Tuesday, December 31, 2013

2013 The Year that brought the selfie out from the Cold!

Selfies are as old as photography, but it was 2013 that brought it out from the cold into acceptable territory. So what about it?

Well who else but the widely circulated photos of the taking of the selfie that the Danish PM (lady) indulged in with Cameron and Obama, that took the wind off the almost boring and ill conceived memorial for Mandela that took place in a football stadium, that looked half empty. The funeral itself was a much better affair, that I watched on broadband not having a TV this year.

Of course the taking of the selfie itself at such an ostensibly solemn occasion caused much debate, some of which even I engaged in via FB. I wonder what Nelson Mandela would have thought of that. 

It is a lighthearted ending for a very busy year that in my opinion is one that has passed by the fastest for me! What can I say, time has just flown by, and I wonder if I thought I will be in this state now a whole year ago.

In my case the tragedy was my leg has still not healed. The accident that the Police Escort Vehicle of the Minister of Justice, did to me at the end of January 2011 is hardly a distant memory for me. I was told in mid year that the steel pin in my leg, was broken in two inside, and the bottom half was permanently enshrined, and unable to be removed. Further I was told that an operation to do any correction would have to be done only at the National Hospital as they only had the tools that could remove the screws that were originally put in. All this does not sound much, but the clanger all along was the fact that I only found out in October 2013 after a doctor friend from the US asked me to do the test,  that my Vitamin D3 levels were low, and may have been a cause for the lack of improvement in bone growth on the leg.

It beats me that Orthopedic Surgeons in their rush to operate are totally ignorant of the need for a medical team to investigate the causes of why my leg has not healed, and not just left to remedial orthopedic intervention, until all the probable causes are  eliminated.

If this had been done in June 2011, the story now would be different as the bone graft was done on the assumption that the bone was NOT close enough rather than the calcification was not taking place due to a lack of vital Vitamin D3 to make this happen!!
So I am none the wiser, having lost faith in the medical establishment, and wondering what to do next. So this question mark lies in my mind at the end of this year, which I hope will not carry out to this time next year, where I hope I will have a better report card as to this particular disability of mine.

Heres to a particular bad year for me, that I wish to forget, as it pertains to my health in as much as it is confined only to the unrepaired injury, that the Govt . of SL has so far determined it does not wish to have anything to do with along with the thousands of other injuries caused by their servants which they refuse to acknowledge blame, responsibility, and in the end some form of compensation however small. Main culprits being Ministers, Forces highups.

So heres to all of you, the many thousands dead and walking wounded, who due to the culpability and bloody mindedness of the State, are in a state of desrepair, don’t give up, we will change the laws so that Govt. vehicles are first of all insured, so they take some action to prevent future occurrences and brazen heroics on the roads at the expense of people’s lives and limbs.

I for my part will keep on at it, first to return to full normalcy in time, and then to ensure that the culprit who is ultimately responsible for this state of affairs never forgets his inaction on causing it.

Back to selfies, and the photo was taken above a few minutes ago, before writing this entry, the first selfie I have attempted after the selfie became a talking point, though I have taken selfies for as long as I can remember as a photographer in years gone by before the advent of the smart phone.

With advances in technology, the issue next year will be something more mundane or way out beyond the comprehension of us in 2013, such is the pace, with the new Samsung 100+inch TVs that are many times clearer than the best we have today making it into the market in January at over US$100K a pop and orders streaming in. 

Goodbye 2013, I go home in a few minutes to my normal sleep routine, so I can get to office in the morning for the tradition beginning of year rituals as a director of a company who has to give a small pep talk to the staff, to give them a morale boost that things can only get better, and to be optimistic that their lives will take a turn for the better. No 31st night dances for me, as I cannot move around the floor in a way I would like without a crutch, and would rather be comfortably in dreamland ready for the new dawn in a New Year! 

Monday, December 23, 2013

What happened to the Kalpitiya Resort Development?

There was so much hype with regard to the massive Tourist infrastructure that was supposed to be taking place in Kalpitiya where around 11 islands were also leased out to foreign resort holders for mega bucks so they could build massively expensive resorts. I believe there was also a hotelier from Sri Lanka who was planning a 5,000 room mega resort also.

The link refers to the indefinite delay of the Citrus Kalpitiya Resort owing to the non-existent plan for the development of Kalpitiya in the first place.

As with everything Mega, they turn out to be Mega flops. They appear in the minds of the inventor, who hope to cash big on either amassing some land and selling it on to the highest bidder, or doing some deal after the hype has stirred interest, not really interested in how this project will proceed from there.

See the link on the 4,000 acres and US$4.2B Integrated Development plan:

As one can see from the above web page the whole thing even reeks of a scam in the making, to fool as many people to part with their money for quicksand!

It is in this same premise that the Shangri La is a non starter, Krish is a gonner, the land next to Shangi La to Chinese ITC also has been put on permanent hold and so the story goes on. Don’t be surprised if Paker goes the same way along with the JKH resort and the Queensberry as without a Casino, there is NO Business model for mega resorts on DR Wijewardene Mawatha.

It is this sinking feeling that we have people in Sri Lanka with enormous imaginations but little practical sense. Unless some big whig has a stake in the filling up of the sea in the new 500 Hectare land by the Colombo Port, that too will go the same way.

I certainly DO NOT want to sound like a downer, but I am merely warning Investors that they cannot trust the word of this Govt. as shown by ample evidence above and elsewhere. Their track record in smoothly facilitating new developments is more than gruesome, more like hell! So until saner human beings can be given the reins of power with a vision to realize, there will be more of these hallucinatory utterances that no one should take seriously.

It is time to take stock, and allow our small time entrepreneurs to grow their entities unhindered, with the big players left to dream up empires in their sleep.      

Sunday, December 22, 2013

The Price of Fame for the not so famous!

A couple of days ago a well known actress Nadeesha Hemamali held a press conference in our office, 10am on a Friday morning. Usually press conferences have a reputation of being poorly attended by the press no matter the importance of the matter at hand or even commitment and expertise of the speakers to their subject matter.

In this case I had calls from the previous day asking where the office was, and even on the same day for directions to the office, and by 10am the place was packed to the brim with reporters and cameramen and TV crew. It was the best attended Press Conference we have held in our office.

Now I have to confess that as I am not much of a moviegoer and one who does not even posses a TV, so I have no clue as to who she is. However in making sure the office was organized for it that morning, I had to get the staff to come early to spruce up the place and arrange the chairs and tables, so when I mentioned the name they all knew who she was at once. 

She being a popular actress who was just beginning a political career as a novice and who had just taken party membership the previous day, and also being accepted as a nominee for the Southern Provincial Council on the UNP ticket meant she was giving her first public announcement and Q&A with the Press. All TV channels were also represented.

I know if a put a photo of her on this blog entry I will get more hits than if I do not, such is the cost and price of fame! No wonder then it must disgust very hard working, future politicians who wish to make a name for themselves, to see someone garnering such a press conference and then seeing voice cuts within minutes on radio and TV channels within 24hours of coming to politics, where they in 10 years of dutiful community service cannot dream of such a level of publicity.

We know life is NOT fair, but if they believe they can gain further fame and fortune coming into politics, what hope have the rest of us with honest intentions of being of service to our nation? I believe the PR system must share the blame, as in the district system, there are 30+ candidates of a party that confront the voters on a ballot paper, where one may enter 3 numbers! So the largely unprepared voter looks at the list, and when they recognize a name they have heard before, tend to cross that name! We call it democracy and PR!   

Saturday, December 21, 2013

The Case against Devyani Khobragade

 – Causing an unbelievable Diplomatic Spat between the US and India, and has implications for ALL countries!  

DK as I will refer to the lady, of the Dalit Caste, was the 40 something, attractive, Deputy Consul General for Political, Economic, Commercial and Women’s Affaires at the Consulate General of India in New York. She employed an Indian Nanny and to get her a visa to work in this position knowingly made a false claim in an affidavit, which was presented at the Indian Embassy in New Delhi, and has been accused of perjury, arrested after dropping of her 6 yr child at day care or Montessori, handcuffed, and stripped searched, including the humiliating body cavity search, and thrown in a jail with common criminals in New York. She was later granted bail $250K.

For the text of the full statement issued in New York for ‘Visa fraud’ and ‘making a false statement’ (complaint) see the link:  http://www.thehindu.com/multimedia/archive/01692/Text_of_complaint__1692362a.pdf

Just as an aside, she is a product of preferential treatment, where lower castes were given an allocation to positions, to give them a fairer representation in her chosen field, and that does not imply that she is in any way less qualified or talented and is also an experienced diplomat of approximately 15 years in the Indian Foreign Service.   

In simple English she agreed to pay her Indian maid an hourly wage that was greater than the minimum wage in New York that works out at US$4,500 for the hours that the maid actually worked instead of the US$550 she actually earned. The maid went to the authorities and complained and they threw the book at her and now the elite in India are incensed!!  There is an almighty row and the US Law Enforcement authorities are NOT bothered and will go the whole way in making this charge stick all the way to get a guilty verdict!

In her position she does not enjoy diplomatic immunity for this action. The Indians have now given her a position in the UN which enjoys Immunity, but the US will NOT give retrospective immunity, which means she will be prosecuted to the full extent of US law. The Indians have taken some action against the US diplomats in India, withdrawing many grace and favor privileges they enjoy, making life difficult for them. The Indians are threatening more action if this is NOT immediately resolved to the satisfaction of the Indians who believe it is an affront, to their Country, and note, many Indians working in their missions in the US do not even earn minimum wage anyway and are NOT covered under this law as they are accredited diplomats, whose wages are NOT the concern of the US!

The reality is when half the staff in the Indian missions in US earn less than minimum wage, how can they pay a nanny more than the wages paid to the Diplomat? it is JUST not possible. The US will say tough cheese, and the Indians will just have to withdraw from the US as they will not wish to work in the US if they are NOT able to get visas for Nannies, especially if the diplomat is the mother in the first place!! YOU GET MY POINT  

That is why I say that this issue cuts across all countries, especially third world countries that pay their diplomats nothing, and give allowances so that they can actually live in the US and do their work!! 

Is this a test case that will AFFECT ALL MISSIONS FROM POORER COUNTRIES? Will all the underpaid staff from SL missions in the US do the same thing? Or are they working illegally anyway so the problem does not arise, as they cannot go to the US Authorities to complain? The Indians by getting a legitimate visa by making the false statement they had to make to get the Visa, are therefore being held accountable for committing perjury.

Make no bones about it that there are NO Indians working in the US embassy in India in any capacity, or for its staff in India, who earn anything like the minimum wage in New York! 

For good measure, this employee’s whole family have been ‘evacuated’ to the US from India by the US Prosecutors for fear that Indians may pressure them to withdraw the case, annoying India further about this brazen act of defiance and arrogance by the US. The latter saying that otherwise the possibility of a fair trial could be compromised in the US with witness tampering!

So you can see this turning out to be a royal fist fight! Worse the attorney who is behind the prosecution is an Indian American. Wonder what caste he is? A Brahmin perhaps disgusted by the Indian Govts allocation of places to the untouchables! Is the nanny of higher caste, who wanted to teach her better educated and wealthy employer a lesson? The imagination does run riot and the US in their limited level of common sense are in the midst of a Caste War being played out in the US Courts. What do you think? A proxy war by Indian Exiles in the US, against the elite of India in the two tier society there!       

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Only in SL – 550,000 15&16 year olds twiddling their thumbs for 7 months!

The O level Exams are now on and I believe they conclude on Saturday, the 21st December. The results will be out in late March. 550,000 students are sitting these exams in three languages, Sinhala, Tamil and English. The average number of subjects offered by a student is 9. This is at the conclusion of 11 years of study at school, excluding Montessori. 

Only once the results are out can many students choose the school, and subject they wish to follow at A levels, so that they will only be admitted to these schools in June or July of 2014, unless their schools have an A level stream of their choice. (Only 600 schools in SL have an A level Science Stream and about 50 have teachers for the A level Technology stream.) 

What a travesty of Education? This is another example of the misery, and the oppression of Education in the state sector that our Students in Sri Lanka suffer from.

Parents who have money, will send their kids who are motivated to study to private Tutories to get a head start on the A level subjects they wish to follow, during this long break from school.

What happens to the Teachers? Do they just sit around at school, or go and teach for a fee at the Tutories? Whilst drawing a salary from the State School to which they are assigned?   

A study break at this stage in their education cycle is NOT a good thing. This will be the first long break from study that most students will have and as the Education system does not permit or encourage free thinking and creativity, so the Students (majority) have NO guidance in what to do during this very critical stage of their life and education.

I encourage ALL schools as a matter of practice to set up (with the assistance, financing and provision of teaching facilities from the Ministry to have an intense English of IT education program running for 6 months)

This is a perfect and only opportunity to really give 98% of the students who are very weak in both, the chance to get to an acceptable level of scholarship in these two fields, and intense learning might be the answer to prepare them fully before embarking on the arduous (university level) A level courses.     

Monday, December 16, 2013

Progressive vs the Regressive – A way forward out of the impasse

The Bodu Bala Sena appears peeved. They allege that the Cardinal of the Roman Catholic Church is more powerful than the 33  Senior Prelates of the Maha Sangha, the senior most Monks of Theravada Buddhism.

One must ask why such a perception got a hold of  the BBS which looks for ways to attract the attention of the Buddhists, while at the same time attempting to vilify other Religions, both of which are extremely disingenuous acts.

The link above appears at first reading to corroborate this allegation, as the senior priests in the Catholic Church have appealed to the First Lady, herself a Catholic, to intervene and STOP the proposed KATANA Casino Complex.

It is time we remove ourselves from this unnecessary griping of religious favoritism and face the facts. There is NO question that the Buddhist Clergy in Sri Lanka have extremely powerful political leanings one way or another, and this affects the thinking of the mostly Buddhist population, and the BBS and Sihala Ravaya, the more recent incarnations of the extremist factions (they somehow vehemently deny this tag as their measure of fundamentalism and extremism differs from my own) seem to further enforce this truism.  

When something does not go your own way you find answers. Often it is against your opponent that you label the blame for your own incompetence or inability to influence opinion. It is important that when the religious engage in politics, that fewer people listen to them or take notice and their power is diluted. The Cardinal on the other hand takes a principled stand on matters and it is a unified voice of the Church unlike the fractious Buddhist Clergy and obviously has more impact and the Govt. does listen as they represent a large voter base that they wish to canvass. (there are inevitably differences within the Church that they try to keep internalized for the sake of unity.) 

Unlike with the Muslim vote that often is only given to Muslims, the Catholic vote given to Catholics is spread more evenly amongst the political divide, and is therefore up for grabs, and those not in the Catholic belt are not obliged to vote on religious but only party lines. These fundamental differences mean that the courting this voterbase ensures a more receptive audience for their needs.
It is time this fundamental point is appreciated by the boorish Ven Galagoda Aththe Gnanasara Thero, who in my opinion does not do his cause any good, nor his faction or faith. He is a one hit wonder, and will fade away when his audience tires of him, but is likely to cause a lot of damage to the unity and security of the citizens in Sri Lanka while he is in a position to vent his spleen.

We then come to the real issue in Sri Lanka, namely that of the inclusivity and belonging of all races so that we may live in harmony. This is something that is becoming increasingly distant, and in playing the race card, using these splinter groups like the aforesaid are attempting to alienate and by that force them to seek greener pastures or flee the Country, depending on your point of view.

History has shown that regression does not pay. The world is moving in one direction and it appears that our leaders wish to stay in power by moving in the opposite direction as that is the only means by which they can convince an audience ignorant of reality, where their loyalties lie.

In a progressive world, where we embrace new technology and change, something that we MUST do if we are to survive, where 2.5M of our citizens live overseas, as opportunities are greater for them there than here, we cannot entertain regressive ideas of fear of being overrun by other races, religions and ideals. If we had closed borders where there was limited interaction with the outside world, I can then understand the logic of not wanting to be influenced by other traditions to preserve ours.

Many of those advocating a negative mindset are those who fear change, fear the loss of their power, and even more are unable to convince the masses that their position is the more believable. In short the losers. So we must choose between the losers, and the thinkers and wonderers that wish for a better society from what we have. 

I take it that our society is in need of improvement not further destruction. There is a simple solution, namely exploration of the mind by way of visionary education, that allows for reasoning, questioning, and rationalization, and NOT the acceptance of what elders say. If by this process, it reinforces what elders say that is fine, but not by blind adherence of faith. This concept challenges religion as we know it as it questions faith, but faith can be reinforced by a rational process of the mind, and not by blind adherence to teachings.

It is time to ditch the fear of the unknown and begin a fondness for life. You will be surprised as to how quickly your inbuilt prejudices disappear and wonder what made you a majoritarian with a minority complex. It applies equally to all races and religions when you place your position on this Earth before nationhood, race and religion, which are all transient in the scheme of importance and only meant to stifle progress. 

Man can live merely by the application of the Rule of Law, in a just and equitable manner, nothing else matters.

Many would say that this is pie in the sky day dreaming, but I know it is inevitable, and I am just trying to speed this up, and remove some of the potential for conflict in the interim, with violence.

Just imagine what SL will be like 25 years hence. Let us get there without pain and suffering, because we will get there no matter what. The current path is through pain and suffering, and so we must aim to do so without.     

Sunday, December 15, 2013

The Census of the Disappeared – Let us try to do it properly

All GN(Grama Niladari) divisions in Sri Lanka have been requested to go to the households in their respective areas, and obtain information of missing persons during the period 1982 to date.

I sincerely hope that a proper accounting of these missing people, along with the basic information pertaining to them such as their name, year of birth, date they went missing etc would be obtained.

My local Grama Niladari came to my home this morning, and I, as the head of the household signed off that there were NO missing persons in this household to my knowledge! During this period.

Whilst the press and the HRC and other bodies are hailing it as a first step, I personally would like to see a proper accounting of ALL people NOT accounted for since 1982, as it also may include the 30,000+ people missing during the second JVP uprising, whose remains have NOT yet been found. The recently unearthed Matale   mass graves is due to unauthorized deaths of people whilst being held there, and they are sons and fathers of people currently living.

I sincerely hope we as a country, will be able to build a more correct picture of the scale of the missing person census so that we will stop this unending series of speculation that has been going on as to the exact number. Sri Lanka is only second to Iraq at present on the numbers of missing and it could even surpass that of Iraq!

Further there is the possibility that the missing figure is higher of Sinhala mainly youth in the 80’s to any that the Tamil Diaspora claim to be missing during the LTTE wars!

It is important that families have some closure as to what happened to their loved ones when they disappeared, as it is the Govt. responsibility to do all it can to find an answer. It must be remembered that there are many people who fled overseas during both pogroms and should NOT be included in this list.

With problems in how both Sinhala and Tamil names are written the relationships to people are NOT always obvious, so it is important that ALL attempts be made to educate the GNs of the nuances of their task so that it is done as completely and correctly as possible is stressed. 

Let there be light!! at the end of the tunnel for these thousands of long suffering Sri Lankans both here and overseas who are still awaiting some word of what happened to their loved ones. Not knowing is the worst of all worlds in grief as it has no ending. So let us do our utmost to do it right and not cover - up especially where there has been major reconstructions, where houses have been destroyed and therefore no knowledge of the existence of families where there is NO house in the first place.

It must also be remembered that some people have moved into homes after a whole family has sold, left, killed or disappeared. So what happens to that period that the present householder does not know, as he is most likely not even to let the GN know of the past, in case he is found to be a squatter in a house where the owners and occupants were killed or not accounted for!!

No wonder it is not a completely accurate method, in accounting for people who disappeared in Sri Lanka. Let us NOT forget that when the results are out.         

Friday, December 6, 2013

EXTRAJUDICIAL KILLINGS – Time for some introspection!

For the most part there has been a numbing silence in the media about the only 4 suspects, in the Brutal Murder of a policeman and his wife while they slept in their bed at their home, having been killed, and the case is NOW CLOSED!



Take a step back. There were two people brutally killed, and the police have killed all 4 they suspected of involvement in the murder. Does that imply there are NO other suspects? If so why? Should there be an investigation into that possibility? Have they missed the real culprit, the man who hired these guns?

These are questions that go unanswered, and when the two kids of the policeman grow up with their grandparents, they will forever blame the police for not investigating this possibility, as they will grow up with the doubt that the mastermind behind the brutal murder of their parents is still alive.

This in essence is why there is something hugely wrong with our system of judicial killings, which is almost common practice in Sri Lanka today. There are people who justify this by saying it happens in other countries too, and that is a normal procedure. However our laws are quite clear, that ALL suspects of a crime are entitled to a fair trial. This outcome is NOT a fair trial.

So am I to ask for the first two murder files to be kept open and further investigations carried out as to who may have been behind this gang, as they appear to be a gang of petty criminals, when compared with the hugely troubling drug distribution that the deceased policeman was involved in investigating? Were these two bit gangsters hired by a feared drug lord?

Who is the biggest drug baron in the Matara region? Who is giving him protection? There is NO evidence that this ‘katayam jhonnie’ who was the last man killed, was anything but a habitual village criminal and murderer, with no serious power and wealth behind him and not the brains behind the drug cartels that were being investigated, by I assume this honest cop who was killed.

I request the authorities to keep open the deaths of 6 individuals, and come to conclusions, at why the first two were murdered and who gave the orders. Then in the other 4 killings, why was the police NOT able to provide adequate security to the arrested criminals to prevent them making a gateaway, in a country where the police are NOT short of manpower, or weapons or for that matter restraints. This is a classic COVER UP and NEEDS INVESTIGATION    

Thursday, December 5, 2013

The level of National Deception is beyond a joke

As part of my work I have had go through the massive 3 volume Budget Estimates that have been handed to the MPs that give a breakdown of sorts of what the amounts allocated for different ministries and departments are. They are broken down by Capital and Recurrent Expenditure and are deliberately meant to confuse as the trumped up names and users get ever more fanciful.

What surprised me further was that some of the details given in the past have also been left out, where for example the pages allocated to the expenditure of the Ministry of Economic Development have been reduced from 60 last year to 30 this year.

Further it is very apparent from the speeches of the Parliament on the Budget debate that 90% of the MPs of the Government do not know their way around this set of volumes, nor do they care what is in them. Their speeches do not bear any resemblance to the Budget and merely gloat over the inability of the opposition to make any electoral mileage from any of the accusations they make against the Govt.

I presume they know that whatever is in them are in any way trumped up, as history has shown that the real numbers disbursed bear NO resemblance to the estimates. In the end with a gap of 35% of the expected revenue, (deficit) the Treasury will just dole out funds on an as needed basis, where the end year totals show no resemblance to the original estimates.

Even worse, many promises made this year about expected capital expenditure, are NOT in the Budget estimates, implying they are mere promises with NO intention of being honored, another deception.

The speeches of the Govt. side show such arrogance of power, with scant regard to any of the belabored accusations of the opposition, which for the most part are real, and do not get any traction amongst the people, as even they do not appear to care, that the faults of the Govt. are aired and one should at least understand the magnitude of the scam taking place.

The poverty figures are being fudged, whilst the real value of any subsidy or social welfare is being fudged and the recipients are not the deserving, but merely those whose payments are tied to some form of obligation to the Govt. for support or active party affiliation.  

While it is incumbent on the opposition to inform the public, due to many constraints in the media the message is not getting across. Even more startling is that the opposition is also accused of not doing anything about it, an indication of the mismatch between perception created by a controlled media and reality.

It is time concerned citizens do their own part in the interests of the people of this country by engaging people in what is happening and educating them as to the most urgent issues of public concern, and steps to take in combating blatant thievery.

The problem is that the issues are so many and the daily dose of these can be so overwhelming that one fails to isolate the most important one to highlight.

I appeal to the people who can think to take the first steps in this process so that we may prevent descent into the nether regions from whence we may never be able to return.