14 April, 2024


Delayed IMF Assistance & The Fertilizer Ban: President Rajapaksa’s “Two Mistakes” That Pauperized Sri Lanka

By Jude Fernando

Jude Fernando

“Political necessities sometime turn out to be political mistakes.”- George Bernard Shaw

“One is punished by the very things by which he sins.”- Solomon Ibn Gabirol

Gotabaya Rajapaksa publicly acknowledged on April 4, 2022, that it was a mistake to delay asking for financial assistance from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and to ban chemical fertilizers. This admission was a diversionary tactic in response to mounting demands for his resignation, designed to avoid responsibility for the grave consequences of his mistakes and failure to correct them. These two irresponsible policy decisions (“mistakes”) have directly contributed to the country now living its worst economic nightmare, reeling under extreme scarcity of food, medicines, fuel, and other essentials. Since the beginning of the current crisis, Sri Lankans have continued to experience increasingly widespread hunger, child malnutrition people dying on food queues, cases of suicide, the suspension of routine surgeries in hospitals due to the lack of medicine, school exams being postponed due to paper shortages, and refugees embarking on risky boat journeys to neighboring India due to hunger. All these are depressing indicators of a country that was once a net exporter but is now a net importer of rice and is soon likely to lose its high ranking among developing countries for its achievements in human development.

The most debilitating impact of the President’s two mistakes are the destruction of the country’s natural and human resources capacities to meet its needs and his failure to put forward a plan to at least increase the domestic food production. The ad hoc, ill-conceived, and belated policy shifts implemented to rectify the mistakes, has only worsened people’s struggle for survival and made the country vulnerable to undesirable foreign exploitation in ways unprecedented since its independence. Although I am not a legal scholar, I believe that President’s two ‘mistakes’ may have caused crimes against humanity,[i] violations of his social contract, and have undermined the nation’s security and sovereignty – the inevitable outcome of narcissistic incompetence. A combination of the surrounding circumstances and the serious consequences of the president’s errors provide sufficient grounds for impeachment, if not punishment, in accordance with the penal code and constitution, and immunity cannot serve as a shield from liability.

The two mistakes originating from the President’s authoritarian style of decision-making and his failure to heed the advice and warnings of subject specialists have inflicted catastrophic harm on the lives of the people and driven the country to unprecedented social and political chaos, making him accountable for his actions. Under the penal code, the offender does not have to intend to harm or contemplate that their actions may be harmful. A person needs only to understand what law they are contravening and the potential harm their action may cause for the crime to be punishable. However, despite the prior warnings and mounting evidence of the actual adverse consequences of his actions, the President did not change course. When he finally agreed to abandon these policies, the damage they had caused was irreversible, and the people became adamant in their demands for the resignation and imprisonment of the President and members of his regime, and for the confiscation of their assets.

The President’s two mistakes violate the social contract, one of the most revered moral principles of modern constitutions. The social contract is a pact where individuals cede their rights to a responsible authority to safeguard the collective good. In other words, the citizens renounce their right to execute the constitution and promise to turn this authority over to the sovereign. The citizens also agree to obey laws enacted by the sovereign. The crucial point is that the constitution is legitimate because it is a creation by collective authorship, meaning that the President does not own the constitution but must uphold it.

The President’s mistakes have violated his obligation to honor the social contract embodied in the constitution: to protect the rights of citizens to life, security liberty, and the countries resources to meet their needs, while maintaining order within the bounds of the law. Moreover, he has crippled the government’s capacity to serve the collective good of the people. Furthermore, the President has abused the immunities granted to him by the constitution in a manner that is inimical to the balance of powers in the system of governance.

The constitution grants the President almost total immunity from accountability. In the case of the fertilizer ban, however, he in his capacity as the executive president assumed a responsibility and function of a subject that had previously not been assigned to any government ministry. “According to Article 44(2) of the Constitution, the President may self-appoint himself for any subject or function not assigned to a ministry. Matters arising from such self-appointed functions are exempt from immunity, and judicial review may be initiated against the President.” A case for judicial and parliamentary review of President’s actions is stronger when we read the Article 44(2) in conjunction with the Article 35(3) of the Constitution. Moreover, the immunity conferred to President by the provisions of paragraph (1) of Article 35 shall not apply to any proceedings in any court in relation to the exercise of any power pertaining to any subject or function assigned to the President or remaining in his charge under paragraph (2) of Article 44.

According to Professor Sarath Mathilal de Silva, attorney-at-law,

“Immunity does not render acts committed, obligations assumed, duties breached, privileges and powers misused in law, a nullity; rather it merely shields makes the one with immunity from legal proceedings during the currency of that immunity, thereby ‘disabling’ others from commencing legal proceedings against him/her. However, if ever that shield is lost and the person loses that immunity, the person becomes liable to legal proceedings for any and all liabilities incurred during the period in which he had the protection of immunity.”[ii] 

De Silva’s contention provides compelling grounds for impeachment and judicial review, because the two policy decisions under review here are acts done qua President, and as such, are subject to judicial review under Article 126 (fundamental rights jurisdiction), and they are not acts committed under his personal capacity that grants immunity under the Article 35(1) of the Constitution.

In this legal context, it is highly likely that the President and his administration have failed to adhere to the law and conventions in the enactment and dealing with the consequences of the fertilizer ban and managing the country’s fiscal problems. In such circumstances, the parliament may pass a resolution alleging that the President is “permanently incapable of discharging the responsibilities of his office due to mental or physical illness, or that the President is guilty of” one of the offenses outlined in five sub-paragraphs of Article 38(2)(a). The impeachment argument is compelling if it can distinguish between the person and his mistakes as acts of the President; the latter is subject to judicial review.

The two mistakes made by the President are personal and will not provide him with relief in court. For instance, a criminal defendant may argue that a crime resulted from a mistake or misunderstanding during the commission of the crime. This defense might negate a component of the crime and may provide leverage for the defendant if he/she can prove the mistake was honest and reasonable and contained an element of ignorance of the law. The president has been repeatedly cautioned about the risks of his IMF policy and fertilizer ban. In addition, it is no longer reasonable to assume that his actions did not involve intentional wrongdoing, as he bypassed the established protocol and process for making decisions.

In this regard, the President cannot simply claim that he misunderstood or was not aware of the potential consequences of the fertilizer ban and of not seeking early assistance from the IMF. There were many prior warnings and requests to withdraw his policies because of their harmful effects. He reneged on his election promise to consult the experts. Likewise, he cannot claim that unqualified officials misled him since he appointed them as advisors against the wishes of the public. Furthermore, his authoritarian style of decision-making contravened his claim that “the legislative power of the country belongs to the Parliament.”

Despite calls for the President’s resignation, he has attempted to justify his decision to remain with absurd arguments. He has said, ‘As the people-elected President, it is [his] responsibility to manage the present challenges and difficulties, regardless of the shortcomings of the past,’ and that ‘he will not abdicate that responsibility when the country is faced with difficulties and challenges.’ Responsible behavior must, however, be accompanied by integrity, capability, and legitimacy, none of which the President has demonstrated in implementing either of the two policies. He has not shown remorse or been accountable for his actions, and he has not formed a cabinet that can guide the country through this crisis.

With this background in mind, below I provide a brief historically grounded analysis of President Rajapaksa’s approach to the IMF and the chemical fertilizer ban issues and their consequences, which I attribute to his unconscionable and unconstitutional style of making decisions.

Mistake number one: Delay in seeking assistance from the IMF

President Rajapaksa’s disregard for expert warnings about the consequences of the delayed strategic engagement with the IMF and his defiance of the macro-economic fundamentals of the financial system exacerbated country’s monetary crisis, resulting in two disastrous consequences. First, April 2022 saw a 47% increase in food prices, a 40% depreciation of the rupee, an acute shortage of foreign exchange (FOREX) where reserves plummeted by 70% to US $30 million. The Central Bank lending rates soared to 14.5%, resulting in the collapse of productive activities, shortages and unaffordable prices of food and medicine, causing starvation and afflicting the health of the population.

Second, the government, by approaching the IMF late and from a weak bargaining position will not only exacerbate the negative effects of IMF conditions on the public but also make the country vulnerable to adverse changes in the global economy and weaken country’s autonomy to determine its economic policies. Having contributed recklessly to the current economic crisis and failing to find a solution, the government has enabled the IMF to project itself as a benevolent savior, conveniently diverting attention from its historical role in contributing to the economic crisis in poorer countries such as Sri Lanka.

The popular depictions of Sri Lanka reaching out to the IMF as the solution to the failure of governance under President Rajapaksa obscure the true nature of the IMF and its role in the global economy. The IMF is not primarily an organization to assist countries facing financial difficulties. The IMF’s founding context, ideology, and operations demonstrate that it is a key player in organizing and disciplining the international financial system’s role in the global economy to comply with the dictates of capitalism. As such, the starting point for an analysis of the IMF cannot be that the developing countries need it; rather, it is that the IMF needs the developing countries to serve the interests of capitalism. The IMF’s other major objective is to aid capitalism by transforming people and natural resources into profit-generating commodities based on the dubious theory of comparative advantage in international trade.

The goal of the IMF is to promote capitalist market led economic growth. The successes of its’ economic growth policies inevitable involves dispossession of increasing majority of the people of the necessities of life, which, in turn, ironically, imposes limits on long term growth prospects. By reframing the economic crisis as a political one, or as a failure of governance, the rationalities and tools of mainstream economics serve the ideological purpose of deceiving the public about the brutal nature of the IMF’s neoliberal policies.

A paper titled “Neoliberalism: Oversold?” written by IMF Deputy Director Jonathan Octree, Division Chief Prakash Loungani, and economist Davide Furceri argues that neoliberal economic policies have increased inequality and stunted economic growth. The IMF must take its fair share responsibility for the financial crisis impacting developing countries, given that the reasons for the crisis-prone international financial system are mostly internal to the ideology and policies of the IMF. Conditions and consequences of the IMF’s lending programs are conducive to the emergence of authoritarian regimes. However, we cannot fully explain entire character of political regimes in terms of the IMF policies, as the decisions made by the Rajapaksa regime demonstrate. The regime’s opposition to the IMF and the delays did not emerge from Rajapaska’s disapproval of the negative impacts of its neoliberal policies on Sri Lanka; rather, his misplaced and parochial anti-IMF stance, which defies even the reasonable macroeconomic fundamentals, was an ideological ploy to enhance the popular legitimacy of his regime and to justify its preference for financial assistance from lenders who were less concerned with risk analysis, accountability, and human rights conditions that could undermine the populist claims and selfish interests of the regime.

Macroeconomic policies pursued by the regime, which has lacked direction and coherence since coming to power, have worsened the monetary crisis and weakened the country’s bargaining position with international financial institutions. Mangala Samaraweera, the late Finance Minister, had warned that if the President adopted his pledge to reduce the value-added tax from 15% to 8% and scrap other levies, the country would go bankrupt and become another Venezuela or Greece. To Samaraweera, it was simple mathematics. Sri Lanka collected less revenue than any other country, making it difficult to meet its expenses and service debt. President Rajapaksa’s arrogant populism and disregard for expert advice led the government to do what Samaraweera had warned about shortly after the election. The Rajapaksa regime delegitimized Samaraweera’s warnings—he was a fierce opponent of racist nationalism—by portraying him as an ally of Western countries hostile to Sri Lanka’s interests. It was a distinctive characteristic of the President’s character to remain silent while his supporter’s dismissed criticism of his policies as anti-Sinhala Buddhist and therefore unpatriotic. Such criticisms helped to elect him as President and distract public attention from his administration’s financial mismanagement and scandals.

The Rajapaksa regime cut taxes after the election, despite the warnings of Mr. Samaraweera and other fiscal policy experts. During the parliamentary debate on 04 April 2022, Ranil Wickremasinghe stated that the tax cuts, due to a private sector demand (perhaps an election pledge), contributed to fiscal instability for the government. The government’s subsequent incompetence in monetary management angered the IMF and bilateral donors, which negatively impacted the country’s international credit rating.

Under the Rajapaksa regime, the foreign reserves it inherited from the previous regime were rapidly depleted, and the country was unable to purchase necessities, let alone settle its debts. Consequently, the country stopped repaying foreign debt, defaulting for the first time since gaining independence from the British in 1948, and requested emergency assistance from individual countries. The former financial minister Basil Rajapaksha, a brother of the President as Minister of Finance failed to disclose the conditions attached to the loans to the parliament and he avoided a parliamentary discussion of his financial policies.

Contrary to common sense and expert advice, the regime continued relentlessly to print money. The (misguided?) fiscal policies are failing to bring the Rapid increase of inflation, as suggested by the dubious Modern Monetary Theory that the government use to justify printing money. Inflation and restrictions regarding access to foreign currencies continue to reduce production, especially in industries dependent on imported goods. Government investments using borrowed funds have not focused on increasing production to repay the loans but on maximizing cash flow into the economy. Mega investments, such as those in roads, towers, and airports, provided more opportunities for corruption and made the country vulnerable to debt traps rather than increasing production and employment. The lenders that the government preferred to borrow from were not really interested in the government’s capacity to repay the loans from income earned from the investments, as they were primarily interested in acquiring the valuable assets and opportunities to extend their geopolitical interests rather than the recovery of loans. The spiraling of such unproductive loans is primarily responsible for the loss of valuable assets to lenders. This, and the current financial crisis, has forced the government to beg the IMF for assistance from a weak bargaining position.

Another intentional error of the President was that he allowed his nepotistic political interests to override the needs of the economy in making appointments to institutions responsible for the macroeconomic policies. For example, the President appointed a Central Bank Governor and a Minister of Finance, unqualified and inexperienced and who faced allegations of corruption, to manage the macroeconomy. He not only politicized macroeconomic policies but also permitted partisan political interests to override economic rationality by providing the Central Bank Governor with a cabinet portfolio. Moreover, the President ignored the fact that his brother and Finance Minister, Basil Rajapaksa, had given legal permission for foreign exchange to flow into the country without disclosing the source or obtaining approval from the Central Bank. These actions not only undermined the Central Bank’s control over the financial system but also led to accusations that Sri Lanka had become a haven for money laundering, resulting in the downgrading of the country’s international financial rating.

When the political fallout from the economic hardships precipitated by the financial crisis became unbearable, the government decided to float the exchange rate without obtaining the IMF’s support, violating the standard practice in the current financial system designed to ensure stability and investor confidence. The former Deputy Governor of the Central Bank, Dr. D. R. Wijewardena, compared the floating of the rupee to launching a kite into the air without tying the string to a tree or holding it in a hand. Consequently, the unrestrained depreciation of the rupee and drastic drop in the inflow of foreign exchange brought the country to the brink of starvation. Subsequently, the government declared non-payment of debt, resulting in all major lending agencies downgrading the country, further undermining the government’s ability to borrow on favorable terms. By this stage, the government had doubled its interest rates and allowed the rupee to depreciate further to attract foreign wealth. As a result of the country’s unstable political climate, the anticipated foreign currency inflows did not materialize.

The President retained his personal attorney and Minister of Justice as the Minister of Finance and appointed a qualified person as the Central Bank Governor. The IMF refused to provide a financial package within the timeframe expected by the government, however, as IMF lending requires detailed plans to ensure debt sustainability and repayment. According to the IMF’s Country Director, Masahiro Nozaki, “When the IMF determines that a country’s debt is not sustainable, the country needs to take steps to restore debt sustainability prior to IMF lending.”

After meeting in Washington D.C. in April 2022, the Sri Lankan government and the IMF reached a consensus on the requirements for receiving IMF assistance. The ‘Washington consensus’ typically involves the implementation of austerity measures, the replacement of government welfare and production subsidies with cash transfers, the extension of privatizations into every sector, and an easing of import controls, which would be more expansive than usual at this time due to the country’s weak bargaining position and inexperienced political leadership. Engagement with the IMF will result in a vicious cycle for the country. If the IMF continues to withhold assistance until the country adheres to the restructuring and austerity requirements, the government will find it difficult to meet essential expenditures and fail to rebuild the economy. To boost exports, the government has already devalued the rupee in accordance with IMF guidelines, which has affected the price of essential items and increased the cost of imports necessary to boost export production. Thus, the government will not have any choice but to seek additional financial assistance from a position of weakness and unfavorable conditions, making the country more vulnerable to debt traps.

The primary ideological motive of the IMF is not to help countries resolve their financial crises but to ensure the stability of capitalism. Every strategy it uses to resolve financial crises cannot stabilize the volatile economies permanently; consequently, it ends up generating more crises because of the contradictions and crisis-prone nature of the market economy. However, in its relentless quest to serve the expansionary needs of the market economy, the IMF will continue to weaponize the debt crisis by continuing to subordinate all sectors of the economy to function according to profit-maximizing imperatives. Accordingly, the IMF, along with its bedfellows—the World Bank and the World Trade Organization—will continue to exert pressure on Sri Lanka to adjust its production sectors in accordance with the comparative advantages of international trade. Such reforms could easily result in the closing of industries, allowing the corporations with market advantages to take over even the state’s most profitable or potentially profitable industries and thereby further reduce state revenues and expenditures for essential social investments. As we now witness in Sri Lanka, domestic production will drop, and prices and quantities of essential items will become more vulnerable to the changes in global market forces, making it difficult for the government to maintain the security of basic needs of the society. Consequently, the country will have no option, but to import ((under the pressure of neoliberal institutions) even those products that local farmers are able to produce and that are crucial to their livelihood. If India and China emerge as influential players in shaping Sri Lanka’s negotiations with the IMF, we could see increasing inflows of their exports into Sri Lanka, making the country vulnerable to becoming a battleground for geopolitical rivalry. These are the consequences resulting from the President’s hubris and mismanagement of the country’s relationship with the IMF.

Banning chemical fertilizers, the President’s second mistake, has exacerbated the negative consequences of the monetary crisis and weakened the country’s ability to utilize the IMF’s financial assistance in ways favorable to its public interests.

Mistake number two: Chemical fertilizer ban

The global movement toward organic agriculture is a response to the social and ecological crises caused by capitalism’s control over agriculture that countries like Sri Lanka have experienced since the Green Revolution. President Rajapaksa’s narcissistic and authoritarian ban on chemical fertilizers that completely disregarded the scientific and pragmatic challenges in the transition to organic agriculture, first has paralyzed the country’s subsistence and commercial agriculture. Second, it has undermined the opportunities for the country to take advantage of its high potential in organic agriculture, thus allowing the transnational organic industrial complex to reap the benefits. The chemical fertilizer ban has driven the country to starvation and famine in an unprecedented manner despite its abundance of resources—also creating a social and ecological crisis far more catastrophic than that caused by capitalism’s control over the Green Revolution. In other words, the President’s misadventure in organic agriculture has converted the island that once exported rice into a net rice importer and has enabled the same forces that control synthetic agriculture to rob the country of its capacity to benefit from its agriculture sector.

President Rajapaksa defied all evidence-based expert and commonsense advice and warnings when he banned chemical fertilizers in paddy, vegetable, and commercial plantation agriculture in Sri Lanka. He pleaded with the people to trust his efforts in bringing about a transition to organic agriculture, just as they trusted his ability to win the civil war. As predicted, the chemical fertilizer ban, in a matter of one cultivating season, triggered a vicious spiral of social, economic, and environmental crises on a scale and intensity not seen in the nation’s history. These crises include the sudden decline in the production of staple foods, food insecurity, hunger, declines in farm income, abandonment of arable land, forced migration, deforestation, and increased military involvement in the agricultural sector. Wealthier farmers with economic means and political power will survive the ban and take over abandoned land to cultivate cash crops with export value, further reducing staple food production and exacerbating the crisis of food security and rural poverty. In the aftermath of the ban, politically influential rice monopolies gained more power to control supply and determine prices.

Furthermore, because of the decline in domestic production, there are already acute shortages of food, elevated food prices, and a rise in food imports, making domestic food prices and farmers’ incomes vulnerable to international prices. The government will transfer higher food prices on to the consumer and increase revenues from duties on food imports. Food import duties are a more promising revenue source for the government than small-scale farming, and the food importers are financial patrons of politicians. Moreover, the decline in fertilizer-dependent export crop revenues adversely affects the government’s ability to purchase essential foods, fuels, and medicines; consequently, the government has increased its foreign borrowing. India’s economic assistance to Sri Lanka to purchase the essential items stands at more than USD3 billion in 2022. On May 3rd, 2022, China announced that it would provide 500 million RMB, which is equivalent to approximately US$76 million, to Sri Lanka in addition to the $2.5 billion RMB that Sri Lanka expects to receive from China. Foreign loans provided in kind (for example, 40,000 tons of rice from India) will further depress the country’s domestic production while causing its external debt to increase. President Rajapaksa’s IMF policies and fertilizer banning policies have enabled India and China to further their economic and strategic interests in Sri Lanka, even though the regime would have the public believe that these interventions are merely goodwill gestures and therefore harmless.

The President’s self-described originality regarding his organic agriculture is misleading as it evident only in his narcissistic refusal to consider the widely available knowledge about and experience in transitioning to organic agriculture. When President Rajapaksa imposed his ban on chemical fertilizers, organic agriculture was already a booming global industry. In collaboration with multinational corporations, private for-profit companies in Sri Lanka are fast evolving as major natural product industry players. We also witness intense competition in organic agriculture inputs and organic consumer products markets. Expansion of markets under capitalism has always been a political process; as such, the transition to organic will incentivize developing-world agriculture to become a battleground for competing geopolitical interests. We have already witnessed this with the fiasco over the intervention of India and China (two large players in the global agriculture market) in supplying organic fertilizer to Sri Lanka. Moreover, corporate sector-driven transitions to organic agriculture may only benefit a tiny minority of wealthier farmers in poorer countries and increasing export-oriented food production is unlikely to improve food security or alleviate rural poverty in poorer countries.

In the historical context, organic agriculture is a reaction to the social and ecological consequences of industrial agriculture that has robbed the natural capacities of nature to sustain human needs. Such agriculture, Marx noted, “Disturbs the metabolic interaction between man and the earth, i.e., it prevents the return to the soil of its constituent elements consumed by man in the form of food and clothing; hence it hinders the operation of the eternal natural condition for the lasting fertility of the soil” (Marx, 1976: 637).

Until chemical fertilizers began to become popular with the development of the ammunition industry during World War I and World War II, Britain and the United States sparked the international guano rush, as their agriculturists sought the precious natural fertilizer in countries like Peru to compensate for the loss of soil nutrients and soil fertility. Marx (1976: 348) further noted that the “blind desire for profit” had “exhausted the soil” of England, necessitating “the manuring of English fields with guano” imported from Peru. The rush for natural fertilizer provided the material basis for European imperialism (sometimes described as guano imperialism) since the 18th century, sustained clientelist authoritarian regimes and, subsequently, impoverishment and wars in the countries that supplied natural fertilizers.

The increasing corporate control over organic agriculture must be seen as imperialist project that is, ironically, dependent upon exploitation of nature and people resulting widening the gap between rich and poor countries. The investments in organic agriculture have not only deprived increasing majority of the world’s population of their access to natural resources but also impoverished them and exacerbated inequalities in society. The increasing investments in organic agriculture under neoliberal conditions is also deeply political process of regulating the relationship between nature and society (István Mészáros, 1995; Bellemy Foster, 2000). Thus, we must understand President Rajapaksa’s decision to convert the entire agricultural sector to organic agriculture in the context of green capitalism (or organic imperialism). Although capitalist interests have are unlikely to have directly influenced the President’s decision to ban chemical fertilizers, Sri Lanka has been engaging in organic agriculture in collaboration with global companies since the early 1990s, and the country has the potential to be a lucrative market for the region’s organic fertilizer suppliers, particularly India which is in the top ten organic fertilizer suppliers in the world.

Against this backdrop, we must view Sri Lanka’s move toward organic agriculture in the context of neoliberal economy’s persistent pressure on poorer countries to transform their agriculture according to the theory of comparative advantage in international trade. This transformation means converting land use from cultivating crops for increased food security to cultivating crops that maximize profits in the competitive marketplace, and then use their export revenues to import staple foods from countries that produce them cheaply. Following such a market-driven path to satisfy food requirements under capitalist conditions is impossible in economically and politically vulnerable countries, especially when the developed countries enjoy unparalleled economic and political power to subsidize their agriculture and determine global prices. Farmers in poor countries do not reap the benefits of the stringent global regulations and standards controlling organic products originating in and controlled by them, but corporations in developed countries collaborating with local partners in poorer nations.

In this context, Sri Lanka’s (especially the private sector) interests in agriculture emerged as a response to falling profits from synthetic agriculture and the promise of high profits in organic agriculture. The language of green morality in organic farming enhances the popular legitimacy of corporate interventions in organic agriculture, which is a necessary social condition for capitalism overcome the obstacles to increase accumulation of profit. Popular legitimacy does not address but aggravates the same crises caused by synthetic agriculture, because the organic farming under capitalist conditions are commodities produce to maximize profit, rather than to improve human wellbeing.

Because of the President’s narcissistic idealism and unilateralism, he failed to follow evidence-based pathways to prepare the country for the transition to organic farming. He ignored the expert calls to lift the ban, and his supporters argued that the opposition to the ban comes from the chemical mafia and politicians who are jealous of the President’s people and nature friendly initiatives. Nor was he ideologically inclined to fight the challenges of meeting food security requirements under neoliberal agricultural policies, organic or synthetic. In less than a year, the President lifted the ban and permitted the importing of chemical fertilizers. The famer’s protests, food insecurity, the drop in rural incomes, and allegations of contaminated government-imported natural fertilizers made the chemical fertilizer ban unsustainable. As a result of public protests, which led the Sri Lankan government to reject toxic fertilizer brought into the country by a Chinese company. Diplomatic pressure might have forced the government to compensate this corporation millions of dollars. Although the government eventually lifted the fertilizer ban, the damage to the agriculture sector has continued to worsen as it failed to provide a reliable plan to assist the farmers with fertilizer and fuel, resulting in hunger, if not a famine.

Sri Lankas current predicament is a result President’s unconscionable use of executive powers in imposing the fertilizer ban and late entry into negotiations with the IMF. The longer that the President delays his resignation, the bleaker the future of the country is, as he has proven incapable of acting as an effective leader to repair the damage he has caused. Failure by the parliament and the justice system to impeach and hold the President accountable for his actions will set an undesirable precedent for future political leadership.

[i] As per Article 7 (K) of the Rome Statute, crimes against humanity may include other inhumane acts of a similar nature that purposely cause severe suffering, serious bodily injury, or detrimental mental or physical health. The notion of intentionality may be contested, but I believe his activities were crimes, of which he was forewarned. He knew how his actions would benefit a few and harm most of the population.

[ii] Cited in Harees, Mohamed, (2018) https://www.colombotelegraph.com/index.php/executive-presidency-absurdity-of-the-immunity-cover/


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Latest comments

  • 0

    OK, so the President was given wrong advise by his trusted advisors who were appointed by him, so where does the buck stop? Throwing his advisors under the bus doesn’t give him a get out of jail card. Talking about jail, his crony advisors certainly deserve jail sentences, just blaming them is not good enough. So, Mr President, if you are the no nonsense tough guy, start cracking the whip, even at this late stage. At least it may get you some sympathy.

  • 1

    Hi Jude Fernando,
    Very well-articulated article.
    Hope the President and PM understands the commitment required, of which I have my serious doubts!!!
    How would they understand the ‘Rome Statute’, when they did not ratify it for more than 15+ years??? Do not think it is even NOW???
    PM is an advocate, whether or not he understands, but has been the first to go to UNHRC in 1988-90.
    However, turned a “blind eye” to this Rome Statute, which should have been looked into??
    Opportunist’s attitude!!??? That is Rajapakse, “RAJAHORU SIGNATURE” quality??!!
    Goes without saying!!
    This has been signature quality of the R. bros. Inc., Clan, from start to finish!!
    Obviously, now the FINISH is in sight!!??
    Whither Sri Lanka!!????????

  • 3

    Jude Fernando: You have done a great job on researching and writing this article. I learned a lot. The problem I see is the people have elected Gota. Gota is a 711 road side convivence store clerk. He only understand buy an item and mark it up and sell to people who happened to stop for gas at his store in California USA. He lived in an apartment until he went back to SL to be defense Sectary. Now he owns a US $27 million dollar house in California. There is a joke among people in California how can we get a job in 711 and get to SL and make money to buy a house worth $27 million. Sir this Gota does not understand Economics and high level English. I understand he does not have any education. He has done SSC. I am not sure he passed the exam. How do you expect him to understand all these. He is over his head. Sad the Sihala people bought his story and voted for him and his brother. He fool these people very well. But the young people does not want anything to do with 225 +1 clowns. I hope they stick to their program. I hope no harm come for them. I am very very concern about Gota declaring Emergency. This gives him power to use force to deal with protesters.

  • 0

    In Shakespeare’s play Julius Caesar. Cassius says “The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars / But in ourselves, that we are underlings.” Likewise, the fault is not with Gotabaya Rajapaksa, the fault is with us. The 3.9 million voters, both educated and not so uneducated.

    It is often said, “people get the government they deserve”? Recently, Field Marshal Sarath Fonseka disclosed in parliament the army’s rank and file have only 6th standard qualifications. President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, Army Chief Shavendra and himself have passed only GCE(O).

    Right from the day of independence the country has been ruled, with one or two exceptions, by nincompoops who played the language and religious cards to capture power and stay in power.

    Presidents and Prime Ministers can have a battalion of an army of advisors, but they should have the capacity to separate the grain from the chaff! That is, to judge which ones are good or bad.

  • 2

    “The IMF’s other major objective is to aid capitalism by transforming people and natural resources into profit-generating commodities based on the dubious theory of comparative advantage in international trade.”
    No, the IMF is no fairy godmother waiting to pull errant countries out of bankruptcy.
    Its ideology is completely opposed to the populist policies that have brought us to beggary. It is opposed to state involvement in business, subsidies, and deficit budgets.
    But what is the alternative? More bilateral loans where eventually the lenders end up owning real estate, “poli mudalali” style?
    At least the IMF doesn’t want our ports or oil tanks, but it will teach us to live within our means. This is a country where 10% of the working population are 3- wheeler drivers! Time we realised that we aren’t the centre of the universe.

  • 0

    The Fertilizer Ban: President Rajapaksa’s “Two Mistakes” That Pauperized Sri Lanka Having advanced information

    There was advance information about the economic and informed by many that the present situation is going to come for last year anyone don’t have any magical ability. Rather to look at a problem, play with it, work out a strategy having the KNOWLEDGED what happened to 1991 Indian Economic Crisis South Korea arm our themselves with the power which knowledge instead waited for crisis to erupt but now the country is confronting with internal and external risks

  • 0

    Dear Mr. Jude.
    ….These two irresponsible policy decisions (“mistakes”) …..
    That is half the story.
    Equally telling mistake was introducing tax cuts (1.6 Billion Rs. lost from 1.1Million Tax Files) at the beginning of his term, reducing govt revenue to please the company bosses who backed him. This led to even printing money to finance govt expenditure causing inflation .
    The other was the delay in floating the $ and which dissuaded remittances but sent the dollar soaring like when a dam bursts, instead of allowing free float to allow $s to come in at a market rate. The delay starved the market of legal remittances and govt lost $s heavily.

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