Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Young people hate long speeches, no they hate speeches.

I was at ceremony on Friday afternoon last week in the Kandy area in the Hewaheta Electorate to be exact, where about 150 youth almost all under 25 were gathered to receive sports goods for their respective sports club. This was organized by a Provincial Councilor of the Central Provincial Council, to commemorate 15 years in politics and he had decided to use some funds from the decentralized budget to gift, volley balls, bats and balls to these clubs.

In attendance were three parliamentarians and a host of other provincial councilors, and a sprinkling of Pradeshiya Sabha members. Due to the formalities of the proceedings in Sri Lanka style, people get offended when their names are not singled out for mention, so when each of the 10 speakers are called to the podium to address the crowd, they have to politely get the permission of all in the panel. The more speakers, the more on the panel and in the end mentioning their names alone multiplied by 10 in itself takes half hour.

The youth in the audience were stuck, having to sit it out to receive these items, a very unfair request, which people just say “if they want something for free a few hours of their time that is lost should not be begrudged” I am especially conscious of this issue, as one of my main tasks is to engage young people in leadership, community and political action for a better future for them. We do not want to jeopardize this chance by boring them out of their wits. We must make it valuable to them, and one where their active participation is sought, be it in a discussion format or question and answer format, where questions directly relevant to them are on the agenda.

The photos of the event are interspersed in this report, with the readers able to come to their own conclusion of how best to handle the event. It is worthy to note that as many people relevant to the subject are invited, and when invited are assumed to have to make a speech. One important outcome being that their public standing and their popularity must get a boost in this gathering.

There was only a fruitdrink served at the event, which due to the heat of the moment, TV camera lights etc barely even refilled the moisture loss from the body.

I would like these kids to be able to go home and relate a memorable event at the meeting to their loved ones, when discussing this event. I cannot even think what that might be. I hope that they even learnt something about the history of this country as even that knowledge amongst such youth who rarely pick up a newspaper is simply a void, not something they are aware of. Cest la vie.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Welikanda – a small island of despair in a relatively prosperous surround

In a spontaneous hastily arranged event, I asked Rajitha with whom we were staying the night, that we would like to meet some of his die hard supporters who went to bat for him in the recently fought Municipal Council Elections in Kandy, of which he was a candidate but failed to secure enough preferences to be elected to the Municipal Council.

So after the Bodhi Pooja at the Dalada Maligawa, where we were fortunate to get into the room where the sacred tooth relic is encased in the casket, we went to Welikanda. It was a hamlet of about 250 homes, in central Kandy, which was precariously appointed as it is liable to landslide. I was able to climb up to the home where the meeting was held, though it was a little dangerous negotiating some of the way due to the precipice on one side of a narrow path.

Most of the people were young male and female, who wanted to inform us of the conditions or lack of for the youth of the area, and the derelict state of their community hall, and the non-existent facilities for the sports club to operate in. Their grouse as is quite common is one where politicians at election time make promises, and once elected do not site the place nor honor any of their promises.
We went there merely to meet, but went away convinced that we had to do something for these people, as they gave the impression of being desperate for some help, with no one in authority they can turn to help them.

It was really a plea for help for basic things like some bats and balls for cricket and maybe a weight training set and some volley balls. We were also told that the local sports club with non-existent facilities had fielded a team to for athletics and did themselves proud. They were proud of their latent talent and bemoaned the lack of anyone able to identify this and take it to the next level.

One from a poor home, was unable to buy a pair of rugby boots, though he was an outstanding scrum-half at Vidyartha the school he currently attends. So we took note of that as something we must work on without delay to satisfy this basic need.

We were most warmly received, though none knew who or what we were about. These youth have no idea of politics or politicians. They do not read the newspapers nor do they watch any type of news on TV. Their TV viewing is restricted to Soaps, and all their knowledge is what they learn at school or in whatever job they happen to engage in. We promised to help without delay and begin a revival of the community spirit, which has drawn the people with a common purpose.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

The way a life ended – Amaradasa or was it really Jakolis Aiya!

I attended a funeral a short while ago in Pahathgama off the Diddeniya Road, close to Hanwella. I only now gathered some information of the deceased which in life he was not unable to share even with his wife.

We knew him as Amaradasa, and so did his wife Seetha. They came to work on the farm about 14 years ago, and they were introduced by a farm worker named Suwaris Singho. They had met at a workplace not too far away and came and lived in one of our farm houses, soon after for a place to begin their life. He took care of the cattle, and the milking. They had both been married before he with 5 children and she with 2 daughters, but he had told her that he had not been legally married and so took her, though we have no proof if either marriage was legal. In the past this marriage thing only came into importance when it came to inheritance etc.

They left us about two years ago, for greener pastures on the say so of a relative who promised to help them. They begged my father, who generally gets taken in by a sob story,, to take them back about a month ago, and that they were living in a house in Marawila, and the owners used to lock them in whenever they went out and wanted out of there.

Within two days of their arrival Amaradasa was taken ill and was admitted to the Homagama base hospital and later transferred to Colombo National Hospital where he died ten days later of pneumonia. It appeared that his wife realized that he was going to die, and not knowing anyone where they were living felt that this was where their married life was most fruitful and came penniless back to us.

The Amaradasa’s family upon being informed of his death told us that they were unable to take care of the expenses, and so the basic costs of organizing the funeral were taken over by us, and once this was done, they decided to change their mind and the body was taken to one of his daughter’s homes in Pahathgama, which was also his village, where the final rites were performed today, and the burial took place in the adjoining cemetery in his village, which was how it should be.

In reality both families had rejected them once this marriage had taken place and till now they had little connection. Seetha’s daughter when given in marriage had put Amaradasa’s name as the father, instead of her real father. So as she is married to a person in the Army, they have taken it upon themselves to help out in many ways and the banners at the funeral were all from the Army. Though Amaradasa’s family were aghast at that, when they see some of the costs borne by the Army, are less inclined to complain, though when a lump sum death benefit is received by the daughter for the loss of her father, the real children will not be amused as they will not share in any of the spoils. I guess in death the family put aside their differences to give the deceased some degree of dignity in death, but once the burial is over some of the disagreements are bound to recur, especially when it comes to money.

Amaradasa had no birth certificate, and had no idea of his date of birth, hence he was not able to obtain a National Identity Card. So his wife may have difficulty in collecting his EPF money collected during his service with us, and so I asked her to get the help of the Army, explain the reality and the problems and try and get what is due, as otherwise it would simply revert to the state.

I suspect he may be about 70, but he never dyed his hair and his full head of hair was black in the end.

In his death her daughters have finally accepted her. I met the youngest who is married to the soldier, with the three little kids at the funeral and she has asked the mother to come live with her in Galgamuwa, in the Kurunegala district I think. Her parents are both alive, and will now accept her back into the fold.

Such is some of the reality, when families break up due to alliances they do not agree with, and before some finally pass on are able to patch up and live happily ever after, when a situation such as this arises.

I note this event in the blog, because one must think of some of the real life consequences of one’s action and take cognizance of it and make a decision on one’s life without regret. When this couple who together had 7 children between them and none in the marriage, had basically been disowned by both families, and we provided the only home they really knew as a couple, I wonder how it may have affected them mentally and psychologically.

Seetha took care of Amaradasa very well during his numerous illnesses, despite him having lied to her about his past and his name, which she realized only when Jakolis Aiya came home to be buried, not even to die.

I know not if their previous spouses are amongst the living or dead, but at least this story does have an end which provides a dignified acceptance to both, one in death and the other for the surviving spouse amongst the living.

I hope for Seetha’s sake it will provide a pleasant retirement with her grandchildren, finally back in the fold, and even she possibly in her 60’s has a full head of black hair with hardly a white to be seen. I wonder if that tells something!

Seetha and Amaradasa at a wedding of one the boys on the farm who married the daughter of another farm laborer.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

How are State manipulators going to spend the Rs25 billion raised by EPF?

The past few blog entries have looked into Monetary Policy being run by the use or more correctly the cynical misuse of the Rs1trillion and growing EPF money of the private sector wage earners of this country. I have explained that the use of their stock holdings and sale of which ONLY to foreigners, was a ploy to get much needed foreign currency to prop up the rupee, but that has failed in that objective.

Now the Rs25billion and growing money raised from these sales can be invested in many ways. They can either be used to buy Treasury Bills, which if interest rates rise further will FALL in value. They could be used to buy shares of the CSE to initiate a rally that is not driven by fundamentals, but again on speculation. They could be used to buy property as a long term investment, much in the way Pension Funds in the UK are some of the largest property owners, both of Farm Land, Commercial Buildings, and Residential Property that is rented.

I ask, do you honestly think the present management considers the long term rate of return for the owners of the EPF namely the workers who contribute to it? Short answer is NO. That is because this fund is not managed professionally and only politically. In the latter method it is open to massive fraud and corruption.

Just as I have stated in the blog a while ago how, the EPF instead of purchasing 1,600,000 shares of Central Finance at Rs800 each from the Govt. owned Sri Lanka Insurance Corporation, bought it a few weeks later at Rs1,200 each from a private individual, who had purchased it at Rs800 only after he had got assurance that EPF would buy it at the enhanced price. It is the same all over again. In that instance EPF was effectively defrauded by billions without investigation, as Govt. appointees and politicians were directly responsible for the fraud.

We hear now that the brokerage from the sales has been spread over all the stock brokers in Sri Lanka. What that does is the retirement fund is paying money to the stock brokers to keep them quiet and not question the ethics of the transaction. That is the way govt. buys silence as only money talks in Sri Lanka. This tactic is reprehensible as there is a money gravy train in the offing, to say nothing of the speculative gravy train about to be unleashed with insider trading emerging in a huge way when this money is reinvested in the stock market to buy undervalued shares.

I am willing to bet that the insiders, that is politicians and their corrupt henchmen will be now informed of the shares the EPF will buy. They will then purchase these shares on their own account, and then sell it within a matter of days to the EPF with a premium of say 25% profit for a few days work. There will be NO action taken by the SEC on them and again the retirees savings are used to make the fat cats of the Govt. brigade more wealthy and loyal to them. Remember I said money talks. It is easy then for them to share the spoils with the Politicians and there is only one set that benefit in the end. There is no word for this other than treachery of the first order, the worst form of crime that is committed against a state.

So the people are fooled yet again by the traitors who run this country into believing that their interests are preserved. It is interesting how these individuals make money at EVERY step in these series of transactions, with the EPF being the loser at each of these steps. The first step no doubt is the price at which these shares were sold to the foreign funds. Kickbacks are in Swiss or numbered accounts overseas so we will never know the extent and amounts involved.

It important that ONLY professionals with complete transparency and ethics of the highest standards are given to manage Sri Lankan’s largest investment fund. Otherwise the people are contributing their earnings every month to a fund that is used by a few a for their own ends, a case of the wage earner monthly paying a tithe to the rulers for ruling them, instead of the rulers being servants of the people.

I sincerely hope that sane citizens of Sri Lanka can reach for an element of common sense and decency to point out the aberration of practice in Sri Lanka, and are able to lucidly explain to the people of the country how their assets are being robbed under their own noses, in a manner of daylight robbery by the very persons who profess to safeguard their country, security, and well being from foreigners and other powerful groups outside this country, when in fact it is the very people making the statements who are committing this crime.

It is time that the people of Sri Lanka know what has been happening in the name of patriotism, by a group of people, who only have their personal interests at the center, using the machinery of the government to spread lies, falsehoods and agitate people over non events, while stealthily robbing the life savings of all who live here. This is done with the connivance of many whose silence is bought.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

The people’s EPF retirement savings is used to prop up Balance of Payments

Following on from the previous related blog entries of the past few days, I note that a further sale of a chunk of another Conglomerate, Aitken Spence was made to a foreign entity as it was another case of doing whatever was necessary to get some more exchange into the coffers in a day the Governor of the Central Bank made his usual brash statement that ‘the Rupee would bounce back shortly to previous levels.’ It actually dropped to Rs 130 to the US$ today.

The stock market is in the dumps, the government is selling the EPF funds that are managed by the Central Bank only to overseas investors who will bring in foreign currency. So they are selling these assets at rock bottom levels, and as the rupee has depreciated, they look even cheaper if you are a foreigner as you only have to put out fewer dollars to buy this stock. I do not know when it will end, and if the govt. is selling all the investments of the EPF in the stock market as that is all they can sell for dollars?

Please think of this logic. The EPF MUST be independent of the govt. as it consists of the pension funds of the private sector workers. The govt. has NO right to dispose of this in this fire sale manner as it will only affect the final amounts available to be paid out to the pensioners. This action therefore is against the people of Sri Lanka and as these workers are unable to comprehend the nuances of investment are unable to agitate for restoration of their rights that have been usurped and stolen by the Govt.

It must also be remembered that if there is a grave balance of payments crisis, I have pointed out that the rupee would drop further to the 150 level, at which time foreigners can move in and take up the stock market picking up shares cheap and in the process drive up the market to an extent. When this happens these shares would have been sold cheaply, further aiding my argument that the savings of the private sector is being squandered to help the govt. get over crisis of their own making and not by those whose money is being robbed.

My argument is that the Govt. should bring in direct investment partners to invest in Sri Lanka, and thereby attract foreign funds, by making investments attractive. Sadly this was caboshed by the Act to take over private underutilized assets, so it leaves the govt. with fewer choices, but to raid the EPF to save their bacon.

In conclusion it is obvious to the rational observer that political appointees (either Nivard Cabraal or PB Jayasundera_) MUST not determine the manner in which the EPF is managed and how they invest their funds for the benefit of the millions of Sri Lankan pensioners. It MUST be immediately handed over to professional managers even from overseas if the independent talent does not exist in Sri Lanka so that the working people of this country are not hostage to disastrous economic policies of those in power that are merely directed at staying in power and not of developing a country with good governance and sound financial principles.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Morons Rule - CSE - SEC - STOCK BROKERS so Investors Suffer

The Crisis of Investor Confidence due to the introduction of the CSE’s ATS7.1 System Upgrade to the computerized trading desk.

The performance in 2012 of the crisis hit Sri Lanka Stock Exchange has been disastrous and many small investors have lost their life savings, taking up shares based on recommendations of Brokers who have helped many large investors, to pump and dump. There has been no one whose license has been suspended due to this kind of action, adding further proof that it is heavily weighted against the small investor who should invest using fundamental principles of stock market investing.

Added to this the CSE has introduced a disastrous new trading system, that has left even Brokers in despair due to the lack of commonsense in its new functions. It goes to show that those who developed it do not understand stock market dynamics, and most of all the Colombo Stock Exchange (CSE) does not understand that either, as it was they who introduced it after spending an obscene amount of money, which even they are embarrassed to disclose. Most of the top brass would have to resign for such brazen lack of financial conservatism. It is not their money, so they do not care attitude!!

In other countries the Board would take responsibility for the mess, and resign and also fire all the staff directly involved in permitting the introduction of the ill fated system, as they are playing with the hard earned money of hundreds of thousands of small investors, the people most vulnerable in this sort of disastrous introduction. BUT NO, NOT IN SRI LANKA that does not happen as higher ups make sure they warm their seats for as long as they can get away with the charade or until they are found out. Most people at the top are their by chance, and NOT competence.

I note below an extract of the comments made by the CEO of the CSE taken from a recent issue of the Island newspaper and I quote:

She also said that the brokers were consulted at the time that the system was upgraded from ATS 4 to 7.1 for which their approval was provided and also from the Rules Committee and the Boards of the of the Colombo Stock Exchange and the Securities and Exchange Commission. "It was at that time that it was decided that the normal lot and the odd lots will be on the same board unlike in the manual system. That is why many people are upset and brokers and investors were concerned about the share trading and the fragmentation of the share," she said.

If one accepts this statement, then I implicate all brokers in this as well as both CSE and SEC. What does this mean? It simply states that our whole stock market related experts are incompetent. No one has accepted responsibility, naturally as they are all seen as donkeys. I would say they are all asses. This is a terrible indictment of the people who run, manage and regulate the Stock Market of Sri Lanka that they know nothing about the purchase and sale of stocks. We expect to attract foreign in Investment! you've got to be kidding!

In a highly illiquid market, when one allows trading odd lots, (even a share trade of 1 share in the system to automatically allocated from a say 100,000 shares put for sale at Rs1) then the ridiculousness of the system is apparent, when even the seller has to incur trading costs (due to minimum charges) of 20 times the value of the share put up for sale! How on earth was this permitted? And passed the scrutiny of our so called experts?

I would say sack the lot of them, including fine all the brokers Rs5M each for not pointing this out. It is only then that future proposals will get the knowledge of capable people to inspect, disect and comment sensibly on a proposal using basic common sense. It appears to me that common sense is not one of the capabilities of our financial services industry. Does the public realize that they rely on financial information from their advisers who have now proven to be incompetent at their jobs.

It is time we set up independent advisory firms specializing in giving unbiased information for a fee, and who should be held accountable, and against whom there would be recourse to the law for misleading and suspect information. I somehow doubt this will happen in my lifetime, but it is nevertheless worth a stab at proposing, implementing and shouting loud about it so the investing public are aware of the shenanigans taking place under the noses of a bunch of incompetent buffoons who appear to run the Regulatory Industry aka CSE!!

I am aware how a transaction of one share can affect market cap, and all the trading statistics incorrectly, enabling mischief makers to constantly manipulate the stock indices to suit their own purposes. This has been made even easier since the introduction of the ATS 7.1 version. In fact it should have been made more difficult, so even the proposed upgrade is regressive and not progressive.

I appeal therefore for common sense,(‘Kalpanakaranna’ a recurring theme in this blog) in introducing an upgrade to the trading desk platform. Otherwise the damage it will do is incalculable, apart from the damage that has already been done. It is with regret that I note that few financial journalists have commented on this vital news, as I suspect even they are incompetent in understanding the problem, not well versed in how stocks are traded. All this leaves the poor investor SCREWED.

Friday, March 16, 2012

ALL EPF STOCKS ARE FOR SALE ONLY IF YOU ARE FOREIGN: The Malaysians just bought their stake in JKH a few hours ago for Rs14B

I just cannot understand how two faced this Government is! Just think they go on and lie to the public that they will not privatize or sell any assets to foreigners and guess what. EPF are under instructions to sell as much of their stock holdings as possible ONLY to foreigners. We locals are not allowed to buy this. These deals are negotiated ones, so they may even sell at below the current already depressed stock prices, giving the foreigners a BARGAIN. I do not trust this govt. so I will not be surprised that there are backhanders galore in this sale to foreigners.

I just noted that EPF have sold an 8.8% stake of JKH to a Malaysian Sovereign Wealth Fund. So now it is another sale of part of the largest Conglomerate in Sri Lanka sold ONLY to a foreign govt. owned fund. The Malaysians already own Dialog, and SLT did you know that? The latter sale was also a questionable deal as it was also the Japanese Stake that was bargain price sold to the Malaysians.

I have no problem with assets being sold to foreigners, if the Govt. came clean and told the public that it is OK for foreigners to own companies that the Govt. fools the people as being Sri Lankan, like SLT for example. Ask any Sri Lankan who owns SLT and Mobitel (have you seen the ADS?) and they will tell you it is the Government of Sri Lanka. It is really one of the Malaysia’s richest businessmen who owns it, one whose family were ethnic Tamil from Sri Lanka who made their fortune in Malaysia.

I am cool with the actual sales, the Govt. needs the dollars to save our bacon, having squandered all our money into their personal pockets, so now they want to sell the other assets of the State and the people such as EPF and take a share of that too, due to the severe foreign exchange shortage they have got into. So this traitorous act by the Government of President Rajapakse must be highlighted as it is discriminating against the citizens of Sri Lanka due to the ruling that the shares must be sold ONLY to foreigners. The latter reason being that they desperately need foreign funds. But what about the foreigners who sell their other Sri Lanka stocks and buy these shares. Then there is no net inflow of funds. The logic by the govt. of the latter is that this will prevent the money from the sale of shares being repatriated abroad, further worsening the balance of payments crisis!!

It all sounds a load of bunk to the uninitiated but trust me that is the case, and all the evidence is there to prove my case convincingly. Let us hope the people of Sri Lanka will wake up and realize that this Govt. is only cloaking their treachery well

Monday, March 12, 2012

How do we explain this regular phenomenon in Sri Lanka? Mob revenge

I was just reading a blog article by the ‘Sri Lankan Doctor’s Comments’ today where he was asking how we explain the happenings after the killing of the doctor in Karandeniya, where the suspects homes were set on fire and various acts of revenge took place, and also of the more recent Kahawatte murders, where the home of the brother of the accused was torched and burnt. In similar fashion, I would note that if a vehicle knocks down a pedestrian or a cyclist, the fault is automatically assumed to be that of the driver of the vehicle, and direct vengeance is meted out on the driver. In the latter case as a driver, I know how irresponsible pedestrians and cyclists can be and they are just as capable of causing the accident in which they are killed or maimed, and then the driver is lynched by an enraged mob, as it is assumed that the bigger vehicle was responsible.

I am sure a psychologist will be able to explain this phenomenon, but it happens in countries where people get highly emotional and end up causing a lot of damage. It is in this similar light that innocent Tamil homes were looted and torched, as well as the insane murders that took place 1983 because people were assumed to be Tamil. A bizarre form of questioning was used to determine if one was Tamil, before they were subject to torture or death, even though the person could be a foreigner being at the wrong place at the wrong time.

How do we as a civilized society prevent people, usually unrelated to the issue, taking the law into their own hands? Is this part of educating people that the law should take its course? Or is it that the people have little faith in the justice system and Law and Order to allow proper punishment once the crime can be ascertained?

It is important that all steps are taken to educate the public that such responses MUST cease as it is not the practice to kill or maim people just because someone in the audience has made the conclusion that the person is guilty. There MUST be due process of law to ascertain guilt, and the punishment should then fit the crime. The liability to compensate must be swift, as an injured party often needs immediate redress, and not have to wait till the slow pace of justice takes its course, by which time the aggrieved may have suffered massively one way or another due to delay.

A further point must be made that this kind of Kangaroo Court may administer swift justice, but it will not under any circumstances assist the aggrieved party to obtain justice or compensation that is rightly due. Society must have confidence that the real guilty will be punished in accordance to the law to stop this practice.

It is important to be able to address this senseless violence where the law of the jungle applies, to inflame the pack instinct into people hiding under collective guilt to commit crimes in the guise of acts of revenge. Otherwise we as a nation cannot pretend to have a sense of balance or rational thought. Something to ponder on.

Comments more than welcome.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

The sinister war we have forgotten – that still rages on with political blessing

Now that all the triumphalism is past on elimination of the LTTE as a threat in Sri Lanka we must seriously do battle with the war on drugs, which with the latest drug busts as evidence, is taking an ominous turn, where Sri Lanka is now an entreport in the drug trade with massive amounts of drugs entering and leaving this country from production source and on its way to destination.

Due to the greed and lure of big money, there is LEAKAGE into the country, and much of it is carried out with the blessings of well connected people, most especially those in high political office who have the power to call off raids, busts, and prosecutions, all of which are necessary to ensure the free movement of this society crippling trade and EVIL.

Why do we need to wait for this to become one of epidemic proportions before we do something about it? The numbers of addicts in Sri Lanka are already staggering.

We have plenty of evidence of what this has done to many countries in the world. Just look at the United States whose prison population is one of the highest in the world due to the mandatory sentencing of those caught peddling drugs. If I am not mistaken, 80% of those in prison there are on drug related sentences. I do believe a great segment of the prison population in Sri Lanka is also on the same wicket, though the availability of drugs in prison is also one the authorities have failed to tackle. It is therefore becoming an issue which we will NOT be able to handle.

In drug offences there are many related crimes which are hideous. You do not want a loved one to be killed just so that someone wanted Rs500 for a fix! That is all that it will take an addict to kill you for. Now take the recent Kahawatte double murders. What I can gather from the Press today is that a mother and daughter inadvertently stumbled on a stash of drugs in a neighbor’s home. The peddlers a senior government minister’s Coordinating Secretary, a PS member and his brother amongst others have now been implicated. Remember to be so blatant one MUST have political support and all politicians need a lot of money to carry out their campaigns and to pay off campaign related debts, so they get into all sorts dubious fund raising schemes including drug dealing to satisfy this craving to win.

We MUST IMMEDIATELY take all steps necessary as we now have the Armed Forces, to STAMP OUT the drug menace in Sri Lanka once and for all, as we are doomed, despite winning the war on terror. We would certainly have failed our citizens even more if we do not win the WAR ON DRUGS.