Sunday Island Editorial
Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka celebrates its 69th ‘Independence Day’ on a grand scale today. We are sure to be treated to fiery oratory by glib politicians who will wax eloquent on what they may call achievements of the country under their watch. They will also blabber about our glorious past and invariably wrap themselves in the flag in a bid to cover up their failures, which are legion. This, we have witnessed for the last so many decades under successive governments.
We wish we could pen something positive on a day like this when patriotism spills over into streets, but we can’t bring ourselves to be so hypocritical. How can a country which is subjugated in all but name justify making a grand show of its ‘Independence’? Sri Lankan leaders shamelessly grovel before the functionaries of international lending institutions, begging for loans, and tug their forelock to foreign governments in a bid to regain trade concessions which come at a price. They have no qualms about subjugating the national interest to their economic needs and political expediency.
Cartoon from Sunday Times
The two main parties, the UNP and the SLFP, which had taken turns to misgovern the country until two years ago caused a severe erosion of public faith in democracy. Today, they are doing that together! The JVP’s two abortive yet bloody insurrections and the total capitulation of the traditional left to the SLFP have made the people fed up with socialism as well. No wonder the country is neither democratic nor socialist! People are even denied their right to give vent to their pent-up anger in the form of street demonstrations without being assaulted and arrested by the long arm of the law subservient to governments in power. Protests are crushed ruthlessly and it looks as though the judiciary had become a malleable tool in the hands of the ruling politicians hell bent on suppressing dissent.
Sixty nine years on, we are still without a proper constitution, to begin with. So much for the country’s achievements under successive governments!
The ‘Independence Day’ has long lost its meaning. The country has come to such a pass that family silver is being disposed of to shore up the crumbling economy. The national legislature is full of political rejects and no different from a fish market characterised by frequent brawls and the liberal use of raw filth. Rogues masquerade as ministers and some judges are mere marionettes.
Foreign powers are acquiring national assets and precious land for a song. Ports and airports are up for sale and at this rate not even Sigiriya, Sinharaja and Sri Pada will be safe. It is widely feared that the day may not be far off when the country is cut like a melon and chunks thereof handed over to China, the US and India, perhaps, along the same ancient boundaries as Ruhunu, Maya and Pihiti.
Time was when foreigners had to use force and fight hard to grab land here but today it is being offered on a platter to them by a bunch of failed leaders in the name of investment promotion and in return for kickbacks. They are the very ones who once made elaborate arrangements, albeit in vain, to celebrate the quincentenary of the arrival of the Portuguese here!
A protracted war was thankfully brought to an end about eight years ago, but reconciliation continues to evade us and the blame for this situation should be apportioned to all political parties which use communalism to create ethno-religious block votes. Western members of the international community have been fishing in troubled waters on the pretext of helping bring about ethnic harmony.
The national economy remains growth retarded and the country spends most of its earnings to service its foreign debt. Leaders flaunt even foreign loans obtained at high interest rates as achievements and unconscionably splurge on super luxury vehicles and junkets.
Meanwhile, the corrupt continue to be protected by the very champions of good governance who captured power by promising to rid the country of bribery and corruption. The bank of the bank has been robbed in broad daylight and the robbers are protected by the powers that be. They cock a snook at the law of the land and the judicial process. There have been various rackets which have cost the state coffers billions of rupees but they have gone uninvestigated and whistleblowers are being hounded out of their jobs. The multi-billion-rupee fraudulent coal tender which even shook the conscience of the Supreme Court, the mega paddy racket and the Customs SUV fraud are only a few of them. The self-proclaimed guards who undertook to probe and punish crooks have become robbers themselves. As a local saying goes, when the ridge and the fence eat one’s paddy plants whom can one turn to for relief?
Let the present-day yahapalana rulers who abuse power, suppress dissent, indulge in corruption, shield crooks, manipulate police and the judiciary and postpone elections indefinitely on some flimsy pretext be warned that the day may not be far off when Sri Lankans emulate their Romanian counterparts. Romanians who got rid of a dictator and pinned their hopes on Prime Minister Sorin Grindeanu’s government which promised them a radical break from the past and a better deal, have taken to the streets against the incumbent administration’s partiality to corrupt public officials.