Friday, January 30, 2009

How to help the rural community best?

One of the readers of my blog asked me to let her know the key issues that face the people in my community. In some ways I feel privileged to have some close relationships with 5 very different villages as my nomadic existence constantly takes me into their areas and I have been involved with some of their personal issues. I will just name the villages and in a different essay report on the individual characteristics of each village separately and that would be a comprehensive document which will assist further.

They are ancient Ratmale and Rotawewa in the Minneriya jungle of the Polonnaruwa districts, Raja Ela near Hingurakgoda, in the Polonnaruwa district, Godagama, Meegoda in the Colombo district, Thaligama in Kitulgala in the Sabaragamuwa district, Kotiyagala jungle in the Moneragala district. I am associated in Agricultural projects in all these areas and hence come into contact with a cross section of the people in these villages.

While each village has some unique characteristics, there are some common threads that run through all these in very different locations in the country. Some of my observations may surprise the reader and I will not make any apologies for that. I believe there is much help for disenfranchised and marginalized people, which go astray and is terribly wasteful. The root problems are not recognized until one takes the trouble to live in that area and be part of that community. I have learned the hard way in my own sphere of helping these communities.

I have found computers for kids in a village. I have attempted to teach English to kids. I have lent money to help those in need or perceived need. I have purchased agricultural output from them. I have tried to collect petitions to address common grievances. I have spoken directly to people about some issues in trying to resolve them and get their opinions. I have also helped find jobs for people. These views are my own based on my personal experiences.

1 It is extremely difficult to get community participation, as there are too many goals trying to compete. Helping an individual breeds a lot of jealousy, as each family believes they are the most deserving of assistance. There has to be a consensus in the village as to what it is that they really need if one is to assist a collective.

2 The men are generally very unproductive, lazy, alcohol dependent and unreliable. The women on the other hand are the reverse having to take up the slack, and bring up the family unit, balancing the needs of the good for nothing father, and taking care of the family.

3 Women are empowered in every way except in being able to leave an alcoholic, lazy or abusive husband. The family units that usually thrive are those where the male is dead, or absent, and the women are able to ‘husband’ the family resources wisely to succeed.

4 Choosing the most deserving cases to help or finance, is an almost impossible task. This feeling that each one is the most deserving is at the nub of the problem, as one cannot use the local official like the Grama Sevaka, as he may not be impartial due to having some political connections, where help is then only directed at party supporters and not those in need.

5 I don’t believe that there is a lack of education as such, just a lack of commitment to education as the facilities are offered, but not taken up. The exception being the low quality of English teaching, and now with the gradual introduction of computers, there is not enough to go around. 2009 has been declared the year of Computer literacy and English learning as both go hand in hand and there are projects to make this happen.

6 Looking at the young, it is boys that have fewer options. I see women being able to find some vocation. The men as is typical in the culture wait for help, and I know young men who just do nothing living off money their mothers send from the Middle East. There are vocational courses if one is committed so there are opportunities for those who seek them.

7 The Sinhala people just don’t have the natural knack of entrepreneurial spirit looking instead for a government job or one in the forces, not wanting to take a risk in a business. I see so many people just going from one training course to another, full of qualifications waiting for Santa Clause to set them up in a business and provide working capital.

8 The poor must show effort to get out of the poverty trap and there are so many opportunities available to them. It is a question of them not using them. I agree their priorities are wrong to get them out. A cell phone a stereo or a motor bike are the first things a young man buys when he has access to credit, not a loan for business!
To try and summarize, picture the facts of Sri Lanka. It is a land blessed with everything, spoilt by bad management and poor governance. Only 15% of the aid pledged is spent. The problem therefore is not a lack of funds, but a very ineffective organizational set up to manage its distribution, due to the lack of commitment amongst those responsible for it. Also be quite clear that it is a country with a GNP per head of over US$1500, and when taking purchasing power parity into account works out at US6000, so does not come into the category of the African countries where starvation and famine are rife.

While there is no need to empower anyone, my struggle is to educate people to think, as this is the theme of this blog. If people can think then most of their problems are solved. There is no point helping someone with what he asks as he or she has not thought whether that is what they want. They think it is, because they use the ‘keeping up with the Jones’ analogy of the next-door neighbor has it therefore they want it. A further analysis of this phenomenon is that there are many people with a string of qualifications, diplomas trainings, who are waiting for the correct job to be handed to them. That is why they are unemployed. The specific job they want is what is not available, though there are alternative jobs they don’t want to do.

Taken at its extreme Sri Lanka has a surplus of doctors, but there are no jobs, unless one sets up a board in a village and practices for oneself. There are no government vacancies in hospitals.

Frankly I believe there are more opportunities in Sri Lanka than in the United States, for a person with a good work ethic to make it to the top as all opportunities are available. The success of my enterprise is dragged down purely because of the poor work ethic of my staff, who view desires as needs and ignore the needs.

It is this desire to want to improve oneself that is lacking, and the culture which does not encourage greed and wealth as being extremely un Buddhist effectively numbs the senses into an equilibrium of accepting handouts from anyone who maybe foolish enough o offer them, but otherwise existing for the day, with little thought for what tomorrow brings.

This is the land of opportunity. I have traveled the world and I believe this country has so much potential. We don’t just have a ‘slum dog millionaire’ in everyone, but an every dog millionaire possibility for the taking.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Lies, Lies and damn Lies

I wonder how gullible people can be when they read news stories! When the reporter or paper is considered reliable, people are more apt to believe this. However some of these very same and so called, unblemished papers continue to report lies, as they know no better. There is also a saying that is times of war truth is the first casualty. In this case in the last days of the Sri Lankan battle for control of all the land area, all parties continue with the lies.

It is now incontrovertible, as we have seen video footage that out of a total landmass of about 60,000 sq km that is Sri Lanka, as of now, January 29, 2009 at 5pm, only 200sq km is under terrorist control. It is assumed that it took a little longer to clear this area up due to the heavy rains that have hampered the defense forces in their advance, however they are still confident that come February 4th 2009, all this area will also be liberated from the terrorist clutches.

The government of SL, the security forces, the UN, the LTTE terrorists, all maintain that there are 250,000 civilians trapped in this small area. I am sorry but it is practically impossible for so many people to be trapped in this area. If they really were there would be a far greater outcry than is currently seen. It would make the population density greater than a Colombo suburb in this rural area. Why don’t people just use their common sense? The whole purpose of the blog is to get people to think, “kalpanakaranna”.

I would guess that the civilian population trapped in this war zone is between, 25-50 thousand. In the same vein I would guess the number of terrorists at about a thousand. They in turn are surrounded on all sides by about 40,000 combat soldiers on land with another 15,000 support troops to keep them supplied, and a Navy patrolling the seas preventing any escapees from the sea.

It is shameful for the UN to use this exaggerated figure, as I believe its staff, are incompetent, not having basic common sense, or like to make the issue sound grave as to get attention to themselves as being important when in fact they are nothing more than leaches on an innocent displaced person. The army on the other hand gains by sounding high and mighty when only mice remain to be caught. The LTTE terrorist wants to publicize the humanitarian problem as graver, so world attention can be spotlighted on them as being under siege, and the government can proclaim that despite this large number they have been able to supply or get more humanitarian aid. In reality they siphon off for their personal henchmen a large proportion of this. This is all very sad at its lowest and disgusting at its highest.

In writing this I have wondered whether it is of any use to even read or watch news as anything more than entertainment, as even tales of war are sadly fabrications of the truth. It is in this light that people are misled, opinions formed, decisions made and people act, which is just farcical.

The newsmakers manipulate news for their own ends and the journalists especially those in Sri Lanka are servile, subservient and slavish and silly to write this in their publications or news items. In Sri Lanka, where journalists, especially independent ones are persecuted, it is best for them to educate their readership to help them be skeptical. This healthy skepticism will then allow them to come to their own conclusion once they are able to sift through the news in an intelligent way rather than believe blindly.

This whole blog, I repeat this ad nauseam that, is aimed at getting people to get out of the world of rote learning, believing what is spoon fed, and go into the world of deducing from the facts laid out before you, what is the likely truth in each instance. This is much like in a court of law where both sides present the case and the jury decides what is likely to be more believable based on the facts presented.

We should not be frightened to think to deduce and conclude. That in itself should empower us to be separated, men from the boys. I have said it before and I repeat, that often what is not said in the news is more important than what is said, and we don’t know what we are missing, therefore the completeness of the message is also in doubt. It goes without saying that the extreme skepticism, leads to cynicism and then even the realm of manufactured news becomes fair game, in news media becoming another form of entertainment game, of true or false for each news item.

Let me conclude in this particularly Sri Lankan directed thinking man’s blog, that I sincerely hope that my good intention of writing really important subject matter, rarely covered in the media be it in Sinhala or English will encourage the reader to be more cautious with the content, being aware of the agenda if one can of the messenger, and then forming one’s own opinion.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Lets try and break “The Culture of Dependency”

The true events below illustrate the culture of expectation and dependency that is almost endemic to Sri Lanka, due to its disingenuous leaders who over a period of 60+ years, promised the moon and continue to do so, to obtain votes at election time. Each party out does the other in promises and so the vicious cycle continues with no obvious limits or end in sight.

How do we break it? Lets start by getting a consensus of all parties that there is a culture of dependency. Achieving that may in itself pose a problem. Once the populous are educated to the facts, especially in a recessionary period where fulfilling everyone’s needs let alone wants is impossible, we forge a new framework. I believe this framework should begin with some form of sacrifice, proportional to ability.

Let me show by way of example what I am trying to achieve. We in Sri Lanka have a completely free University education, for those fortunate enough to enter University, and that even includes Medicine, the teaching of which costs the state a lot of money. When I was in University in the United Kingdom, there was something called means testing. It took into account one’s parents income when calculating if the student was entitled to a state grant to help him or her with survival while at University. The amount of the grant was also calculated based on this means testing. One then had scholarships based on ability, which was not based on any wealth characteristic, but a reward for excellence, which should still remain.

There is also the adage that if one does not have to suffer to obtain something, i.e. it was given free, then one does not value it and in some cases wastes it, disposes of it or even allow it to be discarded. While this is a generalization, the examples of this free giving being unappreciated is abound in Sri Lanka. There is also the abuse of the system, like the free health service of Sri Lanka that is abused by the users.

In combining the principals outlined above, I would recommend that all forms of subsidy, be it free primary, secondary or tertiary education, free medical care and a whole host of heavily subsidized goods or services, be accompanied with an appropriate price tag. This should have political consensus to implement. Funds then can be released into development activities that benefit the nation in the long term. No one disagrees that the short-term consumption subsidies in a nation that is no longer developing, should be significantly pared down in favor of development funding. There is a lack of political will because of the electoral consequences. That is why the consensus agreement is essential.

Politicians are looking for popular platforms. A dependent electorate will not easily forego their perceived entitlements. The person who has the courage to cut back and introduce payment for these services will be remembered for posterity and not one who ruins the prospects of the future generations. So this is the call for someone to come out of the woodwork and challenge the establishment and the electorate to think. “kalpanakaranna”.

This dependant culture affects all forms of work. There is such a broad gap between the expectations of Private and Public sector employment that everyone wants a public sector job so that they can do as little work as possible, and not be stretched, while productive private sector jobs are shunned as being too stressful and not worth the remuneration. Added to this the totally unrealistic levels of pay in the public service, where the private sector cannot compete, adds to this principle being reinforced.

For example the starting salary of a soldier is Rs20,000 a month including benefits, the most one can pay with no benefits in farm labor is Rs10,000. What would you chose? That is the nub of Sri Lanka’s reason for inefficiency, as the state sector, armed forces, police and security guards, all of whom are the ‘unproductive sector’ pay salaries that the private sector find very hard to compete with, therefore is a huge disincentive for entrepreneurial ventures to start and expand.

Within the private sector the subsistence farmer is still encouraged, and they are marginalized, and dependent on subsidies too, both Samurdi benefit for the poor and Fertilizer subsidy for the subsistence rice farmer. Is it a little wonder that the overseas sector, along with productive garment sector, and possibly the tea plucker keep this country from falling into the abyss?

A sea change in expectations, obligations, entitlements and dependency is sorely needed to progress from the current level of lethargy built on all of the above. There is so little incentive for hard work, when all one sees around one is people being unfairly rewarded for less. Effort must be seen to reap rewards surpassing those of sectors that are Effortless!!! Then we will logically take the route that rewards effort and so it should!!!

Saturday, January 24, 2009

The time to understand the psyche of the recipient of assistance

I went to a village this week, in the Moneragala District, Kotiyagala is its name. The village consists of approximately 450 families or households. The road ends at the village and from there it is forest and scrub-land that borders the Yala National Park. The distance to the village from Colombo exceeds 270 km, and the last stretch from the main road, Monaragala to Siyambalanduwa is about 25km on a rough, badly maintained gravel and tar road.

There have been unsolved killings just outside the village, in the forest as late as last week, attributed to the LTTE, but not proven. There is a police and home guard presence that has now prevented the villages going into the forests on the grounds of the area still not being safe.

Some of the villagers are used to the slash and burn method of chena cultivation, which grows a crop with the resulting seasonal rains. They set fire to a forest area and clear it and then sow some seed, be it mustard, or kurakkan or even maize. The rains when they come will germinate the seeds and help them grow and depending on the frequency of rain some farmers have been able to earn a good living. This year however, they were prevented from going to the forest by the security forces, and those who stayed behind to till and sow paddy lost their crop to the little rain that has fallen this year which has followed the wet year in 2008.

It must be stated that the population of the area engages in illegal activity, which include, felling trees for timber, brewing moonshine, hunting, and growing marijuana. The prevailing security situation prevented them from engaging in this activity, and accordingly, they are in an angry mood with little means of livelihood.

It is in this context that a company I am advising has decided to come to the village to set up a project, which is expected to be mutually beneficial, both for the investors in the company, and for the locals. When a project, in this case a BOI project, with foreign investment, is made, it is with profit in mind, but the government considers its contribution to the host community which is expected to benefit, from employment and income. As a distraction the private investor hopes to also get NGO assistance for the locals to help build their lives, like assisting with the construction of their homes and livelihood. The village therefore will be the main beneficiary.
The company has entered into an agreement with the farmers to assist them in the preparation of the land they have been given. They loaned funds on infrastructure upgrade. The proviso is that the farmers benefiting from the project will then be charged by way of a deduction, from the produce the company has agreed to purchase.

The company to date, over a 4 month period, spent Rs10M on infrastructural development, by fencing the land, renovating or building new tanks, constructing new roads, and tilling the soil. They have also galvanized the local community and have obtained the assistance of the Agricultural department to run workshops, to explain what and how much of certain crops they require each farmer to commit to plant. It is under this background, that I went as part of a team to assess the current level of progress in planting the required crops.

Much to our consternation, there were hardly any plants that have been planted. A numerous set of reasons, with the drought conditions being the primary cause, was blamed for most for this inaction. I am inclined to believe that if I had been given the funds already spent, I could have arrived at a respectable level of planting using paid labor.

The farmers gave up too easily when the rains failed instead of taking alternative measures to grow at least the main crop, namely traditional papaya. This is because of one of two reasons. Either the farmers were waiting for the company to provide all the infrastructure before they get onto the land, or they genuinely were misled by officers tasked with advising them, which led to a severe delay in the commencement of their tasks.

This expectation is viewed as a right, and not a privilege, and so the missing of the planting season, was not viewed as critical. It was indeed critical to make sure all the infrastructure was in place before a seed was planted!!

This is what is wrong with people. They always put their interests first and in this case, the company’s primary interest in coming to this village, namely of getting produce in the form of papaya fruit seems to be conveniently forgotten. This belief in the right to something free without having to pay is endemic to Sri Lanka and so debilitating for those relying on the locals. If we cannot change this psyche there is just no chance to succeed. The company has had to place mind over matter, and coax the locals to perform with no more help. Only then can they obtain what they want and not before.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Lets leave the Fog of War behind and go to the Clarity of Peace

The Civil war draws to a close, the President will hold the 61st Anniversary of Independence from Britain on 4th February in Kilinochchi, the self styled temporary capital of the vanquished Tamil Tiger Terrorist separatists.

He is entitled to glory in victory as he made this his initial goal. The forces also are entitled to theirs with a possible announcement of the taking of Mullaitivu and the cessation of hostilities aimed for that date too.

I know my local boys in the village, who returned from the front, some in coffins, others minus limbs, others wounded and sufficiently recovered to return for the final battle and still others who come on their leave from the front. They are all privates with limited education and not senior officers. They have been the frontline foot soldiers, who have seen battle at first hand and hats off to them for having braved harsh conditions to achieve their objectives. Some of the truths however coming out of this which will come to light in time to come, when the final analysis is made, are as follows:

The enemy was far fewer in number than earlier estimated. Much of the claimed retaking of Pooneryn and Kilinochchi and Elephant Pass were not as a result of heavy battles, but skirmishes where the enemy retreated and the ground claimed. The total Tiger terrorist death count is in the few hundreds, and the civilians under Tiger control less than a tenth of that estimated. The armaments that remained for the Tigers to fight are few and they are quickly running out of ammunition, and hence they chose to retreat when low on magazines rather than obviously perish in a hail of bullets. It is therefore just a matter of time before the rest are mopped up, and the stragglers who disappear into the forests sans their arms are caught. They are not preparing for the fight of their lives saving the best for last as they have little left.

I assume that Prabarkaran the leader would have left the scene by aircraft, as we despite finding 7 airstrips have yet to find an aircraft. This in no way belittles the success of the forces, but just brings into perspective the reality. It is therefore worth remembering that more young Sinhala boys were killed by the forces in JVP uprisings than Tamil Tigers in the whole war, so that we can take the race card out of this equation once and for all. It is therefore worth remembering that once more they are citizens of this country who have been led astray that have been killed and we must also feel a lot of sympathy for their families, the Tamils who have lost kith and kin.
I pray we don’t have a long drawn out guerilla campaign that keeps the security forces busy all around the country to delay the final return to normalcy. In order to achieve a lasting degree of peace we must be magnanimous in victory and immediately give the Tamils all around the country some sign of comfort of being equal citizens in this country, something that has been lacking due to the distrust created by war and race.

It is the President’s to win or lose, as this is trickier than winning the war. Once all the resources to win were given to the forces as a matter of priority to win the war at all costs, including the suppression of Human Rights, it was a matter of time. We must now educate our citizens that with citizenship comes rights as well as responsibilities, but the rights must include freedom to live travel and communicate any way they want without hindrance or fear.

The Executive President has the power to ensure that all this can be won, and just a phrase or two in public in the Tamil language does not ensure a lasting peace. Once the confidence of all the Tamil people is gained by action and not words we can grow this country into a truly multicultural society it has always been and should continue to be.

As a matter of priority the soldiers could be used to immediately open up and rebuild the A9 highway to Jaffna as a dual carriageway from Vavuniya onwards as there are no impediments like land to be purchased. It is easier to do this in flat land with a limited number of bridges and culverts to restore. That will instill confidence, that the best road in the land is now in the North and even though such a road is really not necessary due to the limited traffic, it will be a big morale booster that the Government means business. It will also automatically draw thousands of people from the South to visit the North and thereby immediately give a boost to the battered economy of the North. I would be the first to travel North on a new road to engage my fellow countrymen in Jaffna to show our sincerity to live in peace and harmony and put the war and all its distrust and bad history behind us.

I look forward to an optimistic future, the impediment being the mindset of some in Government who have been unable to shed the shackles of racism. I believe the UNP has much less of this and will be more capable of gaining the confidence of the whole nation as a more inclusive party though its leadership has temporarily been unable to take up the mantle of the high moral ground due to poor communication of its message to the masses. We can now shed the bloody past and look forward to a different future of peace.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Funeral and Burial rituals will need to change shortly

This week when in Godagama where I currently live there were three funeral houses, and when I came to my agricultural land in Raja Ela, Hingurakgoda there were two and yesterday when I went to Ratmale where I am building my home, there was a further one in the adjoining village of Rotewewa.

All these have a few things in common, The local village funeral committee ‘marandara samithiya’ takes charge of the arrangements providing the temporary shed to house the attendees, arranges for refreshments, puts up the signs and notices in appropriate locations to guide those coming to pay their respects to the deceased and of putting up a row of flags from the funeral house to the village cemetery for burial. It is burial, which is still common in the villages as they do not directly have access to crematoriums and funeral pyres are an expensive option only for the relatively wealthy. The state is in the process of building crematoriums in places where they see an acute need for them as burial space is becoming limited and in future will be the commonest form of disposing of the remains.

It is almost universal to have an almsgiving on the 7th day and another on the 3rd month of remembrance with a Buddhist priest coming to perform certain rights as well as give a sermon on behalf of the deceased. This is usually followed by refreshments or a meal, which is common in most places. A collective effort at food preparation is made with quite a spread of food, and I don’t hesitate to note that the specially prepared meal is a draw to attract most people from the neighborhood. I have been to many and a fairly expensive spread is prepared as compared with the fairly standard ‘mala bath’ which is given after the burial to those who come to the house.

The point I am trying to make is, in future there will be funerals on a regular basis, which will make attendance a big problem for people and not practical. So some of these traditions will have to change just as they have changed to the current system from historical traditions, some of which were more elaborate and some less depending on the circumstances peculiar to the area, people’s economic situations, and such like. We must remember that traditions also change and are not fixed in stone. We must be open to change that makes these rituals practical and on a point where it is considered expected for local and sometimes national politicians to attend, a serious change of attitude is required if we are to expect more productivity from our elected officials to perform rather than spend time and expense at funerals.

Alcoholism a daily curse of Sri Lanka

Is it just me, my neighborhood or my luck that I am stuck facing alcoholics all around me who are or seem to be always permanently inebriated. Most of the males in my workforce in Godagama are blind drunk after work and when they keep begging for money to keep food on the table, I wonder how in all good conscience I can feel sorry for them. No doubt all my exhortations come to naught and my frustration level knows no bounds.I know that the output and efficiency of the workforce is compromised due to this disability if I can call it that, I am at my wits end to find a solution.

Today, I had to tell a neighboring alcoholic, whose wife works in the Middle East and sends money home, to make sure his 7year old son goes to school. This neighbor is illiterate and so I had to nicely talk to him about the importance of a basic education for his son who rarely goes to school and failed the entrance to the next class and who will now have to repeat the previous year. I think my request was not heard or will not be acted upon and he has no one to persuade him to do the right thing. It is not a question of money, as they seem to waste the money the wife sends on the unnecessary things.

I then had to confront a man who was also totally under the influence to ask him to come and pluck some coconuts and still another punch-drunk neighbor to come and husk my coconuts in the morning. All these individuals merely drink with the money earned from these activities, and I don’t need to repeat myself here to state that a man who can climb coconut trees can potentially earn more than a physician in Sri Lanka, such is the demand for his services. I know I desperately require their services.

I know that my road is full of alcoholics. A moonshine seller inhabits my neighborhood, but does not appear to be that well off despite his trade. He is constantly nabbed by the police but is able to bribe or pay a fine that is imposed on him by a magistrate and continue his trade. Even I have problems where I have told him that my property is not to be used for any part of his activities especially as I control two properties by the river, which would be very handy to him to hide the brewing barrels under the water.

I am sure the problem I face is prevalent throughout the island, but the sad fact is that in a male dominated society where only the women appear to work no one appears to take any action and politicians don’t dare.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Today, Saturday the 10th of January is a Full Moon Poya Day

In Sri Lanka, all full moon days are Poya holidays. While not being a Buddhist country it is still inhabited by a majority who claim Buddhism as their religion, though technically Buddhism is not a religion, but a way of life following the teachings of the Lord Buddha.

Needless to say if one were to argue the point in fact, there are possibly many in the world who more closely practice the teachings of the Lord Buddha who do not claim to be Buddhists than those who claim to be Buddhist. When I write on religion I am bound to offend a lot of people, but I wish nevertheless to express my opinion.

We in all religions and I include Buddhism in this context, know that the basic philosophy is to live wholesomely in unison with the environment, while obeying basic morals and attempting to be “good”. The word good is interpreted in different ways. This is not necessarily by those whose names we bestow to the religion, but by the practitioners who interpret this good and tell people how to be good and what happens if you are bad.

It is an incontrovertible fact, that few if any actually follow all the tenets of their religions, but many attempt in various forms to try, and some fail, and others do a little and hope it will be enough etc. Still others shame their religion by being very bad examples, which people of other religions use to shame the different belief by referring to the black sheep! Murdering Jihadists being a case in point.

Returning to the point I was trying to make when I started, I know that very few in this country will attend religious observances, which was the specific reason for the holiday being given. I have closed my shop today, due to it being Poya, other shops in the country are open. An elderly lady who works here has always requested that she be given Poya day off to attend to her religious needs, but I know she rarely takes sill or goes to temple on Poya anymore. She goes on non-Poya days, and takes her rota to offer food to the Priest etc. This implies that most people look forward to a day of rest from work, to relax or attend to other pressing matters. Still others who work get paid time and a half or double time depending on the rules of their workplace. Poya day has just become another National Holiday in the only land where four religions get holidays for all amounting to a staggering 35 days a year. No wonder we are the land of the lotus eaters! We have time.

Conspiracy theories

For as long as I have lived in Sri Lanka conspiracy theories have flourished, as each person likes to give their own spin to a story, usually to differentiate them from the herd, not based on fact. The current events are no different.

We had the President today, accusing unnamed persons of treason, in the recent killings and firebombings of media personnel and assets. I paraphrase “They had by their heinous acts, taken away the victory of the forces in the battles against the LTTE.” So who is he pointing the finger at?

One theory making the rounds is that it is an LTTE assassination to discredit the government. Why would the government want the anti-govt. dead as they had all to lose and little to gain with his demise. Members of the ruling elite are very smart and would never have allowed something like this to happen willingly or knowingly. The firebombing of the Sirasa studio was just for Insurance and not a government initiated act of violence.

One can dream up a zillion more conspiracy theories, but lets get to the basic facts, we have not had any of the numerous acts of violence, even the killings of LTTE sympathetic MPs like Raviraj, and the UNP MP Manoharan killings solved either. In fact there has not been one political or media killing that has resulted in a conviction. A conspiracy theory will come to light if there is an apprehension. The fact that there has not been any clearly disproves the existence of one.

Lets not forget the fact that in this highly militarized society where there are security personnel every 100 meters, these incidents have occurred in broad daylight in full view of people, a more brazen attack you could not contemplate. The killers must have had state patronage, or at the very least that of the security forces. So why has there not been any enquiry? The UNP asking for international investigations in the light of the Government’s inability to bring the culprits to book is shown by the Government as an unpatriotic act, while the government has not yet been able to successfully prove any of the conspiracy theories they have come up with. If they are not serious in conducting a detailed and impartial investigation, then all the fingers point to them alone. The only conspiracy theory I can subscribe to is that they have created a Frankenstein they are now no longer able to control and the professional killers who have ties to the security forces are now working independently of the Government which created them initially.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Assassination of an Editor of a Newspaper on January 8th 2009

Kalpanakaranna, I say repeatedly about everything that is happening in this country. We have had so many killings in this country both of media personnel and other political related ones as well as other crimes such as the bombing of the TV studios, but I have yet to be aware of any culprit being apprehended for any of these crimes let alone convicted.

This in a country where the security is very tight, with road-blocks and temporary checkpoints. Just think, how can that be unless all these crimes are committed with political and security forces patronage. I have no proof, of who is directly responsible, but the odds are that it has received at best government blessing, and at worst direct orders from the highest level.

No matter what success our Armed Forces have obtained on the battlefield it has all come to naught if people are not protected especially in Colombo. The country has descended into the law of the jungle, and the general public, with a few exceptions are unable to rationalize what is happening due to the lack of being able to think through the implications of events and actions.

In this land of the lotus eaters we are continuing to eat lotuses! We just say the problem is someone else’s and we are not affected so we don’t need to do anything about it. Complacency on our part just encourages the perpetrators who are now convinced they will never be brought to book, and their level of violence and the level of brazen attacks of this nature will continue. Think a little further, the people who encouraged this will eventually meet the same fate from this Frankenstein’s monster they themselves created, but later find it impossible to control and contain once the bloodthirsty nature of the hired assassins knows no bounds. The assassin is only the person who pulls the trigger, the mastermind is ensconced in a security blanket for his or her protection, and one day meet the same fate.

There is no argument about the fact that it is the future of the patriotic honest and hardworking people of this country that is at stake, and under attack by a mob of power hungry, corrupt, incompetent people who are unable to rule with dignity and patriotism. They are of the belief that by means of a dictatorship they are doing the right thing, but are unable to see the damage they are doing to the fabric and future of society. They are surrounded by sycophants, and not reality. The truth is that all 100 ministers are the prime sycophants personally benefiting from their positions, and so imprisoned.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

The attack and vandalism of the Sirasa Studio complex in Depanama

In the early hours of Tuesday the 6th of January the Sirasa studios in Pannipitiya were attacked and destroyed by a gang of thugs in two vans with the license plates removed. With the high security in the country, and the earlier notification to the Police of unidentified people loitering around, it does not take a rocket scientist to come to the conclusion that the law enforcement authorities were in some ways intimidated or bought off not to protect or investigate, and that some politician in Government was behind it as a gang would not perform such a brazen act without such patronage in the current security complex.

I have noted in this blog earlier that all the good our President does comes to naught when he by inaction effectively condones this behavior due to some personal concerns he has in vociferously denouncing this and other similar acts against the independence of the media.

It is time that the law be enforced if this country does not become the joke of the world and our pride in our nation is completely destroyed by those unpatriotic leaders in power. It is important when the government media engages in disinformation of mega proportions, that some kind of balance is shown by alternative media to give the viewing and listening public, another perspective other than the government viewpoint.

Today we lack leadership of integrity and the example of people acting with impunity is bad for not just the image of the country and also to the citizens at large to know that there is no security and protection of basic human rights we have come to expect as our rights. It is of the opinion of many in rural areas that there are two laws, one for the wealthy and the other for the poor and now this adds to the perception of total lawlessness.

It is amazing that the chief of police has not immediately taken charge to assure the public that all is well and he is fully in charge of the situation to give the public a level of confidence that the full force of the law will be utilized to bring the perpetrators to book. Nothing short of this will satisfy the people of this country that they can rely on the police to uphold the law.

I don’t know how this will pan out in the future and only hope that pressure will be brought to convince the very thick-skinned legislators that they must take action to protect private and public property from acts of vandalism.