Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Beautifying the capital: is it for the benefit of our lenders as well?

The streets, pavements and parks of the capital are being repaired and refurbished. Colourful stones line the pavements, walls around old buildings have been broken down and the roads have been resurfaced.

It must be said that much of the work is good. Some trees were felled unnecessarily and the size of some of the new pavements is a problem-roads that are already narrow, Jawatte Road or Darley Road for example, have lost almost a whole lane to the expanded pavement. Some of the islands and roundabouts such as the one at the end of Jawatte Road (where it meets Thimbirigasyaya Road) are far too large.

The bigger quibble is what this is costing the taxpayer and the question as to whether the money could have been better spent elsewhere. As we have absolutely no idea of this it is impossible to comment. Let us just hope that we are not walking on streets paved with gold, as in the folk tale of Dick Whittington.

There is however another crucial benefit that this exercise brings to the rulers - it helps sustain a favourable impression of the country to foreign bankers and portfolio investors. The country may curse Western Governments but they adore Western Bankers.

This particular truth dawned on me when chatting to one such an eminent individual, a charming aristocratic old Englishman with many years of experience in India. He was a director of a fund that held several investments in the country, made over a quarter of a century. While he did express deep concern at the political developments, which he said they were watching closely (this was before the recent outburst of Islamophobia), he also said that in twenty odd years of visiting the country he had never seen the airport looking better, the city looking better or heard of so many tourists visiting the country.

Presumably he attributed this to good economic management. That the Government is a master in the art of propaganda is well known locally. Rosy statistics are published periodically that seem to show the country to be in rude economic health although this is not reflected in the living standards of most people. Many analysts have pointed out the flaws in the statistics but this has been largely an academic debate that has not been carried to the wider public. In the absence of other statistics, everybody relies on what the Government produces. Although a footnote or a qualifier may be attached at the end this is either ignored or missed out.

When the unsuspecting visitor arrives in the country and witnesses the changing landscape they are suitably impressed and the Government statistics become more tangible, more believable.

To the portfolio investor or banker who spends a few days  in the city and travels around to a few luxury hotels it appears that development is happening apace.. What they do not realise is that this is facade, almost a Potemkin village that belies a grimmer reality.

A real investor, who tries to set up factory or a business is brought to earth with a bump; confusion sets in with the first outstretched greasy palm that greets any request for an official document or form. The confusion quickly turns to dismay and horror as he is sent from pillar to post, wading through a thicket of contradictory, ever changing and confusing mass of regulations. Eventually he despairs and gives up.

This is why foreign direct investment (FDI) inflows are so low. Direct investment in businesses is what creates the jobs that are necessary to lift people out of poverty. The FDI figures published by the Government are inflated by the telecom sector which is littering the countryside with unnecessary towers (due to lack of a transparent sharing regime) and by the Chinese projects, neither of which does much in the way of job creation.Strip these out and there is not a lot left. 

The banker buying Governments bonds or shares on the exchange sees none of this; the path of the portfolio investors is smooth (especially so when compared to some other emerging markets), with sensible electronic systems in place. The returns are good, especially compared to the abysmal rates in Europe and the US, the system is smooth and the facade impressive.

The cycle of borrowing for consumption cannot last forever and sooner or later the bubble will burst and many will eventually discover, as Dick Whittington did, that the streets of Colombo are not paved with gold.


Fitch has highlighted some of the risks to the economy in its latest rating report on the country.

"Sri Lanka’s external debt refinancing schedule, however, remains quite heavy as an average of USD1.9bn per annum in sovereign debt is projected to mature from 2013 to 2015 (versus USD1.3bn in 2012). This may not only limit Sri Lanka’s ability to rebuild foreign exchange reserves to a much higher level, but it also means that the country’s external finances will remain vulnerable to any spike in global risk aversion,"

It also warns that "the authorities remain vigilant and maintain appropriate policy settings to ensure overheating risks and renewed strains on the balance of payments do not re-emerge. Sri Lanka has continued to make limited progress on fiscal consolidation as the budget deficit fell to 6.4% of GDP in 2012 (versus 6.9% in 2011). This was, however, partially achieved through an accumulation of arrears. Sri Lanka’s general government debt-to-GDP ratio remained elevated at 79.1% in 2012, which was significantly higher than the ‘BB’ peer rating group median of 32.6%. Low fiscal revenues weigh on the credit profile. The revenue take of 13.9% of GDP in 2012 was well below the ‘BB’ range median of 26.6% and was down from 16.7% in 2008."

The Central bank is trying to force down interest rates in a bid to stimulate the economy. This may lead to the overheating that the ratings agency warns against.



Monday, April 22, 2013

Burma: state complicity in attacks on Muslim minority

The parallels between Sri Lanka and Burma mean that it is worth monitoring the developments there closely, to see what it leads to. The latest HRW report on the violence lays the blame squarely on the state. The violence was precluded by an organised campaign of hate:
"For months, local Arakanese political party officials and senior Buddhist monks publicly vilified the Rohingya population and described them as a threat to Arakan State."...."In many instances, calls by monks and the RNDP [Rakhine Nationalities Development Party- a nationalist party in Burma], for the ouster of Rohingya and Kaman Muslim communities were accompanied by instructions to the Buddhist population to socially and economically isolate them."
A great deal of local organizing preceded and supported October’s violence. Arakanese political parties, monks’ associations, and community groups issued numerous anti-Rohingya pamphlets and public statements. Most of the public statements and pamphlets explicitly or implicitly deny the existence of the Rohingya ethnicity, demonize them, and call for their removal from the country,..... The statements frequently were released in connection with organized meetings and in full view of local, state, and national authorities who raised no concerns.
 Could incidents such as this, or this, be the start of more serious action in Sri Lanka?

HRW concludes that:
"Burmese state involvement in the crimes appears to have been both direct and indirect. While much of the violence appears to have been carried out by mobs with weapons, various branches of the state security forces stood by and did nothing to provide security for attacked Muslims and at times participated directly in the atrocities – this includes the local police, Lon Thein riot police, the inter-agency border control force called Nasaka, and the army and navy. Human Rights Watch found no indications that the Burmese government has seriously investigated or taken legal action against those responsible for planning, organizing, or participating in the violence either in June or October. This absence of accountability lends credence to allegations that this was a government-supported campaign of ethnic cleansing in which crimes against humanity were committed. Security forces have actively impeded accountability and justice by overseeing or ordering the digging of mass graves, or by digging mass graves themselves, in some cases after killings involving state security forces."
The outcome was as dreadful, as it was predictable. We in Sri Lanka know better, or should know better. Do we?

Thursday, April 18, 2013

969, Burma's neo-Nazi Buddhist movement: a splitting image of the Bodu Bala Sena (BBS) ?

“If you buy from Muslim shops, your money doesn’t just stop there,” “It will eventually go towards destroying your race and religion.”

Muslim merchants receive cash injections from Middle East oil state brethren and use these funds to undercut Buddhist rivals.

This Muslim alliance could outbreed Buddhists, steal away Buddhist women, overwhelm political offices and prohibit Buddhist ceremonies altogether. “We Buddhists allow them to freely practice their faith,”  “But once these evil Muslims have control, they will not let us practice our religion. We must be careful. These Muslims really hate us.

Fliers urge locals to bar Muslims from renting homes and farmlands and ominously warn Buddhists acting as Muslim families’ middlemen.

These statements come not from the Bodu Bala Sena but from 969, a movement in Burma (Myanmar) that has emerged with the avowed aim of defending Buddhist faith, Burmese race and the Buddhist nation from Burmese Muslims.

The similarities between the BBS and 969 are striking, but the links may go deeper than the message.  Dr. Maung Zarni, an outspoken Burmese activist academic has studied 969 in depth and what he reveals may throw some light on the situation here.

The success of 969 rests on a clear message of 'racial and religious purity', a false sense of Buddhist victimhood and cultural and economic nationalism -- not dissimilar to Germany's Nazism in the 1930s.They:

 effectively scapegoat the country's Muslims for the general economic hardships and cultural decay in society, portraying the Burmese as victims at the hands of organised Muslim commercial leeches and parasites; second, 969 preys on the historical and popular anti-Muslim racism among the majority Buddhists; and, last but not least, virtually all state institutions at all levels, including the police, intelligence, the army, local civil administration and even fire departments, under President Thein Sein's management have evidently offered this Buddhist neo-Nazi movement with both impunity and passive cooperation.  
As this report points out, self-victimisation seems to be a key. The majority must be made to feel threatened by an insignificant minority if the are to be made to react.

The 969's consistent theme is that it is Muslims who are doing all the harm to communities and the country. Similarly, the BBS claims that the whole halal issue in Sri Lanka was entirely the fault of the Muslims, they created a problem with this surreptitious system of labelling that was an affront to Buddhists. The calls for removal of mosques, shrines, the abaya/hijab and all the rest are also due to wrongs by the Muslims.

That they supposedly have constitutionally guaranteed rights to freedom of worship, association and speech are forgotten.   

The theme resonates but a neo-Nazi movement cannot work without popular support. In Burma the message is spread by through official media outlets (such as the Ministry of Defence-run Myawaddy News and President Office's spokesmen), books, pamphlets, DVD's and CD's. In Sri Lanka it is through social media, email, the internet, public meetings, door-to-door campaigns and mainstream media.

Despite a freer media (at least in comparison to Burma), the BBS generally manages to get favourable coverage. The state-controlled media gives the movement's ideology a good airing while more independent media tend to try to give it a positive slant where possible, while downplaying any negative news. There is very little by way of a counter-message in mainstream media, the only real opposing arguments are on the web.

The support of the state is also crucial. In Burma:
969 appears to work in close collaboration with Burma's security forces, the new Burmese media and the People's Relations and Psychological Warfare Division of the Ko Ministry of Defense......
...President Thein Sein's reformist government at best tolerates its categorically anti-Islam hate speeches and activities and at worst backs, if tacitly, the group and its incitement of violence against the country's Muslims.
As in Sri lanka,
his administration has not taken a single action against anyone who openly incites anti-Muslim hatred or ethnic hatred towards the Rohingya.  Nor has Thein Sein's government detained or event deterred a single Buddhist preacher of hate from any acts of spreading anti-Muslim hatred in society and inciting blatant calls for eliminating Muslims and their influence in Burmese society 'phase by phase'. 

But, why would the state do such a thing ? This is what liberals find almost incomprehensible. Apart form being downright evil it is also absolutely stupid . To quote Dr Zarni:
What does the Burmese government have to gain from this violence?

There are three goals, as far as I can tell. One is, the military leadership has swapped their generals’ uniforms for civilian clothing, but at heart, they still remain irredeemably authoritarian and dictatorial. They are security obsessed and some of them feel the reforms that are unfolding in the country are going too far. So they want to slow it down and roll back the reform process. In order to do that, they must create social instability and use volatile situations as an excuse to say, “The people can’t handle freedom of speech, freedom of movement, and freedom of organization. Therefore, we need to have a strong handle on the situation to make sure people stay in line and don’t kill each other.”

Secondly, when all these waves of violence against Rohingya Muslims started last year, the military and the proxy political party of the military was in a worrisome situation because it lost by a landslide in the elections. So within two months of their defeat, they decided to create this very powerful anti-Muslim communal sentiment around the country. And now, [activist and political leader An San] Suu Kyi is in a difficult situation because she can only speak the liberal language of human rights and democracy, which is not as powerful as the ideology that the military and these neo-Nazi monks have whipped up. When it comes to fighting this kind of abnormal religious movement, the language of human rights is never enough.

Thirdly, I think the military is not leaving anything to chance. They have another round of elections in 2015, and they want to make sure that they have a new proxy political movement that they can use to square off Suu Kyi’s party. As a result, the 969 neo-Nazi movement is the most popular movement in the country.
As Burma's junta reluctantly move towards elections, the 969 movement seems to be a campaign to ensure that they win. With elections looming in Sri Lanka and the regime losing some of its popularity could the same motive be behind the BBS? It seems to be the only explanation that makes sense. Given the cosy relationship between the two could the junta have provided some helpful advice to their counterparts across the pond?
Not surprisingly, the justification for the two movements is similar.

To its campaigners, 969 is about protecting race and religion by peaceful means. In practice, it is explicitly an anti-Muslim campaign, not about preaching people the Buddha-nature of all beings, as taught and practiced by Lord Buddha himself. In many townships across Burma, including capital regions, there are local 969 committees that organize events and religious sermons and distribute anti-Muslim materials such as CDs, books and leaflets.
"I’m not discriminating against race or religion. I’m not a racist. But I have the right to love my race!”

Whenever criticism builds, the movement will issue contradictory statements, which serve to dilute the message from the opposition and to deflect from the charge of racism.
In his Burmese language Facebook pages, Wirathu has been posting rather irreconcilable messages; in the morning he would post messages of religious tolerance and compassion and in the afternoon his message would be provocatively anti-Muslim, crying foul of 'forced conversion of Burmese women who marry into Muslim families' or change their Burmese names to Muslim and Indian names.
Like the 969, the worst of BBS's messages are not posted in English which limits their scrutiny by the world at large.

Dr Zarni concludes that
969 movement cannot be understood  outside the interface between Thein Sein's Government and the racist society at large, nor can be explained without examining the respective roles of a) the State which in effect offers Burma's neo-Nazi Buddhists impunity, b) President Thein Sein's inactions, and c) the Burmese opposition leadership's moral bankruptcy.
The 969 movement has resulted in violence across Burma, the most serious taking place a few weeks ago. Unless something is done now, Sri Lanka will end up following in Burma's footsteps.

Sources: Global Post, irrawady.org, maungzarni.com

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Changing lifestyles - the evolution of bottled water in Sri Lanka

Sbarrkum had written something on bottled water and reading it set off a train of thought.

There was a time, when we were very small, when the standard advice given was that water should always be boiled. Tourists and rare visitors from overseas were repeatedly cautioned as to the dangers of unboiled water.

When traveling, the only safe thing to drink (or so we were told) were the bottled soft drinks; Elephant House or the odd Pure Beverages bottle.Vendors on trains would cry "Barrley Barrrley", a short form for the popular Orange Barley and which, in practice meant any carbonated soft drink. In the worst of situations, tea could be considered an option; although it usually came out of grimy kettles or a metal cup, at least the water should have been boiled.

Fruit juice was unknown, but king coconut could sometimes be found. People did not travel widely so there was no market catering for travelers as such, one had to try ones luck at the small shops (called 'boutiques') that served the people of the area.

Wayside taps were a plenty, but were supposed to be only for washing or topping up the radiator of a car, which tended to boil on long trips.

If someone said that we had to pay for water we would have thought them quite mad. Water was always free. Now bottled water, even in small homes is common. I think, on a per litre basis, bottled water almost as expensive as petrol.

How times have changed.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Is Sri Lanka heading for another round of ethnic violence?

There is a strong undercurrent of anti-Muslim sentiment that has come to the surface of late. It is primarily anti-Muslim, but secondarily anti-minority.  Can this lead to another round of violence?

To reduce the factors to an equation; the critical ones are:

a) The spread of rumours, falsities and  horror stories that play on the fears of the majority. The Muslim population has become a lot more visible than in the past. The difference in dress and manner which, left alone, might have remained a matter of the passing snide remark or relatively harmless ridicule have been transformed into a bridgehead for venomous propaganda.   

Stories that the Muslim population is growing too fast, that they will take over. That this is a calculated strategy, aided by the distribution of sweets, sanitary napkins that cause infertility. In collusion with NGO's, that favourite bogeyman, the propagation of permanent family planning measures that is reducing the Sinhalese population. That Muslims are turning their workplaces in harems, luring innocent Sinhala maidens and turning them into concubines, that the boys in employment are being converted to Islam and other falsehoods.

b) The fact these rumours are not being effectively countered in the media. Much of the media seems largely in favour of the campaign with the exception of a few isolated voices. Lenin said that a lie, if repeated often enough, becomes the truth and I see this taking place today. (In logic this is referred to as proof by assertion)

People who never had a second thought about these manifestly absurd allegation are taking these seriously. The few voices speaking out against the campaign are demonised as "foreign funded", "NGO types", "biased foreign media" or sneered at as being a part of the "English speaking elite", whose views do not matter.

The demonisation of the NGO's and the elite is itself the result a of a very effective campaign of repeated assertion that took place post 2005 and is still on-going. The only critical voices are thus not taken seriously or are viewed as proof of the vast conspiracy that is underway.

c)  The complicity of the law-enforcement agencies in attacks on minorities. No action is ever taken, no punishment ever meted out to the culprits of violence. The message eventually sinks in that it is possible to get away with random acts of violence; that such acts may indeed be appropriate behaviour, in the face of threats.    

These factors are the dry tinder for a conflagration. All actions seemed designed to add further fuel, except for some efforts by the already discredited actors. Thus the stage is set for another eruption.

As the message being preached gathers momentum a seemingly minor incident, especially one where a Muslim reacts will provide the necessary spark. An argument in a shop degenerates to name calling and fisticuffs. Passers by of both communities enter the fray. Rumours spread that Muslims are attacking Singhalese and gang sets out to protect the Singhalese. While the law enforcement agencies stand by the gang turns into a mob and the violence spirals out of control.

Is this too far fetched? Well exactly this happened a month a ago in Burma. The foundation for this was laid by an extensive campaign by a movement called 969, which mirrors the actions of the BBS.

The 969 movement is thought to have been set up by the Junta in Burma, possibly to help it win an election. Given the extensive cooperation between Burma and Sri Lanka of late ( see links here, here and here) there must have been much cross-fertilisation of ideas. 

Unless there is a concerted effort to pull back from the brink events will follow the same course as in Burma, as indeed they did in Sri Lanka; in 1958, 1983 and a few other times, plus ├ža change.

Tuesday, April 09, 2013

To the @#%Q^!! morons who run small hotels and guest houses

Now look, you are supposed to be trying to sell your stupid guest house/bungalow/hotel, right?

Why can't you have a website with your contact numbers? Surely you know that there are no telephone directories around now, how are people to know how to contact you? If you don't want to spend money, have a blog site, its free.

Ok, you are listed on a booking site, but why not take what traffic you can direct? Especially when the damn booking site does not answer the phone either?

Its very frustrating, one has to trawl the web looking for numbers, hoping that some past visitor put the number somewhere on the web. With older places there is a fair chance of picking up a number, with new ones its hopeless.

A few places do have websites with phone numbers. On more than one occasion I have found the number is listed incorrectly.

Having tracked down the number with difficulty, when calling I tell them that the number is wrong. The standard response I get is: oh we only changed the number a month/couple of months ago so the website is not updated.....or a variant: we don't update the website very often.

Another friend related a story where he had bumped into the owner of a place he had tried to contact unsuccessfully. The phone was not working. When he mentioned this the owner said "oh I don't use that number anymore. Lots of people kept calling and it was such a hassle I switched it off"!!! Can you beat that for customer service? 

As far as the upcoming weekend is concerned I gave up trying after a few desultory efforts. There is hardly any time anyway so I've decided to visit friend's estate for a night, enjoy some traditional cooking and spend the rest of the time at home.


Monday, April 08, 2013

The Fashion Bug incident: postlude to the amicable settlement

The attack on Fashion Bug was settled amicably, out of court. Can we now consider the case to be closed and return to our normal lives?

Not quite, because of some of the troubling questions that, as far as we know, have not yet been resolved.

The Bodu Bala Sena (BBS) has sworn to protect the Dhamma and the nation; worthy goals indeed. They condemned the attack on Fashion Bug and called for culprits to be punished. While the legal process has ended, there is no doubt that the BBS will be inquiring into the conduct of the monks who have brought disgrace to the Dhamma; and by association, disrepute to the BBS.

They will also be devising some suitable punishment for the monks. More than any tattoo sported by a tourist or Buddha statues placed in hotels, this incident has caused great harm to Buddhism. Tolerance is central to the Guatama's teachings, these willful acts strike at the very heart of Buddhism, so the punishment meted must be equally strong.

Since this unfortunate incident took place in the full glare of the media, purely from the point of view of repairing their reputation the BBS should publicise the steps taken to correct the errant monks.

Perhaps they have already tendered their apologies to Fashion Bug, as part of the settlement; perhaps they should also do so publicly. Perhaps they should be assigned to meditate in the forest for some months to reflect on their wrongs. Perhaps they should assist in the cleaning and repair of damaged shop. Perhaps they should be banished from the clergy.

The punishments are entirely up to the BBS and the Mahanayake's to decide; we have full confidence that action is already underway, but it should be made public, in the interest of all concerned.


Saturday, April 06, 2013

English: grammar, logic and the kaduwa (sword)

Grammar is related to logic: it is about expressing ideas coherently. Words do not mean much unless someone can string them together in a coherent form to express an idea. Logic is about forming valid arguments, an understanding of the subject enables clarity in thought.

A lack of thought and an abundance of irrationality is one of the problems that is plaguing Sri Lankan society today, nothing illustrates this better than this article.

There are few comments claiming that the fascination with proper English betrays some colonial or western mindset, the very mindset that is preventing the masses from progressing. It is a popular argument that naturally appeals to Id rather than Ego.

The argument however is false, the article on the airport is so garbled as to be completely meaningless.  It is not a question of a few spelling mistakes or a few errors in grammar or a lack of style. If there was some real substance these could be overlooked. Ploughing through Nandasena Ratnapala's Beggar in Sri Lanka is undoubtedly painful but he does have an interesting methodology and his findings are revealing.

The airport article however would make little sense, I suspect, in any language. It says a lot about the state of the nation, not to mention the airport itself.        

Friday, April 05, 2013

Fighting the growing tide of racism

Racism, which breeds on ignorance and fear, seems to be spreading with a rapidity that is leaving ordinary citizens bewildered and overwhelmed.

In incident after incident, the authorities stand idle, while the hatred breeds further hatred. The poison is everywhere and seems to be rising towards a horrible crescendo. Fighting it seems an almost impossible task, the hydra keeps growing new heads.

If the state is idle, action needs to be taken at the community level, the Norwegian campaign to fight racism, with a cup of tea offers some good ideas. (watch the video clip here)

The root cause of racism is a lack of understanding; the inability to see the 'Other' as an ordinary human. The 'Other' looks funny, acts funny and talks funny. When people spread false or exaggerated stories the word 'dangerous' is imprinted in peoples minds, substituting for 'funny'. These odd fellows are no longer funny, they become threatening, intimidating, dangerous people. 

The solution is to promote informal dialogue; talking leads to understanding, with understanding, hatred begins to seem absurd. Here, we can try to start this on a community level; the approaching holiday season affords a good opportunity.

Small community gatherings, where people can talk and perhaps understand that they are not so different from one another would be worth trying. This Avurudu season, lets invite a few neighbours from other communities over for tea.

Tuesday, April 02, 2013

Attack on Fashion Bug: what does the reaction tell us?

-With three updates to the original post, on the latest developments-

The attack on the Fashion Bug shop should, in any civilised society have drawn condemnation from all quarters and, at a minimum, promises of an investigation from the authorities.

In Sri Lanka, the reaction was strangely muted. No minister, apart from a couple of Muslim MP's, of the hundred plus cabinet issued a statement. With so many ministries around surely somebody must be responsible for law and order, religious discrimination or even trade and investment; all areas that will be affected? Judging by the stony silence, apparently nobody was responsible. Perhaps they were simply not interested.

There was a vague statement issued by the Government Information Department talking of local and international conspiracies "to ignite ethnic clashes and religious disputes to destroy the prevailing atmosphere of freedom in Sri Lanka."  That has certainly happened, but what are the authorities doing about it?

The Sunday Times political column has more details of the tussle within the Government with Rauf Hakeem wanting to call an emergency cabinet meeting but the president refusing to do so, promising instead to call a meeting of the Government Parliamentary Group. A statement was finally issued by the SLFP. Why should the party issue the statement, not the Government? Perhaps the Government does not want to distance itself from the BBS?

The complete apathy and relative inaction seems to point to either complicity or approval. Probably secure in the knowledge that nothing will happen, the BBS has called for the culprits to be brought to book. The BBS might need to ring up the minister in charge, whoever it may be and remind him of his duties, since they all seem to be fast asleep. (Update: Groundviews has an excellent piece on this. Update 2: In a more positive development, three monks involved in the attack have surrendered. Whether it was motivated by the flurry of online activity, external pressure or good sense we do not know as yet, but this is the best news so far. If they are prosecuted it will send a firm signal that the Government is distancing themselves from the movement).

As DBS Jeyaraj points out, there seems to be concerted effort to cover up the attack.

There has however been considerable effort spent to take the incident off the news. Most newspapers carry reports only on the inner pages and seem to have subscribed to the official line that this was some minor personal dispute that blew up a little bit. DBS Jeyaraj disagrees with the received wisdom.

As far as the propaganda angle was concerned the Government seems to be acted, judging by the short lived blocks on some internet news sites and the success in kicking the story to the back pages.

Although they don't say so, the Rulers realise that this is negative publicity. Not that this seems to invoke any interest in solving the problem, the solution is to "manage" the news.

Naturally we do not want foreign lenders, on whom we are dependent or the deal makers to be put off? Those guys are valuable, they have lots of cash, no?   We worship any hand with sufficient cash, so no point putting them off is there? Especially over such an insignificant thing? Citizens be damned, only the money matters.

Update 3: It has been announced that the matter was amicably settled by the parties concerned. Given the pattern of past activity it does not take a great leap in imagination to suppose that pressure was brought to bear, to force the "amicable" settlement, the objective being to sweep the whole sordid affair under the carpet. For the umpteenth time, the perpetrators of another crime are allowed to walk away while the victims are left to carry on, as best they can. As if to underline this, another man walked free yesterday

In the meantime deep rifts have emerged in society. Last week's Sunday Observer carried an advertisement for the sale of a house. The advertisement specified that the buyers should only be Sinhala Buddhists. 

I wonder how much more time and space for reconciliation the Government will ask for at the next UNHCR meeting?

-Updated: New GV link on BBS
-Update 2 : Monks surrender to police
-Update 3: Parties come to an amicable settlement.