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Do away with waste: Give teachers their dues

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I have watched with sadness how the teachers protested to obtain their just demands. I reflected on what my teachers taught, and silently prayed for them as they rendered yeoman service for students under their care, to get to where they are today in life. The first thing that struck me was to remember a great teacher telling students that for a “deed to be good and blessed with success, that the thought should be good” . This is what the Buddha said: Sabbha papassa akaranam, kuslassa upasampada satchitta pariyo dapanam, etham buddanu sasanam.

Then we were taught not to steal or acquire wealth the wrong way, and that it will not last. We were also advised to lead righteous lives, and remember that we enter the world with nothing and leave also the same way. From the young days, we were told not to attempt to pass examinations the wrong way, and if that was found, such scars will remain till you die. I am grateful to them and have in turn inculcated such noble values in my children, and emphasised that wealth accumulated the wrong way will make their children suffer.

It is indeed a tragic situation that no government placed importance on education and provided only 1.6% of GDP for education. I often wonder whether this was done on purpose, as politicians can manipulate an uneducated electorate. That is abundantly clear since our masses are so gullible that they get carried away by the fairy tales of politicians. Nelson Mandela said that one way that a country could be destroyed without bullets was to deprive people of a sound well rounded education.

I was surprised to read a news item in your issue of 6 August, quoting a minister, that the salaries and pension account was very high in the state service. He said that the government was in a bind over a massive salary and pension bill.

Perhaps politicians are unaware of or choose to ignore that the unaffordable salary bill was largely due to irresponsible politicians, who bloated the public service. Conscious of that fact they added more and more. It is an acknowledged fact that the public service can function and serve society well, with a little over half the number of the workers.

We have to look at what it costs to get a small country with limited resources governed. We have 225 members of Parliament, many unfit to be in a national legislature, drawing emoluments as Ministers, State Ministers, etc., with perks which cost the taxpayer an arm and a leg, when their basic needs are not provided.

Since the learned politician lamented, my suggestion to meet the just demands of Principals and Teachers is to:

A. The government prunes the cost of maintaining 225 in the national legislature by enforcing a 25 % reduction in salaries. Many countries had done so, as it was immoral for those who opted to serve the people, should continue to enjoy when millions are in distress.

B. Sell all the Mercedes, BMW 7 series and Range Rovers now used by ministers, as this sale will provide the necessary funds. Perhaps the doctor is aware that there are many who do not own vehicles.

C. Recover money drawn by politicians from the President’s Fund, as that was not meant for politicians to use. A name comes to mind, the man who referred to teachers as “kalakanni”, who after getting compensated by the hotel after his attempt to jump from one balcony to another, without any qualms of conscience drawing 20 million.

D. The price of five star hotel food provided when more than half the population is near starvation must be increased to be in line with what star class hotels charge for meals.

E. Sell the Mercedes that were imported by the former President on the eve of elections that cost two hundred million dollars. He must be made to vacate the sprawling mansion he made for a ruling president, taking two houses. Since the president uses his private residence, this location must be put to state use.

F . Convert the idling conference hall in Hambantota that cost billions, to a hospital to accommodate the large numbers now on the floor. This applies to the vanity tower in Colombo too.

G. Last but not the least, stop this waste on plaques since public funds are used. Certainly, the place a plaque if some philanthropist donates a facility. We note today the names of ethanol dealers, kudu karayo, chain snatchers and the dhammika peni drinkers all over.

Mr Editor, cost cutting must start from the top, since the majority now in Parliament are unworthy to be lawmakers. They are signal posts and are activated mechanically.

The teachers issue must end and the children must get back to books soon. A paediatric psychiatrist commenting on a talk show, said that the effects of separation from the teachers and a school environment will be felt in a decade or two. Sad.

JEEWAKA RANDENIYA



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Opinion

Yohani – not our Manike?

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It is very heartening to hear that both the Prime Minister and the Opposition Leader of India have expressed their appreciation of the song Manike mage hithe, sung by the local artiste Yohani de Silva, which had gone viral in this part of the world.

Sadly, neither the government nor the Opposition bigwigs of Sri Lanka have congratulated her in the media, taking into consideration the vast amount of foreign exchange she is bringing into this country.

Indrasena Samaratunga

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Opinion

Must give way to ambulances

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The introduction of the Suwa Seriya free ambulance service has helped many patients, afflicted with serious illnesses, to get to the hospital in double quick time, saving the lives of many people who would otherwise have succumbed to serious ailments such as heart attack, or grave injury resulting from serious accidents. We have to thank Dr. Harsha De Silva for all he has done to see this very important service established with the help of the Indian Government.

There have been a few people trying to take credit for getting this ambulance service from the Indian government, but it was the sole effort of Dr. De Silva that saw this through. The Suwa Seriya ambulance comes to the location where the patient is, very quickly. Now the Suwa Seriya ambulance service is available throughout the island, a boon to people who cannot afford to pay for an ambulance to get to a hospital.

Along with the Suwa Seriya, there are a large number of ambulances attached to government and private hospitals. We hear the sirens of ambulances throughout the day. When an ambulance is rushing to a hospital, it is absolutely necessary that motorists give way. It is noticed that most older motorists try to move their vehicles to make way for the oncoming ambulance to proceed without a hassle. But some younger motorists, driving expensive SUVs, and some private bus drivers, who think they own the road, do not give way for the ambulance to proceed.

It is imperative that all motorists abide by the rule to give way to an ambulance as soon as the siren is heard. It is the duty of all motorists to enable an ambulance to reach the hospital soonest.

H.M. Nissanka Warakaulle

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Opinion

Mr. President, please let this be a turning point!

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By Rohana R. Wasala

When I pen these words, most Sri Lankans are still sleeping. I am ahead of them and awake. That is because of the time zone difference between where I live and Sri Lanka, my country of birth. As usual, as the first thing I do in the morning, particularly these days, I glanced at the headlines in The Island epaper, and was depressed to read the banner headline “Ratwatte remains a state minister despite resignation over running amok in prisons”, with the following underneath it:

“State Minister of Prison Reform and Rehabilitation Lohan Ratwatte yesterday told The Island that he had informed President Gotabaya Rajapaksa that he would step down immediately from his post as the State Minister of Prisons. However, he will continue to be the State Minister of Gem and Jewellery Industries”.

Having earlier read and heard over the media about Lohan Ratwatte’s alleged escapades in prisons on Sunday (12) night, I have been eagerly waiting to read a newspaper headline like “Deputy Minister remanded; a good start to meeting challenge to rule of law”, for I expect nothing less from President Gotabaya Rajapaksa. As a disciplined and determined executive, with a military background, he, I assume, tries to handle the toughest cases with the strictest adherence to the law. He appears to rely on the ministers and the government servants, serving under him, to follow his perfectly lawful commands in a spirit of military discipline, mutatis mutandis, in the context of civil government. Whatever the likely or actual response to the extremely embarrassing deputy-ministerial episode (not the first involving LR), it should be of a kind that contributes to a restoration of the fast eroding public faith in the hoped-for Gotabaya rule. The Island editorial of Thursday (16) under the arresting heading “Arrest them” offers sound advice. I drew some solace from that. For I realised that there is at least another person of a like mind.

I was even more shocked and disappointed by the Commissioner General of Prisons Thushara Upuldeniya’s attempted absolution of the Deputy Minister. According to the online Lanka C News (September 16), the Commissioner has said that the Minister visited the prison to discuss pardoning some prisoners and that the he has the right to visit the prison to discuss with the inmates at any time of the day. The Commissioner might be technically right, but I am doubtful about the lawfulness of what the Minister has done, especially in his alleged inebriated state. Upuldeniya was handpicked by the President for the extremely demanding job. His coming to the defence of LR was a bolt from the blue to the innocent peace-loving law abiding citizens of the country who have been for decades persecuted by the persistent menace posed by the unholy alliance between criminals and some jailors and a handful of politicos providing together an impregnable bulwark for the first.

However, since the case hasn’t yet been verified or investigated, we don’t know for sure whether the Deputy Minister is guilty of going berserk under the influence of liquor as alleged. As a person embroiled in politics, he could be a victim of some calumnious effort of his detractors, and we must be cautious in passing judgement on him. But again, as he, who has a previous thuggish reputation, has virtually accepted guilt in this case by tendering his resignation, citizens are justified if they expect, as I do, a tougher reaction from the President.

At this moment we should anticipate a presidential response different from the mild rebuke “Anthimai!” (equivalent of a sarcastic “Great!”) that the then President Mahinda Rajapaksa greeted the hospitalised Labour Minister Mervyn Silva with, on December 27, 2007. (I eagerly hope that the President’s deterrent reaction would be known before this reaches The Island readers.) The latter was admitted to hospital after being given a taste of his own medicine following a rowdy interference he committed with the work of a news editor by the name of T.M.G. Chandrasekera at the state-owned Rupavahini TV station over not giving enough coverage as he alleged to a public event that he had organised in Matara the day before. Though very close to MR, he was not an elected MP; he was only a national list MP from the SLFP that MR led. In any case, it was inexcusable that he conducted himself the way he did, for what he did was bound to reflect badly on the President himself. The other employees of the TV station, angered by the uncouth highhanded behaviour of Mervyn Silva, forced him and his notorious sidekick, suspected drug trafficker Kudu Nuwan or Lal or someone (I am not too sure about these trivial details now) to a room and held them there, handling them roughly. Mervyn Silva was heard pleading : “I will tender an apology if you say I have done wrong”. He had. The workers were providing manual proof as best they could.

Mervyn Silva was beaten up right royally, and bundled into his prestigious ministerial Pajero and was briskly driven away to hospital safety. The state Rupavahini telecast the proceedings live for the whole world to see in repeated ‘news flashes’ most of the day that day, as my older readers might clearly remember. It was a sort of news carnival for the wrathful Rupavahini broadcasters and for the scandalised viewers. While watching the scenario live, I convinced myself that President Mahinda Rajapaksa would kick his you-know-what-I-mean within the hour, or at least after his discharge from hospital. To my utter disgust and disappointment, nothing like that happened. The fellow flourished for another eight years under MR’s wing until he betrayed him utterly in 2015, after having abused his well-known humaneness and his reluctance to abandon people who have helped him in the past. Lately, Mervin seemed to try to cozy up to the boss he so treacherously let down; but MR’s brothers have saved him from his erstwhile unequal friend.

I personally believe that we are not going to see such wretched characters protected under President Gotabaya Rajapaksa during the remainder of his term.

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