Monday, February 26, 2018

The Brain Drain and Retention of our Talent within Sri Lanka

As I noted in my earlier blog entry, today, engaging a group of 10 intelligent University of Moratuwa, Faculty of Architecture, Department of Architecture, First and Second Year Students in a general discussion about their project and their intended profession, all detailed in the previous blog entry, I will concentrate on the final matter that I challenged them on, just before departing.

I made the direct charge that even these Sinhala Speaking Students, (I had my whole half hour discussion in Sinhala) would once they have qualified as Architects, very enthusiastic and intelligent males and females among them, that “50% would be living and working overseas in 5 years!”

They all, in UNISON refuted my charge, saying they will never leave. I said please remember what I told you today, in 5 years, and wonder why I made that charge.

I said, you will find that all your enthusiasm and hope you have displayed today, with me about your esteemed profession, where you WANT to make a difference in the lives of the people of Sri Lanka, to design and build, well -constructed, aesthetically pleasing, utilitarian buildings, using the best value for money materials for the purposes it is intended, and be mighty proud - you will instead find too many BARRIERS TO YOUR WISHES.

That is what will drive you outside these shores in frustration as the opportunities that open up for you as architects in other countries MAY be better and far too enticing, than available at home.

If you want that expectation or prediction NOT to be true, then it is up to you to change the system. You agreed that an attitude change is required in Sri Lanka today, well then it is up to you to make that change, as it is the Youth who can collectively demand that change from society. Not by bearing arms, but by persuasion of argument and force of numbers, all speaking with the same voice.

You have to be united on your purpose, and not allow your detractors to divide you in your goal. You can then succeed beyond all our expectation and we may not be alive to see that happen, as we are on our way out, while you are just getting yourself firmly set in your foundation.

Take the challenge, don’t just agitate for useless demands put on you by others who don’t represent you. Make your own demand for change, you will win!


University of Moratuwa – Faculty of Architecture, Students – Discussion

On Sunday February 25th, I engaged a group of, up to 10 students, most likely from the first year or second year, who are enrolled at the University of Moratuwa, Faculty of Architecture at their exhibit at the Architect 2018 Exhibition at the BMICH.

Firstly, I was drawn to discussion, seeing the Roll Buds from rolls of paper, like the ones we have of newsprint reels and similar paper used in our Web Offset Machine. Apparently it served no purpose, and only decorative to which I took umbrage to and alleged they were misleading the visitor into believing it could be used in their design and build! That started the very animated discussion with all the students chiming in with me the only one on the other side, as their male equivalent of an ingénue!

So I gave as good as I got. I said that in my opinion, an Architect is just a go between, a Civil Engineer who constructs with the aid of Quantity Surveyor, and a Designer, who provides creativity, and they are trying to be both, as an intermediary, raking off , or creaming money at the top! That got them riled up as they felt they were more than that, real creators of lasting, user friendly attractive buildings!

They I said that I thought many buildings that have come up recently are ugly, to which their retort was that it was NOT built by architects, but by people who had no clue on how a proper building should be constructed.

At this point, I did FORGET to mention my pet peeve (in the heat of the argument) that I felt their Institute mandating a certain fixed percentage fee was their undoing there. Namely that the customer does not believe they provide value for money in charging this fee on the value of the Construction.

So my pet peeve goes like this. If it is a charge on the value of the building, the Architect WILL NOT take cognizance of value for money in construction, trying effectively to make the project as costly as possible as their fees depend on it. Second issue, is that the work to build a Rs10M or Rs100M building is similar, however one project will yield an architect 10 times the FEE of the other. That too implies that Architects will NOT go for small projects as they are not worth his while. So the small man, counting his pennies will NOT use the services of an architect to build a desirably aesthetic building, which he would have liked, but for the 7.5% fee! Additionally, they will not use the most cost effective materials that could save 35% of the Construction Cost!

We then discussed holistic issues of building for lasting, and lifetime or more not lasting more than its expected useful life, but with the lifestyle in mind. So I said they must use their imagination, to further enhance the experience of the user of the building, something even the user may not specify in his original brief, but which is the duty of the architect to ADD to the project, his stamp of added value, comfort and satisfaction.

In order to explain what I meant, I explained that I built my home in Ratmale with NO help from an architect and just the bass in the village. However I designed my own fired brick 8X8X4, 5kg brick that had to be fired more as the basis on which the whole building rested especially the roof and structure. In addition, with no electricity, it was important that there was airflow to allow me comfort especially at night to get a good night’s sleep, and not have to put up with heat and humidity. That too I was able to achieve by the directional placing of the verandah I sleep in and the cross ventilation resulting, partly due to the elevated position, of 4 ft above the ground, which if it was at ground level WILL NOT result in such a comfortable air flow!

My point, was had I employed an architect, he would not have placed AS MUCH importance on that point, which I had did as the final user of the property as my home. Now I go onto the next point, where I accused Architects of inflexibility, especially to their client’s needs, though they pay LIP SERVICE but do not deliver, so the client finally after having paid the bill is NOT satisfied with the end product, but agreed only due to the Architect’s over persuasive insistence that they know best!

I then used the fact that I lived by the Ocean for so many years and am only painfully aware of the number of issues in living close to the sea, especially in maintenance of the property, and the way it is built has a huge impact on maintenance, and architects, compromise aesthetics, for practicality in this instance, as they want to make a show stopper that is totally impractical and will cost the client afterwards in keeping to that style the architect created!

On a related note, I said that different raw materials need to be used, depending on the environment with the Sea being the best example, and with the corrosion close to the ocean, often iron and steel corrodes from the inside, unseen and will only emerge many years after the fact! So it is wise and critical that non corrosive and anti corrosive precautions are taken in this building process, and some consideration made to using cheaper toilet fittings as they may have to be changed every two years due to corrosion no matter how expensive the item is, where the availability of spare parts, outweighs the use of a new style!

I then tackled the fact that so many buildings are presently undergoing major renovation, due to poor architectural design. Be they leaks due to excessive rain, that was not taken account of in Construction and Design, or structural weaknesses or later I saw that the new British High Commission had its open top and glass roof undergoing major repairs due to OBVIOUS PROBLEMS in design and construction by Prestigious Architects.

This resulted in my contention to my niece who is an architecture student, that she write a book on all architectural failures in Sri Lanka, giving reasons for that failure, and that could be used as a TEXT BOOK for the students to know what can and does go wrong, so they don’t make the same mistake in their future work.

There is NO alternative for experience, and these students can only learn from others experience as they cannot wait for them to get the experience. So it is vital that their courses show as many failures as possible with reasons why they are failures so they learn from past mistakes not to make the same mistake again.

I did not say this, but should add that we must learn from our past, our building materials, styles, rationale for their design, in order to BETTER today’s equivalent, be it a house, a hall, an office or a public building, using the reference of the past, as many wish to emulate past angles, concepts and design into their modern equivalents, as we have seen time and time again, to have something unique to Sri Lanka.

I then pointed out to follies of our people, who build homes that are far too large and then leave the foundation for houses 5 times bigger than what they can afford and they then live their lives in one fifth that is complete, dying with the 4/5 still unfinished, because they thought bigger was better, and ONE day they would find the funds to complete. This is an eyesore in every village, full of unfinished houses, UNIQUE again to Sri Lanka and it is their duty to persuade homeowners to be rational and reasonable in size they wish. The future would dictate smaller homes, with smaller families and easier to clean and tidy and maintain being at the top of the agenda, with the Architect being cognizant of that fact too, and not overly indulge in flair and folly, landing the owner with a noose to deal with, repairs, repainting, constant and costly maintenance, and otherwise called a ROYAL PAIN in the rear to live with.

I also made the point that I was painfully aware that every village has empty houses, due to the move from rural to urban, but the Government persists for political reasons to give land in the forest and build houses, to keep people in areas without jobs, when what they should be doing was to buy out the people who have moved for employment, so they can actually buy a property where the job is, rather than renting there when they have a good house in the village, which they cannot use! This then solves the lack of housing in rural areas without building, and they can build urban housing complexes to house these families who have emigrated from villages to towns in search of better employment opportunities. I said urban and town planning was a critical factor here, to ensure that ALL aspects are thought out, like homes, shops, schools, hospitals, work places and transport, NOT ad hoc measure to take account of each piecemeal.

By now a crowd had gathered to listen to the Banter, and they were amused listening to this rather animated discussion.

It was nice that our youth were so defensive of their chosen profession, and mind you this whole discussion was in Sinhala. Then they came up with the real JONAH in the woodwork, which was POLITICAL INTERFERENCE in their work, and in quality raw materials, where poor quality and demand that certain suppliers be used, so these politicians can make their cut from these contracts, that in the end REFLECT badly on the Architect’s own performance as the products finally used were NOT what was specified and the Architect, removes himself from any responsibility thereon.

I said you cannot blame politicians just to absolve you from your duties and responsibilities. I then contended that we in SL build to last a thousand years, with the level of input and strength and then break the building down in 10 because of a myriad of reasons, the main one being they want the expensive land to build an even bigger and higher building and are willing to sacrifice the previous structure in that desire.

I then said that in Japan they build for 20 years and why can’t we do the same, for which they said it was a rich country and can afford, while we are poor and cannot, but that is a fallacy there itself, as we should never build for more than 50 years as so many factors result in the need to tear the structure down, or AT LEAST build it so that it can be removed and reused, or rebuilt using the same materials, so the construction is on a replaceable and removable concept, that the students are NOT taught to do in this MOST IMPORTANT aspect of reuse, and recycle world we live in where all cars now built are expected to have all their parts recycled, and NOT wasted.

Finally I was shown a mock model of a Pola for Panadura, and it was pointed out to me that it had taken the recycling of food waste into account in the planning of it. However I contended that in future, it is important that people have easy access to that place by public transport in order to buy and take home. That needs special service, sometimes people cannot carry all their stuff and go from shop to shop and need to have a some means of storing temporarily for a charge, before taking all their purchases in a bus, cab, three wheeler or car!

They must visit the Pola to look at the refuse and cleanliness, which are the main concerns of hygiene we tend to overlook in our designs as fish needs to be washed out on special surfaces that don’t allow for bacteria to settle and spread to new stock the next day!

My last point was that they MUST think of how they build the new Capital City for Sri Lanka as I contended that within 25 years we must have one fully built!

I told them I am now working on the concept paper for the new Capital City to be most unique in the world, and they should use their imagination to develop one using the expected technology improvements of the future, in order to have a sustainable and efficient Capital that serves the needs of the public as well as the needs of the workers to work productively using all new technology to be energy efficient, transport efficient, access efficient and visually comfortable to enjoy their work, with my contention being today’s Government Servants HATE THEIR WORK!

So I laid into my plan of design on 3 towers, each 50 floors high that will have ALL ministries and all Centralized services in one place. The access there will ONLY be on a loop train, where there are 3 entry stations in three smart towns where people get in from and 3 exit points near the lift of each of the three towers that people exit to get to their offices, within 20 minutes of leaving their homes! A novel concept in a country when the average Government Servant spends 5 hours commuting and at most working JUST 3 Hours if we the public are lucky!

I said my location I had picked was on top of the Flood Plaines National Park, by the Mahaveli at Manampitiya with the Elephants walking down below, while the workers are at work above, as the trains come to the higher level under which the animals lay undisturbed from any traffic and the Mahaweli will also be navigable from Trincomalee for major freight movements, and if necessary even passenger movements.

In conclusion it seemed to me that these students are highly intelligent and I added a dimension of creativity to their thinking they would otherwise NOT have had or be privy to. They may have thought I was from outer space when I said I live without electricity in the Old village, in a open house, with all doors and windows open in the forest, while the villages have moved to where the road and electricity are, living in Asbestos Sheeting closed homes, at oven temperature with no airflow even in windy conditions, having exchanged comfortable lifestyles, for uncomfortable ones, in the name of progress! I showed them how our attitude change is what is needed, and NOT just to blame politicians, who we have elected anyway, so even their WE ARE TO BLAME.

I appealed to their better judgment. Design, build, with comfort and satisfaction being the priority over looks, as that is merely in the eye of the beholder. So wished them all success and predicted half would leave the country in frustration, to which they SAID NO IN UNISON and I said MARK MY WORDS TODAY, all of you who are visionary, intelligent, and creative, you will find little encouragement at home, the frustration that builds will mean you will no doubt seek or be head hunted for jobs overseas, forsaking your motherland with your families for pastures new. 

You are the future, take control of your lives, let no one else dictate it for you, so you can comfortably and happily live in Sri Lanka, without having to go. Do what is necessary to assure you of that at least, only then will I have to eat my words to you today. 


Thank you Uncle, very nice talking to you was their unison reply!

Friday, February 23, 2018

We should remove/rescind ALL car permits, not extend it as was done yesterday

Knee-jerk reaction to the Government unpopularity is not to grant Government Servants who are eligible, a further increase in the value of the car permit. That is STUPID.

Who advised the brain dead leaders of this? You don’t do such a silly thing a few days after losing their vote. You are going to lose more votes, especially the private sector, who think this is FURTHER pandering to the class, which is most ineffective, and inefficient in our society.

The popular move that will be electorally popular in fact will be to remove all car permits from EVERYONE in our society, especially Members of Parliament. We have to begin with a level playing field, surely.

The New Inland Revenue Act gazette has SPECIFICALLY EXEMPTED THE PROCEEDS OF SELLING A CAR PERMIT from Taxation, giving a further super tax free income boost to an already pandered, unproductive, lazy, ineffective and in short the traitors to traitors in our society. This of course must include the members of the GMOA, who have to get a grip on themselves what they owe to society rather than what society owes them!

We do not have any hope as a country unless this simple process is begum immediately.

It is a no brainer as an electoral ploy too, as there is an overwhelming public anger today, about how the State Sector has let this nation down. They are undeserving of any further benefit, until corruption which is at the root of the problem is arrested. Those MPs who are of the cynical mindset that giving them a car permit will reduce their propensity to be bribed must be dreaming in Technicolor.

I had a meeting with a group of highly regarded professionals and their consensus was this break with tradition will win immediate praise from the majority of the people.

The decision made so hastily yesterday to further pander to the very segment who one thinks can be bought to you side, when in fact they can never be bought. IN any case they will forget who even gave this benefit, when it come the time to cast their vote. So I can only believe this is a further attempt to give benefit to friends and family, meaning personal interest, over the public interest.

As long as the public servants are the reason for the level of corruption of our society and they all collectively decide to make a sacrifice on behalf of the nation, under threat or not, there is no hope for a considerable improvement to the quality of life of the people who live here, the primary aim of this blog!

We now have to fight the traitors on all fronts, as they don't even acknowledge treachery. We have to educate the public to this grave threat from the very people who are throwing stones at a glass house.

Thursday, February 22, 2018

The decision is ours to make, move ahead or retreat going backwards!

“The world has moved on. This is typical stone age thinking, (the fact that people could be aroused and therefore vote for on this divisive agenda, by a campaign whose purpose was to blame this government for appeasing the minorities and thereby allowing the country to be divided, with Federalism being the pre-cursor to this plan) that can work only if we build a wall around and prevent anyone entering or leaving this country. (This divisive agenda worked beautifully because the voter bought it hook line and sinker)

All progressive people will leave this country leaving only this island mentality behind to wallow in self-pity. Sadly this belief is held by many, as it is the ruse used to deceive by the devious to gain or hold on to political power.

Let's introduce gene testing finally put to rest this canard. We are all mixed. There is no exclusive race, belief, language. They are all creations to belong and be exploited by a few. We are still enslaved by false beliefs of race, religion and language. It is a state of mind we need to be free of. Only those free from such shackles truly belong to the human race. Only those freed can truly understand my logic.

Only they know how satisfying it is to live unchained. Put it another way until you are released from chains you don't know what it feels to be unchained!

It is time we change our political culture to follow a policy for the future survival of ALL who wish to live in this island, not for a party, or a particular segment with an agenda. That is the ONLY way to unite everyone in SL. Most commenters in VOC have missed this foundation for the future.

This morning I wrote this passage above on the VOC (Voice of Change) page on FB to a statement that was trying to explain why it was that the people of SL despite knowing the background of the cast of characters represented by the BUD (pohottuwa) still decided to vote for them no matter what, no matter who was actually going to be voted into their own ward as their representative, good or bad, without even knowing who he or she was, or who they were voting for! It was a mere sign they were voting for. Unless there is an attitude change brought about by progressive forces for Change, with the interests of the Country as a whole at heart and put aside petty differences, for the greater good, we can never get to the objective that we genuinely are striving for.

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

The Police must first recognize the Laws and Rules, before subjecting the public to the same!

I sent my driver to Kurunegala to retrieve his driver’s license after paying the requisite fine for his mistake when crossing a single line on our way to Trincomalee last week.

We refused to bribe the Police Officer, and instead agreed fault, though in truth the Traffic Police were not on the road and jumped from a hidden spot inside a boutique or kade to apprehend the vehicle and a bus that was behind. Of course the Bus was not prosecuted as the driver immediately produced the bribe of Rs500 as is normal for them in these circumstances and were sent on their way and my driver was given the third degree and given a note to pay at the Post Office before retrieving the license at the Kurunegala Police Station to which the apprehending Traffic Police belonged.

So when he did the needful and went to retrieve his driving license the Traffic Police Officer HAD NOT surrendered his license to the POLICE STATION within 24 hours as he SHOULD, but still had it in his presence, a full 12 days after the incident! That ALONE SHOULD BE GROUNDS TO INTERDICT or at least suspend the officer for misconduct.

So my driver had to wait all day in Kurunegala, and had the Station inform the Officer that he had to surrender the license and he had to wait till he started duty at night, wasting a whole day of an employee of a private sector concern that provides a lot of taxation to the Government for them to spend on law enforcement like the Police Force!

The OIC traffic or at least the OIC (officer in charge of the Kurunegala Police Station) should have at least given a note to my driver and apologized that the license had NOT been given to the Station as per the rules, and told him that he will instruct the Officer to come to the Company to hand over the license forthwith in his own time, where he will have to take leave and spend his own money to do the needful.

BUT NO, that not how the Police work in Sri Lanka, they protect their own, even if they break the law. They merely asked him to wait for the man to swan in, in his own sweet time to begin his shift to have the license returned!

How can we the general public have respect for the law when they behave in such a condescending or worse cowardly, uncivilized way towards the people they are supposed to serve? It is not just disgusting, but a complaint to the Police Commission about this behavior will not result in correction, merely backlash and revenge by the law breaking Cop instead! SHAMEFUL~

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Are we dealing with APOPLEXY or a false sense of Nationalism in this latest Social Media Hysteria - the meaning of "Repect!"

Brigadier Priyanka Fernando’s conduct not in keeping with his position as an officer and a gentleman, resulted in his suspension from his position as the Defence Attache at the UK High Commission in London.

Unfortunately for the majority of Sri Lankans, this is seen as a heroic act of defiance by a Hero, at wonton aggression, and FB is full of “Respect” for his action. Obviously the jokers on FB won’t understand or cannot understand that it is this sort of action that has put Sri Lanka in harm’s way internationally, and has resulted in our Valiant Security Forces being put through the meat grinder of International Public Opinion. Of course Island mentalities don’t care about opinion of others, only about their own inflated self importance of being part of a herd of donkeys!

He is a unashamed traitor, for showing his hand slicing the neck, in defiance, which meant that the regular LTTE sympathizers who loiter in front of the High Commission on Independence Day, actually won this tussle for Public Opinion, which is what this charade is, as an annual event. Surely if we ignore their demonstrations it will surely die a natural death, as it simply will go unannounced. TILL NOW and Priyanka’s sheer stupidity, against all rules!

We must understand that this stupid act by a serving officer, will result in a more vociferous demonstration by the fools backing a lost cause (LTTE ambitions in Sri Lanka for a separate state) who cannot bear the idea of Sri Lanka being a United Nation!

If you cannot think of anything more pathetic on the part of a soldier who is trained, or at least if he is our Defence Attache, who should be trained on restraint which a hallmark of diplomacy, who has let down the whole Armed Forces by this act, then we have a shameful population who don’t even deserve the right to Democracy, as they cannot understand right from wrong.

When an act of treachery is assumed as an act of heroism, and is treated as such on social media, further enhancing the Brand Mahinda, which is why we are in this mess with the rest of the world in the first place, where is the future for Sri Lanka?

Not taking anything away from winning the war, Mahinda has DONE NOTHING to win the peace, when he had every opportunity to do so the day after the victory, without indulging in theatrics. (kissing the soil on arrival when he was really out of the Country when the war was won!)

Just think where we would have been nearly 10 years on from winning the war? Instead we are still in this Island mentality, of soldiers being protected, no matter what they do, and demanding their release, when offences are subject to legal processes, are the basis on which the polls campaign is being run by the Mahinda Faction in order to break the law.(lawyers please note)
Brigadier Priyanka Fernando, instead of being ashamed by his ill thought out action, is basking in ill-fated glory, by his countrymen’s false sense of values, further justifying the pariah treatment meted to Sri Lanka as a whole, very unfairly, but due to a few soldiers’ actions continue to derail the peace process and international recognition the war is now done and dusted.

I am simply ashamed that many people, I know, continue to praise him and many are seeking election to office on Saturday, with this social media share! Are they ignorant? Then they are not fit for office, sharing what they don’t know! Or are they racist? Then they are not fit for the office they seek, or are they of the belief that what he did is right? Then they are still not fit for office, as they are representatives of the people who should be leaders and show leadership quality and not be BAITED BY IGNORANCE!

One so baited, is no different to the loser who is doing the baiting (LTTE)

A clear case of a traitor being tagged a hero by an ignorant public, following the herd, like a donkey, which makes the Brigadier and all those who support his action donkeys, and as you know you are a donkey, because of your inability to identify right from wrong, making you a traitor in this particular instance, as you are harming our gallant Armed Forces in their duty to protect our country, instead of supporting them.

This goes to the heart of our education system, which does not permit, or encourage thinking and evaluation of issues, but merely believes in what others say. Even the Lord Buddha will abhor this social media spread of this misinformed sense of gallantry (or following the herd). He has always said, think before you act, rationalize before you say anything, and do what you have to, purposely and with regard to the consequences of your actions.

In fact this goes to the heart of our very existence, where we must always have a sense of purpose in life and goal we are striving to achieve, irrespective of negative thoughts and actions of others, We have to stand above gallery and educate this gallery on ethics, behavior and even simply what is good and bad, right and wrong, as that is the basis of life itself.

A society self-destructs if they carry on this notion of doing the wrong thing which is lauded by the gallery. It has no future, and in Sri Lanka we must arrest this path of self-destruction, and move in the path of belief in ourselves, our values and our uniqueness of a nation of peoples, whose genes are from a polyglot of cultures, where there is simply ‘NO PURE bred’ anything, and so this idea of religion and race which are merely meant to divide, as they are only recent, should not take away from the fabric of being a civilized society.