Downfall Of Sri Lanka Started In 1948; Accelerated In 1978; Completed In 2022
By Asoka Seneviratne
APRIL 16, 2022
In 1948, soon after Brits lost India, the crown jewel of its empire, they gave us independence too. What value is tiny Sri Lanka when precious India was gone? As much as all Lankans with an ounce of national pride would not like to admit, the Brits were right when they had great doubt if as a nation; Sri Lankans were mature enough to manage democracy.
Our downfall as a partially free, dominion nation started right then and there.
First, we appointed an ancestrally wealthy land-owning, an idle aristocrat named DS Senanayake as our first prime minister. The man inherited wealth and labour and by no means represented an average Sri Lankan. He was a Walauwwa guy and had a life of luxury and a subservient workforce commonly called servants. He did not understand the daily grind of our people.
A few years later, we laid the foundation stone for the family dynasty by electing his son Dudley as our Prime Minister. The man had a privileged education in England, never worked for a living but carried his father’s popular name so Lankans were duped into making him our leader. This was in the 1950s and ’60s.
During this time frame, yet another land-owning aristocrat named SWRD Bandaranaike formed the SLFP after breaking away from DS’s UNP. British hating young SWRD laid another foundation stone towards the eventual ruin of SL by playing into the Sinhala Buddhist majority vote by playing a race card against Tamil people who actually did enjoy the privileges of a divide and rule cunning British rule. Brits did that all over the empire too and left a trail of disasters to follow in those nations too.
A little know secret was that it was Dudley and JR Jayewardene (a yet another rich and idling aristocrat) who first devised the “Sinhala Only” plan to win the then-upcoming general election but cunning Banda stole the plan. And he won too. He just laid the foundation stone for a vicious war to be had several decades later.
Banda made a few wealthy aristocrats mad by enacting laws affecting their businesses that led to him being assassinated in 1959 right in front of his wife. Keeping with the then somewhat established tradition of the family dynasty, Banda’s wife Sirima – a yet another aristocrat Walauwwa lady- was elected by Lankans who extended a large sympathy vote towards Mrs B. Mrs B walked right from the Walawwa kitchen into the Prime Minister’s office.
So until this point, SL was ruled but none other than wealthy landowners and their families, none of whom accept Banda had any decent education on democracy, good governance or advanced understanding of how economies function and thrive. The people of SL were beginning to demonstrate how right the Brits were in suspecting our maturity to manage democracy.
Mrs B survived a failed coup of 1962 pulled by a bunch of Christian military officers. Culprits were found guilty and jailed only to be overruled later as the case was deemed unconstitutional and they were denied a fair trial. Our nation was beginning to see cracks in our justice system but by far the justice system was by and large independent and was doing its intended constitutional function of delivering justice, free and fair.
Mrs B’s disastrous experiment of socialism from 1970-to 1977 where she stopped all imports resulted in an angry populace giving a hitherto unknown victory to JRJ in 1977. Mrs B also scrapped the British laid constitution and introduced a meaningless constitution as a totally free republic.
JRJ was considered a wise owl that mastered the art of politics and was extremely popular and widely respected at the time. Unfortunately, as our nation later came to bitterly experience, this one man was the founding father of the corrupt political culture that eventually led to the bankruptcy of our nation today.
JRJ ‘s ill-conceived 1978 constitution created an all-powerful executive president, appointed Ministers from within the legislature and to add injury to insult, replaced the Senate with the so-called national list MPs. The the1978 constitution was full of holes and made a mockery of transparency, accountability and checks and balances all of which were so vital to a good democracy. JRJ simply failed to comprehend how dangerous the powers of the executive he created in the hands of corrupt leaders would be.
The seeds of today’s bankruptcy and the resulting uprising at the Galle Face green were planted then. It took 43 long years, a 30-year blood bath of civil war and a whole bunch of corrupt politicians of both major parties to nurture this ill-conceived JRJ constitution into total bankruptcy and chaos. JRJ’s constitution messed up our vital institutions of justice, law enforcement, and civil service all of which were politicized by both parties to the point that robbing the nation’s treasury became the norm.
Yes, the youth at Galle Face green want corrupt Rajapaksa’s out but our nation must not forget that the leaders of both parties are totally responsible for our light today. They played a corrupt game with our people election after election. They obstructed the rule of law and protected the mega thieves of the day while shedding crocodile tears towards the people’s issues.
Yes, Rajajapaksas must go and be held legally accountable for plunder, but so are Ranil, Sajith, Sirisena and their top teams of power. They all robbed and covered up with each other’s help. How much wealth have these goons robbed off our people? Surely billions of dollars!
I cannot help but laugh from the lower extremity of my body to see these guys of the other parties scream for a national government, worse claiming to lead the nation. None other than the likes of Weerawansa, Gammanpila and the whole host of hypocrites who suddenly appears to be reborn. They all belong in the slammer for life!
So here we are today Seventy there years after Brits doubted our capabilities, we proved them so right.
My final comment is this. It is not China, India, USA or Britain who are responsible for our misery today. They have done well for their people. It is us the people who shamefully, over and over elected a bunch of goons to run us into the economic oblivion. Thank goodness even after 73 long years, at least the youth of our once proud nation have taken matters to their own hand and fighting to change the course of our nation.
I pray this wisdom of our youth remains unfettered till we see the dawn of a new nation from the ashes we are in today. By the looks of it so far, today, as a nation we appear to be all so united as one nation hell-bent on our dreams towards the birth of a new nation!
I endorse every word the writer says, but such criticism comes late in the day. Strictly speaking, the rot started even before independence in 1948. Every Prime Minister/President since independence have religiously followed the dictum “divide and rule” by dexterously playing the race, religion and language cards to capture power.
However, the Rajapaksa family fiefdom developed the use of race and religious cards as fine art.
SWRDB was the first to promise “Sinhala Only in 24 hours” in 1956 during his election campaign. This slogan helped SWRDB to capture power. In 1972 Madam Sirimavo gave Buddhism “the foremost place and accordingly it shall be the duty of the State to protect and foster the Buddha Sasana.”
The 1978 constitution retained this provision intact.
Rajapaksa demonized Prabhakaran as a terrorist in the eyes of the Sinhalese and the world to win the war. The Tamil Eelam demand by Prabhakaran was a response to the pan Sinhala-Buddhist hegemony of treating the Tamils as second-class citizens.
In the series of riots from 1956, the standardization of Tamils’ entry into universities was meant to deprive and destroy the economy of the Tamil people. The scheming Sinhalese politicians told the Sinhalese people that their prosperity depends on destroying the economy of the Tamils. They hardly understood the fact destroying the Tamils’ economy led to the destruction of the country’s economy. The way to prosperity is for the Sinhalese and Tamils to join hands to bake a bigger cake.
The recent downturn in the country’s economy was due to corruption, waste and mismanagement by the Rajapaksa family. Gotabaya erected a Memorial and a Museum to his father D.A. Rajapaksa at state expense. The project using state resources cost Rs.81.2 million, but only Rs.33.9 was settled leaving a balance of Rs. 47.9 million owed to Treasury.1/2
The Chinese-controlled Colombo International Container Terminals Limited (CICT) said it paid nearly 20 million rupees (USD 150,000) to Pushpa Rajapaksa Foundation, wife of then minister Basil Rajapaksa, the latter built a built at a cost of Rs. 240 million on a 16-acre land in Gangabada Road, Malwana, but he disowned ownership.
During the 2015 Sri Lanka presidential election campaign, large payments from the Chinese port construction fund flowed directly to Mahinda Rajapaksa’s election campaign. This is the same company that built white elephants in Hambantota, including the Harbour. The payments were confirmed by documents and cash checks detailed in a government investigation. The New York Times reported that with 10 days to go before polls opened, around $3.7 million was distributed in cheques: $678,000 to print campaign T-shirts and other promotional material and $297,000 to buy supporters’ gifts, including women’s saris. The article claims that another $38,000 was paid to a popular Buddhist monk who was supporting Rajapaksa’s electoral bid, while two cheques totaling $1.7 million were delivered by volunteers to Temple Trees, the official residence of then-President Rajapaksa. The total disbursement was $7.6 million (Rs 1368 million). Such massive and shameful corruptions can be multiplied many times!
When Mahinda Rajapaksa resigned following his defeat in 2015, he left unpaid bills amounting to millions owed to Hotels, Rupavahini, Government Printing press and Airforce for using helicopters. The Rajapaksa royal family made no distinction between state funds and private funds.
What we need today is a complete break from the past. The system, not individuals should be changed. That should begin with a new constitution based on popular sovereignty, secular, limited government, separation of powers, federalism, checks and balances and individual bills of rights. 2/2