Friday, December 31, 2010

No more Ceylon

The Government information department has announced that the names of all public enterprises that begin as ‘Ceylon’ will be replaced with the word ‘Sri Lanka'.

Not something particularly startling, considering that the name of the country was officially changed thirty eight years ago. Indeed we may well ask why it took them so long.

Looking through old letters from overseas that my parents received in the 1970's the address ended with "Sri Lanka (Ceylon)" but this is no longer necessary. Sri Lanka is well known enough, perhaps too well known. The most ready associations with the name being terrorism, war and Prabakaran while Ceylon was associated with Tea, spices and tourism. The last observation was made by a gentleman from Denmark who has been living here since the 1970's. He also felt that Ceylon was a much nicer name, the shape of the letters that make up the name being round and curvy rather than the angular strokes that make up Sri Lanka.

Lee Kuan Yew observed that the change of Ceylon's name did little to improve the lot of its people and that Ceylon Tea continued to be sold as Ceylon Tea. The latest decision will not apply to the marketing of tea, which will remain Ceylon Tea. Then why bother with this?

I generally view the changing of names with suspicion for the motive behind this is little more than garnering some cheap publicity for the politician or official responsible for the act, while sowing confusion in the mind of the public. I have no problem with local names being given to public works or buildings but I think it is a prerequisite that the official concerned earns the right confer his chosen name (and thus bask in the reflected glory) by actually constructing whatever is being named.

Renaming existing roads or works is little more than a distraction, a trick to divert the attention of the public from more pressing matters. To add insult to injury, the new names are long and unwieldy and include honours and qualifications which are quite unnecessary. Why must it be "Dr Lester James Peiris Mawatha" (Dickman's Rd to the uninitiated) and not simply Peiris Mawatha? Why Sir Chittapalam A Gardiner Mawatha (Parsons Rd) and not Gardiner Mawatha?

This disease is not confined to local politicians, Bombay and Calcutta are cities built by the British whatever the local politicians may say. It would have been far better to have spent some effort in clearing slums, improving drainage, sanitation or any number of the problems in Bombay rather than confining their efforts to removing the last traces of the British, sixty years after their departure.

After all, what's in a name?

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Smoke, drink, pay

This was the headline on a story in today's Daily Mirror.

Like many of the policies that are enunciated from time to time, it seems designed to garner as much attention as possible for its creator. Rather less thought seems to have gone into the impact on the intended beneficiaries of the policy.

For a start, how is it to be implemented? How does a doctor know that someone is a user of alcohol or a tobacco?

Heavy smokers will carry some evidence of their habit, in the form of discoloured teeth, fingernails and blackened lips. Moderate users of alcohol are much harder to detect, unless they actually enter hospital drunk and only the real dipsomaniacs can be identified as such on sight.

The doctors could pose the question to the patient, in which case the patient is likely to lie. The doctor will then have to judge whether the patient is telling the truth, which may mean that moderate users will probably get away with the lie, which means the policy will be rendered less effective, although the doctors diagnosis may be impaired by the fact that information is withheld.

According to the Ministry official "non-communicable diseases (NCD) such as diabetes, strokes, heart attacks, kidney failure, cancer and high blood pressure are often due to the excessive consumption of alcohol and cigarettes.He said the ministry has decided to take these measures to encourage a drop in people’s consumption of alcohol and cigarettes."

Is it only for treatment of the diseases commonly associated with alcohol and tobacco use that are to be charged for, or will they be required to pay for all public health services? For example for injuries caused by a fall or an accident? What if hypertension or diabetes is due to hereditary factors, or possibly due to excessive consumption of sugar, something that Sri Lankan's are well know for?

It is true that valuable hospital resources are tied up by people suffering from lifestyle diseases but I believe the focus should be on prevention, which means education.

Paying something for health services may also not be a bad thing, especially if the funds are used to improve facilities, especially since the health budget is minuscule compared to the rest of Government spending but this needs to be based on sound principles.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

A Groomsmen's duties

A Groomsman's duties are many and varied and although I have now served in that capacity for four weddings I have never quite worked out what they should be.

For a start I always thought the groomsman had to look after horses. How he came to look after prospective husbands-to-be beats me, I suppose the poor fellow marching down the aisle needs what support he can get.

Anyway to cut the long story short, I was asked last week whether I possessed a black suit. I said I did. I was then asked, "you know you are one of the groomsmen, right?" A week is rather short notice but my week was relatively clear, so ok.

My first major duty was to ferry an old aunt around but due to various other things cropping up I was relieved of that and instead sent off to the estate to pick up some coconuts. Groomsmen are useful that way.

Driving 30km in the afternoon was not exactly my idea of a good time, but though the traffic was heavy, it was not impossible and I was rather pleased that my airconditioning (fixed at great expense) was working well, and by and by I reached my destination.

I alighted and spoke to the caretaker and got him to start loading the jeep and took in the scenery. Looking down at the old garage/barn in the first picture my mood improved dramatically, there is something about a lot of greenery that can release stress. Drinking a sweet king coconut, taking in the ducks, chickens and guinea fowl gathering around hoping that the owner had returned to feed them, all was at peace and I hardly felt the drive back.

Since then I've bought cocktail mixture (for the reception), shirts (for the groom, best man and groomsmen) and agreed to coordinate some cars.

Ho hum, not exactly earth shattering stuff, but given my reluctance to get involved in overly complicated affairs I think I've come off quite well.

Friday, December 03, 2010

Looking for something traditional this Christmas?

If you like the traditional carols, sung in classic arrangements by David Willcocks, Harold Darke and the like, drop in to St Andrew's at Galle Face (opposite Inn on the Green) at 7pm on the 12th of December.

A good way, as any, to start the Season.

Entrance free, all are welcome.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Writing letters

Can anybody tell me if it is correct to capitalise the first letter of the first word, immediately after the salutation on a letter?

My understanding is it is not. For example:

Dear Sir,


further to our discussion, we attach herewith a detailed proposal.

MS Word will usually capitalise the "F" in "further". I don't think this is right because the sentence starts with "Dear Sir" and ends with "proposal". It does not start with "Further"

Does anyone have an opinion?

Just had to redo about seven letters because of the perceived error.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Rushed off my feet

It has been a terrible weekend. It was only a few days ago that I was rejoicing in an unexpected extra holiday this month. There I was, anticipating time to catch up with my reading, sleep and generally unwinding by doing nothing at all.

Was my small wish too difficult for the gods?

I think it was because I have been rushed off my feet - running around like a mad thing since Friday afternoon, no proper afternoon nap on either Friday or Saturday (did sneak in a couple of hours here and there), slept little in the nights due to the damned cold weather, drove about 80-100 kilometres just running errands in Colombo and had the rain to deal with yesterday and today.

I have ended up having less time than a normal weekend. Either the gods have wicked sense of humour or some sorcery is afoot, and I think I know who's responsible......

Tuesday, November 16, 2010


I have been rather overworked these days and my last weekend was quite stressful, hardly had time to relax. I was anxiously scanning the calendar to find out when the poya holiday was falling and was bitterly disappointed to find out it was on a Sunday.

Imagine my delight this morning to discover an email from our HR department telling us that we would be on holiday on Friday.

The message starts off like this:

"Dear Operational Team Members,

We have received a request form the Honorable Minister of the Labour Relations and Productivity Promotion to grant a holiday on Friday, 19th November 2010 to organizations located in areas of Colombo 1,2,3 and 4.

The Employers’ Federation in their circular to the employers have advised that appropriate action be initiated by such employers considering the practical difficulties the employees may encounter in terms of movement/road closers etc"

Oh, the irony of a Minister for productivity promotion declaring a holiday.

I however, am quite delighted.

Thursday, November 04, 2010

Once an accident, twice a coincidence, but thrice?

Kottu is pretty boring these days, mostly made up of posts on sports and fashion. Not that I mind those, but it is hard to have a conversation on these.

Instead of Kottu, I now trawl through Lady D's blogroll instead, and what did I find today?

Purple Socks says: I want to

The Drummer replies: I don't do, I don't do.

Ramblings says: One night in Bangkok

The Rose states: Why A Woman is a Better Wingman

Are these just a coincidence or is the blogosphere hotting up?

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

One for the Girls

A college girl from Duke University, published her college learning, the circulation of which reached "viral" proportions.

Its not hard to see why, thought it was worth sharing, may inspire others to follow the same route, there are many fine writers and sharp analytical minds in the local blogosphere.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Its that time of the year again...

when the slaving subjects like myself pay our tribute to our lords (aka the Income tax department).

Having a long weekend on hand is ideal for this purpose since one has ample time to trawl through bank statements, salary slips, cursing all the missing pieces of paper, which need to be tracked down.

A couple of years back I hit on the bright idea of setting up a worksheet with all the calculations, so that all I need to do is plug in the figures. This has been a major labour saver and since not a lot changes from year to year my calculation comes out on a jiffy. I've also improved my filing system - previously I used to shove everything into a box and then have to scratch my head to find the various bits and pieces. Now I have envelopes labeled with each tax year for each type of document (bank statements, dividend slips, salary slips etc) and I keep filing the things every month or two. Thus things have become pretty streamlined.

Imagine therefore my horror, when I plugged my figures in and found out that I had to PAY few lakhs as taxes. I don't even have that kind of money in the bank, so spent the entire morning trying to reconcile income and PAYE taxes before discovering that it was merely a problem with the spreadsheet - the Inland Revenue has changed the format of the tax table and I had not amended my worksheet.

Anyway, I now have to pay a sum total of Rs.262 as taxes, so I'm smiling now.

Just hope the large refunds that I claimed last year and the year before were not due to a similar error.......(and no they have not paid, but this might explain the letters they keep sending, asking for more details...).

Anyway will check on that NEXT weekend, I've spent enough of this one calculating taxes. Luckily, I've also learned another trick that comes in handy when dealing with the tax man - take photocopies of EVERYTHING you ever give them - then when they ask for details later you know EXACTLY what to say, HA!.

Friday, October 22, 2010

The Saga

In the beginning there was the sore throat. The sore throat refused to respond so it was dosed with saltwater rinses.

The sore throat duly disappeared, but a cough appeared it its place. And what a cough it was! All day, all night, dry, hacking and persistent.

Finally the cough receded but did not disappear and soon after it started to recede, on came the cold. Sneezing merrily, this went on for two more days. Finally the cold began to recede and the cough returned.

Vitamin c, panadol, saltwater gargles, honey, nothing worked.

Finally went to the doctor, who prescribed a cocktail of drugs. Having read this post decided I would do some research on what I had been prescribed.

Item No. 1: Clavamox. Do google search and get following result "Canine broad-spectrum antibiotic in oral dosage form: oral tablets."


Approved Uses

CLAVAMOX® (amoxicillin trihydrate/clavulanate potassium) TABLETS are approved for treatment of the following canine infections:

* Skin and soft-tissue infections such as wounds, abscesses, cellulitis, and superficial/juvenile and deep pyoderma due to susceptible strains of the following organisms: β-lactamase-producing Staphylococcus aureus, non-β-lactamase-producing Staphylococcus aureus, Staphylococcus spp., Streptococcus spp. and E. coli.

* Periodontal infections due to susceptible strains of both aerobic and anaerobic bacteria.

Hang on a minute, that does not look like what I was suffering from and I'm not a dog.

Lets take a look at the rest

No. 2 Lorid

Search result: Lorid is NOT known to be marketed in the USA. Lorid may be available in the countries listed below.

This looks worrying.

Could it be this?



Loratadine is an oral non-sedating H 1-blocker that is similar in structure to cyproheptadine and azatadine, other H 1-blockers.

.....This competitive antagonism blocks the effects of histamine on H1-receptors in the GI tract, uterus, large blood vessels, and bronchial muscle. It does not readily cross the blood-brain barrier...

eerr ok, presumably stops the blocked nose. Lets hope it does'nt do anything else. The blood brain business is worrying, especially since I feel so tired and I can't afford to lose any more brain cells, I'm already short on gray matter.


Belongs to the class of other systemic drugs used in the treatment of obstructive airway diseases, xanthines.

Ok, something else for a blocked nose?


Main use: Asthma

Yes, But I don't HAVE asthma and never experienced any difficulties in breathing. The doctor asked me this question and I said no, so why this drug?

Anyway the symptoms have eased greatly, feeling much better (one day into the dosage), except for low energy (tackling that by eating chocolate and sweets) and occasional chills, for which I've started panadol again. Hope THAT does not react with this cocktail.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010


I seem to encounter three types of people with distressing frequency: fools, knaves and thieves.

Definition of FOOL

: a person lacking in judgment or prudence
: a harmlessly deranged person or one lacking in common powers of understanding

A knave

: a tricky deceitful fellow

A thief

One who steals, especially by stealth.

I don't suffer fools gladly, what have I done to be surrounded by them and the even more insidious thieves and knaves?

Saturday, October 16, 2010

The search for intelligent life

Having found intelligent life to be sadly lacking in the beloved motherland and since I am in constant need of regular mental stimulation, have decided to look for intelligent life- in outer space.

Imagine my surprise then, when I discover that I have been beaten in this novel quest. The search for extraterrestrial intelligence, or SETI to the cognoscenti is already well established.

The UN has established an Office for Outer Space Affairs which is headed by Mazlan Othman a Malaysian astrophysicist, a lady that one newspaper has apparently dubbed the "alien ambassador".

Ok, ET, here I come.

Do you read me? Over. Do you read me? Over.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

A gift to the world

Its been hectic at work. I have just had a chance to look at Monday's papers when a front page story caught my

"Buddhism, biggest gift of SL to world" read the headline.

Yes, but I thought it came from India?

Monday, September 27, 2010

Women's rights

A friend of a friend complained thus:

"I'm off to the police tomorrow...I'm just sick of getting ripped off, screwed over and hit on incessantly...this really isn't a good place for any single white Western woman to be living."

Says a lot about the society we live in. For all the pious crackdown on vice: porn, alcohol, 'indecent' hoardings, dress codes being imposed in universities there are some fundamental views on women that are distinctly neolithic.

I suppose that like the Victorian values, on which the new morality is based, it goes with the same Victorian hypocrisy.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Oh dear

A visit to the tea country is something I usually enjoy. Rolling hills, clothed in greenery, the fresh mountain air, charming old buildings and usually tasty cooking to go with it.

Unfortunately this visit was lacking in most of the ingredients. Visited two estates owned by the JEDB and was greeted by acre upon acre of decrepit fields. A friend once told me that tea should look like a velvet carpet. These carpets were looking distinctly tatty with many holes, the few tea bushes present in an unruly state, weeds and undergrowth everywhere. Many a field seemed to have been taken over completely by thick grass.

A good testament to the follies of the state engaging in business.

It will take years of work and lots of money to restore these to good health. The contrast when we crossed over to the privately managed estate next-door was welcome. There were still gaps in the fields but they were smaller, the bushes had been pruned and plucked. There was tea everywhere and some sense of order being imposed on nature, instead of the untidy growth.

Going back to a question I have posed before: how did the people benefit from the nationalisation of what was then the most important industry in the country?

Were the state coffers filled with the treasure that the foreign owners were pocketing? No. The estates have been losing money almost continuously for years. Increased market share worldwide? No, it has been declining. More value addition? Yes, but entirely from the private sector, the best work being done before they were allowed back ownership.

More or better employment? Don't know but the workers on these estates were complaining about not enough work and that their EPF and ETF had not been paid for years.

Anyway, got a few pictures of the nicer bits of scenery, not great photographs but hope you like them.

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Vive Le Roi!

There is not much more to be said. If you can't beat 'em join 'em and perhaps we should all join in and sing this?

Monday, September 06, 2010


The radio commercials for DSI tyres featuring various animals. The bull on his way to the China shop (running the red light in the process), the donkey who is overtakes on the wrong lane and another one or two creatures.

Traffic safety message and an advertisement rolled into one.

Very entertaining. Wonder who produced them? Were they locally done?


Has anyone noticed a truly sinister sight on the streets of Colombo?

Policemen wearing sunglasses. I'm not sure where they pick up these cheap sunglasses from, but they are truly hideous. The policemen all sport them with pride, strutting around on their beat or leaning languidly against something. They seem to think they resemble the cops from popular American television shows.

It is a sight that gives me the shivers and given the state of the local police, probably an appropriate reaction.

ps. I'm no photographer so would a few reader oblige by posting a few pictures?

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Strange feelings

I've recently experienced some slightly unusual emotions when dealing with friends and associates in matters involving money.

For example when I've been toying around with the idea of selling my car, when people I know have offered prices significantly below my own expectations, I experience feelings of annoyance and irritation. It is almost like an insult.

When total strangers offer lower prices they can simply be dismissed with no further emotional involvement.

Is it that when dealing with known parties one is unconsciously letting ones guard down hence the susceptibility to feel insulted?

If friends approach the subject of a lower bid gently and in a roundabout way then the propensity to feel insulted is far less, its the sudden let down that seems to bruise the ego.

The problem is worse when dealing with someone who is much richer - there is almost a feeling of attempted exploitation. Why does he need to worry so much about money? He has so much, why is he trying to deprive me of what is due? are the thoughts that tend to spring to mind, mixed with feelings of anger and annoyance.

Mind you, this is just for an open offer, with no obligation to take it. I'm free to refuse at anytime and have done so many times, but it still leaves some rather unpleasant emotions for a while.

Has anyone else experienced anything similar or am I just hypersensitive ?

Saturday, August 07, 2010

Lipton's Circus

This post, where the author confessed that he did not know why Lipton's Circus was so-called, set me off on a long comment. It went on so long that I decided to turn it to a post on my much-neglected blog.

What an interesting piece of history you have missed.

Lipton's Circus is called that because the Head office of Lipton & Co used to be there (it was in the building that now houses United Motors/Standard Chartered Bank). The wall you see in the second photograph carried a large advertisement, I believe it said "Lipton Means Good Tea" with a picture of woman raising a cup of tea. I think roundabout had a statue on it, possibly of Lipton. Anyway, the whole area was unmistakably Lipton's, a bit like Piccadilly Circus in London I suppose.

The Liptons office moved to Brook Bond building Union Place (the Building next to JAIC/NTB) after the acquisition of Brooke Bond by Unilver (Unilever bought Lipton's tea business in 1972). The JAIC and Cargills Staples Street outlet occupy what used to be the tea warehouses and part of the office complex of Brooke Bond.

Brooke Bonds and Lipton's were two of the great names in tea, they owned plantations and were big sellers of tea from Ceylon. They lost their estates in the nationalisation in 1960's and 1970's and switched to marketing, diversifying their supply of teas to those from Africa (mostly set up by the planters who left Ceylon post-nationalisation).

The tea industry in Kenya, now a larger exporter than Sri Lanka, owes much of its fortunes to Mrs Bandaranaike, whose policies of nationalisation drove planters from Ceylon to start afresh in Africa.

At the time of the nationalisation, the economy was dominated by agriculture, the key products being tea, rubber and coconuts. Most of the tea and rubber plantations were owned by foreigners (some were even quoted on the London Stock Exchange, I believe). In order to prevent the exploitation of the country's wealth by greedy foreigners the plantations were nationalised, their ownership being transferred to the Janatha Estates Development Board (the people estates development board)-one can almost see the bright hope that the designers of that policy must have had for the future of the people in their choice of name- and the State Plantations Corporation.

The result was disastrous. Driving out the greedy, exploitive foreigner did little to improve the lot of the people and lead to the decline of the industry, although a revival of sorts has taken place under the aegis of private management since 1992.

As the late Joan Robinson, a Cambridge economist, once wrote, “the misery of being exploited by capitalists is nothing compared to the misery of not being exploited at all”, a quip, written in 1962, inspired by underemployment in South-East Asia.

For more information on the history of Ceylon Tea see here

Something information on African tea is to be found here. The two countries that benefited the most from the local exodus were Kenya and Tanzania.

Monday, July 19, 2010

A new Amazon based scam

The scammers of the world keep coming up with more innovative ways to trick people. I received a number of emails today the contents of which were similar to this: logo your account

Thanks for your order,

Did you know you can view and edit your orders online, 24 hours a day? Visit Your Account.

Order Information:

E-mail Address:
Order Grand Total: $ 41.99

Earn 3% rewards on your orders with the Amazon Visa Card. Learn More

Order Summary:
Order #: D25-6587444-2958008
Subtotal of items: $ 66.99
Total before tax: $ 32.99
Sales Tax: $ 0.00
Total for this Order: $ 75.99

The following item was ordered:
Click here and see items, Price: $ 80.99
By: Click here
Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.

The charge for this order will appear on your credit card statement from the merchant 'AMZN Payment Services.'

You can review your orders in Your Account. If you've explored the links on that page but still have a question, please visit our online Help Department.

Please note: This e-mail was sent from a notification-only address that cannot accept incoming e-mail. Please do not reply to this message.

Thanks again for shopping with us.
Earth's Biggest Selection

unsubscribe icon Prefer not to receive HTML mail? Click here

It looks quite genuine when it appears on the email. Even the senders address "(" looks quite genuine.

What set me on alert was the fact that the email I received it on is not the account I have registered with Amazon. A closer look at the numbers shows they don't add up - whether this was a part of scam - to get people to follow the links to correct the "wrong" order or simply a slip-up is uncertain.

I did go and check my Amazon accounts just in case (they were clear, with no unknown orders), but it could trap the unwary, so beware.

ps This site gives a good image of the spam mail and a more technical explanation.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Responding to the loss of GSP+

The EU has temporarily suspended the GSP+ concessions. The Government response has been to promise measures to counter this, hinting at a possible devaluation of the currency and to suggest that the factories concerned look to improving productivity.

There is however a fairly simple measure that can help reduce production cost while raising employee satisfaction. What is this measure? A suspension of EPF and ETF payments for a specified period of time.

Employers are required to contribute 12% of salaries paid to the EPF and a further 3% to the ETF, a total of 15% of salaries. Employees are required to contribute 8% towards EPF.

My suggestion is that the Government suspend EPF and ETF payments for a fixed period of time, perhaps a year, until the EU concessions can be renegotiated. Under the arrangement that I propose the company would not have to contribute the 15% while the 8% would no longer be deducted from the salaries of employees. Thus there is an immediate saving of 15% on the ages bill, which is very significant, while the employees get a bonus in the form of an 8% pay hike. The GSP+ concessions reportedly worked out to a 10% saving on cost, I'm not sure how much a 15% saving on payroll costs translates to conversion cost but it is significant.

Food for thought, perhaps?

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Some excitement at last

I don't follow sport so all the excitement surrounding the football world cup, the tennis at Wimbledon and even the racing at Ascot has not touched me.

Life was looking rather boring, with a full 22 working days this month and a further 17 days slog next month before the next long weekend. Very boring, that is until Comrade Wimal spiced it up for me with this.

He had originally called for the UN to be surrounded and the staff taken hostage, so we shall await further developments.

Ban Ki Moon should have known who he was dealing with.

All along we thought the Comrade had 'gone native', joined the government and tempered his revolutionary ways. Luckily we find that he has not lost it at all, but given us something that we can proud of. Let the Yankees beware.

Budget blues

The opposition is attacking the 'policy budget' presented by the Government for all the wrong reasons. In an attempt to cater to the average man, the budget is being condemned as an "IMF budget", a cunning plot to stimulate exports of countries that fund the IMF or a market fundamentalist budget.

In terms of policy, what has been unveiled is prudent and necessary. The biggest problem was the fiscal deficit and serious attempts to contain this at 8% is commendable. The problem in practice is slippage: revenues tend to be overestimated and expenditure underestimated, so we need to see how things actually turn out, but there is no problem with the targets themselves.

The measures aimed at reducing the deficit: consumption based taxes, on dry rations, milk, gas, wheat and the like are also positive as further taxes on industry are likely to be counterproductive, leading to a further contraction in growth. The reduction of duties on vehicles and consumer durables is a revenue generating measure (demand grows as the taxes are reduced and the government will collect a greater absolute amount of duties, although the duty percentage has fallen) For example government revenue from vehicle duties had fallen from Rs.18bn to Rs.3bn over the last three years. The duty reduction will also stimulate trade and finance as people start buying more of these and use a certain amount of debt (more affordable due to lower interest rates) to finance these.

What then, is the problem? Fundamentally, nothing; except the size of the government expenditure. I am a believer in a minimal or 'Nightwatchman' state, the current state apparatus is huge and shows every sign of growing larger.

The deficit can equally well be controlled by reducing state expenditure which in turn may be achieved by scaling back the size of the state (privatisations for instance), efficiency improvements or administrative restructuring (simple measures such as moving the clocks forward by an hour is a painless method of achieving significant savings in power consumption; combining the ETF and ETF into one body (under the ETF, the smaller of the two)will immediately eliminate the cost of running the EPF). The lack of transparency ensures that a lot of waste and inefficiency goes unnoticed. Publishing monthly statistics on the CEB: the units of power generated, the units billed, the debts outstanding by sectors, the cost of generation by the various types of (power hydro, oil etc) will put the management of the CEB under a lot of pressure as people will begin to ask why they need to pay so much. The other problem is corruption, something that is again helped by the lack of transparency, the cost of which is ultimately visited upon the people in the form of taxes.

Therefore, there is no problem per se with the policy targets, the only problem lies in the expenditure. The people must remember that there is no such thing as a free lunch. If they clamour for state sector jobs (and 300,000 new staff have been recruited to the state in the last five years) the bill needs to be paid; if they do not support greater transparency in public affairs, then waste and corruption will thrive.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Guardians of virtue

Two news reports caught my eye today. The first was about couples engaged in indecent behaviour who were produced in court. The other was on the removal of indecent hoardings.

Decency, it seems, is being enforced, although by who is not immediately clear.

Under what section of the penal code were the couples engaged in indecent behaviour charged? What laws govern what is displayed on public hoardings?

The news reports do not make clear, nor is it certain as to who ordered the crackdown - in both cases the police have acted but under whose instructions?

The matters themselves seem trivial and the action even laudable but an important principle: the rule of law; may have been compromised.

In societies ruled by laws, as distinct from societies ruled by men, due process is critical. Arbitrary or selective application of the law is to be abhorred. Vague or ambiguous laws whose interpretation lies within the hands of officials are to be avoided at all costs. This is to ensure that the system is clear to all and it is this clarity that gives confidence in the system.

Rather like Humpty Dumpty, once the system breaks down, all the Kings horses and all the Kings men will not be able to put it together again. As little drops of rain gather to make the mighty ocean, so every little step taken on that barren path will lead a little closer towards darkness.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

The importance of engagement and wedding rings

This year seems a bit of a bad one, my friends are falling like nine-pins. Two wedding and one engagement within the space of 45 days.

These friends, like me, wear no jewellery, except for a watch or cuff links. Therefore the business of wearing an engagement or wedding ring is a new and uncomfortable experience. I, like my friends, always thought that the ring was worn for the wedding or engagement ceremony and thereafter only on special occasions, like someone else's wedding or perhaps a grand party.

Apparently this is not the view of the fairer sex, who seem to insist on the rings being worn constantly. My father never wears his ring in normal daily life and I can't seem to think of anyone else who does either. Women wear jewellery anyway so its perfectly normal for them to wear a ring but is it expected that men should wear their rings as well?

If so, is this a new fashion or something that has been going on for a long time?

Wednesday, March 24, 2010


To have a backbone is a popular, if slightly awkward, expression these days. I personally tend to find the term spineless a better way to describe a person with no backbone, but this is mere sementics.

All politicians and bureaucrats are expected have a backbone and a good display of the said bone is on view in the refusal of Akon's visa.

Akon hails from Senegal, in West Africa and as the election in Sri Lanka draws nearer another, worthy example of backbone is to be found on the other side of the African continent, in Sudan.

Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir threatened on Monday to expel international election monitors after they said that April's vote may have to be delayed.

"We brought these organisations from outside to monitor the elections, but if they ask for them to be delayed, we will throw them out," Bashir said in comments broadcast on State television.

"We wanted them to see the free and fair elections, but if they interfere in our affairs, we will cut their fingers off, put them under our shoes, and throw them out," Bashir added.

Truly inspiring leadership. Story taken from here.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Me and my laptop

I've finally chucked out the old clunker that I was using and have replaced it with a spanking new laptop, complete with inbuilt camera and all sorts of other extras.

The only thing is, I don't like the laptop mouse so I use a normal mouse plugged into the laptop.

The laptop keyboard is even worse than the mouse (how on earth can anyone work without the numeric keypad?) and teh keys are far too fiddly anyway, so I've plugged in my normal keyboard into the laptop.

Oh, yes, I'm not too happy with the screen size so I've connected my flat screen monitor to the laptop.

I'm pretty happy with the performance in general, apart from all the little caveats above. The laptop even came with a nice new case that I've stored away on a shelf. I hope it does'nt catch too much dust because I don't use the case. I don't actually carry the laptop around much and I never take it home. After all a proper work -life balance is essential, right? And how can I possibly get this if I take work home.

Oh, the wonders of modern technology, makes life really simple does'nt it? Does anyone remeber the clunky old fixed PC's that we had to use in the old days?

Friday, March 05, 2010

An Inspired Swan Lake

Just returned from the opening night's performance, and what a show it was.

The lighting, the costumes, the movement especially by the crippled dancers, was amazing.

Don't miss it, its on two more nights, Saturday 6th March and Sunday 7th March, 7.30pm at the Lionel Wendt.

Facebook Page, but be warned, the still photographs don't do the show any justice.

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Discrimination against Non-Western laws

Today's Daily News has published a very interesting article on its op-ed page. The article, titled 'Discrimination against Non-Western laws' is taken from Pravda and deals with something that has become a hot topic in Sri Lanka these days.

The article opens with Google's complaints of censorship in China and the prosecution a woman for having illicit sex in Dubai.

According to the article, "This widespread Western neo-colonial discrimination has its inhumane consequence for the world" and provides much food for thought.

The Daily News is serialising the piece but readers impatient to wait for the next installment can access it in full on the Pravda website.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

A case for Freud

Sigmund Freud is rather discredited these days. As my brother put it, much of it was pseudo science and the little science was contributed by others.

Still, he made a lasting impact on society and we must summon his ghost to solve a mystery that plagues the country.

A problem of prominent public figures attacking themselves, sometimes even murdering themselves. It takes schizophrenia to a whole new level. The latest to fall victim was identified by Wimal W.

Hysteria and the so called split personality may be the cause, to the extent that some are split right down the middle.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Land reform

This is just a question that has been bothering me for a while.

Did the land reform policies of the 1960's and 1970's assist in uplifting the standard of living of rural farmers?

As far as the key agricultural sector-tea was concerned, it was an unmitigated disaster with the net result of overall output dropping and the creation of a powerful new competitor - Kenya. Planters who were driven out of Ceylon played a pivotal role in building Kenya's tea industry.

Quite apart from this, it also sent a very poor message to investors, but this is by the way.

How did rural farmers benefit?, assuming that is, that they were the intended beneficiary.

Does anyone have a view?

Insurance fraud

I just realised that I have forgotten to pay my life insurance. I was going through some old files on the computer when I found a spreadsheet where I had noted a previous payment and realised that it was probably overdue.

I bought this policy long years ago in my careless youth. It combined medical (including hospital charges), life and had a lump sum payment at the end. The policy was that you pay for 15 years, enjoy the full benefits of the policy for 15 years, collect a lump sum at the end of the 15 years and then enjoy a free life cover (no medical) for a further 10 years.

They sold it rather well, you need to get it when you are very young, otherwise the premium keeps increasing, once you get married you need to consider your dependents, should something happen to you, you get a lump sum at the end in any case (guaranteed!) so its really a saving plus its tax deductible too.

I bought into the story and bought the biggest policy I could afford.

After the first year, the insurance salesman was back, telling me that I needed to enhance the policy-the costs of hospitalisation had gone up, my lifestyle would surely have improved therefore I would need more money at the end of the period etc etc. This time I resisted and although I paid the premium, left the policy as it was.

The following year it was the same story all over again, more enhancements or perhaps, another new policy? I resisted again but paid the premium on the existing policy.

They tried to fish once more I believe. I think they also reminded me to pay for a couple of years after that. After that they gave up on me. No further attempts to sell me anything else and no further reminders to pay.

The last few years it has been a case of almost forgetting to pay and by some accident remembering and ringing them up, getting the details and paying.

I was cursing them again yesterday, why cant they remind people to pay up, surely its to their advantage to collect? Then I realised that its not.

You see, if you fail to pay, the policy lapses. They have guaranteed a minimum payout at the end of the 15 years (and they promised even more). Further, the longer the policy runs, the greater the likelihood that I'll fall sick some day and claim on the medical.

Therefore, the best thing the insurer can do is collect a few years of premium and then hope the policyholder forgets and quietly allow the policy to lapse.

They basically pocket the premium paid and as the policy lapses they have no liability to pay.

Therefore you have something that smells a whole lot like an advance fee fraud. Promise to deliver and collect a few small upfront payments to cover costs, the basic principle on which the good old Nigerian scam works.

They also get the salesman to collect the names of at least a couple of your friends when they sell the policy and each time they come back to sell you enhancements so they use you as a springboard for further sales.

This from subsidiary of a foreign insurer, contrast this with the behaviour of the Sri Lanka Insurance Corporation (ok I was young and a sucker for all things insurance). I had a couple of much smaller life polices with SLIC, I decided I could'nt afford to maintain all these insurance policies and did not pay the premia. For a few years (about three I think) after I last paid, they kept sending reminders.

Therefore my friends, remember the old maxim caveat emptor and that everything you hear about insurance salesmen is true, just extend it to the companies as well.