At independence in 1948, Sri Lanka was well placed in the center of Indian Ocean, at the cross roads of international trade; came into being as a new nation in the mid nineteen hundreds. With ‘common men’ entering the arena of governance used as trash the public in the slums of urban and suburban sectors that began to stink and to get dirty; further treated as if they owned those palpably present in the cocktail circuits in the more sophisticated corners. As seven decades passed more and more public responded to them in a welcoming manner only to get manipulated by more despicable politicians turned into very uncommon beasts operating in every corner of the country and exposed to resulting bribery and corruption the ‘common men’ got gobbled up in an exponential sequence as successive governments failed to keep the tiny island nation with its wonderful people a paradise in the Indian Ocean was in a mess following the civil-war causing loss of thousand lives with more disabled and irrecoverable losses and damages to properties. In 2015 regime changed without resolving issues of the minorities in the previous war zone, affected by the civil-war left high and dry as the Unity Government took a politically divided corrupt and debt harassed country in real chaos.
Sri Lanka with much naturally available inland and ocean resources and much underutilized human power failed as a nation due to lack of a national policy to become the regional logistics hub by exploiting its most precious resource – advantageous position in the Indian Ocean. This because Sri Lanka, the little island nation from the time it was known as ‘Ceylon’, began without a proper foreign policy with its ‘island mind-set’ rulers believing that the whole of Asia revolved around it. Then as the rulers had nightmares about an impending Indian ‘intervention’ of the Bangladesh, began the call for making the shared Indian Ocean a ‘Zone of Peace’, only to renamed itself as ‘Sri Lanka’ to look more and more inwards following the birth of Bangladesh in the nineteen seventies. Then in the nineteen eighties steadily moved away closer to the US at the height of the ‘Cold War’ and India was caught in between to become its adversary continued to date with minor changes now and then, only to return back to old mind-set.
Then Sri Lanka having among the best tea in the world and responsible for 90% of the world’s total cinnamon supply, processing endless variety of excellent gemstones, fruits and vegetables, having been self-sufficient in producing its staple diet rice; yet it drifted without a national policy with center right and center left governments ruling for decades, accepted by all the greedy political actors the country lost its paradise status. That caused well-placed nation in the Indian Ocean to face many ethnic difficulties and infighting between communities to many uprisings against the state. The rulers unable to handle the problem were forced to invite India to crush insurgencies in the nineteen seventies. Still unperturbed greedy rulers drifted along to an unprepared open economy policy only to cause riots and eventually a full scale civil war broke out, that lasted several decades; in spite of an Indian peace-keeping force arriving in the nineteen eighties at the invitation of the ruler to control it. Thereafter civil war escalated and was brought to finish finally in 2009 with assistance from many countries including India.
Following the end of civil-war in 2009, there was six years of negative peace under the previous regime till a wind of change was forced in 2015 by many friendly nations including India that rooted out the previous regime democratically with a Presidential and then a parliamentary General Election. By then the damage was already done as many unwarranted over developments were undertaken with political arrogance of the regime; for it was revealed that some of these major development projects did not even have a feasibility study or even a pre-feasibility study and these projects lacked any search into the more feasible alternatives. Unfortunately, many of these are not priority projects and these development decisions were taken in parliament were not referred for public opinion or any dialogue happening in the country to select them as such had no public acceptance. There were occasions that Department of National planning and the Ministry of Finance did not play its role when screening the suitable projects for the country; as a result, the public pay heavy cost to pay back unnecessary and illegitimate debts. Unfortunately, either bureaucrats had no say on these decisions or if they did it was because they too were drawn by the corrupt development decision-making system in the hands of a handful of corrupted and greedy politicians.
But the country’s corrupt administration and poor infrastructure facilities is well acknowledged by the Unity Government; it is now paramount to correct the system and clean the politics before country gets drowned further into debt crisis. Considering the failed projects such as Mattala Airport, Hambantota Harbour, Uma Oya diversion and some other partly successful projects such as Moragahakanda, Yan Oya, etc., caused the accumulation of debts in the recent times have caused enormous pressure on the country, has resulted in becoming the latest victim of the Chinese debt trap diplomacy. However, it is the ruling regimes of each country that have the right to engage or avoid and the Unity Government has taken appropriate actions to overcome it. Further it is making every attempt to rectify these and other many bottlenecks to become the regional logistics hub. Worse still the accumulation of both legitimate and illegitimate debt in the recent times have caused enormous pressure on the country and though the Unity Government has taken many prudent steps to reduce these debts, due to tax increase and increase in the price of goods and services in the three years worst off are the ordinary poor people around the country and are in no mood to give the government to serve its full term and did not fail to register their protest by many refraining from voting for the government or parties in opposition supporting them at the Local Council polls held early this year. But the truth is average Sri Lankan has short memory and ignorant of simple facts that in the past decade the country has had several failed and controversial projects Norochcholai Coal Power Plant, Hambantota Harbour, Mattala Airport, Uma Oya diversion, Colombo Port City are just a few of them that failed to deliver expected benefits costing billions of rupees.
While considerable time in the past three years was spent by the bribery commission appointed to build cases to court on many bribery and corruption acts allegedly committed during the past regime; most of these cases taken for trial by the court were promptly rejected simply on technical grounds. After the wind of change of 2015 in Sri Lanka information came to light and there has been startling revelations in the media, regarding financial frauds set to have taken place involving many politicians. It included many in the government and those supporting it from the opposition is a major setback for the government; yet three years on, not much action has being taken based on the intelligence collected on most of them. Few getting investigated are due to agitation from those in opposing camps, due to vengeance on opponents than out of love for the country. Further it is only a tip of the iceberg that get the attention of the media, as there are more frauds allegedly linked to people outside the legislature not linked to any political personalities that are in need of publicity. Yet no action has being taken to recover this money, major components are kept in foreign banks and the people at least have the right to know as to why investigations into these frauds are being delayed, for it is they who are the final losers.
It comes not as a surprise to most free thinkers in Sri Lanka in search of the truth, who are today interpreting the absence of actions to investigate these frauds committed by opponents involved to mean that it is used by the government as a political leverage to suppress them; alternatively if it involves those in their side perhaps the government are maintaining to keep silent, while the matter get swept under the carpet. Only option now left for Sri Lankans is to weed out these dishonest common men turned politicians regardless of which political party at the next General Election in 2020 and then to vote many new law makers for any political party of their choice to govern the country and only then the country can become the regional logistics hub in the Indian Ocean, to get the country out of its present mess, or be doomed for ever.