20 May, 2022

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Downfall Of Sri Lanka Started In 1948; Accelerated In 1978; Completed In 2022

By Asoka Seneviratne

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!

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Latest comments

  • 11
    0

    A well-written piece. The wonder is why it took 74 years to declare bankruptcy when mismanagement, corruption and racism were the norms from the first day of independence The 10th standard educated DS Senanayake started the rot when he made the Hillcountry Tamils stateless and voteless in 1948 even before the ink was dry granting independence to Ceylon. DS is also the politician who led the foundation to deprive Tamils of their traditional lands under the guise of settling landless Sinhalese peasants. peasants in the eastern province.

    SWARD followed DSS in using the communal card by promising Sinhala Only within 24 years. . beginning.

  • 3
    3

    ” 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! “

    • 3
      2

      “I cannot help but laugh from the lower extremity of my body”
      The feet? Very original.

  • 2
    1

    Good essay. I like it. This is why I have been arguing, it is not the government or political party that is rotated. True, Royal put the people this much to despair. In 1948 the poison tree was planted. The fruit is being plugged and fed to the people in 2022. The current revolution has to bring an evolution in the political Civilization of Ceylonese. So, there is no use in SLFP going home and UNP coming to the President’s house with JR’s majority. I know Ranil and Valaiththodam standing ready to call this is game of Sinhala & Tamil & Suthu Kottiyas, to spoil their opportunity. Any way this is not Kottiya’s up raising, but the Ceylon’s. So, these guys generation should quit politics completely. Appropriate ones should be tried in Ceylon’s Nuremberg.

    My disagreement with the essay may be here, mainly. “Weerawansa, Gammanpila and the whole host of hypocrites who suddenly appears to be reborn. They all belong in the slammer for life! ” Why free lunch for them? why are field in Ceylon not remaining unplouged, or carpenters stopped making yoke while there is gas for the tractor?

  • 3
    0

    Yes, Rajajapaksas must go and be held legally accountable for plunder, but so are Ranil, Sajith, Sirisena and their top teams of power
    ————
    Yes, the entire freemasonic power structure has to be overhauled.
    Be careful what you pretend to wish for.
    Because it wont be just a few scapegoats in politics who will be taken down, but ALL freemasons and tares!
    That includes the ones in the media, the ones owning businesses, the ones working in the medical profession, corporations, the ones joining the anti-govt protests at present, pretending they are ‘on the side of humanity’ etc

  • 5
    1

    ‘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’.
    .
    The above remark sums up the cause of the misunderstanding between the Sinhalese and the Tamils.
    * a divide and rule was a tactics the British chose deliberately.
    – The Tamils belonging to the North were hardworking;
    the Sinhalese blessed with the fertility of their lands were not so.
    (Tamils were not undercutting the Sinhalese.)
    * The Brits found the divide and rule policy imperative.
    Being in smaller numbers, the invaders had to build a safety net for their protection.
    The best answer they had was to divide the locals.

    • 3
      1

      Nathan correct. The Tamils coming from the more arid parts of the island, especially the Jaffna peninsular, took to western education on a large scale, which the Sinhalese did not, other than coastal Christian ( Catholic and Protestant) and many well to do aristocratic/wealthy families. The Sinhalese came from the more fertile parts of the island, life and survival were not that difficult, compared to the Tamils. Moreover, at that time, the Tamils were far less feudal compared to the Sinhalese. Their Buddhist monks and wealthy landlords, with huge landholdings, did not want the Sinhalese masses to obtain a western education. The former were in fear of conversion and westernization, the latter did not want them to get educated and get all sorts of ideas of liberty and equality. In this regard no one undercut anyone and the British just employed the more educated and competent the locals and they were largely Tamils. This idea that the British favoured the Tamils was started by the Sinhalese ruling classes and politicians , who prior to independence were also responsible for the poor state of education in the Sinhalese regions, was to justify the Sinhala only and other anti-Tamil marginalization policies they implemented.

  • 2
    0

    Anyway from an economic angle, till the advent of the Rajapakses, the little ”commissions” did little economic harm. Then the R’s did the looting to extremes as a fine art and in their rapaciousness, took heavy loans for unproductive investments – only qualification being a willing contractor who will give a hefty kickback and keep quiet. Hence US, EU and Japanese companies were taboo. China fitted the bill. The economy suffered immensely.
    And now we are paying for that.

  • 1
    0

    So well written. Yes, the Walauwwa scenario for governing is quite embarrassing actually.

    It’s worrying as to why our Lankans could not catch the obvious fallacies in our governmental undertakings. The simple references should have been the Debt-Ratio, the GDP, and Exports vs Imports. If these are out of whack, the admin. should be kicked out immediately!

    But in no way can we compare previous governments’ debt to the Rajapaksa one. Previous governments were hardly the undoing of the Nation as compared to now. At this time, the country has been plunged into poverty for possibly several generations to come. This is after all the hard work and struggles the Lankan Masses have undergone for several generations. It has finally come to this!

    We are now 51-billion dollars in debt. Since 2010 (Rajapaksa time), the Debt-Rise was equivalent to over 60 years of previous debt. From 2012-2013 it rose by over 30%.

    • 2
      0

      Yet, some compare this debt to the US debt. US debt is not the same as ours. Ours is pure debt ; a one-way outgoing debt. US debt is interactive debt of different parameters. First-World debt is a commercial trade between countries. They have high level products to offer each other. We have none. Their debts are reciprocal. Comparing Lanka’s debts to the First-World has been the Rajapaksa folly.

      Debts Owed by the US Government VS Debts Owed to it : https://www.titlemax.com/discovery-center/money-finance/debts-owed-by-the-us-and-owed-to-the-us/?fbclid=IwAR3jD4tvJUmvKBvc-SNRNIegWQ3VETxKgJ6Lr5N_n7YQmmSJEqX5HWpOg8s

      (Japan, with its population of 127,185,332, has the highest national debt in the world at 234.18% of its GDP, followed by Greece at 181.78%….they are yet a very successful Nation)

      • 2
        0

        ” (Japan, with its population of 127,185,332, has the highest national debt in the world at 234.18% of its GDP, followed by Greece at 181.78%….they are yet a very successful Nation) “
        Remember today’s debt is your tomorrow’s wealth. Say you took a loan and bought a taxi; soon may you own a house. That time, one, you have paid for your car, two, you may be having a house and three, your family lived in that is extra. But if you get a loan & start to buy Deva’s products out of that loan, soon you will go bankrupt. Japanese loans are all performing loans unlike the Langkang’ loans which are only white-elephants and commission payments. So they keep generating interest burden while no real property exists for those loans to generate any income. Langkang growth is less than zero. But the Central Bank says it is about 2.2%.

      • 1
        0

        Here your loan capital is generating only 2.2% growth, loan interest is growing at 7. % Compound. So, your loans can never be paid. In the kids’ story only 1 mile per hour walking tortoise beats the 10 miles per hour Rabbit; but that is not real. If you have a project that can grow annually 10% and if you take a loan for that at 7%, bravo, you get annually 3% just from lenders money, while if you have your money too, you can put that in crypto. You know Royal don’t want to cancel loans but delay the repayment. That is because it is worth it for them to get from the government at 8% an year later instead of trying to squeeze the people to get it back right now with 7%. That is why they don’t want to resign either.

  • 1
    0

    I was born when British ruled the country. I was 9 Years when we got Indepennce. As inted out in this article sri Lanka got its independence a year after British gave indpendence to indai. They decided that it is worthless to rule Sri Lanak after giving up more resourcful India. It is through pure luck that Sri Lanka got indpendence. The Radella Wallawa caste strted ruling the country starting from DS, It is all Colombo 7
    Over the 74 years ythe following factors brought down the ecnomy to banktuptchy
    1, WAR( Eelam, JVP two rebellons)_
    2, CORRUPTION AT ALL LEVELS
    3, POLITICAL DYNASTIES FROM 1948
    4. ETHNIC and RELIGIOUS POLICY
    5 CONCENTRATION OF POWER
    6. BAD ECONOMIC PLANNING
    7. SELLING THE COUNTRY TO CHINA
    8 BRAIN DRAIN OF INTELECTUALS
    9. SELLING THE COUNTRY TO CHINA
    10 UNDER UTILISING RESOURCES
    11 ETHNIC RIOTS
    12 BREAK DOWN OF PUBIC SERVICE AND TAX COLLECION
    13 WRONG FICAL POLICY
    MORE
    It is the cumulative effect of all these factors over 74 years, It will continue unless there is drsatic cahngr. Taking loan after loan will not change the economy , This us common snese
    GDP =Consumer spending+ Investmnet+Govt spending+ (Export- Import)
    Investmnet is low as foreign investors have lees confidence due to rthnic crisis
    Governmnet spoending High

  • 9
    2

    “Tamil people who actually did enjoy the privileges of a divide and rule cunning British rule.”
    *
    Tell me:
    What were the relative scales of British granted land ownership in the South and the North?
    Who held the key money-spinners like arrack rentals?
    The Tamil elite held a niche in government service after its expansion and the Burgher educated could not fill the paces on offer. The Sinhalese were smarter, they went for the money. That meant deadly rivalry with Muslim traders, not Tamils
    Who offered English education to northern Tamils? British rulers?
    In what way could the Tamil elite have propped up the British against the Sinhalese? No Sinhalese nationalist leader even thought of independence until after Sir P Arunachalam, and later the LSSP? DSS wanted Dominion status not independence.
    *
    Did the British drive a wedge between Tamils and Sinhalese in the early 1920s?
    The British also used caste rivalry among the Sinhalese, perhaps a little more effectively than S–T rivalry.
    Please do not build your arguments on half truths, and confuse elitist rivalry with a hardly existent rivalry of communities

    • 1
      0

      Dear SJ
      As events have proved, are we better off having been independent?
      DSS wanted Dominion status not independence. Some countries like Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Newfoundland, South Africa, and the Irish Free State at the 1926 Imperial Conference opted for DS. Except SA, others have done well and better than us.

      • 1
        1

        MV
        Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Newfoundland were extensions of the British society and the relationship was different all along from that between Britain and its black colonies. They shared a English speaking White racial common.
        SA the most racist state in modern history is another story.
        Then what about the US? It went for full independence and did better than any in the list of dominion states.
        Did Singapore or Malaysia do badly for being independent?
        What would have dominion status given us?
        DS wanted us to be an agricultural economy growing T-R-C for export to provide luxury goods for the elite.
        We did not industrialize except to service the plantations and exporting primary goods.
        We achieved very good standards in education and public health mostly after 1948.
        Please ask the beneficiaries.

        • 0
          1

          DS refers to Senanayake

  • 4
    0

    Dear Ravi
    I fully agree with your assessment and sadly this will prolong

    “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.”
    The above sums it all.The corrupt Wallawa classes who ruled us are no different to the current bunch of thieves.225+1. No exception
    These people have not an iota of conscience and dharmic values
    I pray for a miracle to take us out of hell hole

  • 1
    0

    We need to introduce a tax system as in western countries. Each and every family should file their income to Inland Revenue. Citizens should not expect a highway and other comfort facilities without paying tax to Govt Coffer. If you are in a foreign land you pay tax, why can’t you do the same in our mother land. There are no politicians to bell the cat.

    • 0
      0

      innconnce –

      You are right about everybody having to file taxes annually. Many in SL generally expect everything from the government but ignore their own responsibilities.

      But here is the dilemma . The leaders dont live by the laws, the consitution or their responsibiities. So they cannot preach to the masses to do their part.

      Remember every leader has taken an oath to be faithful to our constitution but they do not live by it. The oath has beome a joke !

      So the whole system stinks !

  • 2
    0

    The only difference I see here is, people who got elected were already idle aristocrats, whereas Rajapaksas after getting elected from nothing turned into aristocrats, so much so, holding assets worth more than all aristocrats, put together.

    • 0
      1

      Rajapaksas were people with means. Their father was an important political personality in the South.
      Money does not make one an aristocrat.
      There are aristocrats who are paupers.

  • 1
    0

    Arguably, it was Chandrika being stupid enough to think Mahinda would be her puppet; or the electorate thinking they could get a better deal than Ranil. Inescapably, it was Rajapaksha succumbing to elite capture from Zhongnanhai, importing thousands of Chinese recidivists who then proceeded to run amok, and other elites thinking they were too clever by half to end up suffering the same fate as the Tibetans.

    • 0
      1

      R
      Mahinda Rajapaksa showed to Chandrika who was boss on one occasion in early 1990s, when MR organized a march to Kataragama protesting Premadasa’s misrule. CBK who flew in from London tried to snatch the limelight, and MR showed her where she belonged and that was that.
      CBK had none who she could count on who had political skills to succeed or be her junior partner. There was suggestion that Anura B should follow her, but AB was a lost cause by that time.
      IRe that amusing piece of juicy fiction at the end of your narrative, it will help to see events in due perspective though!

  • 0
    0

    I endorse every word the writer says, but such criticism comes late in the day. Strictly speaking, the rot started even before independence in 1948. Every Prime Minister/President since independence have religiously followed the dictum “divide and rule” by dexterously playing the race, religion and language cards to capture power.

    However, the Rajapaksa family fiefdom developed the use of race and religious cards as fine art.
    SWRDB was the first to promise “Sinhala Only in 24 hours” in 1956 during his election campaign. This slogan helped SWRDB to capture power. In 1972 Madam Sirimavo gave Buddhism “the foremost place and accordingly it shall be the duty of the State to protect and foster the Buddha Sasana.”
    The 1978 constitution retained this provision intact.

    Rajapaksa demonized Prabhakaran as a terrorist in the eyes of the Sinhalese and the world to win the war. The Tamil Eelam demand by Prabhakaran was a response to the pan Sinhala-Buddhist hegemony of treating the Tamils as second-class citizens.

    In the series of riots from 1956, the standardization of Tamils’ entry into universities was meant to deprive and destroy the economy of the Tamil people. The scheming Sinhalese politicians told the Sinhalese people that their prosperity depends on destroying the economy of the Tamils. They hardly understood the fact destroying the Tamils’ economy led to the destruction of the country’s economy.

    1/2

  • 1
    0

    The way to prosperity is for the Sinhalese and Tamils to join hands to bake a bigger cake.
    The recent downturn in the country’s economy was due to corruption, waste and mismanagement by the Rajapaksa family. Gotabaya erected a Memorial and a Museum to his father D.A. Rajapaksa at state expense. The project using state resources cost Rs.81.2 million, but only Rs.33.9 was settled leaving a balance of Rs. 47.9 million owed to Treasury.
    The Chinese-controlled Colombo International Container Terminals Limited (CICT) said it paid nearly 20 million rupees (USD 150,000) to Pushpa Rajapaksa Foundation, wife of then minister Basil Rajapaksa, the latter built a built at a cost of Rs. 240 million on a 16-acre land in Gangabada Road, Malwana, but he disowned ownership.
    During the 2015 Sri Lanka presidential election campaign, large payments from the Chinese port construction fund flowed directly to Mahinda Rajapaksa’s election campaign. This is the same company that built white elephants in Hambantota, including the Harbour. The payments were confirmed by documents and cash checks detailed in a government investigation. The New York Times reported that with 10 days to go before polls opened, around $3.7 million was distributed in cheques: $678,000 to print campaign T-shirts and other promotional material and $297,000 to buy supporters’ gifts, including women’s saris.
    2/2

    • 0
      1

      Check and cross check on any NYT tale.
      *
      “Colombo International Container Terminals Limited (CICT) has reiterated that its payment of Rs.19,410,000/- (equivalent to US$150,000), to the Pushpa Rajapaksa Foundation was a donation, in good faith, for the construction of houses for the less privileged, CICT said in a statement.”
      As reported in the Daily Mirror in 2018. For full report see
      https://www.dailymirror.lk/article/Rs-mn-to-Pushpa-Rajapaksa-Foundation-was-a-donation-CICT-152607.html
      The NYT sums do not quite add up though.

  • 1
    0

    I wholeheartedly agree with Asoka’s heading. Decline started with post independence. Under the State Council administration in the 1940 ‘s , Ceylon as it was then known had significant success. Our social indicators such as literacy , life expectancy etc ranked Ceylon number 2 Country in Asia. We were better than Singapore. Our failure is not due to lack of maturity to manage democracy. Yes our leaders emerged from the privileged elite but it is not uncommon around the world. I attribute our failure to deep seated racism towards minority communities. Minorities are viewed as the ” other ” and denied human rights and social justice

    • 0
      1

      “I attribute our failure to deep seated racism towards minority communities.”
      Worse than the anti-Muslim racism in a country near by?
      Do you think that Malays love the Chinese and Indians? Discrimination in Malaysia is more blatant than here.

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