A reply to Asanga Abeyagoonasekara’s Forcast 2017:Sri Lanka.
Posted on March 14th, 2017
Asanga Abeyagoonasekara, a young Sri Lankan intellectual writing to Daily FT of the 24th February,2017 , began his article, Forcast 2017:Sri Lanka, as follows:
“It was less than half a million votes that restored democratic order in Sri Lanka and set the nation in the correct direction three years ago. 8 January 2015 saw the dawn of good governance locally and a recalibration of the island’s foreign policy. ”
The writer being an employee of the government has closed his eyes to reality and wrote an article to mislead the people comparing the previous government undemocratic and worthless to the present government democratic and promising. This first statement of his article summerises his whole article and replying to it alone would be a reply to the sum total of his article.
What is this democracy Asanga A, is referring to ? Since when had it been displaced to be restored on the 8th January,2015 ? Sri Lanka had democratic governments since Indepence. The ordinary people of Sri Lanka has not seen this shift of democracy as they understand it, but whatever be the democracy this intellectual refers to, the ordinary people do see a change in their lives since this fateful day- the 8 January,2015, unable to make both ends meet, having lost the previous comfort of living. They see themselves being dragged into economic difficulties due to arbitrary decisions of an unconcerned government, as against the people friendly democracy they had enjoyed before 8th January,2015, what they have now is a lopsided democracy.
For them the word Yahapalanaya means restraint, hardship. The new Government that replaced the former on the 8 January,2015 has taken away what they enjoyed before. They enjoyed a high standard of living. There were pipe water and electricity. Every house hold had at least a portable telephone. They were earning satisfactorily well to have enough food to eat. Even in the distant villages their children had schools with facilities to study sciences, and Information Technology. There were well equipped hospitals. Most of them had televisions, refrigerators, gaz cookers. New highways had been built, and carpeted and concrete roads extending to villages had come up every where in Sri Lanka. That was a much needed facet of development that had been neglected until the election of Mahinda Rajapakse as the President of Sri Lanka.
The period from 9th May,2009 to 8th January,2015 was the Golden period of the history of Sri Lanka. The terrorism had ended and along with it the thirty years of suffering had come to an end . The fear of death with which the people of Sri Lanka got up every morning was a fading memory, peace and security have replaced fear and uncertainty of life. The country was united under one flag, and sang one national Anthem . The people from Jaffna to southern most corner of Sri Lanka, and from West to East were at last able to breath the fresh air of peace and freedom.
Only the Countries of the West with their dear Tamil diaspora was not happy. It is USA with Hillary Clinton, Robert Blake, Atul Keshup, and Samantha Power, UNO with Navy Pillai, Ban Ki Moon and Zeid Al Hussein, and the European countries that started its campaign to re establish terrorism in Sri Lanka.
It is only the English educated well to do Society from which the Asanga Abeyagunasekara comes from that hails the political change of the 8th January,2015, and praises the correct direction that the country is being forced to take. The ordinary people see the so called correct direction to which the nation has been set is not for progress and development but for utter disaster which began with the greatest Central Bank Bond Scam never heard before in the history of the Central Bank of Sri Lanka.
Then still going along with the first sentence of the article by this writer educated in the civilised West, he says the dawn of this government is also the dawn of the recalibration of the Island’s foreign policy. The dawn of this government has spelt utter disaster which the writer refuses to see for some good reasons of his own. But with regard to recalibration of the Island’s foreign policy does he mean that this government has established relations with the civilized West, leaving out the dangerous and less civilised nations like China , Russia , Iran and some African States with which the previous government had close diplomatic relations ?
But with this recalibration what has Sri Lanka gained from the friendly Western Nations the Yahapalanaya flaunts to have made close political relations ? Have the friendly west financed one development project ? China which contributed largely for the development of Sri Lanka under the previous regime was treated disrespectfully by the Yahapalanaya Government.
The Chinese work sites like the Colombo port city were temporarily suspended which caused the laying off of thousands of workers, and considerable damage to machinery. That recalibration of the foreign policy was to please the new found Western friends, but having failed to have received the expected investments from the West Yahapalana again recalibrated its foreign policy pleading the return of China to restart work on the suspended sites.
Sri Lanka has two categories of people, those that are the ordinary genuine Sri Lankans outside the towns who are simple patriotic people, and the other the English Educated more egoist people. Amoung the latter there may of course be some patriots who are able to evaluate good and bad without putting one’s own self interest into it.
These young and old English educated Sri Lankan Pandits, hail the political change that took place on the 8th January,2015. And after two years of non contribution to progress and development of Sri Lanka, going on a spree of vengeance arresting members of the previous government and their supporters on shameless accusations which are incomparable to large scale thefts by the Yahapalanaya stakeholders.
Every thing the Yahapalanaya government had promised and undertaken are utter disasters starting from the Bond Scam, to the Budget, opening foreign factories to assemble cars, sponsoring the USA resolution against Sri Lanka in Geneva. But as positive contributions they speak of freedom of expression, freedom to criticize the government, absence of white vans etc. But have the poor people suffering from the economic burden cast upon them benefitted from these pseudo positive aspects they shout from roof tops ?
It is an absurd exercise trying to compare the previous government with the Yahapalanaya Government, or condemn the previous government for theft and corruption. The Previous Government of Mahinda Rajapakse was different in all respects to Yahapalanaya government. The tremendous work undertaken and completed by the previous government are visible witnesses. It is evident from what is left for us to see that the previous government had used the loans they had taken for the benefit of the country and the people.
Furthermore, the President Mahinda Rajapakse took over his office when Sri Lanka was under attack by ruthless terrorism which was considered undefeatable by the Armed Forces of Sri Lanka. But Mahinda Rajapakse was not a man to accept defeat that easily. Hence he organised methodically how he was going to attend to different formidable problems he was faced with.
He had to settle terrorism before every thing else. Fortunately his brother had been an Army Officer now in retirement. He requested his brother to stand with him to see an end to terrorism. He could leave it safely in his hand, while he looked after the political fall out. He prepared a meticulous Chintanaya according to which he handled the rest of the problems.
He had to have trusted persons to hand over responsibilities for various tasks. He used his brothers for the purpose there was no problem in that as long as they did the work allotted to them. He had to have lot of money to go ahead with his plans. India would not even sell arms and ammunitions. He had to turn to China and Pakistan for help, as the West was more sympathetic to the terrorists and would not help Sri Lanka to end terrorism.
Hillary Clinton even advised IMF not to release the loans it had promised. EU stopped the GPS plus, and refused to buy the fish quota. The oil prices were on the increase. These were the problems President Mahinda Rajapakse was faced with at the time he was President. The Yahapalanaya government has no such problems. But their problems came from mismanagement, with wrong people in the wrong place.
The American Ambassadors insisted that he should find a political solution without resorting to a military solution. But Mahinda Rajapakse knew what he had to do. It is not true that President Mahinda Rajapaksa robbed government funds or that he was corrupt. His determination was to end terrorism and bring peace and security to Sri Lanka and in doing that he could not resort to any corrupt practices. If he did that he would not have succeeded in ending terrorism and develop the country as he did.
But why did the English educated class in Sri Lanka supported a change of Government on the 8th January,2015 ?
Of course India and the West was behind it all. However, the English Educated Class wanted a change not because they believed in Maithripala Sirisena to make a difference from what it had been under Mahinda Rajapakse, but because they believed Ranil Wickramasinghe as the Prime Minister , an English educated more acceptable democrat would leave aside the Chinese camp to take Sri Lanka back into the fold of the West. It was the Western culture that they wanted to get mixed with.
Those who accuse President Mahinda Rajapakse for corruption which has not been proved, forget that the present Prime Minister is nonetheless under the shadow of the Batalanda torture camp.
Of course the West calls the President Mahinda Rajapakse hawkish and the English educated Colombians are ready to accept that, though he has become a father figure to the ordinary masses. President Mahinda Rajapakse’s defeat at the Presidential election of 2015 was assured by getting the Tamil and Muslim minorities to vote overwhelmingly against him.
Is that the restoration of democracy, the dawn of good governance locally and a recalibration of the Island’s foreign policy. This is stated as if democracy did not exist in Sri Lanka?
Asanga Abeyagoonasekara says that the draconian 18th Amendment to the Sri Lanka Constitution was scrapped by an (extra)ordinary man who took on the challenge to topple the existing Government.
There was nothing (extra) ordinary about what this man did to topple the government. It was the result of a conspiracy hatched with forces within and without to change a strong government, and oust a strong political leader to facilitate matters for the USA and the West to have a hold on Sri Lanka which was becoming dangerous to the Western plan, with Sri Lanka’s close relation with China, and the backing of Russia a defiant member of the UN Security Council.
However draconian it may have been the 18th Amendment was an important legislature for a government that had just come out of a ruthless terrorism. The country would not be out of the danger of a resurgence of it once again. Therefore protective measures had to be taken. The country , the army and the people were too tired to be alert to any sign of dangers all the time. Hence the need for the President Mahinda Rajapakse to have more time to complete what he had begun, and assure the security and protection of the country and the people, and take the country forward, in order to develop it to be in par with any developed country in the world.
That is why Mahind Rajapakse wanted to be the President of Sri Lanka for a further period. The Executive powers of the President are still an important tool? President Mahinda Rajapakse used the executive powers of his office intelligently and never abused it. His adversaries accuse him as authoritarian, but I think taking into consideration the situation at the time when he became the President, a certain amount of the use of authority was imperative.
With the passing of the 19th Amendment, Sri Lanka is now in a dilemma unable to dissolve the Parliament until it runs its full term. But this Yahapalana government had the privilege before passing the 19th Amendment to dissolve the Parliament to prevent the presentation of the Dew Goonasekara’s COPE Report on the Central Bank Bond Scam.
The shift from an established zone of comfort and influence has plunged Sri Lanka into an insurmountable financial disaster. If we continue this absurd “good governance” with its new methods of fighting corruption where will Sri Lanka end.
Yahapalanaya Government’s attempt to harness Western financial genius for an economic development away from China failed. The appointment of a new Governor to the Central Bank too has failed to reverse the down word trend of the economy. We are left with the memory of a visit by George Soros, and shared insights of Prof. Riccardo Hausmanns from Harvard University. How that would help Sri Lanka only Asanga Abeyagoonasekara may know.
Asanga A admits that the bipartisan Unity Government “ failed to deliver on many promises.” He says that the effort to work together with differences must be appreciated. But is that what the people want ? The people want solutions for their day to day problems, they do not care whether it be a technocratic rule by technical experts if not by their elected representatives. They want results, not experiments carried out by two political parties with opposite ideologies trying hard to work together..
President Sirisena’s third year
We cannot clap our hands for providing media freedom when problems facing the people remain unsolved. But does media freedom really exist under Yahapalanaya? We have seen how the media personal were ridiculed by the Prime Minister in the Parliament. At least one journalist had been dismissed from services in a well known TV Station on government pressure.
Gonawila Sunil the criminal gang leader was a one time body guard of Ranil Wickramasinghe. President Mahinda Rajapakse had no such underworld connections to criminalise his government accusing him for killing journalists. There had been killings and disappearances of journalists during UNP Governments before, but we cannot put such killings at the door step of the Presidents. If that is so we can point our finger at the President Sirisena for Kotahena shooting etc.
With regard to improvement in human rights situation Asanga A. claims, the recalibration of foreign relations has not benefitted Sri Lanka against accusation of continued allegation of violation of human rights at the Geneva Human Rights Council and by Yasmin Sooka. USA has not made any favourable statement with regard to their resolution against Sri Lanka and the hybrid court proposed by Zeid Al-Hussein.
The Yahapalanaya Government looks for models outside to develop Sri Lanka, where as President Mahinda Rajapakse wanted Sri Lanka to be a model for other developing countries. Nigerian and Kenyan Presidents showed interest in the development process that had been undertaken by the then President under his Mahinda Chintanaya..
The expression of the intention of President Sirisena to make 2017 the year to eradicate poverty is brave, but to what extent is it possible, when whole of Sri Lanka is descending towards being once again a poverty stricken third world country ?
Sri Lanka and the New World Order
Asanga A, quotes Prof.Indra de Soyza, who predicts that Sri Lanka’s strategic position is likely to be of great political interest to great powers that will be tempted to meddle in the internal politics of Sri Lanka…….” The prediction apart the reality today is that Sri Lanka is no more a Sovereign State, being constantly interfered into by UN and Western countries demanding to make various sacrifices for the pseudo reconciliation with the Tamil community. Our Minister of Foreign Affairs has not contributed to discourage the Western countries from interfering into the internal affairs of Sri Lanka. He even sponsored the USA resolution against Sri Lanka !!!
Challenges in 2017
Asanaga Abeyagoonasekara says, in 2017 the nation will face three key challenges, but makes no suggestion to meet those challenges, probably as he knows that Sri Lanka is already outside the threshold of financial recovery. Bond Scam will continue to haunt the Government until the end of its term without finding any solution to recover the loss, despite the investigations by Commissions. No one who benefitted from the Scam would want to return the booty. Therefore the government led by the Prime Minister Ranil Wickramasinghe will keep on using all their tactics to shield the thieves, until the Bond Scam will be yet another forgotten episode.
Then the debt crisis, which is the result of financial mismanagement and the wrong decisions taken when the Yahapalanaya came to power on the 8 January,2015, to take vengeance from Mahinda Rajapakse, rather than govern the country in the interest of the country and the people.
If at the out set the Government had decided not to make changes in the development projects, appointed an experienced senior member of the Central Bank as its Governor , and appointed a more qualified person out side UNP as the Finance Minister, the financial situation today would have been much more different. Even now if the government were to cut down on unnecessary expenses, and resort to a more simple life style , the Country could still be saved from suffering the same fate of Greece.
Human Rights issue has become more crucial. It was the making of the Minister of Foreign Affairs. A good Foreign Minister who is sure of himself and presents the matter correctly may still reverse the situation in our favour. Minister Mangala Samaraweera makes the situation worse with his secret meetings with the Global Tamil Forum and the Tamil Diaspora. The solution is in Sri Lanka and not with the Tamil diaspora.
If the government continues with the Present Foreign Minister there will be more allegations coming from out side, of torture, rape etc. against the Armed Forces.
Asanga A, goes on to speak of a third challenge the Local Government Election and a new Constitution. This government had been in place for the last two years but as in January,2015 it still keeps putting the blame for what they have failed to do, on the previous government of Mahinda Rajapakse, without doing any thing positive. As in the case of the Bond issue where it tries to cover up the “theft”. It tries also to cover up the governments inability to have done any thing positive by putting the blame on the previous Government and the President Mahinda Rajapakse.
The Yahapalanaya Government giving on a 99 year lease 15,000 acres of prime land in Hambantot along with the Mattala Airport is the result of Yahapalanaya government’s lack of foresight in suspending the work of the Port City in Colombo and thereby antagonising the Chinese Government. Asanga A says that the project is moving forward despite the protest. It is an ill conceived projects which should be withdrawn.
President Mahinda Rajapakse was democratic, he did not postpone elections. Even the election in the Northern Province was held under President Rajapakse even when he knew very well that the TNA will win it . But this Yahapalanaya Government most undemocratically denies the people the much needed Local Government Elections.
Sri Lanka does not want a new Constitution now. That is also a project that should be rejected in the interest of the country and the people.
The Government continues to do enormous blunders, and at the end where will it leave Sri Lanka. Asanga Abeyagoonesekara, it is time you revisit your article to give this government better advice, without praising it for the sake of praising.