Did You Notice or Shall
We Get An Education?
Upali Seneviratne Nebraska,
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
During our time of crisis one could not forget the speed with which
the foreigners may it be Indian, British, Italian or American donned
their work clothes and how hard they worked to help us.
Then as usual being suspicious by nature we Sri Lankans started criticizing
various foreign aid groups. The JVP especially, wanted to know why
the American soldiers are here and when they are going to leave. JVP
has always been full of criticism of the American role in the world
affairs. I do recall that after forming the present UFPA government
the JVP ventured into a restoration project of all major tanks in
Sri Lanka using only Sri Lanka's resources - meaning labour and material.
A few days into the project they openly asked the US (actually President
Bush) to help. Whatever our political philosophies are we must not
make ourselvs the laughing stock of the world. We may be poor but
let us die in dignity.
The days of trying to develop the world by Marxism, Leninism and Socialism
are a pipe dream. One can fool some people some time not all the people
all the time. We should not live in the past. We should open our eyes
and look at the world.
Take a small country like Singapore as an example. Without trying
to teach children and adults alike the almost obsolete philosophies
of Marxism and Socialism where everyone is equal and they all live
happily ever after, the technocrats and the pundits in JVP should
try to study and understand how a tiny country like Singapore have
become a major player in the world arena. How this little country
has won the admiration and respect of major superpowers and how they
keep going on to achieve even greater things for their countrymen.
There was no Lenin, Karl Marx, Mao Tse Tung, Fidel Castro or Wijeweera
there. They did not need to have cultural revolutions or mass purging
of human beings there. The population of Singapore are not all of
Chinese, Tamil or of Malaysian descent and certainly not all people
of Singapore are Buddhists, Christians or Hindus. But one thing for
sure they are all Singaporeans.
Going back to the begining one could not help admiring the speed at
which the US marines cleared our debris of destruction. They did not
try to supervise anybody. They only had one supervisor - a hands on
General who has been in actual combat duty. They came, they worked
hard and they are going back. We just sat there and admired the strength
and prowess of these men and women. Who are these people. They are
just people like you and me brothers and sisters. I know because I
live among them.
Those young people most of them in their early twenties are not even
from the regular army. Most of them are reservists. They come from
hard working families. Most of them join the army, navy or air force
so they can get a assistance to get a college education. And when
they enter college they do not go on strike, they certainly have nothing
to do in selecting who teaches them in college. They do not kill or
murder fellow students and they do not get manipulated by leftist
political organisations. They do not try to topple governments. They
go to college to get a higher education which unless you join the
forces can cost anywhere between 40,000 dollars for a arts degree
to about 160,000 dollars to become a doctor.
American children are also brought up to be independent of what the
parents have achieved in life. The parents' property do not automatically
get inherited by the children. The Americans are brought up with the
belief that we are all equal. They do not have to call their member
of parliament your honourable minister. But most of the ministers
do an honourable job and deserve to be called honourable. Unlike some
of of third world's dishonourable honourables. Even the president
is called Mr. President. There is no your excellency business there
either. We in Sri Lanka adopted the worst from everywhere when it
came to how to address our politicians who have cheated us and lived
I live in the US (in Nebraska) among the Americans. In fact when one
talks to everyday US worker, the bank manager, a post master or a
teachers in a school or a college it is quite normal to come across
quite a few people who have been in active duty or reserve duty in
the US armed forces including places like Vietnam, Bosnia or even
the first Gulf war.
I have been invited by some teachers from the schools my children
attended and I have been asked to talk to the children in junior high
school and high school level about Sri Lanka. About our unique history
and`about our buddhist cultural heritade. I do my bit for Sri Lanka
to the best of my ability. I of course tell them that it is the best
place on this planet. Well, I believe in it (at least I wish that
someday it will be).
The Americans do not travel much outside the US. They have all they
want in the USA, including man made jungles and safari parks with
animals imported from all over the world and bred in the USA. In fact
they do not need to travel outside. The fact that Americans have virtually
everything they need in the US and therefore has no need to go to
the other countries to make a living (like Europeans do) make them
a little less aware of the rest of the world. However, the present
young Americans do travel more and try to get a better understanding
of the fellow citizens of the world.
Unlike our European brothers they never colonized any country. They
never took the gold and diamond from Africa to develop America. America's
military power ranked about 14th in the world in 1940, even behind
that of Poland. How did they become so powerful. By sheer hard work.
They did not become powerful by preaching or spreading socialism.
Like Singapore they developed a highly disciplined workforce who worked
very hard. The American always have a sense of being proud to be American.
They therefore do not need to walk with their heads bowed down or
ask for handouts. Countries like Singapore followed the American philosophy.
Made their country into a kind of controlled democracy. In fact it
is mandatory in Singapore for every Singaporean (boy or girl) to join
the military immediately after completing high school.
Check me out.
The American unions are not manipulated by politicians. Americas'
most valuable asset is the American work force. The American work
force is safeguarded by US Federal Government standards or rules and
regulations. Violators are heavily punished. If one wants to talk
about workers rights one does not have to look very far. Look at the
American worker. If one wants to see the some of the worlds richest
workers you do not have to look far. Look at the Americans. The same
with farmers. The farmers in America are very rich. They develop technology
everyday to work smart and to get more crops out of the land with
less effort. Sol no wonder they make a lot of profit as well as feed
One should not forget that America only has a 230 year history. It
does not have a great civilization and great historical past like
us and like the rest of the world. Most early Americans came here
to start a new life, most were nobodies in their own lands. They came
here because they could own land for the first time in their lives.
Most of them were not wanted in their own countries Since then they
certainly did not sit down day after day boasting about non-existent
achievements of their fore fathers while drinking tea or coffee. They
came from every corner of the world and they learnt to live together.
The mind boggles as to how people from over 200 countries in the world
can live and develop one country where as in Sri Lanka three or four
races cannot live together without killing each other.
From the very beginning the American children are taught to be workers.
The philosophy here is if you do not work - you do not eat. Very different
philosophy to Europe and to us in Sri Lanka. Nobody died from hard
work. If you want you can work 24 hours a day, so you can pay your
bills. The American bosses do not have office messengers or people
to make coffee and drivers to drive them around. That is only for
president or his immediate miniters. American offices do not have
hundreds of idlers waiting for others to do their work. We do not
have any political appointees. You are as good as your yesterdays
production. Every American company has effective supervisors. The
supervisor represents the president of a company. A supervisor is
knowledgeable in areas of his particular skill as a craftsman and
in addition is trained and educated in state statutes on workers rights,
work related law, insurance, finance and safety. He has a lot of authority.
American companies do not have General Managers, DGM's, AGM's and
DDGM's. Bad and ineffective management needs all those additional
staff. One simple General manager is all a company needs. If he needs
all these other passengers he is not not doing his job right and something
is wrong with that picture. Take a Sri Lankan telephone directory
turn to any known corporation not only there are so many GMs, DGM's
and AGM's look at all the phone lines they have. Who pays for them,
your grandfather. Well I got a surprise for you, you do!
In fact I have my own company here in Nebraska with two American partners.
We are a very competitive multi million dollar construction company.
We have one person (a 52 year old lady) in our office who is the General
Manager (A former Bank Manager). I appointed her to run the day to
day affairs of the company. I do not have DGM's AGM's, DDGM's, clerks
or messengers, and therefore no chief clerks or Administrative assistants.
We call that a philosophy left behind by the British Raj to keep everybody
happy. The Britishers, when they ruled our country never trusted us.
They had one boss - a white man or a burgher. He would have an immediate
assistant and a mass of subordinates with fancy titles whose total
salary were less than half that of the boss. Well, check it out. That
is how the system worked. We were so blinded by our complicated caste,
race, and foolish assumed aristocrasy system, we never realized that
we were manipulated in the divide and rule philosophy The American
workers also know that one can be dismissed for incompetence, for
not being punctual, poor production, being drunk or abusive or simply
when the work runs out. Unions understand that too. It helps both
sides. I do not have politicians or the workers relations or big brothers
telling me how to run my company. My workers and me respect each other.
That way we both make the best use of the other.
My company has an independent contractor who does our accounting work.
Then we have an auditing company who checks our companies books as
well as our accounting company. We keep it simple. In America everything
is uncomplicated. Including how we address each other. It is a simple
Jerry, John, Carol or a Jack. There are no mister so and so business.
The only time I call someone mister is when I know he is trouble.
It is better and more transparent. That way it is easier to catch
the bad boys. The majority of my workforce is involved in working
in the field may it be plus 40 degrees Celcius or minus 40 degrees
Celcius. Yes, the temperature in the MidWest can go to about 30 to
40 degrees below freezing during winter. And people do work in extreme
cold weather. It is all part of the job.
We do not have to go behind politicians or big brothers to get work.
We go through a competitive bidding process. We are awarded work based
on our past performance, our financial profitability and financial
standing as well as our bid for a project. My being a Sri Lankan and
58 plus years of age makes no difference as long as I am willing to
do a good job and as productive as my colleagues.
Those US Marines we Sri Lankans saw were from here. From Iowa, Nebraska,
Kansas, Missouri, Texas or from any of the 50 states in the US. Even
though the rest of the world would like to depict Americans as racially
discriminating towards the African Americans or minorities, not a
single Sri Lankan, a Chinese or an Indian can complain that they were
denied a job, a house or service because they were not white. This
was not the case in Britain where I worked, lived and studied for
the first ten years of my adult life. There you were a minority -
period. As recently as last week America appointed an Hispanis immigrant
as its Attorney General. Something unheard of in anywhere in this
Americans work very hard. They do not get free medicine, free education,
and certainly not 48 holidays a year in addition to Saturdays, Sundays
and poyadays like we do in Sri Lanka. Other than saturdays and sundays
Americans get only 9 public holidays. Whether it is a public holiday,
a saturday or a sunday you do not get paid if you do not work. You
get paid only for the number of hours you work in a week. After two
years of work one is entitled for two weeks of paid leave. In fact
almost every person on this planet including the British, Australians,
Canadians and the New Zealanders together with the rest of the world
have more hoildays than the Americans.
What one sees in American movies is not America. The movie industry
is just another industry. It is there to make money.
Then again the rest of the world hates America or so it seems. Can
it be pure jealousy. Are we not jealous when our neighbours kids do
better than ours. Now do not hide behind no we are buddhists and we
can only do good rhetoric.
JVP has renounced armed violence. Does one beleive that. JVP does
not want to work with Sri Lanka's Tamil minority. Yet JVP is involved
in distributing Tsunami aid mostly to JVP supporters using JVP members
and use the aid distribution process to recruit Sri Lankans to the
JVP. Is this any different to the LTTE wanting to distribute Tsunami
aid through TRO and recruitment of militia to their cause.
Come on people have you not learnt from last month's catastrophe.We
are such a small country. The only significant achievement we have
had during the past about 40 years is rampant corruption and being
notoriously known in the world as a very corrupt country with divisions
in every aspect of our lives. Our countrymen are divided on political,
religious, racial and caste lines as well as on north - south, upcountry
- low country lines. The JVP has been a major player in this division
game for political ends. The JVP also corrupted our college students.
Not a single day goes by in our colleges of higher learning without
incidents involving students who are behaving as thugs. Trying to
fire professors or lecturers, even resorting to murdering students
is a common occurence in Sri Lankas' Universities. Student in colleges
where education is free should appreciate that it is the tax dollars
of our poor workers who pays for their education. When something is
free we abuse it. We are the only democratic country in the planet
where higher education is free. The JVP has in its pursuit of power
in Sri Lanka has destroyed that institution of learning too.
The JVP should realise that trying to divide our nation for political
gains at this hour of great need is a crime. They should realize that
they have done their share to take our country back about 100 years
behind the rest of the world.
One must realize that size of the country as well as the population
of a country does matter. Equal rights are taught only in text books.
Two countries one very large and one very small - here I am referring
to the US and Singapore have made it on principles of real democracies.
We seem to have fallen through the cracks.
Upali Seneviratne, Nebraska, USA