By Gamini Dullewe –
I doubt the heading will have any appeal or meaning to the present generation, unless for those as myself who have seen both worlds. I was born in the ‘40s and the vestiges of the British rule and systems continued even till the mid ‘50s after the country have been granted Independence. Prior to the advent of the British where the whole country came under the British Monarch, only the coastal areas were under the Dutch and the Portuguese rule and there was no central administrative system as the British had established. It is the British, who established a form of Democratic governance, granting franchise to the masses. A system of revenue collection and an administrative body to function a central health department that manned the Hospitals throughout the country. A Police Department to maintain Law and Order. An Independent Judiciary to dispense Justice to the masses. A transport system of a Rail and Road network spanning the whole island. The above was administered through a system of Local Govt. Service directly under the British, before Independence and after Independence by the Locals who were qualified to replace the British. An Education system by the Church body was run parallel to educate the locals to take over the Administration from the British. Although education by the Church body was for those who had converted to Christianity, latterly many a Buddhists were accommodated in the leading Christian Schools without having to convert. About the same time there were some schools with the assistance of foreign bodies that were established to cater for the Sinhalese Buddhists from the lower rungs of society, who could not afford to pay for education. When education was first made available to the locals by the Christian missionaries, there was reluctance from the Sinhalese to convert and also was not much enthused, but the Tamils not only became converts but many changed their names too to English names. It is for this reason that at the time of Independence that there were a larger number of Tamils occupying govt. Jobs in comparison to the number of Sinhalese, as they took a keen interest in Education more than the Sinhalese, which fact the Sinhalese today try to interpret as the British having favoured the Tamils. Not a single could have gained employment in the Govt. Service without qualification then, let alone being Tamil.
The social structure was fairly simple. The elitist class were Western educated that filled the professions of Doctors, Engineers and Lawyers who were the wealthy in society along with the Landed Proprietors. There were no Drug Barons and Shady Businessmen with underworld connections posing as the Rich today, who could not account for their wealth. The rest of the Western educated middle classes of all communities filled the Clerical posts of the Administrative system and quite a number took to teaching which was a very noble Profession then. The society was very Law abiding and all respected the Laws of the Land. The young respected the adults and any who violated was dealt with. Even the poor who constituted a majority were quality poor, not starving to eat off dustbins and lived in houses with a minimum two rooms to preserve family traditions. There were no poor without houses living on road sides nor had the country seen the birth of Shanties that has proliferated since. A land owner never hesitated to allow a poor family to put up a house in one’s land as it was an asset to have such family. However later with Laws being enacted allowing such households to claim ownership, this facility was denied to the poor and the country saw the birth of Shanties as a Major impediment in today’s context that has not only created a housing imbalance but a threat to the entire social fabric with it’s influence of a Shanty Culture, where the undesirables are hob knobbing with the Powerful in society or simply some of those powerful Politicians and Businessmen today, themselves hail from such background.
The country then was most peaceful and tranquil, not to mention that there was no effort or the need on the side of the govt. to foster or force Religion on society then, as Religion was left for the society to indulge, Religion being a personal matter. This by no means indicate, that the society then was less Religious, than today. Infact the people then were Religious not for Commercial purposes and competition as today, but for genuine purpose of faith. For that matter, crime rate was less and any who committed an offence was punished accordingly where even MPs of the govt. was sent to jail for Bribery. There was no case of saving any as today being considered as ‘apey miniha’ or escaping punishment stating the Laws are insufficient. What a Joke and a Mockery has been made of the Judicial System today? The Judiciary then had the cream of society unlike today, devoid of synthetic products. Not only the Judiciary had the cream, but even the Politicians then were of repute, who spent their own wealth, but not made money from Politics as happening today. Therefore the myth, that the society had reached the present level of decadence due to the society not being Religious enough is completely untrue. It is more for the reason due to the prostitution of Religion by these Saviours overdosing the society with Religion, with the Politicians backing, is one reason for the present decadence and destruction.
Education from the school level through the Universities was in the English medium. Hence all citizens irrespective of ethnicity or religion were under the same umbrella and the best entered the Universities and the rest fitted in to various other positions in the Govt. and the Private sector. Everyone did their job with pride and was committed to the job. The chances of coercing Officials with bribes were not heard of. The Police Department was filled with the decent in society and not from the Slums and one could have turned to any and need not have known someone for Justice to be met. This all changed with the country’s education switched to the Vernacular. Similar mindsets as today in the Education sector, who have found the highest scorers in Maths and Science in the A/L from the Weerakatiya Rajapaksa Maha Vidyalaya, turned the Gampaha District then, in to the Education hub of the country over the students of the popular Private schools in the more Urban areas. Subsequently it was these products from the Gampaha Education Hub that were churned out from the Universities and the Maha Vidyalayas that replaced the Local Govt. services as GAs and AGAs and the entire Govt Clerical Staff including the Teaching Profession in the country and most importantly the Election Commissioners Dept. I am not trying to run down but if some had seen the quality of staff of Govt. Service who was replaced by this Swabasha type will agree with me that the majority were not fit to be engaged as Peons in the Govt. service, let alone being appointed as Officers. It is no wonder that the quality of Govt. Servants were so poor that no Govt. was able to deliver with such a workforce. Here started the rot of this country and the vicious attitude towards everyone else in this country who were Law abiding respectable educated citizens. This Swabasha type soon found to their dismay that the Tamils too were entering the Universities by the number. The obvious was that the Sinhalese could not check the Tamil answer scripts and they believed the Tamils were favouring their own as the Sinhalese Swabasha type were doing to their own kith and kin, which of course never got highlighted. The result was the govt. of the day implementing a scheme of standardisation preventing the Tamils who were earlier qualified to enter University. This is where Tamil Militancy gave birth to the LTTE. When the medium of education was in English earlier there were no hiccups as these, as any person could have checked the answer scripts and neither the Sinhalese nor the Tamils could have cheated. So is it surprising that we have created a Nation of CHEATS thanks to the Swabasha Education? So folks do not be surprised of the level of Corruption prevalent today with the Swabasha quality of Politicians in our midst. This country will never ever get out of the mess unless the majority of us forgetting trivialities trust someone who has proved himself to be Honest, Gentlemanly, and who would be fair to all, to make this country a Home for all of us to all ethnicities and all Religions, is to have such Leader as Ranil Wickremasinghe. He is like, the last of the Mohicans.
Considering the life we enjoyed then to the suffering we endure today with selective Law and Order meted to a society where the majority have no say, but simply sit and watch. The question is how long? It is not only us who suffer but all those who are responsible for the decadence and the Lawlessness, who have contributed in no small measure for this transition.
I would like to conclude with an addition to Martin Niemoller’s, ‘Then they came for me and there was no one left to speak for me’.
‘I welcome thee to come for me and save me the suffering I endure under thy Tyranny’.