Monday, August 25, 2014

Another of the Greats – Richard Attenborough (1923 – 2014)


This Man who has been an actor since before I was born, dies a few days short of his 91st birthday on the 29th so has had a full life, and has spent his last days, having suffered a stroke in a care home that he himself had helped to found for retired actors.

Of course having lived in England since 1971, I was privy to many of his movies in black and white, and only later did I follow the movies he directed including the acclaimed Gandhi which I believe won numerous award, including a clutch of Oscars.

Nevertheless, the reason I chose to write was the fact that at the time of his death he was still living in the same care home with his wife who was suffering from Dementia, who he had married in 1945 and with whom he has had three children, one of whom as an adult died in the Boxing Day tsunami.

In this day and age, where actors make it a point to make headlines with marriages and their divorces and numerous follow up marriages and divorces, it is nice to know some old world actors did not have to succumb to the same temptation to stay popular or crave notice when their popularity for some reason takes a dive!

Unfortunately we live in a world where with TV and digital media, Sportsman and women as well as Actors and Singers are the standards by which our youth seem to judge success or failure.

The resulting social tragedy where divorce as it is seen as common, has put less emphasis on the sanctity of marriage and the untold misery of children who are of divorced parents who count amongst them, numerous grand and step grandparents seem to confuse families to such a degree that there is NO nuclear family anymore.

In the Sri Lankan context it is sadly no different as the tragedy I referred to earlier where a man in his early thirties died in a road accident, was as a result of a row with his wife of a month, who was about 18 and had already been on her second husband, and after the death has not sighted the marital home, either out of guilt or due to another liason!


Whilst there is so much to praise Sir Dickie Boo as I used to call him, I will refer to the longevity of his marital union as the one I respect the most! May his soul rest in peace, and thanks for the entertainment you provided.   

Sunday, August 24, 2014

The Army’s slush fund that kills!


In the midst of the series of Minneriya Army Camps dotted along the road, a few years ago a new complex was built which included a swimming pool, a alcohol serving PUB some rooms for guests to stay, and two shop fronts that were rented out to Perera and Sons and Singer company.

I believe this is on state land, and I am not sure whose funds were used to do the construction, but I suspect it was part of the defence budget, that went for the construction. I have gone through the defense budget and investigated the categories and have come to the conclusion that the income or net income from the trading of this complex either goes to the Army Welfare or is siphoned off as a slush fund to share amongst a select few and keep the recipients, happy loyal and keep mum that the taxes of the General Public are spent on personal benefits of a select few.

So let us take the PUB. Who granted a liquor license and on what basis?

A LIQUOR LICENSE HAS A VALUE GENERALLY OF RS 25M GIVEN FREE in this case!

I have seen a successful clampdown in the illicit moonshine, or kasippu trade in the villages of Gal Oya, Rotawewa, Maha Ratmale and Ratmale and so the people go to the Gunners pub to satisfy their cravings, as it is the nearest place to buy liquor. 

Furthermore, if one looks at the liquor license it was granted so that people could come there and have a drink in an environment surrounded by the swimming pool etc. At its inception, people had to be properly attired to enter the area, in shoes trousers and shirt! I presume that was the basis on which the license was granted, primarily for service personnel who off duty to could imbibe in what they consider life’s pleasures.

Now Beers, mainly cans are sold, at prices above normal retail price that a “wine shop” would sell at, as that is what they say they can sell in for. The needy consumer buys at the higher price, or goes a further 12 KM to the nearest wine store to buy at the price on the label.

Similarly a bottle of arrack is sold at least Rs150 above normal retail price.

I have therefore calculated that the gross profit (the difference between the Cost of liquor and the Selling price) of the Pub is at a minimum of  Rs 200,000 a day. Excluding Poya Days and certain public holidays when liquor cannot be sold, this place makes an annual Gross Profit of Rs65M. This is absolutely astonishing!

Who takes this money? Who shares the spoils? These are questions that don’t have answers as they are not in the Army costs and revenues books and are in a kitty of their own under the control of the regiment or high ups in that regiment who only know what is going on.

What is even more sad is that a villager in Maha Ratmale, who had a row with his wife last night, came to the Gunners Pub, had a few drinks and got on his bike, and was killed instantly just outside the Gunners, being knocked down by a passing vehicle, and as the man was drunk, is just another statistic to the greed of the initiators of the PUB. It was not set up to be patronized by such types, and a young life was lost to it. He had moved in with his women or wife only a month previously.

Is there anyone with collateral responsibility for his death? This is an illegally operated pub, which as it is the Army’s no one would query. This is just another way the Army ranks make money courtesy of their position in the forces, and at the expense of the people of Sri Lanka they are honor bound to protect.

The whole premise of the Mahinda Chinthana was to remove licenses to sell alcohol, in an orderly manner, and NOT increase their numbers in the Country.

It is sad that NO ONE investigates this treachery against the Country, and people are permitted to profit from other people’s weaknesses. It also horrifies me that knowing this fact, that the temples and priest who habit them don’t utter a word about it. Is it because the Army pay them off by helping them out from time to time?

The fact that this place profits even more from higher prices, and are not subject to the same rules as a wine shop is, further proof of a sinister conspiracy at work within the defense establishment of protecting and profiting from illegal activity in a huge way. How many more instances is this fact replicated in this country with people completely unaware of the extent of the money being made this way?

I mentioned that the liquor license was worth Rs25M but in this instance with the blatant disregard for the law, and the basis on which this license was granted, and the super profits made, the license given free is worth at a minimum, Rs100M another fat wad denied the State and thereby the people.


It is time the facts are highlighted and action taken to protect the Sri Lankans from being fleeced by the underworld, who now wear Army fatigues with rank! and are also protected by the state, which is complicit in the crime in this case above it is murder too.    

Friday, August 22, 2014

The Drought – Some in the drought stricken have never had so much drinking water


I was in Ratmale, Minneriya recently, (www.ratmale.blogspot.com)  where I try to retreat to at any given opportunity, which latterly due to work-load has been barely once a month.

There is a severe drought there, and farmers who depend on the rain fed Ratmale Tank have NOT been able to cultivate their paddy fields for 3 consecutive seasons, due to the lack of water in the tank to cultivate even half of the village paddy field, that is owned by the different villagers in different proportions, based on inheritance and purchase of other neighbors fields, if they have had a financial emergency.

I therefore took sufficient water with me in bottles not just for my use, but also to give to anyone who so desired. To my surprise, I found a different story. Over the past month or so, various organizations, including the Army, and politicians Charitable Trusts, and other  NGOs and Company Social Responsibility arms, as well as the religious orders, have been donating drinking water in 5ltr and 1½ltr bottles, without any proper overseeing of necessity.



Every house on the main road is flush with water! With the knowledge that some people may pay the system, some organizations, come to the village and distribute tokens to the people who want water first, and then give a certain number of bottles later, on token redemption! That may be a fairer method of distribution, but I do not believe the truly needy who may live some distance from the main road, may receive none, as they are NOT even aware of the said distribution, as people in the village may not have informed them!

As the Government Bureaucracy through the Divisional Secretariats are corrupt, rife with officials in Govt. service taking bribes, and making money on the side at every given opportunity, charities have lost faith in their ability to identify the really needy households and provide the much needed water to them. Theoretically though, they are the best way to manage as they can handle by all donated water coming to one central zone, and then distributed only from them, avoiding the bowsers, and distribution vans coming every ten minutes from different organizations, down the same road.

This reminded me of the Tsunami stories, where people who never owned boats got a dozen to adorn their front yards, as they did not know how to go out to sea.

At the same time those who really lost their boats, were far from the normal channels of donors, who did not go in search of them, but merely provided to those clever enough to pretend to have lost them, whilst many who really lost boats and relatives were too proud to ask for help from anyone.

In my case, I have already spent quite some money, in digging my well a few more feet so the 3 villagers who take drinking water from my well, could have unfettered access to water to quench their thirst during the drought.

To my surprise there were NO takers this time, and no lines like is normal even during periods of plenty, as this is the only drinking water well there is around.

I know people solve their consciences by donating water, but spare a thought to how it is distributed and if the needy really do get the water!   

This windfall to companies that bottle water, suffering from a lean time, with the slowing economy, where the purchase of drinking water is the first to suffer.

They have been the loudest cheer leaders of the drought as they can sell ten times their normal sales, and do not have to incur much sales commissions, as the buyers go in search of them and pay full whack direct from the company as they buy in quantity that the retailers don’t stock and bring their transport along.

Further the money is donated, so they have NO incentive to price shop, and ask for bulk discounts.

Is there a lesson in this? unless you know who really is going to benefit from your donation, and if the person who received really deserved it, don’t give!    

It is unconscionable that the drinking water Mafia, sell a product that no one really needs, but people buy either because they are misinformed about the real benefits of normal tap water. They use the opportunity of a drought to cash in big time, because this water is in sealed containers, as compared with the alternative available from homes, and they know it. 


The local villages were saying ‘we have enough water to drink, but as we were unable to farm our land, we really need some assistance with living until the rains come and water will not satisfy the real needs of hunger. The crop insurance scheme set up to cover such uncertainties has not come up with the payoff, finding one excuse after another why not to honor the promise, from the surcharge of fertilizer.

I was there till three days ago and it rained on every day I was there, it happened the last two times as well, when it rained on my visit to the local's delight! Just ask them if I am fibbing.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Why are we unable to call “a spade, a spade”? It has been hijacked


Why is it unpatriotic to speak the truth? I know it hurts those in power because it shows them in very poor light as the supposed patriots are really traitors, but that can’t be helped, as truth only hurts the crooks and the traitors in high places!

In Colombo, the National Hospital is creaking at the seams, and many maternity hospitals have more than one to a bed, but there is a brand spanking new hospital just built and finished to a very high degree of comfort, more in keeping with a private hospital that lies empty and NO ONE wishes to highlight this for fear of being labeled by traitors in sheep’s clothing as traitors just for pointing this out.

I am not sure if many people in this country are aware that there is a 1001 bed Army Hospital, now 90% empty, built to a very high standard and that would be the envy of the Government Health department, were it part of the State Health Authority, but built at public expense from the mouths of the starving in Sri Lanka that pay a very high price for essential foods. (as it includes a very high percentage of Taxes attached to essential foods) Don't forget the Japanese gave a donation of the Jayawardenepura Hospital to the Nation in recognition of JRJ support for them after World War II to spare them indignity in defeat. That hospital charges a subsidized fee, why can't this?

How can people with a conscience tolerate this insensitive behavior and why do we have a Media that is so silent, not to bring it to the attention of the Public?  

It is time we started taking note of the ostentatious behavior of the State when it wishes to keep the forces happy, well ensconced in luxury and privilege whilst also paying top rates to have soldiers sweeping the roads each morning as I drive past the Panagoda Army Camp, where I see at least 100 with Ekel Brooms paid at Rs250 a working hour, when there are enough willing people at Rs100 a working hour to do the same task. Actually a sweeping machine can do it at much lower cost and far quicker too!

In fact this is all waste, when we are pleading with people to donate bottled water to the people in drought affected areas, whilst the state is not sharing its responsibility for the very same people pleading lack of funds. Priorities!

Tell me if the MR Government will refuse NGO donations to provide water for the waterless, when it refuses NGOs permission for journalists to hold a professional development workshops, so that they can improve on their skills to better serve the public they report on behalf of? Clearly they want us BLIND, DEAF AND DUMB.


Think, where are your priorities? Let’s take up arms against waste of the public’s resources and destroy the wastrels.            

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Robin Williams is dead – and it is also World Youth Day!


What has these two different by lines have in common? Not that it is World Youth Day and Robin Williams a favorite actor’s death was announced.

I am quite devastated to know, and I would have thought was the last person to suffer from depression, as he appeared to us the audience of his movies, to be a comic, and a person out to make other people happy, laugh etc., but in reality he was suffering and fighting his inner demons all the time!!!!!!!

I have been to Tiburon where his home is and it is an idyllic part of the world in the San Francisco Bay area, and even to have lived in that area would have been a fantasy for most of us.

Let it be a reminder to ALL OF US that what we see is not what it is. My blog consistently reminds us of it. I am constantly berating my readers to open their eyes to the reality behind the veneer that is Sri Lanka, before the veneer disappears and reality can no longer be hidden. By which time Sri Lanka as we know it would also have disappeared when you finally open your eyes!

So with World Youth Day focusing on MENTAL HEALTH a topic few people want to deal with, it is time we DID SOMETHING.

Today’s papers in Sri Lanka is full of the facts on World Youth Day. Taking 2011, where information is available. SUICIDES – Under 20 years of age female 209 and male 190 and between 21 and 30 female 231 and male 534, that is around 1200 youth kill themselves every year.

Further today’s paper noted that a girl of 14 who had a row with her father for having an affair with a man 20 years older than her, who jumped from the 7th floor and killed herself!

Robin Williams had access to the best Mental Health that money could buy, and despite it he was not able to control his depression, which ultimately lead him to leave this world of HIS OWN DESIRE. He had been initially addicted to Cocaine and later was an alcoholic going in and out of rehab.

Let this be a reminder to our society to help our young people, first NOT to get addicted to Smoking and Alcohol, something peer pressure encourages and we must discourage, and secondly to deal with the consequences of Mental illness that arises from it or which cause alcoholism and addiction.  

Monday, August 11, 2014

Dharisha Bastians – well deserved – Congratulations


The Mervin de Silva Journalist of the year award, and the BA Siriwardena columnist of the year – English was won by Dharisha Bastians of the Daily FT.


She is a deserving winner of both awards for her no nonsense reporting and fearless analysis of her interpretation of events, whether readers agree with her point of view or not. She is one of few journalists I make a point to read all their writings, and she does not disappoint me in her objective analysis.

Her latest column on the UVA election is also worth a read and I put the link below for anyone interested in being acquainted with her writing style, which is easy to read and understand prose.


As anyone who is a regular reader of my blogs knows, I am extremely critical of journalism and journalists in Sri Lanka, and it is a breath of fresh air to read Dharisha’s writing.

I trust she goes from strength to strength, having been honored this way, and being given the confidence that she in fact has a loyal readership of news and analysis of news, which is extremely rare in Sri Lanka today.

She will no doubt improve and like my commitment to expressing fearless opinions on how I can make suggestions for practices to be improved, so that the lives of those who live in Sri Lanka are improved, no matter who is in power, I trust she will be true to her principles.

Journalism is at a critical juncture, especially in Sri Lanka, and whatever contributions that can be made to the national debate that arouse the sleeping and slumbering majority, that permits a regime to silently but forcefully take over all aspects of our lives, is a positive one.


It is then up to us, Civil Society to take up the challenge and fight for the rights of Citizens that are being steamrollered over, and impress upon politicians in Govt. and in the opposition, that these serious issues must be addressed without delay, and journalists do their part in informing the public what it is that they should be aware of that will affect their existence and future. 

Blood is thicker than water – A concept that has overrun a Country!


Not only is a  Corrupt Cabal of Cynical, Croni Capitalists at the helm of this Country, but they have ensured that even as our representatives overseas, their tentacles are firmly dug in deep around the world, to throttle a nation with a vice like grip, from which a whole Country will take a generation to recover from.




What is worse, the slave mentality of the people who suffer under this torment permits the perpetrators free reign in this regard to continue, expand and empty the state coffers on highly dubious expenditure, without the needed checks and balances, to safeguard the best interests of the Nation and the Public that are the foundation of their looting.

I seriously cannot think of a country that is so fortunately endowed, being so brazenly exploited by their own kind, and all the blame laid squarely on those who are in other lands far from the den of inequity thus created.

Is the latest example that has been laid bare not enough to awake the nation from its slumber and the armchair pundits from their deeply cushioned sofas in Colombo 7, to stop fantasizing in their sleep, and see the daylight robbery in front of their very eyes? Will they even understand once they are removed in their sleep in their slumber from their homes, when there will be no one around to sympathize with their plight, as they failed to see, warn, and take action of all those before them who could have prevented them having to face a worse outcome than those who went before them!

We are at a cross roads in our history, and the path from here will have irreparable consequences if in the wrong direction. The brain drain is about to explode with no future for the educated, with a country taken over by the underworld at every turn. The result is lawlessness rules, and the law abiding of little consequence ruled by fear and intimidation, a country left with dumb zombies as worker bees catering to a small minority who reap all the benefits of the land and wealth grab with a parched country of no value left to govern, a worse pile of broken concrete than Gaza.


We can stop the rot now, if we wake up to a sense of reality, awareness around to our surroundings and concern for our fellow citizens, devoid of personal greed at the expense of others. Stand up for your rights before what remains is also removed. We can, we must, and we owe it to the next generation!            

Sunday, August 10, 2014

The remarkable last ball win in cricket today, the final day of the Test match

would not even be deemed possible after the end of day 4, where on day 3 a whole session was lost to the weather.

Actually that is the nature of the game, and the art of the possible. It is a further reminder to all of us, of how unpredictable the future can be even a day ahead, and that we must be prepared for all eventualities be they be good or bad depending on the individual’s point of view.

In fact, I as one without a TV at present, and for once at home all day today, Poya Day which also was a Sunday, I would normally have missed the excitement. For some unknown reason, maybe out of curiosity, I checked the Cricket on the internet and at 170 something for 8 and some 25 overs left, I thought it would be an interesting finish, whatever happens.

I was able to find a live telecast on my Broadband, and watched the last two hours, on the edge of my seat, and the moment the match ended, thundershowers came, even though there were some overs left, which would NOT have been possible due to rain, and so effectively it was the last ball win for Sri Lanka and the crucial last 6 from Matthews was a game winner whichever way one looks at it!  

To cap a whole host of coincidences, I got the message on my Broadband that I had just 100MB of my package left soon after the win was shown, which means to me that if the game went on for a few more balls, I would not have been able to see the end. I was also fortunate to be home at that time and not on work.

I know it is Cricket, and it is unpredictable, and a 5 day game to come to such a conclusion is also unprecedented, though lately Sri Lanka has been involved in many last minute surprises to 5 day Tests. Actually telling anyone who does not know about Cricket that a game can have 5 days and can end with NO result is in itself a point that is hard to explain at the best of times!

Anyway to get to the point I want to make here, using Cricket as an example, it is that life is unpredictable and in whatever field or profession or even in politics, one can expect surprises, and therefore it is important that we DO NOT lose hope that Justice can surmount injustice in this world, even though we are tested to the end of our tether by people, leaders and governments bent on destroying sense and instilling chaos in the name of their development and their goals, along with their warped sense of right and wrong which some subscribe to.

In this blog meant to provide optimism for Sri Lanka in the face of despair it is this hope for the future which I would like to stress. 

Saturday, August 2, 2014

What future for our best and brightest?


I was having a general chat yesterday with an undergraduate at the Kaleniya Campus, who is studying for an accountancy degree, and at the same time working in an Accountancy firm as an Audit Clerk about what he expects for a future here in the profession and beyond.

I shall note the issues in point form so that any commentators can refer to the different issues separately if they so wish.

1               He did his A levels in Sinhala and had to hang around for over 20 months to get into University, to study, his course and exams being conducted exclusively in English! I asked him, had he known this at age 15 or before, would he have been more keen on making sure his knowledge of English was better than it was when he entered University? To which his answer was an emphatic yes.

What does that mean? The least his school could have done was while in his A level class discuss what they would like to do in University if they got and explained to them that English was a the exclusive medium of study for commerce and medicine and I believe even Engineering. So society and country has let him down there.

2           The time gap between sitting for A levels, say for example the students now sitting for A levels in August 2014 will get their results in April 2015 and enter University possibly in December 2015 if they are lucky, but it could be 2016. What a waste of time for our best and brightest students at the prime and peak performance of their brains  to hang around wondering what to do, where they will end up and whether they will get the course and University of their choice, as only a minority will be so satisfied!

3               I then questioned him on the Course work at University, in accountancy and the books available and used for their studies.

Both I am afraid are outdated, in outdated concepts and principles that do not apply in the real world, anymore. I am a UK qualified Chartered Accountant familiar with the current trends and am qualified to make this observation, and he concurred with his limited knowledge as there are International Accounting Standards that our Companies need to comply with now! 
   
4           Then I questioned him on the quality of his academic staff, who tutor and lecture him. As many are tenured and cannot be sacked, they do the minimum to get through the day and are NOT concerned about the learning of their charges. Of course there are a few who are exceptions to the rule. Some good teachers, moonlight in Private Universities, taught to students who are more fluent  that pay them handsomely and therefore set aside their most productive time to them, rather than to these Kelaniya students, who may sometimes due to language difficulty, not appreciate the nuances of language and therefore certain concepts cannot be explained easily! The tragedy of our students despite whatever pomposity the FUTA state. Some academics moonlight in other jobs in the private sector including in the highly lucrative tuition industry.

5                Then I reminded him of the goat who has been just appointed as the VC of the Kelaniya University, a world apart from his replacement. This political appointment of Professor Sunanda Madduma Bandara, a political appointment being DG of Media Disinformation is a travesty to the Higher Education sector, unless of course his task is merely to do the bidding the GOSL and ensure students are kept from thinking. He also has a huge issue of an inferiority complex, disguised in a superiority complex that no amount of mental health counselling can change at this stage.

6      As a Chartered Accountancy student, he has to contend with the huge membership fees and other costs of Exams imposed by the Institute, and as I have pointed out in this blog only a tenth of the enrolled students have a chance of passing exams, due to a closed shop that only wants to pass out a certain number a year, instead of passing all those who come up to a passing mark, they change the pass mark to suit their allotment.

This practice is an unforgivable abuse of the fundamental rights of these students as they don’t know how it will affect their particular exam, and the playing field here is NOT level.

7              Once they qualify if they are fortunate, they are still faced with a problem of finding a job, and if they so do are faced with an initial monthly salary of Rs25,000 which at 30 the average age of a newly qualified accountant is a disgrace, when an experienced (of three years) electrician with NO qualifications can expect about Rs50,000 as a minimum.


8                   Poor chap I just hope he did not go home and kill himself with this prospect of what we have done to our best and brightest. Killed all hope!    

PS: I did remind him that to cap it all as if the above challenges were not enough, they have a student union dominated by the IUSF, an exclusive body, that does not allow competing unions, to promote their JVP leaning bankrupt policies on them. I asked this boy if at least one of the above issues are tackled by them as they are the most important for him, and IUSF does not. 
          
          Instead the IUSF is still struggling to STOP private education, and private universities, when 80% of tertiary students use this sector, and there is NOTHING the GOSL or they can do about it, as the GOSL has limited resources, and cannot take on all the  tasks of educating all students in the state sector! A totally unrealistic dream.

          They MUST concentrate on improving the quality of their product so that the future of their members is assured, as that is their primary responsibility in representing the interests of their members and NOT some political thinking!

     NO wonder due to all of the above, the State Education results in unemployable, old, and outdated thinking graduates fooled into believing that the society owes them a living. 

         It is our duty to explain the facts of life to them so they are under NO illusions. 
         

        

Monday, July 28, 2014

Reading these blogs over the years shames me! Its all about the wholesale destruction of Sri Lanka BY Sri Lankans for petty personal agendas


The Politicians have basically fooled this Country over 66 plus years of rule by our own kind! It is we who have allowed this wholesale victimization of the Citizen. So where MUST we start.

For starters DO NOT INVITE ANY POLITICIAN TO ANY EVENT. IF THERE ARE ANY POLITICIANS LEAVE! Only then will they at least attempt to gain the people’s trust.

I cannot think of another country that should be first world that does this. So for us to be first world in an instant, shunt our politicians to their desks to do work, not attend and be permitted to spout lies at functions.

Citizens, we marvel at meeting the President when he choppers in to open a culvert, but do you realize that just the fuel cost of his daily jaunts for these openings cold build at least 10 culverts a day! That simply is the sense of proportion we have lost. We are really impressed by the folly not by the honest desire to see a better future for our children. Are we so uneducated as to allow us to be misled so badly?

To think we take seriously a thug in robes that demands that the Pope apologize for what the Portuguese did 500 years ago, when we must ask all politicians to apologize for what they have done in the past 66 years which has been much worse.  

We should perhaps blame many in robes including the Satakayas for what they have done to Buddhism, where their examples of living have turned thousands from following the faith, and be drawn to other faiths due to bad examples of the practice of faith.

My very simple proposal above in not inviting the politicians and clergy to any events, will send a message to both factions, that they first need to put their own houses in order, before coming to pontificate over the people they rule and hold to ransom. It is time those who have ruined this country are able to accept blame and change their ways, rather than be allowed to further fool the nation by giving goodies bought with our money, after siphoning off some for themselves first and buying our votes, only to repeat this nonsense ad nauseam.


I TRUST COMMON SENSE WILL PREVAIL AND MOTHER LANKA BENEFITS FIRST