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Letters


Readers please note it is essential that all Letters to the Editor carry the full name and address of the writer, even if it has to appear under a pseudonym. This applies to all email letters as well.

 

How feasible is the Law on Alcohol and Tobacco?

Your ‘Opinion” on 10th August on “The need to re-think taxation policy in the face of increasing use of illicit liquor” was an extraordinarily sensible, well-written article that should persuade our President to change a losing game – if he reads it.
I am enclosing the substance of a letter I that wrote to him in January, 2006 in connection with the proposed Law on Alcohol and Tobacco . It does not require much intelligence or imagination to realise that the consequences of that Bill if it is enacted would be:
1. There would be a huge reduction in the excise revenue collected from the sale of legitimate drinks such as arrack.
2. There would be a vast increase in the consumption of illicit liquor with no increase whatsoever in the collection of excise revenue.
3. There would be an increase in illness and death through increased consumption of kassippu that is known to be poisonous. Those affected would be the poor.
4. There would be a huge increase in the wealth of kassippu mudalalis.
5. There would result an increase in the corruption of politicians and policemen.
6. There would be an increase in crime and lawlessness.
7. There would be no perceptible reduction in drinking by young adults.

Surely these are reasons enough for scrapping the Bill? What the government should be concentrating on is an all-out attack on the Kassippu trade that is corrupting our society. No President has had the initiative or courage to do this.
There are other sensible steps that can be taken to discourage drinking by young adults. That is a separate subject that should be gone into in depth. A Commission could be appointed with that as its main object. This Commission should consist of sensible members of the private and public sectors, professionals and academia. It should be borne in mind that drinking in moderation is not harmful to the health. Smoking is.”

It is too late to expect a reversal of that law that has had all the consequences that I predicted. However we have to bear in mind that at the time the NATA (National Authority on Alcohol and Tobacco) Law was passed the President was in thrall to the JVP and JHU, the key proponents of the law. Today, the President is in a position to acknowledge that those two parties were not expert in Economics or even clear thinking.

All that that Law has achieved is that the Kassippu Industry is stronger than ever; and corruption is at an all-time high. Government continues to lose huge sums in both income tax and excise duty as a consequence of the decline in the sale of lawful liquor. In addition, medical expenses on the treatment of those who have been poisoned by ingesting kassippu have increased. I can safely make that claim without knowing the actual figures because it stands to reason. When people cannot afford arrack or gin they buy kassippu. They do not give up drinking as the ingenuous Do-Gooders behind the NATA Law fondly imagine. The government should analyse the expenditure on alcohol related medical cases which they could easily establish are due to consumption of kassippu, and not “Old Reserve Arrack or Mendis Special”. In analysing matters such as this one has to be hard-headed and put aside all pre-conceived notions.

The government should have the courage to experiment with a reduction in excise duties on alcohol, and observe the consequences. I can safely predict that the over-all revenue from the alcohol industry will increase as did income tax when the government many years ago reduced the rates of income tax. Good economists like Dr P.B.Jayasundera and Dr Saman Kelegama would understand this.

The President must show the country that he is an intelligent, courageous man who is prepared to re-think any policy in changed circumstances. Circumstances alter cases.
Charitha P de Silva

****

Misconceptions about slaughtering animals

With reference to the well known Senior (Retired) Consultant Cardiologist Dr. D. P. Athukorale of Horton Place, Colombo 7, who for some reason now prefers to sign off as D.P.A. sometimes and at other times just D. P. Athukorale, – whom my father-in-law consults - and refers to the equally famous Consultant Opthalmologist Dr. Mareena Thaha Reffai as the Muslim lady, - whom my sister consults - in his letter to the newspapers on the above subject, has requested for clarifications. As far as I know, this Muslim lady not only contributes to the 3 papers mentioned by the Cardiologist, but also profusely writes to The Nation, The Sunday Leader, Morning Leader and other leading Tamil newspapers published in Sri Lanka. She also very actively participates in the web forums online. She also conducts Radio Talks / Thoughts for the day on SLBC, both English and Tamil Service. Additionally, she goes as a Guest Lecturer to schools and other institutions / associations. And for the information of the doctor and other readers, she is the Co-ordinator of Al Muslimaat, an association of Muslim women and girls, a big time social service organisation.

After a bit of digressing, let me now, with reference to the topic under reference, quote from the authentic traditions of the Prophet, an Islamic source, to clear any doubts the cardiologist of repute has, regarding the consumption of meat by our Prophet.(pbuh).

Here is one of the many traditions, narrated by Ja’far bin ‘Amr bin Umaiya (Ral), to show that the Prophet consumed meat, about which the doctor is keen to know.
My father said, “I saw Allah’s Apostle eating a piece of meat from the shoulder of a sheep and he was called for the prayer. He stood up, put down the knife and prayed but did not perform ablution.’’
Another tradition, for doctor’s perusal, to establish that the Prophet was served meat, is the one narrated by Anas (Ral), a companion of the Prophet.(pbuh)

Some meat was presented to the Prophet (pbuh) and it had been given to Barira (the freed slave-girl of Aisha) in charity. He said, “This meat is a thing of charity for Barira, but it is a gift for us.”
Meat was served even at the wedding of the Prophet, as narrated by the same companion referred to above.
When Allah’s Apostle married Zainab bint Jahsh, he made the people eat meat and bread to their fill (by giving a Walima banquet).

The verse of Al-Hijab (veiling of women), was revealed in connection with Zainab bint Jahsh. (On the day of her marriage with him) the Prophet gave a wedding banquet with bread and meat; and she used to boast before other wives of the Prophet and say, “Allah married me (to the Prophet in the Heavens).”

Here is a part of the narration by Abu Hurairah (Ral), another companion of the Prophet, which the doctor will be surprised to know, to show which part of the animal was most liked by the Prophet.
Some (cooked) meat was brought to Allah’s Apostle and the meat of a forearm was presented to him as he used to like it. He ate a morsel of it.

As regards slaughter, I would like to quote below a tradition, narrated by Al-Bara’ which requires us to slaughter as it is from the Sunna of the Prophet.
I heard the Prophet (pbuh) delivering a Khutba (sermon) saying, “The first thing to be done on this day (first day of ‘Id ul Adha-Hadj Festival) is to pray; and after returning from the prayer we slaughter our sacrifices (in the name of Allah) and whoever does so, he acted according to our Sunna (traditions).

Hope the above clarifies all what the doctor would like to know about slaughter and consumption of meat. In case he requires some more evidence, I would like him to let us know his email ID, so that, not only me but also others could brief him exhaustively.

Mohamed Zahran

Colombo 14

****

Can journalists be independent?

Journalists or writers, world over, are harassed, persecuted, imprisoned or eliminated physically or else destroyed intellectually.
Journalists have to conform to norms set by publishers or the employers and do not have the independence to write freely without taking sides. They are free to the extent that the publishers or employers allow them to be free.

There is no doubt that it would be ideal for journalists to express their views without taking sides and express their views without prejudice. Nevertheless, the journalist who does so, could face the risk of what he or she writes against a powerful person, political party, religious body or social organisation and will be considered dangerous to the security of the establishment. In that case the chances of being harassed or persecuted cannot be ruled out. And that, in fact, is the reality though it should not be.

Then again, in a democratic set up, a journalist or any person should be free to write, express his or her views and have such views published. But in a practical sense that does not happen and it is the publishers or the State that calls the tune. Media freedom is at its best in countries such as America, Japan, India and a few other countries. In most other countries there are restrictions in some form or the other.

On the other hand the question arises whether it is humanly possible to resort to independent writing when you have to take risks.
Former President J. R. Jayewardene once said that there is no ‘free media’ as such. How far is that true?
Upali S. Jayasekera
Colombo 4

****

Precautions to be followed when issuing cheques

These tips on how they operate will be a useful guideline…

Cheques are the popular mode of payment worldwide. If properly monitored they have several advantages, some of which are as follows:
(1) Large sums of money need not be retained or transported and thereby losses could be avoided.
(2) An official receipt is not essential for cheque payments, as you could always obtain a certificate from the payment Bank, if necessary.
(3) Provides better control and internal check within the organisation.
(4) Avoids suppression of information. For eg: In India it is mandatory that any payment above Rs. 50,000/- has to be made by cheque.

Crossings of cheques

Cheques drawn as “Cash” or in the name of a person without any crossings (two parallel lines drawn at the corner of the cheque leaf without obstructing the written instructions), could be encashed at the counter of the relevant Bank. However, if the cheque has gone into wrong hands by mistake, the fraudulent party cannot be identified. Therefore, it is always advisable to issue crossed cheques which can be paid only through an account, so that the payment bank will be in a position to identify the final, beneficiary if the necessity arises.
Cheques are crossed in one of the following methods:
(a) Simple crossing - can be paid through any Bank account
(b) “Not Negotiable” crossing -do-
(c) “Account Payee” crossing - paid through the Account of the person in whose name the cheque has been drawn (drawee)
(d) Restricted “Account Payee” crossing - paid through the specified Bank Account mentioned on the cheque leaf
In the case of “cash” cheques, if a person “A” steals the cheque from the drawer - “B” and issues it to a third person “C” in settlement of dues owing to him, “C” has the right to claim for the amount stated on the cheque from “B”, unless “A” is caught and admits to stealing the cheque from “B”.

If the cheque is crossed: “not negotiable” then “C” loses his right for any claim as he has no better title to the cheque than “A”. Therefore, utmost care should be exercised when encashing such cheques presented by unknown persons.
Proceeds from a cheque crossed: “A/C payee” can be transferred only into the account of the drawee or beneficiary. If the name of Bank, A/C No. etc are stated on the cheque, then payment is restricted only to the specified Account. These type of cheques are issued when making payments to the Dept. of Inland Revenue, Customs Department etc.

Returned cheques

This is the main drawback in accepting cheque payments and the payee faces many difficulties when cheques presented to his bank are returned. Cheques are returned with one or more of the following remarks and its fate has to be determined accordingly:
I. Payment stopped by drawer - Collection is doubtful
II. Account closed - Do
III. Refer to Drawer - Funds not adequate in the Account
IV. Exceeds Arrangement - Do
v. Effects not realised - Payment could be collected
VI. Not arranged for - Funds not adequate in the Account
VII. Payment deferred pending - Collection is doubtful drawer’s confirmation
VIII. Stale cheque - Validity of the cheque has expired (usually (6 months). Payment could be collected
IX. Alterations on cheque - Payment could be collected with due verified certification by drawer
X. Account not verified - Usually accounts maintained in troubled areas of the country
XI. Credit requires banker’s confirmation - The payment bank requires the collection confirmation bank to confirm the authenticity of the drawee. This happens for cheques issued by Government authorities. eg. EPF, ETF Depts.
XII. Credit Squeeze - Imposed by the Central Bank or Treasury
XIII. Account frozen - By order from a Court of Law or the Dept. of Inland Revenue

Precautions to be taken with regard to cheque operations
1. Cheque leaves/books should always be kept in safe custody
2. Operating mandate together with the list of authorised signatories should be submitted to the relevant Bank and any changes therein should be notified immediately.
3. Alterations made on cheques should be specified and authorised.
4. Minimum two signatures should be mandatory for business organisations.
One man operation is not advisable.
5. Bank reconciliation should be done regularly
6. Close scrutiny is necessary with regard to:
a. Deposits not realised for a long period of time
b. Cheques issued not presented for payment
c. Proper bank debit tax charges. For eg: transfer of funds between two accounts of the same party is exempt from Bank Debit Tax.
7. Bank Debit Tax is being imposed from 1.5.2002 on all payments. However, exemption has been granted for special payments such as: Customs Duties, Tax payments to the Dept. of Inland Revenue, Treasury Bills etc., provided a special Account is opened with the approval of the Dept. of Inland Revenue.

Problem

There is a problem faced by the business community, when a cheque is returned by the­ bank and the customer has not furnished the latest correct address (innocently or fraudulently), and such customer cannot be contacted or traced. In such instances the drawers’ bank also will not give the address of its client without his consent. Suitable amendment has to be made in the law to rectify this problem, where the bank should provide the client’s address when adequate proof has been submitted for the claim on the cheque returned.
I presume the public at large will benefit from the details given above.
S. R. Balachandran
Council Member
The National Chamber of Commerce of Sri Lanka

****

Appreciation

On the 12th Death Anniversary of Dr. Chanaka Amaratunga (1996.08.01)

Chanaka Amaratunga and political ideology

Though there were elections in Sri Lanka prior to the introduction of the Donoughmore Constitution in 1931, franchise was not universal in that early period. A few left-wing political parties, especially the Lanka Sama Samaja Party and its breakaway parties such as the Communist Party and the Bolshevik Leninist Party were formed during the Donoughmore period.

The Labour Party of A.E. Gunasinghe was formed prior to the introduction of the Donoughmore Constitution. These political parties gathered momentum through the Marxist Leninist or Trotskyite ideology that prevailed in Europe at that time. Armed with socialist ideas, leaders of these parties introduced certain political principles to the Ceylonese body politic. Among these political principles trade unionism, anti-colonialism, anti-capitalism, anti-feudalism, welfare of the common man, state ownership of means of production were noteworthy.

Most of the prominent and leading political figures during that period organised themselves under the banner of Ceylon National Congress that did not have a coherent ideology, though some of the members were akin to various political ideologies prevailed in the contemporary Europe. Constitutional reform movement pioneered by the Ceylon National Congress took momentum in parallel with the global political developments during the World War II period.

Introduction of the Soulbury Constitution with the First-Past-the-Post electoral system in 1947 gave way to the formation of political parties to contest elections. Hasty formation of political parties was a result of the introduction of the new Constitution. Yet, many independent candidates contested for the 1947 Parliamentary election and over 20 of them were successful. Sinhala Maha Sabha of S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike was also absorbed into the United National Party led by its pragmatic leader D.S. Senanayake.

During the first 10 years after independence, ideologies of Sinhala Buddhist nationalism slowly and clearly entered into the two major political parties. Sinhala Buddhist nationalism was anti-colonial and it suspected euro-centric Marxist socialism. But Sinhala Buddhist nationalism as prevailed in Sri Lanka had an element of welfarism as opposed to Marxist socialism. Beginning with the 1949 Citizenship Act that deprived the voting rights of the Indian plantation population and coming to climax in 1955-56, both the United National Party and the Sri Lanka Freedom Party stood for language disparity. It is a well-known fact that Marxist ideologists who stood for equal rights of the people had clearly explained the danger posed by the two major parties by introducing a ‘Sinhala Only’ policy.

Ceylonese economy even by the late 50s was a dual economy comprising plantations and traditional rural economy and there was no pioneering local industrial capitalist class to boost capitalist transformation. Even the political elite of the day came from the land owning and professional sector. Due to the above mentioned facts, the government of the day had to initiate industrialisation through state sponsored corporations and services through various government boards. On the other hand, nationalisation programmes initiated by S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike with blessings from the leading left-wing politicians also discouraged the development of investment. The government of Dudley Senanayake in 1965 and also the policies of Sirimavo Bandaranaike wanted to retain a large state sector, to provide employment opportunities to their political supporters.

Although both parties, when in government, had done yeoman service to develop and introduce scientific agriculture to achieve the objective of self-sufficiency, it is a goal not yet fulfilled.

A crucial change in our economy took place after 1977, but we liberals cannot satisfy ourselves the way things improved in the economic front. While opening up the trade sector with no clear industrial policy in hand, the 1977 regime was not able to lead the country to the status of a newly industrialised country. Further, authoritarianism engulfed in the 1978 Constitution had contributed to political instability. The agitations of minorities and southern youth unrest contributed to the age of terrorism and state terrorism.

The 1982 referendum, coupled with state terrorism, to postpone the Parliamentary elections was an eye-opener to many who stood for democratic and political rights of the people President J.R. Jayewardene greedily retained the 5/6 majority in Parliament he got from the 1977 election under First-Past-the-Post system.

Chanaka Amaratunga, analysing the political and economic developments in the post-independent Sri Lanka and the Constitutional authoritarianism of President Jayewardene, came to the direct conclusion that basic principles and norms of liberal democracy were fast fading from the Sri Lankan polity and society. He pointed out the need for a political ideology to clarify and understand the issues facing the nation. It is noteworthy that political parties of many liberal democracies in Europe are based on political ideologies such as Conservatism, Liberalism or Social Democracy.

If one were to take a look at the two major parties that tasted political power in the post-independent Sri Lanka, it is clear that the two parties had come forward by addressing popular slogans peculiar to the majority Sinhalese population.

Chanaka, being a sensitive political scientist and an ardent liberal, used tools of liberalism to analyse and understand the Sri Lankan polity and society. He pointed out the value of the ‘individual’ as against class and nation. The empowerment and the freeing of the individual from the fetters of illiteracy, elitism and economic deprivation, lay in the development of market forces and not in state monopoly.

He stressed the significance of constitutionalism and criticised both 1970 and 1978 Constitutions and pointed out the need for power sharing in a multi-national and multi-religious society. He saw the declining quality of the people’s representatives and stressed on the need of a second chamber.

Liberalism as a political philosophy has its own principles and tools. One of its major tenets is supporting a Free Market Economy. In Sri Lanka it is the United National Party that stood for open economy. However, Chanaka Amaratunga pointed out that the UNP government of President J.R. Jayewardene was not pushing a free market economy for Sri Lanka but only opening up trade by keeping in hand a large state sector.

When the left intellectuals were attacking Mikhail Gorbachev and Boris Yeltsin for the state of affairs in the Soviet Union, Chanaka pointed out the dynamics of the Russian society that was yelling for change. He was concerned about the rising nationalism in many countries after the collapse of socialism.

To spread his views and to engage in politics he needed a modern thinking political party and in 1987 he formed the Liberal Party of Sri Lanka. It is a political party that is based on the liberal ideology. Hitherto in Sri Lanka this political ideology was applied only by the parties with a left orientation, in the form of Marxism, Leninism, Stalinism, Trotskyism, Mao Tse Tung Thought etc. Ideologically, liberalism is against central economic planning by the state and state monopoly. In the political front, liberalism opposes ‘one party rule’ whether it is of left or right origin. It supports representative democracy and the idea of limited government. Thus liberalism poses a challenge for socialism as well as nationalism of all breeds including fascism.

In developing the liberal ideology Chanaka understood the ideas of privatisation and trends of globalisation and of digital age. He clearly emphasised that economic policy debate is not taking up seriously within the United National Party or the Sri Lanka Freedom Party.

It was liberals who developed the idea of welfarism in the British political context. It is not illogical to think that the state alone can fulfil the welfare needs of the people. Chanaka was fully supportive of the people-based organisations aimed at promoting welfare and poverty alleviation. He was of the view that schools managed by religious societies in the past were far better in promoting education but admitted the validity or expansion of education initiated by Dr C.W.W. Kannangara. He was critical of the fake private medical college established during the J.R. Jayewardene period to promote the idea of educating the children to face international examinations as the quotas in the state university system is limited.

Chanaka was against land policies of both the SLFP and the UNP. While endorsing nationalisation of foreign ownership of plantations he was critical of the delimitation of land ownership. He pointed out that after nationalisation of lands political stooges of ruling class were in control of them, which lead to corruption and wastage.

Chanaka had an ideological view towards the national problem. As the aim of liberals is to promote individual freedom, there is a need to protect minorities and enhance their rights. To allow the minorities equal opportunities there must be a power sharing formula. He differentiated the meaning between a unitary constitution and unitary state.

He also pointed out that the united nature of the state would be retained even under a power sharing political structure.
His understanding on various electoral systems paved the way to understand the nature of German electoral system and the Liberal Party of Sri Lanka was the first ever political party in Sri Lanka to promote the method in Sri Lanka.

As political intolerance, crony capitalism (the term he used to explain the UN economic policy), human rights violations are prevalent in the island, the need for principled politics is in great demand. So, on his 12th death anniversary, which falls on August 1, 2008, all liberals and those who stand for democratic rights can learn many lessons from the writings of Dr. Chanaka Amaratunga and his liberal ideology.
Kamal Nissanka

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