Dear Sri Lanka,


By Dilshani Palugaswewa

There should be 6.9 million answers to the question “Why was he elected?”, yet there seems to be a severe drought in the pool of confidence that people had when he announced (on the invitation of us of course) his candidacy in the aftermath of the Easter Sunday attacks.   

Mid-week, when the President addressed the nation following the Opposition-led protest and a number of other community protests, where people of the country were seen taking to the streets calling for his resignation, and attention to the severe crisis in the country, he interrupted the power cut (which apparently can be done according to schedule) to say a few things we already knew. It seemed as though he missed the point that now, even the 6.9 million are sceptical, with some allegedly joining the protests amidst a pandemic. For someone who claims to understand the common man, he sure missed the message that was loud and clear.  

In his address, the President, after a fairly good start to his almost well-written speech, acknowledged that we are in a crisis. He assured the nation he is doing everything in his power to bring us out of this chaos that we are engulfed in. And just when we thought he may have, just may have, the leadership it takes to run a country, to take responsibility for all that has happened; he proceeded to peddle his victories of yesteryear. Only pausing to subtly underscore that he is always right, and then in more bold terms to proclaim the situation as not a mess he created, therefore making him blameless. In short, he asked us to make more sacrifices and weather the storm ‘he didn’t stir up’.

Now, how do you explain to a Head of State that he is not separate from his administration? Perhaps we can agree that some of these things may be attributed to decisions of former governments but what about all that went down during his time in office? And even for the misdoings before his time, he still shares the blame because his officials – mostly a friends and family affair – were the same people in power for an entire decade, therefore directly linking him to those bad decisions and subsequent actions.

If he knows we are endlessly queuing at fuel pumps and gas distributors, why do ministers get special treatment and get to cut the lines at fuel stations and then shamelessly admit it to the public at such a critical time? Why are ministers and some Government officials still travelling with their pretentious motorcade? How is such behaviour ‘understanding our pain’? Why are people who are responsible for a good part of this mess, permitted to evade any accountability? Why hasn’t the Finance Minister been at Parliamentary Sittings for over three months in the time of this dire economic crisis?  

True, our nation is not the only one facing challenges right now but that does not mean the ruling party hasn’t made it 10 times worse. The misalignment of vision and mission within this Government is truly astounding. “We are going to the IMF”, “We will never go to the IMF”, “We are not going to take up debt restructuring”, “Sri Lanka to start talks with IMF on debt restructuring”. All statements said within the span of few months by different officials. So, which one is it? What’s most infuriating is that officials say and do whatever comes to mind in that moment with no consequences and we are expected to keep making compromises/sacrifices? 

Same goes for the Opposition: a senior official was recently heard threatening the Government to fix things or there would be, “Arab Spring type of protests”. If he truly didn’t realise just how problematic that kind of statement is, even after he said it, it reflects the complete mess we are in. To threaten more unrest on a scale that would almost instantly cost many, many lives, is outright despicable and irresponsible, especially for someone speaking on behalf of a party that is supposed to be the voice of reason.  

Speaking of people who shouldn’t speak just because they can – special mention, the Governor of the Central Bank of Sri Lanka, for his five minutes of infamy this week. His response that all the neon signs in Colombo have not stopped working to the CNBC reporter’s question about long and constant brownouts was a classic example of, ‘there is no electricity crisis because my lights are working’. This statement blatantly disregarded the way these brownouts have disrupted the lives of the average Sri Lankan. 

All of this reminds me of an analogy made by the Prime Minister’s son. He described his father and his two uncles (now the President and the Finance Minister) as the three wheels of a tricycle. The tricycle of course symbolises the country. Yeah, now imagine those wheels just breaking off and veering off to different sides, aimlessly rolling down a hill because it’s worn out. 

Right now our desire is to get rid of those wheels along with their training wheels from any opportunity of running our country because believe it or not, Sri Lanka is not a family firm.