Friday, 29 September 2017

Ten Classic Rock Songs for Bob Seger to Record


In this article I’m listing ten classic rock songs that I think would be good choices to be covered by Bob Seger who I’m a fan of. The songs will be listed in the order of their release date. I’ll explain how his version of the song could go. Most of the artists are well-known, but some of the songs here are less famous. Bob has recorded songs both with his band the Silver Bullet Band and solo, so I will be making reference to the Silver Bullet Band in most cases. I’ll be listing the songs in the order of their release date and will be giving a list of musicians who would play on the song for some of them. Here’s my list.


Wild World - Cat Stevens (1970)
This song is chosen as it sounds like Bob Seger’s hit “Still The Same” having a similar set of instruments and even a short piano solo like “Still The Same”. On “Still The Same”, Bob played piano & acoustic guitars, and the impression I get is that Cat Stevens played those same set of instruments on “Wild World”. On this version, Bob would play piano & acoustic guitars. I don’t think the original version has an organ, and this version would have an organ that’s clearly audible similar to the one in “Still The Same”. This version would sound more like his song “Still The Same”. Here is a list of musicians that could play on it with the drummer being the only non-Silver Bullet Band musician.


Bob Seger - Vocal, Piano, Acoustic Guitars
Craig Frost - Organ
Chris Campbell - Bass
Russ Kunkel - Drums


Bad, Bad Leroy Brown - Jim Croce (1973)
I chose this song as it sounds a bit like Bob Seger and it’s melodic with great piano played in it. This version would have the addition of organ played by Silver Bullet Band keyboardist Craig Frost. Here is what I see as the line-up for the song.


Bob Seger - Vocal, Acoustic Guitar
Bill Payne - Piano
Craig Frost - Organ
Chris Campbell - Bass
Russ Kunkel - Drums


Ridin The Storm Out - REO Speedwagon (1973)
This is an old REO Speedwagon song from 1973 with Mike Murphy on lead vocals. The keyboards on the original are piano and synthesizer which were played by REO’s keyboardist Neil Doughty. Bob Seger’s version would have the addition of an organ. The original opens with a synthesizer effect followed by the guitars. In this version the organ would start when the guitars start. Original Silver Bullet Band guitarist Drew Abbott would come back for this song as I see similarities between the song’s guitar parts played by Gary Richrath and Drew’s playing.


Two Tickets to Paradise - Eddie Money (1977)
The type of signing that Eddie Money does on this song would suit Bob Seger’s singing and be even more powerful with his voice. It’s also a melodic rock song with piano which fits Bob Seger. I also envision original Silver Bullet Band guitarist Drew Abbott coming back for this song.


Lights - Journey (1978)
This is a great song due to its melody, piano, guitar, organ and powerful singing. This version would sound fantastic sung with Bob Seger’s powerful voice. I’d like to see Bob play more rock songs on the piano, and am envisioning him play piano on this song as its piano rocks well, but isn’t complicated.


What a Fool Believes - The Doobie Brothers (1978)
This version would really rock unlike the original. It would start off with the piano and then be joined by rocking guitars that replace the synths of the original. It would sound more like Bob Seger’s own song Sunspot Baby. The guitar solo that The Doobie Brothers have done in live versions would be used in the song and this version would have organ as well. As this is a rock version of the original, even the piano would be redone in a rock way.


Breakdown Dead Ahead - Boz Scaggs (1980)
Boz Scaggs has a high voice, and Bob Seger would sing this song quite different to the original. He would sing the song in his deep voice. This version would have organ as well.


Make Believe - Toto (1982)
I already envisioned Bob Seger covering a Toto song before in my post ‘Toto Tribute Album’ where I wrote of an imaginary Toto tribute album by big names in classic rock and even assigned another artist to this song there. However, I chose this as it has a saxophone (an instrument used a lot in Bob’s music) and also has some similarities to his 1982 hit song “Even Now” which is my favourite Bob Seger song. Both songs were produced in the same year, and this version would sound more like “Even Now”. The saxophone would be played by Silver Bullet Band saxophonist Alto Reed.


If This Is It - Huey Lewis and The News (1983)
I’m imagining this version sounding more like a track off Bob Seger’s album ‘Stranger In Town’ using that album’s arrangement style. This cover would sound more like his song “Till It Shines” off that album.


The Way It Is - Bruce Hornsby & the Range (1986)
This version wouldn’t have the drum machines and synthesizers of the original replacing them with real drums and organ. I envision Bob making it sound more like his own song “The Fire Inside” and the musicians I’ve listed for playing this song feature pianist Roy Bittan, Silver Bullet bassist Chris Campbell and drummer Russ Kunkel who played on “The Fire Inside” song. The song’s intro would just be piano, then it gets joined by the drums at the same point as the original and the other instruments would join in. Bob would play an electric guitar which would have a rockier tone than the original and have a bit more prominent role in this version. Bob’s voice and singing style is quite different to Bruce Hornsby’s thus he’d sing it differently to Bruce in a louder way using the powerful qualities of his voice.


Bob Seger - Vocal, Guitar
Roy Bittan - Piano
Craig Frost - Organ
Chris Campbell - Bass
Russ Kunkel - Drums


That was my list of classic rock songs that I think would be good for Bob Seger to record. You might have noticed similarities between these songs and I hope you thought they suited Bob Seger. If you liked this article you might also like a previous Bob Seger article of mine ‘Ten Great Bob Seger Songs by Ten Different Piano Players’.

Sunday, 20 August 2017

Positive Occurrences Over The Last Three Months in Sri Lanka

When it comes to the recent state of events in Sri Lanka, especially relating to politics, there has been a lot of talk of negative issues. Recent issues include the constant strikes burdening the public, the garbage problem, the threat of dengue and economic issues that include the cost of living & the debt repayment Sri Lanka is going through. I’m writing this article to point out that while there are negative issues occurring, there are also positive ones. I’ve seen what appears to be an increase of positive incidents in Sri Lanka politically over the last three months and will be listing some of them.





GSP+
Firstly, in May Sri Lanka regained the European Union’s (EU) service of GSP+. GSP+ is a trade service given to developing countries for full removal of tariffs regarding all products covered under the product categories of the GSP service that has less benefits. We earlier had this service, but it was suspended by the EU in 2010. The EU is Sri Lanka’s biggest export market and this gives a much needed boost to our exports which hasn’t been performing great recently. GSP+ enables Sri Lanka to increase and diversify its exports. Sri Lanka began receiving the benefits of this service on the 19th of May.


Cabinet Reshuffle
Shortly afterwards there was a cabinet reshuffle that occurred on the 22nd of May with more changes made a bit later. I think positive changes were made when it came to economic affairs. I thought making Mangala Samaraweera Finance Minister was a good decision as I consider him to be a better Minister than his predecessor. There were further changes made to portfolios on the 31st of May, and I’ll be referring to what I see as two positive economic changes from that. Eran Wickramaratne being appointed as State Minister of Finance was very good as it’s an area he's an expert in due to his banking career and having studied Economics at the University of London. Dr. Harsha De Silva was given the portfolio of Deputy Minister of National Policies and Economic Affairs which gives him a chance to work in his field being an economist. These three men have the potential to turn around the Sri Lankan economy, especially as the last two are of a higher quality than the average politician.


Rajagiriya Flyover
There is a Rajagiriya flyover being constructed right now to improve the traffic congestion currently faced in Rajagiriya. It was originally scheduled to be completed in December 2018, but Deputy Minister of National Policies and Economic Affairs Dr. Harsha De Silva revealed at the site in June this year that the project is being expedited for completion by December 2017.


Banning of Bottom Trawling
A destructive form of fishing called bottom trawling is practiced by both Sri Lankan and Indian fisherman, with fishermen from India being the strongest offenders of this issue in Sri Lankan waters. On the 6th of July, Bottom Trawling and other illegal fishing activities was banned with the passing of a bill in Parliament. This was a good move for environmental reasons and it helps Northern fisherman as bottom trawling is part of the problem of Indian fisherman violating Sri Lanka’s sovereignty by fishing in Sri Lankan waters.


Sri Lanka Customs Online Payment Platform
On the 20th of July, an online payment platform for customs declarations was launched in Sri Lanka. It’s called LankaPay Online Payment Platform done in partnership between Sri Lanka Customs and the Central Bank of Sri Lanka. This digital system greatly improves the efficiency of Customs payments, especially for exporters/importers.They previously could only make direct Customs payments online via two state banks, but now can make direct Customs payments online via any bank. This system is implemented under the guidance of State Minister of Finance Eran Wickramaratne.   


New Economic Advisers
In July, there were the appointments of two well regarded Sri Lankan economists as advisers to the Finance Ministry. Firstly, Deshal De Mel who works as a Senior Economist at Hayleys Group was appointed as an Economic Adviser to the Ministry of Finance. Secondly, Professor Razeen Sally based in Singapore who is the Chairman of the Institute of Policy Studies was appointed as a Senior Adviser to Finance Minister Mangala Samaraweera. Both these two individuals have been giving their criticisms of Sri Lankan government policy, especially relating to the economy. They in fact both gave lectures with their criticisms at Public Policy Think Tank Advocata Institute last year being ‘What’s wrong with Sri Lanka’s economy?’ by Deshal De Mel and ‘Sri Lanka: Three Scenarios For the Future’ by Razeen Sally. While I wouldn’t go as far as they did in some of their criticisms, the fact that these two men who have major criticisms of Sri Lanka’s economic policy are working for the Finance Ministry as Economic Advisers show that the new leadership at the Finance Ministry is not appointing yes-men, but intelligent economists who have good ideas of what should be done instead. Hopefully, their input will be able to reduce the negative economic policies and bring about an increase of positive economic policies.


Passing of the Foreign Exchange Control Bill
On the 25th of July, Parliament passed the Foreign Exchange Control Bill which is a reform improving the status of foreign exchange in Sri Lanka. The voting of this bill used the electronic voting machine for the first time in Parliament. Voting this way is more efficient and allows for better tracking of the MPs votes.


Government Action on Strikes
As I mentioned at the start of this article, a problem currently going on in Sri Lanka are the constant strikes that cause difficulty to the public. A problem has been the government’s policies regarding these strikes including their lack of action to prevent these frequent occurrences. On the week beginning Monday 24th July, workers of the Ceylon Petroleum Corporation went on strike. On Tuesday 25th July, the government declared in a Gazette under the Essential Services Public Act of the storage, transport & distribution of petrol being mandatory and that anyone who fails to report to work will get terminated from service. On Wednesday the 26th of July, the Sri Lanka Army was brought in to distribute fuel. Hopefully this response by the government is a sign that they’ll respond better to strikes and take action to prevent ones from happening in the future. It’s worth noting that early this month, UNP MP Mohamed Mujibur Rahman called for new laws and regulations to address the strikes issue.


Hambantota Port Lease
On the 29th of July, Sri Lanka signed a signed an agreement with Chinese State Entity China Merchant Port Holdings to lease the Hambantota Port. I’m aware that this deal is unpopular with some saying we are selling out to China. Some aspects of the deal may not be the best for Sri Lanka, but I think that it was a good decision that needed to be made. Sri Lanka is facing a massive debt crisis, and this payment eases that as it’s bringing in US $1.12 billion which is a massive amount of money. The sale also is beneficial as the Hambantota Port was a loss making institution bringing economic damage to the country. Hopefully, China Merchant Port Holdings will make the Port profitable and there will be a creation of Sri Lankan jobs as well. It’s also worth noting that this isn’t a sale, but a lease and that it’s a Public Private Partnership with Sri Lanka still having a stake. The agreement gives China Merchant Port Holdings a 70 percent stake and Sri Lanka a 30 percent stake. Dr. Parakrama Dissanayake, Sri Lanka Ports Authority Chairman, said on the 31st July episode of the political talk show Face The Nation that this is the largest FDI we have ever received at US $1.12 billion. Sri Lanka hasn’t been having enough FDI coming in, so it’s very good to see FDI of that scale coming to Sri Lanka.


Action Against Bribery
A form of local government in Sri Lanka is the Pradeshiya Sabha. On the third of August, Ranil Madawa Kamal Nilame a former Rambewa Pradeshiya Sabha Chairman got sentenced to five years in jail as well as a Rs. 40, 000 fine for soliciting and accepting a bribe over a youth who was seeking employment in Korea. This incident occurred 10 years ago in 2007, so it reveals the broken legal system we have in Sri Lanka where things take far too long. However, it’s good to see a government official being sentenced for bribery based on efforts by the Commission to Investigate Allegations of Bribery or Corruption (CIABOC). It’s interesting to note that on the 16th this month another former Pradeshiya Sabha (Tangalle) Chairman was arrested for allegedly accepting a bribe. It’s possible that CIABOC is functioning with some improvement due to these instances. Let’s hope they’ll continue to get more efficient and will work hard so that in the not too distant future they’ll make arrests and actually deliver the much needed prosecutions for the figures said to be involved in bribery and corruption of the previous government.


Waste-To-Energy Power Plants
On the 10th of August, two solid waste-to-energy power plants began construction as Public Private Partnerships. These projects are led by the Ministry of Megapolis and Western Development and will be bringing in US $193 million in FDI. The plants will convert the waste generated in Colombo and Gampaha into energy. This project is a double achievement for Sri Lanka as it will help solve the garbage problem Sri Lanka is currently facing as well as bring in the much needed FDI. There is also going to be a third project of this sort commencing soon bringing in an investment of US $91 million.


Road Discipline
There are positive moves taken regarding road discipline. On the 11th this month, the Cabinet of Sri Lanka had made important decisions regarding traffic. They had approved increased fines for issues that include driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol, entering irresponsibly into a railway crossing, driving without an authentic licence and driving without proper insurance among others. The Cabinet also decided to install CCTV cameras near areas prone to accidents and use them to identify and punish those guilty of offences. Also, earlier this month the Ministry of Megapolis and Western Development announced that they’ll implement priority bus lanes in Colombo and its suburbs to ease traffic congestion. The first phase of implementation began on Tuesday the 15th of August, with there being further implementations over the next four weeks each week as well as another priority lane to be implemented on the 30th of November.   


Inland Revenue Bill
A new Inland Revenue Bill is being discussed right now with the intention of passing it in Parliament before the end of this month. Finance Minister Mangala Samaraweera mentioned that in Sri Lanka indirect taxes currently account for 80 percent of tax revenue with 20 percent accounting for direct taxes. It is important to note that this figure is actually higher as economist Jayani Ratnayake said in an 18th August interview on Biz1st Review 360 that indirect taxes accounted for 83 percent of tax revenue in 2016. The Minister noted that this law is the first step of reducing indirect taxes to 60 percent and increasing direct taxes to 40 percent. This should benefit low income earners. Another objective of this bill is to create an investor friendly environment by simplifying the tax structure to attract more FDI. This bill is also brought to deal with the problem of tax evasion. The Finance Ministry has been having discussions with stakeholders on this bill. On the 18th of August, Minister Samaraweera stated that the Inland Revenue Bill will be presented to Parliament the following week and that the bill will be passed by the 25th of August. He also stated that most of the concerns raised regarding this bill will be addressed.


Conclusion
An issue I’ve had with this government was their slow pace of reforms, especially as they were elected on a reformist agenda. Thus, it’s a positive sign to see more reforms recently with the banning of bottom trawling, the passing of the Foreign Exchange Control Bill and the likely passing of the new Inland Revenue Bill. The Inland Revenue Bill appears to be the only major reform of the three reforms, and unlike the first two ones hasn’t been passed yet. This could be a sign of faster reforms, and it would be good to see other major reforms along the lines of the Inland Revenue Bill being passed before the end of the year.


I see a real improvement in the Finance Ministry following the new leadership of Mangala Samaraweera and Eran Wickramaratne. They got to work since leading the Finance Ministry and have been consulting with the relevant stakeholders to help them carry out their roles well. It’s likely that the benefits of some of these occurrences will be felt over the remaining course of the year.

Friday, 14 July 2017

Bob Seger Pinball Game

Image Courtesy BobSeger.com (bobseger.com/pinball)


I’m writing this post about an online pinball game recently released. The game came out in June 2017 to celebrate Bob Seger’s music joining music streaming services. It is a Bob Seger Pinball Game hosted on his Official Site.


When it comes to simple online games I usually find them fun, but rarely play them as gaming isn’t an interest of mine. However, a game such as this based on one of my favourite singers drew me in. It was a special experience to see an online game featuring Bob Seger graphics.


I’m aiming to give exposure to this game and by extension Bob Seger’s music. I hope that it will continue to be played by both Bob Seger fans and others, especially those into online games. I’m hoping someone who isn’t familiar with Bob Seger’s music who enjoys playing this game, will get curious about Bob Seger’s music and can discover his music via the selection currently available in streaming services. The game page (bobseger.com/pinball) has the ‘Bob Seger Best Of’ Playlist on Spotify that people can listen to. The playlist features my favourite Bob Seger song, the overlooked ‘Even Now’ which was a Number 12 US hit in 1983.   

I’d be interested to hear if you’re someone who discovered or re-discovered Bob Seger's music through this game and songs of his you enjoy listening to. I thought I’d say that as of this writing, my name is at Number 9 on the Scoreboard. This game is challenging, but fun. Enjoy playing Bob Seger Pinball!  

Friday, 7 July 2017

Six Sri Lankan Specialists Discuss Sri Lankan Issues

I travelled to Sri Lanka in May this year and had the opportunity to meet several specialists to discuss Sri Lankan issues that were mostly related to politics and economics. In this article, I’ll be sharing the highlights of my meetings with the 6 people I had the privilege of talking to.    


In conversation with Asoka Obeyesekere (left)


Monday 8th May 2017
This was the first meeting which was at Verité Research. Their workplace was an old house re-done as an office and it had great architecture.


Janeen Fernando
That afternoon, I met Janeen Fernando who’s the Head of Politics at Verité Research. As part of his role, he’s in charge of the Sri Lankan trilingual political tracking site Manthri.lk. I’ll now list some highlights from our discussion.  

  • I asked Janeen what his thoughts are on the political alliance between the United National Party (UNP) and the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) whether it’s providing benefits, causing problems or both. Janeen responded that these 2 major parties have competing ideologies, a different voter base and that there have been clashes, but the 2 parties working together allows them to carry out major reforms.
  • Janeen thinks the government’s priority should be constitutional reform as we’ve never had a Constitution that the 2 parties agreed on as the 1972 Constitution was brought by the SLFP & opposed by the UNP while the 1978 Constitution was brought by the UNP & opposed by the SLFP. He mentioned that a new Constitution by both parties is an opportunity.
  • I asked Janeen how the recent Right to Information (RTI) law impacts his work at Manthri.lk. He said that they have filed an RTI request on Parliamentary attendance and are waiting for a response. Subsequently, I discovered that an image on Parliamentary attendance has been posted recently on Manthri.lk.
  • Janeen mentioned the interesting fact that during the 1970 General Election, the UNP got more votes than the SLFP, with the results being something like 36% for the SLFP and 37% for the UNP, but that the SLFP won because of the first-past-the-post system.
  • I asked Janeen whether the order of Ministers is Cabinet Ministers, State Ministers and Deputy Ministers. He said that it isn’t the case, adding that what’s more important is if the Minister is a Cabinet Minister or a Non-Cabinet Minister based on differences such as a Cabinet Minister attending a Cabinet sub-committee which a Non-Cabinet Minister wouldn’t attend. He also said that a senior Minister might get the State Minister title for their seniority, but that there is no clear distinction between State Ministers and Deputy Ministers.
  • Janeen said that the Code of Conduct and the National Audit Bill are 2 promises from the 100 day program that haven’t been delivered.
  • On the Code of Conduct, Janeen said that its draft has been released to the public in December and that he has some issues with it.  
  • I asked Janeen if the Code of Conduct can reduce corruption. He said that it isn’t a major or magic solution for that, but it’s part of the process of reducing corruption, saying that the Code of Conduct isn’t the role of the Bribery Commission or Supreme Court and that you need both this law and these institutions.    


Tuesday 9th May 2017
This was the busiest day for meetings as I had 3 meetings starting at 9 am.


Dimantha De Silva
I first went to Moratuwa University to meet Dr. Dimantha De Silva for an interview. He’s the Consultant/Team Leader for the Colombo Transport Plan of the Megapolis. The Megapolis is a massive government infrastructure project aiming to improve the Western Region of Sri Lanka. Unlike the other meetings, I won’t list highlights of it only to say that it focused on the Colombo Transport Plan covering mostly transport issues as well as some politics and economics relating to that plan. Those interested in reading the interview can access it here.

Rohan Masakorala
In the afternoon, I met Rohan Masakorala, CEO of the Shippers’ Academy Colombo to discuss economic affairs which he’s very knowledgeable about. The meeting took place at the office of a mutual contact. Here are some highlights from the meeting.

  • I asked him how Sri Lanka’s foreign direct investment (FDI) can be increased. He said it would be by correcting the legal system and the tax system as well as institutional reforms.
  • On the issue of the planned Economic and Technology Cooperation Agreement (ETCA) for Sri Lanka to sign with India, he wants it to happen, the faster the better. Rohan said that Sri Lanka is “just a small city” compared to India, and that ETCA is more positive to Sri Lanka as it can access a massive market.
  • I heard that Rohan had done some work for former Ministers, Lalith Athulathmudali & Ronnie De Mel and asked him about it. Rohan hadn’t done work for Lalith Athulathmudali but knew him well as a teenager in the 1980s. Lalith used to visit Rohan’s family very often and encouraged him to get into the export business, thus Rohan credits Lalith as the reason he went into the export sector. Rohan worked for Ronnie De Mel as a consultant from 1999, associated with him for many years and up to date keeps in touch with him.
  • I mentioned 2 controversial institutions being set up at the start of the year. One was the Horana Tyre Factory and the other was the ‘Western Automobile Assembly Factory’ that was originally supposed to be a Volkswagen Assembly Plant. I asked Rohan if he thinks that they can bring benefits to the country despite these controversies. Rohan thinks so, saying that they are a value addition in the smallest scale. He mentioned that this is a beginning, saying that even if someone starts a bicycle tyre business that’s a positive first step. Rohan said that this was how the apparel sector started.
  • Rohan thinks Sri Lanka’s RTI law is a reform that’s good for investment.
  • Rohan thinks the current Central Bank Governor Dr. Indrajit Coomaraswamy is an excellent choice who has integrity, straightforwardness and is non-controversial.

A.C. Visvalingam
Following my meeting with Rohan Masakorala, I met with Dr. A.C. Visvalingam, President of the Citizens Movement for Good Governance (CIMOGG). I met Dr. Visvalingam at his house. Here are some highlights from the meeting.

  • Dr. Visvalingam is a 50:50 civil/structural engineer who was a civil engineer in state employment and a structural engineer in the private sector. He has international experience having studied in the UK & spent 16 months in Japan, 11 years in the UK, 3 months in Germany and 30 months in Ghana.
  • When he returned to Sri Lanka, he worked as as Deputy General Manager (Civil) of the River Valleys Development Board on the Walawe Project (1971-1973). There was political interference in the Board which nullified all efforts to educate farmers on water conservation and growing crops to the appropriate soil conditions. The Deputy Minister publicly stated that there was no need to listen to engineers and that if the Walawe Ganga ended up having insufficient water, he would “"divert the water of another river into this one". That experience led to his activism for good governance.  
  • Dr. Visvalingam got involved in CIMOGG in 2002 when a group of people got together. CIMOGG comprises retired persons, including many public servants. Dr. Visvalingam was elected as their President in 2005.
  • CIMOGG does not look for funds from government or local/foreign non-governmental organisations (NGOs) so as to maintain its independence and they don’t wish to have people with political connections associated with the group. Over 90% of the funds are generated internally and a few donations from individuals have been accepted from time to time.
  • Dr. Visvalingam has had negative experiences of writing reports on politicians. He said if you write a mix of positive & negative comments about them and conclude with a positive remark, they’ll highlight the concluding positive remark and you become a collaborator. He also said if you write something negative about them, they will go against you.     
  • Dr. Visvalingam has a problem with the fact that the 1978 Constitution put Parliament above the Supreme Court, saying that it is difficult for Judges to make independent judgements. He also thinks that corruption really increased since the 1978 Constitution.
  • On Sri Lanka’s proposed new Constitution, Dr. Visvalingam thinks that it should have a separation of powers and with a ceremonial President chosen by a committee.
  • Dr. Visvalingam believes that despite issues of corruption, to not give up in his desire for good governance such as through his writings, with the hope that it might eventually arrive.


Friday 19th May 2017
After a gap of 10 days, I had my final set of meetings which began in the morning.


Asoka Obeyesekere
I went to Transparency International Sri Lanka at the start of a working day to meet their Executive Director Asoka Obeyesekere. Interestingly, Asoka was the person who came up with the idea of Manthri.lk and used to run the site (The political tracking site now run by Janeen Fernando, the first person that I met) when he worked as a Governance Consultant at Verité Research. Here are some highlights from our meeting.

  • I asked Asoka how the implementation of Sri Lanka’s RTI Law is going. He said that effective implementation requires a change in the public sector, referring to its culture of secrecy. He said that the Government Information Department have been training Information Officers on RTI, but don’t seem to be training citizens on how to use it. He mentioned that there is a resistance to RTI in some public bodies, with some Information Officers asking citizens requesting information questions like “Who are you?” & “What do you do?” and that citizens tend to back off when information officers say that. He also said that citizens should ideally have been able to request anything covered under RTI since February.
  • I asked Asoka about his thoughts on the performance of Sarath Jayamanne as the Director General of the Commission to Investigate Allegations of Bribery or Corruption (CIABOC) who replaced Dilrukshi Dias Wickramasinghe following her resignation late last year. He spoke positively of Sarath Jayamanne describing him as a very experienced prosecutor, and then went on to say his issues with CIABOC. His issues are the fact that it was set up before there were other anti-corruption agencies thus they compete with one another. He said CIABOC was set up in legal framework as the only agency for these investigations. Asoka said that CIABOC is supposed to investigate money laundering, but that it’s investigated by the FCID (Financial Crimes Investigation Division). He said that these agencies don't want to share information with each other as they are in competition. Police officers are sent to CIABOC and Asoka wonders if the IGP (Inspector General of Police) would be willing to send the best police officers for these investigations pointing out that if you send the best police officers, you won’t be able to use their services.
  • Asoka says that we can improve CIABOC via our commitments to some international organisations that include the World Bank. One such commitment is to allow CIABOC to conduct investigations on their own without a complaint having been made.  
  • I asked Asoka if he knows of any developing countries that have made successful efforts against corruption. He asked if developing countries could include countries that weren’t in a financially good state when they started their anti-corruption drive. I replied yes, and he mentioned Hong Kong as a place that has taken action against corruption and that it is mentioned a lot in Sri Lanka at present. Asoka mentioned that Sri Lankan politicians spend high sums of money for their campaigns, but get paid a low salary. Thus, this is one of the causes of corruption in Sri Lanka. He mentioned that Kenya has paid their Parliamentarians among the highest in the world due to this, but said that despite the high salaries, the lure of ill gotten wealth is still too great for some politicians to say no to.


Dhananath Fernando
I was to meet Dhananath Fernando next. He’s the Head (Chief Operating Officer) of Public Policy Think Tank Advocata Institute. Unfortunately something came up at the last minute, so he was unable to meet me on that day. I was however able to speak to him on the phone instead. I first heard of Dhananath from his article “What we could have done with the losses of state-owned enterprises” (on dailymirror.lk), and I was speaking to him exactly 1 year after his article had been published. Here are some highlights from our discussion.

  • Dhananath said what’s currently going on with Advocata is an essay writing competition and a study of market prices. I asked about the market prices study and he said Sri Lanka has set prices for certain items such as bread. Dhananath said that a free market deals with supply and demand, and that a fixed price can cause problems so they are studying the impact of fixed prices.
  • I found out that the losses of the Sri Lanka Transport Board drastically reduced in 2016 from this tweet that used Central Bank figures, and asked Dhananath about this. He said it could be due to a number of factors, and that some of these loss making state entities are profitable in some years. He elaborated that it could be due to global issues such as oil prices, saying that reductions in losses or even profits doesn’t necessarily mean better management. He said there still could be better management which is why they advocate privatisation.
  • I asked Dhananath what he thinks should be the government’s economic strategy. He said that economic reforms were promised, but nothing had happened. Dhananath said that as we are in a debt trap, there should be improved tax collection of government revenue with a proper government policy on tax. He also mentioned restructuring of state-owned enterprises.
  • I heard that Advocata has a partnership with the Atlas Network, an organisation based in Washington D.C. and asked about it. Dhananth said that there is no official partnership and that the Atlas Network have programs for funding based on project work which they apply for. He said these projects are based on Sri Lanka.
  • Dhananath believes the private sector have a big role to play in the Sri Lankan economy. He wants the government to make it easier for them to do their work and to not get in their way.
  • On the issue of Sri Lankan Airlines, Dhananath does not believe that the government should be managing an airline.     


I enjoyed meeting these people to discuss Sri Lankan issues. They have knowledge in their respective fields, and talking to them made me understand some subjects I wasn’t sure about. These discussions led me to even re-evaluate my own views on certain issues. It’s interesting to note that Dhananath Fernando and Dr. A.C. Visvalingam both contributed to my article “Impact of the 19th Amendment One Year On” in July 2016.


Thank you to you all for giving me your perspectives on issues relating to your respective field. I wish you all the best in your work and believe you are capable of making Sri Lanka a better place.