Thursday, May 31, 2018

A road less traveled is a road re-discovered

I just wonder if anyone on my friend list has traveled on a road that is in all maps, but has no signage and saves 80km at least if compared to travel on tarmac. I discovered it a few days ago, just by chance when I was looking for a way to get to a point, without having to go round.

There is an old road, used daily over 50 years ago, but not used at all now, through forest and fields and tanks, which I would recommend for a cycling trip or a ramble or rumble in the jungle, for those with adventure in mind.

Apart from traces of poachers, tree cutters, sand miners, there were no other signs of humanity along the way. I am sure it was a long time since anyone had even been on that road, as we had to cut fallen trees across the road, to find a way through.

So where is this, you may ask? It is a road from Aluthwewa, about 20km from my place in Ratmale that ends at Horowopathana, about 40km away. Just take a map and you will see it. Incongruously, it is at least a 20ft wide road, with well-built culverts, and must have been tarmac at some time in the past. This could form a day trip push cycle ride, through clean lungs of trees, and quiet winds blowing, with the chance of spotting a few animals and birds darting across if they so desire to show themselves to you.

I show in the pics some of the sights on the way on that road, I believe, most of it belonging to the Forest Department, but as always, they must be short of funds to protect our heritage, and forest cover, so they don’t seem to be able to patrol it at least once a month.

Now some of you will be mad at me for even pointing this gem of a road in the first place, saying let sleeping dinosaurs rest in peace and don’t disturb their tranquility by publicity.

On my way home at night I mentioned this to one of my neighbors, who said that 50 years ago, he and his friends regularly traversed this route on push cycles to go to Horowopothana and back for camping and fun as lads do, then and I suppose not anymore now, as great big SUVs have taken the thrill of clean air, and the great outdoors.

If you prefer to go only half way to begin with you can just go up to Dematawewa, where most of the photos were taken, just to enjoy a good bathe amongst beauty, in a place that possibly none of you have ever been to. There are still places left to explore, if you don’t fear the unknown.

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

An overhaul of the way in which our biodiversity is protected is the need of the hour

 – amalgamation and DE politicization, along with teeth to manage their affairs and be accountable to the Country for their actions.

Caliber of workforce @ DWC from top down

As is typical of public service, the staff in different grades follow established practices, that place no emphasis on background, aptitude, dedication, dependability. One therefore has staff on the same pay scales, but judged differently, do different tasks, and if their productivity was evaluated, have insurmountable gaps in their performance levels.

It is impossible to standardize, but in the private sector, many positions are earned from merit, and not from years of service, and so there are many routes to the top, and promising candidates can be fast tracked. It is almost impossible to do so in the Public Sector. As a result extremely competent people are lost in the woodwork, getting no recognition, or promotion, who have to bide their time, whereas incompetent boot lickers get to the top.

Then you have many who have been given jobs, through political connections who are really unsuitable for this type of work, and are in short, a burden to the department and there is presently, no means of eviscerating them from service.

Then you may have heard of the old adage, that all the parks are outside of the Western Province, but 25% of the workforce is in the Western Province, a wholly unacceptable situation, where the staff for example in the DWC head office in Battaramulla are no different in quality to any other staff in Govt. departments. That means, in plain language, they can’t tell an animal from a human, and both visitor and animal are treated worse than animals, and you can guess what that means.

It is therefore high time, that professionalism takes over this department and a sense of pride in their vocation is instilled. For that YOU MUST have a trained, professional and dedicated workforce. You cannot have this if the department (DWC) is politicized. It is actually easier to remove this department from the normal political machinations, as it is the Wildlife and Biodiversity of the Country that these staff are dedicated to protect. A new ETHOS can be established in a short period of time. With capable people being promoted and given responsibility, with a path to even Park Warden from the lowest laborer grade, a new empowerment can take place, without which the goals of establishing the guardians of our heritage cannot be met. Of course there has to be a public debate on the benefits, before it is implemented, to give rationale to.
This therefore quite obviously warrants a training establishment, with clear guidelines and teaching as well as continuous professional education to keep all abreast of the latest technology in protection and safeguarding of the species.

The interaction with Law Enforcement

Another significant problem faced by the DWC, is their interaction with the local police force. After all the poachers in villages have connections with the local police, and so when they are caught, prosecution is somewhat compromised, and there is no swift justice, and often the worst offenders know they can get away with warnings or some form of plea bargain. This is NOT good for prevention, and notice to the community that poaching, traps, and other forms, used by farmers and villagers to kill animals or maim them even in cases of intrusion into fields, will not be tolerated.

So different means like a special court should be established for this type of crime that does not get the local police involved. You will immediately notice a drop in poaching, when the habitual offenders realize the game is up, and it is not a proposition worth pursuing. Here too change can take place immediately.

The construction and maintenance of the Electric Fences

There are hundreds of kilometers of fencing in place at present. Many have been constructed very poorly, with the contractors, in league with some DWC high officials, who have effectively pocketed much of the allocated funds. It is not difficult to have the construction side of it managed and approved centrally to required standards.

The maintenance of fences have now been handed over to the CSD, which was established to protect villages during the conflict, and now they are used to clear the undergrowth on both sides of the fences periodically and maintain the fences and repair them when broken. Elephants are becoming increasingly clever in their ability to break fences, and this task is becoming an even more important issue locally in affected areas.

The fact that DWC staff have to oversea CSD staff in this maintenance function does create conflict, as the local village is also involved in the complaint, and so with three parties to the solution, there inevitably results in HUMAN HUMAN conflict that sometimes needs to be arbitrated owing to the numerous disputes.

Part of the problem that has been recognized is that many Elephant Corridors have been blocked by these fences and there are experts, who can be consulted in how and where to place fencing in order to minimize HEC, and it is shown that fencing the villages in and not fencing the elephants out works better, despite the apparent disagreement from villagers who wish to encroach.

Due to the Elephant Population living outside protected areas for the most part, the extra trained manpower is required to cover the increasing frequency of conflict. This justifies the training and the professionalism I have referred to earlier in establishing a training school prior to being assigned responsibilities.

The public at large are blissfully unaware of the scale of this need, as it is localized and the Media do not bring out the frequency of occurance. With limited resources allocated to the Department, it is difficult to step up the game.

Half of the places of Archeological Interest lie in protected areas

While I have mentioned the need for the Forest Department and DWC to work together or joined, instead of being part of two different ministries, it makes no sense that the Archeological sites are administered by a further Ministry, where this can also be amalgamated with the aforesaid two so that our heritage is preserved as well as our Biodiversity in one swell swoop. The officers of the DWC must understand Archeology and their preservation and this too will be built into the training curriculum, as they will then know how to identify, and protect these locations within the protected areas, from looters, treasure hunters, and desecrators. One can understand the need for the upgrade of this service.

There are 250,000 areas of archeological interest in Sri Lanka, which makes it the world’s highest concentration of such sites. The fact that 95% are not secure and open to raiding, is unimaginable and if resources are in short supply, de-mobbed forces personnel could be used, as this is a further employment opportunity for people in rural areas.

To begin with the Security Forces should establish a separate section for this task and then gradually over a few years move it out into the DWC as a security unit of the DWC. Later, amalgamate the CSD into it and have a security force that guards the property that come under their jurisdiction, allowing the trained staff to take care of the other responsibilities of all protected areas coming within their purview.

Resource Allocation to the DWC

It is increasingly evident that in order to do their job according to the law, the DWC should be allocated much more resources, from the money they earn from tourism that presently goes to the Treasury, from whom allocations come few and far between, and there is no method in the way it is distributed.

It is not just personnel that is in short supply, it is the equipment needed to carry out their duties. Be they vehicles, or drones. None of this is currently forthcoming as there is no clear understanding by self-serving politicians, who are not concerned with animals that don’t have a vote.

This then is a further reason to take politics out of this task, and like the Judiciary, call this act of protecting the Biodiversity of Sri Lanka, the Fifth Estate, that is given clout and independence to carry out their duties, and their independence can also come with a Revenue Raising Mandate, that is left for them to administer, as there are many such options that are not considered owing to a lack of direction and professionalism within the service at present.

Permission has to be granted from people who don’t know anything about the subject, even if toilets are required in the National Park Entrances. Tourist have NO facilities even to take cash from an ATM, or the convenience of paying by credit card, due to this public service mentality that is NOT conducive to a tourism oriented economic growth. Those who pay don’t have any say.

A properly managed SERVICE in the format explained here, will more than pay their own way in income that has yet to be tapped, due to the inability of the present system to work as a profit center. It is simply absurd for the DWC that earns so much for the Exchequer, that it is not given the opportunity to do more. They know how to balance over visitation and opening alternative locations, and not leave it to political whims, to maximize the tourism experience, that is currently being ruined by poor management and entanglement of local politicians in the smooth running of the DWC.

You only have to look to India, that is does a super job in managing their wildlife, for examples of this in action, and look at Costa Rica that puts top priority to enhance their Bio Diversity experience and product, as they know it is a WIN WIN proposition for the country overall. In the end, if it does not benefit the citizens of Sri Lanka there is no point in proceeding any further!

I have covered a whole myriad of points, that with the experience I have gleaned from observations across the Country, I know, can result in a better product, more safeguards for biodiversity, less friction amongst players and benefit this Country enormously. We have not even attempted the potential yet!


This is a working paper on the way forward, to bring some ideas into the debate so we can end up with a Biodiversity Masterplan for the future, the need today.

The bull in the china shop or the poacher given the gamekeeper's job - it does not matter - we have a problem

Thewarapperuma Factor Explained – there is a time and place for it

Palitha Thewrapperuma is a populist MP and now Deputy Minister in the Ministry of Sustainable Development and Wildlife.

There was a long time clamor amongst his supporters for him to obtain a ministerial post, as he was known to be sympathetic to the issues of the rural people, having a kinship of understanding for their needs. He was considered to be a down to earth person, who sometimes faulted the system that prevented the ordinary person from receiving his just dues from the state.

With this background, it was most unfortunate, instead of being made the deputy in the Samurdhi Ministry, where he will look into the cases of genuine need that have not had what was due to them, he was appointed to Wildlife.

It must be said, that it is quite clear that he has not understood, that contrary to his inclination, he has to take the side of the Wildlife and their protectors, the people working in the DWC, against his natural base, the rural villagers who are effectively living a hand to mouth existence, many as farmers, and others as day laborers. It has already come to a head, where he has taken the side of the people who have been attacked by wild animals, and their crops destroyed, against the Wild Animals, and as they cannot defend themselves, it is their keepers, the DWC who have incurred his wrath.

So I had said earlier that the poacher has turned game keeper, and his poaching instincts are still intact, taking their side against the gamekeepers who is duty bound from his position to defend.

This was starkly illustrated a few days ago, and the video clip from Hiru TV has gone viral, where he is seen to be reprimanding employees of the DWC, and then also talking to the DG of the DWC, Sooriyabandara on the phone castigating certain actions taken by his staff, threatening to sack them.

In cases of HEC, and trespassing into DWC land, cutting trees, there is a lot of protocol to be followed, as you cannot mete out summary justice, until the facts are known. The local villagers assumptions are usually wrong, and they are either bound to lie in defence of their actions, or they are ignorant of the law. So when a man confronts accusations of wrongdoing against the DWC, the deputy minister, true to form, forgetting what his present role is takes the populist side that he is used to from his prior practice and castigates the DWC.

He cannot help himself in his showmanship, with the video clip showing him travelling in a motorbike with no security to tackle a problem. It is all good TV viewing and entertainment but gives the wrong picture to the viewer. He achieves his objective that is to gain popularity of the masses, but he is simply not doing his job properly. He is the kind of person who cannot be told off either, as he will in turn accuse his accuser, on matters that are completely irrelevant but are manna to the gallery and the News hounds with their cameras waiting for the opportunity to find fault with anything this Government is doing. They even have a government minister providing them with the ammunition to shoot their own! Its all bizarre and theater if not for the fact that it is plain wrong.

It is not my time and place to tell someone like him that he is harming people he should be protecting. If he cannot understand that, then he really should resign and hand over his portfolio to someone else. The problem is that in the past 3 years 5 ministers and at least the same number of deputies have been playing musical chairs in that ministry, with the resulting lack of direction, consistency of policy and hiatus it has caused.

The Wildlife, without a vote, and a voice are suffering silence unable to make a case for their plight, seeing these poor excuses for humans making their life hell, and they are saying to themselves, we have been here long before humans, why are they out to get us?

Populist politics as it is in Sri Lanka, is all about giving the villager what he thinks he wants, whether it is right or wrong, as that is the only way to assure oneself of their vote. So even if the cause for the protest is wrong, they don’t take the side of the Wildlife. They are left high and dry, and their needs are incompatible with a poorly educated population that demands, their piece of the action with no regard for the environment as they don’t have time for such niceties in their struggle for daily survival.

We must understand that every stream and rive has the banks as reservations that cannot be built on, or be destroyed to protect the waterway, and the animal life that live along that along with the plant species are the property of the reservation, and so of the state, where the people have no rights, unless special permission is given to destroy within those areas.

With much farmland adjoining reservation land, as mine too does in Hingurakgoda, I am only too painfully aware of the problems from wildlife and the balancing act and battle we have to protect our crops, so it is not a theoretical exercise for me either. It is much patient listening, talking and ensuring peoples’ concerns are heard and the law explained to them. With more land allocated near such places, this problem is growing and not receding either.
We are destroying our biodiversity due to this process, and no one seems to care

Department of Wildlife Staff face severe pressure in performing their duties

I have already mentioned the attacks the staff face in previous blog entries, when they go to villages to resolve HEC (Human Elephant Conflict Issues) matters, as they are the people on the frontline that people blame when an elephant attacks, so I will not refer to that here.

The DWC is grossly under- resourced. To begin with it needs a school to take in School Leavers who have an aptitude, usually kids in rural areas, adjoining forests, who have grown amongst the forest and have seen wild life, cared for injured birds and animals, and in some cases as kids killed the odd turtle and eaten it. So let me remind the reader, the aptitude is important more than anything else, in assessing suitability and not political connection as at present.

AS AN ASIDE - Isn’t it ironic then that my friend Ananda, (known to one and all as Ali Ananada) who works as a day laborer on Rs750 a day, for the Kalawewa National Park Office, cannot be made permanent because he is too old, having 35 years of experience in knowing about the animals in that area, known to many wealthy wild life lovers, who he has taken to show Tuskers.

Three Cabinet Ministers have come and Gone already with the 4th now in place, namely the Field Marshall, and I have not been successful in convincing them to take him on in some capacity. He has a small kid to support and also he has given blood at least 100 times already to the hospitals at no charge!


I spend at least a few days each month in some National Park and I am aware of some of the problems. For example last weekend I was in Wilpattu, with the WNPS on a field trip and the Park Warden said that he could NOT spare even one Park Ranger for the group of 25 of us in 4 jeeps. They were out on various duties, ranging from organizing the assistance of the Civil Defence/Security Force in repairing broken electric fences, helping with catching poachers encroaching on National Park land, going to Court to testify in cases against people arrested poaching or with game. Helping with catching elephants that have attacked villages for re-location etc.

They also go on the trains at night with the driver to spot elephants on the track and to make sure the train is going at a speed that can brake in case of wild animals ahead. Some work very long hours, have little rest and with night patrols are always in dangers way, not sure of poachers traps that can kill.

Just think about it, unlike other Public Servants, they are in dangers way all the time they are working. Even as a park ranger, they have the lives of the tourists in their hands, when faced with a tricky situation of a charging elephants etc.

Put simply they are grossly understaffed. An additional carder of 10,000 is need
Training School

In my humble opinion, it takes a minimum of a year to train a person fully, that is one who has the aptitude, in being a Park Ranger, bearing in mind the type of work he is required to perform. To think there is no such place when we train people at Universities and send them to do jobs that don’t use one ounce of the knowledge they have gained, is an example of mis-allocation of scarce resources by the State. So it is not that this Country does not have the resources at its disposal, and I am sure a fully funded Training College can be obtained from a Country like Japan, if they knew it was spent wisely and not wasted.

It is from this carder that we can grow the true “Protectors of the Forest” Staff to work in all Lands that come under the Forest Department and DWC and other Reservations that require skills in protecting the biodiversity to which they are the guardians appointed by us, as an insurance for the Country’s future survival.

As part of this program, they will have to go out into the villages and speak at primary schools and pre-schools to children to get them involved in the process of species protection, something that is not currently performed.

There is NO risk premium in their pay scales, so when they compare their jobs and tasks with other government servants, especially security provided to the Ministers who come to berate them from time to time, they become disillusioned with their status. A policeman makes more, without corruption.

The added benefit of employing rural kids, who live in rural areas, is not measurable. I know due to familiarity and procedure, the staff is regularly rotated from place to place, meaning they have to be away from their families for most of their working life, as they cannot move house each time he or she is posted somewhere, and that is an issue, that has to be resolved in the aptitude stage, for it not to be an issue later on. They will not ask for Colombo transfers!

In Sri Lanka there is a noticeable barrier between higher officials and lower ranks, especially in the DWC, where those who are appointed to the Park Superintendent Position come through a different system. This creates added friction as there is little understanding of the importance of their work by their superiors, who don’t even take responsibility when something goes wrong as they should.

The most important misuse of resources is when the senior officials are involved in making money out of contracts, to put new buildings, roads, and such like and don’t look at the welfare of the animals in the same way the lower ranks are compelled to, as part of their task of protecting them from harm!

Monday, May 28, 2018

When you appoint the fox to protect the chicken coop, no wonder the farm hands will down tools in protest!

In a classic case of the above, after the popular (as in with people) person was appointed as the Deputy Minister in Charge of Wildlife, you get fireworks.


We have a “People versus the Wildlife” War going on in Sri Lanka today, and no one seems to care or are bothered about it, of the consequences, nor do they have a plan to minimize this conflict, by at least having a cessation of hostilities.

So when people demonstrate blocking roads in rural areas, by placing a coffin in the middle of the road, of someone killed by an elephant, they have no one but the lowly staff of the Wildlife Department, that they take out their anger against. When they come to chase the Wild Elephant away, or capture it, the people go after the Wildlife Staff, who then  are in fear of their own lives, trying as best as they can with limited resources to do their job.

Ask any Wildlife Officer/Game Ranger, how, at the risk of his own life, he goes to settle a situation of Human Elephant, or Human Animal Conflict. It is a very tense situation, which can easily get out of hand when passions rise, as people who have lost property, limb or life turn on you as the person they blame for not protecting them, as authority responsible are conveniently absent.

The Recent Incident of the Bear in the Room!

A Bear had been brought to the Specialist Facility in Giritale that rehabilitates wild animals and birds etc. because of some sort of injury. This bear had been put into a cage, that was made of wood, as they had not been provided with cages made of steel for better protection. This bear had gotten loose and had gone out into the local community and was in the process of attacking a person, when the Wildlife Department were called to the scene.

They carry a certain specified firearm for their security, but are not normally in possession of tranquilizer darts, because the concentration, and amount can only be determined by the Vet and usually there are only 5 Vets for the whole Island in the Department of Wildlife, to say nothing of the Cost. The Wildlife Department is notoriously short of funds, despite the fact that the Government rakes in Billions in extortionate fees from Foreigners who enter their National Parks. I am explaining this in painful detail only because our armchair Columbian pundits, say that the animal should have been tranquilized with a dart, as the means of solving this without upsetting the armchair critics.

So it was that, it was a life and death situation, and the bear was killed to save the innocent person being killed. There were no other option in that instant.

The Deputy Minister of Wildlife had come storming into the Office, after already having shouted his mouth off on the way, at some other Government Servants in Galewela, who were doing a drill for emergency situations, by staging a mock accident. 

The wrath of his ire was the hapless staff, in this case 4 who were present in this incident, where they were barked out in raw filth, in full view of the present media, belittling this chap Samaranayake, who was pleading with the Minister to hear him out. The minister had the insensitivity to bark that he was trying to save his job, not even taking the time to investigate who this man was, what his background was, and how skillful he is in his job.

The Video Clip of the incident has not gone Viral and the Minister is now toast, trying to save his own skin, and his fate even may be sealed if there is sense in sensibility. I wonder how his gallery will take this scenario! You live and learn.

However, four including the Vet have been interdicted. Remember there are only 11 people in total, at the facility, to look after all the sick animals, baby elephants, baby leopard cub to name just a few. They work all day and night, administering to their needs, like foster parents, and only once they feel the animal is able to survive on their own in the wild are they released.

To have 4 people removed from duty, is a huge test for the remaining people, who simply cannot double up their time to take up the slack, and who suffer, but the animals. So instead of promising more resources, so this kind of incident is prevented in the future, there are less resources, to test the patience of the dedicated staff, further diminishing their morale and possibly ensuring that experienced people leave this service, for lack of recognition, and worse, to be held to account for the dereliction of the Government in providing the needed resources.

Moral of the Story

Don’t jump like a bull in a china shop to assert your power. Humility is the order of the day, understanding the issue, before taking action is the second, and taking steps to rectify is the third. None of this was done in this instance.

Isn’t it ironic! the view of his supporters is, he is a humble politician, who dives in and takes the people’s side in every instant against the establishment. In this whose side did he take? Surely, the Establishment asserting its power. So when human leopards change their spots, we can have no confidence, More reason then, to separate Wildlife to the Professionals to rationalize and manage.

A detailed report (Ceylon Today of 1st June 2018) of the bear incident from Giritale, that gives the reader an indication of the problems involved to balance the criticism leveled at the staff on the ground who have to work under very difficult situations, as they are severely under- resourced and under- staffed.

Sunday, May 27, 2018

In the land of the blind, the one eyed person is king - So what should we do with these kings?

A chat at a wayside café reveals a lot of conceptions and misconceptions

On my drive yesterday to handover some plants from a nursery to a farmer friend in the Ampara District, I stopped off at a Wayside Café for breakfast. I took my camera and laptop to upload some photos to post on FB, and a couple of people were intrigued and wanted me know about their problems. Granted this is not the same issue in all parts of the Country.

However the entitlement culture is forever present in their minds. First point was that the Government was giving land deeds for only 20 perches and they said as there is so much land here in the interior/boonies, they should be given larger grants. I said that if they start making a special case for them, everyone one else will want more, citing their grant, etc.

Next, was the Elephants encroaching onto their homesteads and destroying crops. Their angle was that there was insufficient food for them in the reserves, so they were coming to populated areas. My point was that 50 years ago, they reigned supreme here, until people were encouraged with enticements moved here to the elephants’ traditional stomping grounds, and now we want to oust them somehow.

They wanted the Govt. to begin a project of growing the grasses that elephants want in the forest reserves, as a lot of stray cattle have now taken over the reserves, and there is less food for the elephants, as they DO NOT want to use the same area, that cattle have been to.

Apparently, with encouragements of the politicians, they have been permitted to let their branded cattle use the Forest Department and National Park land, which is part of the problem. There is no scheme at present to have areas for cattle only, and move them from areas they should not be in, as domestic cattle and forest reserves are simply incompatible. However tell that to those the politicians have encouraged to carry out this practice.

Then the lack of jobs in the area for those who have been encouraged to move, as the subsistence farming in small plots and day labor just does not provide sufficient income. Who transported them here in the first place? Misplaced political decisions, to increase the numbers to be subservient to various politicians.

I said unfortunately, people have been resettled here for political reasons, and now their offspring are left carrying the can, with no jobs and no inclination whatsoever, to farm/agriculture. I said there are 1million vacancies in some places with no one to work, and there are people here with no work. People must move to where the jobs are not jobs to where the people are, as the old industries like garments are in decline now.

I said politicians intent on personal fame are doing the wrong things even now, by building houses or giving loans, or building villages in the rural areas for people who don’t have jobs, instead of building high rise homes for people where the jobs are. This is going to cause additional burdens on the state in the future, because we have foolish leaders, which people with personal agendas vote for, instead of looking at the big picture. Why build homes, where there are so many empty homes, because people have left them to find employment elsewhere, but due to government land/home ownership rules, prevent them from selling, so they can buy a place near where they work.

I said it is simply wrong to cut more forests and build more homes for homeless, when they should buy the homes in existence and sell them at low interest to homeless, but then the added problem of lack of employment opportunity still prevails, unless people are willing to begin small entrepreneurial ventures with seed capital in these rural areas, using local products as a base.

Then they said that during the reign of Parakrama Bahu the Great we had more people living than today, and we did not have forests, we had people, and so no land should be given to animals and we should clear the jungles and hand it over for cultivations. I said that already, we have lost our forest cover. I said that is a misconception, and this ought to be corrected in the history books but for whatever racial upliftment reasons false information has been spread, and not to believe these stories.

I said our true vision should be to return this country to one the land mass as forest cover, as otherwise we will not have a country to live in 50 years if we go at this rate, and in any case, we have so much uncultivated land in cleared areas, we are NOT short of land for agriculture. We can feed ourselves if we are more efficient in our methods. I said the preservation of forest is the lungs of the nation. Most politicians don’t care if we cannot breathe, as long as they know they can breathe and send their children overseas with ill-gotten gains so that they can breathe in another country.


It is clear that our rural people still live under a Santa Claus mentality, unable to take responsibility for their actions, thanks to Politician encouraged entitlement culture, that ensures the longevity of the politician at the expense of the people. In order to break this cycle, it is clear that in the land of the blind where the one eyed man is king, we just have got to be all blind where one eyed cannot live!  

Saturday, May 26, 2018

17 Elephants have escaped from the high security fence built at Horowopothana Reserve meant to hold the most dangerous elephants

There is a relatively recently created area in Horowapothana (3,000 Hectares, which was overseen by the then Wildlife Minister, SM Chandrasena, the brother of the NCP Chief Minister in the MR Government time, SM Ranjith.

It was built at a very high cost, to retain the post dangerous elephants captured and brought to this place from all parts of the Country. The concrete pillars and the electric fencing was supposed to prevent any animal from escaping. Unfortunately, as always, the Contractor pocketed half the money and did the job with shoddy materials and not to the specified standards, and this practice continues to this date.

So some months back a Tusker was caught and released there. This smart tusker used his tusks to override the current and broke this supposedly impenetrable fence and got away, much to the chagrin of the local villages who protested initially against the setting up of this knowing full well the reality of Govt Contracts!

After this Tusker got free, the other wily elephants got the bush telegraph that the door was open, let’s get out and before the alarm was raised to the Rangers guarding the place another 16 of the worst marauders had escaped. (16 still remain and one more was added last week, the Ihakuluwewa Elephant that killed a few people in the periphery of the Minneriya National Park)

So the Minister pinned the blame on the Park Rangers for not stopping this exodus and not preventing this escape. They expressed incredulity that there were supposed to be 33 elephants in a high security fenced in Reserve and now only 16 can be accounted for.

He must look into the circumstances before making statements that are then reported to the Press, who further put these hard working thankless Rangers into disrepute.

What is the reality? 

The contractor who built the fence should have been the one accused. 

Secondly, the DWC must provide adequate facilities like good vehicles to patrol the perimeter of the reserve once every 3 hours to ensure no breaks, otherwise it is too late when the break is discovered. 

Without resources, in a DWC that makes billions from overcharging tourists for a lousy safari experience, if they cannot allocate the needed resources to protect Wildlife and manage the Human Elephant conflict, who can? 

Now we have open season by 17 additional marauders (Elephants) ready to raid villagers in the Anuradhapura District.

Where is the media in all this? Deaf, dumb and blind as always.

Friday, May 25, 2018

It is time Government Servants learn to take a Minister to task to save them from doing wrong!

The culture in Sri Lanka is such that Government Servants do not wish to be punished for doing their job, so they stay silent, even if the Minister is WRONG.

An incident comes to mind, when a recently appointed Deputy Minister of Wildlife, went to the Giritale Animal Rescue Center, where animals are brought and cared for until they are able to be released into the wild.

They have a small leopard cub that has to be very carefully taken care of, in case that animal catches a disease in captivity and is surely likely to die. So as a rule there are ONLY 4 designated people permitted to care for that animal and have to take precautions like wearing gloves and sanitizing themselves, prior to any contact with that animal, lest the animal catches a disease that could kill it.

NO ONE but no one is allowed to override this rule.

In comes a newly appointed Deputy Minister who has NO clue about the protocol in this establishment, and is shown a cute leopard cub. Macho man that he is, likes to take the animal and cuddle it like we would all like to do. If I attempted it, the VET or any of the officials there would refuse to allow me, and would explain the rationale as to why I am not allowed.

So why don’t they have the straights to say that to the Minister, Sir, please don’t take that animal into your hands as it could catch a disease and could DIE. They don’t because they are frightened of the power of Ministers, who can be brutal as shown before, having people transferred and removed if they do something the Minister does not like! We know the MEGA culprit here don’t we?

So he or she is caught between a rock and a hard place in trying to placate a minister and not lose their source of income, (their job)

When you live in a society where Donkeys have power but no brains, and don’t have the breeding to take it like a man, when he is reprimanded for doing the wrong thing, you have a situation where an innocent can die(baby leopard), and another innocent can lose their job(veterinary surgeon).

This is why it’s time we have educated people in power, who can take criticism from professionals, when they are ignorant. We have to change the political culture, so we can criticize to the face, and this is where the Field Marshal must stamp his authority and tell the workers to be straight talkers and tell the truth, as they will be protected for it and not demoted or sacked as done now.

Thursday, May 24, 2018

When desperation sets in anything is possible – including the imagination running RIOT!

I know what desperation and frustration with the Country’s progress can mean to us who are genuinely concerned about our future, not for our lifetime, but for those who are yet to be born.

Everyone I speak to echoes the same sentiments, but fails to find an answer, usually being “nothing can save Sri Lanka from itself” due to the mindset of her leaders, whose very existence is their survival and not the Country’s.

So it is not surprising that a few commentators have decided to come out with plausible/implausible (depending on your outlook in life) solutions, one of which is the recent prognostications of the rise of Kumar Sangakkara, as he is one who is known to all, but on whom nothing unfavorable has even scraped him! 

Frankly, there is no one under 40 in this Country who commands the respect of so many, is known to all, and whose Brand is untarnished, but who has not put his hat in this ring, or even intimated for a moment of doing so.

I have of course mooted this about 6 years ago, (as I wanted a leader under 35) and I am trying to fish out the article in this blog, where I had alluded to that anyway, due to my utter frustration with the status quo. The fact that this suggestion is coming again does not surprise me, but if I were Kumar, I would be tight lipped at present, as there is a time and place when service to the nation is a requirement to save it from itself, due to political suicide of all the others, who currently occupy this space.

In my personal opinion the invective can be so hurtful, especially when you have done nothing wrong, I would keep out of the ring, with not  turn in that direction, but wait for matters to unfold. Time and place are better than putting one’s foot in it.

At the same time, have plan B in position and build a Policy Proposition, and feel free to take any of the 1,000 ideas contained within this blog to choose from, as they have all been put there with NO ulterior or personal motive on my part, and is open to anyone to adopt, refine and amend according to one’s own predilection.

If there is a unanimous cry for your help, then present this Policy Document as the condition on which you would consider a one term, guardianship of Country, to see it through its worst, and gently ease away, picking a team of like minded to follow and do likewise under a plan of succession and vision of one multicultural nation, rejoicing in diversity.

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

OK – The Cabinet approved a 12.5% bus fare hike - No its not OK

 –  there should have been a few conditions attached – So now it is NOT OK for the long suffering public! They cannot strike so they don’t count!

When did any of the members of the Cabinet last use a public bus to go anywhere?

I rest my case

If there was anyone with guts, vision, and a real concern for the commuting public, in the Cabinet, he would have surely spoken out forcefully. The fact that these lazy slobs, overweight for the most part turned up after a heavy breakfast, and the fact that they are not the ones having to pay the extra, meant that it was NO SWEAT OF THEIR BACKS to approve the raise.

JUST THINK FOR A WHILE – Take the side of the long suffering commuter.

They come in overcrowded buses, that now take longer to get to their destination due to the traffic that increases every day. There are NO buses after a certain time in the evening, further affecting the commuters who have to hang like strings in overcrowded intercity buses to get to their destinations. So why just a one sided deal for the Private Bus Owners? Yes they now account for 80% of the commuter public transport, but no they have not changed their behavior.

Bring out the rules, Road Rules to begin with. Enforcement of safety and  to prevent overcrowding of buses. How about enforcing uniforms, ticket machines, pre-paid cards for payment, all to ease the hassle of payment, not getting change etc.

Give more licenses by advertising and auction in the open market with time slots that ensure a coverage for longer periods. If it is no economical to do so after hours, then change the time table on a rotational basis, and if that does not work, how about 3 times the charge permitted after 7pm till 5am for those getting into the bus between those times. Allow a free for all in competition now, so quality improves.

Anything damn it, anything to ease the pain of the commuter, which only the commuter feels. HOW CAN YOU SIT IN A CABINET MEETING AND NOT DO ONE THING ON BEHALF OF THE USER OF PUBLIC TRANSPORT?

It is simply unconscionable, that you just allowed this request to pass with a nod. No one had the gumption to raise objections with a list of demands handed out at the meeting. Say 5 requests clearly written, to be a codicil to the approval.

Added later - from a Daily Mirror article about the increased bus fares check link on people's comments

Friday, May 18, 2018

Did you know the leopards mean no harm to humans - now it is the job of the media to correct misconceptions

Living with Leopards – Vidya Athreya – BMICH – 6pm 17th May 2018

The take away from the lecture: “Live & Let Live” – love your leopards, do what you can to educate people to be wary, but think of leopards as good luck living in your neighborhood. Leopards keep away from human contact and do not kill humans

Vidya has been engaged in the study of leopards in various places in India. Interestingly, most leopards in India live WITHIN human habitation in India. She estimates that there are 14,000 leopards in India and we estimate about 1,000 who live in Sri Lanka. Both are educated guesses with a degree of error.

She showed examples, by catching and collaring, the ranges of leopards, which can be substantial, and if caught and relocated, they tend to return to their previous range, implying that relocation is NOT the answer to remove leopards. Further she showed that whenever a leopard is removed from a particular area, another takes its place due to the maximum that can be contained in an area.

So we come full circle, into a society that simply must and does learn to live with the leopards in their midst. If people revere the Leopard as they do in some communities, where the word Waghoba is used for a cat like deity and hence Vidya used that for her website that goes further in explaining this. See below:

She believed that the Indian experience of her study of the habits, and food of the urban leopard, Sri Lanka will be better able to understand this animal in the wild and be able to live with this species in harmony, especially as their habitat is being encroached by the humans, who are trying to chase away or somehow get rid of the leopard threat. We then come up with the who came first theory. This link is worth reading as it is clear that leopards are part of the very fabric of Indian life and their place is recognized and there is no project to capture and send them to National Parks. She used the Giri Tiger story to say that though the National Park is only 2,000 sq km. the Tigers range is 10,000 sq km, well into the range of human existence.

With regard to what they eat, it was pointed out that more dogs are taken than farm animals, possibly because they are safeguarded against leopard attack, whereas dogs are leashed outside homes and easy prey for the big cat. Camera traps show the nighttime prowling of the leopard, due to the fact that it only even attempted wander into human settlements long after people had gone to sleep, around 9pm to 5am when essentially people are asleep.

Translating this experience into the Sri Lankan concept

She used the example that in years past, people did not go on safari, to see wild animals. It was therefore not a particular need to preserve species by creating Parks, for visitors to lose themselves in, and be guaranteed of seeing the big cats. She pointed to an example of an urban place in Mumbai, where people could go in the evening to see the lions, as they are used to humans and both keep their distance, and nothing happens, just a tourist destination, outside of a park.

In National Parks, leopard and lion and even tiger get used to the people, and so take a careless attitude to vehicles and people as they know they will not be harmed in anyway and so mingle amongst people, not hiding from them. It is sometimes easier to see them in this semi domesticated mode, which takes away from the excitement of seeing an animal in the wild.

In India where only 5% of the land is a protected area, it is impossible to have the very high percentage of wild animals they actually have, confined to protected areas as there is not enough space therefore them. So most of the big cats live with the people, both parties keeping their distance from each other. She said that even at Independence in 1947, the Indian Population was large, and despite it  they have such a high concentration of animals is proof that people respect these animals and give them the space in their neighborhood. They then try to protect their livestock from attack and when they are attacked have a different attitude about them, than one would have expected.

SO with the prevalence of Leopard sightings in the up country Tea Growing areas it is time for us, first, NOT TO FEAR THE LEOPARD in our midst. Learn about its behavior and its relative shyness where it sits put in the forest during the day time and only comes out at night to forage for food. If they fear a leopard close by, then they should merely beat a drum, before going on tea plucking rounds and the leopard if it is there will retreat.

There are NO instances of dens being found in the property, so the litters are kept safely away from human settlements. It is only when there is a den inside a tea plantation that one should be a little more careful, as the mother would be more wary of humans getting close to their cubs.

Of course she made sure she said that the Media plays an important role in ensuring that the people are assured that leopards are harmful and not get into a leopard being a threat, as is being reported, putting the fear of the animal. IF the people in affected areas are calmed and explained in detail, then gradually the leopard future amongst humans can be assured leading to an increase in animals.


We saw film clips of cougars in North America through camera traps that showed they were sensitive to human sound. They just disappear at the sound of humans and re-appear when the coast is clear to hunt. So this issue is not just a threat in India it happens even in places like the USA where animals come into contact with Humans and ransack garbage cans emerging from wooded areas. Even there the people have learned to respect their space, and do not engage in massive get rid protests, but instead try to benefit financially from promoting tourism in these areas with the knowledge that one could encounter an animal.

There should be a cache of living with wild animals attached to you, which gains street cred. So in order for rural populations to have some status, using the fact that animals live in your presence should be an attraction and NOT a deterrent.

The most surprising point that was made at the lecture was that one of the highest densities of leopards are in the most dense of human habitation of suburbs of Mumbai where millions of people live.

Increasing human encroachment results in pressures by NIMBYS who want to rid the place of wild animals. We must first ask the question, who was there first? Why should we remove the original inhabitants and replace them with humans? For whose benefit? And What benefit? When one seriously considers the diminishing population of wild animals and endangered species, awareness of diversity must be inculcated in the community at large, and then steps can be taken to use scientific methods to protect and regenerate species.

We were told how the British looked at animals as hunting trophies and to be killed, while Indians throughout history looked at living in harmony with them and the spirituality of this life, meant that many animals were deified and so animal slaughter was rare. So even poaching for food, is a rare occurrence out of necessity rather than an occupation itself. This has led in India for action to preserve wild life that has shown a lot of success. 

In fact that Asiatic Lion which now only resides in India is increasing in population as is the Indian Tiger, these are success stories for us in Sri Lanka to learn from and in order to prevent further destruction of the habitat, we must get the local communities involved in saving their animals, in particular the leopard and elephant and learn to manage this animal to minimize crop and livestock loss, using more sophisticated techniques of monitoring.

When an animal is trapped we try to save it, and release it back into the wild, so why don’t we use the same sense of respect to allow them to live in their space?