How do you prepare a tasty curry in the kitchen? How do you create a great combo of potato curry, fish ambul thiyal, batu moju and yellow rice with samba for lunch? In many ways, this column is also akin to producing breakfast, lunch or dinner in the kitchen with Kussi Amma Sera’s special flavours [...]

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Juggling at the top


How do you prepare a tasty curry in the kitchen? How do you create a great combo of potato curry, fish ambul thiyal, batu moju and yellow rice with samba for lunch?

In many ways, this column is also akin to producing breakfast, lunch or dinner in the kitchen with Kussi Amma Sera’s special flavours and a mixture of spices. A dash of comments from Kussi Amma Sera and her friends, a call from a friend wanting to discuss a key topic and a concoction of events that has taken place in the economic, business and social spheres make up the main ingredients of the column.

As I pondered on these thoughts, Kussi Amma Sera, Serapina and Mabel Rasthiyadu had gathered under the Margosa tree for their regular gossip over tea. It was a bright, sunny morning…….a relief after a rash of morning showers on previous days.

“Janadipathi saha agamethi, dennama pita rata gihilla” (Both the President and Prime Minister have gone abroad),” said Kussi Amma Sera.

“Ov, dennama ekama velavata Lankawey neha (Yes, both are not in Sri Lanka at the same time),” responded Mabel Rasthiyadu.

“Ethakota rata bharava inne kavuda (Then who is in charge of the country in their absence?),” asked Serapina.

Indeed, who is in charge when the two leaders of the country are overseas at the same time? This has happened on several occasions in the past few years too. Thankfully, nothing dramatic happened while both were away at the same time but such irresponsible behaviour has been criticised by the public on numerous occasions. When the Easter Sunday bombings took place, the President was away, while the Prime Minister was in the country.

Respected Minister Eran Wickramaratne recently hit the nail on the head when he was quoted as saying that it is political uncertainties than the economy that affect the country. However, to take this argument further, no investor will put his money in a country where there is such uncertainty which can affect economic policy-making.

And that is what has happened even today since officials of key ministries are not sure who is in charge and in decision-making, and whose signature to get on a key document or Cabinet paper. The shuffling of portfolios since the November-December 2018 political unrest where the President sacked the Prime Minister and the Cabinet, has also created uncertainty among officials.

An example of the political chaos was seen earlier this week when a government supplementary estimate was presented to Parliament, then withdrawn and presented again with changes! Never has such a thing happened before in the legislature.

Breaking the silence, the phone then rings. Pedris Appo, short for Appuhamy, a retired agri expert who does farming, is on the line. I haven’t spoken to him for a long time and looked forward to a pleasant conversation.

“Hello, how have you been,” Pedris Appo said. “Fine….fine,” I reply pleasantly.

“You know..….the recent decision by that international wildlife body to shift its scheduled meeting in Colombo to Geneva because of the Easter Sunday bombings is a big blow to the tourism industry,” he said. Pedris Appo is also knowledgeable on many topics apart from agriculture.

“Yes and I think we didn’t canvass properly for this meeting to be held here, which we should have done at the highest levels,” I said.

“The Prime Minister should have led a delegation to Geneva to convince the organisers that the security situation had improved and Sri Lanka is prepared to host a trouble-free conference,” he said. “You are right … since this was to be Sri Lanka’s biggest-ever event with more than 2,000 delegates from 180 countries,” I added. “In the same context, rather than official representation we should have sent high powered ministerial-level delegations to India, China, the UK, Germany, Australia and France to convince them to relax the travel advisories,” he replied. Travel advisories have been relaxed but only several weeks after the blasts.

We then shifted the conversation to the ills of the nation and came to the conclusion that never has the country faced such a situation of uncertainty with one example being where a Cabinet meeting was cancelled due to a tiff between the President and the Prime Minister, over the conduct of a Parliamentary Select Committee probing the Easter Sunday attacks. “This is like schoolchildren fighting.….not leaders leading a nation,” said Pedris Appo.

Even more amusing was when a UNP Minister was quoted in the media as saying that there was no disunity in the Cabinet. “All of us met peacefully and made decisions for the good of the country,” he has said.

“What nonsense is he talking about,” an irate Pedris Appo said, adding: “Disunity in the Cabinet has been happening on many occasions.”

On to some positive news, according to the Department of Census and Statistics, Sri Lanka’s economy grew by 3.7 per cent in the first quarter of 2019, higher than in the same period in 2018.  However, the Central Bank has said that the economy this year, adversely affected by the end April crisis particularly in tourism, is likely to grow below last year’s. 3.2 per cent growth.

While earnings from tourism in April recorded a decline of 7.5 per cent (year-on-year), reflecting partly the impact of the Easter Sunday attacks, arrivals fell by 70 per cent in May which would have badly hurt earnings as well.

The external sector (imports and exports) remained relatively stable in April supported by a contracting trade deficit, according to the Central Bank’s External Sector Performance up to April 2019.

The considerable reduction in the trade deficit in April was due to the decline in imports, partly also due to a drop in the import of personal motor vehicles since December 2018 owing to high taxes.

As I was winding up, I heard Kussi Amma Sera seeing her friends off at the gate after their morning tea conversation, saying; “Ena sathiyeth, me desapalana darsanayama thama thiyenna yanne (It would be the same political scene next week).” I couldn’t have agreed with her, more.

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