Changing Political Horizons in Sri Lanka?
By Asanga Abeyagoonasekera
"Yet you don't have any democratic machinery—voting, and so on?" " Oh, no. Our people would be completely shocked by having to declare that one policy was completely right and another completely wrong."
- James Hilton, Lost Horizon
The circumstances were right in 1933 for James Hilton to craft the image of Shangri-La in his novel Lost Horizon. It appeared as food for thought to many thinkers in the west who were disillusioned with the direction of world events and keen to entertain notions of a fantastical Oriental utopia. The effects of the First World War prevailed at the time, and against the backdrop of economic insecurity, many sought a Shangri-La such as that in the picture painted by Hilton.
With China at its helm, the rise of the east – once better known as the Orient – is clear. According to the European Union Institute for Security Studies (EUISS) 2030 report, the largest economies in terms of global GDP in 2030 will be China (23.8 per cent), the US (17.3 per cent), and the EU (14.3 per cent), followed by India.
The Indian Ocean Port City of Colombo is among the most recent to welcome the luxury hotel chain, Shangri-La. The palatial space at the very heart of the city was declared open by President Sirisena weeks ago. His predecessor, President Rajapaksa, initiated the development and provided 10 acres of prime land previously occupied by the Ministry of Defence. This new landmark will add value to the tourism industry of the island. But in an unfavourable economic environment with high debts of approximately US$ 64 billion, and 95 per cent of government revenue going towards debt repayment, the Sri Lankan economy has become weaker due to low revenue generation. Sri Lanka dropped 14 places in the 2017 World Economic Forum Global Competitiveness Index (GCI) Report. In a few months, another vision of utopia will be contrived in the next election campaign for public consumption.
Polarising events challenge world leaders daily to find solutions to complex problems. The capacity, capability, and courage to find solutions is best demonstrated after assuming power, if the aim is achievable. In Sri Lanka, several leaders who have had the vision to work toward a prosperous nation were cut off by prevailing circumstances. Globally esteemed Statesmen from Sri Lanka include the late Lalith Athulathmudali, SWRD Bandaranayake, and Lakshman Kadirgamar. This fact is no more apparent than in the Oxford Union, where portraits of three visionary Sri Lakan Statesmen the late Lalith Athulathmudali, SWRD Bandaranayake, and Lakshman Kadirgamar are a reminder of their prolific work cut short by their untimely demise. All three were transformational leaders who played a significant role in Sri Lankan society and the nation's political life. Yet, common to the three leaders was also their untimely end due to political assassination. The trifecta of tragedy is but another of many reflections of Sri Lanka's brutal political culture.
Lalith Athulathmudali was even offered a high-level position by Singapore's Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew, which he declined. Sri Lanka, however, failed to reap the benefits of this visionary leader. Today the question stands whether new leaders will emerge and transform Sri Lankan society for the better; whether politicians and practitioners have the capacity and aptitude to deliver.
One could point to challenges presented by the Constitution or from elsewhere, but even if the Constitution is redrafted, the right personnel must be in place to turn legislation into policy.
Venerable Sobitha Thera, the influential Buddhist monk who pursued a non-violent path towards a 'silent revolution' in the hope of creating a better political culture, was commemorated a few weeks ago on the anniversary of his death. The political elite the executioners of the promises and pledges to the Sri Lankan people should reflect on the great prelate's words and ask themselves if the silent revolution has delivered during the past three years.
President Sirisena has provided an answer and at the same time justified his Government's attempts to investigate a Bond Scam at the Central Bank: "If Venerable Sobitha Thera was alive he would have approved of what I did. Why did we come here? Why did we change the previous government? What is our objective? Did we come here to fill our pockets? Did we come to rob? I did not appoint [the Commission on Central Bank Bond investigation] targeting anyone." Yet those appointed to stamp out corruption have become embroiled in controversy due to revelations linked to this investigation, which has led to the prime minister providing testimony. A daily newspaper revealed that the leading suspect in the corruption probe made many phone calls to high-level investigating officers. Upon further inquiry it was revealed that the communications concerned plans to publish a book about the infamous Bond fiasco. Whatever the content, it is certain to be a bestseller in the run-up to local elections.
This scenario recalls a parable in Orwell's Animal Farm that was also relevant prior to Sirisena's electoral victory in January 2015: replacement of the farm owner and a name change from Manor Farm to Animal Farm was futile; the expected political transformation did not materialise since the animals soon behaved the same as, and transformed into, the human lot from the past.
The nation will be in election mode in a few months. Leaders will emerge from the provincial and local levels to fulfill election targets and promises of prosperity. Whatever the result, there is indeed one essence distilled from the ages and preserved against time, which is none other than democracy.
(Views expressed here are personal and do not reflect those of the Government of Sri Lanka or the Institute of National Security Studies (INSS). Asanga Abeyagoonasekera is a visiting lecturer in international political economy (IPE) and Director General of INSS, the national security think tank of Sri Lanka. This article was initially published by the IPCS, New Delhi for Dateline Colombo- http://www.ipcs.org/article/south-asia/changing-political-horizons-in-sri-lanka-5402.html)
- Independent Trajectory for India-Israel Ties
- Saudi Arabia’s heir apparent Crown Prince bin Salman and stake to greatness
- Interpreting Germany’s New Grand Coalition Deal: A First Assessment
- India’s IT Minister in SL
- PCoI bond scam report Over 60 MPs could be exposed – SLFP
- Off duty soldier tracks hit-and-run driver Police send letter of appreciation to Army HQ
- Mohammad Shiyam murder case appeal Vass denies threatening CID Director
- 5th Indo-SL Defence Dialogue concludes in Delhi
- Further evidence on Gammanpila- Shaddock case on 26th
- Impressed with Kite Festival Minister promises new fishing harbour for VVT
- Muslim women should enter politics – Dr. Uthumalebbe
- SEUSL VC urges undergrads to focus on education
- LG elections Vote-buying could lead to removal CaFFE warns candidates
- Motorcyclists Association complains to CJ Accuses Mathugama Chief Magistrate of bias
- Singapore PM & Indonesian President due next week
- Justice Surasena appointed President of CoA L.T.B. Dehideniya elevated to SC
- Fmr NFF Member Premalal Fonseka joins MS/SLFP Maheepala Herath supports ‘Pohottuwa’
- Namal’s money laundering case postponed to 6 Feb
- Kuruwita prisoner alleged torture case Complaint to be handed over to UN
- Asia’s largest haul of cocaine destroyed President Sirisena oversees process
- Missing women & PTA detainees Sasitharan urges families to register
- SLMC rally attacked in Palamunai Hakeem blames Bathiudeen’s ACMC
- Tissa gang-rape victim dies Suspects could be tried for murder
- President’s confidants named in PRECIFAC report JVP
- Supreme Court decides President’s term is five years Presidential Election Next Year President’s term ends in December 2019
- Selection of volleyball coaches Law violators to attend Interview?
- ‘Singer Cup’ Under-19 Schools Cricket Munasinghe scores century
- Tamim steers Bangladesh
- Louis denies creating a stir at meeting
- Jasprit Bumrah wickets follow Kohli century for India
- Houston Marathon in freezing weather Hiruni shatters SL record Qualifies for Commonwealth Games 2018
- “Nidahas Trophy 2018” SLC formally invites Bangladesh
- 12th ICC Under-19 Cricket World Cup Bangladesh record second win
- Sri Lanka Rugby Referees Association Jamaldeen unanimously re-elected President
- ‘Singer Cup’ Under-13 Division II Schools Cricket Mahanama, Henegama and Galahitiyawa advance
- Liverpool stun City
- Peterhansel rebounds as Sainz keeps Dakar lead
- Venus and Stephens crash out of Australian Open
- Suarez fires Barcelona nine clear
- I’m too old to be favourite - Federer
- Tri Nation series begins today Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Zimbabwe seek to rebuild
- 12th ICC Under-19 Cricket World Cup Sri Lanka triumph by 7 wickets
- Premier League Tier A Milantha scores twin centuries Chilaw Marians register fourth win
- 700 wickets and 7000 runs Dilruwan reaches milestone in first class cricket
- Hathurusinghe savours new challenge
- Sri Lanka worst in Moody’s Asia Pacific ratings
- SL at 66th in WEF’s Manufacturing Index
- Kerawalapitiya-II gets greenlight
- Plans for multi-country trade hub in Sri lanka
- CEB picks swiss firm for vehicle charging network in Sri Lanka
- A tribute to a gentleman par excellence
- Brent crude oil rises to $70 on output cuts
- Airbus says A380 superjumbo production could end
- Asian shares gain as the dollar continues to struggle
- Slowdown in international trade and its impact on globalization
- Ford plans US$ 11 billion investment 40 electrified vehicles by 2022
- Sampath Bank engages with SMEs
- LB Finance crowned No 1 Finance and Leasing Brand in SL
- Hyundai Motor and Grab sign strategic partnership
- Mastercard holds Digital and Innovation Workshop in SL
- Zuckerberg aims to save Facebook from itself
- Is economic struggle driving North Korea to the negotiating table?
- Altair sponsors 146th AGM of Colombo Club
- From challenges to opportunities: The success of DSI Samson Group
- BMICH staff presents Carols
- The March of Folly Dr. Ranjith Atapattu, an exemplary figure
- Liberia’s development at risk
- Politicos’ image plummets to lowest ebb
- UN Agency says Losing US funds could be ‘catastrophic’ for Palestinians
- Central Bank Bond issue Opportunity to reveal true culprits lost
- ‘We don’t want to fool the Sinhalese and get our dues’
- Rohingya insurgents say 10 found in Myanmar grave ‘innocent civilians’
- Thalaivar’s New Avatar
- TNA: How better is ‘better’?
- Wi-Fi but no water: Can smart tech help a city's poor?
- No political solution for Tamil grievances in sight – Ananthy Sasitharan
- Division in SLFP main reason for UNP victory
- We don’t endorse Basil’s leadership
- Rogues in all Govts should be punished- Akila Viraj Kariyawasam
- EPRLF trying to create confusion – Thurairasasingham
- National Prosperity Turning the Tide
- Disposable coffee cups:British lawmakers call for “latte levy”
- If only we could crackdown on the root causes to effect sustainable solutions Herein lies a Nation’s progress
- Planetary combines that foreshadow misfortune for father
- Pirith chants for abundant harvest
- Venus into Capricorn
- Vastu and Domestic Animals
- Yoga for Children and Adults with Disabilities
- Notes on history: The thinkers and the doers
- Reflections on a nation of non-readers
- The Disaster Artist: The (un)making of a movie
- Our children and our cinema
- INTERPRETING ASIAN CINEMA: CHALLENGES AHEAD
- How Sanskrit journalism is slowly hogging headlines
- ice manufacturing in South Asia
- CMSC’s season finale concert
- Kite Surfing Lanka Kalpitiya An experience of a lifetime
- Ella and mini Adam’s Peak
- A cave of history -Ravana Cave
- Trump’s ‘madman’ ACT scared N. Korea to talks
- Calls for ‘revenge’ Israeli settler killed in attack
- Banning of Colombo Journal First English Newspaper
- Sri Lankan author publishes for the world
- Broadway brought to our own shores
- Celebrating the harvest