The Shoat Statements

Random musings by the multiple voices inside my head.

Has anyone else noticed how happy we are when we complain? And usually, our complaints are directed towards one particular source: the government. Today, I'm going to hone in on one of the most popular topics: bribery and corruption. We will eternally complain how the ministers are corrupt, the prime minister is corrupt, the president is corrupt (and nepotistic) etc.

But are the rest of us any better? Honestly – how many people reading this hacen’t offered a bribe to a cop after they’ve been caught speeding? But I’m specifically talking about the Sri Lankan business community. How qualified are my boss, or your boss or any of the top dogs in the private sector to point fingers at the government? Because if truth be told, the private sector is perhaps more corrupt than the public one. I'm going to speak based almost exclusively on my experience here.

There is this charge that the Mahinda Rajapkse is nepotistic. Perhaps he is (we've certainly seen signs of it). But then - isn't that a national habit? You look at the Family Company of Sri Lanka. There was a time when it looked like they sponsored the entire Royal College, all because their Chairman (and son) went there. In fact, take a peak inside their polished wooden floors, and it seems to be populated by classmates of said son. Are they capable at their jobs? Weeeeell, you'd really have to stretch the meaning of the word capable to fit everyone in.

While we are on the subject of the Family Company, we can move onto another field in which they surpass the government - bribery. And in this department, they are joined by some equally distinguished companies. I personally know of at least two Keeping-People-Connected Companies, who together with the Family One, give contracts to suppliers who are best able to grease. And by contracts, I mean all sorts of contracts - for t-shirts, hoardings, new products, printing, refurbishments; the whole works. By greasing, if you are thinking of amounts that are less than six figures, you are highly mistaken. I've had my junior executive being offered interest-free loans from suppliers, who wanted to get a particular contract! How the supplier recovers his money is entirely up to him (the two most common ways I know of is to either over bill the company or to get enough contract to even out the down payment).

Recently I watched as company that makes, among other things, a lot of fizz (henceforth known as the Fizzy One) quite literally give their advertising account away to the highest bidder. If an agency isn't willing to support the relevant managers & directors in monetary terms, no amount of good work will keep the client with them. Are the Fizzy Ones alone in this category? Hardly – I watched as this happened two agencies with two different Keeping-People-Connected Companies. And the Family One. And those promoting Good Food. I could keep adding other companies here, based exclusively on my personal experience.

Some of these suppliers are genuinely crooked, but most of them don't have much of a choice - they can either pay something on the side, or watch as the job is given to a supplier that is willing to play ball.

We complain of inefficiency in the public sector – the private sector is not much different. There is a colossal waste of money and time due to inefficient people being placed in decision making roles. Why are they there? Because they went to the same school as the Chairman, or because they are related to the right people or something in that vein (very nicely captured in Tigo’s latest ad). How many of go through the Observer when we want jobs, and how many of us call up well-placed people we know? Networking is all very fine, but our private sector has taken it to new (altogether unsavoury) levels.

I know that I’ve made some not-so-veiled hints at a few select companies (I guess my bitterness got the better of me), but they are hardly alone in these kinds of activities. I think we all know that. But nobody does anything about it – especially the people who have the power to. They almost always look the other way, or partake in these activities.


How can we point fingers at the government when our own places of work are far, far more shameful? We’re all a bunch of hypocrites – none more than the suited-types we all call boss.

So the time finally came when I could no longer ignore another (heavily) extended family get-together. My only consolation was that my parents would also be there, so any misery would be (almost) equally distributed.

I should have known that things would go downhill when we arrived half an hour late for this gala dinner at the SSC only to find that those who invited us were still on their way. It also didn't help that SSC seemed to have employed people who were vying to be government servants, because any question (in this case related to directions) were met either by a vague wave of the arm, or by utterly blank expressions.


Now over to the main event. Sample questions went like this:


- How is your tattoo? (as if it's a person)

I said it was looking forward to a new addition, which resulted on a lot of chins having the opportunity to greet their toes. A friend of mine wondered if they thought it's an animation that springs to life. I'm wondering about that myself now.

- Can I see the tattoo? (I'm wearing a t-shirt, the tattoo is on my right shoulder and they've seen it some three dozen times before)

I said obviously not while I'm wearing this, and they actually wondered why.

- When are you getting married? (for the 10 billionth time)

'Maybe never' went down as a very bad answer. And an endless litany of questions followed about my boyfriend and marriage plans, how I don't have much time left...I never realised that life came with an expiry date on marriage. I'm 28, but the general feeling I got was that I was 82.

- Why are you so busy now?

This went unanswered altogether, for obvious reasons.

-Why don't you call/visit us anymore?

They just kept nagging and nagging about this that I wondered at what point in time their phones switched to incoming calls only. Plus, with questions like this, can you really blame me?


Further rudeness from my part was held in check by my mother, who, while seated on the other end of the table, still managed to converse with me through various looks. I must add, she wasn't any happier with the whole do - she started the evening by being seated next to a distant niece whose nose had glued itself to the clouds after a stint in the US. I've been told that they struggle for unpolluted air there, and thus this particular affliction.

They're nice people, but I simply fail to realise why they must be so damn annoying - is it not possible to have a conversation with someone on a normal subject? And what is this obsessive need relatives have to marry you off? It's as if they get some special commission from the hotels. Is it so difficult to respect another person's wishes? I can imagine these kind of questions from 50+ aunties, but not from anybody under 40. Sri Lanka may be traditional, but surely i isn't that traditional?

A fitting end to the evening came when we realized that the potato salad served for dinner had actually turned sour (what with dinner being served at 7.30 p.m. and being actually eaten around 11 p.m.).



Coming soon to a theatre near you...






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THE DEVIL WEARS BATA

A story of revenge and pair of lost rubber slippers. Starring Ranjan Ramanayake (Lankem Romeolus), Anarkali (Julilatha), and a private bus. Shot entirely on the 138 bus route, this movie features amazing shots of feet and a crushed wart. Stunts by a bus conductor and soundtrack by The Centipedes (formerly known as Centigradez).

Rated R for indecent exposure of feet.


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THE LAST SAMOSA

An emotional tale of life, tragedy, leftovers and moving on. Based on the true story of a waiter at Hotel De Pilawoos (not played by Tom Cruise), this movie recounts one man’s lone struggle against injustice and local health inspectors (played by Sanath Gunethelika and Samuel L. Jackson).

Rated PG for mild scenes of diarrhoea.


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SCHOOL OF JOCK

Inspired by the original School of Rock, this movie follows a group of local hiphop artists as they try to reach greater heights by lowering their pants. Shot entirely on location next to the escalator at Majestic City, this movie is truly an inspiration for anyone with oversize pants, bad language skills and the creatively handicapped. Features brand new re-re-re-remixed versions of remixed Hindi movie songs.

Rated PG-13 for bad language and overexposed boxer shorts.
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HYDE PARK

A new animation (not from the creators of South Park) featuring oversized drawings of politicians. This unique animation of a political rally was done in just 4 colours (blue, green, red and yellow) and features the voice talents of the inmates of the Dehiwela Zoo and a lottery ticket seller from Slave Island.


Rated R for bad and/or misleading language.

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Written by Shams

Lawyers are supposed to be smart, right? On the ball? Looking for opportunities? Well, have I got news for you. As a LLB student, I can't say I have kind words for my fellow students. Why? Well, let me count the ways...


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There was the front-page news of DP James, which even managed to be one of the most emailed stories on BBC, but did the future lawyers of Sri Lanka know about it? If you answered no, you answered correct. apart from myself and another student, no one else in the 25+ class had heard about it. Makes you seriously wonder what kind of law students don't even look cursorily at a newspaper - how do you miss front page news that was on radio, TV, print & the internet?

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And then we had a case on rape. A question actually, and it concerned three men. As soon as the professor walked out, they were all like 'he hasn't picked up on the printing mistake because rape can only happen to a woman'. I was like WTF??!! Rape is unconsensual sex - where is it a gender issue? I asked them what do you think happens to men in prison - they are with other men and they are sexually assaulted. Seriously. Don't they at least watch some TV? Movies? Anyhing?

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Now this is a course conducted exclusively in English, and at the point of enrolling you are told that you need a high standard of English. So imagine my surprise when they didn't know that 'tribune/tribunal' was actually vastly different to 'tribute'. How did they possibly understand the text? Or how about when they thought 'cannibal' and 'cardinal' was the same thing?

Also, only two students actually knew that alcohol was a depressant, as opposed to being stimulants...common sense, anyone?

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Or how about this elementary story - we have to pay our exam fees and give the application to the British Council. The institute gave us the forms and instructions around the 10th or 15th of December, including a special leaf from the British Council stating:
"British Council offices are open from 9.30 a.m. to 6.00 p.m. Tues - Sat. Forms are accepted from the 18th of Dec - 20th Jan"

I asked them around the 16th of January if they had already submitted their exam forms already, and they all look at me blankly, and say we can't hand in the forms till Friday. They all actually misread the instructions as 18 - 20th Jan. How dumb could you possibly get? Isn't reading instructions like a really, really basic step? Not all of them got this wrong, but far too many for comfort.

On the topic of missing instructions, there are those students who turn up for cancelled classes because they didn't listen when the announcement was made in class. Or those who turn up for the wrong subject...

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Are there more stories? Yes - I could write a novella on it. But these are the most recent examples I could think of. Why am I ranting about it - because firstly, as law students, some degree of common sense, general knowledge and language skills are required, over and above that of the average Saman.

The more important reason is of course money. Apart from myself, who's struggling to pay the fees, everyone else is blowing up their parents money. This is the whole problem in this country - people with too much money, no clue how to spend it, and even less insight on how to respect it. Why are these kids, who obviously have little interest in the course, and whose brains obviously haven't expanded enough to grasp most of it, even here? They should be playing video games at home. Its always the wrong ones with the money.

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Be true to your heart, and true to your conscience.

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