20 May, 2022


New Faces & New Ethos Might Be Able To Save The Country

By Jehan Perera

Jehan Perera

There are indications that the government delegation that went to meet with the IMF in Washington did not obtain the immediate relief in the form of a quick transfer of dollars into the government’s coffers that they hoped for, and indeed, the country at large hopes for. Instead, the IMF appears to be saying that the government should first present a concrete plan as to how it is going to pay back the huge loan aggregate before the IMF provides any assistance. This would require the government to present a proposal of how it is going to save money by cutting down on expenditure to repay the outstanding loans. Further, it would require the government to go to its creditors and seek to get some write-offs and also extend the period of repayment. This may be possible with foreign governments whose loans we need to repay if there is sufficient goodwill and a desire to help.

As the crisis in the country races to its climax, which could include economic collapse, a plethora of groups are engaging in discussions to strategise the way forward. The National Council of Professionals was one such and organized a public forum on Sunday. There were close to a thousand participants at the event and many speeches on what had gone wrong and what was needed to put things right. A business leader who spoke referred to a young man who had escaped recruitment by the LTTE and fled to the UK. He had returned to the country recently for a visit, having won an award for being one of the top ten entrepreneurs in the UK. The crucial point that the businessman was making was that Sri Lanka needed to harness the goodwill that existed for it in the world.

He appealed to Opposition Leader Sajith Premadasa who was the chief guest at the event to mobilise this goodwill. For a start this would require reaching out to the Tamil community and bringing reconciliation to the country. He said that as the son of a president who was assassinated by the LTTE, the opposition leader could be the Nelson Mandela of Sri Lanka to overcome the legacy of division and hatred. The divisions in the country due to the prevalence of ethnic nationalism and memories of the past are still not erased. They are not visible at the mass protests where the young people involved in the demonstrations have slogans such as “No to racism” and “Reject politicians who use racism to get votes.”  But even at the demonstration sites these differences can come to the surface. The main thrust of the protest slogans are directed against the government leaders for being corrupt. There are Tamil protestors who carry placards that ask for justice for missing persons and for land to be returned.

North East

In Mannar where I was the day before the professionals’ event in Colombo, civic leaders belonging to various walks of life, including religion and public service, explained the absence of mass protests in the Tamil areas on the ground that the campaign in Colombo and elsewhere in the South of the country did not address the issues of the Tamil people. Rather they had also rejected the government leaders andtheir policies in toto before the protests, as they did not form the 6.9 million voters that the president constantly referred to. It is that 6.9 million who need to protest being led up the garden path. Further, the position taken by most of the activists at the meeting I attended was that the Sinhalese people had not shown empathy or joined them when they struggled for their rights during the time of the war. During that period, which stretched close to three decades, there were shortages of food and medicine, fuel and power cuts and costs of essentials were much higher than in the rest of the country.

A similar sentiment was expressed by some of the Muslims present. Several hundred Muslim youth, including several from Mannar remain incarcerated due to the Easter bombing. They are held under the Prevention of Terrorism Act that permits prolonged detention without formal charge or bail. Even those who accidentally connected with suicide bomb squad leader Zahran, have been put into detention, even if they were a three -wheel driver who accepted a hire to take food to Zahran and his group or attended religious sermons he delivered before he was known to be a terrorist. Three years have passed and they remain incarcerated.

There is today the shared problem of shortages, astronomical price hikes and power cuts. There is a common cause of that, but not beyond. Even today, more than a decade after the end of the war, the specific problems of the people in the North and East do not resonate in other parts of the country. The sentiments expressed by people in the North and East are understandable. The Tamil people support the protests even if they do not join them. It is the protestors who have the numbers to vote in governments who need to ensure ethnic and religious divisions will be wiped out. Even as the protests in various parts of the country take place there are land grabs taking place in the North and East. It needs enlightened leaders on both sides of the divide to move forward and to join hands to do so.

In the South of the country a massive and unprecedented people’s movement led on the ground by youth is in full thrust despite the passage of over three weeks since it began. This is not a youth struggle alone but one that encompasses the older generations as well who come to the demonstration sites not only to be participants but to afford the protection to the youth that age can bring. There are images on social media of Christian nuns standing in front of the youth demonstrators to provide them with a human shield against threatened tear gas attacks by the security forces. There is a unity and the basis for unity for those of all age groups and ethnic communities to stand together in opposition to corruption and the use of ethnic nationalism to divide and rule.

Quick Relief

The core message of the business leader at the professionals’ forum was that resolving the ethnic conflict could lead to an unlocking of international goodwill and assistance to Sri Lanka—and that it could come on a very large scale. The issue that concerns the Western countries, who continue to be the richest in the world notwithstanding the rise of China, is Sri Lanka’s ethnic conflict. It is this long unresolved problem that has led to at least three million Sri Lankans emigrating to those countries as political and economic refugees for the most part. With the passage of time this diaspora has grown to wield considerable economic and political power of their own that gives them leverage over the governments of their adopted countries.

The current government leadership has been discredited internationally, and particularly in the Western countries, for its poor track record in human rights and ensuring accountability for human rights violations. This is the reason that Sri Lanka is being dragged on the coals at every session of the UN Human Rights Council since it came to power in November 2019. It is also the reason why Sri Lanka is facing the possible loss of its GSP Plus tariff privileges from the EU. Likewise, the grotesque way in which the government insisted on cremating the bodies of Muslims who died of Covid for over a year not only alienated the Muslim community within Sri Lanka but the larger Muslim community (and governments) worldwide.

The current government which is neither trusted locally or internationally is unfortunately not in a position to obtain the large scale financial assistance that Sri Lanka urgently requires. A government leadership that is so clearly rejected by its people, and which is refusing to resign despite teetering on the brink even in parliament where they once enjoyed a 2/3 majority, can hardly impress the international community as being a stable or honorable government. A new governmental leadership with new faces and a new ethos might still be able to save the country and its people from the economic catastrophe that appears imminent. Stepping down may be a better and more graceful option for the current leadership and would provide a better opportunity for the country in the global arena without having to fight inside and outside.

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Latest comments

  • 5

    If the Rajapaksas have at least a minute love in the island of Sri Lanka and its people they should apologise the people publicly not only for Sinhalese but also for Tamils and Muslims and hand over their assets and wealth to this country and voluntarily give up all their positions in the government peacefully without a single death of any other citizens.
    Why should they apologise?
    President Gota Rajapaksa has accepted that his decision on fertilizer and chemicals was wrong and his handling of economy was wrong. But so far, he has not accepted that his decision to misuse the power through 20th amendment or appointing all his family members as ministers, criminals as ministers, brought another American brother as Finance Minister, release of murderers without any judicial approval etc. So, he need to apologise for knowingly and intentionally misleading the public and misusing the power and he should resign his position.

    • 1

      “If the Rajapaksas have at least a minute love in the island of Sri Lanka and its people they should apologise the people publicly not only for Sinhalese but also for Tamils and Muslims…”

      Apologize for what?
      • Eliminating Tamil terrorists who carried out genocide of Sinhala Buddhists for three decades.
      • Liberating about 300,000 innocent Tamil civilians kept as a human shield by Tamil terrorists.
      • Liberating Tamil children grabbed by Tamil terrorists and recruited as child soldiers and handing over them to their parents.
      • Restoring peace that was denied by Tamil terrorists for three decades.
      • Rehabilitating LTTE cadres and guiding them for self-employment.
      • Spending tax payers’ money to restore infrastructure destroyed by Tamil terrorists.
      • Resettling thousands of displaced Tamils.
      • Building houses for displaced Tamils.
      • Providing electricity and water supply to Tamils in the North.
      • Removing millions of land mines planted by Tamil terrorists and making those areas safe for Tamils.

  • 3

    Yes send one Mahadena.utta home and bring another Mahadenamutta.
    This is what you were doing since independence.
    Have you ever elected a statesman?
    Tamils rejected Banda elected by you. He spoiled the economy with communal riots.
    Tamils rejected JR elected by you. We know full well that liberalising economy is bad for the people.

    • 2

      “He spoiled the economy with communal riots.”

      SWRD Bandaranayake did not spoil the economy with communal riots. Racist separatist Tamil politicians in Yapanaya ruined the economy by starting communal riots attacking Sinhalayo in Yapanaya. All communal riots after Sinhalayo gained independence were started by Tamil politicians in Yapanaya.

    • 0

      I think that you forget the contribution of UNP thugs to the riots in 1958.
      Can you kindly name a few statesmen in power in any country today?
      Parliamentary democracy militates against that.

  • 5

    New Faces & New Ethos Might Be Able To Save The Country

    First New faces will have to pay depth of other people stolen money, Getting away with it is funny though you remember it in future

  • 1

    “It is the protestors who have the numbers to vote in governments who need to ensure ethnic and religious divisions will be wiped out.”
    Indigenous Sinhala Buddhists who accommodated Demalu and Muslims from Hindusthan in their country assuming that they will live in peace and harmony with Sinhalayo did not start ethnic and religious divisions.
    It is racist Tamil politicians in Yapanaya who promoted ethnic division between Sinhalayo and Tamils in Yapanaya in order to create a separate State for Tamils in Yapanaya. Sinhala leaders formed national political parties; UNP and SLFP with the intention of uniting different communities and develop the country but SJV Chelvanayakam formed a political party called ‘Illankai Tamil Arasu Kachchi’ in 1949 (toned down as Federal Party in English but the real meaning was Tamil State Party) which had as its hidden agenda the establishment of a separate state within Sinhale and told Tamils not to learn Sinhala with the intention of keeping the two communities apart for their political survival.

  • 3

    The prime minister very recently declared that he can still run with the youth, and had just returned from jogging. However, video footage on TV shows him being assisted even when bending forward to greet the monks. Today he told his supporters at a meeting that he will not leave, and not to worry etc. I suppose this author will write something polite about these aspects too.

    • 1

      but the truth as it is without
      Walk aids
      Sleep aids
      Hearing aids

      Alone maintenance of this man is a big headache to the state. In a civilized country the kind of criminals would have kept in a permament cage, cutting all the wastages properly.

      The bugger would remain permanebnt bedridden patient.
      Just because PS men and women (far uneducated but they were appointed by pro-rajapakshe forces) ask him to stay in power and his greediness to power, do not seem to widen his eyes.

  • 1

    “The current government leadership has been discredited internationally, and particularly in the Western countries, for its poor track record in human rights and ensuring accountability for human rights violations.”

    The current government leadership has not been discredited internationally but only by few western countries who directly or indirectly supported LTTE Tamil terrorists because Rajapakshes did not bow down to their request to stop the military operation against Tamil terrorists so that they can rescue the barbaric leader of LTTE and take him to a safe haven.

    It is Tamils who declared war against the Government of Sri Lanka and Sinhala Nation and have a record of committing war crimes and crimes against humanity while they carried out genocide of Sinhala Buddhists but these western countries are least bothered about them. Hypocrites!

  • 2

    The parliament should bring a no confidence motion against the PM & the President.
    It is time for the speaker of the house to be neutral and listen to the General Public. He should check up whether the PM has the support of more than 113 MPs.
    Time for the entire parliament is dissolved and establish a Temporary caretaker GoSL.
    The Chief Justice [ if he/she isn’t a Rajapasha appointee] be made the PM.
    Most Singhalese don’t realise the degree to which the Tamils had been suffering over the last seven decades. We need the reduction of armed forces in the north and east of the country. The security forces should NOT get in to running hotels or into agriculture.
    if the Majority had agreed for FEDERALISM in 1950’s, we would have been a thriving country like the European ones.

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