Due to the growing economic crisis in Sri Lanka, we experience the increasing social pressure and the emergence of violence in the country from various incidents that are reported daily. Until this crisis is resolved, it is the responsibility of the entire society including the government to maintain society without being driven to violence.
The financial crisis caused by the lack of foreign reserves led to the explosion of physical and mental pressure on the society, which was felt by the country, the home and finally our rice plate. Today, everyone must work hard to fulfil even the daily basic needs and as a result other development activities in our lives are sidelined. Due to this overexertion and frustration, the public can be seen turning violent. We experience how difficult it is to bear this pressure. As Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs theory illustrates, when the physical needs at the lowest level are not fulfilled, it explodes as a big pressure. Thus, the biggest challenge now is to prevent public from being drawn towards violence.
When the people become violent, the Security Forces must suppress them. On the other hand, the public complain that Police and the Forces are the ones who break the law and do not allow peaceful protests but incite violence. Therefore, the Security Forces have a big challenge currently to confirm how to protect peace while protecting human rights.
Now people have come to trust international media more than local media. Therefore, now it is not the time to hold gallery-pleasing media shows like in the past. People now do not have any faith in some media because some responsible officials are hiding the truth and telling lies and publishing them irrationally in the media. At the least the media practices of choosing the news that incites people to violence, the style of presenting it, and what to say and what not to say have not changed yet. Currently, people criticise the media in public. Some social media pages and groups also post information that leads to violence. This flare-up may be part of some political agenda. However, the result is very serious. Therefore, regulation of social media is also necessary. And, the media should report the truth at any cost. The idea is not that the people should not struggle and should not take to the streets,or it is not to stay at home and wait quietly. The basis is that the struggle should not turn to violence. Otherwise, the desired change will not be experienced.
The first thing to do is to extinguish ‘the current moment’. In any crisis, only if ‘the current moment’ is extinguished, it will be possible to go to long-term plans and solutions. It is difficult to appease ‘the current moment’ unless the leadership is ideal. Also, religious leaders have a great responsibility to lead the people. Because it is easy for them to get close to the people and extinguish the burning fire in the minds of people. Not only that, but teachers also must be close to the children. As university academics, we can provide strategic guidance to the youth through being close to them. There is a great anger and frustration among the people as to why we are suffering for the destruction caused by the corrupt politicians. However, the current moment must be extinguished before the culprits are found and punished for it.Otherwise, what will happen might be what we have experienced through thirty years of war.
When violence emerges, many aspects, including the economy, collapse further andmore and more professionals will be leaving the country. This danger needs to be seen from all sides; economic, political, educational, etc. If not, one of the two things can happen at the climax, either by using the Army and Police and resorting to an extremely horrible repression,or the Police and the Army standing on the side of the people, as happened in some other countries in the world. On the other hand, they are not extremists or terrorists who are struggling. It is the common people who own the sovereignty of this country. Therefore, before moving to the above-mentioned two options, the first thing to do is to calm down ‘the current moment’.
Today, we must take one step back to take two steps forward in the future. Today, we limit consumption, travelling etc. to plan to go two steps ahead tomorrow and stop going back another ten steps. It is to stop closing schools for a year that are closed for a month. It is to stop waiting for petrol for a month to become a year. The current moment should be extinguished with that understanding. Otherwise, it is useless to just come and say “be patient” in front of the media. If that happens, such personalities will again be angered by the people.
First, it is important to understand where you are. Because we are all stuck in different places of our lives now. Next, don’t compare where you are and where the others are. Through that comparison, a big pressure comes again. For example, a child who wants to study abroad should look for opportunities to study in local universities when that goal is difficult under the current situation. The idea is not that one’s goal has failed. At this time, it has been postponed, or an alternative strategy has been crafted.
This is not a time for heads of institutions to show their power or cover various goals. We have seen through the media some heads of organisations who cut the salaries of employees when they were late and issue internal circulars asking them to come to work every working day irrespective of transport difficulties. Survival is important at this point. If that is not the case, we can see cases like the one that happened in Japan a few weeks ago, where an employee sets fire to the company as he could not bear the stress at work.
In recent days, we have seen news in the media that when the basic needs are not met, violence comes to the fore with theft in the society. This situation should be seen in advance and prevented. At a time like this, everyone is doing something small together we can bring more impact than waiting for one person to do something big alone. At this moment, to stop theft, the haves need to be generous to the have-nots. Indeed, seeing the helpless and looking away is not the human heart we are used to.
We are bankrupt as a country. But don’t be bankrupt with attitudes and concepts. There was a thirty-year war in the country. At that time, we went to school in fear of not coming back home. Every generation in this country has a past of fragmented dreams and goals. So, we need to see the problem correctlyto find alternatives correctly. Only those who are not bankrupt inattitudes and concepts will experiment and discover alternatives.
Except Sirima Bandaranaike, every government and leader in the country encouraged consumption over production during the past decades. Thus, in long-term plans, more attention should be paid to encouraging production rather than consumption. Every country that faced crises encouraged production to resolve the crises, including Russia. The status of people should be assessed by their contribution to production, not by their consumption.
Also, it is necessary to make any project that develops the internal capabilities of the country. For example, have you heard that King Dutugemunu took a foreign loan to build ‘Ruwanweli Seya’? No. When a project is done in a country, raw materials are produced through that project itself. Technology and professionals are also created within it.For example, when Sigiriya was completed, a project that still brings dollars to the country, our own professionals and our own technology had been developed.
On the other hand, foreign employment is encouraged these days. People go abroad to find solutions to their problems in the family domain. The rulers think that the country will get some dollars from it. But the domestic and social wounds caused by it may take a long time to heal. When we see the length of the passport queues today, you could realise the need for prediction about the future issues and vacuums in the country. The emigration of parents, especially those who have school-aged children, can cause serious problems later in households. All these things cannot be addressed by the government. Therefore, it is very significant for both the government and the public to fulfil responsibilities with foresight and vigilance at the current moment.
Tharindu Dananjaya Weerasinghe
[Senior Lecturer, Department of Human Resource Management, University of Kelaniya]
By Tharindu Dananjaya Weerasinghe