By Karu Jayasuriya –
If there is any harm or humiliation to our country, it is the real Sri Lankans who suffer the most. That is why we feel great pain when we see what is happening in the country today. But unfortunately, as our country is rapidly descending into a precipice today, all those responsible are playing the fiddle as Nero did when Rome was burning to the ground. Therefore, we urge them at this juncture to open their eyes and look at this great tragedy that is befalling the country and to not sacrifice the people of the country for the greed of power and wealth. With the support of all parties, we call for the country to be saved from this ongoing catastrophe. That is the plea we are making today at this news conference.
Today we are facing difficulties not only within the country. Internationally, too, we are in serious trouble. The resolution passed on Sri Lanka recently at the Geneva Human Rights Council makes this clear. Various views are being expressed by the government regarding this today. Veteran diplomats have a different view of the situation and they have expressed it publicly. Opposition political groups are also analyzing the situation and presenting their own views regarding it. But have the rulers of this country correctly understood the seriousness of the problem we face today? Have we managed to preserve the image, honor and dignity of our country?
We are not talking about this while wearing tinted glasses. We conducted an in-depth investigation into the possible consequences of the Geneva resolution passed on Sri Lanka. We also sought advice from international relations experts, including eminent diplomats who have produced our country in the foreign service. When we look at all of that in depth and without bias, we can very clearly say that those responsible in our country have completely failed us. They have displayed this failure not only within the country but also internationally as well. If that process continues at the Geneva Human Rights Council, our country could face serious difficulties. No matter what anyone says, it is the truth. In the end, its suffering will be on the shoulders of the innocent people of our country.
Why did we have to face such a fate in Geneva? The reason is very clear. This is due to the fact that in recent times we have lost many of the friendly states that once stood in line with our country. Not only in the Asian region, but in every region of the world, there were many friendly nations that supported us. In the past, all those countries acted with great respect for Sri Lanka as a country that pursued non-aligned policies. But many of those countries have voted against us this time. Or abstained from voting. It is hurtful to us. But we have an understanding of what happened. Therefore, what we as a country should do today is not to deceive the people of this country by complaining. It is about understanding the reality and acting accordingly. In the modern world, no country can stand alone. We must always stand hand in hand with our traditional allies.
There is also a point that we reiterate as the National Movement for Social Justice. That is to say, the 20th Amendment was a major factor in weakening our country both nationally and internationally. Every institution that was bound to act responsibly towards the people of this country has become a puppet of one power due to the 20th Amendment.
As a result, the respect of these institutions for democratic principles has eroded. That is why politicians in this country today have been able to shut down certain police units and transfer senior police officers at will. There is no point in running a police commission in such a background. Can free and fair elections be expected in such a country if it can run commissions such as elections, public service, police and the Bribery Commission through its political allies?
Will the public service be people-friendly? Will the police service function fairly? Will corruption and bribery be eradicated in such a country? Will there be an independent judiciary in a country that makes decisions above the courts, especially on the basis of reports obtained using notorious individuals? This situation has contributed not only to the massive decay that is taking place in our country today, but also to some of the issues that have been raised in Geneva.
Also, according to social surveys conducted, 81% of the people in this country do not approve of the 20th Amendment. The vast majority of religious leaders representing all religions in this country do not accept the 20th Amendment. Therefore, the 20th Amendment must be repealed if Sri Lanka is to be re-energized and democratized. We say it consistently. I also hope that the government will pay attention to this.
Another unfortunate incident reported this week was the discovery of toxic coconut oil. The people of this country became aware of this thanks to the media. It does not appear that the law is being enforced against the responsible persons. Re-exporting coconut oil containing this toxin is not the only solution. The law should be enforced against those who tried to destroy the innocent people of this country by bringing in such poisonous food as well as those who tried to consolidate their wealth in it. Such items cannot be brought into the country without the support of the politicians and officials who run the country. These are great national crimes.
There are various reports of large scale corruption and fraud, including the sugar scam. In particular, the COPE Committee, the Finance Committee and the Treasury have acknowledged that irregularities have taken place in the importation of sugar. Therefore, a full force investigation should be carried out on this. We have suggested that to the President on several occasions. In fact, the sugar fraud is bigger than the central bank fraud. At least the money in the bank accounts of the accused in the Central Bank fraud has been confiscated by the state and the money will not go to anyone. But the money that has been embezzled from the sugar fraud is already in the pockets of the fraudsters. The total annual sugar requirement of the whole country is only 650,000 tons. About 50,000 tons of it is produced locally. Today the international price of a ton is around $ 465. Accordingly a kilo of sugar should be around Rs. 96. If our requirement is 50,000 tons per month, why did we import hundreds of thousands of tons and waste our foreign exchange during this difficult time? These are matters that need the attention of the Treasury.
We should mention one more thing we must be ashamed of. In the 1980s, sugar companies such as Hingurana, Kantale, Sevanagala and Pelawatta, which belonged to the Sugar Corporation, produced more sugar than they do today. What does that mean? The beautiful situation that politicians in this country pretend to be today does not exist in the country. High sugar production in the country at that time was due to the mutual cooperation of the then Sugar Importers ‘Association, the Sugar Producers’ Association, the Treasury and the Ministry of Trade. We hope that these matters will be brought to the attention of the authorities. It is still not too late to take appropriate action.
These days there is a growing interest in environmental destruction in the country. In addition to environmentalists, we see the interest shown by various sections of society as a good omen for the future. Above all, we are happy with the interest shown by school children and young people. The dedication and enthusiasm they show is fantastic.
But has the government paid proper attention to it? Recently, the media had reported that the President had stated that government officials are responsible for any environmental damage that may occur in this country and that their attention should be drawn to it. Here we must tell the President that there is a powerful political hand behind many of these environmental pollution. As a result, many government officials, including Government Agents and Divisional Secretaries, are helpless today. They have also informed our organization about this. Accordingly, in order to stop this massive environmental destruction taking place in the country, the political pressure exerted on public officials today must be stopped. The President can do that.
These ideas that we present are not just our own ideas. The ideas and thoughts of the majority of the people are embedded in it. We always raise our voices based on the facts we confirm. We add the voice of the common people to it. We have no subversive motive there. We present these facts with the utmost sincerity. It is the responsibility of the relevant authorities to understand that. We can only say that the future of this country will depend on whether it is fulfilled or not. Therefore, we hope that everyone will pay attention to this.
*Remarks made by the Chairman of the National Movement for Social Justice, Karu Jayasuriya at a Press Conference held at the Janaki Hotel, Colombo on 01.04.2021