23 September, 2018

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Sri Lanka’s Grand Failure

By Ameer Ali

Dr. Ameer Ali

On 4th February 2018 Sri Lanka will be entering its 61st year of independence from colonialism. It is time that the citizens of the country at least its apolitical literati come together and collectively make an assessment of the overall achievements and failures made during the sixty years so that an informed balance sheet could be presented to be audited by the public. Such a balance sheet should counter the ‘alternate facts’ presented by politicians. The cycle of democratic elections, political campaigns associated with them and change of governments that result from them has the drawback of keeping even intellectuals obsessively occupied with judging and comparing short term changes made during each political regime rather than assessing the long term trend and directions.

What is now required is not a quantitative balance sheet which the economists, statisticians and other pundits usually produce but a qualitative one. It is not about GDP per capita or literacy rate or life expectancy but about unquantifiable social cohesion, national co-operative spirit or Khaldunian asabiyya and happiness. In short, it is not about Gross National Product (GNP) but about Gross National Happiness (GNH) as the monarch of Bhutan once famously announced.  What has been Sri Lanka’s record in this regard so far and where is it heading to? Is the nation and its people happier now than what they were on the eve of independence?

Without going into all aspects surrounding this heavily loaded question I wish to select only one issue that is menacingly disrupting the growth of GNH at the moment and threatening its decline in the future. This is the issue of plurality or diversity management. It was Arnold Toynbee the famous British historian who once wrote that diversity is the sign of growth and development whereas uniformity is the sign of decay and decline. Diversity is also the gift of nature. One of the gifted resources of Sri Lanka from the beginning if its recorded history has been its cultural and ethnic pluralism and diversity of its natural resources. In both, the country’s rulers especially after independence have magnificently succeeded in mismanaging. It is a record of grand failure.

The Sinhala-Tamil-Moor-Malay-Burgher ethnic and Buddhist-Hindu-Christian-Islamic religious plural mix is a permanent historical heritage of the country and no amount of legal, constitutional and chauvinistic political gimmicks can succeed in disinheriting it. What is required instead is to learn and practice the fine art of plurality management on which depends the country’s GNH.  Unfortunately, the history of post-independent Sri Lanka has been marked by progressive mismanagement of this heritage. Managing this plurality by successive political leaders has assumed the model of a zero-sum game in which each element of the mix is deemed to win only at the expense of the others. There is a lot to learn by the current leaders from the managerial experience of the earlier kings and queens of Sri Lanka. The pre-colonial economic prosperity and political stability of this island, and happiness of its people hinged largely on the ethnic and cultural tranquillity achieved under their management. Can the historians of Sri Lanka point out one incident of ethnic or religious convulsion let alone cleansing in the pre-colonial history of this country? It is time that our political heroes who champion the cause of their respective ethnic and religious communities re-read the history of this island. This applies even to the minority of Buddhist monks and other religious leaders who are now scare mongering the people with imagined dangers of pluralism. In contrast, what the past teaches is the promotion and preservation of a healthy spirit of cosmopolitanism amidst plurality which was disrupted in the interest of imperialism during the colonial era. That disruption has been allowed to continue by the new rulers who replaced the colonialists.

One can argue that the size of the population and the needs of the country have dramatically increased between then and now and that the problems which accompanied that change are also so complex that it is too simplistic and futile to compare the two contexts. It is certainly not. Along with the increase in scale and complexity of the challenges the instruments available to tackle them such as the institutional structures and quality of social and human capital have also increased both vertically as well as horizontally. It is the failure to use these instruments inclusively rather than exclusively that has led to the grand failure in plurality management. The inclusive spirit of the past led to cosmopolitanism whereas today’s spirit if exclusivity has led to provincialism.       

The mismanagement of ethnic and cultural plurality has spilled over into mismanagement of the natures’ diversity. Once again there are precious lessons to learn from the past. For example, the ancient monarchs embarked on building irrigation schemes without damaging the natural environment. That was a strategy of balanced development without destroying the natural assets. Whereas our latter day potentates enamoured by scale, prestige and even personal gains have constructed mega dams, diverted rivers and built tourist enclaves on the advice from foreign experts and institutional money lenders but with utter disregard to the protection of natural environment. The consequence of this megalomania has been disastrous. Is there a better illustration of this mismanagement than the Uma Oya catastrophe? Similarly, unplanned urbanization policies to create mega cities mainly for the benefit of the rich and powerful have produced mountains of squalor amidst pockets of opulence. Meethotamulla garbage dump is a towering example of this thoughtless urbanization.

Plurality mismanagement has led the country to the brink of disaster. One can go on citing endless instances of mismanagement that have gone unreported until the consequences become to horrific to hide. The question that faces the country now is whether it wants to change direction and if so how. This is where the nation’s literati have to take responsibility, become apolitical and be active in the field and lead the campaign against this outrageous mismanagement. None of the existing political parties that are vying for power has neither the willingness nor the capacity to lead such a public campaign. These parties are rich in slogans, poor in vision and bankrupt in policies. To them the only objective is to capture power at any cost and keep on playing the zero-sum game thereafter. One cannot also depend on the current religious leadership to lead this campaign because unlike in the past they have become dangerously myopic, political and materialistic. Sri Lanka desperately needs an ‘Arab Spring’ led by the apolitical to prevent the country descending to kakistocracy. Such a spring should not be allowed to be hijacked by vested interests. It is the silence of the good people rather than the wickedness of the bad that makes the world a dangerous place.

*Dr. Ameer Ali, School of Business and Governance, Murdoch University, Western Australia

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  • 4
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    Ameer Ali quite rightly points out ~ “What is required instead is to learn and practice the fine art of plurality management…..”.
    MR has theorised that SL does not have any minorities i.e this plurality thingy is found elsewhere but not in SL.
    Ameer goes on to say ~ “………..Unfortunately, the history of post-independent Sri Lanka has been marked by progressive mismanagement of……….”.
    If the ‘mismanagement’ is due to incompetence it is easily put right.
    If the ‘mismanagement’ is deliberate then it will be very difficult almost near impossible – ask a Lankan who caste his/her vote on 08 January 2015

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      All this management theorizing is useless without a proper diagnosis of Lanka’s core problem, which is, corruption.
      Corruption is the single biggest barrier to an INCLUSIVE and JUST society – Corruption of UNP and SLFP politicians is the reason for the culture of Hate speech and racism in order that these corrupt political parties may DIVIDE and RULE Lanka by distracting the people with ethnic and religious conflicts and now FAKE solutions like another New Constitution!
      The current Jarapalanaya regime is fostering a culture of impunity for corrupt politicians, while playing ethno-religious games with a so called New Constitution to distract people from the financial crimes of Ranil Wickramasinghe and Mahinda Jarapassa who should be sent to prison for looting the country.
      We need to focus on impeaching Bondscam Ranil and his Highway robber, Gamini Kiriella and Avant Guard Marapona.
      The Education sector is wasting massive amounts of money to benefit foreign Insurance Companies under the guise of insuring School Children. Which Fake foreign development expert has recommended this scam to pile up more debt?!

      .

      which is Corrupt Leaders and Politicians who use Hate Speech

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      Dr. Ameer Ali,

      RE: Sri Lanka’s Grand Failure

      Thanks for the write-up.

      “On 4th February 2018 Sri Lanka will be entering its 61st year of independence from colonialism.”

      70th year!,

      However, the average IQ’s, the mean IQ of the Paras have not changed much, but rather decreased, due to the cream, 2.3%, with average IQs above 109 (2 standard deviations above the mean) migrating abroad.

      “What is now required is not a quantitative balance sheet which the economists, statisticians and other pundits usually produce but a qualitative one. It is not about GDP per capita or literacy rate or life expectancy but about unquantifiable social cohesion, national co-operative spirit or Khaldunian asabiyya and happiness. In short, it is not about Gross National Product (GNP) but about Gross National Happiness (GNH) as the monarch of Bhutan once famously announced. What has been Sri Lanka’s record in this regard so far and where is it heading to? Is the nation and its people happier now than what they were on the eve of independence?”

      Happy? No, not the people, but the politicians , monks, priests, and the Ulama.

      Politicians are happier as they have taken control of the populace, and can steal and kill at will.

      Monks are happier as they have taken control of the populace, and can maintain their hegemony, while abusing boys, as Sinhala ‘Buddhism” is given the foremost place.

      Ulama are happier as they have taken control of the populace, and can maintain their hegemony, while abusing girls , as ‘Sharia” is given the foremost place, courtsey MMDA and the Constitution.

  • 1
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    Ameer Ali, we all know that Lanka is a miserable mess, not because of ethnic and relgious diversity but because of political corruption and the culture of rent seeking that has rotten the country head down.
    Religious and ethnic conflict was invented by corrupt politician,s to build up their vote banks. Thus, First address the problem of corruption of politicians. The ethno-religious conflict will automatically be solved when the problem of corruption of politicians is addressed.
    Corruption and rent seeking by politicians is what needs to be addressed.
    There is no point in beating an already dead horse – ethnic and religious conflict and peace issue to death.

  • 0
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    [Edited out] Comments should not exceed 300 words. Please read our Comments Policy for further details.

  • 4
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    Dr Ameer Ali is one of best products of Peradeniya. It is unfortunate Sri Lanka government and universities do not know how to benefits from these types of Sri Lanka talents..there are many Sri Lanka brains in western countries and yet Sri Lanka government does not know about then…No trace of them and no benefits from them.
    UGC is making fool of them ..some time UGC wants to make a big fess about Sri Lanka Academics who live abroad ..all other countries respect; appreciate and acknowledge the potentiality of their nationals except Sri Lanka…it does not care about these people .
    Dr Ameer Ali loves to see peace in Sri Lanka
    He wants to see Sri Lanka proposer
    He wants to see all communities live in peace
    He wants to see good for all
    He wants to see inclusiveness .
    He wants to see all sort of development in Sri Lanka.
    His arguments are logical and rational .
    His writing is so beautiful and eloquent.
    His ideas are moderate.
    It is a great lost for Sri Lanka to lose such calibre scholars .
    There are many like him .
    But UGC does not want to see talented people come to Sri Lanka.
    Some acsmdics scared of foreign trianed academics .Dr Ameer Ali applied to the post of VC but university did not accept his application based on outdated rules of UGC.
    If foreign nationals of Sri Lanka origins could work in parliament why not in universities?

    • 1
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      Lankan No 1,

      ” It is unfortunate Sri Lanka government and universities do not know how to benefits from these types of Sri Lanka talents..there are many Sri Lanka brains in western countries and yet Sri Lanka government does not know about then…..”

      Yes.

      One can take Dr. Ameer Ali and the like from Sri Lanka , the Land of Native Veddah Aethho, but one cannot take Sri Lanka out of them. They all feel for the damage done by the successive politicians for their self-interest over the past 70 years, and their hearts bleed, because they know other countries have been managing their countries in general.

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        Mr.Amarasiri, I would say the damage done by politicians without a respite to the citizen since 1977. Before that it was in fits and starts.

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    “Sri Lanka’s Grand Failure” – The main cause of it in summary, as explained in the article is nothing but due to “Mismanagement”. Agreed. Can we stop at that? NO. Shouldn’t we find out, what is PIVOTAL to this identified cause named “Mismanagement”? We all know what is PIVOTAL to both the “Proper Management” and “Mismanagement” is “PEOPLE”.; in short it is the “HUMAN FACTOR”. Both the facts of “Proper” or “Mismanagement” would depend on the personal traits of people who are handling matters of all functions within a society. One may think for a moment that “Knowledge” (meaning here, acquisition through “academic” studies) is the “Key” to a success in “management”. No. Not so. Every person from the “Apex” down the line must be equipped with INGENUITY coupled with a fortified character of “Self respect”; “Selflessness”; “Integrity” and “Fearlessness” to DO the RIGHT and FIGHT AGAINST the WRONG. If people of all walks of life well equipped with these personal qualities become MANAGERS of their own work, however big or small, there cannot arise “Mismanagement”. Yet, having said so, I do not discount the fact that there would be NO, “Mismanagement”; because to err is also “Human”; but still that would be comparatively at low level. Also that error of “Mismanagement” would be very much of “Mechanical” rather than “Intentional”. If we bear in mind this “Pivotal Factor” and make an assessment of the present day activities involved in by the people of all status, that “Grand Failure” could very well be understood.

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    Quote
    Sri Lanka desperately needs an ‘Arab Spring’ led by the apolitical to prevent the country descending to kakistocracy.

    How has that panned out in Egypt? First the US wanted free elections and democracy in Egypt(the most powerful Arab Muslim nation), then the Muslim Brotherhood was elected freely and fairly. They started moving too far right towards Sharia. US did not like it. The powerful corrupt, heavily bribed Military did not like it; so what happened? people opposed to Sharia protested, more violence and voila with US help the Military and uncle short man Sisi and his army that is heavily dependent on US took control again. What a farce man. How did Libya pan out after Gadaffi was raped and murdered in the desert? Hillary and Obama exaggerated the clash in Misrata. What is it now? a basket case of tribalism. Tunisia is ok so far because of its french colonial roots it seems. But list ONE, I repeat ONE free democracy in the Arab world man; even our social indices such as infant mortality, literacy, prenatal care, women’s deaths is far superior to any fucking Arab Muslim Nation in the Middle east; even the ones with money and oil oozing out of every pore. LIST a single democracy in Arabistan first if you want to play this game. I dare you. Perhaps Iran comes closest to a democracy of the western model but it is still run by Mullahs.

  • 0
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    There are no democratic web sites and no point of writing in CT.

  • 0
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    Haroon is correct. Everybody comes to preach the crap relevant to them. What douglas say is the point. Every person from the “Apex” down the line must be equipped with INGENUITY coupled with a fortified character of “Self respect”; “Selflessness”; “Integrity” and “Fearlessness” to DO the RIGHT and FIGHT —————— Most are thieves wearing two piece suits white collar criminals, and conmen engaged in financial frauds.

  • 1
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    Jim ..what a joker You are ?
    When your writing is not published it is not democracy…
    CT is equal to all ..
    It has its own policy so let us abide by it ..many time my writings are not published due to breaking of its policy.
    So it is good.
    It’s not Sri Lanka..
    But CT is a internal paper now.
    It is free from all politics and political influence…
    I think CT is doing a great job..
    Let us give them a supportive hand .
    It’s each and every Sri Lankan people’s paper…
    It’s speaking the truth.
    It is niether blue nor green.
    Let us support objective journalism in Sri Lanka..

  • 0
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    Sri Lanka is not a grand failure. Its a grand great success depending on your point of view. Tell me in which country you can have your head and adorn a saffron robe and steer the constitution of the country, get in to criminal and racial activities and be above the law that the police cant arrest you , the President of the country cant condemn you and the beholders of the religion representing the saffron robe give you the blessing.

    • 1
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      Rajash,

      If you don’t like that, go and live in the Vatican.

  • 0
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    Plurality is one of the corner stones of Sri Lanka. And if you check closely, the most cosmopolitan, more plural, liberal parts of SL where every ethnicity can live and do live is in Sinhala dominated areas. I have seen Muslims and Tamils freely coming into Sinhala dominated areas and live without any issue. But I am yet to see such an environment in non sinhala dominated areas.

    The Tamils in North after having chased away the Muslims, continuously block their resettlement. They have their archaic Tamil laws like Thewasalamai to prevent OTHERS from entering their ‘colony’. Well when an area becomes Muslim dominated, others voluntarily LEAVE.
    That is the nature of SL.

    So where has this pluralism failed? And by whom? Can you please give me a single place in SL which is dominated by a non sinhala community that is welcoming to other ethnicity and religions,while upholding liberal values

  • 0
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    Is Sri Lanka a failure? No I think SL has been incredibly lucky to have avoided failures.
    Sri Lanka faced an army coup, two JVP insurgencies where one is the bloodiest, SL faced cross border terrorism from India, 83 massacre, 30 year war with the most brutal terrorist org, Norwegian intervention, RANIL WICKRAMASINGHE the stupidest man ever to hold a PM post, ten years of fruitless CBK, tsunami, natural calamities and still we are pretty good. Can we be better? Of course, we need to get rid of yahapalas and get the country into right track.

    SL has achieved a lot given what it went through as a country and giving its citizens a pretty good life.

  • 0
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    At present, the failture is criminals, theives, conmen good at financial frauds and women and those hanging in brothels are the law malers. Until that is changed, sri lanka will not be successful. the problem is to chase out the shameless, naked thief and get one who is not supporting the family – thefts.My best calculation is retired army fellows with some who are not highly tained with thefts from public.

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