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Showing posts from 2012

The Felling of a Tree

If you are a reader of my blogs on trees, read this from Subha

Ini Avan

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Saw Asoka Handagama's Ini Avan last night at the opening of the European Film Festival, courtesy an invitation by the Festival curator, Anoma Rajakaruna.  Thank you, Anoma!  A Tamil Language film produced by a Sinhala Director, I found the film quite gripping and sensitive to the issues that its main protagonist, the returning rehabilitated LTTE combatant, is faced with.  I also found the portrayal of the three women in the film, the stoic mother, his upper caste love, and the much knocked around, wife of the displaced security guard, equally fascinating.  The title of the film is translated as Him Hereafter - but a lot of it is about "Her"!

A key line of the film is "We don't have new lives, only opportunities to start our old ones anew"  -  this sadly belies the transformative capacity of disasters and conflict.

Go see it when you get a chance.  English subtitles.

They are at it again - more trees cut down in Colombo

Was too depressed to respond to the call from some concerned Colombo citizens....

Please go to this link to view the new spate of destruction
Beautification, greening or are the concrete slab producers making a killing?

If you want to join a group of outraged Colombo citizens who want to do something about this,go to the event on Thursday 29th...

Re-imagining Development

For those who read my post of Saturday, 10th November, and got a taste for re-imagining, here is my colleague Nilakshi with more of the concept

Need a Juliette

Was thinking while reading about Mervyn's Lambroghinis and the cynicism that is going around re the reduction of duty on racing cars, how 'sport' rather than religion, has now become the opiate of the masses.   In the Wikipedia page on the " Opium of the people"  you have the following entry from  the Marquis de Sade's Juliette, published in 1797  where Sade uses the term in a scene where Juliette explains to King Ferdinand the consequences of his policies,  Frighteningly appropriate to the current situation, suggest you read the following and lament with me the absence of a Juliette among us! Though nature lavishes much upon your people, their circumstances are strait. But this is not the effect of their laziness; this general paralysis has its source in your policy which, from maintaining the people in dependence, shuts them out from wealth; their ills are thus rendered beyond remedy, and the political state is in a situation no less grave than the civil gove…
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Of expressways and fast cars

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Was at the first session of the Institute of Policy Studies, State of the Economy 2012, annual conference, om Wednesday  which launched  their State of the Economy report, on the  rather unfortunate theme  "How can Sri Lanka stay on the Growth Expressway?"   I can see that following the budget and the reduction in import duties on racing cars, there can be snide remarks about what sort of Formula 1 racing is going to take place on the growth express way, remarks made by people who don't like the idea of the unmitigated commitment to growth that the theme implies, and fast tracked growth to boot. (Admittedly such people could be very few and far between, these days). For me, "staying on the growth expressway" conjurs an impression of driving fast for fast sake without any idea of destination or purpose.  

Publication presented to the audience through a video and an e-book.  Chief Guest:  Tissa Vitharana, Senior Minister.  Better than Sarath Amunugama.  Suggested …

Storms in the city

Political storm threatens to uproot Chief Justice, while nature's storm uproots old trees round Colombo.

More trees being destroyed

Even as the Sunday paper headlines read "Gota promises clean, green city",
we get news of more trees being cut down...

on think tanks

No post for weeks.. certainly a situation that will earn the derision of Sanjana... so here's something to fill the gap:  http://onthinktanks.org/2012/10/22/the-onthinktanks-interview-priyanthi-fernando/

(no comments on the mug shot please, not my idea!)

More on research uptake and multiple forms of knowing - a conversation at a railway station

The meeting at Patisserie Valerie at Kings Cross Station with an old friend from academia, was very different to the meeting in the park that was the subject of my last blog.  She is finding this emphasis on impact and research uptake quite positive because it is giving her “applied research” a lot more credence and validity in academic circles.  We had an interesting conversation on “impact and uptake”, mainly recognising that judging impact merely via “uptake” could imply a level of arrogance that is not clearly in the spirit of independent research, and is more an outcome of advocacy than knowledge creation.   What we need to show as impact is that decision-makers have taken  our research into account and have considered it when making their decisions, though other factors may sway their decision-making in a different direction.  My friend seemed to think that it is a matter of time: that piling up a sufficient body of evidence and communicating it to the decision-makers will event…

On research uptake and quantitative research: a conversation in a park

It’s a typical English Summer day, an overcast sky,  an intermittent drizzle and the two British academics I am scheduled to meet are seated , equally typically, outside the café, in the rain,  under a garden umbrella.  They are undoubtedly Sri Lankanophiles, and our conversation is largely social and mostly about Sri Lanka and about the Olympics, but we touch on the subject of DFID’s funding of research in general, their social science research funding in particular.   It’s clear that the academics are uncomfortable with concepts like research uptake, or theory of change – the stuff that constitutes my day to day work.  Obviously loads to be done in the bridging research and policy area.   The academics find the articulation of a theory of change for a research project difficult,  because they see it as needing to presume the outcomes of the research before the research is conducted, and insist that that is what is in the ‘guidelines’ provided by the grant giving institutions.
We al…

London 2012

Whatever the New York Times has to say about the British Olympic Spirit (see also this typically British video) there is an excitement in the city about what Gold TV ads dub "that sporting event"! You can feel it in your fingers, you can feel it in your toes, the Olympics is all around you and so the feeling grows. 


Unashamedly here to capture some of that 'feeling' (not being able to 'see' anything because I was too unlucky on the draws, and too cheap to buy the expensive seats), our Ethiopian friends and we added our own spice and colour to the crowd greeting the torch  when it went through Edmonton on Wednesday.    From hijab to dreadlocks, sarees to miniskirts, bindis and holy ash to tatoos, multi-ethnic London turned out to wave the torch on (a disappointingly elongated cornetto of fire not ice) with union jacks and balloons and loud cheers... tried to reflect some of the atmosphere on camera - so if you got the time, check out my street photos

Deconstructing Development

The title of my first television interview.  The fact that my sister was almost complimentary suggests it didn't go too badly, except for the cat that is.   And CEPA got the airing it deserved.  So given that it is a landmark in my virtual existence, and it is now out there, I thought I might as well share it on this blog

The Lion Flag and the Palmyrah trees

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With apologies for a rather lousy photo this morning, and for a wind that was blowing the Flag in a different direction  here are two photos taken almost at the same spot, almost at the same time of a morning.  Spoke with the Abans guy who sweeps that stretch of the road and he told me that the Palmyrah trees were cut down and that they have been told that the coconut trees might be cut down as well....

There could be several explanations for this:  my favourite one is that the UDA/CMC have bought a chainsaw that they have to show they have used to the optimium, so they are maximising the number of trees they are cutting down; a less generous explanation is that picture one above, looked too much like it could be in the North and was not palatable to the chauvinists among the powers that be.   Readers guesses are also welcome!

PS Didn't see anything about the Wijerama Trees, Independence Avenue felling or any other comment about tree cover in the Sunday newspapers, did you?  Mayb…

Now its Baudhaloka Mawatha - more trees being chopped down

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Colombo residents will remember these three trees near the All Ceylon Buddhist Women's Association beneath which people sold compost and soil.  The area was then taken over for a car park for school vans, and  it is now the site for the new Russian Embassy.   A fence came up, around the trees, and for a while I thought these would be saved from the chainsaw.  But no such luck.  Today I saw the first of these being sawn away... and I guess by the end of the week you will only have these photos (taken in 2007)  left.






කොළඹට කිරි අපට කැකිරි

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This blog title - "kolombata kiri, apata kekiri" was a slogan used by the JVP  to highlight the the differences in governmenet support to Colombo and the rest of the country.

I was reminded of this because at a time when the media is telling us that there are thousands of people suffering from a drought that threatens to destroy 150,000 acres of  paddy lands, and  reservoirs are running dry, we seem to be using gallons of the precious liquid to take the dust off our city roads.


Reactions to my blog: "who cares a shit?"  It is true. The voices of business, of chambers, of civil society especially Colombo residents  are silent.   "trees are renewable and not to be deified".  The argument is that we could replant - maybe but not in the same place, and in the same time frame, surely.

They are at it again - DESTROYING TREES

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This time down Wijerama Mawatha.  If you are travelling from Gregory's Road to Baudhaloka Mawatha, all the trees on the left hand side are being destroyed as I write.  To widen the road.  To make way for school traffic ( which is only a problem for about 4 hours per day, and for about 9 months of the year).  Making Colombo beautiful is one thing.. but not at the expense of our tree cover!  HELP!

those that are left - outside the SLTA

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Spending my tax money

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My uncle has chosen to have his bypass operation at the national hospital, and has secured a bed in Ward 34 and is being prepared for surgery.  I've been visiting him daily and I am really pleased to see the whole hospital looking clean and welcoming, the gardens beautifully landscaped and well maintained (see photo), the ward quite spic and span. At the end of visiting time, the corridor is mopped, and my uncle says the toilets are clean and in full working order!  There must be about 50 patients in Ward 34, including two young boys with holes in the heart. Think of the number of heart operations that must take place, and how many people are able to get a new lease of life, purely because of state health care? In the bed next to my uncle is a man from Madu, who was first admitted to the Mannar hospital, then transferred to Jaffna, and from Jaffna airlifted to Colombo.  All by the state health service.  He is hampered by the fact that he speaks no Sinhalese and requires other bil…

Angry birds - post script

some recent wasted minutes suggest that the strategy of targeting the foundations of the edifice is more effective, rather than aiming for the top end....

Samhara: collection, drawing together

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Saw Samhara yesterday at the Lionel Wendt Theatre, a collaboration between the Nrityagram Dance Companyand the Chitrasena Dance Company.  The programme combined Odissi, one of the oldest classical dance forms of India,  danced beautifully by Surupa Sen, Bijayini Satpathy and Pavithra Reddy from Nrityagram with the Sri Lankan Kandyan dance, danced by Chitrasena and Vajira's granddaughter Thaji Dias, and Mithilani Munasingha.

A long term follower and fan of Chitrasena, Vajira and Upekha (who incidentally was in my French class!), I remembered my very first exposure to their artistry, when Karadiya was put on the boards at the Lionel Wendt Theatre in the early 1960s.  Reading Radhika Coomaraswamy's tribute to the Art of Chitrasena, I recalled that that  performance filled me too with a profound joy and sense of excitement.  I  remember too sharing the experience with my mother and my maternal grandfather,Sir Arthur Ranasinha,  who responded to my description of the Karadiya bal…

Angry Birds

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I was introduced to Angry Birds last Christmas when I found my friend Adam playing the game on his android.  Last week, I rediscovered it on facebook! But today, discussing how one needs to approach policy influence with colleagues at the Centre for Poverty Analysis (CEPA), I used angry birds as an analogy. 

First, let me explain the phenomenon.   Angry Birds is a physics-based puzzle game in which you must launch a series of birds at structures in order to dispatch the evil green pigs hiding within.  The swine have stolen the birds' eggs and it's up to you to get them back.  The game is highly addictive, and you strive for the highest score and the most efficient way  of completing  each level.  There are different birds to use, each with its own speciality and each with its own limitations.
Assume the green pigs are not evil, but just those who CEPA is targeting for policy influence.  There are different structures that surround them, and it's up to CEPA to use different t…

Thinking gender on International Women's Day