11 August, 2022

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Is Cascading Collapse Unstoppable?

By Kumar David

Prof. Kumar David

The theory that Ranil Wickremesinghe (RW) was brought in as PM to save the skin of the Rajapaksa Clan is very plausible. Mahinda was driven out when his attempted 9 May coup was foiled by public revolt, Basil reduced to scavenging and other clan members forced to hightail it from Cabinet. These defeats of the regime and Ranil’s appointment did indeed defuse pressure on the regime and the intensity of the protests on Galle Face and elsewhere quietened. A much-weakened Gotabaya clung on to power, a shadow of himself, but retaining his military coterie and the incompetent, corrupt scoundrels he brought with him from California and injected into sinecures. Therefore, the thesis worked for a moment; but events have a logic and dynamic of their own, reality evolves and matters do not move as projected in well-laid plans. This is why political wakefulness and intelligence are indispensable; only sterile analyst seek to substitute the retelling of what happened in Russia in 1917 or Libya in recent times, and so on, for a grasp of the movement of events, for thinking on one’s feet and alertness to unravelling reality

In the four weeks since RW’s appointment the dynamics have indeed changed visibly and the relationship between RW and Gota evolved. On the whole changes during the month have moved to strengthen RW’s hand. Most significant is that RW has visibly asserted control of the Administration and Gota taken a back seat. RW is clearly and visibly in charge of negotiations with the IMF and foreign powers (for whatever they may be worth), Gota has conceded that he is finished as a President and has declared his intention not the run again. And of course, on the constitutional side the Twenty-first Amendment cleared by the Cabinet and sent to the Legal Draftsman in anticipation of tabling in Parliament transfers a considerable amount of power out of the Presidency and into the hands of Parliament. Thereafter there will be shift of power away of the Presidency; Parliament and PM will be the gainers. (This is not endorsement of 21A, the big lacuna is that the Executive Presidency is not abolished). Gotabaya is yesterday’s news; I am reluctant to devote anymore space in today’s column to that person whose tenure was littered with imbecilic decisions.

The key players in the next four weeks in which it will become clear whether the immediate crisis leads to cascading collapse, which I fear may see chaos and anarchy follow in its wake, are RW and a disparate array of forces in the government parliamentary group, mainly the faction-ridden SLPP. If the RW government is pulled down, then there are in theory only two credible alternatives, chaos or an immediate general election. I am of the view, and I may be wrong, to appoint anther person as PM will lead to an explosion of anger (not because the electorate loves RW but because it will be another game of dirty musical-chairs) and because it will rip-up the applecart of negotiations with the IMF and international lenders. I am afraid whether you love or hate RW you are stuck with him for the moment, at least till the prevailing extreme emergency has subsided. As I have said many times in this column the instant litmus test is the fuel crisis; shortages and food prices will take longer to deal with though hunger is biting many people very hard. Fuel queues are stark, visible and a flashpoint of anger; the fuel crisis is an in-you-face affront, it is a 24-hour reminder of a Ranil failure.

The next few weeks can swing in many directions. Every rumour turns false and sour. Petrol prices have been predicted to “go up tomorrow by Rs 50 to 70” for the last week. That the fateful tomorrow will dawn no one doubts, but why all the drama? Tankers bearing millions of metric tons of live giving hydrocarbons are, just outside, almost berthed or turned away because Lanka is bankrupt of dollars. This muddled status does not only mark the state of our finances, it is also a reflection of political uncertainty. Ranil, the SJP and government parliamentarians pull in different directions, the JVP-NPP issues strident protests but it’s a lot of hot-air, and the TNA could do better. Apart from this messy political side, the organs of state are in a muddled condition. The police and the military don’t know whether they are coming or going and in what direction to point. Instead of playing cheap political games for advantages of the moment the Left should take a firm and clear stand along the following lines.

* The RW government must remain in office for a short while more to complete bailout negotiations with the IMF et al. (What else? Are we going to form an Anura Kumara or Sajith government to continue the negotiations; do they know how even to approach the issues?) No one can guarantee whether ongoing negotiations will prove fruitful, I certainly will not offer odds on the outcome. But at this moment there is nothing else to do. You don’t shoot the pilot in mid-air whether he lost his parliamentary seat, is a political rightist, or whether he farts in public.

* It is necessary to hold elections within a few months. It is not necessary to accept an RW led government beyond the ‘emergency phase’ noted in the previous bullet point. RW has hinted that he would like to stay till the economy is “fixed”. This is noy acceptable because his “fix” will carry with it his ideological baggage. There is no need to lend support to a short- or medium-term economic programme that RW, Sajith or Rajapaksa-rump led political firmament may have up its sleeve. Once the emergency phase is passed (“Thank you Ranil”) let there be a new government with a fresh mandate from the people. Will the electorate bugger it up again? Very likely, but at least it will be foist once again by its own toenails. The people of Sri Lanka are reaping what they have sowed for over seven decades; the Rajapaksas and such vermin were only the topping on the cake, the popularly acclaimed faeces decorating the nation.

* Sri Lanka, both by long experience and psychologically is absolutely unsuitable for anything like a one-party system as in some socialistic inclined countries. It must be made plain clear and explicit that Lanka will remain democratic and governments will be chosen and kicked by the exercise of the franchise of the people.

* The repeal of the executive presidential system, root and branch must be high on the agenda; this may have already been done in the years in between. An appropriate mixed electoral system should be introduced but I have no particular structure in mind.

* There must be a firm commitment to the devolution of powers and governance to the people in the North and East and a renunciation of all discriminatory measures against the Ceylon Tamil, Muslim, Upcountry Tamil and Catholic communities. Sinhala-Buddhist majoritarian chauvinism must the programmatically denounced.

* It seems to me that the next election if held within a few months will be won by liberal bourgeois outfit, Sajith or a Ranil-Sajith combo. Though I make no bones about by left-socialist proclivities I am quite reconciled to the thought that the people will neither understand nor vote such an option to power in the forthcoming elections. That’s fine, actually that’s better because the left parties have neither the broad knowledge-bases nor the administrative experiences needed to run a modern (Twenty-first Century) government. The delay is a blessing in disguise.

* The forthcoming (by which I mean within say six months) elections will provide the left to fully air and debate in public its alternative economic programme; an opportunity it should welcome. If I had my way the more important differences with a right-wing or centre-right programmes will (should) be (a) a stronger directive role of government – the word is dirigisme – in medium and longer range economic policy; (b) a sympathetic orientation to the needs of the have-not classes; (c) directed emphasis on technology-science, education and English language skills ow young people; (d) immediate release of all political prisoners and repeal of the PTA and many such unsavoury laws and administrative fiats.

* Of course, matters such as respect for the law, non-interference with the judiciary and many similar matters the left shares with decent liberal democratic value systems.

This is rather more than necessary I have written on ideas for a draft left programme for an election in the near future; a semi-final run for a left government before the final encounter (the timing will depend on long the next bourgeoise democratic elected government will function). The intervening period is a useful training ground for honing skills, sharpening minds and building contacts.

Back to my starting point: Will cascading collapse become catastrophic? No options are off the table. The urgent need is to shorten the fuel queues and to complete negotiations with the IMF and other agencies. This may buy a few further months to import food. Growing vegetables in your front yard is not going to fill anyone’s stomach with rice, dhal and greens in one or two months. If Lanka can get through the next one month on life support and the next few months in intensive care systemic collapse and anarchy may be averted.

I would like give readers just one example about how much belt-tightening has been inflicted on this country in such a short period. The price of 92 octane petrol has already been raised (or will soon be raised) to about Rs 500 a litre. Now this corresponds to nearly US $5.25 per US gallon which is about the highest pump price that motorists pay in California. (One US gallon = 3.79 litres, and I have assumed one US dollar equivalent to LKR 360). The prices of diesel and cooking-gas too are not much out of alignment with American prices. Fuel prices dominate all prices. Estimates of price inflation of consumer goods vary by the day but 100% year on year is not on the low side. Wages have not risen one jot in months and years. Therefore, it is no longer possible to say that Sri Lankan consumers and the poor in this country are the recipients of large unearned handouts. A big part of the IMF’s pound of flesh has been paid by the crisis itself.

I am going to leave it at that for today. Anything one says at one moment is disproved the next.

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Latest comments

  • 5
    7

    RW has hinted that he would like to stay till the economy is “fixed”

    Borrow now to fix the economis pay by future.The future today, not tomorrow.

    The whole country did note vote for ranil known to his failure then how is that one made him PM
    continues wrong desision

  • 13
    3

    Relationship between RW and Gota+MR had been strong for a long time. I do believe that both Sirisena and RW were SCARED to bring court cases against the PAKSAS during their rule between 2015 & 2019 as military intelligence [MI]were supporting NGR.
    Easter bombing happened because of few muslim lunatics were being used their master +MI. This event helped to convince the voters (who lacked political wakefulness and Intelligence) to cast the votes to NGR. RW should have groomed Sajith P or someone else to contest against the Rajapaksas from 2015. The 21st Amendment that is going to be passed is of no help to the minorities RIGHTS/ HUMAN RIGHTS.

    • 6
      0

      This comment was removed by a moderator because it didn’t abide by our Comment policy.

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    • 8
      1

      “Gotabaya clung on to power, a shadow of himself, but retaining his military coterie and the incompetent, corrupt scoundrels he brought with him from California and injected into sinecures. “
      Not entirely accurate. Sarath Weerasekara, Kamal Gunaratna, the Admiral Professori and many other incompetent military panjandrums are gone, along with the likes of Channa Jayasumana and Seethaa Arambepola.There has been a severe dilution of the self-opinionated but ignorant Viyathmaga idiots.

  • 9
    3

    Is Cascading Collapse Unstoppable?
    It is already happened, so there is no point of talking about stopping it but it is possible to start a new era with positive thinking, positive motives, new systems, new culture based on our past experience and future expectations but not with the same group of politicians who are the major cause of the collapse of the country. The current Prime Minister or President lost their trust of the people and they failed to unite the people or unite other political parties even at the point of collapse of the country. IMF or any other help or loans is not the solution to the problems of the country. The people of the country is responsible for creating the politicians and it is the people have to take full responsibility or make changes that is needed to this country.

  • 9
    0

    As an outsider perhaps someone can explain the following:-
    *
    Why are people expecting the people who got things to this point expecting these very same people to somehow “make things right”? That makes no sense at all!
    *
    All your politicians need to go – and need to be prevented from ever holding public office.
    *
    I’ve said it before – in the short term (3-5 years) you are completely screwed! You are on your own!
    *
    You are heading for a barter economy imho – the name of the game is survival. You need water, food and shelter in that order. If you have the option to grow your own fruit/vegetables then you need to get this started. You can trade for other items.
    *
    I hope you are all paying attention – Rice stocks will be gone by October according to what I’ve read. Plan accordingly.

    • 0
      2

      UK C
      Makes more sense than most here, but there are some unpredictables though.
      *
      BTW
      My wife will not let me dig up the lawn, let alone plough it.
      Would you recommend hoarding rice in a deep freezer. There is a catch with power supply though.

      • 2
        1

        SJ,
        Rice keeps quite well if you dry it in the sun now and then. Free solar power.

      • 0
        0

        @SJ
        *
        You need to communicate the seriousness of the situation to your wife imho. Time is running out.
        *
        If you know and trust your neighbours a group approach is better than an individual approach. Trade within the group.
        *
        Just read that fuel sales have been suspended – don’t expect that to be solved. Get a bicycle for transportation.

  • 3
    22

    “As I have said many times in this column the instant litmus test is the fuel crisis; shortages and food prices will take longer to deal with though hunger is biting many people very hard.”

    I said the same thing. Great minds think alike. : ) And make accurate predictions. The food issue is overinflated. If the government can solve the fuel crisis, the protests will whimper away. On another note, Russia is winning in Ukraine. That conflict will likely be over by the end of the year, bringing stability to the markets.

    “There must be a firm commitment to the devolution of powers and governance to the people in the North and East.”

    Devolution does not make sense from an economic point of view. The government needs to colonize these places to maximize economic output. There are massive amounts of unused, fertile farmland going to waste.

    “Back to my starting point: Will cascading collapse become catastrophic? No options are off the table.”

    The real issue for the government- going forward – is the ability to borrow money, now that default has occurred.

    • 8
      2

      Of course, nothing surprising, you will never want just Tamil rights of devolution of powers to the Tamil areas, but complete colonisation, of these areas by outside Sinhalese, using the excuse maximize output. The country can burn and go to ruins but the Sinhalization of Tamil areas should continue under various excuses. What about all the unused agricultural and other lands in the fertile Sinhalese areas, go and use this, instead of trying to grab Tamil people’s lands.

  • 3
    0

    I agree with you when you say “trying to shoot the pilot in mid air”. Looks like what is happening now is something like that. There seems to be a NPP and SJB alliance for that now. It looks like a temporary one to shoot the pilot.
    On the other hand you have not considered the Wimal and Champika factor in the coming election.

  • 4
    0

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    • 3
      2

      TUCO

      Whats wrong with you?

      • 3
        2

        Native,
        Have you taken to watching Breaking Bad?

        • 1
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          OC
          Never make a comment that takes effort to work out.
          We are mostly dealing with tutory products.
          You are lucky that only two guys read your comment.

        • 3
          0

          old codger

          “Have you taken to watching Breaking Bad?”

          Nopes, I have heard about it not really watched it.

          The name TUCO represents Ugly in the film The Good, the Bad and the Ugly.
          The character Ugly, played by Eli Wallach, brilliant performance. According to the story line Tuco’s full name was Tuco Benedicto Pacifico Juan Maria Ramirez is a mercenary captain.

          Sometimes Eagle Eye’s utterances sound like TUCO’s sentiments. (https://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Film/TheGoodTheBadAndTheUgly).
          An attempt at a honest review.

          There is a lot to learn about fake histories circulating as films. This article exposes most of the story line based on wrong period.

  • 5
    0

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    0

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  • 4
    0

    We have collapsed. Now its time we stop borrwing. Like defaulting the debt payment , which was decided a bit late in the day, now time as come to stop borrowing. Ranil knows only to borrow. He thought he was good at it and the international community will readily come forward when he became the PM so far not a single dollar has come in since he came.

    He is cleaver at creating an “image” about him self. The 2 videos he posted one about “politics being a blood sport” the other one about “sri Lankan kings where he ultimately asks the interviewer whether he should say something about upcountry and low country dance” we have nerver seen those interviewers before or after the interview nor was it publiched in any well known sites. They were his image buiding exercise. He has turned out to be a “puswedilla”.

    Now there is a story doing rounds that Ranil is waiting till GR goes to get dollars into the country. At present the only things that will bring dollars are the tourism and the foreign remittance. For these things to materialise crooks including Ranil has to go. He is surrounded by fellows like the one who travels in a helicopter without paying his bank loans.

  • 2
    3

    “I am going to leave it at that for today. Anything one says at one moment is disproved the next.”
    *
    So, why bother?

  • 4
    0

    I like the “Professorial” statement made by the writer ending the article, thus: ” Anything one says at one moment disproved the next”. Now this “Statement” in mind, I go to re-read the following statements in the article.

    (1) ” The RW Government must remain in office for a short while more to complete bailout negotiations with IMF et.al. What else?”

    (2) ” Are we going to form another Anura Kumara or Sajith Government to continue the negotiations; do they even know to approach the issues”?

    (3) ” You don’t shoot the pilot mid-air”.

    Will all the above statements made by the writer “at one moment disprove the next” as concluded by the same writer – mind you a “Professor”? Thank you “Professor” for awakening me to that “REALITY”?

    • 5
      2

      Simon

      “…….. do they even know to approach the issues”?”

      What do you think?
      Do you think we should send a team of negotiators consisting of SJ, Weerawansa, Udaya, Champika, …. Lester, Dinesh, Champa, TUCO, …… to negotiate with IMF?

      • 0
        1

        How humble of the ball gazer who, with glass ball under the belt, could do the job single handed.

  • 4
    0

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  • 5
    1

    The credit rating of the banking system is at default. NO international financial institution (Bank or otherwise) will touch us with a barge pole. Trying to buy anything particularly fuel using the normal channels is a fools errand. The pariah Rajapakshe family have destroyed our good relations with Japan and the middle east. W.R.T. the middle east the fiasco with Qatar is particularly lamentable. After carrying out the Easter bombings these ass holes decided to pin the blame on Hejaaz the Thomian Talented lawyer all because he won the case for the UNP back when Sirisena tried to kick the UNP government out. Not well known is the fact that RW had a friendship with the Qatari Royal family. Therefore, it was important just like the case of Japan to infuriate Qatar by implicating them in a absurd claim to Muslim terrorism and confiscating 300 million dollars donated to the NGO run by Hejaaz. Eventually unable to prove anything Hejaaz was released after being incacerated for over one year with not one iota of evidence or charges. We reap the curses bestowed upon the Rajapakshes for doing what they did to sabotage the relationship with the Japan and Qatar in particular and the greater middle east in general for being the only country in the world to refuse Muslim burial of COVID victimes.

  • 5
    1

    It is high time all the assorted mutts who voted and still support the hotuwas to make the final push and get rid of Mahinda and Gotabaya. I mean getting them by the scruff of their necks and booting them physically out of official homes, cars, and body guards etc. Mahinda has no business being in Parliament neither does his son. The entire family have to be declared enemies of the state and disbarred from holding any office for at least 100Years and for generations to come. All those who que for petrol most of whom voted for the Rajapkashes you are going to pay for the rest of your lives with no mercy for what you did.The cascading failure of the country is upon you. Fuel is the life blood of an economy and now we don’t have any means of purchasing it for any price. Some lawyer in the AGs office even managed to impound an Aeroflot plane and infuriate the one last source of petroleum the Russian government. On whose orders did he do this? The Rajapakshe hand most likely. Without fuel there is no way to stem the collapse. Look to what I have outlined and please understand how this happened and who engineered it.

  • 2
    0

    RW is as stupid as and as corrupt as Rajapaksas.
    Admit that you can not elect anyone who is honest and brilliant

  • 1
    0

    @SJ
    *
    You need to communicate the seriousness of the situation to your wife imho. Time is running out.
    *
    If you know and trust your neighbours a group approach is better than an individual approach. Trade within the group.
    *
    Just read that fuel sales have been suspended – don’t expect that to be solved. Get a bicycle for transportation.

  • 1
    1

    SJ,
    Rice keeps quite well if you dry it in the sun now and then. Free solar power.

    • 2
      1

      old codger

      “…………. Free solar power”

      Is it in the Red Book?

  • 1
    0

    An outsider’s perspective:-
    *
    After reading the comments it seems a lot of of you do not understand how serious things are. It’s going to get even worse imho.
    *
    You need to start thinking in years – that’s how long it will take (and that’s not guaranteed). imho.
    *
    You are on your own – don’t expect any help.
    *
    Survival is your only concern. Water/Food/Shelter – in that order. Learn about the Barter Economy – your Rupees are worthless.

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