21st May, 2006  Volume 12, Issue 45

First with the news and free with its views                                     First with the news and free with its views                             First with the news and free with its views                                    


Kolombata and gamata kekiri

Poor Dayananda Dissanayake. He is a unique public servant who wants to retire but a quirk in Sri Lanka's law prevents him from doing so. And......


 More Focus

> The world: less George Bush and Tony Blair (World Affairs)

> Don't bank on bans... (Thelma)

Kolombata and
gamata kekiri

Poor Dayananda Dissanayake. He is a unique public servant who wants to retire but a quirk in Sri Lanka's law prevents him from doing so. And this happens even after he had extracted a promise from Mahinda Rajapakse at his presidential swearing in ceremony that he would be released from the post of Elections Commissioner. Despite all that Dissanayake seems to be continuing merrily.

Now, Dissanayake will be faced with a problem in logic, after elections to the Colombo Municipal Council. In effect, he will have to decide whether a pair of spectacles on an elephant cannot be considered to be a pair of spectacles or an elephant can in no way represent a pair of spectacles! At the time of writing, the elephants have begun trumpeting. It will indeed be a very tricky and difficult decision to make.

JVP slogans

Meanwhile, another interesting development is that the telling slogan put out by the JVP in those blood splattered days of 1988-'89- Kolombata Kiri Apata Kekkiri (Milk for Colombo, bitter gourd for us villages) is being reversed. Now some are alleging that it is Kolombata Kekkiri Gamata Kiri.

This may be a fallout of the first part of elections to local government bodies held last month. The JVP and the JHU were all ga-ga for the villages They plastered the walls around the country in support of the villages.

Strangely both parties lost very badly. Apparently the poor peasants have been wise enough this time not to be taken for a ride. Now with the focus on the Colombo Municipal Council, nothing can be lost by crying out aloud about the plight of Colombo's poor!

The JVP might have been inspired for their pro- rural stance by a Mao Tse Tung strategy for the Cultural Revolution: 'Surround the cities with the countryside.' Inspiration of other parties were however for pragmatic reasons. These parties such as the UNP and SLFP shed tears for the countryside because of the obvious reason that the voters in rural regions outnumber the urban populace by far.

We wonder whether the contention that Colombo and other urban centres like Kandy and Galle received more favoured treatment than the provinces after independence. Any kind of development in a city is noticed much more than what takes place elsewhere. 

Kolombata Kiri becomes credible even among Colombo's elite. But since the departure of the British, state investments on the development of Colombo have been minimal. Of course there were exceptions like one or two schools receiving the 'most favourable status' and unlimited funds unlike rural schools but the poor urban schools remain in a pathetic state as they were half a century ago.

Take the infrastructure required for a capital city-roads, transport systems, surface drainage, sewerage, public parks and other recreational facilities, welfare centres for the poor, libraries and the like. Investments made have been far short of what is required. After 58 years of independence, critical points before total chaos sets in in respective spheres are being reached.

Lack of foresight

 Inadequate funds at Town Hall to meet the civic demands may be one reason for this neglect but an even greater contributing factor is the lack of foresight and planning not only by Town Hall officials but also other government departments such as the Ministries of Planning, Environment,  Highways Police Department, etc.

Take the traffic congestion in Colombo's roads which is now reaching Bangkok standards when it was at its worst. Each day about 100 new vehicles enter the country but the volume that these highways, roads, streets and lanes can take remains static. The result is the maddening traffic jams now on not only during the day but even at night. Colombo's main traffic artery to the south, the Galle Road, has remained a six lane highway for more than the 58 post independence years.

When this writer was reporting the Colombo Municipal Council about 40 years ago, the Town Hall was planning a Marine Drive from Galle Face to Mt. Lavinia. Work on this project has commenced but is yet to be completed - the work halting a little distance away from Wellawatte and in the north at Bambalapitya. Duplication Road too was being planned out at that time but is not only yet completed. It has come to a halt at a southern point near Wellawatte. It is not only the lack of finance and bad planning that is holding back the work but political chicanery as well.

The two queens

A report in The Sunday Leader last week on Gordon Gardens located by President's House takes us to the state of public parks. I find it hard to list one new public park that has been established in 50 years The historic Gordon Gardens is being vandalised for the sake of 'development,' it was stated.

The statue of Queen Victoria which is of tremendous interest to students of history has been uprooted and dumped in Vihara Maha Devi Park (which was also called Victoria Park) by the statue of Queen Vihara Maha Devi.

Quite obviously it would be historically incongruous to have the two ladies side by side at Vihara Maha Devi Park and Gordon Gardens is the place for Queen Victoria. I am informed that the permission of the Archaeological Commissioner is required when such historic monuments are shifted or altered but pity the commissioner who takes on the President's House!

Galle Face Green, once the pride of Colombo is being vandalised in the most callous way. The once beautiful promenade by the sea is now a sight for sore eyes with a row of Coca Cola shacks making.' it another 'world market'. The stench emanating from the garbage produced by these shacks will make any  person with a sense of smell run a mile.

The statue of the first Sri Lankan Governor General, Sir Oliver Goonetilleke whom history records as having played a key role in gaining independence for this country, stood on the roundabout of the Bullers Road-Castle Street- Model Farm Road junction. Last month it was unceremoniously uprooted from its pedestal and now shifted to an insignificant spot on the pavement. Apparently the purpose is to narrow the roundabout for assumed smoother flow of traffic but could it not have been done with the statue in place? We simply do not respect our national heroes unlike those in other countries.

Demand for space

Today there is no zoning of the city into commercial, industrial and residential areas. The finest of residential houses in Cinnamon Gardens are now being converted into commercial establishments. Fabulous rents are being offered and the owners are shifting to the suburbs.

All this creates a spiralling effect on rents in the city and suburbs. Little wonder that today minor employees, particularly in the state sector are commuting daily by train from far away places such as Matara and Kandy. And what of the travel expenses for this daily commuting?

"Don't you worry, I travel without buying tickets and if I am caught - which if it happens at all will be very infrequent - I will have to pay a fine which will be far less than the cost of buying tickets -even a season ticket,"  I was told.

Kolombata Kiri is a myth. Gamata Kiri is an absolute myth. Both are having an overdose of Kekiri.


The world: less George Bush and Tony Blair

Britain's Prime Minister Tony Blair and American President George Bush who strode the globe unchallenged for the last five years - since 9/11 - are today stars falling out of the political horizon.

Last week Blair who recently won his third term as Prime Minister and vowed that he would go on for the full term of office which would end in 2010,  told a meeting of Labour Party MPs that he would stand down next year. He pledged that he would give his likely successor Gordon Brown sufficient time before he could establish himself before the next election.


Blair was experiencing the same misfortunes that befell two other successful British Prime Ministers before him in recent times - Harold Wilson and Margaret Thatcher in their third terms. Conservative Party Leader David Cameron summed it all up last week when he said Blair had lost his authority, the Labour Party was in a state of 'civil war' and the government was going out of control and divided from top to bottom.

President George Bush too can stay on until 2009 and most probably he will but indications are that he will go through very rough times until the end comes. The latest opinion polls indicate that only 31 percent of Americans like him now. Political analysts point out that only four post-World War II Presidents - Harry Truman, Jimmy Carter, Richard Nixon and President Bush's father - have hit lower approval ratings at some point of time than George Bush.

And President Bush's big problem is that he has to face mid-term elections to the US House of Representatives and Senate soon. The likelihood is that the Republicans will lose them both.

Other dismal writings on the wall by opinion pollsters are: the number of people who think he was right in invading Iraq had dropped from 47 percent in January to 39 percent today. Another poll indicates that his job rating has fallen to 50 percent or even less among gun-owners and even Evangelicals, the strongest constituencies of conservative Bush.

Bolivarian alternative

If the ratings of the American pollsters are correct - usually they are - then George Bush has led the Republican Party into the political wilderness. The latest reports say that President Bush has sounded his brother Jeb's name as a Republican nominee for presidency. Whether Americans can stomach a third Bush is indeed doubtful.

While the American President finds himself in hot water at home, in South America, which is considered the backyard of the United States, there is a virtual anti-Bush revolution brewing. Podgy and pugnacious Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has teamed up with an equally iconoclastic new Bolivian President Evo Morales and the ageing Fidel Castro to form an anti-American axis. It is reported that Morales is attempting to form what has been called a 'Bolivarian alternative' for Americas.

Cheap oil

Last week Chavez was in London being hosted by the British left. Chavez who controls Venezuela's oil reserves - the fifth largest in the world - at a press conference offered to supply cheap oil for poor Britons who face soaring energy bills.

Venezuela has two refineries in Britain and it would be used to supply oil to the most needy people in Britain, he promised, especially in winter. If prices continue to rise, people will not be able to afford them; people will die, he said.

The promise of Chavez to poor Britons was not mere empty rhetoric. Already he has worked out a scheme in place to supply cheap fuel to neighbouring countries of Bolivia and most galling of all, he is providing cheap oil to the poor communities in the United States!

In London, he called President Bush "the worst criminal in the human race" and urged Britain and Europe to prevent the escalation of tension with Iran, warning that military action would send oil prices through the roof, crippling London. Chavez is now anathema to the conservatives of the United States as well as those in Europe. He is being described as a 'dangerous populist.'

More like Chavez needed

But many in the Third World would prefer to have the likes of Chavez as leaders of oil rich countries. The poor countries of the Third World have been reeling under successive oil price hikes since OPEC introduced it first in the mid '70s. Of course there are countries like Kuwait that contribute to the Third World through funds such as the Kuwait Development Fund. But many more of the likes of Chavez are needed.

Prime Minister Blair has pledged that he will go by next year. Bush will try to last the full term of his office until 2009. Bush will find the world a very lonely place without his chief ally Blair who had been able to articulate American views much better than  Bush himself. He is also losing friends like Silvio Berlusconi of Italy. It will be hard to imagine the world without Blair and harder to think of a world without Bush and Blair.

However, there will be  millions dancing in joy at their departure.  Their replacements are not yet identified with certainty.


Don't bank on bans...

My Dear Ma-hinder

Lolling about on your mother's knee of an evening long ago dearie, no doubt you would recall her having sometimes told you off, in a well.. telling sort of way, as you childishly prattled on about this and that. She would have wiggled an index finger and slapped her jaws disapprovingly as Asilin nona, the general factotum about the house, told her how loku baba tipped his tiny friend into the village pond in a moment of pique. (Assuming you had general F and a tiny F in those days).

In a way darling this campy guy from the Americas seems to be doing the same thing. Ticking you off properly that is. What's his face... Donald Trump.. no no. Oops I could get fired for that,..Donald Duck... no that's you on a good day... Ah I remember now, Donald Camp.

Your backyard is your responsibility the chap seems to think. Security and law and order and all that stuff is your baby he says.

And now the EU is to ban the Tigers. Jolly good show what! All that's left for you chaps to do darling is lobby for the total ban of that frightful Karuna group. I mean to say there he is, the lop eared son of a sea cook, smiting a civilian here and slaying a villager there. Quite intolerable if you ask me. This chap ought to be spanked and sent to bed without his supper.

Considering darling, that the fellow and his followers seem to be worse that Attila and his band of barbarians, you should be telling your roving diplomat Mangy to get them banned all over. Considering the hot midday sun bearing down on the poor souls in upper regions of ole Paradise all they are now is just tanned all over.

But Thellie is sorry to say, she sees no sign of any forced dieting going on. In fact m'dear the bloke is getting quite tubby.  Anyway talking of bans darling and since you chaps are obsessed with the word could you may be get some bally bans going on some other trifling matters that have been needling Thellie these days.

You could probably ban temporary residents of publicly owned historical residences from indiscriminately tearing down historical monuments to satisfy the movement of their stars.

I may as well tell you darling that the moment Thellie beheld the grand old dame lying moodily on the front lawn of the Vihara Maha Devi Park from my lips emanated a cry like that of some African native in skimpy loin cloth wandering on the banks of the mbonga mbonga river who suddenly finds his posterior being bitten in half by a crocodile.

Thellie, being a remnant of the Raj, has quite a bucketful of the ole colonial feeling sloshing silently about inside her and felt rather bruised by it all. But unlike you and many of the chaps swarming about you dearie, Thellie having spent a good deal of time amongst books is rather sensitive to these matters.

But I digress. Now what were we talking about. Oh yes, this drive to ban darling. You might consider banning that gumboil Wee Wee from opening his mouth under any circs. And if you would, you might ask your bitter half to tone down a tad on the war paint. I mean to say one can't wear sun specs all the time.

Anyway let's get back to Donald Camp and his views on the Karuna camp. You see darling it's as I say, a matter of definition. If you want to be a legitimate state you must act like one. No going about with the jawbone of an ass smiting some on the hip and some on the thigh. Neither can you be seen using chaps to do your dirty work for you. This type of thing has never paid off darling. And ole Donald will be the first to tell you this.

Look what happened with that bin Laden bloke and that chappie Saddam. These chaps always bite the hand that feeds them. If I were you I'd nip it in the bud like a bad habit.

But I am not you and you are not me thank heaven. For if I were you or you were me, we wouldn't be plunged into all this chaos, Thellie being an organised sort of wench at the worst of times. Yes Sirree Bob, you don't find me getting my knickers in a twist so easily.

A modicum of caution dearie while you go about getting these Cyanide types banned. Remember that they operate best in Paradise itself. I don't know if you've ever seen an airdale skew around and snap at a spaniel who has been edging in on her midday slop dear, but that is exactly how these Cyanide pills are bound to react. Rather miffed they'd be I could say at a wager.

You see darling if they want to get a suicide bomber pregnant they don't need to go to Europe for that. Ask Wee Wee he'll tell you all about it. If they want to pretend to be pregnant they don't need to import a cushion from Canada either.

As the Injuns advised Mangy just the other day dear focus on a solution within Paradise rather than trying to get chaps banned. These bans are not going to work darling and being a son of the soil you would know. You know what the northerners say about bans eh? Neva gilunath ban choon

Tara for now.  


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