BMICH a has-been
I was one of the many who saw the foundations
being laid to the BMICH. And remember quite fondly, having worked one day,
mixing cement along with my colleagues at the government department where I
worked then. It was a great pride to see Sri Lanka getting a conference hall of
I have attended several events at the BMICH and was aghast at the rundown
condition of this once beautiful hall. The BMICH is in a distressing condition.
There is nothing international about it: the carpets rundown and torn, the main
‘red’ carpet is wretched and disfigured, the staircase carpets are so dirty that
they are black, the committee rooms lack maintenance and are shabby; public
address systems don’t function properly. Massive loudspeaker monstrosities hired
from contractors, have to be plunked on the stage, obstructing the stairways to
the stage. This creates a safety nightmare as well adding to another safety trap
of having only one main gate open: all traffic in and out has to pass through
one narrow lane and gate. This is mockery of the original design; intended for
one gate ‘in’ and one gate ‘out’, besides being a safety risk.
Above all, the air-conditioning is a disgrace. The faint ‘cooling’ at the
beginning of an event, gives way, as the hall gets filled. Within a short while,
the hall and the committee rooms become a furnace, with temperatures rising to
27C-32C. The biggest indictment of the system was there for the whole country to
see, when the last Sarasaviya film awards were telecast: the chief guest
speaking on that occasion could be seen, in-close-up, dripping with pespiration.
What was not shown was that almost everyone in the auditorium was in a similar
predicament. The outside was cooler than the inside!
When the air-conditioning is in such a parlous state, there is massive
investment made on additional buildings dotting the site and on a 1000 KW
standby generator. There have been funds for expansion but, not for proper
maintenance of the main property, in the condition that befits it
It is our obligation to cherish and maintain the generous gift of the Chinese
people, without disfiguring the good name of the great country, which gave us
that gift. The current state of the BMICH, not only dishonors a gift given by
the generous people but also, the name of the man after whom it is named, Are we
in such a pathetic state, that we cannot sustain what is given? Who is running
the BMICH? Or, are they ruining it, like most things given to us, ‘running’ it
to the ground?
‘Be Lankan, buy Lankan’
Let us all welcome the campaign launched by the
Maubima Lanka Foundation, whose good cause is to promote goods and services of
Sri Lankan origin.
Sri Lanka, with its tropical climate and abundant natural resources, has all
that is needed to make it a prosperous country. Legend has it that our
forefathers even exported rice. The main reason for our country to come under
foreign subjugation, was the abundance of these resources. Unfortunately,
successive governments since independence, instead of making our needs
ourselves, with the resources available within the country, encouraged imports
and discouraged local products. Even agricultural products grown abundantly, are
imported. It is no secret that one reason for the exacerbation of the ethnic
conflict was the loss of market for the Jaffna farmers. This shortsighted and
wrong policy of the Government then and now, has led the country to economic
collapse and mounting foreign debts.
Therefore, it is heartening to see the Private Sector come forward to do
something meaningful for the country.
The slogan ‘Be Lankan, Buy Lankan’, not only induces one to prefer Sri Lankan
products but also, inculcates in one, a sense of patriotism, honesty, dignity of
labour and hard work., all the ingredients to make a country prosperous.
U. M. G. Goonetilleke Mattegoda
Help keep CoL down
We are thankful to our Minister - Bandula
Gunawardena, for taking constructive steps to bring down the prices of essential
goods. He has granted duty concessions in the past, and are pleased to observe
that VAT on the three items - chick pea, green gram and canned fish have been
reduced from 15% to 5%. I appeal to importers/distributors to cooperate with our
Minister in maintaining prices at an affordable level.
Importers should note that they have to comply with the VAT requirement. Budget
Speech 2006, clearly stated that in respect of items liable for VAT at 5%, it
was to be paid once and for all at the Customs. There is no subsequent VAT
liability on sales and no VAT input credit is permitted. Therefore, importers
should adopt the following procedure:
(a) Include the VAT payable at Customs, in the cost of the products;
(b) Do not charge VAT on their sales;
(c) Raise VAT Exempt/Excluded Invoices to all customers whether they are VAT
registered or not. (no VAT breakup to be shown on invoice, even on request);
(d) When filling VAT Returns, not to insert this turnover under the column
allocated for 5%, because there is no output VAT liability.
(e) Include VAT Input payment under Disallowable Input Tax;
(f) Show this VAT turnover, together with exempt I excluded turnover;
I suggest that Importers obtain clarifications from the Dept. of Inland Revenue
and adhere to this requirement accordingly.
The Animal Welfare Bill
Where is the Animal Welfare Bill that the Law
Commission presented to the President, for passage through Parliament? Everybody
was agog with the news, that after almost a century of inaction, the issue was
at last being addressed!
The Law Commission was pressurized to put out the report fast, after which,
there was a spate of meetings and much talk. And then - as so often happens here
We hear that it has finally ended on the lap of the Ministry of Health, although
the connection is not at all clear. Certainly, the animal world in this
“Buddhist” land (which awakens every dawn to the classic call of the Buddha,
“May all living beings be happy!”) is beset with physical and psychological
traumas, resulting from the unbelievably cruel treatment by humans who, in turn,
are affected by their own abuse, not to mention the fallout on the embittered
environment, containing both. A sick spectacle indeed! But, were we not told
some years ago, that it was this same Ministry that promised to implement the
Bibile proposals, that are nowhere still in sight? And if projects are handled
on a first-come-first-served basis, when will our animal proposals; reposing at
the bottom of that ponderous In-Tray, ever see the light of day?
Surely, it would have been more sensible to entrust it to the “new” Ministry of
Environment, which has been showing some surprising ripples of activity or, at
least, rumblings! Is it not obvious, that all our animal welfare and Buddhist
societies should unite to take a stand and demand immediate action? With the
proviso that any shortcomings in the report should be rectified when the need
arises? At least, let it be passed! Does anybody know what we are waiting for?
Skyrocketing CoL and pensioners’ plight
Minister Karu Jayasuriya has a reputation for
being magnanimous when it comes to redressing grievances of the aggrieved. The
pensioners’ recent plea to him, to have the monthly pension slip restored, has
Nevertheless, appeals made to him through the “Letters to the Editor” column of
your esteemed journal, to grant relief to the pensioners, who retired prior to
January 01, 1997, by revising their pension, based on salary scales of public
servants in force, at least as at 01.01.2004, have, unfortunately, gone
unnoticed or, unheeded.
The election pledges of the UNP (of which he claims he is still a member) should
be fresh in his memory. Updating the pensions of retired public servants, even
beyond the year 2004, with every salary revision of public servants, is one such
As the then deputy leader of the party, he would have fully endorsed this stand
taken by the authors of the election manifesto of the Presidential candidate of
There is no reason why he should think differently now. The salaries of public
servants have since been increased substantially in 2006.
Incidentally, parliamentarians have also had their salaries almost doubled
recently. No one should grudge it either.
The skyrocketing CoL has dealt a severe blow to the pensioners in particular,
among others. Prices of all essential commodities have shot up in geometric
progression, with the dwindling value of the rupee as against the US$, Euro etc.
Price of milk food has gone up too. Increase in bus fares is in the offing.
Electricity, water and telephone bills have almost doubled. Good slice of the
pension has to be set apart for meeting the ever rising drugs and medical bills.
It is high time the Minister of Public Administration gave serious thought to
increasing the pensions of retired public servants struggling to make ends meet.
The good doer will be rewarded in this very life, “Ditthadhamma Vedaniya Kamma”
principle coming into operation. Minister Jayasooriya, a Buddhist leader knows
Will Iran trump the US?
Once again the US, with nine ships, including
two aircraft carriers and 17,000 troops in the Persian Gulf, conducted military
exercises with the object of threatening Iran to give up its nuclear programme.
On May 11, US Vice President Dick Cheyney, standing on board the nuclear powered
aircraft carrier USS John Stennis, threatened that the US, together with her
allies , would not permit Iran to block the Hormuz straits, in the event of war.
Following Cheney’s threats, President Ahamadinejad, on May 13, on a visit to the
UAE, said that Iran would retaliate with ferocious severity to any possible
attack by the US on her nuclear facilities. Every time the US uses threatening
language against Iran, Iran is quick to threaten the US with retaliation. Iran
is confident that her missiles will cause enough and more damage to the US.
During his visit to the UAE, President Ahmadinejad also called for an end to the
presence of US troops in the Persian Gulf, and for countries in the Persian Gulf
to break their alliances with the US and join Iran in a security arrangement.
President Ahmadinejad, on a previous occasion, remarked that he was not worried
by the presence of US warships in the Persian Gulf, as it would be easy to
target them, if they were there. In addition, Iran could block the Hormuz
Straits and create havoc for US troops in Iraq. All this will cause the price of
oil to skyrocket and affect the global economy. The US is well aware of this
scenario. That is why they have, for a long time, limited themselves to verbal
threats only. Iran too is aware of the limits of US power, especially, since it
is bogged down in a quagmire in Iraq and no amount of resolutions initiated by
the US in the UN, will halt Iran from proceeding with her nuclear programme.
The US, which called Iran a State in the axis of evil, has now been compelled to
talk to Iran on the security situation in Iraq. The first meeting took place on
Monday May 28, in Iraq. Foreign Minister Manaoucnher Mottaki had this to say of
the meeting in Iraq, “the two sides can be hopeful about the outcome of the
negotiation, if America develops a realistic view towards Monday’s talks, admits
its wrong policies in Iraq, decides to change them and accepts its
responsibilities. It is believed that very little progress will be achieved, as
there is mutual recrimination against each other, and in the latest development,
Teheran said that it had uncovered spy rings organized by the US and its western
Currently, the US strategy of containment, launched aggressively against Iran in
January, is not succeeding, just as the parallel “surge” of US troops in Iraq.
The invasion of Iraq by the US, has now turned out to be a nightmare. The US is
also painfully aware that for all its military might, it has failed in Iraq and
Afghanistan. Iran has grown as a regional power beyond all expectations and
holds the ace to trump the US which now appears to be a sick giant. Political
analyst and students of political science are keenly watching the unfolding
events in the confrontation between the US and the Islamic Republic of Iran.
RIGHT OF REPLY
IWMI responds to Green Nation
I write with reference to an article which
appeared in page 10 of The Nation of June 24th, under the title “Water, water
everywhere in bottles”. This article draws attention to the issue of water
privatisation with particular emphasis on the bottled water market, and
unfortunately links the International Water Management Institute (IWMI) to this
issue. From a reader’s perspective it could appear that IWMI promotes the
privatisation of water and is having “closed door” meetings with policy makers
in the country including the Ministry of Irrigation. The article refers to
discussions at a recent Sri Lanka Consultative Committee meeting held at IWMI,
on various research projects. These projects, however, have no connection
whatsoever to water privatization. We would therefore like to explain more about
IWMI and its research. First of all, IWMI’s mandate does not cover drinking
water, but focuses on water for agriculture, while also studying the effects on
the environment around us. The word “water management” in our title does not
mean “controlling water and its uses” but rather looking at how water can be
made accessible to all in the most sustainable way. IWMI’s research has shown
that access to water is indeed a pathway out of poverty, and that water should
be made available to the poor. The references to the “Podium” and “The
Comprehensive Assessment of Water Management in Agriculture” appearing in the
article have no connection to water privatization. The Podium-SIM model is
simply a planning tool developed by IWMI, which policy makers and planners can
use to explore the complex relationships between the many factors that affect
water and food security. It can be applied both locally and globally, as indeed
had already been done by India and China. The Comprehensive Assessment of Water
Management in Agriculture (CA) is a recently concluded international study which
drew on the expertise of over 700 scientists and practitioners around the world.
It studied the past fifty years of global water management and provided
practical recommendations (none of which refer to water privatization) for
handling the water challenges of the next fifty years. During the Sri Lanka
Consultative Committee meeting it was discussed that the CA recommendations
could be used by policy makers, and development agencies as well as by
universities for curriculum development. I would also like to mention that the
text which appears in boxes alongside the main story has no connection to what
is being said in the main article. Even the picture of water bottles is
misleading, as IWMI’s research does not include drinking water as stated before.
— Dr. Sarath Abayawardana, Head – Sri Lanka Programme, International Water
Reporter’s note: The attempt of privatising water in Sri Lanka is a process
extant since the 1980s. It’s however noteworthy, all such processes have
employed, and are still employing, stealthy means of luring government officers
and thereby pushing forward the agendas on water privatization. Speaking
differently, you could not expect one to attempt privatize water directly under
the label of “Water Privatization”, but rather you could expect one to do it
under the guise of many alluring projects and packages. Therefore when analysing
the issues pertaining to water privatization, we would look to various relevant
projects, their implications and hidden agendas, rather than pursue after
projects labelled “Water Privatisation”. Through the article specified in your
letter, The Nation did analyse some of the projects, their potential
implications and their interrelatedness with respect to water privatisation in
Sri Lanka. However, nowhere in the article was it mentioned that the IWMI was
going to bottle water for sale. Yet we did specify that the IWMI was holding
discussions with a particular multinational, which happened to be the top figure
in the global bottled water industry. You have also said that the information in
the boxes weren’t related to the main article. Please note that, as stated in
the introduction of the article, the prime purpose of the article was to reveal
the latest facets pertaining to water privatization. The rest of the boxes
hinted at several other facets of the same issue.