Monday, October 31, 2011

The fate of the “Divi Neguma” beneficiaries – A case of ‘I told you so’ In March I wrote in my other blog asking my readers to think about the absurdity of the Government in encouraging people into poverty and bankruptcy by enabling them to obtain a vehicle, which no earthly economic evaluation could prove worthwhile, surely making paupers out of self respecting people, completely misleading them for personal gain only of those responsible.

Many of you will see the ads by Tata for those Battas, which falsely show how people purchasing them are now very successful self employed businessmen. We see them parked on pavements, where my previously successful thambili seller used to hawk the natural satisfaction for thirst, and who were evicted for illegally occupying the pavement. They were replaced instead by the Batta. They sell anything from cool drinks to sandwiches or packets of eatables.

Sheer greed is all that led the chiefs of ‘Divi Neguma’ to get people sucked into a program they could never recover from. The commissions earned on the sale of these 1,500 vehicles is already pocketed, (Rs150M) but the people who signed the lease with no money down, cannot make the monthly payment! People’s Bank which was forced to break all rules of lending, are left wondering what to do. If they repossess the vehicles, there will be a huge outcry of people being made redundant and bankrupt. If they are non performing leases, they are a loss to the new People’s Leasing Company, which is getting a listing this week.

It is this kind of idiotic program that people in govt. who have no idea of how self employment works, that is wrong. When a business plan is done, and one goes to a bank for a loan or lease. They evaluate the likelihood of its success. That is why people are asked to put some money down, say at least Rs150,000 before taking a lease for the balance. This reduces the risk to the bank, as the borrower has already invested and is likely to make an extra effort. Further, his monthly payment is lower. When the whole thing is financed out of borrowing, with no commitment on the part of the lessee, and there is no proper evaluation if the lessee is able to run a business that makes sufficient to pay the monthly dues, then even before a cent is lent one knows it is a non performer! The government forced this on the bank.

I distinctly remember when I was making this point 7 months ago, when they commenced the program, many friends I discussed it with were wholly in support of the government in that it provided new employment opportunities to people. When my educated friends are stupid, how can one explain this point to the less educated.

I hope this is a lesson to all that Pied Piper sure is leading his followers to the lake to drown(in this case drown in debt and become bankrupt)

Sunday, October 30, 2011

A “Kavi Sanvedaya” at the aptly named village of “Vijaya Rajadhana”

Sunday the 30th began at 8am and ended at 7pm. First was the unveiling of the “karanduwa” at a temple Chaithya or Dagoba. Next, a large temple in the Gampaha District, a 1800+ student daham pasala to present some chairs for the students with a Pradeshiya Sabha member who was a student here in his school days. It is amazing to find grand halls in out of the way temples! The mun kavun and konde kavun (traditional eats) that had just been made was just out of this world.

After visiting a few funeral homes, it was off to a home of a party to supporter for a chat over woodapple drink from his garden and then lunch at another party supporter’s place in Veyangoda. One of the people there was a World War II veteran of 95 who still gets his pension from the Queen or so he was proud to say.

We then went to the village of Vijaya Rajadhana near Meerigama to attend a session of poetry at their village hall, which is spontaneous and often very amusing. One has to actually attend one of these events to realize the wonder of the Sinhala Language as it pertains to poetry. The language lends itself to speak in verse. Even the speeches of welcome were in verse. To hear ones name in verse along with some of the invitees is a unique feeling.

There was the well known figure of Wadakada Navaratne who had organized this event along with a Buddhist Priest, an accomplished poet as are 8 others in this interesting form of poetry, from around the country who had been invited.

The sessions were not well attended partially due to the rains, but also due to this form of literature having lost some of its luster along with modernization. The MC bemoaned in verse how the young people would flock by the thousand in all sorts of outfits to listen to a group playing rap or pop, whereas the interest in this form of entertainment does not draw the crowds. It is a sign of the times.

I think it is the lack of knowledge and appreciation that keeps people away. I would dare a village to have even 5% who have attended this sort of event. The baiting and the interest shown by the poets to grab the microphone was apparent for all to see along with the fun they were all having at the expense of the others. To see the Buddhist priest participating so eagerly and so expertly at this event, made it more informal as his interventions were on current topics and contemporary themes. I sincerely hope that we can run some competitions in schools akin to debates to publicize and to inform students to partake in this activity, which is the only way to revive this interest to hone one’s language skills.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

A young politician cuts his teeth at the local school

This morning I went to a Leadership training program for students who are in their final year A level class at Mahinda Maha Vidyalaya in Heiyantuduwa. We were invitees and some scholarships were to be awarded as part of the opening ceremony for the guests. This was arranged and funded by a young politician who had won his first term as a Pradeshiya Sabha Member, and we who sponsor young people to get into the political arena were there to lend a hand of support.

Coincidentally he used to work in by brother-in-law’s factory close by, and left the job to go into politics full time. He is not rich by any standards, and the cynical amongst you might think he went into politics to make money. He has already sent me many CV’s of his area people for me to help them find employment. Another interesting fact was that during the election campaign he was badly beaten up by the Government stooges and was hospitalized and was out of action for over 3 months owing to the injuries suffered. Suffice to say that the culprits have not been brought to book, but I suspect he did get a sympathy vote, as he got the second highest number of preference votes in the opposition camp of the Pradeshiya Sabha.

He has as a novice invited the local MP’s from both sides of the fence, as well as the Provincial Councilors and Pradeshiya Sabha Members. He has begun his own foundation in a small way and as part of the commencement of activities initiated this program. His foundation’s primary aim is to improve the potential of school leavers and this was in keeping with the objective. There were 150 participants, 75 from the school we were at and a further 75 from schools in outlying areas.

There was a point made by the junior minister, a local MP, who said that he recalls his time where a new PS member cuts his teeth helping, pre schools, primary and secondary schools and Sunday schools. The initial funds required for these can be collected from local businessmen as it helps the area too and a novice can get started and and build a name for himself as someone who helps the community and is active, be he from the Government camp or the opposition.

When considering this order of play for politicians I somehow ask myself if this is the route to National Politics. I know in Sri Lanka to get anything meaningful done for society one really does have to enter politics and gain power to make a difference. However once they make this long and arduous journey the cost of getting to the top means there are too many favors to return turning him into a corrupt money making SOB.

In my case after a lifetime in the private sector working in about 5 different fields, I have more experience about the world and ideas of how to improve. However if I start the long road to get the power and influence to make my ideas work, I will just not have the time nor the faith of the donors that I will last till the final jackpot is achieved!!!!

Friday, October 28, 2011

Journalists! Can you write what you really want to say?

I am often asked why I do not want to be a journalist, as my family has a history in this field, and mindful of some of the products today, that I could make a living out of it. All I say is that is for when or if I reach 90, when I am no good for anything else!!! I can then sit at my computer all day and write articles till night fall filling pages of newspapers that no one reads, or even better edit what other people write. I do not see that right now, as my inspiration comes 100% from what I do all day.

I am up at 3am now, to blog, because I have a full day of work ahead. Here in the heart of town in Gregory’s Rd, I still hear a lot of background noise, from the rumble even at this hour of the traffic and the train sirens from Fort. Despite the place being full of trees and on the second floor being on the same level as the birds I can see out of my window each day, parrots, woodpeckers, orioles, mynahs, barbets, kohas, drongos, I still long for my place in the forest. My blog entries give some indication of the variation of my daily encounters, and they can fill a few blog entries, more than any content a journalist could investigate in a day. I am fortunate to have a job that satisfies, and most of all interaction with people from all walks of life, most coming for help, favors and assistance. The fact that most of the time each moment is unpredictable and the encounters take different forms.

We get calls from all over the country from people asking for advice from those of our party who have suffered, on how to tackle situations of a complete breakdown of law and order instigated by and often in collusion with the elected members of government in cahoots with the police. What is in print is chicken feed when compared to reality. All these pro govt. journalists would squirm in their pants if they knew. Well say they know, they dare not write, so they are the gagged ones!

A huge challenge for me is to grow a strong base within the young people of Sri Lanka, mainly women to instill a political ideology based on realistic expectations of living within one’s capabilities, devoid of illegality, that respects our environment and diversity, and above all take ownership of their lives so that they are not enslaved by anything, belief or anyone. The right to reason and make up their minds based on an evaluation on what they feel, see, read and hear. It will then be up to them to educate people to think, so that people will over time be able to see the wood from the trees and prevent them from being drowned by the Pied Piper of the land who is leading them into the abyss with their consent.

Only the future will tell if the state is drowned by debt before the people are drowned by the mountain of lies or the other way round.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Issues faced by workers at a garment factory who were suddenly terminated

A delegation came this morning to consult and ask for assistance in how they could resolve the dilemma from 550 being suddenly terminated due to the closure of their garment factory, ostensibly due to lack of orders. We spent some time explaining the options available to them along with guidance on what they have to do in order to obtain some form of redress. They were fed various stories about what their rights were. The employer taking advantage of their lack of knowledge and not being organized was willing to issue statements to the effect that they were unable to pay any compensation, and told them to take legal action if they so wish.

The difficulty in these situations is to convene all the affected people and get them to organize themselves into a group that can work towards achieving the objective they have set themselves. Different people want different things as they are as diverse as the population around us. We found it quite hard to convince them to form one organization and appoint a committee to deal with the issues. Explaining that it was first necessary to collect a fund to move forward was in itself a difficult notion. Rs 200 from each person would give a fund in excess of Rs100,000 to cover the various costs involved.

In turn they must understand that some people are boarded in homes as their villages are a long distance away, they have other costs after they lose their jobs. They may have to return home, so it was essential that this be done without delay. Many have bought items on the installment plan and have a deduction made from their pay for items organizations sell by coming to the workplace. How to they make these payments as they do not know who the payment should be made to either. All the information on the people is needed to be gathered before they disperse if some form of claim is to be made on behalf of all of them, which is the most practical way of fairly handling the claim.

We must remember that like in any claim there are those who have worked at this organization for 20 years whose claim far exceeds those who have worked for a year or two and so the former have a bigger stake in obtaining redress.

Most of all we thought that obtaining a job as soon as possible would be critical and we called round to set them up with alternative employment. We found an employer who could give jobs to 300 experienced workers if they were willing to relocate to Ratmalana. Only those who were boarded were willing to move, the others wanted employment in areas they live. There is no such place as a job bank in localities to assist with employment, such as is available in developed nations.