Sri Lanka Guardian Essays

Sri Lanka: Is 13A Panacea?

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Tamil National Alliance (TNA) spokesman and Jaffna District MP M.A. Sumanthiran says that his party has decided to boycott the independence day celebrations this year, as reported in The Island of January 31, 2023. Instead, they will declare it a Black Day and commence a movement towards achieving what they call true freedom. According to him, “Immediately after independence, it was transformed into a majority system under the guise of democracy. That’s why other people living in this country did not get freedom”. What he implies is that the ‘independence’ given was only for the majority Sinhalese, and not for the others (presumably, Tamils, Muslims, Burghers, etc., the minority communities). Sumanthiran thinks that even though the  majority Sinhala Buddhist people had been under the impression that they got freedom for many years, they also now feel that they didn’t get any freedom either. So, when the 75th independence day is celebrated, the TNA “will declare it a black day and start a campaign for the country to get its freedom properly”.   

Meanwhile, the Indian news website The Federal reported that the 74th Indian Republic Day was celebrated at the Indian Consulate in Jaffna with a function attended by a large gathering of people including Indians, and  some local Sri Lankans, mainly Tamils, on January 26, 2023. The Indo-Tibetan Border Police took part in the celebration. Consul General, Madurai-born Raakesh Nataraj, mingled with the guests and exchanged greetings. According to The Federal, both Indian Republic Day and Independence day had been regularly observed in Jaffna until the outbreak of the ethnic conflict.

I wondered why our leaders (apparently) never thought of declaring a Sri Lankan Republic Day after the 1972 republican constitution was enacted on May 22nd that year, and the island nation became a republic independent of any links with the British monarchy . 

The truth is that Sumanthiran here, tongue in cheek,is  only hinting at a fresh (a last, hopefully successful, as he probably fancies) attempt at eventually realizing the idea of establishing a separate sovereign state for Tamils (but strategically camouflaged asTamil speaking people to co-opt Muslims into the project) in the (soon to be re-merged?) north and east provinces where respectively Tamils and Muslims form the majority, and the Sinhalese  are now in a thin minority due to ethnic cleansing by the LTTE. Late Indian prime minister Indira Gandhi (1980-84) also talked about solving ‘the problem of the Tamil speaking people’ in these provinces in Sri Lanka, lumping Hindus and Muslims together as Tamil speaking people, in the interest of India’s own traditional expansionist ambitions against its smaller, weaker neighbours.

Sumanthiran is thinking exclusively about freedom for the Tamil minority, whereas the nationalists – the majority Sinhalese and the sensible majority of the Tamil, Muslim and other minority communities – are concerned about freedom for all who make Sri Lanka their home, that is, the Sri Lankan people or nation; they don’t talk about nations based on ethno-cultural identities.  Deliberate disinformation by Eelam lobbyists and parasitic NGOs has turned nationalists into racists, chauvinists, xenophobes, right-wing nationalists, and whatnot in the eyes of the global media. 

Since 1948, all Sinhalese leaders have acted on the basis of the concept of one nation or one country, where the majority Sinhalese, who are the true autochthonous inhabitants of the island, along with the veddahs, were joined by other numerically small groups in the course of history in various contexts, such as trade, war, invasion, travel, and so on. The first prime minister of independent Ceylon D.S. Senanayake, when asked by the Soulbury Commissioners at the end of the 1947 parliamentary elections how many Tamils he wanted in his cabinet, said he didn’t mind even if all the cabinet members were Tamil provided they acted as Ceylonese. No Sinhalese parliamentarian has deviated from this line of thinking. 

On the other hand, Tamil leaders like All Ceylon Tamil Congress (ACTC) leader and later founder of the Tamil United Liberation Front (TULF) lawyer G.G. Ponnambalam were different. They adopted an anti-Sinhala racist attitude. They focused on perpetuating the special privileges that the Tamil elite enjoyed under the British. They felt threatened by a system of parliamentary democracy, because they feared that the Sinhalese majority would put an end to their privileged status. It was Ponnambalam who, for years before independence, had been making the absurd 50-50 demand (clamouring for the allocation of 50% of the seats in the  parliament yet to be introduced  for the Sinhalese who were the overwhelming majority of the population, and 50% for all the minority groups). The Soulbury Commissioners rejected that demand with contempt. Another Tamil lawyer who came from Malaysia, S.J.V. Chelvanayagam, founded the Tamil Arasu Kachchi (Tamil State Party/euphemistically in English the Federal Party) in 1949 and the rest is history. Sumanthiran seems to be basically among the latest in this tradition.

 While preparations are being earnestly made by the government for marking an independence that was not granted (a long retired civil servant likens it to a birthday party for a baby that was never born), the 25th anniversary of the devastating LTTE suicide-truck-bomb attack on the Sri Dalada Maligawa (the Temple of the Tooth Relic) in Kandy fell on January 25, without anyone remembering it. It looks as if the government let it pass without any commemorative observances unlike in previous years. Why? (My sincere apologies to everybody concerned, if I am mistaken in this assumption) Was it in the name of so-called ‘reconciliation’, which has been a not so seriously meant, hollow slogan right from the beginning? Or was it in order to avoid spoiling the national mood for ‘consecrating’ some ostensibly momentous event that is going to coincide with the 75th independence day ceremony? The epoch-making event that Ranil Wickremasinghe wants to celebrate thus, as everybody knows now, is the purported settlement of the alleged Tamil ethnic problem through the full implementation of the controversial 13A (forcibly imposed on Sri Lanka by India, without doubt, in the latter’s exclusive national interest, in 1987). Grown-up Sri Lankans remember how thousands of our patriotic youngsters died in opposing Indian intervention in Sri Lanka’s internal affairs, in the second JVP uprising, which occurred in the years 1986-89 during UNP rule. A thirty year civil conflict claimed the lives of thousands of Sri Lanka’s defence forces personnel,  Tamil rebel cadres, and civilians caught in terrorist bomb blasts; the conflict left many more injured. All this was in trying to prevent the certain Balkanization of the country through the 13A. Seven executive presidents from JR Jayawardane to Gotabaya Rajapaksa back-burnered it for a legitimate reason. What are the benefits of a fully implemented 13A that justify such sacrifices of the country’s youth of the previous generation?

Be that as it may, does Ranil Wickremasinghe want to invest this servile surrender to foreign pressure with a sacred quality by having a special Sacred Tooth Relic exposition? It can’t be that he is mocking Sinhalese Buddhist sentiments. True, he was totally rejected by the mainly Buddhist Lankan electorate as a prospective candidate for executive presidency. It could also  be a similar passive-aggressive attack on his part on the pohottuwa alliance (the Sri Lanka Podu Peramuna, the SLPP). He must have been waiting for a chance to take his revenge on the SLPP, which turned itself into his nemesis in the last parliamentary election. But the principal partners of the SLPP, the treacherous Rajapaksas, as it has now become so clear to the betrayed public, were able to do this otherwise commendable thing, by pretending to espouse the popular nationalist cause, merely to hoodwink the masses to win votes. Ranil and the Rajapaksas are partners now. They are not strange bedfellows; they are natural allies. Whatever they are making common cause in achieving, turning the country’s hallowed Sinhala Buddhist cultural heritage into a political football between rival factions of conflicting persuasions is something worse than the Maligawa bombing itself. It does not augur well for the future of our Motherland. It is the last thing that fair-minded patriotic citizens belonging to all communities are likely to take lying down. 

The only thing that people expect Ranil Wicktremasinghe to do at this moment is to focus on rescuing the country from the economic crisis that it is engulfed in, and leave it to the present day youth of the country from all the diverse communities to lawfully, democratically and peacefully usher in the new corruption free Sri Lanka that they want to build. 

When three LTTE suicide cadres drove an explosives laden truck to the Maligawa early on the morning of January 25, 1998, and set it off, it caused massive damage to the building, while killing seventeen innocent worshippers including two two-year old infants and the three suicide bombers. The attack was universally condemned across the civilized world in the sternest terms. It was reported that three times more money was donated by the ordinary people than was necessary for restoring the destroyed parts of the Maligawa, which was completed within two years of the heinous crime. Ranil Wickremasinghe was the leader of the opposition then. Condemning the bombing he said, “Not even in the darkest moments of Sri Lanka’s 2000 year history has such an act of destruction been perpetrated against the very symbol of our civilization and history.” He should know (I am sure he does, for he is a very well-read knowledgeable person) that the Tooth Relic has been a symbol of sovereignty over the island since the 4th century CE when it was brought to Anuradhapura from Dantapuri (modern Puri, Odisha) in India. If he insists on having the Mahanayakes agree to hold a Tooth Relic exposition to give some sort of legitimacy to his controversial move, and if his request is granted by them, then he will appear to mock the sanity of Sri Lankans and the sanctity of this national symbol. 

To my shock, however, I hear that the relic exhibition that Ranil Wickremasinghe proposed, is scheduled to start on March 4, a month after the day of disputed independence. If this incredible piece of information is true, then it means that the two Mahanayakes, the guardians of the Maligawa, (no one is above them in this matter) have agreed to bless the ultimate victory of those who wanted to destroy ‘the symbol of our civilization and history’!

Of course, Ranil Wickremasinghe alone cannot be held responsible for what is now almost a certainty. All the leaders (or most of them) and their mostly inarticulate juniors in parliament  reportedly support the president’s decision. They should share responsibility, too, for what is going to happen. Constitutionally, of course, there appears to be no barrier to the full implementation of 13A. But that is only a technical point, beyond morality. The three pillars of parliamentary democracy are said to be the legislature, the executive and the judiciary. The country’s moral values reign over all three. The ethical conduct of the humans who embody the legislative, executive, and judicial powers is imperative for the proper functioning of the democratic system. That is my idea. 

Civil social activist and Vinivida Foundation convener, lawyer Nagananda Kodituwakku argues in a recent video that president Wickremasinghe has no moral right to take that decision, but that it is in accordance with an agreement reached between the Tamil  National Alliance (TNA), the UNP, and the JVP (represented by Anura Dissanayake, now National People’s Power leader) on September 20, 2017. Recently, Anura Dissanayake even appeared on a TNA stage in the north, according to him.

The NPP leaders say that their goal is to bring in a good government that is free from corruption and theft, and that  establishes the rule of law. But that is the main platform on which even UNP’s J.R. Jayawardane fought the 1977 general election, pledging to bring in a Righteous Society (that has to date failed to materialise). The Island newspaper reported (February 2, 2023) that NPP MP Dr Harini Amarasuriya, asked about her party’s stand on Ranil Wickremasinghe’s decision to implement the 13A fully, said she didn’t believe he would do that, because he didn’t do it when he could do it. The NPP also believes that it should be fully implemented, though there was still a debate about this within the party. She told The Island: 

“It has been presented as a solution to the national problem. It is already there in the Constitution and we believe that it should be implemented, but we have a debate whether it could be a tenable solution for the national problem. Our standpoint is that a government with genuine intention of addressing the issues of Tamil people must bring about solutions to the national problem, and we have no faith in other parties, but only the NPP could do that.”

It is not clear how the NPP is going to deal with the 13A issue. But if it is hoping to wangle the support of the Sinhala Buddhist masses while horse-trading with the federalists, Anura’s chances of becoming president will evaporate soon. As he has already apparently indicated that his prime minister will be Sumanthiran (I am not sure of this piece of gossip) in case he becomes president, the voters in the south will be even more sceptical about voting for him. Sumanthiran is the exact opposite of Lakshman Kadirgamar, that the Sinhalese universally loved, and honoured above all other politicians.

To return to Nagananda, he blames former elections commissioner Mahinda Desapriya for conniving at the TNA’s treacherous intentions revealed in its constitution. Desapriya had been given only the Tamil version of the TNA’s constitutional proposals, which he apparently couldn’t read and understand. He hadn’t asked for or they hadn’t given him the English version of the document (which means, according to Nagananda, they didn’t want its contents to be accessible to the Sinhala majority). Nagananda claims that he had some significant parts rendered into English: According to him, the TNA constitution (includes) “…… the right to self determination, the policy of founding an autochthonous Tamil State, Tamil Aru, and an autochthonous Muslim State, Muslim Aru, and thereby seeing the liberation of the political and economic aspects of the Tamil speaking people…….

Note: An absolute guarantee will be given to the right of religion and language of the minority national races that live in the autochthonous Tamil State that will be set up in the Tamil Motherland……..”.

(Incidentally, I do not agree with Nagananda’s explanation of the concept of the independence of the judiciary in this context.)

Now these autochthonous claims for Tamils and Muslims in Sri Lanka are ludicrous inventions. Authoritative historians (including Professors Karthigesu Indrapala and Kingsley de Silva) have shown that before the 13th century invasion by Magha of Kalinga, there was no Tamil kingdom in the north of Sri Lanka nor a settled Tamil population there. Tamils are the autochthonous inhabitants of Tamil Nadu in the mainland India. As for Muslims in the eastern province, they were settled there by king Senerath of Kandy (1604-1635 CE) as fugitives from Portuguese persecution in the coastal areas that they were occupying. Muslims and Portuguese were rival traders. The Sinhalese king also settled some of these Muslims in the central highlands. Still later the occupying Dutch and British brought Javanese and Malaysian Muslims, thereby adding to the growing Muslim population in Sri Lanka in the 18th and 19th centuries.

The Implications of Nagananda’s revelations for the country need not be elaborated. He emphatically says that the ordinary Tamil people he met in Jaffna do not ask for a separate state. They only want to live in one Sri Lanka peaceably with the other communities.

Nagananda believes that the local government elections that are going to be held will not be of any value and that the Anura Dissanayake-led NPP is unlikely to win such a significant victory at imminent local government election. I personally think that the NPP appears to be the front runner, judging by the size of the crowds that attend its rallies (as reported on online media). But do these people know what the party leaders are really committed to, I wonder? There is no stamp of conviction on most faces, though. Most look sceptical of the leaders

We need statesmen/women, not mere politicians. People are fed up with the latter. Anura is not likely to turn out to be a real statesman, even if he gets the chance to do so one day, if he pursues his proven hypocrisy. However, compared to the leading buffoons of the two traditional parties (the UNP and the SLFP/or their ghostly modern reincarnations), Anura Dissanayake would be someone that the people can look towards as an alternative leader, provided he does not forfeit the trust of the majority Sinhala Buddhists in his attempt to win the loyalty of the traditional minority leaders, who will never ever change their spots, though they may change their hunting grounds.

Ranil Wickremasinghe has got his last chance to prove his statesmanship and retrieve his lost popularity and honour. He should not, as default president, abuse his executive powers to implement the long disputed 13A for the time being, but do whatever he can do to address the economic woes of our suffering masses before the current presidency ends. It is hoped that he will use his constitutional powers to achieve that end. Then let him call presidential elections and fight it himself or get his nominee to fight it on the single issue of the all important 13th Amendment, perhaps against a principal rival like Anura Dissanayake. Whoever it is, the next president must have the support of the active, truly educated youth of the country, not the half-wits now in the limelight.

What does Ranil Wickremasinghe have up his sleeve? 

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Whatever it is, equipped with his education, native intelligence and acquired political wisdom, he will be able to hold the country whole until it passes lawfully into the hands of the uncorrupt patriotic young generation that is waiting in the wings in patient silence (not into those of the ignorant noisy buffoons in the ‘aragalaya‘). 

A number of sacrilegious attacks have been made in recent times on the Sri Dalada (the Sacred Tooth Relic) in Kandy, astonishingly by some Buddhists. The two most recent instances are: Sepala Amerasinghe, an elderly YouTuber, committing repeated verbal sacrilege by calling the Tooth Relic a ‘labba’ (an impolite word implying a pendant male sexual organ) in his videos; the other instance may be described as a form of desecration of the Sri Dalada Maligawa in Kandy where the the Tooth Relic is housed: a kind of faith-healing veda mahattaya/native physician (a notorious charlatan and a crooked businessman according to social media accounts) by the name of Janaka C. Senadhipathi is building at Potuhera, Kurunegala, an unauthorized replica of the Sri Dalada Maligawa in Kandy, claiming that the sacred relic will be miraculously transported to his new shrine from the Kandy Sri Dalada Maligawa, which according to him, is polluted by the materialistic corruption of its present custodians). It is ironic that these acts take place (by design or coincidence) only a few days after president Ranil Wickremesinghe showed his desire to have a special exposition of the Dalada ahead of the next independence day due to be held in February. The president is obviously hoping to achieve something of tremendous importance for the nation that he seems to think is significant enough to be celebrated with a Dalada exhibition. What this epoch making development probably is not a mystery to adult Sri Lankans who have some idea about the dynamics of post-independence politics in Sri Lanka. It must be something to do with the final settlement of the so-called Tamil national problem or the implementation of 13A+.

This confronts the nation with a dilemma concerning Ranil Wickremesinghe as everybody’s  (225 in parliament’s and the general public’s) refuge/saviour: it is the general public perception that, at this moment, there is no political leader who can at least try to bring about some sort of economic stability to the country except Ranil Wickremasinghe. But will he be able to garner enough parliamentary support to implement 13A+? To compound the confusion, there is the problem of holding the lawfully scheduled local government elections, the likely result of which will not strengthen the mutually dependent parliament+president combine, nor benefit the nation economically or politically. The people will question: Why are you so particular about sticking to the electoral laws at this critical juncture where the flagrant violation of other existing vital laws such as the antiquities ordinances has introduced a previously non-existent religious and racial dimension to the country’s political divisions? But be that as it may. Let’s return to our present topic.

Since the arrival of the Tooth Relic in Sri Lanka in the 4th century CE (this is well recorded in the Mahavamsa and other chronicles), a tradition evolved according to which the ruler of the island acquired the legitimacy of his sovereignty by virtue of the possession of the sacred relic. The Dalada was held in a shrine within the palace complex. The shrine itself later came to be called ‘Maligawa’ or palace, the residence of the king, because of this connection between sovereignty and the sacred relic. Due to this reason, the Dalada was subject to changing hands between external invaders or internal rivals and the reigning monarchs in troublous times, as happened several times before the European advent in the island and after. The desacralization of the sacred relic and the attempted dilution of the sanctity of the Dalada Maligawa in Kandy could be premeditated. Though it is  well known that the Dalada has neither any connection with, nor bears any responsibility for, the current economic and political crises, it has become a target for attack concerning even natural disasters. Sepala Amerasinghe mentioned above, before calling the Dalada a ‘labba’ for which offence he has been arrested and remanded till January 17, blamed the recent floods in Kandy caused by heavy rain on the ‘kunu datha’ (rotten tooth) in one of his videos. This was an oblique reference to the traditionally held belief among Buddhists that the Dalada has rain making powers. Such beliefs (and relic worship itself for that matter) are not found in Theravada Buddhism, but are imports from the Mahayana tradition which are now part of the local Buddhist religious culture.

So there seems to be a deliberate attempt by certain inimical forces  to dilute or totally negate the symbolic power of the Sacred Tooth Relic for the majority Sinhalese Buddhist polity. It is the bounden duty of the government on behalf of all concerned citizens to investigate what sinister force is behind these incidents and take remedial action. But there are no blasphemy laws in Buddhism. When a TouTuber brought the ‘kunu data’ insult to their notice by phone, the Anu Nayake Theras of both Malwatte showed little concern about it. It was when several concerned lay Buddhists complained to them again about Sepala Amerasinghe repeatedly making sacrilegious statements that the Mahanayake Theras and the Diyawadana Nilame, the guardian of the Maligawa, wrote to the president about it.

Incidentally, Mahinda Rajapaksa seems to be lurking protectively behind Senadhipathi. The former’s erstwhile sidekick Mervin Silva visited Potuhera, and ordered the demolition of the front part of the building in question, declaring that there should be only one Dalada Maligawa, the one in Kandy and that the rest of structures in the place must remain. Mervin Silva was reported to have threatened with death social activist Nilantha Ranasinghe who had raised the issue in public and exposed Senadhipathi’s questionable activities with audio, video and print evidence. Mervin Silva told another YouTuber (named Chaturanga Bandara) that Mahinda Rajapaksa phoned him to thank him for what he did.)  Mahinda exploited the nationalist groundswell to sweep the 2019 presidential and 2020 parliamentary elections against the previous infamous yahapalanaya led by prime minister Ranil Wickremasinghe and president Maithripala Sirisena; but he totally betrayed that victory through the entrenched corruption he supported among his stooges and his own obsession with dynastic rule, which ultimately brought repeatedly rejected Ranil Wickremasinghe to the helm. Mahinda seems to have so morally weakened in parallel with his obvious physical degeneration as to make a futile attempt to salvage his lost popularity among the Buddhist voters by championing fake ‘Bosath’ Janaka Senadhipathi, with the help of thuggish Mervin. 

To return to the beginning, the media reported (December 24, 2022) that a request that president Ranil Wickremasinghe made for a special exposition of the Sacred Tooth Relic before February 2023 when Sri Lanka completes seventy-five years of independence did not get a positive response from either of the two Ven. Mahanayake Theras of the Siam Nikaya, Malwatte and Asgiriya, in Kandy, who are joint custodians of the Sri Dalada Maligawa. The president’s request was conveyed to the prelates in a letter from him personally delivered to them by prime minister Dinesh Gunawardane, who expressly called on them for the purpose. The Malwatte prelate, according to the news reports, suggested that the PM should approach the Asgiriya Mahanayake Thera about this as it is the latter’s turn at the moment to be in charge of the service at the Dalada Maligawa. When the premier visited the  Asgiriya Mahanayake Thera with the president’s proposal or appeal, the latter wonderingly asked him  if a Tooth Relic exposition at this juncture wasn’t a difficult task to perform.

With hindsight one would hazard a guess that the two Buddhist prelates of the Siam Nikaya, namely the Most Venerable Thibbatuwawe Sri Siddhartha Sumangala Thera of the Malwatte Chapter and the Most Venerable Warakagoda Sri Gnanarathana Thera of the Asgiriya Chapter, especially the former, might accommodate the presidential wish, if  Buddhist public opinion also favours it. There are two other nikayas, Ramanna and Amarapura, which signed an agreement to merge in August 2019; the expected merger was a step in the right direction, for the Maha Sangha unity is indispensable for the survival of the Buddhasasanaya as a religious cultural establishment. The living component of the Buddhasasanaya is the ‘sivvanak pirisa’ or the fourfold community of male and female bhikshus and male and female lay Buddhists. This is not a political entity, but a religious one, though it needs state protection (just as it enjoyed full royal patronage under Sinhala kings before the time of foreign invasions); in this, the Sinhala Buddhist community  is not different from other religious communities. (In Sri Lanka, 70% of the ethnically and religiously diverse total population comprise Buddhists.) No religion is more compatible with the best form of government evolved to date, democracy than Buddhism, though it is not your average religion. Bhikkhus and Bhikshunis may personally hold different political views, and even exercise their voting rights as they please, as citizens, but it is not proper for them to engage in partisan politics, because that would definitely cause divisions within the fourfold community of Buddhists. The clergy must leave active politics involving campaigning and electioneering entirely to the lay Buddhists. May the Mahanayakes have the wisdom to tell the president not to desecrate the Sri Dalada by dragging it into politics.

However, traditionally and historically, Buddhist monks have wielded great power over the Buddhist community including the rulers. Currently though, they are becoming increasingly powerless, mainly because of their meddling in politics, patronizing corrupt politicians, and also because of the Mahanayake Theras’ incomprehensible inaction and disunity. President Wickremesinghe’s seemingly cynical suggestion must be viewed in this context. Is he, through having a special Tooth Relic exposition held to coincide with the implementation of whatever solution he proposes to the Tamil ethnic problem, trying to make palatable to the Sinhala Buddhist majority something they would not normally look upon with favour. Is he bringing back an earlier unpopular deal that sent him and his party home at the hustings? But Ranil is too intelligent to repeat past errors.

I am tempted to say this because Ranil Wickremesinghe, unlike his predecessors Mahinda Rajapaksa and Maithripala Sirisena, does not usually make a show of unfelt religious piety for hoodwinking the masses. If he wants, he uses religion in a more street-smart way. Unlike the latter duo again, he is no religious hypocrite; he doesn’t even care to show if he is really a Buddhist (which of course is right, and befits a genuine Buddhist). The important thing, I think, is that he seems to know that ordinary Buddhist voters, true to their faith, do not worry too much about whether he is a Buddhist or a non-Buddhist. (Unfortunately, however, global scale media distortion against them demonizes Sinhalese Buddhists as racist chauvinists and religious fanatics simply because circumstances force them to raise their voice when their human rights are violated by others (such as unethical conversion of Buddhists, encroachment or vandalizing or desecration of Buddhist archaeological sites, deliberate distortion of historical and Buddhist doctrinal facts).

What is happening in Sri Lanka in this respect, hardly recognized or taken seriously by the global powers that be, is doubtlessly a crime against humanity carried out by an externally well funded medley of subversive organizations and individuals, that is getting more and more explicit and more and more overpowering in the Sri Lanka’s present economically and politically debilitated situation. It can be argued that the same forces that are behind this insidious barbarity are at least partly responsible for worsening the political and economic maelstrom that is currently engulfing Sri Lanka, despite the abundance of  rich natural resources and the  high quality of the human resources locally available, both of which its citizens can be justly proud of.

For president Wickremasinghe to want a special Dalada exposition he must be contemplating to consecrate, as it were, something momentous like a nationally important historic event concurrently with government celebrations that will mark the completion of seventy-five years of independence (whatever the last word is held to mean) from British colonial occupation. When it comes to true freedom from Britain, we believe that the 1948 independence was eclipsed by the promulgation of the republican constitution in 1972 under the United Front government of Mrs Sirima Bandaranaike. Yet, it looks like that Wickremasinghe wants to return to the Western fold by ignoring the 1972 change, which was not supported by the Illankei Tamil Arasu Kachchi (Lanka Tamil Kingdom/State Party/or misleadingly called the Federal Party in English) founded in 1949 by S.J.V. Chelvanayagam, an immigrant Tamil from Malaysia. (The clamour for a separate state for Tamils started soon after the grant of so-called independence, which was actually nothing more than dominion status. The 1972 declaration of Ceylon (as Sri Lanka was until then known among foreigners and English speaking locals) as a republic severed that last link with the  British empire.

 Sri Lankans are a democratic people. Ranil Wickremesinghe or any other political leader could easily accommodate the legitimate interests of the global and regional superpowers that the country’s geographical location makes it obligatory for it to satisfy, if he did it with the people’s full democratic approval, while at the same time preserving their national dignity, sovereignty and independence.     

When in 2019 Wickremesinghe and the UNP that he still leads got kicked out of parliament, he had spent forty-two years in that august body as elected member serving repeatedly in responsible senior positions over that long period as cabinet minister, opposition leader, and prime minister, and now as president at least by default. Ranil Wickremasinghe the politician has nothing more to win or lose in his life; he has nothing to look forward to, except perhaps a dignified obituary. But he suddenly finds ‘greatness thrust upon him’ by a strange turn of events in a context where  Sri Lankans of all religious and political persuasions are up against the wall economically and politically. The Sinhalese Buddhists, in addition to this adverse global predicament experienced, not only in Sri Lanka, but across most of the world outside, are simply facing a form of cultural genocide as argued above. It is expediently connived at by our corrupt traitorous self-seeking politicians and blithely indulged by an apparently unconcerned, blissfully ignorant Maha Sangha.

Ranil Wickremasinghe can still use his intellectual superiority and political acumen to rescue our nation.

A very happy New Year 2023 to Sri Lanka and its people

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I am writing from Dhaka, Bangladesh. I wish a very happy New Year 2023 to Sri Lanka and its people.

In the New Year-2023, Sri Lankans will need to put extra efforts together, to reignite the economy and promote growth and also to make it inclusive and beneficial to all. They will also need to intensify investment in education in 2023. They must work together to eradicate corruption, crimes, drugs and substance abuse as well as violence against people in their communities. Where they disagree, let them do so with dignity and respect and promote unity and cohesion as they build their country together. The challenge now is to continue to pursue the economic and political conditions that will spread the wealth throughout the population and provide an example for the rest of the world. They must work harder to build a truly caring society in 2023.

Despite all the success the country has achieved in recent years including 2022, new and old dangers – economic, political, and security-related – threaten to derail its progress. With sound policymaking, effective leadership, and enough foresight, however, can meet and defeat these challenges as well as the many more to come in the New Year. They probably use the beginning of every year to reflect on the past years, make decisions and set resolutions for the New Year. It is a good thing to make resolutions, but it takes a good deal of discipline and commitment to get results that would be different and better than what they got last year. Catherine Pulsifer wrote, “The New Year symbolizes the ending of one year and the beginning of yet another. We celebrate this event, yet it is only a moment in time, like any other day. But it is also considered a time when new beginnings can happen. Be determined to have a Happy New Year!” 

In the New Year’s foresight, Sri Lanka’s growth initiatives may be overarching themes that place the country at the tipping point and people perceive to be key areas for intervention to keep Sri Lanka on its current rising trajectory. This year’s format is different from years past, encompassing viewpoints from high-level policymakers, academics, and practitioners, as well as utilising visuals to better illustrate the paths behind and now in front of Sri Lanka. Growth in Asia and elsewhere has shown that industrialisation is crucial to job creation, a value that has to be enshrined in the new sustainable development goals of Sri Lanka.

The country has witnessed remarkable improvements in poverty reduction in recent years, but persistent challenges in inequality, education, health, and violence, among others, still plague it. As the 2023 year may provide the opportunity to be a jumping-off point for strong policies and efforts to accomplish the desired goals, they should understand the assortment of opportunities of 2022 provides for supporting human development efforts and argues for the central role that better data and corrective measures play in addressing them.

To explore the consequences of Sri Lanka’s rapid urbanisation which historically has facilitated the country transition from a reliance on agriculture to industry and jobs. However, without strong policies to deliver services, finance and build infrastructure, and support the urban poor, the country’s rapidly growing cities and intermediate cities cannot deliver on their potentials. The New Year may see a number of governance milestones and obstacles, and the march towards good governance. Any sort of violence, killing and destruction… shall have to be ruthlessly suppressed by the law and order controlling body of the government. People want peace and that has to be ensured. People do not want the banal forces and their mango-twigs to get any chance to fish out any benefits in the troubled waters. Raise your voice. Beware of that the ruffians must not get any chance to disturb them because Sri Lanka is for Sri Lanka’s people of all religions to live together in peace. 

The government should reflect on the country’s growth-governance puzzle and the complex institutional changes necessary to move from economic growth to economic transformation. Historically, urbanisation is a sign of economic prosperity. As a country underwent structural transformation, and its economy shifted from agriculture to manufacturing and industry, the composition of the population of the country shifted from being predominantly rural to predominantly urban. However, urbanisation in the Sri Lanka’s context displays different characteristics from the ones witnessed in Asia and other countries. This growth demonstrates a great need for better urban management and institution building. Thus, if managed properly, the new emerging cities can produce several economic opportunities as cities offer economies of scale, which can be conducive to sustainable economic prosperity and improved human development. 

Despite all the political and economic challenges facing the country, the people’s desire for a better life with better education for their children, strong domestic institutions, full employment opportunities and faster economic growth means that the future can be much brighter. Many of the hurdles they may uncover have policy solutions. Government should spend primarily on the work to improve not just education systems but also infrastructure across the board. Smart, pro-business policies will also help ensure the creation of decent jobs that can keep young people engaged in society and out of troubles.

Despite challenges on the economic front, together they made substantial progress in providing basic services, such as, electricity, housing, roads, water and sanitation, healthcare as well as accessible education. The country’s GDP has begun to show welcome improvements. Thus significant strides were made in the past years in fighting poverty, inequality and unemployment. Still the government needs for renewed efforts to boost inclusive economic growth and improve the lives of poor and working-class; and it remains a key priority of the government.

The mornings of winter fall on the last of the fogbank and will wash it away. We can smell the grass again, and the torn leaves being eased down into the mud.  The few loves we have been allowed to keep are still sleeping on the sky of Sri Lanka. Here in the country, they walk across the fields with only a few young cows for company. Big-boned and shy, they are like girls we remember. Those girls are matured now. Like Sri Lankans, they must sometimes stand at a window late at night, looking out on a silent backyard, at one rusting lawn chair and the sheer walls of other people’s houses.

They must lie down some afternoons and cry hard for whoever used to make them happiest, and wonder how their lives have carried them this far without ever once explaining anything. They don’t know why they are walking out here with their coats darkening and their boots sinking in, coming up with a mild sucking sound we, as foreigners, like to hear. We don’t care where those girls are now.  Whatever they have made of it they can have. Today, Sri Lankans want to resolve many things. They only want to walk a little longer in the cold blessing of the wind, and lift their faces to it.

Emotions and excitement will be lifted up inside eyes and mouth widely grinning hands clap together anticipation rising going through the whole body. As we, foreigners, wait for the sunrise, we wait for a shimmering blue sea in Sri Lanka. We shall see a beautiful golden sun. And we believe it will set them free. We put our pens down greatness without sound; love without a doubt and a heart unbound; freedom of tongues is freedom of minds; and free air is freedom of lungs. We smoke though, temporary satisfaction for eternal sorrow; one more drag; confidence to load the mag up against our heads, we then resurrect ourselves with memories of something else in Sri Lanka. So, we as foreigners are grinding again, making our way up the lane, but the cities big so we take a… Melody Beattie reminds us, “The new year stands before us, like a chapter in a book, waiting to be written. We can help write that story by setting goals.”

With the moon as the conductor, the symphony of lights begins. As the heavens open in anticipation, stars one by one comes filing in with each rhythmic starlight flicker keeping in tune with the galaxy. Entire planets hold their breath in wonder from everlasting to everlasting nebula breeze. It all plays out in harmony keeping perfect 3-4 times and such beauty is not held by boundaries and seen and heard light years through time. The year 2023 should be to do only good deeds for Sri Lanka.

The winds of bearable and golden-like and sweet-note are on the heads of Sri Lankans. The winds of civility and refinements having good or auspicious marks; of commendable looks… good governance…gentleness of disposition…exquisite beauty or grace…quite consistence; very reasonable; judicious; fair; adequate; relevant; well-refined life shall prevail in their days; and I wish our Sri Lankan friends, and people in general a glorified and restful festive season. Celebrate new life in the New Year 2023. From Bangladesh, I wish to finish-off today in the words of Goran Persson, “Let your New Year’s resolution be this: you will be there for one another as fellow members of humanity, in the finest sense of the word.”

The End –

Sri Lanka: Living with the Hope in Precarious times

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Following is the keynote address delivered at the launch of the Junior Bar Journal on the theme ‘Law in context: Current trends and future projections’ held on 16 December

We live in precarious times. But precarious times are also times of great opportunity. The end of World War Two gave birth to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the end of Apartheid gave birth to the South African constitution, a constitution that has inspired the legal community for decades. A great deal is happening in the world and in Sri Lanka in particular, creating a fog of ideas and desperation to see our way out of the darkness.

This fog of ideas is based on the fact that there is a fundamental struggle taking place on the kind of society people wish to construct for themselves. This struggle over very basic ideas animates the most virulent hate and bias that we see throughout the world. What I am going to do in this lecture is to spell out some of those struggles, especially those relevant to young lawyers, and see what the future holds for their resolution.

The first debate in this fog of ideas relates to the debate on human rights. For my generation of lawyers working in public law at the international level, the most inspiring documents were those related to human rights – the universal declaration, the covenants and many other conventions relating to torture, women and children among others. Though today human rights and humanitarian law are dismissed as Western, at the Bandung conference in the 1950s, the Non-Aligned movement openly embraced human rights and it would be the driving force in getting rid of apartheid in South Africa and challenging disappearances in Latin America. Third World progressive activists were strong supporters of human rights during this period writing personally to heads of state when prisoners of conscience were taken in.

Amnesty International’s first visit to Sri Lanka in the 1970s was fully supported by everyone who worked on issues of social justice. Leading personalities like Suriya Wickremesinghe, Kumari Jayawardena, Professor Sarathchandra, and Raja Goonesekere formed the civil rights movement after the 1971 insurrection basing their founding principles on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Today both the edifice and the norms are under a great deal of challenge especially from universities and think tanks many of them situated in the Western world.

The challenge to human rights is twofold. The first is that it is a Western structure created around the values of the Enlightenment where the individual is valued over the community and where reason is given prime of place over social values of cohesion and harmony. The second argument is about process and the double standards in the application of human rights. The rich and powerful countries are not held accountable while smaller countries may face the full force of the international political and legal process.

My argument has always been that the values of human rights may have resonance with some traditional values but they actually derive from a consent-based system of law. By signing the UN charter and the many conventions on human rights Sri Lanka and others have agreed to be governed by these norms and standards and as a result must be held responsible for their implementation. As for the argument of double standards, though this is certainly the case and the rich and powerful countries do enjoy impunity, it does not mean that we should put forward a position that we should have no standards at all.

The political and legal strategy should be to make more countries accountable for their actions. In national systems like ours the rich and the powerful also get away with a great deal and with a high level of impunity. The answer is not to throw away the law but to make sure that the system reforms itself to make everyone more accountable. For this we need not only law reform but also public mobilisation, national and international solidarity as well as political will.

The Suriya Wickremesinghe generation in Sri Lanka which founded the national civil rights movement was followed in the 1990s by a generation of some intellectuals who were part of a movement that spearheaded the post modern assault on human rights. In my mid thirties I was deeply influenced by the thinker Michel Foucault whose life’s ambition was to deconstruct the European Enlightenment and the particular cruelty it has visited on the world. Seeing human rights as a part of that legacy he saw it just as a façade for imperial and national political ambition. In his famous book Discipline and Punish he analyses the legal process and the carceral system that goes with it. He refuses to acknowledge that law, the legal system and the judiciary could be an autonomous sphere making decisions on positivistic principles. He insisted that politics, hidden or open always guided their intervention. He is also particularly harsh on those who try to rehabilitate and mould prisoners in their own image. Humanism was a dirty word for him, a thin veil that hid the real exercise of power in any given situation. He saw the humanitarian impulse and the desire to save the world as another side of the European conquest.

Later in life as part of the United Nations I went constantly to the field to situations of armed conflict. As I landed in Rwanda in 1995 a month after the genocide I was taken to a school. Throughout the school, on the floor was skeleton after skeleton, their bodies smashed and mutilated by the perpetrators. I was then taken to a church with a beautiful sculpture of the Madonna. Beneath her, again bodies upon bodies, a terrible haven for violence and destruction. Children, women, old men – none were spared. The victims who survived reached out to us. “Take our story tell it to the world”, they said.

I realised then that Foucault only saw the structures; he did not feel the pain. The world just could not be silent. It needed a language and discourse to give expression to this outrage. After that, in a qualified way, I embraced international human rights and humanitarian law as a vocation.

The embrace of human rights and humanitarian law with a realistic understanding of geopolitics becomes all the more important in the face of governments developing deadly styles of warfare while also increasing repression at home. I spent some time in an Afghan village and watched as children cowered under their beds fearing drone strikes. To this day governments will not move to formulate a convention on drones. The technology of war has totally outpaced the laws of war. As a member of the International Commission of Experts on Ethiopia I chronicled just two months ago the devastating consequences of aerial bombardment by drones as well as other forms of weapons that operated on the ground. Total destruction. The Ukraine war is another reminder. Regulating and curtailing these weapons is a major challenge for the future in the area of humanitarian law.

More repressive legislation and practices

At the same time many countries, including our own government, are developing more repressive legislation and practices to prevent freedom of speech, freedom of organisation and political protest. Under the guise of fighting terrorism all manner of legislation is brought that result in incarcerating mostly young people. My first human rights task in the 1980s was to take down an affidavit of a young prisoner kept at Boosa who had been tortured. It was clear to me that he had committed no act of terrorism though he was taken under the Prevention of Terrorism Act. He just came from a cohort of young men that the state suspected as being likely to be influenced. I saw the same thing when I went to Batticaloa last year and met with wives and families who had their husbands and sons taken under the PTA after the Easter attacks. There were no charges but they were not released.

Incarcerating young men so as to control their behaviour and beliefs is not a healthy or productive practice for any criminal justice system. In a book recently shortlisted for the Pulitzer Prize Carla Power went around the world looking at counter terrorism programs and concludes that this practice of incarceration does not really work and the young men emerging from such incarceration are not going to become good citizens.

If one decides to have programs, which in itself is problematic, they should be outside the purview of the criminal law and she points to programs of mentoring that have been quite successful in some countries. In any event any such action should also be taken with caution. Freedom of belief is a fundamental human right and some countries are against any action in this regard. Any interference with freedom of belief must be subject to the greatest possible scrutiny.

Given this onslaught at the international and national level, human rights in 2022 has a new and urgent responsibility and many are beginning to recognise its renewed importance. Young people in their twenties around the world are rediscovering human rights and rescuing it from post modernism and geopolitical agendas. Whether in Thailand, Sudan, Myanmar, Iran, Chile, Sri Lanka, Hong Kong, the US, they have embraced the language of human rights. It is the only universal language of dissent and results in mobilisation that cuts across borders and has universal appeal. These movements are also refining the concept of human rights so that it addresses the many issues of class as well as the systemic structures of discrimination that earlier rights activists were less sensitive to. Often dismissed as “woke” their sensibility has already had a major impact not only on governments but also on every day life. They face an inevitable backlash but as the mid term elections in the US show the next generation seems mobilised and committed to these norms.

While human rights is struggling to survive as a worldview the second debate that is emerging around the world is the debate on the nature and function of constitutional democracy. At the national level, my generation working on public law issues was very involved in what has recently been termed the movement of Constitutionalism. The idea of the Constitution as a written text that prescribes the rule of law and limits the power of government is a product of the Enlightenment, especially the English Enlightenment. But Constitutionalism, on the other hand, is a very modern phenomenon.

With its origins in the famous case Marbury vs. Madison, it entrusts the judiciary as the role of the guardian and gives the judges powers to nullify legislation and executive acts that violate the written text of the Constitution. It also gives the judiciary the power to interpret the Constitution to the facts before it. This sometimes results in judges going beyond the plain meaning of the law and engaging in judicial innovation to ensure that justice is done. In this way we have what advocates call “a living Constitution”.

Despite its American origins, this framework of Constitutionalism spread to Germany with its Basic Law, India with Ambedkar’s Constitution and South Africa after Apartheid. With decolonisation many countries have also accepted this framework. Loyalty to a written text that will protect the interests of the nation is the hallmark of this tradition. It has given rise to thousands of young lawyers committed to the Constitution, determined to write that brief, argue that case and persuade the judges to do what is right.

The main driver of constitutionalism has been the bill of rights or the fundamental rights chapter of the Constitution. Perhaps the first such case was Brown vs., Board of Education where the US Supreme Court outlawed the practice of racial segregation and introduced busing children as a way of remedying the segregation. Professor Ruth Bader Ginsberg, with whom I have worked, meticulously argued her cases on sex discrimination that would set the stage for legislation that would prevent discrimination against women.

In South Asia lawyers came together to get the powerful Indian Supreme Court to follow suit. With Justice Bhagwati they found a willing partner and Professor Upendra Bax and Dr. Neelan Tiruchelvam helped draft brief after brief in the 1970s and 1980s fighting for the economic and social rights of individuals. Using the right to life and dignity clause of the Indian Constitution many victories were won. Under trial prisoners, pavement dwellers, bonded labour, women in custodial homes all found their day in Court and managed to secure innovative judicial decision making and forward looking remedies. The Court expanded its standing provisions to allow a wide array of parties to file cases and as part of its proceedings often set up fact finding commissions to investigate cases. The remedies were also sweeping though recent reappraisals point to the fact that with time they lost their effectiveness.

Though Sri Lankan judiciary did not open its processes in this radical manner, the Fernando Amerasinghe era also saw many forward-looking judgments. Even today in Sri Lanka lawyers file case after case in the spirit of Constitutionalism to attempt the Court to pronounce on issues relating to justice, to interpret the Constitution so it better protects the public interest. Sometimes they are very successful. Some of the judgments of Justice Prasanna Jayawardene were path breaking and his early demise has deprived the court of a strong and thoughtful judge.

Constitutional democracy

As the American Courts gave an initial impetus to this tradition of Constitutionalism, they are now signalling its eventual demise. Martin Loughlin in his new book Against Constitutionalism makes a strong argument why we must move beyond Constitutionalism to what he calls constitutional democracy. The shocking recent decisions of the US Supreme Court in throwing out clearly laid out precedents in every field and under the guise of “textualism”, playing to the worst prejudices in society has made many realise that reliance on the judiciary to make positive changes is not always the answer.

Judges are appointed in diverse ways, they reason in complex directions and sometimes they can make major changes. Sexual Harassment was incorporated into the law not by the legislature but by the Indian judiciary in the famous Visakha case and Justices Mark Fernando and Amerasinghe opened our eyes to many things including environmental law. Recently in the Court of Appeals there is a far-reaching judgment about elephants having legal recognition as sentient beings. These developments have to be recognised as forward looking.

But Loughlin cautions us to be weary. As the US Supreme Court does away with some of America’s most precious liberties, the new generation of young lawyers is trying to find alternatives. Relying only on judges to make changes in your society may backfire and one may not be able to control the direction of the bench. In the end according to Loughlin it is constitutional democracy and political practice, meeting, speaking and convincing people at the community level that will truly make a change that is lasting and more sustainable.

In recent times the debate on constitutional democracy has also deepened in other ways. As we speak about democracy, we remember only decades ago, Francis Fukuyama declaring, after the fall of the Berlin wall, that the world had agreed that there is only one form of government and that is representative democracy. In recent years, there has come the belief that democracy leads to chaos and the pampering of minorities. In its place came the ideology of the strong leader and majoritarian democracy. Throughout Asia, Western Europe and the United States strong leaders exercised charismatic control over their populations. For public interest lawyers it was a truly an era of darkness.

Recently the tide appears to be slowly turning again with the active participation of what is termed generation Z. There is the realisation that not all strong leaders are in the model of Lee Kwan Yew, even if that is an authoritarian model that is acceptable. Instead many may become Pol Pots or Idi Amins emphasising the fact that the need for checks and balances in a system of government is essential for modern governance. Whatever reservations we have about Constitutionalism, its role in limiting the executive and developing independent Commissions have been key to the successes of democratic experiments.

There is a belief among business and political elites that you cannot make hard economic decisions without a measure of authoritarianism. This has been disproven in Sri Lanka itself. Minister Mangala Samaraweera, taking the unions and other stakeholders into his confidence managed to partially privatise Sri Lanka Telecom. The belief that reform can only be imposed and not negotiated in a good faith bargaining process is the key to this misunderstanding that democracy will prevent economic development.

Struggle to maintain democracy may only be beginning

In this struggle against authoritarian schools of thought Sri Lanka has clearly not been an exception. The Aragalaya movement showed many of us that the democratic spirit was alive and well but the hold that such democratic ideas have on the public at large will only be tested at another general election. As we watch a government taking action with the help of the security forces, unapologetic for its authoritarian ways, the struggle to maintain democracy may only be beginning.

At the same time, while protecting representative democracy from the onslaught of authoritarian models of governance, many new thinkers around the world are being imaginative thinking new ideas about democracy itself. Such experiments focus on direct democracy and organising at a community level. They question who should represent and who is privileged. While representative democracy is fairer than authoritarian models it is still not structured to prevent inequality and discrimination. It does not truly engage the full participation of the citizenry as in the model of democracy outlined by thinkers such as Rousseau. By raising these questions there is an attempt to deepen democracy and participation.

These issues came to ahead in Chile during and after its recent elections. The Chilean elections brought forth a government that believed in experimenting with these new forms of democracy placing emphasis on direct democracy and implementing a broad scope with regard to participation. The new Constitution was drafted using these principles and a very innovative, imaginative Constitution was presented. Nevertheless it was roundly defeated at a referendum sending Chile back to the drawing board. Unless new experiments in democracy truly understand the nature of the electorate, the conservatism of many ordinary people and the years of ideological conditioning that predates the exercise such experiments will inevitably result in failure.

In Sri Lanka today, given the failure of representative democracy there are many discussions and experiments suggested with regard to alternatives. The Chilean experiment is a reminder that though people may want change, they may not want the kind of drastic change that alters the system of government they are comfortable with. Any experiment must be realistic and practicable and command the confidence of the average person. Lawyers will be intermediaries in these developments. They will be the drafters and the gatekeepers who can help and guide any such process. Their skills are crucial. Without Ambedkar, the visionary dalit draftsman, the Indian Constitution would have no legacy.

Any democracy has to be founded on the principle and exercise of free speech. Governments understand that and journalists are usually the first to be imprisoned when there is a crackdown. For lawyers to protect them and defend them is a constitutional duty as a means of securing democracy. The murder of eminent journalists throughout South Asia and the impunity for such a murder points to the fear of information being made available to the public. All over the world especially in South Asia, the assassination era is slowly being overtaken by an era where businesspeople close to government or political actors acquire media houses so that the marketplace of ideas is strictly controlled and the public only receives select messages. Only social media has broken this stranglehold. Based on the principle that every individual has the right to publish unedited and undeterred it helps prevent a complete shutdown of opposing views.

Yet social media has added complications to this process. While it is liberating in many ways the dark web and hate speech are its frightening dimension. I was on the International Fact Finding Mission on Myanmar. There was no doubt that Facebook had a major role to play in the violence there. Part of my work involved reading the most horrendous posts and the posts of the military generals contributed evidence to make the case for genocide. Myanmar generals were unrestrained in their feelings of disgust for the Rohingyas and many were open in the suggestion that they should be eliminated.

Even in Sri Lanka with regard to the incidents in Digana recently, Facebook and WhatsApp played the role of bringing thugs and crowds to the location and in creating a climate of hostility. Content moderation then becomes a serious issue. It cannot be left solely to governments or big tech – the Elon Musk drama with regard to Twitter is a clear example. Some mechanism has to be devised at the global level to play that role of moderating content on social media platforms. Hopefully a fair and reasonable one that understands and respects freedom of speech will be devised in the near future.

The third area where there is a struggle and debate over ideas is the field of economic and social rights. While discussing the issues mentioned above it is important to remember the warning of Thomas Picketty, one of the world’s leading thinkers, that the most important issue of the 21st century is the problem of inequality. Inequality destroys societies from within creating fissures and social tensions that can only lead to violence and injustice. It is the cancer that truly destroys a society.

For societies like Sri Lanka the first issue of inequality that has darkened our 75 years of independence has been ethnic relations and minority rights. In law and political science classes all over the world there are textbook solutions to these issues. For minorities one creates a constitutional and legislative framework to ensure equality at the Centre with mechanisms for implementation. For a territorial minority the textbook solution has always been power sharing agreements. Lawyers have spent hours devising, writing and redrafting such solutions. For a great part of my early career I worked with Dr. Neelan Tiruchelvam reading every constitution and every analytical text on equality and power sharing. But as Indian scholars have written murderous majorities and minorities have torn apart any textbook solutions creating an atmosphere of distrust, suspicion and hate.

Reconciliation and rebuilding of trust will take some time

Reconciliation in this context and the rebuilding of trust will take some time. Whatever is agreed to on paper will only be sustainable if there is a buy in from the majority of the population and only if trust is created and rebuilt by media and educational systems that have so far been for the most part divisive and destructive.

The issue of inequality is also alive within communities. As Partha Chatterjee has written our traditional elders made a compact with British colonialism. While public life was to be governed by western and multilateral models of governance such as the legislature, the executive, the judiciary, the corporation, it was decided that private life would be governed by the distinct communities through their own laws. Private life where women dominate would remain untouched and timeless – the sacred private space where tradition and rituals will be enjoyed. Many of these laws written centuries before modern personhood was defined discriminate against women in fundamental ways.

When the community is the majority the legislature can change the law through the normal process but if it is a minority community the politics is far more complex. My approach is to listen to the voices of the women of the community. The recent legal reforms suggested to the Muslim Marriages and Divorce Act is spearheaded by leading Muslim women. It is important that their voices be heard and that we support their endeavours.

The most important issue of inequality that grips Sri Lanka and the whole world at this moment is of course income inequality. After the pandemic and our present economic crisis, economic and social rights of the population become paramount. With rising poverty and malnutrition and with the forecast that things will become worse trapping a generation into a cycle of poverty, it is important that the whole country including lawyers pay attention. Much of the writing on these themes is divided between the so-called neo liberals with their emphasis on growth and the Marxist school with a strong redistributive class analysis.

The discourse and narrative of social democracy has been erased from the debate especially in Sri Lanka – a narrative that accepts the market as inevitable but attempts to ensure maximum social protection. It was once called the Scandinavian model. Many of the international legal instruments are built around this impetus for social protection. The Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women for example places a great deal of emphasis on women’s economic and social rights as well as their labour.

If we are to go through the IMF process, a process that seems inevitable, it is very important that public lawyers keep their attention on the delivery of services especially food and education and the provision of resources such as cash transfers. Lawyers will be drafting these agreements and perhaps in the public interest they should raise these questions. As the economy contracts in the next few years it is vital that the public remains fed housed and educated.

Perhaps the debate on economic and social rights is supplemented with our mounting concern about the environment and our wildlife. This debate is about how we are going to structure our world so that we share it with nature and other animals on our planet. I am a petitioner in the recent case that attempts to prevent the mistreatment of elephants by private actors, to protect them from harm and to recognise that they have some rights under the law. The Supreme Court provided interim measures in our favour last Thursday. These young, ambitious hard working activists in the environmental movement must be commended for keeping these issues alive. They are about our future in every sense of the word.

Though many people are pessimistic about Sri Lanka’s future I remain open to the possibilities. As young lawyers and as you navigate your future, step back and reflect what is your idea of Sri Lanka. Sunil Khilnani once wrote a book called the idea of India and showed how Gandhi, Nehru, especially Nehru, and Ambedkar not only freed India but moulded and created the idea of India. Now Nehru’s grandson Rahul Gandhi is marching the streets of India fighting for that idea to be kept alive in the wake of what he sees as an assault on its fundamentals.

What is your idea of Sri Lanka? Some see it in religious or ethnic terms; some see it in terms of a modern nation state. For me it is a work in progress. There must be an idea that everyone can embrace – not only one community, caste or class. If we ever have genuine discussions on a future Constitution perhaps a unifying idea will emerge. At the moment it is fragmented and the debates I have mentioned are only the beginning of an honest discussion. 75 years after independence we are yet to decide on the final social contract that will govern us.

Finally, one image I carry in my mind’s eye throughout these difficult times is the picture of the young lawyers during Aragalaya linking their hands separating the protesters from the security forces. I also remember the image of young lawyers flooding the courts in their hundreds to protect the rights of those taken in after peaceful protests. In my conversation with young people I saw a lot of potential. They did not appear to carry the baggage and the scars of the previous generations. There was freshness and a wholesomeness that should be preserved.

Though there was terrible violence toward the end that should be condemned, Aragalaya also brought out the best in young people and that should not be forgotten. I have no illusions. All over the world movements led by young people are being crushed. But time is on your side. You will outlive the older generation with their oppressive world-views and hopefully you will make society anew. We may not be alive to see it but we hope seeds planted by the generations before you will strengthen your resolve.

Sri Lanka: Deconstructing Sinhala Psyche

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Sarath Weerasekera M.P. has said that I lived 65 years among the Sinhalese but I’m now saying Sinhalese cannot live in the North. He has also said that the Tamils should not remember the dead Tiger Terrorists publicly. Let me have my comments on that.

Why would I say Sinhalese cannot live in the North?  Every Citizen has the right to choose his residence in his or her Country in conformity with the Law.

But I have certainly said that neither the Government nor the Forces nor Buddhist Priests have any right to expropriate lands of our People illegally. Having chased the Tamils out of the Sinhala areas by pogroms and riots, now there is a move to illegally expropriate lands in the Tamil Homelands’ area and colonise them with Sinhala colonists. Now there are moves to drive wedges within the contiguous Tamil speaking areas to disturb their contiguity and continuity. I say illegally because in terms of International legal principles of land alienation the people from the area where lands are alienated should receive first preference when they are being settled thereon. Instead people from outside areas have been brought into Tamil speaking areas to change the demographic patterns in the area. In recent times, having come to realise that their illegal activities are being exposed to the outside World, the Government and others have started expropriating lands from Tamil speaking areas through the Mahaweli Authority and other Government Departments.Recently the Sinhala Governor of the Eastern Province  presided over a meeting to acquire areas in the Kuchchaweli Division to give lands to the Polonaruwa District, for the Sinhala people to get a foothold on  Eastern coastal lands. Clearly the idea is to divide the contiguity of the Tamil speaking areas.Hon’ Sarath Weerasekera must study what is happening in the North and East before making sweeping statements about me or any other person.

Tamils have not settled in any part of Sri Lanka in such a way as to endanger the identity or existence of the Sinhalese people or with the intention of endangering them.The settlement of Tamil people in Southern Sri Lanka during the British regime was an organic process. No settlement of Tamil people ever took place by force.Moreover, Tamil people did  not have the authority or power to establish settlements of Tamil people in Sinhalese areas. Hon’ Weerasekera must remember these facts. Moreover I lived in a Sinhala area (if Cosmopolitan Colombo could be called as such) in a house built by my parents. I  did not get planted in Colombo by the Government with its finances. .Hon’ Sarath Weerasekera must study what has and is happening in the North and East and elsewhere before making sweeping statements about me or any other person.

Well renowned researchers  such as Professor Yiftachel Oren, Professor of Political Geography, Ben Gurion University, Israel,  have studied the land occupation and Sinhalese settlements carried out by successive  Sinhalese governments in the Northern and Eastern areas, the traditional native places of the Tamil people in Sri Lanka. They have compared Sri Lanka to countries like Israel and called the Government here as  an  “Ethnocratic Regime”.

Coming to the next matter if the Sinhalese could remember openly their dead soldiers, why cannot Tamils openly remember their youth who fought on their behalf  and died heroically? After all they kept the North and East of Sri Lanka for nearly thirty years under their control, despite all odds.

They are referred to as Terrorists!  Who identifies a person as a Terrorist?The Government? The Press?The Sinhalese People? Who identifies a person as a Patriot?The Press?The Government?The Sinhalese people?

Was Keppetipola who was executed by the British as a criminal, a patriot or a criminal?  If the Sinhalese call him a patriot and a hero why did the British call him a criminal? Were the British right or the Sinhalese are right?

You would realise there are no Terrorists born.They are called Terrorists as it suits the persons so calling. Infact the State Terrorism of the Sinhalese has been far more brutal and barbaric than any acts of war committed by the Tigers. Yet the Sinhalese remember their dead  openly. But to remember the members of a  disciplined set of youth who sacrificed their lives fighting against the State’s atrocities against the Tamils must according to Hon’ Sarath Weerasekera be confined to the backyards of individual houses? I am glad His Excellency the President did not conform to the views of Hon’ Weerasekera and allowed the Maaveerar’s Day to pass on relatively peacefully.

Let me now come back to me. I believe I am the only founder member of the original Congress of Religions incorporated in 1971 living today.We started functioning round 1965.Mr.SNB Wijeyekoon was Secretary.We took the then MahanayakeThero to the North on a visit so that he would meet the People there and visit Buddhist places of worship.We arranged such goodwill visits to bring better understanding among the various votaries of different religions.

I belong to a different vintage to that of Hon’ Weerasekera. In our youthful days we acted in unison whether we were Sinhalese or Tamils or Burghers or Muslims or even Malays or Chinese.The English language bound us. Even after the foolish, thoughtless Sinhala Only Act was passed the earlier friendship, camaraderie and mutual respect for each other among our diversified coterie of friends continued for some time.  But soon the thought that Ceylon belongs to the Sinhala Buddhists took charge of our Sinhala Buddhist brethren.

This is an absolutely false notion.

The Sinhala Buddhists are the majority in the Island if taken as a whole. But Hindu Tamils are the majority in the North and East from pre historic times. Never have the Tamil speaking not been the majority in the North and East.In1833 the British unified the Island administratively. But the areas of residence of the Tamil speaking  continued to be the North and East of the Island. Now there is a move to drive out the Tamils from those areas of residence of the Tamil speaking people and transform them into Sinhala speaking areas. A clear act of genocide! Hon’ Weerasekera wants me not to be perturbed about this daylight robbery taking place in the areas of the Tamil speaking simply because I have lived 65 years (according to him ) in the Sinhala speaking areas.

What does being majority got to do with ownership? Lots of students attend Tutories. They are the majority while classes go on. Owner is a single individual. Could the Students say “We are the majority. So the Tutory building belongs to us?” Numbers have nothing to do with ownership or possession.  If it does, the Tamil speaking are the majority in the North and East. The Tamils had separate areas, separate language, separate arts and crafts, separate medicinal systems, separate culture, separate topography, separate climatic conditions, separate geological foundation and so on. Of course before the Sinhala language was born the Tamil language was the lingua franca of the Island.

This Country therefore does not belong to the Sinhala Buddhists. It belongs to each and every citizen of this Island. Of course such citizens have individual and collective rights. The Tamils having occupied the North and East continuously for over 3000 years they have the collective right of internal self determination in terms of the International Covenants.

Will Hon’ Sarath Weerasekera accept that right of the Tamils? The right of Internal Self Determination! Would he admit that the Tamils were the original inhabitants of this Island? Would he admit that the Sinhala language is of recent origin? The Sinhalese language came into being in the 6th and 7th Century AD. There was no Sinhala language before 1400 years ago from now.Their Grammar Sidath Sangarawa came out only in the 13th Century AD. The first Sinhala inscription belongs to a period subsequent to the Seventh Century AD. These are all historical facts. Cleverly the Sinhalese intelectuals have been referring to Pali which is one of the parent languages of Sinhala, as the early form of Sinhala. The Sinhala language was not even born then but they refer to Pali and Prakrit as early Sinhala.This is like saying  I came from my grandfather and therefore I lived during my grandfather’s time.Surely I am different and my grandfather was a different person altogether.  Simply because I came from him I cannot claim to have lived during my grandfather’s time! In fact my grandfather was no more when I was born.

Will Hon’ Weerasekera and his Sinhalese accolytes accept that their language is of very recent origin and that there were no Sinhalese living before their language came into being. In fact Dutu Gemunu never spoke the Sinhala language nor had he heard of the Sinhalese race.He was a Buddhist Tamil Prince from the South and Ellalan was a Hindu Tamil King ruling from Anuradhapura.

Will Hon’ Weerasekera accept the DNA results which have referred to the geneology of the Sinhalese to be traceable to the South Indians.

Hon’ Weerasekera some days ago said that he would not allow power sharing with others in this Country.The reason he gives is that the Country is already one and indivisible.He said the Thirteenth Amendment was forced upon the Sinhalese.

Is the Honourable  Member of Parliament aware that the Kandyan Sinhalese requested a federal constitution from the British? In fact if the Tamils also asked for Federalism it would have been granted. Unfortunately we had a famous and successful Lawyer as our Leader at that time whose criminal clientele hailed mostly from the South. Hence he asked for 50:50 (50% seats in Parliament to Sinhalese and the balance 50% to the Opposition jointly) to make sure he could continue to practice in the South.  The British rejected it. But Lord Soulbury who saw what happened in the 1950s and early 60s bemoaned as the former Chairman of the Committee  which saw through the transfer of power from Great Britain to Ceylon and as the First Governor General of Ceylon that if they had known the historic background of the North Eastern Tamils and their individuality they would have included a Bill of Rights into the First Constitution. In other words he regretted granting a Unitary Constitution with no proper safeguards. I hope Hon’ Weerasekera is aware that despite there being no Bill of Rights, the Original District Court Judge de Kretser found the Sinhala Only Act to be contrary to the provisions of the  Constitution. The Unitary status given to the Country was a legacy left by the British to the Sinhalese due to certain conspiracies articulated by D.S.Senanayake and Sir Oliver Goonetilleke. They went to England specially to stop the Commissioners considering Federalism as an option.(Vide OEG- A biography of Sir Oliver Goonetilleke by Charles Jeffries).

Therefore let not Hon’ Weerasekera try to make out that the Unitary status of this Country is inviolable. On the other hand those akin to the Honourable Member of Parliament are fighting hard to keep the undue benefit the Sinhalese received from the British due to deals effected by their then Senior Politicians!

Views expressed are personal

Lalith: A Beacon of Nation-building

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9 mins read

Following article is based on the keynote speech by the author as the President of Sri Lanka at the late Lalith Athulathmudali commemoration held recently in Colombo.

I was thinking about when I first met with Mr. Lalith Athulathmudali when he was a lawyer and a lecturer at the Law College and I was an apprentice under Mr. H. W. Jayawardena, before I took oath. The day I took oath I also invited Lalith to come to my oath party, another person I invited was another young lawyer older than me and a member of Parliament Gamini Dissanayake. I had two other members of Parliament I invited since I knew them. One was the Chief Opposition Whip, Mr. R. Premadasa and finally, the Leader of the Opposition Mr. J. R. Jayawardene.

I think the destiny of the country and the UNP was to a large extent tied to the interaction between all these members. Lalith, like me and Gamini, was eager to see a modernized UNP. Now, why did I join? My family has been UNP from the start.

But what attracted me as a modern UNPer was what was called the Kalutara Declaration of the 1963 UNP Convention which was a draft done by Dudley Senanayake and J. R. Jayawardena which laid the ground for social democracy.

We had envisaged as a party from the time of Mr. D. S Senanayake for a capitalist economy and the fact that we wanted to do away with hunger, illiteracy, and disease. That was in 1947.

The next most important part was trading. The trade was given over to Lalith. Later on, shipping was added that the other major project, which is to be the impetus for the development was one was going to be the greater Colombo Economic Zone with the President kept for himself and the other one was the Mahaweli program which had given to Gamini Dissanayake. that is how we started. Lalith’s job was trade.

It didn’t have the flash of the other jobs, but nevertheless, it was important. And he opened up the trade the Greater Colombo Economics. At that time we were a socialist economy, everything was controlled and President Jayawardena wants to go decided to proceed cautiously. And what did he do? He took seven electorates in the Gampaha District starting from Negombo and ending with Biyagama where the normal laws of an open market economy, were applied and special concessions were given in the two investment zones of Katunayake and Biyagama.

But Lalith realized that we can’t get export only from those areas. We need to have the rest of the country. Therefore, he started the Export Development Board to promote exports outside the economic zone.

So he undertook the development of Sri Lanka’s main port, the Colombo port. So you are getting into that two big areas of development around Colombo. On one side was Colombo, the trading hub, and Colombo, the port connected to Colombo was on the other side, the Greater Colombo Economic Zone then into the rural areas came this massive development program which really developed the north central province, parts of east and the whole of the Kandy district.

So these were the driving forces of growth that went along .then as it went on., I was then the Minister of Education Lalith came up with this idea of scholarships for those who want to go to the university. So you had the Mahapola scholarship. It is the first time that we funded individuals for free education and not the institutes.

Unfortunately, we didn’t carry it through with our institutes. And you have, the universities which are today taking money directly from the government and which have not developed, unfortunately, structured around the UGC. I think we have to rethink all mechanisms rather than the countries which funded the student who funded universities and therefore the courses had to be employment oriented.

But in addition, the universities run their external courses so they are external students and every year we had to take in about additional 10,000 people which contributes to the 500,000 excess in the government service.

So anyway, he started the Mahapola scheme to go ahead. So these are what we have to learn of the changes that we have to do now, keeping free education and making it more meaningful. Then came Lalith’s next stint as the Minister of Agriculture where he started modernizing the villages and looking at modernizing agriculture and looking at exports and then his stint as the Minister of Education.

Another one in the picture is Lalith as the Minister of National Security. Much had been said of this, so I will not cover that. I will look at the contribution he made both to the economy and to the development of Sri Lanka. It was then in 1991 that we all parted ways. Lalith decided he will leave the UNP and I thought that I will stay with the UNP.

That the party mattered and the party had to be strengthened. He felt there had to be changed and that he had to go out. And then the politics of Sri Lanka took a different, state altogether. By 1993, Lalith was assassinated. That was a great loss to the country. Within a week, President Premadasa was assassinated. And by the end of next year, Gamini was no more.

So the drivers of the development, the people who were to shape the country were no longer there. And then we had to look at a new phase. By that time, the world was also changing. The whole concept of social democracy had gone further forward. And it was known then as what we call today a social market economy.

When I became president, it was partly because we didn’t follow Lalith’s advice. He said you export or perish. We didn’t export, so the economy perished. Now, the whole issue was how do you restart it again? What is the type of economic model? Are we going in with a completely open new liberal model or something else? So I thought we should stay on with the social market economy and define it should be vibrant. It has to be vibrant.

It cannot be otherwise. And we developed what was relevant for today, a highly competitive economy with social protection. So the economy has to be highly competitive, highly competitive globally. Then it had to be an export-oriented economy. We’ve included in that for the first time what Lalith said, export or perish. And we brought in an issue which was not important that the time Lalith was living or the others. But today, climate change and environmentally friendly, green and blue economy, the green and blue economy, a word that was given to us by the late Mangala Samaraweera at that time, And finally, what Lalith again laid the ground for and what I also work for and what we did to the digital economy So it’s a highly competitive economy, which is export-oriented, which has social protection which is environmentally friendly, and the characteristics is a blue-green economy.

It doesn’t apply to the government of today, and a digital economy. This is what we have. Now we have to go ahead. We can’t be begging anymore. We can’t be going to countries and asking for loans anymore. We have to learn to stand on our own feet. When India fell in 1991, I was the Minister of Industries at that time, they decided to come up by themselves. Deng Xiaoping in China decided that he’ll bring the country up. Japan destroyed by war with the atomic bomb decided to come up by itself. Now, what the hell we are doing; Getting aid all the time?

I certainly don’t like to recreate a beggar nation. We must now in our own effort get back. There is no other way. We can’t aim low. We are looking at a 25-year programme. Many of us won’t be there when it ends. But we, as a nation, are going to complete 100 in 2048. I was born in 49, then we were second to Japan. Today we are just above Afghanistan. Now, where are we going? Let us make up our minds that we are going to build this economy and we can do it.

It’s an open market economy, highly competitive. It won’t come overnight. Gradually over a period of five years will build up our competition. We must aim for five years to sustain a growth of 7%. Easier said than done, but it can be done and international trade as a percentage of GDP must equal 100 or more. We are not doing it overnight, but certainly, over 5- 6 years, which we have to do.

And the annual growth rate from net exports should be $3 billion. Investment annually must be $3 billion and we have to create an internationally competitive workforce, highly educated and highly skilled. It has to be employable skills, not otherwise. So all this is what we have to aim at and we have to go for it. Then what is it? Before that, we have to stabilize the economy.

So we started that process in 2023 our fiscal stabilization program envisages, the government revenue increasing to around 15% of GDP by 2025 and from the present 8.3% at the end of 2023. If you look at an economy with social protection, I think our revenue will have to go beyond that to about 18% of the GDP.

But that can take another five years. We need that. We have to do it. Then we are looking at a primary surplus of more than 2% in 2025.

We are to improve thereafter we have to reduce the public sector debt from 110% of the GDP to 100% of the GDP in the medium term. We have to bring inflation under control and a single-digit and interest rates I presume have peaked and will gradually come down to a moderate and single-digit level.

And the exchange rate in this will become stable and strong with this has to come the growth-enhancing structural reforms. So we are not looking at the four years for the stabilization program and the modernization afterwards is running to get there. It’s supposed to start next year but we’ve already started getting the stabilization program and starting the structural reforms also at the same time.

So this is where we are and one wish on the structural reforms because my friend honourable Charitha Herath had raised it in the debate. Unfortunately, I was not in the chamber to reply. Yes as the policy, we accept that the government should not be running businesses at full stop. Except for one which is an exception, we will stay in the financial sector, we will build the banks we own and make them stronger, but it will be run like any good commercial bank and we don’t mind giving a part to the minorities shares to the deposit holders, amongst others.

File photo of young Lalith with beloved mother and father at Oxford [ Special Arrangement ]

It will bring some discipline in. So the financial sector. Yes, well, you control it with the financial sector. Not with the water’s edge or the Hilton Hotel. That is secondary. So we will keep building on our financial sectors we don’t mind helping out in the technology sectors. The digital economy will have to have some investments there. But the rest, yes, we have tried everything.

We tried state ownership. We have tried mixed economies. We tried to run it with corporations, that trillion of rupees that we have lost and we made us poorer than we were in 2019. So that is what we are going to do. And when you look at the future, one of the biggest new areas of development in Sri Lanka is as a logistics centre. Sri Lanka can be a feeder to most Asian countries, a transhipment hub first is the Colombo port.

Now we have got the south port very soon. We will have investment for the east terminal. And when that is full, the next project we are working on will be the north port, which will take all the way up to Ja-Ela making it the largest port. And from Ja-Ela only five miles away from the airport, you get an Air-sea hub naturally.

Then Hambantota another port, which can we reach out to Africa and Trincomalee on the eastern side of the Indian Ocean. So here we are. This is what we have and we have we are starting at that. Now that is what Lalith started. Secondly, large-scale modernization of agriculture small or big we have to modernize agriculture.

Which will aid the largely rural areas to increase our paddy production. We have a big market for export. The Middle East requires food. Singapore requires food and many other growing markets. There would be at least 500 million more people from Saudi Arabia to Indonesia by 2050 not counting the hundreds of millions in East Africa and South Africa. That’s the area we are looking at highly automated manufacturing because Lower-Wage economies will be in Bangladesh, Myanmar and even in India. We have to jump ahead. Our tourist industry has to now reorient itself to high-level tourism. We can’t have 10 million tourists coming in paying $100 to $150 a night. It’s better to have 2 million tourists at $ 500 to 1,000 a night.

So let’s see how we can build this society. Last time when Lalith, Gamini, Premadasa, Jayawardene, and all of us started, it was derailed by a war. I don’t think there is going to be a war in the country but the consequent, after-effects has to be actually rectified. And we decided after the budget debate is over in the following week that the party leader and the Speaker will meet and the Government to discuss how we can resolve the outstanding issues.

So that one thing we can all work together if you remember a large number of people who have graduated, thanks to what Lalith has done, so let’s work together both for the University and for a better Lanka, where those who graduate, those who post-graduate degrees from that university can exist.

Global Peace and Humanity: We, the People are Victims of Failed Global Leadership

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7 mins read

Cop 27 has just ended in Sharm el-Shaikh (Egypt) without any candid measures to deal with a readily available “Time Bomb”, of climate change affecting all and everything that is living on Earth. Nations and leaders made promises at COP 26 GlasgowConference but never took practical steps to lower the fossil fuel emissions, greenhouse effects and depleting lifelines of sacred Earth. The media would call this perversion from reality – ‘politics of broken promises, business as usual. Do they not understand the vitality of a healthy Earth and functional systems of Nature within a splendid Universe?  Do they know how the Earth, the seas, water, air and life and all other beings were created?  Have they talked about how the Earth functions, how the water flows and how the seas exist and how oxygen generates and sustains human life?

To avoid any conflict between Man and the Nature of things, the leaders and climate experts must comprehend how the planet Earth exists and moves at its axis and rotates at 1675 km per hour or 465 meters per second which are 1,040 miles per hour. The Earth’s circumference at the equator is 40,075 km. And the length of time the Earth takes to complete one full turn on its axis is 23.93 hours. And how do all living beings get lifelong nourishment within the splendid Universe? Were they all talking and listening and doing nothing to avert the catastrophic consequences of their own failure?  Is that not what happened at COP 26 too? Not to mention the COVID-19 Pandemic and its ongoing critical impacts on all aspects of human affairs. The G20 showcase galvanized the media coverage of the few who could speak and impress others with persuasive voices of ingenuity but without any rationality to console mankind with substantial remedies, be it climate change, the war between Russia and Ukraine, supplies of gas and oil from Russia, food scarcity and global peace, conflict resolutions or future-making. It is repulsive to suppose universal harmony can be enhanced by profligacy, malevolence and the horrors and miseries of unthinkable multitudes.

The sanctity of human life is grounded in the realization of peace, dialogue and co-existence. The ongoing conflict between Russia, Ukraine and the West is one of the single factors in perpetuated global disharmony and socio-economic and political disorder.

To stop the war in Ukraine, the US, the EU, and NATO should have direct face-to-face communication with President Putin. …….It is logical when people of diversity and opposing ideals come to talk directly, tensions and evil mongering are reduced to reason and mutual interest. This has not happened except for military options for weapon supplies and the enlargement of the scope of regional conflict.  Time and history will not forgive nor forget any of the leaders if they failed to agree to an immediate ceasefire and peace deal

Are we living in an era of false truth, feigned piety and alternate transient facts of human affairs? Those occupying positions of influence generate ideas and narratives which are often drawn from people who are ideologues of self-interest, contradictions and misrepresentations across the global landscape.  Dr. Rudolph Hansel (“Returning Man to Nature. Paul Thiry d’Holbach. “The essence of man is to feel, to think and to act” Part II” Global Research: 11/08/22),  shares an in-depth look at Paul-Henry Thiry d’Holbach (1723-1789), one of the leading figures of the French encyclopaedists, in his book “System of Nature”, published in 1770:

Let man, therefore, cease to seek beings outside the world he inhabits, which are to provide him with a happiness that nature denies him: let him study nature, learn its laws, and contemplate its energy and the unchanging way in which it acts; let him use his discoveries for his own happiness, and tacitly submit to laws from which nothing can escape him; let him refrain from inquiring into the causes which are surrounded for him with an impenetrable veil, let him bear without grumbling the decisions of a universal power which can neither turn back nor ever deviate from the rules which its nature prescribes for it.

Global Leaders Must Listen to Voices of Reason and Intellect for Peace and Conflict Resolution

Effective leaders are people who know their strengths and weaknesses and are always open to listening and learning from the masses. Those who pretend to be wise and super beings are on the wrong side of time and history. Leaders must recognize the limits to time and place for change. Our conscientious culture, hopes and ambitions are evolutionary and continue to be changing and evolving for a sustainable future. Truth is ONE, it cannot be divided into numbers of votaries, that is, We, are One People, We are One humanity under the dreadful impacts and consequences of an invisible enemy set to dehumanize all the mankind on this planet. We should be looking for an informed conscience not a default of an enlightened conscience to restore trust and societal confidence that the COVID-19 pandemic is medically and spiritually treatable, War between Russia and the West (NATO and the EU), Ukraine being the object can be stopped, supplies of natural resources can be restored to normalcy, climate change can be understood and remedies can be implemented, Kashmir and Palestine -Israel future can be resolved peacefully, and we can be reconnected as One People and One Humanity without egoistic politics of the few.

Most contemporary leaders of the world appear to rejoice in self-centred evil-mongering, not wisdom and truth of people-oriented political systems of governance. Ideas and ideals that defy reasoning and truth are gushingly operative in the aerial bombing of the innocents in Syria and inhuman displacement of civilians, forced confinement and torture of masses in Kashmir by Indian-occupied forces, Palestinians under Israeli occupation, Saudi Arabian-UAE led war against the poor people of Yemen, and almost a million forcibly evicted Rohinga Muslims from Mynamar (Burma). The UNO is just a symbolic title, not a force to transform conflicts into peacemaking optimism. We, the People of the globe ask all nations on Earth to recognize our strengths and weaknesses for unity of minds for change and adaptability to the making of a people-oriented future in peace and living together as people of reasoned conscience

We can do it, we are One Humanity– we cannot be divided into segments of geography and history as numbers. We the People, We the Humanity are connected to all other things within the God-given Earth and the Universe to serve mankind. This gives knowledge, soundness and power to reason and forbidden truth in the current global affairs.

We, the HumanityLook for Peace, Solidarity and Security

The planet Earth is not a dead orbiting object but a living entity providing continuous nourishment to human life and existence to all other living beings. When nations and leaders subscribing to political absolutism start acting like God and challenge the sanctity and limits of the Laws of God; historically speaking they become an object of unthinkable natural calamities-earthquakes, wildfires, floods, deaths and destruction. The Divine Revelations (The Qur’an: 40: 64), remind us, who we are and what relationship do we enjoin to Earth and its sustenance that supports our life and existence:

It is God Who made for you the Earth as a resting place and the sky as a canopy; and has given you shape and made your shapes beautiful,                                             

And has provided for your Sustenance, of things pure and good;  Such is God your Lord. So Glory to God, The Lord of the Worlds.

We must connect people to people across the globe to be active participants in delivering a new and more viable common future of unity, happiness and future-making. They used to export weapons to wage wars, now exporting wars and media propaganda and are profiteering from the emerging crises all over the globe. Replacing human consciousness of peace and security with repulsive ideas of despotism, the warlords are corrupting human values, new-age visions and concepts of healthy standards of peaceful co-existence as they see it as a threat to their plans.

Caitlin Johnstone (“We never really had a chance to build a healthy world” Information Clearing House: 09/11/22) is a courageous Australian thinker and writer and author of Woke: A Field Guide for Utopia Preppers.  She outlines a candid message of human suffering:

And we wonder why everyone’s so dysfunctional and self-destructive. ….We never really had a chance to build a healthy world. Our ancestors went from running away from monsters with sharp fangs to burning witches and heretics to fighting world wars to giving birth to us, and that wave of fear and chaos carried forward right into our own psyches and into the psyches of everyone else on this planet without skipping a beat. If you look at where we came from and how we got here, it’s amazing we’re even as functional as we are.

So we’re all innocent, in the end. Again, we must of course push to bring consciousness to the parts of humanity that have taken a wrong turn — to the war criminals and plutocrats and managers of empire, and all other abusers and the abusive systems which elevate them. But underneath that fierce burst of light there can also be a deep compassion and understanding born of a lucid seeing of how we got here in the first place.

We know fossil fuel emissions, oil spill-overs, deforestation and technological destruction of life and earth can be reduced and managed but none will dare to initiate the remedial measures for change. We know global political problems can be resolved through dialogue but none will take action to communicate to perceived enemies. We know COVID-19 Pandemic could be managed as did Ibna Sina (Avicenna: Canon of Medicine), during the 10th century of herbal medicine. Why are the global leaders, scientists and so-called smart experts shame of not exploring other workable remedies for a sustainable future? Knowledge and sciences are not fixed entities. We the People must reason for an instinctive recognition of social, economic and political injustice across the globe and logically try to transform the world of political wickedness, disharmony, socioeconomic and political deprivation and exploitation into a world of moral, intellectual and spiritual reasoning and be passionate and hopeful for constructive changes in thoughts and behaviours – be it the policing or the masses march on streets and halls of fame, our aim and wisdom must be focused on purpose – a different and a better world of tomorrow and continuous change to be monitored and assessed by the people of knowledge and reason to ensure that we do not cross-over the limits of the Laws of Nature deserving punishment from God –  the Creator and Sustainer of all the lives, the Earth and the Universe that matter to us all as human beings.

The Four Front+ War or World War III: A Sketch

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9 mins read

The dysfunctional, aged President of the United States slowly made his way up to the rostrum in the US House of Representatives. All 535 Members of Congress were in attendance along with US Supreme Court justices, senior military leadership from the Pentagon, plus members of the president’s cabinet. The event was the annual State of the Union address. The venue was the US Capitol building. Tonight, on a blustery January evening, the president’s remarks would focus on the status of the 4+ front war that the United States and its proxies were engaged in, the economic crisis, and the need for sacrifice and tough decisions. Most americans were dealing with food, product and gas rationing. Wage and price controls were in effect. Antiwar protests in America’s big and small cities was a daily occurrence. Crime rates had soared: murder and theft could not be contained. The chamber was somber. No applause took place even when the president was announced by the Sergeant of Arms to the collective assembled in the Capitol building: “Ladies and Gentlemen, the President of the United States.” You could hear a pin drop.

Outside on that unusually cold  and windy night stood one thousand DC national guard soldiers  who had formed a ring around the Capitol building. Machine gun emplacements were stationed at key spots around the building. Snipers from the FBI, Secret Service and the Homeland Security were assigned to the tops of nearby buildings. Missile defense systems were setup atop empty parking lots nearby the People’s House and the Supreme Court. A second ring of security was arranged and this one included thousands from the DC police force and nearby jurisdictions in Virginia and Maryland. Undercover operatives were infiltrating the crowds of protestors who braved the wickedly cold and windy night.

The security forces ringing the Capitol complex could see the glow from fires set by rioters. Those rioters were angry about shortages caused by a war which the US instigated some years back. Stores that carried any food or clothing were being looted despite armed security guard’s presence. The rioters would just shoot them and carry on with the looting. Office buildings were not immune. Groups of Blacks, Whites, Latinos, Homeless and vagabonds had formed militias to carryout their tasks. Fires were set as if to say: “The Roof is on Fire, Let the MF Burn.”

On that freezing January evening, paramilitaries stationed in the two rings ostensibly protecting the People’s House wished they could have been assigned duty to fight the rioters so they could be near the warmth that the fires provided.

One national guard member was looking up at the stars in the sky and thought it was a comet, then there were three more. “Cool,” he said. And as soon as he got the “L” out of his mouth to finish getting out the word “Cool” he noticed a stream of light heading toward one of the comets. The stream of light met the comment and exploded. But now he saw that the other comets were moving faster and towards the Capitol complex. Those in the two security perimeters who had a view of the sky were no longer cold. They knew what was in store for them. Some ran to the streets, some tried to make their way into the People’s House where an underground trolly connects the House and Senate buildings.

A few minutes before the national guard member notice the comets in the sky. The millions around the USA viewing the State of the Union were in for some real entertainment. The president was grabbed and escorted, or rather carried out, and taken to a tunnel that runs from the Capitol building to the Pentagon and White House. Screams could be heard and the elite of the country scrambled around like ants, rushing for the exits or the basement of the Capitol building. Simultaneously the millions in the USA must have been surprised when at the bottom of their television sets appeared, “This is not a test…” Handhelds everywhere began beeping with the same message being broadcast.

The National Security Agency blanked the broadcast but some feeds from the chamber still managed to appear. The floor of the Capitol was like a punk rock mosh pit. Uniformed and suited officials jumping all over each other to get shelter somewhere. Some just stayed in their seats not bothering to move. They knew what was coming. A well known US Army 4-star general, just sat there, not moving an inch. He had waved off his security detail and saluted them.

The 4-Star had protested vehemently in White House security meetings that launching US nuclear weapons at, and on, Saint Petersburg, Vladivostok, Pyongyang and Teheran would be the worst decision in the history of US governance and would not change the situation on the 4+ fronts that the USA was fighting and losing. It was time to accept the stalemate and rush to the negotiating table before Hell was called up.

A 300 kiloton nuclear warhead had hit almost dead center on the Capitol Hill area.

The national guard member outside who thought they were comets finally realized what they were. He took out his firearm and started shooting at it. He saw a bright light, felt a slight sting and then nothing.

Path to Oblivion Over a No Name Country

The tabletop eggheads in the Think Tanks, the anti-Russian-Chinese-Iranian-Asian racists in and throughout the US government, and military, were aching for a conventional war with Russia and they got that sometime in 2023 after the Russians pushed Ukrainian forces all the way to the Dnieper crushing themas a functional military. Ukraine now had control over the western part of Ukraine. Russia had destroyed Ukraine as a viable nation in spite of the entirety of US NATO support.

“Something has to be done,” the American gangsters in Washington, DC argued. And so it was that in 2023 that the conventional war campaign began against Russia. Expecting total victory and the Russia’s government to fall, US and NATO operatives were put in place through Russia to conduct subversive operations: sabotage and inciting violence and revolution were their tasks. Already the American and Western mainstream media outlets had softened up American minds through their daily print and digital products to demonize Russians and distract Americans from the facts on the ground.  The mouthpieces of the US government and business—the New York Times, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, CNN and the like—did a bang up job at their tasks. They did so well that that they turned the American public into a collective Chance the Gardner from the movie Being There.

The Beginning of the End

The attack on Russian forces in the east of Ukraine began with the Suppression of Enemy Defenses (SEAD) usingelectronic and networked EA18G Growlers, F-35’s, F16CJ’s who swooped in from the West and south in an attempt to take out Russian S400-500 SAM sites scattered throughout the new Russian provinces in the East.Sea launched US cruise missiles, and high flying B-2/B-21’s made for the skies over enemy territory and plied their wares. Power grids were hit, the Kerch bridge was destroyed. The American pilots in their USAF F22’s and F-15 Grim Reapers kept the skies clear for a time.

On the ground Russian T-90 and US M1A1 Abrams tanks took to battle against each other with mixed results. Accompanying Russian troops was the 9M133 Kornet while US soldiers carried Javelin anti-tank missiles. These two weapons proved to be deadly for the tank warriors on both sides.

The tide began to turn when Russians started to take out USKC135 refueling aircraft and strike US-NATO logistics chains running at sea (ships) and air to ground level (rail-road-parachute drops of gear). The Russians used long range missile fires to do the job. As they typically do, the Russians used their vast territory and knowledge of the terrain to wear down US troops coming in from Romania (101st Airborne) and Bulgaria (British, etc.) The Russian ultimately regained the initiative and began a slow push back push back the gains the US and its proxies had made in Eastern Ukraine. In short, they fought their way back to the banks of the Dnieper thanks to help of other countries unexpected actions that had the result of stretching the US to the breaking point.

It turned out to be a simple problem: The US-NATO alliance could not supply its armed forces or protect its supply chains. The countries of South America, Central America, India and Africa refused to assist anyone. They sat the war out and waited for US-Western hegemony to be defeated.

These and other factors caused the American governing elites to proclaim there was an existential threat to US hegemony and way of life.

Quick Summary: Four Fronts +

The USA had counted on the conflict being confined to Russia-Ukraine but, as usual, the armchair warriors did not think of broader and unintended consequences.

Initially the Russians had difficulties dealing with the US invasion. It needed time to adjust. China could read the writing on the wall and knew that it was next on the sanctions-invasion chopping bloc. China to supplied Russia with thousands of drones large and small, small weapons and ammunition. It secretly sent troops to fight along side Russians on the ground. More importantly it sent some of its aircraft and pilots to muck up American air forces in the skies. The US pilots were stellar but they could not get reloaded with ammunition and fuel quick enough to get back into the fight. Aircraft based on carriers were particularly vulnerable. The US Air Force would often return to land bases whose runways were pocked marked from Russian or Chinese munitions.

Belarus, a Russian ally entered the war from the north pounding into the cities of Kiev and Kharkiv and pushing their way south to hookup with Russian forces,

With the US bogged down in the former Eastern Ukraine, other countries decided to settle scores.

Israel went ahead and conducted air and missile strikes on Teheran’s nuclear facilities, power grids and ports.  It also hit Damascus. Iran immediately responded by launching missiles at the Suez canal and Bahrain (home to the US 5th Fleet). They caused some damage to US war ships incapacitating them in the Straits of Hormuz. They also launched missiles into Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. The oppressed Shia in Bahrain revolted. Hezbollah invaded Israel with its Iranian proxies. Americans and Russian ground units in Northern Syria started fighting against each either. The Palestinians went into urban warfare mode against Israeli troops and settlers. ISIS remnants took opportunities to kill and loot wherever chaos reigned, which was just about everywhere. Someone in the White House said, “Send in the Marines” to Iran in amphibious attacks. And so they went. The Marines were successful in the beginning taking some territory but Iranians can fight too, and they did. Not since the Korean War had the Marines had to fight against human waves in the thousands.

North Goes South

A blistering artillery assault took place on Seoul destroying parts of the city. The US responded with its standard SEAD air attack knocking out the aged SAMs and aircraft North Korea possessed. That was good news but the North Koreans had, for years, built an underground country under the surface. Dropping JDAMs on a mountain tops or slopes where it was thought the Korean military was hiding was a waste of time and effort. The North Koreans may not have been good fighters at first, but they were fanatical and learned fast, just like the Russians and Iranians. They swarmed in human waves over the 38th parallel breaching defense lines there. US and South Korean troops met the advance and pushed back thousands. But as was the case on the Russian and Iranian fronts, the US was running out of ammunition, fuel, food: there just wasn’t enough to kill hundred’s of millions in a conventional war. Hight tech Virginia class subs were chasing inferior North Korean subs under the ocean.

With the US on the ropes losing on the other Fronts and having to transfer fighting forces from one theater to another, China went after Taiwan. The timing was right. Neither the Chinese in the PRC or on Taiwan had done any significant war making. But with three million or more soldiers that the Taiwanese and Americans would face was a mountain too high to climb. With 1.5 billion people in the PRC,  acceptable casualty rates for China would be in the many thousands. And the sheer number of equipment that the PRC, the manufacturing center of the world, could produce was astronomical. With US assistance the Taiwanese were able to hold off most of the first amphibious wave from China, though Chinese Marines were able to establish a bridge head on the shores of Changhua County. Submarine warfare proved to be critical on this front. Virginia attack class subs had their work cut out for them. China had dozens of stealthy diesel subs and the US submariners just couldn’t get them all, particularly when they were trying to defend the SLBM’s of the US fleet. The PRC was able to easily supply its troops on Taiwan as the war progressed.

The + front was in the US homeland. The American public had no interest in having its sons and daughters called up to fight in a Four Front War. As many as 100 million adult Americans opposed the war. Besides their kids would be sent to fight against billions around the globe and for what? Another war the US instigated in 2014?

When millions of Americans heard the news about the destruction of the US leadership in the People’s House, they said, “Good.”

Exclusive: Sino-Lanka Everlasting Friendship for Greater Rejuvenation

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The following essay is based on the speech made by the author at the Parliament of Sri Lanka recently, during his maiden official visit to Sri Lanka

Thank you for your invitation and it is my great honor to deliver a speech about Chinese path to Modernization and Sri Lanka China Common Prosperity here in the Sri Lanka parliament.

This is my first visit abroad since assuming office as President of the Chinese People’s Association for Friendship with Foreign Countries (CPAFFC), and I choose Sri Lanka for special reasons:

——We come here for our ever-lasting friendship. This year marks the 70th anniversary of the Rubber-Rice Pact. In the 1950s, China as a newly founded people’s republic, was facing strict blockade of import by the West and Sri Lanka was facing serious economic difficulties as a result of both a crop failure of rice and the West’s control of rubber export. Under this circumstances, China and Sri Lanka came to the consensus of the Rubber-Rice Pact, which reflects the true meaning of South-South Cooperation and is the symbol of the two countries’ traditional friendship. We hope this visit will strengthen and enrich our ever lasting friendship.

——We come here for win-win cooperation for common development. Development is the key to solve all problems. Nine years ago, President Xi Jinping proposed the “Belt and Road” initiative for building a better world for all. It has now become one of the most popular international public goods and the most extensive international cooperation platform. Sri Lanka is the pearl on the Indian Ocean and an important hub along the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road. Now it is time for us to uphold the principle of Extensive consultation, Joint contribution, Shared benefits, and commit to the “Five-Pronged Approach”(Policy Coordination, Connectivity of Infrastructure , Unimpeded Trade, Financial Integration and People-to-People Exchanges)and the hard connectivity of infrastructure, soft connectivity of laws and regulations and heart to heart connectivity of people-to-people friendship, translating our traditional friendship into win-win cooperation for common development.

——We come here for the better future of the people. China has achieved the First Centenary Goal to get out of poverty in all respects and is marching on a new journey to modernization. China has the strong commitment, ability, experience to share all we have with our Sri Lanka friend to achieve common prosperity. The main purpose of my first visit to Sri Lanka is to learn who you are?what do you have? what do you need and Where can we go something together for a shared future of our two countries and two peoples.

Now, I would like to take this opportunity to share some of my views and ideas about China,and the Chinese path to Modernization and where for us to go together in the future for China Sri Lanka win-win cooperation.

  1. Who is China?

——China is Old and Young

• An ancient civilization of more than 5000 years history with Four Great Inventions of printing, paper making, compass and gun powder.

• A young republic of 73 years and 44 years of reform and opening -up to the outside world.

——China is Big and Small

• Over 1.4 billion population with 56 ethnic groups.

• No.3 land size of 9.6 million square km, but less than 1/3 of world average in per capita arable land.

• 17.7 trillion USD GDP in 2021 but every achievement we made shared by over 1.4 billion population is small.

——China is Not Developed but Very Promising

• Per capita GDP 125,50 USD in 2021. Ranking 68th in the world according to the World Bank.

• In most of the ancient times, China was the biggest economy in the world.

• In 1820, China’s GDP accounts 1/3 of the world.

•But unfortunately to say that we closed our eyes and felt sleep when the western industrial revolutions took places. In 1840, China felt into a semi-colonial and semi-feudal country after the Opium War.

• In 1921, founding of CPC and changed the destiny of the Chinese Nation.

• In 1949, founding of the PRC, China’s GDP was only 17.9 billion USD.

• In 1978, China’s reform and opening-up. China’s GDP was 149.5 billion USD( 1.79% of the world, 6.33% of the US, 14.8% of Japan).

• In 2001, China joined the WTO. China’s GDP was 1.34 trillion USD( 4% of the world, 12.7% of the US, 31.2% of Japan).

• In 2010, a year of great significance, China’ GDP was 6.09 trillion USD(9.2% of the world, 40.6% of the US), surpassed Japan as the 2nd largest economy.( 2014_2021)

• In the past 10 years of the New Era, under the strong leadership of President Xi Jinping, China has made historic achievements in development and undergone historic changes in the country:

  • China’s GDP has increased by 126% compared with 2012, reached 17.7 trillion USD in 2021(18.5% of the world economy, 77% of the US, 356.7% of Japan), contributing over 30% to the world economic growth annually, more than the combined contribution of all developed countries including the US, the EU and Japan. China has become the largest trade partners with over 140 countries and regions, become one of the largest FDI destination and one of the largest sources of FDI and tourists worldwide.
  • China has applied a new development philosophy. Historically, China felt sleep and missed the chance during the 1st and 2nd industrial revolution, and wake up to follow up in the 3rd industrial revolution. But in the New Era now, China has been catching up and among the first square in the 4th industrial revolution with the lead in 5G, AI and New Infrastructures.
  • China has lifted the last 100 million rural population out of poverty, having made sure more than 1.4 billion people have all gotten out of poverty, leaving no one behind and fared-welling to famine, poverty, war, homelessness and pandemic.
  • China has translated the philosophy of clear water and green mountains as better as gold mountain into reality, contributing 1/4 of the total newly added forest coverage in the world. With strict law enforcement,Air, land and water pollution are forbidden. 
  • China waged a battle against corruption on unprecedented a scale and have achieved an overwhelming victory and fully consolidated the gains in our fight against corruption. According to an opinion poll done by the Harvard University for over 10 years, the Chinese people’s approval rate for the CPC and Chinese government has been maintained over 90%, topped all the world.
  1. Why can China make such great success?

In China, it is our common belief that the key for success is Unity and Stability for Common Prosperity, andhow to get there? At least, there are 3 main reasons worth of mentioning:

(1) Upholding the strong leadership of the CPC and Socialism with Chinese Characteristics                                                                                                                                                                             

• Socialism with Chinese Characteristics not only kept the essence of socialism which is strive for common prosperity, but also solved the question of how to fully leverage the decisive role of the market in allocating resources and give a better play to the role of the government. Adhering to Socialism with Chinese Characteristics, with concerted efforts of the Party, government and people, China has created the 2 miracles of rapid economic development and long term social stability.

• The CPC was founded by the people and is the party of the people, by the people and for the people, always putting people first, the CPC has no selfish interest except the fundamental interests of the nation, country and the majority of the people. It is only such a selfless party that can unite the whole nation as one to the right road of Socialism with Chinese Characteristics and make sure all the achievement and progress China makes shall be shared by all instead of few and get the true supports from the majority people.        

•There are 2 vivid examples of the CPC’s people-centered philosophy of development:

One is the fight against poverty. Under the leadership of the CPC, China gives full play of the superiority of Socialism with Chinese Characteristics, alleviated over 850 million people out of poverty, contributing 70% of the world’s total poverty reduction and achieved the poverty reduction goal of the UN SDGs 10 years ahead of schedule. In the past 10 years in particular, under the strong leadership of Pres. Xi Jinping, China has won the war against absolute poverty and got almost 100 million people out of absolute poverty and make sure that the total population of over 1.4 billion in China out of poverty,left no one behind.

The other is the fight against Covid-19. In responding to the sudden outbreak of Covid-19, the CPC and the Chinese government  insist putting the people and their life above all else, tenaciously pursued a dynamic zero-Covid policy, China has the lowest Covid-19 incidence rate and death toll among the world’s major countries. It is estimated that if adopting to a lie flat policy as the west and US, China’s Covid-19 incidence will reach over 100 million with 1.55 million death.

(2) Adhering to the reform and opening up policy

It is well known that since 1978, China has adopted to the policy of economic reform and opening up to the outside world.

How to develop China? Reform ourselves and open up to the outside world——Why? We need jobs and well being for our people—To develop our country, we need capital input, technology and know-how.

We believe that only economic development can solve all the issues we had and will have.

We believe that only internal and external investment leads to production, only production can create jobs and promote development. Only development leads to a good life for the people.

We also believe grants can survive a country but cannot sustain country’s development, only foreign investment project can create jobs for our people and sustain our economic growth. We also believe that one foreign investment project is one vocational-technical school to train our people and drive our economy to growth.

But how to attract foreign investment to a poor country like China at that time, China is a socialist country to open to capitalist. We have had a lot of concerns and arguments.And we are so lucky to have the Chief Engineer of reform and opening up, Mr Deng Xiaoping.He said, poverty does not belong to socialism, it doesn’t matter whether the cat is black or white, as long as it catches mice.  

China opened the chapter of Socialism with Chinese Characteristics and Economic Development become the central task of the CPC since then on.

We have kept reforming ourselves, including our minds, policies, laws and systems of the planned economy that did not fit the market economy nor foreign investors, and opening up to the outside world, so as to make sure the investors’ interests being protected and more coming to China.

In 1980, the 1st Special Economic Zone in China was launched in the city of Shenzhen, a small fishing village at that time, now a big metropolis with more than 17.68 million population and the GDP of 481 billion USD surpassing Hong Kong (368 billion USD).  

From 4 Special Economic Zones (Shenzhen, Zhuhai, Shantou, Xiamen) to 14 Coastal Open Cities (1991), WTO (2001) and to now 21 Pilot Free Trade Zones nationwide and the Hainan Free Trade Port.

How to attract the foreign investment and keep them stay well? To attract the foreign investors, some of their concerns shall be answered.

Business is Business. As we know that investors look like flying birds in the sky, they are looking food to survive and safe places to live.

Preferential Policies &Law Enforcement (Legislation):

In our development process, it is the preferential policies to attract them to come and it’s the laws and Law Enforcement to ensure the investors here is safe for long term development (Legislation is very important)

Now China has the implementation of Foreign Investment Law and the Pre-establishment National Treatment (PENT) with a negative list for foreign investment, to make sure the lawful interests of foreign investors fully protected.

Foreign exchange: lack of foreign reserve and intensively controlled —from a highly controlled foreign exchange management system to the realization of convertibility of Current Account, enabling all the investment & profit been remitted inward or outward China in RMB or foreign currency.

Visas permit: from a single-entry visa for 3 months to multiple entry visa for 3 month/6 months/1 year, to permanent work permit and the permanent residence permit (Chinese Green Card).

Muti-lateral and bilateral free trade arrangements: From joining the WTO to RCEP, China has signed 19 free trade agreements with 26 nations and regions.  

(3) Sticking to the path of peaceful development and seeking for Win-win cooperation for common development

The love of peace is in the soul and blood of the Chinese nation. As the ancient Chinese philosopher Confucius said: No matter how strong a country might be, the aspiration of war will definitely lead to its ruin.The Chinese people are the peace loving one.

After the Opium War, China has been invaded by the western powers and our people keep the memory of being bullied and cherish the value of peace.

Based on the traditional Chinese culture of peace and harmony and Chinese people’s sincere hope for a better world, President Xi Jinping proposed the initiative of Building a Human Community with a Shared Future and 3 approaches to realize this grand vision of building a better world for our future generations:

• The first approach is to hold high Humanity’s Shared Values of peace, development, fairness, justice, democracy and freedom, advancing Whole-Process People’s Democracy, and building a New Type of International Relations. So far, China has established diplomatic relations with 181 countries world wide.

The second approach is to carry out the Belt and Road Initiative and Global Development Initiative so as to achieve win-win cooperation for common development. China has signed over 200 agreements or MoUs with 149 countries and 32 international organizations. More than 60 countries have joined the Group of Friends of the Global Development Initiative. The value of trade in goods between China and the Belt and Road countries exceeds 12 trillion USD. It is reckoned by the World bank that from 2015 to 2030, the Belt and Road Initiative may contribute 1.6 trillion USD to the world and help 40 million people out of poverty.

• The third approach is adhering to the New Vision of Security featuring common, comprehensive, cooperative and sustainable security and implement the Global Security Initiative, to build a world of lasting peace and universal security, common prosperity, openness and inclusiveness, justice and equity, cleanness and beauty.

With a strong leadership, unity and stability, economic, social and technological foundation, especially nationwide networks of the modern infrastructures, China gets read to grow faster and run well, providing a new option for our fellow emerging markets and developing countries.

Ⅲ. Where for China to go?

The 20th National Congress of the Communist Party of China, which attracts worldwide attention, has come to a successful conclusion recently. As a Party delegate, I’m honored to participated in the congress.

The 20th National Congress of the Communist Party of China is a meeting of great importance,make it clear the road map and blueprint on Where for China to go and how to get there. The meeting has three major important achievements:

The Most Important Achievement is Comrade Xi Jinping was re-elected unanimously as the General Secretary of the Party Central Committee and the new ideas, new concepts and new perspectives of Xi Jinping Though on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era has been written into the Party Constitution. Comrade Xi Jinping’s core position on the Party Central Committee and in the Party as a whole has been established and Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics has been defined as the guidance of the Party.

This reflects the whole party and nation’s appreciation of the historic achievements and great changes in the past ten years and their expectations for Comrade Xi Jinping to steer the giant ship of China’s rejuvenation through the wind and waves to strive in unity to build China into a modern socialist country in all respects.

The 2nd Important Achievement is the Congress has determined the central task for the CPC for next 5 years and beyond, which is to lead the Chinese people of all ethnic groups in a concerted effort to realize the Second Centenary Goal of building China into a great modern socialist country in all respects and to advance the rejuvenation of the Chinese nation on all fronts through a Chinese path to modernization.

Chinese modernization is socialist modernization pursued under the leadership of the CPC. It not only contains elements that are common to the modernization processes of the all countries, but is more characterized by features that are unique to the Chinese context.

——It is the modernization of a huge population. China is working to achieve modernization for more than 1.4 billion people, a number larger than the combined population of all developed countries in the world today.

——It is the modernization of common prosperity for all. Achieving common prosperity is a defining feature of Socialism with Chinese Characteristics and the goal of our modernization drive is to bring prosperity for all and prevent social polarization in order to meet the people’s aspirations for a better life.

——It is the modernization of material and cultural-ethical advancement. We will both lay a solid material foundation for our people’s life and a culture of conviction and confidence for our people’s souls, in order to promote all-round material abundance as well as people’s well-rounded developments.

——It is the modernization of harmony between humanity and nature. As Pres. Xi tells us that Lucid waters and lush mountains are invaluable assets. We shall protect the nature as our own eyes and pursue a sound development path with higher production levels, better living standards and healthier ecosystems to ensure the sustainable development of the Chinese nation.

——It is the modernization of peaceful development. In pursuing modernization, China sticks to following a new path of peace, win-win cooperation for common development, instead of the old path of war, colonization, or plunder. We believe peaceful development is the keys to China’s achievements and development and we will never follow the old and disastrous roads as the west did.

The 3rd Important Achievement is that the Congress has draw the blue print and principles, new philosophy and approaches to realize the Chinese Modernization.

——To realize the Chinese Modernization, we shall adopt a two-step strategic plan: Basically realize socialist modernization from 2020 through 2035; Build China into a great modern socialist country from 2035 through the middle of this century, that is prosperous, strong, democratic, culturally advanced, harmonious, and beautiful

——To realize the Chinese Modernization, we must, first and foremost, pursue high-quality development. Development is our Party’s top priority in governing and rejuvenating China, because without solid material and technological foundations, we cannot hope to build a great modern socialist country in all respects.

——To realize the Chinese Modernization, we must follow the worldview and methodology of Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era with the following 6 Musts as its core:

⦁ We must put the people first.

⦁ We must maintain self-confidence and stand on our own feet.

⦁ We must uphold fundamental principles and break new ground.

⦁ We must adopt a problem-oriented approach.

⦁ We must apply systemic thinking.

⦁ We must maintain a global vision.

. How to transform our traditional friendship into win-win cooperation for common development?

【In the report of the 20th National Congress of the CPC,  General Secretary Xi Jinping elaborated the founding mission of the CPC in the full context: it is dedicated to pursuing happiness for the Chinese people and rejuvenation for the Chinese nation and it is also dedicated to human progress and world harmony.】

Lin Songtian, President of the CPAFFC, talking to the Parliamentarians during the event at the Parliament of Sri Lanka [ Photo: Sri Lanka Parliament/ Sri Lanka Guardian]

The 20th National Congress of the CPC not only opened the chapter of the New Journey of the New Era for China, but also provided New Opportunities and New Options for other countries especially friendly countries like Sri Lanka.

The CPAFFC is China’s national people’s organization engaged in people-to-people diplomacy, featuring “Four Friendships”, namely friendship cities, friendship associations, friendship organizations and friendship personnel.

Its mandate is to give full play to people-to-people diplomacy, mobilizing non-governmental resources to promote mutual understanding, friendship and win-win cooperation between Chinese people and people from other countries.

Next step, we will work together with our Sri Lanka friends to focus on some priority areas, as following:

——Personnel exchanges. Seeing is believing.We will build a platform for exchanges and cooperation between the our two peoples, displaying the essence and fruits of the traditional friendship between China and Sri Lanka and promoting people-to-people exchanges in key areas such as parliament, local government, youth, think tanks, and media to promote and enhance mutual understanding and friendship between our two peoples.

——Capacity building. Through “receiving friends in” and “sending professional personnel out”, carry out activities for capacity building. For example, we will try to organize the Chinese young and professional poverty relief cadres to Sri Lanka to stay and have a deep study tour to the village or local governments, look for ways out to fight against poverty. We will also try to organize experts from the National Development and Reform Committee (NDRC) and local DRCs to Sri Lanka to study its national development plans, policies and government services, so as to help promote Sri Lanka to Chinese business and interested parties.

——Win-win cooperation. The CPAFFC is willing to work closely with the Sri Lanka Embassy to China and Sri Lanka friendship organizations to hold promotions and functions for Sri Lanka’s goods, resources, development plans, favorable policies for FDI and government services, so as to encourage and attract more Chinese businesses to invest in Sri Lanka.

——Give full play to friendship cities. China and Sri Lanka currently have 11 pairs of friendship cities. The CPAFFC is willing to:

⦁ further promote exchanges and cooperation between local governments, friendship cities in particular, in the fields of culture, education, tourism, public health, and vocational technical schools in particular etc.

⦁ help to set up new friendship city relations on the premise of complementary and sustainability.

⦁ enrich the content of cooperation between friendship cities, and making friendship city a bridge and a binding force for mutual understanding, friendship and trust between people s of China and Sri Lanka.

To my conclusion, let us to work together to bring our everlasting friendship to a new high and bring more benefits to our two peoples. Thank you all for your attention and hospitality.

Sri Lanka:  Correct The Price Distortion for A Sustainable Development – Part 2

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This is the second part of this series by the author, Click here to read the first part -Editors

Water Supply

Providing safe drinking water and improved sanitation services have been the government’s priority for many decades. In 1975 National Water Supply and Drainage Board (NWSDB) was established, and the responsibility was transferred to it. Before that, it was a local government function, and cost recovery was not considered an important issue. The local authorities provided Dug wells in rural areas, and the pipe-boned water supply was limited to urban areas. Their priority was to roadside public stand posts for free water, and the domestic connections were charged a nominal amount. Hence water was considered a free public good without a price.  Irrigation for agriculture is still a free public good with no price.

With the introduction of the Community Water Supply Projects, pipe-borne water supply was expanded to many rural areas, and today 58% of households have access to pipe-borne water. Gradually NWSDB expanded its operation to rural areas with high population density. The capital costs of projects are now shared 50:50 between the treasury and NWSDB. Still, domestic water is considered a government responsibility and only a part of the cost is recovered from the poor. Yet 25.8% of the total production falls under the non-revenue water category, which is put into the water supply system but not billed. This is mainly due to poor maintenance, leakages, and management issues such as water thefts, calculation errors, etc.

The average unit cost of producing potable water has increased from Rs.48.87 in 2020 to Rs. 60.63 in 2021 (Economynext 05.06.2022). According to the Water Tariff Revised in 2022, water is billed under 12 different categories for different purposes at different rates. Samurdhi beneficiaries are charged a nominal tariff of Rs.5.00 per unit for the first five units (5000Lt.), Rs. 10.00 per unit for the second 5 units, and Rs. 15.00 per unit for the following five units. Accordingly, 15,000 Lt. per month is highly subsidised for them, and the subsidy element (tariff below the cost of production) exists for up to 25 units (from 16to20 units Rs. 40 and 21 to 25 units Rs.58 per unit). In contrast, Domestic(other) Category consumers will have to pay four times higher than the Samurdhi recipients for the first five units (Rs. 20.00 per unit), and the subsidy element exists only for up to 15 units. Beyond that, an exceptionally high punitive tariff, which increases with the usage from Rs.86.00 up to Rs. 238 .00 per unit, is being changed.

There are four other categories where the tariff is much below the cost of production, namely, (a) Non-Samurdhi Tenement Gardens, (b)Public Stand Posts, (c)Schools, religious and charitable institutions, and (d) Local Authorities.  It means that out of 12 categories, 5 have a substantial subsidy. The tariff for the other seven categories (production-oriented) is much higher than the cost of production. In addition to the usage charge, a monthly service charge, increasing parallel to the consumption, is also levied from those categories. Therefore, the tariffs applicable to production-oriented and non-samurdhi household categories are punitive and discouraging. For instance, tariffs for the port and shipping, SOEs, BOI companies, and industries are Rs670, Rs.116, Rs.85, and Rs 82 per unit, respectively.

However, the NWSDB has demonstrated that it can recover a considerable portion of the subsidy cost through punitive tariffs from production-oriented and high-user domestic categories. According to the 2019 Annual Report, the losses for 2018 and 2019 were Rs. 1,176 and Rs. 580 million, respectively. According to the Economynext-05.06.2022, the NWSDB had posted a profit of 507 million rupees in 2020 but again lost 3,087 million in 2021, with salaries rising 19 per cent. If not for the salary increase, the NWSDB could have remained at least at the break-even point in 2021. With the tariff revision in 2022, it may reach the break-even point. Unlike other SOEs, NWSDB delivers essential public goods without a massive loss. This is mainly due to the capital costs subsidy granted by the treasury and the tariff structure to charge more from whom it is affordable to pay. But NWSDB is also overstaffed, and remunerations are relatively high.

Due to the scattered nature of housing and settlements, the capital cost of water distribution in rural settlements is very high. Many rural water supply schemes are found in hilly terrain in the wet zone, where water sources are abundantly available in good equality. Still, due to the hilly terrain, the capital cost of the distribution network is high. But in contrast, drinking water is a critical issue in the dry zone, covering about 70% of the country’s land area. This is the area chronic kidney disease is prevalent and suspected that the cause is poor-quality drinking water. Unlike in the wet zone, water sources are not found easily, and the quality is also unacceptable. Dry zone communities face many inconveniences and opportunity costs, such as risky long-distance travel and consuming many hours of the day to collect a pot of drinking water. If they purchase potable water from the market, they will have to pay more than Rs.50.00 a litter. Under this scenario, selling one unit (1000 litres) of water for Rs. 5.00 or Rs 20.00 in the wet zone and urban areas can’t be justified on humanitarian grounds. Therefore, financing potable water for the dry zone is justifiable, even at a higher cost, considering social justice and equal access to safe water. Further, the NWSDB must take serious action to reduce the 25.8% non-revenue water supply to a technically acceptable minimum level to increase its revenue. Currently, six tariff categories are below the cost of production, which seems highly irrational.

Instead of ad-hoc political decisions to revise the tariff for electricity and water from time to time, it is more logical to commission an in-depth study to restructure the tariffs to make water and electricity prices affordable to domestic users, discourage excessive unproductive use of subsidised products and remove punitive tariffs from the production-oriented categories.

Aviation

The national carrier rebranded as Sri Lankan in 1998 following its partial acquisition by Emirates. In 2008, the government re-acquired all the shares and management rights from Emirates. Then the accumulated profit of Sri Lankan was Rs. 9.288 billion (Wikipedia). In any case, Sri Lankan was not a burden to the treasury; instead, a share of the profit was paid to the treasury from time to time. It was revealed at the COPE meeting in July 2022 that the loss of the Sri Lankan as of 31 March 2021 from the day it was taken over from the Emirates was 372 billion, and the daily loss is about Rs 84 million.  Mihinlanka, which commenced its business in 2007, also amalgamated later with Sri Lankan with an accumulated loss of Rs 13 billion.  In 2020 Sri Lankan’s debt obligation exceeded Rs 372 billion. Also, its net worth was negative Rs.262 billion. Most of the above debts are to the Bank of Ceylon, the People’s Bank, and the CPC. Further, it had sovereign guaranteed internationally issued bonds worth UDS$ 175 million. If the government declares insolvent or shuts down the airline, the two banks and the CPC must write off all debts. This will severely affect the two banks’ liquidity, sustainability, and profit. The CPC is also heavily indebted to the above two banks. So eventually, that burden also will pass to two banks. The government owns two banks, and finally, all these responsibilities fall on the shoulders of the taxpayers. Moreover, the government could face multiple jurisdictions worldwide regarding the non-settlement of foreign liabilities.

Subsidising essential services is understandable. But subsidising foreign travel by affluent Sri Lankan citizens and foreigners has no meaning for the taxpayers. More than 99% of taxpayers do not benefit from this colossal subsidy. Many airlines provide services from and to Colombo to many destinations, even at a lower price than Sri Lankan. So, Sri Lankan does not fill any service gap too. If there is any justification for continuing the operation of Sri Lankan with subsidies, it would be to support tourism and strengthen linkages with foreign economies. In any case, earning from tourism cannot compensate for such a colossal loss/subsidy. It may be possible to justify the operation of a national carrier for national pride. If so, the airline must be restructured and scale down its operation to match that intention without a loss, at least on a cost-recovery basis.

 However, the establishment of Mihinlanka Airlines, re-acquiring Sri Lankan from the Emirates, and pumping public funds to Sri Lankan to expand its operation without a well-thought business plan are economic crimes for which the decision makers are responsible.

 Lose-Making SOEs

Subsidising the losses of state-owned enterprises (SOEs) and selling their products below the cost of production also amounts to direct subsidies to their employees and indirect subsidies to consumers while distorting the market prices. Sri Lanka has 527 SOEs. Of which 52 have been classified as “Strategically Important “enterprises by the general treasury. But some strategic enterprises, which are involved in purely commercial activities, such as CEB, CPC, CWE, CTB, Sri Lankan, Hotel Development Lanka Ltd, etc., have been running as loss-making enterprises for many years.

 Out of the non-strategic enterprises, 287 SOEs are also commercial ventures that can be run more efficiently by the private sector. According to the information available from the Department of Public Enterprise, out of 527 entities, only 57 are self-funding. In 2019, the total losses sustained by 52 SOEs amounted to Rs 151 billion. According to the above information, budgetary support amounting to Rs. 49 billion has been provided to loss-making institutions, of which Rs. 20 billion was for recurrent expenditure. Most SOEs’ pricing is not cost-reflective and sells their goods and services below the cost of production(subsidising). Perhaps, if the price becomes cost reflective, their products may be unaffordable to the people because the cost of production is very high due to inefficient management, wastage, and corruption.

 The private sector may produce those at a lesser cost resulting in lower selling prices and tax revenue for the government. According to the Advocata research team, the total accumulated loss of strategic SOEs from2006 from to 2020 amounted to Rs 1.2 trillion. As per the Public Finance Data, the top five losers, namely, CPC (Rs.628 bl.), Sri Lankan (Rs.248 bl.), CEB(Rs.47 bl.), Airport and Aviation Services (Rs.6 bl.), and SLTB (Rs.1 bl.) have recorded a total loss of 930 billion for the first four months of 2022. The government revenue for the same period is only Rs 543.6 billion. SLTB has a loss of Rs.1 billion in providing transport facilities for many middle- and low-income commuters. But Sri Lankan has a loss of 248bl., which provides aviation facilities to a minimal number of well-to-do Sri Lankans and foreigners.

When SOEs in short of funds or on the verge of bankruptcy, they do not follow the due process to borrow, liquidate or re-structure the business. They borrow inputs from other SOEs or borrow money from state-owned commercial banks. But it is done not on the strength of their balance sheets but at the request of the treasury, sometimes on verbal instructions, even without a treasury guarantee.  They continued to do so for many years. For instance, Sri Lankan, GCR, and CEB borrow their inputs from the CPC and keep accumulating debts.  The CPC borrows from the Peoples Bank and Bank of Ceylon to fill that gap. If CPC can’t borrow further due to cumulative outstanding debts, the treasury issues a long-term financial instrument to the CPC and passes the liability to the next generation. The CPC trade it and settle previous loans, and continues borrowing. This is a big cross-subsidy between SOEs. This amounts to a pyramid operation by the government. This can’t continue forever, and all resources will get exhausted and may collapse all institutions at once. It is advisable to allow major institutions to operate independently. Then who can sustain will sustain on its own strength. Others may get a boost to adopt sound management practices or restructure/privatise/liquidate.

But trade unions and politicians argue that those enterprises should come under state ownership to ensure the national interest and to prevent exploitation. As discussed above, the exploitation of consumers and taxpayers is very high under state ownership. However, policymakers may have a genuine interest also to keep essential services like energy, transport, health, education, etc., under government control to ensure the national interest/national security, respond to disasters, and assist the poor. But there are many low-cost and efficient solutions to achieve such objectives.  For instance, petroleum infrastructure and regulatory power may be kept with the CPC while allowing the private sector to import and sell fuel competitively. Railway Department can own the railway infrastructure and regulatory authority, while the private sector is running trains. Such arrangements ensure the government’s control over the service while the advantage of quality and price competitiveness passes to the consumers.

The impact of subsidising the loss of SOEs is not trickledown down to the large segment of the population, the consumers, and the taxpayers. But some groups with a vested interest have developed private sector phobia and hold the taxpayers and consumers to ransom for their economic, political, and power gain. Employees want to keep those under state ownership to secure higher income and fringe benefits with little or no work. Trade union leaders want to maintain SOEs at any cost to demonstrate/excise the power and authority and strengthen linkages with the upper echelons of political parties. Politicians wish to use the employees and other resources free for election campaigns and give jobs to their supporters. Further, they can support campaign funders by appointing them to management boards and promoting business linkages such as contracting, outsourcing, granting business permits, etc. Also, sometimes they can financially benefit by being involved in corrupt practices in procurement, service delivery, and recruitment.

But the public is happy if the quality of goods and services is satisfactory and reliable at a reasonable price, regardless of the ownership of the business. For instance, if a reasonably priced, reliable power supply is available, the customers don’t want to verify whether it is by the CEB or a private supplier. The customers don’t consider whether the fuel is from the CPC or Indian Oil Company if it is reliable, convenient and reasonably priced. But without knowing the facts, the taxpayers and the consumers also fight against the privatisation of loss-making entities.    

In the case of infrastructure or capital expenditure, passing the liability to the next generation is justifiable because they also become beneficiaries of those investments. But recurrent /consumption expenditure incurred by SOEs like SLTB, Sri Lankan, and Railways is only for the benefit and convenience of the present generation. Accumulating losses, defaulting and long-term borrowings for such expenses means passing the liability of luxurious consumption of the present generation (politicians, employees, trade unions) to the next generation, for which decision-makers have no rights. It is an unforgivable, very dangerous economic crime. If the private sector runs those commercial activities, the government can collect more revenue as taxes instead of subsidising the losses. Also, the government will have more time and resources to do its primary function, governing the country, which has been neglected hitherto by all governments.

To Be Continued

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