Self-ruination or salvation

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Sri Lanka is on the verge of falling into a dangerous and deeper abyss from the great precipice it is currently in. At the moment, the nation is hanging on a twofold cord jointly braided by Gotabaya and Ranil. It’s not strong, and it looks ugly. It is abstract and absurd. Therefore it’s not an ideal option, but at the moment the country has no other choice. At this juncture of the crisis facing the country, Sri Lanka is compelled to hang on to that rope. There is no possibility of changing over to a strong and new rope at the moment.

Attempting to do so in an unconventional manner could lead to great ruination and calamity. If that is the reality, all that needs to be done to ensure the safety and security of the country would be to work towards strengthening this rope on which it is suspended notwithstanding it being ugly and weak. If Sri Lanka fails to strengthen this rope that prevents it from collapsing, the country will certainly fall into a great precipice of primitivism that is neither simple nor easy to recover from. 

At the same time, the political power struggle will automatically come to an end and everyone will be doomed to live in an atmosphere of wilderness as our ancient ancestors had lived for a long time. Such an eventuality can be considered a horrible and destructive situation that no one competing for power could be happy about. Just one mistake or a wrong move made by anyone (the President, the Prime Minister, the ruling party, the Opposition or the people) would suffice to push the country into a catastrophic situation. 

Whose fault is it?

Where has Sri Lanka really gone wrong? Regrettably Sri Lanka has not yet been able to fathom the real reasons that have led the country to such a horrific and humiliating condition. All those who have directly and indirectly contributed to the failure and bankruptcy of Sri Lanka appear to be appropriating the entirety of the blame on the Rajapaksa family, their rule of the country and the 225 Members of Parliament and shirk their responsibility. It is true that the Rajapaksa family is in an unparalleled position when it comes to corruption. But as far as the subject of corruption related to state administration is concerned, all the presidents who have ruled Sri Lanka since 1978 could be considered to have been more or less corrupt. 

Almost all of them have amassed wealth illegally, directly or indirectly and allowed their relatives and political cronies also to amass wealth illegally. Same thing can be said about the MPs of the ruling party. All presidents for their own protection allowed the parliamentarians of the ruling party to transact business with the government illegally enabling them to accumulate wealth. However, the catastrophic destruction befallen on Sri Lanka cannot be considered as an outcome of the faults and wrongdoings of the political regimes alone.

The bureaucracy and public servants are also responsible for the devastation to a greater or lesser degree. The politician alone cannot engage in corrupt dealings without the involvement and consent of the administrative official working with them. Consequently, a situation has arisen in which the politicians and high-ranking government officials gang up and work together in unison. 

There is also corruption occurring in State institutions without the involvement of politicians. The volume of corruption associated with it is enormous. Institutions that collect taxes and license fees for the treasury can be considered as major institutions where such corruption is rampant. The revenue they collect remains as low as 30 to 35% of the revenue they ought to have collected for the treasury. This can also be considered as one main source that reduces and deprives the revenue owing to the Government. 

On the other hand, the corruption among professionals in Sri Lanka is also high. There are issues with regard to the methods adopted by them in earning their income, and apart from that there is a tendency that they conceal their real income. Apart from all of them, the society in general is also more or less corrupt. Therefore, it is wrong to attribute corruption as a phenomenon confined to the Rajapaksa family and their family rule only. So much so corruption can be considered as a terrible cancer that has overwhelmed the entire political and bureaucratic regime and the entire society.

Apart from corruption, there are other factors as well, that have contributed to the failure and bankruptcy of the country. The riots and insurrections caused by ethnic, caste and religious divisions, the military campaigns launched to suppress them, the massive loss of life and property caused by them, serious damage caused to the State, its institutional system and the economy as a result of them, and the huge security costs the country was compelled to incur can also be added to this list. 

The fact that the country has been burdened to maintain a huge and inefficient public service which is twice as much 1.5 million as is really required for the country can be considered as a major factor contributing to the bankruptcy. 

The policy pursued in maintaining a substantial number of institutions incurring huge losses, such as the National Airline, the Electricity Board and the Petroleum Corporation without making a positive change in the policy to improve their performance, the huge expenditure incurred to provide luxurious existence to the political and bureaucratic regime of the country, failure to utilise available economic resources effectively and efficiently and the non-viable development projects initiated with foreign loans obtained at high interest rates from commercial market channels also could be considered as other factors contributed to the failure of the country.

Escaping from hell 

Now Sri Lanka is in hell. Not in its bottom floor, the worst place in hell where there is more suffering and not easy to escape; but in the upper floor of hell where suffering is relatively less and has the potential to escape from. The most important thing is avoid falling into the bottom floor of hell, but to hold fast onto the rope while opening the doors of reform needed to escape quickly and strengthen it, if it is possible, until exit from it. The strength of the hanging rope cannot be guaranteed. There is a danger of falling to the bottom floor of hell because of its fragility. Perhaps, it may have the strength to withstand the weight it carries without crashing itself until the doors of reform are opened and escaped from the hell.

It is important that the occurrence of a famine should be avoided. Chemical fertilisers should be given priority. A large portion of the population of monkeys, rilavus and peacocks damaging the crops should be reduced. This alone could help increase agricultural output by about 20%. A system should be introduced to allocate lands to those who are prepared to cultivate but do not have land to cultivate, under a licensing system. 

A situation must be created where all government farms are cultivated to the maximum extent possible. There is a large amount of uncultivated land in the commercial plantation sector which could be given to the plantation workers and the villagers of the surrounding areas to cultivate under a temporary licensing system. It is possible to follow a policy that encourages public transportation while discouraging private transportation. On the other hand, a policy that gives priority to fisheries industry and agriculture can be adopted in supplying fuel.

The doors must be opened for structural reforms without any further delay as agreed by the President and the Prime Minister while taking all necessary steps to resolve the balance of payments crisis. It is the only way to persuade the country’s political parties to reach consensus on a common goal that will lead to political stability needed at the moment; and provide a solid foundation which is a prerequisite when dealing with the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and other international institutions in this crisis. 

Although the reform program involves only the task of building the modern nation, it will generate a tremendous dynamic energy needed to overcome the present crisis. The proposed reform program will help abolish the presidential system and the nefarious role played by black money in elections; and eventually it will pave the way for holding a free and fair election early to elect a parliamentary government. 

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