Sri Lanka: Dear Mr. President! — ( An Open Letter)


Dear Mr. President,

The wave of political enthusiasm which generates hope for a nation sans, bribery & corruption, mismanagement of the state resources, and the cunning culture of bureaucracy, in general the culture of cheating the ordinary citizen, is sadly being shattering and flattening, though you are still managing to keep the high tone in the course correction. It is you who have power and the political authority to make this country a better place for all, who loves peace and dignity of the life also respect each group’s rights equally.

I do not need to explain to you – which part of this country went off out of the rule of law while distorting the very governing structure of the state. Everything was distorted and deteriorated. The history of this nation is lying on this basic tragic reality, and it required a non-violent revolution to re-engineer.

We are now on the same page, as seen by the factual situation in this nation, and we cannot claim that what has happened in this country in January 2015 was the revolution, but we could claim it was a triggering point for future revolution. It is indeed the most important and historical spontaneous reaction against the predecessor rather than a collective effort to put you on the top. The nation is now on the edge.

Nonetheless, the country and her people must be proud of the way you solved the deadly challenge you have faced, and your tremendous effort to drive the country in a civilised direction. As the popular saying goes, the direction you walk is not an issue when you are in hell, and the important thing is just keep on walking.

It was the status the country was in, and the social fear which was pretty much of ruling weapon and self-censorship was the way to survival. Such challenging time just after the brutal civil war has assassinated the last milestone of civil liberty in the nation. It has created political slavery.

We do not need to repeat, the so-called “victory” against the rebels who went mad in the late part of their liberation struggle, and as we all know what went wrong and how good it has been for this society. Let’s leave that sad, bad and mad history aside for the time being, as you correctly identified it as the symptoms of the epidemic of social disorder.

You as one of our highly sensitive and experienced politicians ever produced by this country are proving the maturity, discipline, and tolerance in most fallible and flammable issues. You were not in a hurry, but those who are surrounding you, are in a hurry to get what they desire by hook or by crook. The goal you are dreaming and the dream they seem to be having seem contradictory to each other. I am afraid that paradox is turning your dream into a daydream, and sabotaging the nation which is passing through its most crucial time in history. At last, it looks as if you will have to have leave the office as yet another failed leader.

The main objective of writing this brief note is towards sharing our grasp of the present situation and expressing our anxieties about the uncertain political future that you as the leader and we as the part of this nation are going to face. We do not see the precautions or the real mechanism in action but few attractive projects are walking here and there. Your noble action to eradicate the practice of corruption is something which we have never had in the past; also your projection on true reconciliation is notable.

Public Education & Reconciliation

Reconciliation without truth is nothing but a smokescreen. It is time to release all the “political prisoners” as the country’s security forces and other related agencies have already expressed their confidence in the national security and territorial integrity. Then there is no reason unless otherwise held due to pseudo-political affiliation, to prevent such release of those fellow human beings into open society and letting them also breathe fresh air with new hope of noble livelihood.

The main element of true reconciliation is the public education system. Statistics on how much attention you and your cabinet have paid those innocent kids of inmates in each prison are not in the public domain. Those kids would be seen as important gems in a nation, if you start using your power to delight their future, rather than, caging their parents as alleged criminals. It could be a long term process to eradicate the crimes and the criminal mindset in society. The same could apply to all sorts of prisoners, whose kids have been victimised.


It is time to develop series of discussions in the public education system that lead all our kids to understand the importance of reconciliation, unity, freedom, happiness; in other words how to be themselves, rather than celebrating the “victory” or mourning the “failure” of the bloodshed of our own people.

We realise more and more that the examination orientated education system is producing “mechanical student mindset” which is losing the human spirit while reducing the degree of humanity. We are producing our kids to leave the country and set up their lives in the “developed” societies about which we must rethink. If we are letting our brains go away, who will have the opportunity to contribute substantively to this country?

Healing deep wounds can be successful when it addresses the rooted anxiety in each mind. A society is driven by “social fear” always produces the seeds of doubt and unhappiness. This is what we have deserved since the 1970s to date, therefore it must be changed sooner than later. The whole purpose of the national government based on the Good Governance principle is centralised on sincerity to the people’s mandate.

However, creating such public education discourse is indeed one of the most expensive and difficult tasks. It requires not only paid teachers but also unpaid committed volunteers. But, we have no alternative to avoid this noble mission, if we need to erase the vicious elements of the culture in the country. Education is the key to all social changes and movements. Education is the key to generating authentic public discourse on any issue.

Curbing Corruption

Your attempt in eradicating the practice of corruption has been widely appreciated. It has not only met the expectations in global political arena but is also helping common Sri Lankans realise their dreams in this regard. In terms of propaganda it has won the international media and certain other groups but it is doubtful as to how much it would return as a substantive contribution to the people in general.

Nonetheless, how far you can walk through and how sincere the officers-in-charge in this mechanism are, are being pictured differently by the general public. The anti-corruption operation is getting more space in the media rather than it occupying the spaces in the courtrooms. This shows the reality of the prevailing system, in which impunity enjoyed by white collar criminals who plundered the state resources are standing out.

Without taking bold steps through litigations in courtrooms, and letting people understand, success in Good Governance seems doubtful. Unfortunately, creating such media orientated drama could keep the emotions of public in a higher degree, which could benefit in achieving temporary political advantages. This will expand the “Bystander Effort” (Genovese Syndrome) within society while making irrelevant those who can contribute towards a better society. Your noble mission will melt in the corrupted hands when you accidently or those around you due to their scheming take out the cream of creators and change makers.

As in an experiment by John Watson of Harvard University in 1974, findings reveals us, there are three absolute positions one could take in any circumstances; first, you will become a perpetrator of evil, second, you will become guilty of passive inaction, third, you will become a hero. I think, the anti- corruption mission is hanging on these stages, and as the leader with absolute power, it is your time to decide either become a perpetrator of evil, guilty of passive inaction or hero before the justice of humanity.

My mind goes back to the memories recalls by the former President Mrs Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga during her infamous confession of three mistakes during her governing tenure. It shows the truth is out there. You are lucky here to have an authentic friend to avoid the past mistakes of the predecessors.

That is obvious there is no exact formula to eradicate corruption, as it has its own hierarchy and complicated web. But, not a single country can achieve the basic of secure society without eliminating of this inhuman practice. The viciousness of the practice you know better than any politicians as once you were served as the Ministry of Health, one of the most important areas of the public which has systematically dismantled for the sake of a few pharmaceutical companies of individuals. Life of the 22 millions of innocent have less value than those companies, and the government or the minister in charge is deliberately ignoring the actions the people wanted.

Eradicate the practice of corruption requires authentic collective actions. What one could see is that the majority of ordinary citizens and the leader are eager to establish a society without corruption. The leader can talk from one side while the ordinary citizen can talk from another side. But the real challenge is who will manage in creating the strong link between them. The most important fact the action taken by the socio-political multitudes such as ministers, bureaucracy, local bodies; to implement the leader’s message and public desire. This has been absence or distorted throughout the discourse.

Like achieving the real reconciliation, establishing the anti-corruption mechanism also has well place in the public education system. Developing the mechanism which can be created anti-corruption culture, while prosecuting those who corrupted the state resources, and taking popular media attention is important to long-term task to develop. This should be avoided the petty party politics. Your responsibility is to develop a situation for our future generation to learn from the past and avoid the horrendous mistakes our past generations were encountered.

Diplomacy and the future Relationships

Another most important area of the country’s future hanging is the strength of the Sri Lankan diplomacy. The most important question here is that what else we could see rather than receive a few press releases on organised events and political stigma in the name of “Sri Lankan Diplomacy”.

Two open letters by the Minister in charge of the subject addressed the former President Mahinda Rajapaksa have attempted to educate the someone who has already put a different agenda in place by ignoring what the country needs at the moment. That is somehow laughable attempts, though it has well attraction by the media in the country as well as the outside. However, the fact is that there is no point of putting effort awake a person who is pretending to be asleep.

However, most of the internal sources indicate that the administrative system is the Ministry of Foreign Affairs is nothing but an absolute muck which is second to the situation in the Ministry of Defense which was the ruling compose of the previous government.

What we could learn from the infamous “WikiLeaks Revelation” is that how the one country has organised their diplomacy and the responsibilities those officers who are in charge. They are bound to inform the country they represent and improve the condition of the country’s reputation. We as the nation which is the long way ahead to “develop” urgently requires the true mechanism to monitor our every diplomatic mission.

One good suggestion would be appointed the “voluntarily task force of the reputed retired government and non-governmental officials” who can monitor, evaluate and suggest the recommendations for the improvement of the each mission abroad including the ministry of the subject. Unfortunately, in this country, many reputed retired officials either spending time at home while recalling their fascinating professionalism or serving for foreign nations.

We have “diplomats” those who passed the exams. But the practical experience has enlightened us that is not enough to serve the country. We as the island nation which has tremendous potential to develop peoples’ friendly diplomacy has to take multi actions urgently otherwise, it will continue producing the rotten eggs.

Along with the diplomacy, the most important area of the country is the state intelligence services. In Sri Lanka we have two major state intelligence agencies, both primarily concern the direct security aspects of the country. Other than three forces and police are maintaining their own intelligence agencies. But, unfortunately, what the history has proven us, despite the remarkable role played during the civil war, all agencies were utterly politicised. The crisis within crisis has been created the fragile survival game. Not a single country in the world which has developed and improved the conditions of the citizen marinating a “politicised intelligence agencies”.

If I may quote the sage words of George Washington, “there is nothing more necessary than good intelligence to frustrate a designing enemy and nothing that requires greater pain to obtain.” (Letter to Robert Morris by Washington on January 1, 1756)

There are many reports indicates the diplomatic dilemma the country undergoing over an influence of the neighbours. When we need to buy “fighter jets” we have to obey the words from a neighbour whom will say don’t. When the country signed the new projects with another country, a neighbour will be pressurised not to go with that. This is the situation our country, so it requires actions which can strength the strategic partnership to rescue our nation from an eclipse of an abyss. Otherwise, we will be the nation which is secondary to all.

Mr President, as you know quite well, every country is passing through the desperate and darkest period. When such time occupied the nation, it will lose the creativity, authentic administration, happiness, and well beings. When such times occupied the nation, it will produce the pseudo-patriotism, basic principles of the faiths (religions) will be replaced with the distorted threats of hopelessness, despair and disunity among the people.

Winning Formula

As I have pointed to at the beginning of the letter, what we as citizens of this nation experienced in January 2015 is the rare triggering point of future revolution. The era of revolution by military means produced a greater degree of desperation and frustration. This was brought to an end by the people. This is what our history has taught us. There is no longer the grounds for utilising our youth for another “brainwashing” about armed rebellion. Consolidating people power into democratic movement is what the country needs.

However, all this can be changed overnight, if interested parties or evil forces trigger the extremist elements to manipulate the youth.

As the leader of this nation, you have a greater degree of responsibility to drive this nation and change the cunning destructive culture of control and administration by force. The most fundamental problem is not that we don’t have a system to run but those with knowledge are cynically manipulating the system for petty personal desires. The concept of oversight has thus turned into a trick of overlooking.

Those who retired with the reputation of their profession were cornered; while corrupted elements were overwhelming in most public institutions. In such situation, accountability and transparency are nothing but distorted ideas to ambuscade the other party. This is harsh reality anyone could experience from political party to small scale government department. This drama has to end. That can be openly ended by those who earned reputation, respect and dignity of their profession.

But, unfortunately, many evil forces are disguised and preventing the intervention of good men. We are not a country without resources. The most powerful resource out of all, the human resources is extremely rich in this country. What is lacking here is that there is no mechanism to consolidate those resources.

Mr President, facilitate our countrymen and countrywomen enjoy liberty. Then, you will be the true hero of all times.

Yours Faithfully

Nilantha Ilangamuwa
Nilantha Ilangamuwa edits the Sri Lanka Guardian, an online daily newspaper, and he also an editor of the Torture: Asian and Global Perspectives, bi-monthly print magazine. He is the author of the just released non-fictions, “Nagna Balaya” (The Naked Power), in Sinhalese and “The Conflation”, in English. He can be reached at [email protected]

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