Posted in Asian News
June 23, 2022

Sri Lanka’s sorry plight – who is to blame?

Colombo, June 24 (DailyMirror) – Current Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, showing a gloomy picture of Sri Lanka’s immediate future presently is also no ‘Mr. Clean’

Sri Lanka is a country that has fallen like no other. A country which was once dubbed as the ‘Miracle of Asia’, ‘Pearl Of the Indian Ocean’, ‘Investment Hub’, ‘Must See Destination’, is today pleading with open hands, literally begging for fuel, medicines, food, essentials in front of the global community.

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Whoever can help us, we plead with them. Whatever global agency that even inquires about our status, we rush to them. So is our desperation, to ensure that 22 million people can continue living, with at least the basics so that each day can pass.

For months, Sri Lankans have been surviving in fear. Every household has only one story to tell – when will a gas cylinder arrive in their home? When can they get some much-needed medicines? When can they buy milk powder and other essentials for their children? When can they fill their fuel and how long are the queues? And when will the power normalize? The fear now haunting Sri Lankans is unimaginable. But it is something they are compelled to now live with.

So how did this once-blooming hub turn into such a desperate failed state?

Who is the blame? Where did we go wrong? While the answer is straight, that mismanagement, theft, corruption, fraud, bribes, commissions, selfishness, greed, nepotism and misuse of power by our so-called politicians and public officials resulted in the suffering of an entire nation, it is not surprising that even to date none of these politicians and officials have accepted their faults and taken responsibility. The nation is yet to hear an apology from any leader for their mistakes.

On March 16, when President Gotabaya Rajapaksa addressed the nation while the Treasury was scraping to find foreign exchange and at the peak of the power crisis, what stuck to mind was his refusal to take responsibility for any of his weak decisions. Staring into the camera he read his written script with no regret in his eyes – “This crisis was not created by me. When those who contributed to the creation of this crisis are criticizing the government in front of the people today, I am attempting to immediately resolve this crisis and provide relief to the people,” he said, clearly forgetting that his appointments to public office, his decisions, and his utter organic fertilizer disaster had anything to do with the crisis.

Forgetting that he too is now a politician after being elected to the highest seat in the country, he went on to say that in a crisis situation like this, it was the responsibility of the politicians and intellectuals of a country to collectively find solutions to the issues. Here again, he forgot that he was a President who had all powers under the 20th Amendment.

Former Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa did no better than his brother when in a televised address to the nation a month later in April, he appealed to the country and protesters to have “patience” and said that the crisis-hit country was losing precious dollars because of protests on the streets.

Still with no apology whatsoever for his government’s utter failures and his own, as he had served as the Finance Minister not too long ago, the Prime Minister atl east accepted that no matter how honourable the notion of organic fertilizer was, it was not the time for it to be implemented. However his decisions thereafter seemed to be ignored as his own brother, the President began a campaign to oust him thinking that if he did so, his failures would be covered up well and forgotten. On May 9, Mahinda Rajapaksa ultimately had to go, after deadly violence which claimed nine lives.

Then we had another Rajapaksa – the one dubbed as a ‘Kaputa’ who political sources said took over the Finance portfolio forcefully from his brother Mahinda Rajapaksa, thinking he could be the saviour of the economy. But his failures and weak decisions were no better than the rest. With the economy only blundering further, in a recent media briefing when he finally resigned from Parliament much to the relief of the protesters, Basil had no regret too and in fact went on to say that he was not passing the ball onto anyone else but the little fuel the country was still receiving was because of him. This one time MP denied he had failed to slow Sri Lanka’s descent into financial turmoil saying he was the person to send the first letter to the IMF after becoming finance minister. “It is the work I started that is now being taken forward,” he said. “I have no regrets.”

Shame for this senior politician to say this even while families in Hambantota, which holds the Rajapaksa legacy, and all other districts of the country, go to bed hungry amid the economic failures and skyrocketing cost of living.

Then in an interview with a foreign media agency this month, President Rajapaksa confirmed he will not resign and will complete his 5 years in office clearly ignoring the majority’s sentiments of ‘Gota Go Home’.

“I can’t go as a failed President,” he said but admitted his government had waited too long to seek help from the International Monetary Fund. “If we had gone at least six months or a year earlier, it would not have come to this state,” he said. But still no apology as the Head of State to his 22 million citizens including the 6.9 million who voted for him.

The ruling MPs and public officials were no better, from blaming the media, to the public, to the protesters, the ball kept passing. But did they feel they were to blame? No, forgetting that it was they who were elected to office.

In fact even to this date, the only talk we hear from all those in government and who were in office, was that the blame was always on someone else. But they were never the fault. And now their solution to the public – use fuel sparingly, use electricity sparingly, eat less, grow your own food, you will have to wait for medicines, no dollars, limitations on spending overseas, no essential food especially for children, a sky rocketing cost of living, no gas and the worst is yet to come. It then boils down to the public having to sacrifice every step of the way without any accountability, or answers as to who is to blame.

The opposition also does not have a better story. SJB Leader Sajith Premadasa who was on multiple occasions requested to take the Premiership and take the country out of crisis, today only hurls criticisms at the government. He and his party, some senior members who have now broken away from him and his party, spend their days taking to social media and arriving in Parliament just to highlight the faults and insist on the President to go home despite Gotabaya Rajapaksa making it clear he would complete his term. These opposition members were not too long ago in government too, so washing their hands completely away from this crisis cannot do. It is only common sense that this severe crisis has stemmed from the mismanagements of previous governments as well and worsened at the hands of the Rajapaksas, who took the already frail economy into the grave.

Current Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, showing a gloomy picture of Sri Lanka’s immediate future presently is also no ‘Mr. Clean’. Although he had the courage to take over the country as the Prime Minister at a time when the nation is on boiling point, should remember that he was also the Prime Minister in the previous government when the ‘Bond Scam’ cost the Treasury millions. However whether he can bring relief to the nation when relief is needed the most is yet to be seen.

Sri Lanka’s politicians have long tested the patience of its citizens. While bribery, corruption, nepotism, fraud have long plagued the country’s political circle and Parliament, there seems to be no immediate hope as the country keeps depending on the same faces to take us forward. Whether the current public protests will change the system entirely is yet to be seen, if the protesters themselves keep the infiltrators with ulterior hidden motives away, stop harassing those who should not be targetted and do not fall for geo-political agendas and echo only in one voice – “We want change.” (Jamila Husain)

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