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THE NEED FOR INCREASED FUEL PRICES AND DIVESTITURE OF CEYLON PETROLEUM CORPORATION

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by Sanjeewa Jayaweera

In a recent TV talk show “Face the Nation”, a panel of economists mostly with experience in the private sector delivered an insightful and no holds barred discussion on the recent hike in petroland diesel prices.  The participants were Murtaza Jafferjee (Chair of Advocata Institute), Nishan De Mel (Executive Director Verite Research), Dr Anila Dias Bandaranaike (Former Assistant Governor of Central Bank) and Shiran Fernando (Chief Economist of the Chamber ofCommerce).

It was good to listen to a discussion where no attempt was made to cotton wool the perilous position of the Sri Lankan economy. It was pleasing that all panelists felt that the price increase was inevitable even if taken rather late in the day. Some of the key points they made were:

Murtaza Jafferjee said, “market forces are not allowed to operate due to government interference, which prolongs the issues at hand despite creating an illusion that everything is fine. The government is trying to solve a foreign currency solvency issue by using toolsintended to manage a liquidity crisis. We spend a net amount of US $ 3.5 billion in a year on fuel imports (when the average price is US $ 70 per barrel) which is the single largest import, and that it is vital to price it correctly.

“The revised pricing, unfortunately, does not still cover the cost of diesel. The government should have done price increases in stages. In New Delhi, the price of a Liter of petrol is Rs. 250/- (SEE TABLE 1). According to a World Bank study, the fuel subsidy benefits the richest 30% of households (here) with 70% of the benefit. He proposed that to ease the burden of higher fuel cost on the poorest segment of the population, there needs to be a cash transfer, like Samurdhi benefits to that segment instead of subsidizing all and sundry.”

His message was not to play politics with fuel prices, causing a huge hole in the economy. He was astounded that the single person income tax-free threshold of Rs.three million for a year introduced by the government in 2019 is 400 per cent of the country’s per capita income. This contrasts with countries like Singapore and Australia, both of whom have a much higher per capita income than Sri Lanka, but the tax-free threshold is only around 20% of per capita income.

Dr Anila Dias Bandaranaike said, “leadership need to make tough decisions and convince the public to undergo certain hardships to work towards a better future.” Those presently overseeing the management of the economy are out of their depth and drowning. Post-2015, when attending parliamentary oversight committees, she observed that most MP’s were absent and that many of the few who attended did not understand what was going on! She was critical of the private sector and referred to them as the NATO = No Action Talk Only! But unfortunately, she declined to comment about the role of the utterly inefficient and subservient public service of which she was part for several years!

Nishan de Mel said, “The present government reduced a plethora of taxes when it came to power, thereby significantly reducing government revenue—estimated to be around Rs. 600 billion. These measures were to act as an economic stimulus leading to economic growth. Unfortunately, no analysis has been done to determine whether these measures achieved the desired result.”

He lamented that there is a lack of economic data readily available in our country.  This prevents proper monitoring and analysis of various actions resorted to by the government and hinders future planning. He cited an example of how the Central Bank has filed a court case to prevent access to certain data relating to the bond scam. They retained expensive lawyers from private practice as opposed to those from the Attorney Generals Department. The government is resorting to local borrowing to bridge the budget deficit, and by keeping the lending rates below inflation, the government is borrowing at zero cost. Our economy is in a precarious position.

 

The Need for a Formula for Pricing Fuel

Those who have some knowledge and understanding of how the government should manage the economy have been of the view for several decades that the government needs to price the supply of fuel, electricity, gas, and many other commodities and services based on a formula ofcost-plus profit. In 2018, the Yahapalana government did introduce a price formula. They were subjected to both criticism and ridicule. With an impending election, the practice was hastily withdrawn. A document prepared as far back 2003 proposed that the fuel price formula should be based on:

CIF price (FOB + freight + insurance + evaporation losses) to which the following costs be added (port + jetty charges + customs and excise duty + financial charges + storage and terminal charges + marketing and distribution charges) to arrive at the wholesale cost.

The retail price was to be arrived at by adding the following to the wholesale cost (profit margin of 5% + retailer and dealer margin of 2.5% of the wholesale price + VAT).Fuel prices should be revised monthly to reflect changes in Singapore Platts average FOB price and exchange rates.

It was a simple enough formula to have been implemented. No doubt there would have been periods when world oil prices spiked well above US 100 per barrel, the retail price would have been high. However, we all know that no commodity or service can be provided below costother than for a short period. Unfortunately, this type of logic has escaped those who have governed our country for so many decades.

Actually, it is a case of not being able to take tough decisions at the correct time. Short-term political popularity has overridden the compelling need for sound economic management. That our country has lacked visionary leaders since Independence is evident. However, we, the masses, are equally culpable for our predicament. The quotation “people get the government they deserve” is quite apt.

In addition, high fuel prices hopefully should also act as a catalyst for car owners to adopt practices such as car-pooling. The benefits extend beyond just financial to also reducing traffic jams on our roads, pollution etc.

The Losses incurred by Ceylon Petroleum Corporation (CPC)

At the outset, I must express my disappointment that the latest CPC Annual Report available is for the year ended December 31, 2018. This reflects the overall inefficiency that pervades state institutions where the work ethic is deplorable. Many companies listed on the Colombo Stock Exchange releases their Annual Reports within 90 days of the end of the financial year. An examination of the financial statements of CPC for 2018 reveals the following.

CPC posted a loss of Rs. 105 billion, of which Rs. 82.7 billion was on account of foreign exchange rate variation and a further Rs. 12.9 billion due to interest costs. Unfortunately, even at a Gross Profit Level (Revenue less direct costs), there was a loss of Rs 3 billion. TheBalance Sheet as of December 31, 2018, reflects that CPC has accumulated losses of Rs. 325.6 billion. The net assets are a negative of Rs. 281.7 billion. Borrowings were Rs. 296 billion,although there was Rs. 110.6 billion of bank deposits, investments in treasury bonds and bank balances. Other liabilities of Rs. 313 billion included foreign bills payable for imports of Rs. 245.5 billion.

CPC is insolvent, and the Auditor General has qualified his report by stating, ” The Corporation’s ability to continue as a going concern without the financial assistance from the Government is doubtful.”

I have included a table (2) detailing the eight-year history of the performance of CPC and some essential information. The absence of the financials for 2019 and 2020 prevents me from doing a 10-year analysis. As can be observed in 2011, 2012, and 2018, CPC made a loss even at Gross Profit Level and posted a loss before tax in five out of eight years. In 2011 and 2012, the average price for a barrel of Brent crude was in the region of US $ 112, and the consequences of not adjusting the fuel price are apparent. On the other hand, in 2013, despite the average cost of a barrel of Brent being US $ 109, CPC was able to post a Gross Profit of Rs. 26 billion as fuel prices were adjusted to reflect the cost.

 

Poor Management of CPC

Given the pivotal role that CPC plays in our economy, there is a need to ensure that people of skill, proven competence, and experience be appointed to both the Board of Directors and the key management positions. I have noted from perusing the corporation’s Annual Reports that the Executive Chairman post is like a merry go round. In the year 2017, there were three different Chairmen, whilst in 2018, there were two separate Chairmen. No organization, let alone one as large as CPC, can function effectively without continuity. In addition, the calibre of people appointed to the post of Chairman is a cause for concern.

In 2017, the Minister of Petroleum appointed his brother as the Chairman. Under any circumstances, this appointment can only be deemed as nepotism. In addition, the Chairman being a former cricketer, had no relevant experience nor proven competence and maybe the skill sets required to hold this position. The infamous hedging deal that cost the country’s taxpayers a sum over Rs. 14 billion between 2007 and 2008 occurred when another former national cricketer was the Chairman of CPC. 

Do we ever learn? Another who served as Chairman in 2018 is a person whose career was in the Sri Lanka Administrative Service. With all respect, having dealt with various senior public servants in our country during my career in the private sector, I have grave reservations about their capability to hold a position that requires proven commercial acumen and expertise. A question that needs to be posed and answered by the Chairman and the Board who served the CPC in 2020 is whether they took advantage of rock bottom prices in the world market to secure our future supplies.

 

Auditor General’s Report On CPC

The Auditor General’s (AG) Report for 2017 and 2018 of CPC and subsidiary run into 29 and 18 pages, respectively.  They are a damning indictment of maintaining poor accounting records, lax internal controls, non-adherence to Sri Lanka Accounting standards, lack of evidence for audit, non-compliance with laws, rules, regulations, poor management decisions, operating inefficiencies, and transactions of contentious nature.

 

Due to the constraint of space, I shall only list a few of them, although any reader interested can access the annual reports of CPC on their website www.ceypecto.gov.lk

Differences in balances payable/receivable as reflected in the accounting recordsof CPC and other parties:

A difference of Rs. 670.93 million in the inter-company balance between CPC and the Subsidiary – Ceylon Petroleum Storage Terminal Ltd., as of December 31, 2017, increased to Rs. 2.47 billion by December 31, 2018.

A balance difference of Rs. 436.78 million observed between CPC and the Department of Inland Revenue (IRD) regarding Income Tax, Economic Service Charge, and Value Added Tax payable/recoverable.

There is a balance difference of Rs. 778.3 million between CPC and the CEB as of December 31, 2018

An amount of Rs. 2.7 billion is reflected in excess as payable to Sri Lanka Customs compared with Sri Lanka Customs’ records.

No basis disclosed or audit evidence provided for the provision of Rs. 142.92 million made on inventory items to be written off.

An amount of Rs. 4.59 billion payable to the People’s Bank on account of hedging transactions between 2007 and 2009 has been excluded from the financial statements of CPC. In addition, Commercial Bank of Ceylon Plc has filed a case at the Commercial High Court, Colombo, claiming US $ 8.65 million from CPC. The total estimated loss due to the hedging transactions between 2007 and 2009 is estimated to be Rs. 14 billion.

An estimated loss of Rs. 1.5 billion because of non-implementation of collecting a monthly utility fee from CPC- owned dealer operated filling stations and Treasury owned dealer operated filling stations from January 01, 2014, onwards.

CPC has borne Rs. 53.57 million and Rs. 259.9 million during 2017 and 2018 respectively as PAYE Tax of its employees without deducting it from their personal emoluments.

A sum of Rs. 307.8 million incurred in purchasing seven motor vehicles in 2017 without the approval of the Ministry, General Treasury and the Department of Public Enterprise.

An agreement has been entered into with Hyrax Oil SDN BHD to build a Lubricant Blending Plant on a BOT basis in May 2016. No comparable proposal has been obtained, which is the acceptable procedure. The AG’s report also mentions that they could not ensure that a properfeasibility study had been conducted for the project.

The list is much longer. The Auditor-General and his staff need to be commended for their work.  In most countries, an audit report of this nature would result in action against officers responsible. I believe most audit reports compiled by the Auditor General on state enterprises would be equally bad or even worse.

 

The Impact of fuel Prices and politicization

The Minister, in justifying the price increase said, CPC has borrowed around Rs. 600 billion from People’s Bank and Bank of Ceylon, and any further borrowing might destabilize the entire banking system.

There is no doubt that an increase in fuel prices has a ripple effect that runs across from the cost of transport to goods, resulting in hardship to some population segments. It mainly impacts the poorer segment struggling to make ends meet. The popular euphonism in Sinhalese that most opposition politicians say “gahen watuna minihata gona anna” which is equivalent to the English “from the frying pan to the fire.”

In the 2018 Annual Report, it is disclosed that CPC lost Rs. 14.7 billion due to selling kerosene below cost. The loss per litre is Rs. 56.86. The annual report states, “The subsidy on kerosene is largely misused by the transport sector when the price gap between the diesel and kerosene is more.” However, as Jafferjee said, the solution to avoid this pain is to make a cash transfer to those in the poverty net and not benefit the rest of the population.

I came across a Sri Lanka review done by the World Bank in 1996 where they say “Sri Lanka’s large array of safety nets are both costly and poorly targeted. They typically have transferred resources, albeit modest, to a large fraction of the population above the poverty line and inadequate sums to the very poor.” Unfortunately, 25 years on this statement is still applicable.

It is deplorable that politicians of both the main parties try to politicize fuel prices despite being aware of the massive negative economic impact of not pricing fuel based on the cost-plus profitformula. Their job is also to educate the public and stop childish symbolic acts of riding bullock carts, cycles and three-wheelers. The decision to import expensive vehicles for MP’s needs our unreserved condemnation. One must live hoping that action will be taken against the members of the CPC Board who in 2017 ordered seven vehicles for Rs. 307 million with no covering approval.

 

Conclusion

In my view, the need to privatize the Ceylon Petroleum Corporation is compelling. The government can maybe hold a majority stake of 51%. However, the management of CPC by an independent professional team outside government interference is a must. This is equally applicable to many other state corporations like the CEB, the National Water Board and Litro Gas.

I can imagine the howls of protest this will draw from the JVP, other left-wing parties, and trade unions. The opposition by the trade unions is understandable given that the staff cost at CPC for the year was Rs. 6 billion, which increased to Rs. 12.7 billion inclusive of the subsidiary company. As to whether the Rs. 259.9 million borne by CPC as PAYE tax on behalf of its employees is included or on top of this is anybody’s guess. The cost to company (CTC) of anan employee at CPC (excluding the subsidiary company) is approximately Rs. 180,000 per month.

The government must draw upon the success of the part divestiture and independent management of Sri Lanka Telecom and Sri Lankan Airlines under Emirates to restructure all loss-making institutions. These changes should have been implemented long ago, but as the panel of experts said in the Face the Nation talk show, it is better late than never.



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A call for confidence in Rajavasala

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The government is highly cheerful about the defeat of the SJB’s vote of no confidence on Minister Gammanpila.

It was able to display its two-thirds power in Parliament. Those smaller parties that are aligned with the Pohottuva such as the SLFP and Wimal Weerawansa’s NFF and others remained fastened with Pohottuva power. The new message after the SJB’s defeat is that the people are wholly supportive of the increase in fuel prices. In fact, they have been voting to support the new fuel prices, and thus Finance Minister Basil Rajapaksa does not have to do anything about it. Forget all that talk about how that price increase would not have happened if BR had been in the country, or that he would reduce it in a couple of days in office.

The record of no-confidence motions in our Parliament from 1948 is certainly different. Many such motions have been defeated, but the wider and deeper messages they carried have remained with the voters, who did what was necessary when the time for a larger national Vote of No-Confidence came their way.

This is the first big issue that Sajith Premadasa faced as leader of the SJB. There was somewhat of a challenge to him with the presence in Parliament of his former leader, and continuing UNP leader Ranil Wickremesinghe, who did try a green twist to the motion by trying to amend it to read against the whole government. Such twists and turns in politics can only be expected when persons who are wholly defeated by the voters in an election, the entire party and himself included, enters the House through the backdoor of the National List.

What this no-confidence motion brought before the people is much more than the rise in fuel prices. Amidst the Covid-19 pandemic, and the government’s flagrant misuse of quarantine regulations to forcibly grab and transport trade union, civil rights, and political critics and opponents to a lock down centre in the North, combined with the continuing protests by farmers without necessary fertiliser, there is a rising mood of public discontent with the advancing power of the Rajapaksas. Here are some of the real ‘confidence’’ issues facing the people.

Does Pohottuva think the public are wholly supportive of the presidential pardon to a murderer convicted by the Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court? What about the three others who were also convicted with the same person? Is the public cheerful about such a pardoned, but not freed of crime – person, being appointed to head a major state institution on housing development? Is housing to be a sector of increasing political manipulation, much more than it was when Wimal Weerawansa, as Minister of Housing and Common Amenities, was at play in that sector, with luxury housing for relatives?

By the way, Weerawansa was a loud and strong opponent to the no- confidence motion against Minister Gammanpila.

There is currently some confused thinking on the silent protest carried out by teachers on distant teaching through the internet. The vast numbers, in several thousands, who participated in the public call for action by the government on the long-standing teacher demands, did show the necessity for action.

The public who may be even critical of the trade union action by the teachers are certainly not supportive of them being called ‘kaalakanniyo’ – miserable, wretched – even by a Cabinet Minister, whatever rank or status he may hold. Minister Rambukwelle could have turned many teachers, who may have preferred to be silent about their dispute on income and rights, to openly join the related trade union action. The Minister’s subsequent reference to teachers as ‘divinities’ certainly had little impact, in a land where there are unholy divinities, too.

The increase in the size of protests today shows a rise in the mood of opposition to the government. The public reaction to the ugly and shameful show of force against citizen protesters by the Police, against court orders, too, seem to have pushed the Police somewhat into the background. But we cannot be sure of that.

There have been many transfers and promotions of key police personnel, and the vacancy in the highest police post is not far away. Will the future actions on police management by the Rajapaksa Handlers send a new message on Police Brutality? Will the suspects brought to show evidence and are shot down, show an increase in the coming months? This is where public confidence in the government’s role in fighting crime and keeping peace will be on display, as the Rajapaksa Handlers move to more Family Power and less People’s Power.

More than two years have passed since that Easter Sunday attack on three churches, the deaths of so many, many more injured, families destroyed, parents gone and children lost, and the government still has to show the people the truth about this massive crime. The Archbishop of Colombo, Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith, has now given a one-month deadline for the President and the government to answer several key issues about this crime, which were key electoral promises of the Pohottuva candidate who is now the President, and the SLPP government of today.

The answers to these issues raised will show the confidence in the Sri Lankan government by the people of this country, irrespective of ethnicity, religion or caste; and the confidence in this country by the international community.

The defeat of the no-confidence motion on Minister Gammanpila should not be the stuff of worry for the Opposition in Parliament and the SJB. It is certainly a call to spread the wider message of no-confidence in a government that has failed in living up to its promises to the people.

The government may remain happy with its two-thirds majority in Parliament. But it certainly needs much more than parliamentary numbers to retain and build the confidence among the people. This is the real task of the Rajapaksa Power today. It has to move away from a Rajapaksa Senakeliya or Carnival, and try and settle down to Rajapaksa Service to the people, and not to themselves. A true call for Confidence in the Rajavasala, from those away from the Rajapaksa pack and players.

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How rebirth takes place

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(from THE BUDDHA AND HIS TEACHINGS by Venerable Nārada Mahāthera)

“The pile of bones of (all the bodies of) one man
Who has alone one aeon lived
Would make a mountain’s height —
So said the mighty seer.”
— ITIVUT’TAKA

To the dying man at this critical stage, according to Abhidhamma philosophy, is presented a Kamma, Kamma Nimitta, or Gati Nimitta.

By Kamma is here meant some good or bad act done during his lifetime or immediately before his dying moment. It is a good or bad thought. If the dying person had committed one of the five heinous crimes (Garuka Kamma) such as parricide etc. or developed the Jhānas (Ecstasies), he would experience such a Kamma before his death. These are so powerful that they totally eclipse all other actions and appear very vividly before the mind’s eye. If he had done no such weighty action, he may take for his object of the dying thought-process a Kamma done immediately before death (Āsanna Kamma); which may be called a “Death Proximate Kamma.”

In the absence of a “Death-Proximate Kamma” a habitual good or bad act (Ācinna Kamma) is presented, such as the healing of the sick in the case of a good physician, or the teaching of the Dhamma in the case of a pious Bhikkhu, or stealing in the case of a thief. Failing all these, some casual trivial good or bad act (Katattā Kamma) becomes the object of the dying thought-process.

Kamma Nimitta

or “symbol,” means a mental reproduction of any sight, sound, smell, taste, touch or idea which was predominant at the time of some important activity, good or bad, such as a vision of knives or dying animals in the case of a butcher, of patients in the case of a physician, and of the object of worship in the case of a devotee, etc…

By Gati Nimitta, or “symbol of destiny” is meant some symbol of the place of future birth. This frequently presents itself to dying persons and stamps its gladness or gloom upon their features. When these indications of the future birth occur, if they are bad, they can at times be remedied. This is done by influencing the thoughts of the dying man. Such premonitory visions of destiny may be fire, forests, mountainous regions, a mother’s womb, celestial mansions, and the like.

Taking for the object a Kamma, or a Kamma symbol, or a symbol of destiny, a thought-process runs its course even if the death be an instantaneous one.

For the sake of convenience let us imagine that the dying person is to be reborn in the human kingdom and that the object is some good Kamma.

His Bhavanga consciousness is interrupted, vibrates for a thought-moment and passes away; after which the mind-door consciousness (manodvāravajjana) arises and passes away. Then comes the psychologically important stage –Javana process — which here runs only for five thought moments by reason of its weakness, instead of the normal seven. It lacks all reproductive power, its main function being the mere regulation of the new existence (abhinavakarana).

The object here being desirable, the consciousness he experiences is a moral one. The Tadālambana-consciousness which has for its function a registering or identifying for two moments of the object so perceived, may or may not follow. After this occurs the death-consciousness (cuticitta), the last thought moment to be experienced in this present life.

There is a misconception amongst some that the subsequent birth is conditioned by this last death-consciousness (cuticitta) which in itself has no special function to perform. What actually conditions rebirth is that which is experienced during the Javana process.

With the cessation of the decease-consciousness death actually occurs. Then no material qualities born of mind and food (cittaja and āhāraja) are produced. Only a series of material qualities born of heat (utuja) goes on till the corpse is reduced to dust.

Simultaneous with the arising of the rebirth consciousness there spring up the ‘body-decad,’ ‘sex-decad,’ and ‘base-decad’ (Kāya-bhāva-vatthu-dasaka).

According to Buddhism, therefore, sex is determined at the moment of conception and is conditioned by Kamma not by any fortuitous combination of sperm and ovum-cells.

The passing away of the consciousness of the past birth is the occasion for the arising of the new consciousness in the subsequent birth. However, nothing unchangeable or permanent is transmitted from the past to the present.

Just as the wheel rests on the ground only at one point, so, strictly speaking, we live only for one thought-moment. We are always in the present, and that present is ever slipping into the irrevocable past. Each momentary consciousness of this ever-changing life-process, on passing away, transmits its whole energy, all the indelibly recorded impressions on it, to its successor. Every fresh consciousness, therefore, consists of the potentialities of its predecessors together with something more. At death, the consciousness perishes, as in truth it perishes every moment, only to give birth to another in a rebirth. This renewed consciousness inherits all past experiences. As all impressions are indelibly recorded in the ever-changing palimpsest-like mind, and all potentialities are transmitted from life to life, irrespective of temporary disintegration, thus there may be reminiscence of past births or past incidents. Whereas if memory depended solely on brain cells, such reminiscence would be impossible.

“This new being which is the present manifestation of the stream of Kamma-energy is not the same as, and has no identity with, the previous one in its line — the aggregates that make up its composition being different from, having no identity with, those that make up the being of its predecessor. And yet it is not an entirely different being since it has the same stream of Kamma-energy, though modified perchance just by having shown itself in that manifestation, which is now making its presence known in the sense-perceptible world as the new being.

Death, according to Buddhism, is the cessation of the psycho-physical life of any one individual existence. It is the passing away of vitality (āyu), i.e., psychic and physical life (jīvitindriya), heat (usma) and consciousness (vinnana).

Death is not the complete annihilation of a being, for though a particular life-span ends, the force which hitherto actuated it is not destroyed.

Just as an electric light is the outward visible manifestation of invisible electric energy, so we are the outward manifestations of invisible Kammic energy. The bulb may break, and the light may be extinguished, but the current remains and the light may be reproduced in another bulb. In the same way, the Kammic force remains undisturbed by the disintegration of the physical body, and the passing away of the present consciousness leads to the arising of a fresh one in another birth. But nothing unchangeable or permanent “passes” from the present to the future.

In the foregoing case, the thought experienced before death being a moral one, the resultant rebirth-consciousness takes for its material an appropriate sperm and ovum cell of human parents. The rebirth-consciousness (patisandhi vinnana) then lapses into the Bhavanga state.

The continuity of the flux, at death, is unbroken in point of time, and there is no breach in the stream of consciousness.

Rebirth takes place immediately, irrespective of the place of birth, just as an electromagnetic wave, projected into space, is immediately reproduced in a receiving radio set. Rebirth of the mental flux is also instantaneous and leaves no room whatever for any intermediate state (antarabhava). Pure Buddhism does not support the belief that a spirit of the deceased person takes lodgement in some temporary state until it finds a suitable place for its “reincarnation.”

This question of instantaneous rebirth is well expressed in the Milinda Pa񨡺

The King Milinda questions:

“Venerable Nagasena, if somebody dies here and is reborn in the world of Brahma, and another dies here and is reborn in Kashmir, which of them would arrive first?

“They would arrive at the same time. O King.

“In which town were you born, O King?

“In a village called Kalasi, Venerable Sir.

“How far is Kalasi from here, O King?

“About two hundred miles, Venerable Sir.

“And how far is Kashmir from here, O King?

“About twelve miles, Venerable Sir.

“Now think of the village of Kalasi, O King.

“I have done so, Venerable Sir.

“And now think of Kashmir, O King.

“It is done, Venerable Sir.

“Which of these two, O King, did you think the more slowly and which the more quickly?

“Both equally quickly, Venerable Sir.

“Just so, O King, he who dies here and is reborn in the world of Brahma, is not reborn later than he who dies here and is reborn in Kashmir.”

“Give me one more simile, Venerable Sir.”

“What do you think, O King? Suppose two birds were flying in the air and they should settle at the same time, one upon a high and the other upon a low tree, which bird’s shade would first fall upon the earth, and which bird’s later?”

“Both shadows would appear at the same time, not one of them earlier and the other later. “

The question might arise: Are the sperm and ovum cells always ready, waiting to take up the rebirth-thought?

According to Buddhism, living beings are infinite in number, and so are world systems. Nor is the impregnated ovum the only route to rebirth. Earth, an almost insignificant speck in the universe, is not the only habitable plane, and humans are not the only living beings. As such it is not impossible to believe that there will always be an appropriate place to receive the last thought vibrations. A point is always ready to receive the falling stone.

 

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Dual citizens; shocking rape cases going unpunished

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I have a bone to pick with my co-Friday columnist who writes from across the ocean about the Pearl. In his July 16 column, he writes at length on dual citizens entering the Sri Lankan Parliament while retaining citizenship of another country. He lauds it in no uncertain terms, while most of us natives, living in our motherland, oppose the move that was introduced in the 20th Amendment. He writes: “A Dual Citizen is back as a national list member of parliament. Now, this in a country that passed legislation that banned dual citizens from entering parliament. This of course is something I was and am vehemently opposed to …”

The previous ban which he ‘vehemently opposed’ he pins on the Kaduwa syndrome – inferiority complex; frog in the well mentality; “fear of intimidation, fear, and revulsion of learning anything new from others”. Cass labels his reasons tosh! He goes to the extreme of writing: “The only good thing that has happened is that a dual citizen is back as finance minister, no less. … Our entire national list should consist of qualified dual citizens who have experience gained from the first world.” The implication here is that all our Sri Lankan citizens holding only Sri Lankan passports are no good against dual citizens who to him are nonpareil, more so legislaters. Thus, he casts aside as useless all those holding higher qualification gained mostly locally and are loyal to the country. They to him are less in ability, qualifications, broadmindedness than those who escaped to foreign countries when the going was bad and now return when it suits them. I present sole citizens like Champika Ranawaka, Eran Wickremaratne and Harsha de Silva and very many medical professionals and agriculturists who have shown they are pre-eminently qualified in their several fields, and loyal to Sri Lanka too.

Dual citizens left the country for whatever reason, mostly escaping a sinking ship for better prospects even as second-class citizens. Then they had the bug of nationalism arising in their breasts. This when it suited them; when it was opportune for them to return to their country of birth. They seize the opportunity to be recognised, elevated, lauded; and return from obscurity in a foreign country to hosannas sung by loyalists and promoters of dual citizenship like Rajitha Ratwatte. If they are so loyal and want to serve their mother country, why don’t they give up the citizenship of the country chosen for emigration and become solely Sri Lankan citizens? Oh no, they keep a safety branch handy for escape – to obscurity though – when things get too hot here. Even Basil Rajapaksa took plane to the US immediately after his brother’s defeat at the 2015 presidential election. Now back with several brothers in high power, nephews included; in short, a government mostly by the Family, it is ideal for Brother Basil to return and to boost his return, such loud singing of hosannas and prediction this Knight with superhuman powers will kill the dragon of economic bankruptcy that is poised to devour poor Sri Lanka. He may even banish the virus that has overpowered the entire world. We Ordinaries will wait and watch.

It is no to persons like medical interns who got their entire education- high school plus medical – at government expense and then scooted slyly to greener pastures immediately after getting their MBBSs. This closed door also to those who fled punishments or change of government or jumped the ship they thought was sinking or scooted for whatever expediency. However, those who felt they had no hope of career development in this country or went for higher studies (when local universities were closed for long or did not accept them) and then decided to stay back in the host countries as citizens are welcome back as even dual citizens since their return is prompted by caring for parents and siblings left behind, or wanting to settle down on birth turf and benefit the country with foreign money and expertise gained. Some highly qualified, medical professionals mostly, revisit Sri Lanka and give immense help free of charge. We welcome them wholeheartedly and are grateful. But not those whose motives for returning are purely selfish.

What particularly irked ole Cass were these two statements of Rajitha Ratwatte writing ‘From Outside the Pearl’. “The only good thing that has happened is that a dual citizen is back as finance minister, no less” and “our entire national lists should consist of qualified dual citizens who have experience gained from the first world.” I won’t deal with the first statement. How can he judge whether it is the only good move of government until Basil delivers the prediction of saving the country? Then the promotion of dual citizens to Parliament – “qualified with experiences gained from the first world.” I mentioned how some of these come back to help us but never as politicians or into politics. Those who come into the political arena so far have not advertised their higher qualifications and some have experience in petrol pumping if not dish washing!!

Rape rears its medusa head

We have been hearing and reading about a 15-year-old girl sold for prostitution by her mother and used by the many including some high persons. The case is out in the open and due punishment may be meted out. Another case was highlighted about a younger girl and I was told that social media highlighted a father who abused his two daughters and is in hiding now. Words fail ole Cass to express how reprehensible these cases are: unbridled perverse sexual desire and greed for money; two conditions rampant now. Cass nearly fell of her chair when she read the first page news item in The Island of Wednesday July 21. “National child protection policy not implemented for 21 years, says COPE.” Rather usual in this Paradise Isle gone rotten. But what followed both inundated Cass’s heart with deep sorrow followed by raging fury, though useless. A beautiful, typically dressed 16 year old Tamil girl – Ishalini Jude Kumar – is featured in the article “who succumbed to injuries caused by a fire in the residence of lawmaker Rishad Bathiudeen at No 410/16, Baudhaloka Mawatha, Colombo 7.” Stunning. Shocking beyond words. Cass believes the rape and suspects it was continuous but never will accept the self immolation.

This particular MP and former Minister has had two previous allegations against him – the destruction of parts of a forest bordering Wilpattu to build houses for his supporters and association with some Easter Sunday carnage suspects.

Rape and molesting children are extra extra-nasty social evils. The perpetrators must be severely punished. In Saudi Arabia it was said that stealing was punished with hands amputated so…

Cass leaves you on that note – to mull over as Sri Lanka is saved by the Hon Basil R and we get back to being Paradise.

 

 

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