16 May, 2022

Blog

Government Has To Change For Protests To End

By Jehan Perera

Jehan Perera

Across the world there were spontaneous demonstrations in support of the people in Sri Lanka undergoing immense suffering, declaration of Emergency and a 36-hour curfew. The diaspora was united; Sinhala, Tamil and Muslim, in their expressions of solidarity for the suffering communities and condemnation of the government. Spontaneity was also the hallmark of the small groups of people who converged in their neighbourhoods in defiance of the curfew declared by the government under a state of emergency. This was visible in the handwritten slogans they carried with them on sheets of paper and cardboard file covers. I witnessed the formation of one such spontaneous protest group in my neighbourhood. First, there was a family that walked from a side road to the junction on the main road. As if by telepathy others emerged from the empty streets.

The process of mobilization started a little after 3 pm, the time that had been set earlier in the week by groups operating through social media urging people onto the streets, which may have catalysed the government’s decision to declare the curfew. There was no mastermind, no hidden hand, behind those who came to the road in my neigbourhood. The handwritten placards they brought had diverse slogans. The common elements in them were a distaste for the ruling family, corruption and economic hardship. Soon enough the police came by to ensure that the people obey the curfew. They did not come for a confrontation. They knew they had to do their job. The demonstrators were old and young, with children joining. A compromise solution was found in which the breach of curfew was minimised and the people’s right to associate and to express themselves were both accommodated.

Later in the evening another group came walking on the main road to stand on the opposite side of the junction. They were more in numbers. They carried Sri Lanka flags in addition to their placards. The slogans they had written, and which they voiced, were more pointed and harsh. Soon they started to shout the names of leaders of the government to whom they appended the title of “rogues.” Both groups were united in their sentiments that the country had fallen to a low place and the rulers and coteries around them had to go. The initial indications on the part of the government suggest that this is not going to be the case. The choice of some of the new ministers, after the resignation of the cabinet, suggests that there is no remorse and a counter strike may be contemplated.

Dispel Suspicion

The rapid fall from grace of the government and ruling members could not have been anticipated. Less than three years ago they were elected on a tide of popular sentiment with a massive majority. The decisive factor in the pendulum swing of public opinion has been the severe economic hardships of the past two or three months. The collapse of the Sri Lankan rupee in relation to foreign currencies, the steep escalation in prices of essential commodities together with their severe shortage and finally the long hours of electricity power cuts have been decisive in the mind shift of the people. There appears to be a consensus amongst the people of all walks of life that the country is facing this plight due to mass scale robbery of government funds.

There are various levels of sophistication with regard to the causes of the current economic hardships. But the bottom line in the belief of people seems to be that the foreign exchange being brought into the country is being siphoned away for private purposes which includes large scale theft. One of the sophisticated analyses has been made by Dr Nishan de Mel, a Harvard and Oxford trained economist who heads Verite Research. He pointed out an economic reality much before the present scarcity of dollars and essential commodities made themselves felt in the present manner. This economic reality is that the country would be better off if the government should renegotiate the repayment of the several billion dollar sovereign bonds on the commercial market. Instead the government has been repaying those bonds even at the cost of impoverishing the masses of people.

Dr de Mel has made the point that simply by repaying the sovereign bonds, the government would not be able to boost the credit worthiness of the country. Any future creditor would know, as do the bond rating agencies, that Sri Lanka is scraping the bottom of the barrel, when it pays its existing debt. Therefore, they would not wish to invest in any more Sri Lankan bonds on the commercial market regardless of whether the government repays its present bonds or not. It is important that the government should follow Dr de Mel’s advice and negotiate with its creditors to repay the bonds at a later time. In particular, the government needs to dispel the suspicion that they are more sympathetic to the international bondholders than to the Sri Lankan people which itself arouses reasonable suspicions about the motivations.

More Harm

After the resignation of the cabinet of ministers the question is what next in the context of the loss of confidence in the government. President Gotabaya Rajapaksa has invited all political parties to join hands in governing the country. However, the opposition political parties would be wary of accepting this offer, which they may see as a poisoned chalice. Most of them have refused to join. So long as the powers of the presidency are intact, they may see themselves being made into catspaws in legitimizing the government. As the opposition is a minority in parliament, the government can continue to ignore them on issues if it chooses to, and get them to share in the blame for future mistakes too.

One possible way for the government to bring the opposition into the process of governance, even if not directly, would be to repeal the 20th Amendment that re-concentrated power in the presidency. The passage of the 20th Amendment was one of the first actions of the government and it has enabled the president to make unilateral appointments to high positions of state such as at the Central Bank and also with regard to secretaries of ministries. Along with the repeal of the 20th Amendment, the government needs to take steps to strengthen the independence of state institutions, and give the opposition a real role in the appointment of persons to those bodies. The independence that the Human Rights Commission has been showing in its opposition to the state of emergency and the use of the Prevention of Terrorism Act, and its commitment to protecting the rights of those who have been arrested during the recent protests, is commendable and highlights the value of making the right appointments.

There is an urgent need for the government to accept moral and political responsibility for the plight of the people and ameliorate their suffering and present a credible plan that the people can have confidence in. So far the government has failed to meet these minimum standards of accountability. The irrational decisions leading to reduction in corporate and personal income taxes, the ban on chemical fertilizers, and refusal to get IMF support are ones for which the government alone needs to take responsibility. The failure of the government to present a rational analysis of the crisis to the people, alleviate the hardships being experienced by the people and present a credible plan to deal with the crisis is counterproductive. The protests will continue until the government changes, gives its plans and results are seen.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Latest comments

  • 15
    1

    The title of the article is “Government Has To Change For Protests To End.”
    The tightrope artist could not bring himself to write, “President and Prime Minister must resign for Protests to End.”

    • 3
      1

      I wrote here during the election campaign for a Hitler to safeguard the country’s sovereignty: “Save the people to save the nation; Save the nation to Save the Sovereignty ” But Royal stubbornly went the other way. Now the country’s sovereignty is lost to predatory lenders; people are left in the middle of roads as vagabond Paradeshis.
      Jehan PhD like Sinhalese Intellectual crooks created this chaos, are shedding crocodile tears for the people.
      Only one person can feel proud of this: i.e our Young Lady Hiruni. Noticing her forwardness, determined to seek justice for her father’s murder, like the Tamil Women, I wrote CBK to organize a women leadership team joining with Hiruni, Nimalka, Sandhiya…. like the ones. They are first people challenged Royals face to face. Never the Valaiththodam, Anura, Ranil….. These crooks Royals to save them from IC and transfer the black as white to Lankawe. When Ranil showed the UMP Chameleon Color flag for Coup government to continue, Only one person tols Ranil to his ugly face that he was putting them all in viewfinder of the army’s guns. That was Hiruni. Do many foxes, hyenas and Donkeys are claiming that they started this protest, But it was Hiruni, who is only one can claim that she started it. . While on the North Missing Persons mothers are doing this against Rapist Army for years.

      • 4
        1

        Jehan, similarly government must change to end the protests of Tamils to get back their lands, to know about their missing loved ones, to stop appropriation of their land on various pretexts, to bring war criminals to justice and to grant them the right to rule themselves.

        • 3
          1

          I am sorry to say that when you are rushing to justify the protest of Sinhala people, you are woefully silent about protests by Tamils.

  • 6
    2

    President Gotabaya Rajapaksa has invited all political parties to join hands in governing the country. ————-
    Their hands have always been joined.
    They are all freemasons and work behind the scenes to keep real humanity under their foot, while putting on a fake rivalry in public.

  • 6
    2

    No it is all over for the government! Whatever they do, it will backfire!

    It is better to go rather than continuing the agony

    To those in the opposition salivating !

    Beware , the same fate awaits you ?

    People have spoken in a language audible to anyone want to listen!

    People are always right, when they vote for Gota or when they want Gota to go ?

    • 0
      0

      srikrish, Back firing is only for kids. Long range missiles can be sent from above and hit their targets like the preparations in the east against the west. But for karmic consequences.

  • 6
    1

    Gota is Gota, Gota will not change?

    Do adults change ?

  • 1
    0

    There is NO doubt, for this country to recover and progress, there MUST be a huge change in the Government. The Rajapaksa’s must go, their cronies must go, their family members must go, and be replaced by qualified, experienced patriots, whose only intent is to save this country, without personal gain. The Rajapaksa’s have FAILED this country and people who put their (misguided) trust in them, and look how it has turned out. Putting a fresh coat of paint on a crumbling building is not going to do it, so let us not get fooled when they keep throwing names out there, and giving us false hopes. As long as there is even a single Rajapaksa in the government, basically things will remain the same, and they will be in control.

    The biggest dilemma is how to make them leave, and how to get those qualified citizens to take their place. A new Parliament must pass laws BANNING nepotism and cronyism, and felons and criminals serving time in prison MUST NOT BE ALLOWED TO BE IN ANY ADMINISTRATION. We should also have strict laws preventing corruption that prevails in the leadership preventing. We have had enough of these criminals fleecing the country and getting away with it.

  • 1
    0

    These have been stated before by this author and many others from time to time.
    No remedial action seems to have been made!
    Stalemate situation.
    Protests are increasing to the maladministration exponentially.
    Not a good situation for Sri Lanka

  • 0
    0

    Hope someone (an MP) or a Political Party either in Government or Opposition brings a “Motion” to Parliament seeking the “Dissolution” and go for a “Parliamentary Election”. That is the only “Way Out” from this “MESS”. That will open the doors to start “AFRESH” including the removal of the “20A”.

    Now that the present “Cabinet” has resigned an interim “Council” could be appointed to oversee Governmental functions including the conclusion of the Parliamentary Election.

  • 1
    0

    Posted somewhere else, earlier:
    The first known dedication of Ranil to save the Old King is blocking Langkang becoming a signatory to the Rome Accord. That is where Old Rowdy King Drew his Bestial energy. On Jan, 9th Morning Ranil was in the Temple Tree House to save the Royals from US Secretary, John Kerry. That time he didn’t even pickup his slippers but ran to the Heli Ranil had arranged for the run to Medamulana. Old Rowdy Ran to their home, closed the Windows and shouted to his acolytes standing outside the windows, “It is the Parai Demulu Diaspora Kottiyas revenged me like this. Then Thero de Silva came to CT and wrote what a Brave Dutugemunu the Old Rowdy King and what a talented Senathipathi, Atula, his Defense Secretary was. (The CT commentators write that he quit the Rapist Army and pumped gas in LA, to hide). Thero de Silva wrote that it was making his hair stand up and feel proud when his grandma described the heroism of Atula. (The Original Legend says that Dutugemunu didn’t engage in full scale war with Elarala to avoid destruction and he erected a memorial stupa honoring Elarla’s bravery. But Mahavamsa says Dutugemunu used supernatural life forms to do savage to Elarla’s country).

  • 1
    1

    Old rowdy, when mothers were crying for milk bottles for their infants, built an extravagant Sinhala Buddhist temple, to beat the record Dutugemunu. That Punnaku eating Modaya didn’t see that this is coming, or he this time will not get ears to hear his story of “This is something Parai Diaspora Kottiya did to an honorable Sinhala Buddhist Hero. So far Royal rowdies are still staying below the Rathupussalawa massacre because this time they really are fearing that India or America may land in using the opportunity. An immature political woman, Jelani claimed in the last election that she was the first Lady of Langkang. This time Valaiththodam already says that he will have more than 2/3 and do it all in his way. The Demulu Pariah Dr. Jaishankar one time called Valaiththodam to talk about the loan Old King was bugging from him. asked for. So now Valaiththodam is already starting to skinning Parai Demulu Dr Jaishankar for loan. He is thinking that he is already the prime minister and President. Real Buffoons these guys are! But before that, if the protesters enter the TTH & Medamulana Mansion at the same time, will Valaiththodam allow Cooli Kanagaratnam to bring his super jet from Uganda and Park in Katunayake? Or will Valaiththodam ask Dr. Jaishankar to shoot it down?

  • 5
    0

    Not only changing. The family has to hand over all the stolen money and then leave the country or go to prison. May be a family prison could be arranged. Not only them there is a huge number of bumsuckers and thieves and they too have to go to prison. Blind Eagle will be brought to SL and locked up.

    • 3
      0

      Black Lankan, where is that Eagle (mutt) Eye bugger? Bugger must be in the hiding.

    • 2
      0

      Also the fake Viking Idiotson from Cryodon

  • 1
    0

    The 20th Amendment has not helped but allowed the concentration of power with one family to make the autocratic decision making which has been the reason for this debacle. Rajapaksas were not the least concerned of the people. Rajapaksas relied on China. Now China insists that Sri Lanka should settle its loan before July 31st. Whereas India has given loan without specifying the date on which it should be settled but insisted that the 13th Amendment should be implemented because it stands as a security for India. The hidden evil agendas of the Rajapaksas cannot work anymore as the people had come on to the streets. There is doubt even if Sabry and Pieris are entrusted to oversee debt restructure whether they can obtain support from the IMF. Assuming hat India enters Sri Lanka, will it move out of Sri Lanka without chasing the Chinese completely out of Sri Lanka. Moreover, there is uncertainty in the opposition and is divided and I have my doubt whether it can establish its majority. Assuming that India enters Sri Lanka, will it move out of Sri Lanka without chasing the Chinese out of Sri Lanka. Sajith Premadasa has not declared his intention about implementing the 13th Amendment to date which India is eager to know.

  • 4
    1

    Jehan . P, by any chance, were you out there and got hit on your head ??

  • 5
    1

    Yes, Rajapaksas are back to wheeling and dealing, horse trading and throwing money at people to keep their 113 majority,. Reportedly just a few, in single digits can make the difference. But what can be more weird than, Muslim MP’s keeping mum. (as usual)

    • 4
      1

      Reportedly 42 have confirmed by sitting independent which brings the count to 118. And there in only one MP S.M.M. Musharaf from AMC. Hope all the Muslim MP’s irrespective of their party will take a stand, when communities have united for a common cause.

      • 5
        1

        According to crook Prasanna. R govt wants to debate IMF proposal for 2 more days. It’s just a ploy to buy time . I believe Prasanna . R is one of the leading guy assigned to buy out MP’s.

      • 3
        0

        As usual, these South Indian-origin fake Arabs are waiting to see which side wins and to jump onto that side.

  • 1
    0

    Some one put his ignorant finger on the ban on chemical fertilizers for poor paddy production and the country is chirping it without end.
    In 1966 , Dudley as PM laid out a workable programme to attain self sufficiency in rice at 70% level of consumption and attained it when statistics were compiled by end Maha 69/70. Ineptitude for 52 years since then have failed to bridge the balance. It is utter rot to dwell on drought and flood or Covid and fertilizer for human failure.
    Do writers and commenters know that every year, lakhs of crop acres (Maha + Yala) of fertile land under major irrigation alone have remained uncultivated.?
    Why doesn’t the farmer cultivate? It is utterly and absolutely uneconomical to cultivate paddy AND THE FARMER KNOWS IT.
    In 1966, Dudley increased the guaranteed price to Rs 14 from Rs 12 a bushel of paddy. If the price of a bushel is raised by Rs 350/ results will be seen instantly.

    • 0
      0

      “If the price of a bushel is raised by Rs 350/ results will be seen instantly.”
      The benefit may be in another form. People will eat less and food costs will decrease.
      Raise it further, and they will learn to eat grass, but that will cause a tiny problem with milk production.

  • 1
    2

    “The irrational decisions leading to reduction in corporate and personal income taxes, the ban on chemical fertilizers, and refusal to get IMF support”

    Banning chemical fertilizers, especially those imported from China, was a smart move. Scientific studies clearly show the connection between chemical fertilizers and kidney disease, with Sri Lanka being one of the “hotspots.” Refer to “Journal of Environmental Health:”

    “These regional nephropathies occur mostly in poor adult workers in hot tropical agricultural areas, more frequently among men than women [2, 9]. The most heavily affected populations are sugarcane cutters in Mesoamerica, rice paddy farmers in Sri Lanka, and cashew nut, coconut and rice farmers in India [2, 9]. The nephropathy progresses silently to end-stage renal disease (ESRD) leading to the premature death of thousands of workers [10].

    The reduction in personal and income taxes was only a bad move because of COVID-19. The government did not forsee such a crisis. Without COVID-19, revenue from tourism would have offset losses to the government ledger.

    • 2
      1

      Can Diabetes and Hypertension cause ESRD ???. How common (prevalence) are non communicable, chronic diseases compared to chemical fertilizers ??? How much of rice(carbs) do paddy farmers consume compared to general population. Extensive studies mandated by courts in Kerala among, paddy/coconut/cashew farmers were inconclusive where , they were not eligible for compensation.( The state gave but not the manufacturing companies). What is the benefits and risks of chemical (versus) CONTAMINATED organic fertilizer?? Please explain.

      • 1
        0

        Quote from a scientific journal rather than writing nonsense.

  • 2
    1

    ‘ The diaspora was united; Sinhala, Tamil and Muslim, in their expressions of solidarity for the suffering communities and condemnation of the government.’ is not an accurate statement . Tamil diaspora is struggling with the following questions. Will Gotabhaya’s replacement continue with the same oppression of Tamils practiced by Rajapaksas? This will be their most important worry. Their second most important question will be whether these island wide protest marches will degenerate into anti Tamil riots. These two worries are based on their past experience.
    Current difficulties faced by the entire Sri Lankan society of shortages of food, fuel and other essential items is faced by the Tamil people also. Tamil people probably fare worse than the Sinhalese people in this regard. Though they are worried about this development, they are afraid of the violent backlash by the armed forces and police if they protest. Therefore except for a handful of Tamil people joining the protests, majority of Tamils will not join the mass movement against the Rajapaksas.

Leave A Comment

Comments should not exceed 200 words. Embedding external links and writing in capital letters are discouraged. Commenting is automatically disabled after 5 days and approval may take up to 24 hours. Please read our Comments Policy for further details. Your email address will not be published.