By Vishwamithra –
“We are our choices” ~ Jean Paul Sartre
What has imperilled Sri Lanka is not only the wrong policies adopted by the successive governments that ruled us since Independence in 1946. Not only our leaders, one after the other, who sacrificed good governance and prudent economic management for temporary political power and instant greed-satisfaction are responsible. Selfless governance and magnanimous statesmanship were never a part of our leaders’ repertoire. A national economy solely dependent on export of tea, rubber and coconut could have been alluring to a colonial power whose superior military power such as that of the British Empire.
But the end of the second world war and the resultant collapse of the British Empire, saw a dawn of another irreversible social process at a global level. That social process, mainly centered on the Indian Subcontinent, by intentional strategizing by the departing ‘masters’, created many countries that did not exist at the time. Directly as a result of India gaining independence, a country called Pakistan was born for the first time in history. The British masters were not only departing physically from her colonial empire, they were leaving behind a very gruesome and unforgivable legacy behind. What was practiced as a textbook method of colonial rule via a professional British Civil Service, especially in India and Ceylon, a local ruling regime consisting of English-educated and enslaved by non-military bonds, this civil service, in addition to being a very practical and ultra-elitist method of civil governance, made it exceedingly hard for the average chena cultivator who was born hundreds of miles away from the supra-class educational institutes in the country even to relate to the simplest of governmental procedures such as obtaining a gun permit.
Not only some new countries were born by way of absurd and arbitrary drawing of lines on the global map, giving birth to countries such as Pakistan, Nepal, Bangladesh; even Hong Kong over which People’s Republic of China had full ownership claims was established under the British authority. In terms of the propaganda machine of the Soviet Union, and slavishly followed by our own left-wing leaders, in the Asian continent alone, with the evaporation of the British colonialism, a new warfare founded on financial dominance was waged by the western developed world subjecting lesser stable nations to dependency on international funding agencies. They are, among others, International Bank of Reconstruction and Development, commonly known as the World Bank, International Monetary Fund (IMF), the current savior of Lanka and Asian Development Bank, all whose deciding members are the high priests of western capitalism. Our left-wing leaders of yesteryear also preached from atop the political platform that following the recommendations issued by these international lending agencies would lead to further enslavement of our economy to the western developed world. From the recent experience our land went through such predictions were not all that inaccurate.
What was once called by the Soviet Union as financial imperialism headed by the United States of America came to influence the so-called underdeveloped countries for a long period of time until the People’s Republic of China began stretching her own financial limbs, especially across the African continent and some of the Asian nations. The prime examples of the Asian subjects are Sri Lanka and the Maldives. However, the Chinese would not have eaten into our societal life had there not been so flagrantly corrupt and dishonest politicians in charge of distributing the funds so claimed by our government. That is the legacy of the Rajapaksas. In addition to the debt trap was also featured in no unmitigated fashion was the open ransacking of the country’s resources. The monies so taken as debt were openly abused and pocketed by the politicians close to the Rajapaksas and the former first family itself.
The deep abyss that the country faced in the past few months was no accident; nor was it imposed on us by China or other lending institutions. The abyss was created by our leaders and to find a way to get out of it too was our leaders’ responsibility. We have gone to the IMF sixteen (16) times and none of them were pleasant. But in all those sixteen times we managed to pay back our loans, at least the interest component, without fail. Inability to pay the interest made us bankrupt. A national disgrace visited us and it was no cause for celebration. Uncontrollable inflation took ahold of our economic life and the country’s President had to flee his land.
The call from those so-called western developed countries, specifically the USA, was for accountability and transparency, especially in the context of democratic principles of sociopolitical life of the people. Aragalaya and its leadership made sure of that. But since Ranil Wickremesinghe ascended the throne even the USA is mute. Imposition of draconian laws in order to curb the free expression of thought and action does not seem to be any concern of the so-called champion of freedom of expression, movement and all the nine yards.
This conspicuous silence on the part of the USA and her Ambassador has given rise to many a conspiracy theory. Is the USA in bed with Ranil Wickremesinghe and planning a geopolitical maneuver to corner China. India would not be an inactive spectator in such a scenario either. Yet China is still not quite amenable to the restructuring of her lending to Sri Lanka. At the same time China’s stranglehold on the Colombo Port City in addition to Hambantota harbor is hard and solid. The China-syndrome that the Rajapaksas created is not going away in a hurry.
One is reminded of what Dudley Senanayake, the then leader of the Opposition in the early nineteen sixties used to warn the people in the country about the unusual activities of Chinese embassy in Sri Lanka. Sirimavo Bandaranaike chose to throw nasty remarks at Dudley and said that Dudley finds Chinese under his bed. China has come a long long way from the nineteen sixties. Today China is the only world power who could compete with USA on any field. Armed to the teeth with military, economic and financial power, China today is a threat to any west-dominated sociocultural dynamic. Both India and USA have vested interests intermingled with the current crisis Sri Lanka is faced with.
Ranil Wickremesinghe’s rise to the Presidency and his sustenance in that seat may be vicariously connected to both India and USA. Both the SJB and NPP may not be aware of this ironic phenomenon. Even if they are, they might be too weak in stature and ability to counter such a powerful sociopolitical force, palpably squeezed by Ranil Wickremesinghe but for all its measures strategized and enacted by our closest neighbor India and the distant patriarch USA.
Ranil Wickremesinghe may be the most unfriendly and politically infertile person in the world, but he is no chicken when it comes to dirty and uncouth maneuverings in the field. The writer does not wish to squander his time and energy in bashing this charlatan anymore than necessary. The country’s sociopolitical landscape is being re-architectured thanks mainly to the dismal performance of its economy, a performance engineered by each and every government elected since Independence and greatly accelerated by the Rajapaksas in the last couple of decades. Nevertheless, it took a near-total collapse of our economy and a brave and determined lot of youth who came out in hundreds of thousands to the Galle Face Green during the formative months of the Aragalaya to prove to the rest of the country that no single political party or no single political leader is solely responsible for the debacle.
It has been a debacle engineered by the ruling class, the so-called elite of the elite that ruled the country from 1948 to the present day; they consumed our national rootage, raped our natural beauty and made money and extracted every ounce of what they could extract from our national coffers. Modern day institutions such as the World Bank, IMF and the Asian Development Bank are mere tools used and abused by our politicians, not to enrich the country’s dwindling treasures but to enhance their own personal wealth.
Adam Smith outlined the parameters of Capitalism and defined it in his own terms yet known to mankind at the time. The factors of production as illustrated by Smith are Land, Labor, Capital and Enterprise and each of these factors had its own reward. Rent for land, wages for labor, interest for capital and profit for enterprise. When Marxism-Leninism was practiced after the 1917 Russian Revolution, Lenin’s collectivization program did not provide for ‘profit’ as a reward for enterprise. When there is no incentive for profits to be made, entrepreneurship dies, period. Yet it took almost one whole century for the Russian Revolution to fail and today Russia under Putin and China under Xi Jinping are far too divorced from the original works of Marx’s worker’s paradise.
Lenin and Mao may not be with us anymore; nor are their failed theories and grand experiments. But a fast developing technological revolution has placed mankind on a moving platform of an ever-changing social paradigm. The challenges are far more sophisticated than one could wrap his hands around any one of those marvelous technological creations. Sri Lanka, after being on the brink of total collapse, may be trying hard to step back from that abyss. But Ranil Wickremesinghe surrounded by the same click of rogues and nincompoops can hardly think of any recovery. His only choice is to get rid of the Pohottuwa gang. But that gang is sustaining him and that is a choice he does not have.
*The writer can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org