These dark, uncertain times

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Part I
Sri Lanka is currently experiencing an extremely bitter period in its history. Yet, this is not a new phenomenon. As a State, and as any State of the world, Sri Lanka has gone through similar situations, or worse, and has come out of it, sometimes successfully and sometimes unsuccessfully. However, today, what we are experiencing is something dark and dangerous. We need solutions. But that solution should be a sustainable long-term one, not a temporary plaster. We need solutions to stabilise the country politically, economically, and socially. The most frightening risk we are facing right now is that we might push the country towards the danger of anarchy and becoming economically bankrupt.

People are in unrest and stressed. The Government is also taking measures to control the situation, yet they seem to be insufficient and ineffective to solve the many issues the country is going through now.

This situation has also been a platform for opportunists and for those who provoke people to play their dirty games as well as dirty politics which may dilute and defocus the protest from its main objective.

However, none of these seems to be leading the country to find a sustainable solution to the grave situation the country is in now. We do not need temporary solutions; we do not want the same old crooks to come into power. The country needs a fresh start. For this, we need a long-term plan. We seem to hardly know the actual issues of the country (political and economic), and this unawareness is an obstacle to finding a sustainable solution. How can we find a solution for a problem that we only know exists, but don’t know how it was created? To find a solution, we need to know the causing factors.

To know more about the political mess we are facing today, we contacted an expert on this subject, Kaushalya Abeywickrama, who is a journalist, author, and researcher on Political Communication. She is also a woman and child rights activist, a motivational speaker, and a life coach. She holds two post-graduate degrees in Mass Communication, and Conflict, Peace, and Development Studies.

Sri Lanka after 1815

Until 1815 Sri Lanka was ruled by a monarchy. On 2 March 1815, after Sri Lanka became a British Colony, the traditional political, economic, and social system of the country collapsed. “Traditional concepts, methods, and techniques of Sri Lanka’s economy and social development entirely collapsed. The British forced their ways and systems (political, economic, and social) on Sri Lanka,” said Abeywickrama.

“Since 1949, there has been no political leader of this country who has been successful in re-establishing democracy, peace, reconciliation, independence, culture, virtues, economic sustainability, and political stability, that we lost in 1796. This is extremely unfortunate.”

However, even after the British granted independence (Dominion) to Sri Lanka, they took necessary measures to keep Sri Lanka under their shadow in many aspects. Or in other words, they made sure that their ways would echo in every aspect of the newly independent Ceylon.

For this, the newly independent Ceylon was in the hands of a group of people who followed the steps of their colonial masters.

Hence, Abeywickrama questions are we actually an independent country?

 “What we want is an actual change. Is the independence we got in 1948 a real independence? Are we really free? To answer this we need to carefully analyse the recent political history of Sri Lanka.”

She explained that, after independence, we continued to do what we were doing under the British, instead of rebuilding a system that suits this country which echoes the heartbeat of its people.

“To be truly independent, we need to rebuild the collapsed political, economic, social, cultural as well as spiritual aspects of Sri Lanka, which were sustained in pre-colonial Sri Lanka. We need to establish democracy in Sri Lanka, which was lost during and after the British rule.”

Abeywickrama said that Sri Lanka needs a political renaissance.

This change is not reducing the price of a gas cylinder or of fuel. This change should be a practical reform of Sri Lanka’s political, economic, and social aspects. This has not been done successfully and sustainably for 207 years, yet should be done at present.

The bitter truth of today’s political culture in Sri Lanka is that they are power-hungry and their priority is not the country.

However, the great downfall that happened in 1815 seems to be irreversible at present. Those who had the utmost opportunity to make this change, to lead the county towards a golden era, let go of their chances and created further chaos. If these early politicians of Sri Lanka did take measures to reintroduce and revive a sustainable system to develop the country, that suits the country, our present would have been different. 

Former President J.R.Jayawardene, whose sole dream was to gain more and more power, by introducing the ‘Executive President’ position to Sri Lanka, did nothing to develop the country. The 1978 Constitution paved the way for Sri Lanka to fall into the political mess that we are witnessing today. The politicians that followed Jayawardene also acted as power-hungry rulers, who never cared for the country.

The protest we engage in today should be one that will find a solution to the mess that has plagued Sri Lanka for 207 years.

“The 1978 Constitution should be abolished and the current political system should be changed. We need to reverse our judicial system. We need a legal system that is purely local but not borrowed from different parts of the world. The public sector should be revived.

“There are so many who are responsible for the state the country is in now and these culprits should be punished. I don’t see any credible, qualified, and suitable politician among the known 225. Therefore, we need to aim at a long-term plan towards a bright fresh start,” she said.

There is a lot we should do. The country needs the help of professionals to come out of this mess. Professionals and academics should guide the people as well as the Government. Our media should educate the people as well as policymakers.

“After 1978, the politicians we had, prioritised first themselves, then their families and had the least concern for the betterment of the country. Nepotism added fuel to corruption,” Abeywickrama concluded.

By Ama H. Vanniarachchy

To be continued…