Gota shifts from defence and urban development to economics Viyath Maga at the Shangri-La Colombo:
Posted on May 14th, 2018

At five o’clock in the afternoon on Sunday, long lines of vehicles two abreast were seen on both sides of Galle face, to enter the driveway to the Shangri- La hotel. Alighting from a taxi this writer walked to the hotel. That was quicker. Months after opening, the Shangri-La is the most sought-after hotel in Colombo with its restaurants still fully booked days or weeks in advance. Inside the rugby field sized ballroom was probably the largest gathering of professionals ever seen in this country in one place. Former President Mahinda Rajapaksa arrived at around 5.20 pm and the proceedings began soon afterwards. The first to speak was Gotabhaya Rajapaksa. He spoke not a word about his previous subjects, national defence and urban development, but solely on economics, spelling out a vision for Sri Lanka for the year 2030 with economic growth being the primary focus.

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In the run up to this event, the government and their allies provided it with a great deal of publicity saying this was really the commencement of Gota’s presidential election campaign. They had said the same thing about last year’s Viyath Maga annual general meeting and about the inaugural meeting of the Eliya organization as well. However for those looking for clues relating to intent, this event was replete with what looked like tell tale signs of what was on the cards. The most obvious sign was Gota’s complete shift to economics, and the focus of the entire proceedings being on development and economic affairs alone. Today, it’s the economy that most worries the constituency that was in attendance at that meeting – the business and professional elite. Indeed it’s a major source or worry for the ordinary man on the street as well and in that sense the pitch was timely and relevant.

But to those trying to look for clues, Gota’s concentration on the economy could be seen as a move to prove that he was a one dimensional military man but someone who could shift from fighting a war, to urban development and to economic policy with ease. He said that by 2030, the prognosis was that the Chinese economy was projected to become twice the size of the American economy. India was to come third, Japan fourth and Indonesia will become the fifth. He posed the question whether Sri Lanka was ready for this transformation of the global economy and said that Viyath Maga was engaged in studying how Sri Lanka should be positioned by 2030. Economic growth was posited as the top priority for Sri Lanka. He said that other Asian countries had demonstrated that it is possible to achieve our economic goals and open the country to the world while yet safeguarding our culture and our sovereignty.

He said that structural and policy change would have to be carried out in today’s economy and that if we hesitate in this or delay, we may lose the window of opportunity that is before us. Most of our exports are traditional and low tech and we are lacking in high value added products. As Sri Lanka’s per capita income reaches 4000 USD, the advantage we had in labour intensive industries, no longer exists and we have to make the transition to the use of skilled labour and knowledge based products. At the same time, this is an agricultural country and agriculture cannot be neglected. Therefore agriculture has to be modernized. Scientific and technological research and innovation should be encouraged. The significant fact was that some of the speakers at this event were individuals like Dr. Bandula Wijeratne and Mano Sekaram who had actually achieved in their private lives what was being discussed at this seminar.

The meeting was attended by the cream de la cream of the private sector including the top business magnates and no doubt what they heard from all the speakers, would have been music to their ears. If the private sector was looking for a way out of the morass the country finds itself in today, the Viyath Maga AGM seminar seemed to show the way.

This writer was seated on the last row of the furthest from the entrance and from that distance everything on the stage appeared to be in miniature but when the proceedings were shown on the large screen it could be clearly seen that the usual floral arrangement on the lectern was made up entirely of the ‘Nelum pohottuwa’ the symbol of the Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna. The symbolism spoke a thousand words. Speaker after speaker addressed the audience on an economic vision for the future. All the correct chords were struck at this event. Mano Sekaram, an IT expert who addressed the audience said that the fact that he was invited to speak indicates an appreciation of diversity and inclusiveness and he thanked the organisers for that.

The panel of speakers included members of all communities and the highlight of the evening was a rehabilitated LTTE cadre turned musician singing two songs in Tamil and Sinhala. If anyone was looking for clues that this was Gota’s pitch for the presidency, the whole event seemed replete with evidence that it may indeed be that.

5 Responses to “Gota shifts from defence and urban development to economics Viyath Maga at the Shangri-La Colombo:”

  1. Dilrook Says:

    It was an excellent speech; most visionary (or only visionary) speech in the Sri Lankan context, ever.

    He correctly identified the economic frontier as the biggest challenge. He also presented a completely different economic vision than what Mahinda followed. He said all projects must be “equitable and profitable”. Couldn’t have said it better.

    Sadly, this is the complete oppositte of what Mahinda followed. There was no equity in Mahinda econmic development plan. Over 85% of borrowed funds were wasted in the north and the east where only 15% of the people live – that too only in Tamil speaking areas. I made these comments exactly 5 years ago to an article by the same writer and predicted the end of the Rajapaksa clan. It came true, hopefully, only until Gotabaya made a u-turn.

    Then the profitability. Almost all (except may be one or two) Mahinda’s projects were enormously loss making. Short term cash flow management is more important than long term marginal profitability. Almost all of Mahinda’s projects were white elephants leaving the country deeply in the debt trap. Glad Gotabaya’s vision is the complete oppositte.

    Sri Lanka should be very fortunate to have this vision implemented. All the very best. (However, if the same old ruinous elements creep in as do gooders, this too will be ruined.) As Gotabaya himself stated, it is not “Nelum Pohottuwa”, any viper (“mapila”) would do if the substance is right!

  2. Hiranthe Says:

    “structural and policy change would have to be carried out in today’s economy and that if we hesitate in this or delay, we may lose the window of opportunity that is before us”

    It is true what you said dear Gota.

    At the same time, if the ordinary folks of the country don’t support the initiative of Gota and do not make maximum out of him, this country will definitely lose the window of opportunity to appoint the one and only true patriotic leader of Mother Lanka to drive this Island nation to the developed state out of poverty.

    Viyath Maga should have separate sessions for University Students and also to gather the youth with “Kandula” alongside so that the message can be given with a sugar coated pill in music so that they will turn to be patriotic true sons and daughters taking care of Mother Lanka.

    The good news is transformation is happening!!

  3. Christie Says:

    අපේ ආර්තිකය තියෙන්නේ ඉන්දියානු පරපෝසිතය්න් අතේය.

    එය 1840 පටන් ගන්නේ වෙලෙන්ඳන් ලියාපදින්චි කිරීමේ නීතිය සමගය.

    වැඩි ජනතාව වන් සින්හලයන් අතට එහි පාලනය ගත යුතුය.

  4. Nimal Says:

    Good luck to him if he could change the backward culture of the country at present. He did some good work in urban clearing in Colombo and used the forces to clear up the mosquito menace.
    Since his attire suits the modern world, unlike his brothers will bring prosperity to all in the country, not for a selected few. He should not fall into the trap of fooling the people by endless appearances at temples and other places of worship, must leave religions to the usual freaks.
    I will only judge him if he is in power, if he open the road by the Maligawa that is chocking us in Kandy where the main religion is used in a divisive way, where some are more privileged that the others, mainly the non tax payers. We know he is doing the right thing by bringing discipline in the streets, in our police and judiciary and not forgetting our hopeless civil service.

  5. Fran Diaz Says:

    Great Good Luck wishes from us all to Viyathmaga and many thanks for efforts to turn the Country in the right direction !
    We are with you Mr GR !

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