The recent statements of President Ranil Wickramasinghe and Foreign Minister Ali Sabry expose and confirm the financial, political, and economic bankruptcy of Sri Lanka even admitted by the leaders and architects of these bankruptcies who nurtured and fed them for their political and personal prosperity partly encouraged by the numbed and sterile opposition coupled with the complacency of ordinary citizens.
It was hoped that the April 2022 Aragaliya, (The Peoples’ popular uprising) would have taught fitting lessons for the erratic leaders but it appears that the heat is doused and dust has settled muting the peaceful protestors and silencing the cries for accountability and good governance.
It cannot be denied that a vibrant and kicking democratic country like Sri Lanka has been sapped and drained of its unity and cohesion while replaced with the evils of racism, majoritarianism and chauvinism along with offshoots of Sinhalaization and Buddhisization being exploited by opportunistic politicians for their personal and political glories, ambitions and political ascendancies.
There is no need to record the several damage controlling and pacifying actions and measures taken by the several past governments since 1956 which only sought to plaster the wounds without fully eliminating and curing the roots of diseases with proper cures and not allowing any recurrences. It has been estimated that about 20 billion dollars were lost being the cost of ethnic wars, conflicts and campaigns of protestors including peaceful non-violent fasting protests being originated due to the power hunger and thirst of politicians to capture power at any cost.
A chapter in the continuing dark history of self-interested politicians and parties is the recent statements of President Ranil as reported in Tamil Guardian on 25 September 2022 and Foreign Minister Ali Sabry’s statement in the Human Rights Council in Geneva during its 51st sessions on 12 September 2022.
President Ranil in his interview to Tamil Guardian has appealed and “sought the assistance of Sri Lankan diaspora” particularly Tamils to contribute financially to lift the country from its gradual sinking due to lack of foreign reserves to meet the import bills of Sri Lanka.
This is like begging an injured person who have been already injured by him earlier. These undeserving appeals have surfaced due to desperation and can only be described as political tantrums conceived belatedly and compelled to avert the looming bankruptcy of the country.
A further stomach-turning confession is the admission of Sri Lanka’s bankruptcy by the President which is one of the considerations and conditions of Western nations and friendly countries to extend financial help to the rescue of poor nations like Sri Lanka.
However, the international community and donor nations particularly Japan are having second thoughts as to Sri Lanka’s credibility, potentials and prospects of financial recovery. However, President Ranil’s admission of Sri Lanka as a bankrupt nation appears to have not swayed and convinced enough for the international community, diaspora and donor countries viewing the current unstable government headed by an unelected President Ranil though they view him as a friendly and moderate democratic politician. Still it appears that the international community and friendly nations are skeptical and pessimistic as to Sri Lanka’s ability to quick recovery and emerging from the current economic and political morass and instability. President Ranil’s recently placating steps are directed at UN, HRC and international community like ordering the release of eight (8) Tamil political prisoners who are nearing their completion of fifteen years of jail sentences. This step though a welcome sign of reconciliation, yet it is only a tip of the iceberg of entrenched deep and long-standing unsolved grievances of the Tamils particularly those who continued to suffer from alleged war crimes and enforced disappearances allegedly committed by the security forces and government officials.
It is learnt that more than one hundred prisoners are still languishing in jails not knowing their fate and future and so far, there is no sign of their immediate releases. Promises must be fulfilled with compliances and not with breaches.
It is suggested that the President should initiate appropriate steps to address the following destabilizing and discriminatory political measures carried out by the various governments since 1958.
- State discrimination in language and employment.
- Sinhalization and Buddhisization including Sinhala colonization in Tamil areas (North and East)
- Refraining from dishing out hollow promises to suit the place and occasions.
- As Sampanthan MP in his Deepawali message stated, “We will not be cheated henceforth by whoever ruling the country”. He also warned “the TNA will take fitting decisions” if Sri Lankan government continues to adopt a lackadaisical attitude and approach to solve the problems of the Tamils. He also warned “to seek and request international involvement to solve the ethnic problem while declaring his co-operation to the President if the President sincerely embarks on a journey of restoring ethnic unity and remedying the grievances of the Tamils.
It is learnt that the President of Sri Lanka has promised a new constitution in place within one year while meeting the aspirations of all communities particularly the Tamils. It is hoped that this promise will not suffer the same fate of slow death like the past several promises of various governments.
President is advised to better give careful consideration not to allow the ethnic to prolong further which could pave the way and lead to demands for a divided Sri Lanka.
Thambu Kanagasabai LLM [London] Former Lecturer in Law, University of Colombo, Sri Lanka.