Monday, December 31, 2012

The old year is about to finish and a new one offers hope!

In my opinion, 2012 went by faster than I can remember any year in my memory. This was probably because I found myself pressed for time all year wishing days could be 48 hours instead of 24! I presume if one is busy, time flies as the saying goes.

Of course we set certain goals for the year and many were not completed. Similarly new goals will be set for 2013, and I am hopeful of having better success at achieving a higher proportion. All of them take time, money and commitment, with none able to automatically happen without effort.

Which brings one to the effort vs reward argument! I know many use the rationalist approach if the reward is not worth effort expended, then it is not worth making the effort. I find that argument very common amongst the ‘Lotus Eaters’ in our society, which are surprisingly numerous. In fact they use the rationale as why bother work, when we can just as easily have a stress free life with as much enjoyment, but with less money, but with far more time on our hands! Who could argue with that rationale?

To an old fashioned economist that word is anathema, and to a Government obsessed with high growth rates, it is anathema too. Growth as we know is not the be all and end all of life. There are huge societal costs attached to growth. The most notable being the environmental one. That I believe is one we should seriously reconsider in our pursuit of growth. We in Sri Lanka are today paying a huge cost in terms of environmental degradation, to achieve arguably miniscule growth that is spread to the hinterland, with most of it being for a few, fortunate enough to have received a good education, which opens up vistas of employment and ventures, that in turn leads to a high standard of life, but with questionable quality of life as the measure of that is more intangible, and more an attitude of mind.

I therefore believe we must stress life to be more meaningful, and satisfying. The latter word means different things to different people. Now that Sri Lanka has achieved almost zero population growth, and an aging population, we must change our priorities, to concentrate on social benefits, social capital investments on areas of mutual benefit to all. I would include safer, quieter and speedier public transport and better means of goods delivery, using perhaps the railway network to transport much of our perishable food, overnight from producer areas to consumer markets. This will unlock many current bottlenecks, when mixed with new storage facilities.
The One other area that I wish we could concentrate in 2013 is a National Education Policy. Our Education system in Sri Lanka requires an overhaul of unimaginable proportions. The present Government is incapable of accepting that fact, as it would possibly undermine the foundations in which it wishes to operate. That of an electorate being told what to believe, rather than one which is able to make up their own minds on why they should believe one admonishment over another!

To begin with a good Education Policy requires the training of superb educationalists. So training plans to teach our teachers, of all levels, from Pre School, to Primary, Secondary, and Tertiary that includes vocational, must be undertaken as a matter of priority. That training today, will pay dividends in about 5 years. This lack of vision amongst planners, and politicians about what needs to be done, and how long it will take to do so, is at the heart of why there is no will to implement the most important aspect of the education plan, even before some of the policy items are even written. Everything in improvements in education is down to teaching the latest skills in the overall education of the individual. We have the latest technology available to man at our disposal in Sri Lanka, so we must not ignore what is available and avail our selves of their benefits. Only when we know how to use the latest methods of training and teaching, that we can hope to make the leap into a truly questioning, enquiring and thinking population, devoid of prejudices, conflict, and fear of others, all which tend to diminish the utopian quality of life we so wish to regain in Serendip.

The government has set its sights on improving the bloated public service, and making it more efficient. If the 1.4M people who work there could improve their productivity by say 15% each on average next year, just imagine how much our quality of life will improve. It does not take rocket scientist to realize how easy it is to improve the quality of life index of a country, through a simple project of improving the productivity of Govt. Servants!

So back to my wish list for 2013. Concentrate on a manageable number of goals, and make a greater effort to achieve those goals, by planning the optimum use of scarce resources of time, money and commitment. If one is focused in achieving these objectives, one will definitely be able to look back on a new year with satisfaction. We can only hope the leaders of our country spend a little bit more time thinking of the people they serve, and less on what they can get from the self same people. Anyone who concentrates on the latter, we will wish them adios without shedding a tear, to be replaced by the former. We have enough people who fall within the former category, who need to be identified, and so empowered.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Sex – Sri Lanka tops the list of most Googled!!!!! – What is the issue?

Splashed on all the papers today, both Sinhala and English was the fact that Sri Lanka topped with Google list of Countries that googled the word Sex. India came in at a close second and the list has Pakistan, Nepal and Bangladesh not far behind!

Am I reading far more into this than it warrants? I don’t know, but to see 5 countries in South Asia in the top ten, is surely not coincidental. I would wish to know a little about how this survey was done, and if this is according to number of searches irrespective of the population of the Country concerned or if it is relative to the population?

On the face of it there is some great desire amongst the populations during the holiday periods to search these subjects, when leisure time permits! It was during the Sinhala/Tamil New Year and the Christmas Holiday period that these searches appear to have peaked in Sri Lanka, and similarly during Indian holiday periods was when it happened in India, so I presume our people have nothing better to do during these holidays, not conversing with their friends and relatives, but to spend time on the net looking to gain some form of enjoyment thus by going through pornographic sites.

Is there a greater desire for sex than other cultures that does not get satisfied due to cultural strictures and preventions, which release presumably men to go into these search engines to obtain that which they do not obtain at home?

What about the image of this Country, where it TOPS the world LIST? That is going to be fodder for people to laugh at us, as being a highly frustrated or unsatisfied (sexually) people who seek their thrills in this sort of medium.

What are the other implications? Is that the level of prostitution in Sri Lanka is far higher than estimated. The numbers engaged in this trade from Three Wheeler driver pimps to people renting out rooms by the hour all around the country are mushrooming, and with little sign of reduction. That the Law Enforcement Authorities, the underworld and by implication local politicians all earn a fabulout amount of money from the use and abuse of females who are trying to add to the meager earnings that there household has due to the principal bread winner being unemployable or alcoholic, by engaging in this vocation to sustain their family!

These are social questions that bear answering. It is something that no doubt will be debated in drawing rooms and in bars and let us hope some positives will result.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

The Arrest and then transfer to rehabilitation of 4 Jaffna University Students

The prevention of the candlelight vigil on Marveer Day, within the Jaffna University in November by the forces, then the suppression by force of the demonstration the following day at the UNI to protest at the earlier prevention, led to the arrest of a number of Student Leaders who happened to be Tamil.

There were international protests, and in the end they have not been given the usual rights afforded to citizens of this country, but sent over to detention in Welikanda to a camp for rehabilitation used to rehabilitate former LTTE terrorists who were apprehended when surrendering. It is also noteworthy that about 50 suspected LTTE carders were also recently apprehended, as not having surrendered.

We must assume they were terrorists who did not surrender, and not innocent people, though the true facts may come out later. I therefore presume they too will be charged or sent for rehabilitation.

What all this does is to further strengthen the notion that the SL govt. is still not intent on truth and reconciliation, and still in the search and arrest mode for the drifters of the fighting that ended over 3 years ago, still treating it as top priority.

Is this for local political consumption? To fool the people that the issue is very grave and that the govt. justifies the use of force in search and detention to prevent a further insurrection! I don’t know the answer. However what I am willing to guess is that when there are political problems in other quarters this excuse deviates from the main issues at hand, and focuses news items elsewhere to distract the people from real issues, being replaced by imaginary ones. The various opposition forces are then challenging these govt. created problems, rather than addressing the real problems of the day, further strengthening the Govt. ability to deceive! These are all very worrying acts that must be seen for what they are.

I cannot see why the Govt. continues to intimidate foreign criticism and thereby expect more, other than they need more international condemnation so that the electorate back home can be fed the diet of an international conspiracy against the state, something easily marketable to the hinterland, through the effective media campaigns in the state media, especially TV. This therefore is part of an overall campaign at obtaining obeisance from the local populace. The Govt. knows the foreign condemnation does not affect them at all, and therefore relishes it. This plays into the hands of the divisive elements bent on using the events arising to prevent any true reconciliation, citing real unresolved problems. Tell that to the LLRC. 

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

The First Japanese American Congressman and Senator – Daniel Inouye

Daniel Inouye, A senator in the US Senate representing the state of Hawaii for the past 50 years, and the current longest serving Senator died a few days ago, and at his memorial, which President Obama, the Hawaiian born Commander in Chief attended on Sunday. There were some interesting insights from Senator Harry Reid, of Nevada who is the Senate Majority Leader.

“Both Senator Daniel Inouye and Senator Bob Dole (now retired but reaching 90 this year) were senior Senators of the US Senate.( with Dole running for President also.) They were both soldiers in the Second World War, fighting the Germans in Italy, Inouye being in the Japanese American brigade, they both lost the use of their right hands (both being right handed) at adjoining Hills within a week of each other. They convalesced together in the same hospital in Michigan for over 21months when recovering from their injuries."

Inouye’s hopes of becoming a Medical Surgeon were dashed due to his losing his right arm, and so went into politics!

I wanted to point this out to people today, to give them an idea of the stature of the some of the Senators in the United States. I seem to remember Senator Bob Kerrey from Nebraska a SEAL, also lost a lower leg in the Vietnam War, and of course who could forget Senator John MaCain from Arizona who was an abused prisoner of war in Vietnam for so many years. I wish to add that Senator John Kerry now in line to be the Secretary of State of the US was a Vietnam War veteran winning A silver star, a bronze star and three purple hearts!

These are all people who served their country in stints and not as professional soldiers all their lives, as the US had conscription and National Service requiring their service on behalf of their country.

To put this in perspective we have just one former forces person in our 225 member Parliament, Rear Admiral Sarath Weerasekera MP representing the UPFA in the Digamadulla District comes to mind. The latter was however a career soldier who retired and then became a politician.

We have more and more young men retiring from the forces after their minimum service period, who should consider going into politics, not like Sarath Fonseka who has been a soldier his whole working life, as they are disciplined people who will probably be able to bring some stature to Parliament which is lacking in professions and forces personnel who have had a life outside politics, and law.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Why are we burdening the commuters, when in fact we should assist them?

I note with trepidation that a substantial increase in bus fares is expected on Valentines Day 2013, to take account of a delayed price hike due to fuel price increases and other increases in running costs, but most especially the hike by the Govt. departments and authorities, in the price of a bus transfer, a route permit, and the charge for a log sheet. Remember the private buses additionally pay money to time keepers and protection money too, estimated by the private bus organization at Rs70M a day, all of which are transferred in the end to the commuter.

The hapless long suffering commuter and bus traveler is yet again bearing the brunt of the increase in charges faced by the bus operators. I did hear a while ago that the Transport Authorities wish to color code public transport, so that light blue will signify private buses, and red the State Service, whilst another color would be used for school vans and such like. If this is enforced, the commuter will bear the cost eventually. Is that fair?

As a matter of public policy, we MUST encourage the use of public transport at the expense of other forms, and we have seen an explosion in the number of motorbikes, and three wheelers in the morning commute. This is due to the costs of transport, and inconvenience, has turned more passengers to seek alternative means, thereby adding to congestion and travel times.

Competition improves service, and more buses reduce overcrowding especially during the rush hours. A crying need that must be addressed is the absence of night buses which are sorely lacking, inconveniencing the shift workers, who have to use more expensive means of transport to and from work in the off hours. The authorities instead of piling on more charges must seek to reduce the burden on private bus operators, while getting their commitment to stop overcrowding in the interests of the commuter and improving their service standards that appear to be a bone of contention.

The public cost of longer commutes and waiting in traffic jams are immeasurable. A transportation policy where the commuter’s burden is reduced so that more traffic will move from private modes to public, freeing up valuable space on the morning commute, should be the priority. The current approach is plain WRONG, to burden the commuters further, driving more into private transport, especially the ubiquitous motorbike that has trebled in quantity on the morning commute leading to aggravated delays.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Due Process – time for some clarity not dealt with in the Constitution

Due process is at the center of ANY form of review, be it a disciplinary hearing at work, or at an arbitration tribunal and especially in a court of law. It is the first thing a law student learns when he begins his studies. So it is NOT confined to a Court of Law. It is this that appears to have been set aside in the haste of the PSC to find the CJ guilty. For that grave mistake, it is a shame that lawyers privy to the proceedings and the President who effectively instigated it, who is supposed to be a lawyer, have forgotten.

It is that single issue that is at the heart of the international outcry of condemnation of the proceedings by the PSC, which will go down in history as the fastest judgment ever given on EARTH. That implies that Kangaroo Courts have been more fair, leaving this verdict at the edge of decency.

There are two methods this Government can get away from further embarrassment. The first is for the Parliament to vote against the findings of the PSC, and thereby avoid the impeachment of the CJ. The Second is to prorogue Parliament, so that this requirement automatically dies without a hearing, and effectively lets the CJ off until the new parliament determines what course of action to take.

I would recommend the first, where the Parliament may use the lack of due process to nullify the findings of the PSC, without actually saying the CJ is not guilty. It just says that the PSC report cannot be relied upon due to the basic norms being ignored.

I also recommend that after this action is taken, that a New Bill be presented on the Rules of Appointing and Removing Judges of the Appeals Court and Supreme Court. The Govt. will regain much of the lost prestige if the rules are on the lines of the Bill presented by the CBK Govt. of the UPFA in 2000 that was not passed and which the UNP has agreed they will now support. Then as both parties are in agreement, it should pass unanimously. For good measure, I would recommend that the appointments of Judges is also included, along International lines of best practice, which will deflect any criticism this Govt. may get on this issue.

It need not be an Urgent Bill, which smacks of impropriety. It can instead be a normal bill which will then require the assent of the Supreme Court as it pertains to Changes to the Constitution, but I believe which also requires a two thirds majority, which due to opposition support could pass ‘Unanimously’. We can then prevent a reccurrence. However I doubt this Govt. will wish to limit their powers.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

The Value of a stint overseas – no longer a frog in a well

There has been some debate in my blog from comments I have received on the benefit or not to Sri Lanka of our citizens going overseas. I am all for it and am not in any way attempting to curtail one’s movements. Very few of the readers will remember that we had to get an exit permit to leave this country during the rule of Mrs Sirimavo Bandaranayake’s 1970-1977 Prime Ministership.

No wonder a whole heap of people left the country permanently on the day the election results were announced. It was incredible that though she won overwhelmingly reducing the UNP to next to nothing, the UNP actually polled more votes than her party in that self same election, a point few people realize and which also led to the outcome of the PR system which we are now grappling with.

I digress from the point of this blog, in that we have around 20,000 leaving each year for tertiary education overseas hopefully for most to return, and we have around 40,000 leaving each year for permanent settlement in host countries, usually of the Western kind, and we have a further 250,000 (new) leaving each year for temporary work stints in countries namely of the Middle East.

Those who return, bring with them their earnings as well as their experiences working in a different country. They can then compare the systems and hopefully improve the local conditions to that of the rest of the world. Take what is best overseas and try and introduce it here. There are many who find it hard, get frustrated on their return, leave never to return, finding the culture too stifling and oppressive for their liberal, free market, productive and over enthusiastic minds.

In the end it is the benefit of the earnings of Sri Lankans in other countries that are remitted back, that make a big difference in the quality of life of each and every Sri Lankan living here. It is that which contributes to the growth within the country. Most of the money goes to the provinces where the workers families live and therefore is circulated more speedily towards the multiplier effect that assists in the growth. I hate to imagine what Sri Lanka would be had we not benefited from this windfall. The flip side of this rapid growth, is the resultant import demand, that has meant that our fuel import bill alone amounts to over half of the value of foreign remittances. The increased traffic and volume of vehicles on the road has contributed to this need for fuel, all of which is imported. This need is permanent and the traffic jams we see daily also take its toll, both on wasted fuel, but also the need to import many spare parts for the vehicles resulting in further related imports. We must bear this in mind when making policy decisions in the interests of the future of the Country. 

Friday, December 21, 2012

Kalpanakaranna – the overriding theme of my blog

I quote from a saying by Sir Winston Churchill – Prime Minister of England – when Queen Elizabeth II ascended the throne on 6th February 1952.

“We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.”

My contribution in my life is through this word “kalpanakaranna” a Sinhala word that says, “think”. A simple word, that goes a long way to explain how we live; what we do and why we do it. If we do not think about our words and deeds, we simply go through the motions of living in the first part of this passage. It is what we do by thinking that enables us to find meaning to this life and to in most part, get a lot of satisfaction by what we give. Interestingly we cannot take away what we get from this world, but what we give will last a lot longer, as in a legacy of what we leave behind. In that sense what we give is far more important than what we get, as it lasts. It is theoretically forever and rarely completely forgotten.

I spend a lot of time talking to young people to get them energized into being more focused and for them to find some meaning to their lives. It is interesting how they change their argument once this idea is introduced into their lives.

Often most of what is done (how they live and why they live) is because of what they are asked to do, through peer pressure and needs and desires, without an overall objective as to what it is that they are trying to achieve. A path to life is desired so that a rough idea of the route to map can be contemplated.

I then direct them to my blog and ask them to read some of my entries, as they are generally conceived of original thought and ideas I get from my readings, and life experiences. I write food for thought, some of which is debated and disagreed, but that is fine. I appreciate debate and questioning of what I write as it both hones my focus, and forces me to justify a position, further reinforcing my thought process.

It is a good idea to roughly map one’s day each morning to see how productive one can be to achieve one’s desired goals, so that one can at the end of the day determine the level of success. One thing this has taught me is that I am always pressed for time and short of time, and I am then forced to prioritize so that some of what I wish to do just cannot be done, and one has to be content with that outcome whilst at the same time appreciating the achievements. 

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Australia – The Establishment of a Joint Working Group (JWG) is a farce!

In the last of the Trilogy of posts relating to the Boat People to Australia issue, I will address the wholly misplaced idea of this establishment of the JWG with Australia to discuss the whole issue of people getting on a boat to Australia.

What a farce the whole thing is? This is nothing more than an excuse for a junket so that next year a whole bunch of Sri Lankans will get a free trip to Australia at someone’s expense to talk about how successful or not they have been in stopping this smuggling. I cannot think of a more wasteful way to spend money.

If the Australians, IMMEDIATELY deport any asylum seeker back to SL upon arrival and the word spreads that there are NO exceptions, then this will STOP. The people smugglers who have made a packet, many of whom have links to the Govt. so they can find some protection, will evaporate and go out of business.

What is the use of a JWG? The most important issue, that should have been addressed but lies untouched, is the huge benefit to Australia (as it is a one way deal, no Australians migrate to Sri Lanka) from the legal migrants. Technically they can take as many as they want, and there would easily be 200,000 who may wish to go there, only about 10,000 of the best qualified are taken.

There has to some way of acknowledging the huge level of assistance given by Sri Lanka to Australia from these migrants who contribute immensely to their economy. They DO NOT remit money back to Sri Lanka, and in that respect are distinctly different to the workers who go to the Middle East, Singapore, and Korea who remit funds monthly to their families back home. The latter are on fixed term contracts, whereas the migrants to Australia go to live permanently.

As is normal this Government to Government tamasha, did not address this most important of issues, namely the value of this benefit to Australia and some way for the state to obtain relief in the form of a payment for the value of the Human Resource that the Australians receive. Whilst I have valued it at US$500M, even an annual payment of US$100M would be fine. However as the Govt. of Australia will not bribe any Sri Lankan govt. official who wishes to instigate this demand, there is no effort on the part of Sri Lanka to rectify this huge anomaly.

I therefore challenge the Government to put aside personal gain, and put the Country forward, by insisting that the Australian Government recognize and compensate for the value of the Human Resource it takes annually from Sri Lanka.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Sri Lanka refuse Australian AID – let them pay for those they give PR to first

If you read my previous blog entry on the question of the Australian policy with regard to boat people, I pointed out what a benefit both illegal and legal immigrants are to the host country and what a service we do to that country.

The Australians in their reply merely say that they will give some assistance to the Education sector, and will return the Boat people within 72 hours, that after my blog entry that clearly said that it was the only way to reduce the problem or eliminate it forever. I am sure the Australian Foreign Minister did not read my blog entry, but it was obvious to any thinking person that it was the only solution to this seemingly intractable problem, that puts Sri Lanka in bad light when its citizens seek to leave its shores illegally!

Anyway I did point out that with the point system of Immigration, Australia, ONLY wants those who are the MOST suitable to enter that country. They are in simple terms the best people in all respects for any host country to receive.

Sadly life is such that human beings always want what is best for them. Who can deny them that right? So when Australia a more developed and seemingly wealthy country wishes to pick and choose our most highly educated and productive labor, who can have a better quality of life there, they ARE in fact giving AID to Australia for that value.


I have valued it at about US$500M per annum. So if we seem thankful that they are giving us US$40M over many years, we are rather foolish if slavish to these gifts! I propose we ask the Australians to give us a sum per person they accept. Then they will think twice about wanting them, when they have to pay for them.

Only when you pay for something do you understand how much someone is worth.
When you get them free, and they even have to pay for their travel to Australia, who DO NOT appreciate their worth in public, whilst in private you are laughing all the way to the bank. So Australian Foreign Minister PLEASE don’t take us for fools, and realize that we are supporting your country and have done so worth Billions of US$s especially over the past 40 years when our best have gone there!

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Now the Congress of Religions adds its say to the affront to the “IN”Justice

The Congress of Religions, a body comprising the leaders of the 4 main religions in the Island, have added their comments to that of the 4 Mahanayake Theros, who appealed to the President to set aside the Impeachment Motion.

In fact they are exceedingly scathing and quite unequivocal in their forceful statement that grave injustice has been done in the proceedings to impeach the CJ. That must be particularly insulting to the Head of State, as it adds to the Mahanayake statement and pushes him to a corner to do something within his powers to escape from it altogether.

It is no doubt this pressure, that has resulted him making the comment that another independent committee will look into the findings of the PSC. IF that was not a serious indictment as to the lack of objectivity of the PSC then what is? I am afraid it implies that the PSC were NOT fair in their conclusions, and if I was a member of the PSC, I would be furious with the President for making such statement which calls into the question their integrity. Further it is now likely that the Parliamentary debate called for in January, which the Speaker said could be for over 15 days, be cancelled and the whole enquiry lapse for want of any further prosecution, due to all the pressure that has come to bear on the President from unforeseen quarters that have hitherto been his greatest non-partisan support base.

The actions and words of the Commander in Chief are telling. They give some indication on how decisions are taken in this administration and when plans do not go according to script, who has to shoulder eventual blame.

The State Media is now in a ‘state of denial’, and every utterance gives away desperation and conflict within their logic. It is remarkable how the supporting cast of ministers come out with priceless retorts to the allegations, some of which cannot be even invented if one tried. They now add to the contempt with which the actions of the elected leaders are viewed, something that is tragic to the citizenry of this country. We cannot afford to have our elected leaders look like bumptious buffoons in not only the eyes of the world, but more especially by right thinking people within the Country.

The call again to the leaders is “Kalpanakaranna” before you take any more steps! 

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Australia – offering US$40M over 4 years to schools will not stop ‘boat people’

The Australian Foreign Minister is in town primarily to look into ways of preventing the record number of boat people from Sri Lanka attempting to reach Australia in 2012. The SL Govt. claims to have also prevented 3,000 from leaving, by catching them before and while they were on the high seas.

All ethnicities are involved, and it has nothing to do with Education per se. Those who have good A levels are the most frustrated in their employment search in Sri Lanka, and so arguably spending money on Education will add to the their problem!! NOT REDUCE IT

People hear stories of Australia being the Country where you can be laid back and earn a packet! So whoever you are educated or not they try to emigrate, legally or illegally. The stories are legendary of people who go there and within months are very comfortable. I do not know how much is true, but it is believed. So parents sell everything to pay people smugglers to take their children there hoping their offspring, usually a son, will make it big and then send them a ticket too!!

For Sri Lankans seeing so many lotus eaters in the land(Sri Lanka), who do little and have a good life, those who don’t have that life, feel it is not achievable for them here and wish to go somewhere where they feel that likelihood is greater.

You cannot stop this urge and education will not stop it, only the opportunities for advancement in this land, by getting a job with prospects is the only possibility. After all it is the most enterprising that leave, not the most desperate!!! The people willing to risk their lives for a better life are the ones who leave, and actually they are the ones that Australia will benefit from as they are entrepreneurial and WILL contribute immensely to the Australian Economy too.

Granted the one we lose who have a good education and skills, go to Australia the legal way as legal emigrants, straight into jobs in Australia as their skills are in demand. So the paltry US$40M does not begin to touch the annual human resource value of these legal migrants, which I believe is AID worth about US$500M a year to Australia from Sri Lanka. One must bear in mind this perspective.

All Australia wants to do is CHOOSE who they want. So, if they want to deter the boat people, they must WITHOUT exception, deport them as soon as they arrive, whatever the international treaties say, and within 6 months this problem WILL sort itself out. So don’t add to your woes solve your problem, its not ours.

The Art of Political Double Speak – Leading to a national debacle

It is very interesting that the ploy adopted by this Administration in Sri Lanka today, is to use the action of the opposition when in Govt. to justify their move action or inaction. The latest was just yesterday, when the reason given to the Newspaper Editors at a breakfast meeting in Temple Trees, that the UNP wanted the CJ removed by impeachment, and so the Govt. was doing that job for them.

How innocuous was that statement? Putting the blame on the other party for your faults is a time and tested political game, and is the art of a skillful if not cunning politician. Further when the electorate accepts it hook line and sinker, then it looks like a huge political win in this game of double speak.

It is safe to say that excesses of a prior UNP regime, pale in comparison to the excesses being carried out today. However each time one of the numerous excesses are queried, reference is made to the same being carried out in that administration, as if to justify why it is being done again, and to put in bad light the complaints of the opposition, and the need for some transparency.

It is this strategy consistently and very calculatingly used by this administration that is the cause of the overwhelming belief of the masses that whoever was in power, the problems shall remain, and that another administration despite what it says, is unable to make a significant dent in the perceptions of the electorate.

Until this vicious canard is laid bare and accepted, it will be very difficult for the Opposition to clearly show the differences between the actual happenings in this administration and how it would differ in another one. Namely theirs. It is this message that they singularly fail to give partly due to lack of control over media.

So the art of political double speak, is one of the most cunning ploys in fooling people that black is white, and right is wrong. It is up to the recipient of the message to evaluate and come to his or her own conclusions. The question then is whether that person is sufficiently independently minded and mature to ascertain the truth, or is so biased, that no event or exercise is going to sway his opinion.

It is therefore important to obtain a psychological profile of the audience one is addressing, debating and lecturing, to make the judgment call on how to address their particular prejudice in the society. Without that one’s efforts are in vain. It is time that anti government rallies and speeches, take cognizance of these facts in order to maximize the productivity of this time that is allocated. If not the whole event is a waste of time and money with the audience misunderstood.

Friday, December 14, 2012

The Medical Profession in a spot of envy and wants a balance

It is no secret that the Doctors in the State Sector receive a very low salary at whatever stage they happen to be, relative to the Private Sector, or any other country. They therefore moonlight after hours and some earn 10 times their state remuneration that way. Further they are entitled to heavily subsidized car permits I believe, every 5 years, that enable them to purchase vehicles at Rs5M(US$40,000) less than lesser mortals in many instances. Their salary / allowances for travelling etc amount in total to no more than US$400 a month for 10 years plus service.

Admittedly the state sector educates Doctors Free, so that a child of a relatively poor family, who gets into Medical College can with effort get places, people only dream of. I believe the two practicing doctors I go if I need to see a GP at short notice close to my home, are both  from low income backgrounds and on the full time staff of the Homagama Base Hospital, but both see patients before going to work and after they get back. One doctor sees over 75 patients in an evening 7 days a week after work. He is particularly good, and hence his wide following.

These Government Doctors have a transfer scheme, hierarchy and promotions based on a tried and tested model, usually with seniority based on years of service and NOT on merit, and so is their remuneration calculated on that NOT on merit.
They also belong to the GMOA (Government Medical Officers Association)

So it was interesting that I read today that the GMOA with consultation with the Health Ministry, who is their employer, has obtained some form of permission for the State Sector doctors to work in Private Hospitals under some form of program over and above the moonlighting that I referred to earlier. I am not privy to the details, but I presume they are permitted to work a day or two outside, when they may be docked some salary, but not their seniority or pension rights. This, so that they will be able to fill some of the vacancies in the Private Sector, that are now filled from overseas. It is this latter intention, where it is alleged that overseas doctors are of lower caliber and are a threat to patient safety that this step has been taken.

After all when a patient’s treatment gets cocked up in the Private Sector, the patient unable to pay, having lost faith in the Private Sector goes for free Healthcare in the State Sector and this is the excuse used, namely that it will stop this drain on the State Sector due to substandard care in the Private Sector! I do not know how far that is true as it works both ways, where cockups in the State Sector are referred to the Private Sector when the patient is able to financially afford that.
There is some form of licensing that the overseas doctors have to get before being able to practice in the Private Sector, and the Health Ministry expects it to be tightened further to ensure a higher standard.

It must also be remembered that today in Sri Lanka, 1000 doctors pass through the University System, annually, who need to find employment and the State Sector is unable to guarantee them employment to do the needed training. The shortage of doctors in the state sector is diminishing and is now only confined to Specialists and to Rural Hospitals. It is therefore a method to release some of the pressure on doctors in the State Sector, who are surplus to requirements to permit them to practice in Private Hospitals.

The counter argument is why are we importing doctors when we have a surplus of doctors in the Country? This is after sending out 5000 doctors overseas to work overseas, most of whom have emigrated to the West and are helping the health services of their host countries.

I believe we must also make provision for training new doctors who cannot be absorbed into the state sector, into the Private Sector where they are able to get the same level of training, and not lose out on promotions or seniority.

What we MUST stop are doctors (some, mainly in the rural hospitals) who refer patients to their own clinics outside hospitals, to perform unneeded tests, (unnecessary scans for pregnant mothers) and who take medicines from State Hospitals to sell to their patients who see them privately in their homes.

These are all matters that a future National Health Policy must take cognizance of. Further we are still awaiting the implementation of the National Drugs Policy that must provide for a two tier drug system, where the State orders from a list, and agrees on prices once a year for the drugs they purchase on a transparent basis, and allows the private sector to stock brand name drugs which a doctor in private practice is permitted to prescribe if he so wishes, the patient knowing that it is a risk he takes when seeking treatment Privately.

In my case when I visited the doctor privately I was prescribed the expensive branded drug Augmentin, which may not be available in the state sector if I had gone there to seek treatment. It is my choice of whether to go 5 KM to the hospital for free treatment or to pay $4 and seek private treatment at 7am a few hundred meters from my home, and get a prescription for branded drugs if they are considered to do the job better than the ones prescribed for the state sector.

The Year of Excellence in Public Service – 2013

I am pleased that 2013 has been declared a Year of Excellence in Public Service, by the President. I sincerely hope the year does not go the same way as all his previous futile, but well intentioned “YEARS”.

After all the Year of English and IT was a complete waste, as since, the level of English has FURTHER DETERIORATED. So if this President does not wish to go down in History as the biggest “Blagger” since creation he had better do something concrete to be true to his word.

First he has appointed the Cabinet Secretary, Sumith Abeysinghe to oversee this project. At the meeting of Ministry Secretaries, namely the CEOs of each of the ministries, held a few days ago, the Secretary to the President, Lalith Weeratunge has instructed that

1                   Strengthen the Mechanism to address public grievances
2                   Make maximum use of ICTs (this is a pet subject of LW)
3                   Efficiently deploy Human Resources (1.4M strong Public Serivce)

I am willing to assist the Govt in this task if asked, as they need someone from the Private Sector to show them what efficiency is!!! There is NO human in the Public Service who knows how to even begin, as they DO NOT know how to measure Excellence as it is a word not in use in the Public Sector in Sri Lanka.

In fact incompetence is what is usually associated with the Public Service, save for a few examples, and therefore for them to do the opposite of what they have been used to all this time, is like the President telling lies believing it to be the truth.

You can’t fault him as he knows no better, having only experienced that trait with no one able to be truthful. It is therefore time to change from meaningless utterances to a serious effort backed by professionals who know their subject, to advise without fear or favor in the interests of achieving the objectives laid out and not just leave it to slogans and banners, as has been the case in the past.

It is very important that the huge cost of the Public Service, begins to show results. It is easier to get work out of the people by showing the way, rather than just getting rid of surplus staff, something that is politically unacceptable! It is possible to give specific tasks, responsibilities,   and performance measures to public servants, and grade them accordingly. It is about time too for a sea change.


Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Twelve Twelve Twelve (12.12.12)

This is the last in the series beginning with 01.01.01 which we have had every year for the last 12 years, and will not happen for another century or more precisely 89 years for 01.01.01 to reappear.

Todsay proceeded without event as just another day, except for the baby born in Ratnapura ostensibly at 12 minutes past 12 in the afternoon of the 12.12.12. with video cameras to film the occasion. Surely not! I found that very suspicious, or more likely that the arrival was induced to happen at that very moment, with the Press and video cameras to record the occasion!

No doubt this forced occasion for the purposes of publicity, will be completely lost on the viewer who would not doubt the sincerity of the coincidence, instead of wondering how there was a camera team to record the occasion in advance!

The more interesting moment was that the people who were using this date, which is in any way just coincidence, as it bears no relation to the birth of Christ as even his birth year is under some cloud, is just another moment in time that so happens due to the calendar adopted by most people, coincides with this unique number that occurs approximately once every 100 years.

More to the point human beings are unique, and there are NO repeat performances. All we can do is compare one with the other, in terms of making value judgments. Our comparisons are based on our evaluation and not of any others and are therefore open to interpretation just the same. So are their theories.

I noticed that Facebook had quite a few references to the possibility of some unforeseen catastrophe that may take place today, and if not on the 22nd, both of which I consider more man-made madness, as I repeat these are just dates that happen to coincide and do not bear any relation to any untoward event that is expected to take place. Let us just pass this period by and watch with amusement how superstition and hearsay have guided the lives of so many.