By Chris Dharmakirti –
Sadly, our island has in the recent past slid into a flat spin space, wallowing in hatred and revenge, and fear and greed, and a lot of negative energy is dragging our island’s spirit and potential down. It is a real shame that our elected national leaders cannot see the wood from the trees.
The people of this country wants goodness to return to our island and for us all to live peacefully and respectfully of each other, and mindful of the sensitivities of each culture, and also be cognizant of the geo political realities and also our own internal majoritarianism reality and also the fear factor about the narrow interpretation of democratic representation by restricting it to the divisive geographic constituencies to harness the electoral vote, and this model has only caused grief to our island.
We need to see the faults where they lie, objectively with the island’s overall good in mind, and not make it personal and get into the blame game. Time for us to stop this immature behavior and realize that each of our elected leaders have some positive side to them, and they can contribute those attributes only, and leave civil society to fill in the gaps, and collectively work as one unified team to help our island back on its feet.
We are so stupid to be divided on party lines, which, as it stands today, is a facet of sectarianism, where the political parties face off each other not just only on economic or social and poverty related policies, but largely on the sectarian construct of caste, creed, religion, race , and even secondary school. So they get nominated by their political parties to canvass for their particular caste or creed, or religion or race, and this leads to irreversible divisions as they sow the seeds of hatred in their campaigning.
I myself have been a victim of that thinking, when I have evaluated the imbalance in population growth among the different communities that live on this island, and clearly there are concerns, founded and unfounded, that is stirring a fear psychosis about future demographics of the island. This matter needs to be discussed frankly without hurting the feelings of anyone, and as a island, with limited landscape, water, and other resources, we need to ascertain our carrying capacity for human habitat in each geographic area, and decide on how best the land usage should be determined, be it for human habitat, or agriculture, or industries, or for transport and energy infrastructure, and other important priorities like catchment area protection, prevention of soil erosion, mangrove protection and replanting, and a host of more pressing issues.
There is a lot for us all to learn about our islands resources and its potential, and also the pitfalls, and not allow it to fall into a greed modality and only allow the development of our resources on a sustainable footing. We must realize that many overseas nations are eyeing our resources, and if we are not careful about how we borrow funds from international lenders, including bilateral funding, then we may end up in a losing position where we would be forced to sell our most valuable resources to square off the debt.
We have the next generation energy producing Thorium on our island. We have rare earths that so sought after for advanced components. We have titanium which is the bedrock of the whitening element in the paint industry, not to mention the more obvious light but strong metals industry. We have graphite that would increase the energy storage capacity of electricity in batteries. We have fresh water supplies in abundance if we protect our watersheds in the central highlands. We have enough undiscovered medicines and pharmaceutical potential in our soils and biodiversity rich oceans and forests. We are geographically located in a unique way and potentially control a sealanes chokepoint. We can hide nuclear submarines in our deep ocean canyons to develop our own defense to ensure security. We have phosphates, which is the most valuable fertilizer input that the more populous nations like China, USA, India and others are after. We need to realize that having these resources is both a blessing and a curse. Certain nations are piling on the debt and are happy to lend to us billions more in order to force us to repay back those loans with our resources. Beware.
We need to now go into a learning modality and take stock of our knowledge base and evaluate the emerging technology trajectories, and instead of rushing to develop the country, take a deep breath, pause and chart a new , more prudent course. We have a great human resource pool spread throughout the globe working in distinguished institutions, with NASA alone, having the highest percentage of nationals from our country serving as key scientists, and so we can easily put our brain trust to work for the benefit of our island home.
Sri Lanka is slated to receive from the United Nations the seabed resources in the Bay of Bengal, valued at over trillions of dollars, and that addition of the ocean asset to our national balance sheet, equivalent to 27 times the land area, will make us one of the richest islands in the world.
We are rich already beyond our wildest dreams with the land resources. We sell it and export it for a song right now, because we have not invested in the technology to process the value added products and services from them. This is the easiest fix to restore the economy.
The Green Climate Fund, with its 100 billion dollar annual funding stream for the world, is well poised to assist us with grant funding and even concessionary debt financing, and equity finance enabling facilities, to kickstart a circular blue green economy that is mindful of climate change impacts and social impacts.
We need to be implementing restorative justice, and not retributive justice, and start afresh. We cannot afford to continue this selfish possessiveness to power and positions.
Our island has many important pressing challenges like regular droughts and flood cycles, and extreme weather events that made farming a failure for three consecutive seasons, and so we are facing a grave challenge. Sea level rise will flood the Jaffna peninsular, and parts of Mannar, even Colombo. There are solutions . We need to implement them ASAP.
How can we have national reconciliation if we do not first heal as fallen out friends, colleagues, family members, team mates, neighbors, and even political foes, and rival camps, etc, and demonstrate to the global community that Sri Lankans have come to the realization that our conflict has not just been a sectarian one at the level of race, but also at all levels, and it is the same around the world, and thus we should all want to heal these divisive sectarian wounds, and evolve to a higher plain of governance that is ethical, equitable, and egalitarian.
The functional constituency model that Britain introduced only to Hong Kong, to keep it together as one united community, is something to aspire to. If you study how Britain operated in the different colonies, you would realize that they purposely divided most of the other colonies on sectarian lines by only allowing voting from geographic electorates.
The world is better served if the discussion on national policies and direction is discussed and determined by all sectors of our society, including the politicians from geographic constituencies.
Sri Lanka can take a leaf out of USA, where the elected President, invites experienced and effective private sector professionals to become the Ministerial equivalent as a Secretary of State, Secretary of Commerce, etc, etc. Perhaps Sri Lanka needs that now, as we are mess with the national leadership being vested exclusively with the geographic representatives. All those who have been nominated through the national list, you can offer your resignations and let the party leaders offer those slots to a civilian leadership.
So lets not go on witch hunts and imprison people, or lock or hurt individuals, lets forgive the past, and get a new team to start afresh, as it is important we do not waste productive time wallowing in negative investigations and actions in court. It is a waste of everyone’s time. We really do not care anymore as what has happened has happened. We cannot change that. So lets move on .
So lets hope good sense will prevail and there would be an awakening of the minds of our politicians. They can all contribute collectively to restore our island back to prosperity in a sustainable and ethical way. The civilians, including our expatriates, and the retired folks have all a role to play in helping out to get our island to get back on its feet again. This is the time to unite and pull ourselves together.
So it is time we tell the President that if he truly wants reconciliation on our island, then we as a nation, the entire set of islanders, the Lankans living anywhere in the world, have to bury all the grudges, fears, and hatred and commit to start afresh. We need to have an amnesty for all past wrongdoings, whatever they may be, and resolve to truly offer forgiveness to the other, and start afresh together.
This issue of the Prime Minister is a good opportunity to even offer a Tamil or Muslim person to hold that office as a caretaker prime minister and be tasked by the President to build true national reconciliation by first healing the political animosity in the south, and the recent and old grudges, and let bygones be bygones, and lets all start afresh.