Politics | Icaruswept Whatever political thought I have left. Warning: may not be to your tastes.

Islamism. Catholicism. Buddhism. Terrorist Apologism.

by Yudhanjaya Wijeratne

In Nice, a man driving a bomb-laden truck killed some 84 people. In the wake of the Nice bomb, many people stood up and said: “The Nice bomber drank alcohol. He ate pork. He never went to mosque. He was not a Muslim. He was not one of us. Islam is a religion of peace.”

This is the same chant that goes up in the wake of every ISIS action that makes it to the media. Hashtag #peace.

This pattern isn’t relegated to Islam. In the wake of the Bodu Bala Sena’s racist atrocities, our gut reactions were to disavow them as Buddhists.

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These are not our people! We shouted. This is not our tribe!

We live in a world where a powerful Western media keeps Islam associated with terrorism, so this is justified. You all know how the blame game works – it ain’t terrorism if it’s white and Christian.

But unfortunately, we also live in a world where the reverse is true – speaking of religion and terrorism together is no longer politically correct. The problem is the link is real, and we can either accept it and try to reverse it or live in denial as the world blows up around us.

Us versus the Infidel

And as for those who disbelieved, I will punish them with a severe punishment in this world and the Hereafter, and they will have no helpers. – Qur’an 3:56 (Sahih International Version)

At the heart of almost every religion goes a line that goes something like this: “This is the truth: we are the true believers. Those who do not believe shall be sent to hell / are the infidel.”

Now, we can preach universal acceptance and being multi-cultural and open-minded all we like. After all, it’s politically incorrect to say your beliefs might be false, isn’t it?  But the fact is that from the moment we are born we are placed on one side of a line drawn in the sand. Intolerance is bred into us. Something that tells us that we are right  and they are wrong.  

And over time, the social cocoon wraps and binds. Now there is an us. We go to church together. There is a them.  Now there is s a reason the Sinha-Le movement gained so much traction; there’s a reason there are ads on Ikman that say “Apartment for rent, Muslim only”. There’s a reason boys and girls date, but will only settle for a ‘good Muslim boy’ or a ‘good Catholic girl’.  Someone, somewhere down the line, will not tolerate anything else.

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This is not to say that there aren’t open-minded religious people. If you look around on Facebook, that’s probably all you’ll see. Facebook, however, is not the real world. True open-mindedness is the gift of a rare few in every generation, bred by good education and exposure to equally open-minded social circles.

… looking for Govi / Buddhist partner for  our daughter 24 yrs old fair well-educated no dowry ….
 – Average matrimonial section of a Sri Lankan newspaper

At the end of the day it’s still far easier to write out a status than to actually go and marry out of your faith. Words are cheap – trust me, I’m a writer. I know.

Us versus the Infidel, Part II: get the guns


If your very own brother, or your son or daughter, or the wife you love, or your closest friend secretly entices you, saying, “Let us go and worship other gods” (gods that neither you nor your ancestors have known, gods of the peoples around you, whether near or far, from one end of the land to the other), do not yield to them or listen to them. Show them no pity. Do not spare them or shield them.  You must certainly put them to death.
– Deuteronomy 13, the Bible


Modern Islam is largely a religion of peace. Modern Christianity is, too. And so is <insert religion here>. And it would be fine if we stopped at hanging out and intermarrying within the tribe and left it at that.

Unfortunately, our religious books are full of phrases like these. All the Abrahamic religions have this in common. Despite that fact that we can interpret all of these quotes in the name of peace, it is far, far easier to interpret them in the name of violence.  An intelligent man or woman can rationalize and say that an eye for an eye must refer to monetary recompense for a wrong. A stupid man or woman finds it easier to demand the eye, especially when you’re told right from the start that this is the word of God and His will is above all else.

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Us interpreting Harry Potter  to make Voldermort the good guy doesn’t make him the good guy. It means we’re just reading what we’d like into it*.

Our problem is the world’s problem: these books were written a couple of thousand years ago. It was a time when religion was the primary mechanism for social cohesiveness. It was also a time when it was okay to own slaves, rape women, stone the homosexuals and generally kill people who didn’t agree with you*.

Now do you see why people shoot up gay nightclubs and drive bus bombs in God’s name? Because the world’s #1 bestselling books all say that’s the right thing to do.

If we really want our religions to be religions of peace, we need to go back and do some serious editing on our books. Until then, accept that our religions are double-edged swords.  The same book that gives you faith and guides you when you feel lost gives others reason to main, to torture, to kill.

We draw lines at eating pork, or not eating pork, at alcohol and not drinking alcohol, and we wash our hands of all the blood. Rather, use that excuse to educate; to counter-preach; to absolve the bloodthirsty word of God with the gentler word of Humanity. Until then, we’re just apologists, all of us.

I have a right to believe that you’re going to hell

The way I see it, we live in a world full of accusals and excuses, but with no meeting at the middle ground – acceptance. We need to acknowledge that the books we base our beliefs on can and are being misinterpreted in the name of violence;  this will always be so unless they are updated to a more modern and nonviolent context – fat chance of that happening, yes. But until then,  instead of denying the religion of a violent man based on scruples and oddities, we owe it to the ourselves to at least try and understand what in our religion may have convinced him that his course is just; and we owe it to the world to try and change that wherever possible. The world of a couple thousand years ago is not the world we live in today. We cannot live now as we lived then.

Of course, it’s haram to have this discussion: all religions are wonderful, all Gods are acceptable, we live in a wonderful rainbow paradise of unity and butter bunnies. We’re all right, even if some of our beliefs explicitly state that everyone else is wrong. Anyone who disagrees is a racist.

I want you to consider Germany. Germany persecutes Nazis and convicted war criminals: they’ve been doing it for a while. They’ve apologized to the world and made sure those who did evil are behind bars. If modern Germany had acted the way all of us terrorist apologists are doing, they’d have disavowed the Holocaust as “un-Aryan”, labeled everyone else as racists, and retreated to a corner of the web sulking and saying “not my religion, not my problem. Karl Marx was misread.”

We are so afraid of association now. If people started making human sacrifices to Cthulhu on the streets of Colombo, we’d probably come up with an excuse to show that they’re an offshoot and that Cthulhlism is a religion of peace. Meanwhile, mad men wave guns and shoot children in the hope of Paradise, and all we can say is #prayforhumanity #thisisnotmyGod.

I hope that someday we’ll burn these books. Maybe we’ll get rid of organized religion completely. It’ll be one less difference in the many that divide us. And one can only dream, but maybe someday, a picture like this will hang on a wall: and instead of noticing the Buddhist and the Hindu and Sinhala and the Tamil and the Lion and the Tiger, we’ll just see two human beings doing a very human thing.

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Until then, all we can do is apologize, and live on to teach our children that this is us and that is them. 

 

 


 

Note: this post was inspired by art by the immensely talented Prasad Aluthwattha. Aluthwattha doesn’t know me from Adam, but as you can see, his art touches topics that few people dare speak of.

*We still do all of these things, but now we have courts and prisons and electric chairs.

**I could argue that if the perfect Word of God requires interpretation, then God needs to hire a better copywriter, but that’s beyond the context of this.

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The Seven Companies That Really Own the Internet (2015)

by Yudhanjaya Wijeratne

This article was originally written as a paper following the 2014 CPRSouth Conference. However, work and procrastination set in, and after half a year of just sitting on it (I completed this in December 2015) I decided to upload it here in  the format I know best – a blog.  Scroll down past the introduction and the method if you want to skip the process of how I arrived at these names. 


 

INTRODUCTION 

It’s generally agreed that the Internet really began in 1982. Of course, there were a few computer networks in the US, the UK and France – ARPANET, CLYCADES, X,25 and the like – but these were very much like the primordial soup from which life supposedly arose: nobody really knows when that bacteria really popped into being. It was when a set of standardized protocols – called TCP/IP – was introduced to the ARPANET and the concept of a worldwide network based on these protocols became an acceptable proposition.

This network, once implemented, grew out of the bones of ARPANET, at first connecting universities to computing resources, and later spreading rapidly to Europe, Australia and Asia. It is paramount to note that this particular network originated in the United States of America. 

Today, based mostly on the same TCP/IP protocol suite, the Internet has become a massive influence on human communication and knowledge sharing. BY 2007, over 97% of voice and data traffic was being carried out through the Internet. By 2014, over 2 billion people were connected to the Internet in one way or the other – and many more are expected to gain access everyday.

Note: while the term “the World Wide Web” is often used to describe the Internet, the WWW is simply one the many services to have risen out of the Internet. 

However, the Internet – though commonly referred to as a single, abstract body – is very much a collection of private networks connected to each other.

It has since moved far out of government control. It is now supported by a massive collection of privately owned infrastructure that connects equally massive (and also, privately owned) datacenters to each other and to the general public.

Out of these, some infrastructure is more critical than others. This is where the concept of Tier 1 networks and carriers come in.

There is no authoritative definition for a Tier 1 network: rather, it is a term that has evolved over time to classify certain networks that carry the majority of the traffic of the Internet.

Tier 1 carriers typically operate large, high-capacity networks that form “principal data routes between large, strategically interconnected networks and core routers on the Internet” – in essence, backbone networks. They usually have with direct physical links to similar networks and private peering agreements that enable data to be routed through these networks.

Tier 1 ISPs often do not cater to end users, but instead sell internet transit – essentially, the right to allow network traffic through their lines. Providers in the Tier 2 category both peer and purchase transit from multiple Tier 1 networks for their connectivity.

One can surmise that a tier 1 provider is one that have access to the entire Internet region solely via its physically established lines or peering agreements without having to pay a third-party provider for said connectivity.

can further outline this definition by stating that Tier 2 networks are those that require the purchase of Internet transit to attain global reach. This forms a pyramid with the Tier 1 companies forming the root of Internet connectivity in the world.

These networks are important – not just because they form the backbone of the Internet, but also because they have a very large say in where data goes. As detailed in a paper called “A Fragile Internet: Non-Technical Issues Leading to Internet Blackouts”, the peering agreements that make it possible for global connectivity to exist rely heavily on corporate politics between these giants – there have been cases of companies de-peering, where which one party disconnects the link in to gain the upper hand in a bargain.


An example is the Sprint-Nextel vs Cogent dispute in 2008, in which Sprint-Nextel severed communications between its networks and that of Cogent. This made it impossible for the customers of either network to connect to the other. In fact, Cogent has a history of such disputes – with TelioSonera in 2008, Level 3 in 2005.)

Large companies like these also have the power to change routing paths, impose levies and such, as seen in February 2010, when the CEO of Telefónica (a commonly acknowledged Tier 1 provider for Europe and South America) announced that they intend to charge search engines such as Google for use of their network.

In essence, these companies own this infrastructure own the internet as we know it. 

The whole purpose of this blogpost is to list these entities. To avoid scope creep, we will be looking only at commercial infrastructure that is used daily by a massive population. 

METHOD

The closest thing to a complete list of these carriers is on the peering knowledge portal DrPeering.net, a site run by William B Norton, former co-founder and CTO of the Internet Peering Exchange Equinix. Norton has an extensive history with the Internet and extensive research to his name, and his FAQ for “Who are the Tier 1 ISPs” seems to be the most complete list of Tier 1 ISPs available on the web.

However, the list in question appears to list all possible Tier 1 ISPs with no distinction between regional ISPs and truly global networks. Most of the listed ISPs are Tier 2 networks – networks that peer with some networks but also buy transit to reach some portions of the Internet.

A more viable approach is to use Autonomous Systems to generate a more accurate list. An Autonomous System is a network, or a collection of networks that is managed by a single entity. This could be either a single network of a group of networks connecting through one clearly defines routing policy. Each such network is assigned a unique AS number and interconnections between the numbers show the flow of traffic on the Internet.

Autonomous Systems are the key to studying the topology of the Internet; the most interconnected Systems are ISPs that handle large amounts of traffic, and these are clearly highlighted when cast into a visual graph.

CAIDA’s AS Rank, which maps Autonomous Systems to ISPs and ranks them by their customer cone size – the number of customers that are directly and indirectly covered by each Automated System.  As CAIDA points out, ASes with large customer cones play an important role in the Internet’s capital and governance structure. At the top of this hierarchy are ISPs commonly known as Tier-1 ISPs, which do not pay for transit to upstream providers at all; instead they peer with each other to provide connectivity to all destinations in the Internet. At the bottom of the hierarchy are customer ASes who do not have their own customers and pay providers to reach all destinations in the Internet.”

By cross-referencing the CAIDA data with the published network coverage maps of each of the providers, it’s possible to identify global Tier 1 ISPs.

As of the time of writing (December, 2015), the companies listed below appear to be the world’s Tier 1 ISPs, ranked by the number of Autonomous Systems in their customer cone.

Most providers operate one large AS that utterly outranks the rest and gives the provider its CAIDA rank, and therefore for reference, these AS numbers have been attached to the provider’s name. The data is publicly available and can be accessed by anyone to verify.


Level 3 (AS3356, AS3549)

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Network map  Connected AS networks

Org rank: 1
Number of ASes: 16
AS degree: 4,788
Org degree: 4,515
Customer Cone size 30,814

 

Level 3 is the largest network in the world in terms of the number and size of connected Autonomous Systems. Its customer cone covers 79% of all IPv4 addresses and 67% of all ASes – meaning that the Level 3 network can directly connect to and accept connections from just under 80% of the conventional Internet.

A Colorado-based company, Level 3 has been involved in a dispute regarding Comcast and Netflix and have been accused of wiretapping Google, Yahoo and a German Internet Exchange Point on behalf of the NSA. They acquired Global Crossing in 2011, but as of 2014 the networks had not yet been merged. While AS 3356 is the largest here, It should be noted that Level 3 has a second AS (AS 3549) that outranks two Tier 1 ISPs.

Cogent (AS174)

Network map   Connected AS networks

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Org name: Cogent Communications
Org rank: 2
Number of ASes: 2
AS degree: 4,169
Org degree: 4,047
Customer Cone size 17,484

Cogent Communications is headquartered in the United States. Their portfolio has a steady stream of acquisitions (if you can’t beat em, buy em). They provide their services to corporates and other service providers.

Cogent’s network reaches some 34% of all IPv4 addresses, which is half that of Level 3. Their primary network (according to their map) seems to extend across America and Europe. It is presumed that the rest of the world, as for the others, is made possible by peering.

Global Telecom and Technology (AS3257)

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Network map  Connected AS networks

 

Org name: Tinet SpA
Org rank: 3
Number of ASes: 1
AS degree: 974
Org degree: 956
Customer Cone size 15,623

 

GTT exists here because of Tinet SpA – the Tiscali International Network, set up in 1998 in Italy. The international arm of Tiscali was sold in 2009, and was sold again in 2010 to Neutral Tandem, which merged their existing infrastructure with Tinet and renamed the business Inteliquent. Inteligquent’s data business and infrastructure were acquired by Global Telecom and Technology in 2013, making GTT the third-largest Tier 1 provider.

GTT’s customer cone covers some 4% of all ASes and 39% of IPV4 Addresses.

TeliaSonera International Carrier (AS1299)

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Network map   Connected AS networks

 

Org name: TeliaSonera International Carrier
Org rank: 4
Number of ASes: 1
AS degree: 811
Org degree: 771
Customer Cone size 15,178


TeliaSonera, headquartered in Stockholm, dominates telephone and mobile networks in Sweden and Finland and owns shares in operators all over Europe. In 2012, TeliaSonera came under fire for collaborating with certain dictatorships and allowing them to spy on citizens in their respective countries. They have also been investigated (in the same year) for bribery and money laundering in Uzbeckistan. As of December 2014, they have signed a deal to merge their Danish operation with Telenor, their primary competitor in that space.

TeliaSonera reaches some 33% of ASes and 36% of IPv4 Addresses.

NTT Communications (AS2914)

image02

Network map   Connected AS networks

 

Org name: NTT America, Inc.
Org rank: 5
Number of ASes: 7
AS degree: 1,040
Org degree: 984
Customer Cone size 14,877


NTT Communications is a subsidiary of the Japanese NTT Group. Unlike most of the companies listed here, it operates 7 Autonomous Systems and is comprised of 13 subsidiaries across the world.  AS 2914 is the largest of these, spanning North America, Europe, Asia and Australia, and in size and rank eclipses the others. Taken together, NTT reaches 32% of ASes and 43% of IPv4 addresses.

Tata Communications (AS6453)

image01

Network map   Connected AS networks

Org name: Tata Communications
Org rank: 6
Number of ASes: 2
AS degree: 623
Org degree: 609
Customer Cone size 10,230


Tata Communications operates two ASes: one at rank 7 (AS6453) and the other at 1200. Taken as a whole, Tata reaches 22% of ASes and 28% of IPv4 Addresses. They operate the world’s first submarine “around the world” cable network ring and are one of the few Tier 1 providers targeting Africa and India. They have also made a recent investment in the Seabras-1 cable from the US to Sao Paulo, Brazil.

Telecom Italia Sparkle

image06

Network map   Connected AS networks

Org name: TELECOM ITALIA SPARKLE S.p.A.
Org rank: 7
Number of ASes: 1
AS degree: 308
Org degree: 307
Customer Cone size 9,904

TI Sparkle runs a global Internet backbone called Seabone, which links to every continent.  The company itself is owned by Telecom Italia and keeps an exceptionally low profile compared to the rest. It covers some 21% of ASes and 18% of IPv4 prefixes.

Hurricane Electric, the next largest network, purchases transit. Cable&Wireless likewise; XO Communications, which comes next, bills itself as Tier 1 in the US but lack a truly global network.


SO WHAT?

“In February 2010, Telefónica CEO Cesar Alierta expressed in a meeting at BilbaoSpain that his company intends to charge Google and other search engines for the use of their network. Alierta[30] complained that such search engines were benefiting from the platform without contributing to the company’s expenses and that such a trend will change in the near future. Additionally he said that Telefónica will seek to push its own content.” – Wikipedia

Cesar Alierta’s statement here is only intended as an illustration.

Internet activists would like you to believe that the Internet is a free system, a democracy of hitherto unseen proportions.

Not really. As you can infer, we’re on the Internet because there’s money to be made out of us. This is not just a situation stretching to your local ISP – it’s how the very backbone of the Internet functions. The control wielded by these companies is vast – the 2007 case of Comcast blocking or slowing access for some subscribers is just a raindrop in the ocean. They’re capable of slowing down entire nations.

It’s also no surprise that the companies controlling the internet are essentially based in highly developed nations. This is as much historical as commercial, for it’s possible to correlate this with the formation of the Internet. Nevertheless, if must be point out that this also coincides with the locations of the companies, communities and individuals that produce or enable access to the most amount of content on the Internet.  Whether by chance or by design, this sets up a stream in which these countries have a significantly greater chance of affecting thought processes worldwide. Good examples are the spread of memes and viral posts. Cecil the Lion became an international issue after Americans found fault with it. The Syrian refugee crisis was unknown until European media picked up on it. The Internet content giants are mostly US-based. This situation, however it arises, places the control of both data flow and ideas on the Internet in the hands of a few – but that is perhaps material for another study.

So what can be done?

Everything is purely commercial here, of course; these companies own the infrastructure they use to connect to the world. What I propose is a set of fail-safes to prevent countries from being solely at the mercy of corporations:

  1. Each government should outright buy, or otherwise set up, enough links to ensure that the government can remain connected to the Internet in case of corporate shifts. These lines would be used for government purposes only and not for private use or reselling. In the case of large continents with multiple countries, such as Africa, a Continental Union will be required to ensure this fail-safe.
  2. All operators should be annually scrutinized for quality of service relative to the infrastructure in place, to ensure that nobody’s pulling another Comcast.
  3. Developing regions with high populations should approach these providers directly for the construction of cable, with the simple promise that there’s a lot of people to be connected to here. Again, to use Africa as an example, if commercial viability can be demonstrated, it can go a long way towards enabling Internet access for citizens. It also allows the cutting out of middlemen.
  4. All countries should implement T&Cs of operation to ensure that the governments of the countries in which these companies are registered are not allowed to use this infrastructure, in however remote a way, to collect data, monitor, analyze or otherwise gain access to information that has not been explicitly granted to them by the customers.In the wake of the PRISM fiasco and subsequent revelations, I believe steps should be taken to prevent infringement on human and sovereign rights. After all, you never know when the man who sells you dinner might be forced to take a side.

Cheers,
Yudhanjaya

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How Should We Celebrate Victory Day?

Some time ago, the Colombo Telegraph published an article titled “No Wise Country Celebrates Victory After a Civil War” by the NPC. The NPC here is not the Northern Provincial Council that’s trying to split the country again, but the National Peace Council.

Despite the rather stupid stab at describing American celebrations, that article raised a few very important points:

  1. In Sri Lanka, the political leadership indulged and continues to indulge in triumphalism celebrating the victory over the LTTE 
  2. In preparation for this celebration the government ordered the closing over 40 schools in the Matara city area for over a week
  3. Concurrently, the government has prohibited any public commemoration of the end of the war in the Northern Province. 

Now, Colombo Telegraph being what it is, the discussion around that article soon devolved into an amateur anthropology discussion about the Veddas. So instead of commenting in that nuthouse, I’m going to type out my two cents here.

I’ve never seen the point of military parades. A parade is simple to explain:  you tote out a bunch of soldiers in uniform, with guns, with armored vehicles, tanks and everything else at your disposal. You make them march in neat straight lines and execute beautifully orchestrated manoueveres to show off just how good they are. Then you send them back home.

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Well done, chaps. well done.

The reason you give for a parade, such as the Victory Day celebrations, is that we’re paying our respects to the brave men and women who stand ready to lay down their lives for us.

Except I don’t see how we’re doing this by making them dress up and march for miles in the hot sun while we sit back and watch it through the telly. I don’t see how this is respectful at all. We respect our parents and teachers, right? Would we make them march in the sun for miles in uncomfortable postures while we sat back in a pavilion and commented on how fine they look?

The real reason is different. It may have been hidden behind layers of tradition and TV presenters chanting ‘respect’, but a military parade is always a show of force. It’s the modern-day political equivalent of a caveman thumping his chest. Look, we say, look at all the glorious soldiers and engines of death we  command. Oh, how pretty! 

Now –  Victory Day is a an important day for this country; despite what the charming Aussie-and-UK diaspora would say, – we can’t not celebrate it. That would be retarded. After thirty years of the country blasting itself to bits, people need both a celebration and a reminder.

But if we really want to honor our heroes, here’s a better way: give them a day off. Use the money spent on mobilizing all those troops and setting up those pavilions to give them a bonus. Send them back to their homes and to the people who care about them. Spend some money to make sure their children get a better standard of living. If we really want to pay our respects, there’s better ways to do it than making our soldiers play dress-up.

And let the North celebrate, too. NGOs and dinner-table activists will forever paint Jaffna as being held at gunpoint, but try actually visiting the place. It’s peaceful. People don’t want conflict: they want to move on. Exclusion is a terrible thing. Until we let everyone in on our party, they’re forever going to be on the outside peering in; until we do there’s always going to be an ‘us’ and there’s always going to be a ‘them’. And that state of affairs, need I remind you, is why all this shit happened in the first place. Let’s not go there, shall we?

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Lankans in the Panama Papers: The People Behind the Offshore Companies

What do Liberty Plaza, World Trade Center and the Ceylinco – Seylan Towers have in common? They all show up in the Panama Papers. Here’s my analysis of the three offshore entities related to Sri Lankans.

Every newspaper in the country seems to have visited the ICIJ website and published the names of the 65 Sri Lankans named in the Offshore Leaks and Panama Papers (both sets of names exist in one list).

Being on this list or being associated to it, however, does not make anyone a criminal. Yes, four Avante-Garders are there, but Emma Watson is also on that list; so are two Hirdramani’s. I don’t want to believe that Hermoine Granger, after all she went through with Voldemort, committed tax fraud.

However, there is one thing we can do: take a closer look at the companies outed in that list.Screenshot_4

Corporate entities in the ICIJ database take three forms: they’re either Mossack Fonseca, an offshore entity or an intermediary. Offshore entities are incorporated in tax haven countries (mostly the British Virgin isles – whoever named those islands was probably doing some very wistful thinking). The intermediaries, as I understand it, bridge the tax haven and the user.

 

1. OVERSEAS FINANCE LIMITED. Incorporated 1992.

Jurisdiction: the British Virgin Islands.

Listed address: Advantec Network Systems, 7/11, Liberty Plaza, Colombo 03.

I’m pretty sure Advantec is not a finance company.  A brief search shows Advantec Network Systems registered in business directories as a company importing and distributing networking gear. They apparently bring down stuff from Brand Rex, Allied Telesyn, Lucent, Rittal and Finolex. Registered address: 7A, Summer Place, Borella. Year established: also 1992.

If this is our Advantec, it doesn’t look like ye little cable company from Borella. lk.kompass.com lists one Prakash Advani as an executive.

Prakash Advani and Advantec show up in the same breath multiple times, most notably in this Business Standard article, which reports that Advantec markets TV/COM products in India.

India? There is  an Advantec listed in India.  44 Malkani Mahal, Nr Century Bhavn, Dr A B Road, Worli, Mumbai.  P. Rajendran, publicly listed as Advantec’s General Manager in Sri Lanka, went to school and college in India after graduating from a school in Nawalapitiya.

Now – maybe I’m off the field here, but the name ‘Advantec’ seems to be incredibly common in this database of ours. A search for companies containing those letters gives us 12 names:

Screenshot_5

One of which lists Portcullis TrustNet Chambers as the address – Portcullis, a company which was outed in ICIJ’s 2013 Offshore Leaks Investigation as one of the most popular companies behind such offshore companies.

download (3)

Either this rabbit hole runs deep, or I’ve gone off on a tangent.

2. TECLLOYD TLD. Incorporated 1994.

Jurisdiction: the British Virgin Islands.

Listed address: Asia Capital Limited, 21-01 West Tower, World Trade Center, Echelon Square, Colombo.

Now, there is a fairly well-known Asia Capital. It’s an investment bank listed on the Colombo Stock Exchange. Could it be the same one?

Screenshot_11

Yes. Yes, it is.

Unlike Advantec, this one barely needs digging. Asia Capital is huge. “At Asia Capital PLC we have often chosen the road less travelled as we continue to strive towards achieving the unreasonable, the unattainable and even the impossible in value added investment and unmatched wealth creation services,” says their website.  Their 2015 Annual Report is an eye-opener: Rs  1,651,075,000 in turnover; Rs 2,641,332,000 in total assets. That’s Rs 1.65 billion in turnover – 70% up from 2014, as their report notes. Their annual reports since 2007 are available here. Their Chairman is Paul Ratnayeke; the CEO is Stefan Abeyesinhe.

Interestingly, Paul seems to have quit the company in 2008, only to return later. He runs Paul Ratnayeke Associates – 59, Gregory’s Road, Colombo 07, and was also involved in Richard Pieris & Company – ARPICO to us mortals.

Since this is a very well-known and talented lawyer who’s been working the field longer than I’ve been alive, let me cover my ass and repeat my earlier statement: being on this list or being associated to it, does not make anyone a criminal.  As the ICIJ themselves state, there are legitimate uses for offshore companies and trusts. We do not intend to suggest or imply that any persons, companies or other entities included in the ICIJ Offshore Leaks Database have broken the law or otherwise acted improperly. This article is composed entirely of publicly available information and is not meant to accuse anyone of anything other than being publicly searchable.

I suppose this is one way of achieving the unreasonable, the unattainable and even the impossible –  set up a company that sounds like Tec9 met Pink Flloyd.

3. BEST CHEERS LIMITED. Incorporated 2002.

Jurisdiction: the British Virgin Islands.

Listed address: Simon Paul Finch, Apt no 8B, Ceylinco Residencies, Ceylinco Seylan Towers, 90, Galle Road, Colombo 3

 

The address is actually a person, not a company, so it’s complicated. Also, the  Simon Paul is apparently a fairly common name in the name list, so I sorted by Simon Finch. Simon Finch appears once in the Officers list, country code LKA. If it’s the same one, Simon Paul Finch is a ghost. I have nothing on him. MacLloyd’s lists a Simon Paul Finch at 131, W.A.D. Ramanayake Mawatha, Colombo 02. There is one Facebook user by that name listing සිංහල as a spoken language. Simon Finches are everywhere in England.

Except for one record: Companydirectorcheck.com.

SIMON FINCH, it says, Apartment 88 Ceylinco Seylan Towers.

Born: 1965.

Nationality: BRITISH.

Country: SRI LANKA.

Post town: COLOMBO.

Zoom in on the record. Simon Finch was employed as Director at KNIGHTSFORD EQUESTRIAN CENTRE LTD, 45 High Street, Haverfordwest, Pembrokeshire, SA61 2BP from 02 March 2001 to 18 January 2005.  The company is now dissolved.

Is Simon Finch, born 1965, the same Simon Finch associated with Best Cheers? Despite him practically being a digital ghost, the odds seem pretty high if you consider that ‘8B Ceylinco Seylan Towers’ and ’88 Ceylinco Seylan Towers’ are visually almost identical – one could easily be a typo of the other.

 


This concludes my digging into the offshore entities listed in the Panama Papers. I never intended to write this much, but as it turns out, the search was longer than I had imagined. When time permits, I’ll attempt to do the same for the intermediaries listed in the files.

The actual number of Sri Lankans involved in the Papers is definitely greater than 65; there seem to be quite a few linked from Singapore, the UAE and the like. We may need to go through the entire list to compile the definitive list of all persons of Sri Lankan affiliation or descent.

To examine the same data that I’ve been using, head over to https://offshoreleaks.icij.org/pages/database. That database is the summary list of names of both the 2013 Offshore Leaks investigation and those of the Panama Papers. I’m afraid the full 2.6 Terabyte dataset is almost impossible to download on a Sri Lankan connection, so unless the newspapers decide to get serious, I doubt we’ll get beyond listing names and hashtagging #yahapalanaya.

For some interesting visualizations of the full dataset, visit https://panamapapers.icij.org/graphs/. Happy hunting.

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On the Election Trail with Big Data: New York Doesn’t Like Cruz

Context: As an outsider and a bit of a data geek, I’ve been tracking the US Election campaigns with interest. My tools are slightly different for this: I’m using the Election Monitor, a Twitter  analytics engine we at WSO2 built as a big data experiment, and it’s tracking everything happening around the US Election live. 

A lot of things just happened. The Panama Papers hit the wires, and despite the US media’s surprising reluctance to report on them, the world seems headed for a reckoning.

Meanwhile, Donald Trump lost Wisconsin. As did Clinton. As a friend of mine remarked, if there’s ever a city that restored your faith in America, it’s got to be the one that votes for Bernie Sanders and Ted Cruz over Mr. Build-Me-A-Wall and the Email Female.

I’ve been watching the election through a slightly different lens: big data. Some time ago, we set up a website that fetches tweets in real-time and tries all sorts of analytics on them. Part of this site reads tweets and picks out oft-repeated words, trying to understand what the community is saying.

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Notice the Donald’s word cloud: “NEW”YORK” “PEOPLE” “RALLY” stand out. Is something happening in New York?

After his defeat in Wisconsin, Trump returned to home turf; he just gave a speech to 10,000 people in Long Island. The ammo for his speech was Cruz, Cruz and Cruz’s inelegant riffing of “New York values”. Trump worked this into a fever pitch, dragging out 9/11, praising the New Yorkers who came forward that day, and denouncing Cruz for damning those ‘values’ that made them come forward.

From what I can gather from the tweets, Trump’s tactics worked. Ted Cruz is toast in New York ever since he badmouthed New Yorkers!  says one. I can’t stop smiling.  -go Trump-

I’m sorry for you. I lost two good friends. Cruz should be chased out of town. Bastard,  says another.

This kind of rhetoric spans pages, with the occasional link claiming that Trump’s polling lead is meaningless.  Donald Trump’s Facebook post thanking Wisconsin (for his defeat?) is one of the most popular links in the space right now, – 3867 likes, 1281 retweets.

Perhaps the most telling tweet is by David Wasserman, House Editor for the Cook Political Report: “Remember: Wisconsin result does NOTHING to change the fact Trump’s likely to carry almost all 95 New York delegates on 4/19.”

Ted Cruz is not going to like New York.

It’s with some mirth that I find that, by the time I was done typing this piece,  Hillary Clinton’s wordcloud had changed. “QUALIFIED” is now says in big letters, as if in angry response to the hordes of people trolling   #HillarySoQualified.

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The best one yet?

“Let’s be completely honest. Hillary’s main qualification is that she’s been running for President for 15 years.”

Note: to see for yourself, visit https://wso2.com/election2016/.

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