Sunday, April 29, 2012

The Electricity Conundrum – The smart approach to reducing consumption

I find it very surprising that I have not read anywhere in the English or Sinhala press all of which I have access to on a daily basis to refer to the rationale of the Government’s decision to award a period of free electricity or 50% cut on the bill for those who reduce consumption, by a significant amount. There are many electrical engineers who can subscribe their ideas to this debate, and explain to the uninitiated about the load factors and peaks in consumption.

In line with this pronouncement, the maximum load on Sri Lanka’s power supply is during the hours 6.30 and 9.30 and if we switch off about 100W of power at that time in each household, the loss of the CEB would be reduced by far more than the loss of revenue therefrom. It must also be understood that it translates into a lower budget deficit as the loss is financed by that deficit. So if we are really patriotic, in order that we can help our country we MUST try and in that period reduce our power usage.

In other countries the electricity board provides hugely subsidized quality CFL bulbs, which if our Board also could take a leaf from would help a long way to reduce power consumption. However we cannot trust our Minister to get them at a reasonable price without giving his benefactors the right to skimm a portion. The latter point was made due to proposal he had made to build a CFL plant in SL which would have resulted in high cost low quality CFL bulbs which was not put at the interests of the Nation, but on other considerations.

I do not wish to belabor the point about the careful use of street lighting, with automatic time based switches which will disable the lights during daylight hours, a huge embarrassment of high cost that is not currently managed well.

I come to another more fundamental point, where if we went back to international time zone we had before we reverted back to the Indian Time zone, we can further reduce our peak consumption by a substantial amount as the daylight saving principle kicks in and there is daylight for a longer period, ensuring lower power usage. The problem has been the astrological slavery of some our leaders and protagonists seem to overpower the principles of conservation and saving the world for future generations. In short a very greedy philosophy!

To get back to the original point, the reduction in power usage means that at the margin, the least productive power station is shut. The one that costs the most in Rs/KW to run. Usually one that uses imported diesel fuel or other refined fuel products cost the most to run. It is important to explain to our population, instead of keeping them in a dark pretending that the Govt. is Santa Claus, by showing why it is they are asking for a reduction in electricity usage. Our people should not be assumed to be fools as the Government prefers to treat them, but people who can understand common sense!

The Government has made huge blunders in their assessment of cost of power production, and have messed up all the new power projects by fair means or knowingly for private gain.

It is up to the opposition to explain the cockups of the Govt. power projects, while it is up to the Govt. to try and help the country by explaining the need for the reduction in power consumption. The overall objective is to provide power that is not wasted, to as many people in the country as practically possible at a reasonable cost.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

New to Politics – Part 2 of 2 – How to balance? – Spending

In the second part I will concentrate on how a politician spends to get the best bang for his buck especially for one in the opposition, without any state largesse or robbery to depend on. That in itself is worthy of another discussion!

What is the objective? It is to obtain as much empathy from a potential voter, so that he or she will be likely to vote for you at election time, which for all intents and purposes is 6 years for a Parliamentarian, 5 years for a Provincial Councillor and 4 years for a Pradeshiya Sabha Member. (includes Municipal Councillors)

How does one achieve this? In two words, it is Social Service, if one is in opposition, due to the minimal amounts available from the consolidated fund to distribute to your electors as largesse for support. The rest is from personal funds, either out of one’s own pocket or from friends and well wishes who offer and pay for activities in the hope that one day when you can once elected return the favor and then some, a sort of investment in the future, with value unknown!!!

We then have to separate this from personal and communal assistance. The word is to avoid as much personal help as what that does is to anger those who do not receive personal help, in the belief they are more deserving. So it is to be avoided at all cost, and in exceptional circumstances, where one attends a funeral of someone known to you, who has helped, and who needs some assistance to pay for the funeral some money at the time of attending the funeral is the order of the day!

Whilst one does not associate funerals with spending it is the most expensive recurring obligations one has. It is a matter of social prestige when an important and in this case an MP or Minister can attend a funeral. It gives a statement to the neighbors that they are (the living) important enough that so and so attended the funeral. The cost is in the time lost, and the cost of transport to get there, which can easily exceed Rs2000 for each funeral attended, when one looks at the distance one travels to get there. Of course the time when it is advisable, when there are a lot of people available to witness the presence, is to go in the evenings or at the moment of final religious rites are performed.

One must not forget that it is usual for the MPs office, to put a banner expressing his condolences at a funeral for those who come to the funeral to see, just as much at express condolences, as it is usually with other banners from the workplace of a close relative of the deceased or the deceased him/herself. The cost of transport to place this along with the labor cost of the driver and other I a vehicle and the cost of retrieving is no small sum, that needs to be appreciated in this instance.

The Organizer of an electorate has the biggest burden. He may have to underwrite a bus taking a protestors or party members for a meeting, demonstration or similar. Then he has to host the local government members for monthly meetings to discuss strategy at the local govt. meetings on what is to be discussed and raised.

The Sinhala Avurudhu time is especially heavy on the pocket, as some contribution is requested for each festival in their area. Then at Vesak and Poson, dansalas come along that require contribution or in some cases sponsorship. The most wasteful are the evening Sangeethayas that some put on to show and attract a lot of young people, as it is a way for one to be remembered especially if the bash is a very good and memorable one.

Then the placing of banners and posters, the hosting of party elders and meeting including stages if necessary when they come into to town for the local elections and the meals that follow and the booze that is regulatory! Require funding.

Cards have to be sent for Avurudhu or the New Year to all constituency members one has on one’s database. To say nothing of the office that one is obliged to set up in a constituency in the case of an organizer and the costs of the staff and running of the office, including endless refreshments.

Each polling booth has three shakas, for the main party, ladies and the youth. In the case of a constituency this can amount to 200 groups of 20 or more. This involves a commitment to go to their meetings or set them up and ensure that there are local activities organized by them for which some contribution is expected.

Contributions are requested on an adhoc basis for local events, sponsorships of a sports meet, community event, where the first person the fundraiser turns to is the local political representative. The strain can be enormous and managing this spend to the maximum benefit, while minimizing its overall cost is a very hard trapeze act that has to be maintained to prevent one from being dislodged from position, as that is when one gets a stab at being a candidate at the next available election.

Occasionally there are people attempting to unseat you from your position by spending more and getting people to turn to that other person. This then opens up a competition to show who can outspend the other. It gets dirty when that sort of thing happens. That is when money power can overtake justice in party loyalty and longevity to the detriment of the latter. It is very important to be aware of this possibility and constantly be prepared to take countermeasures when threats are apparent. No wonder rich people can sleep soundly in politics, others are in debt! Or beholden to others like slaves, so can you contemplate a future in clean politics?

Friday, April 27, 2012

New to Politics – Part 1 of 2 – How to balance? – People

I have been exposed to the ways of politics now for over a year. This was because I was forced to sideline my farming vocation, by a serious injury sustained as a result of my vehicle being completely crushed 15months ago. My life completely turned upside down with nowhere to go, and unable to walk when the Police Escort Jeep of the convoy carrying the Cabinet Minister of Justice, Hakeem on his way to Batticaloa skidded and bashed me on the driver’s side of my pick up in Minneriya, while I was carrying my weekly produce from Hingurakgoda to Colombo.

So I was fortunate to be able to work as a Coordinating Secretary in the Colombo office of a notable opposition politician representing the Gampaha District, the most populous of the Country’s Districts. In this essay I wish to point out the issues of balancing our program in the District without upsetting existing politicians of the same party in the District. This is due to the electoral politics due to the Proportional Representation system in place today. It is in short the fight for preferences.

I am currently not seeking political office, so I do not have a personal agenda and am just trying to do my job, one of which is to provide my input into resurrecting the dormant National Youth Front a youth organization that has representation in every Electorate in the Country. This is a unique chance of having active members male and female between the ages of 15 and 35 in every nook and cranny in Sri Lanka.

It gives me an amazing insight into the issues of the young people in different parts of the country and their ability or lack of in gaining access to the opportunities in the labor market. We are in the midst of creating a program that gives each and every one of our members to participate in life skills, leadership training, sports clubs, and social service in addition to the main task of orienting them in our political philosophy which we strongly believe in to enable them and the citizens of this country to live in comfort and content, without concern and prejudice in our paradise land.

I am in the process of contacting all the Electoral Organizers in the Country to give us the names of young people in their area, we can include in our program to enable us to complete the task of setting up youth groups in every polling station, all 15,000 in the Island. Their fear is if they give us these names we will hijack their people to our leaders, in lieu of them as some of them are not as organized as we are and who may pose a threat to their political future and aspirations for higher office.

I observe the biggest challenge is with people in our fold, who feel that giving us help is like taking their votes from them. They are simply unable to see the big picture in that they will benefit in the long run, as we are setting the foundation to permanently increase the following to our party, by carrying out a program of attracting youth to join us, as compared with the others in the land. We believe when we get the young person who has never voted in the past into our cause it is a better than even chance that they may stay life-long within the party and some be committed to the cause the Political Party espouses.

It is not the place here to explain the PR voting system where preferences count. In simple terms, for anyone in a particular party to be elected, he or she has to obtain as many preferences. So he is likely to picture himself as better than one of his rivals in the same party as he is attempting to get as many preferences to him to be elected. What they fail to realize is that when more people vote the party in irrespective of preferences, the number of elected representatives from the party also increase, thereby ensuring more down the line of preferences also gets in.

The added issue with regard to youth, is if we are to do our job well, the young leader we have created will pose a threat to the older member and he feels his vote may diminish at the expense of the youth, or that the youth will have more preferences in the order of priority where he may become subservient to someone much younger. This threat is something we appear to face on a daily basis, as there is always some reason why other local government representatives are reluctant to help us in our work.

The fine art of being able to achieve your objective with the least threat created from the others on your side is the winner in this system of electoral reform. There are many who desperately wish this to end, as it often dislodges senior party figures due to the presence of more active youth to elected office.

In our circumstance we have one who is a senior seeking office in Gampaha District, who does not like to assist a junior who currently is NOT seeking higher office, but whose threat of one day seeking the similar (provincial council) means that he does what he can to belittle the NYF member who is less experienced and does not help him to get ahead with bringing him contacts that can help our overall goals of the NYF of attracting as many young people to our cause.

This straight up 'setting up barriers' to our overall goal, to satisfy 'personal goals' is what we have inherited from a system that purports to be fairer than the first past the post system, where a party simply selects a nominee to seek office to compete with others in other political parties. I do not want to feel my ‘loves labors lost!!’ for all the effort I am currently putting into making the task ahead a success.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Education – Bandula – who says O level pass rates will rise to 80% by 2016?

The Education Minister in a statement yesterday stated that the pass rate from O levels will increase from 40% in 2001 to 80% in 2016. To the uninitiated this sounds like a wonderful goal. To a realist they can see right through mischievous words of a disingenuous politician, trying to get credit for something he has not done. Remember it is easy for the Education Department to lower the standards and raise the pass rates. So playing a numbers game with the real issue of educating our future (generation) is a challenge that MUST be faced without artful semantics meant to confuse, and obfuscate the listener.

I refer again to the hugely important task of focusing the Government’s attention to Education, with emphasis on Primary Education especially so that these products can then graduate with a better foundation into the secondary streams with more tools at their disposal. The challenges are many, with a refocus on training good teachers. With regard to the latter point, yesterday’s papers stated that there were over 3000 recently graduated teachers from Teacher Training School who had yet to receive appointments to schools. Obviously there is a severe bureaucratic block in ensuring the smooth flow of duties and responsibilities in the Education Dept. reeling from the aftermath of the Z score fiasco.

I cannot emphasize enough the immediate need to agree on a policy of teaching, so that our future generations are better able to cope in an environment where they will have to bear greater burdens at an earlier stage and due to demographic shifts have to support those who are not in the workforce. This added strain will cause a breakdown of the social structure unless the individual is prepared to face these massive challenges.

It is clearer that education from primary is not just ABC but far more sophisticated in being able to live in a society that is more tolerant of others, learning to overcome and not fear, as fear begets hatred. Optimism in the future and not pessimism is the way to survive in this century and from my experience our youth are woefully short of these skills, looking to have their hands held in their twenties, not knowing what they want, how to get it, and how to manage what they get!

Let us improve our education not just by O level results, which is but just one criteria of achievement. Sport, leadership development, life skills are all part of this process, which is gradually instilled at the primary age. We CANNOT rely on parents today, due to their lack of understanding brought out by their parents who handed this over to schools which failed at the task.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

The thorny subject of removing places of religious worship

For those who respect the rule of law and the constitution, Sri Lanka is a multi- religious and multi-cultural society. Therefore the protection of religions, and cultures is enshrined in the Constitution, unlike some countries that are not similarly tolerant. If we want to change the status from that to one of a Buddhist state then that should be done in a legal manner in line with either a change in the constitution or a plebiscite if the constitution so provides.

No matter what religious bigots may profess, Sri Lanka has not as a nation, taken responsibility for exclusively protecting Theravada Buddhism or that the country is solely a Buddhist country. The constitution just states that “Buddhism should be safeguarded and nourished” and if that wording is open to interpretation, we may have to ask the Supreme Court to determine what was meant by that statement.

In the latest incident in appears to me that the Prime Minister who is also the Minister of Buddhist Affairs has intervened in a knee jerk manner, by making false statements of the agreement of Muslim leaders in Government for the relocation of a mosque which is supposedly currently situated within the confines of the designated sacred area around the Dambulla Temple. I do not know the facts, and I find that it is confusing to ascertain the truth from the media, which shamefully has not been able to clearly explain the situation.

Forgive me if I have the facts wrong, but in areas designated for a religion, another religion cannot erect places of worship. The question then is when this area was designated a sacred area in 1982, was the mosque in question, in a small or another building in existence? If so, why was it not an issue all this time? Apparently there is a Hindu Temple also within the sacred area, which should also be removed. It is therefore not in order to suddenly raise this issue, and take the law into their hands and try to remove or demolish it without due process. Why now?

The law of the land must be addressed first. The trustees of the Dambulla Temple must get legal advice in the matter as to what it is they can do. The law of the jungle as it applied a few days ago is just a very thuggish illegal act. Knowing the law, the delicate issue must be addressed with the local Muslims who are the worshippers at this mosque, and determine if a compromise solution can be found.

The offer of the Dambulla Raja Maha Vihara of funds to rebuild the mosque in another location at this stage is out of order, until the legal issues are settled, and a solution sought through the Courts. Unfortunately both sides have taken this issue in an emotional manner, not conducive to proper discussion.

Religion is a very emotive issue and in the Sri Lanka context where it is uniquely placed giving holidays for all four religions’ holy days, on the surface religious tolerance is enshrined. However beneath this veneer there are religious zealots in all the faiths, but as Buddhism, is the main religion, there are more from this camp, who question the rights of other religions that are enshrined in the constitution.

In a period of other problems, the Government of the day uses religious fervor over an incident to garner favor, not caring for the rights of a minority. This to me is what appears to have happened. To them a religious dispute such as the one we are engaged in right now and which still has to be resolved, is perfect fodder to their electoral base that they are protecting Sinhala Buddhists from other religious threats, to secure a vote bank by this trickery and treachery to stay in power.

There is no question that religious intolerance appears to be fermented by the Clergy who are clearly with the Govt. camp, and the Govt. has taken the view that this issue is one of an asset to them, when they are seen to be defending the rights of Buddhists from infidels. They will stoop at nothing to stay in power.

Furthermore the precedent set by this action, does not bode well for religious freedom, where any area technically can be designated a sacred area for Buddhists, and any construction prior to that designation, can be removed. This invests a lot of power to the local priest to ask for extra lands to be designated to the local temple, especially when there are other religious places of worship in the vicinity. It is therefore very unsafe for any other religion, to see the lack of the rule of law in such situations, and the perceived law of the jungle in operation, where sense is absent.

This regrettable state of affairs, where a few powerful interests can circumvent and subvert the rule of law, can ignite another wave of protests by the religion under fire with resulting dire consequences.

It is most important that all actions are taken only once a good legal team determines what is acceptable and what is outside the law. Otherwise Banana Republic tag where there is no respect for law and order will be result for SL. It is not worth casting doubt over the intention of the Country, as it will affect the investment climate adversely as an example and it is important that proper legal measures are taken in a transparent manner to solve this matter as soon as possible.

It takes a responsible enlightened government to nip this in the bud, otherwise the consequences can be diabolical and missed opportunities regretted. I therefore appeal to the powers to act responsibly with leadership to what is right and just.

Not what the gallery want.

Monday, April 23, 2012

A reminder – International Mother Earth Day – 22nd April 2012

It was interesting to note that there were two references in the Sri Lankan Sinhala blogosphere to the Earth day today and none in the Sri Lankan English blogosphere. I used to live in the United States where this day was remembered in a very big way in many states with a lot of events, to draw attention to the rapidly diminishing resources, and the United States responsibility as the largest emitter of Carbon emissions and the biggest contributor to global warming. I understand that China with its rapid development has now surpassed that of the US in emissions and now considered the largest polluter in the world. In any case we must do what we can in our small way to understand the problem and try and reduce the carbon footprint as the word is known today. In the globalized world we cannot keep to our borders and think we are safe. We MUST never forget that what others do affects us and vice versa. We are no longer isolated, we are one world no matter what we do to stop people from entering other countries!! What each of us does, affects the other in a favorable or unfavorable manner, and we MUST be aware of that.
In that same vein it is important that we explain to those who do not know or understand, how interdependent we are on each other. The climate change issue is still with us, and that is a prime example of this interdependence. Despite a recent lull in our focus thereon, with a zillion other more important and pressing issues we have to face, we must not lose sight of this issue everyday and make it a point to educate our children from the beginning to respect, understand and safeguard the rights to which they are born, so that we will have something to pass on to future generations, without subjecting them to a fate we do not wish for ourselves.
I did not find much reference to the Earth Day in the written printed media in Sinhala and English over the weekend and we must remind ourselves that the “Jagath Mihithala Dinaya” is commemorated every April 22nd. It is worth googling the Earth Day to get information on the origin of this, begun in the US and then spread internationally in 1990, check out the web site, for additional information in that and other related web sites.
In an interesting turn of events, I like to think that medium of the internet where items like blogs and digital images can be stored in cyber space, that we can use less resources like paper, and keep all our records in digital format saving the loss of trees for paper just as one item on the agenda of success of new technology, that is compatible with sustainability of resources. We do not need school books either!

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

The Wadduwa case – death in police custody - April 15th 2012

From what I have been able to glean, and if anyone has more accurate facts, please feel free to comment, this is a summary of what appears to have happened. Mr Chandraisiri Dassanayake, a 42 yr father of three, was a main witness in a Human Rights Violation case against the Wadduwa Police. This case is pending.

I have no idea what the case was, but for example, if I witnessed a man in a police cell being mercilessly beaten by the OIC or others under his orders, and that man made FR case and used my name as a witness then it would be me that the OIC would consider as more of a threat to his position, than even the man who was mercilessly beaten. I might add that this merciless beating has been a common practice in Sri Lanka since the setting up of a police force. There are rules now about it to prevent this kind of behavior and legal redress in case of violation, but some in positions of power think they are above the law, being egged on by politicians for whom they do their bidding and continue this practice today. You can ask any opposition politician how many cases of police brutality are brought to their attention each month, and nothing is done about!

So this man Dassanayake was later arrested for possession of Ganja on April 15th 2012 and was in a cell in the Wadduwa police station when he was later discovered to have died, I believe it was the same day, though it could have been the day after.

The IGP in his wisdom has transferred the OIC (officer - in -charge) to Mount Lavinia, and the others to other stations. The transfer is the normal practice in such incidents, and has been in use forever as a means to convince the public that something has been done. If one reads the comments on this transfer on the Daily Mirror website, it is like he has got a promotion!!

A rational human being will ask why has this man not been interdicted or at least sent on leave prior to the investigation been completed? That is the least that can be done when there is suspected foul play. Sri Lanka police cells are notorious places for discovering suspects dead!! The police force does not think twice about resorting to this practice and I am advocating that in future, until an investigation is completed that the people under whom the suspect was incarcerated, be suspended.

The police force cannot use the age old excuse that it would reduce the morale of the force, it is simply a case of the force protecting its own, and so justice fails and the nation suffers. (Remember the website is dedicated to the betterment of the quality of life of all who live in Serendipity)

When we do not have a police commission to independently oversee this force, it is doubly important that justice is seen to be done, which clearly is not in this case as I can ascertain from the facts. I rather think this incident will just disappear from news and we will not hear its conclusion, let alone a guilty party if any, being sentenced to this crime. More to the point, the main witness in the HR violation case being dead, means the ORIGINAL case may not get a fair hearing anymore, and the suspects or culprits will go free. If that happens and there is no prosecution in this case, the message is “KILL ALL WITNESSES AND YOU GO FREE”.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

CP de Silva – it is a sign of the era that we have forgotten his due place in contemporary history!

CP de Silva’s 100th birth was anniversary was yesterday and I referred to it in my previous blog entry yesterday. I am on my farm in Godagama, today and I was in touch with my contacts in Minneriya and Hingurakgoda to ask if they even knew about it considering the man dedicated most of his life for those people. It was a firm no there is no commemoration. People do not even remember him anymore. So much for our generation and their history; people who live in the houses he supervised and built, have not even heard of the man.

When DS Senanayake’s Minneriya colonization scheme was about to crumble due to a host of problems it fell to CP to resurrect it and do what was necessary to retain the people, improve their livelihood, and attract more people to the homesteads and houses he had built. In those heady days of the 1930’s when Malaria was the scourge, and drinking water was so hard to come by, let alone getting the water through complicated gradient irrigation to the land from the tanks. In those days CP walked miles in the hot sun, heat and supervised the activity personally. He and the villagers had to contend with wild elephants, both to protect their crops, and also their lives. It was not easy and no lesser man could have achieved all that.

There was an interesting comment, to my previous blog entry, I had not considered. CP had got a first class in Mathematics at University College in Colombo and then went to the UK to finish his degree, before returning to Lanka to join the Ceylon Civil Service. The commenter said that if he pursued his Mathematics in the UK he may have become a world renowned mathematician!

His achievements in his motherland were sufficient, and he needs no greater what ifs. It is just that the memory of him, what he did and an inspiration and example of real politics to us today, that is what I would have liked from a commemoration, as we have so few who have given up so much for a cause we passionately believed.

His nephew Chanaka de Silva, who I believe now owns the CP Nivasa in Minneriya, I used to stay in years ago, is married to a relative of mine. I hope I can persuade him at least to fund a small book about his life, in his memory to commemorate his 40th death anniversary which falls in October.

I think a biography of a man who missed out on being the Prime Minister twice, once under the SLFP and the other under the UNP is worthy of being published, when one considers some of what is written. It should be written as a guide for future politicians of whatever hue, as an example of true patriotism.

I also suspect that today's elected leaders, even those local councilors who should have organized an event at least at his statue in Hingurakgoda, are fearful that people might awake to the fact that in times gone by there were honest politicians who took not an inch of state property for personal gain! This so that their daily robbery of the people's money by the surest way, namely partaking in state contracts will come to light. Shame on them, and their followers, for they are attempting to establish a tradition of taking from the people rather than selflessly giving to the people.

It is this latter trait I really would have liked to have illustrated in any function in his memory.

Monday, April 16, 2012

'Minneriya Deviyo' - Born 100 years ago today - CP de Silva – he could have been the Prime Minister – born 16th April 1912

He was a Civil Servant, who was also a GA for Anuradhapura and Polonnaruwa being junior to my Grand Father (CBP Perera who was a specialist in land development) and was a later an MP for Polonnaruwa from 1952 through to 1970. He was Minister of Land development, then Agriculture, Lands, Irrigation and Power from 1956 through to 1970(at which time he was my grandfather’s boss when he was CPs permanent secretary till he retired in 1963) under both an SLFP and later under Dudley Senanayake’s 1965 to 1970 UNP government, and deputy prime minister as well. It is said that when SWRD Bandaranayake was assassinated, CP should have been the automatic choice for Prime Minister, but owing to fate as noted in an article I extracted from the net, it fell to Mrs Sirimavo! How the fate of the nation could have changed had that happened:

“The senior leader of ability and stature in the SLFP was Charles Percival de Silva (C.P. de Silva). Born in 1912, CP as he was known was an old Thomian and an ex-civil servant. He retired early as a Government Agent and entered Parliament in 1952.CP was Minister of Lands, Irrigation and Power in the Cabinet and also Leader of the House. He was widely regarded as S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike’s able deputy and potential successor.

However, CP was taken ill after a Cabinet meeting on 25 August 1959. He had drunk a glass of milk in the boardroom where the Cabinet met. It was suspected that the glass contained some vegetable-derived poisonous substance. The intended victim was supposed to be the Prime Minister himself. CP’s condition proved so critical that he had to go to London for medical treatment. It was in this manner that fate played a trick on CP.

While CP was yet in London, his Prime Minister too was scheduled to go abroad in late September. S.W.R.D. was to go to Britain and the USA. Prior to his departure, S.W.R.D. made arrangements for Education Minister Wijayananda Dahanayake to be sworn in as Acting Premier to be in charge during his absence from the country. Had CP been in Colombo, he and not Dahanayake would have been acting for Bandaranaike.”

The 100th Birth of Charles Percival de Silva falls today. He died on 9th October 1972. He was born to a prominant Balapitiya family. His sister the first female pediatrician, Dr Stella de Silva died days ago and whose funeral was yesterday.

It is sad that only MrKHJ Wijedasa who worked under him in the Civil Service is the only person who has remembered this date and contributed all the articles that have been written about him in all the Sunday publications and the internet. Such is the fate of the good! and

I recommend that an interested student of Rajarata history read this article, as it gives a perspective of the impeccable character of the man, someone we rarely find today. I quote from the first two paragraphs to give the reader a flavor as to why HE MUST read this article to better understand some of Sri Lanka’s understated heroes, so we can encourage future generations to emulate such persons.

Men of great distinction and high calibre such as Charles Percival de Silva are rarely born. Such men live in the hearts of the people long after their demise. Popularly and fondly remembered as C.P. he dominated the administrative, social and political life of Sri Lanka in the mid 20th century.

C.P. was an eminent civil servant, gentleman politician and above all, a lover of humanity. His sincere dedication and selfless service to the people of Rajarata in general and the people of Polonnaruwa in particular is indeed legendary. Even today people of Polonnaruwa fondly refer to him as “our Minneriya Deviyo”.

I believe it is important that young people who live in settlements he created know who originated this, what he did for them, how he lived amongst them, and how he really believed in his mission, infused with the original concept of regaining our agricultural heritage that DS Senanayake began as Minister of Agriculture in 1935 and CP a young Civil Servant sent to Polonnaruwa then to help follow it through.

Apart from the family connection, I stayed in CP’s bungalow over 12 years ago on many occasions in Minneriya when we were helping the forces to retain people in their homes, when they were terrorized by the LTTE to abandon their land and flee, to thereby extending the land under LTTE control.

In addition as my two properties in Ratmale, Minneriya and Raja Ela, Hingurakgoda are directly related to what he did for the area, as well as the Clock Tower roundabout, where I have historical connections with all 4 statesmen, Sir John as a friend of my other grandfather appointed him Director of Information and later an Ambassador and DS and Dudley who were known to us, completes my claim to a part of Minneriya history both past and present day.

This man who had two chances to become Prime Minister but did not, is worthy of more attention to historians than he has currently been given. Due partly to the fact that he devoted his life to the people of Rajarata with whom he developed an immense empathy, there is little written about him, as he did not marry and have children who were able to document all the events of his life, as all the stories and anecdotes would have been with the people with whom he lived, who never thought of penning his life, in that they felt he would live forever. He lost the election of 1970 in the Sirima landslide by 1000 votes for the Minneriya electorate.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

The Central Bank Annual Report 2011 – Presented to the President last week

I purchased a copy of the above at the Central Bank book store at the Center for Banking Studies which opposite the Presidents College Kotte on the Parliament Road near Rajagiriya on Wednesday 11th of April 2012. Only the English version is currently in print, the Sinhala and Tamil ones will take a few more weeks to arrive, as I suspect it was prepared in English and then translated later into Sinhala and Tamil. The above photo was take from the official Govt. news website which says the President is being presented with the report in all three languages. I suspect it is three copies in English but to fool the public the forever lying makes another lie about even a simple presentation of a report. Just imagine what bigger lies they are capable of if they need to lie about the inability of the Bank to have the report in all three languages at the same time!!!

So the copy presented to the President by the Governor of the Central Bank on April 9th was the English version 3 copies of the same book so the Governor thinks he can get three time the credit for it!! costing Rs400 and comprising in excess of 600pages, not bad for the price, which must be heavily subsidized but the back of the book says it was a product of Printcare a private company, which may have obtained the contract, at a far more favorable cost than a highly inefficient and high cost Govt. Printer which was probably incapable of handling the contract.

It is a hugely detailed, comprehensive document which was purchased as a reference book as I am constantly in need of statistics when it comes to referring to some figure on another in the course of my research and in also my blog articles.
I have to rely on its accuracy, though at times I have questioned the data due to the manner in which it was collected. I do have some reservations of the recent Census Data as the enumerators, whose job it is to extract that from the households, probably do not fully understand what should and should not be included and the accuracy of the data, especially when a household, and a householder has multiple sources of income, and very often misguidedly gives one that only contributes 30% of his income, as his main income source, especially when it comes to farming!
Nevertheless full credit to the Gnomes of the Bank and the Research and Data Collection Units of the Bank, most of them fairly highly paid, educated and with foreign Masters or PhDs that dot the Bank have been involved in its preparation.

The first 200 pages are the only ones that are actually page numbers with the rest being tables of statistics of one thing or another. The numbered pages is a rosy picture of the policies adopted and the general direction of the economy, showing the economy in very good light, and upon reading this one would think one was in a developed first world country with hardly a problem that requires solving.

Go out on to the streets and nearly everyone is wondering how they can survive on the income they currently receive bearing in mind the costs of everything that they consider to be essential. I wonder if there is a huge expectation and reality gap between the two and the one area I find almost impossible to comprehend is the huge GDP per capita of US$2500 or Rs310,000 for every man woman and child.

The Report of course talks about per capita at US$2800, but that was at the exchange rate average for 2011. I have taken current rates. So if the rupee falls further, the average for 2012 may show next year that in $ terms it has fallen, and so he will change the statistics to show some other basis!! Such are some of the examples of fools accounting resorted to by the Bank which has become highly politicized, losing its fiercely independent streak much to the chagrin of most of the staffers working there.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

The Census Enumerators still to receive a stipend! – how broke is the state?

The article from which this image was taken stated that 100,000 (yes one hundred thousand) supervisors and 80,000 enumerators will take part in the census. Only in Sri Lanka can we have more supervisors than those who actually do the leg work literally.

The first proper all Island census for the last 30 years was completed less than a month ago. The enumerators picked usually by the Grama Niladari of which there are about 15,000 islandwide, were promised a payment dependent upon the households allocated to them. Usually a GN division has about 750 dwellings and on average about 5 persons would have been given the task, meaning that there are at least 75,000 people islandwide who have NOT been paid. I know the amounts are not massive. Many have other jobs and did this for some pocket money, but still having a bit of extra cash on hand for avurudhu would have been nice. We are talking in the region of Rs 5000 that is about US$40 a person.

Does the establishment have to be reminded of common decency in everything they do? We must add paying for work to the long list which includes being rude, lazy, deliberately evasive and obstructive and downright hostile to this list.

The task was not made easy due to the added information, sometimes intrusive which was required on the census questionnaire. I had to state that I did not have a TV and or music system and only a laptop for the household. Cooking is using firewood in the outhouse kitchen, the LP gas cooker in the pantry is only used to boil the fresh milk in the morning before refrigeration.

I was fortunate that the enumerator came when I was here on the farm in Godagama, as there were not even house number tags in the apartment in Gregory’s Rd let alone an enumerator!

I asked an enumerator I know, about when they expect to be paid, to which the answer was they had no idea. I am sure the submissions are being collated and inspected and some of them may be contacted again to obtain clarification from some households as to the information supplied, however that is no excuse to delay the payment to people who value any additional cash in hand.

I await the outcome of the Census data, to be able to comment on them, as it MAY reveal some surprises. However I do believe the data sheet could have been more comprehensive in being able to gather information of the family members who reside overseas, who fall into two categories, namely those who have gone for a short period, intending to return, many of whom remit funds to their families and the others who have effectively migrated, with little chance of return for permanent settlement who take a resource out, but contribute little in.

I would love to know how my house in Ratmale, Minneriya and the agricultural plot in Raja Ela, Hingurakgoda was classified in the Census data, that is if it was included at all!! Maybe I should contact the enumerators assigned there to find out. What am I classified as primarily, a farmer or a manager of one? Surely not a politician’s helper!

Friday, April 13, 2012

The special delicacies for the New Year – Spare a thought for the cook

Go back 50 years, and look at the way the traditional eats were prepared almost exclusively at homes, under wood burning fires, using clay pots and natural locally produced containers, and then consider how they are prepared today, with all the plastic, kerosene or LP gas cookers, air-tight containers into which they are put and the fewer people in the household, engaged in the preparation thereof.

The coconut oil was usually from one’s own coconuts in the garden, dried and then taken to the local mill to be pressed into coconut oil. Rice flour was either from one’s own harvest a few weeks previously, and then milled in the local mill.

I listen to people in the villages relate the stories and the fun times they had in preparing the food, I don’t see that anymore, and the young lasses fight shy of helping their mothers with the preparations, leaving the mothers struggling all hours to finish the chores of cooking and cleaning before the times when the hearth is left and cleaned before the boiling of the milk.

In urban areas people really find it very difficult to make these preparations and often rely on catering services or shops to do the needful, whilst in rural areas due to time, cost, and lack of help fewer and fewer eats are now prepared, and many young people do not even like the food, often complaining that they are not as good as the fast and convenience foods they are used to. This generation gap is widening, so much so that I fear some of these traditions passed down through the ages will disappear soon. Families now rarely having no more than two children mean that many households do not have any daughters, and if there are only sons it is left to the mother to do the needful burdening her with this chore as she sees it!

We must therefore be mindful, that despite tradition, if we are to keep the customs alive, we will have to engage the males in the family to help prepare the eats, and also to know how to do so from beginning to end.

It may be the sign of the times, but young people spend less and less time in the kitchens much to the annoyance of their parents, and carry on with their pass times watching sports on TV or spending time with friends a rarely helping around the house. It is therefore vital to know what may happen if they continue in this direction and be advised, coaxed or encourage to help their mothers and learn the art of making these foods, before it becomes too late, with no one to teach.

Let us all make an effort this season irrespective of gender to learn to prepare at least a few items of food, so we know how unique this task is for this time of year.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Redda – the ultimate casual outer wear around the home and about town!

As we move from a rural based society to urban, we appear to lose some of the gloss of the traditions, foods, dresses and games associated with the New Year. I would like to concentrate on commenting on those who actually make the delectable preparations we imbibe in so greedily at New Year, and wait eagerly to eat some fresh preparations of Mun Kavun or Halape or a host of other foods.

Before I get into that, I want to mention an incident yesterday, just before we left our work place to family or our homes in different parts of the country. We were all given material from our boss on account of the New Year, which I think is a wonderful gesture. I was given a trouser length from which to have a pair of trousers tailored, and one of the girls in the office was given some material, and I innocently asked her, “did you receive a cheettha length?” A cheettha length is enough material for a woman to make a sarong like wraparound traditional dress. No she said in a stern face, as if I insulted her, she said she had a gown length!!!

The implication was that she was slighted that I would have thought she would wear a wraparound cloth, and instead must realize that she would only make a gown, a western style skirt with it!!! So for a 22yr girl in Sri Lanka, it appears that it is an insult to even think they would wear a cloth at ANY time, even at home.

What may I ask have we become? I am lost for an explanation. Yes I did wear a sarong to office during the first three months of my recovery from my second operation after the bone graft was taken from my hip, to fuse with the femur on my thigh, as it was not healing on its own. I was never ashamed of wearing the sarong to work, and but for the convenience of trousers as a practical measure, think nothing of wearing a sarong to work!

Am I showing my age? Making such a statement, that young people today will not even dream of wearing a sarong. I know chauffeurs wearing sarongs today are hard to find, possibly only those over 55 may occasionally be the liveried type who wear a white sarong in their duty. It is now considered out of character so to do!

I digressed from my intended post, which I think I will defer till tomorrow and leave you the reader to ponder, comment or in any other way express your opinion on this matter of dress sense and dress as a form of a pecking order in society or even dress as a personal statement of your conformity, or non-conformity.

I conclude by lamenting that it is ONLY the avurudhu kumari who will wear the wraparound today, and even the rabana players now wear dress!!!! YES!!!!!!!

Monday, April 9, 2012

The Criteria used to measure success – an alternative view - On the state of the Economy

Interestingly today’s FT printed a Central Bank propaganda piece titled ‘REALITY’ Behind the Headlines. The Lankadeepa also had the Sinhala version of it titled “Sirasthala athara sangavuni aththa kathawa”, which no doubt those with some knowledge of economics, and students of Commerce will be able to understand. They are just performance indicators to ‘in essence’ show that all the indicators are positive and that the CB and the Govt. are doing a sterling job despite all the claims to the contrary.

The first point I question very sincerely is ‘Is the Central Bank or the Govt. the body who should take the credit for some of the positive indicators? No, it is the people of Sri Lanka both within and outside who have contributed much to the success.
Another point of contention is the massive infrastructure projects, namely the road development work that has given jobs to a lot of people. There are two sides to it. One is the amount of money borrowed on market terms, and soft terms to finance this, as well as the high cost of market borrowings. The second is the inflated cost of this project where there is a significant leakage, as much as 40% of the total cost of the projects. That is a heavy cost for future generations to repay along with the high US$ borrowing rates from Banks such as EX-IM Bank of China.

Then there is the intervention that kept exchange rates artificially high for years, and the Govt. is apparently taking credit for that, saying they were able to keep the exchange rate steady during this period of high inflation, which effectively was a period of exchange rate appreciation where imports relatively were cheap and more people found it cheaper to go overseas and holiday, rather than in Sri Lanka, worsening the balance of payments situation. This was also made possible by the huge inflow of remittances that helped to keep the exchange rate high, and also stimulate the economy from the rural areas, as well as pay for the foreign cost of the armaments imports, all thanks to our hardworking citizens overseas who remit.

I did not go into detail on all the graphs that are presented, and I do not doubt the positive growth in the economy, but I repeat that if there was less interference by Govt. and less of the policy shifts we saw as well as the uncertainties that come with it, we could have actually had better performances, trickling down to all segments of our society, something that this supposed growth has failed in.

Now all the indicators are taking a turn for the worse, so before it does the CB wants to blow their own trumpet before it is too late!!

Sunday, April 8, 2012

The massive effort to reduce the Balance of Payments Deficit - Will it pay off?

The shock of the Trade Deficit in January 2012, rising to US$1Billion triggered a lot of kneejerk reactions which we are now coming to grips with. In essence we buy US$2Billion a month from overseas and we export US$1Billion, giving us a monthly deficit of US$1Billion.

This in itself is OK if we can plug it by a monthly remittance figure of that same amount, as was the case all this time, but there did not seem a way out of this mess, short of a huge forced devaluation which would have had far worse consequences for a country still unable to produce their own food, despite much shouting to the contrary. It would have cause riots and the Govt. had to make a tough decision.

They looked at a simple way to plug this deficit. Anyone with common sense would have said that since the end of hostilities the vehicles on the road have ballooned which only says that the oil import bill has doubled since that time. A huge increase in fuel prices did not even dent the usage, much to the surprise of the authorities showing how demand inelastic this commodity is in Sri Lanka.

25% of all imports were just vehicles of one sort or another. So the easiest action was to tax all these vehicles, and that is exactly what they did. Assuming for a whole year it stops the imports, then there will be a definite help on the balance of payments. However to be effective it is the people who are in the lower income categories who are the hardest hit. After all the person who wants a motor bike, or a three wheeler where due to the numbers, much of the imports came from, is now priced out of this purchase.

So the effect of this is many fold. It will reduce the import of vehicles, it will reduce the rate of increase in the oil bill, though it will not necessarily CUT the oil bill as is being trumped around. It will not really increase the tax revenue at all despite the increased rates of taxation, due to the huge reduction of the quantity of vehicles coming into the country.

The spanner in the works is the level of duty free permits granted this year. That will NOT give Govt. revenue, it will increase imports or shall we say not reduce the dollar value of imported vehicles on a strata of society. It will increase the oil consumption, as these are permits for cars and SUVs and not for smaller bikes and three wheelers. This anomaly must stop if they are to level the playing field a little.

In short all those who were involved in this decision to increase the taxes, will all be able to buy a duty free vehicle as they are all Govt. servants!!

The Govt. is hoping the fall out will be minimal; that the economic benefit arising is worth taking this step when they did. This does not bode well for consistency of policy, something that has been a criticism all along in Sri Lanka. Without a clear consistent policy on matters, it is very difficult to take a long term view of planning this economy well. IMF directed knee jerk reactions in the economy must be avoided as consequences of inconsistency is very bad for business.

The self-interest of the various groups are now coming into the open. For example the three wheeler drivers who use their vehicles for hire, like the new rules which will reduce the imports, so they will face less competition. They are already in for a surprise as the economic woes, will reduce the ability of the existing three wheelers to earn a living as their customers will fall, and their costs will rise due to the higher import duties on the spares. So they can’t be smug, not knowing it is a false sense of security on another person’s distress.

With the ban of cars over a year old from manufacturing date, the second hand market of unregistered imports will die, and they will have to survive merely on being second hand car dealers of the local market.

The huge increase in the tax on motorcycles will prevent another 100,000 prospective buyers from buying a vehicle for them to do their basic work. Maybe it would be to go to their job, as the public transport system was in want. Many three wheeler owners use it as their family vehicle, and that segment has been declined their mode of transport, unless they wish to avail themselves of a higher duty.

The main dealers in these vehicles will now face some hard times, and have to make a few tough decisions with regard to their survival, causing another storm in the CSE with insider trading allegations. It is just a matter of time.

These actions should have been tied in with a huge improvement in public transport to take vehicles off road, as it would then be more practical to take public transport. This they have not. Without that it is regressive against the less well off.

Public policy to reduce the import bill on fuel is completely different to that which was recently adopted. It can work by increasing fuel prices further which will reduce consumption, and increase Govt. revenue both at the same time, and it will be paid by all who us vehicles. It will not be discriminatory, and so will be acceptable to society. It is fuel usage that needs to be cut drastically and when saturation point on vehicles is reached, to avoid a nationwide traffic jam, traffic management methods must be introduced immediately, mainly to reduce congestion, and therefore consumption.