‘Yahapalanaya’ possible in Sri Lanka only with collective consciousness

A magic genie lamp on a persons hand, isolated on white.In Sri Lanka since 1948 the majority community rulers have acted without any collective conscious to releasing their feelings against the minority communities from their mind, like releasing the genie out of the bottle that has eroded away the basic rights of the minorities. With time forced to the limit and to get out of the miserable life, the minorities began to retaliate and that led the country to a civil war. Then there was a wind of change in 2015 and formed a Unity Government to provide yahapalanaya failed in the three years of rule. As the efforts of the leaders of the two large political parties in Unity Government were resisted by their own breakaway legislators soaked in the same old mind set as their past rulers, all due to the inability of Sri Lankans to develop a collective consciousness. The failure of the Unity Government to rid of the corrupted mindset of the majority community, has left the minority communities in distress; further the disappointment to get back the basic rights denied to them for over 70 years has encouraged the minority leaders to grow opposing mindset in their minds. 

At the time of independence in 1948 Sri Lanka (then Ceylon), referred as the Paradise island in the Indian Ocean had a plantation based economy, which had grown steadily enabling the multi-ethnic and multi-religious communities to live in harmony. With the one man one vote democratic rule the Sinhala Buddhist majority community began ruling the independent nation with a constitution that ensured the minority communities were not discriminated and the Paradise had a golden era. Unfortunately, the elite rulers concentrated their efforts to prevent the leftist parties taking away their power; began working outside the constitution to drag religion and language into politics, like opening the genie trapped in the bottle. First they removed the voting rights of the upcountry estate workers supporting their opponents to deny leftist winning more seats for them in the legislature. Same decade saw the export economy decline due to stagnation of the plantation based industries; while imports went up to meet the increasing needs of population that has been growing after World War II, to gradually depreciate the local currency rupee. Then the local elite leaders opted for defensive subsistence agriculture based industries aided by prejudiced colonisation that impacted the minorities. Further greed divided the Sinhala Buddhist leaders into two political groups with the formation of a new political party that came to power in 1956 to gain more prominence thereafter replacing English with Sinhala as the official language overnight and to sustain their power encouraged the Buddhist monks to enter politics. This resulted in many professional voluntarily leaving, that caused a heavy brain drain in the country.

In 1972, like frogs in the well and not being adventurous the rulers failed to create export based industries that would have stabilized the rupee; instead they nationalised foreign own businesses and industries and renamed the country Sri Lanka. With having lost many professionals in the brain drain businesses and industries took a down turn; while the monks systematically influenced the rulers to disown the first constitution. With time both Sinhala Buddhist political parties using the collective majority power collaborated together to introduce republican constitutions giving prominence to Sinhala Buddhist majority over all other ethnic and religious minorities to make them second class citizens in their own country. It changed the destiny of the island nation that was for centuries a multi-ethnic and multi-religious paradise.

In 1978 to boost the economy, the rulers began a drive to diversify the economy by opening up free trade zones for an export driven economy. Yet as the saying goes absolute power corrupts absolutely, to retain power the rulers began alienating the minorities with further discriminations; pushed to the wall, for their own safety minority community youths retaliated against the state. Resulting uprisings prevented investments flowing into the country to open up new export oriented services and industries; yet open economy flooded the market with foreign goods to satisfy the local consumer needs and helped urban areas to develop creating more urban rich, while rural areas got left behind creating more rural poor. Earlier in 1980, the rulers allowed the rupee that stood at Rs.8 against the dollar to float for the first time, previously with the exchange rate control system in place the real value of rupee was not known; but immediately after floating the dollar shot up to Rs.16. Since then there has been an unending depreciation of the rupee against the dollar; mainly because of many uprisings in the country.  That caused more oppressions by the rulers leading to civil war that lasted over three decades causing all the miseries that war brings to the people.

The war was brought to finish in 2009, only to be followed by six long negative peace years, as the former regime without any reconciliation retained the same strength of security forces in the two provinces devastated by the civil war to keep pressure with its policies of discriminating the minorities countrywide. The former regime unable to attract foreign funds for much needed infrastructure development projects from the western governments, began taking loans from China, where it’s falling rate of profitability on domestic investments led to increased foreign investment activity to pursue profits abroad. These investments in the country were overpriced, even though the interest rate were lower than commercial rates, and more flexible than those under Western aid. What is more these Chinese loans required less scrutiny and were used on many dicier projects. This encouraged irresponsible borrowing by the previous regime that resulted in many Chinese firms taking advantage of its government financing to fund overpriced and badly assessed projects and profited from guaranteed material sourcing. As most of these projects helped many previous regime actors, it used the government machinery well to get these funding with then existed significant deregulations; therefore they were overpriced and economically less viable and caused many negative social impacts, resulting in the country building up large foreign debts by 2014.

For the first time in the independent history of the country a worrying trend was started by a foreign government, as China demanded equity in return for debt forgiveness, further China gained geostrategic power in the country. This upset India and many western nations to cause the external interference, helping civil society members in 2015 to cox in the two Sinhala Buddhist led major political parties to form a Unity Government and now in 2018 the rest is history.

Within forty years covering civil-war years the rupee depreciated 10 times over to reach the all-time low of Rs.160 against the dollar, it explains the damage caused by the 70 years old communal genie released by the past leaders who had ruled without any collective consciousness. Bitter truth is no government can survive with the frogs in the well attitude of the pre-civil war governments, nor can it afford anymore to let the assets of the country be used as geopolitical pawns by foreign governments as the defeated previous regime did for monetary gains to the rulers in their post-civil war year’s power struggle to 2015.

Unity Government having inherited large foreign debts experienced budgetary constraints due to diverse domestic problems was in urgent need of development capital. Already with western institutions placing unreasonable constraints by demanding political reforms and good governance as conditions for funding, the unity government leaders were puffed up when the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) of China came their way and managed to renegotiate most of the debt liabilities in country’s favour; but has not prevented many former regime hecklers in the opposition to criticise the government.

With political parties preparing already to face the next polls, must get rid of the discriminatory mindset of 70 years and ensure that their selected candidates are free all corrupt activities and crimes. Be prepared to work with a set of shared beliefs, ideas and moral attitudes to yield a collective consciousness to provide ‘Yahapalanaya’ government for all. To have a clean administration with a new constitution to resolve all present domestic issues, before getting on with development of the country.