Recently I wrote an article for another publication titled, ‘Curse of Kuveni’. I wrote this article being convinced that most of the problems confronting our beautiful island are the results of her curse, and nothing else. Over a period of several years I have occasionally pondered on the history of our country. With history being my pet subject in school I often feel compelled to dwell on the country’s history, about the various governments, about the various efficient and the not so efficient leaders we have had and about the insurrections, wars and ethnic conflicts that have plagued our Motherland. We have never experienced long periods of peace and prosperity and never been able to succeed in achieving the goals of proper development and becoming a developed nation. Of course we tasted some degree of prosperity every now and then like the fantastic feeling in February 1984, of being driven in a UMC Mazda, a car made in Sri Lanka, thanks to the entrepreneur and business magnate Upali Wijewardene.
This was at a time when most developed countries had not manufactured cars. As children we were of course fond of Japanese-made toy cars and tiny Chinese crackers that you could light up holding them in our hands. We dreamed of seeing local cars on the road, not the likes of the ‘Bug Fiats’! I do not fear nor feel shy to publicly acknowledge that as a last resort I voted for this government in January 2015, with the hope that we would be able to escape from Kuveni’s curse and develop this country. In January 2017 I will be completing two years of my casting that valuable vote. On the one hand, the prices of some medicines such as Statin have come down, which is good news to the elderly and the sick, which on the other hand the Meetotamulla Garbage Dump, which many politicians during election time, had threatened to knock down to ground level continues to increase in height. Passersby will vouch for this. The cost of living is still too high. Let us get back to the basics. (Pic Upali Fiat)
A bundle of Kankun which was sold at Rs.25 in January last year has risen to Rs.40. I am not too keen to talk about the prices of chicken or rice and other essential items at the Supermarkets, because I don’t frequent them. Talking about the Meetotamulla garbage dump all those who remember the famous ‘Kunumola’ on Prince of Wales Avenue will remember that the late Mr. V A Sugathadasa converted it into a beautiful Stadium in no time, when we were schooling in Kotahena. It didn’t take him two years to complete the transformation.
Today’s ministers are only known to visit the Stadium every now and then and check its running track without getting it repaired once and for all. Take another example. We had a major flood in the Colombo suburbs in May this year. I experienced it personally. I experienced a similar flood 28 years ago in 1989. At that time the politicians visited me at my home and promised solemnly that a similar situation would be never allowed to occur again. I am aware that the Kolonnawa bund was built prior to Independence and the Kelani river mouth at Modera was dredged regularly. They say King Parakramabahu used elephants and human labour and dredged the waterways including the Parakrama Samudraya. We have all modern equipment today idling, but no dredging! Is Kuveni being proven correct? History continues to haunt me. We have studied about how Kuveni cursed Vijeya, when he chased her away and brought down a new queen from South India.
Whether we accept it or not all our troubles seem to have started from that point, more than some 2000 years ago. We were known as the pearl of the Indian ocean and additionally as the Granary of the East. What happened to us? We had great kings, our agriculture was flourishing, but things were not that stable and didn’t last very long. I have deep admiration for our great King Parakramabahu. His Parakrama Samudraya is incomparable in size to any man-made water resource anywhere. But his innumerable lakes and waterways have not been able to solve our water problem. From the waterways he created, historians have calculated our population to have been more than double of what it is today. I don’t want to compare the great King Dutugemunu with anyone outside.
Lee Kuan Yew’s efforts develop Singapore may be considered almost childlike as compared to Dutugemunu’s. But Singapore today is far ahead of us. After our great kings we were under foreign domination. The Portuguese, Dutch and British whatever said and done tried to develop the country for their gain indirectly. But even that development didn’t stick. We got Independence in 1948 and from that day problem after problem came our way. D S Senanayake, the Father of the Nation, started to develop the country but unfortunately he fell from his horse and died at a crucial time for the country and its people. Dudley, with his nagging stomach trouble and Sir John the vibrant PM, had too many problems to surmount and SWRD with his Sinhala only and other related policies antagonized many. Mrs Bandaranaike tried self development of the country in good faith. JR came and opened up the economy. All very rosy projects. Development again was temporary. I must say that all these leaders had the country at heart and did their best with the best of intentions.
There were too many in the opposing camps preventing one thing or other. I don’t need to elaborate — the JVP insurrection and the LTTE war. We had a semblance of peace from 2009. Seven long years have gone past but the morning traffic to Colombo is a bugbear for all road users, though we can go in a jiffy to Matara or Katunayake on the Highway. It was on October 27 when SUN FM 98.9 announced around 6 pm that all traffic in Colombo had come to a total standstill. Our history has taught us about our great kings building reservoirs and tanks to help all the inhabitants. All these have gone to decay and taken over by the encroaching jungles with a severe lack of space for our poor elephants which inhabited this land for years. Personally I believe that the elephants are safer in our temples rather than in the jungles. When JR announced that the Mahaweli scheme would be developed and we could supply excess electricity even to India, Indians may have laughed, but we didn’t. I don’t know who is laughing now. In any case I bought a big packet of candles last week just in case we have a power cut because of Norochcholai. I don’t think J R knew where Norochcholai was at the time! We have had too many power cuts as children and adults. It is a blessing to see windmills on the way to the Thalawila Church. But why can’t these be installed in more areas, we have a lot of winds blowing freely everywhere? We became known around the world for our spices and later because of our Coffee, Tea, Rubber and Coconuts.
I still believe that we don’t need tourism to develop this country. In Sri Lanka more people drink Tea than Beer. In the world Tea is still a popular drink. May be Rubber has synthetic material to compete with. Our Coconuts are still in demand. People still need spices in great abundance. Cinnamon is still in great demand the world-over. We are very good at Pepper too. My view is that with these products we can make billions of rupees and develop this beautiful country. It is worth adding a little spice to the world economy for a change. You need only a couple of months to start things going. Hang JO or any member of the previous government, or even king Vijeya who was supposed to have started the Sinhala race for that matter, I consider my vote to be valuable and I hope this government will prove Kuveni wrong at least before 2020 dawns.