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Building collapse in Kandy due to foundation on unstable slope: National implications

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By Dulip Jayawardena

The recent collapse of a five-storey building in Kandy has caused much concern among the residents around the district, especially those who have built houses around slopes which are now speculated as unstable by an expert geologist who has rung alarm bells indicating that all those who reside on hill slopes should vacate their houses during heavy rains.

The Governor of the Central Province has gone on record as saying there are over 200 buildings, including houses, at risk of collapse, and it is pertinent to question whether that conclusion was reached after conducting relevant investigations.

 

HISTORY OF FOUNDATION

ENGINEERING IN SRI LANKA

The origin of the Geological Survey Department (present GSMB ) can be traced to 1904, when Dr Ananda Cooramaswamy was the Principal Mineral Surveyor appointed by the Colonial government. The Mineral Survey was converted into the Mineralogy Department in early the 1940s and, with the appointment of the first Sri Lankan as Head of the Department, in 1948 this vital state institution was renamed the Geological Survey Department (GSD) in 1961.

With the reorganisation of the GSD, an Engineering Geology section was created and the first Engineering Geologist was my former Director, the late D. B. Pattiarachchi, who underwent extensive training at the US Bureau of Reclamation, which was founded in 1902.

The GSD had a very efficient Engineering Geology Section, headed by Pattiarachchi and all the foundation investigations for major buildings, power plants hydro electric dams, reservoirs, etc., were undertaken by it. Some of the foundation investigations that I was involved in were the construction of the proposed Urea Plant at Sapugaskanda by Kellogg Inc of USA at a cost of US $ 117 million in early the 1970s and the Electro Smelting Plant at the Oruwela Steel Corporation also in the early 1970s with the assistance of the former Soviet Union.

Following the establishment of the GSMB in terms of the Mines and Minerals Act No 33 of 1992, the earlier functions of the GSD, in engineering geology were dropped (See Para 12 (a) to (e) of the Act). However, the Mines and Minerals (Amendment )Act No 66 of 2009 was amended to undertake projects in regard to engineering geology and advise and recommend remedial measures in case of geological hazards and disasters.

The question is whether there is an effective engineering geology division at GSMB with trained engineering geologists.

In order to educate the readers and the so-called experts, I would like to quote from a publication titled “Engineering geology: Principles and Practice” Publisher Springer Authors D.G. Price and Michael Freitas, etc., where the Abstract reads as follows “Provides the reader with the basics of engineering geology illustrates how geology is related to calculations of stability, deformation and groundwater flow. Specifically written for those first degree is not geotechnical engineering. Shows how to identify, investigate and define an engineering response to problems arising from ground conditions … The text is directed at the heart of Engineering Geology where geology is used to identify potential problems arising from ground conditions. It describes how to investigate those conditions and to define an engineering response that will either avoid or reduce related calculations of stability deformation and ground water flow ….” This applies to shallow foundations in residential areas, especially in the hill country of Sri Lanka.

 

THE NATIONAL BUILDING RESEARCH ORGANIZATION (NBRO) AND LANDSLIDE HAZARD MAPS

The NBRO is now designated as the prime organisation specialising in landslides and formulating effective policies and strategies to effect risk reduction.

It must be stressed that the GSD was earlier involved in these functions that have been assigned to NBRO. It is incorrect to say that according to NBRO landslide studies date back to only 1980, ignoring the extensive field and research studies done by the GSD from the early 1960s.

A paper written by me titled “Analysis of Devastating Landslides in Haldumulla – Koslanda Areas ( -lands) I have stated that landslides up to 2002 were considered as minor disasters and from 1974 to 2002 the incidence was 10 to 60 per annum. However in 2006 this number shot up to 360.

It was recognised by GSD that from the 1980s that the Haputale scarp including the devastating landslide that occurred at Haldumulla on October 29, 2014, causing a huge of loss of lives and property proved that the area from Haldumulla and Koslanda as well as the Poonagala Valley up to Ella is unstable. It is interesting to find out whether the NBRO has done any detailed studies in this area recently.

The seasonal distributions of rainfall were during the south west and north east monsoons and the months were January, May and October that experienced highest rainfall. It appears that this trend has been affected due to climate change; Sri Lanka has not placed emphasis on carrying out research in this regards.

I have also stressed that the Meteorology Department should analyze rainfall data since 1956 up to present and compare them with the data from the Hunting Survey Corporation of Canada, in which past records indicate rainfall data from 1907 to 1956. A Monograph titled “Hydrometeorology of Ceylon” was compiled and copies were available at the relevant Departments including GSD. The temperature variations were also published.

Any change in rainfall during the period October to January identified as the autumnal period may be directly attributed to climate change.

 

LANDSLIDE HAZARD MAPS AND NBRO

The NBRO, established in 1985 to conduct building and geotechnical research, was involved in Landslide Hazard Zoning Programme (LHZMP) to compile Landslide Hazard maps with funding from the UNDP, in 1990, and initially covered the Nuwara-Eliya and Badulla Districts. This programme was eventually extended to 12 other landslide prone districts namely Kegalle, Matale, Kandy, Kalutara, Galle, Hambantota, Moneragala and Kurunegala. Three hazard zones were identified as High, Medium and Low by analyzing relevant data related to geology, hydrology, inclination of slopes, landform, soil characteristics and its thickness and land use. Public and stakeholder awareness programmes were initiated in effected landslide areas. Conflicting land use by stakeholders due to land development, building and relevant construction activities were not recognised. Further identification of zones related to these development activities would help avoid conflicting land use, especially in the areas with high population density.

 

TESTING GEOTECHNICAL PROPERTIES OF SOIL

The Standard Penetration Test (SPT) is an effective test to check the geotechnical engineering properties of soil. ( https: //en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Standard_penetration_test ). The procedure helps determine relative density of soil which can vary from very loose, loose, medium dense and very dense. In house building, the bearing capacity determined by the SPT will depend on the foundation load factor, namely number of floors, concrete columns, including reinforced steel beams, etc.

 

TYPES OF FOUNDATIONS IN BUILDING CONSTRUCTION

There are many types of foundations in building construction .

I quote from an article, “Foundations in Building Construction- Understanding Building Construction” as follows “In this article we will discuss the common types of foundations in buildings. Broadly speaking all foundations are divided into two categories: shallow foundations and deep foundations. The words shallow and deep refer to the depth of soil in which foundation is made. Shallow foundations can be made in depths of as little as 3 ft. (1m) when deep foundations can be made at depths of 6 -200 ft (20-65m) shallow foundations are used for small light buildings while deep ones for large heavy buildings” ( http://www.understanding construction.com/types-of-foundations.html ). The types are (a) individual footings (c) strip footings (d) raft or mat foundations and (e) pile foundations.

Another common type of foundation is the floating foundation (Ref Floating Foundation – Principles, Suitability and construction Difficulties – quoting “a floating foundation is a type of foundation constructed by excavating the soil in such a way that the weight of structure built on the soil is nearly equal to the total weight of soil excavated from the ground including the weight of water in the soil before construction of structure. Floating foundation is also called balancing raft and caused zero settlement to the structure”

However, in most of the lowlands, especially around Colombo, the soil in underlain by laterite (weathered hard rock) and some areas are identified as soft laterite. Accordingly, if a floating foundation is anchored in hard laterite and if some areas have soft laterite it will result in differential settlement which will damage the building due to differential settlement.

 

DEVELOPING BUILDING CODES FOR SRI LANKA

It is encouraging to note that the NBRO with the Construction Industry Development Authority (CIDA) has initiated action to formulate building codes with financial assistance from the World Bank which has appointed an expert team, led by the University College London, to conduct a Building Regulatory Capacity Assessment in Sri Lanka. This team will carry out the following tasks:

 

“(1) to evaluate the current Building Regulatory capacity in Sri Lanka. (2) To facilitate discourse and consultations with local stakeholders in Sri Lanka to determine their aspirations for an improved system of building Regulations and identify barriers and opportunities for their implementation (3) Provide tailored recommendations for implementation of an improved Building Regulatory system.

Further, a Steering Committee Meeting (SCM) had been held on 7 March 2019 with the team from the University College London and consisted of the following organizations (1) Ministry of Public Administration and Disaster Management (2) Ministry of Housing Construction and Cultural Affairs (3) National Building Research Organization (4) Construction Industry Development Authority (5 ) Urban Development Authority (6) National Physical Planning Department (7) Sri Lanka Institute of Local Governance and (8) Disaster Management Centre .

A Workshop held on 8 March 2019 on Building Regulatory Capacity Assessment (BRCA) to identify the views of the stake holders on the following (a) National level legislation and institutions (b) Building code development and maintenance (c) Local level implementation

(Ref Building Codes for Resilience <http:www.nbro.gov.lk/index.php?option=com_content&view=a…>

It is interesting to find out about the progress of this Expert Group in identifying and formulating the relevant Building codes covering the entire Island.

CONCLUSIONS

In this article, I have highlighted the collapse of a five-storied building used as a residence in an unstable slope in Kandy. It has now resulted in the law enforcing authorities taking legal action about the construction and the owner of the building has made statements that all approvals were obtained from the regulatory agencies and the construction was supervised by the State Engineering Corporation.

I also highlighted the past activities of the Geological Survey Department (GSD Present GSMB) and the extensive work carried out by the Engineering Geology Section in foundation investigations as well as the landslide investigations by the highly qualified and experienced geologists with a limited staff of only 13 geologists. However in 1992 with the conversion of the GSD to GSMB both a legitimate functions of GSD namely foundation investigations as well as landslide studies was dropped but again in 2009 with the Amendments to the GSMB Act those functions were restored. It is queried whether the GSMB is now involved in these functions.

I also briefly described the various foundations and also the initiation of identifying procedures for formulation of appropriate building codes.

RECOMMENDATIONS

(1) The NBRO, which has prepared landslide hazard maps covering the 14 districts should make these maps available to local government authorities and building plans should be approved with the recommendations of NBRO.

(2) The GSMB should also actively get involved to identify landslide prone areas as well as foundation investigations for residencies and buildings.

(3) The NBRO should demarcate safe zones in the High, Medium and Low Risk areas for housing and other buildings including factories for relevant industries by foreign and local investors.

(4) The government should study the creation of effective entities that would have expertise of civil engineers, geotechnical engineers, engineering geologists, representatives from NBRO and Disaster Management Center, Ministry of Environment Central Environment Authority (CEA) etc to approve building plans for dwellings and the industrial activities. Such entities could be on a district basis.

(5) To expedite identification and appropriate building codes for construction in the three areas namely High, Medium and Low Risk areas and legislate such Codes expeditiously.

(6) Include the Ministry of Environment CEA and the GSMB to participate in the Steering Committee for developing building codes for the entire Island.

(7) The NBRO and GSMB should actively coordinate in exchange information of landslides that had occurred prior to 1992 and past foundation investigations by the GSD and create a depository of such information and data for the use of relevant agencies.

(8) The appointment of a Presidential Task Force to regulate building activity in Sri Lanka with all safety precautions and eliminate loss of life and property to achieve sustainable economic and social development.

References

1. Landslide Danger Risk Reduction Strategies and Present Achievements in Sri Lanka by R.M.S.Bandara and Padhmakumara Jayasinghe National building Research Organization Geosciences Research Vol 3 No 3 August 2018.

2. Standard penetration test –Wikipedia

3. Developing Building Code for Resilience – NBRO

(The writer is a retired Economic Affairs Officer United Nations ESCAP and former Director Geological Survey Department form 1983 10 1985 (Present GSMB) Professional Geologist for over 55 years and can be contacted at ?)

 

Building collapse in Kandy due to foundation on unstable slope: National implications

 

By Dulip Jayawardena

 

The recent collapse of a five-storey building in Kandy has caused much concern among the residents around the district, especially those who have built houses around slopes which are now speculated as unstable by an expert geologist who has rung alarm bells indicating that all those who reside on hill slopes should vacate their houses during heavy rains.

The Governor of the Central Province has gone on record as saying there are over 200 buildings, including houses, at risk of collapse, and it is pertinent to question whether that conclusion was reached after conducting relevant investigations.

 

HISTORY OF FOUNDATION

ENGINEERING IN SRI LANKA

The origin of the Geological Survey Department (present GSMB ) can be traced to 1904, when Dr Ananda Cooramaswamy was the Principal Mineral Surveyor appointed by the Colonial government. The Mineral Survey was converted into the Mineralogy Department in early the 1940s and, with the appointment of the first Sri Lankan as Head of the Department, in 1948 this vital state institution was renamed the Geological Survey Department (GSD) in 1961.

With the reorganisation of the GSD, an Engineering Geology section was created and the first Engineering Geologist was my former Director, the late D. B. Pattiarachchi, who underwent extensive training at the US Bureau of Reclamation, which was founded in 1902.

The GSD had a very efficient Engineering Geology Section, headed by Pattiarachchi and all the foundation investigations for major buildings, power plants hydro electric dams, reservoirs, etc., were undertaken by it. Some of the foundation investigations that I was involved in were the construction of the proposed Urea Plant at Sapugaskanda by Kellogg Inc of USA at a cost of US $ 117 million in early the 1970s and the Electro Smelting Plant at the Oruwela Steel Corporation also in the early 1970s with the assistance of the former Soviet Union.

Following the establishment of the GSMB in terms of the Mines and Minerals Act No 33 of 1992, the earlier functions of the GSD, in engineering geology were dropped (See Para 12 (a) to (e) of the Act). However, the Mines and Minerals (Amendment )Act No 66 of 2009 was amended to undertake projects in regard to engineering geology and advise and recommend remedial measures in case of geological hazards and disasters.

The question is whether there is an effective engineering geology division at GSMB with trained engineering geologists.

In order to educate the readers and the so-called experts, I would like to quote from a publication titled “Engineering geology: Principles and Practice” Publisher Springer Authors D.G. Price and Michael Freitas, etc., where the Abstract reads as follows “Provides the reader with the basics of engineering geology illustrates how geology is related to calculations of stability, deformation and groundwater flow. Specifically written for those first degree is not geotechnical engineering. Shows how to identify, investigate and define an engineering response to problems arising from ground conditions … The text is directed at the heart of Engineering Geology where geology is used to identify potential problems arising from ground conditions. It describes how to investigate those conditions and to define an engineering response that will either avoid or reduce related calculations of stability deformation and ground water flow ….” This applies to shallow foundations in residential areas, especially in the hill country of Sri Lanka.

 

THE NATIONAL BUILDING RESEARCH ORGANIZATION (NBRO) AND LANDSLIDE HAZARD MAPS

The NBRO is now designated as the prime organisation specialising in landslides and formulating effective policies and strategies to effect risk reduction.

It must be stressed that the GSD was earlier involved in these functions that have been assigned to NBRO. It is incorrect to say that according to NBRO landslide studies date back to only 1980, ignoring the extensive field and research studies done by the GSD from the early 1960s.

A paper written by me titled “Analysis of Devastating Landslides in Haldumulla – Koslanda Areas ( -lands) I have stated that landslides up to 2002 were considered as minor disasters and from 1974 to 2002 the incidence was 10 to 60 per annum. However in 2006 this number shot up to 360.

It was recognised by GSD that from the 1980s that the Haputale scarp including the devastating landslide that occurred at Haldumulla on October 29, 2014, causing a huge of loss of lives and property proved that the area from Haldumulla and Koslanda as well as the Poonagala Valley up to Ella is unstable. It is interesting to find out whether the NBRO has done any detailed studies in this area recently.

The seasonal distributions of rainfall were during the south west and north east monsoons and the months were January, May and October that experienced highest rainfall. It appears that this trend has been affected due to climate change; Sri Lanka has not placed emphasis on carrying out research in this regards.

I have also stressed that the Meteorology Department should analyze rainfall data since 1956 up to present and compare them with the data from the Hunting Survey Corporation of Canada, in which past records indicate rainfall data from 1907 to 1956. A Monograph titled “Hydrometeorology of Ceylon” was compiled and copies were available at the relevant Departments including GSD. The temperature variations were also published.

Any change in rainfall during the period October to January identified as the autumnal period may be directly attributed to climate change.

 

LANDSLIDE HAZARD MAPS AND NBRO

The NBRO, established in 1985 to conduct building and geotechnical research, was involved in Landslide Hazard Zoning Programme (LHZMP) to compile Landslide Hazard maps with funding from the UNDP, in 1990, and initially covered the Nuwara-Eliya and Badulla Districts. This programme was eventually extended to 12 other landslide prone districts namely Kegalle, Matale, Kandy, Kalutara, Galle, Hambantota, Moneragala and Kurunegala. Three hazard zones were identified as High, Medium and Low by analyzing relevant data related to geology, hydrology, inclination of slopes, landform, soil characteristics and its thickness and land use. Public and stakeholder awareness programmes were initiated in effected landslide areas. Conflicting land use by stakeholders due to land development, building and relevant construction activities were not recognised. Further identification of zones related to these development activities would help avoid conflicting land use, especially in the areas with high population density.

 

TESTING GEOTECHNICAL PROPERTIES OF SOIL

The Standard Penetration Test (SPT) is an effective test to check the geotechnical engineering properties of soil. ( https: //en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Standard_penetration_test ). The procedure helps determine relative density of soil which can vary from very loose, loose, medium dense and very dense. In house building, the bearing capacity determined by the SPT will depend on the foundation load factor, namely number of floors, concrete columns, including reinforced steel beams, etc.

 

TYPES OF FOUNDATIONS IN BUILDING CONSTRUCTION

There are many types of foundations in building construction .

I quote from an article, “Foundations in Building Construction- Understanding Building Construction” as follows “In this article we will discuss the common types of foundations in buildings. Broadly speaking all foundations are divided into two categories: shallow foundations and deep foundations. The words shallow and deep refer to the depth of soil in which foundation is made. Shallow foundations can be made in depths of as little as 3 ft. (1m) when deep foundations can be made at depths of 6 -200 ft (20-65m) shallow foundations are used for small light buildings while deep ones for large heavy buildings” ( http://www.understanding construction.com/types-of-foundations.html ). The types are (a) individual footings (c) strip footings (d) raft or mat foundations and (e) pile foundations.

Another common type of foundation is the floating foundation (Ref Floating Foundation – Principles, Suitability and construction Difficulties – quoting “a floating foundation is a type of foundation constructed by excavating the soil in such a way that the weight of structure built on the soil is nearly equal to the total weight of soil excavated from the ground including the weight of water in the soil before construction of structure. Floating foundation is also called balancing raft and caused zero settlement to the structure”

However, in most of the lowlands, especially around Colombo, the soil in underlain by laterite (weathered hard rock) and some areas are identified as soft laterite. Accordingly, if a floating foundation is anchored in hard laterite and if some areas have soft laterite it will result in differential settlement which will damage the building due to differential settlement.

 

DEVELOPING BUILDING CODES FOR SRI LANKA

It is encouraging to note that the NBRO with the Construction Industry Development Authority (CIDA) has initiated action to formulate building codes with financial assistance from the World Bank which has appointed an expert team, led by the University College London, to conduct a Building Regulatory Capacity Assessment in Sri Lanka. This team will carry out the following tasks:

Building

“(1) to evaluate the current Building Regulatory capacity in Sri Lanka. (2) To facilitate discourse and consultations with local stakeholders in Sri Lanka to determine their aspirations for an improved system of building Regulations and identify barriers and opportunities for their implementation (3) Provide tailored recommendations for implementation of an improved Building Regulatory system.

Further, a Steering Committee Meeting (SCM) had been held on 7 March 2019 with the team from the University College London and consisted of the following organizations (1) Ministry of Public Administration and Disaster Management (2) Ministry of Housing Construction and Cultural Affairs (3) National Building Research Organization (4) Construction Industry Development Authority (5 ) Urban Development Authority (6) National Physical Planning Department (7) Sri Lanka Institute of Local Governance and (8) Disaster Management Centre .

A Workshop held on 8 March 2019 on Building Regulatory Capacity Assessment (BRCA) to identify the views of the stake holders on the following (a) National level legislation and institutions (b) Building code development and maintenance (c) Local level implementation

(Ref Building Codes for Resilience <http:www.nbro.gov.lk/index.php?option=com_content&view=a…>

It is interesting to find out about the progress of this Expert Group in identifying and formulating the relevant Building codes covering the entire Island.

CONCLUSIONS

In this article, I have highlighted the collapse of a five-storied building used as a residence in an unstable slope in Kandy. It has now resulted in the law enforcing authorities taking legal action about the construction and the owner of the building has made statements that all approvals were obtained from the regulatory agencies and the construction was supervised by the State Engineering Corporation.

I also highlighted the past activities of the Geological Survey Department (GSD Present GSMB) and the extensive work carried out by the Engineering Geology Section in foundation investigations as well as the landslide investigations by the highly qualified and experienced geologists with a limited staff of only 13 geologists. However in 1992 with the conversion of the GSD to GSMB both a legitimate functions of GSD namely foundation investigations as well as landslide studies was dropped but again in 2009 with the Amendments to the GSMB Act those functions were restored. It is queried whether the GSMB is now involved in these functions.

I also briefly described the various foundations and also the initiation of identifying procedures for formulation of appropriate building codes.

RECOMMENDATIONS

(1) The NBRO, which has prepared landslide hazard maps covering the 14 districts should make these maps available to local government authorities and building plans should be approved with the recommendations of NBRO.

(2) The GSMB should also actively get involved to identify landslide prone areas as well as foundation investigations for residencies and buildings.

(3) The NBRO should demarcate safe zones in the High, Medium and Low Risk areas for housing and other buildings including factories for relevant industries by foreign and local investors.

(4) The government should study the creation of effective entities that would have expertise of civil engineers, geotechnical engineers, engineering geologists, representatives from NBRO and Disaster Management Center, Ministry of Environment Central Environment Authority (CEA) etc to approve building plans for dwellings and the industrial activities. Such entities could be on a district basis.

(5) To expedite identification and appropriate building codes for construction in the three areas namely High, Medium and Low Risk areas and legislate such Codes expeditiously.

(6) Include the Ministry of Environment CEA and the GSMB to participate in the Steering Committee for developing building codes for the entire Island.

(7) The NBRO and GSMB should actively coordinate in exchange information of landslides that had occurred prior to 1992 and past foundation investigations by the GSD and create a depository of such information and data for the use of relevant agencies.

(8) The appointment of a Presidential Task Force to regulate building activity in Sri Lanka with all safety precautions and eliminate loss of life and property to achieve sustainable economic and social development.

References

1. Landslide Danger Risk Reduction Strategies and Present Achievements in Sri Lanka by R.M.S.Bandara and Padhmakumara Jayasinghe National building Research Organization Geosciences Research Vol 3 No 3 August 2018.

2. Standard penetration test –Wikipedia

3. Developing Building Code for Resilience – NBRO

(The writer is a retired Economic Affairs Officer United Nations ESCAP and former Director Geological Survey Department form 1983 10 1985 (Present GSMB) Professional Geologist for over 55 years and can be contacted at ?)



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Features

Investigative Journalism?

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I usually end up totally exhausted when I finish reading the local newspapers from the Pearl. There are so many burning questions and so much is written about them but there are no conclusions and definitely no answers. For example, we seem to have three burning issues right now and this is not in order of importance.

We have a lengthy report that has been published on the Easter Sunday carnage. Everybody knows what I am talking about. However, no one, be it an editor, a paid journalist or a single one of the many amateurs who write to the papers, has reached a conclusion or even expressed an opinion as to who was responsible. At least not a believable one! Surely there are energetic and committed young people in the field of journalism today who, if asked, or directed properly will go out and find a source that would give them at least a credible hypothesis? Or do conclusions exist and has no one the courage to publish them?

At least interview the authors or should I use the word perpetrators of that report. If they refuse to be interviewed ask them why and publish an item every day asking them why! Once you get a hold of them, cross-examine them, trap them into admissions and have no mercy. It is usually geriatrics who write these reports in the Pearl and surely a bright young journalist can catch them out with a smart question or two, or at least show us that they tried? The future of the country depends on it!

We have allegations of contaminated coconut oil been imported. These are very serious allegations and could lead to much harm to the general populace. Do you really believe that no one can find out who the importers are and what brands they sell their products under? In this the Pearl, where everyone has a price, you mean to say that if a keen young journalist was given the correct ammunition (and I don’t mean 45 calibres) and sent out on a specific message, he or she couldn’t get the information required?

We are told that a massive amount of money has been printed over the last few months. There is only speculation as to the sums involved and even more speculation as to what this means to the people of the Pearl. Surely, there are records, probably guarded by extremely lowly paid government servants. I am not condoning bribery but there is nothing left to condone, is there? There are peons in government ministries who will gladly slip you the details if you are committed enough and if you are sent there to get it by a boss who will stand by you and refuse to disclose his sources.

I put it to you, dear readers, that we do not have enough professional, committed and adequately funded news organisations in the country. We can straightaway discount the government-owned joints. We can also largely discount those being run by magnates for personal gain and on personal agendas. As far as the Internet goes, we can forget about those that specialise in speculative and sensationalist untruths, what are we left with O denizens of the Pearl? Are there enough sources of news that you would consider willing to investigate a matter and risk of life and limb and expose the culprits for the greater good of society? Can they be counted even on the fingers of one hand?

In this era when we have useless political leaders, when law and order are non-existent when the police force is a joke, it is time the fourth estate stepped up to the mark! I am sure we have the personnel; it is the commitment from the top and by this, I mean funding and the willingness to risk life and limb, that we lack. Governments over the last few decades have done their best to intimidate the press and systematically destroy any news outlet that tried to buck the usual sycophantic behaviour that is expected from them by those holding absolute power.

Do you think Richard Nixon would ever have been impeached if not for the Watergate reporting? Donald Trump partially owes his defeat to the unrelenting campaign carried out against him by the “fake news” outlets that he tried to denigrate. Trump took on too much. The fourth estate of America is too strong and too powerful to destroy in a head-to-head battle and even the most powerful man in the world, lost. Let’s not go into the merits and demerits of the victor as this is open to debate.

Now, do we have anything like that in the Pearl? Surely, with 20 million-plus “literate” people, we should? We should have over 70 years of independence built up the Fourth Estate to be proud of. One that would, if it stood strong and didn’t waver and collapse under pressure from the rulers, have ensured a better situation for our land. Here is Aotearoa with just five million people, we have journalists who keep holding the government to account. They are well-funded by newspapers and TV networks with audiences that are only a fraction of what is available in the Pearl. Some of the matters they highlight often bring a smirk of derision to my face for such matters wouldn’t even warrant one single line of newsprint, should they happen in the Pearl.

Talking of intimidation from the rulers, most of us are familiar with the nationalisation of the press, the murder and torture of journalists, the burning of presses to insidious laws been passed to curtail the activities of Journalism. These things have happened in other countries, too, but the people and press have been stronger, and they have prevailed. We are at a watershed, an absolutely crucial time. It is now that our last few credible news sources should lift their game. Give us carefully researched and accurate reports with specific conclusions, not generalisations. Refuse to disclose your sources as is your right, especially now that the myopic eye of the UNHCR is turned in our direction.

All other ways and means of saving our beloved motherland, be it government, religion, sources of law and order and even civil society leadership seems to have lapsed into the realm of theory and rhetoric. Our last chance lies with the Fourth Esate and all it stands for. I call for, nay BEG for, a favourable reaction from those decision-makers in that field, who have enough credibility left in society, DON’T LET US DOWN NOW!

 

 

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Features

The world sees ugly side of our beauty pageants

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Yes, it’s still the talk-of-the-town…not only here, but the world over – the fracas that took place at a recently held beauty pageant, in Colombo.

It’s not surprising that the local beauty scene has hit a new low because, in the past, there have been many unpleasant happenings taking place at these so-called beauty pageants.

On several occasions I have, in my articles, mentioned that the state, or some responsible authority, should step in and monitor these events – lay down rules and guidelines, and make sure that everything is above board.

My suggestions, obviously, have fallen on deaf ears, and this is the end result – our beauty pageants have become the laughing stock the world over; talk show hosts are creating scenes, connected with the recent incidents, to amuse their audience.

Australians had the opportunity of enjoying this scenario, so did folks in Canada – via talk show hosts, discussing our issue, and bringing a lot of fun, and laughter, into their discussions!

Many believe that some of these pageants are put together, by individuals…solely to project their image, or to make money, or to have fun with the participants.

And, there are also pageants, I’m told, where the winner is picked in advance…for various reasons, and the finals are just a camouflage. Yes, and rigging, too, takes place.

I was witnessed to one such incident where I was invited to be a judge for the Talent section of a beauty contest.

There were three judges, including me, and while we were engrossed in what we were assigned to do, I suddenly realised that one of the contestants was known to me…as a good dancer.

But, here’s the catch! Her number didn’t tally with the name on the scoresheet, given to the judges.

When I brought this to the notice of the organiser, her sheepish reply was that these contestants would have switched numbers in the dressing room.

Come on, they are no babes!

On another occasion, an organiser collected money from the mother of a contestant, promising to send her daughter for the finals, in the Philippines.

It never happened and she had lots of excuses not to return the money, until a police entry was made.

Still another episode occurred, at one of these so-called pageants, where the organiser promised to make a certain contestant the winner…for obvious reasons.

The judges smelt something fishy and made certain that their scoresheets were not tampered with, and their choice was crowned the winner.

The contestant, who was promised the crown, went onto a frenzy, with the organiser being manhandled.

I’m also told there are organisers who promise contestants the crown if they could part with a very high fee (Rs.500,000 and above!), and also pay for their air ticket.

Some even ask would-be contestants to check out sponsors, on behalf of the organisers. One wonders what that would entail!

Right now, in spite of the pandemic, that is crippling the whole world, we are going ahead with beauty pageants…for whose benefit!

Are the organisers adhering to the Covid-19 health guidelines? No way. Every rule is disregarded.

The recently-held contest saw the contestants, on the move, for workshops, etc., with no face masks, and no social distancing.

They were even seen in an open double-decker bus, checking out the city of Colombo…with NO FACE MASKS.

Perhaps, the instructions given by Police Spokesman DIG Ajith Rohana, and Army Commander, General Shavendra Silva, mean nothing to the organisers of these beauty pageants…in this pandemic setting.

My sincere advice to those who are keen to participate in such events is to check, and double check. Or else, you will end up being deceived…wasting your money, time, and energy.

For the record, when it comes to international beauty pageants for women, Miss World, Miss Universe, Miss Earth and Miss International are the four titles which reign supreme.

In pageantry, these competitions are referred to as the ‘Big Four.’

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Better use of vanity projects; Cass apologises, and New Year graciousness

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A wise one, with the interests of the country at heart, calling himself ‘A Member of the Silent Majority’, wrote in The Island of Friday, April 9, offering an excellent solution for the better and genuine use of the Mattala Mahinda Rajapaksa International Airport which was built at a stupendous cost to both the Treasury, and wildlife abundant in the area, to satisfy an ego and sycophants’ cries of Hail to the King. Even sans Covid and lockdowns and shut downs of airports, the Mattala Airport was a white elephant, endangering and displacing the black elephants, roaming along their familiar corridors; receiving such few airplanes. Thus, as the writer Cass mentions says, convert the airport to a super hotel with excellent and sure-fire access to wildlife watching, like referred to hotels in Kenya and elsewhere. Yes, it will definitely be a bigger money earner than an airport waiting for a plane to land. Expensive equipment going rusty could be transferred to smaller airports being developed all over the island. There was such a hue and cry when storerooms, within the deserted airport, were used for paddy storage, but not even a whimper of concerted protest when the vanity projects were being built. We also heard that on the rare occasions a plane was to land/take off, peacocks in the area were shot at to prevent them flying into the planes. Aney, what a sin, just to have a name on a nameboard! Use the Suriyawewa Cricket Stadium too for a better purpose and less costly to water and maintain green in near desert climate conditions. What about a residential training institute for youth, perhaps in small industries? If the king-sized ego demands the name be present, OK, leave it. What’s in a name?

Any matter, financial or economic, with benefit to country buttressing it – refer to Dr Harsha de Silva and Eran Wickremaratne. Likewise, anything pertaining to fauna, flora and preservation of natural habitats ask Devani Jayathilake. Cassandra would give two years of her life (she does not have 10 left, she suspects) to know what the answers of the three wise and sincere ones mentioned would be to the proposal to convert the Mattala Airport, oops sorry – Mattala Mahinda Rajapaksa International Airport – to a 7 star hotel for wildlife watching and then tourists proceeding to Yala and other places that were touted to be reached easier if planes brimful of tourists, landed in Mattala. Pipe dream even sans Covid-19.

The thought of the millions, nay billions, our country was indebted to China to construct these vanity projects aka white elephants of the Rajapaksa fiefdom sends Cass’s blood racing in her contracting veins. And now another hair-brained scheme is being exposed, not new but re-exposed: that of the stupendous amount sent direct from the Central Bank with no nod, as reported, from the then Cabinet or Parliament, to an American-resident con-man to improve our appearance on the world stage or at least American stage. My word!! Cosmetics of creams and colours and such like can improve the face of an already beautiful woman. But a country that was once beautiful, glorified, accepted internationally and then politician-spoilt, cannot be redeemed by PR work, however expensively. Nivard Cabraal was the then Govenor of the CB. Of course, as every Banda, Singho and their women say, nothing will come of this. Powerful political sweeping under the carpet in the presence of cardboard administrators and sycophantic hosanna singers, makes the matter disappear and not merely hides it. Unless of course there are enough intrepid outers-of-truths and persistent protestors, brave and national minded enough to continuously tease the matter like a cat its caught rat. Ranjan is locked away in hard labour for four solid years, losing his Parliamentary seat for misusing the gift of his gab, while convicted murderers of the right colour attend Parliament, escorted and all.

Cass apologises

To the reigning Mrs World, Mrs Caroline Jurie, for crowning, uncrowning and recrowning of the winner of the recent Mrs Sri Lanka contest. Caroline Jurie took this stride because the winning contestant was four years on the way to being a divorcee, which status forbids a woman from attempting to wear the crown of Mrs…. (country) with a view to becoming Mrs World. This title and honour is bestowed on a woman who promotes, holds sacred the institution of marriage and is a married woman. Cass castigated Caroline Jurie without knowing then the fact that Jurie had protested about this candidate being considered due to her impending divorce; and allowed to contest. She said she withdrew from the panel of judges since her point was not taken by the others. WHY is the Q. Easy to answer. The new beauty queen of shaky married status was a loud speaker in favour of Presidential Candidate Gotabaya R in Polonnaruwa (captured on social media) and probably spoke on stages for SLPP Parliamentary candidates. So of course she was slated to win; vision impaired over rules and future probabilities, She has her height – one advantage. Beauty can always be dexterously rubbed and painted in. But honesty is important and cannot be cloned or grafted in.

Cass now definitely faults the new Mrs Sri Lanka. She should not have contested, having her papers sent in for divorce and not retracted. What happens when she wins the divorce (or her husband wins it, however the divorce was first mooted). Another local contest? And if the divorce was still pending and she went overseas at great expense and won THE crown or a lesser one. To be returned forthwith when she has to remove the present gold band from her third finger, which probably she has already removed but hastily wore for the contest and when preparing for it? This is why Cass avows that many young women particularly, are so very selfish and forward and uppity and even dishonest now. In Cass’ time and even a decade or two later, a girl would never do what this new beauty has done, flipped aside a core rule and necessity of the contest, just to win by honest means or foul. Way the country’s going, my friend.

Post – Aluth Avurudhu

Cassandra is stuffed gill-high with kavun, aluwa and crunchy kokis, preceded by kiributh and lunumiris. She is fending for herself because a dip in Covid numbers and having had the jab, her domestic wished to enjoy a family new year having missed the last one, locked down as we were. Cass made her own kiributh – tasting somewhat like it should, but the sweets were all gifted her. So, also the offers of help, sleep-ins at others’ homes and solicitous frequent inquiries of ‘how are you?’ Kind and gracious relatives and friends, acquaintances too are thanked; and the most appreciated being neighbouring kitchen helps and care givers. Three-wheeler drivers who spin Cass around on errands too make enquiries. And thus her thoughts when resuming work at the nekath time and word processing this article. Sri Lankans are such good people: kind, caring, willing to share and genuine. And then specters themselves on this very sunny landscape: the dishonest, selfish, revengeful and disgraceful. Shrug them off, clear the mental picture and pronounce thank goodness for goodness around.

May all of us (decent people) have a very good year to follow today –Subha Aluth Avuruddhak!

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