The Pulse of Rural Sri Lanka
Posted on March 1st, 2016
Asoka Weerasinghe Kings Grove Crescent . Gloucester . Ontario . K1J 6G1 . Canada
29 February 2016
Rt. Hon. Maithripala Sirisena, President of Sri Lanka
Presidential Secretariat, Colombo 1, Sri Lanka
Hon. Ranil Wickremesinghe, Prime Minister of Sri Lanka
Prime Minister’s Office
No.58, Sir Ernest De Silva Mawatha
Colombo 7, Sri Lanka.
I have just returned to my adopted home, Canada, after an amazing month visiting my family and friends in Colombo and Balapitiya. And I took the opportunity to take in the natural beauty of the island’s hill country and the ancient Buddhist cities in the North-West, and of course the colonial cities along the west coast.
Curiosity also made me meet with rural folk in the interior of the island to find out how happy they were with the new Yahapalanaya government that they voted you all in over a year ago, not once but twice.
Let me share with you what I heard from 23 rural-folk individuals and a towny along my tour route every time I stopped to have a sip of thambili, or speak to the bare-bodied, sweat dripping farmers toiling the earth under a scorching sun, and a farmer family who shocked me when the father said when I asked how much do you take in as profit a year after working so hard in the hot sun? “Rupiyal visi-dhahak, Mahathaya.” Twenty thousand rupees, in fact. Wow! What a rip-off, I thought. And they survive even with the heated bickering between the Thaththa-farmer, who wants to sell all of his annual crops of grain, and Amma-farmer resisting saying, “if you sell all the grain what are we going to live on”, explained their 30-year old daughter who showed me her two, not so pretty calloused palms, roughened by helping Thathatha in the fields bordering by thickets where rogue elephants roam at night.
Honourable gentlemen, but this is what shocked me the most as well as saddened me. Here’s the chorus that I heard after a cynical snicker from all the 23 individuals when asked, “kohomadha may aluth arnduwa”. There was no hesitation when the chorus sang out – “Oya okkoma Hora yakku, Mahaththaya!” And that is how they felt and were bitter. They are your voiceless citizens as they are scared of you Yahapalanaya crowd. How come? I suppose they know something about you all that I weren’t privy to. So they keep their mouths tephlon-shut and not complain publicly.
Send a simple decoy, not an arrogant Yahapalanite to speak to people at Kosgoda, Galle, Nuwara Eliya, Rattota , Gatambe, Ibbagamuwa, Galewalla, Melsiripura, near Seetha Amman Temple in Hakgala, Dambulla, Anuradhapura, Polonnaruwa and Colombo’s Kanatta grave diggers, and the decoy may hear the staccato-angered chorus that I heard. Pretty rough. Pretty smarting.
The most telling was that of a smart young Tuk-tuk driver at Rajagiriya, an old boy of St. Thomas, Kotte, with an IT Diploma who spoke English pretty damn well, who drives his Tuk-tuk eight hours a day, six days a week, and earns 300 times more than what he earned as an IT programmer working from 9 to 5.
When asked, “How is the Yahapalanaya government, that you all voted in doing?” during the drive from Royal Gardens to Fort’s Kingsbury Hotel on February 17th morning for breakfast with my friends who were leaving for the airport to fan out to cities in England, Wales, the US and Canada who toured with me for 10 days. We were from the Class of 1967 from the University of Swansea, Wales, and met in Sri Lanka after 49 years. A mini-reunion so to speak, and they all loved Sri Lanka, its hospitality and its peoples.
“These guys are no better than the former Rajapaksa regime, which we voted out to bring in this crowd who told us that they will clean the country of politician-rogues, corruption, nepotism, and our money thieves from the Treasury. We fell for that dishonest blarney hook, line and sinker, Sir. These Yahapalanaya crowd are no better, Sir. In fact they are worse than the Rajapaksa government. The arrogant nepotism appointing their brothers and relations to high ranking well paid office stinks as bad as the street garbage dumps on a garbage collection day around Kotte. I am pissed off.”
Being an IT person, he ripped into you all with his simmering-bile, saying, “This Yahapalanaya ‘Good Governance’ politicians are stupid….stupid….stupid. They are trying to sign an agreement with India for IT Technical Cooperation (I suppose he was referring to the ETCA) which would kill our young IT industry for us Sri Lankans by flooding Sri Lanka with unemployed India’s IT people. How stupid can these Yahapalanaya government be! They are just nothing but being stupid,,,stupid,,,,stupid.”
But here is what was interesting. All the 23 rural-folk that I spoke to were full of praise for the late President Premadasa, not Rajapaksa, with palms together and their heads tilted towards the sky. That reverence was telling and something special to witness.
So Mr. President and Mr. Prime Minister, this is the silent voice of the rural and poor folk in the city who happens not to be driving BMWs, Nissan Cefiros, Maruti Altos, and Honda Civics, and have no means to take a sick child in a Tuk-tuk to a hospital but take a bus with the sick child wrapped in a warm towel to the nearest hospital. And that is a reality check for both of you.
And then I happen to read in today’s ‘The Island’ Dr. SinhaRaja Tammita-Delgoda’s article, ‘Out of Step with Yahapalanaya the Baila is wearing Thin’, in which he states, “…A new year and a new dawn, Newspapers proclaimed the triumph of “Yahapalanaya” (Good Governance). Good Governance has triumphed over dishonesty, corruption, nepotism, fear, favoritism and blithering incompetence. They promised the return of due process, international standards, tolerance and civilized behavior, impartiality, honesty and the promotion of excellence would be the new order of the day. Good had won out evil, the end of the “Dark Ages”.
My humble question to you two honourable gentlemen is, could you really with deep honesty place your right palm on your heart and say, “Yes, we have”, having appointed the democratically rejected politicians by the people at your democratic elections back into the Cabinet, showing your middle finger to the people almost saying, “I fooled you, didn’t I. This is how I run my Yahapalanaya ‘Good Governance’ government. You can take it or leave it. I couldn’t care two dollops of cow dung.’ Ha! what a joke!