SRI LANKA CAN QUICKLY BOUNCE BACK IF SRI LANKANS WANT IT – by N.S.Venkataraman
Sri Lanka has a population of slightly more than 22 million. Sri Lanka’s population is reported to have an adult literacy rate of more than 92 percent , which is above average by world and regional standards. Computer literacy is more than 30 percent and website users are reported to be more than 32 percent of the population. Certainly, Sri Lankan society can be considered as .well informed one , as education plays a major part in the life and culture of Sri Lanka.
In such circumstances, people around the world , who have knowledge about Sri Lanka’s history, culture and tradition , are taken aback to see the type of violence that is now sweeping the country , which have made many people wonder as to how Sri Lanka would come out of the present crisis.
In recent years, Sri Lanka has considerably suffered due to a sort of civil war launched by Tamil separatists. The country’s leadership has somehow defeated he separatist forces and everyone thought that Sri Lanka would move on to regain it’s glory and reach greater heights.
The economic crisis that happened in Sri Lanka in the post pandemic period has overwhelmed the country. While there have been a lot of discussions about the causes that led to the economic crisis and there is no need to do apost mortem now, what is necessary at present is to see how the Sri Lankan government and Sri Lankan people living in Sri Lanka and abroad would work out a revival path.
Obviously, the government leadership in Sri Lanka has failed to anticipate the problems and do adequate forward planning to solve the impending economic crisis. In such a scenario, Sri Lankan people are disappointed about the performance of the government.
Unfortunately, the present economic crisis has become a political crisis with more discussion in the media and amongst politicians about the political scenario rather than the economic scenario.
The inept handling by the government in the wake of the economic crisis has encouraged the negative forces in Sri Lanka to unleash violence and destroy property . The leaders of political parties in Sri Lanka , whether belonging to the ruling party or opposition party, have conducted themselves without foresight and with short sightedness and have encouraged hate politics rather than adopting a cooperative attitude to put their heads together and find a solution.
Vituperative language used by opposition party leaders have certainly contributed to a vicious climate , when the opposition party leaders themselves have no tangible solutions to offer to solve the economic crisis.
All said and done, one can say that leaders of all political parties in Sri Lanka including the ruling and opposition parties are responsible for creating such violent and disturbed conditions and in the process, whipping up passion and driving people to agitational mood No one politician is less guilty than others.
Section of people and opposition politicians want the President to quit after the Prime Minister , which would create a constitutional crisis. Sri Lanka cannot afford a constitutional crisis at this stage and all political leaders should have known this.
Under the circumstances, particularly in the changed situation in the last few days, Gotabaya should stay on as President for the next four months . To defuse the situation and relieve the tension, Gotabaya should speak to the Sri Lankans in Sri Lanka and abroad over national television and tell people that he would resign after four months and hold general elections. He also should promise that he would not contest the election himself, owning responsibility for the sad turn of events in Sri Lanka during his tenure.
The opposition leader seems to have said that he would not accept any position as Prime Minister or minister while Gotabaya remains as President. This is a very negative and irresponsible attitude and needs to be condemned. This is not the time for such polemics.
What Gotabaya needs to do now is to constitute a taskforce of economists, social scientists, academicians and business men with high levels of credibility and integrity to work out action plans and take their guidelines to retrieve the situation.
Technically, Sri Lanka has residual strength in the field of agriculture, mineral deposits etc. and there is no need for panic. Agriculture production can be quickly stabilised to normal level and exports of tea, rubber, spices and minerals can be quickly resumed. Once normalcy is ensured, tourism too will happen.
What Sri Lanka needs today is the US dollar to import the necessary inputs such as diesel, petrol etc., to keep the economy moving.
It is reported that a team from the IMF is in Sri Lanka now to examine how much of the oan needs to be given and how it should be given. The task force to be constituted urgently must be asked to meet the IMF team, instead of discussion being carried out by bureaucrats , who are also responsible for the economic mess.
Sri Lankan government should decide that they would take loan only from the IMF or world bank and would not seek loan from India , China and others. From these countries, what Sri Lanka needs is only technology support and investment and not loan.
Certainly, those who have indulged in violence are misguided people due to want of proper leadership Gotabaya should view their undesirable violent acts with understanding and recognise that it is due to their frustration .It is necessary to keep in mind that they are Sri Lankans and have to be dealt with without hate feelings. Dealing with them with force will only become counterproductive and Sri Lanka does not need this.
The strategy for winning back the glory of Sri Lanka is that Gotabaya should directly address the countrymen by establishing a channel of communication with cross section of people , instead of relying on the politicians and political leaders of various parties, all of whom shamed themselves in one way or another by not viewing the problems of Sri Lanka in a holistic manner with highest level of patriotism in their mind set.
Overseas Sri Lankans have a duty to help Sri Lanka at this stage by liberal contribution and organise support in kind atleast for the next twelve months. Coordinated efforts from overseas Sri Lankans are not yet seen in adequate measure.
Media in Sri Lanka have to highlight the positives instead of sensationalising the issues and avoid provocative discussions . Media groups should work out a code of conduct for themselves that will be in force atleast for the next six months. In a literate country like Sri Lanka, the media need to have a high sense of responsibility and care.
Finally, it should be seen that out of more than 22 million Sri Lankans, only a few thousand people have indulged in violence and agitations. Others have remained as silent spectators. People who can see the ground realities clearly and understand the gravity of the situation and need for a constructive climate without violence should assert themselves , speak to the media and everywhere wherever possible and condemn the violent acts and confrontationist attitude with courage of conviction.
Let all Sri Lankans realise that Sri Lanka is blessed with various resources and if Sri Lankans want , Sri Lanka can quickly bounce back.