By Lal Keerthie Fernando –
We are once again fallen to a trap, dominated by the sinhalese dominated national newspapers; Sinhala & English medium, playing the role of the saviour when it comes to 13th amendment and devolution. The fact is, it is best to ask, have these papers lost ground and their roots. Infact they too have. Devolution also means – back to your roots. National media role have failed, in promoting socio economic development in the regions. Lack of vision and a sense of selfishness in their weakness to penetrate economic impacts in development in the regions is a concern. A political pantomime has continuously become a scapegoat, in ignoring voices in the regions. The subject politics, becoming a confined passion. Political guidance devoid of vision for the provinces became a form of escapism. Fear of a separate state is far better to install in an already brain washed politician via the media. With a literacy rate at 94%, access to destinations and markets closer, through better roads, challenging minds is now a requisite in a country where only 20% pay tax. And…., according to an an economist: an increase to 50% paying tax, will see Sri Lanka ending up as Singapore.
He is right. It cannot be a Herculean task within the provinces. To evaluate an ascend in economic activity in all provinces is what is envisaged by devolution. Infact. Rajapaksa fell, owing to lack of explicit analysis of progress of his work through his supportive media organisations at national level; wrong advisors remained all along. Owing to lack of credibility and loyalty to its readers, changing standards and contents through government change; the reader and the electorate are willing to accept, that national media’s unreliability for principles in media ethics are becoming more vulnerable by the day.
Sri Lanka’s legislators failed to realise its down fall over the years. It was political immaturity coupled with a bored electorate looking for change at required intervals, dragged in the fate. Today, we have a highly motivated electorate, demanding challenge, economic change, in the periphery of Colombo, finding themselves isolated as development progresses rapidly. Modern media forms have enhanced their mode for silence, knowing, the written words do not fall in line with their wishes.
Those who are writing to national newspapers today are over 50; this is not the ruling class anymore where the majority is under 35 and increasing. The penned word and editorials, holding absolute power could come to slide away, once provincial media takes the role in supporting a viable readership in “letters to the editor” looking for change at that level. Progress is much in the hands of the provincial media which still has not seen the light of the day. The presence of the internet alone has isolated the national media, the centre, and more to come. The proven track record of the web media is a good example in representative democracy and in all three languages. Is time running out for both? This journal is a good example, existing in tiring conditions promoting our thoughts, although, very much so, confined to national politics and its agenda.
On average, there are 2 million in a province, having nearly, 30-50,000 un-employed. And…, the majority expatriate workers in the Middle East and West Asia are sri Lankan citizens, remitting $8billion a year, are mainly from the provinces. If one were to divide this amount by 9 provinces, giving a good almost $900 million for each province, which many expatriates believe; that it is their right to this income for their own areas. Infact, it is net income. There is sense
Banking systems in the provinces playing a pivotal role rather than previously as it was, these funds became a lucre of investments for Colombo. For years, 72% of banking funds were derived from the provinces and moved to Colombo. Although this has dropped now, nevertheless, 80% of goods produced in the provinces are sold in Colombo and the balance goes back to the provinces and sold at a lower price. Strange!. A good 4-500,000 arrive in Colombo daily from the provinces. We are not aware of their interest in Colombo. Dividing this amount by 9 (provinces) gives a ca. 55000 people who could easily find their interests confined in their areas. The un-employment issue – is known to be as over employment, owing to the fact: two members in one family remains in (ME) as bread winners, while two remain at home, owning a small business, who would migrate later, when the first two returns after two years. I would call it job rotation.
There are almost 3 million of Sri Lankan origin in the world; almost 1.5 million 100% tamils, who would vouch for a better devolution and ready to fund the region and moral support forthcoming, holding a realistic no- demand for a separate state, thereby, discarding an obsolete traditional fear of the national media. Almost 1.5 million sri Lankan citizens, a mixture in (ME) and West asia and elsewhere, Europe too, remains for a positive devolution. Their remittances, currently at $8billion a year and increasing, speaks out.
All Sri Lankan citizens abroad have for years remained without voting rights. At a given time, very many are out of the country (SL) during an election. This amounts to almost 2 million SL citizens without franchise. These figures are fearful enough and would be absurd to contemplate of a referendum on 13th amendment and devolution. The voting rights of the many, who contribute much more to the coffers, are being robbed of their rights.
Economic precedence in governance becomes less cumbersome, vital for the reduction in consumer prices and inflammatory property values in the provinces. The arm of the law has entered the provinces and its effectiveness has shown what provinces could attain. Like wise, can one state the same where tourism is concerned? Domestic tourism has been a taboo where under 3 million sri lankans, monsoon or no –monsoon go on pilgrimage and another 3.-4 million travel within the country yearly on holiday etc., etc., – a staggering 7 million or so on the move. This, I prefer to call – provincial tourism. National tourism slots in at the expense of domestic tourism. This massive numbers are increasing and their spending power too. Their economic impact is felt at that level and cheaper by 65% to procurement of foreign tourists and services. Spiralling imported inflation and the long arm of the Colombo tourist board not extending so far to the provinces, shows us a difference in management and the demand for better coordination of domestic tourists who are willing to demand more, is rather worrying. Stake holders in this venture are being ignored. Domestic tourism is a money spinner. Domestic tourism could topple governments if not heeded soon, in a way, will come to threaten the provinces. International tourism and domestic tourism has to be complimentary to each other, but figures on both sides differ for the recognition of the majority in the hospitality trade. Sigiriya is not for sale!!
There are no secrets in development. A central government becoming stronger as the periphery grows, is better. Mind you…, at least 96% of SL parliamentarians are from the provinces, including present President and former too, as well as tamil politicians. Why the fear? Central government holding the reins have remained vital but its ability to delegate further administratively has been a question. Or is it that the national media was unwilling to permit the periphery heard.?
Coordinating the role, private and provincial councils working in joint venture is another solution. The stage is open for the difference from the past. Ignore devolution and welcome dissent in the provinces, as the electorate will once again fail to see logic. Brain drain from the provinces to the cities, stagnation of work load there, spiralling property and consumer prices, retarding future visions of the students; 9-5 employees, their existence getting worse, severing any prosperity claims of senior citizens and the ultimate conversion of big cities and Colombo to be another, Cairo, Brazilia, to name a few. Is SL to discard the pursuance for better living but remain only with politics and central government subsidies in a country geared to international borrowing, taking roots again? It’s continuity in present form is a set back to what has been achieved through 19th amendment and back to Westminster type of democracy; once we loved to hate. We have now seen the worse of the two systems; the known devil was far better. Time is ripe, well timed, as the young are ready for the new change.
We fail to see a never ending crisis in the Middle East and spreading. Already, many expatriates have been displaced, sent home, from some of the troubled areas in Middle East. Is SL able to handle more of them returning and remain empty handed in SL? The choice is beginning to be theirs!! The upheavals in Middle East is a serious warning to super powers of the west that it’s legacy of provocative guidance is counterproductive. It only helps to destabilise the same countries which the west themselves prefer dealing with. There are 10million expatriates from 122 nationalities employed in the Middle East. And in every province in SL there are persons who could speak a foreign language and contacts are open. Travel broadens the mind too. SL cannot remain in hope and only dream of the wider world from inside walls of a deep well.