30 September, 2020

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The Story Of A Weeping Island: Sri Lanka’s Lamentable Limp Towards Progress

By Vishwamithra1984

“The reasonable man adapts himself to the world: the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man.” ~George Bernard Shaw

The roads look narrower than they really are. It’s the optics. Not that they have shrunk in their measure; the traffic has increased to such a choking level, once broad-looking motorways can no longer accommodate the daily-increasing numbers of vehicles, two-wheelers, three-wheelers and four-wheelers are all competing for the same narrow space. Honking kills you and the congestion chokes every breathing person in or on these moving wheels; humanity’s busy schedules keep getting busier and the roadways resemble more like parking lots. The effects of the free-market economy are taking their toll.

Panama PapersWhen one adds the expansion of the human population into the mix, the choking process assumes its own destructive dimensions. Nobel laureate Pearl S Buck said “when man demands no more the earth too shall die”. Of course, Buck expressed this in the context of the suffocating effects the Chinese policies had, both on the economy and society, at the time. Nevertheless, the latter part of the Twentieth Century and the last one and half decades of this Century in Sri Lanka have proven beyond doubt that an unregulated market place, if left alone to the vultures of the capitalist class of businessmen, would be disastrous to a country as well to its majority of citizens.

What was ushered in 1977 by the JR Jayewardene Government was a brutal necessity. The ’70 to ’77 Government of Sirimao Bandaranaike along with the left parties ran the Sri Lankan economy to the ground. Instead of expanding the size of the economic ‘cake’ so that more pieces could be cut, the leftist polices of the ’70 to ’77 Government virtually shrank the economy and started cutting smaller pieces. Populist economic policies carried the day during the 1970 election campaign (rice from the Moon proclamation by Mrs. Bandaranaike etc.); once in power, the obsolete Marxist economic policies and doctrinaire approach to the country’s burning issues overtook any rational and realistic adoption of policies and principles. The great experimentations of the ‘Double Doctor’ aka NM Perera failed miserably.

The youth who propelled them to a historic electoral victory in 1970 turned against them. Campaign rhetoric was proven futile and an unforgiving chain of events became too much even for the brilliant political mind of Felix Dias Bandaranaike to grapple with. Mistakes, both of political and economic nature were piling up, one on top of the other. A free people were willy nilly succumbing to the merciless onslaught of political brainwashing, but it was only seven long years they could endure the agony and no more.

The shackles of Marxist economic policies had to come off; the suffocating hold on free speech and movement had to give way and the ’77 elections opened the gates of hell for those who held the reins of power. When the people spoke, they screamed. The power-holders, when in power, pretended not to hear them but had to eventually submit to the will of the electorate. Then the shackles came off. The freeing of the economy was ensured, almost overnight. But freeing of the economy was not enabled without some perilous results to the nation’s mindset. The inevitable repercussions that a fresh process entails began another process, one of social distortions and economic competition bordering on fierce bargaining and bootlicking. American journalist Sydney Harris said that the greatest enemy of progress is not stagnation, but false progress. Looking back on all the years that we spent after the ’77 surge into the free-market economy, what Sri Lanka is experiencing today seems to be that kind of false progress.

Credit cards and motorbikes do not signify the advancement of a society. If the motorbike is not used for the generation of consequential economic activity, that investment becomes an end in itself instead of a means to an end. The ever-increasing gulf between the haves and have-nots is sharpening its edges; the slightest of misstep would spell catastrophe, tearing away all the tissues and fiber that held a delicate body together. A thirty-year war alone cannot be blamed for a limping trek towards economic progress. During the war years, from 1983 to 1994 too, the country endured this war but the economy did not stagnate; cronyism was present but not rampant like today. Every step after a painful step that was taken towards fulfilling election pledges was embroiled with kickbacks for politicians and cronies; massive scale projects, ranging from infrastructure to service-oriented ventures were artificially inflated; standard procedures were marginalized and fair-play was not a defining yardstick to measure progress or growth.

Meaningless meandering along a cruel path of progress produced more cronies and henchmen and their offspring became not only the enviable stock in the market for pleasure and lust, they became agents of corruption and merchants of perverse desires. Massage parlors and karaoke bars were patronized by the lower middleclass and the middleclass proper. While the proletariat worked harder to make ends meet, their younger generation indulged in the bones thrown out by the actual consumers of the meat- richer fellows of society.

When peace ultimately dawned on the arid landscapes in the North and East, alcoholism, above everything else, broke loose; an unprecedented number of youth started frequenting legally established bars and illegitimate liquor joints. The free-market, while unshackling the economy had spread some dangerous seeds of avarice, over-indulgence, greed and lust. No man or woman could withstand the winds of greed and desire. Now we are reaping that unholy harvest.

Chauvinism was mistaken for patriotism. Gangsters garbed in yellow robes were parading on the streets and surrounding court premises, making the false assumption that their robe was an open license to get away with vandalism and physical assault. Exercise of self-restraint, a defining precept of Buddhism, was abandoned by the very practitioners of the Dharma. Birthday parties on lavish scale for and by these Buddhist monks left a sense of distaste in one’s mouth; the beneficiaries of the free-market wealth poured wealth and pleasure on the clergy and indulgence in lusty ventures paved the way not for the creation of wealth, which in fact is the very essence of free-market economic principles, but for the inevitable decay of society at large and the individuals in particular.

In all these ghoulish indulgences, the chilling effects of failure of the pursuit of capitalist economic measures were felt in every corner of the land. In the villages and city centers, grama-sevake divisions and Kachcheries, in the crowded corridors of power and forlorn hamlets in the rural country-land, the unmistakable signature of a failed system of governance was engraved. The socio-economic fabric is cracking and it is visible that a harmonious and dynamic equilibrium is yet to be attained in the structures that sustain a developed nation. The ’70 to ’77 regime and its governance displayed that the so-called mixed economy did not work; the regimes that followed threw away the myth that unregulated market economy and its machinations could serve the people better. All the while, political cronies reaped the harvest.

Whatever is in stock for the people of Sri Lanka, the politicos, the clergy, academics and entrepreneurs, are all floating in the fog of indecision and socio-political impotence. No social entity has the guts to break with tradition and convention; the Government seems reluctant to venture into new arenas. The result is that Sri Lanka has become the playground of these social forces who are working simultaneously towards destroying the each other. The relentless advance of technology and science seems to have little or no effect on the real lives of our people. When international terrorism seems to be taking strides, after defeating one terror group, the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Elam (LTTE), Sri Lankan leaders seem oblivious to a growing threat of financial and social terrorism perpetrated against her very soul by the advancing armies of anti-social forces who are operating in the shadows.

In the midst of all this, the average Sri Lankan is waiting to hear whose names would appear in the so-called ‘Panama Papers’. That is a kind of perverse waiting. They love to hear someone falter- looks more like a national trait. But the lamentable trek of Sri Lanka’s recent history continues along a very suspect path and with a lot of twists and turns. Who will be the individuals who are going to be affected is of trifling concern. But the effects it would impact on the nation’s psyche, the crippling of the mind and thwarting of the very dynamic of a people struggling to lead a normal life coupled with usual lethargy that sets in when they find themselves again in the comfort zone should cause some concern among reasonable men and women. Joseph Conrad, who is considered one of the greatest men of English letters, said thus: “Facing it, always facing it, that’s the way to get through. Face it”. Whether one is reasonable or not, Conrad’s words ring eternally true.

*The writer can be contacted at vishwamithra1984@gmail.com

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Latest comments

  • 9
    1

    Vishwamitra1984,

    You said,’Whatever is in stock for the people of Sri Lanka, the politicos, the clergy, academics and entrepreneurs, are all floating in the fog of indecision and socio-political impotence.’

    Can’t disagree with you more.

    The politicos are not floating in the fog of indecision and socio-political impotence. They are a very potent force in finding and executing ways to accumulate ill earned money and towards self aggrandisement. They have actively created an army of ‘wakutuweyang’ men and women and thrive being worshipped on all fours wherever they turn up in the thrice blessed country.

    The clergy are not taking it lying down either. They are very active even though for the wrong reasons. So much so, they have successfully turned the Mafiosi dress code of impeccably black trouser jacket and waistcoat and dark glasses into saffron robes.

    With regards to academics – they are not impotent either. Their potency still comes from sucking up to all kinds of reprehensible politicos, willing to dish out doctorates willy nilly to any rogue who wants one.

    With regards to entrepreneurs, they are not impotent either. They are very potent and busy creating wealth by conniving with politicos in stealing the money of the people.

    With regards to your despondency ‘what is in stock for the people of Sri Lanka’, fret not. They are getting what they deserve. Keep voting for the thieves and they will steal everything from you.

    • 7
      11

      Yet again subtle attack on buddhist monks. Just generalizing the action of one individual monk to drum up his point of view. CT is infested with such specimens mostly the separatist sympathizers and colombo centric pundits. Only a few years ago we witnessed white cassock cladded clergy parading the streets to save prbakaran. Hilariously, Fr Emmanuel once compared Prabhakaran to Jesus.

      • 7
        1

        CT Editors you really need to do a better job on Educating the Sinhala masses on the TRUTH and impacts of the Panama Papers, that the corrupt, Ranil-Sira- Mahendran regime is trying to deny.
        Please read the Guardian Weekly, le Mond Diplomatique etc. and up your game!

        It is laughable that fat Arjuna Mahendran, a corrupt clown and insider trader, is to investigate the Panama Papers leaks on the individuals who have looted Lanka.

        Mahendran is acting as if the Panama papers are false, when they have been carefully checked by eminent jounalists after they were released to the Sudeutche Zietung and other well known international newspapers after careful checking.

        Mahendran’s reaction to the Panama Papers reveals his own liking for stealing and tax evasion, Mahendran is an insider traders thief who probably has funds stashed in SIngapore and China, and so he pretends that the Panama Leaks are fabrications.

        Arjuna Mahendran in an IGNORANT SCOUNDREL.

        The Panama Papers tell the truth about the looting of the third world and the corruption that is legalized by the IMF and world Bank in the international system, but Mahendran is pretending that they are false. Mahendran makes the illegal legal and the legal illegal. What a tragic joke so called ‘good governance’ is in the Miracle of Modayas with a corrupt clown as Central Bank head!

        • 6
          0

          Corrupt clown and insider trader, Arjuna Mahendran is on a borrowing spree. He is boasting about being able to borrow 3 $ billion after an IMF agreement, while pretending that the Panama Papers revelations are false.

          Mahendran is a corrupt crook and has no plan to reduce borrowing or the Sri Lankan National Debt. which is the reason for massive currency depreciation which will continue after the IMF loan.

          IMF conditionalities will further increase DEBT, impoverish the poor and promote corruption in Lanka. If IMF wants to really help Lanka, the first AID condition SHOULD be corruption investigations and tracking and bringing back funds looted by corrupt politicians and the Jarapassa family and cronies from illegal overseas bank accounts overseas in tax havens – to pay off national debt of Sri Lanka.

          But this will not happen because the IMP is CORRUPT and wants to cut back on health, education ans social sector spending. IMF with its Washington twn the World Bank, has legalized corruption, tax evasion, rent seeking in the global financial system.

          IMF and World Bank which calls itself the Knowledge bank (Ha, ha, ha!) have watched the looting of poor third world countries and the transfer of those funds to boost western economies by corrupt crooks like Arjuna Mahendran and associated political elites, and never said a word or BLOWN A WHISTLE to stop this looting poor countries including Greece which is suffering under IMF austerity measures..

          IMF and WB publish copious reports on remittances of migrant workers from rich countries to poor countries, but never a word on the funds that flow from the global south to the global north via off shore tax havens that benefit the global north.

          IMF and World Bank are supposed to be in charge of the global financial system and have legalized corruption, tax evasion and looting of third world countries by their elites through LEGAL NETWORKS OF FINANCIAL CORRUPTION
          .
          Corrupt clown Arjuna Mahendran talking to the Corrupt IMF for another loan to offset Aahendrans bond scams is a joke! Legalized corruption is the name of the Ayahapalanaya Ranil-Sira govt. Game.

          Arjuna Mahendran is a colossal DUD and corrupt criminal who is looting and destroying the Sri Lanka economy! Thank you very much Harsha De Silva and Eran for keeping your mouths shut and watching this dirty economic game!

          • 0
            0

            Is Mahendran borrowing for his own agenda?
            Let us be clear about one thing: no G/CB acts on such matters without instruction from above.
            The economy is in a mess as successive post-1977 governments have, on different pretexts perhaps, made the country even more indebted.
            Place the blame at the correct doorstep.

      • 3
        4

        Laksiri! Separation is the only solution to Sri Lankan Ethnic problem. The Sinhalese are not going to give what the Tamils asked for, Federalism. What is the new constitution for? to cheat the Tamils and the International community ?

        • 6
          1

          Nice piece. Makes one nostalgic for a country/past that perhaps never was, except in our “rearranged sympathetic memories.”

          Why do we always keep crawling backwards into humanity; our arses looking like human faces? – Andrei Voznesensky (Nostalgia for the Present :))

          “Gangsters garbed in yellow robes were parading on the streets and surrounding court premises, making the false assumption that their robe was an open license to get away with vandalism and physical assault. Exercise of self-restraint, a defining precept of Buddhism, was abandoned by the very practitioners of the Dharma.”

          Sad to say, these kinds of assumptions are based on a fallacy, i.e. that someone takes up priesthood/guardianship to serve a religion. 99.99% of people take-up priesthood – of any religion – to avoid a honest day’s work.

          It would be naive for us to believe that morality ever existed among the human race. What pervades is self-interest, even morality is practiced out of self-interest. Laws are formulated, foisted and obeyed out of self-interest, lest one fall victim to situations arising out of “laws un-obeyed by others.”

          For the good of society, what “leaders” should harness and channel is all pervasive self-interest; not nonexistent morality.

          The societies that have “some” law and order – don’t want to call them democracies, that’s a different kettle of fish – are not populated by moral-beings but have people intelligent enough to obey laws out of self-interest.

          • 3
            0

            Nimal, you are right.

    • 2
      0

      Yes I can get it easily even if I am not in the country to see things with my eyes…. months are gone, no sharks are caught by the on going investigations. No men have been convicted even if the gravity of allegations levelled at Rajaakshes and their men are growing…

      as given below, birds killers such as low educated men from rural corners are subjected to the law prevailing – so quicker.. but nothing seems to be the case when it goes with high profile money laundering issues. Yoshita Rajakshe was arrested and kept in remand, but the outcome was nothing beyond that…

      Nine people fined for killing hawk
      2016-04-11 22:19:38 9 4485

      Nine people who plead guilty of inflicting injuries on a hawk and killing it were fined Rs.50,000 each by the Galle Additional Magistrate Kesara Samaradivakara today.

      The accused, Kaluwahandi Sisira, Pettaduragae Chaminda Kumara, Nalaka Weerasinghe, B.A. Kapila Prabhath, V.G. Ruwan Kumara, Sampath Weerasinghe, G.K. Udaya Ravindu, Jayalath Pathirage Suresh and G.K. Dimuthu Prasanna killed a hawk after pulling off its feathers.

      The Police arrested the first and second accused and the others surrendered to court. They were charged under the Fauna and Flora Ordinance.

      Sergeant Karunadasa of the Habaraduwa Police made submissions for the state. (D.G. Sugathapala and Sumathipala Diayagahage)

    • 5
      1

      Incumbent president is caught by devlish situation.

      If he would act bold, he would loose everything.
      He continues the way – he has been sofar – peple would feel not okay..

      In the mean time, as previous presidents, Megalomanic Rajapakshe has made a statement him would be taking part the MAY rally organized by JOINT idiotic opposition giving a lead to them.

      I believe, all civil organisations should rally round with right side which is represented by Mr Sirisena and marginalize the Rajapakshes for ever .. from lanken active politics.. then only, the nation can as a whole take a breath for the future developments projects. Back stabbing nature is in Rajapakshe blood – may be with exception to Chamal Rajaapkshe whose records are coming from his preivious experiece collected while being a policeman to lanken police. There he knew wihtout disipline and resect nothign would have worked to good.

      Today, not only srilankens, but all the right men across the globe hail the way the curret rulers face it – the wreckage left by Rajakshe goons need ot be shaped.. if the country was an oil rich nation, they could think of getting solved issues as the middleeast do without IMF or other funding bodies, but pain reality is we are ONE another far poor nation who is unwillingly to call them like – Mid income was the mantra to grab funds from foreign bodies to keep Rjaakshes stealing intact.

      No sooner, Panama or other reports reveal the reality of untold stories of Rjaakshes, entire nation have to see iit the way HE LOOTED THE TAY PAYERS FUNDS.

  • 9
    1

    Enjoyed reading this and agree with the reality of it having lived through it and sort of guilty by association with the regime that was deaf to the cries of people. Stagnation of the economy, vindictive nationalizations, dismembering of productive plantation where economies of scale were critical are all legacies. But reality is one who is educated and can take a rational view on policies can accept facts and reality and not be in denial. That is different from personal/ad hominem attacks. This article is great. Thanks whoever you are hiding under your nom de plume or will it be nom de guerre? Cheers from a Yankeestani Lankanawista.

    Thanks for this article. I particularly think this para I copied said it all

    “What was ushered in 1977 by the JR Jayewardene Government was a brutal necessity. The ’70 to ’77 Government of Sirimao Bandaranaike along with the left parties ran the Sri Lankan economy to the ground. Instead of expanding the size of the economic ‘cake’ so that more pieces could be cut, the leftist polices of the ’70 to ’77 Government virtually shrank the economy and started cutting smaller pieces. Populist economic policies carried the day during the 1970 election campaign (rice from the Moon proclamation by Mrs. Bandaranaike etc.); once in power, the obsolete Marxist economic policies and doctrinaire approach to the country’s burning issues overtook any rational and realistic adoption of policies and principles. The great experimentations of the ‘Double Doctor’ aka NM Perera failed miserably.”

    Cheers from a Yankeestani Lankanawista

  • 11
    2

    A very perceptive essay analyzing the aftertaste of the free market economy unleashed by JR, the LTTE phenomenon and the end of the war in 2009. The aftertaste of the SWRD led Pancha Balawegaya and the 1st and 2nd JVP insurrections have not been mentioned.

    The overall effect of all these was the unmooring of values/ethics/morality from our lives. We have become a very materialistic people, who are ready to do anything for our pleasure, without consideration for others. We will insult, kill, murder, rape, plunder and destroy an imagined enemy for no tangible reason. We have to invent enemies to keep our politics fueled. Unnecessary deaths do not bother us anymore. We take pleasure from others pain in many aspects of our lives.

    We have increased our wants and no longer understand what our needs are. We have forgotten to live within our means, as individuals and as a country. We are sitting ducks for the consumerism that is overwhelming us and which our country can ill afford. We donot produce enough to buy what we have been taught to think we need.

    We have become a nation of hypocrites, who are ready to deceive even ourselves, let alone others. We have become a country of people who have forgotten to talk straight. Our values have declined in direct proportion to the increase in external manifestations of our religions. Our spirituality has also declined with the spreading culture of drinking on all occasions. Sex and drunkenness combined have become our major national preoccupation which does not even spare small children or the old. We are not shocked enough to seek remedies.

    Are we increasingly becoming a nation of cads?

    Our politicians at large are largely a bunch of empty heads and loud mouths. They talk with a forked done and the more they specialize in this skill, the more popular they are. They teach us how to lie, cheat , commit crimes and plunder. The divide and rule us. We have become blind to this ploy, because our so-called education system has rendered us incapable of thinking and asking questions. We are also unaware of the magnitude of the crimes they commit against us, while throwing a few crumbs for us chew on.

    Religion has lost its relevance in this country. We are a people who are readily bribing and cheating the God/s we profess to believe in. We are defining our Gods as deaf, dumb and blind idiots, who can be easily bought off. We wear religion on our sleeves, while undermining their deeper meaning at every step.

    It is a sad spectacle that is acceleratingly unfolding!

    Dr.Rajasingham Narendran

    • 2
      0

      Your usual balanced contribution.

      I do need your help myself; don’t be so very diffident! I’m sure that are reading everything worth reading; it seems tobe do or die for me!

      I hope that many more people pay attention to what “vishwamithra1984” is saying.

  • 5
    0

    Something worse than happened in public University system in Sri Lanka, If can clean MY3 rather wasting your time on useless things.This is the truth in University recruitment for academic positions and promotions:First they find a person and then advertise according to his/her requirement and send aboard for their friends’ places for PhDs.More than 40% University Lecturers are relatives to each others and they give PG degrees to each other (Husband gives PhD to wife and girlfriend/mistress getting PG degree, sons, daughter and son-in law and daughter- in-law). Some Dept are family trees and even after retirement still they are in Universities and leave approval mainly based on sex other other outdoor ways in Sri Lankan Universities. Check minister inside please. As a tax payer to run this business, I like to propose following measures to clean Universities and get back to old golden days. 1) Identify and transfer all family members work in same University/Dept/Faculty as Lecturers. Recheck how these all family members came to system and penalize the responsible. Sometime wife is writing articles putting husband’s name for articles and husband getting professorship without shame (what ethics) presenting these to promotions. 2) Recheck all Lecturers and Professors qualifications and publications based on that re-grade them. 3) Never sent job applications received for academic positions to the respective academic depts. If you sent these applications they remove qualified PhD people and only interview henchmen. 4) Remove good business subjects from Arts faculty and hand over to Science and Technology faculties. See how Arts faculty destroyed good names of many good disciplines. Today Arts faculty products (graduates) are a symbol of unemployment. 5) Famous family dept must be closed and appoint President Commission to check inside and FCID must be called to checked inside for last 20 year period. 6) Never give professorships for jokers. 7) Reduce retirement age for academics 65 years to 60 or 58. 8) Follow strict rule while appointing Professors: In order to be a real international professor your PhD from world top 100 University, minimum 20 articles in ISI/SCOPUS indexed journals, 10 text books with international publishers and three countries have to appoint you as a Visiting professor. 9) Never allow any dept to issue first degree if you do not have sufficient number of PhDs in that dept. Take some Universities many Deans do not have PhDs. This is a recipe for disaster. 10) UGC can directly take task of recruitments of lecturers and give to respective Universities. This must be done quickly. 11) Select the best Lecturers with help of private sector independent body and sent to world top 100 universities with strict bond requirements. 12) Many of these so called academic jokers are now entering into professional bodies or they themselves create own fake professional bodies and they destroyed that profession also. 13) Develop comprehensive web sites for each University and say to show Publications with indexing place to public by each academics (not joke conference papers) and degrees where (Country and the University and international ranking of that University) they got their PHD. Today the most important thing is your PhD must come from accredited, ranking (at least 100) best University of the world to recognized your University basic products. Now see Sri Lankan local Universities are rotten to death. Somebody has to clean it.

    • 1
      1

      Thusari
      What has this text which appeared under at least another name (and repeated only to be mostly ignored or rebutted) to do with the article?
      Comic relief?

      Author
      “What was ushered in 1977 by the JR Jayewardene Government was a brutal necessity.”
      If it was brutal necessity, then we have experienced its brutal consequences for close upon 39 years with perhaps a similar period to go.

  • 1
    0

    enuff of this sort of crap, just get the sales figures form Keells Supers, Laksathosa’s, Arpico’s,Food City’s etc, from 5th to 12th April and rewrite your article

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