Friday, January 29, 2010

Does anyone know... much and where all the money for the presidential election came from?

I'm not asking about the cost of the election in terms of printing the ballots, logistics involved, for which I presume the Election Commissioner has a budget and some form of accounting exists.

No, I want to know how much each of the two main candidates spent and where that funding came from. I've read, unsubstantiated claims that its million and even billions... so, where is it from?

There is a motive in asking this seemingly naive question - on the day of the election, 60 patients at the Nephrology unit in Kandy were faced with the possibility of being turned away due to the lack of 'disposable diacap dialyzers', each one apparently costing the princely sum of Rs 1500/-, so for the want of Rs 90,000 in the backdrop of this election when unimaginable sums of money were being sent on posters, hoardings, tv and radio ads, breakfast, lunch and dinners and what not!

On a related but different platform I read that our cabinet costs a whooping 4 billion rupees annually - their 'official' perks include 2 official and one security vehicle, an incentive for participating for a parliamentary session AND another participating for a select committee, monnthly rental allowance for each minister who is not provided with an official residence in Colombo, fue, official and pesonal mobile 'incentives', unlimited amount of idd and local calls from the ministry official telephone, 3 computers and unlimited Internet access, 4 secretaries for media, personal, coordinating, and public relations.

(If anyone can correct my figures, please do by all means, they are mere numbers I've picked up from here and there and would be happy to have the correct numbers)

Just where does this money come, I mean the campaign funds? Business interests are one source I presume, the rest personal wealth, running into the billions?

And 60 people go home for the lack of funds...

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Leave your comment it said

I was reading this post, I think it was about that cartoon Lion King, it was nice, very enlightening, so much so that I was prompted to add my two cents worth, after all, it was open to the public, I thought the author might like to see some dissenting comments.

So I did, making note of the little thingamy at the top where this specific blogger had requested that

"Have your say. Politeness and proper upbringing reflecting in your reply will be noted and much appreciated"

Fair enough really, after all we are all entitled to an opinion and in these times of enlightenment, the least one expects from anyone I suppose is politeness

But you know, being middle aged and with way too much time on my hands I've developed a sense of the person behind the words; and somehow this one did not quite jell together.

Never mind I thought, after all, comment's have been invited, else why blog and promote it - if you were narcissist and just liked the sound of your own voice, one would restrict ones public appearance's to singing in the bathroom and writing ones thoughts in toothpaste on the shaving mirror

So I did

Why then was I not too surprised when the response to my comment was in the style which I understand is quite popular in our parliament these days?

Actually, it was quite an eye-opener, obviously into the character of the author. I would have expected such a retort from someone who was either terribly constipated or at the least, had been shat upon by a very large elephant.

This then must be a "true" lion/lioness of Sri Lanka!
"Please f’off from my blog both of you. Piss off I say, I have nothing for you here."
It amazes me just how fast people revert to type specially when they have no real rational, 'adult' response to a situation - reaction, probably a knee jerk one, is to mouth foul language while spraying saliva all over the place... most uncouth

Somehow I don't think I'll be reading that blog again.... I would find it terribly painful to urinate while copulating for one thing, and seriously, just how seriously can you take someone who wont even abide by the very guidelines of his/ her own blog?

PS: You're all welcome to comment here, and you can be rude if you like, I'll probably just delete the really bad stuff, if any, without bothering to be rude right back at ya!!!

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

A stranger's generosity

I was witness to an act of generosity which while completely unexpected, did not really surprise me given the person it was. Yesterday while chatting with a friend in SL, he happened to tell me that the Nephrology unit in Kandy was facing a crisis, that due to the lack of funds, 60 patients requiring dialysis would be turned away. My response was to stick the appeal on my Face Book and here on the blog and to be honest, I thought that would be the end of it.

This morning I find a note on FB for me to get in touch with K, a client and friend who lives down on the coast. Well I do, to hear that he's seen my post and he wants to help. To cut a long story short, the end result was that KS made a donation to cover the entire cost involved in treating those 60 people, people he's never met, in a country he's never been to and please note, he's not even a Sri Lankan!

K is a practitioner of Pranic Healing, a follower of the spiritual teacher Grand Master Choa Kok Sui, under whom he has studied

My interest in pranic healing came from two different directions, one obviously based upon my association with K and the other, unexpectedly, through a Tibetan Mantra, Om Mani Padme Hum which as I was to discover was a subject upon which the Grand Master Choa Kok Soi had written.

As I read his thoughts on this I came across to things which struck me for their simplicity - The Law of Karma and The Golden Rule as he referred to them

The Law of Karma

"You can control your future by using the Law of Karma. The Law of Karma gives you the ability to create your own destiny"

Karma is not fatalistic he claims, if all you have to eat is rice, its because that's all you planted; if you had planted wheat, potatoes and tomatoes you have a choice. You harvest only what you sow

The Golden Rule

In its 'yang' form states " Do unto others what you would have them do unto you" - to receive you should give, if you desire prosperity then practice charity and giving.

In its ying form "Do not unto others what you would not have them do unto you" if you don't want to be cheated or swindled, then treat others with honesty and fairness.

Seems straightforward really, not rocket science at all...

In closing, my thanks to K, for what he did today, I'm humbled by his example, proud that I can call him a friend and encouraged to be a better person by his example.

The next 24hrs

Me thinks that the events of the next 24hrs will be a fair indication of times to come...

So far I read that
  • Matara Wimalananda Thero of the Sri Bodhirajaaramaya Pirivena at Thambiligala at Nawalapitiya has been shot dead and that a Police curfew has been imposed in Gampola and Nawalapitiya
  • Rumours to the effect that the Election Commissioner, Dayananda Dissanayake has been detained.
  • That Mangala Samaraweera and Prebath Jayasekara of Matara, are being held under house arrest
  • Supposedly an unidentified group had shot at UNP Parliamentarian for Kurunegala Akila Viraj Kariyawasam this morning
  • Sarath Fonseka is appealing for people to come to Lake House

I want peace and prosperity for Sri Lanka,
for all of us, I hope for good governance by people with principles, with compassion and integrity, I hope for a better tomorrow...

Of more immediate importance is that as a result of a donation by someone who's not even a Sri Lankan"
...will pay for about 37 capillary dialyzers and 37 patients out of the sixty patients due tomorrow - travelling from all corners of the country - for dialysis at the Kandy Nephro Unit - will not be turned away"

Just when I lose my faith in the inherent goodness of people, I'm reminded that there are truly generous, good people out there, who in their own little way, can and do make a difference

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Nephrology unit faces crisis

I hear that the Nephrology unit in Kandy is facing a crisis. There apparently isn't a single disposable Diacap dialyzer for dialysis of the sixty patients due tomorrow.

Each Diacap dialyzer is Rs 1500/-. The Kandy Kidney Protection Society is trying to raise Rs 100,000/-urgently.

If you can or know someone who could help please contact:

Say's so much about our government, that our health care is in such a state when millions go wasted by them, to line their own pockets and bend elections in their

Friday, January 22, 2010

Gardawa - Traditional African meets jazz

On my last trip to Niger I found a CD by 'The Gardawa', a group consisting of Nigerien and European musicians who, together, fuse afro beat and jazz to form traditional Niger music with Western undertones. Lead by Garba Ali the group includes

Sani Tankari: Tambari, vocals
Mahamadou Naban: Karbou, vocals
Chrystelle Lanaute Blanc: Flute
Lukas Aimard: Bass
Jean-Marc White: drums, percussion
Nicolas Corradi: alto sax, soprano sax
Matthieu Mollard: keyboards, melodica, drums

Have three of their clips on skydrive if you wanna hear them

Monday, January 18, 2010

Sunday, January 17, 2010

The people you meet

On a long drive this morning I had time enough in hand to contemplate about the different people we met on this trip....

There were 6 Americans, 2 Australians, 5 French 2 Norwegians and the two of us Sri Lankan's plus the 5 Malians who made up the crew and guides.

I'll start with the Norwegians, father and son traveling together, the sons first time in Africa' his father's 4th or 5th time. The old man was definitely someone fun to talk with, with his dry sense of humor and his ability to play a lively tune on a harmonica he was indeed good company.

The French were French, typically so except for two of that set a mother and son this time. The mother was awesome, 65yrs old and I wish I was as fit as she was. Quite little thing, she was fastidious in her neatness, quick to wipe the table if something spilled, carefully wiping f the top of bottle s before closing them, a wonderful woman!

The two Australians were a married couple, the guy a horticulturist and his wife a butterfly breeder! Their free time spent traveling the world, sometimes taking three or four trips to cover a country properly.

Of the Americans there were two that struck out for their extremes - one an extrovert, a young guy who it seemed was experiencing everything for the first time, so up beat was he about anything that happened, as long as it was happening to him. He's apparently on his way to SL to oversee a project to build better ties between communities with Government funding provided to a son of a priest....(?)! I'm sure he's a nice guy, I just did not have the inclination to really sit down and find out.

Which brings me to the person who impressed me the most. This guy, from day one, sat in one corner of the boat, didn't move except to get on and off, hardly spoke, his entire demeanor was one of such great intensity.

My first brush with him was when he popped in front of me just as I was about to take a photograph, mildly annoyed at the intrusion I kept my peace more so because it struck me that he seem the better photographer. Later on I happened to ask him for his help, which he most kindly did, transferring some of my pics onto a flash drive. As we waited for the transfer I happened to inquire what his line of work was - Actor he replied... and apparently a guy who's played roles with Al Pacino, Will Smith, Robert De Niro, Miachel Keaton, Charlie Sheen and Keanu Reeves! I Googled him later and to my surprise discovered that this guy was not only an accomplished photographer and actor but also American singer-songwriter, raconteur, spoken word artist, writer, publisher, radio DJ, and activist! And since then, when I've mentioned meeting him to a few American's they all go "No way, did you really meet him?!"

I did, and a more unassuming, calm person you could not meet - which is really really hard to balance with the fact that he is also this Punk Rocker, and since then I've found that beneath those long sleeves he wore everyday were some pretty impressive tattoos!

I could not but help compare one American against the other, that the one who had so much to talk about hardly volunteered a word.... I kind of liked the guy...ah, the people you meet

Friday, January 15, 2010

Quote of life....

SUCCESS is just like being pregnant, everybody congratulates you, but
nobody knows how many times you were fucked

Thursday, January 14, 2010

At last!

The pics from the trip are up on FLICKR

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Timbuctu - Desert City

Arriving late at night there was little to see of this almost mythical city - a shower was of greater importance to be honest; after 72 plus hours on a Pinnase with limited water in spite of the River n which we traveled, a shower was no longer a luxury!

* Sunrise in Timbuktu

The next day we toured the city, picking up on the way a stamp in my passport and a few trinkets - Tuareg crosses - seeing old manuscripts, hand written copies of the Koran centuries old, the autobiography's of long deceased holy men. walking amongst the alleyways of the older part of the city was like stepping back in time, it was easy to imagine that I was no longer in 2010 but in a place 200 yrs or more on the past.

* An ornate door

* Artwork on an ancient manuscript

* My first Tuaregs

Sadly, this year's festival was to be a let down in spite of the fact that it was its 10th edition. Up till now, since its inception the Festival au desert has been held 65km away in Essakane, a desert oasis further north which served as an annual meeting place for the nomadic Tuareg - a Berber nomadic pastoral people. They are the principal inhabitants of the Saharan interior of North Africa.

Citing security the Festival was moved on short notice to Timbuktu, to be celebrated in conjuncture with celebrations for Mali's 50th independence anniversary and 15 years if culture and tourism in the city proper - the end result was a chaotic event with poor crowed control on the first day, mismanaged sound on the second and music that, in my opinion, was more for city folk than the nomads it was supposed to be for.

* Arrivals

* The stage in the making

But, I was there and while I was not to experience the festival as it was, I would as it is - and I did! I had traveled for 5 days by car and boat, slept under the stars, watched life along the river as it had been for centuries, I was here in a city that many think does not exist, I was there, at the edge of the Sahara in Timbuktu!

Over the next three days I wandered happily around, camera in hand, listening to music from the likes of Tinariwen, Annane Sye, Rhissa Ag Wanagli, Tartit Mamar Kassey, Mangala Camara, Amadou & Mariam, Vieux Farka Toure, Oumou Sangare and more. I haggled with Tuaregs, sitting on the hot desert sands sipping minute cups of chai, sat on a dune at sunrise to watch the sun come up, thinking about one of my favorite books - The Little Prince - dosed away the afternoon heat sprawled out in a Tuareg tent, sipped a cold beer as the sun set, watching the shadows deepen and feel the temperature plummet

I had been to Timbuktu


To Mopti and down the Niger

* Milepost

The route to Mopti from Ouaga passes through Ouahigouya 187km along a paved road and then on to Tiou the last village in BF onto Koro in Mali Bankass, Banidiagara - a journey of 480 odd km; 200 of it on dirt!

*Cattle Herder

* The dirt road

* Looking back

Our initial plan was to spend the night in Bankass, rest the car given is temperament, but on crossing the border I discovered that there was a Dogon Festival in Bandiagara and decided to push on there - a decision I was to be quite pleased about given the spectacle we were witness to that evening!

That day we were treated to Dogon dancers, Dogon hunters and most impressive of all a glimpse of Dogon Masks - Dogon culture is filled with mysticism, folklore and rituals, their religion based upon animism. Dogon's knowledge of astronomy superseded western knowledge - in the 1930's two Frenchmen interviewed four Dogon priests were told of a companion star to Sirus - a star that was only discovered in the 1970's!

* Masked Dancer

* Head dresses

* Stunning

* Playing with fire

* Dogon Hunter

* Drummer

* Drum

* Tarmac - after 200km of dirt!

* Cattle

Mopti is one of West Africa's busiest river ports, a bustling city with a population of 105,000. Boats from here go to Timbuktu serving villages up and down the Niger river. We had a day here to walk about and explore the city before meeting the group the next day. Mopti's Grand Mosque built in 1933 and subsequently restored in 2007 towers over the old city. A beautiful building it is sadly off limits to non Muslims.

* Hustle in Mopti

* The Grand Mosque of Mopti

* Slabs of salt from the Sahara

That evening we found ourselves a seat at the restaurant Bar Bozo which sits at the mouth of harbor, nursing a cold beer watching the sunset across the far bank of the river.

* Sunset in Mopti

While most people were getting ready to go to work, I was boarding a West African river canoe - a Pinnase - en route down the Niger river. A river which is born on the Guinea - Sierra Leone borders a mere 200km away from the Atlantic choosing instead to make a tortuous journey across five countries - Guinea, Mali, Niger/ Mali, Nigeria - for 4200km.

* Our Pinnase

Equipped with tents, sleeping bags, a cook, two people to man the boat, our guide and his second in command 17 of us set off destination Timbuktu. As we gently motored along, Penda the cook set about preparing lunch for us, all cooked on board, sitting in an area that was 30sq feet in size with nothing more that a few pots, one charcoal burner and a couple of knifes. That afternoon's lunch of rice and grilled Nile perch has to be one of the tastiest meals I've had!

* Penda our cook!

That first day on the river was spent in lazy contemplation of life as we past it by, isolated villages, river traffic carrying goods and people from place to place, the fauna and flora that we past by - birds, goats, cattle, occasional troops of monkeys and even a few hippo's further along!

* Hippo mum and kid

* Intense kid

The river was full of character, at its meanest point perhaps a 100ft in width, at its widest, a km it seemed at times! But always placid, gently flowing with hardly a ripple to show.

* The river

The first nights campsite was on firm ground, packed earth, reassuringly solid! We pitched our tents and gathered in small groups to chat - we 21 strangers from Norway, France, the US, Australia, Mali and Sri Lanka.

I cannot begin to explain what that night sky looked like, such a brilliant firmament against a black background, sparkling diamonds in the sky, old friends I had not seen since my days on the tea estates of SL.

* Traveller

The quietness, the lap of water against the boat, the smile's of the kids on the river banks, tranquility...

We reached Korioume, Timbuktu's port, 12km from the city after sunset on the 6th, an eerie experience landing in this little port in the dark, surrounded by kids clamoring for handouts as we struggled to shore jumping from pinnase to pinnase back pack's in hand. After three days on board it was time for a shower and blessed be it it that the house we stayed at that night had hot water to boot - most welcome in the desert where temperature drops to less than 10C at night!

Next, Timbuktu and the Festival au Desert!