Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Youth and Women in Politics – Sajith Premadasa’s criticism in the new Act

It was reported in today’s media that Sajith Premadasa has criticized the new Local Government Act, as taking away the benefits given in the PR system to women and youth. His mastery of the facts is either appalling or his criticism grossly misplaced. He should have concentrated his speech on some other more reliable information that I am sure in this day and age can be directed against the Government and would resonate with the people.

Let me point out. There was a provision which required that 40% of the candidates seeking election had to be women and/or youth. If you read the speech he says the representation has come down from 40% to nil. So if none of the 40% received sufficient preferences NONE would be elected and there would be NO representation of women in that elected body. So he is most incorrect in his statement. The facts speak for themselves today in local govt. bodies.

Whilst I agree there is NO specific numbers reserved for women, youth and minorities, it is up to the party to nominate a woman or young person who HAS the ability to win an election as it is against another party, and not against people of your own party which the PR system has encouraged, albeit as a by-product. A person who falls into this category and who is popular in his locality CAN win on the new first past the post system, as long as the Party nominates him or her.

The same holds true for women. In the new proposed system, I believe the electoral organizer has the ability to put a name forward of youth, women and minority under the percentage allocated for PR of 30% now (expected to be increased to 40%) The higher up the list this person is they have a greater likelihood of being elected, not by vote like in the preference system, but by the seats allocated to a party under the hybrid system.

I expect, contrary to Sajith’s thinking to see more women, youth and minorities in local bodies, though they may be members who are appointed and not necessarily elected, if their names are NOT put forward to the wards or location they wish to seek election from. I wish to further remind the reader, that this Act received the blessings of the UNP in Parliament, as it was a lesser of two evils, and this was the only chance of the Act being passed, after the committee appointed by PM Ranil Wickremasinghe, with Dinesh Gunewardene then in opposition appointed to the head the committee in 2002. (By the way these days the Govt. never appoints a member of the Opposition to head a committee, an indication to the depths at which our system of checks and balances operate today. EVEN COPE HAD AN OPPOSITION HEAD IN THOSE DAYS. Today is a Govt. yes man, sorry DEW.

It is up to society to raise patriots who believe through politics that they can improve society. Then more women, youth, and minorities will seek election for the right reason, and people with common sense will vote for them, as more reliable, less prone to corruption or with a new vision, not tainted by years of political infighting. It is simply up to the political parties to bring more candidates that fall into these categories, by encouraging, training and empowering people in these categories to seek election.

The real failure in the Act is that parties with less than 5% representation are annihilated  with no chance of representation. This will likely wipe out the JVP from local government politics. However that is all well and good for the UNP and hence not mentioned. SP picking on this earlier point is really not a crucial issue, as it is difficult to force youth and women into seeking election in a first past the post selection, only to encourage promising women and youth in relevant constituencies. Maybe if he criticizes the least he should have done was to provide a more equitable solution on balance. Isn't that fair?

My experience with putting a child into the local school today

The harrowing tales of parents desperate to put kids into reputable schools is legendary. I experienced just a teens y weensy bit today, when I accompanied my housekeeper who wanted to put her 6 year old into the first grade at the school near my farm, as a transfer student from the school he previously attended in Minneriya.

I simply wanted to put this kid into the nearest school to where I live, so the child can walk to the school, and cause less disruption on the home front, a very reasonable motive, one that is considered normal in a state school in the USA . So off I went to ‘Basnahira Palatha, Homagama, Subarathi Mahamathya Vidyala’ (name of the school) to meet the Principal. We took with us the birth certificate, the leaving certificate from the previous school and the standard application form for entrance. The principal had asked the mother to come today, and I was asked to come as someone who may without knowing it be able to sway!

There was no question of money being involved, knowing full well these poor! Principals are offered obscene amounts by obsessed parents and brokers who specialize in this trade! I was told by the Principal that in the school he had received 300 petitions for reconsideration of entry into first grade, challenging refusals. These petitions are individually considered by an independent committee in case of unfair assessment. The newspapers have stories of mothers who have nothing else but themselves to offer to principals to enter their kids! The variety of inducements are worthy of a book. For Principals who are generally on a monthly Salary of Rs50K similar to an MP in Parliament, must find it hard to refuse.

It must take a very altruistic and person of strong character to refuse these inducements, as the principal is the main person who can determine whether to accept or reject if he is able to make a case. I am now firmly convinced there must be two grades of principal, and for such hard to enter schools their remuneration must be increased to somewhere like Rs150,000 as they are usually chosen from a very competitive interviewing process, as applications are also very high. We cannot help that fact that some schools are in high demand. We must know which ones they are and hold the heads of those schools to a much high standard, and also which attracts the best person, including the moral and ethical character.

Usually, owners of property close to the school who have been resident for long periods get first preference in a system of marks out of 100 when it comes to entering their kids into first grade. Whilst that is the determinant, the Principal told me that there are many people who do not have the title deeds in their names, though they were born and raised there, and some property is in dispute due to wills left by parents that are unclear. These people who may have even gone to the school cannot put their kids into the school. Then there are many kids today with parents living overseas as economic migrants, and the children are with the grandparents who face the same problem, as it is in the grandparent’s home that the child resides. There are a long list of similar cases too numerous to mention.

This school in question was small not too long ago, but in the tenure of the last principal of 17 years, (just retired) grew into a hugely successful one with 1600 students from grades 1 to 11 that is up to O levels. It is now very prestigious due to good academic results where even people from Colombo wish to enter their kids into this school. The Principal, appointed from the first of this month after a stringent series of interviews, has recently had to change his abode temporarily and live in a secret location to get away from parents and others attempting to enter children into the school, calling him incessantly to twist his arm.

I took my turn at 8 this morning to meet the Principal, Manjula and stood in line for a couple of hours first before getting into his office to see him. He knew me after I walked in as he is the son of a local couple we have known forever, and is like family. I went for the opening of his book shop many years ago in Meegoda. I knew before I went that he was the new principal, though I had not contacted him earlier about this particular issue. He was chosen from an extremely competitive selection, and is a very young looking 44yr old, who I am sure will take the school to greater heights and I really wish him well.

The classes are full, 42 for each class, and it is maxed out. There was nothing he could do today, but he took me over to the local education executive whose office was also in the school grounds and spoke to her about the next adjacent school to my property, Dharmaraj on the Meegoda side. She called the Principal of Dharmaraj who said that his classes were full that is the 42 pupil max, but will call back in 30mins in case there was a place. When the ed exec called again, there was a possibility due to one student not having come to school for 3 months, without giving reason, and that once that time is up they have the right to cancel and fill the place. The three months is up tomorrow and so the Ed Exec wrote a note to assist in entering this kid to the school.

I then went to this school, about 2km from the first, and personally met the principal with the note and seal of the education authority, making the request official. Having explained the issue, and also in view of his comment earlier, he told the mother to bring the boy and come to the school on Friday morning, to be entered. I was told it was my lucky day, no actually the child’s lucky day that this opening came up just today!!

For my luck I seemed to have misplaced my new bifocal reading glasses I had with me when I went to meet the Principal along with the dongle I use to get on line, which was in it. I guess that is the price one pays for these things, and let us hope the kid will benefit from this free education.

It has taken me three months to sort all this up, as the mother and child have to go back to their previous Grama Niladari division and get a letter saying they have left their previous place of abode. Then I have to write a letter to the local GN to inform him that this is now the abode of mother and child. Then she has to go with these two letters to the local GN and get a letter called a Certificate of Residence and Character which he completes and signs, and then has to be sealed at the local Divisional Secretariat to establish residence prior to entering the child locally.

If anyone thinks it is a doddle to enter a child into the nearest school especially if one changes residence, I can tell you one has to go through a minefield of hurdles.

I usually write on many topics on education in this blog, and now I have one more experience to add and make recommendations on improvement. Surely there MUST be a better way to guarantee entry of kids into schools!! Is it because there are so few schools that are good, that there is such a scramble for places? I do not know the answer to that, but if we can improve the overall standard of education in all our schools, we can I am sure reduce the incidence of this parents’ nightmare.

Despite all this the quality of education in these schools is lacking. The parents’ criteria are still not high enough, as these schools DO NOT have good English or Computer Literacy classes. It is left to a dedicated teaching staff, lead by a really quality Principal, who should not be bogged down in School Admission issues, to take the school and the kids under their charge to new heights.

I would further add, that pressure that the local politicians including the Pradeshiya Sabha Chairman and other Ministers, both central and local, to put kids in by way of letters to the Principals must also be unfair on the Principal’s ability to choose. I have myself drafted politicians’ letters to various schools, so I know the pressure on the politician by the constituents who believe that the local MP can work miracles. I know that he cannot work miracles, and I have to field calls asking the MP to make a call to the minister to push an application for entry through!! It was interesting to deal with this issue sans a politicians’ letter in my particular case. Many kids of the farm workers in the farm have got entry into this school, but as things stand, if I have a child and I wish to get him or her in (this is a mixed school) I may be out of luck!! such are the present vagaries of entry into this school.

I was told that 50% of the intake is for the local area kids and the other on different criteria. It is this latter criteria using fraudulent data, and letters of people of influence that cause the trouble, the former 50% being squeezed as the demand is far greater and local people generally of a lower economic level than those who try other means to enter. I believe the local entry must be raised to 75%. 

It is simple common sense that kids must go to the nearest school. If the nearest school happens to be of a very high quality, then so be it!! It is the way kids in the US go to school and I am sure in most countries that offer free education at Primary and Secondary levels.

This boy could be lucky enough to get into the first school if space permits in the future. Whether he will ever realize the process, is another matter, and whether he benefits from this process, as compared with other alternatives he may have had life are also completely out of our control to influence. So Ariyachakra Bandaranayake Thevanga Mudiyanselage Vihanga Nimsara Bandaranayake, born October 6th 2006 this is about your life. You misbehaved very badly on this day complaining incessantly to your mother of having to stand, being hungry!! Etc.

Friday, October 26, 2012

The Politics of Resentment – Sri Lanka style!

In Sri Lanka it is important more than in most other countries to nip in the bud attempts at discrediting people just as a knee jerk reaction, just because one has some axe to grind against the individual.

I am also guilty of this sometimes, when I look back at some of my blog posts, but I have gone back and analyzed some of my writings and determined that it was more not about the individual concerned, but that the individual as taken conscious steps to besmirch the good name of the Country, and worse to fool and hoodwink the nation. SO when the reader may accuse me of being too harsh and am permanently attacking a person or a group of persons in my writing it is out of a considered stance and not just knee jerk about everything they do. It so happens that some people in my opinion are so vile, crafty and deft in their large scale cynical manipulation of the system to their advantage, that I can rarely find the time or reason to say a good word about them. I will surely commend and praise an act that I agree with or a ruling or comment that I concur with.

I try to be a person who speaks my mind and hold little back, and in that sense am too untactful to be a politician in Sri Lanka, where one has to always comply with people’s requests no matter how daft or unreasonable they may be. It is a difficult act as it invariably offends someone, and often my gesture is misinterpreted the wrong way and am accused of something I never intended, but has been misconstrued.

Coming back to the original point, there is a culture in this country to find fault first and only give grudging praise very miserly! People have a need to put others down for something they do. I was told recently, and I agree with that statement, that when people are working hard and doing a lot of things, one is more likely to encounter criticism, especially by people who do nothing and only make a lifetime of criticism. It is this group who I am primarily referring to in this entry.

I encounter this in politics more than in most other areas, that people who are seen to be working hard, getting noticed, gathering followers are disliked by competitors who are unable to draw the crowds or put up as good a show. It is important therefore that these good people who work hard are NOT disheartened by unfair criticism, but carry on with their work with greater zeal to show their critics that they are really committed to their cause and will not allow petty backstabbing armchair pundits, whose only joy is in the suffering of others, to unsettle a good idea, worthily implemented overcoming huge challenges and odds.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

The use of percentages, who pass as a measure of improvement to the quality of education in Sri Lanka, is misleading.

Sri Lanka’s infamously uneducated Education Minister Bandula Gunewardena is at it again, to point out that the 60% pass rate for the GCE O level exams last time, as compared with the pass rate of 25% in 1994 (as reported in the Daily Mirror, page 3 of October 25th 2012) is a reflection of his success.  The depths to which his logic has sunk! He hopes this to rise to 80% in 2016. One presupposes that the standards remain the same throughout, especially as the government has in its powers, through the Examinations Department under its direct control, to make the exam more difficult or easy and therefore fudge all the figures so put out. The lack of independence and transparency is a reason for the need for separation from interference of Government from the workings of the economy. We assume of course that the facts he has given us are in fact accurate and not figments of his most fertile mind!!

We do not want to kid anyone about the state of education. We simply want to create educated workers for the future in the required skills for that time. It is how we achieve this that MUST be debated, without patting himself in the back, that he is doing a good job. If he really thinks so “May God help our resplendent land”.

We must not sit with a false sense of security and reality as it pertains to the paucity of skills of our workforce. We do not understand what the word educated means at all. Learning by rote and regurgitating some statements does not make a person educated. That person must simply be taught how to think, to reason, and to evaluate from given options, an answer that is most likely to be right, using most of all COMMON SENSE. I realize that a politician such as the Education Minister wishes to fool the reader and the people with pontification. The people must first be educated enough to realize the con in the statement and act accordingly smirking at the lies they hear instead of reporting the information as fact.

The lack of proper analysis of the utterances in the newspapers today, further exacerbates the crying need for rational thinking and decision making. The need for a National Education Policy with checks and balances along with a method of measuring performance very different from the Minister’s idea of pass marks is needed to measure the success of policy ideals that are implemented in a thorough education policy.

In conclusion, the Vision and Mission statements should be clear and a path, well documented for others to follow to achieve these objectives is needed. Further evaluation and reconfiguring policy to suit changing needs makes it a dynamic proposal that is sufficiently flexible to meet the needs of future expectations.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Why do I still go back to Education as a subject? It is just so important

Food, shelter, clothing and education are the core components of life if one takes one’s personal moral beliefs as a given. In Sri Lanka education is one that we have messed up royally and which needs urgent reform. I know from the small days, we smugly used our literacy rate as a measure of education and now it seems a noose round our necks as we have failed to realize that literacy is just a minor aspect of education. It is merely a tool of learning, and fulfillment of learning, whatever it is we need to know.

The majority of parents completely leave education to the schools or the tuition factories to accomplish. However the recent results and high marks at exams have shown the most important component are the parents and the values inculcated in the home by them. The Schools with all the will in the world CANNOT replace the guidance and example shown by parents. Sri Lankan parents do not show this guidance and children suffer. Just go to the homes that have any reading matter other than the daily newspapers. I believe 75% of homes in Sri Lanka have NO reading matter despite the 500,000 who visited the recent International Book Exhibition at the BMICH.

So it is this culture of learning we must show by example. Children copy adults when they are small. They want to be like adults. So adults who read are a great source of inspiration for potential future leaders from our children. It is important that there are parent sessions in schools to reinforce this as a major source of positive reinforcement for their children to learn without being forced or coaxed.

Can anyone show me an avid reader who has NOT excelled in their studies? It just comes naturally to them. Let us therefore live by example. Have books around the house; read bed time stories to your children from a young age. It will be something they will look forward to and a good way to communicate with your offspring, and build a bond in an increasingly busy world.

These examples will go hand in hand in ensuring your child gets a head start, and despite or inspite of the school he goes to, he will be able to get on top, and not rely merely on exam results to show leadership and confidence which are part and parcel of a good education. The Cadets and Scouting are all areas that assist in leadership and life skills training which few state schools in Sri Lanka offer. It is therefore incumbent upon parents to make up the shortfall and do what is necessary to make good, what the schools lack. The parents need to go to class to learn to live by example if they wish a better future for their offspring as compared with theirs.

The 13th Amendment – I too am for scrapping it and starting over

The 13th Amendment was forced on Sri Lanka by the Indian Government of the time as a means to solve the prolonged ethnic issues, mainly as it relates to Tamil grievances. This created the Provincial Council System, which to me is an added and unneeded layer of bureaucracy that is wasteful and counterproductive. It was meant to solve the problems of the North and East and it is in those very same provinces that the Amendment has NOT been effective for various reasons. In the other areas, it has created local lords, who have ruined, and politicized local government and have nothing to show as a positive in all the years of its existence.

The PR fights in the elections within the parties and huge amounts of money wasted as well as the caliber of donkey elected to these Councils call for its immediate demolition. In the related areas of the North and East it has created further divisions amongst the ethnic minorities as to who really represents their interests and there is no real answer to that despite the polls showing TNA to represent the interests of the Tamil speaking people in the North. It is really for want of an alternative.

I know this stand lies contrary to my other stand in regards to the ethnic issue, and I seem to side with some of the extremist parties, but my conclusion is based on the years of enactment NOT achieving the original desired result, and like the PR system is time to be scrapped. I believe the level of autonomy rests at the District levels, in Districts that are currently demarcated and using the existing local government structures. I also believe with some minor tweaking the problems can all be solved speedily, and the people will also feel some entitlement in their governance.

I for one looking at the North Central Province, strongly feel that the Polonnaruwa District gets step motherly treatment from the larger Anuradhapura District, and can only be truly run as one district and not part of the NCP, where decisions taken by a majority form Anuradhapura affect the people of Polonnaruwa.

Given to me I can run Polonnaruwa better than anyone who has yet attempted and the people will get a better deal. The rich resources of the District will be shared amongst the people of the District, and not squandered by a few political henchmen. The quality of life has not improved in 50 years despite the phenomenal growth most of the rest of the country has been fortunate with. Run well as a District, there is no reason why in 20 years Polonnaruwa can lead the quality of life index of Sri Lanka with all its residents content to live there not elsewhere!!!

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Only 10% passed the Grade 5 exam – Is that a way to encourage kids?

Approximately 300,000 kids sat for the Grade 5 exam at the end of August, Islandwide, which was conducted only in the Sinhala and Tamil mediums. It is NOT conducted in English! There are pass marks! For each district that are published and when the Student checks on line if he or she has passed, the result is a mark given out of 200 along with the words pass or fail.

In summary the pass mark ranges from 145 to 155 depending on the District, with the Colombo District usually commanding the higher pass mark. Only a little over 10% of students achieved this pass mark and it was no different to last year either. I saw an article saying that they will instead change the pass mark to 75 not to discourage students!

For a child in 5th grade to be told, (90% of students) that they had not passed is a very upsetting thing. It is not healthy for children at this age to be faced with such a prospect and affects their futures. I do not believe there is another country on the face of the earth that does this, and we have not even questioned this fact to date.

To recap, one needs that district designated pass mark to enter a National School in that district from grade 6 onwards. So it is just a scholarship exam, but is not treated as such amongst students, crammers and tutories and is a number, kids remember till their dying day. I know an adult who got 112 marks when the pass mark then in one’s district was 137 and he felt he was never good enough for studies, and mentally dropped out of study at that point, example of what happens!

There are schools where no one passes this mark. In other cases no Male student passes and only girls pass in the school. What does a boy then think of their gender? Not fit to study! Imagine the Teachers left to ponder this! Further the papers carried a story of two teachers engaged in a fist fight in the school due to different percentages in their different classes that passed this exam!

In other words there is no need to pass this exam if one is just going to the next class at the same school. However the new 1000 schools project is in the process of designating National Schools in each district, which will only be from Grade 6 onwards, taking the kids from Primary schools in the area that achieve this mark or more. The primary schools therefore only go up to grade 5. The other kids have to find a local school close to their homes, or go through a battle of money talks to get a kid into another preferred school if this is not of their choice.

Let us dump this, have a pass mark where 90% get through and a high mark just for the entrants to the limited number of National Schools. Better still do away with this exam, that stresses young minds too much.

How do I change the profile of readers to my blog?

For whatever reason now with the new tools available for the blogs, the overwhelming majority of my readership on this blog that averages about 200 page views a day, come from the USA. I must say I do not wish to appeal to Sri Lankan expatriates in the US at all but to a local audience as much of what I write relates to local issues within Sri Lanka. However, either the reader in Sri Lanka is interested in completely different subjects or that the English speaking readership generally agrees with what I write, so is therefore not interested in reading something they already know, I do not have the answer to that question.

I have tried but singularly failed to find a good translator to translate what I write in my blogs to Sinhala and put it in a Sinhala blog, as I am sure as the blog readers in Sri Lanka mature, the audience will become predominantly Sinhala reading, and therefore I hope I will have a larger audience from which to draw my readers, assuming of course they wish to read what I write.

Many of the points I write about are of topics of the day that are relevant to people who wish to discuss issues of the day in a little bit more detail, and with some inputs of my own, which they can compare with theirs, if they have different opinions. I am open to other opinions, especially on many topics that do not have straight answers but a series of opinions on how to tackle grave issues of the day.

The topic I have covered at length in the last year here is on education, and it is a very important aspect that requires a lot of debate and discussion before formulating a policy on it. Opinions are many and new ideas enter the fray with the new teaching techniques that make learning easier, cheaper and more accessible to a greater population. Sadly in Sri Lanka whilst a lot of noise is made about the latest tools, little practical work is done to make it happen.

Getting back to the readers, the US based reader possibly finds the blog useful in keeping in touch with some of the goings on in the island viewed from a far away land. I know I often felt the need to keep in touch with information in Sri Lanka, when I lived overseas but initially I felt stifled as the newspaper sites those days gave very little real news that I wanted to read and decided when I returned to keep a journal type blog of the activities I was engaged in which resulted in the Rajaratarala  blog called Dream into Reality.

Sadly I have failed recently to keep posting to it as I have been too busy working to record what it is I actually do. I must make a conscious effort to change!!!

FUTA – Where to next?

FUTA dropped their Trade Union action as their demands were not met, and to save face, made a statement that it was done on behalf of the students who were really badly affected because of it. In order to appease the strikers, the Govt. agreed to the back pay for the past 3 months during the period of action, as long as they play catch up and cover the lost ground, with minimum disruption to the students. The Govt. in the guise of Basil R who was appointed by the President to handle the issue as the honest broker! In light of, “SB to blame for this” scenario, while not crowing about it, is quietly and smugly satisfied with the outcome.

FUTA on the other hand to get some political mileage out of this, makes a further mistake saying they will not back down from their 6% demand for State Education.

I have made this point in earlier statements and will repeat it here, that while more investment in Education is required, and funds should carefully be allocated on an as needed basis after a complete overhaul of the Education Policy for Sri Lanka, I do not believe it is helpful to the debate to hang one’s hat on such numbers, as it is impractical at best to allocate such a figure in an era world-wide, where the Private Sector is taking a greater responsibility for meeting the requirements of the marketplace, and the state sector kicks in to both to level the playing field, and improve the broad areas of basic education, filling in the gaps.

We must accept reality. The private sector now educates the majority of the Tertiary Education needs of Sri Lanka and will perhaps increase their share. It is a fact today, that of 100 new kids starting Primary Education in Grade 1 in Sri Lanka, at most only 2 will end up in a State University. Now if FUTA ONLY represent the welfare of those 2 who is carrying the burden of the 98? FUTA will say they want to ensure that not 2 but say 40 must come from the state university sector! That is why the funds are needed.

I disagree, I believe we must be able to walk before we can run, and that the 2 are properly educated in fields where they can be assured of employment. At present only 1 is able to get a job, whilst the other at age 30 is still looking for a job, with attitudes and skills that are not required in the market place, not even in Govt.

It is important that we look at all levels of education, and direct more resources to vocational training, not in the  wasteful way it is done now via the VTA (vocational training authorities) but with a view to a specific field in areas where there is a high demand for skills, which are currently unfilled.
I have stated in the past to invest money in training teachers. This is the most important area. However just throwing money and allocating funds that cannot be spent is not the answer. In order to train the required teaching carder for the subjects it takes at least 5 years.

It is no instant panacea, so such investments must be started immediately, beefing up the teacher training colleges, first with international short term academics, as the skills available locally to train teachers in the latest techniques is outdated. In order to get the most benefit, the student teachers must first have a working knowledge of English, so that has to be honed in. These are mere examples of what is needed before we can make a significant dent in solving the problems of our education sector. Will FUTA agree to hiring foreign academics to teach our teachers? They will say there is sufficient local talent. They must face reality, even their thinking is fossilized and they have to come out of their dark ages ideas.

The raw material is there in the form of our highly intelligent student body. If we turn out well educated people with life skills and a broader vision of their place in society, many of today’s societal problems can be reduced significantly. I cannot see the Govt. having the vision and the need to make this change, as they will be the most affected by a thinking population. Their ranks are filled with uneducated cronies, who are bent on taking as much for themselves. An educated populace will more readily be able to understand the con, and throw such people out of power, therefore is there a genuine commitment on their part to change the status quo?

Both FUTA and Govt. have personal agendas that are in conflict with the needs of the nation. We must therefore change direction to a policy that satisfies the latter. How we can do this under the present regime is the issue? I do not believe it can be done in good faith. All we hear is lip service to the gallery and little of substance to solve the pressing problems.

A series of blog entries here have dealt with the solutions and it is a good idea to take them up and include them in a policy document to be discussed by all stake holders, not forgetting the student body, and a consensus reached. We can then refer to that when making policy decisions and resource allocations, so we maximize the productivity of each rupee spent. We do not wish to get into a situation such as in the USA where competition is such that one appears to need a masters degree or a PhD to deliver mail, completely wasting private resources and public funds to contend with the competition for fast diminishing employment prospects in that country. We have a lot to learn from mistakes of others and do better. Let us make a start by training our teachers to teach properly! 

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Bandula’s proposal – prevent seminars and tuition classes for Shishyatvaya, O and A levels for a week prior to exams! – What a silly billy dimwit? He is one


This is an example of the typical reaction of Govt. spokesmen when confronted with a problem. Do away with the solution by removing not the root cause, but the water and fertilizer that helps plants grow. So when exam papers leaked 48 hours before exams, he thinks that the handful of  leaks can be stopped by taking away tuition rights of 100% of the pupils. What a sledgehammer to break a nut!

Thinking in such an elitist manner can only come from people who have let power go to their heads. The majority in this country are of average means doing everything possible to get their kids through exams, by incredible sacrifice. Those who go to classes are the less well off who forego their meals (I have personal experience of this in my areas) so they can send their child to tuition, because the school teacher DOES NOT give them the basics for which he or she is paid but rather encourages the students to firm up their knowledge by attending tuition, sometime their own evening classes.

The cramming and seminars that take place in the last week sometimes is ALL some parents can afford. Others who go to tuition classes attend mass classes, and still others who are too poor to get tuition, are helped by organizations holding free seminars in the last few days prior to the exams to help the less well off. In fact our organization was also planning to do this shortly for the O levels for students in poor areas who have NO access to tuition, by hiring a hall, and getting a tuition master of repute to give a class on his specialist subject to the students on exam technique. This is usually done just prior to exams, in case a reader thinks it can all be done in sufficient time, so that the student has the last week to study at home!

Also do remember that wealthier students can have one-on-one tuition at home and are really not covered under this clause or will not be enforceable for them as they do this at home. Those who have access to homes and such facilities can circumvent this rule by holding their classes in homes out of sight of the authorities. It is therefore clear that this is a rule that helps the wealthy to relatively benefit more than those less well off, who will be prevented from a last minute surge to their possibility in doing better at the exam.

Let us rid this country of such bumptious dimwits who keep making pronouncements which they believe will solve their shortcomings, while the real people who are adversely affected by these ridiculous dictates have to suffer in silence. Let us not permit this sort of callous behavior on the part of the Govt.

No Evidence against KP! Then why spirit him out of Malaysia years ago? - how many billions did he pay off for this privilege?

KALPANAKARANNA – It is extensively reported in today’s newspapers. The news conference held by the Media Center for National Security yesterday, found nothing wrong in KP, the ex-head of the LTTE Arms Procurement Wing, who was seized in Malaysia and brought to Sri Lanka outside the justice system of that country, heading an NGO in Kilinochchi.

Apparently, there is no reason to hold him as there is NO evidence against him. Does that mean that being the Chief Arms Procurer of the LTTE and the International Wing Leader with access to the LTTE billions overseas is free to go?

I am speechless as I am sure every sensible person in Sri Lanka should be at this state of affairs. It is not as if he has been given a pardon for earlier crimes against the state or a similar let off for returning all the money under his purview.

It begs the question, did he pay off the powers with all the cash under his control, be they in Swiss Bank Accounts and other areas. Has this money been given to the state? I see no evidence of the accounting for this in any of the Government documents. Or more likely all the powers have been handsomely been paid in billions, blood money of the dead both here and overseas, from a person who in no small part contributed to the death of thousands of Citizens of Sri Lanka on both sides of the fence.

I deem that this is a wholly treacherous act on the part of the elected Government of Sri Lanka, and challenge the govt. to prove otherwise. Why did they go through all the trouble to seize him, if he is innocent? If he is guilty or if there is evidence as to his guilt why has that not been presented in a court of law? And further if he has been pardoned, what are the terms of that pardon. In short what is the hidden deal that has been struck?

For a government that is in bed with the LTTE literally now as there is no other way to put it, the challenge is now theirs to prove they are not sleeping with the enemy! For treacherous leaders of Sri Lanka to masquerade as patriots is an insult to the intelligence of Sri Lankan people.

There are too many unanswered questions; even the soft media did not question at the press conference, which was glibly and very cunningly treated lightly by the spokesman of the Government. This is serious stuff and we do not have people of sufficient spine to question treachery, when it stares us in the face. TAKE NOTE

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Ever wonder how so many pro Govt. papers still carry on with readers!

Rational and thinking people are normally put off with sycophantic and uncritical look at the failings of Government, especially one such as ours in Sri Lanka. However the reason why media of this nature are able to survive, is that the readership is unable to look behind the news and determine how much garbage is fed to them and determine which paper or TV or radio station they should read, watch or hear.

The Education system in Sri Lanka does not arm the average Joe with this type of critical thinking, It is a failing which many people do not seem to realize, and actually people do not seem to mind. Critical thinking in the eyes of teachers is NOT to be encouraged, as the teacher’s failings in this regard will be too apparent to the student. There is therefore no chance until we change the attitude of the teachers themselves to be able to take ownership of this way of thinking. It is very sad that what it does is to permanently deny the public a chance of logical reasoning.

Many would say too much knowledge is also bad. I agree, if there is no way to channel this into some useful personal goal. However it is not the quantum of knowledge but the ability to make personal choices out of facts presented and observations made and personal experiences one is confronted with that is important.

Many people are able to brainwash others who are not able think critically. That is why many in the political parties with good discipline and order, such as the JVP are able to survive on a platform that critical thinking will say has no future, but an adherent would swear by as being gospel. This is also the way many preachers and religious leaders are able to mesmerize congregations into believing what they say uncritically.

It is time we start identifying potential leaders who are able to inculcate critical thinking into their platform, and then through their followers get people to think about their lives and goals and then build a following of people who are able to rationally make judgments from the facts presented to them. This way we can begin the long journey of transforming people from being zombies of today to people who have self confidence in themselves and be able to rationalize the choices they make in their lives, not wholly dependent on any other person’s say so but on their honest interpretation of why they believe in what they do. You will be better for it.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Two hugely important Bills were passed in Parliament a little while ago (October 10th 2012) and there is no news about it being presented!!! – Local Authorities Special Provisions Bill and the Local Authorities Elections (Amendment) Bill

Parliament in Sri Lanka seems to pass extremely important bills, and the populace appear clueless of their existence thanks to the Media that did not report it in the papers today. Who is to blame?  In this case it was in the order paper of Parliament but the media either chose not to pick on it, or the reporters did not believe it was newsworthy enough to report on. However the consequences of its passing affect every citizen in the country. Now the Local Authorities have the power to elect 70% of the officials on a ward based system on a first past the post basis, and up to a maximum of 30% by the use of the PR method.

It is not as simple as it sounds as there are provisions that affect how the 30% are chosen not as the loser with the highest number of votes at that particular authority and in that order, but by the General Secretary of the party having complete autonomy as to who he chooses to put on the list and the order of preference he chooses.

This has diabolical consequences at the local level, where the Electoral Organizer does not necessarily have any power to appoint local people of his choice in this and may have to submit to higher authority in the party to a person or persons not of his choosing. These people may even oppose him, and so he will be in an unenviable situation where he will have councilors in his local area with whom he may not see eye to eye and who have no following at all in the local area or any base in terms of vote. They are not people (similar to National List MPs) who have ANY political support but are merely appointees due to some favor they have provided to whoever has the power to submit their names to this list.

I have not looked into all the provisions of the Bill (now ACT) but this is just one glaring anomaly that the presenters of the bill wish to pass unnoticed and as this requires a two thirds majority to pass an Amendment to an Act, it is unlikely that it will be changed for a long time, even if we find obvious inconsistencies in it and faults. This kind of surreptitious passing of laws is not helpful in this democracy.

People must have the right to debate the proposed bills and air their grievances and let the power know their suggestions. However in our democracy it appears that people’s choice is only for the General Election, and after that they elected representatives DO NOT need to consult the populace in their decisions.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012


What is the sticking point? It is time for resolution. The action has actually succeeded, however there is one clear issue that the public MUST appreciate. It is not the first time the Govt. promised and NOT delivered. That is what FUTA is afraid of, simply put. If the academics have suffered without wages for three months, more than the others in this game, they do not want to take what has been offered, as it is not binding. The govt. can renege on their promises at any time as these promises are not legally enforceable in the current system of tin pot judiciary which is not independent of the legislature or the executive.

We live in a state with no law and order. The people who are tasked to enforce the law, namely the police are tampered with when they try to abide by the law. Those who are tasked with passing judgment fear the legislators who appoint and fire them and sideline them, so they only act at their beck and call. The Chief Justice of the Supreme Court has not been appointed by an independent body, and is completely compromised by being a lackey of the president, or at least her husband is. So in this environment all the promises made to the Academics are worth zilch!

I believe the offer is now reasonable except for a real increase in the amount of funds allocated to capital improvement of the University system which is woefully lacking in basic facilities that are even worse than in some Colombo schools. I had a recent visit from two students from Wyamba University and just to listen how they manage to study under a system of inadequate resources, is a marvel in itself. I challenge our citizenry to go to the Universities and see what they have. Most faculties do not have classrooms to hold lectures, let alone other basic facilities. Little wonder, our graduates are useless. They only see laptops in shops, having never used one. We have kids going to private schools using lap tops and tablets at schools are way ahead of their state school competitors with a huge head start in the stakes of life.

Sri Lanka is not a poor country anymore, however when Rs290B is allocated to defense and UDA and about Rs30B to Tertiary education, something is seriously out of whack and why don’t the powers see it? Simply put it is Ghotabaya who gets the Rs290B and some third rate (as they see it) Johnny is the minister of higher education who cannot be trusted with anyone’s woman.

It is time we realize that telling the truth counts and lies don’t work any longer. This can only change when people actually learn not to be taken for a ride. That only comes from education, and that is what we are fighting for – a circle of life!!!