Friday, January 31, 2020

Do you know how many officers of the Department of Wildlife Conservation die as a result of injuries suffered during the course of their work?

Another gentleman Mr WMAD Wendakaduwa succumbed to injuries from a wild elephant yesterday. He has 35 years of service under his belt and an expert in the area of moving elephants from troubled spots. He was loved by all and respected as an expert in this field.

These incidents are now the norm rather than the exception, due to the increase in HEC (Human Elephant Conflict) issues. Their families are now fearful of their lives each time they go on duty. They carry guns to protect themselves, mainly from poachers, and they risk their lives to protect our Biodiversity.

There are too many of this happening and we as a nation must do all we can to (i) appreciate the dedication of the work that the staff of the DWC especially those of the minor ranks to reduce the impact of wild elephant attacks to villages, often at high risk to themselves as in this instance, (ii) go on anti-poaching patrols in the dead of night, having to avoid dangerous traps laid down by poachers, (iii) attend to villagers concerns in when there are elephant attacks incurring their wrath as the blame for elephant attacks, (iv) deal with injured wild animals and transport them for medical attention, (v) secure the borders of the Protected Areas from incursion and deviants, such as sand miners, gem miners, quarry cutting and tree cutting gangs, again at immense personal risk to themselves, to name a few of the tasks as well as maintain the National Parks and do the needful to protect our diverse Flora and Fauna.  

A country that spends inordinate amount of energy in revering the Security Forces, don’t even give a mention to these individuals who risk their lives every day in the course of their work. Their pensions, death benefits especially while on hazard duty, and the welfare of disabled staff and families of those who have been killed must be reviewed if we are to attract the quality and caliber of people such as Mr Wendakaduwa in future.

It takes a special person to work in this field, one who understands the forests, the wild and the dark. I have lately written much on this subject, hoping to catch the attention of those who must take action to upgrade this task and its members along with giving the necessary tools for their work. Otherwise being penny wise and pound foolish in this area will result in more casualties, and it is the Country that will survive. The indirect benefit of their work helps Tourism immensely.

I am led to understand that this accident took place when in the process of tranquilizing a wild elephant. It is possible that the anesthesia used may not have been effective. There are many reasons for this. It could be that the quality was sub-par for the task at hand due to cost constraints and sourcing from less respected suppliers. It could have been because the elephant was so badly shot up with lead in its body, that the tranquilizer was not able to penetrate its body as quickly as expected. However there are many factors and it is these innocent people who have to contend with these mistakes.

There is also an acute shortage of Vets within the DWC to attend to calls all around the Island, who cannot get to places fast enough. After all it is more important for them to have the use of a security forces helicopter to get to places, MORE than either the President or the PM as their work is more important.

The DWC is a Cash Cow to the Treasury who seem to have forgotten that they need a much larger allocation to do their job properly and not to allocate money for the elephant fences which have added to HEC instead of other more practical means such as what I have alluded to which may be more productive.

HEC is an increasing issue, and mercifully, the GOSL saw sense in not providing guns to chase away elephants which would put more lives of these DWC staffers at risk instead of alleviating an already dangerous level of angst that the elephant population have grown accustomed to against human beings for their activity.

All I can do is raise awareness, and hope that common sense prevails, but how many more deaths of our great and good fearless warriors must it take for the powers to wake up. I just don’t want the life of this individual I refer to, to be in vain, in the valiant effort he has made of 35 years to save so many lives.

Who is the true RANAVIRU here? I hope his dedication will be noted, highlighted, and remembered for the true hero he was, doing his job with no song and dance, just humble to the bitter end!

Thursday, January 30, 2020

The absurd level of panic in Sri Lanka – Coronavirus Panicatacus Syndrome!

The way the people of the Country have been unnecessarily alarmed due to the Coronavirus is worrying, and an indication of how gullible, how insensitive, how racist, and how melodramatic the people are in general with a few exceptions, which indicate the nature of the public.

The over use and therefore shortage of face masks, which are really of minimal value, over something as simple as regular washing of hands in antibacterial soap is a case in point. After all apparently only one is a hundred people who contract this virus is likely to die from it, makes Dengue and its prevention in SL is a far more disturbing public health issue than what Corona will ever be and I don’t see anyone making that point.

As a nation merely moving from sound bite to sound bite, the true extent of what one should be concerned about is not taken into account. It is more important to safely cross at a pedestrian crossing than put on a face mask, as the likelihood of being run over by a vehicle, exceeds that of even contracting the virus, let alone dying from it! I hope that puts in context what we are seeing.

So when travelers say that even at the airport they are being treated as if they have come from a danger zone when 99.9% have not, you can imagine the chagrin with which oncoming tourists will feel the authorities in Sri Lanka behave.

The host country must not instill fear into our visitors who don’t bring this virus and the shoddy treatment of anyone remotely looking slitty eyed as we don’t still know how to distinguish between Japanese, Korean or Chinese, makes it even more embarrassing.

I was informed by a friend who works in a restaurant that they are wearing masks when serving. They have not been told that washing hands is more important in the prevention of the spread of the disease if one were infected. What is the likelihood of a patron of being infected? It is enough to put people of their food if they are trying to enjoy a meal in a restaurant without feeling they are in a hospital. It is not one which the patrons will like especially if they are not wearing a mask.

Then finally the false sense of security created by the masks is an important consideration. After all there are many masks in the market, especially now that don't conform to minimum acceptable standards. So they only give a veneer of safety without actually being safe, and give another person a false sense of security which is worse than not giving any sense without a mask. Just think

The LRT caput! The GOSL is going to review the Fort Malabe Light Rail Transit project that is funded by the Japanese on concessionary terms.

It has taken 5 years of discussion to get to this stage, only for the whole project to be renegotiated and likely cancelled. This is because much of JICA funding is long term concessionary and based on terms that often includes the use of Japanese Firms in their construction and low commissions and bribes paid to local intermediaries. The real issue of the commuter seems to be the least concern.

It is likely then that we may end up getting a Chinese  company bidding and being granted the contract, after a lot of wrangling on the payoffs, so another 3 to 5 years will be wasted before construction begins and it is likely that it would be finished by 2035 at the earliest if past practice is an indicator of future likelihood.

Can you imagine what the traffic would be in Colombo by then? If it is costing a Rs1B a day in lost work now it will soon cost RS2B a day in about a month from now when traffic snarl ups are the norm rather than exception and while the people of Colombo and the suburbs suffer just to come to work, does anyone think they can ever work once they do arrive?

It is under this ridiculous scenario that we have people making life and death decisions without a care in the world for the suffering of the people involved. When China can build a 1,000 bed hospital in 10 days, lawmakers are simply unable to execute a project during the period they have power, so when the next bunch of bozos come on the scene just to mothball the previous project because they somehow think they don’t share in the spoils, whose spoils are they concerned about, but their own? We the people bear a huge responsibility in electing the people with unchanged outlook on what the future should look like let alone any care for the future.

I suggest it is better to move Government out of Colombo, to somewhere livable like Polonnaruwa and build a lean and mean capital using latest technology and a tenth of the workforce so that in future the people will not be burdened in carrying a weight of non-productive workers, as now the displaced workers can actually be released into the Private Sector to add value to the economy and industry, so the Country can actually move forwards instead of backwards.

It is utterly frustrating that no short term measures have not been adopted to relieve congestion, like a fleet of electric buses that provide free seating from Malabe to Fort where it is AC and seating only where standing passengers will not be permitted. If this causes a riot then provide this at least at Rs100 a pop, so that one car for each passenger would be removed from the roads. This after providing large parking lots in Malabe for drivers to park and use public transport.

Tuesday, January 28, 2020

The Setting of Traps and Trap Guns – a particularly indiscriminate form of cruelty!

How about strictly enforcing the ban on traps and use of trap guns with increased vigor, distinguishing it from other form of hunting?

Poaching is an organized crime, and like felling of trees, sand mining, distilling moonshine, they continue unabated as they receive patronage from the very top, and the connivance of the security forces by way of corruption to look the other way.

If you speak to staff of the Department of Wildlife Conservation, whose task it is to catch poachers, their biggest fear when out patrolling is being injured or killed by traps and trap guns that are very carefully camouflaged. Most often no one is apprehended for trap guns and traps as the deed is done remotely, without the culprit present, except when setting it. Trap guns also kill many innocent civilians who happen to go into the forest to pick medicinal plants or berries for personal use, the occasional poacher falls prey to his own trap. If my suggestion below is acted upon, the DWC staffers will be more productive in their tasks too. A win win proposition.

It is time to distinguish this particularly nasty method of maiming and killing, including Hakka Pattas where food items are wrapped in poison or fuses that blow up upon touch.

Man has hunted for a livelihood since the beginning of the human race, however they have been banned from hunting in Sri Lanka only in the last 50 years. However due to this urge for continuation, there are poachers everywhere and every day in the Island now.

If poachers know that society does not or will never tolerate this particularly nasty form of killing and maiming where even small elephants fall prey to this vicious form of cruelty, we may as a society be able to reduce the incidence of this form of horrific killing. It is state sponsorship of publicity, of show trials covering all media when people are apprehended, and earnestly informing the police that they too will be harshly punished, if there are traps found in their jurisdiction, that will show results by seeing a reduction.

My contention is that every rural police station knows who poach. So it is actually easy for them to give out the message that as they too will be implicated in such instances, poachers are more likely to listen and desist. With new technology, this form of killing becomes easy and nastier and more horrific. Why have we not been able to get a handle on it?

Traps are indiscriminate forms of killing as they don't select which man or beast is caught in the trap. It is the worst form of killing. In nations that permit hunting, they are able to prevent such practices, as they are able to provide the hunter with an outlet for their desire that is hard wired in their DNA in a more humane way! My contention then is that the laws in Sri Lanka have not prevented the worst form of animal cruelty, by banning all killing, and in fact created a bigger platform for traps and trap guns.

There are professional trappers in many countries, who are competent in only catching the vermin they are permitted to kill, and so don't engage in the practices that poachers use in Sri Lanka. The Media and Police must act publicize this form of killing as being totally unacceptable and the Government do its part by increasing the sentences and fines for their use.

I can only hope that common sense prevails and we are able to civilize our poachers from being indiscriminate killers to more selective type. Of course my desire is to see a species management program, so that their energies are directed in the right direction and we are then able to save animals that are endangered at the same time. After all the suggestion above is not to encourage hunting, but to re direct their skills in the right direction eventually, when Sri Lanka matures to a true era of sustainable practices of farming and wildlife management.

Friday, January 24, 2020

The peacock – time to use the bird in the context of species management!

What if we do nothing? The population of peacocks in the Country is rising to proportions, where it is becoming a nuisance, doing more harm than good. We can get the experts to confirm or deny my hypotheses, using tried and tested scientific methods. This may be broken down by District, if we need to know if there is a dearth in some and excess in others if the need arises.

The same scientists and zoologists can give reasons as to, ‘why it has happened’, to explain their natural increase, such as the decimation of the jungle cats who used to kill small pea fowl for their food. This may give credence to the circle of life being put out of equilibrium, as an argument for their culling.

I believe I saw a clip of Professor Kotagama, the expert on birds of Sri Lanka, putting forward an argument for their population control, as they may have a detrimental effect on our Endemic Bird survival or for that matter of other biodiversity. I don’t know if this is an introduced species to the island, as it may arrived in the island a few thousand years ago, with migrants. I wonder if historians have definitive knowledge of this. As this species is very resilient surviving in temperate climates like the UK, this is a possibility.

We then arrive at the topic here of species management. I can now imagine how some conservationists may believe that the subject must not be tolerated, because they will say it is the beginning of the end! That means if we allow culling of peacock, when will the culling of elephants begin? I believe that is not an excuse to begin our debate on this subject, a much less controversial subject, if we are to begin intelligent discussion on long term biodiversity survival.

We will have a whole set of stakeholders who wish to express their views. They include religious beliefs, where the peacock is considered sacred and inviolable.

In today’s world there are so many opinions arguments, now fake news being spread around, to back one’s opinion, which is intended to cloud the original argument. You will even have a set of people saying “with more land cleared for farming, the traditional land of the peacocks have been encroached upon by man and so we cannot allow this.” This is because they don’t know that the likely population of peacocks when the country was covered in forest. It is likely that we have more peacocks in the Country today, than we have ever had in the whole history of Sri Lanka. The circle of life kept this population in check due to other species that was their natural predator having a much bigger presence!

So let’s concentrate on answering if there is a problem. If so what is the solution and what are the consequences arising from implementation?

So now is the time to begin talking, getting a plan of action and state sponsorship, using our State Universities to use their knowledge to begin this discussion without delay. The whole world has begun, we are as usual not on the page yet!

If only we were able to send our 1,000 best hunters to the USA we can reduce poaching substantially

 and the USA would love to have them!

This is not pie in the sky or a joke, it is a win win proposition for all.

No one in Sri Lanka realizes that we have over 5,000 hunting parties going hunting every day. They hunt deer, monitors, porcupine, sambhur, wild boar, and even monkeys, and unfortunately, traps are used that kill people and kill leopard as well. Of the daily hunting parties, only 10% are successful, as often they return empty handed, due to the game, already decimated by over hunting.

One thing is clear about the hunters, not only do they do it as there is a big pay day if they bag a deer or sambhur as game meat commands a high price in hotels catering for locals, and for the top brass of the armed forces who pay top dollar for game, most often the hunters only survive at best and occasionally have to pay protection money to the Police or share the proceeds with them.

The bottom line they have a rotten life, and go through incredible hardship in eking out a living.

So the reader of this must think I am partial to hunters, and condone this killing. Far from it. However put yourself in the shoes of the hunter. You have to understand his point of view if you want to reduce the incidence of killing of endangered and species that are in short supply. Don’t forget the food chain is a very delicate balance and if some of it goes out of equilibrium the whole eco system goes out of whack.

So for example because of the heavy use of pesticides, the large communities of jungle cats have disappeared and are very hard to find or see. This means that baby peacocks they used to eat now thrive and are now a pest in the Country, so much so that it is very harmful for the farmers too. However not only are they protected, but there is a religious element that does not want them killed either. However as they are not endangered, and they are now overrunning many places it is a matter of time before culling will be permitted to control the over population.

Though Sri Lanka is a small island, there are pockets where certain species are over populated, while in other areas they are under populated. This is partly due to farms, urban gardens and food sources. So monkeys are a menace in certain areas, as well as wild boar, in addition to the peacock, giant squirra and porcupine.

As there is no proper study of this and species management program, all our hunters are effectively poachers and that is why I would like to give them relief.
My first suggestion was to use these poachers as game keepers as they are the best to do that job, knowing the animals very well as well as their behavior especially, nocturnal patterns. If we have a system of rehabilitating them, and using their skills then for example the DWC can improve their performance in protecting Biodiversity. It does not seem to be happening.

So what is the solution? Have a plan to ship them to the USA where you treat is as a job that is badly required in the USA but there are fewer people willing to do it. There is a huge demand for hunters as trappers in the USA to reduce the over population of vermin and this is where the coyote comes in.

The Coyote

The coyote is the USA equivalent of the Jackal and due to urbanization the population of the coyote is increasing by leaps and bounds. Despite the estimated killing of at least 400,000 coyote yearly in the USA their population, especially in urban areas is rising. Earlier they were poisoned, but this is no longer used, as it may affect the food chain adversely, so alternative methods need to be used.

I am using coyote as just one example, but there are many species that can be legally hunted in the USA due to the need to control populations of certain species. For example due to the decimation of wolves in North America, the population of coyotes expanded, as wolves used to kill coyote cubs. That is not to say coyotes are also have their place in controlling other species too, so there is a balance in how they too are controlled.

Here in Arkansas where I am they can be freely killed without a permit. The beauty of it is that our hunters are superb at their job. Just give them a good gun and they will be top of the game. See what they have to put up with. They make their own guns, very primitive ones that are used for hunting. So if they have access to proper hunting rifles it will be like ducks to water.

Now coyote pelts were in demand in the past to export to countries to make fur clothing. So just imagine our hunters came for a season each year, collect all the coyote pelts they can and ship them back to Sri Lanka, and make the winter clothing from these natural pelts and re-export them to countries that demand them.

So what is the catch in my plan? Our hunters will get too used to the good life in the USA and will want to do some easy job, instead of hunting and skip town to work in a gas station and work their way up the food chain in the USA. If they stick to what they know best they can have a good life, it can reduce the vermin by the use of world experts and they can earn a good living for their families.

Wednesday, January 22, 2020

The fall out of the Ranjan Ramanayake speech in Parliament on 21st January 2020

This is how you eviscerate Bad Apples from your midst (January 21st 2020)

How to clean up corruption from within your ranks?

Coming out of the national discourse, emanating from the speech today that Ranjan Ramanayake gave in Parliament, it is apparent that he has a point, that the Crooks are mainly inside Parliament and many like him in jail (he was permitted to come out of remand prison to attend Parliament as an MP) are cleaner than those outside.

He did not hold back. He accused everyone including his own party the UNP, from which he was not only expelled, but also his organizer-ship and other positions he held, were also denied him, that he spoke now as an Independent Member.

You cannot be in Parliament if you are honest and say nothing when your colleagues are crooks. However for your own life, and your security, you don’t open your mouth and speak the truth, even if you know what the truth is. The people deserve better.

He shat on so many people it was not funny. However if we take just a simple example of SB Dissanayake telling Ranga Bandara, that if he changed sides from the UNP where he was, to the SLPP Pohottuwa Mob, at the time there was the illegal takeover of power by Mahinda Rajapakse, that he would immediately be given a Cabinet Minister Post, is anything but treason. So the Trump impeachment sounds like a joke in comparison to such inducements to change the course of history and go against the people’s mandate, not that it means a thing to Mahinda Rajapakse or his Government either, who are currently in power, along with the Drug Lords like Kudu Smell L as an MP who spoke immediately after Ranjan Ramanayake’s speech.

What is the least that we owe to the public of Sri Lanka? They have been led a dance by the very people, who bend in two to worship when they arrive at their doorstep to give or take! In order to correct this mistake and change the course of history, it is simply incumbent upon those who are honest to rat on the dishonest.

Well well, it was Ranjan who had the courage. How? He taped and video’d as much of his conversations as possible. When he needed proof to back up his words, he had the dirt on them. How can you look the people in the eye in prison, and feel sorry for them, as you should be serving a longer term than those poor hapless prisoners? They have no one to defend them, and are often the fodder for the sins of the drug lords or criminal gangs for whom they are doing the dirty work, or take the rap to save the bigger fish. I would love to be a fly on the wall, listening to prisoners’ conversations. I would like to know if they gave RR a standing ovation on his return.

The speech in parliament that has now gone viral on the Internet

Having logged over 200K of hits or views within hours of the speech being uploaded to Youtube, means that within a month half the population of Sri Lanka would have heard the tapes. How would they react?

Will they get a shock at the level of corruption in the judiciary and police?

Will they be shocked by the revelation that some Buddhist Priests are pedophiles?

Will they be angry that their heroes have been crucified in public for corruption?

I could go on and on in this speculation, but more to the point, I did not even detect a sense of shame even among the UNP politicians from whose ranks he spoke, despite being stripped of his party membership. The UNP is in turmoil, just as much as Mahinda Rajapakse and his mob, and they all deserve to be hounded out of parliament by a frenzied mob who should not be stopped by the security forces, who must now understand that they cannot protect rogues, purely by the fact they are Ministers or MPs and/or are holding office as their superiors.

Yes, the Parliament of Sri Lanka is an exclusive members club. It is for the Members and against the interests of the people of Sri Lanka, who they have promised to serve. They have repeatedly broken that promise, only to serve themselves. The heavy cost of seeking entry into parliament is simply not an excuse for corruption. They fund raise from people who they then protect, or give favors to. It lacks transparency. It is then only an old fashioned or glorified Masonic Temple with members, Free Masons, there to help each other succeed financially at the expense of everyone else.

The people cannot revolt as this will be brutally suppressed by the powerful armed forces, who are not trained to think, just to follow orders no matter how unjust. Unless the lower ranks are able to come out of their shell of ritual suppression and draw the line in the sand for justice and protect the innocent, there is no practical way out. The JVP is not the answer as they are no longer without blame for their part

The odds are stacked against the innocent and there is no external party who will come to save them or for that matter even support them. The people are on their own, rudderless, leaderless and so hang on to dear life to the purse strings of criminals as security from unjust repression. They are all looking for salvation from tyranny.

On this basis Hemasiri Fernando and Pujitha Jayasundera look like saints!

They have been in remand for months, not given bail for the charges they are accused of, when in fact both Maithripala Sirisena and Ranil Wickremesinghe are more to blame than these incompetent men taking the rap, with the jobs of Secretary of Defence and The Inspector General of Police (technically Pujitha is till the IGP)

Most religions have set the standard to say that sins of commission and sins of omission don’t have any different values. They are both sins. On this basis, while knowing the people in your midst are rogues and criminals and are guilty of treason, does not mean you are not held accountable for not bringing allegations against them, as much as you have evidence against them to light. Hence all MPs are guilty.

This is completely my logic in preventing any present Member of Parliament from holding future office as an MP and for that matter barred for life from serving in any elected capacity, where the voters are the general public. You can if you want be elected a chairman of a club of crooks. That is your prerogative, but not one that represents the people of Sri Lanka.

It may also be time to re write the constitution to prevent these lawmakers from ever being elected in future. It is so easy to do, but as the power of two thirds rests within Parliament, in which among them two thirds are rogues with privileges the general public are excluded from, it has to be done away by legislation.

This is a seminal moment, on the eve of a General Election to make changes that are far reaching and consequential. Coming so soon after the Ranjan Ramanayake revelations, that no Media in the Island have still exposed, as they are implicated,

So what is the problem in implementation?

This is the age old problem when a whole country has been hijacked by crooks. They hold the power. Only they can change the law and they are only taking steps to protect their turf, not to destroy themselves. Of course they are not foolish enough to destroy their own comfort zone of corruption. However the risk and chance that Ranjan Ramanayake took can only be built upon if the people are on the same page with him, and rise up to the occasion and say enough is enough!

We simply cannot play the same game of politics. It has not improved the quality of life of the poorest of the Country, and worse it has permitted people like the paddy Mafia to rule without shame or control over a vast swathe of society, with no consequences, or barriers to their power at price fixing and keeping the farmers in permanent penury. It is so easy to change, let’s just do it.

Sunday, January 12, 2020

One way of increasing agricultural productivity, is to stop massive waste of precious inputs

Sustainable Agriculture

My recent history is that of being a farmer, but I am firm in my belief that even for a small country life Sri Lanka, we can and MUST release 1 Million hectares of land back into forest for sustainability of food production, climate risk, and the equilibrium of man and nature.

While it sounds incredible for one in Agriculture to say that the only means by which we can increase our Food Production output in Sri Lanka is to put back this massive amount of land, (much of which is cleared forest lands used presently in non-sustainable and marginal agriculture) this is the only means of increasing productivity of the remaining land.

One does not have to reinvent the wheel. There are enough examples throughout the world to know what is required to feed our nation. Just see the massive productivity of the Netherlands one of the world’s largest exporters of food products and flowers to see what is possible.

This last two months in Sri Lanka, showed that a little of bit of excess rain, can play havoc in previously planted vegetable crops to devastate them and increase the price of vegetables in the market to unheard of levels. If modern techniques were used, this now almost inevitable annual flooding can be managed by using new technology. Green house production is an obvious solution, as yield per sq meter is about 4 to 5 times that of other means, and more crops per annum as well as minimal degradation of soil can be achieved.

While we are wonderful at preaching the effects of wildlife on the volume of crops lost, we have yet to counter it with practical measures that work, which then will result in a substantial increase in output from the land and therefore productivity. Most of the energy of the state is taken to assist those living on marginal land that has been distributed to landless, when they should never have been given land to cultivate in the first place their knowledge or desire to farm is lacking and calling them farmers gives this time honored profession a bad name.

It is these 500,000+ families who must be moved out, forcibly if necessary to correct past errors of the state in giving them land to which they are simply not suited to farm, at a high infrastructure cost of providing roads, power, irrigation. Bogus reports are thrown out saying that the way of the future is small scale agriculture instead of large farms, however Sri Lanka does not qualify in that statement simply because we don’t have large scale food production, and most of the small scale farmers have no inclination to farm, in the first place.

We must instead assist real farmers quintuple their output using their knowhow.

I was thinking we are using technological advances to destroy and not recreate the wonder of life and living

What comes to mind with this statement which I just posted on FB along with two pictures of birds, I have not posted before and I don’t know the names thereof, and will have wait till I get the bird book from Yves from which to name it?

The first thing that comes to mind today, of course was the use of (mistaken I agree and that is the whole point) a Russian built SAM missile to take down the plane with innocent and brilliant people of Iranian origin.

Is God cursing the Iranian people for their deliberate bellicose action, of funding terrorism outside of their country in the name of religion, to spread their form of Shia Islam to all corners of the earth, when they are NOT doing the basics in feeding their own population, that forces these brilliant minds to seek greener pastures for their knowledge, expertise and contribution to this world?

In the same breadth is the US just as guilty of the same crime, where in order to ensure raw material security, and they will do anything, even destabilize a whole region to keep them mired in conflict to achieve a very nebulous outcome and are now facing a showdown of failure of past policies in achieving this so called desired outcome?

I am putting this paper in Kalpanakanna blog because it is the same message that is being given to our petty minded Sri Lankans who are so quick to criticize others like the Australians for wanting to cull 10,000 head of feral camels who are a real nuisance to all, instead of questioning their own morals, ethics and consideration for their fellow man within the island.

We have suddenly lost meaning of what is right and wrong and until we step back and realize that we will never go wrong, and can die in peace, if we act according to our conscience in doing what is right for our fellow man, no matter we don’t know that man, but by our actions alone is making life easier for some other human being on earth.

We need to critically think of our place in this society as we are here for a minuscule time on earth, and cannot take a dime with us when we go, so we need to use that time and effort to make the world a better place for our family, friends, neighbors and so we can rest in peace, knowing we did what we could within the capability and intelligence and work ethic that God gave us. We frankly don’t have to show our practice of religion. It is simply by the way we behave and act that we live our religion or out belief system. Religion is and has been the Opium used by the unethical to further their ends of greed and power.

Thursday, January 9, 2020

Informal Tourism Accommodation - requires Accountability and Regulation Urgently

The Sri Lanka Tourism Brand – Longer Term Enhancement

Aspects covered here. The informal tourism sector of lodging that provide at least 60% of room nights of foreign citizen tourists visiting Sri Lanka.

This will NOT cover Sri Lankan origin foreign nationals who are more likely to have researched their stays, and either stay with friends and family for part of their vacation and for the other part engage mainly formal tourist establishments, and Boutique Hotels, which may not be registered with Sri Lanka Tourism. Often they travel with locals and friends, and demand resident rates to maximize their tourism spend. This is a growing area with more and more expatriate arrivals and a significant contributor to the economy, but which grows organically with or without a marketing campaign by the various Government Bodies like SLTDA.

The Independent Traveler Planning a stay from a few nights to a few weeks

Here, we home in on the Independent Traveler, who we wish to attract as a first time visitor to the Island, who wishes to organize his or her itinerary, mostly by themselves, using the Internet and various booking sites.

Initially they need a good website to decide how and where to go, and there is NO comprehensive website that is of any use to this visitor, who is left to either buy a Travel Guide and follow some of the suggestions there, or just decide on a location and begin by booking accommodation.

Websites such as and Air B&B are popular sites used by these travelers, some of whom just book one or two nights initially, and prefer to book future stays once they arrive and survey the scene, but still use the same medium to book the further stays. In my experience of Paradise Farm bookings, often bookings are made the day before arrival by a tourist already in the Island, when there is space availability. Advance pre bookings lately are only around 25% of room nights.

It is likely that the well healed Tourist will book locations in advance in high end resorts, and that does not matter if they are formal or informal as they would not even know if it is registered with the SLTDA, as that would be irrelevant to them, if the location is one that either has been recommended or has a high rating on sites such as Trip Advisor, where prior guest rankings and experiences are used in making the decision to reserve a room.

Let’s divide the strategy into a two pronged one to register, high and low end.

Registration of Unregistered Lodgings with the SLTDA

I presume the use of the world Informal Sector is because those lodging establishments are not registered. They fall into the whole spectrum of lodging at every pricing level.

In order to offer to good Tourism Product for visitors to Sri Lanka, it is important that all providers of lodging for tourists to Sri Lanka, who have little or no prior knowledge of the Country, are regulated, so as to ensure that minimum standards are adhered to, and not only that, in order to assist Tourists in making up their mind on reservation, have some kind of criteria with which to judge the lodging, that they could trust. There is no question that presently the Trip Advisor rankings are used as the best source of independent verification.

The Question one must ask first is whether we need to register them in the first place and why?

Of course the first answer is that we (SLTDA) needs to know how many beds are available in the Island for tourists, at each level, in order to determine what mix and how to spend the marketing dollars here in order to attract the mix to fill these rooms across the spectrum.

So we agree that the regulating body that promotes Tourism must know how many rooms are available, so they can work on the supply side to fill gaps in numbers, locations and quality of rooms. Currently they have NO CLUE!

Reason for non-Registration is Regulation and Fees

A struggling tourism sector does not want to pay a turnover based fee to the SLTDA, as many are barely making ends meet. Those who are paying fees by being registered are resentful that the informal sector gets away with loopholes.

How can this dilemma be solved. Simply put the playing field HAS TO BE level for all, and all turnover based fees MUST BE IMMEDIATELY REMOVED.

The fee must be simply an annual fee based on Star Class or Type of Establishment and number of beds offered, a double bed treated as 2 (5ft wide or more) This is in order to obtain registration only, and category of hotel or stars over 2 stars for which a certificate is required, another flat fee for the granting of a certificate to take account of the need of that establishment to get an official grading and the administration work required to annually inspect and award. All other establishments are registered and not rated, as they may possess individual characteristics that they may have that attract the visitor.

Annual bed charge for registration could be a system as follows

Homestay Accommodation @ Rs1000 per bed per annum, divided by two to be paid in two equal instalments 1st January and 1st July. It may sound too low, but this is the very establishment that is in need of the MOST REGULATION, and constant evaluation and un-announced site visits, as well as the training required for the owners, usually the Head of Household.

Small Hotels Rs4,000 per head up to 2 stars also payable in two instalments

3 Star @ 5,000, 4 Star @ 6,000 and 5 Star and above including Boutique Hotels charging in excess of US$100+ per night at Rs8,000.

My understanding is that there are presently 100,000 head in these establishments on the island. Simply put 100,000 people can be put up a night at a maximum in Sri Lanka and if they are all regulated, the income from this charge would be Rs250M p/annum. This should be sufficient just to regulate and staffing to inspect and advise on the actual maintenance of the standards, certification, training and assistance where needed. The informal sector will receive a disproportionate level of service as they are more in need to be regulated, due to their 100% lack of regulation at present.

The informal sector MUST feel that their being regulated is not one that will result in them being taxed in future, but is one they will definitely be able to use as a marketing tool in attracting visitors and one which the minimal cost of registration will be more than outweighed by the benefits of a regulation certificate they can display prominently in the establishment.

Why am I concentrating on this unregulated sector registration as being of utmost importance?

Today’s and the future’s tourist product is all experiential. That is, the visitor is looking for a unique experience in their holiday, something that they can remember the holiday by and perhaps have fond memories and photographs to share with friends back home, which we obviously hope will lead to their friends being attracted to do the same.

The object of a good Tourism Brand is for visitors who have experienced it to recommend to their friends and family and for them to be repeat visitors. This then reduces the need for exponential increases in advertising and promotion, and the future growth can be concentrated on improving product, so a higher per diem charge can be obtained. Many in the business want to jump the hurdle and say we should only concentrate on the high end.

While at first sight I may agree to that, in the Sri Lankan context we have some structural changes that are needed before we get there, as we first need to educate the various service providers on what it is that the tourist is looking for, in order to be able to increase the yield per day per visitor. We have not got there yet, and in fact we are doing our utmost to denigrate the experience with some of the actions of the players and stakeholders, and we must try and plug those most shameless exploitative practices that are common.

The Key to Homestay Tourism Concentration (an example)

In my opinion, the dollars spent by the tourist reaches the rural masses faster than any other sector in the Tourism Industry. In my experience and travels around the Island, I have seen some extremely beautiful sights, where for example if only a rural subsistence farmer had the wherewithal or the foresight to invest in a detached room, bathroom and a decent sized verandah all in one building, they could house a tourist couple for a longer stay in villages, the rural village experience in Sri Lanka is attractive to youth visitors under 30 who are more able to rough out in three wheelers and buses, but who need a quiet SAFE SECURE PLACE TO STAY.

Farmers who live hand to mouth could depending on the quality of accommodation they can provide, be able to get out of poverty and dependence on farming income if this sector is expanded and encouraged. The foreign investment component of construction and food is minimal and so most of the dollars spent, not only stays in the rural areas, but are also locally sourced, with minimal import. The Savvy traveler books one night on homestay and then stays a week or two if the place is agreeable if they come not for a lightening trip to see sights but to experience a part of Sri Lanka outside of the Guide Books. This is the tourist who refuses to pay the charges to climb Sigiriya, many of whom I have met in my travels, but wish to experience how the people of Sri Lanka really live.

What is the role of the regulator here?

The regulators job is to encourage, show that one room is better than two as many try to achieve more than is practical and to provide blue prints on what the minimum standards of cleanliness, safety, food safety and precautions needed to keep the visitors safe. This is an area that visitors to areas not frequented by tourists are conscious of and local Police are unprepared to face consequences of crime against Tourists, a major deterrent to the success of this the most productive sector Tourism, as far as the economy is concerned. There is much scope for value addition and for children to learn about what is special about their own environment to be able to appreciate and show the visitor the unique features.

Don’t forget that today, with 60% + room nights in the informal and therefore unregulated sector, Tourists are on their own, with no protection. This is a disaster waiting to happen, if this sector is not regulated as soon as possible.

Due to the blinkered view of the Industry looking at the unregulated sector, as more of a pain in the rear end, they have not realized that it could be the last straw that breaks the camel’s back if a tourist gets raped in a house and this information goes viral. They don’t care if the excuse is it is unregulated or not, it is the Sri Lanka Tourism Brand that is at stake here.

The reason that happens is that the providers of this service, are unaware of the dangers lurking below the surface of our people who are not used to seeing half clothed tourists walking around. Some of the tourists too are unaware of the risks they take.

Regulations such the preference for a detached room to house a visitor instead of a room in the house for example, will mean that minimum precautions are made clear. Lockable rooms, and bathrooms being another. Food safety being another.

We in Sri Lanka cannot “wing it” as it were. That time has passed. We have to be aware of how the visitor is treated. Questionnaires could be provided at all establishments with post-paid envelopes, so letters come direct to the SLTDA as that will immediately alert the inert in these establishments to the real issues faced by tourists. Currently no sampling of this nature takes place. Replies can be anonymous or with detailed information, so those who wish to leave their contact details in their home countries can be immediately contacted and any negative connotations immediately neutralized.

This is the most invaluable tool in constantly updating the checklist of regulations and best practice to be abreast of the dangers in real time and make appropriate changes where necessary.

No matter what the Industry veterans in the Regulated and Registered sector think, it is the informal sector that has the greatest potential for increasing the accommodation in the short term and increase the multiplier effect of Tourism in the Economy of Sri Lanka, where this sector is the only one that can increase the foreign exchange contribution to the economy. I therefore cannot stress enough the urgency and the importance of the proposals I have made to improve the Tourism Product in Sri Lanka in order to attract the numbers of tourists to the Island. It is the improvement of the service standards that will then gradually flow into the high end once the Brand is established and high spenders come in droves.

Tuesday, January 7, 2020

New World and Old World – Compare and Contrast

This essay attempts to explain some of the dynamics of cultures in which we live in and is relevant to Sri Lanka, still steeped in too much emphasis of the past, with little desire for a vision of a future, which succinctly explains, Singapore’s success when compared to Sri Lanka’s inertia. The baggage called HISTORY.

The USA vs Iran war of words is a lesson in international priorities. The USA a country barely 250 years, and that is due to the original inhabitants directly or indirectly being massacred by the conquering invaders, who have no score for culture or history, with waves of recent immigrants, including both parents of Donald Trump, German and Scottish ancestry, whose view of the world is to live the American Dream, namely to acquire wealth as a mark of success. Power only came to him by chance when he skillfully used his wealth to fill a void and need in society for an outsider to enter the game, no matter what personality type he displayed, or how many times he was declared a bankrupt and why.

Iran on the other hand with thousands of years of history and the cradle of civilization, has been unable to curb state sponsored corruption that has kept the populace enjoying a much lower quality of life, which has led its more entrepreneurial and professional elites to emigrate, leaving a country in the hands of Mullahs and Militarists in the still anachronistic words of the Revolutionary Guards! Despite being a country that has immense oil wealth, which could have allowed its population to have a significantly higher standard of living, the leaders have chosen to follow policies of jingoistic connotations, and anti-Israeli sentiments to pursue a Nuclear Arms Race, that has resulted in sanctions and lack of ability to benefit from their resources. All they needed was to stop their Nuclear ambitions and the sanctions would have been lifted. It is likely, they would now have a GNP twice or three times what it actually does.

This pursuit was due to sheer arrogance, pursuing policies in the Middle East aimed at dominating their neighbors and spending the little money they have in war games and militias to exert this control and giving almost cart blanch to a killing machine in the form of Suleimani to pursue his own foreign policy!

The curse for the rest of us was that we had never heard of this man until his demise, and question why. Was it a deliberate attempt of the West to deny him notoriety by suppressing his name knowing full well he was behind the deaths of countless number of people? I would love to know the answer to that.

It is clear then that countries mired in the baggage called history, that created policies that are detrimental to the improvement in the quality of life of the people, and not tolerating dissent, has created a closed society not open to growth.