Thursday, June 23, 2011

The hidden gems need to be aired and heard - Sinhala Verse

A sub-editor of a poetry section of a daily newspaper came today to inform us of the phenomenal amount of content of high quality poetry in Sinhala he receives for publication and he can only include one in a thousand in the publication. THATS RIGHT! ONE IN A THOUSAND.

I was completely floored by the ability of our poets and their search for a medium to be heard and recognized. I mistakenly assumed that today's youth would think it rather old fashioned to indulge in poetry to which he said that some of the best pieces come from you school kids, namely school girls who indulge in their passion for poetry to express how they feel about life and loves!

When I considered these statements it made me realize what a poetic language Sinhala is and it is definitely made for poets, with such expressive words and meanings of words that English just cannot match or hope to match.

This person was hoping for some avenue such as the Internet or publication, to edit all these zillions of poems and give them an airing and even some person who could read them out with a voice over on the net for one to listen. Internet is a great medium for that as one can get good quality delivery of these literary gems with a click of a button. In a way the Internet is made for that as I am more inclined to listen to poetry than read it myself. The way it is said by one who knows to say it is in itself a joy to the ears.

So lets try and create the space and the following to hear these gems from our people of all ages and sexes who still have an innate ability to express themselves in verse.

I was so heartened to hear about this Hidden Gem I so hope we can use this medium for its spread and popularity. We can have competitions and prizes and so many avenues to open up this closet so that we can all improve the quality of our lives with an area of arts that is thriving within us.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Azwer insults our intelligence and make a mockery of Parliament

Why is there no outrage when an MP can use his parliamentary privilege to insult this country? AHM Azwer MP said in Parliament on Tuesday 21st June 2011 that LTTE leader Prabhakaran's wife and children are safe and sound and being looked after by President Rajapaksa.

3 people asked me today if this was true, as it was said in Parliament and extensively reported in the print Media. I was so amazed at the level of acceptance in this country of what people especially MPs say. A joker of an MP like that who makes a mockery of his position and in a country where the speaker cannot ask him to withdraw such outrageous and erroneous statements, makes me very ashamed of our leadership.

Should the newspapers report such balderdash without reservation, or should they opine on this statement so that they can put the record straight. They should at the same time state that this person is a joker who only uses parliament to sing praises of his leader and he must honestly have thought he was doing his leader a great service by such utterances. The libel laws probably prevent the press from calling him the joker in parliament and disregard what he says.

I hope at least the leader in his usual manner thrashed this kind of sycophant and hounded him out of Temple Trees. However I rather think not. He probably like to think that they are alive rather than accept the brutality of the killing.

Need I say more on the state of business in this Republic!

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

The Rs 50 Billion Fertilizer Subsidy Scam

It is shameful for a Govt. in power with many years of rule to spend Rs 50B on just the subsidy on importation of fertilizer. Suffice to say that importation of anything in Sri Lanka is fraught with corruption therefore it is inevitable that even this simple product (basically various components of NPK that goes into the different fertilizer mixes for different crops) will be imported at costs far exceeding what they could be purchased at.

As usual we will wait for the reports asked in Parliament after these imports by Public or Private enterprises and look at what the Govt paid to importers and billions of rupees of frauds will come out but by that time a few years from now the damage would already have been done and no one will be held accountable and the minister of the time will say it was not done during his watch. The money would be in overseas banks from the over invoicing from these imports.

The real point one must ask is if our agricultural production will increase as a result of the Rs 50B subsidy? The answer is a firm NO. I am afraid I know from practice in my farming experience in Polonnaruwa and this hypothesis has been proved by extensive reports by researches at the Institute of Policy Studies, a think tank that advises the Govt. on policy issues. I am certain they did not recommend this policy.

It is just a political ploy to garner votes by yet again playing football with farmers, when the problems of farmers in not at all in the cost of imported fertilizer. In the scheme of things that is the least of their costs. I am reported at length about the high cost of pesticides that exceed the cost of fertilizer.

This govt. does not have one farmer in its ranks. They DO NOT know what they need and by extending the fertilizer subsidy to all crops, is increasing the problem that has already been created.

I am also appalled that the govt. is calling in 4000 farmers from all parts of the country to the Sugathadasa Indoor Stadium for the President to speak and others to explain this subsidy and how to use the fertilizer, and for them to go and spread the word to their fellow farmers. Just goes to show how much they understand the farmers. A farmer worthy of his name will not waste a day being told how to apply fertilizer. If he is a real farmer he will know how little or how much to apply of all sorts of input mixture.

This is just a complete political junket to reward the party faithful in the guise of an education program. You can only teach farming on the land and not in an office or lab or God forbid in a huge arena. So this form of tom foolery for cheap political gain will not do our country any good.

Understand what the Farmer really needs to improve his output before charging like a bull in a china shop. Understand that the most productive farmers who farm land in excess of 5 acres DO NOT get a fertilizer subsidy and their yields exceed those who do.

For a point of reference the govt. spends Rs100Billion a year on all forms of Education, Primary, Secondary and Tertiary and this is not of imported stuff, the main cost being Salaries of Teachers. Look at the state of Education and you will appreciate where our Country's priorities are.

It is shameful that we do not have leaders who really care for this country able to connect with the people and stop this mass scale fraud being perpetrated on the hapless and innocent citizen.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Commemorating the 100th Birth Anniversary of Dudley Senanayake

Yesterday 19th June 2011 was the 100th birth anniversary of Dudley Senanayake, the second Prime Minister of Ceylon as it was officially called then. In commemoration of that event, a book launch was held of a bibliography called "Dudley Senanayake- the most loved leader of our times" prepared by Rukman a nephew of his.

There were many distinguished guests from the government and opposition and some notable speakers who all said very good things about him. What struck me most was reading an excerpt from a talk given by a former Administrative Service officer Amara Hewamadduma where amongst other things he said that a strong opposition is needed for a democratic country. He also said that we want National Leaders and National Parties.

I believe both those are the needs of the hour and it is incumbent upon us to do our best to achieve these two goals out of respect for this great leader against whom, I have never heard one bad thing said. That must say something of the stature of the man.

All I remember of him, though I was once introduced to him, was of him as Prime Minister in the 1965 - 1970 period driving his car one day on Green Path with his bodyguard on his left. I think it was a pretty ordinary car, black i think and that was how he went about. It is a level of humility we can only wish of our latter day leaders so full of themselves and only playing to the gallery having two personas, one public and another private.

I pray that this country will see a leader of that ilk in future who can truly unify the nation, heading a National Party and not one based on ethnic or religious lines.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

A new young Chairman at the Colombo Stock Exchange

It is welcome to see a new chairman, Krishan Balendra(38) from John Keells, being elected to the CSE in Colombo this week, who clearly shows experience in dealing with Capital Markets obtained overseas. I trust he will put his knowledge to good use to take the CSE and allied institutions to the next level.

One of his first pronouncements was that the CCP and DVP transactions clearing systems will be implemented as soon as possible in line with mature markets. That is most welcome as well as his commitment to bring in more companies in the CSE by way of listings.

He faces some huge challenges as his tenure will be during the next stage of a market where there will be a shakeout and speculation is expected to give way to rational market making, if Sri Lanka hoped to attract foreign investment into its fledgeling market. If he does not already realize it, the Brokers and the top investors engage in market manipulation which makes Raj Rajaratnam's crimes pale into insignificance.

A look at the past month, where the penny stock speculation has reached explosive proportions at the expense of investors, will point to where the market is heading. The IPO business which is part of the strategy to get companies into the market is failing due to the greed of the promoters of the IPOs including his own John Keells group. A case in point being the Expolanka IPO which fell below issue price within 24 hours. John Keells that invested a large sum in this venture at a knockdown price at the pre IPO private placement encouraged investing in the IPO. A conflict of interest therefore is apparent at the expense of the hapless investor!

If I have any advice to give him, all I would say is cast your other hats aside for a moment and look at what you are trying to do. It is to increase the value and standing of the CSE first and foremost over personal interest. In order to do that you have to clean up the internal workings of the CSE full of rather inward looking time servers and the governance and ethics of the brokers where the rule book needs a complete overhaul to come anywhere near what is acceptable in a mature market. If you put strong governance policies in place you will be able in a few years to gain the respect that it needs for international investors and this after going through a market crash to get sanity back into the market and create brokers who are true advisers for clients holding the client interest paramount.

I wish you all the very best in this very important, but extremely challenging task.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

The great employment mismatch - required skills vs what is on offer

I just received 15 applications for jobs to review and place. Sadly they are so badly prepared I would just throw them all in the dustbin as none of them gives me any indication as to the capability or genuine ambition of the applicant.

If I start with the basic data, most of the application is just giving the name add, phone email, age and ID no along with line by line of the grades for A levels and O levels and if they have done any further exams or courses in IT the names of those courses.

I am then left to surmise the capability of these people, some of whom show no work experience since doing their A levels 5 years ago. Have they been sitting at home twiddling their thumbs all this time? Surely not! Is this the state of educated youth?

The unemployment level of unskilled and those only educated up to O level with not even a satisfactory result at O level is minimal. They can get jobs as machine operators at various industries paying as much as Rs17K a month. These educated applicants on the other hand DO NOT want factory jobs, but instead want office jobs paying around Rs12K hardly a living wage after being at home for a good part of their healthy life when they should have occupied themselves doing something productive.

When you ask them why they have not done anything productive until they found a job they actually want, they just look blank! as if you asked them a rude question. It is important when a prospective employer interviews you to be able to answer the simple question, of "what have you done in the period since you sat your A levels, or since you got your degree?" Only someone who can give a confident answer showing initiative is worthy of being offered a job. Can someone contradict me if I am wrong here?

If this is indicative of our society, where mothers and fathers are going around desperately looking for jobs for their 25+ kids then we live in a very sad society. These applications came from the parents asking for help in getting jobs for their kids, as they do not even have the confidence to apply in person or go see someone with the job request. Ironically the unskilled are more confident and even search after jobs more diligently than the educated.

So for a start stop educating our youngsters and then we will probably be able to employ them gainfully. I am proposing to start a week long training course in the art of empowering the young to find jobs, and complete job applications correctly giving the prospective employer a chance of understanding the applicants goals more clearly. I am looking for motivational speakers who can give some of their time voluntarily to help them.

The state only talks about employing unemployed graduates of this attitude. God help this country if the state fills their vacancies with this mob of unambitious "Mama Titties!"

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Arranging a visit of students to the Sri Lanka Parliament

I have been making arrangements for a group of students from Law College to attend a session of Parliament today(I think it is still technically the National Assembly)

I got the list of names along with the ID numbers and double checked from the Secretary who had to type them up so it would be legible. I told him it had to be accurate otherwise a mistake in name or number will prevent the relevant person from gaining entry upon presentation of the ID card.

Then later I had to get the MP to sign a typed letter in Sinhala to formally request the Secretary of Parliament to allow the attached list of people into the complex. It was then taken by one of the MP's staff to the Parliament and handed over personally to the relevant official yesterday. It transpired later that the letter was not handed to the correct official and therefore only given to the correct person today.

Today the leader of the group called saying they are not allowed to take mobile phones into the complex so will not be able to contact me if there is a snafu. Once they got to the checkpoint the list had not been sent there. I had to then check as to why and get the courier yesterday to double check and have it authorized and sent to the checkpoint, due to the mistake referred to earlier.

Once each person is checked off the list they are then put in a bus and then taken to the Parliamentary complex where the MP will host them for lunch at the visitors canteen prior to being taken to the visitors gallery to view today's debate on extension of the Emergency for another month. At the time of writing we do not know if the Govt. wishes to remove the emergency so that we can celebrate a few more freedoms, but I rather suspect my optimism will be shortlived!

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

The strengths and weakness of silent protests against existing rule

Having followed the recent and continuing uprisings in the Middle East, it has caught everyone flat footed and surprised, and we do not know where it would end. Those in favor of existing dictatorships point to the chaos that now reigns in Egypt, and even the instability in Iraq once the majority Shiite rule with some form of democracy took over from the minority Sunni sect rule of Saddam Hussein. Whilst one should be cautious of making generalizations, it is obvious that more often than not dictators end up with a very bad epitaph even if they achieved certain ends in development and growth.

In the same vein it is becoming increasingly obvious that in Sri Lanka too a ruling dictatorship exists, in much the same way endorsement by the electorate in Venezuela or Iran, is backed by the strength of the vote. The lack of an effective opposition is very detrimental to even a hope of having some form of balance.

However the recent incidents of excess use of force is evidence of cocky behaviour, which after the mass protests and even a more effective quiet silent protest is finally showing signs of a crack, be it still small, as blame is deflected in a very cunning way.

The main opposition is planning on a mass silent protest on Thursday, June 9th at 3pm in front of the Maradana Railway station against dictatorship of the Satakaya. The problem is that they do not have an effective organized network to galvanize support, in large numbers through their own party machinery at the moment. It seems to me that it is merely to answer the call of the party faithful asking what is the opposition doing about the blatant abuse of power? They cannot muster bus loads of people with Rs 1000 note and a promise of a bottle of arrack on their return leg. They appear not to have that kind of money, whereas the govt. does.

Added to that it is possible that the expected heavy rain will keep out all but the most dedicated and resilient. I am afraid this level of protest will not even be as effective as the silent protest of the 100,000 young factory workers who turned up through hardship and their own expense to a funeral of a boy killed by a police bullet while exercising his democratic right to protest against a proposed pension scheme.

Is this but the first step of the opposition to test the national pulse on whether to continue mass protests? I don't know the answer to it.If it was better publicized and the weather better then we could have been surprised by the turnout, however under the current stage of readiness, I do not give it much weight. Only if the govt. uses excessive force or bring out the 5ft stick yielding goons, would it become a rallying cry.

Sri Lanka is not in a position of extreme hardship that most Middle East countries protesters were agitating against. It is therefore not yet ready until there is mass education and even belief that the issues are severe enough to agitate. The truth is carefully hidden and the media is as usual playing the fear card, especially in the electorally rich hinterlands to maintain their support and voter base.

Kalpanakaranna is a dirty word for the govt. They do not want people to 'kalpanakaranna' as that will result in realizing the 'saba thathway'. Until people can think through the ramifications and make up their minds, they will not defer from the current status quo, where the govt. is now in the stage of telling people what they think they ought to know. The first stage being giving the people what they want to get the vote, the final stage which they will come out with shortly is taking from the people what they, the ruling class want, by which time it will be too late. Some say they have begun this but not yet in earnest.

For a silent protest to hold value, it must be with overwhelming numbers to shock the rulers to a wake up call. Giving due weight to short notice and weather nothing short of 100,000 will jolt them.

I am accused of being a political hack devoid of objectivity. Well that is OK, as I write what I feel deep down and not what someone tells me to write. If that is disagreeable so be it. I feel some healthy debate of the issues and the need for checks and balances in the current administration, outweigh mere sycophancy.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

We talk about underpaid University Dons; How about the "Grossly Underpaid" Judges?

The Government appears to be stalling on the demand by the FUTA for significant pay increases, with the main reason being that if they are given a raise the rest of thee public service will demand equivalent raises.

One set of people I believe are grossly underpaid are the Judges. The lawyers on the other hand are relatively overcompensated as they feed off the hapless litigant. Sit in a court room in the Colombo District Court. The leading Counsel may charge around Rs250,000 for an appearance. His junior counsel if he has three will charge Rs30K for two and the trainee junior Rs15K for the appearance only. The Judge hearing the case earns a maximum of Rs100,000 a month. What would you prefer to be the lawyer or the judge. Is it surprising then that there are no takers the post of Judges?

The issue most often is that judges have absolutely no clue about explanation for the facts in the case, as it is not an esteemed lawyer who is in that post. Therefore it is hard to argue a case sometimes of tricky legal as well as commercial practice with someone who cannot understand. It then comes as no shock to the layperson that the case is postponed, a favorite expectation of the lawyers who charge on appearance and not on completion or satisfactory outcome. The litigant after numerous postponements is then forced to settle out of court, another win for the judge as he does not have to adjudicate, because he does not have a clue anyway.

This in practice is how the law is applied and disputes settled. In my opinion both the litigant and the defendant suffer here, the lawyers benefit immensely and the judges do not have to expose their incompetence. We then get away with having low competencies hearing the cases.

Do they get a kick back from both sides' lawyers?

KALPANAKARANNA and answer the question yourselves.

The strange silence behind Ranil's India visit this week

Ranil the leader of the Opposition was called to India (as opposed to GL seeking meetings and the resulting loss of face)for amongst others to meet with the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Congress Party, Sonia Ghandhi. The only news item on the visit was one taken from the Chennai airport where he was expected to meet with the new Chief Minister of Tamil Nad, Jayalalitha.

He returned on Wednesday the 1st of June, as I was at a press conference at the JSS building where he spoke about the Pensions Bill, the Leadership Training for prospective University Students, the University Teachers Salary anomalies and the death by Police firing of a 21 year old FTZ worker at Katunayaka.

Nothing was mentioned then or since about his India visit, which is very perplexing. The press conference did not include a question and answer session by journalists, as it was primarily to welcome Law Students to take an active part in justice and upholding the law in an increasingly lawless state, lawlessness coming from the ruling powers.

Did he in fact meet with the PM? If so what was discussed? Why is no newspaper asking any questions? These are the questions one must ask of the increasingly incompetent state of journalism in Sri Lanka today. Is it that journalists only report what they are given and do not have an objective opinion? If that is the case we need to educate future journalists, and empower them to be true voices for the people with proper journalistic ethics.

Are there any journalists out there who wish to answer these simple questions?

Are we in for a carefully crafted bombshell news conference arising from this visit? I rather doubt it!

Saturday, June 4, 2011

The silent protest today at the funeral of the FTZ garment worker

Roshen Shanaka (21) the first death from a Police Shooting at a FTZ, was buried today amidst large crowds. I was first at his home, (surrounded by army security)after his body had been hastily moved in the morning, before the time to leave his home at 3pm.

Apparently the Army visible in numbers (not a single policeman was anywhere to be seen)had decided to have the burial earlier to prevent a show of sympathy! However for whatever reason had changed their minds and the body was lying in the catholic church a short walk from the house. This actually made the viewing more orderly and more dignified, in the nature of lying in state.

The crowds of young people who were queueing past were in the thousands. Many of them dressed in black and white shirts and skirts for women and black trousers for men appeared to be garment and other factory workers from all over the country, who happened to be working in the vicinity as well as in the nearby FTZ. Many of their employers had given the day off for them to attend the funeral, and so they have to make up the day by working tomorrow, Sunday.

It appeared to me that they had absolute solidarity with their fellow brother, as they can all identify with him. They are mainly boarded and work hard in these factories under quite monotonous conditions, so they can save money for their marriages or support their families. To be gunned down in cold blood on the orders of the Rulers is something none of these silent protesters were willing to tolerate. Many of them walked a long distance from the nearest bus stop to pay their respects in the small village close to Galloluwa in Minuwangoda.

The govt had their secret police informing the murderers of every person who came inasmuch as it was a known person. I could not see video cameras, but I am sure that was there. The information they receive/see must give them goosebumps as no amount of crocodile tears is going to change the mindset of those who were there. I witnessed many young people in tears after passing through the casket. It was a dignified affair.

Politicians are famous for visiting funerals. I did not see any govt minister and we have 100 of them, maybe they came before me or after so I would like someone tell me the real status. Is this the first funeral where there were over 100,000 mourners sans a govt. minister? We have finally started a new trend.

God bless his soul and if there is anything that comes up out of this, it is that we the people will not tolerate injustice, enough is enough.

New IGP 'Uphold and Enforce the Law'

It is apparent to every policeman in Sri Lanka today, that orders came from the top, when the shit hit the fan, all the blame was laid squarely at their officers. The Government is unequivocal about the fact that the police were to blame for the recent incident at Katunayaka. It is time they are protected from needless blame.

So if you have any self respect Mr IGP please realize that whilst enforcing and upholding the law, you will not be blamed for something you did not do. You have only one course of action. When you are ordered by your superiors to break the law, refuse to do so. If you are fired, take it up with the courts. That is a far safer option than getting into a mess you cannot get out of when your protector deserts you. I cannot find anyone who believes that Mahinda Balasuriya resigned to take the blame, as he was going on leave prior to retirement anyway. He may even be rewarded for the killings with an Ambassadorial post!

Even though the Judiciary is not impartial now, your act of upholding the law will immediately give a message and example to the judiciary that it is that body then that will be the center of attention. The moment a decision by the court that is clearly biased is made, they will lose so much credibility, that next time just to save face they will act independently risking the ire of the Government.

Once they are then seen to be independent, the sudden change that will take place will be electric, and we can then take our country back to the people who live there. This will result in a huge boost to the economy and benefit to the nation.

It is not tax breaks or incentives that increase investment, only the rule of law its enforcement and the knowledge that an independent judiciary will apply the law impartially, that matters. I don't want to invest in Sri Lanka if I believe that my investment is not safeguarded by an independent Judiciary.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Who is behind this sinister plot to crush the JVP?

It appears to me from the recent incidents that took place in the last three days that illegal state sponsored terrorists are at work, effectively making the state a failed state!

I am no JVP and in fact a strong advocate of the free market with a strong Legal system properly enforced by an Independant Police force backed by an Independant Judiciary so that most of our current ills will correct themselves and will lead to a civilized and prosperous nation for all to live in.

Having said all that I just want to give my version of the recent events as I see them and ask again who conducting the orchestra remotely, and if it is not the ruling family firmly behind this who is?

There was news that the JVP had organized a protest at the Katunayake FTZ against the proposed pensions bill. So an order came from ??? not to use well trained riot police, but get a substantial number of policemen (300) from various stations instead, arm some with real bullets, not rubber bullets, give them not batons but iron bars (as we saw clearly on TV) and when the protests begin meet the hail of rocks with the charge of the light brigade which we all witnessed on TV. This charge meant that many innocent bystanders were also beaten up badly and wounded, as well as marches who got shot with real bullets and some police even went inside the factories and physically assaulted workers, some protestors, others who just happened to be in the factory and also destroyed some equipment inside the factories.

Those caught hiding inside factories were beaten pulled out and marched between police lines where the police continued to beat them senseless during this march. Some of those hospitalized said that while injured, and even after saying they were badly injured they were all dumped in the middle sorrounded by police and beaten with the iron rods.

Further the vehicle carrying the injured boy who lost his life, was also smashed while on its way to hospital transporting this boy, which may have contributed to his death as this delay is sure to have increased the loss of blood which was a main reason for his death. A question is also asked in the press this morning, as to how a bullet that entered his leg exited from his abdomen, implying he was on the ground when he was shot!! all of which should be explained fully in the one man Presidential Enquiry.

Who ordered live bullets? who ordered iron bars? why were trained riot police not used? and why was water cannon not brought in?

It is also surprising that no Employer of the FTZ has come out to protest, which I can only presume to be the govt. has bought their silence by implying that 'if you go against us we will find a means to make it difficult for you', fear psychosis!

Yesterday having wind of another JVP led protest at Lipton Circus against this killing, now that the police have been villified this same ???? organized 10 buses of goons with sticks clearly seen in today's papers ostensibly to beat up this JVP protest.

Why were these bus loads of clearly pumped up goons, who were probably given arrack and money as well as the long 5ft sticks(the usual method of drawing in goons in Sri Lanka) not arrested on alighting? They clearly were disturbing the peace, they were creating a traffic snarl, and they were carrying what can be construed as a weapon in large numbers, which under the current emergency legislation is an offence. NOT ONE PERSON WAS ARRESTED

The Law is not being enforced because someone higher up Mr???? authorized it. Now my friends please tell me who this Mr ??????? is. Any guesses.