The way forward
Posted on March 5th, 2019

By Prof. Tissa Vitarana Courtesy Ceylon Today

During my three day visit to the North, I addressed the Jaffna Managers Forum, at the Euroville Auditorium on the topic – Sri Lankan Crisis Affects the North and South: The Way Forward.  Vartharaja Perumal, former Chief Minister of the North and East, chaired the meeting.

A synopsis of my speech: 

The present UNP-led Government was a failure. It has lost a golden opportunity to solve the national question, with a Government of the two major parties the UNP and SLFP, having the active support of the leaders of the Tamil-speaking people, the TNA and SLMC. But, it had also taken the whole country, North and South, into a deep economic, social and political crisis.

The problem of debt is affecting the war widows badly, but, it is also affecting small entrepreneurs in the North and South, causing many to close shop. The Government is facing a deep, debt crisis, local and foreign, and it is struggling to find money to pay salaries each month.

The foreign loan repayment for this year is $5.9 billion, and there is an increasing trend in the next five years. This is accumulated over 20 to 30 years, and the UNP/SLFP Government led by Ranil Wickremesinghe has taken as much loans in these four years, as the Mahinda Rajapaksa Government in nine years. The latter developed infrastructure in the North and South, besides the cost of restoring peace, but the Ranil Wickremesinghe Government has squandered it on luxury imports and trips abroad for the rich one per cent of the population.

Depreciating Dollar

As a result, the cost of imports is double the income from exports. The promised increase in exports by industrialisation through foreign direct investment (FDI) has not materialised, and what had come has departed due to the poor investment climate and lack of economic and political stability. The massive Central Bank fraud which cost the country billions in which the Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, is clearly implicated, leading to a three per cent increase in the loan interest rate nationally has destroyed investor confidence.

The GDP growth rate which averaged six to seven per cent, during the Mahinda Rajapaksa Government, has come down to three per cent, and real incomes have come down. To solve the economic problems of the people and country, we need to emerge from the ‘middle income trap’ and become an industrialised country, with a real GDP growth of at least nine per cent. The only areas of growth are vice, corruption and drug trafficking. In fact in the International Corruption Index Sri Lanka’s score has remained at 39 per cent, placing us at 89 among 180 countries.

When a vote of no-confidence was moved on Ranil Wickremesinghe in Parliament the TNA and SLMC saved him, a clear indication that they do not represent the ordinary Tamil speaking people, but, along with the UNP, the interests of the rich one per cent, which includes the underworld.

The steep rise in the cost-of-living is due to many factors. The wrong tax policy of high indirect taxes like VAT which places the burden on the people, while direct taxes are among the lowest in the world, with an upper slab of 24 per cent, spares the rich.

The increase of VAT from seven per cent to 15 per cent, led to the UNHRC representative on Human Rights, Bohoslavski, to attack the Ranil Wickremesinghe Government for violating fundamental human rights. Imports of luxuries and the like have increased the demand for dollars sending the Rupee value from Rs.131 per dollar, during the Rajapaksa Government, down to Rs.182, raising the price of imports, made worse by the Wickremesinghe Government policy shift to encourage imports rather than self-sufficiency. The result is an increase in poverty, hunger and malnutrition throughout the country. Some people have two or even one meal a day.

But to make matters worse the Ranil Wickremesinghe, led by Yankee Wicky, has signed agreements with the USA to enable it to use Trincomalee as a military base, with freedom to bring in weapons for their use and transport them without being bound by our laws. By also becoming co-signatories to the USAs resolution based on the false Darusman Report which allows foreign interference in our judicial processes, Sri Lanka is no longer an independent, sovereign nation. We are really a  semi-colony of the USA. We run the risk of being caught in the middle of a USA/China War.

Neoliberal agenda

Why has our country been brought to such a terrible state; is it mere bungling? No, there is method to this madness. In the context of the worsening crisis of global capitalism with the West being more affected than the East; led by China which has emerged as the second largest economy after the USA, there has been a shift in economic power from the West to the East.

In an attempt to reverse this trend the USA is in the process of implementing the Neoliberal solution developed by Prof. Milton Friedman in Chicago, on the basis of the Washington consensus with the IMF and World Bank forged in the 1970s.Together with promotion of regional conflicts and wars which enables the USA that produces 60 per cent of global armaments to revive its economy, Neo-liberalism is the way out, exploitation without direct conquest.

Using the open economy the giant multinational corporations, led by those based in the USA and EU, are buying up assets, including essential utilities, from our countries. In Sri Lanka agreements have been framed to purchase the Water Resources Board and the Survey Department. Earlier restrictions on transferring acquired funds abroad are removed. The welfare State is dismantled and the tax burden shifted from the rich one per cent that owns capital to the 99 per cent living on a daily income.

The Ranil Wickremesinghe Government backed by the TNA and SLMC, with some help from the JVP, are the representatives of both the local and foreign one per cent, who own capital. The tax burden is shifted from the one per cent to the 99 per cent.  To perpetuate the power of the one per cent the policy of ‘divide and rule’ is applied exploiting local racial, religious, caste, tribal differences on a global scale.

This is why the National question remains unsolved in Sri Lanka. Lip service is paid to democracy but elections are not held. Draconian laws like the Counter Terrorism (CTA) Act are replacing the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA), to pave the way for an authoritarian Police State. Ranil Wickremesinghe, the chairman of the Asian chapter of the global Conservative International, serves USA’s interests, not Sri Lanka’s. The door is opened for foreign intervention.

Way forward

The prime task is for the 99 per cent, Sinhalese, Tamils, Muslims and others, to unite as one Sri Lankan nation. All oppression based on race, religion, caste, gender and class must end. The traitor Ranil Wickremesinghe and his   Government, with its neoliberal policies, must be defeated; sooner the better. All attempts to flout democracy, by delaying elections or by creating conditions of social unrest and conflict to pave the way for a dictatorship using the CTA must be prevented. Sri Lanka must withdraw its support for Resolution 30/1 at the UNHRC.

All military and trade agreements that harm our national interest must be rescinded. We must return to our traditional Non-Aligned foreign policy, friendship with all, subservient to none. We must re-establish our national social welfare economy to serve our people, both in the North and South. A modern industrial economy with maximal value addition to our raw materials using advanced science, technology and innovation and promoting local human resource skills is what we need.

Definition of a racist  

During question time Prof. Hoole, Thavarasa (Deputy Leader of the EPDP) and others questioned why the LSSP was associating with racists like Mahinda Rajapaksa.

My response was MR is a Sinhala Buddhist nationalist, like Sambandan of the TNA who is a Tamil Hindu nationalist.

They are not racists. While MR stands for an independent sovereign Sri Lankan nation developing a national economy that is not subservient to the West, Sambandan is for a subservient USA-dominated economy, in the expectation that the latter will help solve the national question in favour of the Tamils. Mr Sambandan is forgetting that the USA will not solve this problem, but rather use it to divide and rule the country through the UNP, as it has done in many countries round the world such as in the Middle East.

When I was asked about the role of the LSSP and whether the MR-led future government would use the All Party Representative Committee Report, to solve the national question,  my response was, I have already made that request in writing and hopes that it will be accepted and a suitable consensus will be reached.

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