By Asoka Seneviratne –
In 1948, soon after Brits lost India, the crown jewel of its empire, they gave us independence too. What value is tiny Sri Lanka when precious India was gone? As much as all Lankans with an ounce of national pride would not like to admit, the Brits were right when they had great doubt if as a nation; Sri Lankans were mature enough to manage a democracy.
Our downfall as a partially free, dominion nation started right then and there.
First we appointed an ancestrally wealthy land owning, idle aristocrat named DS Senanayake as our first prime minister. The man inherited wealth and labor and by no mean represented an average Sri Lankan. He was a Walauwwa guy and had a life of luxury and subservient workforce commonly called servants. He did not understand the daily grind of our people.
Few years later, we laid the foundation stone for family dynasty by electing his son Dudley as our Prime Minister. The man had a privileged education in England, never worked for a living but carried his father’s popular name so Lankans were duped into making him our leader. This was in 1950’s and 60’s.
During this time frame, yet another land owning aristocrat named SWRD Bandaranaike formed the SLFP after breaking away from DS’s UNP. British hating young SWRD laid another foundation stone towards eventual ruin of SL by playing into the Sinhala Buddhist majority vote by playing a race card against Tamil people who actually did enjoy the privileges of a divide and rule cunning British rule. Brits did that all over the empire too and left a trail of disasters to follow in those nations too.
A little know secret was that it was Dudley and JR Jayewardene (a yet another rich and idling aristocrat) who first devised the “Sinhala Only” plan to win the then upcoming general election but cunning Banda stole the plan. And he won too. He just laid the foundation stone towards a vicious war to be had several decades later.
Banda made a few wealthy aristocrats mad by enacting laws affecting their businesses that led to him being assassinated in 1959 right in front of his wife. Keeping with the then somewhat established tradition of family dynasty, Banda’s wife Sirima – a yet another aristocrat Walauwwa lady- was elected by Lankans who extended a large sympathy vote towards Mrs. B. Mrs. B walked right from the Walawwa kitchen into the Prime Minister’s office.
So until this point, SL was ruled but none other than wealthy land owners and their families, none of whom accept Banda had any decent education on democracy, good governance or advanced understanding of how economies function and thrive. The people of SL were beginning to demonstrate how right the Brits were in suspecting our maturity to manage a democracy.
Mrs. B survived a failed coup of 1962 pulled by a bunch of Christian military officers. Culprits were found guilty and jailed only to be overruled later as the case was deemed unconstitutional and they were denied fair trial. Our nation was beginning to see cracks of our justice system but by far the justice system was by and large independent and was doing its intended constitutional function of delivering justice, free and fair.
Mrs. B’s disastrous experiment of socialism from 1970-1977 where she stopped all imports resulted in an angry populace giving a hitherto unknown victory to JRJ in 1977. MRs B also scrapped the British laid constitution and introduced a meaningless constitution as a total free republic.
JRJ was considered a wise owl that mastered the art of politics and was extremely popular and widely respected at the time. Unfortunately as our nation later came to bitterly experience, this one man was the founding father of the corrupt political culture that eventually led to the bankruptcy of our nation today.
JRJ ‘s ill-conceived 1978 constitution created an all-powerful executive president, appointed Ministers from within the legislature and to add injury to insult, replaced the Senate with so called national list MP’s. The1978 constitution was full of holes and made a mockery of transparency, accountability and checks and balances all of which were so vital to a good democracy. JRJ simply failed to comprehend how dangerous the powers of the executive he created in the hands of corrupt leaders would be.
The seeds of today’s bankruptcy and the resulting uprising at the Galle Face green were planted then. It took a 43 long years, a 30 year blood bath of a civil war and a whole bunch of corrupt politicians of both major parties to nurture this ill-conceived JRJ constitution into total bankruptcy and chaos. JRJ’s constitution messed up our vital institutions of justice, law enforcement, civil service all of which were politicized by both parties to the point that robbing the nation’s treasury became the norm.
Yes, the youth at Galle Face green want corrupt Rajapaksa’s out but our nation must not forget that the leaders of both parties are totally responsible for our light today. They played a corrupt game with our people election after election. They obstructed the rule of law and protected the mega thieves of the day while shedding crocodile tears towards the people’s issues.
Yes, Rajajapaksas must go and be held legally accountable for plunder, but so are Ranil, Sajith, Sirisena and their top teams of power. They all robbed and covered up with each other’s help. How much wealth have these goons robbed off our people? Surely billions of dollars!
I cannot help but laugh from the lower extremity of my body to see these guys of the other parties scream for a national government, worse claiming to lead the nation. None other than the likes of Weerawansa, Gammanpila and the whole host of hypocrites who suddenly appears to be reborn. They all belong in the slammer for life!
So here we are today Seventy there years after Brits doubted our capabilities, we proved them so right.
My final comment is this. It is not China, India, USA or Britain who are responsible for our misery today. They have done well by their people. It is us the people who shamefully, over and over elected a bunch of goons to run us into the economic oblivion. Thank goodness even after 73 long years, at least the youth of our once proud nation have taken matters to their own hand and fighting to change the course of our nation.
I pray this wisdom of our youth remains unfettered till we see a dawn of new nation from the ashes we are in today. By the looks of it so far, today, as a nation we appear to be all so united as one nation hell bent on our dreams towards the birth of a new nation!