Monday, March 31, 2008

'serendipity' why I chose the word for the blog

The origin of the word, coined by a diarist, Horace Walpole in 1754, from ‘Serendip’ (a former name by which foreigners in that period referred to Sri Lanka) predated the British arrival in the late eighteenth century.

My rudimentary paperback Oxford dictionary explains the noun serendipity as “ the occurrence of events by chance in a fortunate way” I think that defines my life. One day in the future, if I ever have the chance of writing about my life, that will be the defining theme of the events of my life. Of course life has not always been rosy, and the troughs have been deeper than the peaks, but in my opinion given the odds stacked against me, fortune has blessed me in every way but two, that being money and requited love!!!

Don’t despair I am optimistic about the latter two if I live long enough!!

It makes one proud that a word coined so long ago was as a result of this island, that must have had and still continues to have that feeling that there is nothing better in life than to find oneself in this magical land, that I believe the closest we will ever get to heaven on earth. The sad fact is that few who live here feel that way, as they do not know a good thing when they have it.

Can one blame people from overseas who flock here because they think so too. Arthur Clarke the science fiction writer, who died recently, lived here since 1956 even before I was born and after even SWRD started what seems now the malaise “ the politics of appealing to the masses to get elected without thinking through the long term effects of ones actions as it pertains to those who have to suffer the consequences of his actions”.

If we view our lives as being serendipitous, then we have reason to live and hope for a better tomorrow. Too many of us, due to various unfortunate events in our lives, some of our own making, and others external either succumb to using fate as the intervening factor, not giving enough importance to individual effort to improve on life and looking for serendipity to do the rest.

So look back on your life and the serendipitous events that have occurred and know there will be more in the future to look forward to. At least I hope so.I chose the blog address “kalpanakaranna” for a reason, as we just don’t think about anything we do. So we cannot see the irony of some of our actions and just accept what is fed us, not thinking of the consequences.

singlish bastardisation

I am referring here to the mixing of Sinhala and English by Sinhala Radio. I am taking Shri FM as an example to make the point. I write this while I listen to Shri FM, so that I can use examples I hear as it is spoken. The DJ just used the word ‘shopping’, ‘call’, ‘sing’, ‘light’, ‘post’ etc.Frankly, I use far fewer English words when I speak in Sinhala. There are simple sinhala words that can be used instead, and so am not referring to technical terms, some of which do not have a sinhala word.

I am incredulous why people don’t indulge in the same level of questioning, I as primarily an English speaker am making. I have covered elsewhere the issue of the commonplace use of English everywhere one looks in the Island in signs, in a country where less than 5% can barely put two English words together to make a statement. So are the people being duped, into forgetting who they are and what they should be confronted in terms of signage.

It is important first not to make laws, but explain the objectives as all these media influence the future behavior of youth and once the damage is done it is difficult to correct. The subculture of youth are inevitably confronted with the extensive use of cell phones, and the constant English alerts on Dialog phones to an audience, which does not understand a word that is said, must be upsetting to say the least to a thinker. Is the sender (in this case Dialog) trying to send a subliminal message, “you had better learn English if you are to understand what we are telling you”. I have been in numerous occasions been asked to translate such messages.

The texting in the English alphabet (but in the sinhala language), which is now widespread uses phonetic spelling which is different to the correct use that is in the message, so the reader cannot even read it intelligibly let alone understand.

One unfortunate by product of the phonetic spelling is that when it comes to reading English, the problem becomes doubly insurmountable. Instances of misspelling are now so commonplace I despair. Only today I saw a bus sign spelling Denzil as Dencil as that is how it is written in Sinhala.

an appeal to unemployed graduates in Sri Lanka

“kalkpanakaranna” please. Sri Lanka is desperately short of skills of every type, our education system has not produced the people to fill this skill shortage. However, while it is the lucky few, who gain entry into University, there are more people who do not get into university who have jobs than those who have actually got their degrees. That means if you have a degree for whatever reason you are unemployable.

Just think why that is. Students, mainly in the liberal arts, are indoctrinated by those, who are out of touch with reality. This is because as usual they are not taught to think through what is being said. They just believe like robots. The JVP share much of the blame for this as its ideology has no place in the 21st century. No one is owed a job by anyone, least of all the government.

Speak to any large private employer and ask them why they do not recruit from the mass of unemployed graduates into their management training ranks, and they will tell you that these people while intelligent have unrealistic expectations about their ability and what they are willing accept.

It is easier to train one with O levels, than a graduate, as the former is willing to learn, while the latter thinks they know everything. Just stop and think why? These graduates have an inflated opinion of themselves as they put themselves in the top 1% of those in the academic achievement stakes in the country. They must be humble enough to know that all they have is a degree which in other countries is taken as the ability to problem solve and evaluate tasks and accomplish goals of an employer successfully. In Sri Lanka they look for just a paycheck with a prestigious state institution with tenure, preferably in a bank but sometimes in a school as a teacher. It is status rather than challenge that they look for, as it seems that the university system has dulled their thought process too. Is it any wonder that those with private tertiary education are more assured of a job? University students toeing the JVP party line oppose the setting up of private universities in Sri Lanka. Now 8,000 leave the country every year to pursue private education overseas as compared with the 16,000 who enter University here. This is at a great foreign exchange cost to the country, which can be partially retained if private universities are permitted here.

Whether you permit private education or not you are not going to change reality. You are not guaranteed a job in either context. You have to earn your job. There is a severe dearth of skills as alluded to earlier and if you are willing to look around and see if there is something that interests you and are willing to undergo some training you too can get a job, It is the willingness that the employer is looking for.

The status and pension rights that go with government employment, which you believe is guaranteed for life can change in your lifetime so don’t be fooled. People with less education than you are working earlier and earning a lot more than you can ever dream of. Even the Army is taking 18yr recruits with hardly any O levels and pays them 25,000 a month, three times what you can expect from a government job. So why are you still withholding your labor waiting for the non existent promise of a govt. job.

There are vacancies in every field, but most especially in skills. Carpenters and electricians earn a lot more than a bank employee. Even a baas now charges 1000/- a day and expects lunch and tea breaks to be provided, and that is not in Colombo.

So please get off that pedestal and train for a job that has prospects, and a future. Don’t be conned and don’t con others into believing lies, and be flexible in what to expect. There really is no unemployment anymore in the island, except in your category of graduate. So make a choice and live by those consequences. Most of you with degrees are now sorry you have one as you see your classmates with no degree going up the ladder in their chosen fields, if that does not teach you a lesson nothing will.

As John Kennedy said, know what you can do for your country and not what your country can do for you and then you will be in the right direction. There is nothing called a free lunch. You have to earn it. Life is not easy, but you have received a greater share of the nations largess, so you owe it to your self and the nation, that is the rest of us that helped you get to your position, to make the most of your skills and look for and get something you like rather than wait for something to fall into your lap. It never will and what ever that falls into your lap is not worth having, a fact you will only realize when it is too late.

Your country desperately needs people like you, but you must be willing to change your attitude and have a positive outlook on non governmental employment, as that is the growth area in the future, and will help you advance faster, with more satisfaction and self respect.

shortage or female workers in the garment industry

The garment industry is short of about 100,000 females, and has accordingly decided to branch out and set up factories in other countries to counter this, as well as other reasons.

Of course there are many reasons including demographic that has contributed to this. There is however another new phenomenon that has suddenly surfaced. Women are getting married at a younger age, after a period where the marriage age had steadily risen with the empowerment of women in employment.

The reason for this is that with the sudden and planned increase in the troop strength, male soldiers are recruited and their families want them to get married perhaps due to better benefits for married soldiers but also so that in case they lose their lives, in a perverse kind of logic that they will leave behind a child. Therefore as a soldier is a marriageable proposition, when compared with the son who was just bumming around till then! The parents look for a suitable bride and arrange a marriage.

Women who get married are less likely to be boarded and go to work in the garment trade, and is thus contributing to this problem. Of course when they get pregnant this is even more of a reason for them to stop work, and so the issue has become a big problem for the garment trade. So far none of the strategies attempted to stall this loss has not worked.

Usually in Sri Lanka, the woman moves in with the husband’s family when she marries and therefore has to leave her present life, therefore this change makes it difficult in most instances to carry on in the same job, and one is unlikely to look for a job while living with in laws one has only recently met.

One can only hope that this is only a short term problem until the war ends and the forces are demobilized, but that does not detract from the very serious situation that has arisen. One way is to entice people back who have earlier left to marry and have children, and once the children are of a certain age, the incentives can be attractive enough to draw them back into employment. Rural women prefer to work from home once they have families, so the attraction back into the employment field has to be that much greater to entice them back in. Recruiters need to look at the cultural and family dynamics of society before making the judgment call.

the lowest common denominator

In this world full of problems and turmoil, with skyrocketing costs of living, terrorism and relationship issues, we should attempt to take our lives back to it lowest common denominator.

What is it we want in life? How do we want to achieve it? Can we achieve it given the unique constraints of our lives, and the compromises we have to live with? What is our best compromise and can we live with that?

I think if we answer those questions honestly we can really find out what our real problems are and then try and solve them. In similar fashion the society’s problems can also be looked at in this light and solutions found without making a career out of trying to solve non-existent problems.

In my occasional cynical moments I look at people trying make something out of nothing so that they can live without having to do much. We have given up on responsibility and taken on the path of least resistance.

We don’t need an army if we have no one to fight. We don’t have to buy arms if there is no war. We don’t have to employ security guards if we are not worried about security and the list goes on an on.

We have therefore created problems and make a living out of trying to contain them, and minimize their effect because we don’t actually want to solve them as that would mean nothing more for us to do.

NGOs make a living out of other people’s misery, so they don’t want misery to end, The aid business is so big, imagine them all thrown out of work if no one needs aid. So I can’t help thinking that it is in no one’s interest to solve problems and we continue to perpetuate them as that is human nature.

It is so easy to be a sermonist of any religion, as one can see clearly what is right and wrong and one can preach to the listener. This is because it is very simple if one just lives simply. We however choose not to take in what is said, as we think it is good in theory but in practice it is not possible.

If we go back to basics, ‘kalpanakaranna’, we can then address the real issues, personal and societal, not wasting time on areas that are merely designed to take our focus away from what is important.

mixing religion and politics

There is no smoke without fire. Recently the earlier furor over the anti-conversion bill has surfaced again, This time over the methods used by some fundamentalist groups doggedly trying to get converts to enhance their personal standing and sometimes pocketbooks and wallets.

To be fair the Sri Lankan Buddhists have been remarkably tolerant of other religions, as Buddhism in its purest forms encourages people to live peacefully in harmony with their surroundings, not taking any more than they can put back. Most people practicing Buddhism are so far removed from what is expected, other religious persuasions live a more Buddhist life than the Buddhists themselves, and therefore do not come into conflict with the purest sense of the practice, except for the belief in Gods that many Buddhists also despite protestations to the contrary, also practice.

Coming back to the issue at hand, we should not use people who are most vulnerable, in their state of despair to get them to change faiths, This practice is not just and no religion will condone it. Sinhala and Buddhism gets mixed in this formula as for some unknown reason, many of the Sinhala people don’t help each other, and in more senses than one put down their own people who succeed in life. Given that sad element of reality, some conversions take place with the promise of help, with loans, some underwritten by foreign NGOs and a sense of self-help as part of the religious practice. So the convert is told that if they belong to this church, not only will they pray together, but their life is part of the family of the church and will help when needed, just as they would be called upon to help others in their times of need. With this in mind, socializing, sometimes the job or business is done with and through others in the community of the church, and gives a convert who all this time only had grief with his village including the immediate family a new outlook and optimism that had hitherto been absent.

The anti conversionists, some rabid monks amongst them should realize this reality and address the core issues of why, instead of making laws affecting people’s religious freedom and fundamental rights.

I will be referring to this same theme on numerous subjects, namely; ‘once the problem has occurred, we try to patch it up by rules, rather than address the root causes’.

the journalist versus the columnist

I am trying to make a distinction to make a point. While the journalist can also be a columnist and vice versa, I believe a journalist has to some extent bear in mind who they are working for and toe the line. While some do exercise a sense of editorial freedom to say what they want they are not totally free to express their thoughts when it goes against forces, which they cannot control.

To just quote an example to make a point, the Coca Cola Company in Sri Lanka is a major advertiser in almost all the newspapers both in Sinhala and English. When they had a strike in their bottling plant not one newspaper in the country reported the story, due to the threat by the company to pull the ads they run in the paper. So while the Sunday Leader can attack the government with impunity and exaggeration, they would not dare to cross swords with Coca Cola!

A journalist reports on areas under his or her purview and some stories are edited or excised depending on the content. He is just another employee hopefully doing a job he likes rather than doing the job just for the paycheck.

I would like to think a columnist is someone respected in their field, who can write a piece analyzing a contentious issue of the day, inevitably taking sides with less restriction on what they. The columnist hopefully rises above the journalistic constraints to write candidly about matters without fear of sanction as his stature is one that people do not want to mess about with. Some senior journalists become columnists later so they can sit in their magic chair that gives them a eureka moment each time to write a piece that is profound but understandable to the reader as is awaited with anticipation every time.

Sadly we in Sri Lanka lack good columnists who can write about an issue of the day that is debated in households across the island. Of course a good column should appear in the Sinhala press to be effective, even though the columnist may write in English, it can be translated for print. When the newspaper is convinced the column also contributes to the circulation, then the editor or owner is less likely to remove or edit the column, and so a relevant issue gets an airing however contentious or unpalatable it is to some sections of society. Newspaper publishers and editors encourage creative writing from budding columnists to add to the quality of the third estate.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Thinking and processing your thoughts

Kalpanakaranna, http://www.kalpanakaranna.blogspot.comn/ is a new blog I created on 20th March titled Serendipity to publish my thoughts on a whole series of topics that I am interested about and therefore needs airing but which do not fall comfortably into my two existing blogs related to farming and village life that are covered in the other two namely: that is titled Dream into Reality, being my new vocation, and the other that is titled Perceptions and is sub-categorized as musings of a renaissance farmer.

All the blogs comprise less than 5% of what I write. I expect to improve on the content in future writings. There is no point just thinking unless I can share those thoughts with others. The Internet gives me the widest coverage.

‘Think’ or ‘kalpanakaranna’ is a topic I always refer to, as we in Sri Lanka are taught to take, to follow and lead, but not think. Everyone wants to be the boss, or leader. Even Sri Lankans overseas are no better, the classic example being the number of Sri Lanka Associations in the United Kingdom. At the last count there were over 50. Everyone wants to be the President. Even the small Sri Lankan community in Las Vegas has at least two associations each claiming to be the original.

On the subject of take, we always want to take, not give. We always want to take something from the government. We are unhappy, if we are not a recipient of some largesse. We don’t appear to have the capacity to think that what we take, is ours anyway, and by us taking it someone else is denied. Even the very rich will only invest if they have a tax break, actually a tax-free status. The latter takes in a mega way. No one wants to give. The free health and education are all examples of this taking philosophy and we are up in arms if these entitlements are meddled with, or reduced.

We follow like lambs and believe what we hear, most notably from the politicians. We are fed a load of half-truths and untruths and we are happy to believe and vote for the person with the greatest untruth as that sounds the most convincing. People say anything to get elected, but we don’t like those who tell us about harsh realities, so only we are to blame for believing lies, as we do not stop to think through logically whether it is actually do able. We have a terrible tendency to follow those who appear wealthy so that some of that wealth may rub off on us. Even at election time we like the leaders to appear prosperous, driving about in convoys of expensive cars. If the person is in a modest but practical vehicle we somehow don’t even give that person the light of day. We assume that person’s ability to give is limited.

We are also passive aggressive, not able to articulate our feelings for fear of being belittled or trapped. So for example, if we want to leave a job, we don’t even say we are leaving, we just don’t turn up for work. They may have a valid reason, but it is not articulated even to see if the threat to leave can be leveraged, to fulfill a need. Pay is expected as an entitlement and if they are unhappy it is not communicated. They plan the moment to leave at their convenience.

Many of the problems of the day and bad decisions have resulted in us not thinking the outcome of our actions before we engage in them. We rely on astrology or some superstition, rather than common sense in some of these actions. For example, if the astrological signs are good for the President in war, then even if the rains have come making warfare difficult, they take the risk as they have the stars on their side, but they could be sending hundreds of young soldiers to their deaths. The soldiers’ stars in that logic presumably are bad, but they cannot refuse to fight.

If they simply think, by looking at the historical context of being led by the stars, they would realize that the stars are no more accurate than tossing a coin. This example illustrates our slavish behavior, which we need to grow out of so we can think logically to evaluate the rationale of a decision.

Think, no matter what one thinks about. Otherwise one will not have a purpose in one’s life and therefore lack goals, happiness and fulfillment. It does not take money or possessions to feel fulfilled. Each individual is unique and is satisfied with different things. However knowing what makes you satisfied is as a result of some thought and is not automatic. When I ask people how they are they say they are well. When I ask them if they are satisfied and what makes them content, then they say, they have not thought about that. So saying you are well is just a meaningless statement, said to be just polite!

A philosopher will argue that it is better for people not to think as the mere process of thinking will make a sane person very unhappy, so it is better for him not to think. An unfulfilled person may choose escapism as a form of defense mechanism, and may not wish to dwell on think about it.

Not trying to be harsh about it, we may as well be animals in that case, and that is how we human beings appear to behave. In the eastern cultures many accept their status as being part of their karma and do nothing to change it. They are fated accept, who or what they are, whatever the situation. It is in keeping with the fact that it is taboo ‘to think’ that anything could be done.

I say “Kalpanakaranna yako oya karapu waradda” and you cut me off, not wanting to hear any more. (please think about the mistake you made)

Importance of communicating effectively

If I say that I think, but don’t communicate that fact, then all the thinking in the world is not going to get me where I want to go. So when we think, we must communicate what we think, rather than be afraid to. Even if the truth hurts, we must let it out, then there will be no misunderstanding. However a further misunderstanding can come from the recipient interpreting it in a different way, not thinking through what was said or the spirit in which it was said.

Words and the way they are communicated can give different interpretations, and we can also misinterpret what is communicated. So clarity in communication is also important in order that we do not confuse the message we are giving. This is easier said than done as we are all guilty of this and sometimes, even unwittingly.

Thinking and communication therefore go hand in hand. Actually communicating some message, that has been well thought out and evaluated is a satisfying thing to both the thinker and the recipient, especially if it is done clearly and with no confusion.

The term psychologically minded is bandied about a lot these days. That means the person is aware to a degree how to say what he or she has to say, in an angle that makes an impact and is effective. Otherwise the message can be lost or misinterpreted.

Students are often reluctant to ask questions because they are afraid the teacher will show them in a bad light. The teachers in this instant bear some responsibility, as they should encourage the asking of questions during a period set aside for that. The mere fact that someone asks a question means he is thinking about it. It is possible he had not understood what was said, but at least the reply to the question may now give him a chance to understand. This vital practice I believe should be encouraged.

Finally, we all suffer the consequences of our actions. In order to have some control over those consequences, it is wise to think through before acting. We will then have an additional chance to think through, and perhaps reduce the likelihood of making a mistake and improve the likelihood of making a wise decision.

In the present context, we have little time in our lives for contemplation. We are too busy getting through the day and just surviving, so thinking becomes a luxury few can indulge in, That is why it is so important to train oneself to do this at early stage, so one finds time. Then the rest of the days activities can be achieved more efficiently. So in this context thinking helps to better organize ones day and hopefully better manage time and life.

Thinking is definitely not meditation, which is also a good thing, if we know how to do it properly. In meditation you take away all thought processes and try to clear the mind of everything. One can improve retention skills by meditation which also helps in mind body balance, but it not for everyone.

All this goes to the heart of the need to teach people how to think, starting with problem solving skills at school, rather than rote learning. Schools are the most practical places to get people to learn to think, using new techniques and other teaching tools. The teachers have to be taught these first at teacher training and therefore some conscious effort has to be made on the part of the Education departments if one can even contemplate a measure of success in this are.

In summary, whereas thinking covers all area of thought, which we are inevitably engaged in most of our lives, thinking in a manner that improves our lives, where we are empowered and take control of our lives and destiny is a useful tool to learn, as it is more positive than negative and provides more meaning for our actions.

Religions have a role to play as they more often than not try to remove thought from belief, and should encourage people to question their beliefs as only then can one be stronger in the chosen faith, or if unhappy choose another or make up their own!

Readability of a blog

In the era of sound bites and limited attention span, even a blog is one where the message needs to be communicated in a few lines before the reader loses interest. If one wants a blog to be read, then each topic has to be short and sweet, and to the point. A long essay does not go well in a blog, though sometimes it is essential to be a little verbose to get the message across. Due to the indexing available it is easier to mix short and long writings so that the title header will determine if it is clicked on and read.

My blogs therefore come into the category of boringly long, and only worthwhile if one is interested in the particular topic. I blog so that at least there is a store of my writings somewhere on the net for who ever wants to read and maybe one day I can print it and edit it into some kind of publication or publication on different topics.

Watching TV and reading the newspapers are areas where people spend a very long time each day. As I rarely watch TV and finish my paper in about 10 minutes, I have made time to type my thoughts on my lap top and transfer them on to the blog about once a week if time permits.

That in essence is me and my blog. I don’t use it as a journal of daily events, which I keep separately and has no place on a blog.

It is also interesting from time to time to go back and read what I have written a while ago to see if I am still in agreement with the content. I must say I have been pleasantly surprised how current some of the information is and how in context my writings are, not just on historical events, but also the angle I view a particular event with, some times quite different to the perceived stance.

I aim to simplify my life, to see more meaning in what I do, to be able to live at a better quality of life than I currently have and to be able to give back something, so that what I have is not totally lost once I go, but someone has benefited from my thoughts, words or deeds.
I am in mid struggle in life and am trying to document the path I am treading as I am constantly making mistakes, some at great personal cost, so that by thinking through what I am doing I can improve the direction I am taking in life, correcting myself as I go alon

Political Machinations

Nero is still engaged in debauchery while Rome burns. This is the view I have of the political intrigue that takes place in Sri Lanka, completely devoid of concern for those affected by these games.

People are sworn enemies one day, and bosom buddies the next, when they see a benefit for them or their agenda. This is a daily occurrence in Sri Lankan politics as can be seen by some of the recent alliances. People are in favor today and out the next all due to a minor episode or indiscretion. Most of which are as a result of unsubstantiated rumor of he said she said type.

People are very insecure lest they lose their plum positions. The patron’s egos are constantly massaged and sycophancy is seen as a prerequisite for largesse. So those in power tend to be isolated from reality and are presented with a picture that is completely distorted from the ground situation.

Access is granted for a fee or favor ensuring further isolation, and solutions are not judged by their merits, but by other criteria in the nature of what is in it for me?

All those in the political arena are subject to this, not just in government but all opposition parties. Then all the people become prisoners in their position, not being able to speak their minds, but resort to riddles in explaining positions not to upset those they owe allegiance to.

Sadly the only party that had a chance to bring good governance back into the political arena has been hobbled by their ideology which is out of date, but which they are totally enslaved by. I mean the JVP in this context. Many of the JVP members in Parliament have now had an insight into the rights and wrongs of politics, They came in untried and tested and were the perfect schoolboys to see what is wrong with the present setup. They could then attain the moral high ground like no one else had, but blew it away on doctrinal arguments, which could easily be attacked on the grounds of credibility.

An example is the recent attack by a JVP MP on the price manipulation of rice by senior government ministers and their relatives. It was done in the context of attacking the rich using their monopolistic position to corner the market and therefore make super profits. It should have been attacked on the grounds of ethics, where senior ministers or their kith and kin should not be permitted to purchase the government stock of paddy, but the bidding process open to all in a sort of fair auction, permitting all interested parties to bid. It is easier to do this as otherwise they would merely be seen as sour grapes, attacking a businessman who has seized an opportunity to make money afforded by the state.

Attacking the lack of ethics and good governance is not anticapitalist and therefore not the party line. This enslavement has marginalized them, and now they are just seeking ways to keep afloat their outdated agenda.

The JVP members are unable to say what they want in Parliament if it does not adhere to the strict party line and this is enforced in a brutal manner by threats and intimidations of personal freedom. The doctrine is now defunct, of the communist collective good overriding the individual liberties. The party by not being able to grow up to its responsibilities is now being marginalized. Failing to see that in the world context, even China has shed its philosophy, and transformed itself will be the JVP’s downfall.

The UNP is in no better position, with factional intrigue, and people all jockeying into place to be the next leader, with so many people believing they are more qualified than the next person. Rumors therefore abound of who is siding with whom, without agreeing on a clear message to attack the government with. This enables the current government to carry on regardless due to the lack of an effective, cohesive and concerted opposition.

The SLFP cadre are so mortified about being disenfranchised that they are fearful of any dissent toeing the line, even though most ministers operate with no power and only that granted them by the President in control of the purse strings. Their loyalty has been bought by their portfolios, which give them status and so nothing concrete happens as far as implementing policies are concerned or fashioning new ones to take the country forward or address even the basic issues of the day. Speeches are made, foundation stones are laid, and thanks to the state media everyone is informed that things are under control and anyone expressing dissent is unpatriotic.

The country therefore languishes, drifting aimlessly with no one in Parliament truly interested in what is happening in the country, and the war is used as an excuse for every ill that has befallen the country and the reason why nothing has been done about it.

There is no effective opposition to curtail the excesses of government

In a functioning democracy, the lack of a credible opposition is a considerable hindrance to keep the party in power from abusing that power. The govt. in all the speeches its ministers give, is constantly attacking the opposition on all fronts, even though the opposition is not rising to the bait and replying to it, in a sense giving a smug, its not worth it type reply.

I am not saying that there is no opposition, but it requires effective opposition, giving a cohesive framework that is both clear, and also focused, so the message is real and credible. The problem with the UNP is that it is playing cheap politics attacking policies without giving clear cut solutions which maybe harder to elaborate, and easier to attack. Nevertheless a well thought out campaign with clear objectives in mind can easily be set up as the way the country is heading is ripe for counter action.

In order to get a clear message, the internecine warfare must stop, and a united front established. It is easier said than done and requires considerable leadership skills. People have now got into the habit of jockeying for power, to dethrone the current leader of the opposition and therefore various camps are being set up with divided loyalties. It seems almost that there is palace intrigue to get rid of the leader by all means possible. This infighting should be tackled by the leader and a consensus agreed upon in the interim to speak with one voice in a united manner to get the message across.

The media unit should work in tandem with the message. There does not appear to be a strong message or strong media unit to deliver it. It appears that the media unit if there is one is in disarray, with no one putting it in order. The opposition is just going about their daily business, attending funerals but not addressing the concerns of the electorate that is desperate for a voice.

The JVP is doing a better job accusing the government of being corrupt, incompetent and duplicitous, than the UNP. This is not good in the eyes of the public who are now not represented. The people are desperately looking for someone to represent them in the midst of an unprecedented period of high inflation and falling purchasing power.

It is in the interests of the future of the UNP that they act quickly to seize the void created by their inaction, and present their case with a united message.

Politicians and aspirants feel it is necessary to attend funerals

Funerals in Sri Lanka, are very elaborate events, where many villages have a committee that springs into action to assist the bereaved bear the cost. Of course this is one communal activity that is organized well and one could cynically say that when one is down there are helpers, but when one is successful there are more than a fair share of people ready to pull them down a couple of pegs. In villages everyone attends and helps at funerals.

In my opinion, Sri Lanka has a tradition of expecting political leaders to attend funerals or funeral houses, which is onerous and wasteful. With the increase in death rates, this process can consume these peoples time and therefore detract from other important matters of state that need their attention.

A concerted effort to wean the public from this expectation is needed. It is not easy to get a consensus view, so one would have to make a statement or precedent coupled with a clear explanation of why it is not possible to attend funerals. It would be appropriate at the same breadth to decline invitations to attend weddings as well, as this too takes as much or more time.

Often a long journey is made from Colombo to a far flung post to attend a funeral and therefore they must be persons with means in order to attend especially if no allowance is paid for such attendance. People have told me that one big reason they don’t want to get into politics is because they must attend too many funerals, leaving them little time to do what is expected of them, or promised by them if elected.

Few attend funerals out of a sense of friendship with the family of the deceased, only as a requisite and treat it as a big chore. It is therefore only as a duty, and out of fear of being labeled uncaring. This behavior is then two faced and any plausible explanation that can be given to drop this practice could be accompanied by another more productive and tangible benefit to the electorate. Of course, I would lump the placing of foundation stones in the same light as that too is a useless exercise. A completed project that is declared open on the other hand is a different kettle of fish.

I think someone prominent must make a statement by breaking this habit, then it will be easier for others to follow, and all the world would be indebted for the sacrifice that could affect one’s political fortunes.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

thinking about, for, on behalf of, and embedded in Sri Lanka

This blog was created by me as a source to upload and make available to anyone who may wish to read, random thoughts on a whole host of various issues, but not specifically relating to agriculture, which are covered by my events blog as a tool to collect my thoughts on farming in Sri Lanka and how to improve on it.

Please comment on any article as you see fit so I may improve on them for the future.