In Sri Lanka from the days the country received independence in 1948 due to misrule a gloom began to nibble into the life of the ordinary people that led them through a civil-war of three decades that divided the communities; had thwarted economic growth pushing back development activities by five decades. End of 2018 saw majority of the population struggling to make ends meet and poverty prevailing in rural areas in particular the regions directly impacted by the civil-war. Today no matter who rules the country, with a series of credit rating downgrades amid the financial crisis have made it harder to borrow as the country faces a record high repayments of US$5.9 billion this year, US$2.6 billion of which fall due in the first three months and this week government has managed to pay back only $1 billion.
Earlier in 2009 on ending the civil-war, as a way out then rulers began taking heavy loans from other countries and China as part of its drive to build a 21st-century “Silk Road” across nations and shipping lanes lent US$8 billion to build ports, motorways and planning other major investments in the island and today nearly a quarter of country’s total foreign debt is owed to China. Though the war was brought to finish because of corrupt rule the government was changed by the people through the process of elections in 2015. For a decade negative peace has prevailed in the country without proper resolution of the ethnic problem that caused the war and the economic crisis self-created by rulers has strained the state finances.
The government left with no option was forced to consider an offer from Bank of China for a loan of US$300 million, which could be raised to US$1 billion, to help it meet repayments in coming months and have in parallel started negotiations to increase the amount of a swap deal with India’s central bank to US$1 billion, up from a previously negotiated US$400 million. The politically created financial crisis country is facing is well known to every parliamentarians on either side of the divide and as responsible politicians they must come together putting away their party differences to assist the government to get the country out of this crisis and sooner its done the better.
Providentially all the politicians representing the minorities in parliament have come forward to assist the government in time of this crisis and are supporting the government to replace the nineteen times amended draconian constitution with a new constitution. Whereas the greedy corrupt politicians of the previous regime now in opposition are ‘barking at the wrong tree’ whipping up communalism once again about the yet to be drafted new constitution by raising fabricated fears of threat to the foremost status granted to Buddhism in the present constitution and of a division of the country. This mindset was well demonstrated recently, when one of the greedy corrupt opposition parliamentarian sitting in front bench in parliament made a false statement that judgements of some Christian judges of the Supreme Court were guided by their priests. He chose to make this false accusation in parliament seeking refuge in parliamentary privilege; could have been charged for contempt of court had this statement was made outside the parliament. Remarkably all parliamentarian present in parliament opted to ignore this foul statement and the present rulers have realised that resolution of all ethnic related issues is a must to take the country forward and would only be possible if the most amended draconian constitution is replaced with a new constitution. The political parties representing the minorities present in parliament have agreed on measures needed to implement the devolution of powers by strengthening the Provincial Council system with a new Constitution that is favourable to the country. As the power of devolution envisaged would be within a unitary in line with the devolution of power to the regions agreed in 1995 which does not suggest that the country is being separated. It is best for any concerned citizen to refer to all the reports prepared by the Constitutional Assembly and the speeches of its members that are freely accessible on the Parliament website before coming to any conclusion.
All this hassle about the danger to Buddhism, division of the country and a federal set-up are all foul cries from these corrupt politicians is only a cover-up to prevent the government going through the full term of five years fearing that their past corrupt activities will be investigated by various commissions set up by the government . To this end all through the past four years these corrupt politicians have played their brand of racist’s politics to discredit the government at all cost, without minding about the damage done to the ethnic and social fabric of the country. The Chief Prelate the Mahanayake of the Malwatte Chapter has correctly pointed out that many parliamentarians in opposition were part of the discussions on the new constitution and has confirmed that many elections are in the pipeline as such time was not sufficient. With the interest of the country in mind Thibbotuwawe Sri Siddartha Sumangala Thera has said that nobody wants to divide the country by introducing a new Constitution at this juncture. As suggested by the Most Venerable Thera it would be better to first give priority to solve the economic problems of the people and then proceed on the new constitution, perhaps after the end of all pending elections held on the due dates. Because constitution cannot be rewritten in a hurry and should not be a subject for discussion to sling mud at each other at election platforms.
But the greedy corrupt past rulers in opposition are calling for a general elections and for fear of letting the current rulers take any credit are hell-bent on preventing a new constitution getting through during the present term of parliament. Fortunately, the people prefer to wait till the government term expires in an year and then to go for the General Election; in the meantime get the financial crisis resolved first and then on with drafting the new constitution, as the Expert Panel’s report presented to the Constitutional Assembly is only ideas and proposals are still open for accommodation. What is more even if the government succeed gathering the required two thirds majority it will still be put for a referendum for the people to decide. Thus with no finality reached yet on matters pertaining to the new constitution, if the intensions of the past regime politicians in opposition are honourable they should join in the debate on the expert’s panel report in the constitution assembly to ensure that nothing unfavourable to the country be incorporated in the proposed new constitution.
Sri Lankan current rulers are acting responsibly to resolve the financial crisis of a great magnitude never experienced before by the country and making a start to divest themself from their previous inward-looking isolationist outlook to bury the past and forge reconciliation with the minorities that would enable them to rule the whole nation that is at present divided. Therefore the previous regime parliamentarians should keep their party politics out to think out of the box and support government of the day to solve the financial crisis at the earliest to let the country leap out the calamity; continue developing the New Constitution and face the elections as they occur on schedule determined by the Election Commissioner. For the people in a democracy must be free to decide without untold pressure from anyone as to who should rule them after the General Elections in 2020.