Thursday, June 22, 2017

In a County where Women have a raw deal, who is responsible for their rights?


There are numerous instances where females are exploited in Sri Lanka and the most widely publicized lately is the harassment they face in public transport, which results in many avoiding employment, that requires the use of public transport to arrive at their work place, and only accept employment if there is staff transport provided. This not only clogs up our transport system, where the well-off refuse to use public transport, it also affects women’s participation in the workplace.

I will not go through this particular issue here, as I have already addressed this in my blog perhaps many years ago in one of my postings. I wish to address another very important aspect that impinges on a woman’s civil liberties and human rights, which is NOT addressed in any fora that I am aware of to date.

That is the exploitation of women who have to live outside of their homes, in order to work, and are captive to be exploited by unscrupulous intermediaries that effectively ruin a girl with prospects and hopes and a for want of a better word, “turn her into a BASKET CASE”, affecting her whole life and future.

Don’t forget as a Nation, our female labor force participation is at too small a level for the development we are aspiring to. The Government does NOT have a clear plan in how to increase it and is still struggling to find answers as to why this might be. Have they not got the basic common sense to realize that women are woefully exploited in the workplace? This commonplace attitude is prevalent and is subscribed to by all women, who venture out to work out of sheer necessity. It is important that this attitude changes. 

This can ONLY be done by improvements to their rights and changes to current practices that exploit women in the workplace. Before we talk about equal pay for equal work, a demand in Developed Countries, we must look at all aspects of exploitation and determine that they are stamped out, in order to attract the best and brightest into the workplace, to perform the desperate tasks that our employers require in a Country with so many vacancies in almost ALL fields that cannot currently be filled.

The starting point is of a young fresh faced girl, straight out of school, wanting to earn money, to get what she wants, usually, wanting to be upwardly mobile from a relatively poor rural family, hoping to perhaps save some of it in order to one day find a partner and settle down. This is the hope of most people, no matter what their economic status, but the most vulnerable to exploitation are the ones who come a long way from home, with LITTLE family support in placement, who are forced into situations NOT of their wanting, but are caught by the system of exploitation. I know of many actual instances of this.

No wonder then that the garment industry fails to attract the available women to their factories due to the reputation that has been created, partly with the complicity of the Employer IGNORING the real concerns of the staff.

I wish to select one aspect of this, as there are many different angles where these young women are open to exploitation unless they have a strong buddy system to protect them from unscrupulous operators. I will not go into the problems of hostel accommodation, which is used by many to attract girls using false promises, into prostitution itself as the inevitable conclusion.

I will concentrate on the MANPOWER culture that promises young women flexibility in their workplace. There are agents looking for staff (women) to fill certain garment factory daily staffing requirements for certain shifts. The agents get say Rs1,700 for a day’s wages for the woman and they in turn pay the woman Rs900 for their work, and possibly don’t even do the necessary statutory deductions. There are women who for certain personal reasons, cannot work full weeks, and consistent work due to some family situation where there is the need to take care of a relative etc, and cannot abide by the attendance requirements of some of the reputed companies that have higher standards and ALSO an element of worker security, both on workplace harassment and also secure lodging that provides a modicum of safety.

In these instances, there is frequent exploitation for sexual favors, both by the agent, threatening them by not providing the needed hours of work, and by the work place where the supervisors exploit them by threats, where if refused, either they are referred to abominably, or given harder task at work as punishment for refusal, resulting in a catch 22 situation.

IT IS IMPOSSIBLE to lodge complaints with the Police for Harassment and they know it as proof and evidence are sometimes hard to come by, and with the mental pressure this creates with vulnerable women, turn them into prostitution as their self-worth is completely destroyed, and they are easily prone to being anesthetized out of their mental suffering by becoming addicted to drugs, which are also freely available and part of the culture so created.

A two pronged approach is needed to arrest this problem. The first is having sufficient social service centers where women are notified of the pitfalls of work, and they are also able to notify them of harassment, where complaints, other than at Police Stations which they cannot trust to solve their problems. In the present especially Free Trade Zones where this abuse is MOST prevalent, there is NO such support mechanism to nip problem in the bud, and many NGO service centers that operated in the past have had to close down due to funding issues, often funded from overseas sources. This is similar to what the SLFEB (Foreign Employment Bureau) does to educate potential workers on what to expect and how to deal with various scenarios.

The second approach is all Employers are held accountable for workplace harassment by their staff, even if the staff member is NOT on the Company’s payroll, if the said harassment occurred in the workplace. In this instance, employers can take steps to educate all employees on the importance of workplace equity of the sexes, and that any deficit will NOT be tolerated under any circumstance.

I am sorry that the Ministry of Women’s Affairs JUST does not seem to have the teeth to protect females in this Country, and they MUST along with the Police Department, Attorney General’s Department design a plan that protects vulnerable women from exploitation, by publicity, and examples of stiff action against miscreants to reduce the level of incidents, and provide sufficient resources for abused women to seek speedy redress and restitution. I am convinced that steps in this direction will go a long way to help thousands from exploitation and undue suffering. The result will achieve a greater female labor force participation which is the need of the hour and recognized as such by the Government which is CURRENTLY stuck in impotent CATATONIA!       

Where are the women of Sri Lanka making this a front and center issue? Is it because the women of substance live well and don’t care about other women in different circumstances in their own Country? In short don’t they care? Sri Lanka is woefully short of women’s advocacy groups, as that does not attract foreign funding like minority rights and human rights attract. Isn’t this just as much a Human Rights issue ALSO?

It is time that the CPA a well-funded organization direct some of their resources to this area, which in today’s context requires far more input than the supposedly sexy minority rights issues that merely keep people in jobs and clover as long as they are NOT resolved.

They are called Center For Policy Alternative for nothing! After all if ever there ever was a Policy Alternative it is to direct their action to the working woman, woman in the workplace, and guarantee workplace security, safety, and advancement. It is the sure way to solve most of our problems, as we are unable to get the men to get off their backsides to take the million jobs that are available. Low women’s participation in the workplace leaves women as the only solution, as at least their work ethic is that much better, and their primary issues of Child Care, Sexual Harassment and Spousal Abuse need solutions.


It is imperative that the Private Sector take an active interest in this as they are the final beneficiaries of this plan if successful and other suggestions in my blog about the provision of safe night public transport merely aid in this objective of releasing a huge pool of labor into the workforce, to BENEFIT SRI LANKA! 

As always A Plan, Funding and Successful Execution are the reason for procrastination! Procrastinate death results!  

The inadequate marketing of Ceylon Cinnamon as the true gem in our PEARL!


Sri Lanka is a Country blessed by God and cursed by Man, and in that sense is still struggling to find a NICHE any niche for that matter to distinguish from other islands, other places in the tropics and any other place on Earth for that matter!

To me, who having travelled and lived overseas for over 34 years when I returned to Sri Lanka in 2004, just before the Tsunami, I have NOT had the urge of leaving this Island after that, despite the many challenges I have had to live under in the period from November 20014 to the present. I still face challenges of one sort or another on a daily basis, but lead as active a life as any pursuing many different interests, being a Jack of all trades and a master of none!

However in these long years of wandering around the Country, while at the same time taking full advantage of the world wide web for dissemination of information and absorption of even more information on a daily basis to improve my knowledge for the benefit NOT of myself, but those who live in Sri Lanka to appreciate their Country, and actually leverage what is unique about Sri Lanka, to their benefit to improve the quality of their life in Sri Lanka.

It is with that intention that I started this blog in 2008 and have relentlessly pursued my goal of presenting an ALTERNATIVE world view from the accepted norms, in order for the fellow citizens of Sri Lanka to really understand what makes this Country, Place so unique.

It is still a challenge, as it is a no-brainer to convince foreigners of the value, and benefits of Sri Lanka while it is an almost impossible task to convince the people born and bred here that there is NO other place on the face of the Earth as fortunate as them. They look at you incredulously like you are an ALIEN!

Stuck with this problem I have NOT given up, though many people have said it is a battle I will never be able to win, as it is the genes that prevent these intelligent people from appreciating everything that makes this Country so special.

Therefore if one is able to set aside this word GENES or an attitude born out of complacency and catatonic then one can see the light at the end of the tunnel and come out of this darkness into the light of really living appreciating, loving and preserving what is so unique about Sri Lanka. It is with this optimistic, progressive can do vision that I intend to carry on, UNTIL I can’t anymore!

Ceylon Cinnamon is one such unique property that is so unique there is NO WHERE ELSE IN THE WORLD where it is grown and we dumb asses have singularly been unable to let the world know of this VERY SPECIAL PRODUCT.

Yes after a lifetime there is a small effort (not enough and see the link below) where we are trying to revive this product and bring the notice of the world to it.

However even as the extract from the BBC article below which I print and show its link afterwards, we still have not realized why it is so important, should NOT be confused with imposters who have even plundered the word Cinnamon our of Ceylon and actually associate the Cassia as Cinnamon, where it is frankly poison to Cinnamomum Zeylanicum that is NATIVE ONLY TO SRI LANKA.

“In fact, there’s a good chance you’ve got some coumarin lurking in your kitchen cupboards. True cinnamon is made from the bark of the plant Cinnamomum Zeylanicum and is native to Sri Lanka. This type naturally has extremely low levels of coumarin and proven medicinal properties, but that’s probably not what you’ve got in your spice rack. That’s because what we think of as cinnamon isn’t really cinnamon at all, but a Southeast Asian imposter made from the bark of the cassia tree.

Coumarin is mostly toxic to the liver, which plays a central role in mopping up poisons and clearing them from the body  

Not only is this plant completely unrelated, but it contains around 25,000 times more coumarin. The US doesn’t regulate the amount of coumarin in cinnamon, though the European Union has set safe daily limits – and just one teaspoon of cassia cinnamon could send you over.”

http://www.bbc.com/future/story/20170620-the-delicious-flavour-with-a-toxic-secret The extract above is from this link published on June 20th 2017.

I also show another older article which tries to explain why Ceylon Cinnamon and Cassia Cinnamon have NOTHING in common except in taste and it is truly tragic that the word cinnamon has been even attached to cassia to fool people.



The links above if carefully read and absorbed is sufficient to ensure that the poison of cassia should never should be associated with the incredibly curative, regenerative and unbelievably flavorful qualities of CEYLON CINNAMON

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

“How to ease Traffic Congestion in Colombo and Suburbs?”


@ OPA Auditorium on 20th June 2017 @ 6pm – Organized by the OPA 
Keynote: Dr. Sisira Kodagoda, Chairman National Council on Road Safety (Absent)
Indika Hapugoda, Director Traffic – SL Police Department 
Eng. Mrs SAK Subasinghe, Deputy Director Engineering (Traffic and Road Design – Colombo Municipal Council (CMC) 
Dr T Sivakumar, Head of the Department of Transport and Logistics Management, Faculty of Engineering, University of Moratuwa

It was said during the lecture that the Keynote Speaker avoided the event, for fear of being goaded on the inability of his remit to achieve any favorable result

Without going into the detail of each of the speakers, I will simply summarize some of what I learned and include my recommendations, many of which were actually NOT discussed during this session.

For a topic of such importance, I believe it was V Poorly attended, even by the OPA members, and unfortunately I can only say that the OPA is full of highly experienced people, frustrated that society is unable to use their years of experience in any meaningful way, who use this as a ‘bully pulpit’ to air their frustrations and personal grievances based on anecdotes of their daily lives, rather than collectively sign up to proposals for defining the objectives and laying down detailed proposals on how these objectives can be practically achieved. There were NO ONE from decision making bodies of Govt. and any report sent to them as recommendations will merely be filed and forgotten.

Further there were NO students of Urban Planning, Transport, and Logistics from ANY of the Institutions that provide such knowledge, due to their possible inability to practically attend such an event, DUE OF COURSE TO POOR TRANSPORT OPTIONS TO EASE THEIR ATTENDANCE. Suffice ALSO to say that our education system does not encompass thinking outside the box for these students to research and explore their field of study through different angles by such attendance, and merely follow a ‘BY ROTE’ form of instruction restricted to lecture notes, and recommended bibliography, far removed from real world discussions. I also doubt there was anyone from the media, who could further inform the public of the event, the options discussed and the conclusions reached, to get involved in this debate that requires immediate action to provide solutions before we await the IMPENDING GRIDLOCK!  

The patchwork of stop gap solutions, by providing elevated highways, additional lanes, better traffic management systems, education of motorists and possibly the philosophically essential but politically unpalatable decision of ridding Colombo and Suburbs of Three Wheelers WILL NOT be a permanent solution to this problem.

Further the change in the air quality, effectively confining Colombo to be an area of high pollutants in the air DUE to the traffic congestion and mix of vehicles was NOT discussed, as possibly not being appropriate to the topic, but holistically speaking has to be addressed as a benefit of whatever proposal is recommended and implemented, in order to return Colombo to be a livable City, with the expected increase in Population by 150,000 within the next 10 years due to the addition of the Port City and other UNRESTRICTED and unplanned Condominium Projects in hand and expected.

A 30 year plan is the answer, not a patchwork of unrelated stop gap measures. No matter what Govt. rules, or who is in charge of the CMC, it is imperative that LIVABILITY is the need of the hour, if Colombo is to remain a place where people actually wish to move to live and work.

I am stressing pollution is at the heart of the problem, as only then will the electrification of public transport, all urban transport shifted to LNG or Electric, the banning or restriction of diesel vehicles into the area, the complete prohibition of three wheelers and the introduction of electric, regulated, cost effective taxis(including the use of Uber/Pick Me technology) to both reduce the need for personalized vehicles in Colombo and the Suburbs, reduce congestion, provide suitable alternatives, reduce pollution.

One very important aspect that was NOT discussed, but is related, is the provision of NIGHT BUS service at affordable costs both to allow Colombo some night life, which it really does not have due to this unavailability, and for the thousands of shift workers who currently have NO options but to use Company provided transport, taxis or three wheelers further adding not necessarily to congestion at night, but to the pollution and noise of the City at night. This must be part of the medium term plan for Colombo if it is to truly achieve a status of a Megapolis, which I am sure the planners want for the future.

The driver training aspect much discussed should be part of a much stricter training program to educate drivers on road use, prior to the granting of licenses as is common all over the world and can easily be implemented without delay. This is a Nationwide problem which if addressed will lead to fewer accidents road deaths and reduce the costs to the state and improve worker productivity.

The park & ride system that was discussed should be part of satellite multimodal centers that have parking structures, LRT and Bus stations built together to ensure convenience, in places like Kottawa where the Highway, LRT and local Bus routes meet and vehicles can be parked there, and public transport used to get into Colombo fast. After all it is ridiculous that it takes the same time to get from Matara to Kottawa as it is from Kottawa to Fort!

We have examples from ALL OVER THE WORLD to make sure we DON’T make the same mistakes other urban centers have made, and an example of the Seoul Highway, over a river was shown that after 40 years the Highway was removed and the river was re-established to create a much improved area of business and housing than before, to enhance the quality of the City.

We don’t therefore have to sacrifice any more land for road expansion, we must use these examples to MOVE PEOPLE from A TO B faster, in a safer, more acceptable and cost effective means with minimum harm to the local environment. Th ONLY answer then is efficient, clean, safe, public transport.

This MUST be public policy, in the only country on earth where our rulers and senior public officials DON’T use public transport. If only people had the use of an electric shuttle to get to the BMICH from the main bus routes, how much more convenient would that be for most people? The bus service on Bauddhaloka Mw. Is absolutely atrocious, meaning non-existent and for people to walk the length of the road to get a bus after an event is beyond the pale.

Not to have thought of this when this was built 40+ years ago, with Still NO solution is indicative of why we have a transport problem in Colombo and the Suburbs today.

CONCLUSION

Put simply the answers are already there. There is simply NO urgency on the part of the rulers to implement these options as they don’t believe they benefit from any of these solutions for the greater good. The short-term belief that they will face criticism from bodies that are adversely affected seem to outweigh the greater good factor that should be the overall catalyst for decision making.


Unless we have a National Policy Framework that everyone subscribes to, and implemented without fear or favor, we don’t have any possibility of extricating ourselves from the current mess we have allowed ourselves to get in. We can no longer think only of ourselves, we must think of the objective only. Only then can logical and practical solutions be implemented for the good of everyone as a whole, where some may lose some privileges for the greater good. If we have ONLY public transport to get to Parliament, that certainly would be a start.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Is there a third force about to RISE IN SRI LANKAN POLITICS?


Unfortunately 95% of the population in Sri Lanka are NOT aware of the LATEST FRENCH REVOLUTION, in order to take a cue from that experience and recreate a similar situation in Sri Lanka, though most people I know subscribe to the same desires, that the French in these last 50 days subscribed to! Change is needed but please not the same faces anymore!

The reason they are unaware has its roots in our education system, of being fed information from an agenda set by a few, with NO DESIRE to educate, but with EVERY DESIRE TO ENSLAVE. If these facts emanating from France are instilled into our people, their hopes for a brighter future would be raised. I fear we do not have patriots at the top in Sri Lanka who wish to offer a better alternative to the current political culture in Sri Lanka.

SO HOW CAN WE SAY?  “YES WE CAN AND MUST!” CHANGE!

So what is this revolution I refer to? Firstly, the Youngest French President since Napoleon, was elected. I don’t know how freely Napoleon was elected and if Universal Franchise was available then. The point is not that he was young and had NO prior political experience, except as a Minister in the Hollande Government, but that his movement is LESS THAN ONE YEAR OLD, and its goals went against the grain of French expectations of shorter hours, earlier retirement, better pensions schemes, and more holidays!

In short the first issue this movement had on its agenda was to reduce the PUBLIC SECTOR BY AT LEAST 120,000 people! The French People actually VOTED FOR THAT MANIFESTO, and less about law and order despite the terrorist incidents that have scarred France lately,  as they realized that in order to IMPROVE their quality of life, they MUST make sacrifices they cannot afford, and NOT insist on promises, that merely bankrupt the Country.

Let me remind my readers then that this new President’s NEW PARTY swept the board at the National Assembly, (Parliamentary) Elections held this Sunday, 18th June 2017 and obtained an overwhelming majority to GOVERN, something the relinquishing socialist government EVEN did not have.

Read the link carefully to obtain all the details of how the French voted, despite the lower percentage vote, due to voter fatigue, and does not change the facts.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2017/06/19/french-election-results-new-parliament-looks-macrons-new-party/ In short a new set of people, many who have never been in politics, (the retired bullfighter just lost in her constituency) are female members of parliament. Factually, 223 out of 557.

Even more astounding is that Macron’s LREM movement had 47% females elected to Parliament of the 350 members that won on Sunday. This is a TECTONIC SHIFT in World Politics and NOT just French politics, firstly ALL in Sri Lanka must be made aware of this, and only then will they sincerely believe it is possible in Sri Lanka.

If ever the time is ripe it is NOW.

I know some donkeys in power are currently having discussions to form a third force! However when donkeys who are part of the first and second force are quietly conniving to create a credible third force to enhance their PERSONAL AGENDA, to suit their long term needs and NOT that of the Country, IT WILL FAIL before it can even begin, an asinine way to start.

They are playing with the same pack of cards, and we just have to NOT ONLY change the pack of cards, we just cannot play cards AT ALL, as it is more than that we need to achieve, a completely changed culture of thinking that the people subscribe to, but which there is currently NO anchor to latch on to form a movement such as in France from which to leap forward.

LEAP FORWARD IT WILL, and as France has shown it does not even take ONE year for it to change the political landscape.

I am now looking for Country First people to create the nucleus of the movement which should NOT put ONE person at the helm to identify with as HUMANS ARE SIMPLY FLAWED by birth and association. Of course you might say, Macron was the catalyst in France to create the movement and YOU MUST have a credible leader to lead this movement as otherwise especially in the Sri Lankan context governing or policy will NOT alone be sufficient to create change.

I believe that a movement with Policy at its APEX is sufficient to accept, and as it is open to all comers, meaning today’s voters sullied by color for the party they have voted for are ALL WELCOME. It is the youth who must eventually take leadership and run, but unlike the likes of Macron in France, we have NO educated YOUTH with leadership quality, who understand the dynamics of plurality at present and will require EDUCATION within the movement to give them the tools to achieve the desired objectives that they see more than the older people like us, as being NECESSARY for Change!

Of course we must begin somewhere and Environment would rightly figure at the APEX, with the rights to drink clean water, eat wholesome food, and breathe clean air as the basics to human life which we don’t have today.

The main policy issues to achieve this would then be the removal of all those who currently ruled over us. They have only enriched themselves at the expense of others. It will change the culture of the public service that has so completely corrupted the fabric of our society, so as to enslave our people beginning with the rural villager who is terrorized by tin-pot public officials. They lord over them as rulers, NOT as the SERVANTS of the PUBLIC they are SWORN TO SERVE. Ironic isn’t it how the roles have changed? We are merely seeking a role reversal back to what we had, and what we deserve from this SERVICE.

When these simple concepts are understood, and that is the key, ensuring we use social media, to simply convey that which is obvious, our natural following will be the users of social media, namely our youth to whom these diabolical predictions of disaster are VERY REAL.

TO THEM, these proposals are no-brainers, and are simply the least expected of a new force to change the current system. I can assure you that the currently conniving dreamers of the new force have simply LOST THE PLOT and will NOT make any headway as they are simply dreaming about what they can do.

To those who are simply trying to upset the existing order of play by creating a new force that MERELY shifts the balance of power to those HUNGRY FOR POWER, I appeal to you to desist, as you are NO MORE DESIROUS to us than the present CABAL. So you may as well save your dreams for something more productive and shift your energies to something that will actually help Sri Lanka not yourselves, often at the expense even of your own enrichment.

You will be surprised how in the end, it is all of us who will benefit including you, as you will NOT be eliminated like the desire of the JVP revolutions of the past, but  will be inclusive and important contributors to the overall goal that is set by the policies that will see Sri Lanka through to at least 2075 if not 2100. Surely it must be clear to you that your plan will not lengthen the sustainability of this Country into the next century at ALL and it is merely going to sustain you in clover till your demise only and the Country’s demise if earlier!

This long-term survival plan ensures at least that the people who live in this Country, especially those who are BORN today and henceforth have a future in a livable space, throughout their lives, something you do not support in your plans that are extremely short-termist, not revolutionary, and unlikely to bear wholesome fruit that can carry a nation with certainty.


I am not saying that the future of France is assured, at least they have a plan that is different and has a better chance of survival. Similarly with what we propose we look with optimism to change minds first, before hearts have their say.

Yes, there is a third force that will rise up. You don't have to fear it, especially if you are part of the silent majority who believe that this Paradise has been destroyed by our rulers, Have faith that a policy based force will sweep through this land and blow our prejudices to Kingdom Come!

To those who dream that they can change the center of power, by merely changing the pack, just dream on!

http://www.reuters.com/article/us-france-election-women-idUSKBN19911E?il=0

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Reflections on the UK Election and Lessons for Sri Lanka

I awoke yesterday, to the realization that against the pundits predictions, Theresa May completely misjudged the fluidity with which the UK electors changed their decision on Thursday, 8th of June 2017. In 6 weeks it changed her 20 point unassailable lead in the opinion polls to a hung parliament that we now have. 

The final result now in for Kensington and Chelsea(the last to be declared), my old constituency where I have had been on the electoral register through from 1978 to 2004, going to Labor for the first time in history to by a slim margin of 20 votes. Just imagine the matrons with Kensington Mansions, who have the vote there but live in Country Houses, could not be bothered to turn up through traffic to vote. Their Tory hopes, where they smugly felt that their vote would NOT make a difference, DID IN FACT make the difference against their beliefs!

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-4589900/True-blue-Kensington-turns-red.html

Conservatives have 318 seats to Labor’s 266, 8 seats short of an overall majority and 13 less than when she called the election. This goes to prove May’s hope of a 100 seat majority evaporated and then some, that now puts her future, the future of a Hard Brexit at risk with the EU gloating that Brits have voted with their feet, yet again realizing that Brexit itself was an aberration, that Cameron should never have gone for a referendum in the first place.

It is clear that not only Cameron miscalculated, but so did May and there you have it. Just like MR miscalculated on the 8th of January 2015 and Hilary Clinton on was it also 8th of November 2016, we have a series of bad Eights in play these days, with only Macron coming out on cue lately, leaving us to wonder what will happen to Frau Merkel in Germany in September.

If one looks at some figures, the Green and UKIP vote of 5M in 2015 evaporated to 1M with 2M going to Conservatives and 2M going to Labor, so both Conservative and Labor benefitted and the Tories actually had the highest number of votes cast in their history besting by a long way the number of votes that David Cameron actually received in 2015, so the picture as always is NOT what it seems.

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-4590440/ANDREW-PIERCE-reveals-story-Tories-campaign.html

Tactical voting, and some Constituencies defying logic, along with the fact that more young people registered and voted this time as opposed to last made a difference. This, realizing that their vote counts and if they had voted at the referendum, Brexit WOULD HAVE NOT taken place. Crucially of the 18-34 age group only 27% voted Tory, to 63% labor, as compared with 35-54 age group that tied at 43% each. Of course the seniors 55+ voted Tory by 59% to only 23% for Labor despite the threat of their Home Care benefit cuts that May proposed, which to be fair only affects a few wealthy people adversely. It is also to be remembered that Labor’s promise to remove University Fees was a great attraction to youth struggling to pay. and living on loans which they wonder when they can repay, if they have NO chance of secure employment afterwards.

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-4590356/11billion-tuition-fee-bribe-saw-young-vote-Labour.html

All in all a fascinating result which will keep the pundits pontificating for days on end, with NO real rationale because at the end of the day an election is a sense of belief on a particular day, which if held today, may mean that Hilary may blow the Donald out of the water in the US!

All this then creates UNCERTAINTY which no one likes in the middle of other pressing international issues that require consensus and unified action. I have not seen the whole world in so much turmoil at any one point in time, and the value of Democracy called into question so much, due to the fickle nature of the electorate and the issue of the day that dominates that make NO sense in terms of importance for the elector per se!

Conclusions

The one hit wonder that the SNP was is now proved with voters NOT wanting a dissolution of the Union by any means and neither with the DUP romping home with a female leader, will be the king maker in the Coalition with their 10 seats.

History says that Theresa May’s days are numbered proving that the discredited Cameron looks good in light of the present situation, but mercurial Boris the most colorful figure is JUST not ready for PM ship as yet. I just hope for the sake of consistency that May is allowed to go through and finish the Brexit deal before handing this thankless task to someone else. Further I would NOT take the PM ship for all the tea in China at this moment, leaving it for May to  bake her own pie, for what it is worth.

Sadly for the UK it is NOT with the backing of the nation that she is in negotiation with the EU, to get whatever is now thrown at her, rather than demanded as she had hoped for earlier. Democracy has a way of humbling the best and worst of men and now women! One third of UK MPs are now female.

Now how does this result show what we in SRI LANKA can learn about the unpredictability of voting, the weight anti-incumbency plays in Elections, and the careful husbanding of electoral concerns, over the real issues of the day?


If parallels are to be resurrected we see in a pattern of anti-Muslim and seemingly isolated incidents nationwide, but sporadic and widespread a fear of panic on the part of the Muslim minority, but a sense of excitement by the Joint Opposition that their time is ripe for an unseating. None of which bodes well! 

Let us hope the Govt. unites under one banner, nips this in the bud without delay, arrest the culprits and alley the fears of the Muslims once and for all. Simply put the law of the land MUST be equal to all and so must justice. We can use this as an opportunity to get all under one spirit of a United Nation where ALL its citizens have an equal standing with no fear or favor dividing us. 

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Why is it so hard to convince a parent – “They are killing their children out of love”


 “sending a child to school (for that matter anywhere) in a non a/c vehicle for more than 30 minutes per day, will drastically affect their health” (it most likely could shorten their life span)

Sri Lanka’s urban roads are choked with traffic today, with the problem becoming increasingly dangerous in the past 10 years when the problem as more than doubled. Much of these fumes are either diesel vehicle ones, or the fumes from 3 wheelers that are highly polluting due to the lack of air purification systems like catalytic converters. We in Sri Lanka are setting the stage for a catastrophe that no one has YET commented on, (least of all the media) to the public, and if I am the first to make this statement, so be it.

The link below if proof were needed shows how damaging diesel emissions are to your health. This has even led the UK to ban diesel vehicles from 2020 within London, and we are still busily importing them in numbers and have NOT converted even our urban buses to LNG or Electric, both of which is a fraction of the cost of LRT and other transport means currently being promoted.


Ingesting Diesel Fumes as the link clearly shows can severely stunt the growth of the brain too!! So my headline statement is NOT TO BE TAKEN LIGHTLY

Think about it! Comments and suggestions most appreciated  to begin an urgent dialogue that will lead to decision making with the evidence at hand. It makes the banning of Tobacco Cultivation which is in today’s papers a joke in comparison.




Will this have an added benefit of changing this current trend – the rush and competition to send your children to the best Schools situated in the Center of many large cities as being the best, especially in Colombo and Kandy where the air pollution is at its worst.

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Banning growing Tobacco is the NOT the way to achieve self-sufficiency!


I just got the news that the Health Minister has said Tobacco cultivation will be banned effective 2020. This will immediately put about 250,000 lives, who depend on this crop, in jeopardy, for LITTLE benefit.

Yes the WHO has given guidelines on Tobacco growing and how harmful it is etc. However that is relative to other comparisons, and there are far more important matters that affect the lives of people in Sri Lanka, than stopping Tobacco Cultivation. Once we prioritize and prepare a list in importance, even for the health of the people of Sri Lanka, you will soon realize that banning the sale of White Sugar will save MORE lives than growing Tobacco, and that industry, will not affect jobs as all refined sugar is imported. Again, this edict is scoring cheap political points, for no apparent reason.

Worse, and I have already blogged about it here, that as out-grower cultivation systems go, Tobacco Cultivation is the most sophisticated of them all with the whole process being highly monitored and managed that is an example to us all on how to manage a cultivation so that the supply and demand is well known and managed. If only we used that system for our paddy cultivation, we would not only be able to give our farmers a better price, it could also compromise the Paddy Mafia and give both the Consumer and Producer a fair shake of the pie reducing the middleman’s share. That is a far more important issue than this proposed ban.

In a country that is teeming with illicit cigarette imports, and with the banning, all cigarettes will be imported, negating the need for the highest capitalized Co in Sri Lanka, which will merely be a trading concern, adding NO value to the economy unlike the present scenario. In short ZERO value addition within Sri Lanka, and all benefiting overseas suppliers. How foolish can our lawmakers be?

A Country, unable to cope with a simple flood, not informing citizens of the dangers their homes are in, are resorting to such asinine statements to distract the people from the very real issues we face. The lack of an early warning system for flood evacuation is a priority and has been for a long time too.

Unfortunately in a Country where our people don’t think, these words sound very noble and politically correct. However when one delves deeper with a proper evaluation of the matter, one sees the futility of this step, as NOT addressing the real problems of society and deflecting blame on Tobacco, everyone’s punching bag. I would even go as far as arguing that this is a counterproductive step, which hardly achieves the objectives expected!
The problem of the widespread availability of drugs and their use, is far more dangerous but not even addressed by our leaders as THEY DO NOT HAVE a plan to combat this menace. This is possibly because people in high places are complicit, or are beneficiaries from the largesse these lucrative rackets provide.

The tobacco industry to be fair has provided the tobacco farmers with a good income, fair prices and a very detailed system of advice and assistance to the outgrowers that is the envy of agriculture. Unfortunately the Minister of Health is probably NOT even aware of the sophistication of this system and how it has helped the growers, when making these knee-jerk statements. If we had made use of this system and introduced this to other food production, we could have been better able to manage the growing of cash crops for food, including paddy.

Once this system is GONE for good, there is NO possibility of replicating it either, so if we are to do away with Tobacco they could at least have used this sophisticated outgrower system and system of advisers to better manage other crops first.

“As usual we are putting the cart before the horse, and are left with neither a cart or the horse, as both would have bolted out of sight, never to be seen again!”

Firstly, when we don’t listen to foreign advice on most things we are taking a cue from the WHO against the interests of Sri Lanka. Tell us if there is any other country on the face of the earth that has taken such a measure, and ask yourself why? If you say it is because of the strength of the Tobacco Lobby, you must be insane. It is simply bad economics and we can’t teach basic Economics to our Rulers if the way they have conducted their management of the Economy is any indication to date.

It is time Sri Lanka stops from falling from the frying pan into the fire and think outside the box to tackle the most important issues of the day, that affect the very fabric of our society.

After I read a recent report, where it was shown how diesel fumes stunt growth and cut short the life expectancy of children, banning children from spending over an hour in a school van, would reduce the death rate more than the banning of the growth of Tobacco. That is what I mean by thinking outside the box and prioritizing what is important, if death rate is the key!


In short telling Mothers that sending their children to Royal in a school van that is NOT air-conditioned is going to kill them at a younger age is more important than banning Tobacco cultivation. However that will NOT win you votes though!!!

No one can tell me what to do with a medal I have won, even if it is for a National Event, representing my Country!


What kind of donkey is the Sports Minister? Obviously, he is not a person with an iota of grey matter in his brain. The announcement a few minutes ago, that he will ban (by law) the sale of any medal/certificate earned by ANY sportsman or woman representing their Country, is simply foolish. Whose to know anyway?

Firstly it is illegal to prevent a person from selling his personal possession to whomever he chooses. It is NOT a national medal, it is earned by representing the Country, but it is that individual’s right to keep, to hand down, to lose or to sell, and NO ONE can prevent that. The country will never lose the fact that a person representing the Country won such and such medal in such and such games. The item is merely a token given to the individual, NOT TO THE STATE and the state has NO rights over it in any case.

There is always, the possibility of the particular National Federation representing that sport to match the price bid at auction, if they are able to collect the funds privately to keep it within the Federation and display as theirs, with the name of the person who won, but that is as far as any acquisition by fair means is permissible, so that the seller/ sportsman is NOT shortchanged.

It is said that we pay such sportsman a stipend to keep them from living in penury and so are entitled to their medals! That is SIMPLY NOT SO, as they are not related. A stipend is an amount that is determined by state sanction, like a pension, and the amount too is determined and it is at the behest of the settlor to do so and also to remove this right. It is not similar to a State Pension where the right exists till death, and enshrined in an act of parliament, so enforceable.

It is obvious that people who take decisions on our behalf are not competent to make such decisions. Their lack of knowledge in this area astounds me, as they have NOT thought it through. It is unenforceable as the owner cannot be forced to give it to anyone, other than whosoever he or she pleases and for whatever sum that they wish to accept, by auction or direct sale or gift to another.

Don’t forget the Victoria Cross the ultimate medal for bravery in the UK is freely disposable, and there is a market for collectors, and so should any medal in Sri Lanka, be it a Medal won by a member of our Security Forces or a Sportsman or any other medal that they receive from representing the Country.


There may be rules and precedence on gifts and commendations leaders of Country receive, and how they are passed on, if private or national property. I don’t know specifically in regards to them, but that is a different scenario.  

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Teacher shortages are a universal, but particularly acute in Sri Lanka



SO what must we do about it? Firstly, we MUST identify that there is a severe problem of the lack of teachers in ALL our schools. Some subjects are worse than others. What we need to do first is to identify by school what the shortages are, for what subject, what grade and what school. Does the Department of Education have a detailed list of this that is current, and is it kept updated in REAL TIME? It is estimated that the numbers exceed 50,000.


It is worth reading the link above about the problems that the UK encounters, to get an idea of looming issues here in Sri Lanka and means to avoid them.

A worse problem is looming,   and that has NOT been addressed, due to the shortage, and that is incompetent (not ill-qualified) teachers litter, the state education system. To be fair, the private sector at least recruit based on ability and experience and offer remuneration accordingly, and are therefore willing to pay for both, and OFTEN attract competent teachers from the state sector, who have resigned their teaching positions due to many reasons, but in my experience from talking to some of the better ones, is that they have been transferred after their period in a school as is the rule to a school that is beyond easy reach and so they OPT to leave and join a private school that pays more and is easier to get to.

As a matter of GOVT POLICY, it is obvious – “in order to be able to compete globally, our youth leaving schools MUST be competent in the skills required in today’s employment marketplace and not yesterday’s” this is therefore an additional issue that needs to be dealt with.

Without trying to put the cart before the horse, I feel the tried and tested means of filling this gap is of NO RELEVANCE today. We must think completely anew. We must identify the employment regimen in the next 50 years and then train people as teachers who are competent in teaching students to be able to take the jobs that are in demand in the next 50 years. AS SIMPLE AS THAT.

We MUST NOT look at the shortage list as is done today, and try and fill it with newly minted Education Graduates, be they Diploma Holders or University Graduates. For example, the majority of students in schools with less facilities, in rural areas offer Political Science, Buddhist Civilization and Sinhala for their A levels. 

These students, even if they obtain As are simply unemployable, or are NOT suited to employment in 2018. In my experience I have even looked for competent students who can type and write well in Sinhala amongst this pool, and they cannot even do that, so what are they good for? To teach those subjects on some poor unsuspecting student in future! NO WAY it is a disservice as it relegates that student to a lifetime of unemployability.

RECOMMENDATION

The newly released proposals by the National Institute of Education for the education policy for the future is already out of date, and NOT relevant as they have NOT identified the skills required for the next 50 years, which is the period our students who leave school from 2025 need to have. They are the backbone of our society, and of our economy, and if they cannot do the jobs they will be useless and we cannot blame them if we teach them the wrong subjects or direct them in the wrong direction. They will curse us for many years after we have passed on.

What I believe and can be summarized in a few words, is that the world requires thinkers, problem solvers, those willing to change careers, flexibility of thought and a belief that one may have 15 jobs in a working life, as well as the knowledge that male and female alike would be expected to be in the workforce till they are 75, and that there IS NO retirement pension, except the one they have saved for in their lifetime, and not something that the state provides.

No country has the resources to pay pensioners from 2035, and we will be dreaming in Technicolor if we think Sri Lanka will be an exception to the rule!

Obviously everything has to be done in a logical manner so we achieve our desired National Objective. So the most important is to identify the necessary skills, train SUITABLE people (not anyone who may apply) to teach those skills, and as less than 50% of the budget allocated for education was spent last year, (the education administrators are simply incompetent, and merely turning up to be paid and NOT to be productive) we must apply the resources already allocated to this task. It will take on average 4 to 5 years to get the first batch of trained teachers and 20 years at least to get the needed students. THERE IS NO QUICK FIX.


We must return to a work ethic that is NON-existent in our culture. To do that sensibly we lets begin with pre-school and use the examples of countries like, Japan, Korea and Finland, to train competent Montessori Teachers as a first step, and turn out kids with a purpose, with inquiring minds, disciplined, where time is spent on their growth and a value system such as 5S instilled in them as well of teamwork and shared responsibilities without gender stereotypes emerging, that sets the foundation for ONLY 11 more years of quality free education.