Sri Lankan Buddhists must accept the reality that in a democracy they will not be losers; admit their past chauvinist thinking has failed them and there is an urgency to work for an alternative that can treat and accept all as equals. They must support the President to weed out those found unfit for their position in public sector, including those extremists in the legislature, irrespective of their political affiliations, whose actions have disturbed the life of many communities by denying their basic rights to make the country a fool’s paradise. All Buddhists must get their voters prior to the 2018 February LG elections to demand all their political parties to publicly pledge that they would foster the five noble precepts of governance preached by Lord Buddha; who had advised his followers for happiness in life one should be efficient in whatever honourable profession selected and have good intelligent associates to direct them along the correct path away from immorality to live within their means. Thus Buddhism is rational, practical religion that offers pragmatic view of life and certainly does not generate religious extremist to disturb followers of other faiths; only explains the way to perfect liberty, tranquillity, peace and happiness; does not tempt people into living in fool’s paradise.
As the curtains fall on year 2017, it could be said it was certainly a testing year for Sri Lankans political parties in particular for the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) of the President, the United National Party (UNP) of the Prime Minister in government and that of the Tamils National Alliance (TNA) of the Leader of the Opposition. UNP was the first and though SLFP a breakaway from UNP came to prominence with the support of the rural Sinhala people and TNA is a much latter alliance of moderate and militant Tamils, basically their policies originate from what were sewed in their mind by its ancestors the Ceylon National Congress (CNC), who were basically English educated Sinhalese or Tamils, who had by their actions disturbed the life of the population by denying their basic rights; that has politically divided this little island nation polarising them into many religious and ethnic communities and into urban economic blocks represented by tens of political parties that has today made the country which was once a paradise island into a fool’s paradise.
In the 1930s these ancestors were western oriented gentlemen (WOGs) elite Sinhalese and Tamils upper caste men roughly in equal numbers that guaranteed political parity for the Tamils in the early legislatures of the country prior to gaining independence from the British. But when the Universal Franchise was introduced in 1931, the Tamil politicians found it very difficult to accept as they would become a minority; it completely changed the character of Ceylonese politics; become very communal with the collapse of the CNC, that displaced the caste based feudal system to a secondary place in the nation’s politics. That led to a development of nationalism and communal feeling leading to the first Sinhala-Tamil riot occurring in 1939; taking note of it in 1944, the British Government through the Soulbury Commission introduced a provision for multi-member constituencies in suitable areas, allowing for greater representation for ethnic minorities like Tamils, Muslims and other groups. Thus the final Soulbury Report did much to reconcile the minority communities with the Sinhalese leadership to effect a Ceylonese domination than a Sinhalese domination; devised a scheme that gave heavy weight to the minorities; deliberately protected them against discriminatory legislation; vested important powers to the Governor-General and an Independent Public Service Commission so as to give assurance that there would be no communalism in the Public Service. The Soulbury Commission submissions led to the introduction of the First Constitution of Ceylon that gained independence in 1948.
With independence government was dominated by urban Sinhala Buddhist elite, who as the Sinhalese Nationalists aspiring for political power gradually promoted and nurtured through an education system, media, and Buddhist temples divisions and demarcations on ethno religious biases ‘Urban’. While the larger majority of Sinhala Buddhists in rural areas were moderate voting more for the SLFP rather than the UNP, who too have been playing for their vote. The Sinhalese Nationalists be it in SLFP or UNP their thoughts had blinded them to reality, provided Buddhism with a privileged status by inserting Article 09 in the two republican constitutions, to do away with the Minority Interest Clause 29 in the First Constitution. Thus they missing all opportunities that came their way misruled and the country began sliding, impacting heavily on the economic and ethnic minorities living rural parts throughout the country that led to many uprisings and a bloody civil war, all of which were successfully overcome by brutal force at a heavy cost of human life. The whole world knows what happened to Ceylon turned Sri Lanka in six decades with every generation that kept the Sinhala Buddhist supremacist ideology alive and kicking; only to produce more poor Sinhala Buddhists living in a subsistence economy in the villages. The life they have cannot match the quality and opportunities in Colombo and suburbs, that leaves them almost neglected struggling to exist on the periphery, who had with their votes helped bring to power all the past governments. The situation is much worse for the ethnic minorities in the country, as they in addition faced direct discrimination by the state in particular those living in rural areas affected by the civil war. From this poor majority came the Southern and later the Northern insurrections against the state and the paradox of it all it was from the same majority poor the state recruited its armed forces, who killed each other until their guns were silenced in 2009 with the involvement of many foreign countries.
In this backdrop, time came after six negative peace years in 2015, for the people to face a moment of truth that a change was needed in virtually every aspect of government; this recognition helped them to reach a decision unitarily to elect the common candidate as their new President. Their hopes were raised further when having ejected the incumbent president, the elected president took the leadership of his political party the SLFP. Thereafter, the leader of UNP, who had many times before contested and lost every occasion to lead the country was made the new Prime Minister. These two leading political parties with few other minor political parties formed the Unity Government to take the seat of power and delivered a parcel wrapped in a silver lining in a ‘change’ labeled “Yahapalana Government”. While disgruntled previous regime members including the past president now turned ordinary member and a few rank and file of the SLFP members, formed a ginger group moved over to the opposition, having failed to influence the direction and activities or support the general goals of the new president. They opted to warm the opposition benches in parliament calling themselves the ‘Joint Opposition’ (JO). While the government was busy working to alter the policies, practices of the past by turning the House of Parliament into a Constitution Assembly to draft up a much needed new constitution for the country; unforeseen situations befell on the two men leading the government, with the JO taking to the streets with their protests to every move of the new government with its attempt to fill with hatred the minds of their supporters.
The UNP members in government on the other hand, with all their weaknesses could not stand detached to the sizeable number of brokers of greed and power hunger in the corrupt system of administration left behind by the previous regime formed a new alliance with members of the new government. This was truer with the Prime Minister, for virtually every good intended actions taken every meeting aimed at promoting the good will of the people ended in dead lock was hitting the brick wall. It was a time everything was gathered and conspired by JO that everything the government did was made to look bleak and lost. Coming at time when the economy was bad, with a corrupt old administration in place, it snowballed into a near irreparable situation, defying every economic solution offered by the new government. That was the time ‘Debt Burden’ dried up everything and the Central Bank ventured into a Bond Issue, that developed into the biggest ever misappropriation of state funds now under investigation called the Bond Scam and with it attempts by the government to put right many mega projects of the previous regime turned ‘white elephant’ projects to profit making ventures. One time the storm refused to give way, instead, it gathered more and as the result the country lost a valuable time of the journey of ‘change’ to clean the country of corrupt practices and to find solution to the ethnic problem and many issues related to the ethnic minorities left unresolved from the time war ended in 2009 by the previous regime. Much to the dismay of these ethnic minorities, their representatives the TNA has supported unconditionally for the past two years the government from opposition with its leader as the Leader of the Opposition, who has earned the wrap of the opponents.
The above albatrosses have combined to keep the President though not a Nelson Mandela and the Prime Minister, not a Lee Kuan Yew on their toes, who have worked together as a team even though above hitches have in one way or the other interfered with the daily activities of government redirecting its attention from job creation and capital projects as promised. These two leaders with the TNA leader as the Opposition Leader, who is no Mahatma Gandhi has all got to stand-up and deliver what they all promised to their voters at the last election. While all credit goes to the President, who has started cleaning up the inherited corrupt system of government machinery, while getting on with the business of governance. The biggest problem encountered was the state machinery that worked outside the written constitution, root cause of all the problems in the country; a situation exploited by a corrupt state machinery in need of full refurbishment; because though a devolution package was put into effect in 1987 with the introduction of the provincial council system, it was for various reasons never implemented fully. Mainly because the rulers at the center retained control without sharing power with the provincial councils making it an expensive experiment to date. Now with the Budget for the fiscal year 2018 passed in Parliament as the first step in a journey to reverse the mindset and to empower people to take control of their own destiny, the local government polls are due in February 2018. The country needs to go back to its roots of being a nation of entrepreneurs, a nation of traders; especially due to the democratic changes already made by the Unity Government over the past three years, the entire world has fully endorsed the significant transformation into a free and more democratic country.
As the New Year 2018 is about to dawn, all Sri Lankans must resolve to support their President, who has already resolved to expedite war against corruption by weeding out the wrongdoers at all levels, to ensure positions of authority in every public sector are held by professionals free of corrupt practices leading moral life and living within their means. The Unity Government must stay together to get on fast track to resolve outstanding grievances of the people impacted by the war and proceed to implement the present constitution in full, working with powers already devolved to resolve problems faced by the nine provincial councils, before its term of runs out in 2020 before the General Election.