shoulder for customers
My son purchased a National refrigerator from Royale Electronics
(Pvt) Ltd at the Duty Free Shop at Katunayake airport on May 9,2001
for US$ 420. At home on opening the box containing the item, we
found the instructions on the leaflet were in a language not known
to us. All indications on the body and inside the refrigerator too
were in an unknown language. There were clear instructions outside
the box in English warning us not to connect or operate it without
following the instructions enclosed inside.
On June 19,
2001 I called over at their head office and service centre at Sea
Street, Colombo, and asked for an English version of the instructions
and the services of a technician to have the refrigerator correctly
installed. They promised to attend to it immediately. Thereafter
despite telephone calls and registered letters, no English version
of the instruction leaflet was sent to me.
I took up this
matter with the Commissioner of Internal Trade in July 2001 who
has written several letters to this trader asking him to comply
with my request at once. There was no response. I again wrote to
the Commissioner on 30.3.2002. But sad to say, I remain where I
was. How can a business be so callous!
takes workers for a ride
Trade unions and subscribers have vehemently protested against a
Employees' Trust Fund decision to levy a special fee to expedite
the release of funds to its members.
The fund, started
in 1981, has said members could withdraw their funds within two
days if they pay Rs. 1,000. The new chairman Dinesh Weerak-kody,
had taken the decision even without appointing the new board of
said this was unacceptable because there was no point in paying
money to withdraw one's own money earned with sweat and toil over
a period of years.
had said the new scheme would come into effect from May 1.
"It is an insult to the working class to charge a fee to release
members' hard earned money. This is like extortion, demanding money
from members of the ETF to release their own funds," said a
private sector manager. "The board, if there is any, should
withdraw this decision," he said, adding that if not, the working
class would not tolerate it. "It is up to the Prime Minister
and the Labour Minister to intervene and prevent this LTTE-type
extortion by the government," said another private sector employee.
banks accountable to their shareholders?
Newspapers have been giving wide publicity in recent weeks to the
accounts and balance sheets of banks and other financial institutions.
With a few exceptions, most banks have not done too well this year
and their plight is understandable going by the many problems the
Sri Lankan economy faced in 2001. These ranged from the terrorist
attack on the airport, disturbances created by the elections, the
September 11 attack in New York and many more calamities.
Banks have attributed
their poor performance and low dividends to these setbacks. Having
said that, if one were to look at the accounts of all these banks
comparatively, reasons other than the mere downturn in the economy
could be seen. Reading between the lines and the small print of
some of these annual reports one sees mismanagement, ill advised
investments and also loans made to connected companies which have
subsequently been written off, as the major reason for low profitability
- not merely the poor macro position. An annual report of a well
known bank shows massive provisions running into nearly Rs. 700
million, half of it on behalf of parties having a direct interest
in the bank, which must be a gross violation of the banking laws.
It is surprising how the Central Bank remains silent on this type
reason given for the poor performance is the investment in a head
office building, which was originally estimated to cost Rs. 4 billion
but has now shot up to Rs. 6 billion. A 50% cost escalation, to
say the least, is totally unacceptable. When building estimates
are made, a 15-20% provision is always left for cost escalation.
On top of that to add another Rs. 2 billion of depositors' and shareholders'
money is something which should never have been done without consulting
This type of
mega building projects should not be undertaken by banks at a time
when banks world wide are moving away from owning high rise structures
to renting low cost premises.
being, banks are not in the business of property development but
in banking. With the first signs of a recession in 2000, many international
banks sold their buildings but remained as tenants. The directors'
statement in this annual report devotes almost five pages to the
facilities and finishes of the building which does not mean anything
to the shareholder but a reduced dividend. I hope the directors
would agree to set up a special shareholder committee to ascertain
whether the ordinary shareholders' interests have been protected
in carrying out this mega project.