Whither Sri Lanka
by Janaka Goonetilleke on 21 May 2017 4 Comments

Sri Lanka before colonialism was a society that showed religious tolerance, communal harmony and acceptance of economic migrants. Was it not King Senerath who gave refuge to the Muslims in the east when they were discriminated by the Portuguese? Was it not the Sinhala who gave refuge to the Catholics in Wahakotte when the Dutch persecuted them? Thousands of economic refugees - fisherman, cinnamon peelers and toddy tappers - were graciously accepted and given areas in Buddhist temples to worship Hindu gods.


Today the most pious Buddhists are from these communities. The devastating Indian invasions and occupations were overcome by marrying into Indian royalty. The remnants of Hindu Kovils for the Queens can be seen in the big temples of Kandy such as Lankathilake. With such a great inheritance, today the country is divided on communal, religious and class lines. And the country is in dire straits.


The colonial power deprived the majority of its rightful place in society. They were deprived of English education, the medium of public service; a Waste Lands Act took over the lands of the Sinhala Buddhists and sold them to Sinhala Christians to use as a tool against the poor Sinhala Buddhists masses. Economically pauperised, they were also deprived of leadership as men over 16 years of the aristocracy were killed by the British after the Uva Wellessa uprising.


Sinhala land was divided into nine provinces in such a manner that the Sinhala people were ethnically marginalised by the establishment by creating ethnic minorities in each province. This was following the Col Brook Commission around 1829. The original TRI SINHALE was destroyed. Further, the religious order was impoverished by the Temple Lands Act; Sinhala Buddhists were the main group subjugated. Under India’s Rajiv Gandhi government, the colonial provincial arrangement was strengthened by the Thirteenth Amendment in such a manner that minorities became king-makers. Much of the ethnic strife in Sri Lanka owes to this legacy.




Great nationalists such as D.B. Jayethileke, F.R. Senanayake, E.W. Perera started Buddhistic social policies of free education and free health, even two measures of rice free for the poor. Unfortunately, these very noble principles were gradually eroded as part of the legacy of J.R. Jayewardene.


Without bloodshed, Sri Lanka obtained independence from colonialism on the back of Indian Independence. The colonial Governor Lord Soulbury advised a Macaulaite first prime minister never to appoint Sinhala Buddhists to positions of power in order to survive. Thus it took almost 15 years before a Sinhala Buddhist army commander was appointed; longer for the Navy and the Air Force. The seeds of disharmony were created using men who had been brainwashed by a Christian education system.


The colonial cancer of divide and rule persisted with Chelvanayagam (a Christian) demanding a federal state and G.G. Ponnambalam (a Tamil) demanding fifty fifty for 12% of the population, which he quickly scuttled on accepting a ministerial post.


In 1956, the converted Christian S.W.R.D Bandaranaike came to power using the pent up force of Sinhala Buddhist discrimination of 200 years. He came to power using the Pancha Balavegaya of the farmers, workers, etc., on a slogan of implementing Sinhalese as State language in 24 hours. But he sent his daughters to a catholic school to learn English, while misleading the Sinhala population into believing wrongly that Sinhalese would be able to cater to the needs of future generations.


His philosophy gave impetus to the Christian Tamil Chelvanayagam to shout discrimination and cause further disruption of inter-communal harmony. The Muslims at the time did not have any power, economic or in numbers. They joined the Sinhala majority and gradually built up their educational and economic power to the present state. Bandaranaike was assassinated by a Buddhist monk in 1958.


Thus started the cancer of divide and rule and the colonial mentality of might is right of the political class which has now ended up with the gradual enlistment of the illiterate thugs and criminals (half the MPs have no GCE qualification).


Democracy that was hailed as the answer to all ills is an absolute failure. To begin with there is no democracy in the main parties; no proper mechanism to elect leaders. It was Anura Bandaranaike first, Namal Rajapakse next, all geared to family bandisma and nepotism. Leaders of today lack character, vision, and are unproven entities. Once in power they have done nothing to benefit the people except pauperise them with foreign and local debt.


Jayewardene legacy


Up till 1977, Sri Lanka endeavoured to carry out a balanced economy with a degree of frugality, living within its means. It was 27th in terms of well-being in the world according to international assessments. J.R. Jayewardene (nick-named Yankee Dickie) has been the cause of all evil in this country. Dr James Rutnam says this family of Tamil immigrants from Colombothurai progressed from servants at Governor Driebergs house, to becoming a part of the British aristocracy by changing religion from Hindu to the Dutch reform church to Anglican and later becoming Buddhist. Dr Rutnam in 1958 predicted, men like this are dangerous and “if ever this man became the leader of Sri Lanka, God Save Sri Lanka”.


Let the Robber Barons come”, JRJ said, to which his Permanent Secretary commented, “Sir, you will make Barons of Robbers”. Barons have robbed the nation and left it with an environmental disaster, economic mess and indebtedness, from $500 million in 1977 to $80 billion in 2017. The poor are sold to slavery in the Middle East, every educated person is running away from the country and the public service is in dire straits as the country is virtually run by illiterate criminals. Sri Lankans are paying the price of ignoring the quality of elected leaders.


Yankie Dickie followed the advice of the IMF and World Bank to the letter and helped the IMF and World Bank use him to achieve an open economy to enslave the people. First thing he did was to devalue the currency so that he could sell the best commodity to slavery of the open economy. Currency was devalued from Rs 5.5 to Rs 16 to the dollar - 300% devaluation - but public servants were given a meagre rise in salaries. The IMF and World Bank virtually ran the economy.



The IMF-WB wanted a world market based on the monopoly money created by the dollar-based banking system. Its aim is to establish a unitary system of economics so that smaller powerless nations are absorbed into it, their assets sold and sovereignty dissolved in debt and destruction of its environment. The trading agreements are to entrap nations into this system whereby parliaments loose the power to change them for decades. Thus, a system of consumption economics is encouraged that lacks interest to develop the local economy.


Recently in Quebec, the parliament could not change the environmentally damaging programme of a foreign company because of a trade agreement. One has only to look at the policy pursued by the Sri Lankan government since few decades, at the instigation of the IMF and World Bank, immaterial of the party in power – vast areas of jungle land has been opened without due consideration of the environment and health, and sold to individuals and foreign companies. The infrastructure development sells citizens to slavery as all corporations go for cheap labour. All these have exposed the citizenry to new diseases. Dengue is a result of change in biodiversity and deforestation. The cancer rate in Sri Lanka has doubled in 7 years.


Then there are megacity projects that destroy the rural economy that is the mainstay of any country. Megacity projects only look at short-term benefits of increased employment and financing an economy based on a housing bubble and debt. The transport, utility and health care issues are ignored. These projects entrap into debt and longer-term slavery.


This neo-colonial agenda pursued by the IMF and World Bank is continued by the relics of Jayewardene’s legacy, selling the birth right of the people to foreigners whilst pocketing commissions. The final aim is to divide the world into a superpower-controlled economy and regional powers.


Slowly, the educated class started moving away to greener pastures, allowing the country to be run by men with no vision. As time went by, others joined the boat people to countries like Australia. The ruling class was quite happy as the public servants followed the Jayewardene principle of ‘your obedient servant’. These public servants were attracted by the new lifestyle of educating their children abroad, foreign travel etc., and became entrenched in the corrupt predatory commission-based economy. The country suffered as men of class left its shores and left the poor to the present predicament.


Social Effect


Any economic model must be based on wealth creation and social stability. The majority of the country depends on agriculture and therefore this sector must be improved. Today the mainstay of agriculture, water, the life giver, has been converted to a vehicle of death and destruction by projects like Mahaweli, a short term policy at the advice of foreign consultants who have no idea of the environment and thinking processes of the Sinhala people. In essence, the rulers have no proper water resource policy, fertiliser policy or idea of the results of genetically modified plant introduction.


The growth of non-productive consumption economics has created a minority-based enriched class at the expense of the majority. Money borrowed in the name of the citizenry is given to a minority to make money out of a non-productive economy, while agriculture is marginalised with poor remuneration for its products. This has created communal disharmony and has led to violence in the recent past.


At the end of the day, the market system will not be able to sustain itself as the markets will shrink with the poor not participating. Today the market system is maintained by borrowing from a much-liquidised monetary system by printing and borrowing. The poor are much in debt and before long they will start to default; banks will not be able sustain without cooking the books.


Ultimately the banking system will become another burden on the people as in the west in 2008, when trillions of dollars were put into the economy (quantitative easing) and interest rates reduced to steal from the savers so that the poor got poorer and the rich richer. In USA, one per cent of the people own 70 per cent of the wealth in that country. The crux of the problem is that the leaders are unaccountable. In Sri Lanka, the President cannot be taken to court during his tenure.


Politicians rule supreme. The best example of subservience is expressed by a recently exposed video of a dialogue between the Inspector General of Police and a politician. The IGP is saying someone was not going to be arrested. How can one even think of rule of law if the IGP behaves this way? The corrupt practices of the police are such that people have no choice but to take the law into their hands and this is one of the causes of violence in this country.


Any complaint to the IGP is either ignored or poorly responded to with no legal basis. A recent complaint by me accusing a senior superintendent of police of fraud was sent to a junior officer for investigation with none of documents attached. The assistant who could not understand what it meant. A letter demanding an explanation from the IGP was not answered.


The judiciary is slow, inefficient and has made a mockery of law and order in this country. The Bar is unaccountable by a practice of proxies. Advice from the Bar in most cases is geared to prolonging the case. Democracy, rule of law, justice and fair play are now only words. No one can go against the politicians. Recently, the Chief Justice was unceremoniously ejected out of her position as she disagreed with the politicians.


There is no way for the people to have their grievances redressed without the intervention of politicians. Whatever the pros and cons of the grievances of the JVP and LTTE, there is no mechanism to deal with it. Public servants are resistant to any grievance. Their modus operandi is quite simple - no response to any request.


Recently, I had to get a report from the Police Commission; even the Presidential secretariat was ignored. This is the state of arrogance and unaccountability of the public service. The ultimate result of the youth is violence as they are frustrated by the arrogance and inefficiency of the public service. The result is many decades of war, social disruption and death of about 2,00,000 Tamil and Sinhala youth; disruption of society and economic disruption. Add the outside influences that use the destabilisation to imprint their geopolitical interests.


It is said that after a war there is an army of widows, army of disabled and an army of corrupt that has come to roost in Sri Lanka. The worst is the rise of corrupt criminals in the political field after the LTTE war.




In the past, the temple was the source of controlling the rulers by getting them to observe the Dasa Raja Dharmaya. Today, the temple is gradually infiltrated and destroyed by a political class and has lost the purpose of serving society. Politicians have bribed the hierarchy by donating cars, etc., emasculating the power of the temple. Ordinary priests have to work and conduct money-making rituals (katina pinkamas) to maintain the temples; obligations to society take a back seat.


The economic non-viability derives from the British who took over the temple property and sustenance with the Temple Lands Act. The Maligawa property was also to be taken over but Sir P. Ramanathan took the matter up in the state council and prevented it. It is said that the British taxed the gold casket of the Temple of the Tooth, but one Obeyesekera retrieved it by paying the tax.


No leader has ever thought of compensating the temples for the takeover of the lands and sustenance and elevating the temple to safeguard the rights of the people.


In conclusion, we can be saved only if educated and concerned citizens come forward to save this country. We cannot tread on the present path for too long without exposing ourselves to self-destruction. Let us strive to achieve the communal and religious harmony we had before colonialism. Let me end this by this famous prayer


Devo vassathu kalena

Sassa sampatthi hetu ca

Phitho bhavatu loko ca

Raja bhavatu dhammiko


{May the clouds bring timely rain

And the fields be plentiful with grain

May all beings be happy

May the rulers rule justly}

User Comments Post a Comment

Back to Top