Saturday, October 29, 2011

So what is the inside story of the meeting at the UNP working Committee?

There were frantic behind the scenes discussion last week where government officials and mainly foreign office personnel were asked to find some official in the NZ government to send an invitation to the Sri Lankan President to meet with. How low can a President of a country stoop to? This was so that the US$100,000 box at the World Cup Rugby finals in New Zealand could house the first family of Sri Lanka. If an official invite was not forthcoming, it was not possible for the government to justify paying public money to a junket to watch the match as the opposition would jump at the chance to portray the President as a wastrel of the Exchequer.

The New Zealanders knowing that the tickets for the box was already purchased, and I don’t know who paid for it, decided to dig their heals and refused to grant an invitation. The Prime Minister said he would be damned if he had to meet this Jonny come lately even though his country buys so much of the surplus milk powder they produce. Thus thwarted the 100+ delegation of Sri Lankan hangers on even the People’s Bank chairman was one of them, because he could not answer pertinent questions about the PLC IPO in Sri Lanka, due to his playing in Perth.

Talking of Perth, we are the largest delegation of any nation. Even India decided it was a waste of time and only sent its Vice President. The PM cancelled with no excuses given!! David Cameron the British Prime Minister dropped in at the last minute. So what is all the need to show a crowd. I suspect it is the feeling of being isolated from the world at the top, and need for sycophants to boost an ego.

While all this was going on, at the same date of the opening of the CHOGM, The UNP had a working committee meeting, and one topic was how to deal with the suspension of two members for clearly breaking the rules of membership. The Leader Ranil Wickremasinghe (RW) was relishing this opportunity to stick it to them. He has lately shown a sudden gusto for facing any opposition with no fear.

Of course Sajith Premadasa, whose camp that got slighted with this was ready with a mountain of paperwork to defend the indefensible. I don’t know why he carries files when 4 sheets would do to make his case, but the size of the files gives him confidence that he can show the opposing camp that he has mountains of evidence to support his cause. All this clearly backfired as it was decided without a whimper, Sajith’s opposition anyway was a given, to forward this to a disciplinary committee headed by lawyer Tilak Marapane. It was another case of great planning on the Sajith, Karu camp coming to naught as they were clearly defenseless. The intervention of Kabir Hashim to the debate was a fence sitting job where he told the gathering that discipline must be maintained in the party if the party is to be respected, but that it was OK to let the two transgressors go. This is clearly a very nonsensical approach as he is nothing but a double/no dealer!
RW had clearly done his homework, realizing first that the full page ad in leading newspaper asking for a leadership change had not been authorized by the ex-MPs committee. He therefore straightway noted that and said he would reconstitute its leadership by calling all the members to meet and vote in a new committee as the old one had clearly overstepped the mark.

On the incident where the Unite Bhikshu Front had met at the Hotel Nippon and held a press conference asking for RW step down, he clearly told them that they must obtain the permission of the party to make a media statement and that he would provide all the media facilities to hold their meeting at the UNP headquarters and that it was wrong of them to do this without notification in a place that had no connections with the party. He therefore said that the Revd Meetiyagoda was incompetent to take charge of this and put another person who said could abide by the constitution. If they want to form their own front they are perfectly free to do so outside with no party affiliation and say or do anything they want.

RW reinforced the rules about making media statements and requested that permission be sought to make any official statement on behalf of the party. Sadly those aspirants for party leadership show they do not have the colors for leadership such as Dayasiri who put his foot in his mouth, suggesting the disciplinary action be taken against all those who belittle the party, without realizing his own supporters were those who belittled and disciplinary action would be taken against some of his closest supporters. Now that was a silly thing to say, as the WC will spend the next few weeks discussing what a fool he made of himself with these remarks, having a good laugh over the drinks!

It was a remarkable incident free WC meeting where the leader clearly was completely in charge. It is clear that while there are many issues including leadership, there is no point challenging the leader to step down when there are no others who come close to taking up the challenge. All the contenders are jokers in comparison. In fact contrary to what they say, the govt. would love to have anyone of the contenders as they have enough evidence, in speech and video to clean them out within days of appointment. Ironically it is RW they fear most. It is sadly due to many gaffes and a couple of wrong turns in the past with the public consumption of the govt. alcohol, that has made the electorate completely drunk that has given this govt. this air of invincibility. It is only a few more acts of bravado turned Mafioso by the govt., when the whole cookie will crumble before our eyes as the current system is just not sustainable in the long term. It is built on falsities and hot air, aided by a few people with personal agendas. Let us see what RW has in store!

Friday, October 28, 2011

People’s Leasing Company IPO – thoughts on the subject and predictions

 The FT newspaper has a full page on the recommendation of the PLC shares by SC securities. I understand that they are issuing 390M shares at Rs18 ea to raise Rs7B for the expansion of the business valuing it at Rs28B as 25% of shares will be issued to the market. The Brokerage said the valuation of the issue at a recurring PER of 10 for FY2012 and PER of 7.4 for FY2013 justifies the value. There is no indication of future earnings in the prospectus, so they have been fed information that the general public has not been given by way of the prospectus which is the only document that bears any weight. This only shows the performance in the first Quarter of 2012 and NO other forecasts unless I missed something.

The  net profit increase y on y  from Rs1.2B to Rs2.6B is also very questionable, and is most likely due to a directive of the People’s Bank to put all their leasing through PLC instead of hitherto by the bank. Whilst the bank will own 72% of the post issue, if the bank disposes of its entire holding later, then what will happen to the IN branch windows? It is hardly likely that PB will want them and instead would like to compete for the Leasing business themselves. It is also a fact that if a customer goes to PB to make a deposit, he would be offered a higher rate of interest for his savings at PLC. This situation of competition within one location for deposits to two institutions is unprecedented and is unlikely to continue to the detriment of PLC. Much of the assumed benefits to be expected are not likely to materialize. So the forecast profits are unreliable, bearing in mind the net profit of the organization in the year end 31st March 2010 was a post tax profit of Rs1.2B.

I would further highlight that the leasing business is in for hard times as the expected growth is absent, and it is likely that it will fall due to the increase in non performing leases. Having given over 1,500 Dimo Battas for example in the past year, it will take another year and a half for those vehicles to stop working leaving the lessors high and dry! They will be unable to make the payment to PLC.

Further there is agitation amongst the Unions to call off the whole thing saying it is an indirect privatization of State property, that has not received cabinet approval and further giving free shares to the employees of PLC is irregular and illegal in terms of the authorizations used for this grant to a state body.

I believe the shares will drop to about Rs13 by the year-end and cause some sort of panic amongst the shareholders. The least they should have done was to price these shares at Rs13 ea and NOT at Rs18 to permit new shareholders some satisfaction.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Here we go again. There is no end to threats and intimidation

It is sad to see Sri Lanka turn into a banana republic with only bananas allowed to survive. If one is to believe a BBC Sinhala service report that then threats have infiltrated the corporate world too, where a well known and respected corporate personality had made a death threat via one of her closest friends to convey to her father that he was under this threat. Apparently this was due to a report on the media network owned by him linking the drop in the drug supply, which by implication reduced the money of the dealers, to the drop in the stock market where ostensibly this black money is laundered and certain names of pump and dump investors whose main role would be to make some money at the expense of the uninitiated are also implicated.

In my opinion if the news slandered any individual, then appropriate legal action should be taken if this slander cannot be corroborated. After all there is recourse to the law here and that should be sufficient.

However in the case of the underworld we do not deal with rational people. Contract killings is second nature to them. Now if the underworld is linked to major stock market trades, then it is a whole new ball game which could reflect badly on the future of the Sri Lanka’s booming Colombo Stock Exchange which could turn into a farce. Foreign investment at the best of times was not forthcoming since the end of the war, a mystery to all the local investors. This of course was because those overseas investors who held our stock thought they were overvalued in terms of the stocks of other countries and decided to sell their holding in Sri Lanka and repatriate them and purchase stocks they considered to be cheaper.

This I believe is the reason for them not to come into the market in droves, as they could not see consistent growth in profits that justified the huge earnings multiples of shares in the Colombo Stock Exchange.

With this background any further rumors or possibilities will spell the death knell of the market in the short term, and will also affect the business confidence in Sri Lanka which the government has tried very hard to build. The government should therefore take all the steps necessary to clean up the underworld, which I believe there has been some attempt at but it seems only those against the government in the underworld have had a short life. Those with the government in the underworld appear to be thriving and any disassociation of the government with them is not believed. Let us trust that there is a full and thorough and impartial investigation to correct the wrongs and bring the culprits to book leaving no stone unturned.

Friday, October 21, 2011

This is just the beginning – Libya - Do we regret the side we chose to back?

When a country is ruled by a Dictator, there is stability on the surface, while dissent is not tolerated. There is a method by which organs of Government function, using various organs to keep the population under control. It was so in Libya until Benghazi rebelled.
                                    "DESPOTS ARE COWARDS"

There is no doubt the armed forces play a significant role in this regard in controlling outbreaks of sporadic violence and are usually brutally suppressed. The “Arab Spring” has shown us when there is a popular uprising, no amount of internal suppression can overcome it. The way the house of cards like Tunisia, Egypt, and now Libya has fallen is an example of the possible. Syria is likely to be next, but without oil for spoils, the regime is likely to brutally massacre a few more thousands before it happens, that is how Western power works if there is no self interest  to intervene, and may use Israel as their proxy via Mossad. When Benghazi erupted, they asked for help. There was a lot of criticism from anti-West majority on this interference in the internal affairs of a sovereign state.(Just think of what would have happened when the North rebelled if foreign interference was called in to attack Colombo!)

Taking a gamble with oil the prize, they helped, knowing that if they refused Ghadaffi would brutally quell the uprising. Intelligence that was gathered prompted Obama and European leaders, to offer air support for the rebels, which in the end is what culminated in the final demise of the President of Libya. He was spotted by a Drone, leaving Sirte in a convoy, (possible that Drone did not know he was in the convoy) when he finally realized the fall of Sirte was imminent. The French Mirages were sent into destroy the convoy, at which point Ghadaffi hid under a drain pipe, was found by the rebels and the rest is history! The caption "The leader found in a rat hole only to be killed by the rats"

While there is no question that it is a people’s uprising and if a poll was taken today 90% of the population would endorse the events, we must be careful in coming to predictions. It was Ghadaffi and his rule that people wanted out. So far that is all that has been achieved. Over 75% of the population have only ever known one leader, so any alternative is going to be very strange, and there will be as many ideas of how to establish a new constitution as there are tribes in Libya.

It will be a huge challenge to put aside personal agendas in the national interest. Let us hope the Libyan people will be able to enjoy the wealth of their country fairly and justly, unlike the way they divvied up the spoils in the past. We do not wish a repeat.


Thursday, October 20, 2011

Opposition fails to take advantage of Government inability to field the debate

An adjournment motion was called for by the Opposition UNP to debate the prevailing breakdown in the Law and Order situation in Sri Lanka. This was permitted by the speaker for yesterday, Wednesday the 19th of October 2011.

The principal gauntlet was laid down by the leader of the Opposition, and the chief spokesman for the Government was the Prime Minister, who by the way read fairly incoherently from a prepared statement. He is the Minister for Buddha Sasana and was quite unqualified to speak on the subject. This point should have been forcefully made, rather than meekly accept his stance that it had only become an issue because there was a turf battle between politicians and that if two ordinary people had been involved in this battle a debate would not be called for nor would it be construed to be a breakdown in Law and Order.

They should have pressed the point that there is no one on the government benches qualified to speak on this subject, as there is no one in Parliament who has responsibility for the Defense of the Country. The only “WADA BALANA” MP for Defense is in the Nuro-Surgical Ward of the Sri Jayawardenapura Hospital surrounded by a tight security cordon being protected from a possible hit squad!

The Opposition could have demanded the presence of the Minister of Defense, who is the President who was in the Batticaloa and Ampara districts together with the next most important person responsible for Defense being the Secretary for Defense, his brother Gotabhaya Rajapakse. So it would seem a slap in the face of this call for a proper debate when the two most capable of defending this allegation are out doing their thing, showing callous disregard to the call for answers.

It is important that the Government accept that things are getting out of hand, and take steps to do something very serious about it by revamping the Police force and taking steps to cut down the level of indiscipline created by the protection of the State. The sight of a President going to a house of the Mayor elect of Negombo to comfort him a day after his house and the houses of his supporters were raided by the STF in search of drugs or illegally built vehicles out of parts, was like the Godfather giving a show of strength to his flock by offering his apologies.

The Government should have been crucified for these acts of transgression in the debate and the whole nation made aware of the ironic display of business as usual while “ROME BURNS”. Shame on you for wasting this opportunity to protect the citizenry and gain the moral high ground in this most important area of concern.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

how easy is it to relinquish power? Omar is still not ready! Why, is he compromising the files prior to handover?

It was interesting to note that Mr AJM Muzammil was sworn as the Mayor of the CMC in front of the Leader of the Opposition. I was not privy to the oath of swearing in, but I presume this is not a required formality, and just one for the media. It would be interesting to actually see the words of his swearing in. They were not reported in any of the news items I had come across.

After his swearing in he was off to the CMC to start work. Hey presto! sorry  chum you cannot come in the doors are locked to you and the keys will be given when we are ready, thus spake Omar Kamil (unelected, government appointed special commissioner who I believe was overseeing the running (dictator) of the CMC under the guidance of the erstwhile Secretary of the Defense Ministry.

While I have no personal beef with Mr Kamil and on the surface have seen some of the fruits of his effort of beautifying Colombo and disposing of the beggars to a rehabilitation colony, I wonder if he thought this day would come when he loses his job! Please enlighten me as to why he is still not permitting the Elected Mayor to resume office, thus giving his political mentors, like Ravi Karunanayake (who by the way I am not a fan of) to get up and ask pertinent questions of the government as to when he would be allowed to resume his duties. It was also interesting to note that the government benches were also stumped for an answer to that question!

If I  go into the office of Kamil at this hour of dawn to find all the files missing or destroyed, so that the new Mayor will proclaim to the world that he is unable to carry out his duties due to lack of cooperation from the previous administration as there is no evidence as to what he has been up to? Now we don't want that do we in the interests of the Colombians!

So please co-operate and ensure the transition is smooth, and allow the new administration the courtesy of your prior knowledge so that the citizens of the CIty of Colombo are not short changed due to petty political bickering. I also hope that the sulking Defense Secretary, now at the butt end of a lot of criticism will also get into this same mood for the sake of the people of Sri Lanka, putting political differences aside.

Hey Omar please be quick, I can't stand hearing Ravi K getting up today in Parliament to complain again about the same thing.

In case you are wondering who I am, I am a fly on the wall if you turn round you will see me. Yesterday I was in Parliament. I fly so I get around a lot faster than most of you, and a fly can get through most security as I am too small to be noticed. So read the rest of my blog entries and find out many things that the newspapers or the other blogs have not reported. Thanks

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

The continuing tacit backing of sponsored violence in Jaffna

On Sunday around 2pm a leader of the Arts Faculty of the Jaffna University Students, Subramanium Thavabalasingham was attacked on Palm Road near his student hostel and also not too far away from the Indian Consulate in Jaffna. He was assaulted by about 12 people who were waiting for him, hence premeditated and planned near an Army Camp and while his friends were a little way behind, he was hit on the head. His friends were fearful of defending him and watched the proceedings from a distance and then when he came towards them, was helped and taken to the Jaffna Hospital where he is currently undergoing treatment.

His attackers came and went on motorbikes making it quite clear that this was premeditated. He had been quite vociferous in attacking the concept of the Grease Yakas, and not a sporadic thing, but one that appeared to have been sponsored by the security forces in Jaffna to take some kind of revenge on the people they did not like. His attackers some of whom spoke Tamil and therefore could have been EPDP members.

This sort of unprovoked attack on a citizen walking on the streets is just reprehensible and should  not be tolerated in a civilized society. It should be investigated fully by the police, who I am afraid will hope this incident will die down and will do nothing to bring the perpetrators to justice.

The English and Sinhala Papers barely mentioned this incident in their reporting, but the Tamil papers both the Virakeseri and Uthayan gave a lot of prominence to the incident as the Tamil readership is undoubtedly more concerned about such incidents, while the rest do not appear to be as concerned.

It is a sign of the times and sad that the citizens of Sri Lanka are divided upon language lines and for all three languages the information and news given to each is very different to the extent that it could be construed that they live in three different countries if one just read the newspapers.

Obviously the Tamil speaking people of Sri Lanka are more sensitive to this event and require as much information and the newspapers are catering to their readers. This goes further to make the point I already made two blog entries ago, where I vehemently disagreed with the author that it is up to the TNA to give the Government a chance and integrate the communities so that differences can be minimized. I repeat what I said then, that it is incidents like this that continue, where the onus must be on the Sri Lankan government first to stop this kind of illegal brutalization of innocent people in broad daylight before we can expect the Tamil community to cooperate. Until the law enforcement investigate and bring to book and prevent such happenings in future we just cannot expect the citizens of Jaffna to cow down to the whim of this Government.

The government must first clean up its own house before it can get others to clean up theirs.