Not A Defenceless Sri Lanka :the U.N.F pledge to develop the country is a big joke!
Posted on November 15th, 2009

By Garvin Karunaratne, former Government Agent, Matara District.

The major opposition party, the United National Party leader Ranil Wickremasinghe is reported to have called for the disbandment of the arms and armaments of the Armed Forces because the war is over and it is now time for peace.(At the Emergency Extension Debate in Parliament) This recommendation is no surprise to me. It comes from  a leader who when he was the Prime Minister of Sri Lanka agreed to the infamous Cease Fire Agreement(CFA) with the LTTE, which bestowed on the LTTE priviledges and a land area for them to manage without interference. The then President Chandrika Kumaranatunge kept silent. She had the power to cancel the CFA but she shivered in her boots to  use her powers. While the Armed Forces were confined to barracks one by one leading military intelligence officers were gunned down and  the LTTE kept expanding and encircling the town of Trincomalee with their military bases.  Ranil Wickremasinghe was actually giving in to the LTTE and his current recommendation to scale down our armoury is in line with his thinking that the LTTE should regroup.   

 It is well known that the CFA  was a plan hatched by Norway to which Ranil Wickremasinghe agreed. It smacks that the call to dispose of arms and armaments comes from some foreign power and Ranil is merely a cat’s paw  for some Superpower. If our leaders and people are foolish enough to go by this dictate we will soon be in pieces.   

It is necessary to be strong to survive. There is no other way about it. Become a weakling and everyone will rule you.  

Going down memory lane- in my first day at the University of Sri Lanka- that was in 1950 I got caught to the ragging done by the Seniors. They were behaving like ruffians harassing us. They extorted money. I was ordered to pay five rupees and I said that I did not have money to pay. That was a time when a family could live a month with a hundred rupees. They growled to frighten me and ordered me to bring it the next day. I was wondering what to do. On the next day, I tried to avoid them as much as I could but eventually they caught me up. They ordered me to pay and I said I had no money. Bring it tomorrow or else.. they growled. I could see some of my first years who did not submit being harassed. There were some who had to wear a coat front to back and be in it for the entire day. I was on my push bike and other biking students had the air let out of their tyres, with the valves confiscated. They had to push their cycles to get them repaired. It was going to be a no win situation, but  I was not of the type to give in. Back at home I pondered what to do. Five rupees was something great for me.  During my teens I had two treasured possessions. One  was an unduly long pen knife. Those were the days when making pen knives- folding knives was a local industry.  The other was a knuckle duster- a heavy piece of brass which one wears on one’s knuckles. It belonged to the repertoire of thugs and ruffians. Used in a fight it can easily break bones. I had never used it on anyone.  The next day I pocketed the knuckle duster and went. As the ruffian raggers closed in I took out the knuckle duster and tossed it in my palm, playing with it.  They had a close look and backed off.  Since then if I was moving on a corridor of the University, they would avoid facing me. They had been nasty to me  and did know what a blow from me would be. This is a true story which is very relevant in today’s context.  

 History does not lie. History will reveal what happened to weak States. The Ottoman Empire, based in Turkey ruled the Middle East and a good portion of Central Europe for close upon six centuries. The Ottoman Empire disintegrated  by the end  of the First World War  and one of its countries- Palestine which was taken over by the Allies was handed over as a protectorate to Britain by the League of Nations. Palestinians were a peace loving people. The Jews were all over the world living in small enclaves- like the Tamil diaspora of today and the Jewish diaspora won over Britain and the USA. Britain instead of guarding the protectorate that was handed over to them to take care of till such time as the Palestinians could govern themselves, actively helped Jewish immigration into Palestine. The Palestinians waited helpless till the Jews settled down and declared a separate State- Israel. Isreali citizens  do not hold deeds for their land. The real owners of their lands are now homeless, languishing in poverty in places like the Gaza Strip. Britain’s advice to us has to be viewed in the context of what they did to Palestine! If one wants to make any decision do go back in history.  

 Take what happened to the Chagosian islanders in Diego Garcia. The Chago Islands belonged to the British.  The population was very small and they were fishermen. When the USA wanted a military base in the Indian Ocean the British cleared the Chagos islands by throwing out the inhabitants and it is home today to the US Diego Garcia military Base. . In 1970 the British did this by interpreting  an immigration ordinance to justify their expulsion. Even today the chago islanders are homeless. After a legal battle the chago islanders  won the right to return. What happened is of great importance as it throws light on what one can expect of the Superpowers who today pose as saints and knights of honour. “Islanders denied Justice“ in The Telegraph  22/10/2008,  and ” Chago Islanders Lose Battle to Return” in The Guardian, 22/10/2008,  exposes the double standards of the UK on Human Rights. The islanders had won  the right to return to all islands  except Diego Garcia, the main island. But  the 3-2 ruling by the lawlords overturned the islanders’ victory.  Earlier the Divisional Court and the Court of Appeal  had ruled that the Chaggosians  could return to the outer islands. The Foreign Office instead of abiding by the decision of the Court of Appeal appealed against the judgement to the UK House of Lords.  The Chagos Islanders’ lawyers argued that the British Government did not have  the power to remove their right of abode but this was dismissed by the House of Lords. Foreign Secretary David Miliband who today poses himself as having the right to talk of Human Rights, welcomed that judgement which deprived the chagosian islands their right of abode to their own land. The  chago islanders, evidently,  did not have their knuckle dusters to do some sabre rattling.              

 To the Superpowers, Human Rights do not matter in the least.  Australia, a country that preaches to us on Human Rights today is due to make a public apology to the victims of child migration(forced migration) from Britain to Australia which happened till 1967!. British children were collected from borstals and poor families-  the children  and the parents were told that they were going for a better life, but all of them were herded as bonded farm hands!. (Daily Telegraph, UK 15/11/2009)  

Let us take what happened to Tibet. Tibet was ruled by the Dalai Lama a religious ruler who believed in non violence. The Chinese walked in and took over the country and Dalai Lama decamped as quickly as he could to the hills of India where he has established  his base  at Dharmasala..  

Many are the instances I can quote from history to support that anyone has to be strong to survive. Take what happened to Sri Lanka. When the Portuguese and the Western Powers moved in we had armies that used bows and arrows. Gunpowder- its base saltpeter- potassium nitrate was known to us and Europeans bought large stocks from Bihar and Gujerat. We used it to split rocks and if not for the use of saltpeter as an explosive our forefathers could not have built temples and irrigation structures etc. from rocks. In the hands of the Western Powers they used it to make weapons which we could not withstand.  

As a country we must defend ourselves. Otherwise we will sink. Our leaders should stand together for otherwise the forces of the Devil will be upon us. They are there manifest in many forms- some tell us to  adhere to Human Rights- while in their own countries they abhorr Human Rights. Britain has no right to talk to us till they put back the Chago islanders. Take Japan, Akashi was behaving like a knight that came to our salvation, while Japan was doing things clandestinely for the LTTE. “The Island” of 4/9/2009 revealed that  Japanese experts who were given access to LTTE areas  for Tsunami relief work  had helped the terrorists  build a channel to launch underwater craft”¦ a 360 foot long  25 foot wide  tunnel  and a  300 ft long and 30 ft, dock,  while they were supposed to be helping homeless tsunami casualties. Japan should trace these experts and they should be tried for helping the terrorists. Some fund various Non Governmental Organizations that work covertly for various  nefarious activities while overtly showing that they are developmental.  We have to be strong enough to monitor their activities in detail and in case they are foreign  people order them to pack their bags and get away..  

The major question that arises is what can an army do in peacetime.  Though our valiant armed forces have defeated the military wing, there are remnants in cognito and these have to be found and undone.  We have to guard the seas and should have a highly developed coast guard system. They need not watch for gunboats from foreign forces, but there are many peace time tasks in development. At Matara, where I was the Government Agent there were reports that foreign trawlers come  and catch the fish in our waters. When I reported  I was asked to report details like the markings on the trawlers etc. I had to send staff officers on fishing boats- by the time we reported the trawlers had gone away. That never worked.  Our coast guard ships can have a multi purpose function to catch fish in addition to their coast guard duties. Today we import fish from many countries. Then the cost of guarding the coast from foreign terrorists will be covered.  

We can also look to America because there the US Army has an Army Corps of Engineers that attend to many developmental tasks. Take the Snake River- there are many dams across this Snake river built up the US Army Corps. Take Yellowstone, the US Army Corps was called in when the task could not be contained through petty contractors and the US Army Corps do it till today. Many are the hydro electricity plants that have been built by the US Army. Take the Levees built to save New Orleans from the sea. These were built by the US Army Corps of Engineers.  

Now that our leadership has defeated the LTTE and delivered the country from the jaws of death, we have to tackle the task of development. The economy has to be tackled and in this too the Armed Forces can be useful. Already the Chief Minister of the Uva Province has said that he is using the Army to build up the tanks- the irrigation schemes. Backtrack to 1818 and it is an established fact that the British Governor ordered the Army  to execute every male in the Uva Province and destroy every tree and tank reservoir. This was done. The poverty and deprivation created then by the British persists even today.   I attended to minor irrigation work in the Anuradhapura District for two years and can state that the number of tanks that have to be restored is legion. What we have today is the remains of tanks that have been silted up, with encroachments into the tank beds and bunds that have decayed. It is only an organized force like the US Army Corps that can do that task and our Army can do a national task that has defied us for decades.

  Today we are groaning under high electricity costs. The people of Sri Lanka are indebted to the UNP for having  entered into deals with private companies for providing electricity at a high cost with the result that the CEB is losing Rs. 500 million every day in  having to sell electricity at Rs 12 to people while the CEB pays the companies at Rs. 14. a unit. People have forgotten that the UNP was the cause and instead blame the poor CEB! Now we are thinking of constructing a transmission line over Palk Strait at a massive cost to get electricity from India. Our attempt at wind power has been ably sabotaged- we build wind turbines on the coast where there is only a sea breeze to prove that wind turbines cannot provide us electricity. Spain that has far less mountains than Sri lanka is self sufficient in energy mostly through wind power. Spain gets 53% of its energy from wind turbines and sells energy to Portugal, France and Morocco. (“High Winds help turbines to generate half Spain’s electricity” in The Times, UK, 10/11/2009). My Papers on Wind Turbines for Sri Lanka- undoubtedly, the cheapest and quickest source appeared in my book, in The Island and the Lanka Web- all gone to oblivion.  Let me hope for a debate, me on one side and on the other- all the engineers and bureaucrats. I was involved neck deep in a similar debate in Bangladesh in youth training and self employment creation where I won. The subject was on vocational training, why all governments only train and graduate them with pomp and pageantry   and leave them to fend for themselves, most of them remaining unemployed.. My suggestion that the Youth Ministry should establish a self employment programme was shot down because in the preceeding three years an ILO attempt to establish a self employment programme had failed. This happened in 1982, at a meeting  presided over by  the Hon. Minister for Manpower & Labour, Mr Aminul Islam, I argued with the Bangladesh Ministry of Finance point by point for over two hours. Finally The Hon. Minister ordered all of us to shut up. Without any hesitation he   approved my suggestion to establish  a youth self employment programme.  He looked hard at me like a hawk and charged me to prove what I said. No new vote was created but we were authorized to find savings in any budget and re-train  the available officers. The rest is history today- a programme that today  trains 160,000 a year to become self reliant entrepreneurs, easily the premier programme in the entire world which by 2005 had placed over a million in employment. (Details of this Programme are available in my book: How the IMF Ruined Sri Lanka”¦(Godages  

Get our Army Engineers on this track and I am certain that we can be self sufficient in all our energy requirements within a year or two. In my travels in the USA and in Spain I have been seeing wind turbines again and again-  perched in hilly areas and never working with the sea breeze.    

 I had often visited  my uncle’s estate at Atabage, near Gampola.  He once had a hydro power station  off a stream that was adjacent to his factory. I had a knack to admire schemes like this- disciplines that I never studied, but which hold me spellbound. It provided ample power for his tea factory and  his bungalow. In the Sixties the Electricity Board was enticing him to give up the hydro power station and get electricity from the grid. I advised him that it was foolish to do so because his electricity did not cost him any money.  I met my uncle a decade later and he was feeling sorry for not listening to my advice because though the Electricity Board had shown him various statistics to show that the energy supplied would be cheap and very regular, they had jacked up the prices and he even gave up running the tea factory because it became uneconomical. He could not backtrack because the hydro scheme was broken up.  Recently I was passing by and noticed a great deal of construction and stopped. My uncle is no more and my aunt said that a section was sold to a German investor who is building a hydro power plant.  We are getting fast to the situation highly prevalent in Bolivia where out of a water bill, the profit goes to people in foreign lands.  Once this German investor finishes his project he will provide electricity to the people and take the profits away. That is the modus operandi of the IMF advised Structural Adjustment Programme which we yet follow. The IMF System is to make our countries feed money to the Rich Superpowers.  

Investors do come to take away our profits. We have to act like India. Foreign investment is enticed for tasks that the Indians cannot do. No foreigners can come in for the retail trade and to establish supermarkets. There has to be local collaboration in all ventures. We have acted the goat in  enticing investors even to establishing garment factories. Today we import many items that we can make and this has been what the UNP commenced in 1977. We are actually creating employment for people in other countries! Following free-trade and liberalization of forex since 1977 our foreign debt has ballooned from $ 750 million in 1977 to over $ 12,000 today.  It was the UNP under President Jayawardena that started this rot. Once we are indebted we have to borrow to pay our dues. We hope that eventually we can get out of the trap to which the UNP led us. But that is no easy task. 

  I have been handling minor irrigation in the Kegalla , Nuwara Eliya and Kandy Districts. I have walked and walked every inch along streams that have small anicuts and many  of these streams can easily have hydro power stations. One of our Sinhalese Power companies is building hydro power stations in African countries too. We have hundreds of engineers in the CEB and surely they can handle this task. Our country unlike India or Bangladesh has village level Grama Niladharis and we have Divisional Secretaries. They and the Village Cultivation Officers of the Agrarian Services Department should be immediately instructed to report possible places for hydro power units and this is a task for the Army Corps of Engineers working with the CEB engineers.  

Many think we are now entering  a period of commotion and indecision, with uncertain political leadership with two elections in the fray. They do not understand the ability of our President. It is no other than Mahinda Rajapaksa, the personage under whose unflinching leadership we managed to defeat the most ferocious terrorist force in the world. He directed the war effort alongside development tasks and never wavered. It is time for him to address the economy and  things will roll.  

Very strange things are happening  in the field of politics today. All the reactionary forces under the leadership of the Western Imperialists is uniting under the UNF. Even the JVP has forgotten the Batalanda days and is putting its head on the chopping block.  The UNP was  the political party that ruined our self sufficient and self reliant economy from 1977 by relaxing the use of foreign exchange, allowing liberal use of foreign exchange even when we do not have it and borrowing to meet the lavish life of the rich.. To hell with the economy and the sovereignty- sell the economy to foreign investors and the sovereignty to foreign Superpowers. That  was the UNP motto.  The UNF leaders are  now bending before our Mahanayake Prelates and telling that they will  be developing the country  so that future generations can reap the benefits of prosperity.  The UNP ruled from 1977 to 1995 and during that time the foreign debt ballooned from $ 750 million to over $ 9.500, the UNP destroyed the development infrastructure comprising the Marketing Department, the Paddy Marketing Board, Textile Manufacturing  which enabled us to become self sufficient in all foods and also helped us to control our inflation. . The UNP destroyed the Transport Board  and other industries like Tulhiriya etc were all privatized to foreigners. The foreigners came, took away fat profits and left leaving un paid wages and unpaid bank loans. The UNP under Ranil Wickremasinghe ruled again in 2002  and he carried this to a further level. The CWE shops that provided essential food at cheap prices was disbanded and sold during his period. His budget of 2002 allowed foreigners to buy land tax free and prime land was sold to foreigners.  The UNP of all political parties has no right to even talk about our development. The UNP will undoubtedly sell our country to the foreign superpowers once again.  

We do have within our  public service, a rare resource of experienced personnel . At Kegalla, two of my Grama Sevakas were better than some of my Assistant Government Agents. They were at Dorawaka and Kitulgala and they did a host of work. Working on the Divisional Development Councils Programme in Matara District some Graduate Assistants  did yeoman work on employment creation projects.  For the first time in Sri lanka, we established a Boatyard turning out inboard motor fishing boats in the teeth of opposition from the Department of Fisheries and the venture was a success till the UNP Government of 1977 shut it down. We designed and established a hand made crayon factory that was a grand success which turned out a tenth of the island’s requirements from 1972 to 1977 till the UNP rule stopped it. These were all manned by Graduate Assistants- those who are unemployed and fighting on the streets for jobs today! People who say that our graduates cannot work are talking sheer nonsense. They may have studied Sinhala and History but to a man they did  a great deal of work. The subject is not of the essence. It is the ability, the intelligence and the aptitude. Take Civil Servant J.V.Fonseka. He was a classics graduate but he directed the entire Agrarian Services- a department built up  from scratch. He also directed a programme to build stores- he could have easily directed building a few hundred wind turbines within two years. Earlier he as Director of Land Development paved the path for the building of all colonization schemes. In Bangladesh where I established a youth self employment programme from scratch,  graduates who knew only youth work were trained by me in economics within months and we guided  youths who were doing vocational training  to establish commercial ventures.  

 I have given these illustrations just to prove that the battle for economic development can be won. We do not need a single new worker nor a single n new  cent. We can re-deploy and re train our staff and divert funds, in keeping with national development goals.  

I have been an officer in the Administrative Service of Sri Lanka for eighteen years and have worked in over half the Districts. I have also worked in four foreign countries. In all my above suggestions I speak with experience and I am certain that all what I have suggested can be achieved.  We have to find home grown solutions. We have to follow a path of self reliance, aim at self sufficiency away from foreign forces that come in to take our profits away. Since 1977 we have been following a policy of importing all our requirements. Let us make everything we need and we have a situation of full employment. The UNP and their new UNF will easily take us to more poverty, more deprivation- the rich will become richer and the poor will become more poor.  Let us build up our strength and be united to face the future. The leadership that delivered us from the jaws of the LTTE will definitely stand us in good stead.   

 Garvin Karunaratne, Ph.D.(Michigan State University, 15/11/2009Author of How the IMF Ruined Sri lanka and Alternate Programmes of Success, Godages. 

One Response to “Not A Defenceless Sri Lanka :the U.N.F pledge to develop the country is a big joke!”


    There is no doubt that the current rulers are more than capable of running Sri Lanka to economic freedom. We must be careful in listening to new parties and perhaps a General who might be on the loose to ruin a nation.

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