Saturday, January 25, 2014

Norochcholai has now entered our vocabulary – ALWAYS BREAKSDOWN

People in Sri Lanka have a very short memory and probably don’t remember the amazing claims made by the Govt. of being able to export electricity over the pond to India, and due to surplus capacity, private power stations will have to close down and export the used equipment to whomever may need them.

For details of the latest crisis, read the link and realize the continual elementary cockups that are still occurring.   

It is not often that I write on the same subject, unless it is a series of articles on topics like education, but my most recent blog entry on the above just a couple of days, is NOT enough to stress the importance of some clear guidelines on how we expect to get over this crisis, something that has been predicted for a while.

Whilst I do not believe there has been sabotage, I believe that the wise counsel of Electrical Engineers without a vested interest in the project has not been sought. They are a particularly proud profession, who have taken advantage of their position for their benefit, however they have also been very critical of the whole project at Norochcholai, as one that was undertaken more for political expediency rather than the best option available in the circumstances.

Little wonder then, that we got a white elephant from a Chinese Cowboy Company that never had any compunction in honoring their part, whilst the approval process by the local engineers was bought by gifts and rewards catering to their personal and NOT public requirements. In the latter respect the Engineers MUST shoulder some of the blame for not highlighting the potential issues in advance to their superiors to take the matter up at Govt. level.

The cost to the economy is immeasurable the goons who benefited financially from the shady deal go unpunished. The commissions are paid up front, irrespective of whether the product is delivered or not in time and within budget.

I am sure if the commissions are paid 5 years into the project, once operational and shown to be reliable, the effort will be made to deliver a sound product, instead of a shoddy one. Now wouldn’t that be in the nation’s interest and not the persons!

Friday, January 24, 2014

Are these the two critical areas that slammed the brakes on the Miracle of Asia?

A useful starting point to try and concentrate on two critical aspects of Sri Lanka’s transition to the Miracle of Asia, lest it becomes a debacle!

I refer to an interesting article by Bradman Weerakoon a contemporary of my mother’s, born in the same year, and who was at Univeristy with her and knew her in later years. The gist of his letter to the President, is that he firmly believes that we have to solve, and not sweep under the carpet the two key areas that will determine the success of this country. The Organic growth notwithstanding

Namely, the free and fair elections, not held to improve the chances of the incumbents, by spreading elections every year, exhausting the resources of the opposition, but be open, transparent and make the playing field as level as possible.

Secondly, the resolution of minority rights for equality and dignity. Until we have the courage to admit to the fact that we are a multi cultural, religious and ethnic country, we cannot move forward.

Those born under conditions where their formative years have been during the conflict, are prejudiced by the LTTE impression of minorities. They by their actions have further alienated the minorities into that corner, and forced the majority to believe in adage that all Tamil people are secret LTTE sympathizers.

It is important that these myths are once and for all put to bed, and the we are a country with NO minorities syndrome be removed from the colloquial until we can truly believe it by following words with actions. We make a habit of picking and choosing a few members from the minority communities to disprove the overwhelming perceptions of the minorities, instead of concentrating on including them in the debate as equals.

In a cabinet with dubious minority representation, where threats and money were able to buy the loyalty of untold non minority politicians, why couldn’t the Govt. do the same with minority? (not former LTTE leaders who were attracted more by pardons without truth and reconciliation) Was it because the Govt was not able to offer an acceptable solution?  or that they did not even attempt as their intention of political survival was to merely extend the divisions and gain political advantage there from, as quite clearly seen by the policies currently adopted, and the strategy clearly laid out in facing the forthcoming elections!! Any thoughts            

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Institute of Policy Studies (Amend) Bill in Parliament on 21st Jan 2014

The debate in Parliament on Tuesday 21st January, on the above was so that the Central Bank would be able to impose their direction to this think tank by appointing a director (or directors) to the Board and thereby effect its direction.

This is a grave mistake. The Central Bank is now meddling in all sorts of areas that are NOT part of its purview and it would be dangerous to add to that. They already have a board with the President’s representatives and those from Academia and Chambers of Commerce etc. however instead of the CB they seriously lack representation by the Country’s chief opposition party, who MUST as a matter of course be permitted to insist on a director, who can give their opinion on the direction that IPS takes.

The Opposition UNP has people today who are far more credible than the Govt. that is stuffed with sycophants, and in a situation of a dictatorship where only one man’s word matters in Sri Lanka, it is silly to add to that by another sycophant from the Central Bank.

It is bad enough that the Treasury foots the Bill of the IPS, thereby compromising its independence, but it has little choice in the matter, and if one has faith in the IPS CEO, in this instance Dr. Saman Kelegama, a respected Economist at the helm to steer it in an independent course having regard to the future direction of the Nation, then critical areas that require further research and knowhow will be pursued.

No matter what spin the CB puts there is big time massaging of its figures, we don’t what the IPS credibility so compromised also. They must be a counter weight, not a dead weight!!! This is becoming more apparent as the days go by.

The CB is getting dangerously out of its depth, without concentrating on the areas of its initial duty. This is reflective of a need for the Governor to assert more control over policy that amounts to attempting to go beyond with a benign if ignorant Govt. as to what they are trying to achieve. It is only the Treasury Secretary that tries to assert his authority when the CB gets too arrogant, but there is no one else. MPs have no clue, and Sarath Amunugama being the only one who can see what is happening, would rather be silent, wishing in his twilight to finish a political career without controversy that only breeds ill will, and he wishes to bequeath positive dividends to his family not wishing to be too controversial.

When the Minister of Finance is the President, what do you expect, when no one is in overall charge of the Ministry. There is a Deputy, but does he have any power? So who do you think wishes to be the de facto Minister? The Governor of the CB of course. So now, he  has the power to send a Bill up to Parliament, for the neanderthals in Govt who don't even know what the IPS does, to meddle in their internal affairs!

It was correct of the opposition to raise hell in parliament yesterday, but does the General Public know that? with a built in majority there is nothing they can do to change direction, so we are left to ponder on what might have been, not what is. Let us begin to ponder on WHAT WILL BE instead.   

In conclusion, I also feel the EPF MUST removed from the CB physically as well as in effective management  They do not represent the interests of the stake holders who are ONLY the contributors to it, and no one else, because it is the management of their  retirement we are talking about, not the ego of an individual.                                  

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

It is NOT just a breakdown of a power station – it is a reflection of why such a potentially catastrophic event DOES NOT garner the public interest!

One can NO longer say that the Norochcholai breakdowns are inevitable in the teething period of a Power Station. It has happened far too many times, that even the CEB engineers UNANIMOUSLY have voted it a WHITE ELEPHENT that is likely to be mothballed, as there is NO sign of life in that plant.

However loud the opposition screams about it, it HAS NOT gained any traction with the General Public who just DON’T SEEM TO CARE. In fact they don’t even understand how far different the promise of cheaper power, veered from reality, due to this CHINESE MOCKERY of a power station.

I read somewhere recently that the Chinese have the technology to build good quality as well. Simply said, if we paid up front and demanded the best we would have got the best, like the amazing bridge they are building in San Francisco to rival the Golden Gate. However if we get a project where massive bribes were paid, first as a commission to the person who brought the deal, and then to the Chinese who offered the plant, you are left with 70% of the project cost for the plant itself.

What do you expect? Only a second hand one of dubious economic value and so last generation (last century too!) technology. All parties to this shame are ACCOUNTABLE but NOONE is held accountable, and Sri Lanka is left hostage to the project.

With the latest closure came the double whammy bad news of the Kerawalpitiya Thermal breaking down, and the coal that is coming in piling up in time as the monsoon season from April will prevent ships docking there, is causing moisture build up and effectively losing thermal value, is another huge cost, on top of the need for private power producer to supply the shortfall. A field day pay day for the latter at the expense of the Country!

The President HAS NOT offered one bit of concern in the media, considering he is hands on and takes credit for much that are not of his own making. Anything he says will merely implicate him of another huge infrastructural disaster on his watch. So the mud never sticks to our Teflon Leader and is another case of the unproductive use to which the Govt. huge borrowings are directed at. This corroborates my blog entry on 19th Jan on misdirected policy for Govt benefit. See below for link:

Monday, January 20, 2014

The Institute of Chartered Accountants is misleading student entrants

I have a huge axe to grind with the above Institute, as I believe it has lost its initial value, and is in danger of becoming extinct unless radical measures are urgently enacted and the emphasis directed differently.

The existing members (I am a member of the ICAEW since 1981) appear to rubber stamp the various proposals that look good on paper, and ensure the longevity of their exclusivity! The massive new building for which I am sure there is a considerable loan that needs to be repaid is just an example of the extravagance, and Empire Building, and the Degree Awarding status is just a ruse to expand the power without adding value. Why compete with hundreds of other programs, and maintain yours is the best, when you have every opportunity to design a more equitable course to benefit those unable to pass the Institute Exams as shown below. That will be a real service to your failing students who can now pass!!!

The Institute have over 20,000 students, but they have made the exams so hard, that fewer than 5% of those will end up as qualified Chartered Accountants. This is not going to preserve your exclusivity in the club, as the main reason this happens is that the papers get tougher, NOT better. I was talking to an accountant a few days ago, who said that the CIMA students have a far more practical and meaningful syllabus that is relevant to the workplace of today. The employers know this, and the stock of the CIMA qualified product has gone up considerably. This would have been anathema in my day, as the stock of the Chartered was so much higher, but it is the Institute only to blame for being behind the times in their syllabus, and relevance.

The above two issues taken to together mean that the Institute owes it to these students to find an alternative way out of their predicament. I propose, the setting up of a subsidiary qualification for public accounting, as the current Govt. public accounting qualifications are unreliable and not catering to the needs. If the institute has their own qualification, I can assure you the Govt. qualification will naturally disappear to be replaced with the Institute version, and the students who find the Chartered too difficult can be diverted to this and have a ready opening of employment in the public sector.

This will kill two birds at once, by finding an opening for thousands of intelligent accounting students to qualify in a profession, and provide the public sector with capable accountants able to clean up the mess in their accounting systems and make the departments and ministries more efficient in their use of resources.

Students it is time for you to speak up and make a sound proposal so that all stakeholders will end up in a win win situation. You can bump up the considerable egos of the Institute's governing bodies in order to enact your ideas, which will help the accountancy profession as a whole, and the quality of the resulting output, by improving efficiencies in the public sector and maybe upgrade the Institute's syllabuss so at to be relevant for tomorrow and thereafter.  

Sunday, January 19, 2014

The proposed merger of DFCC with NDB is not in the public interest!

The Central Bank in its infinite wisdom, and as outlined in the CB road Map 2014 has proposed that the above two technically development banks should merge, so that they can be a strong entity, that will be able to borrow at Competitive Rates and lend on to finance infrastructure and other long term development projects both in the private and in the public sector.

This decision was predicated by the inability of either bank to borrow in the amounts stipulated by the CB from the international markets at competitive rates. For example the GOSL was able to get loans at 6% and the DFCC only at 9% due to its lower credit rating and insignificant size as far as the International community is concerned.

The reason the GOSL wanted the Banks to borrow from foreign sources, was so that they could hide Govt. borrowings through the local banking sector and treat it as local borrowings and lessen the impact of the GOSL foreign currency borrowing exposure. This is very silly as this ruse can easily be detected and allowance made in preparing debt ratings and Sovereign Debt rates.

In essence just so that the GOSL can borrow, it has decided that these two entities in which the State has considerable direct and indirect (through EPF and such like) holdings, must merge.

It is bad policy, as this will create one large development bank instead of two that can compete. There is a lot of upside in development financing and if managed correctly these two banks can double in size in a short period if left to run independently, with a little help in increasing their capital base.

The question in the end becomes one of, can people borrow at reasonably low rates to stimulate investment in new and expansion of existing productive industries and small businesses? This can be done only when spreads can be trimmed from the historic highs they currently carry, due to many inefficiencies, but primarily due to Govt. and political interference in the management of the State Banks that both insisted on hiring staff of political sycophants, and lending money to dead beat political operatives. This problem is NOT going to go away with the merger, and so the expected benefits will NOT materialize except for the instant increase in the Balance Sheet Equity of the combined Institution.

In any case NDB has seen fit to engage in Commercial Banking, outside of its initial ambit as they found it more profitable. For example the new product they are advertising called the Salary Advance from NDB is a popular concept where they will lend on the account holders monthly income, and of course charge a hugely usurious rate of interest for that privilege, but mislead the potential customer who signs on as to how much it really costs him. A play on the lack of financial savvy of the average person! 

The merger is NOT going to direct larger amounts of cheaper loans to SME sector, a traditional engine of a growing economy. In fact, quite the contrary, due to the lack of competition, they may be able to penalize the borrower and get away with it as he cannot shop around for a better deal. GOSL will just suck everything!

This shortsighted approach to further their own ends, means the GOSL is engaged in a series of moves that whilst on the surface might seem sensible, when investigated in depth, is far from the truth.

The Banking Sector is traditional and docile in Sri Lanka, fighting like the politicians to steal from the same pot, without trying to increase the size of the pot. If half as much energy is expended on increasing the size of the pot, I am sure there will be better results all round, which in the end is a higher rate of growth from the steps taken.

The NUB of the problem; the Govt. desire for borrowings to fund unproductive investments of dubious returns. That results in a colossal waste of funds. This instead should be directed towards productive investments in the private sector. Every rupee borrowed by the Govt. means one less available to the private sector.   

Don’t destroy two competing banks that are a little undercapitalized for selfish motives. Look at the bigger picture. The US$10B remitted this year will be for the most part be deposited by the hard working financially illiterate people at about 5%, and borrowed by the Govt. at 5.5% from say the NSB. If the Development Banks were able to borrow this at 6% and lend at 8% what would it do to the growth rate of Sri Lanka? A huge fillip so we can race to $5,000 GNP per capita.

Instead the Govt. wastes it on unproductive investments, resulting in a drag on growth,   with a high level of corruption, and they want to borrow from overseas to do the same, by merging, as if the NSB pot is not enough. Any pea brain can see the nonsense in this argument and so -  


Saturday, January 18, 2014

More Graves more lies and more distortions of the Truth

There is just NO let up in the claims and counter claims, arising from the ethnic conflict based civil war in Sri Lanka, and for good measure foreign political operatives are also at it for their own political advantage further clouding the line between truth and fiction.

The latest is a claim by the young Canadian MP (Sri Lanka born, Tamil origin) Rathika Sitsabaiesan, who was recently in Sri Lanka on a private visit, which became very public when she had ostensibly issued a statement that she was under house arrest! (something that never happens in Sri Lanka) that gave an element of notoriety,(and reprimand in Canada) and more importantly for her a huge amount of publicity in her now native Canada. This was a clearly politically motivated move on her part, which while naughty, has upset local (as in Sri Lankan sensitivities) media as there was NO grain of truth in her outburst.

On her return she has now come forward claiming she was followed, wherever she went. I know MacRae and his Channel 4 colleagues were followed, but that was too obvious as to be both intimidating and funny at the same time, as they must have been bumbling goons who were tasked with the job!   

As she was on a private visit she was cautioned to keep it so, as she had not had the basic courtesy, common sense or maturity to inform the SL High Commission in Canada of her impending visit. (as unequivocally verified by the female HC to Canada, an experienced career diplomat and not a mouthpiece of partisan politics) The HC said that her claim was an outright lie, though I don’t put it past the security forces to indulge in that sort of stuff, as a matter of normal practice when they discover a hostile MP (to the SL Govt.) is loose and on the prowl. Just think what the Canadians would do if roles were reversed.  

In Ms Sitsabaiesan’s case, whilst she claimed she was merely visiting family, something which she would not have dared do in areas if they were occupied by the LTTE, due to her political stance against GOSL it was inevitable she would meet with the people who would reinforce her prejudices over those who would try to contradict her claims! That after all is human nature, and so be it.

The problem becomes the way the news is reported both here and in Canada. Without the underlying background, the reader is left to believe that there is something truly sinister going on! When in fact it is normal practice! That is why we must try and understand the motivations of all parties here.

Talking about motivations, it was very wrong of both Bishop Rayappu Joseph and MP Sumanthiran to jump into conclusions on the recent discovery of a mass grave in the Mannar area, and assume it is of Tamils killed by the forces, when it fact it could also be Tamils killed by the IPKF and also Sinhala and Tamil people killed by the LTTE. Any idiot would say, first the approximate period of when these deaths took place must be ascertained, and secondly determine who was in charge in that location during that period. Neither of which can be obtained within minutes of finding the graves.

We know their motivations as they wish to see an independent International Investigation into war crimes by the Govt. forces, but at least if they were to admit that the LTTE were just as if not more violent in their treatment of civilians and enemy it would at least give them some credibility in their allegations. I can’t for the life of me understand why they both continue to play this antagonistic role, as their credibility is also called into question when they jump into unfounded assumptions, when faced with new discoveries. 

Whilst this soup continues to stew, better understanding between the races in Sri Lanka is the loser. The Govt. is just as guilty of this, as they have Karuna as one of their own, MPs and ministers, and for one of the world’s greatest mass murderers to live in their midst, without being held accountable or at least rehabilitated to openly confess to his crimes and ask forgiveness from the thousands of families who are still suffering owing to the killings of their loved ones by him. There is NO “truth and reconciliation” until that is done by the home team and would make it utterly facetious to insist that come from others first.

As you see, I am NOT taking sides. I merely point out the anomalies that all parties to the debate are stuck with, Diaspora, TNA, Clergy, Govt. Forces, former LTTE leaders. The hostages that they ALL have taken are the citizens of Sri Lanka, who are being held to ransom by them for their personal ends.

Until they all realize that they are party to the problem and NOT the solution, the more humility we can elicit from them, instead of grandstanding bravado for the brainless, spineless, tactless and factless media, the easier it will be to find a solution that will be acceptable to all. Until that time, this type of polarized and unbending approach of the rigid (as in inflexible) stakeholders of reconciliation,  will continue to destroy any hope of finding common ground, and we the people MUST point our fingers at them as truly abominable, inhuman traitors who will rot in hell for their crimes, as that in essence is what they are guilty of.           

Friday, January 17, 2014

The Sri Lankan work ethic – Needs a change if we are to fulfill our goals

We work in different environments and do different jobs. WE work for ourselves and often we work for others. We compare notes with peers to determine if we are better or worse off than them, and we want to drop to the lowest common denominator, namely that of a Govt. job where productivity is actually negative. That is if they got rid of the 25% who actually slow down the job of others, the Govt. department may actually double their current productivity.

I work in an office and manage it, and I try hard to improve the productivity of the staff, as I want it to run on the lines of private companies, so that people are accountable for their areas of responsibilities and should perform to their potential. Chatting in office and gossiping about politics and thirdly being online are the three killers to productivity in my place, and attempt as I do to change this, it is a really hard sell for those who don’t appreciate how much of their lives they waste, be it at home or at work.

In fact there are tasks that I do, and others I delegate. We recently have had one member short, so we have had to take up that responsibility too, but as the work we do varies on a day to day basis, it is difficult to evaluate. Then our productivity is also dependent on the productivity of others. We wanted a list of names and addresses of a certain category of person, and the list was not forthcoming so we were stuck in not being able to send some mail on time.

In fact I tend to achieve a lot before the office staff come in, often when I get in at 6 am I often have total peace and quiet where I achieve more than for the rest of the day. I used to go out for lunch in the past, but have stopped that, as the time spent on that is not worth the food I injest!! I am still short of time!!

So is that Murphy’s Law at work again?  I am surprised that there is a different work ethic when people go overseas for work, as to when they are at home. This maybe due to the higher salary they receive, or the foreigner they work for a colonial relic where foreigners can get more work out of our people than their own countrymen!! The Tea Estates are a case in point, where the tight discipline instilled by the Colonials has broken down.

I was told it is because we don’t pay our people enough. IS that a chicken and egg situation? Should we offer more for output, and then see if that is achieved. I know companies have begun, early completion bonuses which is a start.   

Thursday, January 16, 2014

The workplace of the future – you had better get used to it

Only those who are able to think outside the box and imagine scenarios, will be able to survive in the workplace of the future. Simply put we don’t know what that is, and one thing we know is that it will not be recognizable from today.

One thing is certain that there is NOTHING called a full time job, or a permanent job. It is going to be a shock to those who think they have a security of a full time permanent job. It is better to be able to be ready, before it is thrust on us like a lightening strike. Only the farmers in Sri Lanka are the most ready for this, as they have known permanent impermanence! Therefore they have been forced to be flexible long before the flexible workplace became fashionable.

I deal with mainly young people under 30, assisting them in whatever way I can, especially in the very difficult area of employment. There is very little I can do in actually finding them a job they want. That is beyond a practical possibility of mine, and I try and do the next best thing, by showing them that they first need the tools before they begin their job search.

In a world of infinite variety of jobs, one must know first what it is one would like to do, and how. The how is also a challenge. Do you want to be close to your home, can you live away from your family? Even go overseas? It is this flexibility that will determine the level of compensation you want.

Then job variety is another previously unthought of luxury, which is now a necessity if one is not to become too specialized in one area, that may require retraining if one cannot find appropriate employment in the chosen field.

If I am forced to tomorrow I can go into farming or to run a shop selling my produce and lift it up one gear from now, to be able to sell food that is free from pesticide use. The main thing is never to be unproductive.

Sri Lankans have brains to get all A’s in all exams they sit, but they may as well fail all their subjects as they have no idea how to parlay that into a productive remunerative area. It is merely jobs that they seek. We still have that dream like concept of Govt. job that is the worst Colonial curse that we are left with as we continue that slavery encouraged by the politicians in Govt. who wish to continue with white slavery. There is NO point pretending we have obtained freedom from Colonialism, when we embrace the worst form of it today.
To get back to the respect I have for our farmers, they have to find temporary employment if they fail to obtain water for irrigation. The whole potential crop for that season is out of the question. They MUST be flexible, if they are to put food on the table to feed their family. Those I know do many different things, are therefore extremely talented in different fields. House painting, construction, fishing, bicycle repair, brewing illegal moonshine, diving for sand in the Mahaveli and its tributaries, driving jobs and doing odd jobs, nothing is beyond their readiness to try. .

As the world is evolving, with the most important job of the day changing just as rapidly, there is NO age barrier and often those in their teens and twenties have the highest income, which they may have to save, as they may never achieve those levels of income later in life.

Though we don’t realize it, Sri Lankans are in fact the most flexible in terms of the different sources of income they must search for to survive. Even Security forces personnel who after 22 years service find themselves looking for a job at 40, cannot live on the retirement income in an era where the Cost of living rises much faster than pension payments.

In the US a 40 something person who is suddenly laid off work, will go on social security and perhaps take a year to find job, and then that will probably pay him about 75% of what he earned before losing the job. They may have to change careers and also retrain.

One only needs to go to COSCO to meet, pensioners helping customers find their products, who have been in all sorts of careers in their lives. Their savings and social security is NOT enough for them to live on, so they have in their late 60s doing a part time job to supplement their income.

With the looming demographic changes those in their twenties and thirties today will HAVE to work till they are 75, in order to carry the load, of a larger unproductive population, and pay off the interest on the loans that this Govt. has committed us to. If they don’t realize that now, they will suffer later and MUST take the necessary precautions to plan for that. That makes planning one’s future, finances, family, and fortress important at an early stage. 

As a rule of thumb, one’s main income source is in future likely to give about 40% of the needed revenue, with the rest supplemented by over 6 different sources of income. Managing this mix is important. We must teach how to.
Let us make the most of the latest technology to assist in this task. The advent of Broadband speeds Nationwide enables us to do most of the research on line. You can actually find work you can do from home for a client in the US from Sri Lanka and you can search for that in SL. In fact if your English is good you don’t need anyone’s services you can do it yourself and have a one to one arrangement, and have the funds directly remitted to your bank account.

So what you may ask can you do from here. Firstly you can take advantage of the time zone difference. So while the US sleeps you are awake. They can email the work for you to do, which when they wake up the following day, you have been able to process and send them. A win win formula for both parties.

Sri Lankans fail, because they lack discipline, and reliability as one cannot keep your customer waiting a few minutes, as there are dozens who will fill your shoes. You must look at your comparative advantage. Namely; cost, time zone. Knowledge of English, willingness to be proactive in making suggestions for improvement of product delivery, and further speed up service standards.

You can improve EVERY job you do, if your knowledge of English is good, and our IT proficiency is sufficient for the task at hand. That opens up vistas that you could never imagine possible.

Working for others involves a level of dependency that creates resentment if you are NOT happy in the position, as you are playing someone else’s tune. Sadly it is what we seem to aim for, not realizing that we are merely allowing ourselves to be enslaved.

I am glad that some jobs that were taboo, are now sought after, as the level of pay in some exceed those of doctors by a long way, and so seeking to be a doctor is losing its luster. The University Degree and Govt. job will also go that way within a few years, when the reality of the labor market hits us.

In the job search one must first search for contentment and then remuneration, as otherwise the recipe will just cook up a poisonous odor of dissatisfaction. Recently a few school boys produced a short film of about 20 minutes, which was done in one week, a record for such an ambitious task with a low budget. Why should they stop there? The next step would be produce a little more quality product and sell it to a TV production company, and perhaps get hired, without even sitting for A levels. By 26 you would have worked 10 years, earned enough to buy a car or house! And then chillax with your kids by 35.    

I believe my highest earning years was when I was 33, when I had 75 staff work for me and there was only one person above me the CEO, in a Publishing Company in Santa Barbara, California. However I believe I got the most satisfaction, when I was earning the least, but working the hardest,  as a farmer in Polonnaruwa, but somehow seemed to have more money than I had before or since!!!! Its all a state of mind isn't it?        

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

The combined spend by candidates vying for the Western Provincial Council is estimated to exceed Rs 1.5Billion for the first time!

And that does not include the direct cost of holding the elections and the ongoing policing and security costs up until that time.

This when compared to the new Colors of Courage Cancer Hospital that will opened in Jaffna, by the President on 19th Janaury, that is said to have cost one sixth of that figure, with funds raised by a charity. We can therefore put that cost in perspective as an utter waste of money.

I am totally against Provincial Councils, and at best wish to see all Councils have the elections on one day Islandwide. They don’t appear to have much teeth and the Central Govt. does not wish to devolve any more power than they have to. Hence with Councilors who can do little to change the lives of the people they serve, spending so much to get elected seems an utter waste.

The fashion parade within the party is just as bad as between parties and sometimes worse. So people spend money just to get the preferences, and NOT attempt to get flagging voters, or new voters to their cause, and instead fight their colleagues in the same political party to get a greater share of the party’s voter base! This very fact alone, is sufficient to damn this whole charade.

Put simply it is wrong, for the Country, to waste money on an end that only carries on personality cults, and political positions from which to exploit the citizenry, rather than as servants of the people elected to serve their electorate.

Given at least that there is nothing anyone can do about it at this time, let us try to rationalize what is at stake. The ruling coalition Govt. want to increase or at least maintain their base, the opposition wants to win, and the minor parties are jockeying for a level of votes to justify their third party status, and all others will just as well bite the dust. 

Given those objectives, the candidates instead want to show that within their party they are the most popular and as only a certain number get elected, fight to get at least the minimum necessary to be elected. This latter fight destroys the credibility of the election itself, as issues are NOT discussed, and only why they are as people the most eligible to be elected, in short a fashion show. 

We therefore don’t know what anyone of the parties will do if elected, and the voter does not seem to demand that from the party either. There is NO manifesto or anything similar making this election, ONLY a test of the Govt.’s continued popularity. Even the latter presumption is called into question as it is a test of who can spend the most, have the most cutouts put up illegally and paste as many posters so that their names are in the mind of the voter, to cross them on voting day. Theoretically, the voter is bought, unless he is cunning enough not to be swayed by pretense!! 

So VOTERS it is down to you to seriously think about how you wish to affect the outcome. A difference, the same or apathy, your vote Counts. Express how you really feel, don't throw this chance at democracy however flawed it may be. Go and vote, otherwise someone else might use your vote, spoil it if you must, just do it!!     

Religion must NOT enslave us, but free us of all our prejudices!

Today is Duruthu Poya that reminds the faithful that the Lord Buddha came to Sri Lanka over 2500 years ago, to Mahiyangana to intervene or intercede over a dispute amongst the natives of that time, who were NOT Sinhala. How does that tie up with the other tradition of Mahinda, son of Emperor Asoka of India bringing Bo sapling to Sri Lanka many centuries later in the reign of King Devanampiyatissa?

Precisely, it is NOT for us to reason and rationalize, just believe! That is why it is called Religion! Yesterday was both the Prophet Mohammed’s Birthday for Muslims a time of reflection and prayer, and also the Harvest Festival of Thai Pongal for the Hindus. The Russian Orthodox Christmas was just last week!

These beliefs that we indulge in, are fine, as long as we don’t impose it on others as being the path to deliverance. People MUST be entitled to their own, even Atheism and Agnosticism at their peril, but not for others to try to change.

As for me I try to keep my beliefs to myself and not try to preach to those who don’t hold my morality and lifestyle and the resulting belief system. It has evolved from the Religions, I have been bathed in, and grown in and read, and have come to a point of a happy contentment, as to where I have come from, and where I will eventually end up, as well as how I should lead my life in the process before getting there!    

I personally do not believe one needs to go anywhere on pilgrimage, except merely for the ride, as a trip for a feel good factor! or to make certain commitments and offerings so one keeps a promise for oneself or another for various expectations, such as a medical cure, or a better future. These are mere rituals, I may or may not indulge in with no expectations given or taken.

For example, I am still wearing a pirith noola on my hand, put on by a priest I don’t know, at a ceremony in November at the opening of a Warehouse, where I cut the ribbon, after the traditional religious rites. I just have not bothered to cut it and as it was tied on my hand with a good heart, wishing me a good life. I will cut it if it irritates me or if I just feel like doing so, not for any other superstition.

If we stop judging others by the outside acts of religious grandstandings, (including acts of preventing others not of your religion from peacefully practicing their belief at a home or hall) and more on their behavior to their fellow man, the world would indeed be better.                  

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

If these are not words of courage in uniting this nation what is?

The Chairman of the Leadership Council of the UNP issued a bold statement today denouncing the recent violence and attacks against people and Churches. See the attached link for the full statement.

This was a very courageous statement to be made by the UNP at this juncture, when the Govt. seeks by their very action or inaction to support religious fundamentalism and extremism. The UNP is a party that has always stood up for religious harmony, and tolerance, a party openly encouraging all races, religions and minorities to be included, so that the Country can move forward as one nation. The recent appointment of a muslim to the Chairman of the  party is yet another indication of their commitment to all the people in the Island.

It is now up to the people of Sri Lanka, to put aside their petty prejudices, and come together as one, and understand, the con, that is the current Govt. that by dividing and pretending to protect Buddhism, is in fact bent on destroying it, turning people away by their very behavior, and believing that the divisiveness that is thus created will be politically favorable to their cause.

This racist and religious card that they appear to believe is their winning formula, must be forever buried by the voter, who MUST rise above this insecurity, see through the canard, do what they believe is best for the nation.

In order to slay this dragon, the citizens should also drop their insecurities and stop voting on religious or racial lines, because it is just those mentalities that will prevent the nation getting to the next stage of development, and taking its place as a mature democracy.

We may have had independence for 65 years, but up to now, it has NOT taken the people from the mentality of fear, and prejudice to one of Global players in an international game, where 2 million or more of our citizens live and work overseas, mostly in countries where the principal religion is not that of the worker. Surely they should be able to see the big picture. They don’t because they mostly work in Muslim countries that are even less tolerant of other religions, which breeds a sense of anger that returnees then relay to their progeny making matters worse, and not better adding to tension.

Let us salute the action of the UNP in taking this bold step, and let us pray that our people will first be notified of this statement through a responsible media, and secondly that they are able to see the big picture.