I was happy to read a few weeks ago the Cardinal’s brief critique of the current development strategy of the Gotabaya government. One of his observations was that the sale of State properties and the common resources of the people is not development.
But, this has indeed been the strategy implemented in the country for the last 4 decades creating a situation where the rich become richer and the poor poorer. Thus, as a result the social inequalities in Sri Lanka have widened. For instance, the richest 20% of the population enjoys 54% of the country’s resources and the poorest 20% is left with only 5.4%.
From the 1980’s, Citizens’ Groups, which were more sensitive to the issues of justice foresaw the impending danger of the emergence of an unjust society and opposed the process of privatization.
Of course being a small number, they were easily suppressed by the authorities who were fully supported by the media institutions which maintained close relationships with the government.
The Port City project was an inevitable outcome of this warped development policy. Whichever government that was in power saw no problems with the project except during the time of elections.
The Port City started with the reclamation of the sea by China. Now, like “the camel who sought room in the tent” China is acquiring many more acres of urban lands from Colombo.
Perhaps, motivated by patriotism, our leaders have decided to transfer the ownership of the most valuable State lands in the heart of Colombo city to the private sector where the Police Head Quarters, the Foreign Ministry, the Postal Department, the Air Force and many other govt. institutions are currently located.
Thus, the geographical area of the Colombo Port City will be further extended to cover the whole of the city of Colombo.
If development is to be genuine it ought to primarily meet human and environmental needs and not the demands of Capital.
The sale of lands to foreign countries and providing facilities and resources to construct concrete jungles for their businesses are not difficult tasks.
Development plans cooked up by experts from their air-conditioned rooms and imposing them on communities will not meet the aspirations of the majority of our people.
In concrete terms, if development means anything for people today, it should for example bring an end to the problem of the human elephant conflict, provide sufficient water and seeds to the farmers, bring solutions to the problem of marketing the produce of farmers and fishermen, stabilize the system of free education and the free health service, lift up the plantation workers and garment workers from slavery and so on. Development is true and genuine only when it happens at the level of people.