4 December, 2020

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Why Sri Lanka Lagged Behind Other Asian Countries, And What Is The Way Out ?

By V. Thirunavukkarasu

V. Thirunavukkarasu

“We are far behind other Asian countries” lamented the Most Venerable Devaludena Gnanassira Mahanayake Thero of the Sri Lanka Amarapura Maha Nikaya in his Independence Day message. “This is the 69th Anniversary celebration. In retrospect, it is clear that we are far behind the other Asian countries who received Independence after our country, no matter who ruled the country within this period” is an extract of his statement.

Singapore, closer home, is a classic example. It is common knowledge that Singapore lagged far behind Sri Lanka in the early 1950s (then Ceylon) so much so that the late Singaporean leader, Lee Kuwan Yew was longing to “catch up with Ceylon” and in fact that was one of hi s election pledges then… Subsequently, Lee, having relinquished his long stint as Prime Minister, yet remained in the Cabinet as Minister Mentor for a few years. And, later, in his memoirs titled “From 3rd to 1st world”, released during is lifetime, he had occasion to remark that Sri Lanka got bogged down, having plunged into “turbulent waters” (to quote him) while conflicts kept arising with the introduction of Sinhala as the sole official language.

On the other hand, in the case of Japan , as is well known, it was devastated by the US bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945 in quick succession. But the Japanese, undeterred by that monumental disaster, rose from the ashes like the Pheonix and, by sheer determination and dint of hard work, rose eventually to become the second world economic power after the US. Of course, Japan has since been far outstripped by China, but that is another matter, given the vast strides made by China during the last few decades, to replace Japan.

Minister of Buddha Sasana and Minister of Justice, Wijeyadasa Rajapakshe, P.C, in his article headed “Independence in Restropect” (Daily News, 04.02.2017) adverts to the arrival of Prince Wijaya in the Island with 700 of his friends; and the narrative extends right up to the 69th Anniversary of Independence.. He then makes a passing reference to the non– implementation of the Bandaranaike-Chelvanayakam pact and the Dudley – Chelvanayakam pact due to “”various influences and interferences’”. He then proceeds to state as follows:-

“During the last 7 decades after Independence, our efforts to establish a peaceful State underpinned by sustainable development have been made inefficient and ineffective by the 30- year war and also by the insurrections in 1971 and 1987/88 we had to encounter.” ‘ .

Well, In the first place , the historical background or root cause of the war, the genesis of the LTTE etc. are seldom dispassionately or objectively analyzed by many a political analyst or commentator from the South, and then the abject failure of successive Governments to address the legitimate concerns of the Tamils constituting an integral part of country’s sovereign people, for equality and dignity with the right to substantive power-sharing. One has to remember that there was no demand for a separate State for well nigh 2 decades even after the Tamils felt isolated and sidelined by the Sinhala Only Act, Bandaranaike, having jettisoned his own founding manifesto of the SLFP , providing for Sinhala and Tamil as official languages..

It is on record that Sir John Kotelawala, the then Prime Minister, on his visit to Jaffna before the 1956 general elections, held out a promise to make Sinhala and Tamil the country’s official languages. Thereupon, stiff opposition surfaced in the South, and the UNP changed course to Sinhala only. Thereupon, S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike made a long jump to enthrone, “Sinhala only within 24 hours”, as the battle cry to face the 1956 elections. Of course, Bandaranaike carried the day, and soon introduced the “Sinhala Only” Bill in Parliament. During the debate on the bill, he dismissed not only the arguments advanced by Tamil Parliamentarians that the bill would constitute an infringement of section 29 of the then Soulbury Constitution, but also the strong opposition to the bill expressed by the then Left leaders that it would ignite a future demand by the Tamils for a separate state, as encapsulated in the oft-repeated slogan “Two languages – one nation; one language – two nations or two bleeding halves” as stridently articulated by Colvin. R. De Silva.

The BC pact, though it fell rather short of meeting the concerns of the Tamils, was nevertheless, a half-way house which Chelvanayagam subscribed to. However, Bandaranaike dilly- dallied over its implementation for well over 1 year on the pretext of explaining the pact to the Sinhala people, leaving room for; say, J.R.Jayewardene to launch the ‘Pada Yatra’ to Kandy, buttressed by the Buddhist Clergy; some 400 of them converged on Bandaranaike’s Rosmead Place residence and virtually intimidated Bandaranaike into tearing the BC pact to shreds. It was again a similar fate that befell the Dudley-Chelvanayagam pact which Dudley abrogated in 1965, having caved in to the opposition that arose in the South.

Originally, all peaceful agitational campaigns launched by the Tamil leaders were crushed by the State, commencing with the then Prime Minister, Mrs. Sirimavo Bandaranaike deploying the Army to Jaffna to break up the Satyagraha campaign launched opposite the Jaffna Kachcheri in 1961 by the Tamil leaders (of the Federal Party) who were then arrested and locked up in the Panagoda Army cantonment..

Now, as we celebrate the 69th anniversary of Independence from colonial rule, it is appropriate to dwell, if briefly, on the role played by the Jaffna Youth Congress (JYC) pioneered in the late 1920s by that distinguished educationist, Handy Perinpanayagam. The JYC had, in its fold, a galaxy of distinguished educationalists of the caliber of Orator Subramaniam, Swamy Vipulananda , A.S.Kanagarathnam, K. Nesiah and Left leaders such as P.Nagalingam, ex- Senator, Jeyam Tharmakulasingham, et al. Almost all the Southern Leaders of all hues were invited by the JYC to grace their annual sessions. . The JYC strove untiringly for national unity,,for bilingualism and, last but not least, to eradicate caste discrimination etc .,in the North.

It is indeed quite remarkable that the JYC was the first organization. in the country to call for full Independence. And this was acknowledged by none other than former President. Mahinda Rajapaksh in his 63rd Independence Day speech..( if I remember right.).

And very significantly, President Maithripala Sirisena in his recent 69th Independence Day speech underlined the need for a COLLECTIVE EFFORT by the peple to secure economic independence.. True enough. In other words, it is a clarion call to put all hands to the plough.. Well, then the prerequisite for that is, first and foremost, the removal of the cancer of bribery and corruption, nepotism, and very importantly, the root cause of the 26-year-long war. And there is the perennial problem of heavy military presence in the North-East even 8 years after the end of the war , and the attendant problem of non-return of the lands of the war-displaced people ..

The determined, non-stop, peaceful campaign currently being waged for a number of days now, involving hundreds of whole families lock, stock and barrel, in the Keppapilavu and Puthukudiyiruppu areas in the Mullaitivu District for the return of their lands . occupied by the Air Force., is a telling reminder of this whole problem.

*V. Thirunavukkarasu, former Member, Colombo Municipal Council 

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Latest comments

  • 9
    10

    The reason why Sri Lanka is lagging behind the other economically progressed nations is because of Marxist Buffoons and Ealamist Tamil Buffoons.

    Problematic Tamils’ unrealistic, unreasonable, unnecessary, invasive, crazy, etc demands are based on lies, myths and fantasies which were fed by their colonial slave masters.

    Japan’s sole official language is Japanese, France’ sole official language is French, Germany’s sole official language is German, Sinhalé (Sri Lanka’s) official language is Sinhalese. So what’s the problem???????????

    For Tamils, there’s already a state called TAMIL NADU, go there.

    So Ealmist , integrate with Sinhalese or get lost. Sinhalese don’t have to give in by a decimal point.

    • 2
      11

      You intergrate with Sri Lanka or get lost! Sri Lanka is france or Germany but more closer to South Africa and Switzerland.

      Ypu traitors work against the motherland and national unity 24hours swhile shamelessly calling your selves patriots. You are nothing but a bunch of parasites that doesn’t contribute anything to the motherland but burn it with HATE.

    • 5
      8

      Johnny stupid English

      “For Tamils, there’s already a state called TAMIL NADU, go there. “

      For Hela, Sinha Le, ……. there’s already a province called Hela in Papua New Guinea.

      Your ancestors should not have left their Hela province. Some of you can go back to Tamil Nadu whence the ancestors of Sinhala/Buddhists came to settle here, of course by kallathonie.

      When can you go back?

  • 4
    7

    Why Sri Lanka Lagged Behind Other Asian Countries?

    Look just up a little above my comment, there is a comment from a guy called, John there, is a classic example of reasons you’re looking for.

    Thanks

  • 2
    4

    I addressed this issue several years ago. The solution is this: (1) invest in English-medium, secular education. (2) A strong focus of education should be technical. For all its faults, the Soviet Union produced many great intellectuals. Simply because, the brightest minds were handpicked at a certain age and given specialized training. The end result were world-class scientists, mathematicians, etc. Regardless of the political structure, it is important for a nation to maintain an intellectual class. Investment in science and other technical education is a good place to start, since the scientific method promotes rational thought and reasoning.

    • 3
      1

      Some of the things that you say are true – if they can be implemented!

      You advocate ditching the two local languages: they are both highly developed languages – and that may be the reason for it having looked feasible to have studies up to even PhD level in the swabashas.

      Now that we are so very impoverished it may be that we will have to swallow our pride and focus on a World language – which for us has to be English. However, how do you propose to teach it to all Sri Lankans, or at least to all who DEMAND it? Please come up with realistic suggestions.

      Yes, using “Scientific Method” (do you mean John Stuart Mill etc?) for thinking is fine, but that isn’t the same as getting dominated by technology, is it? I’m not so very sure that your thinking is really disciplined or consistent. You seem to equate being “intellectual” with being devoted to technology.

      Well, at least you are addressing issues in some way.

      Mr V. Thirunavukkarasu’s article is sound enough, but we’ve heard most of this before. The question is “Where do we go from here?”

      • 1
        0

        Sinhala Man:

        If the government can put the same effort and a similar amount of resources into educational reform, as it did with the civil war, then it should not be difficult to teach English.

        Technology generates wealth. No more need to hire Chinese contractors to build airports and highways, so less debt. Or, look at the Tsunami. Many structures that were washed away or turned upside down were either outdated or not properly maintained (railway system). So, in the event of natural disaster, having good technology in place can save many lives. Another aspect is employment. Technology lets people migrate, offers them new job opportunities, and creates innovation. As the wealth of the society increases, ethnic tensions decrease, political corruption decreases, etc. There might be some alternative, but the correlation between wealth and technology is well-documented & highly practical.

    • 1
      1

      Lester, I agree with you. See below my comment from another Post:-

      Sinhalese Politicians Starting with SWRD, have been cutting off their Nose to spite their own Face.

      With the introduction of Swabasha Education for the Sinhalese and Tamils, Sri Lanka lost touch with the rest of the World.

      The only people who benefited from Swabasha were the Muslims who were allowed to choose between either of the two Languages and English. Of course the Clever Muslims chose English, and went from Strength to Strength, while the Swabasha users sank to the bottom of the well.

      Those who succeeded in Swabasha, were those that took up Politics, and used their ‘Gift of the Gab’ to gain ascendancy! Politics does not need Education or Intelligence!!

      Jealousy and Envy of the Success of the Muslims, is the reason that They are Now being Attacked and Persecuted!

      • 1
        1

        Ham,

        Muslims maybe successful, but you know well how cunning Muslims are, they’ve become rich by Shylockian methods. 99% Muslim traders are fraudsters, they buy a piece of garment for 200 Rupees from Sinhalese and sell it for 2000 Rupees in their stores.

        Great Anagarika Darmapala warned Ariya Sinhalese of MARAKKALA Muslim menace, not of the MALAY Muslims.

  • 2
    0

    It’s not fair to compare Sri lanka to countries japan, south Korea ,Singapore or China. These countries are way ahead of Sri lanka and Sri lanka will never get anywhere closer to any one of these countries in the next 100 yrs. Countries like Malaysia, Indonesia , Thailand , Taiwan, Malaysia and many other Asian countries are doing way better than Sri Lanka and I am sure Sri lank is in the bottom five in Asia.lso non’t forget that most of the African countries, which were way behind when we got independence have come a long way and doing better than Sri lank.
    There are some of the reasons is in this situation,

    1. Lack of long term vision for the country
    2. Quality of leadership- lack of education, smartness, vision , understanding of global affairs and love for the country.
    3. Not investing in human capital – providing equal opportunities to every one born in the country , irrespective of class, race or wealth
    4. Not resolving social issues ( racial, language, school and etc.)
    5. Lack of law and order and politicization of day to day affairs.
    6. Not understanding the value of family and promoting same ( sending mother to middle east as slaves, and heavy consumption of alcohol by fathers)
    7. Lack of discipline by adults which gets passed on to children.
    8. Out dated education not addressing the needs of the country.
    9. Not taking advantage of the Sri Lankan diaspora.
    10. Wastage of resources.

    Most Asian countries have address these issues and are progressing very fast and are providing a better living conditions to the middle / lower class of their population. In Sri Lanka, the only people doing well are the 2% -3% of the privilege lot and everyone else is left behind.

    Sadly I am yet to come across a single politician to addressing these issues, leaving aside finding solutions and having an action plan.

    So sad.

  • 1
    0

    It’s not fair to compare Sri lanka to countries japan, south Korea ,Singapore or China. These countries are way ahead of Sri lanka and Sri lanka will never get anywhere closer to any one of these countries in the next 100 yrs. Countries like Malaysia, Indonesia , Thailand , Taiwan, Malaysia and many other Asian countries are doing way better than Sri Lanka and I am sure Sri lank is in the bottom five in Asia.lso non’t forget that most of the African countries, which were way behind when we got independence have come a long way and doing better than Sri lank.
    There are some of the reasons is in this situation,

    1. Lack of long term vision for the country
    2. Quality of leadership- lack of education, smartness, vision , understanding of global affairs and love for the country.
    3. Not investing in human capital – providing equal opportunities to every one born in the country , irrespective of class, race or wealth
    4. Not resolving social issues ( racial, language, school and etc.)
    5. Lack of law and order and politicization of day to day affairs.
    6. Not understanding the value of family and promoting same ( sending mother to middle east as slaves, and heavy consumption of alcohol by fathers)
    7. Lack of discipline by adults which gets passed on to children.
    8. Out dated education not addressing the needs of the country.
    9. Not taking advantage of the Sri Lankan diaspore.
    10. Wastage of resources.

    Most Asian countries have address these issues and are progressing very fast and are providing a better living conditions to the middle / lower class of their population. In Sri Lanka, the only people doing well are the 2% -3% of the privilege lot and everyone else is left behind.

    Sadly I am yet to come across a single politician to addressing these issues, leaving aside finding solutions and having an action plan.

    So sad.

  • 0
    0

    John is of a similar pig-headed mindset as some ultra Sinhala – Buddhist nationalists like Dayan Jayatilleka, Malinda Seneviratne and few others. The following response to an article written by Seneviratne and published in SPUR applies equally to John’s ranting. This is the type of pig-headed mentality that drove Prabhakaran to take up arms.
    It should be remembered that Prabhakaran lost the war, but the reasons for the war still persists. The statement “The claim of traditional/historical homelands is a load of balderdash, unsupported by any kind of evidence” is simply hogwash. It is part of the country’s constitution.
    Tamils were tricked by D.S.Senanayake to vote for the Soulbury constitution after giving a pledge that “‘no harm need they fear at our hands in a free Lanka’. Appealing specifically to the Tamils, he asked, ‘do you want to be governed from London or do you want, as Ceylonese, to help govern Ceylon?’ (State Council Debate on the Soulbury Constitution 1945). Tamil leaders thought the Sinhalese would treat their people as equals. However, once power went into the hands of the majority Sinhalese, Senanayake passed legislative acts that discriminated against Tamils. Under the provisions of the Ceylon Citizenship Act 1948, almost all the Tamils in the Central Hill Country were denied citizenship, leaving them stateless. They were then disenfranchised by a simple amendment to the Ceylon (Parliamentary Elections) Amendment Act stating only citizens can vote at elections.
    As for history suffice to say that Northeast is the traditional habitat of the Tamils and Tamil speaking peoples. Anyway, many independent states like Kosovo, East Timor, Montenegro, and Herzegovina etc. became independent states not based on history but on the principle of people’s right to self-determination.

  • 0
    0

    Contd
    Montenegro has only a population of 633,000 people and an area of 13,318 sq.kms (5,333 sq miles). It emerged as a sovereign state after just over 55% of the population opted for independence in a May 2006 referendum.
    We are not living in the forties and fifties. We are living in the 21st century where self-determination of people is recognized in the UNO’s conventions and protocols.
    If the Sinhalese people continue to deny the basic rights of Tamils, Ceylon will continue to be a third world basket case.
    Fortunately, Malinda Seneviratne rantings and ravings are not supported by many fair-minded Sinhalese. We saw this in Melbourne recently during the black flag demonstration organized by SPUR against Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe receiving a PhD from a University. So he is a lone wolf crying foul.

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