Wednesday, December 31, 2008

'Stimulative' economics

Screaming headlines in both the Daily News and The Island proclaim a number of price cuts in fuel and other items. The Daily News describes this as a "stimulative economic package to the consumers to ensure best performance in the commercial, agriculture, industrial and service sectors."

When dealing with a downturn, one would expect the Government to admit to that fact when announcing a package but the announcement only talks of "best performance" and "new year bonanza". Perhaps talk of a downturn would be a bit embarrassing since the statistics point in the opposite direction.

Most of the relief measures involved reduced prices of fuel plus a soft loan to tea factories. Any relief will be welcome by beleaguered consumers and industrialists but the unanswered question is the means by which this will be funded.

A Government that runs a budget surplus and/or has low levels of debt will have no trouble financing a stimulus but thanks to the profligacy of this regime there is no room to fund anything. Some small cuts have been announced in the expenditure of ministers but whether this will suffice is a question.

In addition to this problem the country is facing a potential banking crisis and if a bailout of the financial sector becomes necessary there is going to be an additional burden on the public purse.

A slowing economy means lower tax collection as sales and profits slump. There will also be fewer imports and therefore less collection in the form of customs duties and associated levies.

Historically, budgets have overestimated revenues and underestimated expenditure; the last budget saw a big increase in expenditure, so going by past form we should be heading for a mammoth deficit. Expect the printing presses to roll.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

As the Arabs see the Jews

Eloquent advocates of the Palestinian point of view are few and far between. King Abdullah of Jordan wrote a fine essay on this topic that I think deserves wider circulation. The article originally appeared in the United States six months before the 1948 Arab-Israeli War.

"As the Arabs see the Jews"
His Majesty King Abdullah,
The American Magazine
November, 1947

I am especially delighted to address an American audience, for the tragic problem of Palestine will never be solved without American understanding, American sympathy, American support.

So many billions of words have been written about Palestine—perhaps more than on any other subject in history—that I hesitate to add to them. Yet I am compelled to do so, for I am reluctantly convinced that the world in general, and America in particular, knows almost nothing of the true case for the Arabs.

We Arabs follow, perhaps far more than you think, the press of America. We are frankly disturbed to find that for every word printed on the Arab side, a thousand are printed on the Zionist side.

There are many reasons for this. You have many millions of Jewish citizens interested in this question. They are highly vocal and wise in the ways of publicity. There are few Arab citizens in America, and we are as yet unskilled in the technique of modern propaganda.

The results have been alarming for us. In your press we see a horrible caricature and are told it is our true portrait. In all justice, we cannot let this pass by default.

Our case is quite simple: For nearly 2,000 years Palestine has been almost 100 per cent Arab. It is still preponderantly Arab today, in spite of enormous Jewish immigration. But if this immigration continues we shall soon be outnumbered—a minority in our home.

Palestine is a small and very poor country, about the size of your state of Vermont. Its Arab population is only about 1,200,000. Already we have had forced on us, against our will, some 600,000 Zionist Jews. We are threatened with many hundreds of thousands more.

Our position is so simple and natural that we are amazed it should even be questioned. It is exactly the same position you in America take in regard to the unhappy European Jews. You are sorry for them, but you do not want them in your country.

We do not want them in ours, either. Not because they are Jews, but because they are foreigners. We would not want hundreds of thousands of foreigners in our country, be they Englishmen or Norwegians or Brazilians or whatever.

Think for a moment: In the last 25 years we have had one third of our entire population forced upon us. In America that would be the equivalent of 45,000,000 complete strangers admitted to your country, over your violent protest, since 1921. How would you have reacted to that?

Because of our perfectly natural dislike of being overwhelmed in our own homeland, we are called blind nationalists and heartless anti-Semites. This charge would be ludicrous were it not so dangerous.

No people on earth have been less "anti-Semitic" than the Arabs. The persecution of the Jews has been confined almost entirely to the Christian nations of the West. Jews, themselves, will admit that never since the Great Dispersion did Jews develop so freely and reach such importance as in Spain when it was an Arab possession. With very minor exceptions, Jews have lived for many centuries in the Middle East, in complete peace and friendliness with their Arab neighbours.

Damascus, Baghdad, Beirut and other Arab centres have always contained large and prosperous Jewish colonies. Until the Zionist invasion of Palestine began, these Jews received the most generous treatment—far, far better than in Christian Europe. Now, unhappily, for the first time in history, these Jews are beginning to feel the effects of Arab resistance to the Zionist assault. Most of them are as anxious as Arabs to stop it. Most of these Jews who have found happy homes among us resent, as we do, the coming of these strangers.

I was puzzled for a long time about the odd belief which apparently persists in America that Palestine has somehow "always been a Jewish land." Recently an American I talked to cleared up this mystery. He pointed out that the only things most Americans know about Palestine are what they read in the Bible. It was a Jewish land in those days, they reason, and they assume it has always remained so.

Nothing could be farther from the truth. It is absurd to reach so far back into the mists of history to argue about who should have Palestine today, and I apologise for it. Yet the Jews do this, and I must reply to their "historic claim." I wonder if the world has ever seen a stranger sight than a group of people seriously pretending to claim a land because their ancestors lived there some 2,000 years ago!

If you suggest that I am biased, I invite you to read any sound history of the period and verify the facts.

Such fragmentary records as we have indicate that the Jews were wandering nomads from Iraq who moved to southern Turkey, came south to Palestine, stayed there a short time, and then passed to Egypt, where they remained about 400 years. About 1300 BC (according to your calendar) they left Egypt and gradually conquered most—but not all—of the inhabitants of Palestine.

It is significant that the Philistines—not the Jews—gave their name to the country: "Palestine" is merely the Greek form of "Philistia."

Only once, during the empire of David and Solomon, did the Jews ever control nearly—but not all—the land which is today Palestine. This empire lasted only 70 years, ending in 926 BC. Only 250 years later the Kingdom of Judah had shrunk to a small province around Jerusalem, barely a quarter of modern Palestine.

In 63 BC the Jews were conquered by Roman Pompey, and never again had even the vestige of independence. The Roman Emperor Hadrian finally wiped them out about 135 AD. He utterly destroyed Jerusalem, rebuilt under another name, and for hundreds of years no Jew was permitted to enter it. A handful of Jews remained in Palestine but the vast majority were killed or scattered to other countries, in the Diaspora, or the Great Dispersion. From that time Palestine ceased to be a Jewish country, in any conceivable sense.

This was 1,815 years ago, and yet the Jews solemnly pretend they still own Palestine! If such fantasy were allowed, how the map of the world would dance about!

Italians might claim England, which the Romans held so long. England might claim France, "homeland" of the conquering Normans. And the French Normans might claim Norway, where their ancestors originated. And incidentally, we Arabs might claim Spain, which we held for 700 years.

Many Mexicans might claim Spain, "homeland" of their forefathers. They might even claim Texas, which was Mexican until 100 years ago. And suppose the American Indians claimed the "homeland" of which they were the sole, native, and ancient occupants until only some 450 years ago!

I am not being facetious. All these claims are just as valid—or just as fantastic—as the Jewish "historic connection" with Palestine. Most are more valid.

In any event, the great Moslem expansion about 650 AD finally settled things. It dominated Palestine completely. From that day on, Palestine was solidly Arabic in population, language, and religion. When British armies entered the country during the last war, they found 500,000 Arabs and only 65,000 Jews.

If solid, uninterrupted Arab occupation for nearly 1,300 years does not make a country "Arab", what does?

The Jews say, and rightly, that Palestine is the home of their religion. It is likewise the birthplace of Christianity, but would any Christian nation claim it on that account? In passing, let me say that the Christian Arabs—and there are many hundreds of thousands of them in the Arab World—are in absolute agreement with all other Arabs in opposing the Zionist invasion of Palestine.

May I also point out that Jerusalem is, after Mecca and Medina, the holiest place in Islam. In fact, in the early days of our religion, Moslems prayed toward Jerusalem instead of Mecca.

The Jewish "religious claim" to Palestine is as absurd as the "historic claim." The Holy Places, sacred to three great religions, must be open to all, the monopoly of none. Let us not confuse religion and politics.

We are told that we are inhumane and heartless because do not accept with open arms the perhaps 200,000 Jews in Europe who suffered so frightfully under Nazi cruelty, and who even now—almost three years after war’s end—still languish in cold, depressing camps.

Let me underline several facts. The unimaginable persecution of the Jews was not done by the Arabs: it was done by a Christian nation in the West. The war which ruined Europe and made it almost impossible for these Jews to rehabilitate themselves was fought by the Christian nations of the West. The rich and empty portions of the earth belong, not to the Arabs, but to the Christian nations of the West.

And yet, to ease their consciences, these Christian nations of the West are asking Palestine—a poor and tiny Moslem country of the East—to accept the entire burden. "We have hurt these people terribly," cries the West to the East. "Won’t you please take care of them for us?"

We find neither logic nor justice in this. Are we therefore "cruel and heartless nationalists"?

We are a generous people: we are proud that "Arab hospitality" is a phrase famous throughout the world. We are a humane people: no one was shocked more than we by the Hitlerite terror. No one pities the present plight of the desperate European Jews more than we.

But we say that Palestine has already sheltered 600,000 refugees. We believe that is enough to expect of us—even too much. We believe it is now the turn of the rest of the world to accept some of them.

I will be entirely frank with you. There is one thing the Arab world simply cannot understand. Of all the nations of the earth, America is most insistent that something be done for these suffering Jews of Europe. This feeling does credit to the humanity for which America is famous, and to that glorious inscription on your Statue of Liberty.

And yet this same America—the richest, greatest, most powerful nation the world has ever known—refuses to accept more than a token handful of these same Jews herself!

I hope you will not think I am being bitter about this. I have tried hard to understand that mysterious paradox, and I confess I cannot. Nor can any other Arab.

Perhaps you have been informed that "the Jews in Europe want to go to no other place except Palestine."

This myth is one of the greatest propaganda triumphs of the Jewish Agency for Palestine, the organisation which promotes with fanatic zeal the emigration to Palestine. It is a subtle half-truth, thus doubly dangerous.

The astounding truth is that nobody on earth really knows where these unfortunate Jews really want to go!

You would think that in so grave a problem, the American, British, and other authorities responsible for the European Jews would have made a very careful survey, probably by vote, to find out where each Jew actually wants to go. Amazingly enough this has never been done! The Jewish Agency has prevented it.

Some time ago the American Military Governor in Germany was asked at a press conference how he was so certain that all Jews there wanted to go to Palestine. His answer was simple: "My Jewish advisors tell me so." He admitted no poll had ever been made. Preparations were indeed begun for one, but the Jewish Agency stepped in to stop it.

The truth is that the Jews in German camps are now subjected to a Zionist pressure campaign which learned much from the Nazi terror. It is dangerous for a Jew to say that he would rather go to some other country, not Palestine. Such dissenters have been severely beaten, and worse.

Not long ago, in Palestine, nearly 1,000 Austrian Jews informed the international refugee organisation that they would like to go back to Austria, and plans were made to repatriate them.

The Jewish Agency heard of this, and exerted enough political pressure to stop it. It would be bad propaganda for Zionism if Jews began leaving Palestine. The nearly 1,000 Austrian are still there, against their will.

The fact is that most of the European Jews are Western in culture and outlook, entirely urban in experience and habits. They cannot really have their hearts set on becoming pioneers in the barren, arid, cramped land which is Palestine.

One thing, however, is undoubtedly true. As matters stand now, most refugee Jews in Europe would, indeed, vote for Palestine, simply because they know no other country will have them.

If you or I were given a choice between a near-prison camp for the rest of our lives—or Palestine—we would both choose Palestine, too.

But open up any other alternative to them—give them any other choice, and see what happens!

No poll, however, will be worth anything unless the nations of the earth are willing to open their doors—just a little—to the Jews. In other words, if in such a poll a Jew says he wants to go to Sweden, Sweden must be willing to accept him. If he votes for America, you must let him come in.

Any other kind of poll would be a farce. For the desperate Jew, this is no idle testing of opinion: this is a grave matter of life or death. Unless he is absolutely sure that his vote means something, he will always vote for Palestine, so as not to risk his bird in the hand for one in the bush.

In any event, Palestine can accept no more. The 65,000 Jews in Palestine in 1918 have jumped to 600,000 today. We Arabs have increased, too, but not by immigration. The Jews were then a mere 11 per cent of our population. Today they are one third of it.

The rate of increase has been terrifying. In a few more years—unless stopped now—it will overwhelm us, and we shall be an important minority in our own home.

Surely the rest of the wide world is rich enough and generous enough to find a place for 200,000 Jews—about one third the number that tiny, poor Palestine has already sheltered. For the rest of the world, it is hardly a drop in the bucket. For us it means national suicide.

We are sometimes told that since the Jews came to Palestine, the Arab standard of living has improved. This is a most complicated question. But let us even assume, for the argument, that it is true. We would rather be a bit poorer, and masters of our own home. Is this unnatural?

The sorry story of the so-called "Balfour Declaration," which started Zionist immigration into Palestine, is too complicated to repeat here in detail. It is grounded in broken promises to the Arabs—promises made in cold print which admit no denying.

We utterly deny its validity. We utterly deny the right of Great Britain to give away Arab land for a "national home" for an entirely foreign people.

Even the League of Nations sanction does not alter this. At the time, not a single Arab state was a member of the League. We were not allowed to say a word in our own defense.

I must point out, again in friendly frankness, that America was nearly as responsible as Britain for this Balfour Declaration. President Wilson approved it before it was issued, and the American Congress adopted it word for word in a joint resolution on 30th June, 1922.

In the 1920s, Arabs were annoyed and insulted by Zionist immigration, but not alarmed by it. It was steady, but fairly small, as even the Zionist founders thought it would remain. Indeed for some years, more Jews left Palestine than entered it—in 1927 almost twice as many.

But two new factors, entirely unforeseen by Britain or the League or America or the most fervent Zionist, arose in the early thirties to raise the immigration to undreamed heights. One was the World Depression; the second the rise of Hitler.

In 1932, the year before Hitler came to power, only 9,500 Jews came to Palestine. We did not welcome them, but we were not afraid that, at that rate, our solid Arab majority would ever be in danger.

But the next year—the year of Hitler—it jumped to 30,000! In 1934 it was 42,000! In 1935 it reached 61,000!

It was no longer the orderly arrival of idealist Zionists. Rather, all Europe was pouring its frightened Jews upon us. Then, at last, we, too, became frightened. We knew that unless this enormous influx stopped, we were, as Arabs, doomed in our Palestine homeland. And we have not changed our minds.

I have the impression that many Americans believe the trouble in Palestine is very remote from them, that America had little to do with it, and that your only interest now is that of a humane bystander.

I believe that you do not realise how directly you are, as a nation, responsible in general for the whole Zionist move and specifically for the present terrorism. I call this to your attention because I am certain that if you realise your responsibility you will act fairly to admit it and assume it.

Quite aside from official American support for the "National Home" of the Balfour Declaration, the Zionist settlements in Palestine would have been almost impossible, on anything like the current scale, without American money. This was contributed by American Jewry in an idealistic effort to help their fellows.

The motive was worthy: the result were disastrous. The contributions were by private individuals, but they were almost entirely Americans, and, as a nation, only America can answer for it.

The present catastrophe may be laid almost entirely at your door. Your government, almost alone in the world, is insisting on the immediate admission of 100,000 more Jews into Palestine—to be followed by countless additional ones. This will have the most frightful consequences in bloody chaos beyond anything ever hinted at in Palestine before.

It is your press and political leadership, almost alone in the world, who press this demand. It is almost entirely American money which hires or buys the "refugee ships" that steam illegally toward Palestine: American money which pays their crews. The illegal immigration from Europe is arranged by the Jewish Agency, supported almost entirely by American funds. It is American dollars which support the terrorists, which buy the bullets and pistols that kill British soldiers—your allies—and Arab citizens—your friends.

We in the Arab world were stunned to hear that you permit open advertisements in newspapers asking for money to finance these terrorists, to arm them openly and deliberately for murder. We could not believe this could really happen in the modern world. Now we must believe it: we have seen the advertisements with our own eyes.

I point out these things because nothing less than complete frankness will be of use. The crisis is too stark for mere polite vagueness which means nothing.

I have the most complete confidence in the fair-mindedness and generosity of the American public. We Arabs ask no favours. We ask only that you know the full truth, not half of it. We ask only that when you judge the Palestine question, you put yourselves in our place.

What would your answer be if some outside agency told you that you must accept in America many millions of utter strangers in your midst—enough to dominate your country—merely because they insisted on going to America, and because their forefathers had once lived there some 2,000 years ago?

Our answer is the same.

And what would be your action if, in spite of your refusal, this outside agency began forcing them on you?

Ours will be the same.

I copied the article from here.

Monday, December 29, 2008

On the problem of Palestine

The shabby treatment of the Palestinian people leaves many a decent Muslim feeling aggrieved. I believe this issue is at the centre of the conflict between militants of a Muslim persuasion and people that they view as their oppressors.

The problem has dragged on far too long for a solution to come from within. It is time for out-of-the-box thinking and the imposition of a solution from outside.

Let us accept that the Jewish people need a home. There are only 5.3m of them living in Israel, so that is not too large a number. The problem is that the state of Israel is too small. Israel's Law of Return accords any Jew and eligible non-Jews with immediate Jewish relatives, the legal right to assisted immigration and settlement in Israel, as well as automatic Israeli citizenship.

The implosion of the Soviet Union in 1990 resulted in a huge influx of people of Jewish ancestry from that region. According to statistics by the Jewish agency for Israel, a total of 985,400 people migrated to Israel from Eastern Europe between 1989 and 2007, alone.

The steady inflow of people puts pressure on resources, particularly land, hence the need for Israel to colonise parts of the West Bank and Gaze Strip for settlements. What is needed is therefore more space.

Israel's many supporters often point out that it is almost the only functioning democracy in the Middle East and this points to an important truth. Although geographically located in the East, in habits, behaviour and spirit the people are of the West.

Israel's most important ally the US and until recently, the country with the largest Jewish population (according the Jewish Virtual Library, the US has 5.275m Jews against 5.313m in Israel) holds the key to the solution.

There are no closer allies than Israel and the US. Britain, the EU and others are important but none enjoy the warmth and real friendship that exists between these two. Naturally the US does not want to abandon its small ally, hanging on precariously amidst the large and unfriendly states of the Middle East.

The solution therefore is to bring them home. The US is a vast and sparsely populated land, they can easily afford to give up to provide for a new home for the Jewish people. The US is 9.6m in extent, Israel is 20,770 sq km in extent, about 0.2% of the US.

The new state of Israel could be located in the Southern-most states: Texas and the adjoining states bordering Mexico. In anycase the state of Texas was seized barely a century ago from the Mexicans so giving up a bit of it will not hurt too much.

Better still, the new state of Israel could stretch the entire Southern border with Mexico. Israel could then be encouraged to construct its security barrier along the Mexican border which would have the added benefit of keeping out the pesky Mexicans not to mention the drug smugglers, so we have a win-win situation all around.

The cost of moving the state of Israel will no doubt be gladly borne by the Saudi Arabia, the UAE and other allies of the US. Indeed given a chance, sworn enemies of the US such as Iran and Libya may contribute even more than their allies to see the back of Israel.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Is truly representative democracy possible?

Churchill is supposed to have remarked that democracy is the worst form of government, save for all others.

I have been thinking about this for a while and have come to the conclusion that for best effect, democracy needs to work within a well established class system.

The problem is that truly popular democracy must cater to truly popular public taste. While this egalitarian ideal sounds fine, the net effect of catering to the lowest common denominator of public sentiment is likely to leave everyone worse off.

This is where a good class system comes in to play. The class system ensures that those who rise to the head of parties that may contest an election must necessarily subscribe to a certain set of values. The idea is that only gentlemen or those who subscribe to such values may reach the top ranks of the political arena. The public are then free to choose their leaders, but their choice will tend to be amongst gentlemen and will eliminate bounders, footpads and their ilk from high office.

Thus the population is satisfied that they have a say in the affairs of a nation, while at the same time, there is an automatic check on wilder elements entering the fray. The emergence of far right parties in Austria and extremists in Australia (Pauline Hanson) not to mention the BJP (partially under the sway of the RSS/VHP) are cases in point. Fortunately, the strength of other institutions (particularly the press but also Parliament and the Judiciary) have forced most extremists to moderate their stance when holding office but prevention is better than cure.

The system of proportional representation, which opens the door to extremists, is also not compatible with good governance. The best example is Israel, where an almost mischievous proportional representative system has lead to fragile coalitions that implode whenever a bold decision is taken.

To be fair a class system should not be rigid, but like the British one flexible. There are plenty of foreigners and other outsiders who have reached the top rank of political office, but they have had to go through a period of adaptation before they were accepted.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Is the economy important?

I have been having an on-going debate with a number of people on the economy. Debate on this subject tends to include the war, because it is a very important factor in any discussion on the subject, but as a result the discussion tends to get unnecessarily heated and taken off track. This is not helped by the fact that the subject is complex and terminology obscure. Because of this economic policy tends to be viewed by some as an abstract, distant and unreal.

Is this really so? And does the man on the Galle Road or traveling in the 138 bus have no interest in the matter?

At the outset let me state that I am no economist. I have done some rudimentary study of the subject but I am by no means an expert and therefore am quite open to correction.

Returning to the question, what exactly is the economy? In short it is the living standard of people. People fortunate to live in rich countries enjoy a lot of things that those in poor countries do not. They have a far wider selection of goods and services to enjoy. These range from foodstuffs, to entertainment, to recreation, to the arts, to sports, in short to a lifestyle. Not everyone enjoys these equally and there is plenty of poverty and misery in rich countries but a majority of people are able to lead better lives.

There is legitimate debate on the quality of life, that more does not necessarily mean better but man is a base creature and the satisfaction of base cravings will bring pleasure, even for a while. There is also the important factor of choice. There are many different paths that the people of rich world may tread. They may chose the the path of the ascetic, live simple frugal lives on wholesome organic produce in idyllic rural settings. They may chose the path of gluttony and greed, gorging themselves on cheap junk food that leads them to obesity, ill health and an untimely death.

The important thing is the choice is actually there to be made. One is not locked into a single rutted grind of constant poverty.

Look back to the 1970's in Sri Lanka when living standards were far lower, when there was no television, when a radio or an electric fan were considered luxuries. A time when imported goods of any description were very scare and travel abroad was a rare luxury. A time when almost everything was rationed from cloth to basic foodstuffs and shortages were rife. Produce was bought largely at the co-operative shop, on the production of a ration card and people grew as much vegetables at home so that they would have something to eat.

A friend related an incident from the time. There had been a shortage of soap. (since foreign exchange was strictly controlled imports were difficult and factories were forever short of raw materials, scarcities were common). His father had known someone working at the (now defunct) British Ceylon Corporation (BCC). They produced soap under the such delightful brands as Night & Day, Sno-Wite and most famously Sovereign Bar soap, which was a washing soap that was a about two feet long. My friends father had managed to obtain a number of cakes of soap which they had stuffed into a cardboard box and they were taking it home. On the way the box broke and the soap was scattered around the bus and their fellow passengers had been exclaiming "soap", "soap" almost as if it were manna from heaven.

That was poverty, of 25% unemployment of shortages, of a GDP of US$200 or US$300. In a strange way society was slightly better because inequality was not a big problem. The majority of the people were struggling, the rich were a tiny fragment of society and even they were not so rich and in anycase they faced much the same struggle with daily necessities.

That was what was left behind by growth and that is why the economy is important. Compared to the drudgery of the 1970's, people of today enjoy vastly better standards of living.

That was in the past. Now things are better, so what is the problem? The danger is that things can slip back. Stagnation will lead to increased unemployment which will cause a lot more stress than in the old days. People who enjoy a certain standard of living will feel their lifestyles changing, their quality of life degrading, their choices diminishing. This is made worse all the glitter of the things that are flashed before their faces and which they cannot have, but which they once might have had, at least occasionally. They also see a select few enjoy much much higher living standards. This will cause of resentment, discontent and possibly social unrest. The Banlieues of France did not erupt for nothing.

But surely all this is far-fetched I hear the critics say? We've left this behind, there is a temporary dip but as soon as the war is won we will be alright.

Unfortunately it is not so simple. The problems of the economy are deep seated and fundamental. The makers of policy have dug a pit so deep that it will be extremely difficult to get out of it.

I keep looking with horror, to Zimbabwe. Once the breadbasket of Africa, now a basked case (in the words of no less a person than Desmond Tutu) in the span of twenty-odd year. This is the most extreme example, but there are plenty of others; Pakistan for instance or in many other places in Africa or Latin America where similar short-sighted policies have wracked havoc with the lives of people raining, misery, poverty and destruction on millions.

That is why the economy is important. It is what life is largely about.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

No private vehicles to BIA

According to the Daily Mirror, no private vehicles will be allowed into the airport.

"All private vehicles are to be prohibited from entering the Bandaranaike International Airport (BIA) due to ‘security concern’ and as a first step in this move all vans and three-wheelers will not be allowed into the departure area with immediate effect, an official said. "

I wonder if they will ban the planes from landing next. Or maybe all planes except for Mihin Air. After all, who knows, Tiger Air might decide to land at BIA ?

Confusingly, the rule applies for departures but not for arrivals. “The restriction only applies to departing passengers for now. For persons coming to the airport to pick up arriving passengers, usual security procedures l apply,” the duty officer said.

Why there should a difference in security procedures for the two is a mystery. The risk is about the same as far as I can see but this may be a smart move minimise inconvenience to the diminishing number of tourists coming in. Hmm given the standard of English better coach the guards on the difference between tourist and terrorist, the words might easily be confused..

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Someone needs to take Visakha Vidyalaya to court

I spent about a quarter of an hour stuck in traffic today. This was not caused by the usual suspects by Viskha Vidyalaya which has erected two massive barriers across Viskha Road.

These barriers came up few years ago when paranoia was sweeping the City that the LTTE was going to attack schools.

The barricades take up almost half the street and are placed on either side of the school a couple of hundred metres across.

To begin with, unless they have obtained special permission, these are illegal. They have absolutely no right obstruct a public road. Even if they have obtained permission, the sheer lack of consideration for the public at large leaves me speechless with rage.

Somebody needs to get them to remove these monstrosities and teach these barbarians some manners. Civilised people don't do things like that, whatever the justification.

Friday, December 05, 2008

The roots of this wretched war

I have often wondered as to the factors that have driven this ruinous war in the country. Language, religion, culture and many other factors besides have been put forward as to the causes that fuel the feelings of discrimination and alienation that seem to plague the minority.

I don't think any of these are really the true cause of the problem, the cause is economic. It is competition for resources that causes conflict between people; at a micro level where people are reported to have fought over the last Christmas turkey in the supermarket, to a macro level where border disputes arise between nations.

The issue flared up in 1956 with the Official Languages Act. From the Tamil point of view this act was designed to exclude them from the appointments in the prestigious and much sought-after civil service and from higher education, which meant that even opportunities outside the civil service would be limited.

This is something that would be pretty hard for people of today to understand. How many youngsters who have completed their A'levels are contemplating entry to the State university system? How many would see themselves looking for a career in the public service? Only a minority of the urban population, I would reckon.

Yet in the 1950's, when opportunities were very limited: one either became a planter or a civil servant. Those who failed at either would join the tiny mercantile sector or would be unemployed. This is why language was important. (for a superb a first hand account of how the Official Languages Act was implemented read the articles I've collected here)

Today, it is not the case, education in no longer a monopoly of the state and the broad-basing of the economy has opened up many other employment opportunities, not mention the availability of overseas employment. Indeed proper English has almost disappeared, with only a handful using it properly.

Why then, does the conflict persist? This is a much harder question. There is still the petty discrimination, the petty hassle of receiving correspondence in Sinhalese and suchlike matters but this is not sufficient to fuel a war such as this. It is similar to the discrimination faced by minorities in places like Malaysia. There is plenty of grumbling and annoyance but no outright war. The Palestinian's for example face difficulties of an altogether different magnitude and this can explain the conflict in that benighted land, but the Tamils are not so badly off.

I believe what has happened is that the symptoms of the problem, the militant movement, has grown as a result of the bungled handling of the situation.

For much of its early days, the militant movement was only supported by a tiny minority. It was a joke. They were referred to commonly as 'the boys' almost like a gang of naughty schoolboys, which in a sense they were.

My father was serving in Mannar when the first policeman was murdered in 1981 or 1982. How was it done? Someone rode upto the unfortunate man on a bicycle and shot him with a rusty old pistol at point-blank range. Why did they ride right up to him to shoot? Because they could not even shoot straight. The LTTE greatest triumph, in 1983, was the killing of 13 soldiers who were caught in a landmine. It was sheer accident that there were so many killed, the jeep was overloaded.

It was the events of July 1983 that gave the rebels their first boost. The anger at the government translated into moral and material support for the armed groups. The Government response was always a mess and ended up creating more support for them until they evolved into the terrorists of today.

The real roots of the problem, were, I believe exposed once more during the CFA. By 2001 a whole generation of Tamils had grown up knowing nothing but the war. People who visited Jaffna during the CFA tell me that Jaffna was twenty years behind Colombo by that time. Not that Colombo is a particularly advanced place either. These people, who had known nothing but war, suddenly saw an existence other than war and this was Prabakharan's problem.

He needed a solution, fast, because popular support for a war was evaporating and his cadres were deserting. The removal of the common enemy exposed the fissures that lay within the movement of which the breakaway of a senior commander, Karuna Annan, was only the most obvious outward sign.

Wily Ranil, on the other hand did not give him a solution, talks were dragging on, but no solution was in sight, which is why I believe Prabakharan ensured that Rajapakse won the election. If Ranil had been around for much longer his movement would have imploded from within. Reading the Maveera speech of 2005 and the blame he puts on Ranil tells the whole story.

Having got his war, he now fights what appears to be a losing battle. Whether the State's heavy-handed response is sowing the seeds of a new round of conflict remains to be seen.

ps. For a more detailed view on this read this.

pps. For those who have wondered where the moderate Tamil voice has disappeared to read this, to understand why they are silent.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Remember, remember the fourth of November

I wonder how many recall the nursery rhyme:

Remember remember the fifth of November
Gunpowder, treason and plot.
I see no reason why gunpowder, treason
Should ever be forgot...

The rhyme, like some of their kind, refers to events in history; in this case to the gunpowder plot. On the 5th November 1605 Guy Fawkes was caught in the cellars of the Houses of Parliament with several dozen barrels of gunpowder. He and his fellow plotters (eight in all) were attempting to blow up parliament.

On the fourth of November 2003, Chandrika Bandaranaike staged a coup d’état overthrowing the government of Ranil Wickremesinghe and setting in motion events that stilled any hope of peace.

There have been a few turning points in the bloody history of post-colonial Ceylon and this was one of them. The election of SWRD Bandaranaike in 1956 and the riots of 1958; the dismembering of the civil service in the 1960's; the new constitutions of 1972 and 1978; black July 1983. Although seemingly less dramatic than some of the other crucial forks in the rocky road to serfdom, this was surely no less important for it set the stage for the autocratic state.

I have come to think that the power of democracy lies entirely in its institutions: the press, the judiciary and the legislature. Power does strange things to even the most well-meaning of people and once obtained it is rarely parted with willingly.

One never leaves office, one is always forced out; by the institutions. If one tries to cling on, one is first made a fool of by the press, one then finds it impossible to execute any orders for no one would carry them out, fearing retribution by the courts or possibly parliament.

These institutions have been neutered: directly by the constitution of 1978 and indirectly by the corruption it has enshrined. Now how much influence one wields is entirely dependent on how much money one can throw. The courts, the police, parliament are all under the sway of the executive and what rights that have been guaranteed under the constitution have been in near permanent suspension -for decades under the emergency regulations. Measures that were supposedly short-term are now a permanent feature.

Countries that succeeded in the post-colonial period did so largely to the extent that they preserved the status quo. Democracy is a fragile flower and is easily destroyed by those who do not understand what makes it work. In Europe, where it evolved in its modern form, it was the result of a thousand years of struggle - dating back to the Magna Carta of 1215, which was essentially a pact that attempted to check the King's power. Holding power in check is the essence of the system and it was not an easy victory either, being fiercely resisted over the centuries by many a ruler.

These hard-won freedoms will not be given up easily in Europe or the heirs to her traditions in the Americas or the former white dominions of Australia, Canada, New Zealand and elsewhere but in the strange lands of the East, where the peoples received their freedom more or less on a platter and where they do not understand the substance of the matter even though they speak highly of its forms, then there is danger and flower can whither and die.

Look no farther than our neighbours - Pakistan and Bangladesh and it is not difficult to see what lies at the end of the path that we tread.

Friday, October 31, 2008

LTTE acquires B-2 Spirit bomber?

It seems that the LTTE has updated its hardware to include a couple of these babies.

That at least seems to be the considered opinion of the military establishment and the Island newspaper which reported the details.

"Their (F7s) missile systems failed to ‘lock on with the enemy aircraft," said the report which means the LTTE has got its hands on some pretty advanced stuff.

The good news is that it would would necessitate an overall review of the SLAF’s strategy, which means we can junk the new Chinese F7's and MiG 29's and buy some quality US hardware.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Then and Now

An uncle of mine, a man in his 70's was reminiscing the other day. He had spent a part of his youth in Jaffna. He said he could not possibly imagine how the shy, demure girls of Jaffna, who would blush and giggle at the slightest advance, could have been turned into suicide bombers.

An insight into how the problem grew is provided by Neville Jayaweera, of the Ceylon Civil Service who has recounted his experience as an administrator in a new book. His experience as Government Agent (GA) of Jaffna in 1963, when he was charged with enforcing the Official Languages Act, is an eye-opener.

Fortunately for the public interested in such matters the Sunday Island has carried excerpts from the book. Read them here:

Part One
Part Two
Part Three
Part Four
Part Five
Part Six
Part Seven
Part Eight
Part Nine

In passing, it is worth noting both the quality of the writing and of the intellect of the man and comparing that with the Government Servants of today. Having been fortunate enough to have met quite few members of the old Ceylon Civil Service I can testify that they were all of similar calibre.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Bailing out the garment industry

After spending the last six months telling us that the GSP+ concession would be renewed, the government seems to have thrown in the towel, barely three weeks after submitting the application for renewal. Perhaps bailouts are in fashion or perhaps the case was doomed from the start but either way the industry seems set to receive US$150m.

The question is: is there an alternative? In the case of the financial crisis plaguing the rest of the world I would say no, in Sri Lanka's case, yes.

To start, lets just examine the nature of this industry. Prior to WWII the garment industry existed as an industry proper only in Europe and America, everywhere else it was a cottage industry of local tailors and seamstresses.

After WWII factories were set up in cheap locations overseas, starting with East Asia, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, later Southeast Asia, Hong Kong, Singapore and so forth. Garments are an excellent way for a low-income country to grow because it uses a lot of cheap labour. As the country develops, wages rise and the industry moves elsewhere. A misguided attempt to protect Western manufacturers in the 1970's - the Multi Fibre Agreement (MFA) resulted in the industry spreading to areas that had never seen any kind of industrialisation, like in Africa. The MFA allocated quotas on a geographic basis so manufacturers sought out any location that had a quota.

Therefore the garment industry is unlikely to stay anywhere unchanged, it evolves and moves when costs rise. Take the example of Hong Kong, once a cheap manufacturing location now transformed into a fashion centre, design centre, buying centre with limited high end manufacture.

If Sri Lanka's industry is to survive they need to look at Hong Kong and plan. Unfortunately, in order to evolve to that stage requires certain things that Hong KOng, as a crown colony enjoyed: stability, the rule of law and good governance. For the moment at least, these are things beyond the bounds of possibility so any hard headed industrialist needs to look to other means of survival.

Coming back to the question in hand, is there anything else that the Government can do, short of pouring taxpayers money into the industry? To answer this question, lets look at the fundamental problem facing the industry: high costs (compared to location in Vietnam, China and elsewhere). What can the Government do to help?

Well, for start, how about controlling inflation? If inflation is under control, then costs are automatically under control, right? at least workers will not have to demand exorbitant wages, just to live.

How about controlling power costs? The CEB is notoriously inefficient, power piracy is rampant and the bill winds up mainly in the hands of industry.

The same is true of fuel costs. At the current price of oil the Government is set to make windfall profits at the CPC, a hidden tax in other words. Now I have no objection to fuel taxes, many countries use them and they have their place but why not make it transparent by returning to the pricing formula and adding a transparent tax on that? The moment the tax becomes visible the government will be under pressure to keep the tax to the minimum : which is also good, rather than taking the money through the back door which means less accountability and probably higher cost. How about reforming the CPC as well? Waste, inefficiency and everything else is added on to the fuel bill that you and I pay.

How about improving productivity through better infrastructure? Clogged roads, inefficient ports, onerous bureaucracy at the customs and everywhere else - all these add to costs and make life a lot harder for struggling businessmen.

Unfortunately all of the above is only possible by treading the path that is hard and narrow, in the log run it is the only way out, but headline grabbing bailouts are an easy temporary fix. A fellow called James Manor wrote a book on SWRD Bnadaranaike called the "The Expedient Utopian" - something that typifies much of the post independence rule.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Traffic offences and an escape from the rat race

I was stopped by a policeman last Saturday for going through a red light. I am normally a law abiding driver who signals lane changes, stops at pedestrian crossings, observes the white lines and the road signs that may still be visible so I was pretty annoyed to be stopped. I was certain that the traffic light was not working and told the policeman as much but did not want to waste any time so took the ticket and went on my way.

I did make it a point to check the light when I passed by the next day and it was'nt working; or at least the red light was'nt.

Anyway, to return to the tale, my mood brightened a bit when I realised the ticket was being issued by the Slave Island police where a good friend had a contact. Now the fine for running a red light is Rs.1000+taxes so it is worth the hassle to avoid it. Contacted my friend and he put me on to his contact, met the man (with a T-shirt in hand as a little present) and he said call him the next day and he would arrange for me to talk to the OIC. He also admitted that they knew that the particular traffic light was not working and I wondered silently whether the police were deliberately targeting motorists to fill their quota of fines.

Then began the saga. It appears that the good Sergeant's daughter is taking part in the Derana Superstar contest. I was asked to send around 150 sms's (more if possible) between 8.30pm next Saturday and 8.30am the next day (Sunday). He also gave me a printed card with the girl's photo and number. She looks quite fashionable with straightened hair, but then a lot of very average females improve their looks by straightening their hair.

Today I encountered another member of my staff whose husband had been copped and he had been asked to do the same. My friend, who gave me the contact has also been asked to send many SMS's and told me that when he met the Sergeant he was carrying a bagful of SIM cards which was distributing to people for votes.

I'm not sure what kind of prize money is available to the winner but it seems fairly obvious that the Sergeant sees an escape from the rat race if his daughter succeeds.

I always thought these things rather silly and they are actually designed to benefit the organisers (the television companies, the phone companies and whatever media are involved) rather than the participants, but I suppose some kind of talent is involved somewhere and it does give an opportunity to people who do not take to traditional careers to better their lives.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Casserole of Marmot

I'm no chef but this is something I want to share.

John Man has written a highly readable account of the life, death and resurrection of Genghis Khan.

His quest started with an article in the American Journal of Human Genetics. In a DNA study of some 2,000 men across Eurasia, geneticists found that several dozen of them shared a common pattern - a pattern that ran through 16 population groups ranging from the Caspian Sea to the Pacific Ocean. They arrived at the startling hypothesis that it would have been possible for one man, living in the 12th century, to scatter his genetic material across half Eurasia.

Man sets the stage for the search for Genghis Khan by conjuring up a vivid image of the landscape of Central Asia. This recipe is from the introduction, where he describes some of his own travels in the region. Man claims that for the most part the method of cooking would have been familiar to twelfth century families. Bored Domestic Goddesses are hereby invited to try it out.

Casserole of Marmot

(To feed six. Time approx 1 hr)

You will need:
1 marmot
Good quantity of dried dung
Assorted fist-sized stones
1 knife
1 pair pliers
1 blow torch

First, shoot your marmot. Using string, hang dead marmot from a branch. Skin it, peeling skin carefully downwards to keep the skin in one piece. Discard entails. Ignore flies. Remove and dice flesh. At the same time, arrange for the visiting author to collect cow-pats, said author to ensure cow-pats are dried to the texture of polystyrene. Make a pile of dung. Use blow-torch to start slow dung-fire, arranging for smoke to drift over diced marmot flesh to discourage flies. Place stones in fire. Using wire and pliers, sew up limb-holes in marmot skin, binding holes tightly. Do not seal head-hole. Into your marmot-skin bag, insert meat and red-hot stones, using twigs to hold stones. Ignore attached dung, ashes etc. Bind up head-hole with wire, using pliers to secure. Apply blow-torch to skin, scraping off seared fur. Meanwhile hot stones have begun to cook the meat from inside out. Trapped air expands to form taut, round, sausage-like container. As fur is removed, blow-torch cooks meat from outside in. After an hour, cut open and serve meat with fingers. As stones cool, toss them about until you can hold them without too much pain: they are good for health and luck.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Greenhorns in the West

Doggone and darnit!! Looks like the Wild Wild West is facing a new invasion of Greenhorns from back East.

Them Eastern Greenhorns aint gonna cause no trouble, at least if the local Sheriff has his way.

Independent Commission to probe INGO's

The JHU has apparently called for an independent commission to probe the activities of INGOs involved in relief work in uncleared areas in the North.

The monks suggest that the independent commission be made up of "a team of patriotic retired servicemen who are pro-government..."

This really made my day.

Ven. Omalpe Sobitha Thera, further alleged that "most Tamil civilians living in uncleared areas belonged to the so-called 'Mahaveer' families who assisted and sustained the Tiger outfit".

He then says "The Tigers were trying to induce foreign intervention in the country by getting the Security Forces to target innocent civilians or INGO personnel in their areas."

So the question is: are there any civilians in the Wanni? Any real civilians that is, not Tiger supporters.

Methinks the teaching of logic should be made compulsory from grade five onwards. As far as the inhabitants of the Paradise Isle are concerned it looks like poor old Aristotle died in vain. Come to think of it, perhaps that is the case even with the Gautama...

Friday, September 26, 2008

Yummie Mummies

A blog that is very English, upper class English at that has a definition of a subject that warms the cockles of my black little heart. From The Two Chaps:

Yummie Mummies

It is a strange phenomenon of London life that wealthy men seem to find beautiful wives, impregnate them and then return to work leaving them to lurk in pouting herds around Primrose and Notting Hills.

Nobody is quite sure why this happens but the concentrations of quite stunning looking women around yoga classes, coffee houses and the kind of shops that sell the sort of expensive fripperies that no sane person could want has not gone unremarked among the gentlemen of the Metropolis.

So what if they're carrying somebody else's offspring and are, therefore, no longer breeding targets for the alpha male? We have evolved from the base ape. I don't have to actually own a Picasso (although obviously I do - several in fact) to enjoy going to a gallery.

Cruising the hills on a Summer afternoon and appreciating the YMs even though you can't have them is the the kind of rarified and purely aesthetic pursuit that marks a True Gentleman.

Think of it as a contemporary take on the convention of Courtly Love.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Japanese pianist Masahiko Shinohara to play on September 28/29

Good news for music lovers, the pianist Masahiko Shinohara who gave an excellent recital in April this year is back.

He will be playing at the Russian Cultural Centre on the 28th and 29th of September 2008, the concert starst at 7.15pm. The music, an interesting selection, includes a world Première performance of a work called 'The Dawn of Kandula' by Stephen Allen and some Mozart: the overture to Lucio Silla (K.145), Symphony No.29 and Piano Concerto No.14. The orchestra is the Chamber Music Society of Colombo.

Although the programme is supposedly sponsored by Dilmah I have seen very little publicity, just a couple of newspaper write-ups as far as I recall and no details whatsoever on the Chamber Music Society website. Lets hope that the talented pianist does not find himself playing to another half-empty hall, so please pass the word around.

Tickets are available at the Russian Cultural Centre priced at a flat rate of Rs.500/- and proceeds are in aid of charity.

Sunday, August 31, 2008


Over the last couple of weeks the public has been treated to the sight of various worthies grinning to the cameras as they collect awards on behalf of their organisations, ranging from the BOI to the Chamber of Commerce.

Now, the hottest gossip in Colombo the latest to be bestowed with the honour is none other than the LTTE.

In the category of Currently-Operating-Terrorist-Group he is a clear winner, other contenders such as Karuna's TMVP not even in the running and therefore quite deserves it. In fact he insists on it. We are reliably told that he has made an offer to Superbrands that they simply could not refuse and they are packing off a team to Kilinochichi post-haste.

The best news is that unlike the organisations in the South that had to cough up a few millions for the privilege of being included amongst the Superbrands the LTTE will only pay the princely sum of one bottle of palmyrah toddy for identical service.

Hows that for marketing savvy?

"Its the sheer power of the brand itself that we have leveraged to get the discount", explained VP, the spokesman for the group "which proves that it really does have marketable value".

Sri Lanka's warm diplomatic relations with Sudan

I friend called me yesterday to inform me of the happy news he had heard on the SLBC that Sri Lanka enjoys warm relations with Sudan. This is a clever move by Sri Lanka's roving diplomats. Sudan is rich in oil and gas and perhaps they could be persuaded to supply Sri Lanka on credit. Iran has apparently not been paid for all its supplies upto now and since payment must presumably be made at some date, it is possible to roll things over by getting extra credit from another supplier.

I was searching for some news on this topic and came across what looks like a Sudanese news site. There is a lot of interesting stuff, some of which I will quote here.


The Sudanese authorities had staged a counter campaign to Amnesty International. Many government-owned organisations and trade unions had issued statements denouncing Amnesty International's report on Sudan. A statement by the government-appointed Sudanese Labour Union, said that "the report targets Sudan and its religious and traditional values which are based on the respect of human rights". Another statement by the Sudanese Businessmen Association condemned the report and added that "this Organisation and those behind her are trying to exert pressure on Sudan to abandon its Islamic orientation and its civilised project. These accusations against Sudan are baseless and not supported by any proof. All Sudanese people live in peace and harmony in all its cities, towns and villages....

Sri Lanka's friendship is proven in the following report:


The UN Human Rights Commission in Geneva, had on Wednesday 8 March 1995, expressed 'deep concern at continued serious human rights violations in Sudan'. The resolution condemning Sudan for abuses including torture, summary executions and slavery, was endorsed by a vote of 33 for, 7 against and 10 abstentions....

...Those who voted against are: China, Cuba, India, Indonesia, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Sudan.

Sri Lanka also established diplomatic relations with Eritrea last year. The Asian Tribune wondered why

"n a report prepared by the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee last December it was alleged that Eritrean government was providing direct assistance to Sri Lanka’s separatist Tamil Tiger rebels.

Eritrea has been singled out by the international community, the United Nations and other international rights organizations as blatant violator of human rights, keeping a large number of ‘prisoners of conscience’ in jails for prolonged periods, its intolerance to dissent, disregard for rule of law and giving military assistance to many insurgent/terrorist groups around the world."

As Alice remarked, curious and curiouser.

"When Sri Lanka is currently waging a global diplomatic defensive campaign to clear her name it is unimaginable as to what motivated her to establish diplomatic ties with Eritrea which has no elected democratic government for the past one an half decades, no rule of law and respect for human rights, accused of providing military assistance to insurgents and terrorists in other countries, no constitutional guarantees for the 3.5 million citizens and utter disregard for dissent and free speech with thousands of ‘prisoners of conscience’ languishing in jails."

Meanwhile Prime Minister Wickremanayake attacked the hypocrites

`Chemical weapons are weapons of terrorism. There are no peaceful uses for chemical weapons he said adding that when the British used gas to kill hundreds of Kurdish people in their wars in West Asia, early last century it was terrorism.

The arch imperialist Churchill justified it saying that `It is all right to kill niggers`. That was the white mans attitude, a lack of feeling for people of a different colour that accompanied the dropping of atomic bombs which massacred hundreds of thousands of Japanese civilians in Hiroshima and Nagasaki during the World War II and those were weapons of mass destruction and that was terrorism. That was by the Americans, who were later to accuse Iraq s Saddam Hussein of possessing weapons of mass destruction, despite the testimony of their own inspectors, that there were no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, Wickremanayake explained.

Way to go PM, if they can do it and get away with it, why should we be accused of wrongdoing?

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Boobs or bums?

The world is divided into two: boom men and leg men. Boob men are those who are turned on by boobs and leg men are those who go for long legs and delicious bums.

Now, according the Desmond Morris, large breasts have developed primarily as a form of mimicry: they mimic the buttocks as a sexual signal. Read the link for more details.

Anyway, this means that boob men and leg men might have a bit more in common than previously thought but with the leg men having a slight advantage in not falling for the evolutionary mimicry and going for the original attraction.

I myself find myself firmly a leg man, give me a plump round bum any day over massive sagging mammalaries. According to Morris, the heart shape that decorates all dreadful Valentine cards is really a bum shape. Now in these dark days in barbarous land I am not suggesting any discrimination whatsoever towards misguided boob men. They have every right to their tastes and even committed leg men like me can occasionally be moved to tears by jiggly jugs. Especially when seen on a jogger. Poetry in motion, nothing less. However, no silicon please, under any circumstances.

I vividly recall the moment I realised I was a leg man: It was at the Galle Face Hotel and there was this Negress and she walked out in front of us. I was with two other girls and another male friends and I could not take my eyes off her bum: it moved like a sailing ship at sea or perhaps it was like the breaking of a roller; words fail me and I just focused on that beautiful sight, I did not even turn to nudge my friend (as would usually be the case, to warn him of a good sight ahead), I could not care less about the women with me, I was just mesmerised by that beautiful sight.

All this came back to me the other day at the office when I went looking for someone to be confronted with a round bun in tight trousers (by the way the fashion for leggings and tight trousers does wonders for the average Sri Lankan girl who tends not to have a lot of meat on her) so tight in fact that I could see she was wearing a thong. I almost chocked and nearly fell down but managed to just recover and crawl back to my room to spend a good five minutes in doing deep breathing exercises until my heart rate returned to normal.

Keeping my eagle eyes open I noticed a few more objects that need to be kept under close observation...hmmm I'm rather glad I joined this place.

Now what brought all of this on? I can only blame Soixante Neuf for hopelessly corrupting me.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

The itch to bitch

Met up with a few women last week. There were three of them, two were colleagues from a place I worked in a long time ago, the other was a friend of theirs who I did not know.

The conversation started off with the Hikkaduwa beach festival and topless photos that were doing the rounds (will someone please send them to me? How come I've been left out of the fun, huh?) and then moved onto work.

Two of the girls had worked in the apparel trade and they were complaining of how difficult it was to work if there were too many women in senior management. Their company had seven women managers (and a cute guy as the boss, which made things worse) and the biggest problem was catfights.

I said that politics was always a part of office life although some places were probably worse than others. I didn't think there was a difference when it came to men and women; power and money coupled with insecurities would drive the politics.

But no, the ladies disagreed. The women were infinitely worse. Men would fight but they would not spend much time arguing, the battles would be silent power plays. With women it would be bitch, bitch, bitch. The grievances would be pretty petty as well, with shoes and clothes being causes for complaint, which would not be the case with men.

They related an incident where two women would bitch together, then they would go off and bitch about each other.

It was bit of an eye opener for me. I steer pretty clear of politics anyway. Does anyone else feel the same was as these girls?

Friday, August 22, 2008

New job

I started a new job a few weeks back and work has been hectic. It leaves me little time to check the gossip on Kottu and almost no time for any blogging.

I've also not read a daily newspaper since I started work and I seem to be much happier for it.

You see the gym has become a bit of a habit so I do need to visit at least thrice a week and since I'm an evening person when it comes to the gym I need to get off work in time. Luckily the office has flexi-hours so I generally aim to get in by 7.30 or so in the morning so I can legitimately push off at about 5 in the evening. The problem is that the early start in the morning:

1. Prevents me from doing any reading before work.
2. Mean I have to go to bed early (by around 10 or 11 at the latest) otherwise I can't get up in the morning.

Which means I have only the evenings free. On the gym days its about 8.30 by the time that I'm free which means that it is only two days of the week where I have a full evening free, which is cutting into my reading time.

The problem is I do need to read and sometimes to think and reflect, so the limited time needs to be allocated profitably so out go the newspapers and quality material substituted.

As I said I'm happier not knowing the news. I went to pick someone up yesterday and glanced through the papers that were there while waiting and I found them positively amusing. Things have got so ridiculous here that when viewed with the benefit of distance they become hilarious and this I think is the key to survival in any bananaland.

Sticking ones head firmly in the stand is the best way and I guess thats what a lot of people do unconsciously, trapped as they are in the regular rat race.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Who succeeds The Chief?

Not much is certain in life other than Death and Taxes but in the barbarous lands south of India one more certainty exists: the Chief will rule until 2017. He may well stay on a bit longer if he feels like it, but eventually either time or fate will intervene and he will go.

The question is who succeeds him?

The man who has the ambition and scheming mind necessary to succeed, and who, on account of seniority and fairness should succeed him is brother Basil. After all, it is he who is suspected of sowing the seeds of suspicion that have destroyed all rivals and it is thought to be he who has the big plans for the ruling family. Age also plays a factor and he cannot afford to wait too long to succeed to the Lion Throne.

Son Namal, who counts the hereditary principle of succession on his side may have other ideas. He is also said to hate his uncle and may well fight him for the position, especially if he feels that once ensconced, he may well work a path of succession for his own offspring. The wife of the Chief would doubtless support her son over her brother-in-law in this venture.

Brother Chamal is too old and is unlikely to throw his hat into the ring, but Brother Gota, with the army on his side may be a contender but his political ambitions are a mystery.

Such are the intrigues that beset the courts of ancient times and have now returned to haunt the land.

Does any observer of the proceedings have a view on this?

Saturday, August 02, 2008

An ordinary man or if you ever let a woman in your life

The SAARC has started and the city has stopped. The denizens who find themselves trapped in these barbarous lands need to find some entertainment and apart from books, Youtube provides some useful distraction.

A misandric post reminded men of this song. Those who have forgotten (or perhaps never heard) it van listen to it here.

It is extremely funny.

ps. This is not in anyway related to the previous post and I'm still battling with that infernal canine.....

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Women and their dogs

I was at a friend's place a while back, just having a chat when her dog walked in from the garden. She called him over, and he began to play with her. She calmed him down, petted him, hugged him and showered him with kisses. The bond between dog and mistress was tangible, the love inescapable.

Watching this scene I turned green with envy. Oh what would I have given to be in that dog's paws. An arm, a leg, maybe something else. And all that stupid animal could do was thump its tail on the floor.

Things have come to a pretty pass when a man must compete with a dog for a woman's affections. And even worse when he realises that the canine is winning.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Randy Pausch (October 23, 1960 – July 25, 2008): Last lecture

Randy Pausch was an American professor of computer science, he died a few days ago of pancreatic cancer. He delivered a superb lecture, one that has achieved worldwide fame, on Achieving Your Childhood Dreams. Its a must watch for everyone. See it here.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Advice on coping SAARC traffic

Tried exploring a few routes today and ended up getting directed into a jam on Maitland Place. I did not want to go to Maitland Place, I was trying to get to Reid Avenue from Gregory's Road but it seemed that a right turn was not possible at Maitland Crescent so turned left and left again into Maitland Place and ended up getting stuck for about 45 minutes.

After about 20 minutes of being idle I realised that I had a book in the car and began to read; and that, dear readers, is the advice I can offer to you.

Carry some reading material, perhaps a packet of biscuits and a flask of hot tea if you fancy, and when you do get into the jam just switch off the engine, relax and read.

The lucky people who are out of Colombo will laugh, but for those forced to be in the city, this is the best option that I can think of.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

The SAARC Experience No.1

Was having a chat with a friend in the travel industry and he related an incident that took place yesterday.

A group of tourists were being bused in to the Taj Hotel. The bus was stopped at the Elephant House roundabout and told that it could not proceed any further due to security considerations.

The travellers were advised to get out and walk to the hotel from there.

Several frantic telephone calls later the bus was allowed to go into the hotel and deposit the guests.

This morning a similar problem arose with tourists leaving the hotel - the bus was not allowed to leave the premises. Again more telephone calls and finally they were allowed to leave.

Land like no other, and this is a full week before the 'Official' high security period.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

SAARC Summit: Fort & Slave Island closed

DIG Fort Police has issued the following notice at a special security meeting held at his office today.
1. Starting 25/07/2008 vehicles and people entering the high security zone will be subjected to thorough security checks. (High security zone starts from Kollupitiya junction towards Galle face, Elephant house junction- slave island, York street ect...) vehicles entering the zone will need to obtain passes.

2. From 29/07/2008 no vehicles will be allowed to the high security zone at all. A shuttle service will be functioning for people to come in to the high security zone. (up to D.R. Wijewardena Mw- Lake House ) All vehicles will have to be parked out side the High security zone.

3. Train services will function only up to Bumbalapitiya from down south, and up to Maradana from the other side. Fort railway station will be closed. There will be a shuttle service from Kollupitiya and Maradana to fort (up to D.R. Wijewardena Mw- Lake House ) No vehicles will be given authority to enter from there onwards.

4. 1st of August (Friday) will be declared as a official holiday.

5. Other high security areas declared will be areas near the BIA / BMICH/ and MOUNT LAVINIA. (as some delegates will be located at Mt- Lavinia Hotel)

6. Period concern will be from 25/07/2008 to 04/08/2008 (ending 4th mid night)

Guys, if you are working in Fort, its better to go on leave and enjoy the Beach Festival in Hikkaduwa.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Why swallow Western propaganda on Zimbabwe?

This is the headline of an article by Kalinga Seneviratne in today's Daily News.

His thesis is that the problems of Zimbabwe are largely due to the opposition, NGO's and Western powers and the whole thing is in anycase being blown all out of proportion by the Western Media.

The article does not draw any parallels but it is obvious to the reader that this is the same set of foes that are ranged against the government of Sri Lanka.

As the writer points out 'Human-rights violations worse than those committed by Zanu-PF’s thugs have been reported from Darfur, Tibet and Guantanamo Bay' and also that 'Zimbabwe had been a very peaceful country before the coming of Morgan Tsvangirai as a political party leader.'

In a speech at the FAO Rome summit last month, President Mugabe has highlighted steps that are being taken to improve food production, something the Western Media seems to have ignored.

President Mugabe, along with President Rajapakse and President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran were the only Heads of State to grace this important summit, the rest of the world being represented by minor officials.

We must truly be cursed by the gods to have ended up with the same set of foes that the besieged government of Zimbabwe faces. Or perhaps its no accident at all; a plot perhaps? By treacherous forces possibly.

A drugs policy for Sri Lanka : the State needs to distribute

A post by Deane on Legalising Marijuana in Sri Lanka prompted me to put up something that I have been thinking about for a while.

On the subject of marijuana I agree with him in full, its not addictive and is less harmful than tobacco; although the smoke will probably do some damage to lungs and throat. It also has a lot of medicinal properties that are worth researching.

On more dangerous drugs; heroin and other opiates; cocaine and its derivatives and all the rest the first thing to do is to collect some statistics on their use. From the little I know it is heroin that accounts for the largest volume. Following the 80:20 rule; identify the few drugs that make up 80% of the usage. The state should then distribute these drugs either free or at nominal charge to the addicts.

At a stroke it will greatly eliminate the petty and dangerous crimes that plague the citizenry and most importantly puts the drugs mafia out of business. How can they possibly sell drugs at a profit when the state is distributing the stuff virtually free?

The State can tie up with some NGO's working in drugs rehabilitation and distribute the products through them. The addicts will need to register and where possible should be persuaded to undergo some rehabilitation treatment, which again could be funded by a combination of public and private funds.

The public faces two large problems with illegal drugs: the crime which is necessary to finance the habits of the addict and the social problems that the addict causes to his family and friends. The policy of state distribution will eliminate the first and through a careful programme of rehabilitation could help alleviate some of the latter.

The biggest and most important benefit that this policy will bring is that it will put the real criminals; the drug gangs out of business. These drug gangs are responsible for a lot of serious crime and they are I believe an important source of funding for political parties. A good many politicians are under the control of the criminal underworld, who finance and run election campaigns on behalf of politicians.

I'm sure the readers of this blog are aware of certain prominent politicos whose links to the underworld are well known; there are many others who are also funded from the same sources but maintain a far more discreet public profile.

It is these people who will be hurt by such a policy, not the public, the addicts or anyone else. Should anyone announce such a policy it would draw howls of protest from many quarters. And we would then know exactly who is funded by the drug cartels.

There is a related problem of corruption that I have blogged about here.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Classic children's songs

Here's the perfect tonic for anyone feeling depressed at work today.

Discovered some classic songs on Youtube just now. They are intended for children but can be enjoyed by all; catchy tunes and witty verses. They don't make them like that anymore.

Right Said Fred by Bernard Cribbins

My boomerang wont come back by Charlie Drake

A reply to an Editorial in the Island newspaper

This is just another post where I'm saving something I wrote some time ago- this time a response to an editorial in the Island entitled 'Prabhakaran's luck'.

The main thesis of the editorial was, as I recall, that Prabhakaran has got away several times just when the army was about to capture him. The editorial wondered whether he would be allowed to escape again, because the Government was being pressured to re-enter peace talks and hence halting the offensive.

My response was written on the 9th of August 2007, the editorial appeared some days before that, I've not been able to trace it on the web.


Your editorial on the above poses the question: will Prabakharan be lucky once more? The short answer is yes, he will indeed be lucky, but to understand why we must look back to the events of 2001. Your editorial surmises, correctly, that the government is facing a financial crises. It was Napoleon no less who remarked that "an army marches on its stomach". An army needs to eat well to perform, but Napoleon 's real contention was the importance of the supply line. Logistics - getting food, clothes, and spare parts to the front - is often what makes or breaks a conflict. This in turn, is dependent on the ability of the government in question to finance a war.

To turn to the events of 2000-2001, the country's economy collapsed, this being driven by excessive government spending financed by printed and borrowed money. Public debt exceeded the output of the economy. This in turn lead to a balance of payments crises, the devaluation of the rupee (which went from 70 to the US dollar to a 100 before settling at around 90). Business confidence evaporated following the attack on the airport and the economy contracted by some 4%.

The UNP regime of 2001-3 restored fiscal discipline by cutting spending, bringing the budget deficit under control, enabling interest rates to fall as low as 10%. The CFA boosted business confidence resulting in increased investment. The tax amnesty announced in the 2002 budget brought in a lot of black money into the economy which sparked the construction boom, the tail end of which is still being experienced today. The majority of the mid and high rise building dotting the capital came up following this. The prevailing low interest rates helped boost these two further and also lead to increased consumption spending via credit cards and consumption based loans offered by banks. Other measures to simplify bureaucracy and the opening of the North East markets also helped.

After the coup d'état staged by CBK in November 2003, the momentum of the measures taken by the UNP faltered momentarily but then continued. The tsunami of December 2004 proved a blessing in disguise, with a huge inflow of funds providing a massive stimulus to the economy. The growth of 2005 and 2006 was helped by all of these factors.

Mahinda Rajapakse's administration, drawing confidence from the sound performance of the economy in the past few years has thrown economic sense to the winds and expanded public spending. Pensions and salaries of government servants consume 57% of all tax revenues thanks to the expansion of the public sector. This has been financed by money printing (leading to high inflation) and borrowings. Thanks to high borrowings interest payments eat up 30% of total government revenue. It is worth noting that as per the last budget pensions and salaries (240bn) and interest (169bn) both exceed defence expenditure (140bn)- which in 2006 was doubled from the previous years 70bn . Public debt is once more hovering close to 100% of GDP, the rupee is under pressure, the government is imposing all manner of taxes and raising fuel prices to try to collect enough funds and failing to do so is resorting to money printing (some 20bn in the last couple of months) and is now in the process of trying to raise US$500m to finance further spending. Capital expenditure is being cut, which means citizens can expect further deterioration in infrastructure from broken roads, flooded sewers to erratic electricity.

In short, the government is close to broke and will shortly find itself unable to fund the war any further without risking a total economic meltdown. Foreign aid does not form a significant component of government revenue (some 24bn) the burden is mainly borne by the taxpayers of the country. If this situation continues on this trend the economy will collapse once more and Prabakharan will find himself confronting an enemy unable to defend its borders, and he will have Eelam by default.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008


Met some friends for dinner at the Golden Mile on Friday. Food was quite good, prices fairly reasonable and the atmosphere good, enlivened by a private party taking place at the restaurant.

One of the people remarked that he had met an old school mate at a reunion yesterday. My friend and his friend, lets call him X, had been talking a while. It turned out X was under the impression that all Tamils supported the LTTE and was genuinely surprised when my friend informed him that on the contrary a large number opposed them. Now X is a man in his late thirties, a qualified architect and studied at a popular Colombo catholic school. The fact that a mature, urbanised educated man could hold such a view illustrates the degree to which the country is polarised.

It is human nature to move around with people who are 'like us' in most ways; people from similar backgrounds and upbringing, our friends and family are all drawn from the same sort of strata so most people who do not look beyond their close circle are likely to see and experience only their circle and their views are shaped accordingly. Under normal circumstances this would not be a problem, people having a parochial view of a situation would not cause a problem, but in a country where issues of race have become a problem then such a narrow view points to a lot of problems ahead.

Without dialogue between the communities, suspicion and fear can only grow; this of course being fanned by extremist political parties.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Ranil Wickremesinghe: The man we love to hate

Ranil Wickremesinghe, leader of the opposition occupies a curious position in the political arena. He is regularly blamed by the Government for all manner of ills, from the Ceasefire Agreement to the possible loss of GSP+ concessions from the EU. He is criticised by the government and its supporters for his background, for having a squeaky voice, for wearing a suit even for being effeminate. He is painted as a traitor bent on discrediting the country at the very least and possibly even plotting its very destruction.

All this leaves Mr Wickremesighe quite unmoved. He rarely responds to any particular charge and never seem perturbed, let alone worried by what is said about him. In Sri Lanka this seems to be taken as a sign of guilt - most supporters of the government seem to agree with all of this something the local blogosphere bears testimony to.

His party and his supporters on the other hand are left wringing their hands in despair. He does not seem capable of mounting any challenge to the government. The few rallies and protests organised have not really taken off - that despite the mounting problems of the government. Even if he can't organise public protest he could release press statements that can highlight the many flaws in the Governments policies but presumably feeling that anything he says will be used against him he remains silent. He can't even hold his party together with parts of it now supporting the government and what is left of it in danger of splitting apart.

He is almost like the Batman villain, the Joker; who is characterised as the villain we love to hate; something that conceals his importance to the regime in power.

The ruling coalition would would be in deep difficulties if not for the help of Ranil Wickremesinghe. The perennial leader of the opposition is the best thing that any government in power could hope for.

The UNP is a large party, some would say the largest party in the country. In the hands of a Mangala Samaraweera, a Chandrika Bandaranaike, an S B Dissanyake even perhaps Sajith Premadasa or Karu Jayasuriya it would be a formidable political machine instead of being divided, disinterested and ineffective.

None of this is to detract from Mr Wickremesinghe's qualities as a potential Head of State; he would I believe be quite effective in that role; it is the party politics and the pulse of the common man that he fails to grasp.

The Government should be offering poojas to him, in secret every night, even as they pillory him by day.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Whatever happened to Ladybird books?

Went out to get a cup of yoghurt after lunch and dropped into the bookshop next door. Was browsing aimlessly when I cam upon a rack of Ladybird books. One title (The Little Red Hen) caught my eye and I picked it up. This is a story that I remember from my childhood, glancing through I find that the story is still the same - except for one critical thing: the pictures have changed! I checked another, The Elves and the Shoemaker, and it was just the same. They seem to have revamped the books entirely.

The highlight of the Ladybird books used to be their beautiful illustrations. I think they were either oil paintings or watercolours but done to a very high standard. The pictures were so attractive that one could spend a lot of time just looking at them. They really brought the story to life and it is something I consider very important in encouraging children to pick up a book.

The illustrations in the new editions are fairly all right but nothing compared to the books of old. For examples of the old have a look here I'm not really sure why they changed the books, maybe to make them look more modern I suppose but I think that was a mistake, something that a thriving market in old editions seems to prove.

Anyway for anyone interested in further information on the history of Ladybird books and old titles have a look here and here.

The official site is here.

A good article on another favourite- Tootles the Taxi is here.

Hugo Chavez has done it: Venezuela faces stagflation

Hugo Chavez hailed as a hero of the poor and much admired by some in Sri Lanka seems to have succeeded in wrecking his country. Its not quite out yet, but despite windfall oil revenues Venezuela faces near 30% inflation and declining gdp growth, for details just have a look at this.

It just shows what incompetence and mismanagement can do. It also tells you that oil is no panacea for economic ills, something that Sri Lanka seems to be pinning its hopes on. Robert Mugabe showed how much destruction one man can cause and it looks like Chavez is following hard in his footsteps.

For a highly readable and personal vignette of Venezuelan life, just read this.

Depressing stuff, if eye opening, but at least I suppose its better to examine others problems than ones own. Safer too.

Friday, June 20, 2008

MAS to shed 600 middle managers?

This is the corporate gossip that is doing the rounds. Rumour has it that 200 will go from MDS (the design department in Ratmalana) and the rest from various other units.

Any further info would be welcome.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Country’s sacred relics belong to the clergy — JHU Leader

This was the title of an article which appeared in yesterdays Morning Leader - see the original here.

I will quote the full text of the report because I think its important enough:

"JHU Leader Ven. Ellawala Medhananda Thero has said the Buddhist clergy and the authorities were at loggerheads due to the Archaeology Act.

"Buddhist monks and the Archaeological Department are at odds due to the Archaeology Act that was introduced by foreigners after their invasion," he had told a media workshop on the protection of artifacts held in Sigiriya.

Speaking further he had said, "This country has sacred relics, not artifacts. Officials of the Archaeological Department are unaware of the situation. These belong to the Buddhist clergy."

Ven. Medhananda Thero said that the Act "was sending monks to jail while officials were going to hell."

He urged authorities not to start any more trouble with the clergy who had cared for the country’s artifacts for more than 2,000 years.

The matter has been brought to the attention of the President as well as the subject minister, the monk had added."

To my mind, this is a rather curious claim. The archaeological sites and artifacts are vested with the state and administered by the Archeology department. The Ven. Ellawala Medhananda Thero now seems to want to throw over the law of the land on the basis that it was introduced by foreigners. If this logic is followed to its conclusion we need to throw the entire legal system and much else, democracy included, out.

The claim that "the clergy who had cared for the country’s artifacts for more than 2,000 years" is dubious as well. The ruined cities of Anuradhapura, Polonnaruwa, Sigiriya and elsewhere had been abandoned and taken by the jungle. They lay forgotten and undisturbed for centuries until British explorers stumbled upon them in the 19th century. No one even knew of the artifacts, much less cared for them until the British period.

Of course there is a profitable trade in artefacts, although how small or large I do not know, and the Archaeology department has been fighting this with its limited means. This move seems designed to weaken the department even further.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Excerpts from the Ceylon Rationalist Ambassador

Dug up an old copy (one of three that we have) and I thought I would share some of the material with others who may be interested. These are taken from the column by Abraham Kovoor, President of the Society, entitled 'Think It Over', free comments with malice to none.


"Several Buddhist Associations have asked the Colombo Municipal Council to ban the slaughter of poultry in municipal markets and licensed poultry stalls in the City on Poya days. These associations have said that though the council banned the slaughter of cattle, goats and pigs in the city on Poya days, the purpose of ahimsa was negated by the slaughter of thousands of fowls" (Times of Ceylon 26.10.1966)

We fail to understand how the intensity of the sin of ahimsa varies according to the visibility on earth of the sun-lit area of an insignificant satellite like (sic) moon in this vast universe. Does slaughter of animals become a sin only on a Poya day?

While fanatics in India want to save the lives of cows only, their counterparts here seem bent on saving all lives except that of man!

We strongly urge the associations to press for banning the destruction of all kinds of lives on all days so ours may the one and only country in the world ahimsa is practised in its perfection. Nobody should be allowed kill and eat living animals and plants. Ban the use of insecticides, antibiotics and sterilizers. Stop chlorinating pipe-borne water, sterilizing surgical instruments, pasteurising milk. Feed the carnivores at the Dehiwala Zoo with straw. Let Ceylonese eat only carcases of naturally dead animals and plants.


"The proposal of the Minister of Health to introduce birth control in Ceylon, if implemented would wipe out the Sangha because only large families offered a child or two for ordination". So said Ven. Pundit Heele Sumanajothi Thero at a meeting of a Nawalapitiya Trinikaya. (Times of Ceylon)

If the Sangha is to be built up with unwanted children of the country it is better that we had a lesser number or none of them!


"We invite the earnest attention of our fellow men to all that is said and done, to reiterate and expound the meaning and message of Christmas.

It is our wish that Christmas goodwill and peace may abide permanently in our hearts and our homes and reflect in our social and national life" (Rev. Dr W.G. Wickramasinghe in the Daily Mirror)

During Christmas time year after year we hear a good deal from Christian priests about the Prince of peace, meek and mild, bringing goodwill and peace among men.

But let us hear from Christ himself about his mission.

"Think not that I came to send peace on earth. I came not to send peace, but a sword." (Jesus Christ in St Matthew X-34)

"He that hath no sword, let him sell his garment, and buy one" (Jesus Christ in St Luke XXII-36)

"I came to set a man at variance against his father, a daughter against her mother and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law". (Jesus Christ in St Matthew X-35)

"If any man cometh unto me, and hateth not his father and mother and wife and children and brotheren and sisters he cannot be my disciple" (Jesus Christ in St Luke XIV - 26)


"Unless a new department is formed to administer the affairs of religion, the election pledge of the Government to give Buddhism the rightful place it enjoyed during the times of the ancient Sinhala kings would be a mere farce", said Ven. Meetiyagoda Gunaratna Thera, addressing the Prize distribution ceremony of Sri Sugatha Dharmodaya School in Ravatawatte, Moratuwa (Ceylon Daily News 16-6-1966).

The reasons given in certain quarters of for the Government spending tax-payers money for promoting Buddhism alone is that during the time of the Sinhala kings Buddhism received royal patronage, and during the time of the foreign rule that religion lost its privileged position because the new rulers patronised their own brand of religions. Now that the country has attained independence, it is the duty of the present Government to give back to Buddhism the patronage it once enjoyed under the ancient kings.

It is the people of the country who attained independence in 1947 (sic), and not the Buddhists alone. After getting democratic freedom in the twentieth century are we to go back to the monarchy of the medieval period? In a monarchy everything in the country including the lives of the people belong to the king The king could do no wrong. He could patronise anything he liked, and his subjects had no right to question him. Today we are not subjects of a despotic monarch. we are the citizens of a free country possessing the right even to question our governors.

Kings of old patronised not only their religion but also astrologers, soothsayers, concubines and even prostitutes. Perhaps it is because our ancient kings patronised royal astrologers that we have this 20th century created a chair for astrology at one of our universities. Like the royal astrologers of old, the present professor of astrology at Vidyalankara University may be appointed Government Astrologer to advise the Government on his predictions from time to time!

Buddhists are not the only people living in Ceylon and paying tax to the Government. The present demand for religious universities by Hindus and Muslims stems from democratic ideas. If Buddhism is to get state aid, they too have a right to claim their share.

Surely this country needs more academic and technical institutions. Jaffna deserves a university there. But should it be a Tamil or Hindu university? Mr Sivasubramaniam wants Hindu priests to be trained at public cost. For Hindus their priests are born as a separate caste, whereas other religions have their priests ordained. According to the Hindu religion it is sinful for a non-Brahmin to officiate as a priest. If Brahmins, monks and moulawis are to be given separate universities, surely there will be similar demands for Christian priests of diverse denominations.