stolen item should have had a certain value, something like forty dollars or more in the present context, it should have been kept in a place of safekeeping like a safe, it should have not been in a public place or in the sight of the public, etc., and when all these conditions have expired, it is still possible to save the thief from the penalty if the victim comes forward to gift it to him or her. In contrast until as recently as the early 1800s thieves in Britain could be sent to the gallows without any of the attenuating conditions that Islamdom imposed.

Then take adultery. True, stoning to death may well be the punishment, but the fact remains that to prove adultery as many as four witnesses are necessary, and these four should have seen penetration taking place by the offending couple. The purpose of Shariah is not to humiliate or mutilate, but to impress on potential offenders the seriousness of their offence and to prevent the evil from being broadcast in public so that it becomes the order of the day.

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