by Sr. Milburga Fernando
On the eve of November 10, 1987, as the sun went down on the crimson west, dragging and drowning with it all the hopes of the people of Buttala, Father Mike was gunned down at Suba Seth Gedera while he was engaged in the offering the sacrifice of Communion on the altar with his community in the little Chapel.
As soon as the ripple of news spread, the people came with haste, sobbing their hearts out to pay their respects to their great leader, lying peacefully on the altar of sacrifice, a true testimony, of a laying down of his life for his friends whom he had loved and served for seven whole years. That evening, before the sacrifice, he stood at the foot of the altar, read an excerpt from St. Oscar Romero, the former Bishop of El Salvador, paraphrasing and interpreting it to make it his own. “I have often been threatened with death, I must tell you that as a Christian I don’t believe in death without the Resurrection, if they do kill me, I shall rise up in the hearts of the people. I’m not boasting, I say this with great humility.
As a priest, I am obliged by divine command to lay down my life for those whom I love. This means all the people, especially the poor of Uva Wellassa, with whom we have bonded together in our origins and our destiny, and in short, the whole inhabited earth, “for all flesh shall see the salvation of God.” For God is self-emptying love who is enfleshed in the neighbour, through whom God becomes really present. Martyrdom is a grace from God which I don’t think I have earned, but if God accepts the sacrifice of my life, let my blood be the seed of freedom and a sign that hope may soon be a reality to our people. If they do kill me, tell them that I forgive and bless those, who do it. I shall die, but may my people never perish.’’ True to his words, he continues to live in the hearts of the people as their testimonies confirm:
on the martyr’s body blurted, “Sisters, why are you desolate? Why do you weep? It is absolutely clear that Father Mike’s life shines as a brilliant light in this obscure situation in Buttala. He will continue to give us life, light and hope. Now we are not afraid to face death. He has courageously set the example. His memory will live on to eternity as we go on being witnesses to it’.
testifies, “Father, you are living forever, when death threats were closing in upon you, you confided in your close associates in your own words, “There are death threats to me, but I am not afraid to die. If I’m killed, may my blood be the seed sprouting forth freedom and hope for the people.’ Beckoning Sister Benedicta and Sister Milburga and the others, Fr. Mike prayed invoking God’s immeasurable love and mercy. His own life was secondary to him. His love for humankind was uppermost in his life and it was a totally self-emptying love.
The passing away of this great humanitarian, was ratified on the altar, what more can one expect of this life? The life and death of this Saint will be etched in the history of Wellassa for us and our children and their children, will go on remembering and reliving this history forever. The brilliant light of the saint who kindled the village, is seemingly extinguished. Nay, it will go on shedding its brilliance eternally to overcome crime violence and oppression levelled on us by the evil forces of the powers that be.
We thought that it is quite an unnatural occurrence for Christians to come to a village that is predominantly Buddhist. But soon, they took to us with much ease. They began to associate with the people in a very inclusive and friendly manner which won the hearts of the simple village people by, and by, Suba Seth Gedera became the people’s second home. There were many reasons for this. Free medical services were available for the needy, was one of them, a combination of both Eastern and Western medicine. The youth, naturally frequented the place to read and enhance their knowledge as there was a mini library and sufficient newspapers, providing an all-round news bulletin, the village had never heard of before.
The person responsible for this treasure trove, the one who identified with the villager, wearing the villagers’ attire was Fr. Michael Rodrigo, affectionately called Father Mike by the people. He was so unassuming and simple, that it took us some time to find out that he was one of the most learned stalwarts in the various sciences, even having a doctorate in Buddhism. It didn’t take long for the Buddhist clergy and the people to accept his group into their milieu. Father Mike treated everyone with profound respect, sensitivity and humanity. He studied the needs, problems and aspirations of the people, working out solutions with the people themselves.
Soon, the villagers were engaged in their health and educational concerns, finding solutions and engaging themselves in interesting livelihood projects. This is what alarmed the miscreants totally engaged in violent, oppressive, illegal and malevolent deeds to put an end to Fr Mike. One can emulate Fr. Mike’s good example, epitomise qualities like simplicity, humility, sincerity and honesty. I was able to learn many a lesson from him, to make my life successful. We learnt that the green light for the official procedure towards his Sainthood had been given. But the people of Buttala rose up with one voice to call him blessed on the day he gave up his life on the altar of Sacrifice. He was profoundly human and Christ-like, a meeting point of the Divine and the Human so said the people in one voice. We salute you Fr. Mike. Our tribute will continue in history forever.
recalls with much nostalgia that it was a pleasure to work with Fr. Mike. I became acquainted with him, as I admired his wealth of knowledge, his affable qualities, his scholarly familiarity of Buddhism and his catchy humour. I thought to myself that Buttala will be blessed if there were more people like him. Fr. Mike had a passion for Education, he always advocated that education is the key to find solutions to the burning problems that villagers face. He complied with the stance of Nelson Mandala `that Education is the most powerful weapon which can be used to change the world’. Jinadasa further adds, how Fr. Mike at a meeting `Minis Samagi Havula’ discussed the importance of Education.
Education should be the vehicle to teach humanness and human values. The school creates the atmosphere, it provides the ambit to share and experience these values. People like him are too good for this world. He was a true leader, who felt the pulse of the people, he was committed to serve the poor and bring some solace to them, his life was snuffed out but he has left indelible foot prints on the soil of Buttala and lasting memories etched in the hearts of the people he served.
Father Mike was a multi-talented priest with a double doctorate in Theology and Philosophy. He was offered a prestigious position in the Institute Catcholique in Paris. A big climb in the ladder of success with honour, power, wealth and global connections where he himself would be writing the drama, producing, directing and starring in it as it were. Verbally, he had already accepted the offer, a little while later comes a second offer, an appeal from the late Bishop of Badulla, Rt. Rev. Dr. Leo Nanayakkara. It was to serve the poor in the Diocese of Badulla. The Bishop defines his context with the two realities of Asia, as the continent of the poor and the continent of religions and cultures.
It was an appeal to initiate direct and recast a programme of contextual theology in his newly founded School of Ministries (including the priestly ministry) as a response to the double challenge of poverty and dialogue. Saddled between these two opposites, Fr. Mike wrestles between his ego-drama and God’s field-drama. (Hans Urs von Balthasar). He then retreats to deep prayer and reflection and confesses to his elder sister, that God is asking him to sell all what he has in order to buy the pearl of great price and the treasure hidden in the field. Further quoting the Bible, “For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose himself’? Since then, he stood firmly with Jesus at the Cross with profound faith and faithfulness firmly convinced that the Resurrection of Jesus has conquered death Fr. Mike committed himself to this way of proclaiming the Good News to all of humankind and especially to the poor.
He studied the problems of the area with great intensity, the past history of Colonial rule by the British cannot be overlooked. History has recorded Uva-Wellassa was an agriculturally thriving land known as the granary of the Kandyan Kingdom. It was not only famous for rice, it also abounded in other edible crops such as jak, breadfruit, coconut and yams that were invaluable for the village people. Besides there had been libraries containing technological resources and engineering skills, ancient irrigation skills and hydrological resources, medical know-how and in addition strips of rain forests replete with medicinal trees and herbs. One could say it was a miniature or replica of the Garden of Eden. Incidentally, a professor of Egyptology in London in his excavations in Egypt, has even found the real garden of Eden, a most beautiful place still surrounded by mountains, valleys and springs with beautiful fruit trees all around leading down to an inner sea. Brutal force was unleashed to crush the 1818 Rebellion.
Under the then Governor Robert Brownrigg. Every form of livelihood came under attack, the British went on rampage scorching the fields, crops, cattle, homes and a large number of youth were mercilessly killed. This area of plenty was ravaged and left desolate. The people of Uva Wellassa even after the elapse of 165 years could not erase this bitter experience etched in their memory, anything new specially an alien religion earned their aversion and suspicion This still hangs as a big block on our reputation.
It is against this backdrop, Fr. Mike and his band of faithful supporters had to forge ahead. First and foremost, they had to win the confidence of the Buddhist clergy and the 99% of Buddhist people; hence with much patience perseverance, and constant dialogue, their efforts were rewarded. The ‘tide turned’ by Vesak 1982. Fr. Mike and his group with the collaboration of an eloquent lyricist farmer’s help re-wrote the Buddhist Devotional songs based on the ‘Saradharma and Dasaparamitas’ the ten perfections, closely reflecting the values of the Kingdom. It was listened to by about 700 devotees. This event cleared all suspicions and their sincere effort received much recognition and appreciation by Venerable Alutwela Sumanasiri and Koteneluwe Upatissa and other monks of the area. On May 1987, he officially affirmed his collaboration in the village effort of the Buddhist-Christian Dialogue and conscientization by placing his signature to the constitution and agreement.
With this assurance he engaged himself with several livelihood projects targeting different groups, the farmers, the youth, the women, health workers, etc. His main focus was to impart knowledge and form a nucleus who could reach out to the various strata of society and teach them to come out of strangulating poverty. One way was the monthly, ‘Story Hour’. He used to read excerpts from E.F. Schumansher’s ‘Small is Beautiful’. The ideas expounded were very much in alignment with Fr. Mike’s ideas which gave him added impetus to integrate them in his endeavours as he too believed in sustainable development which should go hand in hand with environmental protection. He looked upon the environment specially the forests, as the home for the village people, as the poor depend on the environment for fuel, fodder and animal stock. He also discerned the stark reality of poverty and malnutrition, the vicious circle in which the poor are trapped, and the only viable solution is to improve the rural agricultural and ecological mechanism Fr. Mike discovered that the ideas suggested by Schumancher and his own perception on sustainable development were complementary and would be beneficial to the rural community.
He envisaged smaller working units and communal ownership utilising local labour and resources, while the emphasis is laid on the person and not the product. He was averse to massive projects involving increased specialisation resulting in profit maximisation causing irreparable harm to the environment carried out by multi-national organizations wherein the human becomes a mere cog in the wheel. It is this liberative approach as against the Trans-National Corporations’ approach that stirred up suspicion and hostility with the would-be powers. Fr. Mike looked at development from a different perspective wanted to impart the right kind of knowledge which will make the poor free and independent.
After studying the needs of the people and assessing the traditional methods of the farmers which were liberative he got the farmers and the University students in the field of Science and Agriculture on to the same platform to share their knowledge. The students contributed their scientific knowledge, while the farmers their indigenous traditional methods. The result was the enhancement of conservationist, eco-friendly, lucrative farming methods. Fr, Mike’s aim was to find affordable locally appropriate sustainable solutions to the most pressing needs of the people while preserving the environment. The fertilizer needed for agriculture was successfully met, recycling raw materials from the village itself. According to a familiar saying, ‘give a man a fish, it is a short-term help, if you teach him the art of fishing, he can help himself and his family’
A comprehensive study of Fr. Mike in his involvement with Buttala goes beyond the concept of he being a Catholic priest who loved and served the people of Wellasa until his untimely death in 1987. There is another vital dimension which has been neglected in the tributes written about him annually. From the very inception, of Suba Seth Gedara, Father Mike was very much an environmentalist steeped with profound respect for God’s creation made him creatively involve in sustainable development which was centered around agro-ecology that was rationalized by Buddhist and Christian thought. Father Mike combined indigenous farming methods with science to develop that alternative economic structure, that went against the then national development models of the state with their Trans National Corporations.
In his last monthly reflection and prayer when the community gathered together in His Name. ‘Where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there in the midst of them’ (Matthew 18:20) Father Mike said, “The sword of Damocles is hanging over us, we are overshadowed with death threats, interventions by the secret police, the military and the CID. At a time like this is there a court of appeal and what do we do? Let’s turn to Jesus. I can clearly hear his voice. ‘Why are you afraid, don’t be afraid O ye of little faith.’ If we examine the charge sheet against us: It is crystal clear that we have only stood firmly against crime, violence and oppression levied on the people by death dealers the local, national, and international middlemen and the sociopolitical leadership, dealing death to the – Anawim Yahweh (The poor of God). They little realize that every heartbeat of theirs becomes a calculated drumbeat on their march to the grave. But every move to prevent crime, violence and oppression will bring about a fullness of life for our people. ‘For he came that we may have life and have it to the full.’ This is eternal life and abundance of life destroying death and death dealing. We are living life and not death. Let us choose life and death will not touch us.’ These were the passionate sentiments of Fr. Mike, the prophet expressing the passionate feelings of God the Supreme Prophet in whom is summed up the whole purpose of prophesy.
Ailing rubber sector?
Rubber production in Sri Lanka commenced in 1876, with the planting of nearly 2,000 rubber seedlings at the Henarathgoda Botanical Gardens in Gampaha. The total extent under rubber in 1890 was around 50 ha and in the early 1900s it increased to around 10,000 ha. By 1982 the total extent under rubber was around 180,000 ha. However, the total extent under rubber declined subsequently and at present it is around 130,000 ha.
If the present financial situation of the country is given serious consideration, it is obvious that the income from our export needs to be increased. Rubber is one of the important export crop. It contributes about 0.6% of the total GDP.
Based on Central Bank annual reports the total rubber production in 2013 was 130.4 .1 million Kg and by 2021 it has plummeted to 76.9 million kg. The corresponding average yields are 1247 kg/ha and 679 kg/ ha respectively. These figures indicate that the Sri Lankan rubber sector is ailing in spite of several institutions/projects such as Rubber Development Dep, Rubber Research Institute and STAR project.
According to Statistical Data of the Ministry of Plantation Crops, 130,349 ha are under rubber. 89,246 ha are in the small holder (SH) rubber sector and 41,103 ha are managed by Regional Plantation Companies (RPC). The productivity (kg/ha) of the SH sector in 2013 was 1247 and has decreased to 679 by 2021 a drop of 45%. These values indicate that the productivity of the SH sector has decreased substantially during 2013-2021.
Those in the SH sector gets relevant skills and knowledge through the extension officers who work at grass root level. Thus, extension officers have an important role to play in the proper management of the rubber plantations and increasing rubber yields of the SH sector. It is because of the importance of management practices in the rubber sector, in early 1980 the Advisory Services Dept. was established with the involvement of the Smallholder Rubber Rehabilitation project (SRRP) to make the SH aware of the practices which have an important bearing on the rubber yields. At that time there were nearly 150 rubber extension officers, working for the Advisory Services Department of the Rubber Research Board to assist the SH in the eight districts, to grow, process and market rubber. However, at present there are only around 20 extension staff in the Rubber Research Board and as a result the rubber extension programme appears to be very weak which may have contributed to the decrease (45% ) in the productivity of the SH rubber sector. Extension service has a vital role to play in motivating farmers to cultivate rubber and increase its productivity. Hence, if the government is keen to increase the productivity of this sector, which plays an important role in increasing export earnings, it is essential that the Ministry of Plantation Industries provides an effective extension service and has a Rubber Advisory Department. Perhaps, the Ministry may amalgamate the Rubber Development Department and the Extension Department of RRI as was in the past. It is not necessary for the government to incur additional expenses to implement such changes.
Dr. L.M.K.Tilakaratna, former Director of RRI, writing to THE ISLAND some time ago very correctly has indicated that communication gap between the RRI scientists and those in the SH is one of the reasons for the decrease in productivity. The rubber training centre located in Matugama which played a very important role in providing knowledge and skills to the SH sectors is not functioning. It is the responsibility of the Chairman of Rubber Research Board (RRB) to see that these activities which have an important bearing on the productivity of the rubber sector are carried out without any interruption. But, the Chairmen of RRB during the last few years appears to have not taken appropriate effective action on these issues. Perhaps it may be because they did not have adequate knowledge on the rubber industry.
Around 70% of the rubber holdings belong to the smallholder sector. There are nearly 100,000 rubber small holders (SH) who need to be provided with technical know- how of the activities involved from land preparation to processing, so that the rubber production is increased qualitatively and quantitatively. In this regard the extension activities are important. It is essential that a better extension service by a trained staff is provided to the rubber smallholders if the government is keen to increase the productivity of this sector.
Dr. C.S. Weeraratna, firstname.lastname@example.org
Former Director, Advisory Services Department, Rubber Research Board.
‘Sethusamudram stupid project’: BJP TNA Chief Annamalai points out ‘multiple’ objections: Response
ANI has, in a news item under the above caption in The Sunday Island has said the BJP Tamil Nadu K. Annamalai has reiterated his claim that the Sethusamudram waterway project fails on multiple fronts, one of which being the potential damage to the ‘Ram Sethu’ [bridge] which according to the epic ‘Ramayana’ was created to rescue Sita from the clutches of Ravana’. What a frivolous objection based on myth or legend at the expense of a development project. However, it is said that the Indian government intends to explore an alternative alignment so that no damage will be done to the Rama Sethu, which means that the Indian government is actively pursuing action on a request from Tamil Nadu to undertake the project by citing the benefits in international navigation through Palk Straits due to the shortening of distance and time.
It is recorded that this project was conceived as far back as in 1860 by Alfred Dunas Taylor during British rule and since then several feasibility studies had been done taking into consideration the objection of religious groups, fisheries, environmental and economic aspects. It is more likely, India may seriously concede to the request by Tamil Nadu and in which case, how will Sri Lanka be affected is a matter to be thought of and action taken to present our views. If this project is undertaken, ships will by-pass our main ports in the South, Colombo and Hambantota and load and unload cargo either at Kankesanthurai or Trincomalee. Our exports and imports will then have to be transported to Kankesanthurai or Trincomalee by rail, road or by ship. Thus, the importance of our main two ports on which we have invested to improve by large scale borrowing will be lost. On the other hand, if objections are raised by Sri Lanka, India may consider further improvements to Kankesanthurai and Trinco harbours as is seen India taking interest in undertaking projects to improve North in relaying the railway track destroyed by the LTTE, roads and also constructing houses including those of Tamil origin settled in estates and also the proposal to connect electricity supply, a vital utility for development of any country, from Tamil Nadu. With Jaffna having an International Airport and improved harbour facilities, Jaffna will be the main business hub, replacing Colombo. Added to all developments done to the North, now comes the news of proposals to implement the 13th Amendment, which will give wide powers for Northerners to transact business and self-rule, so to say, which would be advantages to India as our Tamil leaders look up to India. The keen interest India has taken to resolve the economic crisis by assuring IMF of its support is indicative of India’s interest in the affairs of our country, and maintaining peace in the South Asian region by thwarting attempts of China.
These are random thoughts of mine to be considered by authorities and wish to conclude posing a question – are we to be a colony of India, as we had been in the past with Portuguese, Dutch and the British?
G. A. D Sirimal
Should only private sector employees pay income tax?
By Sanjeewa Jayaweera
Who currently amongst those who receive a salaried income is not on the streets protesting against the need to pay income tax? The obvious answer is only those working in the private sector. The private sector is often slammed for its reluctance to criticise the government for everything wrong with our country. So their reticence may once again result in only private sector employees paying income tax if the government caves into the demands of the public sector employees and trade unionists.
Based on media reports and television visuals, most state sector employees and those working in state-owned enterprises are on the streets demanding that they not be subject to income tax. Yes, a few say they don’t mind paying income tax but at a lower rate and whilst some demand greater transparency regarding how taxpayer money is spent. However, the overall impression created is that state sector employees don’t want to pay income tax.
As someone who worked in the private sector for nearly three decades and paid significant amounts as income tax, I, too, despised the lack of transparency and equity. However, I did not have the luxury of coming to the streets, refusing to pay the tax, or seeking judicial intervention. I had no choice. My employer deducted the tax and remitted the balance to my bank account.
Shockingly, those protesting against paying income tax are not on the breadline. I see there are two segments. The first lot is mostly public sector employees who are at least in middle management. The second is those in state-owned enterprises earning significantly high salaries and overtime despite being overstaffed.
Those working in the public sector who are out on the street are mostly university graduates who benefited from free education, demanded and received a government job, and earned a pension they never contributed to post-retirement. So their reluctance to pay income tax is perplexing, although many would put it down to the entrenched entitlement mindset.
GMOA IS ONCE AGAIN AT THE FOREFRONT
As usual, the Government Medical Officers Association (GMOA) has been the most vociferous of those objecting to increased income tax rates. That is not surprising because even in 2015, they went to the supreme court seeking relief from paying income tax at the highest rate then of 24%. When they failed, they approached the government requesting that doctors be categorised as part of the small and medium enterprises (SMEs) subjected to only 14%!
So it is unsurprising that they do not want to pay income tax at 36%. It amazes me that doctors, despite benefiting from free university education, the right to engage in private practice, and regular car permits have a great reluctance to pay income tax at the same rates as others. Many stories are circulating about how doctors ask patients to settle their fees in cash, particularly post-surgery, to avoid income tax on their fees.
The good doctors have been joined by judges, university professors, university teachers, engineers and bankers. The only lot that has not joined the protests are those working in the department of Inland Revenue! It would be ironic but not surprising if they do.
It is a shocking indictment of our country’s social fabric that the most supposedly educated citizens feel that they should not be paying income tax and that only those employed in the private sector should bear the income tax burden.
THE GOVERNMENT AND PARLIAMENT ARE NOT WALKING THE TALK
Having said that, I certainly endorse those who protest, saying there is a lack of will on the part of the government to reduce state expenditure and, of course, a lack of transparency as to how our taxes are spent and that rampant corruption is going unchecked.
The appointment of cabinet ministers and state ministers well above what is required solely for political expediency is a case in point. That those appointed are inefficient and some stand accused of corruption makes it even harder to digest.
The much-debated expenditure allocation of Rs 200 million for the independence day celebration whilst asking ordinary citizens to tighten their belts is proof of utter insensitivity and an entrenched mindset of political entitlement. Moreover, the explanation given by the President that the world might think that the country lacks the financial resources to celebrate independence day has left me and many other millions totally incredulous.
Several international aid agencies have assessed that over five million of the population cannot adequately feed themselves, and malnutrition among children is at an all-time high. In addition, foreign and local correspondents have filed media reports of the dire situation in our country. As such, the world is aware of our predicament, and this fact should not escape the President and his cabinet. So who are they trying to deceive?
A principle of good leadership is being able to “walk the talk.” In that respect, the President and his cabinet have been woefully lacking. My criticism is not just limited to the current President and cabinet. The parliament, which includes those in the opposition, can easily demonstrate their commitment to austerity measures that they demand from us by voting to curtail their benefits, such as closing down the parliamentary restaurant where it is claimed that sumptuous meals are served. In the overall context of government expenditure, it might be a meagre amount. However, they need to be seen “walking the talk”.
A media report reported that Rs 800 million had been spent on refurbishing a residence occupied by former President Mahinda Rajapaksa. If this report is indeed correct, then it is an abominable act by someone who keeps repeating that he is with the common person.
A recent report that the Kurunegala Municipal Council has spent Rs. 60 million to remove a stone at a construction site where a building was being constructed for a Maternity and Child Clinic, whereas the approved cost was Rs. 9.3 million reflects the corruption that permeates all state institutions. That none will be charged and jailed for this offence is guaranteed.
I have highlighted a few minor examples of taxpayer money being robbed and wasted. It is, therefore, not surprising that some feel that being subjected to income tax is unfair.
WIDEN THE TAX NET AND IMPOSE A 10% WITHHOLDING TAX ON INTEREST INCOME
There is no doubt that the tax net should be widened. Many liable to tax are not doing so as they are wilfully avoiding tax payment, with many not having a file at the IRD. It was recently reported that as many as 113 members of parliament do not have tax files. In many conversations, a question is raised whether all traders in Pettah have a tax file. From my experience in the private sector, I know that most wholesalers and distributors are either not paying taxes or what they pay is significantly understated. It is generally believed that most of the 500,000 grocery stores are not within the tax net. The IRD is at fault for not forcing these miscreants to register.
An eminently sensible proposal by Dr Nishan De Mel, head of the research agency Verite is to increase the withholding tax (WHT) on interest income to 10 per cent. He has argued that the additional tax collected would enable the government to give a tax reduction to those earning salaries above Rs 100,000 to maybe Rs. 500,000 per month. His suggestion is based on the assumption that most of our country’s “super rich” are underpaying taxes. Taxes collected as the source is guaranteed income for the state. An argument that may be put forward against this is that it will penalise pensioners who may not be liable for tax. The IRD issuing a tax direction can resolve this by confirming that the recipient is not liable for tax. The reluctance of the government to adopt the suggestion is perplexing, if not surprising.
THE NEED TO INCULCATE PAYING OF INCOME TAX AT A YOUNG AGE
Returning to why most state sector employees are reluctant to pay income tax, I believe that the reluctance has been ingrained in their DNA by successive governments by exempting them from income tax. This is because so many good social attributes are taught, and people are exposed to them at a young age.
In my case, my parents inculcated in me that I have a social responsibility to those underprivileged and, of course, the need to adhere to the law of any country I live. At 18, when I worked part-time as a petrol station attendant in the UK whilst studying, my salary was subject to income tax. Despite my nominal wage, I was conditioned to the need to pay income tax. It is the same discipline I adhered to during my working career, and even after my retirement pay my taxes every quarter without any underpayment or delay. It is the same for all private sector employees in our country, where the employer deducts income tax from the salary. So they are conditioned at an early age to the proverb, “Nothing is certain in life other than death and taxes.”
Those employed in state-owned enterprises have gotten used to the employer bearing the tax on their behalf. So the new rule that the employer will no longer be allowed to absorb the tax is causing them much distress. Yet, shockingly, such a scheme has been in existence. The mindset of state employees was illustrated when recently, an employee of the Ministry of Finance justified this practice by saying, “What does it matter whether the employer bears the tax? After all, the IRD receives the tax” It is a shocking reflection of the prevailing attitude.
It is a universally accepted social principle that those better off must contribute a fair share towards maintaining those less well off and other services that the state provides, either free or at subsidised price levels. The responsibility of paying income tax is even more critical in a society that has accepted free education and free health care should be a right of every citizen. It is, therefore, difficult to comprehend why our supposedly educated citizens who have immensely benefited from free education are now unappreciative of the need to repay the state and the citizens a fair share of their income. I am shocked that university professors and teachers, who are assumed to be a fountain of knowledge and appreciate social responsibilities, are also out on the street protesting against the increase in income tax rates. The same applies to those at the Central Bank, who should understand our economy’s perilous state more than others.
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