Friday, November 30, 2007

Margosa or Kohomba also known as Neem

I have mentioned earlier about the wonders of the Kohomba plant/tree. It has both medicinal properties as well as a wood that is just out of this world in its beauty. In my cabin in Raja Ela, the doors and windows are solid kohomba and so are the beds as well as my planters chair. My latest acquisition is the kohomba desk that one of my neighbouring carpenters made for me. It is exquisite and I was involved in the design process so that I wanted a very simple style to show the beauty of the wood. In order to preserve the desk I had sealer put on at every stage of the manufacture and not just after it was finished. The drawers make maximum use of the width of the table and are practical in that it is as deep as the width. I am also having a chair made to match this desk so the set will be complete and I will have a study and work surface to comfortably enjoy the scenery, see the photo so that I have the full view of the river and the life on it which will inspire me to be creative in thought and word.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

the karuna dilemma for the British

The beautiful Sri Lankan chameleons are no match for the political chameleons running the country. See below what they are up to.

I was thinking of putting my two cents into the current Karuna debate going on and people have different views on this subject.

Karuna, the one time leader of his faction which broke away from the LTTE, assisted the Sri Lankan forces overtly and covertly to evict the LTTE from the East.Please don't forget that he was one of the most ruthless commanders of the LTTE and personally oversaw the slaughter in COLD BLOOD of over 600 Sinhala policemen a fact that is not disputed by even the LTTE(they were actually persuaded to surrender on some reasonable grounds and then herded and shot like animals) in the Eastern Province as just one of the major acts of gruesome violence inflicted on defenceless people.

His family had fled to the UK and I am assuming have been granted some kind of asylum.He lately fell out with his people in the East allegedly for embezzling funds that had been entrusted to him. Anyway his friends in the JHU (the party of the Buddhist monks who have formed strange bedfellows) helped him to obtain a Diplomatic passport under the name of Dushmantha Gunewardene. The real person of this name is someone in the Environment ministry now under the JHU, who was supposed to go to the UK on an environmental conference.

Anyway even his picture on the passport did not have his moustache but was a photo of him. However as the JHU are in Government is it therefore not unreasonable to assume that the foreign ministry in Colombo collaborated in this deception and got the necessary visa for him to travel to the UK. He was granted entry into the UK. In typical Sri Lankan fashion they did not think beyond their noses and failed to get him to return his passport upon him landing in the UK, so no one could point the finger at the government for issuing him with this false document.I am sure Karuna would have had no objection in returning the passport as his primary aim had now been fulfilled. He was liviing with his family in Kensington when he was arrested and the diplomatic passport discovered in his possession.

Again there is no apology from the Sri Lankan government which has not uttered a word on how Karuna obtained this document.I don't know what is going on through the diplomatic channels and if the British government has issued a complaint and said that now even diplomatic passports will not have the same priviledges granted before as SL governement have clearly violated all diplomatic etiquette and protocol in this fashion acting in a cavalier manner to get rid of a problem.

The foreign secretary of Sri Lanka, Kohona, who must have been instrumental in giving him this passport, has said publicly that the true application of the law should be applied in this case, thereby passing the buck to the British government to deal with this problem.

The international community have been at the SL government to take Karuna to task on Child soldiers and a myrriad of other crimes, and SL conveniently let him go to the UK who now have him to prosecute legally as the SL government failed to do.

SL have sent the problem to the UK and they now have two choices, one to send him back to SL and the other to hold him in the UK and prosecute him from there. Whatever they do they will have a problem. If they send him back Karuna would claim they are abusing his human rights, by seperating him from his family and sending him to a certain death or injustice. If he is prosecuted in the UK, the jurisdiction under which he is prosecuted could be questioned, and his status and mode of arrival could let him free pending a resolution. Whatever course of action is taken the British have the problem while the SL government is loving the fact that those who most loudly shouted that they wanted Karuna prosecuted have him in British custody for them to do as they please.

So now once SL captures Prabhakaran and dont want to be implicated in what happens to him, they will send him with a diplomatic passport with the name of Percy Rajapakse going for a conference on leadership in the international arena for those look international exposure from developing nations.

What will the British do with him when they catch him with the passport which says his occupation is the President of the nation!!

That is the Sri Lankan conundrum today.Jokers in every sense of the word, and they like the slippery characters they are slide their way out of the problem and hand it to someone else to wallow in the mud.

Friday, November 23, 2007

remittances from the middle east

This a photo of a bat who was on one of my banana trees recently.

I would like to take a moment to relate some of the stories, good and bad from the immediate circle of my staff who have had direct experience of the middle east. I know one cannot generalize from personal stories but one can form opinions from them with possible ways to reduce the problems associated with this.

The government of Sri Lanka spends like there is no tomorrow on the backs of this worker remittances as they are quite prepared to mortgage future remittances in their current quest to spend in a way that even the middle east oil potentates cannot. The rate of remittances from the 2 million workers affects the lives of at least 10 million who live here or at least half the population. The rate of increase of remittances is greater than the rate of increase in the oil price and therefore we are quite able to weather the oil shock in a seemingly cavalier fashion. After all the price of a liter of petrol in Sri Lanka is half that of oil rich UK.

I have changed the real names of the staff to prevent embarrassment in case someone confronts them. Kasun's wife went to Dubai, she got used to the life there, and left Kasun and the children after providing for the children and nothing for Kasun who turned to drink and now needs his kasippu daily and has found a common law woman to live with.

Rahul's mother worked in the Middle East, for 4 years, she saved half her salary and remitted the other half.Her husband an alcoholic from the beginning fritted it away and barely did anything to take care of Rahul and his baby sister.The were looked after by Rahul's maternal grandmother. Shortly after Rahul's mother arrived his father died in his thirties of alcoholism, and the mother spent all her savings, paying off the money lender in the village to whom all the land inherited had been mortgaged so she could get her husbands land back to be able to feed her kids.She is now thankfully able to hold her head up debt free.

Sriyani's brother went to work in Iraq as a security officer for an American company for two years, as he was ex army. He earned about US500 a month which is appallingly low for such a high risk job where the white counterpart earns over ten times that much.Anyway he has sent it to his wife who has helped her family but on his return his family and mother did not get a cent and not even a small gift as his wife controls him by the short and curlies!! His sisters help keep family fires burning working in garment factories in Homagama.

Sapun's mother went to the middle east and did not return. He was only 4 and his elder sister 9. The father brought them up by himself and did not receive any money from her, they have a very hard life in the village but live in a house that is quite nice. They suspect she has returned and is living with someone else. Sapun always believes his mother will come to see him soon.His sister married last year and had a baby.Fortunately his mother's sister who is single and has been in Dubai for over 15 years helps him out by sending money occasionally.

Deerga's wife is in Jordan and was persuaded to send her by a job agent saying she can earn a lot of money. His child is being looked after by his mother while he works for me. He is bitter as he has not heard from her and suspects she is really suffering under harsh working conditions and her employers taken her passport etc. So he is mad with the job agent who made the promises and wants to get even with him!!

Jayakody's wife went to Saudi and left the son and daughter with her mother. Jayakody was not sent any money, any money that was sent was to her mother who helped her family at the expense of Jayakody's kids and Jayakody savs his money I pay him for whatever the kids need. His wife has just returned and she does not want to be with him anymore and wants to return to the middle east at the earliest opportunity and he is heartbroken as he thought they could be a family again! At the moment he is trying to see if the law can help, but I doubt he will get redress and may not even get the custody of the kids which is the least he wants.

Kumara's mother left when he was small and has now lived in the middle east for over 12 years. His kiri amma , I don't know if she is an aunt or grandmother, has brought it up, and she does not have a good relationship with him. His father lives in another village doing a job and he hardly sees him. His mother sent him the money for a three wheeler and sends money frequently so he is not in want except emotionally. He has just joined the army to get away from the home front as he does not like to live with his kiriamma.His trishaw just lies idle for his use when he comes on leave. He has made friends in the army and visits their homes when he is on leave and only comes to his village for a day to see his friends. He has been affected emotionally though he has been well looked after financially.

Sama who worked for me lived in Kuwait for 5 years and her mother took care of both her son and daughter.Her husband also worked in the same household in Kuwait. Due to some incident her husband was fired and they returned and the husband who always had a alcohol problem eventually died before his 45th of cirrohsis of the liver.They had run through whatever savings she had. So after she worked for me she got a job in Cyprus where she now is and saved and married her daughter off in June. She now hopes to save the balance and return next year and have the money as her retirement nest egg little realising how expensive things have got and that she may not have enough to buy a place of her own now.She is also trying to get her son to Cyprus to work as a orange picker or in the agricultural area where they are severly short staffed.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

what is this ? I found on my land

This very nice looking bunch looks edible and will have to do some research to find out what it is as it looks edible and I am sure the locals will be able to tell me what it is especially if it is edible. It looks really nice though

Friday, November 9, 2007

organic coconut oil

In our own way I have produced what I would consider some of the best coconut oil one can buy in the market that is made in a home as opposed to a big factory. I obtained 300 organic coconuts from Paradise Farm in Kitulgala and took them to Hingurakgoda where they were dried, husked and split open and dried further and then using a fire drying method see photos for further drying due to the wet weather. They were then cut into pieces by hand see other photo and then taken to the mill and pressed into coconut oil with the by product being poonac. I retail this oil at Rs 200 a bottle.The common misconception amongst the upper middle class in Colombo is that vegetable oil which is marketed better and is more expensive is in fact better, where as the coconut oil that is pure and produced this way is far better and I sell it at a lower price than the vegetable oils available at supermarkets which are imported!!

Sunday, November 4, 2007

i have never read a news story about this

If one lives in Sri Lanka one will become painfully aware that 90% of the population cannot read or understand English let alone speak it. The most they know are very few words and the English alphabet. There is however a 40 minute English class in every school every day at every level and despite that the knowledge is lacking.What makes this all the more glaring is that at least half the shop signs are in English even in Villages and even the names of the shops are Sinhala writing of the English like for example Digital Printing is written as that but in Sinhala writing.

All medicines are in English only. All the doctor prescriptions are written in English where people are clueless as to what medicines they are taking and in what dose they are to take it unless the pharmacist specifically writes the dosage on the medicines dispensed.

I know some of the weedicides and pesticides do have some Sinhala and Tamil writing. However what brought this outburst on my part was I sent Amila to change the coolant on my cab.I asked him to read the instructions in the coolant bottle and mix water according to the instructions. No one in the garage who sells the coolant can read English. The instructions in the coolant bottle are from a Caltex bottle only in English. Caltex is part of Chevron USA. Amila lied to me saying there were no instructions and he put 100% concentrate into my engine where the coolant bottle,(I asked him to bring an empty bottle for me to see) specifically says mix with a max of 50% water. He lied for fear of being exposed at not knowing English or thought the instructions were nothing to do with the mixing level of the concentrate. This therefore cost me double as I needed only half the coolant I eventually put.

I impressed on him, about how he can do his job properly as all the car parts are only written in English along with all the instructions including the handbooks. The people just think they know how to do it without having to read, and that goes for the garages too that do repairs and change fluids. I find it mind boggling to say the least and that the media have not exposed this as it can result in deadly consequences when instructions are not followed.

Shame on you Sri Lanka media, this results in more deaths than Prabhakaran!! The simple lack of ability in being able to read and understand instructions. Then insist all instructions are written in Sinhala and Tamil. In almost all of the products I sell in my shop, every thing is in English with occasionally one or two lines in Sinhala addressing one or two small bits of info.

You go to France and you will find that there is hardly a word of English in anything that is sold, be it coolant or toothpaste. It is all in French!!!