18 May, 2024

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Hoping Against Hope In The New Year

By Jehan Perera

Jehan Perera

The New Year dawned, not with the customary spirit of hope, but with trepidation for most and hopelessness for many. The main topic of discussion and speculation over the past several weeks has been the impact of the Value Added Tax (VAT) of 18 percent which will be extended to nearly all items barring only a few on January 1. The anticipated price rises could have a serious impact on those whose incomes can no longer sustain the lifestyle they once enjoyed. In fact, they can barely survive. The increases in prices will make a bad situation even worse. Recent information put out by international agencies and by the government itself shows the true nature of the problem.

The general thinking among those in government and business at the higher levels, and who presumably are in the know, is that nothing much can be done to remedy the situation. The Central Bank governor has made clear that the present path of economic restructuring needs to be followed if IMF support is to continue, and that without IMF support the country will face a worse calamity. He observed that “it will be a continuous process of renegotiation to change policies in a timely manner, whatever the government is in power for the next four years. There are no restrictions for that. But, the key element is we need to move forward with the programme in order to obtain international support.” However, the issue of the distribution of the burden in meeting the IMF conditions is not so much discussed.

A new UNDP report says the top 1 percent of Sri Lankans own 31 percent of the total personal wealth in the country while the bottom 50 percent own less than 4 percent. It also says 33.4 percent of the population is grappling with vulnerability and deprivation due to falling in debt. The facts and figures in this report suggest an alternative to sharing the economic burden that the present government has chosen to thrust on the working and un-propertied people. The increasing gap between the haves and have-nots will erupt in various disturbances as seen in different countries in history. The government chose to restructure the EPF and ETF pension funds rather than the debt owed to the state and commercial banks. This may be where the change has to be made but there is a dearth of such analyses that are grounded in facts.

The consequences of the government’s choice in terms of placing the burden of economic recovery is also to be seen in the latest Household Survey by the Department of Census and Statistics. It reveals 60.5 percent of households have experienced a drop in their total household average monthly income. Approximately 97.2 percent of households employed at least one coping strategy to manage their household expenditure. 75.2 percent reported a change in diet, while 46.4 percent reported reduced savings or spending their savings. 21.3 percent of respondents have taken loans, sold or mortgaged properties. The desperation in people who find they cannot provide for their families even though they work hard needs to be assuaged. The suicide of a mother who lost her breadwinner husband and who also took away the lives of the two small children is a grim reminder of the fast slide to impoverishment that can lead to desperate actions.

First Hope 

Two years ago, when faced with shortages of essential items and spiraling prices, the people of the country decided that enough was enough and poured out onto the streets to demand the departure of those they held responsible for leading the country to economic disaster. For a short space of four months, the Sri Lanka protest movement, the Aragayala, became headline news throughout the world. A hopeful message accompanied it that Sri Lanka was showing the way that people-induced change could take place and corrupt and failed governments could be removed peacefully from power.

However, as stated in religion, the principalities of evil are deep rooted and entrenched. Those who are self-seeking, corrupt and hard of heart, get themselves rooted in systems of power and privilege that are near impossible to break. In principalities of evil, the laws are misused and misapplied to ensure that even where the letter of the law prevails, the spirit does not. The Supreme Court verdicts in recent cases that government leaders need to be held accountable and policemen found guilty of torture and associated abuse of power should be removed seem to have had no effect.

One of the hopes in the New Year will be that the law written in the constitution itself regarding elections will enable a new government to be formed based on the people’s mandate. President Ranil Wickremesinghe has announced the presidential elections will be held this year to be followed by general elections and the postponed provincial and local government elections. The people’s movement, the Aragalaya, failed to achieve a change of government. The application of the rule of law and democracy may achieve what the people’s movement was unable to achieve. But there is a measure of uncertainty regarding these elections. The concern is that the constitution may be changed, the presidency may be abolished, to obviate the need for any elections this year.

But there is also a hope in the New Year, and one grounded in what is good rather than what is evil. The recent past has seen a move towards national reconciliation manifested in the Himalaya Declaration with leadership being provided by a small section of civil society together with another small section of the Tamil Diaspora in dialogue with Buddhist monks rooted in the country. Initiatives to end protracted conflict in which there are vested interests will invariably evoke suspicion and envy as the concern grows that some will benefit and others will be left out. The open and even vitriolic opposition to the Himalaya Declaration that even now exists is bound to come from both sides. But it must not derail the process of peace building.

Greater Hope 

The present time is opportune for a breakthrough to peace. The ongoing economic crisis has shown the people that they are not the enemies of one another, and other factors are at play. During the height of the protest movement, young people of whom many were university students shouted slogans that they had been deceived enough by politicians who roused ethnic divisions, but these young people wanted a new country in which all would be treated with equality and respect.

A similar message came from a conference organized by the Sri Lanka Council of Religions for Peace in which former president Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga was the keynote speaker. She remains a living embodiment of commitment to justice for all ethnic and religious communities; also her ability and willingness to forgive and not to show hatred or hostility or hold an entire community responsible for the suicide bombing that deprived her of sight in one eye is evidence that we in Sri Lanka do not have to look far for our own Nelson Mandelas.

At this event, the former president noted with acumen that the Sri Lankan people were not racist but were provoked by politicians. She said that in her time, despite the ongoing war, public opinion had turned favourable to a political solution based on inter-ethnic power sharing and devolution of power to the provincial level from 23 percent to 68 percent in a matter of two years due to leadership and mass education campaigns. With every crisis, as today, comes an opportunity. 2024 will be a pivotal moment for Sri Lanka to change its destiny with visionary and multi-partisan leadership that will promote justice and inclusive growth for all.

This year presents the best possibility of a breakthrough to peace, if not the signing of the political settlement and its incorporation in the constitution, at least to set the foundations in place with multi-partisan agreement. The country needs leaders who will bring internal peace and justice and not just the promise of the rainbow in the distance. The question to answer in the New Year is who will provide the leadership to make peace and reconciliation a reality and remove the one big obstacle (among many) to the country’s ascent to the steep, long delayed and necessary climb of self-sustaining development.

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Latest comments

  • 7
    1

    The views stated are contradictory. The Himalayan Declaration was made through a non-transparent process without discussion by the affected people. It was not achieved through a democratic process. Chandrika’s equation with Mandela takes the cake. There was a Supreme Court decision though by a tainted judge revealing her escapades, She participated in corruption. She was President when the Navaly Church was bombed with many civilian refugees killed. There is a whole book on her misrule. Her new clothes is because she does not even have the support of the party her family founded. The NPP-JVP at least does have honest younger politicians to look too but they have been slow to reveal a comprehensive policy that would solve

    • 7
      1

      Cicero

      We seem to be in the same frequency.

      Reference to CBK as the SL Mandela is an insult to a great leader. Apart from the role as ‘queen of deceit’ in SL, there is also the question how she managed to buy a property in fashionable St John’s Wood in Central London where even a bedsit costs a couple of millions. It is said that she had to borrow jewelry from Padma Maharaja for her inauguration as President but even without that, how she managed to save a few million sterling in a matter of few years, certainly speaks of her financial acumen.
      Having all that wealth, I wonder if she has the goodness to refuse all those perks she enjoys in SL at the expense of the poor tax payer in these hard times. Afterall, if she can live without those privileges in UK, why would she need them in SL?

      • 0
        3

        Raj-UK : Are you in favor of WITHDRAWING all these “PERKS” to ex-Presidents and Spouses?

        If your answer is YES, then the only reliable political party that has already PLEDGED that promise to the people is none other than NPP.

        No other political party, leaving aside a “PROMISE” does not even speak of it. Recently, you would have come to know the list of requisitions that Hema Premadas -the spouse of Ranasinghe Premadasa and mother of Sajith Premadasa – the Leader of the Opposition and the SJB, sent to the Home Ministry, that included among many items such as “Tooth Brushes”; “Pens”; “Earasers”; ” A4 Printing Papers”; “Candles”; “Toilet Cleaners” etc… etc…

        Shouldn’t these “ROUGES” and “PARACISTES” be chased away? It is a NEED and a MUST.

        • 0
          0

          Douglas

          Certainly but I would like to see that in their manifesto as a firm commitment. Many presidential hopefuls promised to abolish the ‘not fit for purpose’ Presidency but changed their minds when in the hot seat. Anyway, that alone is not enough.

    • 7
      2

      Now the Maha Naicker of the Asgiriya Chapter and the sangha have rejected the Himalayan declaration, what a joke.

      • 2
        1

        Pandi Kutti: Are the Tamil Politicians in the North in AGREEMENT with the “Himalayan Declaration”?

        Please give me an answer “YES” or “NO” only. I want to refer your answer to those “Politicians” in the North.

        Thank you.

        • 2
          3

          Getting angry when I state about the racist yellow robed pets? Typical Chingkallam now trying to shift the blame on to the Thamizh politicians.

  • 11
    1

    In 2023, there was no signs for peace or harmony but further actions on damaging the peace and harmony among communities. The activities of Buddha Sasana Ministry, the activities of department of buddhist archeology, activities of Buddhist police to arrest Tamils using PTA etc. are sponsored by the state under the government of Ranil Wickremasinhe, It is foolish to expect anything positive in 2024 which is an election year for maximise cheating promises propaganda by Buddhist politicians.

  • 5
    4

    Let’s hope that there indeed is a breakthrough for us this year.
    .
    However, before that we will have to face the truth about ourselves. We are bankrupt and we will face immense hardships because we have become absolutely poor, and beggars poorer than almost anybody else.
    .
    I don’t yet know the details of the first shock we receive today:
    .
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EYE2jUk9rvM
    NPP Srilanka | 2024.01.02 – 1 minute 37 minutes, but I’m still listening at 33 minutes. All in Sinhalese.
    .
    Please listen to it all, and then tell others what it is all about.
    .
    An honest and intelligent human being revealing the first shock to us. Warning! There is a 20 minute introduction, and then this man (who admittedly DOESN’T know everything), begins to speak. Now, I’m at 37 minutes; I have to listen with increasingly close attention.
    .
    Panini Edirisinhe (NIC 483111444V) who has been continuously within Sri Lanka for five whole years. Are you going to believe me, or those who visit this land as tourists to know how bad the situation is. Of course, I don’t know much myself.
    .
    Maharagama @ 6:38 PM

    • 6
      4

      ARE WE ALL SRILANKENS MERCY COWS ?
      .
      “An honest and intelligent man reveals to us the first shock.”; how intelligent is he ?

      Who says this?

      For me, if someone is honest, no one can arbitrarily point the finger. AKD does not have any evidence to prove that the good governance government misused the bank loans. However, they are hurting the picture in FAVOUR of their popularity. Mahinda Rajapakshe-Pariah did it years long in order to fool the nation.
      :
      This can definitely damage his image in the coming days. I have studied that some of the reports that the person releases publicly regarding their public speaking are based on their “assumptions”, “hearsay”.
      :
      However, this person has yet to tell anyone how they will deal with the IMF recommendations once they take power.
      :
      Rajapakse has yet to announce how he will bring in the dollars to settle the debt. All this is open. People like to eat stinky dry food, so this nation, most people like to scold again and again, but without knowing the seriousness of the economic situation that the country is facing today.

  • 4
    6

    It seems that AKD has taken to peddling lies disguised as economics to his dumb followers:
    https://www.dailymirror.lk/slide-1/AKD-overblows-RWs-yahapalanaya-debt/329-272759

    • 5
      0

      OC and all,
      .
      Hopes are always good for positive breakthroughs, however Sri Lankan varrants are mostly full of criminals, money launderers, big criminals, rapists, drug dealers of various natures (Dilith Jayaweera et al), prostitutes, media prostitutes. In such a world, where the leading society (YOSHITA RAJAPAKSHE et al) and other businessmen are all connected with a mafia family who loot the last cent from the poor tax payers, it is a perpetual dream. This reminds me of how extremely poor people in India try to reach the thrill moment by watching Indian movies produced in rich countries like mountainous Switzerland.

      The only option is to first agree to rebuild society and then allow reforms sooner rather than later. Even today, the current president appeals to the nation again, that we should work together to get out of the pit we have fallen into.

      tbd

      • 1
        2

        It is largely Hindi Bollywood movies that are largely filmed in rich western countries about very rich Indians living there but now this trend is becoming common even in Thamizh but more in Telugu, that is now increasing producing mega blockbusters using this formula.

    • 3
      3

      old codger

      Thanks.
      I will have to carry this factcheck sheet along with me as you will never when and where I might see AKD, he too needs to know there is a huge difference between talking bull and stating completely faked “FACTS”.

      • 11
        1

        Native,

        Please do a fact-check for ol’ Ranil as well! ……. An upstanding illustrious opinion-shaper cant have double standards …….. now, can you?

        Who are we trying to fool in the new year, Native? :))))))))

        To think the new year would be any different to the last. ……… Here we go again! :))

        • 4
          5

          nimal fernando

          “To think the new year would be any different to the last. ……… Here we go again! :))”

          I completely agree with you.
          Here is another example of the usual bull,….
          COMMISSION FOR TRUTH, UNITY AND RECONCILIATION IN SRI LANKA
          A BILL
          https://www.newswire.lk/wp-content/uploads/2024/01/Truth-Reconciliation-Commission-Gazette.pdf

          This will never be genuinely implemented however this will help the nasty little patriotic nationalists some campaigning causes.

          Anyway, do you think AKD and his racist JVP would agree to such law and implementation.

          let us hear from the usual suspects including Wimal, Champika (a card carrying racist who is acting like an elder statesman), …… soma too.

          Have you heard any of the connected Mafia godfathers been caught in the police anti drug campaign. Please let me have their names as well.

    • 1
      0

      old codger

      Please tell us the big idea behind the following bill:
      PARLIAMENT OF THE DEMOCRATIC SOCIALIST REPUBLIC OF SRI LANKA
      [Bill No. 215]

      Presented by the Hon. Sarathi Dushmantha, M.P.
      for Kegalle District on 09th of November, 2023
      (Published in the Gazette on October 30, 2023)

      MY DREAM JAFFNA FOUNDATION
      (INCORPORATION) A BILL

      http://documents.gov.lk/files/bill/2023/11/424-2023_E.pdf

      Does Sarathi Dushmantha, M.P. have Jaffna dream which I guess is similar to American Dream?

    • 0
      0

      oc
      A leader need not be a specialist in any field.
      Leaders of revolutions never claimed expertise.

  • 7
    0

    ” However, the issue of the distribution of the burden in meeting the IMF conditions is not so much discussed.”
    SL Citizens would like to see that who looted the national wealth to return them to the Central Bank in foreign currencies + in SL rupees. By stopping the pensions to the parliamentarians immediately the country could save money to ameliorate the sufferings of the poor. The benefits to former Presidents and PMs too should be stopped.
    How can the Tamils trust the Sinhala politicians or monks after what they had gone through over the last 75 years. Ideally there should be 4 Federal states[ N&E; Central; Western and Southern]. The country to be SECULAR & Sinhala/Tamil and English as OFFICIAL LANGUAGES

    • 6
      18

      Namen,
      Rephrase your question ” How can the Sinhalese trust Tamils after killing more than 100000 Sinhalese and costing them $2 trillion during 30 year LTTE Kallathoni terrorism and trying to steal 1/3 of Sinhala Land?
      /
      Is Sinhala language an official language in Tamil Nadu?
      /
      If you want secularism then tell barstards breeding missionary school Christian priests to stay out of politics, because they have been running the government since independence behind the scene.

      • 5
        1

        This user, named Tony, should carefully check whether people have anatomical differences. He is a true racist. I wonder how such organisms evolve in a population.
        :
        If this man makes a comment, it is entirely about hatred against his own minorities. Everything he has stated is against FACT.

        I feel that not only the Tamil minorities but also he hates christiannity adherents.

        Where is religious tolerance?

        THese men should start learning true buddhism which is totally based on ” buddha s teachings”.
        I have a feeling that this man must be a male whore of that mad monk in Mangalaramaya (Ampitiye sumana pissa).

    • 1
      6

      “How can the Tamils trust the Sinhala politicians or monks after what they had gone through over the last 75 years. Ideally there should be 4 Federal states[ N&E; Central; Western and Southern].”

      Tamils would have had a federal state by now, if not for armed struggle/terrorism. Are you forgetting LTTE assassinated Neelam Tiruchelvam and gave CBK a glass eye? ” The LTTE’s spokesman Anton Balasingham confirmed to Erik Solheim that they had killed Tiruchelvam, and said it was due to him betraying Tamil interests by supporting the government’s watered down devolution package, despite them giving him prior warnings to quit”. After losing the war with an unconditional surrender, Tamils should not expect much, other than what they already have.

  • 6
    18

    What is the so called reconciliation this writer keeps going on about ? All everyone has to realise is that Sri Lanka is the country of indigenous
    Sinhala Buddhists, Tamils and Muslims have their homeland in Tamil Nadu.
    /
    Apart from being the first black president, Mandela did nothing for the advancement of the black people of South Africa. Most of South Africa’s land ownership, economic power, natural resource ownership and political power are in the hands of whites. Except football, other sports like cricket, rugby, golf, etc are white people’s sports. Western governments and Apartheid government made sure that they were not going to make the mistake they made with Mugabe’s Zimbabwe. That’s why Mandela was groomed in jail for 25 years to be made the first black head of state to protect whites against any meaningful reforms.
    /
    CBK Neelaperumal is garbage and she couldn’t even protect Soma thero who made the LTTE terrorists defeating Sinhala Buddhist platform.

    • 6
      16

      Correction:
      All everyone has to realise is that Sri Lanka is the country of indigenous
      Sinhala Buddhists. Tamils and Muslims have their homeland in Tamil Nadu.

      • 6
        0

        SRILANKA is sinking, the kind of racists are on a rise. This was also the case, earlier times in Ethiopia. Most of them were acting like very racists. Today, with their economy booming, those TONYs are totally dissappearing. THe same strategies should be instroduced to our hell, sooner than later.

        Actually this should have been happened during the covid epidemic, unfortunately good people like Mangala Samaraweera were punished by that pandemic. So I don’t believe in “karma” anymore.

    • 6
      2

      Indigenous Chingkallams! Must be joking especially with a name like Tony. Everything about the Chingkallams reeks of Thamizh, especially India’s two southern states, Thamizh Nadu and once Thamizh Kerala. I have posted this you tube video once but will post it again, for your benefit and for the benefit of the other people who liked your crazy racist comment. These videos have been posted by Chingkallams and not by Thamizh for the benefit of anti Thamizh like you. Now watch this and cry.

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aMbhLoJWXs0
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ydOTzdSa4j8

  • 1
    0

    Jehan.
    You have hit the nail on its head by this line……………..
    …….The concern is that the Constitution may be changed, the Presidency may be abolished to obviate the need for any elections this year………..

    True there is a two thirds majority. Would there be no need for a referendum?
    Well,there may be no election this year..But certainly there would be a revolution.
    System change around the corner?.

  • 2
    1

    old codger

    Please tell us the big idea behind the following bill:
    PARLIAMENT OF THE DEMOCRATIC SOCIALIST REPUBLIC OF SRI LANKA
    [Bill No. 215]

    Presented by the Hon. Sarathi Dushmantha, M.P.
    for Kegalle District on 09th of November, 2023
    (Published in the Gazette on October 30, 2023)

    MY DREAM JAFFNA FOUNDATION
    (INCORPORATION) A BILL

    http://documents.gov.lk/files/bill/2023/11/424-2023_E.pdf

    Does Sarathi Dushmantha, M.P. have Jaffna dream which I guess is similar to American Dream?

  • 6
    0

    only people who are hoping are the corrupt politicians. They are hoping that they can carry on fooling and screwing the people of Sri Lanka…even young politicians have learnt the art of fooling the the people.

    • 0
      0

      Rajash , give them a break. It’s election ( circus) time. If not for such stunts/ clowning what else can they perform to entertain viewers???

  • 3
    2

    The Sinhalese Identity and language may have evolved in the southern, western and central parts of the island but it is definitely not indigenous., just because it evolved here. Just like the way Afrikaans people and identity evolved in modern South Africa, largely from various European immigrant Protestant people, namely the Dutch, and French Huguenots, German and there is even at the early stages’ native African mixture. The language largely from Dutch. Similarly, the English in England evolved there but are mixture of various immigrants largely the Saxons, Angels, Vikings and later others, all mixed up with the Celtic people who were already there. The English language is also a mixture of all these largely the Germanic Saxon later heavily mixed with Norman French(who themselves have a Viking origin, this is the reason many French from this region are blonde and blue eyed), Latin and Greek.

    • 3
      2

      The Sinhalese are mixture of Prakrit speaking immigrants who arrived from Northwest Maharashtra/Gujarat region or from the Northeast Bengal region, or from both regions. These immigrants mostly men intermarried into the local Tamil Dravidian tribes the Naga/Yakka or took wives from the Pandian Tamil country. However other than this first wave of migration from somewhere in Northen India, was very small and they soon got assimilated into the local Tamil/Semi Tamil speaking Dravidian Tamil tribes who had arrived here from South India over 3000 years ago. All other migration to the island from ancient to recent times have all been from South India, mainly from what is modern Tamil Nadu and then from ancient Tamil Chera Nadu or modern-day Kerala or from Odisha, before it was Aryanised. Go and read the actual history of the island, written by renowned Sinhalese anthropologists and historians and stop believing in Mahavamsa myths and false history now being published with state help by Sinhalese extremists and pseudo historians and Archeologists to claim the entire island for the Sinhalese only.

      • 3
        2

        The Tamil history and migration from Southern India which is only around 27Km the most and the ancient Tamils and other semi and proto-Tamil speaking Dravidian tribes who were seafaring and were trading with the rest of the world had arrived on the island far earlier. The Native Sri Lankan Tamils are largely the descendants of this ancient Dravidian spillover from South India, long before a people called Sinhalese evolved on the island. Of course, even amongst them, there is mixture of this North Indian immigration and later Chola invasions and migrations, especially during the era of Rajah Rajah Cholan, but their core genetic identity and origin is the ancient Dravidian spillover, the Naga.

        • 3
          2

          Half the present-day Sinhalese population both low and high born are largely descended from post 15Th century immigration from South India and 90% of it is from Tamil Nadu. Now these post 15Th century Tamil immigrants from South India, now assimilated into the Sinhalese identity are the biggest anti Tamils. Look at all the so-called Sinhalese leaders post-independence, all anti Tamils, descended from this post 15Th century migrants from Tamil Nadu.

          • 3
            2

            After the 10Th century immigration from South India to the Tamil areas of the island became a trickle but became a huge sea to the Sinhalese areas and most of the present-day Sinhalese are the byproducts of this migration. This is the reason the modern Sinhalese DNA is basically South Indian. The Sinhalese evolved from three languages, Tamil. Pali/Prakrit, Sanskrit. The latter’s influence only largely came after independence. The language deliberately Sanskritized to prove a point. Even now 35% of modern Sinhalese vocabulary is purely Tamil derived or from its native dialect Elu. Sinhalese has a very strong Tamil substratum and its grammar, syntax and lexicon and even its alphabet is purely derived from Tamil. Tamil previously was written in a rounded form called Vatteluthu.

  • 0
    0

    Rohan 25.

    Prof: Gananath Obeysekera Anthropologist Princeton University in a letter to the New York Times in 1983 had this to say……….

    Indeed,it would not be a distortion to say that if it were possible to trace the present day Sinhalese populations ancestry far enough,all lines would in major part lead back to South India.

    Prof: Stanley Thambiah also a Sociologist from Harvard had this to say in his book Buddhism Betrayed…………

    From the 13th century onwards Sinhalese literature reflected an Anti Tamil slant.

    I am posting this in view of your line that after the 10th century immigration from South India to the Tamil areas of the island became a trickle …………

    • 0
      0

      Plato, Instead of crazy tracing, why not go forward with hope and expectation of something really good things will happen

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