World Happiness Report 2019, compiled by the United Nations, placed Sri Lanka disturbingly low, in the 130th position out of 156 countries by happiness levels, based on factors such as life expectancy, social support and corruption. Yet, it is not surprising to many Sri Lankan, who know the history of the island nation once a paradise; for its overall financial growth since independence has been inconsistent, due to various negative political factors introduced by the influence of corrupt rulers and the resulting financial instability impeded the embryo of a just society, to deprive the ruled from a happy and peaceful life.
Earlier, during the colonial rule, under the British many schools were built in major cities like Colombo, Jaffna, Kandy and Galle in Sri Lanka to educate locals in the English medium; with the aim of producing an English educated Ceylonese to serve as a bridge to function between the British officials and the Ceylonese at large. These Ceylonese, became an elite class of locals having functioned as a very useful bridge that enabled the British to rule and exploit the island nation; thus when the country gained independence in 1948, there was a group of English educated locals, referred in short “WOG” (Western Oriented Gentlemen), a powerful minority mix of all ethnicities, made up less than 10% of the population. Many spoke good English, dressed and ate like their colonial masters and included those converted to Christianity, the religion of their masters.
In 1948, it was to this elite minority the British handed power to rule in the country that was a multi-ethnic and multi-religious communities. As the ethnic minorities were guaranteed by the constitution of their basic rights; the country would have in due course evolved politically giving prominence to the majority ethnic community without much fuss. Regrettably, the well placed in society WOG were concerned of the ‘one man one vote’ system of democracy in operation would make them a minority. To overcome this minority complex they for their own advantage ruled the majority; but the isolated rulers observed deep rooted nationalistic tendencies surfacing from the ruled under the one man one vote system of democracy in operation. To overcome this problem, these rulers in haste converted back to promote their native language and religion; but without following the Buddha Dharma the rulers adopted a divide and rule policy, that polarized the multi-ethnic and multi-religious ruled into separate groups.
At the time of independence, the main income for the country came from exports of agriculture produce such as tea, rubber and coconut. Unfortunately, power hungry rulers made a flawed political move that made the workers on these upcountry estates stateless overnight and most of them were repatriated back to their country of origin. This state of neglect continued for thirty-five years and with poor management of these estates damaged the quality of agriculture produce and the industry lost its number one export earner position. About the same time began a long process of promoting the language and the religion of the majority, derailing the constitution that had checks and balances to protect the basis rights of the minorities. Paradoxically, the remaining upcountry estate workers of Indian origin were later given citizenship for political reason to gain votes by the rulers, yet received a step motherly treatment from successive rulers. The inconsistent financial growth created less wealth for the country and the ruled got poorer resulted in many uprisings, to retain power rulers promptly resorted to supress the uprisings; that impacted the economic minorities in the south and the ethnic minorities in general, that led the country to a brutal civil-war that lasted over thirty years.
The civil-war was brought to finish in 2009 with assistance from many friendly nations and the state was left with infrastructures and public properties damaged by war; reconstruction of which drained the reserves of the country and in ten years the government ended up heavily dependent on many nations. While escalating lawlessness social order that was a distinct obstruction to the efforts of creating a virtuous nation. However, the rulers were not prepared for this and kept blaming the other politicians and corrupt activities continued unabated; whereas most effective way to instil moral ethics was to educate the masses through every available means. Matters got worse with polarisation of people into political groups, and there was not enough commitment from the people for the realization of the virtuous society with honesty, courage, compassion and generosity. Whereas being respectful to the laws of the land to uphold liberty, equality and social justice would have made communal tolerance and peaceful existence to ensure shared prosperity for all.
After the war ended, those who returned home are having to cope with incomplete resettlement and missing persons are left unresolved issues. During this period a transformation of moral spirit to evil entered in the society as communities politically polarized into small segments; primarily due to vicious competition and gross selfishness resulting in indiscipline, disregarding all social and moral obligations. The cost of war to the country was never evaluated, but experts claim it to have pushed the economy back by fifty years; after the war was brought to finish, the rulers by passed regulations coupled with corruption and with the persistent presence of fierce competitive market economy all contributed to further deterioration of virtues in society. Further, a decade has passed and in spite of changes in governments; the draw backs from the war affected all communities, more so the war affected minority communities in north and east of the country. That included loss life, lifetime disabilities and with many fleeing the island and resulting heavy brain drain would take generations to rectify.
The realization in the country is that to by-pass further deterioration of society and improve the ethical mindset, the country needs a strong leader to focus on a unified cultural change in the country to stop further polarization of society into ethnic and religious segments, instead create a virtuous society that is disciplined and law abiding. It was in this scenario that people went to vote for new leader at the 2019 Presidential Election. Not surprisingly, the majority voted in an administrator and not a politician to lead the country, whose biggest challenge is to act and all Sri Lankan are waiting to see how the New President tackle the various problems of the various polarized groups of people to end up with a united people and prosperous island nation.