Friday, November 30, 2012

Buddhist Monks – a question of Diet!

Recent instructions from the Health Ministry about the poor nutrition of Monks, due to the food they are given as Dana, is a wake-up call to all of us to be more concerned about what we eat, taking into account our lifestyle and determine how we should plan our eating habits.
This news has aroused interest in the western world and has just resulted in two articles both in the BBC and in Time magazine.

I am surprised that it took so long for the Health Department to come to this conclusion, especially due to the proclivity of the devotees to ply their monks with goodies, which they believe will bring them merit in the next life.

Now we must train the devotees, that what they are doing hastens illness and even death as most monks do not indulge in exercise due to the strictures of their behavioral characteristics, of not having solid food from noon till around 4 the following morning. So a window of 8 hours is all they have to consume solids and therefore they either consume too much in that short space of time or do not consume the right mix.

A more important point is that drinking sweet tea is tantamount to giving energy or a sports drink, as sugar is converted into energy. If the energy is more than the body requires, sugar related illnesses such as diabetes could result. Tea can be consumed throughout the day though strict adherents refrain from this too, and all forms of liquid intake except water.

It is important that monks know how to choose what is healthy from the food offered to them, as they are generally prevented from asking for anything special in the food they receive. It is further important that the adherents are mindful of this problem and give them food that is healthy, and perhaps cooked or prepared in a tasty way so they do not feel they are being deprived!

The next step of the Health Department is to ensure citizens are aware of diet and of what is healthy and unhealthy, so that they will be more careful about their consumption habits. It is time we all learnt about everything we consume.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Towards a new National Policy for Youth – They don’t even know where to start

The Minister of Youth Affairs has just announced the development of a National Youth Policy and disclosed that the Govt will publish one by March of 2013. There was a full page ad asking for people to provide information at various centers around the country, but with scant details of those places. They only gave till the end of November, less than a week to respond. This is totally inadequate.

It is important that ideas from young people are put forward. For that an email address, and phone numbers of locations MUST be given. Youth do not loiter around to provide information to the Govt. or for anyone else, for that matter, so youth friendly locations must be sought to get as representative a sample of opinions.

The Govt. defines youth in Sri Lanka as between 15-29. They maintain that group amounts to 26% of the population or 5.3M people. Into this category fall those who are about to leave school just after sitting for their O levels and some in fact leave during their O level year without sitting the exams as they are frightened they will fail and therefore do not even wish to try. They go up to others who have completed post graduate degrees or other diplomas.

There are over 350 Youth Organizations in Sri Lanka. It is time they compile a data base, and inform them of it, call them into seminars to discuss matters to be included in a youth policy. No matter who is in power, there will be guidelines created following this Policy, which will be long term and decisions have to be taken to provide for the future aspirations of youth and many decisions have a 5 to 10 year gestation period before it comes into effect, if it requires resources to be built for infrastructure and programs that address the needs of young people.

Per the Daily Mirror article of Nov 29th 2012 I quote

The ‘Youth Policy of Sri Lanka’(YPSL) will be completed by March 2013 for Parliamentary approval heralding a new era for Sri Lankan youth, Youth Affairs and Skills Development Minister Dulles Alahapperuma said.
At a news briefing on Tuesday Minister Alahapperuma said, Sri Lanka was the only country in Asia without a youth policy.
“Sri Lanka was devastated by three youth uprisings in the north and south during the last four decades which stunted the national economy, damaged our social fabric, widened the gap between the three ethnic groups in Sri Lanka and delayed the youth welfare. The respective governments appointed committees to look into these youth unrests, but all of them failed to bring tangible solutions to youth problems,” Minister Alhapperuma said.

He said the only outcome of these committees was the inclusion of a new word, ‘Tharuna Asahanaya’ (youth intolerance) to the Sinhala vocabulary.

Different countries identify the age limit of youth differently and in Sri Lanka a youth is defined as within the age group of 15 to 29 years. Many Western countries classify youth to be between 13 – 20 years. The youth population in Sri Lanka is 26% and the most valuable asset of the nation. Therefore it is the duty of the government to ensure a bright and trouble free future to the youth of the country, he said. Minister Alahapperuma refused to accept that youth in Sri Lanka are a dissatisfied lot and said the Sri Lankan youth, with proper guidance, could be a role model to others. All governments since independence, educationalists and policy makers should accept responsibility for youth intolerance in Sri Lanka.

The discussions will be held till December with relevant bodies! And a policy will be announced in March of 2013.

More time is needed for discussion and debate, and lot more funds allocated to get the opinion of youth especially in rural areas, who face a classic dilemma of having to leave their place of upbringing for education and employment, perhaps permanently.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

A Canadian, The Governor of the Central Bank of Canada has been appointed the Governor of the Bank of England.

Mark Carney, aged 47, the Governor of the Central Bank of Canada since 2008 has just been appointed the Governor of the Bank of England for a 5 year term. That is the first time in the history of the Bank of England that a foreigner has been so appointed, a sign of a globalised world, where the best person for the job is recruited from wherever it may be. After all I understand that he managed to keep Canada out of the global financial meltdown where NO Canadian Bank went under during the financial crisis beginning in 2008.

It is a pointer to countries like Sri Lanka that obtaining true professionals, as in not political may be the best course to adopt to ensure that policies and guidelines are adopted in the best interests of the Country. After all this position is the highest non elected position in the UK.

In today’s Sri Lanka how would it be if the Chief Justice was appointed from outside Sri Lanka? I am sure there is NO provision for a non Sri Lankan to hold that office.

This is meant to be a thought provoking blog, so I try to include matters that will draw a readers’ attention to unusual events that merit thinking outside the box.

When we are happily ensconced in our own world, in our comfort zones, we do not like to tread outside it for fear of being made a fool of, or sounding silly. It is nevertheless both courageous and daring to do so, but at the same time gives a perspective that may give some food for thought.

In Sri Lanka thinking outside the box comprises of sending a satellite into orbit with a Sri Lankan flag and calling it a Sri Lankan Satellite going out on its maiden voyage on Tuesday November 27th on a rocket from China. The Satellite was built in France, and sent to China to be sent on Orbit, but as the Company that commissioned the Satellite is Sri Lankan, a BOI company albeit possibly majority Chinese owned, as the ownership is still a mystery, it is called a Sri Lankan Satellite. That is the thinking outside the box that we indulge in. After all we do not even currently have a communications center to manage the Satellite, that too being done from China. If we check the web site of the China Great Wall Industry Corporation, it is obvious it undertakes to send satellites for anyone who wants it done. All I need is the financing or part of it, after all China will lend any amount to Sri Lanka to launch a satellite especially as it overflies the orbit of South Asia. They can then spy on India. I am sure India is pretty pissed off about it anyway!!

It does not take a rocket scientist, excuse the pun, to work out that there is something fishy in this scheme, if the Defense Ministry or the Telecommunication Regulatory Authority has not given their approval and the only approval necessary is from the President!

So it is good to think outside the box to solve our financial problems and find a way to reduce the debt to China and at least reduce the interest rates they have charged us to more modest and reasonable and not usurious ones. Please suggest a way out of our debt mess!!

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

A truly inspirational post from the POST

I read an article in today’s Washington Post, on line edition and feel it is worth sharing with my blog readers.

This about an immigrant from dirt poor Burkina Faso, in Africa, who now works in Washington DC as a concierge in a building,  who supports his extended family back home from his earnings. The tenants of the building once they got to know about what he does, chipped in to help him provide more for the village back home, including building a well etc. for a village does not even have electricity. It is worth a read.

When I lived in the USA, I frequently came in contact with the generosity, and caring of the average American to people in distress. In a time when the US is maligned by Sri Lanka, one must remind Sri Lankans of the good heart of the average American, whatever policy is adopted by the Government. The people are decent, humble and have a streak of empathy and sympathy for those who make an effort to help themselves.

In a period in Sri Lanka where people are trying to make a fast buck, by foul means, I am sad to see that hard work and genuine effort is not rewarded, and instead greed and avarice, and wishing to ape people who have obtained their riches by foul means is admired.

We MUST impress on people that some of the values we have are wrong. We must give credit to people who sincerely try to make a difference, and not do it just for show. Many charity fund raisers here are for duty and part of the Clubs people belong to such as, Lions, Rotary, Zonta and an endless list where the primary purpose is to network, give members a chance to fine tune their leadership and organizational skills, where raising funds for a project is secondary, as a means to lend some social responsibility value to it.

I am no doubt going to get some irate members of these organizations refuting my allegations and that is fine, it just makes the debate interesting, and thought provoking, the main aim of the blog. After all we must help those who help themselves before we help those who hold their hand out just because its free. The latter sadly are those who gain most from the Sri Lankan model of charity.

Talking about charity, it is very difficult to guarantee results, but if one directs it through someone trustworthy who is selfless in their work, there is a greater likelihood of both deserving people receiving assistance and gain the maximum productivity  out of the charity rupee.

Let us not kid ourselves. The Government of Sri Lanka is the largest distributor of charity to people, a huge proportion of which no one disputes is embezzled and wasted both by those in charge of distribution, and the undeserving recipients, who do not use what is given for the intended purpose. An important lesson in how we help, volunteer and donate.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Sri Lanka Transport Board – losses estimated at Rs6B for 2012 – So how about a plan?

What is a realistic plan? Shall we say to reduce the loss to Rs4B in 2013, and Rs2B in 2014 and a break even in 2015, whilst adding 1000 buses to the fleet in 2013, to take the total buses to 6,000. Remember that they employ a staggering 35,000 people who at an average wage of Rs30,000 a month including their EPF/ETF or pension benefits alone amounts to a staggering Rs12.6Billion!

The shortfall is provided by the Treasury just as the CEB and the SL Petroleum Corporation is also subsidized by them, to a much greater degree.

I would recommend the following goals.

1                      Whilst bringing down 1000 new buses, in 2013 the intention is to have 5,000 working buses in good operating condition daily, to a good standard running at any one time.
2                      In order to be more practical the cadre MUST be reduced to 30,000 by the end of 2013 by natural retirements and non extension of service and to 25,000 by the end of 2014 and possibly to 20,000 by 2015. This is the only way to improve productivity, whilst compensating workers well for overtime and other extra duties that add to productivity improvements.
3                      It is not for the SLTB to make profits, if it primarily serves areas that private buses do not ply on, due them being unprofitable. It is a sad reality all over the world that to serve the far flung communities it is essential to operate some services at a loss.
4                      It is better to hive off the loss making routes to a different company and manage them under different guidelines, whilst those buses that will now run on a combined timetable with the private buses, as announced today, be held to a different standard of profitability.
5                      The question of using SLTB buses for political purposes MUST be charged to any political party on a time and distance basis, with funds collected in advance and in ensuring existing services are not affected due to this requirement. The charges should also ensure that NO loss is incurred by the SLTB in their use. It is easier said than done, but proper records should be kept of such one off transactions so that better management of this requirement is ensured in future.
6                      The structure of the SLTB depots requires urgent change with performance measures to ensure more accountability and improved productivity. The signing off of work sheets must be stopped, by using the now very cheap fingerprinting system for clocking and out to ensure no wages are paid to the thousands staying at home, as at present due to the poor attendance systems in place.
7                      All depots should be cleared of all old and unusable buses, by sending them to a central scrapper’s yard so that proper salvage value is obtained, instead of the system at present to sell locally to cronies for low prices.
8                      The abuse of use and misuse of diesel, the huge waste in spare parts, especially the fraud taking place on the use of tires and the sale thereof of used tires before their full life is used up and the high cost of retreading that can be halved if the contract is given on an annual basis for a stipulated minimum to a larger re-treader.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

The level of self worth – try not to overestimate your importance

People for want of criteria of measurement, estimate their abilities and their success in comparison to their peers, and those around them. When it comes to an independent jury not of your peers, making this assessment, a completely different outcome could result, denting one’s pride. It is how one reacts to this that is important, as well as a mark of one’s character.

We always find ourselves in the company of our peers and are used to people being judgmental based on the same expected criteria and we are then comfortable or not about our abilities, success and position within this peer group. It is not often that we tread outside of this comfort zone. When we do, and sometimes we are judged very differently, we may even get the shock of our lives about ourselves; this, especially when it happens rarely or for the first time.

I was fortunate in being thrust into different environments early in life, first to go to school in Australia, having to turn overnight from being in a Sinhala stream into an English stream. That was quite a shock, but it allowed for a better assessment of self within a new environment. Whilst I was in the top of the class in Sri Lanka I was never anywhere near the top in my classes both when I was in Australia, and then in England. Granted the school I went to in England is now one of the top 5 secondary schools in the Country, and the standards were very high. In the year I left school, out of the whole A level class that went to Universities around England, 32 boys out of 64 got into Oxford or Cambridge Universities. Not me I might add.

I knew what good grades were, when my English teacher who had taught in the school for over 40 years had only ever given A grades less than 4 times. So his idea of good must have been very different from another’s

I write this because we in Sri Lanka at all levels of society appear, (I would greatly appreciate a comment to the contrary) to believe we are more capable than we really are. I get numerous jobs applications and send people on interviews. Clearly they do not get the job, because he or she is not the right fit for the job. However I am asked why, as they expect some kind of favoritism, when they are clearly not suitable for the task to which they apply. It has therefore become very important to deflate some of these people prior to their interviews to have realistic expectations.

This unrealistic level of expectation from people who are not capable or self confident is the dilemma of our society. They sometimes give an air of self confidence to others hiding a woeful sense of insecurity, and it is the latter that comes out in an interview, which I presume a seasoned interviewer can elicit and may even unfairly work against him or her.

There is much that can be written about this subject, but I want the reader to ponder, as it is a huge societal problem in Sri Lanka affecting people in all walks of life. I was pressed into writing this when today, one young man, called asking me why he was not included in some committee, as he felt he was immensely qualified and talented. I could not get it into me to tell him straight, that his claim was rejected outright due to his particular incompetence and lack of a clear vision, except for wanting to be recognized for seniority, something we do not have the luxury of rewarding for the particular task at hand. These are daily examples of making choices in the interests of ensuring the organizational goals succeed over personal desires and prejudices.

Edward Kennedy the AP War Correspondent who first reported the Nazi surrender


In an editorial he had written just before he died in November 1963, he stated

 “One of the problems of publishing a newspaper is that you have to sell something that is dead,” the piece read. “We can sell these pieces of dead trees only by creating the illusion that they are alive. This we attempt to do, with varying success, by headlines that grip the eye and written material that clutches the heart and soul of man.”

The part which says “the written material that clutches the heart and soul of man” is what caught my imagination. It is important and a duty of journalists to report something which keeps us spellbound. Their words are just as important as what they are saying. It is therefore important for a good journalist to have the command of the language in which he is writing to be able to deliver the story in language that is both memorable and the content clearly enunciated.

A book about his life “Ed Kennedy’s War – VE day, Censorship and Associated Press” has just been published nearly 50 years after he died, primarily from a manuscript he had written in 1951 about his life as a war correspondent for AP during the Second World War in Europe.

Journalists of today, no matter where they report from, operate and tell their stories in their own way owe it as a duty to their readership, which is the user of the information they provide, to give them as true a picture of the event as one can practically say.

It goes without saying that true objectivity is a goal that is not always easy to achieve due to a series of hindrances, though nevertheless a lofty goal to keep sight of.

In the particular instance of Kennedy he reported the  German surrender when he was asked not to and paid the price of losing his job at AP and had to find a job in a local paper and ended up editing a small paper in Monterey California, which he managed to raise from a also ran to one of pedigree in local journalism.

These small stories of the past are those that should inspire journalists of today to believe that their story is bigger than themselves. I reported in this blog about the laptops and car loans, yesterday in my blog entry, saying that it was a dirty underhand thing to force journalists into a corner and even those who pride themselves with some ethics to be compromised by offers that they cannot refuse due to personal circumstances, but which they will one day quite soon, “rue the day they were seen to be bought by the first citizen of the land.’

I think they should be the first to get the book and read it if they can, so that they will realize that some people make decisions that affect them personally for the rest of their lives, but they can go to their graves with dignity, knowing that they did not compromise on their principles.

Finding people of principle in a ever more seductive environment, where all the examples around us are that of success attributed to crime of one sort or another, and worse still admired by their peers as well as the state, some even being given state honors for the size of the crime, a hitherto unprecedented move. Let us think, reflect and be more determined to honor truth and justice.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Lap Tops and Interest Free loans to Journalists – Wrong Wrong Wrong

The old adage, “justice must not only be done, but seen to be done” has certainly not occurred in the above instance where a limited number lap tops and interest free loans were distributed amongst a few favorite journalists of the Govt.’s own choosing. For a government to go brazenly offering handouts is unprecedented. One cannot fault poor journalists who will take any concession they can get, alcohol being their weakest indulgence, where they can be bought, their stories compromised and they become prostituted.

It was therefore not in order for the Opposition Leader to advise that Editors should determine how these funds would be distributed amongst their staff. They will also use their own prejudices and unfair practices will continue. I believe the onus is on the employer to properly remunerate and provide tools of the trade and not for the government to influence what is written by such low ball tactics. RW should merely have asked them to desist or give ALL journalists who have been accredited to a media group for say 5 years the same concession, so that it could not be construed that certain people are being propositioned by gifts to report favorably, merely rewarding dogged perseverance in the profession.

The Fourth Estate, the Media have a proud tradition as the conscience of the Nation. This has seen better days, and this needs to resurface and take hold. These silly tactics are attempts at preventing a resurgence of integrity and ethics, something desperately needed in Sri Lanka today.

The media is the lone voice available to the people to express contrarian views and this is hugely compromised by the politicization of the media, and government largess that subsidizes media and helps continuance only if their point of view is expressed. When one loses credibility these additional acts adding fuel to the fire damage the credibility of the fourth estate in Sri Lanka.

Is there a fourth estate worth preserving? Possibly not at present, due to the huge pressure not just on media owners, but more so with journalists, who simply work to survive in a tough environment. They can easily be influenced to sell their soul. I do not know if under these circumstances one can attract people of the right caliber to take up this profession, as the precedent is not in keeping with expected norms, and unlike in India we do not have a culture of pride in the independence of the Media from interference. We then only have new recruits into media to work with and it is the duty of those who assist in training new recruits to enlighten them on what journalism is and the role it plays in civil society to protect the vulnerable.

Friday, November 23, 2012

It’s the will of the people – stupid! “That is paramount”

Defenders of populist democracies constantly remind one that the will of the people prevails over all else. Therefore if a plebiscite is taken and the overwhelming majority, say two thirds of those who vote, say another minority should be disposed of like in Hitler’s Germany then it is done! Today there is a huge cry for the Parliament to be supreme as it represents the will of the majority of the people!

This is the sort of crap being espoused by a significant number of racist intellectuals in Sri Lanka. They do not have any respect for international law, as they say that they have been formulated to protect Judeo Christian beliefs and therefore does not apply. Look at the Tibet question in China! The Country was annexed by a greedy power, for space to put their people. Now the Tibetans have effectively been subjugated by the majority Chinese into second class citizens in their own homeland, willfully annihilated and no voice other than Judeo Christians.

Many Sinhala Sri Lankans have a huge minority complex that is possibly worse than the minorities themselves. This is possibly because of the potential threat that India poses with both being a huge superpower in the region and their constant interference in the affairs of Sri Lanka, when they see it politically astute for their home consumption. Sri Lanka therefore is at the receiving end of this combustion.

The Sinhala people act like they know how a minority feels in their minority complex, but fail to realize how little they know of their own neighbors. Minorities wherever they are, be they Sinhala people in Britain or the Tamils in Sri Lanka do whatever they can to preserve their culture and protect their territory from threats around them. It is just human nature. We in Sri Lanka seem to have taken that threat to an extreme where we have overreacted and then given these people the chance they have been looking for in the international eyes to ask for the Sun…….

In Sri Lanka the minority today has extended to the “are you with us or you are a terrorist sympathizer motto!” This means that if you do not subscribe to one person’s ideology that has been stamped indelibly, you are automatically an enemy of the state, even if the enemy of the state can be proved to be the mistaken majority view, due to undue influence and being misled or a clever exercise in duplicity.

We therefore come back full circle to the will of the people that is paramount. What do you say? If the will of the people is wrong because they are delusional, then do you say tough luck chum, they are just out to kill or maim you and you can do nothing about it. You have NO ONE to protect you. You cannot resort to the law, the ultimate arbiter, the Supreme Court of the will of the people have spoken.

You may gloat over the expression "let the majority prevail" until you are in the minority without you realizing it, and then know "there is no one who can save you."

The delegation to Kazakhstan with the President – Junket or Worthwhile?

The President took a Sri Lankan Airlines, plane load of Govt. and Business leaders to Kazakhstan amounting to 70 for the state visit. Upon completion the plane returned to Colombo, while the Presidents jetted off to the United States from Astana on an international airline such as Lufthansa, on a private visit, ostensibly to see the PM who is ailing in hospital and possibly also have a medical checkup, as would be normal for a China loving person not to trust the Chinese medicine and instead place his life on US medicine, no matter what he says about the US for his domestic audience.

So what was all this about? Step back. What does Kazakhstan require? Foreign investment. Did our businessmen go there to invest? NO

What does Kazakhstan buy from us? Tea, Did any tea industry leader go to ensure they reduce entry barriers to our Value Added Tea? NO (Susantha Ratnayake does not count as he went as the head of the CCC and not as head of the Tea Board or whatever to represent tea interests. Harry Jayawardene went for the ride to keep in the good books of the President in case he decides to take over another of his previously privatized companies like LMF)

What can they give us? Grain. Do we want any more grain, considering we have imposed more taxes on wheat grain and flour? NO

Kazakhstan is a oil producer on land based oil fields. Do they have any knowledge in offshore oil production, especially a competitive advantage? NO. I can understand LAUGFS Wegapitiya, who also went will try and get some cheap gas to fill his cylinders, but it is not practical to import it from there in the quantity he wants, as they send it through their pipelines and not cost effective for him.

I challenge the Govt. If we either export or import 20% more to/from Kazakhstan in 2013 as compared with 2012 to justify a Presidential delegation of our top businessman whose time, shall we say is valued at US$1M a day in business gained or lost, for the reader to assess if this junket has been anything but that?

I invite delegates who went at huge cost to the state estimated at Rs100M to contradict my position and correct any incorrect allegations I may have alluded to in this blog. Having an aircraft idle in Astana for a couple of days is an unforgivable sin, especially for an airline that is bleeding heavily, to have to forego income by this very extravagant dalliance.

Thursday, November 22, 2012 MUST BE accessible to ALL – so what is the problem?

Currently is like all things bureaucratic in Sri Lanka, a closed shop without a broader reach. Nenasa is TV that is beamed to about 1000 schools by Dialog TV, who supplied ONE TV each and the link to each of the schools and is expected to increase it by 500 more in 2013.

I have two issues. Why can’t this project be expanded to all schools, or at least the majority of schools? The second point is why can’t it be put into the basic programming of Dialog TV, so that those subscribing to Dialog TV will have access in a similar manner that the GCE O level study/learning modules are now accessible to those who subscribe to Dialog TV?

I believe this learning tool is the future, and now that SL has the latest technology islandwide, already established the minor costs in my proposal will more than pay off in a short term.

The National Institute of Education in collaboration with Dialog is broadcasting the teaching modules on Nenasa from an auditorium in the NIE offices, using high quality educators, to get the specific project/subject information to the students in schools nationwide.

Whilst the school curricula need constant revision and updating, something that does not take place as frequently as it should, similarly the nenasa teaching modules need constant refinement as it is currently more in the groundbreaking stage and has a long way to go to maturity. However it is a good start, and results are that there are some relevant topics common to all, but one has to determine the scope. Actually the program schedule needs a lot more refinement once they can broadcast multiple channels at the same time with a proper TV guide on the Internet, where the specific subjects and times and levels can be transmitted over say 10 channels concurrently and in three languages, so that the necessary school, class and level can have access their particular subject.

I know much of what I am expressing is a wish list, but it is only the extension of the technology now available and in use. I believe strongly that it should be beamed to the homes, as there are many parents who through no fault of their own did not have access to these learning tools when they were going to school and who could benefit from the increase in knowledge base that these distance learning and electronic delivery methods can provide. So please allow all access through DIALOG TV and both Dialog, the students of all ages can benefit immensely. 

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

The ICG calls for a change in venue of the Commonwealth Conference from Sri Lanka in its latest report out 20th Nov

The latest report of the International Crisis Group, the busybodies that keep tabs on what is going on in the world today, dated 20th November 2012 in point 16 of the Executive summary call on Commonwealth to change its venue if the GOSL does not carry out its promises!
To the Secretariat and Member States of the Commonwealth:
16.  Insist that the Sri Lankan government take the actions listed in recommendation 14 above, and agree that in the event it fails to do so, the October 2013 Commonwealth heads of government meeting will be moved from Colombo to an alternative location.

The detailed report covering over 40pages also issued on 20th November 2012 is more far reaching with recommendations for each of the stakeholders on what to do in order to achieve the desired (by ICJ) settlement. THE DETAILED REPORT

As usual the GOSL will ignore this, as not warranting even a response and the show will go on regardless, the next crisis awaiting the GOSL being the UNHRC sessions in March 2013.

Further Alan Keenan the ICJ Sri Lanka Project Director and senior analyst has written on CNN about “Time to push back towards Sri Lankan impunity” further reiterates the course of action to be followed in the international sphere.

None of the above bode well for Sri Lanka itself, no matter what stance the GOSL makes. I urge the GOSL to study these three, and make appropriate responses that are constructive, and politely dismissing some of the farfetched claims made in the report, while not trying to hide from some of the real issues that must be tackled if we are to move forward as a country.

The new developments with regard to the abolition of the 13th Amendment, while at the same time including a 19th Amendment to address the minority grievances must be made public and clearly enunciated to the world for all to understand.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Rohingya – conflict in Myanmar – needs to be addressed soon

There is one thing that unites all Burmese, pro Govt. and opposition. That is the belief that the Rohingya who number 800,000 and live in the nort west of the Country in Rakhine State closer to the Bangladeshi border, should not be given Citizenship. Much in the way Indian Tamils were not given citizenship at Independence these are discriminated stateless people, all born and brought up in Myanmar but of Muslim faith. There are other Muslim groups in many parts of the Country but this group claim some form of distinct identity which further alienates them from the majority.

It was therefore purely a political gamble only to score points at home when Aung San Su Kyi, the leader of the Opposition, and now free from house arrest having hosted President Obama yesterday in her lakeside home, said " the Bangladeshis must stop the people from crossing the border, and we must secure the border to prevent these people from illegally entering". The Bangladeshis retorted. These people have lived in Rakhine for centuries. They DID NOT come from Bangladesh, which has only been a nation since 1971. Wherever they came from DOES NOT MATTER today, it is what human rights the Burmese can grant them that matters.

Looking at the Tamil issue in Sri Lanka as a parallel we too have people misusing facts to score political points at home, a problem when you are talking for votes. You will sell your soul and your sense of integrity for votes, no matter what your personal or innermost beliefs may be! It is exactly this reason that influence is exerted from outside to seek justice for the oppressed no matter who they are. They have no internal agenda.

Accusations are always of one community starting the violence, which then begets revenge. However as a first step without hesitation, citizenship must be given to these people, and their ownership rights within the Country legalized. The majority community of either party will not agree to this, so it will have to be imposed from outside as a condition for assistance. It is just not permissible for such a large community anywhere in the world to remain stateless. Even though they claim some affinity to West Bengal and may be ethnic Bengalis, there home is within the Country, and they cannot be turfed out.

The other fear the majority community have is of the high birth rates in this community that threaten the balance. This community accounts for 25% of the population of the state and therefore should be a real threat, much less a perceived one. However people’s base instincts are fed by nationalist Buddhist Priests.

The clashes result in bloodshed and the army can be brutal in its crackdown against the Rohingya. This must stop. They must be assimilated, given full rights without discrimination and permitted to live in their enclaves free from harassment. The problem is that intellectuals agree with this, but people who are more prone to listen to extremists are not willing to budge. It is therefore incumbent upon the Govt. to give these rights, but not make it an electoral liability and solve the crisis.

We cannot permit classic old fashioned prejudice to continue in 2012. People must become educated to the need to accept difference especially when it is one’s own neighbors who have lived alongside for generations. The answer to the massive growth in their numbers, that threaten overtake the population balance, may have to be solved in a different way by getting the Rohingya to compromise on their religious principles and not be permitted to have more than one wife, in the interests of the delicate balance that gives rise to fear of the majority community of being overwhelmed by them in the future. The rich anyway fly the coop, anywhere

Monday, November 19, 2012

So Hussein Onyango Obama came to Sri Lanka in the 1940’s – yes it was President Barack Hussein Obama’s Grandfather!

We in Sri Lanka will have to be content with a visit of an Obama in the 1940’s when Onyango Obama came to our fair isle as a cook for a British captain in the Kings African Rifles during the Second World War.  He was also one of 75,000 who served in Burma, now Myanmar in the Second World War, and to which his grandson will touch down in a blue and white Boeing 747 in Air Force One as the President of the United States of America, 7 decades later.

It is an interesting bit of minutiae but important nevertheless, to appreciate how the US has changed, into a truly multiracial country of immigrants who are mixtures of many races and nationalities that have a common identity now in the United States.

The connections with his grandfather a servant of the British Army, must have some context in the President identifying himself with a history attached to British Colonialism also, and which must have undoubtedly influenced his father’s way of thinking too knowing the history attached to Barack Senior’s own father.

The point I wish to illustrate here is for readers to realize that the United States is a country of immigrants with incredible pasts. Whilst the President’s heritage is of Africans directly from the continent, his wife’s is of a mixture of African Slaves brought over to the Americas who were sometimes used as mistresses of their slave owners and whose progeny form the majority of Black Americans.

Gradually with interracial marriages gaining momentum and color becoming a thing of the past, the country will be united in one concept of Americanism that is color blind, but will preserve the essence of its founding principles. The various amendments to the Original Constitution determine how the American laws are interpreted by the Supreme Court.

In a time when the whole Constitution of Sri Lanka is questioned, especially as it relates to the impeachment where the procedure for removal of judges of the Supreme Court as laid out in Article 107 of the Sri Lanka Constitution, allows Parliament to exercise considerable control over the Judiciary and is therefore incompatible with both the principle of separation of power and Article 14 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

It is time that we in Sri Lanka make the leap to International Norms from the law of the jungle practiced in reality, and not regress, if we are remotely thinking of taking a seat alongside the credible nations of the world. 

In the US – Susan Rice for Secretary of State and a Republican for Defence!

The two names most bandied about is Susan Rice for Secretary of State and even John Kerry. The latter however will have to forego his Senate Seat in Massachusettes and step down from senior positions such as the Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. He is also named as a possible Defense Secretary.

My pick would be Susan Rice for Sec of State and a Republican Congressman for Defense to pacify the Republicans and get some important bills passed in the House! After all Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) is the Chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee will have to clear up the David Patraeus affair, and putting a Republican in Defense, much in the way Clinton did is good politics.

Rice promotion would help in Susan Power’s elevation to UN Ambassador a Cabinet post, which she can use as the bully pulpit for Obama causes such as HR in the world, and ideas that Power is committed to and determined to make her mark. All these changes should be done sooner rather than later, so that come the day of Inauguration on Jan 20th these announcements are in place, as it may take some time for the confirmation hearings if Congress wishes to delay that.

Ironically Condi Rice (no relation) was also a Sec of State under GW Bush, but now she is a Stanford Professor, though she is not an Alumni, which Susan Rice is. It is time that Rice and not Wheat rules the world and it seems so these days, thanks to prominent African Americans. The US has matured with a Black two term President, despite the overt racism by some, and now Black Foreign Ministers, and female at that, which will be hard for the rest of the world to easily criticize.

Despite the criticism of the US by many in Government from Sri Lanka it is increasingly obvious the criticism falls on deaf years as the people who are doing the criticizing are in a worse position from which to tell others about right and wrong.

I believe a formidable team of Obama, Rice and Power will be able to put a lot more pressure on Israel to come to a settlement, and as they are about to take some bellicose actions that are bound to ricochet on their face, it will be up to a new team at the White House to call the shots and bring Netanyahu to book for another diplomatic and therefore blunder for the State of Israel, that the Obama administration will be hard pressed to defend for the umpteenth time.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

What would our politics be if the 2M disenfranchised citizens overseas had a vote?

There are approximately 2M Sri Lankan citizens who are living and working overseas. Just a few of them about 5% are currently minors, under the 18 year voting age, but the vast majority would be eligible to vote if they were living and registered to vote in Sri Lanka. There currently is NO intention of either of the main parties to include them in the voting register, at least for that of the President.

Sri Lanka has one of the highest percentages of citizens of one country who live overseas. They currently contribute approximately US$8Billion to the Sri Lanka economy directly through the banking system and outside of it. Therefore they form a disproportionately high economically active section of the population who SADLY DO NOT have a say in who gets elected to the most powerful position in this Country. Just imagine how different our future, let alone our history may have been if that were the case!! After all in a heavily politicized country, the person at the helm has a hugely disproportionate influence in how the country’s wealth is wasted. There is no one currently living except for the leaders themselves who question that the waste is of historically humongous proportions!!!!

I believe the citizens who go overseas are the most enterprising and risk taking people we have, and who are able to use what skills, god has given them and acquired both at home and overseas for their personal benefit. I believe someone who benefits themselves first is someone the nation MUST value, as it is that individual who can help the nation benefit as much if not more, and we need to find a way to cultivate that talent for the benefit of this country.

As someone who wakes up everyday wondering how I could make a positive difference to this country, who after 33 years overseas decided it was time I came to my country to do whatever I can to assist it in a positive way feel I am very fortunate in being able to do my part.

The work I have done since my arrival in Sri Lanka, much of which is documented in the various blogs I keep, including but not exclusively in and They are opinions of someone fortunate to live out looking in at the idiosyncrasies within.

I have shown in my own limited way what I can do, question some of the behavior of people within Sri Lanka and have suggested ways of improving the way we live, do business, educate, care for, treat patients and improve governance here in Sri Lanka in

If not for a wasted accident caused by the Cabinet Minister of Justice, in January 2011, who accepts full blame, where I was completely disabled and my whole vocation destroyed, I would have been able to finish where I started, however we do not have complete control over our destiny and this is an example of how badly the powers of this country abuse their authority against the interests of Sri Lanka, in case someone was looking around to find fault with the way this administration behaves!!!!

Anyway I have been able to put my disability aside as something I have to live with which has not received any compensation from the uncaring state apparatus that caused it. I have had to change what I am doing to work in the opposition as a Secretary to a Member of Parliament to do whatever we can in Social Service and use my knowledge and skills to assist him in empowering our youth to rise from the depths to which this administration is bent on taking this country to one of a new plan full of hope and enterprise, looking beyond the petty and greedy administration which while it is cheating the people by misinformation on what it is engaged in is actually engaged in daylight robbery of especially the huge funds earned and brought by these aforesaid 2 million productive workers.

It is therefore just a matter of simple deduction, that no one would like their life-savings being destroyed by an administration for personal greed and would like to have a say in how the massive foreign exchange that they remit is spent.

It is to these people that I address these comments as they form a large portion of my readership. Please have faith in us we will do our utmost to give you your vote, as that is the right thing to do. There are no ifs and buts. Our embassies have the capacity to do so, and we will use the latest voting techniques including the electronic voting procedures as well as the internet to garner your support and ensure that there is justice and fair play in giving you a say in the affairs of your country.

I with years of work overseas, putting up with the numerous hardships, which I was able to overcome, have a spirit that most of you overseas have, in order to make a change for the better in Sri Lanka, with many of the worst excesses being committed in the name of politics by politicians. You will then be able to effect change in this mentality as they will HEED your advice also and not waste your money and ensure you obtain a fair reward for your labor and safeguard your savings once you return, be it in the form of say, housing education or other investments in the financial sector or elsewhere.

Mahinda Rajapakse – Where to from here? – in the Sunday Times

(The above link is to the article referred to below to commemorate in another sense the 67 Birthday of President Mahinda Rajapakse.)

There is an excellent unbiased summary of the President in today’s Sunday Times, Presidency Column. It is worth a read for those who admire and also those who despise his Presidency. It is just the reason why one should be wary of its continuation. It is clear from the article, that he has gone against the grain of thinking, and has overcome all hurdles due to political mastery of his electorate.

He has gone where others have feared to tread, and in the interests of getting what he wants, is willing to compromise on principles and popularity and willing to outmaneuver the media apparatus so that he could lock in with no outward dissent.

The article singularly fails to document the excesses that have been used both to destroy anyone who is considered a threat, and the callous treatment of those he considers expendable. However it does remind people of how he uses and disposes politicians at his whim, when they are no longer needed for his long term goals.

This latter threat has stifled his ministers from expressing independence and has resulted in buffoonery at its worst in the way the governance and government is managed. Only sycophants are tolerated or at best fools, as pointed out in the article when referring to Bandula Gunewardene and SB Dissanayake. This has resulted in a third rate set of ministers who are singularly unable to improve productivity and only contribute to more waste and corruption, something Rajapakse is willing to tolerate to build a second tier of politician who will forever be indebted to him, and deliver him votes, for his good fortune in fleecing the state.

The level of economic mismanagement has not been referred to, as the article has no place in it in that aspect. The apparent success of the regime, thanks to the dividend of US$8B from our remittances, is one the President claims credit for and no one has been able to explain to the people that if not for the mismanagement of the economy by the administration this would surely have yielded far more stellar results. The squandering of this dividend, along with the casting away of the peace dividend, is what history will eventually remember him for once the value of winning the internal war with the LTTE is forgotten in the mists of time.  

In short only simple minded folk with no values, morality, principles and patriotism, never mind even the need for a show of democracy or governance will endorse his continuation. Until that moral degradation can be overcome, by education and values, we are left to ponder on what might have been!!