Sunday, July 24, 2011

Its the system stupid - "The Need for Change"

One only has to look at yesterday's election results to realize how broken our society is into factions of distrust. An abominable arrow of blame on the incumbency.


Excluding the Tamil areas of the North and East,there was absolutely overwhelming support for the Government. One has to assume they were happy with the state of the Nation. Despite Hedging losses, cost of living increases, faulty petrol and pipeline leakages, wholesale thefts, and thuggery coupled with poisoning of the nation and the unconscionable looting of the state funds by all levels of the State, people seem to accept that as normal, as now they have begun partaking in the looting in their own way. In short we have created a monster of a nation, whose values have sunk to a new low. Corruption has leached into all aspects of society, and everyone seems to want a part of it and as this Govt. is willing and able to comply why not join them. The South is impressed with those with the deepest pockets and the cleverest liars. We are impressed with monuments (no matter how white these elephants are) The populace, by which I mean the majority of the people seem to believe that all the ills are not the fault of the government and as cleverly portrayed part of a Western Plot to harm the country. It is a nation which does not believe for a moment that any war crimes were committed by the Forces.(No one denies the atrocities of the LTTE not even those in the North who actually suffered most of it) I dare say the Darusman and Channel 4 gave the ruling party an added bonus of votes.

In the above analysis I believe that the basest instincts of the voters,(FEAR) who feel the Government is defending this country from an unfair world out to get it and the opposition is complicit in this attack from outside is at the heart of the plebiscite in favor of incumbency. The Government intransigence against giving any basic language rights to the North and East is obviously supported by them. (I am firmly opposed to granting Police or Land powers to the Provinces)


In contrast the North despite much voter intimidation and breaking of election procedures, expressed disgust with the Government. It had nothing to do with Channel 4, or Darusman as a columnist today in the Island and as others claim, just plain and simple perception that whatever the ruling party says, they just don't believe the rhetoric, as it must be followed up with words. The promises of riches in the form of business, roads, rail lines all amount to a hill of beans until the deeper issues are immediately addressed and tackled.

No amount of unaffordable Stadia in Kilinochchi will take away the memories of what happened and the word closure is something the rulers don't realize. It only happens when there is a mea culpa for wrongs, and justice prevails after. At present there is no acceptance that there was anything amiss in the Govt. actions, and they believe there is no justice either. Put simply, they want dignity to live in one's own chosen location, without intimidation and harassment.

Most of the people have come out of a terrible ordeal, whilst their basic food needs have been met their mental trauma has not. Everyone has lost a near and dear one. There are no procedures to obtain closure, so hope and titillation are carrots the Govt. dangles thinking they will fall in line like a line cows waiting to be milked. They have no one in authority they trust, few who speak the language, the gravestones of their relatives bulldozed over for conqueror commemorations. To add insult to injury the hoards of the local tourists going up North, has further inconvenienced their lives, as they have come to see a zoo or conquered territory, not one freed for them. It is they who have suffered through the LTTE more, they want to be free not replaced by another set of prison guards who speak a different language to the earlier set of prison guards.

Consider this; what if your child was forcefully conscripted by the LTTE, and then later died and all you got was a grave stone to mark where his or her remains lie. The conquerors flatten that over and put something of their over it. How would you feel? That in essence is what I am attempting to get the reader to understand. Until we have magnanimous leaders who have a real understanding of humanity, we cannot see an improvement. Remember the LTTE has been crushed, destroyed, why are we so worried? All we are doing now is creating the same circumstances for another uprising by this behavior. The current administration, after two years, still playing the war victory trump card cannot lead us out of this and have now shown that plainly. They cannot fool those in the North in the way they have fooled the South by fear.


We cannot allow either the UPFA or the TNA to act as proxies for each side to build a nation. They are unquestionably Nation breakers, the UPFA with their current intransigence, racist hyperbole and patronising attitudes and the TNA with its LTTE ties that will always stick to them, together with their separatist agenda. We need a leader, hitherto not part of the visible horizon, who preferably can speak all three languages, and have a respected presence all around the island representing all communities for the common good of the Nation. Only that person can be called a Sri Lankan patriot, and not the bogus pretenders at present preying on FEAR.

I on the other hand have to retire to months of convalescence directly owing to the "Arrogance of the Incumbency" and thus I have been muzzled!

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Summertime Media Blues

The months of July and August in the European and US media is referred to as silly season, as there is not much news and journalists scramble to create media situations, some of which are purposefully set up to create sensationalism and ultimately sell newspapers.

The recent news due to lack of anything else to report has been dominated by the News International Scandal which has given enough for reporters to write about, and also includes a little on the Somalian Famine and Obama's struggle to get the Deficit Reduction plans passed.

Whilst we thought everything was hunkydory, out of the blue comes the Norwegian massacres which appear at first to be the work of a lone gunman from Norway. How on earth one person can be responsible for such carnage is beyond imagination, but it certainly has caught the imagination of the world news media and the international news outlets have finally put the spotlight on the ugly sleepy fishing village or capital called Oslo, home to some of the highest GNP per capita people on earth.

Sri Lanka like always seems to buck this trend in any type of media blues and has its own sprinkling of media events, from the Local Government Elections being held today, to the Arsenic scares, and Election malpractices in the North. Whenever there is a dearth of news you can bet that the Government creates news so they do not feel left out. Why they need this comfort is beyond me as they have their one sided media that pretends that there are no people other than those who wholeheartedly agree with the State. Such is the quality of the State sponsored media organizations, none of whom seem to care about ethics or media.

As one knows what is reported is as much news and what is not reported. One must also realize that many editors determine what is being written or broadcast and therefore exert a certain amount of influence in this regard. We are therefore guided to some degree in this aspect and must rely on bloggers to get some angles that none of the formal channels of media provide. It is also important to realize in Sri Lanka that there is a considerable amount of self censorship that goes on by the editors in reporting so as not to fall foul with the State which gives a certain amount of advertising revenue to enable some of these publications to survive.

Remember all media channel and papers are businesses and it is only the Government ones that can suffer an element of loss on account of the Government prepared to bail them out as needed.

There are many NGO type blogs around but whose credibility is compromised due to the funding sources and so individual well researched blog which are few and far between give an opinion based on certain in built prejudices.

Lets hope we can develop this individuality and make the blogs more popular amongst the ever increasing following especially amongst the youth, and get them to start a culture of blogging.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Butenis hosting the July4th celebrations at Jefferson House

I am a short walk from Jefferson House, but I was not invited to the party thrown by the US Ambassador in Sri Lanka, Ms Patricia Butenis on account of the celebrations for American Independence Day. I am not sulking as she does not know me and have no knowledge of me, and under the usual protocol probably would not qualify for an invite. I probably have visited more places or States in the US than most people at the gathering including all the US citizens gathered there during my 15 years stay there.

As usual a controversy resulted. According to what Minister Wimal Weerawansa had to say in some event or occasion, he maintained that there is a conspiracy in the Western Nations to gather our youth for another anti patriotic conspiracy against Sri Lanka.

Apparently what prompted this outburst was that even though Susil Premajayanth, possibly the most senior minister present, toasted the President and the People of the United States on the occasion of the Anniversary of the Declaration of Independence, Ms Butenis instead toasted the Youth who are the future of Sri Lanka. I also gather that there were many youth of Sri Lanka at the event, many of whom represent NGO's who benefit from US Aid in Sri Lanka. Brother Wimal was upset that the President of the Sri Lanka was not the object of the toast.

What can I say about that? If Wikileaks is anything to go by, I salute Butenis for not being a hypocrite, as she has clearly smeared the President and his brothers as complicit in war crimes, (We in SL can smear Obama with the same sin, but we did not!! at the event) So it would have been unconscionable for her so to do.

Of course I support the toast to the Youth as it is the Youth who are our future and not any Rajapakse. She was toasting the Youth who were present there. The next argument goes if protocol demands the toast is reciprocated. I do not know the answer to that, so it is a clear message to Sri Lanka that the US government's representative in Sri Lanka, was not about to give the President of Sri Lanka the same respect!!

I know Wimal Weerawansa was in the US recently, and as a Minister who enjoys certain diplomatic privileges with a diplomatic passport would have been given a visa no matter what he has stated against the US. It is interesting to note if the roles were reversed, if a rabid anti Sri Lankan in the US in the US government or Congress requested the same would he also be granted the same by the Sri Lankan Govt.

More to the point, we in Sri Lanka still engage in all this anti American rhetoric and desperately want to send our kids to Universities in the US, and do not mind if they get jobs and settle down there. Such are their double standards. Let us send our children to Chinese schools and Universities instead and teach them Chinese instead of English as it is the most widely spoken language in terms of population.

For my part I admire the US, but what is more telling, is that despite living and working in Santa Barbara, California and having one of the most beautiful Rose Gardens in any home in the US, I decided to give all that up and come and live in Sri Lanka as a peasant farmer, only to be run over by the escort vehicle of the Justice Minister in Sri Lanka in his personal convoy. I have been incapacitated for six months, still in crutches, with my whole farming enterprise in tatters, and with no compensation from the Minister, Ministry, or the Ministry of Defense which owned the vehicle(which was not insured) that crashed into me. I have to go back to hospital in a few days for further surgery, which effectively incapacitates me for a whole year.

The minister who met me after 5 months said he will do something about it, and have not heard a word since. It is this sort of Government with leaders representing this myth, that can go about this injustice who keep talking like great saviours of the country. They are all a lot of hot air, not to be trusted believed or relied upon.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

The current administration - An Envitronmentalist's nightmare!

Never a day goes by without word of environmental destruction or degradation, and one finds one or other of Govt. henchman, (known as henchaiyas) at the back of every effort to do so. Whether it is in the interests of tourism or development, or to solve the human elephant conflict the modus operandi are the same.

Recently, there were three leopard cubs who were found when a local politician was trying to sell them for over Rs500K each, its mother's skin having been found in a national politician's, skelton gardens address. The sleuths were ordered out from investigating at the instigation of no less than the Director of Wildlife himself.

Then a woman was killed by a leopard while on her way in the Kataragama Pada Yatra. It is alleged that the leopard had become a man eater owing to the location of her killing being an official campsite where in order to draw high spending tourists, beef is used to attract the animal. No wonder then that a usually harmless leopard thought it was open season to attack a woman while taking part in her morning ablutions which then begs the question of allowing people to walk in the National Parks. The latte activity is banned but in order to fulfill rituals it is permitted for this event.

We then have the road through the Wilpattu National Park, and the wanton destruction of majestic trees in the area, which has been the result as the road is still not being constructed after the clearing of the path, which results in further top soil erosion until a the road is paved.

We then have the expected move of over 200 elephants in order that the Commonwealth Games can be accommodated. It is now a no brainer that this would not be awarded despite the huge publicity cost to get the games, because of the unacceptable damage to the environment that most people except those in this regime will not tolerate.

Finally the more pressing issue of changing the law with regard to buffer zones, to allow development therein in which even to the hardened developer or capitalist is very short term and self defeating in the wrong term and where people say we are embarking on killing the goose that lays the golden egg.

In summary in my opinion, there is no one who really cares a toss about conservation of our heritage and preserving it in a pristine state for the future. We have enough land and locations to carry out all our tourist related activity without resort to this destruction, as in any case any benefit is only to the owners of these establishments and the foreigner until the resource is completely removed by this over use or exploitation. We have nothing to leave to the future generation, but a mess created in our lifetime, unless we have the courage to take a stand and do something about it.

When I speak to environmentalists they raise their arms in horror and disgust, but say there is nothing they can do about it as the powers just steamroll any objections, and threaten anyone if they use the law to combat this crime. This mad rush to develop tourism without any checks and balances must stop if we are to save what little remains for posterity.

Please comment here on your thoughts and then write or mail your leaders to do something about this before it is irreversible.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Youth of today are not rising to the occasion

If I was young again, I would like to be a teenager in this generation, as the opportunities afforded to them are a fraction of that afforded to us in our day. The incredible burst of new technologies and new ideas and the communication and disbursement revolution enables them to do many more with so much less.

Sadly few if any of the youth of today realize their good fortune, as they have no point of comparison, that we have, and so are wasting their limited growing up years in ways that they will regret with hindsight. One would say that this argument is one that can be used for each generation, but due to the advances in technology in the past 40 make the past 400 years pale into insignificance.

The poor quality of education at all levels and all forms including international schools, and the poor communication between parents and their kids adds to this void, which with the paucity of English, they cannot take full advantage of what the world has to offer them at their literally fingertips using media such as the Internet and mobile technology, without leaving their own village.

With this technology, I would expect today's young people to be mature, to be able to take control of their lives and make decisions for themselves, none of which I can see in my extensive dealings with young people from all socio economic classes of our society.

The unwillingness to accept ideas and suggestions from those with a lot of experience, is also an issue, and that is part of the upbringing that has failed them in respect for authority and belief in their advice. Empowering them is insufficient as they do not know how to use it to their advantage.

I have a point of comparison with the outside world, and I can say with confidence that our young people though more intelligent are no match for the life skills that are thrust upon young people in other countries from where they excel. People use examples of Sri Lankans who have gone overseas and who have excelled in their fields there when they showed little potential back home. Those are the exceptions, as they are so frustrated back at home, they have a natural urge to show of their skills, and the opportunities to do so arise only overseas. They then take maximum advantage of them once they are able to get out.

We must not just look at the export of our best human capital as a way to get the best for the youth, as they will take it to their host countries and benefit the mother country only marginally. We must look at this issue holistically to identify what it is we want from them and then how we are to achieve those goals, but they have to come from the youth themselves to have ambition to achieve and perform, which the culture itself does not assist in.

To make a point of how wasteful our young people are, in the villages they just phone random numbers and when someone from the opposite sex answers, they start up a conversation and try to begin an anonymous relationship based on lies. I have encountered many young people in this practice, which while ok as some form of entertainment for lack of anything else to do, is just a nuisance when viewed as compulsion. The peer pressure to do so based on brownie points builds a value system that is wasteful and a way of doing something the parents have no idea is happening.

Sri Lanka has only about 7 more years of a youth bulge, before the population begins to age, and if we do nothing we will waste this resource and it will be forever, and I believe those who can affect a change just do not have the desire to do so based on their personal agendas that do not have the country's best interests at heart.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Drop the advertisements for the Post of “Principal Trinity College, Kandy”

The intrigue that has arisen from the recent revelations by the Sunday Leader, first on account of the expulsions of prefects from St Thomas’s College, Mount Lavinia which eventually led to the official resignation of the Warden (Headmaster) though the invisible hand of the Presidential prodigal Namal seems to be stamped all over it, and now the furor over the Rs200M loss also claimed by the Sunday Leader at Trinity, has created another similar search for a new Principal of Trinity.

Let us take the Sunday Leader first. It was established by my uncle and as far as I know his status as publisher was never relinquished during his sober and conscious period. I however take issue with the sensationalism created in both accounts that has put these esteemed schools into a kind of public shame, which I do not believe is warranted. Now St Thomas’s is looking for not only a Warden but also a Subwarden, and I can only assume it is the same team of the two Bishops of Colombo and Kurunegala who by their position have undue rights on the Boards of Governors of these Church of England schools who indirectly select people for these positions.

For the purposes of this essay I will ignore the St Thomas’s one, as it would get too convoluted, though I have interests in both schools, as I had an uncle and grandfather on the Board of Governors of St Thomas’s. In Trinity’s case I did go there many moons ago, as at that time, I was probably the first of the 4th generation of my family at that school, namely father, grandfather and great grandfather all on the paternal side. When I was at the school both the Bishop of Colombo, and of Kurunegala were relatives, and now I find that four of the current Board of Governors, also share common ancestors with me.

I have not looked closely at the accounts of Trinity to find out the real issue, but with my experience in auditing the accounts of such esteemed institutions in the UK I feel I am entitled to put my two cents. These include the Oxford University Chest, many Oxford Colleges, University Departments, and Imperial College of London and Eton College, the latter being the most prestigious public schools in England, which the current Prime Minister attended to say nothing of Princes William and Harry’s old school.

The mischievous reporting by the Sunday Leader of this loss goes to show how much they understand of schools accounting practices. There is no chance in a zillion years that Trinity could have lost Rs200M in money, that is ludicrous. Any person who has a pea brain of common sense will realize that. So whoever leaked the story had an agenda to finger point someone and those at the butt end of this saga, the Bishops, the Governors and the Principal is engaged in a round robin of the blame game.

In a nutshell, the error was as a result of incompetent accounting, as people in Sri Lanka do not know how to properly account for schools as they are different both to Public, Non-Profit, or Private enterprises. The incompetent accounting personnel in the school have not entered the receipts and payments in the correct box, and the Principal not being knowledgeable in accounting, and not caring tuppence for the Governors, consulted reputable accountants who did not know how to correct the errors either, a typical Sri Lankan lack of “Kalpanakaranna”.

In my limited understanding, someone trying to do the Principal a favor, leaked this loss to the Leader, and the Governors who had some hand in appointing these incompetents were implicated. The Governors in their childish game appear to take revenge on the Principal believing it is his hand at play, has decided not to renew his contract, which expires this year, and hence the ads for this post.
Who suffers in this old man’s game? It is the poor students of Trinity. They do not deserve this kind of abuse, so guys swallow your pride and listen to me.

First the Bishops, you sweet Lordships, you have undue power vested in you due to accidents in history, you are not really competent in knowing how to run schools today, so appoint Governors, as you have rights to do, of people who know education, accounting, vision, who can empower youth with leadership qualities, and forward thinking people who know the future is in the hand of the young.

Governors swallow your pride, as the Principal did not care two hoots for you as you were not able to contribute positively to the school in anyway. He has been one of the best achieving Principals Trinity has ever had, balancing the books, so that the school does not run a deficit. He has achieved great heights in Sports that no other Principal has and something all old Trinitians are proud of. Drop the search and give the incumbant an extension of at least 3 years.

Principal just realize that despite your achievements that there is pettiness around, and so swallow your pride and seek guidance from the Governors who like to be consulted as they are providing of their services voluntarily and you get paid to do yours. Continue your stellar work and just do what is necessary to get your teaching credentials so you are technically also Principal and not Acting.

I honestly do not believe that there is another more competent person lurking out there, who can do the job as well as the current incumbent. A new principal at this juncture would be bad for the school, that is now feeling extremely proud of their achievements, and now have to buckle up and improve on providing the thinking leaders of our land, and not the barging leaders that St Thomas’s has produced.
Sunday Leader, there is so much investigative reporting you can do, that will bare open some of the mega robberies of the country’s resources that takes place every day. Don’t attack individuals, just the collective state for the corruption and abuse of power. False sensationalism smacks of chequebook journalism.

May I add in closing that, I do not follow the old school, nor am I a member of the Old Boys, nor have I been to any of the Bradby matches in the past 6years I have been back in Sri Lanka, as I have been a fulltime working farmer, unable to take time off for such luxuries. I am merely adding an opinion as one who wants all schools to produce thinking leaders which this nation lacks, and I am sure I will not be able to afford to send a son of mine to a fee paying establishment such as Trinity. As things stand today, thinkers don’t get scholarships, good crammers do.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

DEW's wishful thinking - We are not remotely in an Arab uprising situation

It was interesting that senior minister DEW Gunasekera who is in charge of COPE on which I expect his impartial reports much in the way that Wijeydasa Rajapkse acted, has alluded to alarmist comments, the validity of which I dispute. Namely, and I quote from an article in the ISLAND newspaper, "The country could no longer ignore rising unemployment. The failure on the part of the Government to address contentious issues, could cause a catastrophic situation....."

In my view and I receive up to 30 applications a day(actually pathetic CVs) from young people of all levels of qualification, looking to our organization to provide them with some cushy jobs. I can place them in jobs paying between Rs10K and Rs15K per month, but they do not want to do those jobs. They are looking more at white collar office jobs, with little knowledge or training on anything English or IT and ability to handle high pressure situations, that are required for these positions.

It is therefore not the availability of jobs, rather the matching of what is available with what it is they are qualified and can do as well as want to do.

I wish he can work with me to solve this problem rather than I work with him as he has been appointed to some "National Steering Committee to formulate Human Resources Policy". This seems a very ill-fated nebulous directive to farm out the oldies in government, but which does not need time wasters just some immediate steps to take control of the issues and get going.

We are in the middle of addressing this issue ourselves and it is the lack of funds to implement them that I am grappling with. I can assure you I have the ability to go national immediately if I have the resources, and have the seminars for the youth all over the country so they can understand the real employment jobs mismatch and what it is that is required off them and what it is they need to do to get there as well as how we can assist them in achieving these objectives.

I am firmly of the opinion the National Youth Corps or the National Youth Services Council and a whole host of government sponsored youth training and vocational training institutes, are run by incompetent people not able to understand the real issues and are therefore leading the youth of this country up the gum tree giving them false expectations of what they can do and therefore disappoint them in their quest for productive and remunerative employment.

Another case in point was an ad we placed recently (Large prminant display ad in a Sinhala Sunday Paper) for a job as a research assistant from the pool of unemployed graduates, giving preference to those who had some ability to work in English and be IT literate. We were shocked that we only received 25 applications!!! and of those only 10 were actually unemployed at the time. The job did not mention a salary.

What does this imply? There are no unemployed grads! Or is it that they are looking for Government appointments? Do not want to relocate to Colombo? The job description is one they don't like? or some other reason.

If I was a young unemployed graduate, and I saw the job advert I would have applied, as it sounded quite interesting and challenging. So it is our people do not want to do challenging and interesting things? Do they just want a desk in Colombo, a title and a pay check and get out of the office at 4pm. like all the government servants in Colombo offices do?

Is it that these people the educated unemployed are going to agitate like the youth of Cairo? Have no fear DEW of that. Getting them up at 4 and coming into to Colombo to agitate for their rights even is something I am sure they will not do. Our Society has spoiled them to thinking that they are owed a living, beyond their competence. It is that fact that needs to be addressed.

SO please don't waste time in these committees discussing spurious theories, do the fieldwork immediately, put the ads for different jobs, look at the replies and then call them in for interviews and then ascertain what the real human resources problem is rather than getting experts who live in ivory towers completely devoid of reality to come up with the answers.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

The Great Betrayal - Collective guilt of the Stock Brokers in misinforming the retail investor

SHL or Softlogic Holdings IPO debut today with the shares falling to Rs18.50 by 12.30pm on the first day for shares that were offered at Rs29. The issue was oversubscribed and most of the retail investors who were given their full allotment saw a record fall in the value of their investment in a matter of a few hours.

I pity those poor investors. I was obviously consulted on whether to buy these shares due to some experience I have had in working for the past two years in a Stock Brokerage company, and my answer was a firm no, just as it was for both the Vallible One and Expolanka. In the latter the shares dropped under the issue price within 24 hours, when my guess was 48 hours and in the case of Vallible One, it is hovering at a few rupees (about 15%) above the issue price, partially because the placement was also offered at that price. The shock even for me of the drop of 36% of the issue price by 12.30 means technically it was the quickest way in Sri Lanka for a person to lose 36% in value of his investment in 3 hours.

"THE STOCK MARKET IN SRI LANKA HAS CREATED A RECORD FOR THE FASTEST DROP EVER OF AN IPO SHARE, WHICH TODAY LOST 36% IN VALUE IN A MATTER OF 3 HOURS." This should be the headline in the FT tomorrow, but they will not do so, as Ashok Pathirage the Chairman of Softlogic is influential and connected, and would not wish to seem a big old fool, in front of the SL public for going through the motions of fooling the public in his roadshows. It is further very embarrassing to most of the reputed Stock Brokerage firms that were firmly recommending the purchase to their clients.

I wonder what would have happened to a courageous stockbroker who should have gone out on a limb and not part of the pack, not to recommend this share! Such is the independence of the Stockbroking community in Sri Lanka, and pity the poor investor who has to put up with this sort of competence on the part of those who should be able to call a spade a spade and not be influenced by pressure.

Until Sri Lanka can get over this pettiness and be able to rationally evaluate the performance of shares and use logic to (pardon the pun) make informed investment decisions, we will not have a market that will be able to attract long term investors especially from overseas to it. No amount of road shows and time wasting by SEC officials on junkets to the London Stock Exchange can show up their incompetence and be proved to be minnows in the complex world of Stock Market Investing.

Unfortunately no heads will roll on this, as one or two should, and the jobs remain for the boys and mistrust of the market manipulators grows and the SEC sits like a nodding donkey (californian surface oil wells that keep on going) impervious to the world around them. Of course technically the beneficiary was Softlogic in selling a share for Rs29 which is only worth in the eyes of the investing public Rs18.50 at this time.

Further as an icing on the cake, today's announcement of the purchase of Asian Alliance Insurance did nothing but hurt to the stock.


Sunday, July 3, 2011

The misinformation that is planted as part of the State Communication Apparatus is a sinster plot

Dr Sunanda Madduma Bandara, a one time Dean of the Faculty of Social Sciences and now the Director General(Development and Communication) of the Ministry of Economic Development has written an article in Today's "Irida Lankadeepa" (page 6 of the Nimthera section) on "Subsidized Fertilizer Bundle that has improved the living conditions of the nations Farmers"

I must also add that his credentials and his comments have come under scrutiny as being merely a mouthpiece of government propaganda by an expose by the Sunday Times on December 26th 2010 with reference for anyone to read

The article does not refer to his position anywhere which is essential for the reader to understand the bias he puts into his essay. It is also important to mention that he is not an agriculturist and only a sociologist, like the many in this quasi arts field, pretending to be scientists and therefore his knowledge is based on spurious facts and not his field of specialization.

In essence it was a purely political exercise where he was a proponent justifying the Governments Fertilizer subsidy as being of great benefit to the farmers, because the rice yields and total area under paddy increased between the years 2004 to 2010 in reaching self sufficiency. He also used the government guaranteed price mechanism as an additional method of helping the farmer achieve a fair price for his produce. While I agree with the latter point, it hardly needs a man of his stature to state this simple fact.

I am questioning the former, as the opportunity cost of the Fertilizer Subsidy must be taken into account in determining how it has benefited the farmer. I have expounded at length how this subsidy has enslaved the farmer to his land where he has not been able to explore more lucrative employment opportunities available to him in other sectors.

The yields in agriculture is a complex subject, not left merely to imported inorganic fertilizer. The debate has not closed on the overuse of such fertilizer in as far as it affects the quality of the soil in the long term and therefore the yields. It is a no brainer that the more fertilizer of this nature (imported inorganic chemical base) that is used on the soil it deteriorates the soil to such an extent that yields actually drop. It is only due to larger land extents coming under cultivation that the overall harvests have increased. This increase in land cultivated is not merely due to the subsidy being continued at Rs 350 unchanged during this whole period.

The current cost of the Fertilzer subsidy of Rs50B can in no way be justified by the farmers being better off. It is just encouraging subsistence farmers to continue subsisting in poverty instead of weaning them into more productive fields in a country that is desperately short of skilled labor. Farming in the long term must be done by professionals and not by those who for lack of any education fall into this because they are provided with an acre or two of land to force them into unproductive agriculture and hence permanent poverty.

I am willing to challenge the paper that published his article to say that they have been duped into publishing it because the individual has not presented his proper credentials. We are so gullible as to believe that if a phD person says something it must be right. We must always first question his or her motives for writing what they do. It is clear that as the communications czar to his boss who makes a habit of misinforming the public, this information also needs to be treated with that same bent.

I am ashamed that our University Dons seem to think that kowtowing to the rulers is the way for advancement in their careers and their principles and education just go to the dogs!!

I would like to believe that a newspaper of such a stature would print a counter argument to Professor Madduma Bandara's hypothesis (as it is only a hypothesis based on hearsay) so the reader can appreciate a balanced view of the subject, which is a very important weapon in the propaganda armor of the Government.

Friday, July 1, 2011

I counted 312 Tippers with Sand dripping with water from Manampitiya on the road in a 3 hour period - Rape of the Mahaweli!!!

I went to Hingurakgoda, Minneriya, and Nava Nagaraya Polonnaruwa for the day yesterday. On my return journey, as I was in the front passenger seat, leaving the New Town at 4.30pm, in the 3 hours it took to get to the Kandy Road at Ambepussa, I counted 312 fully laden tippers full of dripping sand, (new sand put directly on to the tipper trucks from the buckets in the Mahaweli River around Manampitiya)

I thought since it was the 30th of June 2011, that some law was passed forbidding sand mining in the Mahaweli with effect from July 1st, so there was a massive effort to mine the Mahaweli out of sand! and hence the tipper procession, like I had never seen in over a 150 such journeys in the past 6 years. There were old trucks that were not tippers and flat bed trucks holding over the tipper volume of 4 cubes, in this procession, and hence my hypothesis regarding the day THE MAHAWELI WAS RAPED.

What does this translate into? 312 trucks including those parked on the side of the road for the breaks the drivers need along the way? Say, for sake of illustration, with the bigger trucks holding more than 6 cubes, an approximate 1500 cubes of sand in the 3 hour period were noted. Erring on the conservative, saying they would be transported over only a 12 hour period and not 24 hours as is the case if they want, that translates into "6000 CUBES A DAY" a cube sells at Rs8,000, but say they are sold at a wholesale price of Rs6,000 then it is Rs36 MILLION RUPEES OF SAND MINED FROM THE MAHAWELI IN ONE DAY!!!

I have some questions. How much does the state receive per cube of sand mined? It is the country's property and as the Government is the protector of the country's mineral resources, how much do they receive per year from this project?

No doubt this is the work of politicians in the government who issue the mine permits, so how much money do these politicians get for a mining permit, and how many cubes does a permit entitle one to mine or transport? What is the procedure for obtaining a legal permit? What are the laws relating to the Environmental protection of river sand mining? This leads to a whole question on the ethics of this practice.

While I realize we need sand badly for our construction sector and we will need sand in a greater scale in the future, I ask why is the sea not being used for mining sand. I know of many people who have sea mining rights who are currently not utilizing those rights for want of a proper dredging mechanism to get the sand from about 2km from the sea bed. Mining closer to the shore will also be environmentally harmful.

I was aware of a Hungarian aid project where they would give some Euro 50Million aid to buy their sea sand mining dredgers to mine the sand from the sea. This project got stuck because the bureaucrats in the relevant ministry, along with some higher ups wanted a bribe of 35% of the project to pass the project. Surely a bribe of 1% would have been acceptable and that would run into millions of rupees so for the sake of personal gain yet another project that would save the ENVIRONMENT OF SRI LANKA FROM FURTHER DEGRADATION WAS DENIED.