Friday, February 26, 2010

Bathing beauty

How our cows enjoy a daily scrub in the water even kissing the scrubber

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

the end of a life and ensuring one's last days are with minimal pain

An elderly aunt passed away last evening, after a short illness, but towards the end she was in great pain, when it was certain that little could be done to prolong life. I believe that persons final days should be in minimal discomfort. The word hospice care and the rules that govern it appear to be singularly absent in Sri Lanka.

In places where the hospice system is well entrenched, people either enter a hospice or are treated to hospice care principles, when there is little science can do to prolong life and then the inevitability of death is planned and prepared with dignity. In many respects dignity is defined as being able to pass the final days with least possible pain, if that has been something that was apparent earlier.

Pain management to put it mildly in SL is restricted to Panadol, and in places like the US is aggressively managed with pain killers. A common pain killer that is administered is morphine, a tried and tested remedy which in the days before anaesthesia was even used as an anaesthetic. The problem was that it was considered highly addictive and therefore to be used only carefully. In the case of hospice patients this issue should not arise as the patients comfort takes precedence as the former is unlikely to be an issue.

For some reason doctors in SL are very reluctant to liberally prescribe this, for fear of what I know not, and would like a comment from a practitioner on this as I am merely an amateur observer wondering why this method of treatment is not followed.

I again resort to my time tested answer to SL problems the lack of thinking, or lack of kalpanakaranna. If we take all the factors into account and determine what is in the patients interest at this stage, I would contend that there is no issue, but tradition, fear and old wives tales take precedence in making this simple decision.

An appeal therefore for like minded people to turn to a little bit of common sense, and picture yourself in the shoes of the patient, and determine if it was you, what would you prefer. especially if you knew you were exiting this world shortly and your pain could be lessened dramatically with a little side effect of not being completely there to the end. Leave a living will that gives specific instructions in these instances as to what to do so that your care givers will not be answerable to busy body third parties on the actions they take on your behalf.

Friday, February 19, 2010

the impending elections - an opinion

Shortly the nominations will open for the general election campaign, and it appears likely that there will be three main groupings. The UPFA under the bulath kolaya symbol, the expected winner, the UNF under the Elephant symbol with the SLMC, and the Mangala wing and the JVP under the tophy symbol with SF as its leader. The TNA are likely to go it alone and therefore keep to their divisive politics that will not help in the one nation future concept, especially if they get an overwhelming majority in the areas they contest.

In my opinion it is a two horse race with the TNA getting the next largest seats, and the JVP only likely to get a couple of seats at best under the National list.

There is no point discussing the names on the UPFA lists as it will be fought hard amongst the UNP turncoats, and the existing SLFP ers, but for them it will not be a case of even fighting the UNP just competing with each other. Already they have put out posters, individuals that is and already they have been pasted over by others of the same party, something quite ridiculous, but that is the way the preferential system has been turned into, one of getting preferences and one's competitor for the slots are only people from one's own party. I suspect there will be a lot of money spent to get the preferences as there will be a lot of money to be made if they are elected to the parliament from the winning side and therefore competition will be immense, and spending will be lavish, as it appears the UPFA coffers are full as well as of the people contesting under this banner.

The UNP appear to be broke, and unlikely to raise much money as it is likely that potential donors will shy away from backing a loser. So sadly those who will be on the lists will be completely on their own to raise their own funds to run their individual campaigns. So it is about the media, about those having access to media and name recognition, and above all having spare cash to spend on their campaign for the 60 to 80 seats they are likely to get.

The problem with the UNP campaign is that there are people on the UNP ticket who can never win, but are on the lists because of them being time servers of the party, and therefore feel entitled to being on the district lists. Those who are more capable of getting more votes and are likely to be able to be positioned 5 years hence to give a good fight will be excluded, In my view, it is most important to the UNP to put in people who are unlikely to be turncoats, and also likely to stay the course to earn a place in the future and not let time servers who by the time they come in to parliament 5 years hence will merely want to benefit financially for having been out of power for a long time. They are the least desirable types one would want to be in politics as it will be politics as usual.

It does not seem that the leadership has foresight to think that far and get people with the capability of staying the course and determined to fight for the country and justice in the long term and not their pocket books. Further it also does not look like they are able to cobble together a manifesto that is truly farsighted and will only try to be populist to counter the UPFA steamroller, and therefore lack credibility as it would merely be thought of as a gimmick and not based on realistic assesments of the need for investment over subsidy to the electorate.

I believe the media campaigns and name recognition are the future in Sri Lankan politics and there is no unified media campaign on the part of the UNF to even rmotely counter the powerful state sponsored UPFA juggernaut. So any result that gives the UNF even 45% of the popular vote should be considered a great victory, a phyrric one nevertheless under the circumstances.

I believe therefore that a realistic strategy should be adopted, one with not just this election, but one that takes account of the likely horses poised for the following election in choosing the names for the district lists.

Hire me to vet the candidates and give an independent opinion of whether they can stay the course and true to a principled and disciplined plan to stay the course during a lean patch for the party. You will be surprised how many of the old guard who will be on the list to be sidelined. The most important result of this election should be about who is likely to be the leader of the UNP at the following general election, based on the preferences and electability of that person at this election.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

“The end justifies the means” way of running a country

Sri Lanka has during the Rajapakse Presidency followed the above strategy, first in terms of winning the war against the LTTE terrorists and now in terms of establishing a permanent rule devoid of effective opposition.
However to ensure permanent rule one has to show results as actions speak louder than words, or face a humiliating end at some future date. History is replete with such instances. The UNP as the opposition is the preferred route as they are seen as docile and ineffective, full of fat cats and compliant sheep who cannot be aroused. The JVP leadership like Anura Kumara, Sunil, Vijitha and Lal Kantha are the vocal, fluent and factually competent opposition that presents a credible, persuasive case to the public of the transgressions of the government. They now face total elimination and annihilation at the forthcoming General Election as they have no following in the country as a whole, and arguably lost votes for the Swan alliance rather than add votes in the grand coalition that recently backfired.
The strategy of wanting to be in power for as long as possible and doing that which is necessary to achieve this seems to be the direction. Therefore undemocratic means and the use of State Machinery to ensure permanence is the order of the day. A very pliant population that has lost confidence in their ability to affect change and take the attitude of “let the devil we know have his way as the devil we don’t may be worse” allows an undisputed arrogance in the use and abuse of this power, to go unchallenged and appears to me to be the strategy that is being used.
The Society has become so polarized that many educated and intelligent people honestly believe that there is absolutely nothing wrong with the way things are as they are drunk with the election victories and justification of the behavior of the power elites. In this situation, reason goes by the board and using the end justifies the means theory accept all the wrongdoings with unabashed jubilation.
It is therefore frightening that even the use of the word human rights abuses are put down as western subjugation of Sri Lanka, as the West can engage in such abuses at will using the Israeli and Afghan crises as current examples. Have these people lost their heads? It has nothing to do with the outside world, and a lot to do with how we treat our fellow countrymen with decency respect and the rule of law. They must realize that suppression of the Media is not to teach the West a lesson in non-interference but something that affects the fundamental rights of all human beings living in Sri Lanka. We should be free to read and write what we want without fear as there are laws to take account of any misuse of this privilege.

“Vindictiveness” and “Vendetta” the operative words of the day

When one behaves in a vindictive manner, it is done without recourse to the rule of law or moral ethics. However the perpetrators cloak themselves with a shield that removes them from the actual incident by claiming that the law of the land has to be equal to all rich or poor, powerful or powerless and that they cannot interfere with the due process.
In the current situation this is exactly what has happened with the Government maintaining that the opposition should not interfere in a case that is of a person who has broken Military Law, and that the Law to which that person is bound is what is being followed to the letter and that there have been no personal involvements in this decision.
So washing one’s hands off a decision to arrest the most prominent opposition candidate at a time he was meeting with other members of the opposition, in planning a strategy to contest the forthcoming General Election is not an option. The reasoning given in the paragraph above in this situation does not wash as it is clearly seen, whatever the merits of the action, as vindictive in suppressing of the opposition in a democracy that is tantamount to suppression of the freedom of expression that is far more subversive than a crime that befits a court martial.
While sedition, and traitorous actions require due process to be followed, before a verdict is given and a sentence pronounced, the persons so empowered are now tainted with political affiliation, that deny the independence of such a court, in this case a Military Court. Therefore in the current situation of lack of governance in Sri Lanka, no verdict that is issued by a court so appointed can have any credence and therefore any teeth in the eyes of the independent observer.
It is therefore imperative that the Government take responsibility for its actions, and be held fully accountable for such and justify, with proof rather than by making uncorroborated statements to support their actions. If this is not forthcoming all charges should be dropped, so that the person so accused, in this case General Fonseka and all those who have been detained using the same innuendo, are released forthwith. If after the elections, it is felt that there is enough evidence that can be presented in a court of law, then new charges can be made and the law of the land be applied, outside of the Military Court procedure. The Judges in a Military Court in Sri Lanka don’t have any credibility subsequent to the purge of the Defense forces recently carried out which have put Government loyalists in charge. Transparency must be seen to be at work not just assumed.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

the bull in a china shop approach continues in Sri Lanka politics - an appeal for considered reason to change direction

While I am no fan of General Fonseka, one has to think (kalpanakaranna) one's actions through and determine if the course of action chosen is the proper one taking into consideration both points of view, yours and your opposing person's arguments.

I believe that one of SF's gravest sins is shooting his mouth off. Well he paid a price for that by losing the election, but that is not a prosecutable offence. He has upset a lot of people by his utterances, but that is all they are, the rants of a person with some personality flaws. However tell me a leader who does not have personality flaws! Only the sycophants, not the average joe, thinks the current government is free from flaws, and much worse ones than what SF is accused of.

As the President is the undisputed leader of the country he must take responsibility for all the actions of his underlings, brothers included. I have noticed comments such as this is not the President's doing but other people who have a grudge against SF as the President in victory would be magnanimous and therefore blameless. I disagree. He must take full responsibility for what is going on, and he must be held accountable, whether he is correct or wrong. The buck stops with him and him alone as the underlings can easily be sidelined and disappear into oblivion.

Coming back to the considered approach that is needed in this hour of madness, I suggest we look in the mirror and ask ourselves that if we were not in power, we would just as easily be arrested for our transgressions, even if we did not think that we did anything wrong at the time we committed them. So it is only the positions that we hold that give us the arrogance and ability to do as we want, and in this era of politics of fear be free from arrest.

Going back to the time when SF was Commander and running the war, he could do no wrong, he was best chums or so it seemed to us with the President and Defense Secretary, and was tasked with winning the war at any cost. For better or for worse he achieved what was asked, so give him some common courtesy that you would even give a beggar for what he has achieved, whatever you think he has done since to contribute to the downfall and humiliation he has had to face.

If he is really a brute he will meet his waterloo on his own sword, and if he is in fact without guilt it is the person who put him there who will meet his waterloo at some point in the future. That is the way it happens whether you believe it or not. So in a democracy act as a democrat, unless the leadership want to honestly move away into an autocracy to fulfill personal ambitions.

Move away from calling all those opposing you unpatriotic, western imperialist stooges and bent on selling the country for personal glory, because if you were in opposition you could be labeled similarly, with the Western changed to Eastern. It is all a matter of degree.

Please remember amongst all this is the future of the country, the one the President claim to love so much, but by your actions show you hate it more than life itself, cant people see this? Are they blind or plain stupid?

The President owes it to our country to behave civilly towards all its citizens, not just those who are his favorites at the time, who work very hard to preserve its integrity, grow its food, slave in foreign lands to keep him in an abundance of luxury, helicopters, vehicles and security and above all suffer in silence to do what is necessary to keep their homes intact, nourished and healthy. They are the true patriots and they are voiceless, soulless, and leaderless in the real meaning of the word.

Lets cut to the chase and build a country not by empty promises of reconciliation on platforms, and highways and airports to nowhere, but by deeds. Please Mr President if you truly love this country, show it. Spending lavishly at Temple Trees at the people's expense is not the way to show it. If you want to know how, I will show you. Its called humility, actions of real nation building which the election proved to be broken-up in a sectarian way, and the extinguishing of personal ambition, to dedicate all your energies to your country, and NOT your family but to all its 20Million people. If you think you cannot, then let someone who can take the challenge.

Please don't think you are the only one who can do it. You have had 40 years plus as a servant of the state, so its not as if you have not had enough time to show your achievements, God forbid we have given you a further 7 and you can still change course for the better. People with just 5 can do as much. There are just no more excuses, why congratulate a 5% growth, when 10% should have been the expected, when you start at this level and look at the resource base at your disposal. Please don't waste it.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Independence Day, remember what it really means and decide if we truly are!

It is nice to note that we now fly the flag on Independence Day, something that in my years in the US I noticed was an important symbol of patriotism, and remembrance. Don’t forget that the US also celebrates it as freedom from English colonization, much the way we do too. However we should as they have, take it more as a symbol of our own maturity and pride in nationhood, (remember the US also had a civil war after independence) and what better time when we are free from the scourge of an internal uprising against the state.
It is sad that at this juncture, the opposition boycotted the main celebrations as a protest against the unconstitutional blatant abuse of power by the government, but the government should also be mindful of the reasons, and not act as if they really don’t care. It is also pathetic that at this stage, there has been no magnanimity in victory by the current government which continues to act in a vindictive manner.
In light of all this background, where the recent election, proved the divisive nature of the electorate, one can hardly be claiming unanimity of purpose, especially when the leader’s calls for reconciliation are just hollow words, not followed by deeds. One cannot kid oneself that building schools and roads in the North and East are acts of reconciliation. That is merely what is due to people who have suffered untold misery, just getting back to some semblance of normalcy. It is the hearts and minds of a fractured constituency free of domination from any patronizing group, as they have had enough of LTTE domination, not wanting to be replaced by self serving politicians representing just a change in the leadership, but domination nevertheless.
Independence is when the people have some say in how they are treated, led and assisted at a local level, and not by Central Government. It is how day to day activities of local government, law and order, basic needs, education and health services are handled and dealt with, not having to resort to bribery, or allegiance to particular party or group to get what is their right.
What I object to is the complete disconnect between what is said at podiums by politicians and the reality of the people about whom and to whom they are directed. A decentralized feeling of belonging will then result in Independence Day parades in every high street in the land with the local school band marching in line with people waving national flags enjoying the festivities, eating food from local booths and listening to music by local bands and enjoying the holiday as it should.
I hope and pray, I live to see the day we all feel the same, one nation one people.

The depths to which the standards of journalism have fallen in Sri Lanka

The Government owned and the Private Media, TV and Newspapers have fallen into an abyss, that even the gutter will not tolerate. The quality and objectivity of both have deteriorated to an extent that they only parrot the opinions of paymasters and not of reasoned arguments. One must realize that in a free country we have a right to offer an opinion, but it is the duty of the Media to give a reasoned argument for their stance, and not one that even a schoolboy would challenge.
This has led both sides offering childish opinions that feed some of the baser instincts of the readership, and further destroy any objective thinking on the part of the lay reader whose opinions are stoked and fuelled by the press. I think only a fool will question the clever use of the Media by the Government to put their point across appealing to the fears of the general public with baseless allegations over a period of time, so that the unsuspecting public believes the pack of lies that is being promulgated in the veil of truth. The classic line of accusing the opposition of being agents of the Western Governments ready to recolonize Sri Lanka, and the spurious evidence used to portray them as ones who will compromise the unity of Sri Lanka is an example of clever manipulation of the hearts and minds of those unable to use deductive reasoning to see through bias.
In similar vein the Private Media also draws a line in the sand that they will not cross and use self censorship in a way that stifles objective criticism for fear of reprisal. Then anti government accusations are just parroted almost verbatim, but without reasoning to determine if there is a case for such accusation or not. A classic example is of the accusation that 1.8million votes were rigged by computer. Any fool will know that a result of such magnitude will be apparent within minutes, when ballot boxes are opened, irrespective of any irregularities within the postal voting mechanism. I have been a polling agent and have observed how the ballot papers are first put into piles when they are opened and the agents are able to see this being done right in front of them. An election where one person received such a mandate will be apparent as the piles for MR would have outnumbered that for SF by a long way and I have yet to hear of any polling agent of either party being interviewed or asked to comment on this very simple of gauges of swing.
Sadly, we have a public that does not think (kalpanakaranna) and the responsibility of the media is to help them to see reason. Neither side is doing this, resulting in the public being fooled like pied piper to drown in the sea with no hope of ever rising above the water to breathe. There is no hope for democracy when those who have been given the task of protecting it are themselves mindless sycophants.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

One more reason for the landslide victory of President Rajapaksa

I live partly in Minneriya, where both my cabin in the Forest, Kumbuk Pokuna Lodge and my agricultural allotment in Raja Ela, Hingurakgoda are situated. This electorate gave 70% of the votes cast in favor of Mahinda Rajapkse, which I was told was the highest percentage of any electorate in the land. This after Maithripala Sirisena one of the sitting MPs for the District and the General Secretary of the SLFP and a future contender for the Premiership, having never attended even a meeting in the electorate.

In my regular conversations with locals, I discovered an interesting twist that could have contributed to the landslide in this area. I have been traveling for the past 5 years to Minneriya in the dead of night all by myself being stopped at numerous checkpoints along the way. I also sleep in an open verandah open to the elements and man or beast, who may decide to drop in. I have also lived through the sounds of the Helicopters from the Hingurakgoda air base, and Jets and bombs being dropped in nearby Thoppigala mountains and the Sampur and Vakarai areas which are not too far as the crow flies, on flat land where sound travels great distances.

All this left the locals in fear of the LTTE, and any possible attack in these areas, even though in practical terms it was a far-fetched. People go to sleep closing all their doors and locking their homes so that no intruder or animal can get in, and even all the windows shut tightly and locked.

I suspect that living in fear of the LTTE for so long, left a permanent scar on the psyche of the people, which only the end of the war could erase. This relief and resulting gratitude for the President for making it happen, would have contributed to the support he received from a grateful public.

The added factor of each village in the country suffering from the loss of their young men to casualties of war both death and maimed, left an indelible mark as the personal sacrifice was a heavy one. The elimination of this along with the resulting jingoism of Patriotism and Nationalism, being misused in the Government Media gave a boost to the hand of the President.

The final nail in the coffin was the portrayal of the opposition candidate as a traitor having made a pact with the TNA, who hitherto had been completely tainted as Tigers in mufti, gave credence to that tag line. I have no doubt that all the above contributed to the personal esteem of the President.