From monarchy to anarchy

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Part XI

“O’ great King, the birds of the air and the beasts have as equal a right to live and move about in any part of the land as thou. The land belongs to the people and all living beings; thou art only the guardian of it.”

—Arahat Mahinda Thera to King Devanampiyathissa, 3rd century BCE

At the beginning of this article series, we feared the country might go bankrupt. And while we write the last segment of this series, we are in a state that has been declared bankrupt.

The other fear was if the country will go into an anarchic state or not. Although we are fortunate that there isn’t chaos occurring amidst all these crises, with the exception of one series of incidents where a number of houses belonged to politicians were burnt down, there however is much public opposition towards the current regime which gathers momentum with each and every day people are made to wait in lines for fuel, gas, rice, sugar, and even to get in a bus or a train.

Things have gone from worse to worst. People are suffering in long queues; people fear a food shortage; transportation is severely halted; schools are closed and exams are postponed. What else worse could happen to a country? Despite all this chaos, those who exploited the country in recent years continue to mess further. Those who exploited the country for decades are also enjoying the chaos that they are also responsible for.

Meanwhile, citizens are suffering; dying; cursing; and fearing for their future, while the children of those who exploited the nation are leading secured, luxurious lives.

No matter what political party you favour, facts are in favour that the mess we are in today is a result of wrong decisions and wrong policies taken by Sri Lankan politicians for decades. We have attempted to point out some of these key points in our previous 10 articles.

There is no doubt the Rajapaksa regime, especially the second tenure of Mahinda Rajapaksa, accelerated the chaos and pushed the country towards bankruptcy due to his wrong economic policies, extremely high corruption, and nepotism. There is no doubt that the Bandaranaike father-daughter duo, J.R. Jayawardene, and Sirisena are also major partners in the current crisis.

It is also an undeniable fact that the 30-year war was a great hindrance to the country’s development. Post-war, the Government did not take sufficient measures to heal the wounds of people and make sure that peace will sustain, and also failed to put an end to racism. With all due respect to the Rajapaksa Government which took measures to put an end to the 30-year bloody war, we believe that it should have been wise if he also took sustainable measures to establish peace among the communities.

The non-localized education, Westminster-modelled parliament, political system, and economic policies have failed the country. They functioned well for a decade or two and then started to collapse as they weren’t sustainable.

The unplanned development projects of the country did not add to the development of the country. Instead, they played a major role in Sri Lanka’s economic collapse. Unwise and severely damaging environmental decisions and massive highways were not at all the priorities of this country.

Our agriculture was not revived as it should have done and it is utterly wretched and saddening to hear that Sri Lanka, a land with an abundance of fertile soil, will be facing a severe food shortage. A land that was known as the Granary of the East, is today begging for rice from the world. What else could break the heart of a citizen of Sri Lanka, other than this bitter truth?

“Let not even a drop of water flow into the ocean without being made useful for the benefit of all Earth.”

—King Parakramabahu I, 12th century CE

Sri Lanka, given its geographical location, would have succeeded if we had opted for solar power; if so, we would not have suffered in the dark as we are doing today. These are actions that should have been taken years ago if our politicians were wise.

What do we lack as a country, in terms of natural resources? Thus, we are today begging for loans, food, and medicine from the world. It is because our politicians of recent times did not take measures to economically sustain us and they sustained their personal accounts instead.

True, that the pandemic hit us hard. But, if the Government was wise, why did not they foresee the coming dangers? These are questions that they cannot answer. These are lamentations of a non-bias, average Sri Lankan citizen, who does not support any corrupt politician.

Adding fuel to the situation, opportunists are playing their cards. Eelam separationists and various political and religious groups are busy spreading hate speech and much other nonsense and some threaten the country’s territorial integrity and sovereignty.

The majority of citizens are feeling hopeless, frustrated, and helpless. As life should go on, they are trying; they are trying their best to keep their lives in order. Home gardening and cycling are not to support any corrupt politicians as some would accuse; it is to keep life moving on and support family economies.

It is still not too late for the Government to make wise decisions and make immediate short-term and long-term plans that suit the local content. Sri Lanka should not be a country that will be on its knees before the world, begging for food, medicine, and more money. We are not a barren land. Our exports should be revived, and our industries and agriculture should be revived. It is also crucial to revive Sri Lanka’s State sector as well as the failing education system. The prevailing education system is a failure now and we need to have a new one that suits Sri Lanka and that can produce skilled, global citizens, but not those who merely have two, or three degrees, but are not skilled.

In brief, we need an entirely localised, de-colonised political, economic, and social system that can compete with the world while sustaining the country.

Also, it is important for the Government and all politicians to understand that Sri Lanka is not their private property and the citizens are not their pawns. Most importantly we need politicians who are educated and sensible, not those who are excellent at screaming at the top of their voices or who are good at drug dealing or any underworld involvements.

The clergy too has an important role to play in this crisis; instead of inciting racism, and further dividing people, they should be the forces that will unite the people and guide them towards harmony. Sri Lanka is a country that has a rich cultural diversity and we need to cherish that.

“Nero fiddled while Rome burned.”

(Pix by Venura Chandramalitha)

By Ama H. Vanniarachchy