Thursday, October 31, 2013

A tribute to Thavisha Lakindu Peiris – a native son murdered in the UK

It is not usual that I  include such an entry in this blog. However it is important to understand how much our parents sacrifice to send us overseas to get an education they believe will hold us in “good stead” to guarantee our future over above that which we could achieve if we were never sent overseas.

The link here  describes in detail the life and death of a promising IT Graduate struck down senselessly, (found stabbed in his car) on his last delivery as a Pizza delivery boy before taking up a job IT in the UK!  

As a product of an overseas education, I can empathize with that theme and wish to forewarn parents of the possibilities that their offspring encounter in the so called developed world, which is not immune from senseless violence, just as in the case with our Country. Of course many of our smug citizens say it can never happen in Sri Lanka, but I know enough about life in the hinterland to know of the daily senseless, and drug and alcohol related senseless killings taking place in Sri Lanka daily, and also the many tragedies borne out of envy.

Let it be a reminder to all of us, that we can never completely manage our lives, but we must always be aware of the possibilities of danger wherever we are.

My sympathy goes to the parents and family of this boy, who must have placed so much hope and expectation on their son’s progress, that they were willing to pay a huge price by financing him for his education, and for him to finance any shortfall by working, as in this case at a Pizza outlet delivering pizzas to those who call for them.

My parents sent me overseas when they were alarmed by the youth uprising in 1971 when they feared the worst, following from the election of Mrs B, when almost everything was scarce and unavailable, and I remember bringing rice and sugar from the UK to Sri Lanka when I came! Even basics such as this were in such short supply. (It seems embarrassing to say this but it was so true)

Let us hope that the killer or killers are found and brought to justice so that there is some closure for the family, who will now only have to live with the memories of what was and the possibilities of what might have been. There is a saying that we must be prepared for the good to leave this world prematurely, so that the bad will have more time to ruminate on their wrongs, if that is any comfort.              

Toilets and Flyovers

The theme of the blog entry came out of an article I read in the Island newspaper of October 29th. See link  which refers to the maniacal race of this Govt. to put infrastructural projects of some prestige, before actual needed work in the economy from basic nourishment of our people, as they both feel that their political capital is kept intact with these prestige projects, that they can highlight to the media on a daily basis, AND they can give their henchmen the chance of making huge sums of money, so that some of it could be put aside for the costly election campaigns, and be able to trounce anything a bankrupt (financially) opposition can fire at them!

It is this sense of being cocky that even a UN report that says that a third of the school children in Sri Lanka do not have basic sanitary facilities does not even elicit an utterance in contradictions! Even if the opposition picks up on this and highlights this in a press conference, even the media cannot put a big enough spin on it to overcome the full page ads and supplements trumping the Katunayake Highway as the greatest gift of this Govt. to the nation! This is the crux of what the opposition are faced with.

More people believe, the most expensive per KM highway in the world is a better bet for the economy, than a few (1 million kids) being inconvenienced by the lack of toilets and water in their schools!! A sad fact of life.  

Norochcholai after a 2 month layoff for repairs and maintenance has been shut down yet again, and that does not make news, as much as when it opened in the first place to the generation of 300MW. The sheer waste of the borrowed money to build this power station, that even our local CEB engineers sneer at is not something that is known amongst the people. The political capital has already been harnessed by the opening, the harping on about the high interest loan, the lack of electricity production, and the old technology being highlighted, and the colossal waste, now is seen as sour grapes on the part of the opposition, trying to minimize the value of this “great” asset!  

Is this whole argument one of a sense of priorities? Or is it really one where a strategic decision has been made to engage in daylight robbery and quit town before you are found out, by which time you have long gone leaving the country to carry the debt for generations. This simple fact is not explainable to the masses who do understand daylight robbery, thinking it is just NORMAL!!!            

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

It is not what you see it is how you see it!

Have you ever wondered that different people see (also read, feel and hear) the same event, but have a very different opinion of the experience they get from that event? (Prefer a freeway to the airport, to a better education for your child)

The French novelist Marcel Proust once said that “the real voyage of discovery consists, not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes”

The whole concept of “Kalpanakaranna” or simply the word “think” sums it all. IF we think a little we may come to a conclusion substantially different from the original. Once we get used to thinking what we see, hear, feel, and read, we are able to more clearly weigh the pros and cons and come to our own conclusions. We do not have to believe everything or anything! We must be free to express our own opinions about it and defend it. We then solidify our thoughts further, or even take a completely different view based on our perceptions of the strengths and weaknesses of the differing arguments.

This points to the importance of criticisms of one’s argument. You can then look at it objectively and see if you can overcome them, or cave in and agree with them. It is not that you have copped out, just that you have become more mature, and able to accept a better opinion, and change your own, if indeed you believe that as a result of your original idea, you were able to improve on it as you were shown a reason why from a commentator with a better angle!

Into this whole picture have been many of the recent arguments I have put forward to improve quality of life of our people, a principle theme of the blog. I have been fiercely shot down by my critics, who say that it is not what the people want, they prefer flyovers to toilets (a theme of a future blog entry) and the politicians of this government are giving them what makes them (the politicians popular) and that is vastly different to my perception of what I believe the people should have, but don’t even have the capacity to ask, as they have been in want for so long, they do not realize it is a need that can easily be fulfilled by their rulers.

This chasm is where the criticism comes from, as the pro-Govt. lobby, who currently comprise the majority, appears content with the empty airports and ports as they give a sense of pride to them as Sri Lankans, that the lack of a toilet where their daughter could pee in at her school, is considered a minor inconvenience!!        

Tony Blair – an adviser to Governments world-wide – based on his experience

There was an interesting comment attributed to the former UK Prime Minister which is in the attached link
“that you start your first term as the most popular and least capable and end it as least popular and most capable”. That is an apt way of looking at leadership of a country. It is how one manages this popularity that seals your fate afterwards into someone who is loved or hated, and then later into history books as far as one’s legacy is concerned.

As Barak Obama looks at his legacy in his second term he is determined to leave a few including Obamacare Universal Healthcare for all, as one that is now controversial and may later define his Presidency that changed the Country’s perennial fear of longterm illness. However with regard to his foreign policy the killing of innocents which is an inevitable fallout of the use of drones, that don’t put Americal lives at risk, but seriously affects the US perception in the world as far as the misuse of their power is concerned is likely to be a defining outcome of his presidency instead of the stated aim of defending the Human Rights of other countries citizens from their own Govt. which is the stated aim of his administration and the appointment of Samantha Power in the United Nations to carry out his agenda.

It is interesting that Tony Blair and his band of Consultants have been able to parley his Prime Ministership to a major role in the field of Consulting with other Governments in strategy and governing, to make him a very wealthy man and who appears to be the envy of many in Britain who are upset at his use of his previous position for pecuniary gain. It is important to understand the all former Presidents of the US, engage in the lecture circuit commanding huge speaking fees and then their autobiographies receive huge advances prior to being written.

The problem in Sri Lanka is that our senior statesman go on too long, as politics is seen as a career for life, rather than one for a specific period of time, due to the various pressures, but mostly because people do not like their popularity they had as active politicians diminish upon retirement. Of course this is was not the case in the past when people went into politics for the love of service, and now it is to enrich the person. At least we can say that most of what Blair has earned is from work after he left office and while he is not as squeaky clean as he would like to portray, not a patch on the depths of corruption ours engage 

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

All a bunch of hot air to fool the masses and even the rich asses! The Rs 5M earned in the first 24hrs of the Katunayake Expressway does not even come close to paying the daily interest accumulation, let alone the capital!

Figures are in: 19,000 vehicles used the Katunayaka Expressway in the first 24 hours giving gate receipts of Rs5.1M flashed accross all the newspapers this morning, and all of you are completely fooled as always. In pure numbers it is a complete flop!! Why?

Anyone can tell you that this is not sustainable 24/7 365 days a year. If it was, then the Revenue would be, Rs5.1M X 365 = Rs 1.86 Billion per annum. So for my calculation let us assume it is sustainable.

Now the cost of the Expressway was US$300M (only the Chinese part and SL Govt contribution, excluding all previous abortive attempts) I am not sure what the exact rate of interest is or the payment terms, but if after all these years, interest must have accumulated to the capital and the balance outstanding must be far in excess of that. Be that as it may, let us say for our argument that it is only US$300M that has to be paid, principal and interest on it.

If we assume a low interest rate of 7%, then the interest alone will be US$21 Million. After all, we have been informed that China is lending to  us at far higher rates of interest like 8.5% on US$ borrowings, when they lend to the United States at 1% (effective interest rate received on their holdings of trillions of dollars of US Treasuries. We will assume we had concessionary rates for this - fat hopes!  

This amount of interest at Rs133 = US$1 the current exchange rate is Rs 2.79B per annum. This gives a shortfall of Rs 930M per annum, without accounting for the budgeted maintenance of the Expressway of Rs 450M per annum, excluding any road re-surfacing that is required every 5 years, depending on the wear and tear, and if shoddy building materials have been used and pot holes start appearing soon (what’s the bet?) if will be sooner! This gives a MINIMUM LOSS of Rs 1.38B per annum.

What do you expect when the cost per KM has been published at Rs1.8B per KM, one of the most expensive roads in the history of road building in the world.

If you say that this social cost of Rs1.5B per annum is worthwhile as it will give a far greater social and economic benefit to the economy, by infrastructure, then who pays the capital cost? Add that to the social cost I guess!!When will people realize that Sri Lanka is wasting too much of the people’s money on road construction? This Govt. is responsible for making extremely poor decisions on handing out contracts at inflated prices to earn kickbacks for themselves. 

I am NOT implying that this is NOT required in Sri Lanka. They are. However is someone engaged in Highway Robbery of the Nation? Let us all get together to stop it.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

An Entertainment Zone for people in and around Colombo – Badly Needed

Let’s face it, this is another area where the rich have more fun and the poor have to do with ITN false propaganda, alcohol or drugs or Galle Face for an evening’s entertainment. I was hoping the Govt. would be a little magnanimous and open up the 20 acres on the East side of the Beira to the people for lungs of Colombo, but no, greed got in the way and they are busy selling the land for commissions, to build shopping complexes, offices and hotels.

The rich can go to Bangkok for a weekend of fun. Why can’t they have it in Colombo? Remember whilst 60% of those living in Colombo live in substandard accommodation in “Wattes” and the politicians continue to pander for their vote with false promises, but the need of the hour is different.

With the expectation of the GNP per capita in Colombo MC limits expected to top US$10,000, there is NO real entertainment zone. So how about move the Casinos to Kalpitiya and make DR Wijewardene Mawatha a super entertainment zone, with Cinemas, restaurants catering to all income levels, children’s play area and actually a 24hr fun zone where people can go and enjoy their hard earned rupees with their wives, girl friends and families (sorry if I sound sexist here, it is purely unintentional) Public transport must also be provided in comfortable safe lit up AC buses and vans to get people to areas at night, as even today, night public transport in Sri Lanka is almost non-existent.

Of course there will be a few night clubs and bars too, and why shouldn’t our citizens enjoy some fun, when only the wealthy have the chance today, by either going to 5 star hotels or overseas.  

This zone can be properly planned using the examples from other east Asian neighbors, and even India that now have thriving entertainment hot spots for the locals. WE DO NOT HAVE A PLACE IN COLOMBO, TO HAVE SOME FUN WITH OUR FRIENDS AFTER A TIRING WEEK OF WORK, AND BE ABLE TO GET HOME WITHOUT BEING FLEECED!!

Whilst I am aware of a large Muslim community in Colombo, who would also like to have somewhere to go, so there could be a section in the zone that avoids Haram practices for their benefit and also have 24hr shopping centers to cater to those shopaholics in Colombo who are unable to find a place at midnight. It is no use pretending that people in the main commercial city of a Country must be tucked in bed at 8 to suit the double standards of some who preach to us.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

It is not tax incentives that ultimately determine foreign Investment – Casinos . What is the market? Can I be a monopoly?

In the continuing series of blog posts we must be extremely grateful to Dr Harsha de Silva MP for making a big noise about the sweetheart deal Packer was getting, that the Govt. decided to postpone the Casino concessions gazette. The con that the JVP, Hela Urumaya, NFF, Muslim Congress, BBS, Sihala Ravaya and others were making were merely political posturing to gain favor amongst their own faithful and nothing to do with what is good for the Country.

On the role of Tax incentives, I will merely refer to the link on a publication by IPS  that shows there are far more important aspects about responsible Govt. and stability of policy framework that play a part in Investment Decisions, and unlike what Laxman Yapa Abeywardene – deputy minister of investment promotion in the Economic Development Ministry, said when he put his foot in his mouth, that it is tax incentives that will bring investors into Sri Lanka. He must be meaning that as this Country is a den of thieves especially in Govt. only tax holidays will persuade people here, as all the more important reasons of drawing investments to Sri Lanka are absent despite what the Govt. says!!

So as the article in today’s Ceylon Today points out   why should SL give more than is necessary, and follow the practice of all other countries in NOT giving tax concessions at all, and follow normal business rules after selling the license at a market rate of US$1B which can be proved as a minimum value of a gaming license bearing mind the particular advantage of SL  with its proximity to India.      

I will add a further dimension to this, by suggesting that we build the Mega Resort in somewhere such as Kalpitiya, which will develop a zone away from Colombo, which is already crowded and has more organic growth space requirements,  that should not be further squeezed by a resort catering to the Foreigners. The infrastructure can then be developed to cater to that, which like the Vegas resorts allow a larger area for more time for families where not single gamblers but families, especially from the 100Milllion wealthy Indian population the main target market, who will then have a place to come within a two hour flight from anywhere. There must be discussion on how this whole project can benefit Sri Lanka and NOT a few individuals or Companies as is the case at present, as their self interest appears paramount over the Nation’s.     

Friday, October 25, 2013

Free Electricity – if the SL Govt. sells the Casino licenses instead of giving it free!!

It is now patently obvious that the Sri Lankan Govt. ruling clique is ready to share the windfall gains of a Casino instead of sharing it with the people. No matter what they say, they have been unable to share the value of a Casino license of a mega resort with the people who own it.

If you do the sums, I am a British qualified Chartered Accountant who qualified over 30 years ago, and I can assure you that if one was granted exclusivity of a license for ten years, it could be sold for US$1Billion. Anyone out there who wants to dispute that? Just look at the profitability of Casinos all over the world.


The going rate for a MW of Wind Power today is US$500,000, 2000 times that is US$1B, that is 2000MW which is our current consumption see

So why is our foolish especially brainless Colombo 7 types sitting in their fancy sitting rooms, drinking foreign liquor, not thinking about getting their electricity free? Simply because they are too dumb! They may have degrees and PhDs from foreign universities, but they are without an ounce of grey matter, willing to let their country be given over to a bunch of highway robbers who claim to be patriots just because their road has a fancy pavement laid out of paving stones that if they know how much it has cost the Municipality, they would have palpitations. How imbecilic can one get when little treats like walkways for their show off exercise kits are fed to them, so they are blind to the reality of what is happening around them. Robber Barons rule OK.

Worse they don’t have the balls to agitate! They are comfortable in their luxury houses and cars, as they know they will be able to hide their wealth when the Budget introduces a wealth tax!

Get out of your dormant lifeless existence and save this country from being sold below them, without complaining about a weak opposition. After all their attitude and not the opposition’s has contributed to this myth, that has become a self fulfilling prophecy.

Let’s stand up and loudly fight for our rights, the state cannot kill all its citizens.  

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Casinos – Why transfer licenses, why not auction them to the highest bidder?

I wrote on the justification for and against Mega Casinos in Sri Lanka yesterday. I believe out of the comments I received there is a very important matter that has been forgotten on the arguments and debate, namely the value of a Casino license itself.

The Govt. is merely playing it safe pretending there are NO new Casino licenses being given, merely a transfer of the Casino from existing venues to the new Casino road of DR Wijewardene Mawatha as the new location for them!!

What does this mean? After all, Casinos are currently illegal in Sri Lanka despite one source in today’s newspaper that says there are 12 operational Casinos in Sri Lanka today. If there is a restriction of Casinos, the license to operate one has immense value. The Govt has decided it seems to permit 4 mega casinos on DR Wijewardene Mawatha, with Packers Crown being the first, then the JKH groups resort, and then Dhammika Perera’s Mega Hotel and Casino, that I know of.

Should the licenses merely be transferred, adding immense value to those who currently own them, such as Dhammika Perera, and Ravi Wijeratne and others I do not know? Like one of the comments made on the earlier entry, that Ravi Wijeratne’s Casino value was calculated at Rs10B because of how the share structure of the Crown Resort where he receives 45% of the shares for transferring his license to Crown, and him not having to put in any capital!!

This means that a license in an environment of only 4 Casinos being permitted, would value it at US$125M each! Of course the more Casinos permitted, the lower the individual license would be worth. Then should these licenses be auctioned to the highest bidder? One would argue that making a payment upfront is not practical for an investor who has to spend another $500M to build the resort. I would say then defer the payment to a later stage or stagger it, but nevertheless agree to a payment plan or forfeit the business.

I do not know how existing licensees got them, but if they lose them, they have already reaped the value paid and so have had a handsome return on their investments. They should not be upset at having lost them, especially as they were operating outside the law under special dispensation which effectively meant as long as one paid obeisance to the current rulers to permit Casinos.

Readers! any thoughts on this point, please feel free to air your views. Surely this matter should have been forefront of a public debate, and instead no one has raised it yet. Hope the Casino kings will not try to slit my throat putting a spanner in their carefully concealed plans by pulling the proverbial wool over our eyes!  

At least this is my legacy to the Nation!  

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Casinos – What is all the fuss about?

Let us try and make some sense in this. Let me first say that I am in principle against there being any casinos in Sri Lanka, based on the Western Concept of Casinos like they have in Vegas, Atlantic City, Macau and the new one in Singapore where one has been permitted to operate just for tourists! In that sense I would like to see the existing Casinos removed as well, even if it is claimed that they are ONLY for foreigners.

This is not out of any personal grudge I have against it, but I believe the whole premise of wanting Casinos is to develop our tourism, especially Indian Tourism and Casinos are seen as a hugely profitable opportunity to fill the hotels with high spending Indians! Sri Lanka has very unique characteristics as a country, which should be further enhanced, and protected and developed, and this model of a remarkably beautiful country can draw in any number of tourists, especially Indians if properly marketed, without the need for Casinos.

I DO NOT believe we need Casinos to provide employment either, more than the perceived 2500 jobs can be provided at far less cost of the Crown Casino if that was an objective. I have been to Casinos overseas, they attract all sorts of people, for gambling, but the feeder businesses of money laundering, prostitution, gangs, underworld and drugs are a hugely attractive by product of it, no matter what one tries to say about it. It is just inevitable, and Sri Lankans will gather where the money is no matter what restrictions they place, even if they only permit foreigners to enter the hotels!

People say that we already have drugs, prostitution and betting in a big way in addition to the large number of addicted smokers and alcoholics, so what if we have some casinos, when at every street corner we see people doing the equivalent by playing cards, or draughts and other gambling related activities like cock fighting. This is altogether at a scale that is unimaginable that will change the face of Sri Lanka to a altogether different level, which I do not believe we need to go, just for the sake of a few bucks and some tax revenue. That is if a proper taxing system can be found in a messy industry, where tax avoidance is rife, and in Sri Lanka enforcement will be pastime of political largesse being received/doled out for stealing from the state.

An article in today’s FT   argues that it is good for the Country, especially if it is a country in the doldrums that needs some new business to revive from a depressed state. Sri Lanka certainly does not fall into that category and does not have to resort to such extreme measures to grow. We have gone so far in the bad direction, that we as a country must go on a moral upliftment program from Grade 1 kids, if we are ever to get a sense of proportion about ourselves. A Casino Culture, will make it difficult to preach to a new accountability and responsibility culture, and fully answerable to our lives, the need of the hour.

In my experience, we have reached a moral low point already, by International Standards, whilst trying to preach to the outside world about how virtuous we are. Bringing casinos will not help in reversing this trend, but further give blessing to a steeper decline in morality to which we may as well slit our wrists.

The semantic game where the Govt. says that they will not issue any Casino licenses to anyone, just permit the current owners to close their operations, and bring them all into one area on DR Wijewardene Mawatha is a joke. Once you have 5 roaring Casinos, having another 25 even on the same street if the former draw the high rollers is only a matter of time and the money will not spread to the hinterlands and to the people who need it by way of taxes, but just shared amongst a few mega rich who will see their wealth increase by leaps and bounds. The Country will be known only for this. What a Gomorrah that will be! This is promoted by a few in power to enhance their power and wealth only!

Restricting it to foreigners, one locality, reducing tax concessions is not the answer, as that is just a smoke and mirrors game where our local wealthy already have foreign passports, and those who don’t will just walk in as they will be the VVIPs of Govt. Their black money will be laundered and their drug businesses will thrive. The prostitutes will be exclusively foreign high cost ones, who come to SL from Ukraine in plane loads to make money and take back home.

It is simply unnecessary as our efforts will also be concentrated in this business and not trying to correct our ills, protect our environment, find renewable energy resources, develop grassroots infrastructure, educate our people into a thinking culture from a slavish culture, and showcase our beautiful country to high paying tourists who value our product, a smart-set if you will, pristinely preserved from a turning into a tacky Pattaya, and discouraging sex tourism, and drug culture.

If locals want Gambling, Sex, Drugs or tacky tourism they are no more than a 4 hour flight from Colombo, why just duplicate that here? Please don’t allow it.               

Monday, October 21, 2013

So what should the Toll be for the Katunayake Expressway?

The Govt. , the Ministry or Transport , the RDA or some other body is now contemplating how much to charge. In my opinion it SHOULD NOT be based on the recovery of costs of the Expressway which grossly overran the initial cost estimates. The basis of Toll must be simple to encourage as many vehicles to use it, so it will greatly reduce the traffic on the already congested road that has little to do with Airport traffic.

In my opinion as the Expressway is a mere 23KM where as Galle is 100KM for which Rs440 is charged, and the use very minimal despite all the rhetoric in the papers about how much is collected. There should be just one toll irrespective of where the motorist gets on or off and it should be taken in one place for both directions at the point the expressway passes the new Outer Colombo Circular Road which is yet to come into operation. If traffic uses it before and gets off before the toll then they will NOT be subject to a toll on both directions and that is fair. Why should there be toll gates everywhere, it is just a nuisance.

I know we believe that a toll at the entrance and exit will prevent unauthorized vehicles entering the expressway, but that can be done by just a posted officer at the entrance to prevent those not permitted. In this way there will be no tickets issued just the standard payment, which can be collected by a machine and in future by electronic means by use of windscreen tags where top ups can be made on line and NO cash passes hands, a safe and effective way to counter theft, and now universally used worldwide .

It must be remembered that Portugal got a new series of motorways, and because the toll charges are high, they are hardly used by the public, negating the whole point of the motorway, leaving it to be a desolate wasteland not being used, at a huge loss to the state.

I believe when one takes the time saved and time value of money the Toll should be Rs200 whatever the distance used and travelled, and this will ensure optimum income, as well as maximum benefit to the traveler. I believe all buses should be permitted on the Expressway bearing in mind they are sufficiently road worthy and be charged Rs 500, as well as for heavy lorries and 40ft containers. Let’s see what happens in reality.

Of course I will be intrigued by the rationalization of the RDA in determining their rates, which I am sure will be quite different to my explanation!                 

There was a time when the SL Blogosphere was thriving – now it looks like it has declined irrevocably! Any thoughts on the accuracy of that statement!

I had not been to the kottu website in a long time, and when I went there this weekend, I was shocked to notice how few blog entries there are bearing in mind that over 1500 blogs are syndicated there.

I know I have been busy with one thing or another lately, and have not had the time to blog. I presume it is the same for others. I am not put off if the hits are low, or the comments non-existent as I use my blogs to express my opinions, so that I may capture them someday to edit in some form of ebook or pamphlet broken into different subject matter.

I wonder if others have less to say, and are either not sufficiently opinionated to comment, or believe what they have to say will not elicit comment or they have just exhausted their opinions. For my part not having a TV to watch at home means that I do not have that distraction, which takes an average 5 to 6 hours of a person’s day to contend with.

One area I get busy with at home, is going through all the Sinhala and English daily newspapers, and pick out the articles of interest both personal and work related. In this context I have a huge file just on the CKDU. (Chronic Kidney Disease of Unknown Iteology)  I do not think I will have time to go through it to get to the bottom of the disease and suggest immediate action to reduce its prevalence before it really gets out of hand, which I am afraid if the current inaction is anything to rely on will be inevitable. It requires immediate and drastic action as it is now appearing in all parts of the country, not restricted just to the North Central Province. If anyone is interested to tackle the task, tell me.

Just in passing I would like to say that the authorities tested the water in the wells in Ratmale and Rotawewa, and mine is one of two wells that have passed the acid test or shall I say the arsenic and cadmium test! Hence two villages of about 2500 people come to my well to get their drinking water, and cart it in various receptacles on motor bikes, and hand tractor trailers back to their homes. Little did I know when I dug this well about 7 years ago that it would be a life-line for so many (see

Everyone has a different life and experiences, and when we share ours with others by way of blogs we get closer to each other, though we may never meet, and realize all our lives have goals and ambitions that we strive to achieve.                

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Energy as a commodity is being used for personal gain at the expense of the Country – It is time to draw up master-plan with sustainability in mind

The objective of any long term energy plan MUST be to supply power to the citizens and industry at reasonable rates, and for export oriented industry at rates at least as competitive with other countries with which we compete for a market. Sri Lanka’s electricity prices are unconscionably high. It affects both export industry and the tourist industry where the use of electricity is so high that paying competitive salaries to attract good staff is compromised due to it.  

Let us look at the recent issues to focus the mind!

1                   Lakvijaya or Norochcholai (coalfired) is getting back to production after a two month suspension for repairs and upgrading to 600MW from 300MW. This is the 25th breakdown since the expensive second hand old technology plant was imposed on us by China, at loans taken with exorbitant interest rates. It would best to buy it from a Chinese Company!
2                   The MOU for Sampur (coalfired) has just been signed with India, at a complete disadvantage to Sri Lanka for an eventual 1000MW plant, with the first phase expected to come on stream in 2018.
3                   With expectation that these two plants will require 2.5M Tonnes of Coal per annum, the cabinet this week discussed the need to secure uninterrupted supplies. One suggestion was to buy shares in two or three coal mines! Australia, Indonesia and China were countries where there were companies where strategic stakes could be acquired, especially now when coal prices were at relative historic lows!!!!
4                   The closure of Lakvijaya did not seriously impact power as the hydro reservoirs were full, saving the CEB about 50B, and with the increase in Electricity tariffs coming at the same time, both the lower consumption and sometimes 85% of renewable energy was the result with wind kicking in 5%. CEB was able to drawn down its liabilities substantially.
5                   The latest twist in the tail see link attached showing a conspiracy to purchase the equivalent of 450MW of power from small hydro projects is yet another scandal in the making where the consumer instead of being sold even cheaper power, will be taken for a ride.
6                   Please remember that the few windmills, (30 or so) can when there is wind produce 6% of the national requirement, and there are NO incentives to guarantee purchasing from them. It is an area that can reduce the cost of electricity generation substantially!
Given the above issues we must determine what are in the best interests of the Country. There will shortly be huge excess capacity of private sector thermal power plants, once the PPP agreements (private power purchase) expire. They are high cost due to the thermal power, but in future in a fracking world, oil prices are likely to drop substantially and can be bought for noting.

One must also estimate that in 25 years 50% of the motor vehicles will be hybrid, resulting in a huge decline in the need for fuel to power vehicles. Sri Lanka must also have a policy to attract such vehicles with duty concessions.

It must also be remembered that coal power stations are hugely polluting even if latest techniques are used, and can do irreparable damage to the environment. We have enough examples of such from overseas, and going into the Sampur project is an unmitigated disaster, as a renewable power source producing more than this could have been started with a lower investment, but with more spread out plants, with Wind and Solar being the remaining sources, as for all intents and purposes Hydro is maxed out, save for a few Mini and micro hydros.

All new building including homes should obtain energy certification, and so more energy saving, and renewable energy building systems can and should be encouraged with tax breaks. It is simple to send excess energy supplied back to the grid for payment, and that should be encouraged. It will be surprising how fast the energy usage from the grid will fall.

There is NO question that with an intelligent system of tax breaks and subsidies we in Sri Lanka can bring down the real cost of energy to consumers to 50% of the current rate, without incurring a subsidy from the state. The reason it has not is that the people who are currently running this sector put themselves first, without making the choices for the nation’s interest. There is too much money involved in swaying opinions of managers and politicians, who have right throughout made the worst decisions for the public.

Fortunately time has shown that there are more efficient Solar and Wind energy sources, and with a country and sea blessed with both we have an added advantage in being able to use the latest technology to our benefit. A sensible energy policy on terms outlines above, if started now can WITHOUT Sampur give us both the ability to reduce the cost of electricity, and produce 50% more of our current power within 5 years, with NO net cost to the Treasury. An integral part of this is the guarantee to householders that the National Grid will purchase all excess power from home solar or wind systems at the same rate.     

This pro-Canada diatribe by Sumanthiran MP is one of his worst offerings on the case – just smacks of ensuring Diaspora Funds for TNA or an invitation to reside there!!

I refer to the recent article by MA Sumanthiran MP in Colombo Telgraph of Saturday, Oct 19th 2013 link:      

Where he high fives Canada on all the actions they have taken on the Principles to which it adheres to using the reason for the PM not to visit SL and all other International Stances taken by Canada. He is completely misguided. The PM not coming to SL is a purely political internal issue within Canada to appease its very substantial and powerful pro TNA or if you will LTTE Diaspora, who are still smarting from the destruction of the LTTE to which it sent massive funds and to which it still openly collects funds. Please do not have any illusions about that fact.

Whilst I respect much of what Mr Sumanthiran has written in the past this is one of the most partisan writings, which I can only surmise is done for personal reasons, which will be only apparent later and so good luck to him for that.

If Canada did not have a Tamil Diaspora, Harper would be here in a shot to preach his gospel IN SRI LANKA, let there be NO DOUBT about that! Once here he can make his speeches about HR and opt not to permit SL to chair CHOGM for the next two years etc.

I am in no way doubting the abysmal record of the SL Govt. as I have been a vocal critic, but I believe it is mischievous to say the least to make a case for Canada, as being a state that is holier than thou, with a long record of siding with its neighbor the US on many matters, and guilty as sin as with the US about its historic mistreatment of its Native populations.

I am not faulting their rights to speak on this topic just because of a problem at home. SL has a right to speak on behalf of Palestinians despite treating both its native Veddhas rather patronizingly and poorly, or its inability to uphold the basic promises it has made, being signatories to International and Bi-lateral treaties. To make a virtue of Canada is altogether sucking up by a Sri Lankan citizen or has be forgotten that he is one. Is he attempting to legitimize Canadian residency by this?

We must fight our battles in Sri Lanka internally tooth and nail. When it looks like he has already admitted defeat and ready to pack his bags it does not bode well for us who are stuck fighting this dastardly kleptocratic regime from within!            

Saturday, October 19, 2013

The folly of trying to threaten the Uthayan Newspaper printed in Jaffna - just smoke and mirrors!!

The Uthayan newspaper printed in Jaffna is unabashedly a TNA newspaper, I believe owned by the brother of a TNA parliamentarian. They have a dedicated staff, who are willing to work under pressure, and little payment to give the Tamil speaking people a version of the news that is often diametrically opposed to the message the Govt. wishes to promote. An article on Saturday, 19th October 2013 UK Telegraph is one that illustrates their defiance. See link below

However more to the point,  I would like to go further and say, that at least a Tamil paper can be virulently anti SL Govt. of Mahinda Rajapakse, suffer the odd fire, and beating of a journalist, but is able to continue to be published, owing to the loyalty of its readership and benefactors. The Govt. dare not close it down, as there will be too much international pressure against it and uses it as an example of Media freedom, when the Journalists question that.

What I wish to say is that ironically due to the relative harmlessness of anti Govt. paper that caters to the Northern Tamils, who form a relatively small voter base, they are not as worried as they would be if a prominent Sinhala paper in the South of Sri Lanka took the same approach. The English speaking press also seems to permit criticism of the Govt. as it is the usual point made by Govt. when asked about press censorship, however like the Tamil paper, due to the relatively small readership of this the electoral affect on the Govt. is small.

So if one were to test true Press censorship it is only the large circulation Sinhala papers that the Govt. really cares about. After all the tiny papers like the weekly, Ravaya, Lanka and Janarala which are usually heavily critical of the Govt. have a very small readership and are tolerated just for the reason of showing to the world that we indeed have a Free Press.

For all intents and purposes the large circulation dailies and weeklies are either pro Govt or are balanced with muted criticism directed at a few areas that do not upset the proverbial “apple cart”. There is unquestionably heavy self-censorship practiced in SL as otherwise the very existence of the Newspaper can be in jeopardy, with NO international outfit with sufficient TEETH to protect it if they fall foul and face closure, destruction, or incarceration of all their notable writers and editors. It is difficult for International Journalists to get the truth from them.