|The time to act is now
The Nation celebrates its first
year of existence in the newspaper world today. As we reach our
first milestone in a long journey forward, the country is facing
many challenges in the field of economics, politics and social
It appears that the country is gripped in a severe economic
crisis even as President Mahinda Rajapaksa addressed the G11
Summit in Jordon on May 19, spelling out the economic priorities
of countries which are on the verge of being classified as
middle income nations.
Sri Lanka as a developing nation opened up its windows to the
outer world and embraced the concept of a market economy as
Junius Richard Jayewardene took over the reigns in 1977. It
revolutionised society and at first glance it appears the market
economy has done wonders for Sri Lanka. From 1977 to 1982, Sri
Lanka forged ahead of other countries in the region until the
separatist war made a clear dent in our economy.
From 1983 onwards Sri Lanka was plagued by this acute ethnic
crisis, causing severe setbacks to the country, economically and
otherwise. Some positive steps taken by the Sri Lankan leaders
from time to time had not fully materialised since the
implementation of the resolutions fell by the wayside.
The most pragmatic step taken so far in the history of the
separatist war was the introduction of the 13th Amendment to the
Constitution under the Indo-Lanka Agreement, which sought to set
up provincial councils with quasi-federal features included.
The pertinent question that arises is as to why Sri Lanka failed
to implement the 13th Amendment fully. Is it because of the
parochial political policies of certain politicians of the day
or is it because the government of the day did not have enough
political will to implement it?
Today, all the other provinces in the country are governed to
some extent according to the 13th Amendment to the Constitution
while those whom it was created for are in a muddle, waging war
with the state for greater autonomy.
The length and the breadth of the problems the country is facing
today due to the current situation cannot be gauged; the economy
is on a downward spiral, while the cost-of-living is
It is difficult to comprehend how a middle income level family
meets ends in the present economic scenario when they have to
pay double the amount for a loaf of bread and a cylinder of gas
in a very short period of time when their income level remains
The government is also facing a cut in the assistance given by
the Western world, allegedly because of its woeful human rights
record. Though what we were getting from the West is not
colossal, it may cause hiccups in the economy from time to time.
On top of all this, World Food Programme Director Tony Balbury
expressed his concern over the deteriorating humanitarian
situation in the north and east and appealed to the donor
countries to help meet the mounting aid requirement. The WFP
Director also cautioned that the WFP would be forced to make
difficult decisions if necessary funds are not raised.
It gives all Sri Lankans a grave reminder that we ought to think
in the right direction before it is too late and take corrective
The President in his address to the G11 said that what
developing countries were asking for was ‘targetted help’ and
result-oriented assistance to accelerate the implementation of
homegrown development programmes.
“We have all undertaken structural reforms, liberalised our
economies, put in place sound macroeconomic frameworks and have
achieved impressive growth patterns. To sustain our levels of
economic growth and development, enabling our rural poor to
benefit, we certainly require targetted assistance,” Rajapaksa
In this backdrop, the SLFP’s decision to go backwards on its
resolution to solve the ethnic crisis would not augur well
globally since it has taken an entirely different course,
against what was proposed earlier by the SLFP-backed People’s
President Mahinda Rajapaksa, as a politician who thrived on
taking human rights issues before international forums against
the government of the day and a people-friendly President,
should take stock of the present economic and political
situation of the country before taking crucial decisions on the
future on Sri Lanka.
All such decisions taken should be far-reaching and should
reflect the aspirations of all communities living in this
The President and the government should look at the current
problems objectively and find a way – soon – to bring some
relief in any form and measure to the Sri Lankan people.