23 June, 2024

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Nation Needs Renewed Public Activism To Realise Lost Hopes 

By Mohamed Harees –

Lukman Harees

“If a society normalizes indecencies, then indecencies will be the norm, without countermeasures.” – Henry Johnson Jr

Sri Lanka’s self-made economic crisis, heightened by the pandemic, world headlines. Not long ago, the island nation was an economic success story. Under the Rajapaksas, it became a cautionary tale of corruption and financial fragility. Sri Lanka is today facing its worst economic crisis since independence and has been enduring runaway inflation, power blackouts, and fuel rationing since last year.Rampant inflation, food shortages and rural economic collapse saw hunger and immiseration reach destabilising levels. he United Nations Tuesday warned of a worsening food crisis in bankrupt Sri Lanka and said the number of people needing urgent humanitarian help had doubled to 3.4 million. The deepening economic crisis is forcing people to make heartbreaking choices between going hungry, buying life-saving medicine, or finding the money to send children to school. 

A recent IFRC Report provided first-hand evidence of how the most vulnerable people, who were already under the poverty line, are being driven further towards despair. As a result, people are resorting to borrowing heavily, eating less food and fewer times per day, pawning valuables and assets, and using other survival strategies just to scrape by. “Our main priorities remain meeting humanitarian needs at its worst. Unless this is done effectively and quickly, people who are struggling now will find themselves on a demeaning pathway to destitution from which there is no escape. The time to act is now”

As International Crisis Group report says, “some of the more visible aspects of Sri Lanka’s economic crisis (may) have eased since (President) Wickremesinghe assumed the presidency on 20 July, with a new rationing system shortening the queues for petrol and diesel, power cuts becoming less frequent and cooking gas more readily available. But as the burdens on the urban middle class eased somewhat, hardship continued to grow for poorer Sri Lankans, many of whom have had to go deep into debt after suffering major drops in income, aggravating already high levels of debt incurred during the COVID-19 lockdown. Politically too, Sri Lanka is in a crisis proportions.” given how much the public resents the Rajapaksa family, (President) Wickremesinghe’s reliance on that clan’s political party for his parliamentary majority weakens his political credibility with large sections of the public. It will be hard for him to win popular support for painful changes that run counter to widely held beliefs about the state’s role in the economy and in terms of social protection. The lack of transparency around possible reforms – the government has refused calls in parliament to release details of the IMF deal and plans to implement it – can only increase public anxiety and frustration.

A recent UN Report quite rightly acknowledges that Sri Lanka is at critical juncture in its political life, and is in the midst of a serious economic crisis which has severely impacted the human rights of all communities and people of all walks of life. This has spurred broad-based demands by Sri Lankans from all communities for deeper reforms and accountability, and gives the Government a fresh opportunity to steer the country on a new path. The Report says, Sri Lanka’s new Government should embark on a national dialogue to advance human rights and reconciliation’. “Fundamental changes will be required to address the current challenges and to avoid repetition of the human rights violations of the past”. The report calls on the Government to immediately end the reliance on draconian security laws and crackdowns on peaceful protest, reverse the drift towards militarisation and show renewed commitment to, and deliver on, security sector reform and ending impunity. The SL government has on the contrary created political obstacles to accountability, and actively promoted and incorporated some military officials credibly implicated in alleged war crimes into the highest levels of government.

The Report stresses, in the absence of progress towards accountability at the national level, the report urges other States to cooperate in accountability efforts, including by using available avenues of extraterritorial and universal jurisdiction, to investigate and prosecute crimes under international law committed in Sri Lanka. Additionally, the report urges States to explore further measures targeting those who are credibly alleged to have been responsible for gross violations and abuses of international human rights law or serious violations of international humanitarian law.

Many experts say quite rightly that Sri Lanka’s road to ruin was political, not actually economic. Some trace the roots of the current crisis lying with ethnocracy, which entails domination and subordination. The associated mytho-history enables a powerful ethnoreligious narrative undergirded by Buddhism. As meritocracy and professionalism were undermined, many among those qualified moved abroad. Tamils had little choice, but Sinhalese who valued integrity and competence also bolted. This brain drain amid ethnocentric recruitment saw standards decline throughout government sectors. Since the conflict ended in 2009, Rajapaksa-led governments, liaising with extremist Buddhist monks, whipped up Islamophobia. Being anti-minority became patriotic, which is why the Rajapaksas combined their Sinhalese Buddhist credentials with cavalier racism to keep winning elections for two decades. Political kleptocrats seek to stay in power because they fear being held accountable. Precisely why Ranil was brought in with SLPP support to ensure Rajapakses were shielded from prosecution and all those who are standing up against state corruption and dictatorship are being put behind bars. Much of the recent crisis can be blamed on Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s presidency and his family, with several family members holding multiple government portfolios. The Rajapaksa family has dominated Sri Lankan politics for several decades, carving out a massive constituency among the majority Sinhalese community by espousing populist ethnomajoritarianism. Many of Gota’s policies have had catastrophic effects on Sri Lanka’s democracy and economy.

In the end, the Sri Lankan crisis leaves a battered economy and an uncertain future for the country. The people’s lack of trust in their government only exacerbates the dire conditions its citizens are facing, irrespective of the efforts made by the new government. In this historic context, what Aragalaya achieved was phenomenal. Amid this unprecedented crisis, Sri Lankans’ political activism re-awakened, prompting months-long peaceful protests. Sri Lankans have shown an admirable solidarity in response to this unprecedented crisis. They desired meaningful political and economic change that will allow them to buy basic goods and to live their lives with dignity. The government needs to listen to the people by respecting their human rights and undertaking meaningful change so Sri Lanka can put this crisis behind them. Ranil and those in power however have been attempting to devalue its significance and role in bringing about some material changes in the administration. The State is trying hard to project Aragalaya as the efforts of few persons who had ulterior political objectives, forgetting the fact the spirit of the Aragalaya encompassed the combined and collective aspirations of a nation of 22 Min people who were suppressed and marginalised by a political elite. Thus, ultimately, what Sri Lankans. The Aragalaya proved that nationalist (pseudo patriotic) sentiment cannot overcome hunger and scarcity. The protests brought together clergy and citizens from all faiths. Despite troubling trends of authoritarianism, democratic backsliding, and ethno-majoritarianism sweeping across Sri Lanka, key moments in recent history have united diverse groups in a show of peaceful pushback. These events have enabled the most recent wave of citizen mobilization, which has the potential to significantly transform Sri Lanka.

In Sri Lanka’s larger history of protests, this mobilization is remarkable for its diversity, perseverance, and relatively peaceful methods. Much of the energy and creativity of the protests can be attributed to youthful participants, yet the protests have attracted demonstrators from a wide range of ages, including some in their eighties and nineties. The movement also has united members regardless of ethnicity, religion, class, gender, sexual orientation, and profession. This political activism was a refreshing trend viewed further in the context of Sri Lanka’s fragmented political parties and weak trade unions. The shortcomings of these groups coincided with the emergence of new entities and groups for protesting government actions, such as citizen-led initiatives and youth mobilization. Citizens’ use of public interest litigation has also grown in recent years, with many activists filing cases to challenge proposed amendments to Sri Lanka’s constitution and legislative proposals as well as unjust and arbitrary government practices.  

The so-called Ranil’s new government is generally viewed as a continuation of the old guard and as said, a lifeline for the Rajapaksas and their supporters. These dynamics will continue to affect the direction of the citizen’s movement for effective political changes and help determine whether they can be sustained, and have a bearing on their effectiveness. Nevertheless, as an article (as part of the Politics of Opposition in South Asia initiative run by Carnegie’s South Asia Program) says, “regardless of the setbacks and uncertainties, Sri Lankan citizens have an opportunity to build on this moment and create a new vision for their country. They can address structural inequalities and violence while demanding social and economic justice, political accountability, and a new culture of governance. This task will not be easy, nor will the results be immediate. However, the changes brought about in the last few weeks give hope that sustained, innovative, and inclusive citizen mobilization has a chance to transform Sri Lanka”.

Christopher G. Moore, in his novel ‘Spirit House’ sarcastically quips, “asking if there is corruption in Thailand is like asking if there is dough inside a bakery. Pies and cakes don’t come from heaven and neither do deals and contracts”. Sri Lanka is no different or even worse. Isn’t Sri Lanka, a nation filled with politically blind people still going behind the same set of politicians who have taken their country to ruination and bankruptcy, when the nations in the neighbourhood are on the fast track to recovery after the recent serious pandemic which engulfed the world. The nations in the developed world are dealing on facts and figures, discovering cures for diseases, building people with great minds through science, proposing theories, debating over them, testing them and proving them thus using such theories to invent and innovate technologies. Sri Lanka is still consulting astrologists to realise new year hopes. 

As author Angelica Hopes says, “In the end because of blind immunity to reality and impunity of “justified” corruptions in the government, it is always the hard working, suffering, struggling, less privileged citizens who are all the sacrificial lamb in times of disaster and calamities through their well catered embezzlement system.” It is said that a nation which accepts to live a third-class life is just a third-class nation! If a nation wants to be called honourable nation, it must use the option to refuse any kind of policy which is against human dignity! No refuse, no honour! If the people do not  refuse a bad government, don’t they deserve it all the way!”. Forcible intercourse with one individual is called as “Rape” & Raping thousands of individuals at a time is called as “Politics”.” Political corruption works by having an equally corrupt administrative and even a legal system to protect it.” 

The Political leadership particularly in the major two parties which took turns to rule Post-Independence Sri Lanka has miserably failed with their credibility tarnished beyond measure. Any mutations within will not be able to recoup the lost public credibility in the foreseeable future. Sri Lanka in the Year 2022 cannot be anything different in 2023 under the same tainted leadership. The citizens movements will have to play a major decisive role in creating a potent force and provide a credible political alternative to the status quo, to ensure a way out for Sri Lanka. “Citizens make the autocrats, citizens can crush them.Citizens are the cause, citizens are the effect. There is no destiny, only determination of the citizens.When citizens command with conscience, corruption falls.Citizens are the altar, citizens are the idol.When the citizens come down to the streets, dictators fall.Autocrats and dictators rule because the citizens allow it. Once the citizens wake up from hibernation, it’s time for their last wish.” ― Abhijit Naskar, Amantes Assemble: 100 Sonnets of Servant Sultans

Heralding a New year and a change in the month and date in the calendar will not change the destiny of this beleaguered nation, wounded by the corrupt and inefficient political elites which ruled Sri Lanka. An awakened populace and public activism certainly can. 

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Latest comments

  • 3
    0

    Since independence, SL leaders are to be blamed for lack of progress & even impoverished countries a decade ago, such as, Bangladesh & Vietnam, have now overtaken SL economically. The Bandaranayakas are major contributors to the status quo but they are eclipsed by the new dynasty, the Rajapakses. It is not only the economy but rule of law, blatant corruption, cronyism, nepotism & abuse of power that have been rampant since the Rajapakses came to power but the majority vote base, the Sinhala Buddhists, were brainwashed, just as the Nazis did, & looked the other way, even in denial. The Nazis were responsible for a broken Germany & the immense suffering of its people but those responsible were tried & convicted. Although, many who deserved punishment managed to escape, the main instigators faced justice. Unfortunately, those directly responsible for the misery of average citizens of SL continue to wield power & it is unlikely that they will ever be held accountable. Germany & Vietnam emerged from the ashes of destruction but SL never will as long as the current bunch of despicable politicians continue. We have no choice, just like the rabbit caught in the headlamps, unable to move & waiting to be run over.

    • 3
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      Raj,
      “Since independence, SL leaders are to be blamed for lack of progress”
      Don’t you think the people themselves are to blame for electing utter idiots like Gota? Let’s not forget that other educated idiot, SWRD, who opened the flood gates of religious chauvinism. He opened the way for ignorant clergy to meddle in state affairs, now even demanding that the country be run as they want. We shouldn’t forget Ratana, who was a major influence on Gota in the fertilizer disaster. The people are in thrall and simply vote, sheep-like for whoever the local hamuduruwo recommends. At least one minister nowadays seems to be able to stand up to these Ayatollahs. Mangala did, and got “excommunicated” for his pains. Let’s see how it works out this time.

      • 0
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        old codger

        I blame the self serving ‘leaders’ of SL because the average voter had no choice. SWRD’s ‘nationalistic’ policies paved the way for racists to call the shots & we have/had gutter mouth yobs, from Premadasa Snr to Modawansa, playing to the gallery, the brain washed Sinhala Buddhists. Now we have the village thug, drug dealers, porn stars, oligarchs & even murderers in Parliament because they were nominated by the mainstream parties. Even intellectuals like GL have prostituted their dignity & integrity. All political parties that have been in power promoted cronyism & nepotisms, & blatantly allowed them to ‘make hay while the sun shined’. The voters, even though most were stupid & drunk with nationalistic rhetoric, had no choice, it was bull shit or horse shit, either way, it was shit. At least now, I hope mainstream parties would take responsibility & nominate educated people with integrity & competence, not those with just the gift of the gab or ‘heredity leaders’.

        • 0
          0

          R-UK
          Racist politics had its roots in the colonial era.
          What were the riots of 1915 about? The citizenship act of 1948?
          How long did it take the Brits to play down their anti-Irish racism?
          *
          Do not try to pin down a broad phenomenon on a individual.
          Your sentimental sloganeering here is no different from what those who play to the gallery do anywhere on earth.

    • 0
      0

      Raj-UK,
      Ask the average Sinhala Buddhist (SB) on the street, the cause of the current meltdown and crisi, including the Starvation and deprivation, they would state with glee that it was a CIA conspiracy along with Western past Imperial colonists in the Paris club to grind Sri Lanka to the ground, just at the momentous point, when they were going to Garlanded, with Vistas of Prosperity and Splendour envisioned by Gota and Viyathmaga!!!?? They would reassure you Gota’s 2nd coming 2024!!!
      The Intelligent and Emancipated electorate await with baited breath, that 2 coming, as the confidently feel, that the 1st coming was sabotaged by reactionaries, who were absolutely zealous of Sri Lanka’s performance last year!!
      Pray their wishes come true!!???
      ASPIRATIONAL ANTICIPATION, THE BEST RELAXATION FOR MIND AND SOUL!!!??
      What other alternatives???

      • 0
        0

        M
        Have you really done a survey to come out with such gemstones?
        Give the brain time to fall in gear before you breathe fire.

    • 0
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      “If a society normalizes vulgarity, vulgarity will be normal without contradiction.” – Henry Johnson Jr

      The fate of people is like a prey caught by an octopus (brutal Rajapaksa brothers, sons, cousins etc.). In other words – “Curse of Sataka”.

      What did it not destroy? Sinhala Buddhism, Sinhala/Sri Lanka Society, Sinhala Language, Education, Respect and Pride, Sinhala Culture and All.

      There is no escape. The particular female teacher (once punished by dipping in Baira Lake) but she is shameless and has proven again, she is further loyal to Rajapaksas. This was obvious in recently held gathering on the arrival of Basil at SL airport.
      .
      I really don’t know how it happened. Those who have lived in the country may know more about it. For us, their behavior was found to be against “basic law and order” from the beginning on.

      This happened through a family that is friendly to crime as the leaders of this country. The people approved any crime that the Rajapaksas continued to commit. Artists and media con artists painted their actions as decent and respectable. Public perception turned to be fake.
      .
      The Mlechcha MEDAMULANA family and their criminals in retrospect treated their close henchmen (Aluthgamage, Johnsten, Wimal buruwanse) who put them in power the same way Gaddafi ruled Libya.

      • 0
        0

        Even after killing and evacuating the Libyan families, the reverberations of their bad deeds don’t seem to help them get out of the mess they’ve been left with.
–
Now is the time to hang MaRa et al by their “scarves” to appease the masses. This would have been the best to confort the masses and cheer up them.

        In the present context, Sri Lanka needs more “prisons” than “schools and temples”. It is more or less comparable to Venezuela.
        -https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=60jGRGXOXbU
        Any leader who took the risk to face it in such a context should not be attacked for any mess. Had Dallas been elected, the situation would have been worse than it is today. Like Wimal Buruwanse, he was cheap and loyal to Rajapakse crimes.At leas the could HAVE fixed MEDIA in his tenure as ” media minister” if he had been different.
        .
        Curse to Rajapaksa – Politics. Mahinda Rajapakse is responsible for this mess. His end times will not be mild at all. Not a single sane person wishes him anything; An exception is the Sri Lankan slaves.

        • 0
          0

          it is believed that they in pali university, those fake monks (ordained to be monks due to lack of something to eat) are today like vandalizing monkeys in deserted temples in india.

          -https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2Ft_VMVEkCk

          Future in srilanka will belike what is displayed in the below video

          -https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=23LfSV_sdY0´

          Those sinhla budhist monks and island wide temple monks are rumouered to be masters at ” child molestation”. Recent reports came out from a paediactic hospital has revealed it, however, hypocritic buddhist clergy has forced them not to publish it.
          .
          Can you imagine ? Those monks are decorated with ” design hair cuts” but make bit arguments before ” uneducated incompetent police constables” ?
          It is high time to treat those monks as ” lay people”. If POLICE is provoked, they should be treated like ones violating the law.

  • 0
    0

    In the latest speech to the nation, The Evil Emperor has indicated that his role in Secret Solution had ended and now it is with the All-Party leaders. All of Evil’s seasonal dramas are “economy first and solution later” or “solution in February 2023” to ensure an IMF loan by 2023, March. Whatever can happen, he will keep talking about some baffling things until TNA and IMF surrender without any other course. The Telugu high caste Bandaram, Solomon West Ridgeway Dias’ successful cultivation of the native, racist, Langkang’s original communism (opposed to NM, Colvin, Peter experimented USSR Communism) has reinforced the Sinhala Buddhists’ anti- Evil Emperor feeling which will not allow them to show any faith to Evil in the coming election for saving the Royals. Merging UNP with the Slap Party, the main branch of the shattered SLFP, may cause both to sink. Slap Party knows how to swim even in the middle of the ocean. But here the high inertia of the UNP trying to the Slap Party, that is where they both are going to sink in the coming election. IF UNP leaves the SLAP party alone and remains at the shore, Slap would be able to find a way to swim back to shore.

  • 0
    0

    There are some predictions of worldwide recession. There are some predictions of Ukraine-Russia war escalation. Industrialized democratic nations have their worries on these issues. But we have no idea what turn these issues would take. One thing we can very certainly predict is that anything can happen, in other words, it can rain or shine, both are disastrous to Langkang. Even letting Ceylon loose in the name of freedom with Universal Franchise had turned to mountainous disaster to Ceylon. That does not end there. If a cataclysm strikes on Langkang, Sinhala Intellectuals maneuver it into a racial holocaust and use their Aappa Diplomacy to bring funds from USAIDS, form a Hangbangtota Help fund to reward that money to the political and business masters. The Evil Emperor’s real worry is keeping the Western world out of Ceylon, by some smooth Techniques I.s. negotiating a lifelong Secret Solution with Sampanthar Aiyya. Evil contends that he is blessed, if Sampanthar Aiyya blessed by the West for “Long Life.” These overly complex matters for the Sinhala Buddhist Modayas to grasp so they use an effortless way out in elections, i.e. They vote for the Arrack Bottle symbol & Biriyani Parcel symbol.

  • 0
    0

    Evil has promised by February (diamond Jubilee) Secret Solution for Tamils and by Catenary Jubilee for Sinhala Buddhist Modayas. That is nothing surprising for ths Tamils! Tamils have seen from the Banda-Chelva pact to Indian PM, Modi’s 13+. For a long time, from Siri Ma O to Hiler King, the state heads have been bringing from moon Rice, splendor from Singapore’s prosperity, another South Asian Japan, Wonder of the Asia, Dutugemunu, Hitler, rocket to moon ………. even Kim Jong Un’s nuclear missiles rockets. So, Sinhala Buddhist Modayas are asked to tighten the belt, and keep paying the tax, so, by 2048, instead of sipping Gal Oya Pol Arrack, they can swim in the Los Vegas First World Nation sweet drinks and directly watch the girls on stage without any peep barrier. Even the Kandy Bald Heads are very thrilled about the Evils’ new 25-year plan so, to be ready for the occasion, they have started to take practice on 8 years to 13 years old boys and girls. From Siri Ma O to until the Evils Emperor, they know how their double meaning talks will be mistakenly interpreted by the Sinhala Buddhist Modayas. For their preparation, they charter Kananathan’s plane and open their bank accounts in Dubai to make deposits.

  • 0
    0

    To develop the country, there is only one way. The educated class should train the middle class to support the protestors, instead of hallucinating about the Wonder of the Asia or Los Vegas, the First World Nation. Without the protestors winning, there is no political or economic freedom for the majority community. Without an open investigation into the Genocide/War crimes there will no life for Tamils in Langkang. This maxim is drumming the future of all aspects of Langkang Societies’ life.

  • 0
    0

    Raj-UK,
    Ask the average Sinhala Buddhist (SB) on the street, the cause of the current meltdown and crisi, including the Starvation and deprivation, they would state with glee that it was a CIA conspiracy along with Western past Imperial colonists in the Paris club to grind Sri Lanka to the ground, just at the momentous point, when they were going to Garlanded, with Vistas of Prosperity and Splendour envisioned by Gota and Viyathmaga!!!?? They would reassure you Gota’s 2nd coming 2024!!!
    The Intelligent and Emancipated electorate await with baited breath, that 2 coming, as the confidently feel, that the 1st coming was sabotaged by reactionaries, who were absolutely zealous of Sri Lanka’s performance last year!!
    Pray their wishes come true!!???
    ASPIRATIONAL ANTICIPATION, THE BEST RELAXATION FOR MIND AND SOUL!!!??
    What other alternatives???

  • 0
    0

    I do not understand why still the people of Sri Lanka continue to give support to family dictators and why couldn’t they produce a charismatic leader who is free from corruption or any other crimes? The system is like that and they all follow that system.

    • 0
      0

      Ajith,
      “I do not understand why still the people of Sri Lanka continue to give support to family dictators and why couldn’t they produce a charismatic leader who is free from corruption or any other crimes?:”
      Good question. Sri Lankans are South Asians. Have you tried to get feathers from a tortoise?

  • 0
    0

    ” As meritocracy and professionalism were undermined, many among those qualified moved abroad. Tamils had little choice, but Sinhalese who valued integrity and competence also bolted. “
    Does the author not know why Sinhalese professionals fled. Where was he in 1987-9?
    They valued their lives and dollars more than integrity and competence.
    Many crawled back with dual citizenship to follow.

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