Letters to the Editor


How dare you laugh at our pain?
I being a mother of a Thalassemia patient watched a degrading programme on Sirasa TV titled Isiwara Hora Na on September 18 at 9 p.m.

In this programme, a panellist joked about Thalassaemia. I wonder whether he and the others including the producer know the gravity of this disease which is in most cases, incurable and affects mostly children. Only a very small percentage live upto adulthood. That is why Health Minister Nimal Siripala de Silva is making every effort to help these patients live a better and longer life.

The article in the Lakbima paper that was read out is a campaign organized by the Health Ministry. Sirasa TV had the audacity to make a mockery of this article. The presenter joked that Thalassemia came from California. For his information it all started in the Mediterranean region and no Beta (Beta Thalassaemia) or Rita brought it here. It is also not contagious as he says but hereditary. I hope some kind doctor will be good enough to enlighten the public about Thalassaemia.

As it is, affected children go through enough trauma and for the parents it's a terrible drain on their earnings to help their children live. To see their sickness made into a joke for political gain is heart breaking and disgusting, to say the least. Today it's my child who is affected, tomorrow it might be yours. This is no laughing matter.

I, on behalf of the more than 2000 affected children and their parents, demand a public apology from Sirasa TV. An incurable disease is no joke.

Mrs. C.T. Wijekoon

They have no right to live the way they do
A large notice was placed in the Daily News costing the taxpayer almost half a million rupees, asking for ideas to prepare the budget, which would benefit and satisfy all the people. We wish to suggest that the 550,000 politicians and top public servants who craftily got themselves absolved from the payment of income tax, be made liable, even if it affects the Minister and his Secretary and all his cabinet colleagues personally. They should not live such comfortable lives at the expense of the mere 152,000 taxpayers.

Salaries, perks, huge allowances, several cars and drivers at their disposal, petrol for several cars at Rs. 70 a litre, entertainment allowances, daily allowances for attending Parliament, free phones, free phone calls, free mobile phones, unnecessary joy rides abroad with stupendous allowances, free housing, electricity and water bills paid for, pensions, car permits, and a host of other benefits including a sumptuous breakfast at Rs. 6 and a three course lunch at Rs. 15 are all theirs. Had they eaten like this before they went to Parliament? Most of them were nobodies before they entered Parliament.

It would take a bold Finance Minister like Dr. Sarath Amunugama to implement this, however unpalatable it may be, but we feel that he has the guts and the grit as a member of the prestigious Ceylon Civil Service to do so, having been trained in justice and fairplay.

The Finance Minister has a duty to look after the self-employed who do not trouble the government for jobs unlike the government servants. They get no fixed salaries, no allowances, no perks, no pensions, no joy rides abroad, no car permits and no bribes.

If they drop dead their families are destitute. Politicians and top public servants do not feel the cost of living as they get almost everything free. In addition, most of them further enrich themselves by bribery and corruption. The President recently said that the judiciary is corrupt. So what can we expect from politicians and top public servants?

The self-employed comprise 75% of the country. Each time the cost of living goes up, the government raises the salaries of only the government servants because politicians also benefit in the process.

Mercantile employees and the self-employed too would like to enjoy the perks and trips abroad that govt. officials enjoy with their money (taxpayers' money). We pay taxes. Top govt. officials pay none, but stay at the Waldorf Astoria hotel with taxpayers' money but yet call them rogues and tax dodgers.

If tax forms are distributed to every business establishment down all trunk roads, at least one million taxpayers will be drawn into the tax net rather than continuing to strangle the existing taxpayers.

N.P. Perera

Misconceptions on conversion and religion
I refer to the Point of View on Conversion: Sinister and covert motives by Asoka Devendra in The Sunday Times of September 19. Since he makes inaccurate statements and false conclusions in the letter, I think it is important to correct them.

His first conclusion is that "the people of this island have been the victims of alien Christian conversion stratagems... for nearly 500 years". One may ask, out of a population of about 20 million, how many Sri Lankans have been victims of conversion? I worked very closely with the De La Salle Brothers who conduct schools in Colombo, Wattala, Chilaw, Mannar, Kandana and Kurunegala, but never heard of any conversion or attempts to convert in these schools. The good Brothers were concerned with providing good education and making children good citizens.

Anagarika Dharmapala who studied at their school in Pettah wrote highly of their conduct and education in his published diaries. The late Ven. Narada Thera used to visit the Brothers at St. Benedict's to thank his teachers for the good education he received at the college. The word "victim" is inappropriately used here, because we don't see many people who have become "victims" i.e. Christians.

The second conclusion that "still the conversion rate stands around 7% of the total population" is also false. What he is referring to is not the rate, but the percentage of Christians in the country.

Here are a few observations on the rest of the letter. The author displays ignorance on the concept of God, Christian doctrine and baptism. The letter refers to god as a mythologised anthromorphic being, probably based on the concept of gods in Buddhism and Hinduism. There is significant evidence on design, direction and wisdom in the universe not to overlook the existence of God.

All our major discoveries are finding out what has been there for ages. E=mc2 operated before Einstein discovered it, and protein synthesis occurred millions of years before Watson, Crick and Caspersson discovered the DNA structure and RNA in protein synthesis. The chance of a protein molecule arising from an organic soup is one in 10113 (1 and 113 zeros). However, mathematicians reject any event that has one chance in just 1050 as never happening. Within chaos, there is direction.

Our understanding of God will never be complete, but we will be able to grasp only some aspects of God such as his wisdom, power, justice, love, mercy etc through our God-experience. Christians approach God with reverence and love as Rabindranath Tagore did in Geethanjalee. Christian doctrine is contained in the teachings of Jesus, i.e. the love of God and love of neighbour. It extends to humility, honesty, simplicity, forgiveness, justice and care of the poor and the needy.

As for the rituals, human beings need symbols. Whether they be a cake or a ring, what they signify is more important than the external object. Most Buddhists have recourse to gods, perform rituals and depend on stars far away for their success and prosperity simply because they are human needs.

The so-called universal laws in religion (on Kamma and Vipaka) mentioned in the letter are not universal laws in the strict sense, since they can neither be verified nor falsified (Refer-Karl Popper). I haven't heard of any specific scientific discoveries made through Dhamma in attempts to dispel ignorance. They are beliefs, and as such are useful for good conduct of the individual.

However, when we consider the crime rate in the country we cannot be proud of the conduct of our citizens. We also cannot hide behind the '500 years of foreign domination', when Singapore did shed it in a mere 40 years. Strangely, countries practising Mahayana Buddhism (Japan, Taiwan, Singapore) seem to be more peaceful and prosperous than those practising Theravada Buddhism (Burma, Laos, Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand and Sri Lanka).

Perhaps we need to come down from mind-theories to practical aspects of life, solve the ethnic problem within one Sri Lanka, live peacefully with minorities, avoid internal fighting, co-operate with everyone, develop a positive attitude and civic sense, manage the cost of living and fill the 8% annual budget deficit, to take Sri Lanka to a prosperous future.

Dr. Leonard Pinto

Read the Gospels to understand Christianity better
I refer to the letter of Asoka Devendra in The Sunday Times of September 19, where he attempts to suggest that conversions to Christianity are motivated by sinister motives.

He, apparently, is of the view that those who have embraced Christianity are mostly those living below the poverty line and illiterate, lured by material benefits.

I would consider it a downright insult to the thousands of Sri Lankan men and women of high intellect who have turned to Christianity of their own free will, choice and conviction.

I agree with Mr. Devendra that the Buddhist philosophy is one of the noblest teachings in the world. What is sad is that Mr. Devendra is among the several who when they refer to Buddhism as a religion, talk of the founder and His teachings, but when they refer to Christianity, totally ignore the teachings of Christ, and the life He lived, but only call attention to those who in the name of Christianity indulged in certain activities for their own selfish purposes.

No one denies that many have used and some are even now using Christianity as a convenient instrument to achieve their own selfish ends. Jesus Christ never preached or advocated the use of force, deception or subterfuge to carry the Gospel message to mankind. The Gospel no Christian is ashamed of -- although to some it may appear foolishness and to others a stumbling block -- is the power of God to grant salvation.

Mr. Devendra and others who have a wrong notion of Christianity, should find some time to read the Gospels and the Epistles and see for themselves that Jesus Christ is beyond any criticism or condemnation.

His reference to the "insignificant percentages" of Christians in the final para of his letter is amusing. If that is so, I can't understand why the non-Christians appear so paranoid about this community, a majority of whom it is inferred are poor, helpless and illiterate.

Zerney Wijesuriya

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