Defective democracy: A Sri Lankan perspective
by Janaka Goonetilleke on 06 Oct 2017 4 Comments

Democracy was sold to the poor as the ultimate in good governance, but has turned into a dictatorship with no accountability, corrupt to the core, subjugating citizens to poor governance, no rule of law, essentially to a lawless society. Democracy as defined is a government of the people, by the people for the people. The only democracy we have today is a minute or so at the time one votes. Even that is now manipulated and many MPs are re-elected through the so-called National List.


From the time they are elected, it is a question of commission based development and corrupt administration. The beneficiaries are the politicians, businessmen, and hangers-on. Constitutions are not made for the people but for the sustenance of politicians to remain in power. J.R. Jayewardene said the only thing he could not do was to make a man a woman and vice versa. Sri Lanka is still reeling from his mismanagement and corruption, which led to a predatory government with every asset sold to foreigners and most political families settling down in western countries, leaving the poor to deal with the debt and destruction of the environment. The poor are neck-deep in debt, forced into prostitution at home or as glorified prostitutes in the Middle East. The foreign exchange they earn is creamed off for the new predatory elite to live in the lap of luxury.


This is the predicament of the poor in most countries as the political class comes up by thuggery and corruption. The MPs are easily won over by perks (tax free car permits and other emoluments) and used to pass laws detrimental to the people but profitable for them to continue in power. The present leadership is doing everything to destroy the nation’s sovereignty at the behest of the US as the country has been completely subjugated by debt to the IMF, Western banks and now China.


Cause of illiteracy in Parliament


The state of literacy and inability of parliamentarians is due to lack of democracy and transparency in political parties. The leaders do not need intelligent and moral MPs who will question every immoral activity; they want illiterate goons who can be won over by perks, and ensure that people do not question political decisions.


Another perk is ministerial positions. The last government had around 120 ministers in a 225-member parliament, the majority unqualified. This gives them the trappings of power, security to guard them against people’s anger and power to earn money by fraudulent means. The leaders are blind to criticism of wasting public funds. They can sell the sovereign rights of ownership of land, deforest, make over-priced projects for commission-based development. In Sri Lanka, only one or two politicians have ever been charged for corruption, that too, in the 1950s and ‘60s.


Who is behind these rulers? The country is virtually run by the IMF and World Bank. The international mafia through corporates uses monopoly money to colonize the country. In the US, the top 1% owns 70% of the wealth of the country. Sri Lanka is now in the process of dividing the country at the behest of the US. Neo-colonialism is using the old divide and rule tactic through a Parliament bribed by leaders to vote with them. J.R. Jayewardene had forced his MPs to pass the 13th amendment, a white elephant infiltrated by thugs and drug dealers, ruining every aspect of society from education to health care.


Sectarianism encouraged by the west is the primary cause of the civil wars in the Middle East. Yet a Sri Lankan leader of the previous regime allowed a Muslim university in Batticaloa to produce Muslim extremism and Wahhabism with Saudi aid - all for the Muslim vote. This same leader started his political campaign from a Buddhist temple!


The latest is a constitution pushed by the west in the name of human rights that will trigger sectarian violence. America now considers itself an Indo Pacific leader and wishes to get involved in this sectarianism. The hand behind the Tigers is active in promoting anti-Muslim sentiment amongst the Sinhalese. Allegations range from promoting sterility amongst the Sinhalese to buying Sinhala property with finances from Saudi Arabia and the Gulf. A geopolitical war in Sri Lanka could engulf South Asia.


Sycophancy and abuse of power


Public services are at the beck and call of politicians. To get justice, political influence is a must. Recently, Mahinda Rajapakse’s secretary was sent to jail for carrying out political orders and politicians who gave the order are free.


Today nobody can get a government job unless on the MP’s list. This is an abuse of power, violation of human rights and disenfranchisement of citizens. Due to political appointments, the public services are grossly over-manned; walk into an office and see some reading the newspapers. Yet, write to any institution and you never get a reply; this is how an over-manned corrupt public service disenfranchises citizens.


Public services are conduits to the abuse of power, especially the police. Even the judiciary in Sri Lanka is questionable. Recently, the Chief justice of Sri Lanka was removed as she did not give a judgement in favour of the Government. Jayewardene had used goons to stone the houses of judges who failed to give judgements in favour of the government.




The Ranil Wickremesinghe government seems to be gearing to create a country tailored for Tourism. But we must understand the major developmental programmes begun before with western aid to understand how the environmental effects are causing more financial destruction than the returns.


The Mahaweli scheme, a highly publicised programme in 1980, was to make Sri Lanka self-sufficient in rice, electricity etc., none of which has been achieved. It redirected the poisons of the tea estates to the North Central Province (NCP) which has created mayhem. To increase production, fertilizers including glycophosphates banned in the USA, were imported. People were gently poisoned through an irrigation channel system to the paddy fields and other water sources; the poisoned rice was sold in the rest of the country. Chronic Kidney Disease and kidney failure followed in 10 per cent of NCP inhabitants; some of these poisons are neurotoxic and their impact has not been evaluated.


There is no programme for detoxification of the soil. Citizens have not even been told how to minimize the risks by precautions during cooking rice so that at least some of the toxins can be removed, and also not to use rice cookers. This is a inditement of the whole political leadership and elite that does not care about what happens to the poor .


Megacity projects: Fifty per cent of the GDP is spent on the Western Province who has a population of almost 6 million and one-third of the country’s area. The economy is based on the service industry and this is where the elites live. Production is minimal. Thus the rural economy is neglected.


The latest developmental project is to lease out vast acres of Forest reserves for foreign investments. Megacities are a disaster from the healthcare and human perspective. Humans confined to small apartments in New York have a higher incidence of drug abuse, mental disease, abuse of women, problems that are increasing in our own cities with rising incidents of rape and female molestations be it New Delhi or Colombo. In Holland, studies show that those who live away from built up areas have less incidence of diabetes, obesity, hypertension etc.


Unplanned and rushed megacity projects have created problems of water drainage, sewage and waste disposal that have become a nightmare in terms of human suffering and disease. Recently some people died with the waste disposal area collapsing on the houses of the poor. Smelly and rotting waste areas are visible in Colombo and other major cities. Flooding has led to dengue as a persistent problem, all thanks to an open economy fuelled by the World Bank and IMF.


Diseases and Deforestation


Diseases like Dengue, Zika Virus, Rat fever, Viral Encephalitis even HIV and new diseases are as a result of deforestation and creating an environment for the propagation of disease. Dengue propagation is due to improper drainage of water in mega cities and close living,  resulting in epidemics.


In the forest, water temperatures are low and do not allow the growth of mosquito eggs; the rotting leaves produce tannins that kill mosquito eggs, and mosquitos have enough animals to feed on. Deforestation releases them from their natural habitat, and they have only humans to attack.


Rapid deforestation and cutting down trees, mostly by provincial council thugs, destabilizes the soil and allows run-off of water that was stopped by trees and absorbed in soil. Depending on the topography of the area, free flow of water will cause floods in the dependent areas which are mostly urban dwellings. This in turn creates post-flooding diseases like gastroenteritis and vector controlled diseases. Besides, trees dam the water and allow filtration, and prevent landslides.


Trees alone create evaporation of water that becomes rain in areas further away from the sea. The cutting of trees causes drought.


The mayhem caused by cutting trees results in a general failure of the financial system. The country bears the brunt of the financial losses to keep the leaders in power. The man-made drought or flooding is borne by the people. Moreover, the resultant global warming has increased sea levels by ice melting in the Arctic and caused bizarre rain patterns and sea erosion. The list never ends.


Water, carrier of death


It is with sadness that one looks at the management of water resources in the country. A lopsided programme has created drought, floods, landslides etc. Worse, water which accounts for about 65 per cent of the human body, the life giver, the carrier of oxygen, food, and waste of the body, is now a carrier of Death and Disease.


Governments want to encourage foreign investments. This is done by reducing the effective wages of the people to slavery, selling the wealth of the country at low rates, destruction of the environment in the name of development encouraged by a free market economy, the ultimate form of development advocated by the IMF and World Bank.


Yet today, malnutrition, diseases like diabetes and strokes have increased and cancer rates have doubled in the last decade. The foreign investors are legally allowed to poison our water, destroy our water resources by deforestation, all of which is ignored by the leaders. The country is fooled by creative accounting which shows only part of the statistics. In Rathupaswela, when people protested, the army was used to quell the protest and one protestor died. Is this the democracy the people voted for?




Sri Lanka is a defective democracy with a defective developmental programme financed by the IMF and World Bank, and now by the Chinese who are getting rid of their surplus dollars by giving them to a corrupt government at almost ten times the interest rates in the world market. The interest rate on loans from China is around 6% whilst the market rate was 0.5%, and given for white elephant projects like the Port and Air Port of Hambantota.


The only solution is to establish democracy in the political parties, attract young intellectuals to party politics and establish a democratic form of electing leaders.

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