Friday, January 16, 2015

“Poetic Justice” in its true sense

Just a tad less than 4 years ago I was felled by the jeep carrying the security detail in the vehicle convoy of the Minister of Justice, in Minneriya just outside the Eastern Command HQ. My life as a farmer in the Polonnaruwa District, with a unique distinction of (not happened before or since in Sri Lanka) growing food in the Dry Zone and the Wet Zone and personally transporting and delivering to my customer base in Colombo of over 70 different food items on a weekly basis, came to an end!

See both and for details of these experiences.

In a few hours from now my boss, will take over his tasks at the Ministry of Defence as the new State Minister of Defence of Sri Lanka. I have, after the accident and recovery (still recovering) been working with Mr Ruwan Wijewardene MP as his coordinating secretary and as yet, I have not been offered or taken any position within the Ministry which he is just about to take charge of.

He has a very heavy duty in carrying out his tasks in a place that has during the last regime been accused of a myriad of sins, and in entering this hornet’s nest, one will have to tread with care in order to fulfill the expectations of the Nation that we have been entrusted in cleaning up the whole functioning of Government.

If called upon to assist, I will do my utmost to carry out the required duties to the best of my ability.

We have been presented with a very responsible task, and I am sure despite his youth and lack of experience, the Minister has what it takes in temperament, strength of character and personality to fulfill the duties entrusted.

There can be NO other person in Government today, who commands the full confidence of the main players in this drama, mainly the President, the Prime Minister, the former President CBK, and other party leaders all at the same time.

Let it be an example to others that anything can happen, and it has happened in Sri Lanka, where the unthinkable just a few months ago, has actually happened, and we trust for the benefit of our motherland. I wish to reiterate and remind the readers of my blog of the original objectives and intentions within it, which was to present ideas and suggestions for the improvement of the quality of life of those who live in this Country, and I have NOT merely restricted it to words, but to deeds as well!

Monday, January 12, 2015

Now who is on for the Governor of the Central Bank? Time to de politicize

I know there are a few jokers jockeying for the position of Governor of the CB, if only because Nivard Cabral held sway for so long since July 2006 till his abrupt resignation without being answerable to the new administration for the sins of the old.

Get a grip. President Sirisena would do well NOT to appoint a political person, as this is initially for an interim period till the next general election in May, 2015, so I would recommend an interim appointment of a person who knows the CB inside out, for a period of 6 months and a Political appointee thereafter after a transition period of learning of about two months.

The CB Governor is an important position, and should NOT be a part of the inner circle of govt. but should be merely an advisory role for Govt. where they ask him for his advice on some policy decision that the Govt. intends to adopt so he can minimize risk to the economy of that decision.

The obvious choice of the interim would be the biggest critic of Cabraal, namely WA Wijewardena, and if that is too explosive an ex CB hand Dr Karunatilleke who is a safe pair of hands at the helm and well respected within the bank.

Let me reiterate that this is temporary, to shore up the confidence of the people within the Bank who have been politically ostracized for not toeing the line with Cabral and who need to be rehabilitated back into the mainstream within the bank.

ONLY an insider can do this task and NOT an outsider who will not be familiar with the workings of the institution. IT IS VV IMPORTANT to get the corrupted CB back on track, and some of the sins of the Cabral era will be exposed at this time too.

Let us hope our new leaders are intelligent enough to understand these basics, without jumping like a bull in a China Shop to make hasty decisions on this matter, especially as we await a very important election to strengthen the checks and balances put in place for a smooth running of the economy in a transparent and open manner, with full knowledge of the stakeholders and NOT the secrecy, and insider information they have been able to impart to the big Political players to make fortunes at the expense of the people and the hapless EPF that has also been looted as a result.

Corruption in selling banking licenses and future interest rate cuts being notified have been very corrosive in the past administration and should stop now.       

Sunday, January 11, 2015

November 21st 2014 to January 9th 2015 – What a transformation in 50 days!!!

The Event that few predicted would happen did in fact happen and the rest as they say is History  
Much has been written in the past few says since 7am on Friday 9th January, when Mahinda Rajapakse conceded, and left Temple Trees. I am merely adding to this in my own personal way, how I saw the whole campaign unfolding.

When the Newspapers on the 18th November 2014 displayed the 250 color pages of paid advertising wishing the President on his birthday, that would have cost the Government of Sri Lanka Rs125M, as I don’t think any of them were paid with money earned by anyone! I realized that this unnatural act would result in something big, and I did not know what it might be at the time.

Immediately thereafter, when the President signed into law his intention to seek an unprecedented 3rd term, as expected, this mythical word called “the common opposition candidate” was who we were waiting for! Every name under the sun was bandied about, except the eventual candidate. It also showed how people viewed the abilities of their proposed candidates, and on reflection, I don’t believe anyone of them would have been able to deliver, as their negatives, all exceeded that of the eventual candidate.

I was not privy to who and how he was chosen, and eventually the real story will come out, as currently only dribs and drabs of those who wish to claim credit have been put as a matter of record. On the morning of the announcement, I had a call from my contacts in Polonnaruwa asking if it was true that Maithripala Sirisena was the candidate, and I, though I was aware said I did not know, especially as he was a died in the wool UNPer who said that if he was, then he would NOT work for the campaign, especially as under his leadership in Polonnaruwa the UNPers had suffered much harassment and discrimination in all areas of life. I can also vouch for that as I, from Minneriya and Hingurakgoda, where I used to farm, had to contend with much of the results of this suffering, of jobs not being given due to affiliations, and samurdhi benefits being denied for political revenge, and such like.

The two photos that I have included in this blog entry were taken when Maithripala Sirisena came to the New Town Hall on Friday, 21st November around 3.30pm, before he went into the Hall, to announce his candidature in the presence of Ex-President Chandrika Kumaratunga and a whole host of crossovers that afternoon.

I know many people will say that what happened after that is as they say is history, and I will elaborate some of the significant developments in the interim, with personal anecdotes.
We were eagerly expecting the 22 crossovers soon thereafter and that did not happen, and I heard many people grousing, why he was permitted to be the candidate, when he was not able to bring whom he had promised!

Then at the Christmas Party of one of the most prominent Businessmen in Sri Lanka, on the 5th, where even the current PM, Mr Ranil Wickremasinghe was a guest there was grave doubts about pulling this off. I had to assure the guests we could do so!

Then as the campaign got into full swing, we heard of the organizational chaos of the campaign HQ. Whilst this was not so at Sirikotha, it was an even bigger problem for us, where we just did not have the funds, to carry out even a percentage of the work we wanted to carry out, as the Party was just not given the funds by anyone, as I presume the big boys did not think we could win, and other expenses given priority.

Our part of the campaign had to be done on a shoestring, and we had to rely on the dedication of many of the young people who came to work with us. I was able to get a limited number of posters and campaign literature printed under the patronage of my boss, and so we had to be very careful in their delivery. I gather even the money that the Organizers of the UNP received were little and at the last moment, and not all received their allocations. Some were not able to get organized by that time.

CBK on the other hand had received a large chunk of change from a benefactor, which she used, like father Christmas to both buy loyalty and dole out for campaign expenses, though she did not have the organization we had, and therefore money was not used in my opinion productively. We could have done 10 times more productive work for the Rupee in that sense!!!

I was glad that the Candidate said that he would not try to compete with the President on cutouts, and the President had looted enough funds to run a very expensive campaign where even with the full use of the state resources, he was able to dole out money willy nilly for ads, posters, cut outs decorations and campaign offices (empty) at all corners, breaking all election rules, and use intimidatory tactics.

It is therefore under all these incredible odds, that we pulled this off. As the Independent Elections Observers report pointed out, the whole weight of Govt. infrastructure was used by MR, and despite the odds and a record turnout (81.5%) which could favor him as much as us, has given a firm indication of the people’s mandate for Change. I am getting a lot of calls now, from people who have not called all this time! Where were they when we needed their help desperately, and we had no one who would help us even with the chump change?           

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Finally let us wish all Raputins are finally laid to rest – Astrology in Politics!

I have been approached by some significant Astrologers to request publication of their analyses of and predictions for the Presidential Election to counter the President’s astrologer’s influence on this subject in the local press.

It was apparent that there are opposite points of view of astrologers, and if this is a science then it is simply based in falsity, and if it is an art it is merely just a work of ART fiction, and figments of our imaginations in believing what we do. In a country obsessed with horoscopes especially in choosing one’s life partners, which have NOT shown any consistency in predicting marital bliss, what hope MUST a country have with astrologers predicting the Country’s outcome, as well as significant milestones such as elections, which obviously affect the destiny of the Nation and with that its People.

The New York Times article today is just about the fate of Sumanadasa Abeygunewardena, the President’s astrologer who has held sway over the timing of national events affecting all 20M who live here.

It is a lesson again for us NOT to be dependent on astrologers in how we live our lives, and in my experience it is a significant barrier to a fruitful and fulfilling and therefore satisfying life!!!!!

I hope the lessons we learn from this episode will be a defining moment over the reliance of astrology over events, and put a permanent damper in making predictions based on our favorite soothsayers’ interpretations.

I always tell people who are obsessed by this, that we as a country have NOT been any more successful than those that DO NOT for a moment use the influence of the STARS to determine the future of a nation, its elections and timing of activity, or even for that matter the moment a particular event is opened, inaugurated by laying a foundation stone or lighting an oil lamp.

So once and for all, let us just use this Astrology as a play thing for amusement, blame when something bad happens! Just tell me when something good happens do we ever give credit to our stars that it was the right time for us? Answer that question and then you have the answer to our fears being managed not our rewards.   

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Now the wait to the finish line!! What is in store for the Country?

I must confess I am biased and I have been waiting eagerly for a change since 2009, when I felt that victory of President Rajapaksa was about the past and had nothing to do with the future. Events have proved my hypotheses, but then the Choice, was between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea, I don’t think a Sarath Fonseka administration would have been able to deliver, unless Sarath Fonseka himself had most of his Presidential powers clipped had he been elected.

It is a shame that the allure of victory, and in his inebriated state, he was unable to wean himself for all these years, that resulted in the abolition of the 17th, and replacing it with the 18th and then the arrogance of seeking re-election two years prematurely, only because he thought it was the only method for another 8 years, deserves to be clearly and unquestioningly and more important prevented forever!

In this very busy world with massive technological changes, it is actually quite unnecessary to be in charge of any Country, even at a much less level of power for over 8 years or two terms, and when the whole world sees that reality, when we have really have people who wish to re-write history, you know something is seriously wrong with their heads. No one wants people who have that disease to lead them.

The few who do can be excused for not having read history, and studied human kind and human nature, no matter what type of policy you wish to adopt. This is what explains how such a polyglot of humanity, with hardly anything else in common were able to rally behind ONE COMMON PRINCIPLE, and that it is unhealthy for one individual to contest an election for more than two terms. I personally hope they will go further and ensure each term does not exceed 4 years and if we reduce the Executive powers of a President, we could even restore Parliamentary democracy, where other than for the Presidential Elections, ALL OTHER elections are held on one day say every 5 years, for local govt. provincial councils, if they still exist, and to the National Parliament.

The waste of time and energy, that I have witnessed in the 20+ elections, we have had in the last 4 years, is simply unacceptable, as so much could have been done with that wasted resource.    

Whew in a few more days, people will be saying why it took so much time and waste of resources to wait till 8th January 2015 to make this change, and that we OWED our people this change long ago. At least be content with the phrase, better late than never, and better now than later, and make this change work for the Country. 

Monday, January 5, 2015

Education – Are mixed schools failing Boys?

The A level results that were published a few days ago, highlighted the fact that in Sri Lanka, the girls perform at a much better level than boys. Be that as it may, whether right or wrong, another fact that emerges is that boys from single sex schools perform better, as there are hardly any boys from mixed schools at the top rung.

Another statistic that psychologists would attest to, is that age for age girls are more mature than boys, and by this it would imply that girls are more able to concentrate on their studies, set themselves achievement targets, and as they are in general less sporty, are able to focus on their studies as compared with boys. These are of course highly subjective, but would nevertheless fortify the reasons for the unbalanced entry into Universities for most subjects by girls, where even the Agriculture Faculties of Universities comprise many more girls than boys.

Just to explain one other point on the latter statement, the education system boxes people depending on their results, and if people get into Agriculture as the highest Z score course of study, no matter that most of these girls do not show any aptitude for that subject, after graduation do not use it in any form, rendering this National Investment a waste of scarce resources.

There was an article in the internet today, on this subject, and I show the link below which reinforces my hypothesis, and Educationists in Sri Lanka should take this into account in re drafting the National Education Policy, which should concentrate on giving our youth an appropriate education to suit both the Country’s needs and the personal aptitudes and goals of the students.

The article however implies that up to the Grade 5 exam it does not matter what the gender is, and also if the classes are mixed. It is at adolescence that this becomes a problem, where hormones and maturity may collectively play its part.

Most Colombo schools are single sex, and most provincial schools are mixed, this may further aggravate the performance indicators of these schools, due the hypothesis above. The largest mixed school in Sri Lanka is Dharmapala Pannipitiya, with over 2,000 students. With increasing population shift to the Western Province and its resulting need for more classrooms, it is wise to consider the effects gender separation has on the education of the students there. 

Friday, January 2, 2015

3,500,000 Adult Sri Lankans live more than 50km from the house their vote is registered or call home.

They fall into the following categories and the numbers are approximate to a level of accuracy + or minus 20% due to inaccurate data available.

Approximately 500,000 Sri Lanka Passport Holders who live overseas DO NOT have their details in a Sri Lankan electoral register for whatever reason.

1,000,000 Sri Lanka Passport Holders who mainly work overseas, primarily in the Middle East, are registered to vote in their household in Sri Lanka as they have been entered by the Primary Householder on the register, with their ID number. (they will not vote as they reside abroad, and we currently don’t have a system to allow them a franchise in Sri Lanka.)

500,000 citizens who live in Sri Lanka are NOT registered anywhere, as they have not been included in their original household, by the householder, and they have been unable to register in their present home, some in rented accommodation, because it is impossible to get registered for the first time, without confirmation from the GN (grama niladari, of where they were previously registered,) that they are NO longer registered in that address!)

The balance 1,500,000 live away from their registered address, of which 500,000 have a postal vote as they have eligibility due to being Govt. servants on duty, and forces personnel. Of the remaining 1,000,000: 400,000 private sector workers go home at weekends to be with their families, and are most likely to go to their homes on Thursday 8th January to vote, taking a few more days off, subject to their employers permission as many in this category are domestic workers, drivers, security personnel in private homes and companies.

This leaves 600,000 people WHO cannot for economic reasons go home to vote!!!!

They include domestic help. Security staff who are on duty on election day, unable to go home to vote, garment and industrial workers who are boarded who despite in some cases getting a paid holiday to vote, are unable to spend the Rs1000+ to travel, some of whom who may take one day to go home and another to return, and therefore choose even to take it as a rest day, and catch up on much needed sleep.

Don’t forget Sunday the 4th of January is a Poya Holiday as well as Sunday, Monday is a Bank Holiday, due to Poya falling on Sunday, so if Thursday and Friday are also days when staff are not working in the private sector, firms will be reluctant to be generous to their staff for time off for voting!!! This is a very practical issue.

The special exercise of sampling their intentions, that was undertaken regarding this which I was informed of this morning, is that 75% of this 600,000 would vote for Maithripala Sirisena, meaning a net 300,000 vote loss to him as a result. The MS camp DO NOT have a plan to transport them to their home areas to vote, so you the reader come to your own conclusion about this population of eligible voters.

I hope this analysis gives the reader an indication of the effective lack of franchise, and points to the need to extend postal voting for a whole new category of private sector worker in Sri Lanka. I have previously in a blog entry discussed the issue of a vote for those who reside overseas, and will not include that issue here.

I welcome your comments, on how to tackle this problem, as I have already spoken to some contacts in the BOI zones of Biyagama and Katunayake who employ considerable number of workers from distant parts who are boarded near their work who WOULD NOT go home to vote as they cannot afford the expense! Even though their employers have agreed to give a paid day off. I have made this point to the employers that their staff vote will make a difference, but they are unwilling to subsidize the transport cost for that exercise.

Another startling fact that comes out of this is that the 1.6M eligible voters who WILL NOT make the trip home amounts to 12% of the registered voters. Their opinions can make a difference to the result in a Presidential Election.

It is therefore the duty of the legislators of Sri Lanka to enable as many citizens of Sri Lanka to exercise the Universal Franchise, and let us press our legislators that is their duty to do so at a future date.

Just like the technology has now eliminated the duplicate registering of voters as they are registered with a unique identity number, we can also enable one person one vote, no matter where they reside, and at least for all adults living in Sri Lanka no matter where they live. The marking of one’s finger when voting is sufficient to prevent a person voting more than once, and so let all vote at a Presidential, no matter where they are, just go to any polling station and show your ID and vote!!!

How about it? Opinions and comments are most welcome on this subject.