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Stand up and be counted...twice (PART2)
Gyan Fernando
Stars in the wrong place.....
Sri Lanka has fewer people than expected Jul 25 2001 18:27 IST COLOMBO, July 25 (AFP) - Sri Lanka's first census in 20 years has shown that the island has 3.5 percent fewer people than the authorities had originally thought, census chief A. G. Nanayakkara said Wednesday. The July 17 census showed the island's population was 18.66 million, down from an original estimate made at the end of last year of 19.35 million. Nanayakkara said the population growth rate in the past 20 years had been an annual 1.22 percent. The final head count was not held in the embattled north of the country,...... But Nanayakkara said that the initial listing of households throughout the country gave them a near accurate picture.
I had a lot of faith in "godaya" Nanayakkara and from my last conversation with him I got the comfortable feeling that he had matters in hand. Afterall, whichever side you are on, no one really wants to see the old People's Republic going down the drain. Most of us have a fondness for the place and will always continue to have. We may choose to live elsewhere but we still love the People's Rep.
Nana was a good, steady guy...good with his Averages and Calculus and the nice sort of curves and lines that we used to do in mathematics. I remember the curves! I still like curves! They were called Parabolas! Looked like the nose end of a Boeing 747..after separating off from the main part of the fuselage....

"Ahh! Good ol' Nana" I said, to Mrs F the other day. She was trying to knit and watch a stupid prog. called Big Brother on the telly. "What?" she asked. "I said that Nana was a good chap" " Who is Nana" she asked whilst furiously carrying on with her knitting. It is sometimes not easy to carry on a conversation with Mrs F. After all we've been married over 25...but I do digress...

To get back to Nana and the census, it came as a bit of a surprise this a.m to find the above splashed across all the news services. I was totally taken aback! Nana has cocked it up I thought. I mean, who in his right mind would go about revising the figures up and down like that!
By the time I had spotted this damnatory news item, it was midmorning here in GB and I was at work. We are on BST not GMT, by the way.
This was an emergency and I dropped everything. Old Nana's credibility was at risk! Time for all good men to come to the aid of the..etc

As usual I couldn't - unfortunately - work out what time it was in the old People's Rep. So I first phoned Mrs F to find out.
She was right. It was late afternoon in Srilanka and Nana was still at the office but probably listening to the cricket commentary.
I managed to surprise him by the simple expedient of calling him "Nana!" in a commanding, authoritative sort of manner.
"Sir!" he said obviously mistaking me for a high ranking Minister. (Only Ministers are addressed as 'Sir' these days. Everybody else is addressed as 'Uncle' or 'Hullo'
"AdooOO Godaya!" I said in my normal friendly manner to which some people take an immediate disliking to..
There was an audible groan of recognition at the other end. "It's you Guyy-ya isn't it" he said. It was easy to work that out. Nobody, not even the President, addresses him as "Ado Godaya!"
Pleasantries and greetings thus having been exchanged I asked Nana what went wrong with the census. I was surprised when he said that "No, no, no, no, nothing went wrong , nothing went wrong and we got what we wanted, what we wanted."
"Yes but..."
" You see we estimated our population at 19.35million. That got us a lot of aid from most of your aid organisations and we are allright on that but then we ran into problems, ran into problems. Family planning organisations wouldn't pay up because we had not kept our promise and our population had gone up and we were straying well away from descending towards ZPG"
"What the hell is the ZPG?" I asked
"Zero Population Growth" explained Nana, wearily.
"Ha! And so you decided to downscale the figures" I said understandingly.
"And on top of that the Pry Minister wanted to show that the population was going down" went on Nana.
"Bugger!" I exclaimed without thinking and realised that the expression was totally inappropriate under the circs.

Regular readers of our pages would know the Pry Minister's attitude towards population growth.
"Let me get this right Nana, so you wanted to back the Pry Minister's policy of Go Forth And Multiply?" I asked.
"What policy? What policy?"asked Nana.
"The Go Forth & M Policy! Its in the Bible! Genesis!" I said.
"I have never read the Bible" said Nana "I am a Buddhist. And who is Jenny Essis?"
I let that go. No point talking about an ancient work of fraud, I thought.

"So" I said, getting back to the business in hand and conscious of the fact that BT were probably charging me their usual extortionate rates for this phone call, "you had to lower the figures!"

"You are just begining to understand Guy-ya" said Nana patronisingly.

I never realised that a census was such a delicate, diplomatic, balancing act. I thought that you went around a few households, filled out a couple of forms and then on the way home bought a bottle of Arrack and a calculator and did your homework like a good boy.

"Do we really know then how many we have got in the old People's Rep?" I asked trying to get to the so called "nitty gritty". "Yes we do!" said Nana triumphantly. "First we take the results of the last census...."
"Twenty years ago!" I interjected.
"...and project it by a factor of 2.83 percent. Then we take the mean of the two figures but allow for a blah blah figure for the actual population growth and taking into consideration that since the infant mortality rate has blah blah and the age of first marriage has increased by a factor of blah not withstanding the increasing female to male ratio which presently stands at...and of course the improved life expectancy figures which we have from the WHO..and...and..Meta analysis and ...bias And normal deviation.........."

As I have said before, I was never good at figures. I felt a headache coming on. Furthermore, with my strict Catholic upbringing I was brought up to believe that deviations were not normal!
"Thanks Nana" I said hurriedly.
"Take care! Look after yourself and look after the old People's Republic for our sake! Speak to you soon..."

©Copyright Gyan Fernando 2001 First written on the 26th of July 2001
Chandrika and I | Erik Solheim & I | My Part in the Census | Not Cricket! | I Crossed The Line | My Part in my Funeral | The Gamarala and the Temple | Gamarala and the Puhul | Two men and the bear | Incense and Candlewax | Fasting & Feasting | My Father & The Devil

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