On 1 July 2022, Chief Prelates of Sri Lanka’s four main Buddhist Chapters wrote to President Gotabaya Rajapaksa recommending 10 steps to overcome the prevailing economic and political crisis in the country. However, this letter did not get the expected publicity as it was overlapped by another news splash.
On the same day the Prelates’ letter was received, it was reported the Japanese Ambassador to Sri Lanka Mizukoshi Hideaki had allegedly confided to the TNA that financial assistance to Sri Lanka is at risk of being mismanaged. Hence, Japan would not support Sri Lanka at this point, though this stance may change in the future. This alleged statement made front page news.
On the very same day the Japanese Ambassador met President Gotabaya at the President’s House to reassure Japan’s support to Sri Lanka, which would be to the proposed IMF programme with Sri Lanka and bilateral development assistance. The Japanese embassy subsequently issued a Media release stating as follows “the Government of Japan has decided to provide Emergency Grant Aid of USD three million through UNICEF and WFP in order to provide medicine and food in a manner that would directly benefit the Sri Lankan people… The Government of Japan would like to consider its further contribution to Sri Lanka in consultation with the Government of Sri Lanka and other developing partners…”.
TNA‘s diabolical agenda
The Japanese Embassy’s statement exposes TNA’s efforts to twist facts in their continued endeavours to discredit Sri Lanka. The TNA, one-time political proxy of the LTTE terrorists, continues to propagate falsehoods against Sri Lanka.
During its days as the LTTE’s political proxy, the TNA never once reproached the LTTE for the hardships the terrorists inflicted on the Tamils. They studiously ignored the LTTE’s ignominious actions as they forcefully conscripted children or coerced civilians to form a human barricade against the advancing army. In mortal fear of the LTTE, the TNA MPs spent their days in Colombo, surrounded by a protective ring of Sinhala policemen
Overlooking the release of 14,000 LTTE ex-combatants without prosecution, the TNA’s attempt is to haul Sri Lanka’s political and military leaders to the ICC over unsubstantiated war crime allegations. They are constantly badgering India and the US to intervene in Sri Lanka’s internal affairs and thereby pressurise Sri Lanka to recognise the North and East as Tamil’s exclusive homeland.
Though the TNA is the largest political entity to stand for Tamils, the TNA has been remarkably uninterested in national politics as proven by their role during the Yahapalana Government. Despite representing only two provinces with only 16 seats, the TNA was appointed as the Yahapalana Government’s Opposition (ignoring the Joint Opposition that represented eight out of the nine provinces and held over 55 seats).
The only thing that interested the TNA was the new constitution that the Yahapalana Government was trying to cook up to challenge the country’s unitary status. Many blame the Yahapalana Government for the impending economic collapse. Yet, the economy’s nosedive began with the specific decisions taken by the Yahapalana Government.
Among these was the raising of public sector salaries by Rs 10,000 that left the Treasury severely strapped for cash. To overcome this, the Hambantota Port was leased to China and the public was tricked into believing the monies received was used to repay loans taken to construct this strategic asset. As revealed by the recent COPE hearings, that money had been “used for other purposes” and we are still repaying the said loans. Interest rates began its ascent from single to double digits only after the Central Bank bond scams. Cancellation of investments as these were initiated during its predecessor alienated investors. The binge on foreign loans, including issuing ISB to the value of USD 12 billion and many other similar disastrous policies led the GDP to be the worst performing in the region.
Intriguingly, the TNA remained Yahapalana Government’s biggest supporter. As such the TNA as the Opposition sets historical record for beseeching India to protect the Yahapalana Government from a disenchanted public.
The TNA that laid docile since the LTTE’s annihilation has begun to get aggressive again. There is a growing suspicion that the extremist Tamil Diaspora’s lobby group, “Tamils for Biden” is a regrouping of the proscribed TRO, which was a LTTE front to collect funds for terrorist activities.
Two recent incidents indicate that something serious is afoot. One is the burning down of the Kalkudah Sri Seelalankara Sinhala College – the only Sinhala school in the area. During the 30 years of war against terrorism, all 17 schools for Sinhala students were closed down. In April 2022, this school began its functions and was attended by eight students. On May 10, while anarchists were attacking Parliamentarians’ properties, this school was also set ablaze. It is widely believed that this crime was committed by TNA supporters.
The second is the hindrance by TNA parliamentarians and supporters to the ceremonial depositing of sacred relics at the historical Gurukanda Temple in Mullaitivu. Both these incidents did not receive attention from HRCSL or any other entity.
Political rearrangement to resolve the economic crisis
All 10 points by the Prelates focus on a political overhaul. It is the venerable Sangha’s firm belief that a change in the political order would resolve the ongoing economic meltdown. This includes forming an all-party interim Government with all the heads of political parties and the immediate implementation of the 22nd amendment to the constitution (22A). They are optimistic that the financial crisis that is denying the country to import essentials could be thus resolved within a short period of six months or at the worst, in 18 months.
However, it is the TNA’s opinion that the root cause for the economic crisis is the “unresolved national question”. Speaking to The Hindu, TNA leader R Sampanthan states, “unfulfilled demands of the Tamil people impaired the country’s economic progress”. His solution is thus to allow the “long-pending demand of Tamils for self-determination”. He believes this will also restore international confidence in the country.
Unfortunately, it is not only the TNA with a self-serving agenda but all political parties. Therefore, with due respect it must be pointed out to the venerable Sangha the naivety of assuming that a get togetherness with all political heads will bring political consensus or an economic solution.
It is equally noteworthy that the confidence venerable Sangha place on the 22A is not shared by most politicians. The 22A, which if passed in Parliament would be the constitution’s 21st amendment, is so drafted as not to require a referendum. Once the Bill is presented in Parliament, the public has only seven days to challenge it at the Supreme Court. That means, apart from constitutional express, laypersons will not understand head or tail of this amendment that the Sangha is promoting as the panacea to the ongoing crisis. This is unfair by the Sri Lankan citizens.
The Gotabaya Administration that came to power with an overwhelming two-third majority has disintegrated both physically and perception-wise. Key makers of this Government are now sitting in the Opposition or as independent MPs. A recent poll revealed that confidence on the Government has dropped to three percent.
Nevertheless, a democratically elected Government can only be undone democratically. To do otherwise, as the venerable Sangha is proposing, is immoral. If elections are unaffordable, then the venerable Sangha has a bigger role to play than offer solutions unacceptable to all.
Corruption is at the highest currently. More than the politicians it is the ordinary citizens who are stealing from fellow man. Petrol sheds maybe empty of fuel but the black market is thriving with the going rate of a liter of fuel exceeding Rs 1,300/- If mothers are committing suicide, dragging their young children with them to death, then moral is at its lowest.
Instead of echoing the public’s anger and disappointment against the Government, causing more distress to the people, the venerable Sangha should advocate positive thinking and the value of civic duty. Resolving to be a better citizen is an important step forward to a nation facing rock bottom.
(The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Ceylon Today)
By Shivanthi Ranasinghe