The collateral damage of the
war - Asantha de Mel taken to the cleaners!
Ajit Randeniya, California
People often count only the human cost of Sri Lanka's
30 year old war. Almost all news reports refer to the 70 000 casualties
of the war, without mentioning the method of counting used. But most
Sri Lankans will be aware of the other costs of the war that are enormously
significant in terms of damage done to the Sri Lankan civilisation and
society in general.
The education system, from the pirivena based Buddhist system to the
colonial university system has deteriorated so badly and the generations
of graduates produced overs the war years have not received the benefits
of the great traditions of either system. Most of the academics with
international profiles have migrated to other countries since the early
1980s, leaving who ever was left in the country to fill the vacant professorships.
The school system has deteriorated even more than the higher education
system, giving rise to the mushrooming 'international' schools. The
mere 'tutories' of the 60s and 70s (like the Stafford and Alexandra
Colleges) have become leading educational institutes!Most middle class
Sri Lankans enrol their children in these schools run sometimes by shonky
overseas operators. The children are exposed to the 'thuppahi' culture
of these places which pass on a smattering of English and the poisonous
culture of night clubbing, drugs and other vices. Rebuilding the education
system to its glory of the 1950s and 60s and reclaiming the affected
generations will take a long time.Probably as a side effect of this
decline, ignorance, incompetence and corruption of unprecedented proportions
has taken root among the middle classes in general and politicians in
An example of this is the current on-going issue about the rental allowances
and house renovation expenses claimed by some of the politicians. Politicians
as old as M.H. Mohamed, who has been a Colombo resident since most Sri
Lankans could remember, have been claiming these allowances running
to millions of rupees! There are others.
But the most revealing affair that show the extent of the problem was
the sacking of Asantha de Mel, the head honcho of the State Petroleum
Corporation by the Supreme Court, on account of a 'hedging' arrangement
he has entered in to with three overseas merchant banks for petroleum
purchases that is going to cost the poor Sri Lankan people millions
Readers might vaguely remember Asantha de Mel as a medium pace bowler
who represented Sri Lanka before it received the Test playing status
(and briefly afterwards). Somehow, he has been later appointed to run
the Petroleum Corporation (nepotism?). He certainly was not qualified
enough or have adequate international business experience to hold a
position such as this.
Now, the moneybags (the Deutche Bank and the like) who set up offices
in countries like ours are like foxes and they smell a fool miles away,
and knows how to part him/her with money fairly quickly. They care little
about the poor Sri Lankans whose money novices like De Mel are playing
They have clearly taken him to the cleaners in this hedging deal, under
which, Sri Lanka is still playing the record high prices for oil (when
the price has dropped below US$50 a barrell). According the Sunday Leader
newspaper, when the scandel broke out, one of the foreign bankers involved
has issued a media statement on de Mel's behalf, typed in the Petroleum
Thankfully the courts have intervened to prevent further damage. But
the Sri Lankan government, in the name of poor suffering Sri Lankans'
should refuse to pay these blood suckers. Asantha de Mel should be sent
for corrective education, like they do in China.
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