By Anonymous –
The talented and colourful cricketer, Lasith Malinga, has refused to play for Sri Lanka because of low wages. The patriotic are up in arms; Malinga has betrayed the nation – just as Sangakkara did in his Lord’s speech which spilt the beans on the cricket business?! I reckon it was the RIGHT thing to do. Sports after all is big business today, and in Lanka it is a corrupt-to-the-hilt business owned and operated by Mahinda Rajapakse, his sons, and cronies. Lanka’s legendary and talented cricketers should follow Malinga’s example, eschew the flag waving nationalism used to mask the looting of Sri Lanka cricket by Rajapakse and his cronies and their economic crimes, call a spade a spade, and play the game accordingly.
University dons and working classes of Lanka should follow Malinga’s model – refuse to work for low wages and double taxation. This would be the Greater Patriotism! Stand up and be counted for exposing the lie and educate the people through civil disobedience. For, the truth is that the ‘miracle of Asia’ is rapidly morphing into the ‘debacle of Asia’. Sri Lankan Airlines, a once proud and solvent carrier seems to epitomize the direction that the country is headed. When Emirates Air partnered and ran Sri Lankan five years ago, it was not a massive drain on Lankan tax-payers and passengers felt safe on board, but recently on a London flight the airline’s plight was apparent. In-flight magazines were two years old and tattered, the in-flight entertainment system dysfunctional while the plane creaked like an old bus; one could not help wonder if it was safe to fly a favorite airline which even during the height of the war had offered excellent service.
The Rajapakse regime’s take-over amidst nationalist rhetoric of Sri Lankan Airlines from Emirates has meant the transfer of public assets into private hands, particularly, of Mahinda Rajapakse’s brother-in-law, bankrupting of the national airline which the beleaguered Lankan tax payer now has to bail out as the rupee crashes, the cost of living sores, and Lanka sinks into a debt trap.
Ordinary people, struggling to make ends meet, today pay for the excesses of the rich and politically connected; a ‘development’ paradigm called trickle-up master minded, perfected and promoted by the Breton Woods twins (IMF and World Bank), avidly copied by intellectually and morally bankrupt political and military elites all over the world – from debt ridden Greece whose tottering banks are being bailed out to the tune of billions of Euros while the ordinary people protest on the streets – to debt ridden Lanka where ordinary people are paying for mismanagement and debt incurred in every sector of the economy due to loss making state enterprises, numerous white elephant infrastructure projects constructed on loans glossed as “aid”, military and sports businesses run by the ruling extended family on public funds, and the policy mistakes of a jumbo cabinet of incompetent ministers.
The pendulum has swung from one extreme to another: Recently the Jakarta Post, Indonesia’s leading English language daily ran a story headlined: “Sri Lanka’s Postwar Economic Miracle Sours”. The best performing stock exchange in 2010 has tanked. The regime has sold off the country’s gold reserves to pay mounting debts. Lanka’s looming economic crisis and galloping income inequality which cannot be disguised by the Central Bank boasting about 7.2 percent GDP growth on borrowed steam, seems to be common knowledge overseas, has been barely discussed within the country due to state-orchestrated patriotism against the U.S resolution calling on the Lankan government to ensure reconciliation and accountability for excesses at war’s end at the United Nations Human Rights Council meeting in Geneva.
Recently economist Harsh de Silva called for better management of the massive national debt run up by the accountant at the Central Bank, but it is clear that what is necessary is a larger movement for accountability: a paradigm shift with regard to the economic development model is needed to reduced inequality and prevent people slipping back into poverty as the crisis bites. Globally, this would mean shutting down the IMF and World Bank which have failed miserably to do what they were mandated to do – keep the financial system above board. Despite the Billions of dollars spent on their experts the world is reeling from listening to them.
Closer home, unfortunately, the UNP under Ranil Wickramasinghe suffers a democracy deficit parallel to the democratic deficit in the county at large under the militarized Rajapakse regime. Beset by infighting the UNP has failed in its fundamental duty as a responsible opposition to carry out a systematic campaign to educate the people on the reasons for the twin economic and political crises that Sri Lanka faces at this time. As dissent within the party mounts, Wickramasinghe lacks the moral authority to critique the Rajapakse regime on its greed for power and poor democratic governance record since the UNP has no democracy within, and hence has remained silent rather than discussing the real issues with the people.
Sri Lankans will need to follow Lasith Malinga’s model of civil disobedience! Get the message out fast: stand up and be counted as a different sort of player, refuse to go with the Rajapakse show and way of governance, non-violent resistance!