POLITICS IN SRI LANKA Part 3 L
Posted on April 20th, 2022

KAMALIKA PIERIS

UNP loyalists were overjoyed when the UNP won a landslide election in 1977. They felt a sense of power, they thought they were going to be there forever and started to intimidate those opposed to the UNP.

Wiswa Warnapala saw this in action in University of Peradeniya and wrote about it in his autobiography. After 1977, the academic community within Peradeniya divided into two camps, one in total support of the UNP government and the other against, said Wiswa. The Department of History was for 1978 constitution and Department of Political Science against it. . Wiswa and others in Political science had heavily critiqued the 1978 constitution.

University administration was politicized.  There was discrimination in promotions, scholarships and administration. A group of pro UNP dons began to dominate the campus. This group interfered in practically all matters  and took all the decisions. They wanted to put a   specialist in history as Professor of Economics. This was commented on in Kandy as well. I heard it there.

The pro-UNP group discriminated against those who disagree with them. They were gunning for anti UNP elements in the University. The UNP group said the UNP could never be defeated with proportional representation.  Wiswa said it can.

They tried to stop Wiswa from getting a promotion to Associate Professor. Wiswa was not able to get a fellowship through the University and had to arrange his own sabbaticals. The UNP clique in University knew everything that that was going on, including Wiswa making plans to go, he said. Wiswa’s wife was sent from school to school as a teacher.

One member of the Pro-UNP group had started to throw out all the Marxist literature in the main library, such as New Left Review.  Some items were found in a botal kade. Wiswa had complained about this and the Library committee of the University had summoned Wiswa before it.

The University Librarian resigned but others stayed put. They knew that the JR government was not going to last forever.  Eventually this UNP clique, which consisted of three or four academics and their wives, fell out with each other. One family stayed on in Sri Lanka, the other two families went to America. I think they did well there.

When the Open Economy was started and Accelerated Mahaweli got going, everybody was praising the new economy.  Ralph Pieris was not impressed. He was very contemptuous of JR‘s policies. He announced, dramatically, and with much emphasis, to anybody who was prepared to listen, ‘the degree of corruption in this county now will exceed anything we have ever seen so far.”   No one cared, they were so thrilled with the opening up of the economy.

The Open Economy and Acerbated Mahaweli threw open the gates for bribery corruption and corruption  said  critics later on. With open economy, there was much corruption  said KM de Silva.

JR has initiated a system that allowed the plunder of public property by Presidents, Ministers, Members of Parliament, their crony officials and businessmen, said critics. MP were maintaining styles they could not otherwise live, expensive houses in exclusive residential areas, children educated in expansive private schools , duty –free facilities of one kind or another, KM de Silva said.

 After Privatization, opportunity for corruption began to rise as government contracts and licenses       were given by politicians to their loyal business partners. Entrepreneurs needed direct political patronage. Those who did not have      correct political contacts found it difficult.

Accelerated Mahaweli opened the floodgates for corruption added critics. Commissions obtained were not bribes, said JR.   Some Commissions were routine payments that were made only after a purchase, not before. (Continued)

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