18 November, 2018

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Nero Fiddles While Rome Burns: Friday Forum

Friday Forum earnestly draws the immediate and undivided focus of the public, the government and Members of Parliament, to five matters that require urgent and immediate attention. This is vital in the interests of sections of our society who have been victims of serious disasters, both natural and man-made, in the interest of maintaining reasonably stable prices, because they adversely affect the welfare of people, in the interest of good governance, in the interest of government and corporations in Sri Lanka who will borrow in international capital markets and in the interests of the long term survival of this state as a political entity, unitary and sovereign. We deal with each of them separately.

Recurrent drought in the Eastern, North Central, North Western and Uva provinces and parts of the Southern province during the last three years has severely affected agriculture and the livelihoods, income and well-being of millions of people. Heavy rain and consequent floods in lowlands and landslides in highlands have destroyed lives, dwellings, livelihoods, belongings and crops.  Government, in many instances promptly provided succour. However the failure of the 2017-18 maha crop and the prolonged drought affecting coconut plantations have brought untold suffering to the farming population and to consumers, especially those in lower income groups, who have to pay very high prices for staples, including rice and coconuts. Crops in irrigated and rain fed areas have been denied fertilizer in time, which in turn reduced harvests and incomes. It is imperative that these lost incomes be replaced immediately together with working capital to undertake production in yala 2018. The supply of fertilizer of the right mixture and in time must be programmed with due care and the water supply must be both timely and adequate to enable plants to absorb the fertilizer and deliver good harvests.

The payment of lost incomes as transfer payments to those affected will require funds in a situation of acute shortage of fiscal resources. These transfers must be made without printing money. Some items of government current expenditure must be cut back to divert money to defray these costs and others must be postponed for better days.  Temporary suspension of subsidies on food served to Members of Parliament within its premises should yield substantial savings. Ceasing to pay monthly Rs.100,000/= to each Member of Parliament for ‘electoral work’ will yield a sum of Rs. 270 million a year. Purchase by government of all cars for the official or personal use of Members of Parliament can be postponed until after the election of a new parliament. (The purchase of two Mercedes Benz S 600 cars for the use of the President was beyond reason, in the circumstances.) These actions will demonstrate to the public the commitment of politicians to the public good.   If savings from current expenditure do not suffice, a surcharge of 2.5 percent on income taxes paid by high income receivers may have to come into effect.

Stability in prices is needed both on grounds of a fair distribution of income and to avoid the sharp devaluation of the rupee if we are not to avoid a drop in exports. Maintaining stable prices is not easy because the price level in this country is determined by the prices of its imports, as any examination of the two sets of figures will easily show. However, government must, by fiscal discipline, cut down its contribution to inflationary pressure, in which it has indulged in, during the last three years. Extravagant expenditure on ceremonies and foreign travel can be reduced without endangering efficiency in government and the well-being of the population. There is little need for being airborne for frivolous purposes at cost to the public. The public themselves need to avoid displaying extravagant wealth in a culture where simplicity (alpeccha) is held in high regard.

The Auditor General recently revealed to the public the parlous state of book keeping in government and stated that he was not in a position to state with confidence the total debt of government. Whether this state of affairs is due to incompetence or deceit is yet to be discovered but rumours abound of foul play. The unreliability of government statistics so revealed will create further problems in raising loans in world financial centres, when government, during 2018, 2019 and 2020, needs to refinance large amounts of maturing foreign debt. In November 2017, the inter-governmental Financial Action Task Force classified Sri Lanka among high risk countries, and the country now runs the risk of further downgrading unless accounting and management of financial institutions are improved substantially.

Good governance was the broadest and sturdiest plank in the platform on which the current President and the ruling coalition parties were elected to office in 2015. A major part of that undertaking was that crimes committed by members of the previous government would be investigated and those found culpable be brought before courts of justice and those found guilty punished. These alleged crimes ranged from murder, massive scale bribery and corruption, abuse of public property and illegal financial gains by those in power at cost to the public. The whole latter area was thrown into sharp relief by government bond scams early in the life of the new government. It is commendable that these recent scams have been inquired into and that suspected criminals are now before courts of law. The public has expressed its disgust at the failure of government to bring to book those suspected of graver and nastier crimes committed in earlier periods. There are seemingly purposeful delays and failure to act in the presence of prima facie evidence of wrong doing. The cumbersome and costly legal procedures are often presented as excuses for these lapses. However, the expedition and care for detail that that machinery exhibited in respect of the ‘bonds scam’ is a standing negation of that charge. Friday Forum urges most strongly that government give utmost priority to fulfill the solemn promise it made to the public in January and August 2015 to commit to trial all those suspected of crime, for courts to deal with them according to law. Delay in these matters would be to betray the trust that people have in the capacity of democratic governments to deal with crimes committed by people in high office.

A distinct and separate part of this failure of government has to deal with crimes alleged to have been committed during the recent civil war. Friday Forum expressed, in a recent public statement on ‘Establishing the Office of Missing Persons: Delays, Dilution and Deal-making’, its concern with the fate of allegedly missing persons. The resolution concerning Sri Lanka adopted at the last review by the UN Council for Human Rights in Geneva is scheduled to come up for review at the March meeting of UNCHR. Government will be under pressure for an acceptable account of their progress in the implementation of Resolution A/HRC/34/L.1.

In addressing all the issues that Friday Forum has raised, there is little doubt that there have been real and grave difficulties before government. They have been aggravated by lack of cohesion among constituent parties to the coalition. Each party has sought advantages to itself at much cost to the other. For the nation and individuals to prosper, it is essential that there is able leadership working in democratic ways. One important feature of democratic governance is that government continually communicates with the public on the problems that it faces implementing the mandates that it received from the public. There has been a woeful lack of communication between government and the governed during the last three years causing misunderstandings between the two parties to government. That conversation must start again if government by discussion is to resume. 

This society, its state, its government and its people are held hostage to solutions of these multifarious problems that beset it. Competent and wise leadership helped by the international community, most of all its near neighbours, bonded into friendship over many centuries and whose futures are inextricably woven together, can surely release it from this bondage. Friday Forum eagerly looks forward to such leadership and enlightened international cooperation. 

Dr. Geedreck Usvatte-aratchi and Mr. Chandra Jayaratne

For and on behalf of:

Dr. A.C. Visvalingam, Dr. Upatissa Pethiyagoda, Bishop Duleep de Chickera, Prof. Camena Guneratne, Mr. Priyantha Gamage, Mr. Faiz-Ur. Rahman, Mr. S.C.C. Elankovan, Mr. Dhammapala Wijeyanandana, Prof. Ranjini Obeyesekere, Ms. Manouri Muttetuwegama, Mr. Danesh Casie Chetty and Mr. Pulasthi Hewamanna.

*The Friday Forum is an informal group of concerned citizens pledged to uphold norms of democracy, good governance, rule of law, human rights, media freedom and tolerance in our pluralist society.

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Latest comments

  • 2
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    The way these people write, it is simply SPECIAL INETERESTS barking their concerns. How can you make a country function with these enlightened international cooperation. they have their own needs. Talk about missing persons, had outs to north and east, nothing about others ?

    • 6
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      Jim softy:
      Many of us would be tempted to describe you for the racist ………………. you are. However, even CT’s lenient editorial policy wouldn’t permit that!

    • 4
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      Good ideas here, FF. but Lanka is today a geopolitical hot spot and soon what is happening in Maldives will transpire here– with the tug or war between China and India-US axis in Indian Ocean.
      The market for identity politics with periodic attacks on minorities, Musims and Tamils, is part of the (neo)liberal project and the globalized Deep State that operates it – to loot the wealth of nations and common people to benefit the global 1 percent..
      Bondscam Ranil Wickramasinghe is advancing the global neoliberal agenda with his foreign backers and their FAKE Economic Advisers, while MR is Backed by China. OF course Gota is a foreign citizen so there a lots of international fingers in the UNP-SLFP bi-partisan Corruption racket and Fake Reconciliation project. Only solution is JVP , shockingly!

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        It is of urgent necessity that the Government brings the likes of Chandra Jayaratne and Dr. Usvatte-aratchi in an unlimited consultative capacity as apolitical Sri Lankans willing to contribute towards good governance practice.

        This government is starved of such expertise and it can no longer afford to ignore the wealth of experience, knowledge and expertise such men would infuse if they were suitably inducted.

    • 7
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      We all just write and write…..talk and talk……..wish and wish……………

      Rome has been burning in Lanka for the past 70 years; 22 million Neros………..it’s just not now…………….The people light the fire and the fire marshals pour the accelerants……….

      There is an inevitability about Lanka ……………whatever is written or not, whatever is said or not, we are heading in the same direction……..look where we started and where we are now ………….I joined the forum in 2015 just before the election ………have things got any better since then?

      Do any of you esteemed Lankan gentlemen who write here every day ………….do you in your fleeting rational moments ……………..think that the trend can be reversed? Messiah or no messiah?

      Only Lacille understood what I was trying say ………he has contacted me privately ……….I’m taking him to see the gals kick up their heels …..Moulin Rouge …………that’s a damn sight better than watching Mahinda, Ranil, Sirisena……..do their stuff…………

      • 4
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        N.Fernando

        Too good and true a comment to call for this line. I couldn’t stop with just a thumbs up!

    • 2
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      Friday Forum

      RE: Nero Fiddles While Rome Burns: Friday Forum

      The headline should be Sevelaya and Prerthaya Fiddles While Lanka Burns: Friday Forum.

      Through the Bulath Vines, Vettila None and Grape Vine:

      UNP to re-nominate SF for Law and Order

      The United National Party (UNP) has reportedly decided to re-nominate Regional Development Minister Field Marshal Sarath Fonseka as Law and Order Minister, it is learnt.

      When the UNP nominated him to the post the first time it was turned down by President Maithripala Sirisena. Thereafter, the UNP sought to assign the subject to another member of the party but no one was ready to accept it.

      Against this backdrop, the party had taken a decision to re-submit his name to the President. Already, SLFP ministers had been against appointing Mr. Fonseka to this post a sentiment shared by many senior police officers.

  • 12
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    I too fully support this forum..
    It is good to have such a forum to check democratic values…that have eroded in recent time..
    we all should support each other for goodness and good thing .
    What about talk of impeaching Ranil soon.
    It is said more than 130 mps want him go home .
    Poor Ranil he should have left the office long before with C.B scam

    • 1
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      This comment was removed by a moderator because it didn’t abide by our Comment policy.For more detail see our Comment policy https://www.colombotelegraph.com/index.php/comments-policy-2/

    • 3
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      Impeaching Ranil? What for? To remove the only warrior on the Economic Front? No purpose in displaying ineptitude.

  • 8
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    Ladies and Gentlemen of the Forum

    I know you mean well and appeal in all sincerity. I know some of you personally
    and can vouch for your love of country and all society. But I am afraid we have gone far too down the ravine in the past decade or so. We are in no different a situation than Venezuela – until recently an oil rich State with an attractive living standard for much of its people. Politics and reckless governance therein, in the name of Nationalism and The People, has made citizens of that country seek refuge in adjoining states – merely for food and livelihood. We are in no better shape. The Grama Sevaka, Ranil or Chandrika can do very little to save the sinking ship. Neither will the good intentions of the high spending Mangala. Beloved Sri Lanka – Sinhalese, Tamils, Muslims, Burghers are doomed by the incoming economic Tsunami. Get ready for chaos and disorder of the worse type. Our politikkas have ruined the lives of all – role of the Buddhist priesthood included. Already our society has been divided into the very rich and the poor-very poor. What will hit us soon will be worse than what crippled Zimbabwe and Venezuela.
    Most of our politikka hench-aiyas will take flight to London, Toronto and Singapore soon. A few will seek asylum in Delhi and Beijing. The poorer people, mostly in the coastal areas, will take the reverse journey to the South Indian littoral in Kallathonis re-enacting those decades of the pre-1948 when poor Indians flocked here.

    Believe me, I am no alarmist or mischief-maker. I don’t wish my country ill. But this is, sadly, the stark truth.

    Leslie Mostley

    • 6
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      Lesley Mostley:
      May I second that opinion?
      My major gripe with upper-middle class groups, primarily of the academic persuasion, is that they could and should have done more to resist the rape and pillage of the country considering that they were infinitely better protected than many who had the temerity to criticise the current government and its predecessor. Not one of them appeared to be under serious personal physical threat during the Rajapaksa Regime unlike the Lasantha Wickremetunes and Frederica Janszs of our nation, yet …….
      For starters, even at this late date, why don’t they persuade the authorities to drop the absolutely spurious charges against Frederica Jansz who is a political refugee in the US and cannot return for so much as a visit to the land of her birth? I am prepared to provide some basic information in this regard if any member of the Friday Forum cares to get in touch with me. The way she has been ignored by the Yahapalanayas is a total disgrace to any group claiming to stand for justice and the rule of law.

      • 3
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        Emil

        I join you in that idea of bringing back Frederica. I knew her personally and admired her fearless and elegant pen. She was an ornament in our quality-short journalistic landscape. Like many, thanks to the Medamulana mafia, her relatively young family also was cruelly divided. What a prize for keeping the flames of free journalism for all of us!!! My word, how many families – from all levels of society – did these despots destroy within a decade. Our people do believe in the workings of Karma. Don’t they?

        Leslie M

    • 2
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      Leslie Moseley, this sounds so close to the bone, it is too true to be untrue.

      I hope some high people in government read you. That is if they could manage to read.

    • 2
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      Leslie,

      How many of our voters realise the Rajapakses ruined the sizeably large Middle-class the UNP of 19977 painstakingly built through several economic programmes. It is universally conceded the wealth of a country is its vibrant middle-class. Ours has gradually gone out of the scene by the majoritarian politics centered on aagama and jaathiya. I agree with you we have a very rich, thieving class and a very poor class. I am ashamed to be a Sri Lankan.
      We will soon be another Haiti – where almost everyone is abjectly poor. As to the super-ambitious monk Gandassara, he is alright. His brand of religio-politics sees that he travels in style in a Mercedes.
      Oh! Mother Lanka, we grieve for thee.

      R.J. de Silva

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    This comment was removed by a moderator because it didn’t abide by our Comment policy.For more detail see our Comment policy https://www.colombotelegraph.com/index.php/comments-policy-2/

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      Percy:
      Hooray! Something under your pseudonym that is intelligible and not totally vicious: “This comment was removed by a moderator because it didn’t abide by our Comment policy.For more detail see our Comment policy https://www.colombotelegraph.com/index.php/comments-policy-2/
      Whatever provoked that response deserves to be repeated so that people might, wrongly, assume you have entered the ranks of the civilized.

      • 0
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        Van Den Poot in mouth
        Glad that I cheered you up. Sometimes these issues which are discussed here may be unintelligible to you, so get out of your stupor and enjoy the world around, you faggot.

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  • 0
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    in this crisis situation a stanza in lord macauleys famous poem on horatius is a timely reminder-

    then no one was for party
    then all were for the state
    then the great man helped the poor
    and the poor man loved the great
    then lands were fairly portioned
    then spoils were fairly sold
    the romans were like brothers
    in the brave days of old

  • 4
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    Dear Friday Forum people,

    Nicely writ on the correct ways of governing.
    *
    But the truth is, even with all the supposed bad things the previous GoSL did, the present one is all about admitting to the bond scam (which is huger than all the other scams of previous GoSL), and then ignoring the whole money-lost scenario. They will walk along with the same purposeful intent, and do as they please. To them, bond scam was not a scam but an investment into futuristics. And to see the futuristics come to fruition, sacred forests and farmland will have to be converted to industrial zones; country will have to be partitioned into thirds. Truth is, torture and killings that are soon to come, as in the 90’s, will be on a large grand scale. Rajapaksa’s stint on any of this was not even certain. Ranil’s UNP killings and torturings on the other hand, will be (was always) a legitimate crackdown on dissidents, also called ruffians and hooligans by the gentlemanly crowd.
    *
    Always remember Friday Forum people, that when UNP-style capitalism comes into play, the only way it can work is through monied people begetting more money. Any deviation from that ( e.g. due to poor harvests, unfortunate people will get some of that money), then the whole carefully fixed monetary system will come crashing down.

  • 3
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    friday forum pl .say something about ampara also. it is missing in this report.
    -dayal

    • 3
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      Ampara had issues only last week and it is sad that this intellectual forum had not written a word about it.

      Now Teldeniya, See CT articles on this. Why do you all ignore these events

  • 2
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    It could have been written with Sri Lanka in mind:

    Pity the nation that is full of beliefs and empty of religion.
    Pity the nation that wears a cloth it does not weave
    and eats a bread it does not harvest.

    Pity the nation that acclaims the bully as hero,
    and that deems the glittering conqueror bountiful.

    Pity a nation that despises a passion in its dream,
    yet submits in its awakening.

    Pity the nation that raises not its voice
    save when it walks in a funeral,
    boasts not except among its ruins,
    and will rebel not save when its neck is laid
    between the sword and the block.

    Pity the nation whose statesman is a fox,
    whose philosopher is a juggler,
    and whose art is the art of patching and mimicking

    Pity the nation that welcomes its new ruler with trumpeting,
    and farewells him with hooting,
    only to welcome another with trumpeting again.

    Pity the nation whose sages are dumb with years
    and whose strongmen are yet in the cradle.

    Pity the nation divided into fragments,
    each fragment deeming itself a nation.

    ― Kahlil Gibran (from The Garden of The Prophet)

  • 1
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  • 0
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    Since independence in 1948, successive GoSL Neros fiddled while the country was on fire. The sycophants of the Neros threw logs of language/religion-divide into the fire.
    SLPP have now become the agents of the logs.
    The silver lining is Friday Forum is able to act as fire alarms!

  • 0
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    This question is usually answered quite very simple fact ? During since 2015 January 9th that
    so-called “Rainbow Revolution” that advocated by elites was not that People’s Upraised. It was voted by majority people that vicious allegation against MR and alliance to overthrown the vital interest foreign power.
    Therefor which was that undoubtedly was not a revolution, was Counter-revolution led by locally UNP of Ranil Wicks and Old Federal of SLFPs of CBK and MS of few- bad eggs of incorrigible leaders rejected by past several elections since 1994! But we know fully well where political-power is? It is in the hands of Foreign -power locally controlled by Ranil..W…-and his gang of UNP’s and , MS and CBK of Tamil Federalist separatist forces. Additional to that anti-establishment political elements of TNA of Tamil separatist and JVP anarchist of Terrorist were join partners of current regime was founded in 2015 January 9th. Yes grand alliance of all anti-democracy and anti-establishment which is controlled by UNP leadership the aim of undermined nation sovereignty and unitary charter status of State and dissolved its nature and democratic norms. ……”Good” Governances last 38 months>
    The end election of 2018 February 11, which verdicts of the People has reflected UNP -SLFP regimes that Misruling of State of governances of Executive, Legestataive and Judiciary by UNP- RW, New UNP s of MS and CBK has been out-right rejected by Voters. Indeed Political crisis proven by facts and development of tendencies has shows, it is enter into path of Econoimic-Social crisis is coming behind that.
    The notorious polices of neo-Liberalism USA and Indian ruins of economy tear down all illusion of “good” governances and “rule of law” by UNP regime in power without People mandate?
    The basic question is this is withier of any type of Democracy?

  • 4
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    Management by Blame President Sirisena is, arguably, the worst President we ever had. He is incompetent, dishonest, treacherous, selfish, thinks he is the cock of the walk but never walks the talk though he does lot of talking the talk. Without any idea of what management is, he takes over everything whenever there is something wrong and instead of making thing better, he makes them worse.

    Here is his modus operand whenever a problem occurs in the country. He lets out a lot of hot air blaming others. While politicians generally blame the past regime for everything, this man blames his own regime! Then he asks for a report or appoints a commission. Once such a report is produced at an exorbitant cost to the tax payer, he does sweet nothing.

    There are different styles of management – Autocratic, Consultative, Persuasive, Democratic, Chaotic, Laissez-faire, Management by Walking Around (MBWA), Asian paternalistic etc. (Wikipedia). President Sirisena’s style of management does not fit any of these. The closest I can think of is management by blaming others.

    I am always wary of managers who ask for a report and appoint committees at the drop of a hat. I worked under a manager who loved to have meetings and ask for reports. There was the daily morning meeting (a complete waste of the most productive hours of the day), a late morning meeting for discussing problems in the facility, a weekly meeting, a monthly meeting, a meeting where the progress of meetings was discussed, a meeting to study what other meetings can be formed. All these meetings could be tolerated as we were given snacks at them. But what could not be tolerated was the plethora of reports that they bred. (To be Continued….)

    • 1
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      Reports: I hate reports. They are a way of wasting time, effort and money and serve no useful purpose, mainly because; no one reads them, except for those who write them. The Manager I mentioned before was Report fanatic. At a meeting, of which there were many, he used to ask for two reports on an average. One day, a friend of mine who had already been requested to submit several reports, which were overdue, was asked to give a third one on some stupid matter, which was so simple that it could have been solved on discussion basis in a few minutes. The guy was in tears and came to me for help.

      I told him to insert nice looking introduction and the put sentences like,‘Our Manager, Mr. X is an idiot, a nincompoop who poops bull shit’ . Such sentences were interspersed with the other shit in many places. We put some nice looking graphs, pictures etc. in these pages together with meaningless formulas. We knew that this guy did not have the patience to read one full paragraph and there too he would be skipping lines. What mattered was the cover, which we ensured was a masterly job. At the next meeting, the Manager, showed the report to everyone and praised it and thanked the author, who was presented as a model to be emulated by others!

      Thomas J. Watson said The best way to supervise your men is from their reports that they make out. As far as Mr. X is concerned, it would be more appropriate to say, ‘the best way to supervise your men is from the covers of their reports’.

      Funny Quote: The reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated. (Mark Twain)

  • 1
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    Who is Nero and where is Rome?

  • 1
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    Hope the authors know that a good 99% of the population do not know who Nero is and Kalu Suddhas who are totally removed from the realities of the people of the country trying to find solutions to our problems has not yet helped but only worsened our problems. Hope the Kalu Suddhas try to at least do some brain storming in the few brain cells you have in circulation in these fancy forums, and find a heading for a simple thing like an article, so that the people of Sri Lanka can relate to and understand what you are saying. Anyways, all these “must do”, “should do” … and the whole bla bla of repeating what everyone knows is just a waste of time. The interesting thing nobody writes articles or have forums about is:
    ===>> What part did all the Kalu Suddhas play in the creation, maintenance and catalysis of the dire situation in the country?

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