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Cassandra received an email a couple of days ago, parts of which she quotes below, after googling to verify facts. A news item on Monday 24th moved her hand to do this; the news being that Sri Lankan is flying at a loss. No surprise; known for a long while. What stunned Cass, however, was the billions of debt incurred for these three months of the year. In contrast see what India has done. India will be hosting the 2023 G20 Summit of 20 member nations in New Delhi in September and Biden is scheduled to visit the country. Yes, VIP nations are scrambling to further good relations with India, with respect to the country and its economic advancement. On the other hand, the Teardrop that hangs at its bottom from being serendipitous and doing well, has been pushed to be a failed state, looked askance at, or if pitied and considered worth being charitable to, treated with a handout or two.

So here quoted is a para or two from the email received. “Air India announced on February 14 that it had placed orders for 470 Airbus and Boeing aircraft. It is being touted as the largest purchase in commercial aviation history.” (Monday 24 Lankan news said most of Sri Lankan planes, on loan, were undergoing repairs).

To continue quoting, “This is a classic story that highlights the transition from a state-owned loss making, corrupt and inept organisation to a private entity that has assessed the market and has made acquisitions to build up the business… India’s national carrier, Air India, was officially handed over to the Tata group on January 2022. The handover ends a years-long attempt to sell Air India, which has raked up losses worth $9.5bn. The national carrier was founded by JRD Tata in 1932 and nationalised in 1953. The acquisition is the country’s most high-profile privatisation under PM Narendra Modi and ends decades of losses and bailouts for Air India.”

Over here

And what pertains in this country apart from Sri Lankan Airline’s flabbergasting losses? A sinister drama involving a past AG who dared say there seemed to be a hidden hand in the Easter 2019 attacks on churches and hotels. He and his home have been targeted by, it has to be assumed, goons ordered by someone high up.

The second most pressing issue is obtaining compensation from the owners of a ship loaded with nitric acid and plastic catching fire and sinking in our most precious sea. The Minister of Justice himself has given info he got that directs to an act of corruption that is almost impossible to believe: that someone or some group wanted to reduce the amount asked for in damages and earned a tidy pile of dollars, supposedly deposited in a bank in England. Far too complicated for Cassandra to even comment on. A claim for damages properly put through could have got billions of dollars to our Treasury because our sea was vastly detrimentally damaged. Cass’ only comment is that not even the devil himself, Satan or Mara would do the bankrupt country such damage as to have the amount sought in compensation, and given, reduced. So, if what the Minister was told is true, there walk and live (well we suppose) Sri Lankans who are worse than the devil in whatever manifestation he appears.

Very probably these two serious issues will remain unsolved. Who loses? Sri Lanka and its people. Who gains colossally? Your guess is as good as poor Cassandra’s.

General lack of public spiritedness

The term ‘public spiritedness’ is here used by Cass to mean “having or showing active interest in public welfare or the good of the community.”

Steering clear of political happenings and dangerous ground, Cassandra moves to a subject that needs to be impressed on people. It is the total lack of public spiritedness which connotes disregard for public property – its correct use and care given – that has to improve. As school kids we had it dinned in our heads to have respect for public property which meant proper use of utilities provided, with care and caution not to damage in any way. I still clearly remember our first Ceylonese Principal in our Kandy school announcing at the school assembly that every student should be public spirited and for example, use a toilet and vacate the room spotlessly clean and with not even a drop of water on the floor.

Cass has often complained about noise and misbehaviour in places of worship, more especially of Buddhist veneration. The precincts of the most sacred Bo Tree in Anuradhapura are never silent; either kapuralas are chanting asking for favours for supplicants from god knows where. The Bodiya is to be venerated in silence; Buddha’s enlightenment remembered with gratitude; and reflection on one’s seela and Samadhi. Often poojas in the vihara below are loudspeakers blasting whatever little quiet there is.

I narrate two stories relevant to prove how badly people use public amenities and spaces.Two nieces braved a pilgrimage to Anuradhapura by public transport. The air-conditioned bus was fine. On reaching their destination, they needed to freshen up. Intending to go to a hotel they saw a very well-facaded set of public toilets. So, they decided to go in. The outside was completely fallacious as regards the inside. It was originally fitted superbly but within, toilet seats were broken, flushes damaged, the ground wet and atrociously smelly. A large mirror was badly cracked. The surmising was that only a deliberate act of vandalism could cause such damage to it.

The next story involves is what a European diplomat in Sri Lanka; narrated to me, hence believable. He and his driver were travelling to Nuwara Eliya, when they had to be behind an open vehicle that was carrying merry makers. The men were seen to be drinking and the women and kids singing. Then one man threw an emptied arrack bottle to the tea estate beside the road. The diplomat, highly angered, ordered the driver to overtake the vehicle which took some time on that hilly terrain. Once overtaken, he ordered that the vehicle be blocked. Mr DPL got down, went up to the van and told them they had to retrieve the thrown bottle and that if they did not do so, he would get the police to helicopter to the spot. Consternation resulted with the men becoming restive and the woman shouting at them to do as told. Both vehicles turned back and the bottle was retrieved. Conclusion is a question. Did the men learn a lesson and dispose of litter in a correct manner thenceforth? Not possible to believe since this careless use of public amenities and even space is ingrained and imbibed in our people from birth.

Sri Pada is a spot of sanctity, beauty, sheer majesty and popular during its season. After the season the area is combed to collect and dispose of rubbish carelessly flung aside. Hillocks of trash are made; such the indifference of people to the environment and keeping premises clean. Pickpockets too are co-trampers up the hill, such that hundreds of emptied purses are found strewn in the underbrush below.

When will Sri Lankans learn to keep their environments and surroundings clean and free of carelessly flung rubbish? Does it have to take strict authoritarianism to insist on decency?

Welcome news items

Heartening news was that a brand new, posh OPD section for the general hospital was gifted by the Govt of China. Great relief when the Chinese Ambassador said it was an outright gift from his great country to us poor failed state. How very sad that last is, but true, driven to it by satanic political leaders and top administrators. Here the Chinese helped with immense loans being given.

A most heart-warming news item was US Ambassador who is ever moving and mingling with common folk, Julie J Chung, graciously chatting and showing genuine amity meeting farmers and, more specially their wives, in Anuradhapura. A woman farmer said that due to the huge America gift of fertiliser delivered to them, the next harvest would assuredly be bountiful.

That is the way matters must be done: give in kind to the needy people: patients and farmers in the two bright news above. Never give money through high ups. There is a rampant disease among them called corruption. Only minus is that when this disease takes hold, the person thrives, girths increase and they live happy as ever. Cass adds – notwithstanding our curses.

Ambitious octogenarian

President Biden has announced his plans to run for re-election in 2024. If he wins, he will be 82 and 86 when his term ends. Trump who has also announced his candidature is close in age – 78 in 2024. Biden is already the oldest to be Prez. He is said to be a ‘healthy, vigorous 80-year-old’ although he has been treated for this and that including a slow growing skin cancer. He has had no major medical problems; doesn’t smoke or drink and exercises regularly. But very recently he was camera caught napping during important meetings, even when the Russian diplomat was addressing the UN.

Does this mean there is no chance that a descendant from an Indian parent will be head of the US, matching how it is across the Atlantic in the British Isles? In any case her popularity has declined, it is averred.

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