Safeguarding Sri Lanka’s Natural Resources from Investors
Posted on July 20th, 2012

 Shenali Waduge

The euphoria of post-war has insisted that the Sri Lankan Government showcase its ability to lead by attracting foreign investment. The pressure has been such to artfully deter the local authorities from taking into consideration the type of investment they are welcoming into Sri Lankan shores and instead to concentrate on the number of investment totally ignoring factors to be considered before striking any deals. This is leading Sri Lanka to compromise its key natural resources which invariably is likely to affect the long term needs of the people of Sri Lanka as well as the likelihood of investments affecting Sri Lanka’s environment and ecosystem. The situation is something that the Government cannot afford to ignore.

The key areas that Sri Lanka needs to pay attention to are: Agriculture, Minerals and Fisheries.

We are living in times when much damage has been done by man to our own place of habitat, mostly out of greed to harness greater profits. Nature has given to man enough natural resources to sustain their livelihood and that is the basic needs that are still keeping the deprived with the ability to continue to exist even without support of any kind. This is how most of the rural people of Sri Lanka manage to remain self-sufficient in terms of food despite price hikes suffered by urban/city dwellers.

The West is today developed and technologically superior to the East primarily as a result of colonial rule wherein the wealth of the colonies were drained to uplift the countries of the West. This does not excuse the fact that post-independence local leaders of colonies have failed to uplift their nations preferring most times to do far more damage than the colonial whites.

The west are today industrial superpowers from the natural resources usurped from poorer nations. They have succeeded in drawing up international legislation creating international bodies to legalize and re-secure whatever natural wealth that remains in the developing nations while using their communication and media channels to keep the natives of these nations fixated towards attempting to live and function like the West. Thus, the entire cultural equilibrium of the East is seeing a frenzy towards following western trends, forgetting and putting on hold the pride of place that should continue to be placed upon the rich cultural heritage of the East.

So while the West is realizing their boredom with technolife they are moving towards searching for spirituality as seen by the manner large numbers are learning and following Buddhism, meditation, yoga etc while the people of the East are in a frenzied competition to obtain the latest mobile phone, own the latest convertible and in pursuit of becoming rich. The West are beginning to realize the powers that the East possess in terms of the alternatives that have been part and parcel of what nature has gifted and they are exploring ways and means of tapping into these rich resources which we seem to have taken for granted and not shown the reverence that is due. It is likely that the West will once again usurp this wealth combining them with their technology know-how and we have only ourselves to blame for not cherishing what has been gifted by nature to us.

Be that as it may we must first recognize the dangers and having recognized the dangers devise ways to counter them. It is more important than ever that man realize there are limits to tampering with nature. We know too well how nature’s fury has inflicted damage to show its own power.

While nature has given us an Island surrounded by waters and fish enough for our own consumption it is the dynamics of life and death that ensures that the marine ecosystem remains protected while we consume what is necessary for local intake. Nevertheless, when large nations enter with the promise to use their advance technology and a grand investment of several billions we must know what is at stake. Just imagine what type of imbalance is likely to be created when using large technical tools the entire ocean bed of fish is likely to be whisked away to foreign shores. What is the future of the fishermen most of whom use very traditional methods of fishing, will there be enough fish for local consumption, what will happen to the ocean bed when large and sophisticated equipment will result in sweeping off with our fish “”…” will all this not lead to an imbalance?

Sri Lanka is a country rich in minerals and it is likely that investors will use all sorts of conniving ways to tap into these riches and we will be left without a single natural treasure to call our own. How much of our own wealth have the authorities been passionate about protecting or even developing to use for Sri Lanka’s benefit. Must we always outsource these to foreigners? Do we not have experts of our own? It is well and fine to have foreigners keen to invest in Sri Lanka what is more important however is that we keep our treasures in place while we offer deals that are a win-win situation and Sri Lanka does not end up the looser though the initial investment is large enough for those striking the deals to share amongst themselves!

Similarly, we have tended to ignore and neglect the natural soil gifted to us again by nature wherein we were once called the granary of the East. We have allowed ourselves to fall victim to international monetary organizations and trade bodies that insist our farmers concentrate on cash crops that end up invariably exported for foreign consumption leaving little attention to feeding our own people. The fact that developing nations have been forced to take loans and loans and loans has left the people slaves to these banking empires. Irresponsible Government circulars, lack of attention and assistance for farmers the men who are providing food for our consumption has led to a major imbalance and the insistence that our agriculture be subject to pesticides whereas there are many ways we can grow food without such. When we should be growing food that we were once proud off should we not be ashamed to be importing such? With few or little attention paid to safeguarding or developing different areas of our agriculture it is just a matter of time that foreign investors will commence to prey upon our agriculture and devise ways to tap into the most important area that will decide the fate and future of the Sri Lankan people.

Giant retailers strategy often is to take up large space in nations and slowly tap the local producers who naturally feel satisfied in selling their agricultural (fruits and vegetables) without having to appeal for assistance. Once these retail giants have secured these products they are soon able to knock them out of the competition chain and once that is done they slowly begin to raise the prices of these items that are upon their stalls. This is likely to lead to a price increase and invariably leads to people in the villages unable to afford their basic requirements. This is when Sri Lanka’s real problems are likely to start.

All the while despite foreign pressures the Government has enjoyed popularity primarily as a result of the fact that the rural folk whose votes are what brings Governments to power have not been affected by international price hikes that urban and city dwellers suffer from. Nevertheless, the moment that these villages begin to feel the pinch that is where any Government is likely to see the beginning of their downfall and they have only themselves to blame for the warnings have been given and the lust for profit has clouded their better decision making.

The country is not in any frenzy to become a Singapore. We should set our own benchmarks and our own scales of where we want to take our island and how. We should not be in any competition nor should we follow anyone’s dictates.

It is well and fine to take pains to improve our infrastructure those are key areas that need development but while we seem to be accepting anyone and everyone simply because we want to showcase internationally that foreign investors are investing in Sri Lanka it is doing far more damage than any good. Most of these investors are nothing but sharks. They all belong to the global compendium of industries and businesses that feast upon nations looking to enter the international good books. They are using the vulnerability of these nations to secure deals to only their advantage with a layer of supposed profit shown to the host nation. If we are not fooled why should the Government be fooled?

Another area that we need to mention and highlight is that our society is falling apart due to flooding of narcotics into the country made worse by other illicit crimes like prostitution and gambling. If authorities desire to attract gamblers similar to that of Macau instead of having casinos running all around the island the authorities should secure a large extent of land perhaps in the islands that are being earmarked for tourist resorts off Kalpitiya and make these into exclusive casino zones where locals are prohibited and gamblers are flown directly to these sites and leave once their business is over. This is one of the best ways we can protect our people from vices as well as bring investment into the country. Many have forwarded such suggestions which seem to have fallen on deaf ears!

There is no important moment than now to have our leaders finally open their eyes to protecting what should be ours. It is pointless to handout Sri Lanka’s wealth to foreign investors simply to enter the good books of the West. If we are earmarked for Western dictates whether we do right or wrong becomes irrelevant. Therefore the better bet is to first set our own country in order and provide for our own people which will suffice to have the public rallying around their leaders which is the ONLY deterrent for any foreign intervention of any kind.

It is only if we preserve and protect nature that nature in turn will protect us and guide us from harm.

Shenali Waduge

4 Responses to “Safeguarding Sri Lanka’s Natural Resources from Investors”

  1. herman Says:

    One of the Biggest problem is how do we check the fast erroding of Our VALUES, not only our natural resources but also our Spiritual?

    Even with the limited influx of foreign investment and the western media, in particular, the changes in our people are actually alarming in the negative sense and we can expect to see further drastic decline if Parents and Religious Teachers do not address this issues with urgency.

    If corruption among the Political leaders are not arrested by MR’s government, can we really control the type of foreign investments ?

  2. AnuD Says:

    What the govt looking is fast results. It does not matter how it happens they just want to show results. IF people are very alert very stupid and very waste full things happens. Govt just wants to say we did or I did it. they are not worried about the results or how it is happening.

    Sri Lanka, did not think about producing any value added products with Thalawa Phosphate deposits, Pulmeodel Ilamanite on the shore mixed with sands all given to the foreigners to excavate and ship the raw material. I think, one reason is the politician gets “SANTHOSAM”. HE gets fast results too.

    Already,we may have lost lot of genetic resources. No one knows.

    After all, as Herman already pointed out, once our children become useless – druggies, criminals, rapists or simply social misfits, what is the worth of billions earned by parents, simply nothing.

    Anyway, remember USA was not that rich before the WW – II. Now, they got rich and stabilizing. In other words, only one generation called Baby boomers had good lives. Ones before that, ones after that suffered and will suffer.

    It won’t be that different for Sri Lanka.

  3. nandimitra Says:

    Until such time the pollticians, public servants and their families are made to declare their assets and account for it the country will be sold for the santhosam. All governments safe guard their predecessor because they themselves are corrupt.It is this cycle that needs to be broken. That will happen when people actively demand it.

  4. Fran Diaz Says:

    The earlier Cold War has been transformed into a war for Resources. Sri Lanka’s Resources must be used first in the best way possible for the good of the citizens of the Nation. The fact is that all of Lanka’s State Resources are owned by the citizens of Sri Lanka, the true born citizens of Lanka, not the illegal migrants. GoSL & the Armed Forces of Lanka are the guardians of these Resources.

    Sri Lanka will only be as good as its individual citizens in all spheres of human activity . Ethics & Morality a must from all sectors. Ethics & Morality must be considered the high point in choosing politicos, teachers, clergy etc. Law & Order a must.

    Just make sure all illegal migrants are deported, Tamils to Tamil Nadu etc. Tamil Nadu especially has vast resources and can take care of all its citizens.

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