By Sunil J. Wimalawansa –
Part 19: Sri Lanka—Changing Pillows to Cure Headaches: Aragalaya—Manufactured Economic Crisis and Peoples’ Suffering
A strong and independent judiciary, freedom of communications, and an empowered civil society are crucial for meaningful and sustainable democracy. These fundamental rights have been systematically dismantled in Sri Lanka by its politicians, under the status quo and with tainted constitutional amendments. The situation worsened due to the infiltration of the parliament and other political institutions (including provincial and municipal councils across the country). In some instances, crooks, thugs, criminals, and primarily unqualified people are sitting in these positions, blocking the democratic processes.
What should Aragalaya do now?
The recent protest against the government (known as Aragalaya) is currently (June 2022) taking a needed break to regroup properly. For it to be successful, it must gain strength, better coordinate its mission among its many participating groups, develop clear goals, and get support from countrywide silent observers and sympathisers. Most importantly, peaceful and focused Aragalaya must be guided by experienced people in the right direction who are willing to help the cause on behalf of the country to achieve a complete System change.
Encompassing the above will facilitate The Aragalaya to overcome the current roadblocks and political mud(slinging) by the government and prime minister and prevent its hijack by unscrupulous political groups. So, they must be wise and thoughtful and proceed without rushing or making mistakes. Then, Aragalaya will achieve its positive goals of permanent System change and implementation of a new Constitution for Sri Lanka in a short period. It will then automatically resolve the financial crisis.
However, Aragalaya must persist and develop effective “new” strategies to overcome the current political hurdles, deliberate diversional tactics by the government, not accepting worthless gimmicks, and be aware of implanted spies. They must be cautious of political parties taking advantage of their efforts. Authentic Aragalaya participants must be vigilant to identify undesirable elements; once identified, promptly eliminate them from the vicinity.
The tragic economic situation of Sri Lanka and the reforms needed
Sri Lanka is a dependent economy. Duch economies are subjected to catastrophes with either internal or external shocks. The negative consequences of political disasters are vividly seen today with ongoing crises. Despite severe consequences, the political elite continued their massive corruption schemes, pilfering funds and illegally selling/acquiring national resources.
Getting trapped into geopolitical problems, failure to maintain a non-aligned political status, adapting a radical (extreme) social liberalism, and the lack of concerns on self-sufficiency in essential items like food worsened it.
Some of their decisions are despicable. For example, they have funds to urgently import water-cannon trucks to harm the public and luxury vehicles for themselves but deny having funds to import life-saving medications.
Reforms in Sri Lanka are long overdue. The Aragalaya is a unique opportunity to push for major political reforms and a new Constitution for the benefit of the country. Unfortunately, most Sri Lankans are decades behind in understanding the gravity and the negativity of the current status quo and inherently corrupt system, preventing the country’s growth. Some are unfamiliar with the ongoing situation, while others have taken it for granted, the status quo as the right approach.
The refusal of administrators and politicians to accept their inabilities to solve problems, to bring up pertinent laws for the country, inefficiencies and wrongdoings, and the lack of proficiency in the subject matter they handle is sticking. Most importantly, they vehemently object to accepting their blatant mismanagement, accountability, and responsibility. All political parties always blame others for mismanagement and wrongdoings, except themselves.
Fundamental changes are needed
Consequently, ongoing corruption worsens and escalates the cost of living and food and medicine shortages, badly affecting the people and the country. With each terrible financial deal they make, the public suffers and bears the costs. In addition to fundamental changes occurring in the system, and consequent behavioural changes happening, the populous is not capable of appreciating the seriousness of the entrenched problem or being able to change the system. Therefore, an urgent need for crucial reform and the importance of structural changes.
Food insecurity and associated crises are the keys to preventing the spread of Aragalaya across the country and sustaining it, to force the government to the intended System change. People are more concerned about day-to-day ability to gather food for their families, spending hours in gas, petrol, and food ques (lines). Especially now, when the children are starving and the vast majority are out of jobs, survival comes first.
Building up of frustration and severe potential violence
The frustration builds up when the ordinary people witness the grossly unfair system in which the politicians, elite, police, and the military continue to do well and get food and fuel for their travel without problem (without staying in ques). Meanwhile, the ordinary public struggles to have one meal daily, and children are beginning to die of starvation and lack of medicine.
This can tip the balance of frustration and patience, making them come to the streets in millions and generate significant violence, which government will fail to control. The vast proportion of the lower middle class and low-income groups, particularly the daily wage earners, suffer enormously because of the country’s mismanagement by politicians.
The Elites are protected from suffering
Yet, politicians, the military, and the elite continue to get perks without disruption: access to food, petrol, diesel, gas, medicine, etc., but not the ordinary public. Neither they nor their families are seen standing in queues (lines) to obtain these essentials. What insincerity; there are always two sets of laws in Sri Lanka: one for the elite, politicians, and police/military, and the other for the ordinary citizens. Second-class treatment of the public by the government must be stopped.
Despite the above-mentioned significant issues affecting most people in Sri Lanka, the government has failed to take tangible steps to overcome the political or fiscal crisis. The new prime minister and the phoney cabinet act like puppets to the president to “save” their jobs and not “serve” the country. They have done nothing to solve the political crises or rescue the dreadful economy: not even taken the essential first steps.
Instead, they are encouraging the chaos and creating new problems, partly to divert the attention away from them. Thus, they must be made to understand that such would not solve the current severe problems in Sri Lanka. Without a stable multi-party government, it is unlikely that the finance minister can get substantial financial assistance from any organisation or a foreign government. The continuing political crisis exacerbated the economic disarray and related food, power, gas, fuel, and medicine shortage.