Peace for the World

Peace for the World
First democratic leader of Justice the Godfather of the Sri Lankan Tamil Struggle: Honourable Samuel James Veluppillai Chelvanayakam

Saturday, December 31, 2016

Presidential media publicizes taped vitriolic hate speech of racist Gnanassara – Institute investigation immediately : UNP M.P.

LEN logo(Lanka-e-News -31.Dec.2016, 2.40PM)  It is a well and widely known fact that racist and infamous Galagoda Aththe Gnanassara the robed monk is day in and day out making vitriolic and inflammatory speeches against the Muslims while it is the duty of a responsible government,  specially  one which preaches good governance  to ensure action is taken against such conduct , before it  leads to a national holocaust . Yet , to the consternation of all peace loving and law abiding people of the country ,  a video tape of his hate speech had been released to the public by the media unit itself of the president of the country. Mujubur Rahman M.P. has therefore made a written request to the president to conduct an investigation into this .A copy of the letter sent by the M.P. is appended …

2016 -12 26
The President
His Excellency President Maithripala Sirisena
Presidential secretariat
Colombo 01
His Excellency the President ,
Regarding actions of the presidential media unit disseminating bogus views of racists among people 

During the discussions held on 2016-12-22 at the presidential secretariat regarding the conservation of archeological and historic sites , the secretary of Bodhu Bala Sena (BBS), Galagoda Aththe Gnanassara Thera made many baseless and false utterances laden  with hate  against the Muslims and the  teachings of Islam in front of no less a person than  yourself.

Gnanassara Thera who is conducting a most venomous and vicious hate campaign specially directed against  the minority Muslim community , and with a vengeful motive  to alienate the nation from the Muslim community,  made a most deadly and grave accusation during the discussions that the   religion of Islam is preaching to the Muslims to destroy the historic sites of archeological value in this country .

Mind you those bogus, baseless, stupid   and vicious accusations were  hurled right before you. And now, that video footage of that hate and most vitriolic provocative speech of Ganassara Thera which could inflame the feelings of the people against a minority living in this country has been distributed  among all the media divisions by now by the presidential media under you.

While your Excellency is moving heaven and earth , and day in and day out seeking to establish peaceful  and harmonious co existence  among the races of this country through the government of good governance , the distribution of these mischief creating and vitriolic hate speeches by your own media which is  engaging  in giving publicity to it is unacceptable , and is only widening further the gaps existing among the races. Hence , it may be said , this irresponsible action of the presidential media unit is so serious and grave that it is running counter to your very aspirations and expectations  , whereby  it can give a crushing blow to your very  hopes . 

In the circumstances , it must have become crystal clear that the video tapes distributed by the presidential media unit is aimed at  stoking and kindling destructive racism once again.  Therefore I humbly request your Excellency to duly institute an investigation into this .
Thanking  you 

Mujibur Rahman
Colombo District UNP M.P.  

by     (2016-12-31 10:12:21)

wo Key Safeguards that the New Constitution will not have


Dr. A.C. Visvalingam-

The contents of the proposed new Constitution are yet to be finalised by Parliament. Nevertheless, many key safeguards will not be included in it because our politicians, barring a few exceptions, would find such provisions inimical to their all-consuming self-interest. It would take up too much space to go into the many desirable ingredients that are likely to be missing from the draft Constitution that is expected to emerge from Parliament sometime in 2017. So, we shall refer here to just two of them.

Selection of Candidates to Contest Elections - The Citizens’ Movement for Good Governance (CIMOGG) has repeatedly pointed out that the selection of candidates to contest elections has always been in the hands of a small oligarchy within each political party, which will sponsor only those candidates who will (a) pledge unquestioning loyalty to the leader of the oligarchy, (b) be able to press the claims of their family or party connections, (c) guarantee an abundant supply of money for election expenses, (d) have recourse to the services of bands of loyal supporters who would not hesitate to overstep legal and social boundaries during election campaigns, (e) not let their conscience get in the way when wasting or stealing public funds, and (f) possess slick eloquence in dealing with the public. On the other hand, a good academic or professional qualification, a fair acquaintance with the law and economics, a crime-free past, self-discipline and the willingness to commit more time to the needs of their elected office than to their own affairs are qualifications to which an oligarchy will not give much weight except in the case of a few individuals whose inputs would be essential to help confront well-informed critics.

Voters would be deluding themselves if they believe that it is they who choose and elect their representatives whereas the truth is that they would have to vote almost exclusively for candidates who have been pre-qualified, mostly for the wrong reasons, by the party oligarchies referred to above.

Instead of continuing as in the past, the new Constitution should insist on some basic criteria that would make it difficult for crooks and incompetents to enter the Legislature. Unfortunately, there is no significant prospect that this improvement will be realised because no political party would agree to adopt constitutional changes that undermine its own oligarchy.

Some years ago, CIMOGG recommended that the Elections Commission should get every candidate to fill in a standard form, covering two sides of an A4 sheet, with personal data, and have copies distributed (in the appropriate languages) to all the households in their electorates rather than encourage the squandering of vast resources on posters, stages, TV spots, environment-polluting sound-amplifying equipment, banners, traffic-blocking processions, food, drinks, gratuities and so on. The data sheets should contain at least (a) details of the electorate being contested, (b) full name of the candidate, (c) residential address, (d) contact details of the election office, (e) date of birth, (f) gender, (g) civil status, (h) period of residence in the electorate, (i) name and address of last school attended, (j) last institution of higher learning attended, (k) educational qualifications, (l) professional qualifications, (m) computer skills, (n) present occupation and workplace, (o) brief details of civic and social service activities, (p) brief details of three priorities for action within the electorate, (q) brief details of three priorities for action by Parliament, (r) the candidate’s tax file number, and (s) a declaration that the candidate has not been convicted by a court of law.

Candidates who make false claims in their data sheets would soon be exposed because at least a few voters in their electorates would be acquainted with their real background.

By going through the personal data sheets received by them, voters would be able very quickly to short-list the few candidates who are bound to stand out from the rest. It would now be up to the voters to cast their ballots for one of these short-listed candidates, without being influenced by uncritical attachment to party, race, religion, language, caste or other factors.

The Constitution should empower the Elections Commission to implement a scheme on the above lines and to work with the media to educate the public about the value of this approach to help Sri Lanka get decent, conscientious and competent persons to adorn our Legislature. However, as the majority of MPs in the present Parliament would be hard put to submit even passably satisfactory data sheets, they may be expected to veto the implementation of any new election methodology that would expose their poor bio-data to public scrutiny. Hence, this is one safeguard that we shall not see in the new Constitution.

Separation of Powers - Sovereignty is in the People and cannot be violated or transferred outright. Fundamental rights and the franchise are the two components of sovereignty that the People retain at all times whereas the powers of government would, for practical reasons, be delegated in conformity with the provisions of the Constitution.

In simplified language, the powers of government include (a) the making of laws by the Legislature, (b) the management of all State activities by the Executive, and (c) the exercise of judicial power by the Judiciary. These three functions have to be carried out in accordance with the Constitution and the subsidiary laws passed by the Legislature. Once the relevant laws are in place, the three arms of government – namely, the Legislature, the Executive and the Judiciary – should be obliged to carry out their functions independently with only such interaction as the Constitution stipulates. In other words, a good Constitution must separate the powers and functions of these three entities to the optimal extent so that conflicts of interest are minimised.

J.R.Jayewardene gave Sri Lanka a Constitution that sounds democratic but is, in fact, almost 100% dictatorial. His power over the Executive arm was absolute for all practical purposes by virtue of his position as the Executive President. He also controlled Parliament by his power to appoint or sack Ministers and, less directly, the Judiciary by his power to select, appoint and promote Judges of the Supreme Court. Instead of getting rid of this kind of concentration of power in one person, PM Ranil Wickremesinghe, who is the moving spirit behind the drafting of the new Constitution has, on many occasions, kept insisting that Parliament must be supreme (even above the People?) in terms of the Constitution, presumably so that a future PM would be able to exercise all the powers that Jayewardene exercised as Executive President. The only privilege that would be given up would be Presidential immunity which would not matter to any PM who controls all three arms of government with the aid of a Constitution that subverts the concept of a comprehensive separation of powers.

Parliament should concentrate on passing laws and deciding national priorities. It must get the Executive to implement whatever program of work has been approved but must not itself interfere in executive decision-making. It should tell the Executive "what" it wants but not give directions as to "how" the Executive’s tasks are to be carried out. Parliament shall set up, within the Executive, whatever machinery is required to carry out all tasks and also appoint independent entities to deal with all matters relating to procurement contracts, progress and expenditure monitoring, quality assurance and conformity with Parliament’s requirements. It would be incumbent on the Executive to keep the Legislature regularly informed of progress on all tasks assigned to it. Parliament should have subject-specific sub-committees which shall be empowered to summon senior personnel from the Executive to appear before them and furnish whatever clarifications are sought.

As for the Judiciary, over the years, there have been numerous allegations/revelations in the media about the manner in which Prime Ministers and Executive Presidents have appointed members to the superior grades of the Judiciary and also pressurized them to give judgments that would be favourable to the regime in power. Mr Nagananda Kodituwakku (NK), Attorney-at-Law and courageous socio-political activist, has recently filed complaints with the Permanent Commission to Investigate Allegations of Bribery or Corruption (CIABOC) against five of our Chief Justices accusing them of giving judgments in favour of the Executive President, the Prime Minister or the government of the day. Whether he will be able to penetrate the strong defensive wall that will confront him remains to be seen. Whatever be the outcome of NK’s endeavours, it is crystal clear that the Judiciary is highly vulnerable and should be insulated from political pressures and allowed to function in a much more autonomous and professional manner than over the past seven decades. In particular, Parliament should, in no circumstances, be allowed to exercise judicial functions considering that the background and qualifications required to become an MP, even a good one, are very different from those that are needed to be a judge.

The higher politicians rise within the Legislature the keener they are to exercise overarching power and control over everybody and everything. Even a nominal concession in the direction of the separation of powers would not be something they would favour.

Consequently, this safeguard will also be unlikely to be included in the new Constitution.

(The writer is president of CIMOGG, (Citizens Movement for Good Governance)


Year 2017 for Sri Lanka ; Reading outside Astrology

There naturally will be public protests against land grabbing and environmental issues with large extent of land acquired, displacing people. There will also be brewing unrest and protests within employed labour too. Trade unions don’t seem to understand the crisis they’ll be dragged into in 2017.

by Kusal Perera-Jan 1, 2017

( January 1, 2017, Colombo, Sri Lanka Guardian) Year 2017 dawns with all arrangements including a week for “reconciliation” put in place to celebrate two years of Maithripala Sirisena presidency and Wickramasinghe government, beginning from 09 January 2015. More precisely, it would be 02 years celebrated for ousting the Rajapaksas. UNP on its own was conceded as no strong contender to floor Rajapaksa. Wickramasinghe thus agreed on Sirisena as the Common Candidate to defeat Rajapaksa. Ousting Rajapaksa is all what the Colombo “civil society” owners too wanted. They still cry proud not about them winning but about them defeating Rajapaksa. Everything else is unimportant for them even now.

Two Years Spent

From there, drawing up a brief profile of this government’s 02 year performance begins with leaders of this government exposed as totally incapable of reading the global economy, “post 2008”. They expected the West to fund their projects as soon as they came to power. No funds coming from West, they ended up at the doorsteps of China. They are also far more untidy and corrupt than the Rajapaksas. Already they have 47 cabinet ministers plus another 45 Sate and Deputy ministers on tax payer funds. In just 18 months they have at least 07 mega corruptions including 02 bond scams as against 03 such mega deals during the first 36 months of Rajapaksa.

The government failed miserably in annual budgeting, 02 years for now. The 2016 budget was cut, chopped, axed and sawed from day one. So is this 2017 budget. It ran into public protests immediately. Different and contradictory interpretations were given to proposals by the Finance Minister himself. President promised protesting bus owners he would amend budget proposals, least concerned about revenue and expensiture.

Having failed in smuggling a VAT without informing parliament, the government blundered again in getting a proper bill in parliament to levy the VAT. On finance and monetary policies and management, this government is pretty amateurish. Within an year PM made 02 statements on economic policy and strategy. Yet budgets don’t reflect any policy nor does what President proposes and implements under him.

The most shameless betrayal by this government is on reconciliation and in letting down Tamils and Muslims. The North and the East have not been out of the “Rajapaksa grip”, 02 years after January 2015.
With all those messing up come efforts to bully and intimidate media. The PM publicly threatened and coerced media many a times demanding media “fall in line” with the government. These were no isolated threats to democratic life. This government proposed amendments and bills that are more draconian and tyrannical than what the Rajapaksas passed.

With them the year 2017

Two major issues that have been dragged along for two years post January 2015, await reasonable and justifiable answers at least in the year 2017. The IOSL Resolution 30/1 demands more serious attention than it had in 2016. Tamil political demands and war related issues tinkered around with no political will to address them needs no more delaying. On the economic front, “national development” must go beyond urban economic gains. Rural economy should be able to retain youth with space for viable economic life. That is what’s necessary. But what’s in store for the North-East Tamils and Muslims and for the majority rural Sinhala poor in 2017, under this famously labelled “Yahapalanaya”?

The “reconciliation week” proposed by President Sirisena to mark his 02 year presidency is a publicity gimmick that wouldn’t fool the Tamil people. A president who clubs the Ministry of Buddhism with the Ministry of Justice in Sri Lanka, is one who is wholly ignorant of the conflicting ethno religious mind sets in this war battered society. It is also chaotic to leave these two conflicting ministries in the wrong hands too. But he has done just that. A president who cannot instruct the Justice Minister to unconditionally release all Tamil youth detained without charges for many long years, can only talk of reconciliation for publicity. A president who patronises extremely racist and violent Buddhist monks nurtured by the Rajapaksas and should be arrested for openly inciting racial and religious hatred, is frighteningly dangerous to pin hopes on. A government led by such confirmed Sinhala leaders will not leave any hope for the Tamils and Muslims in 2017.

This government shows no deviation from the Rajapaksas to believe they could be better in 2017. Torture continues with impunity proving the government is incapable of disciplining the law enforcement agencies. It refuses to admit the judiciary as a system is ethnically bias. Even before the verdict on the murder of former MP Raviraj raised serious concerns, the judicial process was proved bias against Tamil victims and when indicting security forces personnel, President Sirisena vows to defend as “war heroes”. The case on the mass murder of 24 Tamil villagers including 12 women and 07 children of Kumarapuram in Trincomalee exposed the judiciary’s racial bias. The Kumarapuram case was transferred from Muttur to Anuradhapura High Courts after a long lapse. Transfer to Anuradhapura allowed for a Sinhala jury. All accused were identified by victims as those who committed the crimes. In July 2016, the Sinhala Jury nevertheless decided all suspects as innocent.

With 03 PC elections and the unjustifiably postponed island wide LG elections to come in 2017, this Sinhala political trend is destined to take a more aggressive leap. Desperate in grabbing control of the SLFP, President Sirisena is seen collecting Sinhala extremism around him with Rajapaksa making loud promises to the Sinhala constituency. That competition to be more Sinhala than Rajapaksa has prompted the government to leave the OMP bill adopted in parliament in cold storage. The new draft Constitution the TNA wants with more power sharing than in the 13A and genuine reconciliation would thus be a far cry in 2017 under this government.

Reconciliation limited to rhetoric, a “corruption free” rule and “national development” in 2017 will not be the fate of the people. Frantic haste in bringing investments into this crude neo liberal economy will certainly ensure mega corruption. “Development” promised by this government is now exclusively Chinese and Indian. This free market model with direct Chinese investments and designed for profits with economic growth, will have to allow Chinese labour in massive numbers into the country.

Already there is an unaccounted number of Indian, Bangladeshi, Pakistani and Chinese labour on “tourist visa” employed in factories. Agreements with China on Hambantota industrial zone and Chinese invested FTZ will involve large scale Chinese labour, more than what the government would publicly accept. Indian sponsored investments would be no different. All of it could even compel the government to amend the Immigration and Emigration Act to accommodate foreign labour legally. Export industry had been canvassing for the right to import labour, even during the Rajapaksa era. Initial protests by the Rajapaksas therefore will only be publicity stunts. These after all, are extensions of their own projects.
For its own survival and in serving its own financiers, these mega investor projects would need arrogant implementation, ignoring protests and disregarding existing laws. Most mega projects including the redesigned Colombo Port City, pays no response to continued public protests and scant respect for environmental concerns, totally disregarding coastal zone management plans. 2017 will see an acceleration of all such arrogance.

There naturally will be public protests against land grabbing and environmental issues with large extent of land acquired, displacing people. There will also be brewing unrest and protests within employed labour too. Trade unions don’t seem to understand the crisis they’ll be dragged into in 2017. Sri Lanka will have to have carved out large zones with Chinese and South Indian labour, with no labour laws applicable to them. Not even to the extent they are presently applied in already existing FTZs. A condition the government will have to agree to, when big Chinese and Indian investments are canvassed. That certainly will have a viral effect. Other investors will also want the right for same relaxed conditions applied in their factories too. The reading is already on the wall. The employer thrust even now is in union busting especially in the Katunayake FTZ. Key players in the government seem to be bidding time, to give the nod for a complete go. Trade unions will have a turbulent year ahead.

The rabidly free economy the government is obsessed with, demands the State to facilitate arrogant and repressive rule in 2017. The role of this repressive State is being defined by draft bills, the government has in its hands. The draft “Development (Special Provisions) Bill” that was rejected by PCs but would be brought up in February 2017, together with the draft “Counter Terrorism Bill” to replace the existing PTA, spells out how much centralising the government wants in canvassing Chinese and Indian investment and how repressive the government intends to be, in its effort to crush all inevitable protests.

Thus 2017 will be a year that would test the ability of this “two part” government to stay together. 

Shameless and morally unacceptable greasing of MPs with numerous packages and privileges are legal bribes to hold the government together for wheeler dealer projects. That while disappointing and leaving Tamils and Muslims in a further polarised Sri Lanka. It would also be a year the government replicates few more “Rathupaswelas” and workers’ could taste from the Hambantota port “menu”. PM thanking Navy action at the Hambantota port, says it all.

The UNP Mob Vs The Judiciary (11 June ’83)

Colombo Telegraph
By Rajan Hoole –December 31, 2016 
Dr. Rajan Hoole
Dr. Rajan Hoole
In Jayewardene’s quest to become all-powerful, he tried to keep up an appearance of liberal democratic norms. He had his A team to look after legislation, appointments and securing compliance through gentlemanly persuasion. This group was from the upper class with a veneer of liberal culture. The B team were the fixers openly associated with gangs of hoodlums.
Despite all the battering the Supreme Court was still not adequately, submissive it seemed. On 8th June 1983 a three-judge bench comprising B.S.C. Ratwatte, Percy Colin-Thome and J.F.A. Soza delivered a judgement in the case where Mrs. Vivienne Goonerwardene, who and her husband Leslie had been senior members of the LSSP, had complained of wrongful arrest and degrading treatment by the Kollupitiya Police. The court conceded wrongful arrest, but held that the degrading treatment alleged, had not been substantiated by the evidence. It was a minimal judgement.
On 11th June, the UNP B-Team went into action. A large crowd arrived in vehicles with banners and staged noisy protests outside the residences of the judges. The judges telephoned the Police who failed to respond for a long time. Even the emergency lines to Police HQ seemed to have gone dead just then. Jayewardene was then abroad. Gentlemanly arm twisting of judges is one thing, but this brazen attack on symbols of civilised society, was another. Protests started mounting. The people were clear that JSS, the UNP trade union organised by Cyril Mathew, provided the ruffians for the protest. As the result, witnesses were not prepared to give evidence to the Police; evidence was given anonymously or in confidence through third parties.
Herman Perera, the President of the Bar Association who had protested, received a threatening post card. On his appealing to Acting President Premadasa for police protection, the latter replied that it must have been a practical joke. Chief Justice Samarakoon himself gave the Police some names and other details for investigation. Of 10 vehicle numbers given, SSP Ignatius Canagaretnam of the CDB traced them all to vehicles owned by Ceylon Nutritional Foods, the Tyre Corporation and the buses among them to the CTB depots at Ratmalana, Kesbewa and Mattakuliya. All persons questioned provided alibis.
The most remarkable incident in the aftermath took place on 22nd June when the UNP sought a diversion. A young man by the name of Lakshman Fernando, also known as Kalu Lucky, went to the offices of the Island and handed over two statements, one in English and the other in Sinhalese, taking responsibility for having organised the demonstration, as a democratic protest against the Vivienne Goonewardene verdict. The English draft copy had been typed on an electric golf ball typewriter, then not commonly used, and had been corrected by two different hands. The following day the JSS complained to the IGP that it was being harassed by false and baseless complaints. The Attorney General, Shiva Pasupathy, the Press reported, was unable to make a ruling on whether to proceed against Kalu (Black) Lucky.
On 24th June, the Sun found Lucky at the Pannipitiya address he had given and he admitted that lawyers helped him to draft the statement. But a Police team led by Malcolm Cruz sent to the address the same day to question him said that they were unable to trace him. Further investigations by the Press revealed that Kalu Lucky was a leading member of the JVP in the 1971 rebellion (see Alles’s book – 29th suspect before the Criminal Justice Commission and sentenced to 5 years RI). He had subsequently joined the UNP and had campaigned for it. In 1983 he had a firm involved in servicing ships at the Colombo Port. The JVP in the meantime denounced him as a renegade.
Most interestingly, the Sun produced Kalu Lucky’s wedding photographs, where the couple was flanked on either side by two ministers. They were Justice Minister Nissanka Wijeratne and Youth Affairs Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe. It was quite clear whose protégé Lucky was and who set him up in the judges’ episode. His role in the judges’ affair was between his appearances at the Gangodawila magistrate’s court with seven others on charges of having murdered one Premasiri. One appearance was on 25th May 1983 and the next was scheduled for 3rd August.
The 3rd and 4th Amendments to the Constitution
How Jayewardene used a well-disposed judiciary is exemplified by one of his most undemocratic actions – the Fourth Amendment of November 1982. According to constitutional provisions, the life of the parliament in which the UNP commanded a five- sixths majority was to end on 4th August 1983. The 4th Amendment was one by which the Parliament extended its life a further six years ‘unless sooner dissolved.’
This was just after Jayewardene won the presidential election on 20th October 1982, the advanced date being made possible by the 3rd Amendment of 27th August 1982. This was when the SLFP was in disarray with Mrs. Bandaranaike deprived of her civic rights. Fur- ther confusion had been created by a suggestion by another presidential candidate, Dr. Colvin R. de Silva, that the SLFP candidate, Hector Kobbekaduwe, would, if elected, be unseated, on grounds of being the nominee of Mrs. Bandaranaike who had lost her civic rights and was subject to disabilities. 80.2% of those in the register voted, of which Jayewardene obtained 52.9% and Kobbekaduwe 39%.
At this stage Jayewardene discovered the ‘Naxalite Plot’ and proposed a 4th Amendment to avoid parliamentary elections altogether by going for a referendum – a simple majority in the referendum was to enable the UNP’s five- sixths majority in Parliament to continue for a further 6 years.
Third round of talks on ETCA to be held on Jan. 4 and 5


The third round of talks between India and Sri Lanka on an Economic and Technical Cooperation Agreement (ETCA) will be held on January 4 an 5, a Sri Lankan official told Indian Express yesterday. 

Negotiations on ETCA have become tougher and tougher over the past year as both sides are now keen on clinching a good deal without unrealistic compromises.

 India’s stand on trade negotiations with Sri Lanka has toughened since the signing of the India-Sri Lanka Free Trade Agreement (ISLFTA) and its operationalization in 2000. Despite many concessions given to Sri Lanka in the ISLFTA, in recognition of the asymmetry between the Indian and Sri Lankan economies, Sri Lankans have been viewing the ISLFTA as being disadvantageous to their country. 

While Indians say that Sri Lankan exports to India would never have increased so many times without the ISLFTA, the Sri Lankans cite the many Non-Tariff Barriers (NTBs) in India to say that their exports would have been much more if only India did not have so many Non-Tariff Barriers (NTBs).

 The huge imbalance in trade is an irritant for Sri Lankans but Indians say that balance in trade is not necessary in every case nor is it necessarily a sign of health.

 India is no longer keen on sacrificing the economic interests of its private sector for the sake of “friendship” with another country as its economy is now private-sector driven. Therefore the Narenda Modi government is bargaining hard on the provisions of ETCA. 

The Sri Lankans, on the other hand, are also negotiating hard because Sri Lankan businessmen and entrepreneurs are worried about Indian economic dominance and the flooding of the labor market by Indian professionals and workers. The fear of an Indian influx is widespread and deep despite India’s assurances that ETCA would not involve the movement of natural persons or personnel. But Sri Lankans say that Sri Lankans would be motivated to employ less expensive Indian professionals rather than their own high prices ones. Also, many services can be rendered without physical movement of personnel. 

Sri Lankans also allege that already many firms employ Indians on the sly and site the booming construction industry as an example. (Indian Express)

Let’s make 2017 better than 2016

Year 2016 has been a dance with death!

by Kumar David-

There have been very few years since the end of the war that have been as repugnant as 2016, mainly internationally but the domestic front too has been exasperating. The year will be remembered for Brexit, Trump, impeachment of Dilma Rousseff, economic calamity in Venezuela, Modi’s well-intentioned but poorly managed demonetisation and the carnage in Aleppo. On the domestic side 2016 is the year in which the Sirisena-Wickremesinghe government blundered time and again. How Brexit and Trump will pan out is discouraging and my money is on the negative side. In India my crisp new Rs 500 note is stacked on a positive bet for the long range. (Australia, Pakistan and Venezuela too have decided to demonetise though on a smaller scale than Modi but for similar reasons). In Aleppo the smell of death stalks the streets and the conscience of the world has not been so tarnished since it stood idly by and watched genocide in Rwanda.

In the medium term Donald Trump is nasty news. The dynamic is that the US has entered an era of conflict between modern America, not just liberals, and its primordial and primitivistic remnants. Trump will not entirely backs-off on his trade mark policies. Nationwide protests that greeted his election gave notice that a divided nation is arming for political and ethical war. Blood may literally be spilt if Trump and his billionaire Cabinet prune wages, cut social welfare and benefits, or go ahead with measures like an abortion ban, deporting Mexicans, or curbing imports causing prices to rise.

Another Vietnam War- Civil Rights Movement era on campuses and cities may be Trump’s legacy. A fringe group has called for independence for California, an absurdity, but what this points to is that there are in reality two Americas in educational attainment, intellectual ethos and economic structure. Trump has been constitutionally elected but three million more votes were cast for Hilary Clinton. The point is that his bizarre policies have been rejected by the modernised half of society and his moral right to lead has been spurned by the educated and intellectual classes. It is this extraordinary dynamic that will play itself out in the next four years. The United Sates will emerge from Trump’s first term a divided and weakened nation.

Don’t be fooled by US markets

Well-heeled crabs will dance for a few more months while the water warms. The stock-market is smoking weed and on a high that is remote from reality. Dow Industrial P/E ratio was 22 at the end of the months (Dow Utilities a staggering 28). P/E ratios are calibrated in different ways, an S&P P/E ratio called "Cyclically Adjusted" stood at 26 last week as opposed to its long-term average of 17. To put it simply the market is way overpriced. [A P/E ratio of say 25 means it takes 25 years dividends to earn back an investment; that is 4% return on capital]

Worse still, prices are driven up by companies "buying-back" their own shares. There could be many reasons why a company intervenes to buy its own shares and raise their price. One is that corporate managers can crow "see how well our stock is doing" and inflate their bonuses; another is that there is excess liquidity around for reasons like Quantitative Easing, so investors borrow cheap and pump up a share price bubble. Investors are borrowing at low interest not to "invest" but to speculate. This is crucial to perceiving the breakdown in economic confidence.

I have reproduced two diagrams, typical of many, from the web to portray the pyric boom in the US stock market. Figure 1 says that of late, in every quarter, over $150 billion (vertical bars) of "own" shares were bought back by about 380 companies (top line) each quarter. Figure 2 shows that margin debt (borrowed money) in in the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) at a four times higher ratio than at the trough of the 2009 recession. This means the so-called Trump rally is artificial and ephemeral. American capitalism and with it Europe, Japan and China are in a self-inflated, borrowed money bubble set to burst in a year or two. The ensuing recession will be severe. The similarity of the current trend to the 2001 and 2009 recessions is eerie (fig1 does not include the 2001 recession, but trust me).

I have written at some length (13 and 20 November) that the Trump presidency will usher in a period of domestic social and political disquiet as well as instability in US foreign relations. In the foregoing paragraphs I have supplemented this with a warning that the medium term economic outlook too seems negative after a year of artificial Trump buoyancy passes.

The message from Aleppo

The brutality of Russian airpower and Assad’s army has been documented so I don’t need to add anything. What does this brutality say for countries that become proxy battlefields for global powers? Thomas Hobbs comes to mind; "Life is nasty, brutish and short" and "Force and fraud are in war the two cardinal virtues". In the late twentieth century and the first decade and a half of the twenty-first the world was exposed to human rights rhetoric and an effort was made by the UN and HR bodies to pursue these goals. War-crimes probes pertaining to the last phase of the Lankan civil-war is a welcome outcome of these trends.

There is reason to fear that concern for human rights and protection of civilians may become a thing of the past. Putin-Assad brutalisation of Aleppo while the UN, the West and the ‘non-aligned’ world stood by is a harbinger of things to come. What is on the horizon is a world where the powerful look after themselves and say "Each for himself and the devil take the hindmost". Trump, Putin, Netanyahu and Xi Jinping agree that human and democratic rights are for suckers like Angela Merkel who in any case, isolated by bigots in her own country, is now beating a retreat. The Putin-Trump thesis turns the world into a human rights dystopia. No surprise that President Sirisena beseeched Trump to squash Lanka’s war-crimes tribunal.

We will need to fight these barbarians at the gate. To this resolve we must fully commit this New Year’s Day alongside a pledge to fight another no less important Trump threat to the planet - climate sabotage. Again it is the world’s poor who will pay the price of global warming.

Sirisena-Ranil’s unforced errors

Grant the devil his due; this government is not an authoritarian monster like the Rajapaksa regime. I no longer awake each Sunday wondering whether the white-van will come. Nor do incensed family members phone and thunder "Kumar, shut up will you!" There have been no more Lasanthas and Ekneligodas; which is reassuring for those who dare to dissent. We have emerged from the valley of the shadow of death.

The problem is that if S&R continue mucking things up, practically, they will prepare the ground for the return of the Rajapaksas.

And a Rajapaksa come-back it will be curtains us small potatoes; we cannot evade the white-van a second time. Big shots will cut a deal and make a getaway; small fry will fry. So there is more reason then "the good of the country" and such like lyrics for kicking the S&R butt before they drag us all down into the drain. This is why on practical concerns like electricity sector reforms, though I have extended my cooperation and technical expertise, I am also harshly critical.

There are two big worries; the new constitution and the inability of RW to force his lot to zero in on a consistent economic direction. Next week I will deal with the economy in the context of RW’s Development (Special Provisions) Bill gazetted on 25 November. Here I will express concern about what is happening, or rather not happening to the constitution. What are they discussing, what are the options on the table? My fear is that any, even half decent constitution, will be strangled by the Rajapaksa rump of the SLFP, denying it the requisite two-thirds majority. That is I fear that the new constitution may be altogether aborted?

I cannot here recount all the individual cock-ups the Sirisena-Ranil outfit has managed; I will make do with just one. The President’s interference in electric power sector decisions and his fouling up of the CEB’s long term expansion plans is like a monkey performing delicate brain surgery. The henchmen who drove the President to scrap the clean-coal option in Sampur don’t recognise the difference between a kilo-volt and a milliamp, figuratively speaking. In a piece on 25 September 2016 (‘Short-circuit at Sampur’) I estimated the cumulative loss from this blunder at Rs. 220 billion. It now seems power cuts may start earlier than thought and the cumulative financial loss will be greater – perhaps much greater if the rains too fail.

If the left is to make more than minimal impact in 2017 its central task is to unify itself. At present it is fragmented into bits and pieces, sects and shards. Fragments are picked up, used for specific tasks, then to be discarded; "Jayampathy write a constitution! Bahu celebrate the centenary of the Russian Revolution! JVP block some Rajapaksa treachery!" Good on a one-off basis, but to achieve macro-impact on the big picture the sects and fragments, bits and pieces must fuse into a single entity. A rational constitution, breaking the imbroglio on the national question, countering the factions in society that are gung-ho on a near neo-liberal economic programme, and a stronger anti-corruption focus, all need a unified left. Unification into a single entity "omitted, the voyage of their life will drown in shallows and in miseries".

Beyond serendipity


What do our new generation of parents, friends and neighbours, colleagues at work and future leaders think about cultural supremacy?

64% of Sri Lankans aged 15 to 29 believe their culture is superior compared to other cultures, according to the National Youth Survey.[1]  If this figure is representative, it is a startling statistic.  How and whether equality and respect are compatible with this belief is not clear.

Sri Lanka: Captivity & Diversity In Focus

Colombo Telegraph
By Mark Salter –December 31, 2016
Mark Salter
Mark Salter
2016 has been a good year for books about Sri Lanka at Hurst, a noted UK-based publishers specialising in Asian – and in particular South Asian – affairs. First came A Long Watch: War, Captivity and Return in Sri Lanka by Commodore Ajith Boyagoda, as told to Sunila Galipatti, a writer and former Director of the Galle Literary Festival.
As befits a prisoner of war memoir A Long Watch is couched in direct, lucid prose. It tells an extraordinary story. In September 1994, at the height of the civil war, Boyagoda was commanding one of the Sri Lankan Navy’s largest warships, the Sagrewardene. South of Mannar it came under attack by LTTE vessels and eventually sunk. Unlike many of his crew Boyagoda survived the assault, only to be pulled out of the sea with the other survivors and hauled away by LTTE cadres.
a-long-watch-war-captivity-and-return-in-sri-lankaThe highest-ranking officer ever captured by the Tigers, Boyagoda spent the next eight years in captivity, eventually being released in 2002 as part of a prisoner exchange deal. The majority of the book covers his long years of imprisonment. The picture that emerges is a complex one. Boyagoda makes no bones about his rejection of conventional ‘evil terrorist’ characterizations of the Tigers. He is also at pains to emphasize how fairly he was treated by his jailors, expresses sympathy for the injustices visited on the Tamil population, and even shows empathy for his captors, many of whom were, as he notes, forcefully conscripted by the Tigers in their youth.
As Galipatti has acknowledged elsewhere, telling a story as exceptional and as potentially charged as this one was never going to be an easy task. As a consequence she sticks firmly to a first-person narrative, keeping herself and her opinions firmly in the background. Inevitably, the resulting account has proved controversial. In particular, following its publication accusations that in a wartime version of the ‘Stockholm Syndrome’ Boyagoda had sold out – even spied for – the Tigers were voiced in a number of quarters.
Certainly, the return to the South in 2002 did not prove easy for Boyagoda: eventually released from the Navy, initially he struggled to relate to his children and family, from whose lives he had been separated for so long. Overall, the account of Boyagoda’s wartime captivity is best read for what it is: one man – albeit a particularly thoughtful, sensitive one’s – experiences, as opposed to what it is not: an objective, critical account of the Sri Lankan conflict.
Next came Madurika Rasaratnam’s Tamils and the Nation: India and Sri Lanka Compared. An altogether denser, more academic work of comparative political history, Rasaratnam’s book is a magisterial effort to address a central question. Why did India and Sri Lanka’s post-independence evolution of follow such hugely differing trajectories with respect to their Tamil populations? Why was it the case, for example, that whereas by the late 1960s, previously independence-oriented political parties such as the ADMK had fully embraced the notion of Tamil Nadu’s place within the wider Indian polity, in Sri Lanka the Sinhala-dominated state’s continuing failure to accommodate Tamil aspirations eventually succeeded in transforming political forces that had vocally advocated independence from Britain and national unity into advocates of Tamil Eelam – and eventually into those, such as the LTTE, with no qualms over the use of violence to achieve that goal?

How to go through the back door to come out of the front door?

by Victor Cherubim  -Jan 1, 2017

( January 1, 2017, London, Sri Lanka Guardian) I have written on many subjects over many years about the known unknowns, about futuristic trends, and about business liking stability in a world of uncertainty, among many other subjects. In fact to be honest, I too cannot remember what I have led my readers, perhaps, into the world of the “Wizard of Oz”, except what the New Year holds, what everyone wants to know ahead of time.

Drawing from my experience I like to share what few lessons I have learned.

Never sell your writing 

Never sell yourself direct. Never even sell your work on line. Instead run with your content and encapsulate your brand and that represents you and what it is all about. Say little or next to nothing about yourself but tell great stories –focus on content rather than length of space of your work and you’ll sell or rather have more readers. I don’t know what fables or stories I have related, but I hope to keep my readers alert.

Don’t promote or push your writing 

I have become adjusted to leave people to decide how they consume my brand experience and how to maintain an authentic voice. Many use social media to promote themselves. This approach really frustrates the very reader you are trying to reach.

Avoid pander to opinion 

Don’t create content that you think will appeal to people. Pleasing all is the beginning of pleasing none. Make, create, innovate and share content with your fingerprint and people you want as your readers, or people you are trying to get will eventually find you.

What really counts for a writer? 

What really counts is engagement – engagement with your reader. The famous saying:

“If content is king and distribution queen, then engagement or people sharing that content and talking about it, is everything.” Assess your performance by the people who you are able to reach. That’s what matters.

Go out on a limb; go out of your comfort zone? 

You need your readers, while your readers don’t need you. If you readers are surprised at what you have to say, they will read you. It is your content that makes them happy and will always be read even if it is outside your comfort zone.

Let’s now come to the nitty gritty?

Many of you may have read in the news that Lake House, known as Associated Newspapers of Ceylon Ltd,  a well known publishing house, reduced its debt  from Rs.800 million to Rs.300 million earning at least Rs.150 million in profit this year. We note that newspaper sales have increased 10 percent. But what really was the cause of this surge in readership?

I need hardly elucidate. It was the uncertainty surrounding that made people buy the trilingual newspapers or so it seems? People want to be ahead of the times.

We in Sri Lanka know that what could go wrong in 2016 went wrong? I need not elucidate.

Read Kusal Perera in today’s Daily Mirror. He says…. a government “which cannot instruct the Justice Minister to unconditionally release all Tamil youth detained without charges for many long years can only talk of reconciliation for media hype.”He also states: “national development must go beyond urban economic gains. Rural economy should be able to retain youth with space for viable economic life.”

Nobody saw it coming, not even the soothsayers, futurists. Brexit or the election of Donald Trump in the US Presidential race, or the demonetisation in India, was not foretold.

According to Forbes magazine “Sri Lanka’s Debt crisis was so bad that the Government doesn’t even know how much money it owes.” Was it Rs.9 trillion and increasing at Rs. 1 trillion every year for the past 3 years?

Were we naive to think that the West with its own economic worries was able to help redeem our debt mountain? Have we been conditioned to living off the State too long, off handouts from NGO’s or off our non productive effort? Productivity is the measure of efficiency of a person, machine, factory or system in converting inputs into useful outputs?

The IMF had warned the “Yalapalanya” government instead of borrowing to meet its debt repayment, to rationalise the tax system and arrest inflation.

Much has been done over the past two years, but much more needs to be done as the years roll by. Time is of essence.

Politics is not the only realm in which there is a shift in thinking. Whilst thinking back to what 2016 did or did not bring will hardly move us forward, let us find out what is in store for us in 2017, perhaps the fate of the “yahapalanaya” government.

Turbulence has its advantages. What we are seeing is the power of the individual, instead of the power of the State. People are starting to question whether the rural poor have benefitted. There is no question that national development must go beyond urban economic gains. Individuals can have a stoppable ability to manifest “what they want is what they want”. Don’t spin the problem. Focus on solutions, and you come out of the front door.

Where is it all going to end?


You are going to be reading this in 2017 and I hope it isn’t going to come across as yet another of those "joy to the world, all is well" kinds of pieces. Neither is it meant to be a prophecy of doom and gloom.

In reviewing the year past it has been, typically, where there have been a few gains and a large number of missed opportunities.

The gains? The major one has proven to be that the pall of overwhelming corruption and the violence attendant upon it continues to lift with the passage of time. Slowly? Yes, but we hope surely and irrevocably. That said, what did the man say: "the price of freedom is eternal vigilance," right? The fact that it was so bad at the end of the rule of Sri Lanka’s returned-from-the-dead Dutugemunu that it didn’t appear capable of getting any worse, is cold comfort despite the rise of the Trumps and Dutertes who share the same philosophy of our most recent and unlamented "Royal from Ruhuna."

How much influence are the Ranjan Ramanayakes within the current regime going to wield in their efforts to bring at least a veneer of respectability to a government that appears dedicated to doing the "same old, same old" in the matter of padding their own pockets with, among other "value additions," the likes of the proceeds of the re-sale of vehicle permits which, in and of themselves, constitute a privilege not available to any "ordinary" citizen? Particularly because the "One-shots" of this regime are so few and far between, we owe it to them to convey our appreciation and gratitude for their behaviour and provide whatever support we can to them even if only in principle and print. Our representatives need to be constantly reminded that it was on the promise of clean governance that they were elected to the positions they now hold.

Loud pronouncements that "nobody is above the law," mean little when there is widespread suspicion of an "entente cordiale" between the current Prime Minister and the previous President. A similar relationship has been suggested as existing between the man best known as the alleged organizer of the white van disappearances and someone even higher up the chain of command than Ranil Wickramesinghe. The only way that these suspicions can be laid to rest is by action that proves conclusively that no one – in governments past and present, irrespective of their blood relationships and "connections" – is immune from prosecution. THIS CAN ONLY BE PROVED BY THE ALLEGED MISCREANTS BEING BROUGHT TO TRIAL. And don’t tell me that we have such a line-up of those awaiting the dispensation of justice that these embezzlers of billions of rupees can’t "jump the queue" and be taken before the courts of law sooner than appears to be now the case . They can and should because this is a matter of even greater urgency in the context of the man supposedly heading up our justice system brazenly stating that not a hair on the heads of members of a certain family that shall remain nameless will be harmed. Period.

The losses? Apart from those referred to earlier, the continued frittering away of opportunities to restore the cradle of Buddhism to the position it had once occupied and preventing it from sliding away into a haven for men with shaven heads seeking to hide their venality under saffron robes is probably, ethically and morally, the most important in a nation that seems merely to be preoccupied with its history of 2500 years of Sinhala Buddhist civilization. Sound harsh? So be it because these charlatans need to be exposed for what they are as they ride around in their (often state-provided) Mercedes-Benzes.

The economic uncertainty created by constant modifications to financial policies publicized as of critical importance does not help the confidence of local entrepreneurs, big or small, and I would guess that foreign investors would view the current "chopping and changing" in a similar manner. Is that a climate for economic growth? I would suspect not.

The obsession with "mega" this and "mega" that might provide entertainment to those who look forward to Wesak and Christmas as times to be entertained by "the lights." However, these promises of humongous developments are not only as ephemeral as the afore-mentioned "lights," they are more damaging because they obscure, no matter how periodically, the realities, faced by those, particularly in rural Sri Lanka who have to face the daily necessity of feeding themselves and their dependents.

The price of our basic food has risen by 40% recently. We are not talking of champagne or caviar here. The reference is to nadu rice the staple food of our people.

In the rural areas, where home-grown produce – leaf and other vegetables, jak, breadfruit, dessert and cooking plantains and the like were there for the harvesting in every peasant’s home garden – we have the spectre of every one of these staples being bought from a boutique after being transported long distances from central purchasing points. Don’t get me wrong. I am as supportive as any thinking consumer might be with regard to the need for an organized collection and distribution of food. However, that need not and MUST NOT be considered the only option. We have a long history, in a tropical country without the extremes of temperature and weather that prevail in other parts of the world, of producing much of our food, literally, on our doorsteps.

When a villager in our neighbourhood is compelled to go to the kadey to get the ingredients for a polos pahi, a kos mallung or a breadfruit curry or chips there is something damned rotten in a state of Denmark over-run by macaque monkeys and giant squirrels.

When packs of feral dogs, not one vaccinated against rabies by the do-gooders of this, that or the other (urban) lovers of homeless canines, roam free, using completely illegal garbage dumps as their headquarters while awaiting the next outbreak of rabies to assist in spreading fatal and incurable malady, something needs to be done about such a state of affairs.

Pronouncements from above on how the basic realities of rural Sri Lankans are being dealt with by those allegedly "knowing better" are cold bloody comfort to those having to endure what is beginning to seem like the rule and not the exception for all but the privileged. And mind you, the foregoing is only from our small neck of the woods, an area whose circumstances are being replicated throughout a Sri Lanka which is traversed by businessmen parading as politicians.

Welcome to Sri Lanka in 2017 where the warts are beginning to overtake what’s left of the epidermis of this nation.

What do we do about it? Rise up and, with one voice, proclaim the words of the late Peter Finch in "Network" that have since achieved iconic status – "I’m mad as Hell and I’m not going to take it any more" and follow through on that proclamation which you can find at on your computer at if you so choose!

Renaissance Man