Today, UNP leader of the SLPP Government, President Ranil Wickremesinghe, elected, not by the will of Sri Lanka’s millions of voters, but by the will of the 225-member strong Parliament, which is a record in Sri Lanka’s 44-year-old Executive Presidential history, will deliver his inaugural policy speech in Parliament.
This comes in the backdrop where Sri Lanka is facing its worst socioeconomic crisis since obtaining independence 74 years ago in 1948. The cause of this crisis is corruption at the highest level, by robbing Sri Lanka’s spartan US dollar reserves.
Consequently Sri Lanka has no dollars to make essential imports, be it fuel, cooking gas, medicines and food, but is dependent on the largesse of foreign Governments and multilateral and bilateral development agencies to provide Sri Lanka with these.
Shortage of dollars has also resulted in record high cost of living and inflation, record daily and miles long fuel queues resulting in at least one fuel queue death monthly since last year, which, however, only last month increased to at least four.
Till recently, there were also similar days and miles long queues for cooking gas too. But after the World Bank (WB) stepped in, there is no such shortage prevailing in the country now. However, last week the WB announced that it is withdrawing all aid to Sri Lanka, until such time the country comes up with a comprehensive plan to prevent the repetition of the current crisis from recurring.
So, till then, one may be assured that there will be no future WB aid to import cooking gas. With Christmas just four months away, the Sri Lankan housewife will, after a lapse of 45 years, have to adapt herself to the hearth to do all her Christmas cooking once more!
The dollar shortage has also resulted in other, unenviable and depressive socioeconomic records in the annals of Sri Lanka’s 74-year history of independence. They include record hours long daily power cuts by not having sufficient dollars to import coal and diesel to provide electricity right round the clock to the island, Government offices and schools closed on certain days of the week due to a lack of diesel to provide an ‘efficient’ public transport service and a seven-month-long ban on the import of chemical fertiliser implemented by the immediately preceding President Gotabaya Rajapaksa last year which has scarred harvests led by rice, Sri Lanka’s staple food.
Therefore, Wickremesinghe, who was elected to the highest of offices in the country, only a fortnight ago, by the SLPP controlled Parliament, which party leader is Gota’s elder brother and former President and Premier Mahinda, should, in his today’s address, inform the masses, how he plans to solve the above, record socioeconomic ills, plaguing the Sri Lankan society?
Will he take heed of the WB’s warning that future aid to the island would be forthcoming only after Sri Lanka puts forward a comprehensive plan to stamp out corruption so as to prevent a repetition of the cause of the present socioeconomic ills once more besieging Sri Lankan society, or will he, like the three proverbial monkeys, be blind, deaf and dumb to this warning, regardless of further socioeconomic hardships burdening the masses by adopting such an attitude? Or, does he have an alternative? If he has, the masses expect him to spell out this alternative at his today’s policy speech.
The other urgent matter which Wickremesinghe will have to address in his policy speech of today is the steps that he plans to take to once more restore law and order in the country. This is in the backdrop that in recent times it’s common to hear of several unsolved murders, virtually taking place weekly, where the victims have been gunned down, at times in broad daylight, where such footages of killings have even been captured by CCTV cameras.
To recapitulate, what the masses expect from Wickremesinghe’s policy speech of today is what steps he plans to take to alleviate their current socioeconomic misery and the other, what plans he has to once more restore law and order in the country?