Monday, December 26, 2005

year of shame

2005: what else can you call it. we, sri lankans as a nation should be ashamed of ourselves.


today there will be two(?, i really don't care) minute silences, ceremonies etc. at nine thirty. there will be enough politicians, religious leaders, and other 'great and the good' speechifying to make one puke. no amount of such empty pageantry and humbug will wipe out the fact that we have let the people who died (exact number of whom we do not know by a factor of thousands), or were otherwise affected by the tsunami, down. thousands upon thousands of people still live in 'temporary' shelters and camps and are fast turning in to another lot of vociferous beggars more or less permanently dependent on government and other benefactors, like the war displaced, samurdhi recipients, farmers, and public servants.

it's easy to blame this on victims themselves, by saying these people will never be satisfied with whatever is given to them and in the process have a laugh at their expense as some people do, but that would not divert the blame from those who deserve it, namely all of us, because of our tendency to put our trust in the government and not on the victims themselves.

imo (as i and others said then to anybody who cared to listen, not that what we as a bunch of outsiders say ever matters :-)) the best method to reconstruct the areas affected, and to put the people back on their feet, after the initial relief effort, is to give a substantial oneoff cash grant, to each individual and and to every business/institution (including local governments), with no strings attached, to do with it whatever they wanted. that it would be a oneoff grant and that responsibility for its usage is completely in their hand would have been emphasized to the recipients. In addition to relax whatever regulations or tariffs that will impede the reconstructions. in other words to trust the affected people and to stay the hell out of their way afterwards.

top down micromanagement

no, instead we as a nation chose to micromanage everything in keeping with prevailing socialist mindset of the citizenry. what self respecting politician would want to keep the victims at arm's length in such situation, huh?. no, from mahinda buffalo to sajith premadasa to hakeem to jvpers, all of them wanted to be seen doing somethings (if possible everything) to help the victims. only thing they competed on was on the efficiency of their methods, at heart they all followed the policy. un agencies, non governmental organizations, and everybody else who wanted to help, did the same and media praised or criticized with the same mindset at the back of their mind and never ever questioned this policy of top down micromanagement.

of course most people (even most politicians) sincerely wanted to help. only a few like the mahinda buffalo wanted to skim off the money. however all of them from government to ngos wanted to keep control of the money and how it was spent in their hands as long as possible, instead of just giving it to the victims.

underneath this was the belief that they were more clever, more qualified, and in every sense knew better than the victims what is best for the victims, than the victims themselves. this of course is the fundamental error all socialists make even when the socialists concerned do not think of themselves as socialists.

well they were wrong as always. only the victims know what is best for them, if anyone wanted to help them they should have trusted them. any other method would endup going nowhere, and the present situation of the tsunami victims illustrate this clearly as daylight, but for blind people daylight means nothing.


then there was the election. same overestimation of powers that be, either in buffalo's ability to deliver on the promises he made, or the bunkerholed one's to take revenge on everyone who disobey him, resulted in foisting of an inevitable war on us. willful stupidity in the south and spineless cowardice in the north triumphed over individual self interest. less said of this the better.

sri lankan's chronic inability to face the reality and the tendency to live in an unreal fantasy, where governments can keep a huge population in permanent dependency and where war can be won militarily(either by government or ltte) with the existing resources will soon come crashing down. sooner the better imo, that seems the only way we will ever learn to trust ourselves as individuals.


after such a crash we must ensure that the productive forces and people who have been keeping this country afloat through war and incompetence will finally be allowed to achieve their full potential.

let us not forget, that sri lanka had positive growth rates in all the years but one(2001) since independence, that we have always been the richest (in terms of gdp per capita) country with a substantial population in south asia, and the one with best social development indicators. all of this while we had war, insurgencies, and horrendously stupid governments while others in the region enjoyed peace and stable government. just think what we can do with peace and freedom.

afterall, we not only have the world's most ruthless terrorist organization that is in the bloody cutting edge in terms of military tactics that matter, we also have an army that has more or less contained it with the minimal resources available. al qaeda and americans, as everyone can observe, look pretty amateurish compared to us, even when they use bigger bombs or high technology. just one more example of what we are capable, if we put our minds to anything.

that is why we should face the reality when the crash comes, sometime in the next year or so, and in the aftermath, honestly assess our situation and allow ourselves the freedom to realize our full potential as individuals, instead of shamefully wasting years and years on deadends like we did in 2005.

we must keep that in mind as we inexorably head, past the daily crop dead bodies, towards the fall that we have created for ourselves in this year of shame.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

the season of consumption.

the festive season is on us. the great festival of consumerism, high point of our current religion and culture. one feels happy just walking the streets of colombo. malls and shops so full of people and goods. wallets and purses so full of cash. television playing mushy movies nobody ever watches. offices filled with christmas music. soon there will be lunches, dinners, parties and dances. meeting cousins and their children. giving and getting kisses and gifts. getting drunk by afternoon. feeling romantic for no reason. daydreaming about all the smart women one meets. (for some reason at this time one can develop crushes on conservative well dressed women only, gypsies, hippies and radicals will have to wait till middle of january ). feeling smug and happy after helping the less fortunate. life is good.

then there are the usual spoilsports. tigers and buffaloes mainly, but one can ignore them for the moment. then again there are the ones who rant about the increasing commercialization of christmas. what they do not get is that christmas has nothing to do with christ or religion. it has nothing to do with saturnalia or birth of mithras either, even though as catholic church admits the date was derived by it from those pagan festivals. even those festivals got the date from winter solstice. it's a curious fact (though perhaps not that curious) that all the festivals the world over falls at one of the two solstice days or on the days on which the sun goes directly above the country of origin. in fact most people would have celebrated the various festivals on the same day in ancient times. it's in the invention of calenders of various types that actually separated them. anyway even the solstice is not the main reason why we have this festival now, it is there because we need to enjoy and indulge and be happy. period.

world will be boring and poor (literally) if not for the rampant consumerism of this season. there would not be malls or or other cathedrals of new religion if not for this season.millions of people who turn out all those goods and foods from around the world will be without work. in the west retailers lose money till the saturday after the thanksgiving, called the 'black saturday' because it is on that day that the bottom line changes from red to black. anybody who inveighs against the consumerism is a hypocrite.

of course we need peace and goodwill on earth too and one can never get tired of hearing the story of birth of christ. imo that story is a miracle in itself, who but the god will invent it. only the easter service can beat the midnight christmas mass in getting one to almost believe in god. but it is always better the be honest with oneself and be aware of one's real motives.

happy holidays, christmas and a new year to every one! and do spend that money.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

free trade is good for sri lanka

why is it that some ppl still fail to grasp the logic of economic theory of comparative advantage? it is not a hard theory to understand imo and it has been around for a long time unchallenged. it explain why even when one country can produce everything cheaply than another country, both benefit by trading freely with each other.

here are two detailed and easy to understand explanations of the theory with examples.
from the economist
from wikipedia

here is an attempt at understanding why comparative advantage is hard for some ppl by economist paul krugman.

here is a free trade faq from cato institute in u.s.

in sri lanka almost everybody who writes for the newspapers, or asked to give their opinion in countless television and radio talk programs, on free trade seem to be against it. i have never seem or heard anybody even the most 'neo-liberal' of unp politicians challenge those protectionist arguments. at most they will bring forth some lame argument about how world bank/imf /wto rules or conditions require them to open up trade or how we have to follow the global trend.

nobody seems to have the courage to stand up and say free trade and globalization is in fact a boon to sri lanka, that we have gained tremendous benefits from free trade and that more we open up more we will gain.

at present the sixth ministerial conference of the world trade organization is taking place in hong kong, and same old protectionist arguments have started appearing in the usual places. a bunch of idiots have even gone to join the anti globalization protests there. this can be depressing but for the actual fact that sri lanka has been steadily liberalizing trade inspite of minor bumps since 1977. what is lacking is the intellectual foundation and popular support such a change requires in a properly functioning democracy.

that is why a socialist backed candidate like mahinda buffalo with his empty 'national economy' is still electable here.

Monday, December 12, 2005

the meditations of marcus aurelius

an empty pageant; a stage play; flocks of sheep; herds of cattle; a tussle of spearmen; a bone flung among a pack of curs; a crumb tossed in to a pond of fish; ants, loaded and laboring; mice, scared and scampering; puppets, jerking on their strings - that is life. in the midst of all you must take your stand, good-temperedly and without disdain, yet always aware that a man's worth is no greater than the worth of his ambitions.
book vii; 3.
meditations of marcus aurelius
translated by maxwell staniforth

marcus aurelius was roman emperor from a.d.161 to 180 . he was the last of the so called five good emperors also called adoptive emperors bc they adopted a suitable person as their successor usually a distant relative but sometimes going outside the family altogether.
edward gibbon writing the decline and fall of roman empire said 'period in the history of the world during which the condition of the human race was most happy and prosperous' was the reign of those emperors.

be that as it may be, what i am writing about is the meditations or random thoughts or exercises left by marcus aurelius probably without any intention of publication. i originally read them long time ago but did not get them then, maybe i was put off by the thanksgiving passages in the first book. anyway as is my wont i did not finish it, last weekend i read the whole thing through.

it confirm to his stoic philosophy. one might describe stoicism as buddhism without any supernatural beliefs like karma. anyway it is a pure philosophy not a religion disguised as a philosophy which is what buddhism is imo.stoics thought that there was a deity/natural law/universal reason operating in the universe and that one's soul is a portion of that divinity. they emphasized the use of reason to achieve truth and a life in harmony with the universe. though i do not subscribe to this and think the whole world is essentially meaningless chaos i can certainly understand the attraction of such a system.

more so when one reads this book. one is at once stuck by the relevance of the thoughts and the clear headed intelligence of the author, respect for whom grows with each passage. in the end i decided to write a post about it.
initially i thought i should limit myself to quotations with barest of biographical notes but it seem i haven't achieved that kind of self discipline yet. :-)

remind yourself constantly of all the physicians, now dead, who used to knit their brows over their ailing patients; of all the astrologers who so solemnly predicted their clients doom; the philosophers who expatiated so endlessly on death and immortality; the great commanders who slew their thousands; the despots who wielded powers of life and death with such terrible arrogance, as if themselves were gods who could never die; whole cities which have perished completely, helice , pompeii, herculaneum, and other without number. after that recall one by one each of your own acquaintances; how one buried the another, only to be laid low himself and buried in turn by a third, all in so brief a space of time. observe in short how transient and trivial is all mortal life; yesterday a drop of semen, tomorrow a handful of spice and ashes. spend therefore, these fleeting moments on earth as nature would have you spend them, and then go to your rest with good grace, as an olive falls in its' season, with the blessing for the earth that bore it and a thanksgiving to the tree that gave it life .
book iv;48

in all your action let there be a willing promptitude, yet a regard for common interest; due deliberation, yet no irresolution; and in your sentiments no pretentious over refinement. avoid talkativeness, avoid officiousness. the god within you should preside over a being who is virile and mature, a statesman, a roman, and a ruler; one who has held his ground, like a soldier waiting for the signal to retire from th life's battlefield and ready to welcome his relief; a man whose credit need neither be sworn to by himself nor avouched by others. therein is the secret of cheerfulness, of depending on no help from without and needing to crave from no man the boon of tranquility. we have to stand upright overselves, not be set up.
book iii:5

you can download the book from project gutenberg. translation there is differant from above.

it is perhaps ironic that it is marcus aurelius who broke the tradition and named his son commodus as his successor, commodus was a disaster.
btw the old emperor played by richard harris in the film the gladiator is supposed to be marcus aurelius. the film however is a complete fantasy and has no relation to historical fact except in the flimsiest level.

Monday, December 05, 2005


yes. notwithstanding the positive spin for peace that some ppl in government and off it seem determined to put on, there is no doubt that war is on the way. though the bunkerholed megalomaniac intentionally left the time frame of his ultimatum vague, my guess is, based on the hints tna mps drop and what little i know of military logistics, late spring or early summer 2006, just 4 to 6 months away.
(on the other hand if the extremely disturbing events in the last 2 or 3 days are in fact the start of the gradual escalation of provocations expected before actual war, it may be closer than i think)

there is only one way to prevent war. that way requires mahinda buffalo to do a complete u-turn and embrace the federal state solution and to convince everyone(especially the international community) that he is sincere about that (to the point that tigers themselves believe everyone else is so convinced).

imo that is impossible, even for ppl who are more naturally gifted than buffalo and his herd.
as former u.s. ambassador to sri lanka, teresita schaffer now at center for strategic and international studies (csis) says 'key quality he will need is leadership'. the ambassador may not have intended it like that, but the fellow is sorely lacking in that department. (explanation for jhu /jvp losers: macho posturing, a buffalo speciality, is not leadership).

ltte knows this. they are expecting the government to go through its expected motions and fall for the trap they laid on november 17th.

however the government can at least avoid the most obvious baits. they should for instance not separate north and east provinces, or drop the norwegians as facilitators or aid the paramilitary groups(like karuna faction) openly.

government can also stop scoring an own goal by emphasizing that vp's speech was in fact a ultimatum by a warmonger, and not a invitation to talks, as they seem to be insisting at the moment in order to score political points in the south. they should realize that the campaign is over, now what they say is taken seriously by an audience that includes the international community.

already sri lanka monitoring mission is starting to score the goal in the wrong column: after their latest meeting with ltte its spokesperson said there was no hint of a ultimatum from the ltte. before the war starts government must make sure that the slmm puts the full blame for it on ltte as it deserves.
in a report issued on december 1st by the csis(report south asia monitor issue 89 is not in csis website yet but is available in tamilnet(pdf-1.1mb)) , ambassador schaffer notes, 'most of the speech was a carefully crafted argument about how sri lanka’s sinhalese politicians had undermined every chance for peace in the past two decades and more......his unrelenting argument about how both major sri lankan parties had failed to keep their promises offers little optimism that a breakthrough is likely.'

government must lobby hard to make such opinion making think tanks aware who the real warmongers are. they should encourage the sri lankan peace activists to speak openly as to who is driving the country to war. can it, after all they did to criticize such ppl during the campaign?

military front

all that is in the diplomatic front, in the military front too government should start to prepare for the unavoidable.

first , they should realize that the war cannot be won militarily with the current resources of the country. realistically ltte can only be undermined and/or defeated during peace. so primary goal of the war should be to get the ltte to talk peace again.

second, given the limited resources, government will have to abandon some territories in order to release troops and other assets, to make more effective use of them in other areas.
for instance, jaffna town is probably useless militarily and ties down huge number of troops in an area that can not be easily supplied. so it is more logical to limit the troops in jaffna peninsula to the defensible camps with no civilians inside, and concentrate on the east (which can probably be cleared of ltte with the help of karuna faction) and probably on a slow steady push northward from vavuniya.
question is whether buffalo has the stomach for that kind of sacrifice. is he willing to see his standing with the fools in south go down in the interest of the country?

government should decide on these questions now and not wait till war starts, bc it inevitably will.

Saturday, November 26, 2005

sri lanka awaits the word of it's overlord

this is pathetic but true.

since ltte is now appointing our president, it stands to reason that we should pay more attention to it's megalomaniac leader than to our mahinda buffalo, whose speech yesterday opening the new parliamentary session was empty as his head.

buffalo could have shown that he is in control of history during last week but failed. followers can't be leaders. and it's the prabhakaran who leads. if ppl fail to vote for peace, warlords will rule.

meantime rumor mill is grinding at high speed about a possible buffalo-tiger deal before the election to enforce the voter boycott. i personally do not believe that ltte decided on the boycott because of any such deal. but it may be possible that buffalo and co wanted a deal. if so and if any such deal or an attempt at one is made public, buffalo herd is going to pay dear.
that cbk wants to get into the parliament also bodes ill for the buffalo.

so what to expect from the bunker holed? war probably, if not in word.

there is some talk that they might give 14 day notice of withdrawal from cease fire agreement in the hero's day speech. but as far as i know this is not the time of year to start a war because of the rain, unless they already have the necessary forces in correct places (but then ltte is unpredictable in the extreme unlike the buffalo). most probably they will wait about 4 months, but meanwhile expect large scale provocations as they try their best to blame the government.

it's about time they carry ltte tv on rupavahini.

Thursday, November 24, 2005

who is getting better of whom?

poor mahinda buffalo.:-)
on the day he named his cabinet, those dastardly media from bbc down, chose to focus on the infighting and the resignation rather than how his buffalo cabinet was going to implement his 'buffalo chinthanaya'. but then this must be the most boring cabinet reshuffle ever. jobs were given strictly according to seniority and loyalty. buffalo has failed to notice that other institutions where seniority is the main qualification for advancement, like the army or the police are veritable wrecks . even the prime minister was probably appointed based on his seniority than on anything else. i personally think ppl read too much into that particular appointment. one thing is clear, buffalo's main priority is to strengthen the slfp and his own position.

fact is, the most important question facing the country(whether there is going to be a war or not) is being decided in some bunker in vanni and we(including buffalo) have to wait till 27th to know the answer (that is if we get one at all on that day).

while we wait, it might be fun to observe what exactly is going on inside the upfa.

why did jvp not accept any portfolios?

there are two possible reasons and respective consequences .
sunanda deshapriya speaking to afp probably put it best "if the jvp did not take ministries on their own that means they want to hold the 'remote control' over the government, if they were left out because of disagreement, then we can expect an election.'

and it increasingly it seems that the second reason is the correct one. following makes that clear,

that toady sripathy sooriyarachchi, who got what he deserved yesterday and resigned within hours bc that portfolio(who cares what it was) is, "non existent and previously unheard of and is not in keeping with my qualification", also criticized the buffalo (to pti) for keeping the jvp out of the cabinet.
last saturday mangala samaraweera in a news conference after the president's swearing in said jvp has already agreed to accept cabinet portfolios in the rajapakse government.
a cabinet minister speaking off the record to the afp (probably jeyraj fernandopulle) said that there were differences with the jvp about the appointments and the president can improve the strength of the slfp and reduce the dependency on the jvp by going for a early parliamentary election.

so even though jvp might give a bogus explanation today at the press conference they have called, it seems that the buffalo has realized that as long as he has to rely on the jvp and the jhu he will be perceived as weak and wants to change that asap or at least wants to give that impression. he probably tried to rope them in to the buffalo herd by offering some portfolios other than what they wanted and when that failed he decided to play for higher stakes.

it's a risky strategy for both parties. if jvp does not give in we might really end up with an election and both the buffalo and the jvp might lose in the end.

if they contest separately(with jhu doing the same), upfa's collective no of mps will fall, even though their collective no of votes go up, bc unp will end up as the biggest party in many districts and thus bagging the bonus seats for those districts. btw bonus seats have become the main deciding factor in sri lankan elections under current proportional representation system.

on the other hand slfp mps now numbering 71 will probably increase at the expense of jvp. so this strategy is especially dangerous for jvp (jvp has 39 mps at the moment) they can very well end up with less than 20 mps.

bc of this even if jvp decides to contest with the slfp they will be offered less positions in the upfa lists, ensuring lesser no of seats for them, say about 30 or so.

so buffalo seems to be offering two choices for jvp, either
  • take the portfolios he is offering them,
  • or contest the election with slfp( which means they will get less no of mps but will remain part of the ruling coalition).

we could end p with a third possibility, namely buffalo and the jvp fall out, but he does not dissolve parliament in which case (btw this is similar to what has prevailed since jvp went out of government over p-toms) government will not be able to do anything constructive and will become increasingly weaker.

on second thoughts, that third option is not all bad for the country, less action on the part of the buffalo herd and the jvp the better, but will we get that?.

or will jvp give in? or will they go it alone (giving a huge boost to the unp)?

will the buffalo have the strength to carry this out to the end ? will he give in to the jvp?

and what happens if there is a war?

only the time will tell.

Monday, November 21, 2005

what mahinda buffalo would do if he has any sense

first he would have to understand what his situation really is.

that means admitting to himself that,

1. ltte wanted him in power in the belief that he is a weak leader beholden to sinhala buddhist extremist like jvp and jhu, and in case of war (provoked by them but blamed on him) world sympathy will come their way while in the south economy will collapse due to bad policies.

2. that jvp and lot of others are under the impression that they can manipulate him and get what they want. in jvp's case that means strengthening their party using state resources while slowly eroding slfp before bailing out to oust the government and destroy the slfp.

3. government is basically broke

4. investors and private sector believes him to be a socialist with the dimmest idea about how a economy in the modern world works and expect total collapse or slow but accelerating decline of the economy.

5. minorities everywhere(from muslims to christians) believes him to be under the thumb of sinhala buddhist extremists and will start a war in addition to trampling on their basic rights.

6. some in the slfp did not want him to win

his first priority must be to get rid of these impressions(unless they are actual facts which is probably the case).

he should,

1. give no opportunity to ltte to go back to war.
tell everybody that he is for very high degree of devolution of power. get the norwegians down and send them (on perhaps useless) missions to the tigers repeatedly.
at the same time emphasize that tigers acted against the tamil ppl and disenfranchised them in last election and get the foreign governments to condemn that
third, arm the karuna faction and get them to attack as many ltte cadres in the east as possible but never get the army or the stf involved. make the ltte see what they will lose in case of real war.

2.appoint a centrist opposed to jvp as the prime minister and if there are unp defections get some in to cabinet in prominent positions. release s.b. to encourage defections and generally make trouble for unp.

3.make jvp realize who is the boss immediately. give them ministries, but ones he wants, not ones they demand. he should give them some really troublesome ministries like transport or health. he should also appoint mixed teams to ministries, say a slfp minister with a jvp deputy minister and not allow jvp to monopolize some ministries like the agriculture. they will not be in a position to refuse so soon after the election without losing face. if buffalo obeys the jvp now, he will be completely under the jvp in 3 months time.

4. stick with the budget presented at the beginning of the month as much as possible (buffalo already missed a good opportunity to reassure the investors by saying he will present a new budget with his buffalo 'chinthanaya' instead- that budget has some ideas as to cutting ruinous subsides (for fuel etc.) that would make the government's financial position much stable and he could have blamed the ill effects on ordinary ppl on cbk.)
stick with the current finance minister(in spite of his lukewarm support during the election) and treasury secretory. they are not complete idiots.

5. cut the cabinet to 20, that way ppl he is forced to demote, bc of not supporting him, will not secretly hold grudges while still ministers, as they will know same thing happened to lot of others as well and the situation is clear to all. it will definitely save money

6. give every thing the minorities demand that can be given. get cwc and slmc in to government. tell the jhu to get lost with the anti conversion bill. buffalo really do not need them and most of the jhu monks can after all be bought with money.

7. do not dissolve parliament. that will not increase the no of upfa mps. only the jhu seats will get split between the upfa and unp. but jvp will gain inside the upfa.

if he really does most of these things, he may even last more than one year with real power and i might stop calling him a buffalo. unfortunately he is a real buffalo so he won't.
so expect him to get lame soon.

Saturday, November 19, 2005

so why did ranil lose? and buffalo win?

at the moment few theories are flying about.

in a mostly positive forward looking post, this is what indi has to say,

Ranil lost not because his policies are bad or unsuccessful, but because they simply weren’t communicated. He lacked the language and frames to structure his ideas, so his accomplishments just hung in the air... UNP had no talking points, no message discipline, no coherent branding, and no comprehensible theme. Part of this is because the media unit is rephrehensibly bad and Ranil isn’t the most brandable of candidates. Moreso, it’s because there is no intellectual infrastructure to support his policies...'

in unp's own blog some (moderated) comments place the blame on branch organizers who expected a easy win because of minority support and thus neglected basic campaigning work.

but i have to disagree, numbers do not support both these arguments, as i have already commented elsewhere unp's vote tally increased in this election from 40.39% in 2004(including slmc and ucpf) to 48.4% (by 8.01% , 952,105 in votes) that is a very very good swing. both the unp(in 2000 to 2001) and the upfa (in 2001 to 2004) were able to change governments using a 7.5% or less swings in votes.

in my scenario calculation before the election, i put forward what i thought could be the minimum requirements for ranil to win. three of the requirements were 2.5% swing from upfa, additional 1.5% from ppl who stayed away in 2004, and a third of jhu vote(i.e.2% from total 6%) going to unp. in other words a addition of 6% to the unp total in the south. in a situation where 75% of the 2004 tna voters stayed away that would have been enough for a win.

but that crucial fourth requirement did not materialize 25% of tna voter did not vote. in most northern polling divisions less than 0.1% voted. i thought i was being conservative when i included only 25% (based on the fact over 30% voted in the postal voting held last week) but i was wrong.

most of the tamils in north decided to follow ltte's wishes of their own free will. may be they were afraid for their lives as some ppl argue, but while we can excuse ppl living in ltte controlled areas, we have no such excuse for ppl living in government controlled areas. they just obeyed the ltte because of some vague fears quite forgetting that there is security in large numbers. even if ltte killed a few afterwards using its clandestine units that operate in those areas, most had nothing to fear seriously. they would have done better to reflect on the consequences and deaths in a restarted war.
ppl who do not exercise or demand their rights do not deserve them. ppl in the south who voted in 1988 election inspite of jvp boycott backed up by real killings showed how real democrats should act on such a occasion.

so the main reason why ranil wickremasinghe was defeated and mahinda rajapakse the buffalo( i will continue to refer to him that way in the future till he gets lame) won is clear, ltte wanted it that way and tamils in northeast obliged.

so why does ltte want the buffalo as president?

is it because they want a weak leader in the south ? probably, and they have achieved it. buffalo has to depend on the jvp and jhu even more than cbk. with those ppl in government it will never be strong

is it because they expect the buffalo to start a war? so that
1, ltte leadership can get a firmer control of their organization that has been slowly slipping through their fingers?
2, so that ltte can get the sympathy of international community and the various peacenik ngos?
well they won't get that. government is more or less broke so mahinda can't start a war even if he wanted to. ltte will have to do that by large scale provocations, which i expect them to do after 27th. but that will mean they will have to do without the sympathy and probably at the risk of getting more and more of it's front organizations getting banned in more and more countries for helping terrorists.
nor will they be able to maintain their bases in most of the east, government backed karuna faction will have a field day.

is it because of some remarks by milinda moragoda and navin dissnayake as alleged by some?
that is certainly not the case. what they said ( that ltte is trapped in the peace process and is getting progressively weaker and unp planned that in advance ) was common knowledge to those who were interested in the peace talks. one intention of the the interim administration and the p-toms etc. was the desire to make the ltte a dependent of the government, or failing that of the international community, for money. ltte knew that too, it's very clear from their own proposal for these structures. maybe only jvp, jhu and buffalo were clueless.

whatever the exact (and imo highly dicey) reason, we will know soon enough, as the ltte has only few options left.

did ranil made a mistake by appealing to all communities, especially the tamils and running on a peace platform? no, imo. after all even without the ltte and it's followers he got 48.4% of the vote. and buffalo won by just 28,600 odd majority and a 181,000 lead.
that a slim majority in south and almost all ppl in the north chose war, does not make it the wrong policy. war is always bad policy in my book.

unfortunately, most ppl decided in favor of war, on their own free will, at the ltte's urging and elected the president ltte wanted. they will get what they deserve.

Friday, November 18, 2005

early trends in election.

first the conclusion
mahinda supporters don't be too eager to celebrate. you might lose.

when i calculated the possible election result scenarios i gave what were probably the least requiremets for ranil to win in scenarios no 3
1. a swing of 2.5% from ufpa to unp from 2004 vote
2. additional 1.5%, who stayed away voting for unp
3. jhu vote splitting 2:1 between mahinda and ranil
4. 25% of northeast voters will vote inspite of ltte boycott.

now lets see how the vote is going with regard to above.

1. a swing of 2.5%

best place to test is in rural districts where jhu was not a factor in 2004.
i will take two
first horowupotana in anuradhapura district.
2004: upfa 56.63% unp 41.42% jhu got 1.14%
2005: mahinda 53.72%(down 2.91%), unp 44.94% (up 3.52%)

next beliatta in habantota district
2004 upfa 64.06%, unp 35.28% jhu did not contest in hambantota in 2004.
2005 mahinda 64.56% (up 0.5%) unp 34.01%(down 1.27%)
remember that hambantota is mahinda's home and jvp's strongest

results for other divisions show same kind of thing
what to make of it?maybe this: there is a small swing in districts outside of southern province, in south mahinda just holding on to his votes.

2. 1.5% additional votes

this is very difficult to measure, so i will not. but here is what happened in colombo central(one of the main unp strongholds).
in 2004, upfa+jhu got - 26,562, unp- 71,599,
this time mahinda 20,395(6167 less) ranil 78,908 (7309 more)
difference other than swing is 1142, this is 1.14% of 2004 total votes. make of that what you will.

3. jhu split

i will test this using maharagama data where unp famously came 3rd after upfa and jhu in 2004.
in 2004, upfa - 43.92%, jhu - 29.41%, unp - 25.87%
in 2005, mahinda - 59.37% , ranil - 39.91%
as you see unp vote went up by 14.04% while mahinda's went up by 15.45% so it seems jhu vote is splitting 2:1 or better in favor of ranil.

4. 25% of northeast voters voting

here there are differing results according to district.
in jaffna less than 1% (some time less than .01% ) are voting even in cleared areas.
but in mannar 29.69% voted, ranil getting 88.72%


so in case of assumptions 1 and 2 requirements are only partly fulfilled, but the evidence is not conclusive.
as for 3, split in jhu is better than expected for ranil.
in case of northeast votes we will have to see how ppl are going to vote in east, but in jaffna district this not going to happen.

so the conclusion still stands, mahinda don't celebrate too early, you can still lose.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

election results online

vote first.
let the bloody warmongers from both sides know what you really think about their ideas.

then if you want to check election results online in real time following sites may help.

election department website.

last time they updated as results came out (at the same time as results were released to all other media). they say they will do it this time too. old election data available for reference. some of the links are broken due to bad html but the data is there.

the lanka academic result page

they are testing the page as i write this, with fake data. last time kept the results updated in a very easy to read format. they also had some sort of predicting mechanism last year. reports about past elections by various ngos (cmev etc.) available if you want to read.

upali newspaper group election website.

a dedicated site, upto date. worked well last time. pity about the group's racist newspapers.

lanka newspapers election site

didn't check this one last year, so unproven. they are also testing as i write. but seems to have the right format since results will come out according to polling divisions. they have a handy comparison option for each division too. hope it will work with real data.

another new one, at least to me. will have to wait to pass judgment.


i later learned that wikipedia site also updated election results in real time last year. no sign of that this year.

i might (might mind you) post something here with comparisons (not results) from time to time if i get bored and am not sleepy. i will probably edit the same post instead of posting new ones each time

now i have to go get my finger painted.

Monday, November 14, 2005

elections statistics and scenarios

i was inspired to write this by the article presidential election 2005 : outcome revealed by rajiv de silva in lankabusinessonline website. while i will come to similar conclusions here, i think that some assumptions made in the article are way too optimistic (from a unp point of view). it also fails to explain clearly how exactly the figures for north and east were arrived at. i will explain why and how my more conservative assumptions differ from article's as we go along in more detail.

first i will start with the 2004 general election figures taken from election department website.

table 01
party votes percentage
upfa 4223970 45.60%
unp 3504200 37.83%
tna 633654 6.84%
jhu 552724 5.97%
slmc 186876 2.02%
ucpf 49728 0.54%
epdp 24955 0.27%
others 86625 0.94%
9262732 100.00%

please note that in following scenarios the actual numbers are meaningless and are there for calculation purposes only, it is the percentage that counts.

scenario 01 : a crude add and paste from 2004 results

here i am going to make the following assumptions.

1. nobody has changed their minds from 2004

2. there wasn't any increase in voter registration( please note that except in north east there is no significant increase anyway. as for the increase in north east given the unofficial but real ltte boycott situation i am going to assume(in line with the conservative policy on assumptions here) that will also not matter. more on boycott later.

3. upfa, jhu, and epdp votes will go to mahinda rajapakse

4. unp,slmc,ucpf votes will go to ranil wickremasinghe.

5. tna votes won't go to anybody.

the result in such a situation will be

mahinda 4801649 55.64%
ranil 3740804 43.35%
others 86625 1.01%

total polled
8629078 100.00%

tna 633654


of course this is a totally unrealistic outcome but this will be the base.

scenario 02 :


1. there will be a 2.5% swing(of total votes) away from upfa to unp. (in lbo article it was assumed that there was a 1% swing in all district except in colombo where the swing was assumed at 3%. i don't understand the difference between colombo and the rest especially considering assumptions they made regarding the jhu vote, see below). a 2.5% swing is realistic and is in fact conservative in comparison to historical record of swings in sri lanka. for instance unp lost about 7.5 from 2001 to 2004 and pa almost the same from 2000 to 2001.

2. there will be an additional 1.5% of total votes for the unp. that a large portion of unp supporters stayed away was the only explanation for reduction(much larger than votes gained by upfa and jhu) in it's vote from 2001 to 2004. all evidence suggests that party base is much more enthusiastic than in 2004. i am also conservatively not assuming a similar phenomenon will affect the upfa this time, though it is more than likely given the internal divisions within the slfp.

3. jhu vote will split 2:1 for mahinda and ranil. in lbo article it was assumed jhu 'majority will accrue to UNP notwithstanding the JHU’s political alliance with the UPFA candidate. This assumption was made after a careful analysis of the GE 2004’s voting patterns.' imo that is too optimistic, though perhaps not unrealistic if recent opinion poll data are correct. anyway i am assuming that only one third of 2004 jhu vote(concentrated mainly in western province) will go unp way.

4. that most north east tamils ignore the unofficial boycott, 60% of those who voted for tna will vote and the vote will split 85:15 between ranil and mahinda. for what will happen if there is a more successful boycott see below. as for the split it is in fact very conservative, mahinda's support among tamils actually do not go over 10 % and please note that i have already added epdp votes to mahinda separately.

5. there wasn't any increase in voter registration, same as 2 on scenario 01

under above assumptions outcome will be :

mahinda 4439183 48.53%
ranil 4622403 50.53%
others 86625 0.94%

9148211 100.00%

in other words a 2% win for ranil though he goes over 50% by only a whisker. given that third party candidates 's second preferences if counted will probably split equally, 50% rule won't matter in any case.

scenario 03 : a more effective ltte boycott


assumptions 1,2, and 3 are the same as in scenario 2.

4. more tamils obey the ltte boycott and only 25% of the tna votes are cast this time( which will split 85:15 as before). unofficial postal voting numbers seems to indicate that about one third voted but i will be more conservative.

5. there wasn't any increase in voter registration, same as 2 on scenario 01. i am in effect assuming that all the new north east voters will obey the boycott.


mahinda 4405917 49.36%
ranil 4433891 49.67%
others 86625 0.97%

8926432 100.00%

a very marginal victory for ranil.

please note that i do not expect ltte to actively encourage votes for mahinda though they seem to have concluded that a victory for mahinda is in their best interest.(i will post separately on this stupid and seemingly illogical conclusion).


in conclusion i am still fairly confident of a unp victory even with a ltte boycott . more so because i have made fairly conservative assumptions in calculating above scenarios.

by far the main and most important assumption is the 2.5% swing against the upfa, without it ranil will not win, period. imo the swing will be larger, but this is the minimum percentage required, anything below this will mean we will have that idiot mahinda in power on 18th..

btw i have been predicting a unp victory here and in other places for some time though i must say i did not expect a ltte boycott, anyway in light of the above i will continue to predict the same.

i have calculated several other scenarios which confirm the above conclusion. if any body wants to find out what will happen on different assumptions please feel free to post them as comments, i will try to calculate and post the results back.

if there are any errors in calculations please point them out.

Friday, November 11, 2005

new versions of software

new versions of my most used applications came out during last week or so. 2.0

i have been using this productivity suite for such a long time i have forgotten when i first installed it. however i do remember that i uninstalled the ms office in all my pcs somewhere in 2003.
it has been able to fulfill all my expectations of such software (especially the spreadsheet called 'calc') and i recommend it to anyone.
i downloaded the new version last week, so far it works fine.
read more about it here.

firefox 1.5 release candidate 1
Get Firefox!

this is the first release candidate of next generation firefox browser, to be released later this year. it is not a final release and is made available for testing purposes only. but so far i had no problems whatsoever( i downloaded it 5 days ago).

read about it here.

google reader

i have been using mozilla thunderbird to read feeds of various kinds, which meant that since i use 3 pcs (2 windows, one linux) in three different places i have to deal with a lot of clutter. so when i found this web-based feed reader in google labs, i transferred all my blog feeds to it. it is still in beta. but as long as the blogs subscribed don't update too frequently (as in 20 posts a day) it works fine. i don't recommend it for news feeds and other such 'heavy' feeds yet.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

time for ltte and tamils to decide whether they want peace or war.

with prime minister mahinda rajapakse appealing almost exclusively to the sinhala buddhists and probably expected to get around 50% to 60% of that vote, (sinhala buddhists comprise compromise around 70% of the total electorate) this election's result will depend on how the minorities vote. while there is no doubt that a big majority of christians, muslims, and upcountry tamils will vote for opposition leader ranil wickremasinghe the main deciding factor in this election could very well be the tamils in northeast.

most observers including myself expect tamils to vote for ranil ,and with some reason too. a victory for mahinda would mean going back, to war maybe, or more likely to more of present stalemate and low intensity war. result will be bad for sri lanka but especially for the northeast tamils. so if they think about their own well being they do not have much choice.

as for the ltte, things get more complicated. to some people in the ltte leadership, war in itself or the present stalemate may not seem bad at all. contrary to what most people in the south believe ceasefire has in fact weakened the ltte. it's discipline is going overboard, cadres are getting increasingly corrupt and recruitment is falling, in this relatively peaceful atmosphere. this is to be expected. all authoritarian organizations need a high intensity struggle to remain cohesive. of course ltte can over time evolve in to a more democratic political party but that would entail the present leadership giving up some of its powers and dictatorial ambitions. this is still possible, south asian political history is filled with almost dictators getting their way without being homicidal maniacs. mr velupillai prabhakaran has to decide whether he chooses to follow that path in the future or not. problem is he may be incapable of doing this. now is the time to decide.

that doesn't mean ltte has to endorse ranil. given that tough negotiations will have to take place in the future they will probably be better off and ranil will also be better off if they stay neutral. but they should definitely not endorse a election boycott or in any way hinder the ordinary tamils from voting in the election.

conflicting signals

so what does all those conflicting signals that seem to be coming from the ltte during the last few days mean. are they deliberately willing a mahinda victory by starting a boycott? what do they hope to achieve by that? if they think they will be able to occupy moral high ground and get international sympathy in the event mahinda wins and starts a war, they are sadly mistaken. reality will be the opposite and ltte will once again be considered terrorists in a world that abhors terrorists.

a ltte backed boycott at this stage can mean only one thing: ltte leadership has decided against peace and is for war. period.

if things come to that we should all support the government (whoever is elected) and the resulting war effort (in the same way if there is no boycott we should all make sure that the government make every effort to achieve peace.)

war would mean suffering all around. that is why ltte and all those who can influence it should not let it come to that.

time to decide.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

update : court interference temporarily saves combank's amarasuriya

last minute stay order from appeals court (after district court refused one in the morning) preventing harry j's cos from voting(till nov 16) at extraordinary general meeting of shareholders saved combank chairman.

I bloged about the issue earlier.

more details on todays happenings can be found here. though i must say lanka business online and it's tv programs are covering this in a totally one sided way (very unusually for them). though lbo is generally pro market and rational in covering issues, they seems to have got carried away with this, giving no reason for their open preference for one side. btw minority share holders were not relevant to today's events, lbo story made a mistake there.

anyway given that central bank and securities and exchange commission have already held that banking laws were not broken, it is hard to think that this stay order being anything more than a temporary respite for mjc amarasuriya.

shareholders will and should get their way eventually, in spite of irrational courts, unions and small number of crazy minority shareholders. otherwise there is no point in having limited liability public companies.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

update: sri lanka telecom turns down trc request to cut phone links

i had a post yesterday about the telecommunications regulatory commission of sri lanka(trc) requesting sri lanka telecom(slt) to cut idd to solomon islands, vanuatu, the cook islands, the wallis and futana islands, papua new guinea, nauru, tuvalu, tokelau, western samoa, niue estonia, and kiribati for three months.

it seems that slt has refused and has appealed saying that the request is 'not practical' and it 'cannot act as a nanny to clamp down on its customers'. see more details in lbo story here. I am glad they did this.

though when slt goes against the trc it is usually to protect it's dwindling monopoly privileges and to stifle competitors, in this case i agree with them 100%.

it's about time that trc people realized that they are there to make the market more competitive and not to make silly new regulations.

Monday, October 31, 2005

sri lanka cuts phone links to 13 countries

telecommunications regulatory commission of sri lanka(trc) has requested sri lanka telecom(slt) to cut idd to solomon islands, vanuatu, the cook islands, the wallis and futana islands, papua new guinea, nauru, tuvalu, tokelau, western samoa, niue estonia, and kiribati.
block will be there for 3 months from next week.

according to director general of trc: "We have decided to do this because of modem hijacking," .

imo this is stupid. just because a small number of customers fall victim to this sort of easily preventable scam should whole countries be cut off? if customers get billed for calls they never made they should sort it out with their phone company and follow the simple procedure needed to prevent this.

you might object that since countries concerned are small and unimportant this is no big deal. well for one, sri lanka is small and unimportant, how would you feel if same was done to us by usa ? second, it is the principle that is important. if this sort of attitude prevailed internet itself would be banned eventually.

what's next? government blocking of all emails with word 'nigeria'?

Friday, October 28, 2005

harry j and the commercial bank

a lot of interest has been aroused by the mr jayawardena's (btw his full name in don harold stassen jayawardena, a easily verifiable fact some newspapers got wrong) attempt to remove mr m.j.c.amarasuriya from his directorship (thus his chairmanship) of the commercial bank(combank) board. an extraordinary general meeting of shareholders requested by two of the main shareholders of combank, namely distilleries co of sri lanka(dcsl) and sri lanka insurance corporation(sli) (both controlled by jayawardena) will be held on 2nd of november for that purpose. in fact because of the large number of shareholders who are expected attend, venue was changed from bank's auditorium to holiday inn.

before discussing the merits of the case i would like to point out some basic facts that are not considered in newspaper articles dealing with this issue. (please note that this is simplified for easy consumption )

how to get seriously rich.

since a main argument put forward by people opposed to jayawardana concerns his motivation, let us see what he has been doing in the past.

simple answer is he has been trying his best to get very rich. and the method he uses has been followed by lots of wise investors world over with spectaculars success. in fact if you are not a genius innovator or a big risk taker(as in venture capitalist etc. ), or a just plain lucky person and you do not want to do anything that is illegal, then this is the only method to get seriously rich.

method (simplified) consist of

  1. secure a steady cash flow
  2. take loan against the future cash flow
  3. use the money to secure another steady cash flow
  4. go to step 2

to take a example, from jayawardena's past, first he bought dcsl( step 1) (that almost monopoly spews out more than 1 billion in profit each year, with nothing much to do by way of reinvestment). then it's expected future cash flow made it possible for him to get loans (step 2) to buy sli, another cash cow(step 3). he has consistently followed these steps (as when he bought lanka bell (another cash cow) recently ).

control of combank will enable him to continue with this strategy. that is because he has bumped up against a problem when obtaining financing (that is step 2) for future deals because these deals are expected be large by sri lankan standards.

it is one thing to get 4 or 5 billion rupees against dcsl cash flow but something else to obtain the money needed to say, buy that ultimate cash cow the sri lanka telecom (probably about 40 billion or more) whenever the government sells it's remaining stake. while financing for this will be easily obtained by anyone with access to developed capital markets, sri lankan financial sector is so undeveloped that no private bank will be in a position to advance that kind of money. total assets(that is mostly loans to customers) of hnb the largest private bank(already more or less controlled by jayawardana) is only 153 billion in 2004. which means to get that kind of money (without breaching single borrower limits etc. that apply to banks), he has to get control of other available pools of money in sri lanka. and the prime target is combank.

what does a bank actually do.

banks take deposits from customers and pay interest for those deposits and then lend that money and receive interest from the borrowers. their profit is the difference(spread) between those two interest rates less costs (including regulatory costs) .

so, say a bank has 100 billion in deposits and it pays 12% on deposits( that is it pays 12b in interest). it has to park about 10% of deposits in central bank as a statutory requirement. so it has 90b to lend which it does say at 15%, then it will get 13.5b in interest. so it's profits before costs comes to 1.5b.

but that is what a bank is supposed to do.(of course they get income from other sources too. such as money market and foreign exchange dealings, other fees etc. but let's leave that aside for the moment)

but commercial bank is different. in most banks share capital and retained profits (called the shareholders' funds) is used up in various physical assets and such(buildings etc.), those assets mostly does not give a return. but in combank shareholders' funds exceeded any such requirement by 5.5b at the end of 2004. this excess is called free capital. why is this important.? because the free capital is well 'free', almost. since the dividends are paid as per 'par value' of shares(rs.10) and the net book value of a share was rs.172( at end 2004) cost of that 5.5b to the bank is negligible.

so if the bank lends that 5.5b at 15%, it will get 0.8b in interest. but since it doesn't have to pay anything for that money this is pure profit. in other words 5.5 b in free capital equals 50b in deposits.

this the main reason why combank has been able to make consistently good profits while other banks' profits go up and down with the sri lanka's interest rate volatility. for instance in 2001, a very bad year for banks combank made more profits than all the other local private banks combined. yes, it has a lower cost to income ratio than other banks but this is the main reason.

anybody who controls combank will be able to release this free capital with minimum fuss, after all it belongs to the shareholders.

shareholders should have the final say

this free capital and the fact that he will be able to draw loans from a larger pool in the future is probably why harry j is trying to get control of combank and not because of ' reasons(that) are personal and mala fide' as claimed by amarasuriya in his letter to the shareholders dated october 5th .

most commentators object that according to law it's illegal to own more than 10% of a bank by one person or group acting in concert. while there is a rule like that, central bank has pointedly not acted. why ? maybe because these things are more flexible than people think and has been flexibly applied so far in sri lanka's banking history. do not expect central bank to act differently now.

second objection (which is also the justification for the above rule) is that a dominant shareholder will use depositors money for his own purposes, thus putting their money at more risk than necessary. but that is mere speculation and even professional bankers sometimes screw things up. central bank has done a good job as a regulator as far as commercial banks in sri lanka are concerned, there is no reasons to expect it will fail to do so in the future. if customers fear for their money, they should withdraw the deposits.

minority shareholders may fear that their interest will not be looked after, but if they do they can sell now. but comparison of dcsl share price and combank share price shows that though both have done phenomenally well in recent years dcsl has done much better.

silly unions at combank are threatening to strike on this. what could be more stupid and harmful to their bank? if hnb and comb are to merge in to one bank there will be some layoffs (in that case given that combank staff are more efficient by all measures, it's the hnb staff who should fear) but i don't think any such formal merger will take place.

another objection is that there will be less competition if a single group controlled both combank and hnb. that is not true because in sri lanka largest banks are the state controlled bank of ceylon and people's bank. if you want more competition best thing to do is to privatize those two.

in fact i believe most people object because they don't like jayawardana (he certainly doesn't fit the normal mold of the colombo elite) and what he stands for – capitalism. fact that they don't articulate this indicate that their objection has no validity in their own opinion nor should it deserve any consideration by us.

anyway shareholders own the bank so they should be allowed to decide what to do.

I don't know how the vote will go on 2nd but i hope share holder rights will prevail.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

black and white versus shades of grey

black or white? good or bad? for or against? unp or slfp? sinhala or tamil? war or peace? friend or foe? buddhist or catholic? male or female? straight or gay? rich or poor? in or out? passed or failed? young or old? in love or not? this or that?

we love simple questions and simple answers don't we? what could be more simple than a multiple choice question with two predefined answers?

of course most of us have the suspicion that in reality answers don't fit exactly in to these predefined concepts.

there is no pure black or total absence of color in reality. morality changes with the person and circumstances. one can be for and against at the same time. one is never satisfied with any political program. everyone in sri lanka is of mixed nationality. there is peace with war right now. some friends are worse than enemies. each person follow their own personal religion. there are 'masculine' women and gay men have love affairs with women. you can be rich but not rich enough. when you enter you also have to leave. passed but has only a 'b'. there are mature children and infantile adults. for each relationship love differs as its underlying emotions change their proportion in the mix. so on and so forth.

but we prefer not to think about all that complexity, it's always much easier to accept unrealizable definitions or ideals usually conjured up by somebody else. we let our unique individuality to be subsumed and defined by labels of all kinds. we unquestioningly submit to rules of behavior (some times real laws) that regulate our activity based on these one size fits all concepts.


is it because we prefer our mind to be clear so we can enjoy our creature comforts in peace? or is it because they provide security in a dangerous and irrational world? or is it because we don't want to be free and thus responsible?

the grand inquisitor in dostoevsky's brothers karamazov mocks the risen christ with these words:
'i tell thee that man is tormented by no greater anxiety than to find someone quickly to whom he can hand over that gift of freedom with which the ill fated creature is born'.

Friday, October 14, 2005

why do we like rainy days?

title is a bit presumptuous of me, it should read 'why do i love rainy days?' but i like it better as it is.

anyway i love days like the past few.

part of it may have to do with a particular rainy september long time ago when i was 13. in a two or three week period that year due to extended school holidays i found myself alone at home and discovered the pleasures of reading( little women, jane eyre, and a children's(but complete) bible were the first). of course i have read before, but this was somehow different. since then rainy days meant reading and with each day memories have become accumulated and reinforced to a such a extent that sound of rain outside, feel of a couch, and emotions generated by characters from beloved novels have all become one irresistible sensation.

then there are the physical sensations and connected memories. why is it that a little relative drop in temperature almost doubles one's sense of touch? i used to think this was not a common phenomenon but have since confirmed that others (perhaps not all) experience the same. there is no better day to make love and to hold one's beloved tightly to oneself. i heard it somewhere that at rainy periods poetry submissions to newspapers trebles. in fact all kinds of sensations seems to get heightened by rain (as long as one doesn't get drenched of course :-)) for instance i love the feel of cigarette smoke on such days though i am not a smoker. if i ever start smoking it would certainly be on a rainy day.

even though one's senses work overtime one feels not the slightest reason to do any 'real' work. it's not exactly sloth but one just don't want to get up and do anything. one feels bored by the movies and the news, earthquakes and elections notwithstanding, one lets emails pile up because the whispering sound of the pc becomes bothersome, but on the other hand one doesn't want to sleep. i was up for the last 22 hours doing absolutely nothing except reading occasionally, but am still wide awake. in fact i am writing this to feel tired.

i know this post is filled with contradictions and is probably stupidly vain. if so it's ironic that not long ago i called someone 'ostentatiously vain' among other things because of a post in a blog.
well, on rainy days one has to be self indulgent and forget logic.

Sunday, October 09, 2005

so called liberal party's freedom of expression!

lanka citizen 'blog' has just published it's parent, the so called liberal party of sri lanka's media policy.

and it includes among other platitudes the following provision.

The enactment of Legislation to ensure to any person the right of reply, with equal weightage for such reply.

as i posted earlier 'lanka citizen' itself does not give the right of reply. what kind of a hypocritical party is this? do they have a right to call themselves liberals? one is reminded of extreme nationalist (almost fascist) 'liberal democratic' party in russia. only these fellows have minuscule support.

even the so called 'liberals' are welcome to comments here.

Saturday, October 08, 2005

when is a blog not a blog?

if you get the latest posts in sl blogosphere through kottu you would have noticed the posts from lanka citizen (from so called liberal party of sl). last time i checked 6 of the last 10 entries at kottu were from this blog.

now i have no objection to very frequent updates of one's blog or expression of extreme political views in one's blog. but the difference in lanka citizen blog is that it closes the comments for all posts from the start. when this happens it ceases to be a blog and becomes a propaganda website and imo should not be included in the 'blogroll'. even the unp's blog allowed comments though it was far from perfect, read about that here.

it is of course up to administrators of kottu to decide and they are free to do whatever they want (btw we are also very thankful for their service). but on the other hand we are free to protest.

i have also sent a email on this to indi AT which is the contact address in kottu.

what's your opinion?

Thursday, October 06, 2005

three colors trilogy

first, this is not a review. just my thoughts about these films, if you want reviews go to internet movie database and see internal and external reviews there(here are the links blue, white, red).

ever since i first read the reviews of krzysztof kieslowski's 'three colors : red' in 1995 and saw the accompanying incredibly beautiful stills, i wanted to see it and the other two films of the trilogy. but had to wait till last weekend to do that. though i bought the dvd set about two months ago i decided to watch all three, one after the other in one sitting, so had to wait until i got the time. in the end, i watched them separately. it took at least a day to digest each, even though they are relatively short (none going over 100 min).

and it was a one of the most rewarding cinema experiences of my life. they were so intense, so richly detailed and so visually stunning that i feel compelled to watch them again and again. even if you don't understand french or has difficulty with it (as i do) i recommend that you watch the films with the english subtitles off, at least on repeat viewing so as to not to miss anything.

literally everything in them is there for a reason connected with the theme or the plot of the film, from background details to the speed in which the camera moves. they are filled with symbolism but never in a obscure way, one can easily grasp the meaning of symbols and admire the director's stylistc creativeness. unlike say, tarentino films which are also richly detailed, but which require that you know something about the genre he is parodying/paying tribute to by each film to fully appreciate his stylistic virtuosity, as well as his usual crop of 'in' jokes.

here even the very few details that seems not to make sense become clear when you see all three. so if you see a old stooped person pushing a empty bottle to a high recycling bin, don't worry, if you don't get it, you will in the end. as for 'in' jokes there is only one about a imaginary dutch composer but it's woven in to the plot (in both blue and red) so doesn't matter.

it's always better to watch a film without any preconceived notions about them so don't watch the extras included in the dvd before watching the film (for that matter don't read the introductions that come with classic novels). a work of art can have several interpretations so don't limit yourself before hand.

if you already don't know, the themes of the films broadly corresponds to the ideals of the french revolution (liberté, egalité, fraternité ) and the colors(blue, white, red) to the french flag.


set in paris, this one features juliet binoche, one of my favorite actresses in her best ever performance to date, all the while looking very chic. whole film is tightly focused on her, in fact there is only one scene without her.
she plays a women, julie, who loses her husband and daughter in a road accident. how does one mourn such a loss? can anyone live in a complete state of liberty? what is the value of liberty? or is the whole thing about regenerative power of love? as i said there may be several interpretations.
music plays a greater role here than in the other two movies. it is almost a character here, director forces one to see it with frequent blackouts(or whiteouts) and unfocused or still shots.


in spite of what your dvd cover says the main character is karol played by polish actor zbigniew zamachowski and not the character played by julie delpy. he plays a polish man divorced by his french wife for failing to consummate their marriage. it is mostly set in warsaw. again the theme is examined in a personal level. it's about humiliation (absence of equality) and getting even (regaining equality) and like in blue it questions the value of equality. its also about love and resurrections. this one is much more comic than the other two with a fair amount of laughs.


this is now one of my all time favorites (others are one flew over the cuckoo's nest, godfather 1 and 2, pulp fiction and bladerunner) . it simply glows, like 'noble' valantine the model, played by radiantly pretty irene jacobs (ok, i may be having a bit of a crush here, but that is the point. anyway the part was written with her in mind, with her input).

she runs over a dog in a geneva road and then meets its crusty and cynical owner, a retired judge, played magnificently by french actor jean-louis trintignant, who illegally spies on his neighbors' phone conversations. there is also a young law student living across the street from valentine, whom she never seems to meet.
it's a film about people connecting or not connecting, about compassion and understanding, about fraternity and love, and about destiny and second chances. but unlike the ambiguous questioning endings in other two films, here the end is almost blasphemously conclusive (in fact it concludes them too, i am trying hard to avoid spoilers here). one is invited to take a existential leap of faith ( i know kieslowski explicitly denied that he was following kierkegaard and repeatedly denied being a moralist but ...).

imo it is a deeply religious film, in spite of appearances (and i am not the only one see reviews). at the very least, one wants to do 'good' at the end.

what a godlike way to end his career as a director.

now where in sri lanka can i find the double life of véronique and dekalog films?

ps. blue won best film (golden lion) and best actress at venice. white best director (silver bear) at berlin. red did not win anything at cannes to the surprise of many. winner of palme d'or that year, tarantino for pulp fiction said it deserved to win instead of his film.

at the oscars, since the film was stateless (produced a by frenchman, directed by a pole and set in switzerland) academy refused to admit it to the best film in foreign language category. but the ordinary members of academy (that is actors, directors, techncians etc.) successfully petitioned it to be nominated to the best film category, then an unprecedented step for a foreign language film. however best film oscar went to forrest gump beating both red and pulp fiction. ha!

now, i have nothing against forrest gump but if you want to see the difference between a very good film and a great one watch forrest gump and red one after the other, especially since they broadly deal with similar themes - compassion and brotherhood.

Saturday, October 01, 2005

a political quiz

here is world's smallest political quiz/survey (it's also called the original internet political quiz). if you want to know where you fit in to the political map answer the 10 questions given.

map in question is the nolan chart (here is the wikipedia entry on nolan chart).

quiz is presently hosted by advocates for self government (wikipedia entry about them).

here is a washington post article on nolan chart and this quiz. here are some other reviews.

i am writing this after reading the recent post on durga and michael's blog about a different longer political quiz.

btw i was described as a libertarian after both quizzes :-)

to learn more about libertarianism see,

libertarian faq.

so what kind of a political animal are you?

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

odds and ends - two


was going to write a full post about this but since electra, scourge, prem(dreamwizard) and yes lastnode has written brilliantly about it, i thought mine will be just superfluous, especially since unlike most of them i attended only on the final day. in addition to above, check out the fantastic photos at dreamwizard's flicker set.

anyway it was a great show. venue(galle face green) was great. there were great beautiful flags decorating the place. crowd was great and went wild and even the food ...well tasted great. all round great.
the finale was just unbelievable.
we want more of this.

international elections cont.

poland has joined others (see odds and ends one) in electing a crunchy reform minded center right government. even though like in germany the reform parties lost votes because of their radical program(which again like in germany included a flat tax) they bravely stuck to it. in poland luckily those lost votes went to a soggy center right party. so all is well. who will be next?

sulaga anu pinisa

with film corporation supposedly withdrawing this film from its theaters and the producer withdrawing it completely in protest on the day i was going to watch it, have i lost my last chance to see it for several years? or was all of it a bad publicity stunt?

comedy of lastnode

the blogger lastnode/mahagu/... is also a journalist , undergrad and a geek ( at least trying to be in all three cases). he also has a rather interesting ( or more correctly hilarious ) past (probably some of it unknown to his numerous blogger friends) hidden in the internet. i will probably write a post on that but since the fellow is acting in a unstable way towards me at present will wait a little. if any body is impatient, try some specific googling it won't take long to find the relevant results i am talking about. 10 minutes at most.
anyway to explain the present comic situation. after reading his post about underage alcohol laws and the first few comments i felt i had to post a dissenting opinion to all that moralistic gibberish. it eventually developed in to a regular debate. and they probably were having the better of it( you be the judge).
but lastnode in an effort to give authority to some of his arguments cited a reference to one of plato's works. but since this reference was probably taken from some second rated text book he is studying at present and not from the original source(which he probably haven't even read then) it was plain wrong. he probably thought that because most people are not interested in philosophy or ancient greek politics everyone is not interested too. this btw is a common mistake among socialists. lawmakers, judges, moralists , priests and other type of generalizers.
to continue i pointed out the mistake but the fellow continued to make other references to ancient athens and its democracy in order to show off his knowledge but almost all of them were wrong. you can judge for yourself here. when i in turn pointed out these errors the whole thing became more personal and finally the thread was closed by him with a personal insult to me.
i of course protested this at a another thread in a relevant way. then the fellow completely lost it and is at present actively trashing his own blog under the names (Fact Libertarian, libertarian-2, lanka-libertarian2, liberty machan, Lanka-libertarian-too, Fuckwit, nit-wit, etc) in an effort to .... actually i have no idea what the silly boy wants by such activity. even the anon nutters at nittewa act more sensibly.