Monday, September 27, 2010

The decay of the capitalist class and the rise of the wealthy elite in Sri Lanka

(September 27, 2010, Colombo - Lanka Polity, Ajith Perakum JayasingheSri Lanka' ruling party MP Rajitha Senarathna, a liberal democrat converted into dictatorial worshipper said to The Sunday Observer newspaper that the capitalist class has lost faith in the United National Party (UNP). "They are also working very closely with President Mahinda Rajapaksa and the Government." he said adding "UNP is having a class crisis."

He also says he does not believe in that a vibrant Opposition is essential for democracy.

It is understandable that the capitalist class is closely working with the Rajapalsa regime since their main focus is business for profit and the situation that prevails in the country at present is one even the smallest business needs the blessings of politicians to survive. Capitalist class has adjusted to any harsh condition, even under socialism to survive.

Capitalist class does not essentially mean the wealthiest class of a country. Capitalists are capital accumulators, investors and entrepreneurs. They are independent of the state but both state and capitalists are inter-dependent. Their class interest is a rule that maintains peace for a level they can run businesses normally and a democracy that pays way for enterprise competition healthy to them. No less, no more.

They further need a cheap labor force that is contented or adequately suppressed not to rebel to the level they challenge the system.

For them, the middle class is not a crucial force. It is an intermediate social strata than a class, perhaps a wealthy elite of bureaucrat, small and medium scale businessmen and  pre-capitalist class remnants. However, the middle class was active in the bourgeois cultural space.

UNP, especially under the brilliant leaders like D.S. Senanayaka, Dudley Senanayaka and J.R. Jayawardhana maintained the balance of handling the interests of both crucial classes, the capitalists and the proletariat. Symbolizing this phenomenon, the leaders appeared equally at ease both in the parties of the social elite as well as among the masses in May Day rallies. There was a time UNP challenged the leftists and the trade unionists by holding massive May Days in which real workers enjoyed the shade of the green flag. UNP was well-founded among the peasant class as well. an important social strata in Sri Lanka especially due to their numerical massiveness.

Thus, UNP became the party of the capitalists. Are they the same further?

It is unarguable that the UNP still appears for the interests of the capitalist class unequivocally and boldly. But it has lost the grip of the rein of the peasant and  proletarian classes that have given in to Mahinda Rajapaksa regime. UNP lost its roots. If one argues it is a problem of the present leadership, a counter argument also exists that there is and perhaps was no alternate.

We propose that this is a class crisis, that parallels with the leadership crisis of the working class. The result seems an inevitable situation evolved from the right inception of the social system in the post-colonial era.

Rajitha Senarathna says only the capitalist class "working very closely with President Mahinda Rajapaksa and the Government" and he does not point out that the capitalist class has faith in Mahinda Rajapaksa regime. It is understandable. The regime appears more for the interests of a wealthy middle class than the capitalists.

What is this wealthy class? They belong to a social elite that depends on state for the new found prosperity. Namely, the businessmen and the bureaucrat made of the politicians and the public or service sector officials that have made state their primary source of profit through salaries, perks and benefits, commissions, contracts and unscrupulous means. What they usurp is the local and foreign debt obtained by the government, the tax collections and the loss-making business ventures of state.

They are a rich class but not a hardworking people like capitalists. They cannot prosper without the government. Their unethical, abhorrent earnings are also re-invested in state loans such as treasury bills, unless they are not taken away from the local economy for laundering.

This kind of greedy usurping strata existed everyday in the margins of the capitalist and middle classes. The paradigm shift in recent times is this class outwitted the capitalists and came to front as the most powerful class in Sri Lanka. The ideological and leadership crisis of the working class that paved way for the spread of chauvinist political ideologies among the lower classes was a blessing for this class to prosper.

Mahinda Rajapaksa led regime belongs to this class and it appears for their interests. One fact to prove this argument is as follows. The Sunday Times newspaper on 26-09-2010 reported that President's brother Basil Rajapaksa was given a new responsibility of foreign direct investment development. The same government that is in a dire need a rapid increase of foreign direct investment to peddle through a possible debt crisis in near future is also chasing away the major reputable foreign investors from the country. State took over Appolo Hospital even giving a name change, took back the Emirates management of the Sri Lankan airline and now discussing to buy back the shares owned by Shell Gas while incessantly clashing with Prima.

Capitalist economists identify the situation as mismanagement of economic affairs. We propose you are completely wrong. It is the really brilliant management of the wealthy class, not your bourgeoisie. Hell with FDI! State is a hen laying golden eggs for this wealthy class. That is why they are strengthening it both politically and economically. Keep no more hopes under this regime to get the private sector made the engine of the growth. Forget the fact that state enterprises make losses. People will pay for it. Women will continue to go to Middle  East.

Tourists will arrive in Sri Lanka. IMF will bail the economy. The task of the Central Bank is to maintain good ratings so that the government can obtain loans perhaps until a day until the government will be declared bankrupt. The rulers will try to postpone the day as far back as they can. That is politics or better say governance.

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Thursday, September 23, 2010

Sri Lanka's hand picked democracy; what an amendment to what a constitution!

(September 23, 2010, Colombo - Lanka Polity, Ajith Perakum Jayasinghe)Today, the 23rd of September is a crucial day for Sri Lanka.

The time frame given to the Prime Minister and the Opposition Leader to appoint members for the five-member parliament committee will end today and the Speaker Chamal Rajapaksa will appoint the two Tamil and Muslim representatives for the committee in accordance with the powers vested in him by the 18th amendment to the constitution.

The Opposition Leader Ranil Wickramasinghe earlier appointed Tamil National Alliance MP M.A. Sumanthiran as his representative but the TNA rejected it on the basis it opposed the 18th amendment. The Opposition Leader said his strategy was to appoint representatives that reject the position so as to disrupt the smooth functioning of the parliamentary committee. It is understandable that his party has no MPs that he is sure of rejecting the position as he expects. He wants TNA to be his scapegoat but TNA does not.

The Prime Minister is in a struggle to save his position in the second term of the President Mahinda Rajapaksa that is to start in November. He will readily appoint any Tom, Dick or Harry asked by the President. But here it seems worse than that and the President appears advised the Prime Minister to keep mum. Therefore the Premier leaves his nomination vacant and the Speaker will have the chance to appoint the two nominees to represent Tamil and Muslim communities.

Who is the Speakaer? He is non other than the President's elder brother Chamal Rajapaksa.

The President handpicked the Prime Minister. The President hand picked the Speaker. The President hand picked the two Tamil and Muslim representatives. The Opposition Leader will not participate in the parliamentary committee.

The parliamentary committee has powers only to make observations to the appointments made by the President to the 'independent' committees. The President will hand pick the members for these committees and he may regard or disregard the observations of the parliamentary committee members he hand picked. Perhaps the observations may also be hand picked by the President.

What an amendment to what a constitution!

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Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Sri Lanka's cultural custodians blast historical sites for treasure hunting

(September 22, 2010, Colombo - Lanka PolityNine persons including the Assistant Superintendent of Police of Vakarai were arrested by police when they were fleeing after attempting treasure hunting in Polonnaruwa.

The group had been treasure hunting in a place close to Siripura temple of Polonnaruwa in the night of 20th. The villagers that came to know about the crime, sounded the bell of the temple and summoned people. They kept the group surrounded and informed police.

The suspects that were armed with a revolver threatened the villagers and fled in a van. Police apprehended the van with the group later. Equipment used in the treasure hunting were also arrested.

The arrested suspects included seven police officers including the ASP and two civilians.

A week ago, police produced a Buddhist monk before Mathale magistrate for attempted treasure hunting in a historical site.

The Buddhist monk and his accomplice, a businessman, had blasted a rock using dynamite, police said.

The land in which treasure hunting took place is a fortress belonged to colonial period. It is called Fort Macdoval and belongs to Mathale Sambuddha Jayanthi Sangamaya.

The Buddhist monk was released on personal bail of Rs. 100,000.

Treasure hunting is often reported around the country and people who want to become instantly rich believe that the ancient kings have hidden unbelievable amounts of wealth in unbelievable places like inside the rocks.

A spokesman of the Archeological Department said that this belief was wrong and it had led to vandalism and destruction for valuable historical and cultural property.

It seems that the majority of these treasure hunting cultural vandalists are in some way the should be custodians of the historical and cultural values.

There is a Sinhala saying meaning what if a farmer can do when the field fence and borders. (Wetath niyarath goyam ka nam kata kiyamida e amaruwa?)

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Sunday, September 19, 2010

Sri Lanka is no more a destination of cheap labor for investors

(September 19, 2010, Colombo - Lanka Polity - Ajith Perakum JayasingheSri Lanka appears no more an oasis of cheap labor for foreign investors in manual labor is prime. That is not because the majority of Sri Lankans have better living standards now. The reason is that life conditions are so difficult that a few rupees thrown by factory owners as salary cannot save them from misery.

Reports say that the garment and other similar factories country wide have around 30,000 regular and increasing number of unfilled vacancies.

Sri Lanka’s Board of Investment (BOI) says that 7000 positions are vacant in the BOI investment zones alone island wide.

Vacancies are unfilled of the skilled and unskilled workers in the garment, furniture, diamond, rubber, plastic and electronic trades, BOI says.

More than 1000 vacancies are available in Katunayaka, Seethawaka, Biyagama and Mawathagama export zones, according to BOI. Over 600 vacancies are unfilled in Wathupitiwala export zone. Around 300 vacancies are available in Koggala. Hundreds of unfilled positions are in other investment zones as well.

Trade unions say that the reason for less attraction of workers in investment zones is the lower salary.

A recent report of the Medical Research Institute of the Ministry of Health stated that 20%of Sri Lankans are in extreme poverty and they depend on less than 2 $ income per day. Basic salary of most of these factories is around or just above 2 $ per day. Sri Lanka is a country with high cost of living.

Especially, the price of food is extremely high due to government taxes on imports. The category of people mentioned above spend 60% of their daily income for food.

Anyone can understand why the workers from far away areas are not attracted in work in export zones as it happened earlier. One time, young girls of poor families of remote villages worked in these factories to earn their living and to save for their dowry. Nowadays, the salary of these factories is not sufficient even to pay for food and lodging. Why to come and waste time?

Many village women still opt to migrate to Arab countries since they are paid in foreign currency and they can have free food and lodging although salary is meager.

Of the 1.8 million Sri Lankan expatriate workers, the vast majority is the women from poor families. They are the major source of foreign income of Sri Lanka that is ruled by a bunch of fat male asses.

Sri Lanka expects Rs. five billion as remittance this year.

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Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Burning polythene; a burning health issue in dengue prevention campaign of Sri Lanka

(September 14, 2010, Colombo - Lanka PolitySri Lanka's health officials, mainly the persons deployed in dengue prevention campaigns, advocate burning of waste plastic and polythene.

Despite rhetoric of the Ministry of Environment, proper methods of disposal of polythene and plastic waste are unavailable in most parts of the country. Therefore people are prompted to burn polythene and plastic waste causing severe harm to environment and to the health of the man, animals and plants.

Dioxin, released when burning polythene is extremely hazardous to human health and the worst factor is that the dioxin can cause harm to people living even hundreds of kilometers far away from actual burning places.

Following are some key facts regarding dioxin we researched in WHO sources.

Dioxins are a group of chemically-related compounds that are persistent environmental pollutants.

Dioxins are found throughout the world in the environment and they accumulate in the food chain, mainly in the fatty tissue of animals.

More than 90% of human exposure is through food, mainly meat and dairy products, fish and shellfish. Many national authorities have programmes in place to monitor the food supply.
Dioxins are highly toxic and can cause reproductive and developmental problems, damage the immune system, interfere with hormones and also cause cancer.

Due to the omnipresence of dioxins, all people have background exposure, which is not expected to affect human health. However, due to the highly toxic potential of this class of compounds, efforts need to be undertaken to reduce current background exposure.

Prevention or reduction of human exposure is best done via source-directed measures, i.e. strict control of industrial processes to reduce formation of dioxins as much as possible.

For more details visit here, the WHO website

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Tuesday, September 07, 2010

The development bubble of Sri Lanka is on top of a debt bubble

(September 07, 2010, Colombo - Lanka Polity"The country has been liberated for more than 15 months but has not recoded any significant large scale private investment, which is puzzling. The government and the private sector have to come on to a common ground in order to achieve a high economic growth, the mind sets of both has to be one in order to gain an economic victory," John Keells Holdings Chairman Susantha Rathnayake told the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission of Sri Lanka yesterday afternoon.

"The private sector has to play a vital role in the development process and should be encouraged to invest. FDIs are necessary for the country’s development and should be encouraged. The private sector in the country alone cannot go ahead with the development activities without adequate capital to invest. We should focus on attracting large players who will help develop the country in the long run, rather than the small investors who come in for a quick buck," he said.

Jayampathy Bandaranayeka, the chairman and director general of the country's state-run Board of Investment (BOI) also expressed the same views in an interview with Reuters "We are unlikely to move beyond $1 billion (in regard of Foreign Direct Investment) and investments would be more in line with what was achieved last year." Last year Sri Lanka achieved US $ 602 million.

These two statements are indications of the crisis behind the development bubble of Sri Lanka.

Sri Lanka has accelerated infrastructure development. Harbors, airports, expressways, coal power hoses and many more constructions are underway funded by massive loans obtained from international financial markets.

Latest reports of Central Bank of Sri Lanka shows that the local and external debts of the state has sharply escalated.

The report says that the unpaid debt has increased by 4.5% now compared to the end of 2009.

According to economic indices of the Central Bank of Sri Lanka the accumulated local debts of the state in May 2010 rose from Rs. 2521.5 to Rs. 2544.2 within a month by Rs. 22 billion.

Overall foreign debts of the government by end of May was Rs. 1777.9 billion and it rose to Rs. 1803 billion by Rs. 26 billion within a month.

By the end of June, the total unpaid debt of the government was Rs. 4347 billion and it is an increase of Rs. 54 billion from May. At the end of May the state debt remained in Rs. 4293 billion, Central Bank reports show.

The development bubble of Sri Lanka is on top of another bubble, i.e, debt. How are we going to continue paying back these massive loans? In 2009, Sri Lanka state spent 86% of the Gross Domestic Product to for loan repayments. The repayments of external loans cost 36.5% of GDP.

The government has made each Sri Lankan indebted Rs. 217,350 and of this massive indebtedness, Rs. 90,150 is to foreign countries, as per end of June.

In line with this trend, the government will not be able to maintain the ability to continue to obtain loans continuously.

When the debt bubble bursts, what will happen to the development bubble?

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Monday, September 06, 2010

Replacing one flawed amendment by another flawed amendment (constitutional reforms of Sri Lanka)

By Sunmanasiri Liyanage

(September 04, 2010, Colombo - Lanka PolityMay be due to the fact that they have to cater to the exigencies of the power hungry and powerful politicians, legal draftsmen/women have oftentimes been careless in drafting legislations, particularly the constitutional amendment bills. This is evident when one has a cursory glance at the drafts of the 13th Amendment and the 17th Amendment to the Constitution. The 17th Amendment was hurriedly passed by the Parliament in 2000 to introduce limited checks and balances on the powers of the executive presidency, especially with regard to making high level appointments like the chief justice, the inspector general of police, and the election commissioner and the appointments to the important commissions. It proposed to set up a constitutional council comprising 10 members, seven of them non-parliamentarians. When the president makes the above mentioned appointments, she/he has to act on the recommendations of the constitutional council.

However, the legislation has left many questions unanswered and the Supreme Court informed Parliament of some of those issues at that time. Partly due to these drawbacks, the 17th Amendment was not properly put into practice, except for a very brief period. However, we have to keep in mind that the main reason why the Constitutional Council was not set up following the enactment of the 17th Amendment was that it intended to restrict the powers of the executive President.

A generation of hypothetical situations would help us understand the practical problems involving the implementation of the 17th Amendment. If the President refuses to appoint the persons who are nominated by the Prime Minister and the leader of the opposition or by the minority parties in parliament or if the President refuses to appoint his/her nominee, setting up of the constitutional council would not take place. Similarly, if the Prime Minister and the leader of the opposition fail to reach a consensual decision once again setting up of the Constitutional Council would be problematic. It appeared that these hypothetical situations were not anticipated by the law makers or legal draftsmen.

One of the objectives of the proposed 18th Amendment to the Constitution is to replace the Constitutional Council by a Parliamentary Council consisting of 5 members, 3 are ex-officio—the Speaker, the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition. The other two members will be separately nominated by the Prime Minister and the Leader of Opposition to include ethnic groups not represented by the three ex-officio members. Of course, unlike the Constitutional Council this body cannot recommend the names of the people for above mentioned positions or to the commissions. The President can seek the observations of the Parliamentary Council in making those appointments. In a way, with the proposed 18th Amendment, the process that was unleashed by the 17th Amendment with regard to the powers of the President is intended to be reversed. In other words, the unrestrained powers of the executive President will be re-established if the 18th Amendment is passed.

Once again we can pose hypothetical or counterfactual questions to see the constitutional coherence of the proposed amendment. Suppose if the leader of the opposition refuses to nominate a member to the Parliamentary Council, can the Parliamentary Council be duly set up? Suppose, the President and the Prime Minister belong to two different parties and the Prime Minister refuses to nominate his candidate, can the Parliamentary Council be set up? Hence what happened to the Constitutional Council would happen to the Parliamentary Council as well making that component of the 18th Amendment inoperative.

Let me now turn to more substantive points. One of the key issues that were raised against the present Constitution has been that it had created a monster in the institution of the executive presidency. Hence, the left in Sri Lanka including the JVP has been campaigning for the abolition of the executive presidential system or at least for introducing checks and balances to reduce the powers of the executive president. At the moment besides almost impossible impeachment procedure specified in Article 38(2), there is no any other constitutional mechanism to question the acts of the executive president. The cases cannot be filed against the President while she/he is in office. The two members of the present Parliament, Vasudeva Nanayakkara and M Sumanthiran know this very well. As the term of the President is not restricted as the 18th Amendment proposes and if the president using his/her official powers gets elected once again, then there is no room for citizens to question his acts.

When the appointment of the election commissioner and the election commission is solely the responsibility of the president under the proposed 18th Amendment, one may justifiably raise the question if the elections can be free and fair. Hence, if the ruling party wants the incumbent president to run for another term, what should be done is to extend the term for three terms by amending the Article 31 (2), not to remove it.

A criticism that was leveled against the 17th Amendment that seems to be quite justifiable is that it takes away the powers of the Parliament and facilitates handing them to so-called independent people. Without spending time on this argument, just accept it as it is. President Rajapaksa always argued that he would like to be a president more accountable to parliament. In this situation, what could have been done was to repeal the 17th Amendment totally and replace it by a separate Amendment making important appointment to above mentioned positions by the President accountable to parliament. This may be done in many ways. I will suggest a simple mechanism without disturbing unnecessarily the existing constitutional framework. The president can make appointments but the appointments are subject to the approval by not less that 60 per cent members of parliament including those not present. By introducing such a mechanism, the important appointment can be made subject to non-partisan parliamentary ratification.

If one conducts a simple survey to ascertain people’s views on constitutional reforms, he or she will for sure find that people would place electoral reforms as the priority number 1. I believe people gave the UPFA closer to a two-thirds majority in parliament primarily because the people in this country are fed up with the electoral system that has been in operation and want it changed. Instead of taking this into consideration, the attempt of the UPFA to present a constitutional amendment that does not reflect either this desire of the people or the promises made by the UPFA at both parliamentary and general elections this year is unacceptable and would produce adverse results not only for the country but also for the UPFA as a coalition. It is not seldom that politicians unwittingly dig their own graves.

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Saturday, September 04, 2010

Protest mounting against 18th amendment to the constitution of Sri Lanka

New UNP parliamentarian Manusha Nanayakkara is the latest in the line up to strengthen the hands of the Rajapaksas
(September 04, 2010, Colombo - Lanka PolityNo valid argument is available to prove that the 18th amendment to the constitution of Sri Lanka will not further the draconian powers of the executive President at which the incumbent President Mahinda Rajapaksa as well frowned before he tasted the sweet fruit of power accumulation.

The naked truth behind the Rajapaksa regime's ability in mustering parliamentary two third majority is sheer selfishness and disregard of democratic principles by the so-called representatives of people. If there is any politically valid argument in what they state, that is the long lasting love of Sri Lankan polity to have the toughest dictator to rule or overrule themselves. No wonder many corrupt people also say Sri Lanka needs the kind of laws in Islamic countries to discipline the society. We will have wait and see till they wake up to the reality of their dream.

The supporters of the amendments to strengthen the hold of Rajapaksa's immediate family must leave out the words such as democracy and they can talk openly what they gain and what the people will be given through this move. There are too many greedy elements in the highest echelon of Sri Lankan politics and the people who yearn for absolute power will no sooner suffer. Losing power will be extremely painful in this context. No one can hold on permanently and no one have done so, so far in the history.

However, while the major opposition United National Party (UNP) leadership fails to maintain the collective unity and discipline of even the freshest parliamentarians, the People's Liberation (JVP), the leftists and activists are getting together to muster isolated protest to the draconian amendments to the constitution.

"People's Delegate Conference will be organized to protest against the dictatorial 18th Amendment to the Constitution on Monday, 6th September 3.30 pm onwards at Jayewardene Centre, Colombo-7" said the convener of the delegate conference Attorney Sudarshana Gunawardana.

Leaders of the political parties including UNP, JVP, Democratic National Alliance (DNA), Left Front, United Socialist Party, Democratic People's Party will address the conference.

Trade Unionists and the leaders of the civil society including the Platform for Freedom will also address the conference.

JVP is organizing a massive protest against the constitutional amendments on September 07. Leftists, activists and civil society protest is scheduled on September 08, the day the government has planned to pass the bill.

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Friday, September 03, 2010

Essay: A friend indeed (How moral is profit?)

By Ajith Perakum Jayasinghe
He was my childhood friend. In fact, we are relatives. It is normal that most of us in the village are related to each other in some way. We lived in a beautiful, traditional village in tropical Sri Lanka. There is no hill top in our village surrounding that our explorative young feet missed to climb. No stream was shy to provide us a pool to quench our sweat soaked naked bodies.

He is before me now. The boy who used to wear a pair of cotton shorts with all sorts of stains is now in a neatly ironed suit. His long sleeved light blue expensive shirt and the tightly knotted red and black patterned tie prevent the cool comfortable evening breeze to kiss his chest that was bear all the time except the few hours he was in school in the past.

“This is not mere insurance policy. This is a way you perform your duties towards your offspring,” he explains to my unenthusiastic ears. In sweet words, he says that if I am killed in some way, the insurance company will pay my family a handsome dividend. But, I don’t want to die soon since my children are small and also because I have many stories to write one day. The topic of death is appalling. But he speaks nice words targeting to sell an insurance plan to me.

“By the way, what happened to Sira, the guy of the village doctor, who used to play with us?” I ask. I lost contact with the village ever since my father passed away since my mother decided to go back to her parents in her home village together with her children, although father’s family provided us security and welfare. Until we left the village, my uncles and aunts looked after us well. Uncles cultivated our rice field and stocked our barn for the season. Aunts took my younger sister and brother that were twins to our father’s ancestral home and looked after them so that mother could pay her full attention to the baby. For the New Year, they even painted our house. But my mother was somehow compelled to go back to her village and to live with her people. We enjoyed a similar life full of love there as well. But I still remember how all my uncles and aunts were looking with tearful eyes at the train slowly picking up the pace taking us away from them. Time departed us. But still the love blooms once we meet occasionally. The times have changed. Amidst so many changes that I do not mention here, my childhood friend is an insurance agent who wants to sell a life insurance to me.

Here he talks about our friend Sira. “He could not get adequate marks at Advanced Level to enter university. But he learnt his father’s traditional medicine and astrology. You know, he is one of my long time customers. Last year, he withdrew a bonus of……” Insurance again. Business. Profit. His car glitters golden in setting sunshine.

He is trying to terrify me to buy a life insurance for the sake of my children. His company is trying to replace the security, love and affection we, as a family of a prematurely died father, had from our extended families with insurance. It is a thriving business with huge profits not only to the owners but to the sales representatives like my friend as well. I looked at his brightly polished expensive pair of shoes. In his right calf, just above his ankle, now covered with light blue comfortable socks, he has a scar of deep cut. He tripped down from a rock as we were bathing near a waterfall. We tied a piece of cloth torn from my sarong above the laceration and carried him to the village doctor who gave him first aid and sent for a bullock cart to be made ready to take him to the hospital. One hoot awoke the boatman from his after lunch nap and before his boat touched the shore of the river bank of the other side several able bodied youth snatched him to be laid on the bullock cart made ready to take him followed by a whole array of relatives and friends. His injury was a common issue for the village. A group went to the jungle to fetch a kind of woody creeper that is good to cure lacerations. My friend talks about hospital cash of the insurance policy. A private hospital ambulance is ready for the clients of the insurance company. Health is business too. Business for profit.

He opened his James Bond bag to take some pamphlets out. He carries a blue labeled water bottle too in his bag. It was quite extraordinary for me. Why? He sensed my feelings. “I am a man from village. I cannot drink the chlorinated water of urban supplies. This is pure bottled spring water.” Water too is business. Business for profit.

Business will not spare air. Recently, the world environmentalists discussed about the quotas for polluting air. Less polluting countries can sell pollution permits to highly polluting countries that exceed the permitted limit. Instant profits to less polluting countries. But the highly polluting countries would not mind the loss. They will start more industries that would ultimately find profits from the less polluting third world countries.

How moral is this kind of trade? Is it ethical? My childhood friend and present sales rep is trying to monetize my love to my children. They call it marketing. What is this market?

Money and market are two of the most wonderful creations of the mankind. When we were small children, I used to visit the village fair with my mother once in a while. My friend’s father used to collect the surplus production of the village like vegetable, fruit and green leaves etc. He took them in a hired cart to the Sunday fair in the town. Most of his goods came from his own garden. He earned a reasonable profit from the items he collected from others. He settled money to his suppliers in the evening. One can tell my friend’s father to buy something for him or her from the fair. He willingly carried a heavy bag made of coconut leaf on his shoulder in the return journey. At a house he stops to give something he rests a while sipping a cup of tea with palm sugar and chews a betel leaf. The villagers did not have much money. But, they managed to be content with their needs that were lesser than today. People need money and markets to sell their surplus production and to buy or barter other needs.

Profit is the driving force of the market. No market will exist without profit. Markets need professional traders. They depend on the profit. Profit is not unethical or immoral. As same as money and markets are real, so does the profit too. Blaming profit for human agony is like criticizing science for innovation of nuclear bomb. It is the greed for power to be blamed for nuclear armaments. In the same way, not the profit but the greed for profit created the present human agony.

Profit is one aspect of human life. It drives the market that is essential for the economic life of the modern man. But market is not everything and so is the profit too. Traders need profit for their existence. But it is not everything. It should remain in its place without invading and dominating all the other parts of the life. For instance, profit should not prompt the market to interfere the relationship between a mother and a child like in advertisements of some milk powder companies. Profit should not target to monetize my emotional life of love, affection and duties towards my children, my dear insurance agent friend. I feel jittery, Machang. (A colloquial Sinhala and Tamil word used to address friends)

Free profit from greed! Then profit will stand for market without affecting the human life. Market is the gun that fired profit into the guts of life. It is not the market that the man invented to exchange the needs for life. It is the present day sophisticated market that exists for profit. That market crawled into the human society like a virus and spread rapidly. It ate into each and every vein, blood cell and gene of the social structure. Man to man relationship was reshaped and restructured by market during the last one or two centuries. Greed for profit became the basis of this new market economy.

Market seized all hiding shy elements of human life out of their safe heavens and threw them to the market counter to be bought and sold. The rose that bloomed in wilderness to be plucked by a lover that earned to gift it to his fiancée was ‘harvested’ and ‘transported’ to the market so that the market could hold the flower in between the lover and fiancée on Valentine Day.

The point is not against the modern marketing principles or its science. It is so simple; we should not put everything into market. You can argue that everything can be marketed. Our attempt is not to defeat you theoretically. Do not market everything although you can do so. There are things that should never be put into market. Love is one example. Greed corrupts profit and the profit corrupts the market. Life must not be made naked to corruption.

We cannot get rid of the pursuit of profit in the present day society. However, pursuit of profit must be tolerated only until to the extent of a clearly demarcated line of morality. Greed for profit must not be allowed to kill humans, make them ill, starve them and fool them. Do how many people die in this world since greed for profit stands between their basic needs like food, water, medicine and the access to resources to fulfill those needs?

World Food Programme (WFP) says that there are 1.02 billion undernourished people in the world today. That means one in nearly six people do not get enough food to be healthy and lead an active life. WFP further says, “As well as the obvious sort of hunger resulting from an empty stomach, there is also the hidden hunger of micronutrient deficiencies which make people susceptible to infectious diseases, impair physical and mental development, reduce their labor productivity and increase the risk of premature death.” (

Proportion of children under five years of age suffering from under-nutrition (according to the WHO Child Growth Standards) was 20% in 2005. An estimated 112 million children are underweight. Undernutrition is an underlying cause in more than one third of child deaths.

So much people are affected by hunger in a time the world leaders are spending lavishly for armaments in their struggles for superiority. Meanwhile the world business communities that fund the states are thriving with huge profits. Agriculture, food processing, distribution and marketing are among the most successful big businesses in this world where so many people are affected by hunger.

By the time I am writing this essay, rice harvesting of the major season is underway. The government registered average price for a kilo of unprocessed rice is around US $ 30 cents per kilo. The same rice is sold in the market after processing around $ 80 cents a kilo. Average Sri Lankan rice farmer is a small industry poor man that lives hand to mouth. According to the Ministry of Social Security and Social Welfare, there are 350,000 recipients of concessions provided to extremely poor people of the country. This allowance is yet to be raised to Rs. 1000 a month. These people are subjected to live with 1/3 of a dollar per day. Sri Lanka government provides 'Samurdhi' poverty concessions to low income groups. The Deputy Minister of State Revenue and Finance Ranjith Siyambalapitiya said in the parliament on May 05, 2009 that the number of Samurdhi recipients was 1,672,159 in 2008. He further stated that by 2007, there were 452,000 families that earned less than Rs. 6283/= per month. This is well over 5% of the population of Sri Lanka. They are unable to afford the price of a kilo of rice today.

How can more than 150% increase of price occur in between the rice field and the retail department store? Food procession and distribution costs do not amount so much. There are big businessmen that grab huge profits from rice walking between the farmer and the consumer. They block our hand moving to mouth to feed us with our traditional staple food. How ethical is gaining massive profits through keeping others hungry.

Most of Sri Lankans are Buddhists. Lord Buddha analyzed profit in one of his preaching called Mahachaththareesaka Sutta. Lord Buddha does not deny profiting. Instead, he states that targeting mere profiting is a wrong livelihood. When one focuses only to profiting he tends to be a cynic and does many other offences as well, according to Buddha’s teaching.

Many of the pre-modern cultures of the world like the small Sri Lankan village where I and my insurance agent friend spent our tender ages had economic models that sustained the man’s life in the societies where money, market and profit was not prominent.

Profit is not an offence but a phenomenon that is essential for the economic life of the man. But greed for profit is a crime that should be avoided. It should not be accepted as a positive principle of economy. Pursuit of profit must be bound with social responsibility. We have to reconsider the economic models in the past, especially the micro level people’s initiatives to start a dialogue to find ways to save the mankind and nature from the evils of the modern market that is driven by greed for profit.

Tomorrows markets need to be free from greed of profit. I have a dream of a socially responsible profit. It is not a profit that generates massive disparity. It is a profit that drives a human market. We cannot go back to the village we lived in our childhood my friend, even if we want to do so. But I have a dream of a world in which my kids explore the beauty hand in hand with my childhood friend’s kids.

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Sri Lanka, China Form Strategic Shield against the West

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka -- On a steamy afternoon in the Sri Lankan capital, if you glance across the water at Colombo's legendary Galle Face Green seaside promenade, past the spray of the Indian Ocean, you can make out a milky line of giant cargo ships at the point where the sky blends with the sea. That ocean traffic on the horizon, those dashes of gray steel, glide along the world's busiest sea lane, navigated by anywhere from 100 to 200 ships every day. This is the maritime pipeline that makes it possible for China to remain the world's fastest-growing economy. It is also the visible explanation for China's generosity toward Sri Lanka and a centerpiece of this country's vision for the future.

Sri Lanka, the small tear-shaped island at the foot of India, has always held a special place in the hearts of global strategists. In earlier centuries, Portuguese, Dutch, and British colonial invaders sought to exploit its riches, but they also coveted the island for its location. Now, in what may become the Chinese Century, it is Beijing that has its sights on the country formerly known as Ceylon.

China's interest has been warmly reciprocated by Sri Lankan authorities, who see Beijing's embrace as the key to prosperity at a time when the West demands pesky human rights standards in exchange for its largesse.

While the West today is removing preferential trade treatment from Sri Lanka, citing its failure to cooperate with human rights investigations, Beijing is happily expanding its presence. Last year China became the country's biggest financial investor, and the level of cooperation is increasing by the day. Chinese businessmen and technical experts are a regular presence in Colombo's hotels, and government delegations make frequent visits. China is allowing Sri Lanka to develop its economy, while Sri Lanka is providing China with a key strategic position in the Indian Ocean -- one that could evolve into a political and even a quasi-military alliance.

Sri Lanka has become one of the beads in China's so-called "String of Pearls," a series of ports between the Persian Gulf and China that protect Chinese trade routes and create the foundation for what could become a series of bases for China's fast-growing navy.

In order for China to access the Middle East oil that fires the pistons of its economy, freighters carrying petroleum must slice through the Persian Gulf waters, sail within sight of Sri Lanka's shores, and make their way around Southeast Asia until they reach a Chinese port. Similarly, Chinese exports destined for Europe must reverse the route, passing near Sri Lanka on their way to the Red Sea, the Suez Canal, and the Mediterranean Sea. Freighters headed to the east coast of the United States, where hungry American consumers gobble up Chinese products, continue on to the Atlantic Ocean.

The Chinese presence in Sri Lanka has become inescapable. Strong bilateral relations are nothing new, but the ties have strengthened greatly since Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa came to office five years ago, and even more since his forces won an apparently decisive victory in the war against the separatist LTTE, the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam.

That military victory against an organization that perpetrated acts of extraordinary brutality was widely cheered by Sri Lanka's majority Sinhalese -- as well as by large sections of the minority Tamil, who dreaded the extreme methods of the Tamil Tigers and breathed a sigh of relief at the war's end. But the victory came at a horrific cost to civilians.

As the controversial final offensive pushed relentlessly ahead last year, China blocked efforts to bring the matter to the U.N. Security Council. But China was already on its way to forging the alliance years earlier. In 2007, when Washington stopped direct military aid to Colombo on human rights grounds, China quickly picked up the slack, providing powerful new weaponry that made America's decision irrelevant. Chinese weapons played an important role in the government's ultimate success against the LTTE in 2009.

Sri Lanka has resisted international pressure to open itself to human rights investigations about what transpired during the final months of the war, when hundreds of thousands of civilians were displaced and thousands more are believed to have been killed. The U.N. launched such an investigation, charging some 7,000 civilians died as the fighting reached its final climax.

In order to pressure Colombo to allow a war crimes probe, the European Union last February threatened to remove favorable trade status. The threat failed to change the government's stance, and in August, Sri Lanka lost tariff preferences under the union's so-called Generalized System of Preference Plus.

Sri Lanka remains defiant in the face of Western pressure, partly because China's help is easing the pain. Authorities say the country received $1.2 billion from China in 2009 in the form of grants, loans and credits, constituting the majority of what Sri Lanka received last year and making Beijing easily the largest contributor among foreign countries and multilateral agencies.

Chinese funds built the gleaming convention center near the airport, but the most important project for both countries is the one under construction in the south of the island. The Hambantota deep-sea port, whose first phase was recently completed, is one the largest of China's String of Pearls ports. Its 55-foot depth makes it one of the deepest in the region. The joint venture, expected to cost $1.5 billion, will give China a place to dock its most massive ships and provides Sri Lanka with an opportunity to expand its position in international shipping. Sri Lanka aims to lure large ships traveling between Asia and the West to use the port for refueling and maintenance.

Other Chinese projects in Sri Lanka include a major power plant in the town of Norochcholai with a price tag of $1.35 billion, financed by Exim Bank of China. The first phase of the plant already went online. China is also engaged in a number of crucial and costly road-building projects, including one that would cut the travel time between Colombo and the main airport at Katunayake to about 20 minutes. It now takes between one and two hours, depending on the capital's unpredictable traffic congestion.

For Sri Lanka, the end of the war with the Tamil Tigers means a new era. Pressure from the West to look back at what transpired during the conflict, or at the cost civilians paid for that victory, are seen by the government as an affront to its sovereignty and an unnecessary rehashing of a necessary war. Instead of looking back, it prefers to look to the future. And a big part of the future can be seen from the country's shores, where the big Chinese ships dotting the horizon symbolize new opportunities for Sri Lanka.

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White handkerchief marks protest against forcible cremation by the government of Sri Lanka

Sri Lankan civil society is silently but strongly marking their protest against the government's inhuman  forcible  cremation of a 20-da...