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Tech Billionaires Are Actually Dumber Than You Think

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In mid-September, for just a few days, Indian industrialist Gautam Adani entered the ranks of the top three richest people on earth as per Bloomberg’s Billionaires Index. It was the first time an Indian, or, for that matter, an Asian, had enjoyed such a distinction. South Asians in my circle of family and friends felt excited at the prospect that a man who looked like us had entered such rarefied ranks.

Adani was deemed the second richest person, even richer than Amazon founder Jeff Bezos! A Times of India profile fawningly quoted him relaying his thought process in the early days of his rags-to-riches story. “‘Dreams were infinite but finances finite,’ he says with engaging frankness,” according to the profile. There was no mention of the serious accusations he faces of corruption and diverting money into offshore tax havens, or of the entire website, AdaniWatch, devoted to investigating his dirty deeds.

Adani made his money, in part, by investing in digital services, leading one economist to say, “Wherever there is a futuristic business in India, I think… [Adani] has a stronghold.”

The moment of pride that Indians felt in such an achievement by one of their own was short-lived. Quickly Adani slipped from second richest to third richest, and, as of this writing, is in the number four slot on a list dominated by people who have made money from the digital technology revolution.

In fact, ranking multibillionaires is a meaningless exercise that obscures the absurdity of their wealth. This year alone, a number of tech billionaires on Bloomberg’s list lost hundreds of billions of dollars as the gains they made during the early years of the pandemic were wiped out because of a volatile stock market. But, as Whizy Kim of Vox points out, whether or not they’re losing money or giving it away—as Bezos’ ex-wife MacKenzie Scott has been doing—their wealth remains insanely high, and most are worth more today than before the COVID-19 pandemic.

What are they doing with all this wealth?

It turns out that many are quietly plotting their own survival against our demise. Douglas Rushkoff, podcaster, founder of the Laboratory for Digital Humanism, and fellow at the Institute for the Future, has written a book about this bizarre phenomenon, Survival of the Richest: Escape Fantasies of the Tech Billionaires.

In an interview, Rushkoff explains that billionaires worry about the end of humanity just like the rest of us. They fear catastrophic climate change or the next pandemic. And, they know their money will likely be of little value when civilizations decline. “How do I maintain control over my Navy Seal security guards once my money is worthless?” is a question that Rushkoff says many of the world’s wealthiest people want to know the answer to.

He knows they ask such questions because he was invited to give private lectures by those who think his expertise in digital technology gives him unique insight into the future. But Rushkoff was quietly studying them instead and has few flattering things to say about these wielders of economic power.

“How is it that the wealthiest and most powerful people I’d ever been in the same room with see themselves as utterly powerless to affect the future?” he asks. It seems as though “the best they can do is prepare for the inevitable calamity and then just, you know, hang on for dear life.”

Rushkoff explores this tech billionaire “mindset” that he says has resulted in a generation of people who are “almost comedic monsters, who really mean to leave us all behind.” Adani is a perfect example of this, having invested in the very fossil fuels that are destroying our planet. He has large holdings in Australia’s coal mining industry and has sparked a massive grassroots movement intent on stopping him.

The admiration that some Indians feel for Adani’s ascension on Bloomberg’s list of billionaires is based on an assumption of cleverness. Surely, he must be one of the smartest people in the world in order to be one of the richest? Elon Musk, the world’s wealthiest man by far (with twice as much wealth as Bezos), has enjoyed such a reputation for years.

Those who are invested in the idea of merit-based capitalism can justify the unimaginable wealth of the world’s richest people only by assuming they are intelligent enough to deserve it.

This is a façade. Rather than smarts, the wealthiest people on the planet appear to be rather small-minded idiot savants who share a common disdain for the rest of us.

After being around tech billionaires in private, Rushkoff concludes that they are invested in “this notion that they really can, like puppeteers, kind of control society from one level above,” and that this approach is “different than the era of Alexander the Great, or Caesar.” If the question that vexes them most of all is how, in a disastrous future, will they control the guards they hire to protect their hoardings, then our economic system is a farce.

“Even if we call them genius technologists, most of them were plucked from college when they were freshmen,” says Rushkoff. “They came up with some idea in their dorm room before they’d taken history, or economics, or ethics, or philosophy” classes, and so they lack the wisdom needed to oversee their own perverse amounts of wealth.

Having spent time with many tech billionaires, Rushkoff worries that “their education about the future comes from zombie movies and science fiction shows.”

Billionaires are not simply drawing their wealth from a vacuum. According to data from the World Economic Forum, “the world’s richest have captured a disproportionate share of global wealth over recent decades.” This means that, if you were rich to begin with a decade or two ago, you are likely to have seen your wealth multiply by a greater amount than middle-class or lower-income people.

Not only are tech billionaires undeserving of their wealth, but they also are fleecing the rest of us—and fantasizing about hoarding that wealth in the worst-case scenarios while the rest of humanity struggles to survive.

The danger is that if society valorizes such (mostly) men, we are in danger of internalizing their childish, selfish mindset and giving up on solving the climate crisis or building resiliency on a mass scale.

Instead of relating to them, we ought to feel sorry for a group of people so cut off from humanity that their vision of the future is a very lonely one.

“Let’s look at these tech-bro billionaire lunatics. Let’s laugh at what they’re doing… so they look small rather than big,” says Rushkoff. He thinks it is critical to adopt the perspective that “the disaster they’re so afraid of looks entirely manageable by more reasonable people who are willing just to help each other out.”

This article was produced by Economy for All, a project of the Independent Media Institute.

Energy Security and Zero Emission Target in India

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India presently imports around 80% of its crude oil requirement and around 50% of its natural gas requirements. As the domestic production of crude oil and natural gas are virtually stagnant and the domestic demand is increasing at around 7% per annum, India’s steadily increasing dependence on import of the vital energy source is a matter of high energy security concern.  This is particularly so since the price of crude oil and natural gas are considerably fluctuating/increasing in the global market due to geo-political factors, which are beyond the control of India.

 India has promised to achieve zero emission by the year 2070, which means that the level of emission has to start declining at a slow and steady rate from now onwards.

It is now well recognized that global emission is caused largely due to use of coal as fuel and   natural gas as fuel and feedstock. While burning of coal as fuel cause emission of global warming carbon dioxide gas and sulphur dioxide gas, the storage and transportation of natural gas cause methane emission.

India has to simultaneously tackle energy security issues and also has to reduce the emission level at same time. Is this possible in the present circumstances?  Are the strategies being adopted to tackle these two issues contradictory?

Limitation of the strategies:

The strategies for India to reduce emission and import dependence on crude oil consist of blending ethanol with petrol, promotion of electric vehicles, increase in renewable energy generation as well as promotion of hydrogen as fuel and feedstock.

In the case of renewable energy, a total of 144 GW capacity excluding hydro power has been installed as of June,2022. Besides, renewable energy projects of 60. 66 GW capacity are under various stage of implementation and 23.14 GW capacity are under bidding.  While the progress is laudable, the fact is that the impact of renewable energy project in reducing crude oil import dependence would not be significant, since renewable energy generation is seasonal and climate dependent and the capacity utilization of renewable energy project is only at around 20%.

In the case of electric vehicle, Government of India aims at ensuring that 30% of all new vehicles are electric by 2030. While good progress is being made and electric vehicles can reduce emission, it should not be nullified by using electric power for charging batteries if the power were to be generated by burning coal, which is a fossil fuel generating emission.  There is no way that the power requirement of electric vehicle would be completely provided by renewable energy in the foreseeable future.

Government of India has fixed 20% target to blend ethanol with petrol by 2025 and good progress are being made to boost ethanol production. However, this would make short supply of ethanol for other industrial purposes, as ethanol is an important feedstock for chemical industry. Further, it is estimated that 20% ethanol blending with petrol would result in 70 million tonne of greenhouse gas emission, due to physical transportation of 1016 crore litre of ethanol per year by trucks using petroleum fuel.

In the case of hydrogen energy, renewable hydrogen industry is still in development stage across the world. Impressive progress is being made in utilizing hydrogen abroad like hydrogen fuel based railway project costing Rs. 737 crore implemented in Germany. However, as of now, such hydrogen used is not   green hydrogen. In India too, hydrogen fuel cell vehicle plants have been announced including one at Chennai.  However, these projects would use blue hydrogen or grey hydrogen and not green hydrogen produced using renewable energy.

Obviously, the above strategies which are progressive, would be totally insufficient to reduce India’s import dependence of crude oil and natural gas to any significant level in the foreseeable future.

Dependence on coal:

While government of India is implementing the above strategies, it is also increasing the production of coal, which is a fossil fuel.

To increase the production of coal to around 1000 million tonne per annum from the present level of 700 million tonne per annum, Government of India has now auctioned 10 coal mines for commercial exploitation.

Obviously, boosting coal production and greater use of coal as fuel to reduce import dependence on crude oil, will cause emissions and obviously, this would nullify the   emission reduction strategies of Government of India.  This appears to be a contradictory policy.

Need for new strategies:

In recent months, when global crude oil price has steeply increased, Government of India somehow managed the situation by buying crude oil from Russia at a discounted price.  However, this strategy can essentially be a short-term measure.

In such circumstances, apart from the strategies adopted already, India has to think about more imaginative solutions which could be the following.

Promotion of algae crop and algae biofuel for which the requirements such as tropical conditions, availability of wasteland, requirement of sunshine and carbon dioxide etc. in India provide an ideal situation for promoting algae crop/biofuel.

India imports around 2.2 million tonne of methanol per annum, as India does not have competitively priced natural gas which is the feedstock for methanol production. Commercial plants are operating abroad for the production of methanol from municipal solid waste. India should have no hesitation in exploiting this methanol investment opportunity from municipal solid waste.

From methanol, dimethyl ether can be produced, which is an eco-friendly fuel that can replace petroleum-based LPG in a big way.

Further, it is necessary to boost domestic production of ethanol to meet increasing percentage of ethanol blending with petrol. For this, ethanol production from beet sugar should also be promoted in India in a big way as ethanol from beet sugar has even more advantages than ethanol from sugarcane as it is less water consumption.

International Literacy Day – 8 September 2022

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Once you learn to read, you will be forever free. ~ Frederick Douglass

The Sri Lanka Guardian was founded as an online web portal in August 2007 “by a group of concerned Sri Lankan citizens including journalists, activists, academics and retired civil servants. This portal is currently a platform for over a hundred regular writers from around the world”.  In other words, it accommodates writers to express their ideas and views and comment on what’s going on in the world, to be shared with the literati who, it is hoped,  benefit from the intellectual exertions of the writers. In that context, it is ineluctable that the most important date of the year for both the Sri Lanka Guardian and its readership is 8 September.

International Literacy Day falls on 8 September each year and seemingly passes with the unobtrusive dignity of the message it usually carries – that books enlarge a child’s world and enrich an adult’s vision, knowledge, and wisdom.  As the saying goes, reading is to the mind what exercise is to the body.

Founded in 1966 and designated as International Literacy Day by the United Nations Educational, Social and Cultural Organization (UNESCO)  the day is meant “to remind the public of the importance of literacy as a matter of dignity and human rights. International Literacy Day brings ownership of the challenges of illiteracy back home to local communities where literacy begins, one person at a time”.

UNESCO, which has adopted the theme “Transforming Literacy Learning Spaces” for this year’s celebrations, says it will be an opportunity to rethink the fundamental importance of literacy learning spaces to build resilience and ensure quality, equitable, and inclusive education for all, while going on to say: “In the aftermath of the pandemic, nearly 24 million learners might never return to formal education, out of which, 11 million are projected to be girls and young women. To ensure no one is left behind, we need to enrich and transform the existing learning spaces through an integrated approach and enable literacy learning in the perspective of lifelong learning”.

One of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals of the United Nations is “Ensure inclusive and quality education for all and promote lifelong learning”.  Of these words, arguably the most important words are “promote lifelong learning”. Now, most of the world receives basic education in school and those of us who are more receptive and persevering receive university education. But only some of us pursue “lifelong learning”.  The Pulitzer Prize-winning New York Times Columnist Thomas Friedman once said he writes his books and columns to learn about things as, in the process of writing he educates himself.  In other words, he acquires knowledge while dispensing wisdom to the world. 

Simplistically put, “literacy” means “the ability to read and write”.  However, this definitive should not be inhibitive to just reading and writing but expansive to be stretched to all the various stages and processes of our education.  Literacy should encompass the five stages of our justification for existence, particularly as literati.  They are, reading; understanding; analyzing; creating and innovating.  Creating and innovating from a literacy sense is achieved through writing, whether it involves writing books, articles, poems, short stories, novels, columns, screenplays, or theatrical plays. The ability to write is innate in all of us but we can bring it to fruition if only we try. The basic tool for writing is reading, which helps us in applying the range of our knowledge to the depths of our curiosity. It makes us realize that we can rejoice in the richness of common academic heritage and believe that imitation is suicide and creativity is the essence of wisdom. At a time when profound and powerful forces are shaking and remaking the world, and information technology brings knowledge to our doorstep, we are in a world which knows no limits to show us that, in a fast-changing world, our challenges are fearsome, but so are our strengths. The fruits of our own literacy give us the certainty of our judgments and the boldness of our convictions to serve the world and help others who might need our guidance.

As the much acclaimed and Man Booker Prize-winning author Arundhati Roy once said: “the place for literature is built by writers and readers. It’s a fragile place in some ways, but an indestructible one. When its broken, we rebuild it. Because we need shelter. I very much like the idea of literature that is needed. Literature that provides shelter. Shelter of all kinds”.

Another distinct benefit of lifelong learning is that it helps us manage ourselves and shows us the path to leadership in our own professions. Leaders who are moral and ethical would know the Greek proverb “Know thyself” and watch out for their mistakes and improve on areas where they are weak in if they continue to pursue learning. They will be able to fix their weakest parts whether they are in regulation, standardization or harmonization. Rasmus Hougaard and Jacqueline Carter, in their book The Mind of the Leader, cite four critical factors sought by today’s workforce: meaning; human connectedness; true happiness; and a desire to contribute positively to the world. Today’s leader has to be connected to herself and to those around her and have a sense of purpose. The teleological significance of life and its meaning and purpose comes from learning. A leader should lead the people towards that sense of purpose. Peter Drucker famously said: “[Y]ou cannot manage other people unless you manage yourself first”.

Literacy, if used wisely makes us antifragile, non-traditional, lateral thinkers who take existing usage and change the way things are. The mind of the true literati is not of a one-time solution provider.  It is constantly active and therefore introduces a dimension that goes beyond adaptability.  Nassim Nicholas Taleb,  the author who introduced the concept of anti-fragility says: “ Antifragility is beyond resilience or robustness. The resilient resists shocks and stays the same; the antifragile gets better”.

The literati also think laterally. Wikipedia sums up lateral thinking as “a manner of solving problems using an indirect and creative approach via reasoning that is not immediately obvious. It involves ideas that may not be obtainable using only traditional step-by-step logic”. Lateral thinking goes against the usual “vertical logic”.  Edward de Bono, widely acclaimed as the father and guru of lateral thinking, explains clearly with what he calls “the intelligence trap”: “a highly intelligent person can construct a rational and well-argued case for virtually any point of view. The more coherent this support for a particular point of view the less the thinker sees any need actually to explore the situation.  Such a person may then become trapped into a particular view simply because he can support it”.

Literacy makes us escape from this trap.

Trustless Companions

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Just a few months back, it was in the news that the US authorities were considering imposing sanctions on India because of its trade ties with Russia. It was all being done as a part of US’ isolation strategy during the ongoing conflict between Russia and Ukraine those days. Situation became more serious when India stood in the line of those 35 countries which abstained themselves from voting at the United Nations against the Russian advancement in Ukraine. Certainly the Indian decision of going against the US will and desire was not very much encouraging rather pleasing for the US authorities, military as well as political. At political level both the Democrats and Republicans raised their concerns about India’s stance of ‘going against the wind’ and it was being apprehended that this decision would create distances between the two countries. It was also in the air that the Biden administration might impose sanctions upon India under the ‘CAATSA law’ which imposes certain restrictions on the countries purchasing defense materials from Russia, North Korea and Iran. The abbreviation CAATSA stands for ‘Countering America’s Adversaries through Sanctions Act. But in spite of all these fears and apprehensions, according to some analysts, India is still the ‘blue-eyed boy’ of US and this misconception rather misunderstanding would prove a seriously painful shock to the US policy-makers, somewhere in near or far future.

Meenakshi Ahmed is a renowned expert on India-US relations. She is the author of ‘A Matter of Trust- U.S. India relations from Truman to Trump’. Recently she penned down an article in the Atlantic with the title, ‘America Has Never Really Understood India’. She said, “Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has resurrected Cold War hostilities, harkening back to a world in which the United States saw itself pitted in a Manichaean struggle, facing a choice between good and evil. The U.S. is using similar rhetoric today to persuade countries to isolate and punish Moscow.” She further says, “President Joe Biden has garnered support among his NATO allies to impose crippling sanctions on Russia, but his efforts elsewhere have been only partially successful. Australia and Japan—which, along with the U.S., make up three-quarters of the Quad, a relatively new Asian-security grouping—have signed on, but India, the fourth member of the bloc, has declined to join the chorus of condemnation.” If India were a very serious and sincere partner of the US, it must have been the first one to offer all cooperation in this regard.

In March 2015, Crispin Rovere penned down an article in The Interpreter with the title, ‘India is no ally of the US’. The writer said, “As for India and the US, I find it astonishing that after more than 50 years of being repeatedly burned, some Americans still have not learned their lesson and continue insisting that China and India are ‘natural competitors’. This is false. China and India are historical competitors, but such competition is not necessarily ‘natural’ and certainly nothing like the strategic competition that exists between China and the US. After all, any Chinese expansion in the Western Pacific will be at America’s expense. It is hard to argue that India’s expansion into the Indian Ocean is being actively resisted by China. India is not a pro-Western democratic bulwark, and never will be.”

Last year on April 15, 2021, same apprehensions were expressed by Chirayu Thakkar regarding uncertainty of US-India relations in an article appeared in the Stimson. The writer said, “For the last 20 years, the United States has mostly overlooked its divergences with India in multilateral forums as the relationship paid economic, strategic, and political dividends bilaterally, whereas the costs of divergences at the multilateral level were negligible. In spite of such exceptionalism enjoyed by New Delhi, U.S. diplomats at all levels reminded their Indian counterparts that India’s “obstinate role at the UN was increasingly at odds with our emerging strategic proximity.” With a restructuring of the global order, continuous assault on rules-based order, and China’s rise as a common strategic adversary, the costs of their inability to work together in the global governance arena can be much higher for both countries today.”

‘The India Way: Strategies for an Uncertain World’ is no doubt a book which must be an eye-opener to all those who are misguided by the notion that India would always remain an ally of the US, keeping all its national interest aside. The book is written by India’s external affairs Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar. He has very emphatically tried to explain that India has no plan to align itself fully with either the U.S. or China. He says, “This is a time for us to engage America, manage China, reassure Russia, and bring Japan into play.” Dov S. Zakheim is a senior adviser at the Center for Strategic and International Studies and vice chairman of the board for the Foreign Policy Research Institute. In September 2021, his review on Shankar’s book was published in the Hill, in which he tried to make his readers realize that whatever Jaishankar said in his book, must not be taken for granted as he had been a former ambassador to both Washington and Beijing; moreover he is the son of Krishnaswamy Subrahmanyam who is recognized as the ‘father of India’s nuclear program’. Krishnaswamy Subrahmanyam is the person who maintained close ties with Moscow even as he was perhaps the leading advocate of the 2007 Indo-U.S. Agreement on Civilian Nuclear Cooperation. If such a well-informed and well-connected person does not find harmony in American and Indian interests, it means the actual situation is altogether different from what apparently seems. If India is not fair in its relationship with US, why US is wasting its resources on making India ‘the regional god-father’.

Four Prime Ministers in six years in Britain?

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Talk about the changing seasons, there is no better country than Britain to change its leaders.

“Knickers to the pessimists, how about that, knickers to all who talk Britain down,” so said Boris Johnson, when he took office as Prime Minister, two and a half years ago when he replaced Theresa May in December 2019. Theresa May was preceded by David Cameron in 2016.

Parliaments are for a fixed term of five years, but it seems the electorate gets fed up with leaders as they fail to meet their expectations.

Many believe, that Boris Johnson was elected as a one-issue Brexit Prime Minister, but he not only delivered Brexit against all odds but made the capital, by rolling out COVID-19 vaccinations, which was the envy of Europe, if not the world. When the job was done, he was thought of as excess to need and booted or so it seems.

Next Prime Minister

Tomorrow 6 September 2022, Liz Truss (47 years old) who beat Rishi Sunak with 81,326 to 60,399 votes (57.1%) to claim the leadership of the Conservative Party, will be formally appointed as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom when she meets H.M. Queen Elizabeth II, this time at Balmoral, instead of Buckingham Palace, at the ceremony called “the kiss of hands” before taking office.

What the voters wanted to hear from her, she stated in her victory speech today 5 September at Queen Elizabeth Hall, London. She said: “I will deliver a bold plan to cut taxes and grow our economy. I will deliver on the energy crisis, dealing with people’s energy bills, but also dealing with the long-term issues we have on energy supply.”

The mantra “Delivery, delivery, delivery”

“I know that we will deliver. We will deliver, we will deliver, we will deliver. And we will deliver a great victory for the Conservative Party in 2024,” she stated, as she accepted the applause from her party supporters.

The British people are very cautious and resilient. It is too early to tell if Prime Minister waiting, Liz Truss has received a cautious welcome. She has inherited a raft of problems; inflation – the highest in years, energy bills spiralling, Northern Ireland and Brexit on the boil, the war in Ukraine, growing strike action in the UK, trouble everywhere?

Can Liz Truss deliver on promises, promises?
What are the options on her mind? Stability is key for a healthy economy. When it comes to resolving more than one issue, Liz Truss is adept at having a bold plan to first cut taxes, to grow the economy. Who are the people who will benefit most? The rich and the well-to-do business enterprises will benefit the most from a tax cut, while the poor and the vulnerable struggling on low wages will suffer. She is expected, to rely on and surround herself with the “Ultra Conservative” mindset, unlike Boris Johnson, to help her “deliver” by promoting high investment projects with high returns to grow the economy fast.

What are some of the projects that will get capital investment? People have already been told to invest in “Wind Farms”, and buy lands with windmills, to save on their energy bills, long-term.

Will she be promoting more privatisation, who knows? She has pledged her commitment to removing planning restrictions in an attempt to boost housebuilding, but simultaneously, abandoning the government target of building 300,000 houses a year.

The big question is who will she appoint as her Housing Minister, to deliver on her promises? There have already been 20 Housing Ministers who have come and gone since 1997, with little to show.
She is a keen supporter of “fracking” for oil and invests in Nuclear Power Energy to supplement future energy supply.

She is a keen supporter of women, herself taking on the role of Women Minister, her first Ministerial post in 2010.

What choices does she have?

When she has settled in, the first choice she will have is to decide to call a General Election to confirm her position by the electorate. But will she be constrained to plod along with her current reduced majority of 60 Conservative MP’s or wait until 2024, the planned date of the next election? Who knows?

We must learn lessons from history

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I represent the Jaffna Electorate not the Colombo Electorate. The problems of the North and East are different from those of the South. This Country consists of two Nations. – the Tamil Nation and the Sinhala Nation. The Tamils are the original inhabitants of this Island. They have lived continuously for over 3000 years in this Island according to latest excavations, inscriptions and findings. They are the majority in the North and East even now. The Sinhalese are the majority in the other seven Provinces. By adding the majority in the North East to the majority in the Southern seven Provinces they have made us minorities in the Country. But we are not minorities. We are the majority in our areas. That fact should have been realized by the British when they gave independence. Only later did Lord Soulbury realize their folly and stated so in a foreword to a book by B.H.Farmer in the early 1960s. 

We have been asking for a settlement of our political problem for the past 70 years or more. In fact our youth took up to arms due to the discriminatory policies of successive Sinhala majority Governments. Our youths were freedom fighters not terrorists. Now our Sinhala brethren are getting a taste of the PTA.

So any attempt on our part to join any government and sail with them would depend upon the resolution of our Political Problems as well as Social and Economic Problems we face today. We have identified some of our immediate problems such as;

  • Release of all Tamil Political Prisoners some of whom have been in incarceration for over 25 years.
  • Withdrawal of the PTA whose provisions go against the grain of our normal Criminal Law.
  • Order an International inquiry into the status of the Disappeared.
  • Calling off the functioning of the Commission on Archaeological Research and returning the lands in the North and East expropriated by the Commission.
  • Withdraw the Mahaweli Authority from the North and East and stop all colonization taking place in the Tamil areas bringing in Sinhalese from outside the Provinces and settling them. Hand back the lands appropriated by the Mahaweli Authority back to the people from whom they were taken. Hand over other Lands to the D.Ss of the respective areas.
  • Withdraw the Military from the North and East. They have no right to occupy the North and East even after the war was over. Such Occupational Forces must be withdrawn and placed in other Provinces since the Government in recent times have identified the need to have the Military in other Provinces as well. The North and East could be run by an efficient Police Force inclusive of Tamil speaking Police persons from the Northern and Eastern Provinces.
  • Stop illegal fishing being done on our shores by persons from outside our two Provinces with the help of the Armed Forces, to the prejudice of the local fishermen.
  • Stop the taking over of our good Schools in the North and East to the Central Government under the pretext of making them National Schools. The Central Government under the Thirteenth Amendment cannot interfere with the powers granted to the Provinces.
  • Open up the Palaly Airport. Allow owners of lands around the Airport to get their lands back evicting the Military occupying them.
  • Start the Ferry Services to from South Indian ports.
  • Allow diaspora investment in the North and East without interference from the Centre nor its officials.

Only if there is a change of heart in the powers that be, after the aragalaye, could we lend support. Even the Leader of the Opposition wants to help the Rajapakses and the war criminals at Geneva. Polarisation in Sri Lanka is not between what is right and what is wrong. It is between the Sinhalese and the Tamils.

Joining a Cabinet full of Sinhala speaking majority by a member of the Tamil speaking Community could be an embarrassment. They would jabber, jabber and jabber in Sinhala and most of the time we would be outside the purview of their discussion. Of course I do know a little Sinhala but not to the extent of understanding the jabbering that takes place in Parliament.

Secondly once we enter the whilpool of Sri Lankan Politics we would lose sight of the purpose for which we are there – to obtain relief for the Members of our Community.

Thirdly Cabinet responsibility would control us. We would not be able to differ from or contradict the decision taken by the majority Sinhalese Members of the Cabinet. If I am a non Tamil speaking Tamil like certain earlier Ministers I would not have any problem deciding to the detriment of the Northern and Eastern Tamil speaking people. We must learn lessons from history. In the past, many Tamil politicians held and are holding ministerial positions on the pretext that they are working with the government to work towards the interests of the Tamil people. But in reality, through these ministerial positions, they have done more to blunt the struggle for Tamil rights than to do any good to the Tamil people. They are forced to go to Geneva and argue that what happened in Mullivaikal was not genocide. I wouldn’t dream of doing that.

I am not interested in becoming a Minister for the glamour it gives whether such glamour shines or not. I am interested in finding solutions to the long standing political, social and economic problems of my people. I hail from the North and East. I was a Judge in the North and East and I lectured in Law inter alia to Students from the North and East. Hence I owe a responsibility to my brethren who hail from the North and East. 

The Tamils are definitely interested in working for peace, reconciliation and economic progress. But they must be pulled up from the bottom of the well to terra firma to stand up as equals with the Sinhalese to work for peace, reconciliation and economic progress. There cannot be peace and reconciliation between unequals. How could we be considered equal when the Military are stationed in large numbers in the North and East since even after the war?

Views are personal

Where Does Russia Receive Its Aid From?

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On August 24, Ukraine’s independence day, the U.S. provided a $3 billion military aid package to the country. The additional assistance adds to more than $80 billion worth of support that Kyiv has already received between January 24 and August 3, the majority of which was provided by the U.S., the UK, and the EU. In addition to gaining access to Western weapons systems, military data, and training, the Ukrainian armed forces have further been augmented by foreign volunteers serving in the International Legion.

With third parties caught aiding Russia risking the imposition of financial penalties by the U.S., open support for the Kremlin has been largely limited to rogue states already isolated from Washington and Brussels. Russia’s seclusion was documented in a UN Resolution on March 2, where 141 countries voted to deplore Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, 35 abstained, and just four—Belarus, North Korea, Syria, and Eritrea—supported the Kremlin.

Even most of Russia’s key post-Soviet allies belonging to its international organizations, the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU) and the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), have avoided supporting Moscow. Kazakhstan, for example, a member of both institutions, took steps in July to begin exporting its oil across the Caspian Sea, bypassing Russian-controlled oil pipelines. This directly undermines the Kremlin’s strategy of restricting oil to Europe to compromise the region’s energy security.

The key exception among post-Soviet states has been Belarus. Over the last decade, President Alexander Lukashenko has steered Belarus further into Russia’s orbit. Enticed by cheap Russian oil and gas and lucrative transit fees as both these commodities continue on to Europe, Lukashenko has also increasingly relied on Russian security forces to enforce his rule—notably evident during the 2020 Belarusian protests.

Lukashenko’s response to the popular protests in 2020 essentially cut off all avenues for cooperation with the West. But growing Belarusian support for Russia against Ukraine has been evident for years. In 2017, Belarusian authorities detained a 19-year-old Ukrainian man who had traveled to Belarus and deported him to Russia to face terrorism charges. It was therefore no surprise when Lukashenko allowed Russian troops to invade Ukraine from Belarusian territory in February 2022.

Belarus continues to aid the Russian military campaign, including permitting Russia “to fire ballistic missiles from the Belarusian territory, enabling transportation of Russian military personnel and heavy weapons, tanks, and military transporters, allowing Russian military aircraft to fly over Belarusian airspace into Ukraine, providing refueling points, and storing Russian weapons and military equipment in Belarus,” stated the European Council.

Belarus has also repeatedly conducted its own troop movements near the Ukrainian border since the beginning of Russia’s invasion to distract Ukrainian forces. And though Belarus has not committed its armed forces to the Ukraine conflict, Russia has had access to a stream of foreign volunteers, largely from Europe, since Russia’s initial military action in 2014 in Crimea.

Russia’s volunteer strategy has evolved since the launch of Russia’s invasion. Though a far cry from Western think tank estimates of as high as 40,000 Syrian fighters making their way to Russia in March, hundreds of mercenaries from Syria and Libya, where the Russian military is also engaged, were active in Ukraine by April. Rotating allied forces alleviates the Kremlin’s need for more soldiers without resorting to conscription.

Additionally, the Syrian government recognized the independence of Russian-supported eastern Ukraine breakaway republics, Luhansk and Donetsk, in June.

The Iranian government, meanwhile, declared in July that it supported Russia’s war in the face of NATO aggression. Heavily sanctioned by the West, Iran’s armed forces have been fighting alongside the Russian military in Syria since 2015. The two countries have also expanded bilateral relations through energy and weapons deals since the Ukraine invasion, building on years of growing ties in both these areas.

While Russia has typically supplied weapons to Iran, Russian forces have faced a drone deficit in Ukraine. Russian officials have allegedly repeatedly visited Iranian airfields in recent months to review Iranian-made drones, with the first shipments of these drones from Iran to Russia arriving in August.

According to U.S. officials, Russia asked China for financial and material assistance in March, but these accusations were denied by Moscow and Beijing. Both Russia and Ukraine have been using Chinese drones to target one another, prompting China’s Da-Jiang Innovations (DJI), the world’s premier civilian drone maker, to halt sales to both countries in April. However, Russians have continued to access AeroScope, a surveillance software used in DJI drones, to target Ukrainian DJI aircraft along with the position of the drone’s operator.

China has also provided the Russian military with significant aid along with electronic components and raw materials vital to sustaining its campaign in Ukraine. In June, five Chinese companies were accused of aiding the Russian military and were blacklisted by U.S. officials. Chinese military aid may accelerate following U.S. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan on August 2, which caused a significant downturn in U.S.-China relations.

Additionally, Chinese loans and access to its consumer markets, particularly in energy, have helped Russia cushion the blow of Western sanctions and falling exports. Despite China’s wariness over the threat of Western sanctions and comparisons between the Russia-Ukraine conflict and its dispute with Taiwan, Beijing’s cautious support for Moscow has been crucial since the 2014 annexation of Crimea and continues to help Russia sustain its confrontation with the West.

North Korea has also provided strong support to Russia, with Pyongyang recognizing Ukraine’s two breakaway republics in July. On August 15, Putin wrote a letter to North Korean leader Kim Jong Un proposing the forging of closer ties. This could include additional North Korean workers being sent to occupied Ukraine to help in reconstruction and other sectors. For decades now, North Koreans have traveled to Russia largely to work in highly competitive construction jobs in Siberia, with roughly 20,000 North Korean workers living there today.

Recent saber-rattling between the U.S. and North Korea in the region has also raised the prospect of North Korean soldiers being sent to Ukraine to fight for Russia. Like Syrian and Libyan mercenaries, they could be funneled into Russia through private military companies. North Korean military advisers have been present in Syria since the 1970s, while North Korean soldiers have been suspected of serving in Syria since the start of the country’s civil war in 2011.

Venezuela, Sudan, Cuba, Nicaragua, and other states harboring anti-U.S. sentiment have all reaffirmed their commitment to Russia since the invasion. But more subtle displays of support have come from around the world—even if countries remain cautious of inviting Western financial penalties and perceptions that they are harming Ukraine by supporting Russia.

The 35 abstentions at the UN vote in March represent more than half of the global population, and during a second resolution to suspend Russia from the Human Rights Council in April, 93 countries voted in favor, 58 abstained, and 24 voted against.

Distrust toward the West and acknowledgment of Russia’s position as a primary global energy and food supplier have incentivized sustained cooperation with Moscow throughout the world. India, for example, has continued to purchase weapons from Russia, as well as rapidly increasing its energy imports from Russia. Other Western partners and allies, including Turkey, have refused to take part in sanctioning Russia, alongside countries across the Global South.

Inconsistencies and a lack of clarity between Western states have, meanwhile, hampered the effectiveness of Western sanctions, but entities aligned with the West have also wittingly complemented Russia’s war effort. In June, the U.S. Commerce Department added financial actors from several countries, including Lithuania and the UK, to its list of blacklisted companies for helping Russia bypass sanctions and support its war effort.

Russia’s military campaign would also not be possible without the continued purchase of Russian energy by European countries since the beginning of the invasion.

Thus, while countries opposed to the U.S. order have been more open about their support for Russia, the Kremlin continues to receive, openly and subtly, substantial support from other states. This underlines the notion that the war in Ukraine continues to be a conflict between the West and Russia, with most other countries seeking to avoid being drawn in, and reinforces the influential role that Russia continues to play in global affairs.

This article was produced by Globetrotter.

Public ownership of essential UK services?

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3 mins read

Public ownership of essential resources remains a dream, but is hugely popular across the political divide. According to a YouGov poll for “The Times”, half of Tory voters now want Britain’s energy companies brought back into public hands.

With the energy crisis, this should not surprise many, although some Parliamentarians would deny it. The Labour Party, however, defends proposals for the freeze on energy bills part funded by expanded windfall tax on oil and gas profits.

Public ownership of energy, water, railways and postal services privatised during the time of Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher in the 1990’s was desired to increase competition. But, times have changed and the mood of the country has undergone a seismic change, let alone the Covid 19 pandemic.

Fixed prices for goods, fair wages for workers and unfair profiteering was then seen as immoral. But today, what has happened in the past year, is the so called “failure of privatisation”?

Do people want nationalisation?

Skyrocketing of energy bills have reached the tipping point. Living standards have been squeezed. Resolution Foundation says rising energy bills will push an extra 3 million people into poverty.

This is adding pressure on Boris Johnson’s successor as Prime Minister “to beef up support” from State resources.

With prices rising faster than wages, strikes are the order of the day. With winter fast approaching, there is anxiety brewing. Food banks, people forced to take shelter in public libraries and museums, to save mounting fuel bills; Museums in turn want to close on select days to conserve energy. The incoming government of a new Prime Minister after 6 September 2022 is making life imponderable.

Stagnation due to weak productivity?

Liz Truss, the front runner to replace Johnson, was quoted as saying:
“If you look at productivity, it is very, very different in London, from the rest of the country, but basically this has been a historical fact for decades. Essentially it’s partly a mindset and attitude thing. I think it’s working culture basically.”

Critics of Liz Truss say she has ruffled feathers by describing a very real problem. To claim this is due to the innate idleness of people outside London is offensive and more important for an incoming Prime Minister – economically illiterate by their standards.

Others maintain workers in London didn’t suddenly and spontaneously decide to work harder than their counterparts elsewhere.

It is well known that in the aftermath years of the Thatcher Revolution of the 1980’s and 1990’s, there was disproportionate opportunities for wealth creation both in London and the rest of the country. Boris Johnson called it levelling up.

While only roughly 15% of UK population is based in London, with the capital capturing 30% of the country’s private sector employment, in high-wage, high-skilled professions in insurance and banking fields, we cannot blame graft as being the real problem elsewhere in the country. There were regional inequalities, regional price structures, regional dialects,
among others, to name a few.

The emphasis of Governments, Conservative and Labour over the years was for government spending in the capital, while the rest of the country was short of technological and infrastructural development. Poor transport services, old industrial base in the countryside with shut down coalmines and factory closures to boot. Capital strangulation in short. These problems were hardly highlighted.

Liz Truss hopes to bring a new era to Britain, at a time of tremendous change and unease.
She has launched an astonishing broadside against the sluggishness of the British worker, suggesting they lack the “skills and application” of foreign rivals, pitting Londoners against the rest of the country, perhaps, UK against the rest of the developed world.

Wilful misrepresentation by the media?

To force Liz Truss to lay her cards open ahead of the election to high office, she has had to undergo media scrutiny, multiple meetings, hustings, and quotations which she made when she was Chief Secretary to the Treasury, a post she held until 2019.

That was then, but now she has rightfully claimed there has been a wilful misrepresentation of her policy. But, she is steadfast, as at a recent Tory leadership husting in Perth, Scotland, she appeared to confirm she still believes “British workers are not as productive as they should be”.

The Labour Party’s rebuttal as expressed by Shadow Work & Pensions Secretary, Jonathan Ashworth states,” workers across the country are working all hours to keep a roof over their heads, put food on the table and provide for their families”.

No one denies the above, but the job of the future Prime Minister of Great Britain, is an envious job. Whoever manages to win the leadership race of the Conservative Party will have a number of challenges to contend with in the days and weeks ahead.

Britain’s economy is facing rocketing inflation, high expectation coupled with high debt and low growth, representing one of the tightest squeeze on people’s finances in decades, all during an energy crunch exacerbated by the war in Ukraine, which has sent fuel prices soaring.

Ukraine: Bipolarity Trap

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4 mins read

As everyone knows, Volodymyr Zelensky played a Ukrainian president in the television series Servant of the People before becoming Ukraine’s president in real life, and that irony led many not to take him seriously (as if a president who previously served in the KGB is better). But less well known is the basic plot of the series.

Zelensky played Vasily Petrovich Goloborodko, a schoolteacher whose students record him ranting about corruption, share the video online (where it goes viral), and then sign him up as a candidate in the country’s next presidential election. Having unwittingly tapped into Ukrainians’ widespread frustration over corruption, Goloborodko wins, faces a steep learning curve in office, and eventually starts to confront the country’s oligarchy from his new position of power.

The show’s depiction of Ukraine is apt. Of all the post-communist countries in Eastern Europe, it was the hardest hit by economic “shock therapy” (sweeping market reforms and privatization) in the 1990s. For three decades since independence, Ukrainian incomes have remained below where they were in 1990. Corruption has been rampant, and the courts have proven a farce.

As Luca Celada of il manifesto writes, “the ‘conversion’ to capitalism has followed the usual pattern: a class of oligarchs and a narrow elite have enriched themselves disproportionately by despoiling the public sector with the complicity of the political class.” Moreover, financial assistance from the West has always been “strongly tied to reforms that Ukraine was required to implement, all under the banner of fiscal restraint and austerity,” further immiserating much of the population. Such is the legacy of the capitalist West’s engagement with post-independence Ukraine.

Meanwhile, my sources in Russia tell me that President Vladimir Putin has assembled a group of Marxists to counsel him on how to present Russia’s position in the developing world. One can find traces of this influence in the speech he gave on August 16:

“The situation in the world is changing dynamically and the outlines of a multipolar world order are taking shape. An increasing number of countries and peoples are choosing a path of free and sovereign development based on their own distinct identity, traditions, and values. These objective processes are being opposed by the Western globalist elites, who provoke chaos, fanning long-standing and new conflicts and pursuing the so-called containment policy, which in fact amounts to the subversion of any alternative, sovereign development options.”

But, of course, two details spoil this “Marxist” critique. First, sovereignty “based on their own distinct identity, traditions, and values” implies that one should tolerate what the state is doing in places like North Korea or Afghanistan. Yet that is completely out of step with true leftist solidarity, which focuses squarely on antagonisms within each “distinct identity” in order to build bridges between struggling and oppressed groups across countries.

Second, Putin objects to “the subversion of any alternative, sovereign development options,” even though that is exactly what he is doing in Ukraine by seeking to deprive its people of self-determination.

Putin is not alone in pushing this pseudo-Marxist line. In France, the far-right leader Marine Le Pen now presents herself as the protector of ordinary working people against multinational corporations, which are said to be undermining national identities through the promotion of multiculturalism and sexual depravity. In the United States, the alt-right succeeds the old radical left with its calls to overthrow the “deep state.” Donald Trump’s former strategist Steve Bannon is a self-proclaimed “Leninist” who sees a coalition of the alt-right and the radical left as the only way to end the reign of financial and digital elites. (And, lest we forget the progenitor of this model, Hitler led the National Socialist German Workers’ Party.)

More is at stake in Ukraine than many commentators seem to appreciate. In a world beset by the effects of climate change, fertile land will be an increasingly valuable asset. And if there is one thing Ukraine has in abundance, it is chernozem (“black earth”), an extraordinarily fertile soil with high concentrations of humus, phosphoric acids, phosphorus, and ammonia. That is why US and Western European agrobusiness firms have already bought up millions of hectares of Ukraine’s farmland – with just ten private companies reportedly controlling most of it.

Well aware of the threat of dispossession, the Ukrainian government imposed a moratorium on land sales to foreigners 20 years ago. For years thereafter, the US Department of State, the International Monetary Fund, and the World Bank repeatedly called for this restriction to be removed. It was only in 2021 that the Zelensky government, under immense pressure, finally started allowing farmers to sell their land. The moratorium on sales to foreigners remains in place, however, and Zelensky has said that lifting it must be put to a national referendum, which would almost certainly fail.

Nonetheless, the cruel irony is that, before Putin launched a war to colonize Ukraine by force, there was some truth to the Russian argument that Ukraine was becoming a Western economic colony. If the conflict has any silver lining, it is that the neoliberal project has been put on hold. Since war demands social mobilization and a coordination of production, it offers Ukraine a unique chance both to halt its expropriation by foreign corporate and financial entities and to rid itself of oligarchic corruption.

In pursuing this opportunity, Ukrainians must bear in mind that it is not enough simply to join the European Union and catch up to Western living standards. Western democracy itself is now in deep crisis, with the US veering toward ideological civil war, and Europe being challenged by authoritarian spoilers from within its own ranks. More immediately, if Ukraine can achieve a decisive military victory (as we should all hope), it will find itself deeply indebted to the US and the EU. Will it be able to resist even greater pressure to open itself up to economic colonization by Western multinationals?

This struggle is already playing out beneath the surface of Ukraine’s heroic resistance. It would be tragic if Ukraine defeated Russian neo-imperialism only to yoke itself to Western neoliberalism. To secure genuine freedom and independence, Ukraine must reinvent itself. While being a Western economic colony is certainly better than being absorbed into a new Russian empire, neither outcome is worthy of the suffering Ukrainians are now enduring.

Copyright © Project Syndicate [ Click here to read the original version of this article ]

Sri Lanka: Aragalaya has a message — Don’t shoot the messengers

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6 mins read

During a meeting in Anuradhapura recently, President Wickremasinghe, deliberately, or inadvertently and/or innocently touched on a core issue that is at the heart of the dissatisfaction people have with the political system and what it has produced over the years. He mentioned that the original spring (or ulpotha) that gave rise to subsequent political parties, (authors remark, Sinhala Buddhist oriented parties) was the United National Party (UNP). He mentioned late SWRD Bandaranaike who was in the UNP, and who subsequently formed the Sri Lanka Freedom party (SLFP), a section of which has since evolved into the Sri Lanka Podu Jana Party (SLPP) under the leadership of the Rajapaksa brothers, Chamal, Mahinda, Basil, and Gotabaya, and whose father late D A Rajapaksa had broken away from the UNP along with SWRD Bandaranaike to form the SLFP, and the Samagi Jana Balavegaya (SJB), a breakaway from the UNP, had their origins in the UNP.  In making these observations, President Wickremasinghe extolled all these parties to come together now in the country’s hour of need as they all had a common source of origin.

While all political parties must come together at this hour of need to forge a future together from the ashes of the economic debacle that the country is in, President Wickremasinghe must realise that such a coming together cannot be and must not be for a return to the status quo and to perpetuate the system that has existed since independence, as it is this system that has brought about the economic bankruptcy of the country.

The system that political leaders and political parties established and managed since independence had some successes, but many failures. The weaknesses outweighed the strengths.  In hindsight, the country can see this and should learn lessons from past mistakes. The bankruptcy of the country in economic terms is a result of the system and those who the system produced and who then managed it. Policy flip flops, absence of strategic thinking and action, huge debt based investments without assessing costs and benefits and return on investments, systemic corruption at all levels of the society, absence of a  coherent and consistent foreign policy, have all been inherent features of the political system that has failed the country. The reluctance and/or inability of political parties to get together to develop a governance policy for the next 12-18 months when the country is at the bottom of the pit is an indication of the dynamics of the political system. The next election and who acquires power is more important for the constituents of the system, than the interests of the country. This is the reality.

In this context, whatever other motives Aragalaya or some within it may have had and still have, the fundamental premise is the need to change the political system. And why? Simply, because it failed the country.

The spring or ulpotha that the UNP was, and all the rivers and rivulets that flowed from it no doubt would have had good intentions overall, but the stark fact is that they all failed. The present and coming generations do not see any light at the end of the tunnel. All they see is the system that failed them, making all possible attempts to resurrect itself.

Rather than arresting, detaining, and charging some who were associated with the Aragalaya, it would have been far more strategic and politically more prudent to have begun a discussion with the Aragalaya and encourage it to have discussions with the broader public rather than attempting to silence its voice. In saying this, there is not even a hint made that any violent action should be condoned and tolerated. However, some would view the use of the PTA, detention, and court action against protestors as nonphysical violence against them if one were to consider these means as part of the status quo, system-wise.

The following excerpt from the Daily Mirror is quoted to support the contention that the system had failed. Quote “the list of creditors in the $81 billion economy ranges from Western sovereign bondholders, who together account for the largest $14 billion slice of debt, to bilateral players such as China, Japan, and India. Then there are the multilateral lenders — the Asian Development Bank and the World Bank. The country’s outstanding foreign debt is a staggering $51 billion, with some independent economists estimating that China’s lending to Sri Lanka from 2001 to 2021 amounted to nearly $9.95 billion. Sri Lanka had a foreign debt bill of $6.9 billion that it had to service in 2022 but defaulted in April after it ran out of foreign reserves, a first in the South Asian nation’s history.

The country of 22 million currently has $300 million worth of usable foreign reserves, not enough to ensure a steady flow of food, fuel and pharmaceutical imports. The latest figures from the Department of Census and Statistics show that food inflation in July soared to 82.5% on the year “unquote.

The country’s economic bankruptcy cannot be clearer than this. It is a country surviving on debt, and with almost no assets in the form of foreign exchange reserves to buy its essentials.

When mentioning systems, it is not only the political system that is the subject of the discussion. Many parts of the administrative system, the judicial system, the law enforcement system, the prison system judging by shocking and disgusting revelations made by a recently released high-profile prisoner, are also in a state of dysfunction, with bribery and corruption permeating to these as they have to the political system.

Sinhala Buddhist hegemony has become even more evident and a stronger influence in the outcome of elections leading to who governs and who does not. There is increasing evidence of Muslim extremism from a Sri Lanka perspective, with more fundamentalist Wahabism taking hold in in the country and amongst Muslims. Christian church groups outside of the more traditional Catholic, Anglican and Methodist groups have spread and have become stronger. One needs to question whether strengthening of Sinhala Buddhist hegemony has been a consequence of other religious denominations veering more towards orthodoxy and fundamentalism or whether it has been the other way about. There is confusion as to where the Egg is and where the Chicken is.

The political system, and in a general sense, the politicians it has produced, one inextricably linked to the other, and the unquestioning attitude of voters, their expectation of maximum governmental interference in economic affairs of individuals and society, the opposite of a laissez-faire system, has contributed to short term politics and who gets their vote in return for small handouts. The political literacy of the public, in a general sense, has been questionable as they have been averse to considering and accepting a middle ground economic model.

In this climate, and context, unless the politicians of today take the lead to metamorphose themselves and the system, and learn lessons from the likes of the Aragalaya, the system could well be replaced by something else which everyone may come to regret later. Persecuting people associated with the Aragalaya is not the answer. Listening to their message, and the message of many who are very likely a silent majority, is the answer.

In effect, the current political system distances people from governance, and pays only lip service to the adage that democracy is about electing governments for the people by the people. No doubt there are no perfect democracies, and some might agree with the Churchillian adage that democracy is the least bad system of governance.

The purpose of mentioning these dysfunctional state of affairs is to pose the question where Sri Lanka is with human rights, moral and ethical conduct in all aspects of governance despite its 74 year post independence history, and the much publicized Sinhala Buddhist majority heritage.

If one takes the view that the political system is at the pinnacle of all systems considering its role in political governance, it would not be out of place here to conclude that the root of the cancer has been and still is the political system. Unfortunately, this cancer appears to have spread to all other parts of overall governance, and it is questionable whether it is possible to excise the cancer from the primary source of the eventual spread, the political system. Even if it were possible, leaving such a task in the hands of politicians themselves would be stupid and a guaranteed failure.

A new Aragalaya, comprising of as many non-partisan political bodies and personnel functioning as opinion facilitators amongst the public, should lead the task of exploring a new political system for the country. While some are calling for elections, it will not address the critical need to change the governance system that has brought the country to where it is now. Without a change to the system, it will continue to produce the kind of politicians who have governed the country so far and brought it to where it is today. The political literacy of the public too needs advancement, and this should be led and facilitated by a new breed of politicians as well as by religious and society leaders. The same machine will produce identical sausages. The machine must be changed to produce different sausages. A crude analogy, but a logical one.

A new system that focuses on long-term planning carried out by experts in economic, agricultural, energy, health, education and social areas, which provides equal rights to everyone, including women, which recognizes the ethnic and religious diversity of the country without any one segment of the society labeled as more equal than others, which ensures all citizens are equal before the law and which ensures that adherence with the law of the land entertains no compromise, which has strong punitive measures against bribery and corruption, and which provides for a political governance council drawn from all levels of the society and which devolves administrative governance to peripheral levels, are some features that a future governance model could consider.

One does not need to be an Einstein to say that it would be foolish to expect different results if one continues to do the same thing.

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