Thursday, December 19, 2019

The arrest of Champika – all part of the master plan to rid the country of winnable opposition leaders! Here is a clear winning strategy out of it


It is no secret that the Rajapakse (there are no other words to describe the present rule) Government was “coca hoop” when the candidature of Sajith Premadasa was announced to pit against Gotabaya Rakapakse, as the result immediately became a foregone conclusion, on the day of the announcement itself.

It is therefore mischievous for some of the sore losers to blame the defeat on Ranil Wickremesinghe, who neither helped nor hindered, and worse, the announcement that SP would drop RW if he won, lost him  even more votes, among the die-hard RW fans, than he might have. I predicted at the time upon announcement that he would lose by 1M votes, but the rest is due to his own narcissist personality disorder, that was painfully obvious and cringe worthy at the campaign trail. 

Needless to say Sajith Premadasa should have simply resigned, and left the country for an extended sabbatical, just to save his own mental state, that must have got a shock, from which he has obviously not yet recovered, and unlikely to do so in time to revive the UNP to face the General Elections in May of 2020.

Suffice to say, he has done the opposite, sulked, was absent for too long, and is now seen arriving at constituencies of his ardent supporting MPs to meet and greet, too late and frankly, not in a fit state to infuse the faithful with the needed morale boost at this time. The sooner he is ditched and forgotten, as one who lost too badly to find any solace in an improbably comeback, the better, for the fortunes of the UNP at the impending General Elections.

So what next? Well, the only challenger to SP was Patalie Champika Ranawaka, an engineering graduate I believe from Moratuwa University, by training, and much admired by not just the intellectuals, but also by the Buddhist Clergy, as he has emerged as a rising star coming from the Hela Urumaya, which he ditched to hang his hat with the UNP.

The easiest way to promote him is to arrest him on trumped up charges, which is exactly what the Rajapakses just did. They know a stint in jail, albeit even one night is sufficient to increase his brand among the party faithful, and if one looks at social media within minutes of his arrest, there was simply no doubt about that.

He is probably grinning to himself at the midnight grace of luck that was bestowed a few hours ago. So if SP falls flat on his own sword, it is Ranawake’s to wrest and raise the flag. The Rajapakses want him as the opposition front man leading the election, as he is considered to be beatable as there is a large dossier of dirt on him, primarily relating to his private life of the past, and this will no doubt be brought up at the appropriate time to destroy any chance he has of taking up the baton from SP. He is not a squeaky clean politician as most people think he is, and it is clear that those with skeletons are whom the Rajapakses want to have as the opposition candidates to challenge him. They can destroy them.

I just hope the UNP don’t fall for this oldest trick in the book, played by so many players that history buffs like Ranil Wickremesinghe only know too well. He is watching this tragicomedy unfold, and thinking to himself, what now! what next!

As we all know, RW would have preferred to have the OLD Karu Jayasuriya contest the Presidential Election, as the margin of defeat would not have been as great as it was. However the young turks of the party like Marikkar, Wickremeratne, Ajith Perera, Harin Fernando, Ajith Mannapperuma, Harshana Rajakaruna and Harsha de Silva would not hear of it!

Now the Rajapakses completely emboldened by the massive victory are, as history has also shown, are making mistake after mistake, due to that tragic flaw called over confidence and swollen brain syndrome!

There is sufficient grounds to show even the die-hard Rajapakse fan, that the mis steps are mindboggling, considering the General Election is only a few months away and instead of trying to consolidate power to ensure a two thirds majority in parliament, are on the verge of giving the game away if the opposition is able to run a campaign of honesty and keep on message/point, to what the people need.

It is no secret that the Die Hards voted in the Rajapakses due to the fear of the country being sold out to Tamils and Muslims, the traditional fear of Sinhala Buddhists egged on by a reactionary Clergy, who want to safeguard their privileged position, increasingly under threat by a globalized electorate of educated youth who know that religion does not matter, and only opportunity to leverage their ability and knowledge to better themselves is all that matters in life.

While this motivated many to vote for them, it has not taken a month to blow this canard asunder, when the price of basic commodities have skyrocketed within weeks after the election. The immediately implemented tax cuts have not helped the pockets of the electorate, as few if any products have had price reductions, with many businesses keeping the benefits to themselves, due to crony capitalist monopolies they run. This means that the shift is going to be a reduction of government revenue, but an increase in the crony capitalist share of that reduction, with perhaps less than half being passed down to the public at large.

Come May, in time for the election, if there was a proper campaign by the opposition to show that the people have been lied to, the UNP have a chance of leading a coalition back into power, under a GR Presidency, however unlikely that may seem right now. It is perfectly do able if there is a winning strategy.

The fact that the Opposition is so divided, and not under the able management of a good leader, is the only factor preventing them from winning this election. The rate of Rajapakse missteps is increasing daily, and the next step is likely to be the Parliament not being recalled, till after the elections in May. If that happens it will be simply dictatorial rule by the Head of State. This is going to affect the existing cabal of supporters increasingly feeling isolated and without any control or influence in being able to help their constituents who voted for them. Already steps (quite rightly so) have been put in place to have capable people run organizations and fill vacancies, shutting them off to party supporters who may have hoped for some crumbs to fall their way.

All in all, the time is ripe to be a member of the opposition and, to FIND a good, honest leader to back, one who does not have delusions of Grandeur like Premadasa or Ranawake, and can take the Country, NOT THE PARTY forward. Being a party animal has always been why Sri Lanka is a failed state, and GR has tried to extricate himself from that Moniker, but cannot do so due to the way the brothers play their game. It is the moment for the UNP to find a national leader.

One with charisma, selfless leadership, speaking on point and not by character assassination, who can win the premiership, and this person can be someone no one knows just yet, but can be the catalyst for change the country really needs.

I know more than anyone RW is looking for that person, who ideally would be young, but could also be a woman, who can inspire confidence in anyone they come across, by presence even before he or she opens his mouth.

So please don’t fall for the Rajapakse trap, of putting either SP or CR into the fray, but instead put someone who can challenge the status quo and triumph as the new kid on the block, much in the same way that GR won the Presidency not being tainted by politics.

Don’t we ever learn? The one lesson we should have taken from the GR victory is that public don’t care for career politicians, and instead want someone who they can believe in to carry out promises. GR has already proved to carry out half of his promises and the other half have been mere figments meant to fool.

I know the stars are lining for an even bigger revolution in SL politics in May 2020, but no one has been able to see through the chaff to be clear on this likelihood. The only missing piece of the chess board is the most important one, namely the KNIGHT IN SHINING ARMOR who comes on the white horse!

Monday, December 16, 2019

There is a first time for everything! My first convocation was only yesterday

To put it all in perspective, I had to wait over 60 years on this fair earth to attend my first convocation yesterday, though it was not mine, it was nevertheless a chance to absorb the moment when over 1200 students were awarded their doctorates, masters, baccalaureate and associate degrees at Arkansas State University in Jonesboro.

So what about my own? It was June 1978, when I completed my degree, for a Bachelor of Science Degree with Honors in Economics & Accounting (double major) from the University of Bristol. As soon as my exams and classes were over, I flew back to Sri Lanka to work as an Audit Trainee, unpaid of course.

I did not have the funds to stay long enough to attend the degree awarding ceremony at the Convocation in Bristol, to collect my degree and wear the robe of a graduate and have my photo taken and framed at home, for all who come to see, as is common now. My degree certificate was sent in the mail to me.

Those reading this will find that very odd, as people in Sri Lanka (or so it seems to me) will do almost anything to have this big day recorded in history, most of whom have their parents attend, and have a photographer on hand, and in today’s world have FB also record it for friends and family to join in and congratulate.

My parents were also not in a position to fly out for the ceremony either, unlike many well to do parents today, and so I don’t have a picture of myself in my graduating robe and mortarboard to show off to any one! Fortunately, I don’t have children, who in today’s context will question why that was so.

I suppose that touch of modesty, where the importance was in achieving your goal, and not in having the record of the achievement in the form of a photograph, came from my upbringing too, where in our house there was never a photo of either of my parents at their graduation, nor have I ever asked them if they attended their convocations. My Dad got his degree in India from Madras Christian College, and my mother got her degree from the Colombo University, to which she cycled each day for classes from her home, not too far away.

I note all this in order that the reader appreciates that it is never too late to attend a convocation, even if it of others, where I don’t know anyone who received the degree. Thanks to a Professor of the University, with whom I am staying, that I had the opportunity of attending, so that I will briefly opine on my impression of the occasion. Even upon receiving my Chartered Accountants Qualification from the ICAEW (Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales) I never attended a ceremony conferring this qualification unlike now in Sri Lanka.

So let me opine on my visit today, at the University’s First National Bank Arena where it was held. It is a massive arena within the University, where the Red Wolves, the University Basketball Team play their home game and has seating on three sides of the rectangle. I am told it is normal procedure in all Colleges in the USA, so this description is for those who would like to know, and are curious.

This University like I believe most in the USA, hosts convocations three times in the year, this being the smallest, done in one morning session, while the Summer one has the largest number graduating and so is split into two sessions on the same day, so that half the faculties are done in the morning session and the other half in the afternoon.

There is no limit on the guests attending, and no passes are checked, but there is a security check for all entering the Arena including faculty, as standard practice.

The car park is well organized by the campus police and security to ensure smooth arrivals. On the appointed time, 10am the faculty stream in to take their seats nearest to the podium and there are 300+ tenured positions. Then the VC and Deans enter the podium with the VC acting as the MC also. The students in the colors of their faculties come in to take their places and are permitted an element of individuality, including varied mortar boards with their own special designs if they so wish.

After the speeches are over and the valedictorian’s speech on behalf of the graduating class is given, then the degree ceremony proper starts. The VC specifically encouraged the visitors to cheer their graduate when their names are called, and you can imagine that some bring many members of their families and shout loudest when their name is called. I noticed that as there were many African Americans receiving their degrees, and the loudest cheers came from their family members who were there to support their big day.

Everyone’s name was called, and each shook hands with their faculty head the VC, and had a photo taken with the VC and a separate photo in their regalis, once they descended the podium. Each graduate had a card with is name, type of degree and if it was Magna, Summa or Cum Laude, so that card is given to the person announcing their name, so it NEVER caused a confusion in names when the graduate is announced.

The PhD holders were the first to be awarded and they bend down to have their sponsor, their tutor of the dissertation who was on hand to put the cloak over their heads when their names are mentioned. Most PhD were for Education and Philosophy as Teachers aspire to Doctorates to further enhance their status, and have the time during their vacation breaks to study for higher degrees. It shows that teaching (Public Schools) is held in high regard in the USA.

I noticed another aspect where those in wheelchairs had a special place for them to watch the proceedings, showing the emphasis both on access to disabled, but also the facilities provided for them. I also noticed that all stairs in the Arena have rails in the flights of stairs to hold onto, so people who need assistance can hold onto, and I with crutches was able to climb without further assistance. I salute the USA for steps taken to accommodate the differently abled in all aspects of life.

People were very casually dressed in attending this convocation in line with the very informal dress code of people in the USA, the same attire they would wear to a ball game, or going shopping I guess! One thing that I felt was bad was that many people (about half of those attending) left before the formalities were over, which in total took only 2 hours from the 10am start to the noon finish, which was incredible, considering all the students names were mentioned, and they were greeted individually by the VC.

All students are automatically enrolled in the Alumni Association upon graduation and their first year dues are paid by the University. The Commencement Brochure/Booklet given free to all who attend is very detailed explaining all the process and what the various colors of the graduates are, and you identify their status.

After the event, all the students were invited to attend a reception with the faculty and the VC along with their parents, though very few availed themselves of this.

I noticed that there were many foreign students graduating too.

In Conclusion

The business of education in the USA and it is definitely a business second only to Healthcare, is efficiently run, with the obtaining of qualifications, enabling people to have the minimum certification for entry into most employment. All students have to pay for their education with only a few obtaining full scholarships. The amount of assistance varies depending if they are in state or out of state students, and Overseas Students generally pay the most.

There are hundreds of private and public colleges all over the USA, and Federal Assistance has fallen, meaning states and private sources are needed to take up this shortfall in education, and it seems that there are increasing donations and funding for this amongst alumni and philanthropic bodies, and trusts.

Arkansas State University whose main campus is in Jonesboro and they have two subsidiary campuses, have 14,000 students and 1,500 faculty. So it is the largest employer in the city of Jonesboro.

Saturday, November 30, 2019

Two weeks and time to take stock! A train wreck waiting to happen Part 5 of 5

What next?

The way this diplomatic game is played, (yes it is an international game of diplomacy) will determine the repercussions for Sri Lanka as that is all I care about. We have an able foreign secretary in the person of Ravinatha Ariyasingha, who if given all the facts can negotiate a face saving exit for the GOSL in this incident as long as certain assurances are given vis a vis ability of international missions to operate under Internationally accepted conventions.

I wish the Government understands in diplomacy, the military has no part and don’t have an agenda that is congruent, and so should strictly be given instructions on what their brief is in terms of national security to protect its citizens that is the paramount duty of the security forces.

A windfall gift to the opposition

With the opposition in disarray, they have no clue how to take advantage of the gift horse in the mouth. They are busy fighting internal battles. Unfortunately, the only leader who can see the opening gambit to make a move is Ranil Wickremesinghe, but he is not being given the chance of making the move.

There is a window of opportunity to take advantage of, as the 225 members in Parliament are just waking up to the fact that the Government is not in control. He can have a no confidence motion that he can win, now that those given ministries have upset many who consider themselves more worthy of the crooks in power.

He has nothing to lose. If MR loses, he is out, as the PM and RW is back in, much to the chagrin of MR, but GR may prefer this outcome till the elections, as he will not have to deal with low life, until they are forever removed, by not giving them nominations under the SLPP ticket.

Using this window, the gap that the UNP needs if there is a combined opposition, can be closed, and a tighter race than previously thought would result as there is time till March to gather the forces. I don’t think SP has what it takes to do the needful, and it will have to be RW as there are no obvious choices left to carry this through.

Let me tell you finally, that personally, I don’t want anyone in the current parliament back, and I would like a law to prevent any MP of the past from returning, so that we can have new faces in Diyawanna in keeping with the non Parliamentary face who is the President at least for the next 5 years and in this instance he will be able to carry out his plan for the country, with fewer obstacles.


We don’t live with 20/20 hindsight, or else we may do things differently. However in matters of governance, if one honestly takes the best interests of the Country as a whole there are few steps that can be wrong, and broadly the direction will be for the benefit of the people they serve.

Sri Lanka is a country desperately in need of some kind of hope for the future, where the masses know that their tomorrow is definitely going to be better than their today. That is all we ask, not something unreasonable.

Clean air, clean food and clean water, along with environmental policies that achieve these goals is all that is required. Let us then all do our best to achieve them, and put our differences behind us.

With fake news taking over all forms of media, we cannot believe anything that we see, and we have to make up our minds from our own experiences, and we should then translate those experiences to improve the quality of life of the people without resorting to unrealistic goals and expectations.

A country of incomparable beauty being subjected to man-made shocks is self defeating. We engage in illegal activity only because we may have broken the law and are afraid to admit it. Humility is the first characteristic that will not fail you and while the President has shown he is humble, let him walk the talk now, rather than engage in activity that destroys that image.

Leadership and statesmanship are not easy, it requires many skills in balancing the needs of different individuals, but what ever we do, if we do for the interests of ALL the citizens in our country, no matter whether they are our friends or foes, that is the way to nirvana for us, and a better life for our countrymen. Why is it so hard for those in powerful positions to understand that?

The achievement of a powerful position by fair means or foul, creates a person who can turn altruistic or become a monster. We can only pray that this Country Sri Lanka will have a leader who is able to inspire, not despair, and move forwards in thinking and not backwards, as there are examples of history to learn from, without trying to re-invent the wheel.,

Yes we can throw aside our differences, be humble, not work to an agenda that is not ours and not in the best interests of the Country. This blog has for 11 years been dedicated to one topic. How can we improve the quality of life of all the people who live in the Paradise Island called Sri Lanka. Yes we can. Please help us do it, and put aside your prejudices, PLEASE!

This way there is no need for a train wreck predicated out of personal bias, fear, and agenda instead of in the public interest

Two weeks and time to take stock! A train wreck waiting to happen Part 4 of 5

The beginning of the train wreck

Of course the security apparatus, in the name of tighter security has been dismantled with many secret police, and espionage operations being disbanded Islandwide. Can one imagine how that would do down with the 90K strong Police Force.

As if that was not enough, a senior investigating officer who was tasked with Investigating the Rajapakses, sought asylum in Switzerland for him and his family. Why the government took umbrage to that defied logic, as if he was here, he would simply be arrested and threatened! The Swiss have been giving asylum to people for a hundred years, and we remember how many anti Nazis they allowed into their country. So I am sure this was discussed in advance, owing to the sensitive nature of the investigations he was carrying out.

As if to make matters worse compromising the rights of them, 700 CID offices, the crème de la crème of the investigating force in Sri Lanka were prevented from leaving the island. Their names have been given to the airport, so that now their anonymity is also revealed compromising much of the investigations that have been carried out for many years.

Why? Perhaps they too have dossiers pertaining to the criminal activity of many in government. They must now file an FR claim as due process was not followed in their travel ban and it could easily be challenged in a court of law.

What does this all mean? The police have now been reduced to street cleaning and the Army have stepped in to do the civil defense as in SL, due to lack of international wars, we need a National Guard to protect local interests.

So when the abduction of the employee of the Swiss Embassy took place at gunpoint, on Monday, 25th November the stamp of the Military was clear. I in my comments in posts believed that the President would not do such a foolish thing, and unbeknownst to him, it was carried out by rogue elements in the security forces, who are well versed in carrying out clandestine attacks.

The Abduction and Trauma suffered by the Employee of the Swiss Embassy

The actual events, initially reported in the New York Times and subsequently many papers across the world, reported the terrible assault on a women staffer, who was asked to reveal details of asylum applications and visas granted to people to flee the country from being chased up for doing their job, ironically at the same time the Govt was trying to change the law to make Public Servants immune from prosecution when carrying out their duties in good faith.
As of going to press the abduction has gone viral with the defenders of the government saying that it is fake news, something done, so that the staffer can seek asylum and such like. I took offence such a serious crime did not warrant an immediate action.

I then saw on the 29th a serious allegation from Switzerland on prosecuting the wrongdoer.  

The internal struggle between the Police and the Army

Now that the CID had denied any knowledge of the incident where the abductors had said they were from the CID, now suspicions have been aroused that the goon squad that committed this heinous crime came from the military in an attempt to remove any evidence against the President. All this is new to the military not being used to unlike the police to be familiar with abductions and how they are reported.

The Police must now be smarting with the Army usurping their role, and their investigation into crimes heavily compromised due to rogues in power also.

Like I said we are just observers in this drama, and MR who must be watching closely, must be annoyed to see that the army reporting to GR is doing what they like, and he is simply powerless to give answers to the questions he is asked daily by the diplomatic corps.

The Swiss are not going to let up. They are past masters at diplomacy below the radar and can snooker Sri Lanka, without them realizing it, and denials are not sufficient. It smacks of a cover up from the top, and there is little room to maneuver, where the new President is suddenly finding himself as being a suspect in a crime against another state under diplomatic and Vienna Conventions.

The Government must tread very carefully here. It is likely the Prime Minister has no clue why this happened, if it came from the President. The PM more the President in aware of the damage to the reputation of Sri Lanka if he is implicated in this abduction. It is not funny to us law abiding citizens, that the eleven charges laid against GR that have now been swept under the carpet till he again is a private person now look definitive and not a witch hunt, when this came to light!

Two weeks and time to take stock! A train wreck waiting to happen Part 3 of 5

The Cabinet and State Ministers

I was frankly not at all surprised at the constituents comprising these ministries. After all he had no option but to appoint the very people who violated Parliamentary privilege, by behaving like hooligans inside the chamber, who should have been subject to some parliamentary discipline by now and punishment.

The stark absence of minorities, Tamils and Muslims except for a token one or two Tamils, and the lack of women, I was still willing to permit this Monotheistic and Misogynistic mix as being inevitable till the next elections.

An embarrassing world record of the three main chairs at the appointment of State ministers showed GR flanked by MR the PM and CR the State Minister of Defence showing in no uncertain terms where the power of the land lay!

My preference for immediate General Elections

My Preference would have been for the opposition and govt to agree to hold immediate General Elections giving 2/3 power in Parliament, so that we could get it over and done with once and for all, so that in future both Presidential and General Elections could be held on the same day to save on waste.

I don’t know the personal reasons that was not done, but I suppose it was the funds,  energy needed soon after the bruising Presidential Elections, that did it, though many have told me it was for the pension benefits of the outgoing MPs that it was delayed. I cannot verify that statement.

My conclusion here it that RW made a mistake in not going for an immediate General Election soon after the win for Maithripala Sirisena, similarly GR is also going to regret not going in for one as soon as he won. Many who voted for him are going to desert him the way the administration has begun their work.

The first mis-step!

When one of the most respected CID officers SSP Abeysekera was demoted as an assistant to a DIG, the whole investigation process over many years of crooks and criminals of all hues, the whole apparatus would become impotent, not leading to the prosecution and conviction of wrongdoers, just to save a few cases that have implicated the Rajapakses also. That is again destroying the fabric of your criminal investigation at a stroke to save a person or two. Treason in another word, if you put the interests of the state over the personal interest of the President.

Two weeks and time to take stock! A train wreck waiting to happen Part 2 of 5

My position on the Election Results

While long before, at least a month before the election I was convinced that GR will win by over a million, and I told many people about it, many who would not accept, I was not joining that bandwagon, only because of the rogues that were attracted to the platform. If he was serious about change you would not bring suspect characters to pad your team!

Once the results were out it just proved what I expected and so I just moved on, to a better vantage point to see clearly what is going on, not muddied with the internal shit taking place, where the Police have been officially denigrated into second class citizens, where the top 700 CID officers who were investigating a myriad of crimes, now prevented from travelling overseas, a complete FR violation as due process of the law was not followed by this travel ban.

These actions are clearly not constitutional, but not tested in the Courts, using the Supreme Court to challenge these edicts.

In fact, I have not deviated from the 225 EPA program and am still fighting that battle, and as I don’t implicate GR in this, I have given him the benefit of the doubt in all my social media postings and comments.

I am have always been for the rule of law, social justice, and checks and balances of those in power. I have suffered due to the abuse of power by leaders, and so know what it is like when you don’t have the law to protect you from lies and no regard for the law. I tell many, until you lose the protection of the law, you don’t know what it is like and value those fundamental rights, and the equal protection under the law.

The sycophant factor

One then has a hard core constituency who cannot see anything wrong in the President. While it is clear that he is still technically a US National, who has made efforts to renounce his citizenship, no one is pursuing this, as he has received a mandate to govern irrespective of his breaking the law of the land. Even the Election Commissioner knowingly looked the other way. WE don’t know if he had been promised a back hander of sorts for this, but that was ignored when presenting his nomination papers.

Now when edicts good and bad are being made, the sycophants are always giving excuses for defending even the indefensible. However that is the way of sycophants as the last regime also had the similar following. The difference is that this lot are racist, bigoted, misogynistic, and blind!

Two weeks and time to take stock! A train wreck waiting to happen Part 1 of 5

Happily at this Presidential Election, I decided to be a mere observer, not taking sides, and for the first time I was able to see clearly. That is to observe the faults and ploys of both the main factions, without prejudice.

In the 4 years prior to that, most of the public discourse was 225EPA. That is they did not wish to see any of the present bunch of 225 MPs ever again in Parliament. This was because the of gung ho, corrupt regime of Mahinda Rajapakse, involved in all manner of thuggery to purloin a fortune and spirit it outside the country, and where only friends and family were rewarded with money making sinecures at the expense of the public.

This regime was replaced by the Yahapalanaya Regime that promised the earth moon and stars, and was unable to deliver even a sod, with only freedom of speech, and freedom to march against the Government guaranteed, where NO ONE was killed in demonstrations against the state, which was freely tolerated.

The disillusionment that set in sparked by the infighting of the President and PM that prevented the proper functioning of government and the undermining of the rule of law, where the President not only held onto the defense portfolio, but also took the Police Force under his wing, meant that the prosecution of the previous regime’s sins was delayed, compromised, and left moribund, leaving the same crooks the one line “ if we have not been prosecuted, that means we never did anything wrong, and so were unjustly harassed and prevented from leaving the Country” or some such saying. The course of law enforcement is discretionary, so for various personal agendas, crooks were not brought to justice, and those that were, were convicted on technicalities, which to the outsider seemed a witch hunt no less.

So with 70 years of Independence leaving Sri Lanka way behind in the development stakes, where agricultural poverty was worse than in 1948, the 225 EPA moniker had a lot of appeal among the masses who were now convinced that they were mere cannon fodder in the way of the political leadership, who just spread the gravy only among themselves.

Given this background, up until the end, where no one deviated from this theme, the moment the Presidential Elections were announced, the very same people quietly turned their allegiance to one or another of the old guard, quite forgetting that none of the above should be given a chance to influence the running of the country.

I was thoroughly disillusioned by the return to the old order, that I was disgusted.

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Without Food Security what SECURITY? Why are farmers treated this way?

Using the example of paddy farmers in this instance, in irrigated lands of the Wyamba, North Central and Eastern Provinces, farmers are generally able to grow two crops a year, the most productive being the Maha season ranging from planting in October to January, for harvesting between January and March of the following year. This has been the way since the colonization schemes of 1930s.

They face many challenges in their pursuit and I will attempt to illustrate some of them, which when taken in toto, amount to an increasingly risky business of cultivation and survival.

Lack of Planning of the steps to be taken to prepare for the following paddy planting season.

Many farmers who have sold their paddy and repaid debts and redeemed valuables pawned to cultivate their lands for the previous season, don’t have the mental clarity to prepare their tools in readiness for planting, such as repairing their tractors, having them oiled and greased and serviced as that is a cost some find difficult to contemplate. They also have to join together to clear the irrigation canals of weeds in order to permit free flow of water to the fields, sans obstructions. Therefore step one is delayed due to the lack of funds.

Preparation of the soil

The banning of Roundup also known as Glyphosate, which the farmers used previously to kill the weeds on verges and irrigation canals, is now no longer available. Many of these weeds they contend are invasive species that did not exist at one time, and were deliberately introduced by multi-national companies in order to market their increasingly strong weedicides to the market to kill these introduced weeds! I personally don’t believe that it was deliberate, but there is a strong belief amongst the farming community, that it was caused to enslave them.

They now resort to burning the fields as much as possible as a means to eliminate the weeds, with the resultant environmental consequences. There has been no intervention on the part of the state, through research institutes such as HARTI to educate farmers of the practical alternatives to the above practices, leaving the farmers at the mercy of chemical companies marketing alternatives, that don’t come close to solving the problem either.

With a large public sector of unhelpful staff in departments of agriculture, no assistance is provided in training and demonstration of practical means to this end

The supply of irrigation water on a timely manner

It is important that water is provided with sufficient time to prepare the soil for planting, and usually 30 days of daily water is supplied to the land for drowning the weeds in mud including the seeds of the weeds to begin the circle of the new cultivation cycle. It could be argued that much water is wasted in this process, as planting only begins to the end of this month, with much water wasted and allowed to flow out into the streams and rivers, unless reused further downstream by damning and redirecting to fields further downstream.

In any particular area, farmers know if they have received water too early or too late, as it affects their whole cultivation cycle, and if it is received late, they have to use shorter rice strains instead of the 120 day varieties as the irrigation water supply is also limited to agreed dates.

The talk of the town in Hingurakgoda this season was that rains came early, but all that water was wasted in the fields, as it was too early to cultivate or prepare the soil, now in mid-November the when the rains normally come, there isn’t any, and to add insult to injury, the hoped for supply of irrigation water on 16th November or thereabouts has been delayed till the 25th November.

The story goes that the new Moragahakanda Reservoir project as the final phase of the Mahaweli Irrigation Project is the brainchild of Maithripala Sirisena, who brought forward a delayed project, and with the waters collected after the recent rains, wants the reservoir filled up so he can make a PR exercise in throwing flowers into the water and opening the gates to fanfare for supplying water. However as the irrigation officials have been asked to delay this till more water accumulates in the reservoir so he can show how massive the water body is the farmers supply has been purposely delayed without taking into account their prior and more important needs. In essence, the farmer will pay the price by shorter planting season, or low yield rice, in order to satisfy the personal ego of one man who will soon relinquish office within a week.

Another theory behind this delay in water being given, is that the State has failed to order the needed fertilizer (import) on time and therefore is delaying the supply of water until the fertilizer stores are stocked up and able to supply the subsidized fertilizer.

An added spanner in the works is that both main Presidential candidates have promised free fertilizer, and in order to avail themselves of this promise and the resultant hiatus, the farmers are likely to get their requirements long past the need by dates for cultivation, aggravating an already precarious delay in cultivation. Free means there is misuse, by public officials and a black market created too!

Fertilizer distribution to farmers

The process of obtaining either free or subsidized fertilizer is fraught with a lot of bureaucratic red tape. There are numerous forms to be completed and Grama Niladari certification and farmer society intervention, which in themselves is done to avoid misuse and ensure only those entitled to receive the fertilizer in fact do so, however it is the very same state employees who are involved in rackets to circumvent the system and often even shortchange the farmer, but where produce leaks out to unauthorized users, due to corruption.

There are maximum amounts of fertilizer that can be distributed to any one farmer, but the reality today is that more efficient farmers work more land, while those who own the land lend their fields for payment in kind, namely bushels of paddy per acre for example. So they have to break the rules and circumvent the system in order to obtain the needed fertilizer to work all the land they rent. This has not been properly thought out and it penalizes the honest, and efficient while encouraging the wasteful and dishonest, made worse by the political promises of free fertilizer, usually not to the deserving cases.

The Chemical Mafia

Some farmers allege that the chemical companies are in hock with the fertilizer and the irrigation officials in determining when water is distributed, so that chemicals are needed to solve disease and weeds created owing the untimely water distribution, a serious allegation if proved it does happen. However there is a belief among farmers that they too are part of the gang that is working against the interests of the farmers.

Other factors – Quality of inputs

I would like to believe it is a myth rather than reality, but there is a question of poor quality fertilizer, poor quality weedicides that are not up to the mark in killing the weeds, poor quality chemicals that kill pests and other diseases of plants and the quality of seed paddy used to plant. All this affects paddy cultivation and there is no confidence that the officials tasked with ensuring their efficacy don’t in fact do their job, further leaving the farmer at the mercy of heresay in purchasing inputs.

In Summary, I have only covered the beginning of the cultivation process and not the attendant rains that are due but could be late or miss the mark, or a disease that spreads faster than any solution could be given, before it is too late. Then we have the right time to harvest affected by untimely rains further affecting yields etc. to illustrate the near impossible task of a paddy farmer to breathe easy!

How can this unresolvable challenge be met?

I have scratched the surface of a problem that hundreds of thousands of farmers with limited training and education face every day. They are given minimal knowledge of new techniques in order to reduce the cost and amount of inputs and maximize the yield, both of which is necessary for productivity along with the wise use of water, when confronted with unexpected water shortages needing rationing or reduced supply by necessity.

Farmers also have to prepared for flooding, in case the rains come late, or a month’s rain falls in one or two days, something that climate change has wrought all over the world, which could destroy a well tended field in one day.

Farmers have no financial resources for a rainy day, possibly being in debt to money lenders, thereby losing their independence and self respect. We blame alcohol abuse on many, but circumstances have led many to this state for their survival short of suicide, with no state assistance to mitigate their plight. They are in short left to their own devises and we place an unfair burden on them to muddle through.

I have not even gone in the direction of the Paddy Mafia that controls the price, and it them along with the traders who make the money at the farmers expense while the farmers have been singularly unable to work together to support each other to resolve these problems.

It is clear that the next generation farmer is an unknown quantity unless state intervention is immediately made to train a farmer corps of intelligent educated and trained farmer, armed with the know how, tools, land and funds in order to productively cultivate land.

How can they even begin, when even the tractors imported for farmers are highly taxed vehicles making it impossible for them to purchase and operate and repay their loans, leaving them at the mercy of lenders of last resort to end up owning them as well due to the inability to profitably manage the needed tools.

In this instance farmers are left to hire these vehicles with the driver at rates that barely make sense, as a specialist has now emerged, a businessman no less who owns the means of farming, the tractors, the combine harvesters who charge according to the extent of land ploughed.

The solution here is to empower the farmer societies in taking charge of this aspect and giving them the subsidized equipment free from taxes to share among the farmer societies, to reduce the wastage of labor intensive work.

One suggestion I was given recently was that the societies lacked a back hoe to dig the canals and clean them ready for water supply and neither did the irrigation departments have them, so if there was a scheme where 10 societies shared the tractors, back hoes and other much needed equipment while being able to get their hands on other less important ones, if needed from private sources, the objective of efficient and productive rice cultivation could result.

In conclusion we must first understand what the Country Food Security objective and then take steps to fulfill the objectives

I am not suggesting that we consolidate fields into larger productive tracts to cultivate, but we must be made aware of the population shifts and the numbers entering agriculture in order to make these assumptions.

The link below is one that says that smaller farms are more productive than bigger ones going against the new norm. However one should bear in mind it is by using the new techniques and intensive agriculture with much more inputs that will result in this and so green houses that are able to produce 10 times more harvest than without, is a means to achieving those ends, not just by assuming the same farmer will reach those heights without any training.

We need policies that will achieve the ends we set ourselves. It is doable, but with a different set of people with a purpose, not Public Officials warming their seats.

We have a political culture that goes against this trend, and that has got to change, sooner rather than later. They must understand not just food security, but also the nutritious food that the people of this country need, that reduces illness rather than increase them as what happens today. It is a holistic concept aimed at developing a healthy society for the future, not just a dependent one that all political policies seem to encourage, for personal gain, and not for the overall health of the country.

There is no one in Sri Lanka today that has the ability to take on these multiple sectors to work in the nation’s interest because there are too many personal agendas that are in conflict with that of the public interest. Let us hope we can rise up and convince the public that certain decision that are taken are in the public interest and not personal and there are some changes in policies needed to keep on track in achieving the goals laid out above. As far as I know I have yet to read an article that even broadly touches on this subject as I have laid out due to ignorance.

Sunday, November 3, 2019

We are creatures of our experience and we should use that to make a better world

Social media broadly attracts an audience in Sri Lanka, that reflects the societal culture, namely of ridiculing someone we envy, rather than praising them for what they have achieved. That kind of behavior is also reflective in the massive negative campaigning of the Presidential Election that is wholly biased towards character assassination and speculation, but little analysis given to evaluating the vision propounded and means to reaching that vision.

Much of this as I repeat as the heading is because we are hardwired that way, a particularly brutal characteristic of Sri Lankans, that have stifled creativity, advancement and achievement, instead overloaded with envy, backstabbing, false accusations especially in bringing down able people and ideas as being somehow anti Sri Lankan, when the whole basis of racism and division that is propounded is what is anti Sri Lankan. In my opinion, social media has given vent to some base allegations of people who are so racist and bigots, they can never be convinced they are!

I shudder to think, how they can let go, of desire or feeling in Buddhist Philosophy as they are simply consumed by hate against a person, or what they stand for instead of understanding their point of view and articulating rationally why you disagree. In this process, it becomes clear how false some ideas are, and can be torn to shreds when exposed.

We are concentrating in this election on a subject called Security, that frankly is not the major concern in Sri Lanka as it is security of food, of the ability to go on the road without being killed or ability to say what you want are not going to be secure. It is also a false security. After all more than those who died in the Easter bombing die on the roads every month, for example and we are doing prescious little to reduce that carnage, and we are trying to fund more security apparatus, instead of securing the hearts and minds of the people of Sri Lanka to secure the nation from dissension.

I can’t think of a more decisive election, where people could end up being so insecure they will leave the island in drovers, nullifying the claims made about ensuring security. They are only going to help a few people feel more secure at the expense of the majority who will be left to their own devices.

It is a story of smoke and mirrors. Like I wrote a tag line of my creation, “What you see isn’t, what you don’t see is killing you – water food and air for example!”

Even well educated people expound the most ridiculous stories to back up their arguments. One such that I discovered today, was attributing the development on Galle Face to Gotabhaya, as the initiator, where land was sold to foreigners, part of the former Army HQ. Why then is one of the tag lines of the GR campaign to review assets sold to foreigners? It is simply a mischievous election gimmick used for political gain, by pretending a holier than thou mentality. No one is free from those allegations.

So instead of taking this negative line, they could have turned it the other way, by saying we did it to maximize the development potential of our country by selling the Rights to the Port City to the Chinese, for the long term benefit of SL.

In this game of “who can fool the public more” kind of politics it is the hapless voter that falls on the way side. We must realize that rogues of the worst order are even on the stage of the two principle candidates and our system does not offer a real third force, as either of the principle two have fooled the voters that the choice is between them or us, and we are cleaner, better, and capable of delivering.

The whole debate is fraught with promises that can never be kept, taking extreme sides, to secure your base, similar to how Trump won the rural voter by frightening him that it was only him who could improve their lives from an international conspiracy against USA, by making America Great Again.

Of course it worked like a dream as the people fell for it, but the deliverer of the message is the biggest culprit of using the ideals he is championing against and there in lies the dilemma faced, as only one side is seen by the voter, not necessarily the true identity.

For example, we may see Sajith as a people person going to deliver, but on the other hand he may be in reality merely a pawn in some other persons game, put out there to fool the masses.

Similarly, we are told GR is his own man, who has a vision different to MR, and will be able to implement it by weeding out the rogues and rif raff that inhabit the platform. He may succeed, he may not, we are merely taking a gamble that he will.

In this, any past misdeeds and allegations of criminal conduct, we hope can be laid to rest till the person is out of office, not to haunt his office, and prevent his ability to deliver on his promises. These issues then ask more questions than they answer and both parties have selected questionable candidates to deliver a new order!


We should return to our personal gut feeling, and hope we are right in our choice. If we feel neither will or can deliver, then you choose someone else, instead of tactical voting but I believe the tactical vote is still available if you use your second and third preference wisely.

This is where the teaching of the Buddha come to play. He has specifically said that when we do something we must do it for a purpose and an outcome we expect. So why can’t we use the same principle in making choices at elections? We then have a conscience that we gave our vote, no matter how anyone else did theirs, to the person we believed could deliver on our vision, or at least as the least bad of the whole bunch of thieves, if we think that way.

We should follow our best instincts, not be etched to a particular color for the rest of our lives. In short we must all be swing or independent voters, who carefully weigh the pros and cons in making our own personal judgment free from coercion, another terrible matter in Sri Lankan politics. After all our vote is secret, and we should be able to give that to who we want, not what someone else directs us to.

The most important point in making our choices, is to use your own experience of life that has taught you lessons and follow your gut instinct, you can then sleep well knowing you were not influenced by anyone else.

The often heard evaluation which is sad in SL is that we say who we vote for is the least bad option, while we have not even evaluated most of the candidates partly because some have convinced us we will waste our voter by so doing, and others point to the need of tactical voting to keep their devil from being elected.

One other very important point I would consider is the overall benefit to the country, which may not help you, in fact by voting for your candidate you, yourself could suffer, for the greater good. One example here was the Land Reform carried out in the early 1970’s where some of the proponents lost a lot of their own land in the process.

I don’t believe most voters put the country’s interests at heart, and only look at what is perceived as best, that is in fact it may not be, but the fake news they follow may give them that impression. So the mandate is grossly illogical based on falsity.

In summary, I would remind that the GUT instinct is the only way to go, no other course of action will you be able to sleep at night with. Don't fret about the result. That is simply out of your hands.