Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Water, “Precious Water”, the still unappreciated “Gold” of Sri Lanka

For the first time in my stay in the farm at Godagama, the prevailing dry conditions have left the main well we draw water from, completely dry. The photos in this blog are the staff engaging in digging the well a few more feet so as to ensure a permanent supply of water. This reminds us all in Sri Lanka, how important our wells are and the wells we dig actually tap into the ground water supplies and the protection and regeneration of groundwater should be a topic of urgent discussion.

In general wells near a paddy field don’t run dry, but this time one did propelling me into a complete rethink of my and the nation’s general water usage policy. To put it in perspective, my locality which was thick with rubber estates 50 years ago is now thick with suburban housing with a well in each home. Then rain would soak into the ground without runoff, due to the sponge like qualities of the soil, refilling any groundwater levels or aquifers further down. There are now no trees to slow down and soak the rain water and instead there is massive run off of top soil and water into the paddy fields, which in turn render the paddy fields useless for cultivation due to the flooding that takes place. This water that seeped into the soil, now finds its way through a series of canals into the Kelani River and the sea, thus depriving us of much needed groundwater supplies.

There is nothing like a personal experience to get one’s adrenalin running at full throttle, to try and persuade all our people to value this free resource. Sri Lankans are world famous for taking anything free for granted and snub the provider of such. There was an outcry when a rumor surfaced about privatizing water, or preventing us from digging wells and instead purchasing all the water we use.

We MUST understand that the well we dig, and the water we take, be it from a well, river or water supply scheme even if it is on our own property is the resource of the nation. One drop of water we take denies another of that same drop, so we must justify that we use it productively sparingly and warily.

We are the most fortunate people on earth. I indulge in well baths, bathing in rivers, and from the tanks without a care in the world. In fact I regularly bathe at least twice a day, and I don’t think I value this enough as a super luxurious lifestyle. As a farmer water is so essential to everything I do, and however much I tell my staff to use it wisely, plug leaking faucets, and realize that they are the fortunate few of the world who frolick in their daily well bath in Godagama, tank bath in Ratmale or river bath in Raja Ela, without a care in the world. As always the appreciation can only be nurtured in our youth to value what is free.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Bungalows within the Wilpattu National Park – when will they reopen?

A current view of the Kokmote Bungalow which is mercifully structurally intact.

With the recent opening of the Wilpattu National Park to day visitors, people have been streaming into this park hoping to catch a glimpse of the elusive leopard. The real experience for veteran park visitors was staying inside the park as it takes a very long time to get to the exit from some parts, denying day visitors of sighting this beast.

The oya running by the side of Kokmote bungalow, a stunning location and great spot for bathing.

Once inside the park, one can get back to the bungalow by curfew time after the dusk sighitngs and the thrill of leaving at dawn, another time to spot many animals and birds. This is not open to those who have to wait in line for park openings and all the time consuming bureaucracy that it entails missing the chance of most of the sightings. In the past I have stayed in many of the bungalows and really enjoyed the experience and so I am loathe to be a day tripper to the park as I know it is a futile exercise, only consuming a lot of fuel and frustration for little reward.

It seems to me that there is little indication that the authorities will be able to open these dwellings for a very long time, one reason being the lack of funds for renovation of some of these damaged properties. I suggest they get some big companies to sponsor a bungalow as part of their CSR, and for that privilege give them a 3 weeks stay at those bungalows. Due to the high demand for these properties, I suggest they charge a fee commensurate with the exclusivity, saying that 20% of the charge will go for conservation, which will then also satisfy the CSR objectives in funding such projects.

One must sympathize with the Park Warden who is struggling to manage this property, grossly under resourced and if you read the article below you will see a suggestion out of his dilemma which can only help the situation in the longer term, and prevent poaching, illicit logging, encroachment onto the adjoining forest that acts as a buffer zone, and the desecration of archeological sites.

I continue to reiterate that this blog is called Kalpanakaranna as we in SL just don’t do the simple things. If we do, many of the supposed problems we have got ourselves into can be solved quite simply, and more importantly without delay. So those with the power to do something don’t sit on your ASSES warming the chairs of your bureaucratic Castles at the public’s expense. If you cant do your job, give it to someone who can.

Another view of Kokmote bungalow from Moderagam Aru which borders the North Western End of the Park

The rape of Wilpattu controversy – an opinion and an uneasy compromise

The Kala Oya causeway entry into the Park property from the South at Eluankulam

I was in the West Coast of Wilpattu on the day the Sunday Times published the article, with a fake photo showing a wild boar piglet near a sport utility tire. One has to have a compelling photo to make a point and I won’t deny the author that right as it is nevertheless an issue that must be addressed soon and satisfactorily resolved taking into account all the factors. I apologize in advance for the length of this blog, but once you come to the end of it you would realize that all the points to be accounted require the space.

I understand that since the article was published various environmental groups have gone to court to seek some kind of redress and in this case trying to turn back the clock on the inevitable. Before one gets too carried away by my supposed anti environmental views one has only read the thousands of pages in my various blogs to ascertain that my goal is to get people to think clearly about the actions they intend to adopt, and also look to the future to determine how the future would judge their actions.

Wilpattu has about 350K acres making it possibly the largest National Park in the country. I think there are only 15 Wildlife officials to run this park, when I believe the cadre should be at least 200. The park has suffered from years of LTTE infiltration and has finally been cleared. There are still some roads where mine clearance is in progress for the safety of future patrons. The Western half bordering on to the coast has clearly been the least developed and encroached until the LTTE problems surfaced.

Back in days yonder there was a road, now referred to as the Old Mannar Road going north from the Kala Oya crossing point all the way to Mannar, and is now only a four wheel track, with mile posts still visible along the stretch that goes inside the Park boundary. This has become abandoned, I don’t know when, but I suspect a long time before the present troubles. So this road is history as far as the present discussion is concerned. I presume once the park was designated a National Park the public right of way through to Mannar was prohibited

Incredible dust on the side of the road caking all the foliage on both sides.

Then there is the new Mannar Road constructed in the last three years which is a dirt track all the way from the Kala Oya causeway crossing point into the park from the South and beyond the Moderagam Aru crossing point in the North. This has been widened considerably by the security forces and is open to the public till 3pm as long as it is to cross the park and not enter the park from the West. The Puttlam Mannar buses ply this route along with many other vehicles, as well as container lorries spewing out mountains of dust as they go along. As a political decision, the resettlement minister who has a strong following in this area has insisted and provided the heavy machinery to make this road navigable and saved a long roundabout journey to his Muslim constituents who are a major beneficiary of this route. There is no visible speed limit through the park, and so it is all about how well your vehicle can handle the terrain. Trying to impose a speed limit is pointless and I personally feel this road should also be tarred all through due to the heavy dust that would otherwise scar the landscape as it already has.

I go through the Minneriya park all the time on the newly built road at all hours of the day and night and feel the elephants have just got used to the traffic and tolerate the intrusion for the sake of crossing the park to get from Polonnaruwa to the north or West.

Lately the security forces have built a spectacular strectch, colloquially known as the Marine Drive, which if built (currently only cleared of trees and shrubs and dozed and flattened)will be running parallel along the New road, which probably covers about 70% of the distance within the park that the other road does. This runs along the cliff and will if completed be the most beautiful stretch of road in Sri Lanka. It has to be immediately completed, to prevent erosion from the heavy rains that could result in landslides to the sea, now that the damage is done. I am not commenting on the rights and wrongs of what has happened, but there is no way we can let the jungle take over without the damage that I mentioned earlier due to erosion, mudslides and earthslips.

Don’t forget all this is within the National Park and there are legal restrictions on development within the park which were temporarily lifted due to the greater issue of security thereby permitting the security forces to so as they pleased. If the environmentalists have their say, then we will back to the prewar era of no development or transit. That is not possible, as just north of the park, people have been settled, given land, houses built, and agricultural communities restarted on previously abandoned high yielding paddy lands in the Sylvathurai basin. Their connections are both South and North and some have been resettled after being in camps in Puttlam and others are from the Vavuniya IDP camps. There are both Tamil and Muslim communities here. It is too late to play with the lives of these traumatized people and if something was to have been done it should have been a long time ago in planning where the settlements should be in the interests of preserving the spaces from development. Colombo lawyers cannot even dream to know how these poor people would be adversely affected if they are not allowed this through route now.

Now you will say what about the traumatized animals, and the road kill as well as the rape of the archeological sites along this route that will be inevitable along with the tree felling once easy access is provided. Well I say the 200 Wild Life officers is the answer to befriend their interests and police the area.

Kala Oya at the southern border where we bathed, opposite is the park.

I suggest the roads are finished to the best possible standards of highways. I suggest a nighttime curfew is enforced in the park from 5pm onwards for transit traffic. I suggest a 5star hotel be built in the park on the ocean to benefit from the spectacular scenery, with exclusivity, so the park well get an annual royalty of Rs100M, in much the same way that the National Parks in the US do it. I further suggest a Park entrance gate at the Kala Oya and Moderagam Aru crossing points, where all transit traffic is charged a fee, preferably on type of vehicle. So buses and lorries would be charged Rs500 and at the lower end the motor bike be charged Rs50. Of course a season ticket system for regular users. A separate entry gate at the Marine Drive which would primarily draw sightseers, would be charged another fee say an additional Rs200 a vehicle. This drive should have parking spots at look out points for viewing and photos.

Moderagam Aru at North Western Border - the opposite side is not part of the park.

If the above is done, then this will generate revenue to maintain the whole park, employ about 500 people to conserve and protect, none of which will be forthcoming if the environmentalists have their way. A reasonable speed of say 50kmph to be strictly enforced in the stretch that goes through the park, and a drive to open up more of the archeological sites for excavation and eventual public viewing. Additional entry points to the park from here will reduce the crush at the only entrance now possible. New education centers to teach youth about conservation and protection can be set up.

The funds so raised will enable environmentalists to fund studies on all the plant and animal life and increase our knowledge in this area that only a well-funded park can provide. I would argue that this approach will be more environmentally compatible, especially with education of the future generations to conserve, value, admire and be proud of our heritage of conservation, none of which is apparent. Environmental activists should not be restricted to the Colombo leisured classes, but to every village child from whom the real protection of the environment takes place in a practical sense.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

A visit to Queen Kuveni’s Palace

I was fortunate enough to be taken to this spot last week, and doubtless the photos here will show that what remains are just a bunch of stone pillars. This is supposed to be the spot where Kuveni had her palace. I personally have my doubts, but with modern techniques if the facilities are available they can use carbon dating techniques to verify the age of the site and when these pillars were actually hewn and transported here, to verify the age before taking this guesswork any further.

Inside the boundaries of the Wilpattu National Park are over 35 places of archeological interest that have currently been discovered, and no doubt numerous place that have yet to be discovered. Knowing the resources available (the Wildlife Department has only 15 staff to administer a park of over 350K acres) and the lack of coordination with the Archeological department which is also probably under resourced considering the potential of SL, there has been a wholesale slaughter of and pillage of items of value from these places.

Instead of manning such a huge defense force, I suggest some of the trained and disciplined forces are hived off into an archeological defense force to protect the areas of archeological interest and another force to protect the flora and fauna, especially that which is endangered and under threat of extinction. They can then instead of manning checkpoints and harassing me in the middle of the night when I am transporting rice and paddy from Polonnaruwa to Meegoda, actually do something useful.

In the villages I live folklore has it that so many holes in the ground are those that have been dug by treasure hunters who have excavated items of value in the past. (nidhahan hambavela thiyanawa) My properties also have so many stories of these treasures being found and removed. I wish I was able to look into the past to know actually what was here and how it really was. We will never know the truth.

With such a treasure trove of history we are left to wonder, and still have no proper course action to preserve, prevent from further pillage, and protect from the elements and vandalism, these historic sights as there is no clear plan or commitment. The resources are available, and as it is currently mis- allocated the worthy causes suffer.

I challenge the powers of the nation to realize how holistic all their actions are as a correct approach, enhances the attraction of SL to high-end tourism which will help defray the costs of what I have proposed, so we always carry out actions that enhance value and not just perform pointless tasks of protection from development.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Kudirimalai - Horse Point - Where Vijaya was supposed to have landed

History is folklore some of which is true, but if there is no written record at the time of making then the spoken word through which it was passed on until documented in stone carvings or Ola leaf will add spice to the truth but we will still believe it all as gospel not accepting the fact that it may only be partially true.

I have chosen to show some photos I took at this point which is a prominent landmark as it is just at the tip of the Northwestern edge of the Willpattu National Park, with a sheer cliff like drop to the water.

setting sun off Kudirumalai
Let the reader come to his or her own conclusions about where exactly it was that Vijaya landed, but be that as it may it was somewhere in this vicinity. Note the unusual colors of the rock, which the thambapanni word is also used to describe and attribute to.

Silhouettes at nightfall over Kudirumalai point

Thursday, March 18, 2010

shame on you John Keells for this despicable act - and shame on you financial journalists for not reporting this with vigor

I was asked to remove my blog entry as it may be too controversial and ruffle too many feathers like the Board of John Keells , SEC and CSE all of whom were at the receiving end of some harsh criticism my me.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

The campaign to teach English our way being promoted unwittingly

While the intention is good and honorable it clearly lacks a degree of rationalization and contemplation as to what it is we are trying to achieve. If it just to communicate amongst us Sri Lankans in Sri Lanka only then it has some merit, however if it is to communicate with a foreigner in Sri Lanka or overseas then it is a disaster. If we learn to speak our way, the problem is that we may have to unlearn many of the grammatical errors which when translated to English is literal, but totally meaningless due to the lack of the positioning of the words in a sentence.
We must first follow the teaching methods of countries like Japan which has an extensive private education system in teaching English, which they use to diligently learn the language realizing the importance of English as a language of communicating with the rest of the world. Communication must be understood, otherwise there is absolutely no point. It is important to have a semblance of correct pronunciation, as otherwise the party to whom the communication is addressed will not understand.
I believe it is harder for Sri Lankans to communicate through the spoken word as compared with the written word, and accordingly this weakness should be addressed and tackled rather than resorted to as a local dialect of English which may as well sound like another foreign language.
While I used Japan as an example, we do not have to go much further than India where I believe they are making great strides at learning English and learning it in a manner that can aid in communication as well, something we should learn from them and introduce here. We both face the same obstacles in learning English as the roots of our native languages are similar and therefore similar learning difficulties arise in both our nations.
I am not trying to criticize out efforts at learning English but wish to remind that even Europeans who are heavily accented nevertheless can be understood as they speak clearly and usually are grammatically correct even though sometimes the accent takes a while to comprehend. If both the accent and the grammar were wrong then there is absolutely no chance in comprehending what is communicated.
There is an ad campaign for speaking English our way. What does that mean? There is one way to speak English and we are all on a continuum on that path, the degree to which we are at on this continuum determines how we are understood. Therefore all our efforts should be directed at being understood as otherwise learning any language is a waste of time, when the primary purpose is ignored.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Raigam Wayamba Salterns Limited – Initial Public Offering

the salterns of Puttlam salt with the new wind mills to be opened shortly

I went to the launch of the IPO shares of the above last evening at the Taj Samudra which was attended by the press and potential investor advisers and was packed. The event befitted a Rs2Billion launch as opposed to a Rs 200M launch which it was. This presents a huge problem.
As an advisor to potential investors to this offering what is it that I can say? If any of the past IPO’s is anything to go by as a marker, the share issue is going to be oversubscribed by a factor of 10. This assumption is based on a lot of money available, not earning much, chasing too few shares. This will present an allocation problem, as the small retail investor will not apply for future IPOs if he is not given at least 5,000 shares. If he cannot make Rs5000 he would not bother taking the risk in applying for 5,000 shares by investing Rs12,500. If every one applying for up to 10,000 shares is given at least 5,000 then all the shares would be allotted with none for the institutional investors.
If that is the case, institutional investors will not apply in future, especially if the money raised is cashed and returned 4weeks later. No one will want to keep money tied up for so long. The company therefore should have made a commitment to only cash the checks once the allocation is made and the balance amount immediately remitted back to the applicant.
Due to this quandary one of two things is likely to occur. Advisers may tell retail clients (generally small clients) not to bother to apply tying up their money for a small chance of getting a few shares, which means that even if the shares open at a Rs1 premium, there is very little money that can be made. Institutional clients who value the time value of money are unlikely to invest if they are unable to get a reasonable allocation, and the advisers will also be in a fix as to how to advise their clients, because the client may be able to make more money just trading in the market without applying for these shares.
It is therefore an exercise of a very delicate nature to determine how this issue will be viewed and therefore subscribed. The very goose that lays the golden egg may be persuaded not to invest as the likelihood of getting an allocation is small given the perceived interest for the IPO at the event. It will be disastrous for the company if this is the case, as the IPO would have succeeded if they wanted to raise Rs1B.
The moral of the story is the IPO should befit its hype and in this instant the hype befitted a Rs1B offering and not Rs200M. They could have raised the Rs200M by merely placing the shares amongst 10 institutions instead, saving Rs16M in fees.

The crisis in secondary education

I am one who managed to get through my education without having to go to tuition classes. However today in the Sri Lankan context, it is almost a given that to do well at A levels and have at least a spitting chance of getting the results needed to enter University, going to reputable tuition classes for those subjects is an essential requirement.
Furthermore not only because education is free, the school teachers expect students to attend their own tuition classes to complete the syllabuses that the school for some reason does not cover. A recent student just told me that the school covers 30% of the syllabus and the same teachers at the tuition class cover the remainder. This makes a mockery of the free education in Sri Lanka.
In the little village of Ratmale, which does not have any schools, most students take the bus to one of three main schools in the Minneriya area, namely Nagalakanda in Minneriya, CP Pura and Ananda Balika in Hingurakgoda. I also know of a boy who goes all the way to Royal College in Polonnaruwa, the only one with a swimming pool. In their desperation, the parents are sending their kids to tuition classes in Kurunegala, second only to Colombo known for a good choice of specialized Tuitions establishments. These students stay with friends or relatives and believe that is their best chance at a good result which still in the current context is a vital ingredient in their future employment prospects.
Given all of the above, the education that these students receive in any of these places are still of a limited syllabus that does not educate them, but merely gives them the tools to get better results at A levels a far cry from a good education.
It is important to inform both parents and students of the opportunities and prospects available to them, depending on the courses and subjects they expect to take for A levels, as even in this area there is considerable misinformation on the path to achievement of their objectives. Then there is the skills mismatch in the economy which should also be addressed at that level, rather than later in life, which will enable students to make informed choices in fields of study to follow.
The biggest disappointment students face once they get reasonably good A level results is the limited places available to them at University, denying them entry yet again. This reminded me of a friend who told me the other day that her sister who got a first class degree in Mathematics in a top University in London, was asked why she applied to the UK. She replied, she would not have got admitted into University in Sri Lanka, she thought she had a better chance in the UK.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Sentimentality, religion and misplaced values in conflict with common sense

There are different but no doubt interrelated issues that I am trying to address in this blog to try to arrive at rational and logical thought, in order to make an appropriate recommendation with regard to killing and eating flesh.

I shall first state my opinion based on my own beliefs and preferences. I do not have a problem with eating the flesh of any living thing, and I have eaten dog in China, and frog in France, but I prefer to limit my intake to sea and freshwater fish and related crustaceans, rabbit, beef, chicken, pork, lamb or mutton, duck or pheasant, venison and wild boar. In any case my consumption is based on my financial situation, which means I only generally eat the fish I or my staff catch in the waters surrounding my property in much the same way that hunter gatherers did in ancient history. Any of the above for which I have to pay money is generally beyond my meager resources, and usually only enjoy in the company of hosts.

I will not eat the flesh of a pet or an animal I have raised for another purpose, like chickens for eggs or cows for milk, nor sell them for such. Many farmers I know do just that as they see that part of their survival depends on the sale for meat of an animal that has served its earlier useful purpose, to serve a further purpose in death. What does one do with male calves? Knowing that 95% or more gets killed for flesh and every other part of its anatomy, including hides for leather, one has to take a rational approach if one decides to sell.

When I was new to this I was fooled by those who said that they will purchase or take my male calves to rear and not be sold for flesh. I realized that there are more liars out there than people who tell the truth all to make a buck. To explain this further I have been asked to take “pin gonas” once they have been saved from slaughter. I was horrified that the person went to the slaughter house and saved this male calf of less than a year for Rs28,000. It was more likely that the butcher would have purchased this calf for about Rs2,000 solely for the purpose of selling it to a person who would for the purposes of obtaining merit, willing to pay this exorbitant amount as the size of the sum indicated a level of merit to be obtained.

In any case this animal was too small to be killed, so it was a deceptive transaction by the butcher who with the Rs26,000 profit goes and buys a few more fat animals for slaughter. Therefore this person who saves a calf probably makes it easier for the butcher to kill a few more animals with the profit thus earned. In a real sense one could obtain more merit on saving many more calves purchased from people who are willing to sell them or give them free, than going to an abattoir.
I rent out some chicken cages to a person who is an outgrower to a well known farm that produces many types of meat. So once the chicken is about 35 days, they are just taken in a van to the processing plant where the chickens are strung on their feet and a person at the speed of the assembly line chops off its neck, the dripping blood is collected as is most of the unused parts to be cooked and fed to the pigs, as they will fatten on this otherwise wasted product. It is more than likely that the owners of the business have never seen the farm or the processing facility, but are nevertheless very happy to earn a good living this way.

So when one of my readers whose queries led me to write this blog entry asks what types of people kill these lovely animals? All I would say is that the real killer is unaware of what he is doing, while only their poorly paid labor actually perform the task, only to put food on the table for them and their families. The owners who are wealthy could be your local politician or such like as they don’t have to go to work everyday and so are the leisured classes or the ruling classes to whom we continue to give our votes.

Then you are those who say they only eat fish. Tell me why the fish suffers less in death? I challenge that the suffocation they suffer in nets, dying slowly can be more painful and enduring than the quick chop the chicken gets. If one is true about it one should not have different classes for living things, just one and decide not to imbibe in any flesh and not be party to any transaction that helps others make money from this flesh. Therefore the piety charity and merit should be directed at places that permit “pin gonas” to live in comfortable retirement in lands reserved for them and with security provided them from theft for selling for flesh.

Coming back to the dogs I have as pets that started this discussion, I feed them vegetarian food, but have lately decided to give them fish. Other people don’t eat meat but provide meats of different varieties for their pets. In this situation how does one reconcile the two attitudes as long as one purchases the flesh even if it is not for them to consume, but for another to do so?

We then have the issue of the hunter gatherer who hunts just for oneself or one’s family and kills in order to provide them with food just as his ancestors did. Should he also turn vegetarian and desist from killing. Is it the killing or the eating where others are permitted to kill that should be frowned upon? All these points are worthy of consideration before placing value judgments on other people lifestyle. We certainly should live within our principles, but understand where those principles conflict with our behavior, due to our ignorance of the whole picture of what it is we are really trying to do.

I hope this generates a lively debate.

Friday, March 5, 2010

The indecent electorate and the (ir)rationale of the farmer

"The farmer opens the door of his henhouse to let the fox in knowing the destruction the fox will cause to him and his family, but does it anyway"\

One of my principal bugbears over the past 5 years as a paddy farmer in Polonnaruwa listening to the lament of my neighboring farmers, has been this fact that two of the Agricultural Ministers in Sri Lanka are directly or indirectly owners of the largest rice mills. This means that all their personal interests are in complete contrast to that of a rice farmer, the predominant farmer crop in the Polonnaruwa district which both represent in Parliament and claim to befriend.

It is in the miller’s interest to obtain paddy from farmers at the lowest price, so that they can process and market at the highest price they can get for their finished product. This will maximize the profits they will make. What they do with the profits is completely up to them, whether it is to run the election campaign and pay vast sums of money in campaigning or if they want to immerse themselves in luxurious living not having take a penny from the government coffers.

I have no idea if they take any of the perks available for their office like vehicles, fuel, security and free everything from phones to homes. I can’t imagine that they have decided to forego them and pay out of their own pockets.

Just this week I had a farmer in a state saying that at the current price, that is paddy at Rs22 a kg he would be losing money on his crop. Only 4 weeks ago, when I had to buy some rice, I was told the price prevailing was Rs41 a kg. This is 86% higher than the farmer is currently getting. That is a staggering difference.

Imagine if you had to sell your produce at that lower price, when you could have doubled your income if you were able to hold till prices rise to those levels.
Farmers have debts to pay upon harvest and therefore the majority of farmers sell their paddy at the harvesting site itself to traders who come and buy at the field upon threshing. Additionally farmers do not have storage facilities at their homes, and they have to transport the paddy from the field to the home. The government guaranteed price of Rs28 is only obtainable if the paddy is dry and to a certain minimum moisture level, and free of dust. The paddy has to be taken to the government stores and delivered there and the farmer has to go through the red tape and wrath of the government servants who make them feel that they are doing them a favor by purchasing the paddy. Many farmers therefore prefer to sell at the field, preferring to get the cash there at a lower price than incur the added costs of drying, storing and transporting the paddy to government stores for delivery.

So why then does the farmer overwhelmingly continue to vote for these foxes, who are clearly bent on destroying him and leaving him enslaved?

Our rural voter is despite the years of democracy stuck in a feudal time warp, where the local lords are now those with the trappings of wealth, not birth. So however the wealth is made does not appear to matter even if the wealth is made from their own sweat and toil, in the same way the serfs toiled for the Russian nobility in pre-revolutionary days, with no hope of rising from their shackles.

Is it that the voter believes that some of this wealth will rub off on him? The occasional tamasha funded by this wealthy godfather is worth having him as his representative in Parliament, and it is the fault of the President to stick this fox into the chicken coop rather than give him a den where he has to fight other foxes, where he may not be able to strangle the chickens.

If the imagination really does run wild, the chicken coop is the preferred place of abode, as an indecent amount of money is spread around amongst the rulers as part of the deal, all at the expense of the hapless chickens. This is a clear example of a lack of transparency and governance in Sri Lanka no matter how anyone tries to find an excuse to justify this behavior. Let the foxes tend only their den please.

The latest sting in the tail was that even the traders who imported rice during the period when the government abolished the duty, have to re-export this rice, as suddenly the rice price has fallen, due to the unwarranted imports, and the new harvest coming in. The govt. also in their wisdom is also selling imported rice below cost further exacerbating an already dire situation. This has further depressed prices at the farm gate, infuriating the farmers, but who will still despite their distress caste their preferences to the aforementioned.

I have limited storage too, and will be forced to sell paddy at low prices taking a loss at these prices. I have helped some farmers tide themselves over this period, by holding their paddy. They have used some of my movable property such as tractor wheels, to pawn to pay for the cost of harvesting so they can hold onto stocks till sanity prevails, after all their personal property is similarly pawned.

In my current business model, I try to keep my paddy and mill on an as needed basis to directly sell to my customers. In fact over the past 4+ years, I have sold my rice at the same price despite the fluctuations in the market more as a thank you to my loyal customers for sticking by me.

I wish to live to see the day when an active paddy farmer is elected to Parliament.