End of Yahapalana Government
Posted on November 19th, 2019

By Shivanthi Ranasinghe Courtesy Ceylon Today

In January 2015, Sri Lanka embarked on a new political journey. It was supposed to be the new era of good governance. However, in all seriousness whether Sri Lanka was ready for Good Governance is highly debatable. One of the main goals of those who voted for the Yahapalana Government was somehow to bring the lawbreakers of the Rajapaksa Administration to justice. If there was any economic discourse, it was to disparage on  strategic economic assets such as the Hambanthota Port as ‘white elephants’. The theme in general was to the effect that even if the Yahapalana Government could not achieve anything else, it is fine as long as the thieves in the Rajapaksa Administration are caught and punished.


When the only thing a person asks from his Government is punishment metered to another, it betrays that person’s overall ignorance in matters of governance. This ignorance is punctuated time and again when people ask stupid questions such as “what has this country done for us”, “no matter who comes to power, it is the same” etc. However, after five years of Yahapalana Government, people have realized that governments do play a role in our lives. Perhaps this lesson, albeit a cruel one, was the one true service the Yahapalana Government gave to the people.


The economy was mismanaged to the point that our growth rate, which was just second only to China in the Asian region, is only now comparable with Afghanistan. Nearly half a million people have lost their livelihoods since 2015. We lost strategic assets such as the Hambantota Port to a foreign entity. The other assets such as the oil tanks in Trincomalee, Maththala Airport and the Northern terminal in the Colombo Port was dangled before India in the most tantalising manner. In the space of three years, the Yahapalana Government presented nine different finance plans. This obviously did not inspire confidence in foreign investors.


Yet, their failure did not seem to bother the Yahapalana Government either. Almost all their decisions such as suspending the Port City, cancelling the Airbuses for Sri Lankan Airlines backfired. In the end, we had to pay huge penalties for each of these mistakes. On the other hand, projects that the Yahapalana Government promised such as the Volkswagen manufacturing plant never came true. In either of these instances, the Yahapalana Government has neither acknowledged their failure nor apologized for it. Therefore, naturally they had never studied what really went wrong for them to take the ill advised decisions that they did.


In fact, in matters of management, the first acts of the Yahapalana Government derailed the economy. Within days of assuming power, the operations of the Avant Garde Maritime were clamped. This was a venture that brought both revenue in the form of forex and employment, especially to the retired servicemen, to the country. This is all the more significant because providing suitable employment for retired servicemen is a challenge other countries are struggling to solve. Hence, Avant Garde’s creative solution that harnesses the lifetime training of servicemen to solve a contentious global issue cannot be understated.


The Central Bank Bond scams were one crime that the Yahapalana Government could neither hide or deny. Despite the years that passed since the two scams, the Yahapalana Government had not been able to sweep it under the carpet. The reason being, more than the actual loss of money, it is the unravelling of ten years of hard work that stabilized the interest rates. The Rajapaksa Administrator inherited a 91 per cent national debt to GDP ratio and a country ravaged by the worst tsunami experienced in living memory, not to mention a failed peace process with a brutal terrorist organisation. Yet, by kick-starting the economy, they managed to assure their creditors that they can pay back the loans.


With that assurance, the lenders were comfortable to reduce the interest rates while extending the payment period. When interest rates fell, the then Rajapaksa Administration was able to use that savings into infrastructural development. This in turn generated more employment and money started moving within the country. This created more economic opportunities for people. For instance, many in middle class started to import a hybrid vehicle or two and re-sell it. Thus, they were able to pocket a handsome Rs 200,000-300,000 with each sale.


In the same manner, a number of cottage  industries sprung up. Key among these was the weaving industry that catered to providing school uniform materials. Before 2005, the entire bulk needed was imported, but since then, taking baby steps, this was developed into supplying to meet the domestic needs. However, for reasons beyond comprehension these steps were reversed by the Yahapalana Government. The bond scams especially reversed the interest rates from single digits back to double digits. This in turn is increasing our entire cost factor.


The national security was bungled right royally by the Yahapalana Government. In the aftermath of the Easter Sunday, the lapses to the security were exposed. The fact that the then Army Commander General Mahesh Senanayaka came foreword as a presidential candidate exposes the office bearers’ attitude. Despite having an extensive military intelligence arm, the Army Commander claimed that he did not get a forewarning of the attacks. He even had the audacity to state that he got to know of these attacks from the Internet.


Two things must be noted. One is that the Sri Lankan military intelligence performed sophisticated operations as the MOSAD and the CIA when combating the LTTE. Yet, according to the Army Commander Senanyake, the MI had not kept him abreast of the rising Islam extremism. How did a unit that was capable in penetrating into the LTTE and Tamil Diaspora activities in Europe and east Asia failed to note the rising Islamism within the country is a question that needs to be pondered and answered seriously.


There were many forewarnings to the Easter Sunday Massacres apart from the detailed warnings received from Indian intelligence. The vandalising of the Buddha statues, execution-style killing of the two Police Officers at a checkpoint and the discovery of explosives that are of unfamiliar substance should have alerted General Senanyake. He should have directed the MI under him to feed him with the developments rather than wait for the terrorists to show up at his doorstep.


When General Senanayaka ought to have resigned afterwards, he chose to offer himself as the leader of the country. The fact that he failed to execute his responsibility obviously had not been factored by him. He is not alone in this aspect.


The very foundation of the Yahapalana Government was built on negativity in its extreme. In the years after the end of the war, through a concentrated plan the then Rajapaksa Administration was vilified. Yet, the accusers were all failed characters. Disregarding their own ineffectiveness and the resulting cost to the country in terms of lives and money, they present themselves as the panacea.


Today, a new era had begun. The past five years had taught the people that the Government has a role to play. Without it, the economy would not be managed and people will lose jobs, living costs will rise and the country will lose credibility. National Security too will get affected. Any other freedom does not make sense without National Security.


Those who voted for the new Government did so with a lot of hope. Strength to the new Government so that the people will not be punished as they were for the past five years. It is also hoped that the voter too had learnt a lesson and now aspires for a rule centred on development and not persecution.

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