By W. Vishnu Gupta –
The politicians of every political party have pulled wool over the eyes of Sri Lankans so effectively during last seven decades and hence they are unable to recognize and stubbornly reject to accept that the country is heading towards to be a “Failed” state. The country won’t be alone as there are about 25 other failed states in the world. For Sri Lankans, the “corruption” has become an acceptable social/cultural phenomenon and the religious leaders have reinforced this aberrant mindset of the people through their own behaviour to promote “Corruption is good”. In a failed state it will be difficult to find a rich man not greedy and a poor man claiming to be hungry; Sri Lanka is not an exception. The masses are so blinded and naïve, they may believe if Hitler is no good Pol Pot should be given the chance to better their lives.
The “Fund for Peace” organization which is well known for promoting peaceful and prosperous communities worldwide defines a failed state as having the following
* Loss of control of its territory, or of the monopoly on the legitimate use of physical force
* Erosion of legitimate authority to make collective decisions
* Inability to provide public services
* Inability to interact with other states as a full member of the international community
Unfortunately, Sri Lanka has begun to display all four symptoms, and they are manifested in different forms, the intervention of state and non-state actors in recent years have exacerbated the situation. If the current trend continues as is, the state may end-up being the number one beggar nation bullied by external forces and not so powerful nations such as Bangladesh.
Loss of control of its territory, or of the monopoly on the legitimate use of physical force
Although the state regained the control of loss territory from LTTE in 2009, thanks to the heroic contribution made by the military soldiers and the sacrifices made by their mothers, fathers, husbands, wives and children, the politicians and military higher-ups have squandered the gains and the expected benefits that the peace should have delivered to the citizens. The sacrifices of the people have never been acknowledged either directly or indirectly by the successive governments since 2009, the politicians were preoccupied in looting the nation’s treasury and the sale of national assets under the guise of accelerated development projects that brings below marginal rewards to the average citizen. Above all the state is increasingly losing its valuable territorial assets; harbors, airports, lands with strategic commercial and security values, agricultural lands and the list continues. The accelerated development projects of the government have made the country bankrupt and the nation has lost its dignity. Above all military conquered the territory for sure but government has failed miserably to conquer the hearts and minds of the people. It seems that the external malevolent eyes in the South Asian region are working day and night to dismember social fabric and damage the sovereign rights of the people of Sri Lanka.
Moreover, the state has ensured their monopoly on the use of legitimate use of physical force. The alleged use of arbitrary actions taken by the police and the appointment of military higher-ups to control state institutions. The arrests of labor union leaders, student leaders and peaceful protesters further confirms that the state intends to maintain the monopoly on the legitimate use of physical force.
Erosion of legitimate authority to make collective decisions
The state seems to have loss the collaborative efforts in making critical decisions affecting the lives of the people. Obviously, the people loss the right to make collective decisions with the enactment of 20th amendment to the constitution. Consequently, democratic rights have been ignored and various tasks forces, commissions and ad-hoc committee consisting of political cronies, publication of overnight gazettes to address economic woos and follies committed by illiterate and semi-literate authorities. One may argue proroguing the parliament recently as a disrespect for democracy, yet the people do not understand that there is no difference between a prorogued parliament and a sitting parliament occupied by 100 percent corrupt vile men and women in a dysfunctional state. Otherwise, how are we able to justify 60+ parliamentarians including the finance minister leaving the country on holidays when the state has faced enormous economic misfortunes. These MPs must be dual citizens with overseas bank accounts or individuals loaded with foreign currency as no country will accept Sri Lankan rupees in their merry making voyages and sojourns while the citizens face misery at home. It is strange that no parliamentarian has criticized these 60+ MPs leaving the country on overseas jaunts, the ship is sinking, Yet the band plays on.
Mystery surrounding “Yugadanavi” project amplifies erosion of legitimate authority of the cabinet to make collective decisions. Three ministers have gone to the supreme court on this matter, contradicting the government stance and challenging Rajapaksas directly, Likewise, similar actions on Trincomalee Oil Tank farm, Hambantota Port have marred the collective decision-making process in Sri Lanka. The government policy on governing Colombo port city, acquiring strategically important parcels of land in the city of Colombo, sale of Colombo harbor facilities, dredging of Tissamaharama Tank are mired in controversies. The government’s ability to raise taxes and duties on imports has been weakened due to corrupt procedures and ill economic advice, government has utterly failed to control the runaway prices of the staple food and that of the essential pharmaceutical drugs in the country. Furthermore, the combined effect of the non-provision of public services, sharp economic decline, runaway inflation, unbearable cost of living and military intervention in the government departments confirm signs leading to a failed state.
Inability to provide public services
The education sector is in complete disarray, and it provides ample evidence to prove that the Sri Lankan state authorities are unable to provide public services.
The striking teachers were demanding restoration of their salaries, that has been ignored by every government for more than two decades. Nearly a quarter century, successive Sri Lankan governments, including the current Rajapakse regime, aided, and abetted by the unions, have rejected teachers’ wage demands. The state has insulted, intimidated, and sporadically arrested the teachers to quell their uprising against government inaction, as a result, teachers are now among the lowest-paid public sector workers in Sri Lanka, and just as they did in the past two and half decades, teachers have not lowered their level of distrust towards the state.
The Sri Lankan finance minister recently has directed all ministries to slash expenditure, including no salary incentives for employees and the hiring of new recruits. Yet, the government has ignored massive increases in the prices of essential commodities including the staple diet rice.
The ongoing farmer-protests, along with walkouts and dissents by health workers over the slashing of a pandemic-related monthly allowance, demonstrations by petroleum workers against overtime payment cuts, and upcoming action by the masses against the unaffordable cost of living are part of a growing movement of the working people against the government austerity plans.
Colombo’s escalating social assault on the working class is in line with the actions of a failed state turn to autocratic if not kleptocratic forms of rule. Only a failed nation resort to imposition of a state of emergency and essential services, issue of ad hoc gazette notifications having serious impact on the daily lives of the people. Furthermore, presidential directives based on the military rules and the promotion of totalitarian forces are the premonitions of a country about to fall into the abyss of failed state.
Inability to interact with other states as a full member of the international community
The Sri Lankan government has increasingly lost the support of many democratic nations in various international discussions. So far, the nation has avoided being completely isolated in the international community, thanks to unwavering friendship shown by China. China appears to be a genuine friend of Sri Lanka since the diplomatic ties were established in 1957. However, recent two-faced activities of the current regime seem to have alienated China, hence the repercussions of this “speaking out of both sides of the mouth” policy of the political leaders will be felt in many important international economic, human rights and financial forums soon. The people have forgotten, we were friends of many western democracies in the past and they were always there to help us when the nation faced with calamities and economic predicaments. The plea made to the newly appointed ambassadors in Sri Lanka by foreign minister G.L. Peiris, tells the pathetic position that the country has fallen in the international community;
“The Minister called for the empathy of the Ambassadors and High Commissioners present and their backing to Sri Lanka in the international platforms, stating that it was important for the UN to support the efforts made by a country to get back on its feet and not tear it down. He pointed out that local institutions must be given the space and time to carve out solutions that sustain the culture and ethics of an individual country”.
successive governments since 1953 have utterly failed to engineer any meaningful and smarter methodologies and wiser partnerships to deal with the international community. As usual, G.L. Peiris has failed to understand the failure of his masters.
The declaration that a state has “failed” is generally controversial and detrimental to the existence of any country. It is not a trivial matter however, if the democratic rights and sovereignty of people are violated by the actions of a conniving few, it is inevitable under the current economic and financial mismanagement the country will descend to the status of a failed state before 2024.