Thursday, February 28, 2008

Brilliant guitar playing

If anyone is interested in some virtuoso guitar playing, just check out Jerry C. He has written a lead guitar part into Pachelbel's canon and calls the result Canon Rock, quite amazing. Sacrilege? Not in the least, because he makes the music his own, there is more Jerry C than Pachelbel in the music, its more like variations on the canon and perfectly satisfying musically speaking.

One doesn't need to be a musician, a guitar fanatic or anything else to appreciate this:

For anyone who wants to compare this with a version of the music played by an orchestra, try this. If you would like to see the orchestra actually play then try this - but the quality of the playing is not as good as in the other example.

The Hi!! Magazine

I have been trying to convince my friends that the only thing worth reading these days is the Hi!! magazine.

A look through the local newsstands reveals a dismal set of publications. The Sunday Times and the Nation are both worth reading, although the number of interesting stories is entirely dependent on the number of blunders perpetuated by the government that week. If the government, through sheer inaction (if they ever try to actually do something they will surely put their foot in it, but some weeks they do sweet nothing) commits no spectacular blunders then there is little to hold interest beyond the pictures of the pretty girls on the magazine pages. At least these two newspapers are well written and thus readable.

On weekdays the Daily Mirror is fairly good, although its colour scheme is beginning to go a bit over the top now. Again, the newspaper is fairly well written and readable.

As for the rest, the less said the better. I used to love reading the Sunday Observer and the Daily News, until quite recently, simply to understand what the government was thinking. If one reads a few important stories and the editorial, then it is fairly easy to see what they consider to be pressing matters and their view on it (which they presumably hope the public will agree with), but now they have degenerated to the point where they are quite dreary. The Island is quite simply, hysterical. I'm not sure where the editor picked up his journalism but if he expects anyone to take seriously a newspaper that runs front page editorials every fortnight, then he is sadly mistaken. The last time I looked he had not one but two editorials; one on the front page and one inside.

Reaching down into the gutter, one finds the Leader, sloppiness personified. It is badly written, poorly edited and badly printed and brims with half-truths and gossip. Some of their columnists can't even spell. I used to read it, just to get the gossip, but after a while I bgan to think that even the gossip was more fabrication than anything else. I now use it to put my feet on when taking my afternoon nap - I nap on the sofa and since my feet extend over the armrest onto the stool I use it to keep my feet from getting onto the stool.

This finally brings us to the publication that since subscribing to, I eagerly await. The one thing that tells me more about what is going on in the country than anything else, the one thing that can be re-read without effort, the Hi!! magazine.

Entirely free of substance, the one thing that truly reflects the society in which we live in today. I love it.


Ahoy, ahoy and hear ye all. The worm has turned and the blogger (still unsold despite yesterdays advertisement) has flown (if only for a day).

Having sloped off work today, went and got some spares for the jeep, signed some papers for an aunt and have returned home for an early lunch.

A little rest after lunch (no siesta, though), possibly a read through the all-important Hi!! magazine, and will be time to hit the gym in the evening.

And to all you poor slobs calling for your money, the phone's off, ha ha ha. Tomorrow is another day, lets just live for today.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Blogger for sale

For Sale: one slighly used blogger

1. Can't dance
2. Can't act
3. Can sing a bit.

Comes with own teeth and hair. No user manuals, spare parts or extras included.

Willing to slave under any hot female for food. Others strictly cash. Please apply in the comment section.

Managing cashflow

Boys and girls, if anyone ever offers you a job that involves managing cashflows, just Say No. Its the same as being offered cigarettes or drugs. Only worse.

The job is usually well disguised by a fancy title: Corporate Treasurer, Financial Controller or other such fancy names, but this hides the true horror that lurks within.

What does the job involve? First collecting money from customers, who never ever pay on time. They generally don't have the money, but will make a thousand other excuses - the invoice is wrong or written in the wrong name, the goods were not of the required quantity or perhaps quality, the purchase order that they issued to you had an error in it - just to delay actually writing the damn cheque. Once they get to the stage where they do get down to writing the cheque, there is waiting time while one or more signatures are obtained before you finally get payment.

The second and harder aspect of the job is paying suppliers - who you can never ever pay on time because YOUR customers haven't paid you. This involves receiving many angry phone calls a day and trying to persuade the suppliers not to stop supplying goods (otherwise the business grinds to a stop) while at the same time asking them to comeback later for the cheque.

In the meantime, your plans to actually keep to commitments get waylaid - the electricity bill turns out to be larger than expected and the phone bill even more so. The landlord wants repairs to be paid for and a bigger advance on the rent. Salaries turn up all too soon and you need to pay that or get throttled by your so called friends and colleagues. VAT payments are a nightmare all of their own, almost as bad as duties and clearing charges on imports.

And do you know the best part? This is STANDARD, I repeat standard in about 90% of the small and perhaps 85% of the medium sized businesses in Sri Lanka. The situation is getting worse these days, thanks to the Chinthanaya effect on business.

I did it once and vowed never to do it again, but I find that events seem to have overtaken me and the spectres from the past come back to haunt me again.

I need another job.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Oh what lovely weather...

Cool crisp mornings. Bright sunny days, not too humid, not very hot. Gentle breezes in the afternoons and evenings and cool clear nights.

The weather in Colombo, typical for this time of year, could not better. Now if only there were some open spaces in which to enjoy it.

The Galle Face green is out of bounds, the Victoria Park does not somehow seem very welcoming and that leaves us with looking for someone who has a house with a large lawn (ours doesn't have one and finding one in Colombo is not easy now) or a club with something similar to enjoy an evening.

I wasted the entirety of last weeks evening breezes, let me now see if I can make use of this evenings breeze....

GBS on Music

I'm not sure how many know that Bernard Shaw wrote music criticism, initially under the pen name of Corno di Bassetto and later under his own name, but they a treat to read.

Shaw had little formal training in music; he seems to have taught himself to read, but he evidently had a keen ear and knew exactly what he liked in the way of music. This together with a formidable command of the English language makes him a brilliant critic.

The reviews are of concerts between 1888 and about 1895 or so, and are a little dated in the sense that the names of most performers are unknown hence we have no conception of how big a reputation he was skewering-which is half the fun in reading intelligent criticism, but the musical insights are still penetrating and the writing superb.

Here is a sample (I have added a few links to some of the names/terms for anyone who needs a bit more background information):

20 September 1888

James Henry Mapleson
, alias Enrico Mariani, commonly and unaccountably spoken of as Colonel Mapleson, one time professional viola player, later operatic vocalist, and finally for twenty-seven years London impresario at Drury Lane and Her Majesty's Theatre, has written the Mapleson Memoirs. They are very amusing, especially to readers who, like the Colonel himself, have no suspicion that his record covers a period of hopeless decay. The financial record is depressing enough; but that is nothing new in the history of Italian Opera in England, since all the impresarios,, from Handel to Laporte and Lumley, lost money and lived, as far as one can make out, chiefly on the splendour of the scale on which they got into debt. Nevertheless, they kept the institution afoot in the good old style, with absurd high-falutin' prospectuses, expensive ballets, rapacious star singers and star dancers, and unscrupulous performances in which the last thing thought of was the fulfillment of the composer's intentions. What was wanted, after Lumley's retirement, was a manager with with sufficient artistic sensibility to perceive that these abuses, which Wagner and Berlioz had quite sufficiently exposed, must be done away with if the opera house is to hold its own against the ordinary theatre. Unfortunately, Colonel Mapleson's most indulgent friends can hardly claim for him any such musical and dramatic conscience. The period between the disappearance of Mario and the advent of Jean de Reszke is hardly to be recalled without a shudder, in spite of Christine Nilsson, and such fine artists as De Murska, Trebelli, Santley, and Agnesi. Costa maintained rigid discipline in the orchestra; and Titiens's geniality, her grand air, the remains of her great voice, and even her immense corpulence covered for a time her essential obsolescence as an artiste; but the prevailing want of life, purpose, sincerity, and concerted artistic effort would have destroyed a circus, much less the Opera; and the enterprise went from bad to worse, until it finally collapsed from utter rottenness.

Colonel Mapleson's negative contributions to this result may have been considerable. His positive contribution was the selection of such a line of tenors, all straight from La Scala, and all guaranteed beforehand to replace and eclipse Mario Giuglini, as we may fervently hope never to hear again. Colonel Mapleson hopes to take the field again next season; and no one can help wishing that his perseverance may be rewarded with success. But if he proceeds on his old plan, or for want of plan, he will only add another failure to his list. If he has learnt at last that the lyric stage cannot lag a century behind the ordinary theatre; that the days of scratch performances are over; that Donizetti is dead; that Wagner is the most popular composer of the day; that the Costa conception of of orchestral conducting has been succeeded by the Richter conception; and that people will not pay to see heroes and gentlemen impersonated by tenors who are not distinguishable in manners, appearance, voice, or talent from the average vendor of penny ices, then, and not otherwise, he may succeed. It is only fair to add, by the way, that Colonel Mapleson is by no means the only impresario who has hitherto failed to take this lesson to heart.

For anyone interested in buying a book look at this:

Saturday, February 23, 2008


Just a quick update for anyone who read the previous post. Went in today, but on the advice of the trainer decided to drop the shoulder routine. Did Back/biceps/triceps instead.

A good routine overall, decided that I may as well as focus on arms a bit since they are a bit scrawny so will be pushing them more next Tuesday and Thursday.

Been doing a strengthening routine for shoulders (prescribed by Dr Thurairaja the time before last when it popped). I still hear the occasional odd creak when the arm is stretched out or when the elbow is raised, so I'd better not put the shoulder under too much strain.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

On a roll

Warning: Extremely boring post coming up.

I am feeling pretty pleased with myself, things seem to be on a roll; in the gym that is.

Things started off badly on Saturday when I dislocated a shoulder. Its an old injury that keeps reappearing from time to time, but this time it came off while stretching! I had been doing shoulders and had increased the weights a bit, so that probably weakened the ligaments and connective tissue and a little carelessness was all it took to pop the joint. Damn. Damn. Damn!!!

Anyway, made a resolution to go back, against the advice of some of my gym buddies. Went in on Monday intending to do legs and a light routine on biceps and triceps. Surprised myself by ending up doing a pretty heavy routine, lifted more than my normal weights.

Went in today (Thursday), after a couple of days rest. Routine was supposed to be chest and biceps but biceps were dropped because my training buddy needed to leave early.

Mow working the chest does put a bit of pressure on the shoulders, particularly on the incline presses so intended to go a bit slow. Wonder of wonders, pushed pretty much close to last weeks level-which was a personal best for me! Did take it slightly easy on the inclines and dropped the Pec Dec altogether (did hammer presses instead) but a pretty good routine overall.

The best part is that I have been able to maintain the focus and the 'push'. Its a feeling that is a little difficult to describe - when one is in a good training zone the only thing that goes through ones mind is to keep pushing the weight until it literally drops. Training like an animal is how a friend describes it.

Its very difficult to get into that 'zone' and I think I had just gotten in and was afraid I would go out of it because of the injury but so far so good.

Am, grinning like a Cheshire cat at the moment - lets see how next Saturday goes - that when go back to shoulders again.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Lakshman Kadirgamar

Lakshman Kadirgamar was killed just over two and a half years ago, on the 12th of August 2005. There were many eulogies written about the man, one of which stood out from the rest.

It was written by Tony Anghie, former solider accused of plotting to overthrow the government in 1962. At a dinner party a couple of months ago some of Tony Anghie's contemporaries were reminiscing about the attempted coup. According to his contemporaries, he was a brilliant officer who topped the class at Sandhurst. He was, they claim, destined for a brilliant career, culminating surely in the position of Army Commander.

This is his appreciation of Lakshman Kadirgamar.

Much has been written in the last week about Lakshman Kadirgamar. He was an excellent orator, brilliant advocate, ambitious and the quintessential Renaissance Man. Sri Lanka will not see the like of another Foreign Minister like him.

As his friend and of his family for nearly sixty years I admired him as a man of principle. He was a junior to his brother Sam, who defended me in the Coup Trial of 1962. Whenever I visited from Australia, he would always contact me and we would discuss men and matters. When he became a member of parliament in 1994, I was one of the first to congratulate him from Melbourne, as I felt he would make a difference to the 'run of the mill' parliamentarians-which he did.

But then Lakshman fell among political thieves. The man of principle became the political advocate. He could plead any brief with aplomb and conviction; whether in the UN General Assembly or any other international forum; this was his strength as Foreign Minister; and this became his trait in the last decade of his life. He was ambitious and Kadirgamar was for Kadirgamar and anyone's gain was a by-product. His shabby treatment of Jayantha Dhanapala bears testimony to this.

How else could one explain his stand on Thavakal, and Anura Bandaranaike's brilliant attack on him in Parliament. How could one explain his stand on the ISGA when in opposition - it should not be even be considered; and then his position when in government - it may be the basis for negotiations?

I am aware he wanted to quit politics after the defeat of the PA, - he would probably be alive had he done so. He was however persuaded to stay, and it is difficult to imagine how a liberal democrat like him would be the co-author of a coup and countenance the sacking of a Government which commanded a majority in the House? No doubt principle and political power are indeed strangers and no doubt Lakshman subscribed to this.

As his daughter Ajita mourned, the last decade of his life saw him a prisoner both politically and personally. He abandoned his two children and they were estranged from him, much to their sorrow, and any attempts at reaching him were rebuffed. As his son Ragi said, their loss was their country's gain! This was the great flaw is his personality and the sacrifice of principle both in his political and personal life; and we his old friends grieved at the change in the man.

No doubt when history is written, he will be remembered as the greatest Foreign Minister Sri Lanka has produced and nothing became him in life as his leaving of it.

To us his old friends however he will be remembered as a fallen idol. He was my friend. May he rest in peace.

Tony Anghie

Sunday, February 17, 2008

A question of bias?

The government, its spokesmen and supporters regularly accuse a variety of actors: INGO's, the press, sometimes foreign diplomats of being biased in their assessments of Sri Lanka.

The latest missive comes from Keheliya Rambukwella, reported here. he is quoted as saying "They are acting in total bias on a different agenda . . . may be on various considerations . . . to bring the country into disrepute."

He was referring to criticism of alleged human right violations by the security forces.

What strikes me as odd is that the primary charge is almost inevitably that of bias. Rarely or never are the charges refuted by provision of evidence to the contrary.

The Minster does go on to say that "they have been trying to accuse the government for things that have not been proved or things that are being investigated,"

If so, Honourable Minister, would'nt the best response be to set up a credible mechanism to investigate the allegations, thus clearing up the matter? Why the knee-jerk resort to the subjective charge of bias, when facts would have been far more effective?

Those who make the charge of bias are seemingly oblivious to the fact they represent the government view and can hardly be judged to be impartial or disinterested in these matters.

To be sure, committees and other bodies have been set up from time to time by the government, usually with much reluctance and are inevitably toothless so the government is never in a position to present an independent, credible report to counter the allegations.

The Government is long on rhetoric but seems rather short on facts.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Encounters with the Sri Lanka Administrative Service - II

The company I work for had overpaid customs duty on an import. The error was discovered (a misclassification of the cargo) after the goods were cleared. The sum involved was substantial - about a quarter of the company's annual profits.

Initially I just searched the Customs website and contacted a couple of senior officials, Director or of similar rank, and told them my problem. Too bad was the answer. There is nothing we can do. Spoke to several people, received the same answer.

Not keen to give up I spoke to a friend and asked him if he knew someone. He had a friend, a middle ranking officer, I called him and went over to meet him.

He explained to me that there was such a thing as a procedure for refunds, obtained for us the relevant forms and told us what documents were needed (many- including affidavits, letters from suppliers, etc). All were duly filled and submitted. My friends friend promised to help speed up the matter.

I called the contact person every so often to inquire on progress. He told me it had been sent to the Audit department to verify the facts and that it was difficult for him to inquire into matters once they were in audit. I was busy with work, so for a month or two did not call. When I called eventually, some 5 months after the application was submitted (I spoke to the clerk handling the matter) and found that he had been transferred.

Worried, I went over to customs, our contcact gave me the name of the new man in charge. Went up, he was'nt in, spoke to someone else there, he claimed he knew nothing of the matter. Waited around for about half an hour before the man walked in. After some confusion, the file was located. He looked and said a 'certificate of payment' was required.

A certificate of payment is a document issued by the Accounts Department of the customs certifying that payments (duties etc) have been made to customs. This is despite us attaching an original receipt, issued by the customs themselves, acknowledging payment.

I know better than to argue so I ask them how to get this document. I need to go to the Accounts Department (of the customs) located on the 6th floor, with the original reciept (actually the Assessment Notice, overprinted with the details of money received) and speak to them. First problem - original document is in the file with our application and the guy does'nt want us to remove it. Since we know someone in customs he reluctantly gives it to us and also gets us a photocopy.

I take the documents and go to the ACcounts, they say you need to bring a letter from the company requesting the certificate. Not carrying letterheads and rubber stamps with me, so I go back to the Refunds Branch (4th floor), return the original document and go back to the company to get the letter. Its about 1pm and I know better than to expect the guys to be working in the afternoon, and in anycase have had as much hassle as I can take for a day so I decide to take the letter the next day.

I go back the next day armed with the letter. The guy I met is missing but luckily the peon remembers me so he introduces me to another drone. Drone tells me you can't get such a certificate. I say I was asked to. He says ok but won't release the original document. I convince him to and he does, but gets me to sign on the back of the file to say I took it. I run to the Accounts on the 6th floor and ask for the certificate. The guys says I need to pay 150/- at the cashiers on the 3rd floor. The lifts serve either 2,4, 6 or 3,5 so there is sometimes no direct lift to the floor required, but this is not a serious issue for fit young fellow, god help the elderly.

I run to the cashier. Big crowd, but no queue. Force my way in and say I need to pay for a certificate. Cashier asks me for a voucher? What voucher? You've got to get a voucher from the relevant department telling the cashier to accept money.

Back upto the 6th floor, the guy gives me the voucher and I fill it out. Back to the 3rd floor, bigger crowd this time, manage to worm through. I hand over the money and the voucher plus the documents. One guy writes a receipt, another stamps the documents and I get them back. Back upto the 6th floor where the big-wig looks at my letter and says the title is not complete - but allows me to correct it in pen. Hurrah!

He looks at the two documents, (original plus photocopy)and asks me to give it to the first guy I met in accounts. The first guy takes it and I ask when I will get the certificate. May take a week or two he says, we need to write to the bank and they need to confirm the payment. I ask for his name-he gives it to me but says he does'nt have a contact no., so I need to follow up in a week or so. All for a confirmation of a payment, when I have submitted an original receipt!

Encounters with the Sri Lanka Administrative Service - I

The Sri Lanka Adminstrative Service is official title of a creature that the general public usually describe as bureaucrats or government servants.

The SLAS was created by Sirimavo Bandaranaike in the 1960's. The original admnstrative system was the elite Ceylon Civil Service, which had a well earned repuation for efficiency and integrity. Civil Servants were drawn from the very best of the University graduates (believe it or not, the local universities produced world-class products, before politicisation). These were men on high intellect and integrity, their service ethos was to serve the general public efficiently, withn the parameters set by the Minister in Charge, but ensuring that nothing contravened the constitution, the Financial and administrative regulations and the conscience of the officer. Being of high intellect and often of independant means they would not be browbeaten into anything. The ministers thus had a tough time implementing impractical, unnecessary or silly rules. The minister would need to convince the Permanent Secretary or other department head of the usefulness of the measure before it could be implemented properly.

This grated on the nerves of Felix Dias Bandaranaike and Mrs Bandaranaike. They decided they wanted a more servile system, one in which Civil Servants would not question, but obey. They decided to abolish the Civil Service. Existing officers were offered either immediate termination of service with pension or a limited further period of service (upto 10 years Or retirement I believe) and then termination with pension.

At a stroke, a system carefully built over a century and a half was skewered and half its guts removed. It evolved into the Ceylon Administrative Service and later the Sri Lanka Administrative Service.

The edifice did not crumble overnight. Although a good many officers left immediatedly, and were eagerly snapped up by such instututions and the World Bank and the UN, others remained.

Politicians began to stuff the service with their catchers. As the older CCS officers retired their place was taken by the newer appointees, who were mostly political appointees, chosen for their loyalty to ministers and not on ability.

In the meantime, the authorities, in wisdom had turned their attention to the destruction of the education system, first the Universities and then the schools.

Gradually the system crumbled and we have the monster of today. Who is interested in a government job today? Mostly people will little ambition and less ability. Who is interested in entering the local University system, at one time amongst the best in Asia?

This brings me to my next post - an encounter with ths Sri Lanka Customs.

Friday, February 08, 2008


A wet, gloomy Friday has left Point with a slight sniffle and a rather foul mood.

Looking for some appropriate lines for Lady Divine's dilemma Point came across these: not quite helpful enough for the unfortunate damsel but worth reproducing here:


All things pass but love remains
So sang the actress in a play;

A soothing song to still life's pains:
Would it were the truth of everyday!

Love passes, all else remains
And with it go life's fitful gains:

Tossed for brief while in joyous fears
Love casts about and disappears.

-Guy Amirthanayagam-


This is something I have been wanting to put up for a while.

I first encountered Ozymandias in the British Museum, standing before the statue of Ramesses II, who is also known by his Greek name Ozymandias.

The poem was a part of the recorded commentary on the statue (which is supposed to have inspired the poet - the wikipedia article linked above carries a picture) but with the hustle and bustle of the museum (it attracts visitor in numbers that are beyond wildest dreams of the Sri Lankan tourist industry) it made only a partial impact.

Some years later there was a reference to it in The Economist and I looked it up - only then did I realise its beauty and here it is, in all its glory:


I met a traveller from an antique land
Who said: Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. Near them on the sand,
Half sunk, a shatter'd visage lies, whose frown
And wrinkled lip and sneer of cold command
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamp'd on these lifeless things,
The hand that mock'd them and the heart that fed.
And on the pedestal these words appear:
"My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!"
Nothing beside remains: round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare,
The lone and level sands stretch far away.

-Percy Bysshe Shelley- , 1818

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Wearing the Hijab - be mindful of traffic safety

Most pedestrians and cyclists don't realise just how difficult it is to see them under artificial light, particularly in poor driving conditions. I suppose one can only blame the educational system for this lapse.

The problem becomes magnified when women wear the black version of the Hijab.

I few years back I almost ran over a woman in a Hijab. It was at about 5 in the morning, with a fair amount of rain. She crossed the (unlit) road somewhere near Avissawella. Luckily for a moment the Hijab lifted and I caught a glimpse of her ankle in the headlights. I couldn't see the rest of her at all. I braked, the brakes locked and the car went into a skid. I turned the wheel but nothing happened. Luckily the ABS kicked in after a few moments and the car swerved away, otherwise I would have killed her.

So please, for your own safety and that of others, please carry something white at night.

CIMA awarded Superbrand status

The Chartered Institute of Management Accountants (CIMA) has been awarded "Superbrand" status.

What exactly is a Superbrand?

According to the definition it "aims to identify brands that perform above and beyond other brands within their respective markets."

The critera are "market dominance, longevity, goodwill, customer loyalty and market acceptancy."

It seems to be a system of ranking brands, a beauty contest if you like of brands. So far so good.

The problem is that the exercise does not come cheap. According to estimates I have received (please correct me if I am wrong) it costs a million rupees in Sri Lanka. Not very big, perhaps, but big enough to pose the question : what value does this exercise bring about to the owner of the brand?

There is no question that a brand has value, but what does the awarding of Superbrand status do to a brand?

Does a brand, divorced from the product or service that it sells, have any value?

And how does the assignment of Superbrand status generate a return to the brand owner?

The winner of a beauty pageant, even a minor one (eg Miss Working Girl) can reasonably expect to get some offers for advertising, film or modeling work. The award thus brings some value to the holder. There is also a certain prestige that may go with the award.

Is this the case with Superbrands?

Given that all manner of brands have exactly the same award and that any one invited can get it there seems very little in the way of prestige that can be attached to the award. Conceivably if the award was limited to a very small stated number (say a dozen or a score), evaluated in a transparent manner and revised annually it might, over time create the necessary aura.

The brands thus awarded are allowed to place the Superbrands logo on advertisements but this to my mind at least is at best a distraction from the principal brand. The Superbrands logo does not blend in well and one is never sure of what exactly is being advertised. Superbrands or the product in question.

CIMA's Council have doubtless satisfied themselves as to the benefits of the exercise, it remains to be seen if members consider it reasonable use of membership fees. I for one am glad that I am no longer paying subscriptions.

Friday, February 01, 2008


As Sri Lanka approaches 60 years of independence, I have been turning the question of independence over in my mind.

What does it mean? The Wikipedia definition is: "Independence is the self-government of a nation, country, or state by its residents and population, or some portion thereof, generally exercising sovereignty."

We can safely say that the country is self governing, leaving the question of the quality of governence aside for the moment.

Ephimeral Ruminations blogs on the subject here.

and wonders how we may be independent in the golbal village.

The world is indeed an interdependent place although the rulers of this land seem intent on isolating the country. Self sufficiency as a concept seems dear to their hearts and their foreign policy has left us with Pakistan, Iran, Burma, Thailand and a handful of others to count as 'true' friends. The fact that most of these 'true' friends are either military dictatorships or one-party states is significant and may well point the way to future developments.

Can we look at independence at a deeper level? Can independence for example be equated with freedom? If so, it seems constrained.

Milton Freidman has observed that "The essence of political freedom is the absence of coercion of one man by his fellow men. The fundamental danger to political freedom is the concentration of power. The existence of a large measure of power in the hands of a relatively few individuals enables them to use it to coerce their fellow men."

By this standard, Sri Lanka seems to fare poorly. Freedom of thought is being challenged by the Defence Secretary (did you know the Public Performances Board operates under the Defence Ministry?), freedom of movement is restricted - by road closures, high security zones, parking restrictions and the like. There is the possibility of arbitrary arrest or detention if you happen to be at the wrong place at the wrong time. Freedom House, a US think tank classifies Sri Lanka as being "partly free".

People may argue that Freedom House is subjugated to US foreign policy. Others may claim that these restrictions are necessary to fight terrorism but if we are to accept this argument then let us then also be honest enough to admit that we are only party independent.