What good is the concept of democracy in our Constitution if we do not exercise our fundamental right through passive resistance to choose a benevolent and an unselfish, if not selfless, leadership which will stand up for our democratic rights and freedom? – Pic by Ruwan Walpola
By A Concerned Citizen
While shopping, I casually met an acquaintance who was in an apparent dilemma in front of the condiments shelf with a packet of dried chilies in hand. Within a few seconds of exchanging pleasantries, she told me rather excitedly that she was attending a friend’s birthday bash with the fun theme ‘parliamentarians’.
Guests were invited to carry butter knives, chili powder, coke, broken chairs or wear asatakaya of any hue. So she planned to wear a chain of dried red chilies, which her maid had kindly agreed to weave for her. I was stunned but she hardly noticed.
I couldn’t restrain myself from telling her that I wishedI could be as light-hearted under such grave circumstances. To my surprise, she quickly regained her senses and agreed with my comments that only through concerted public nonviolent protest can we hope to regain our democratic rights.
It seems very few realise that the current political conspiracy has been engineered into a needless crisis with the sole intention of retaining political control and to satisfy selfish personal interests with callous disregard for the wellbeing of the nation and its people.
Besides vandalising the sacred hall of Parliament, the Constitution has been violated through the undemocratic wresting of power and claims of constitutionality of such actions. Denunciation of the Speaker’s conduct of parliamentary procedure has been contrived to deceive and confuse the public, targeting in particular, the uninformed rural masses, who form the key voter base in the country and are easy to dupe due to their desperately underprivileged status.
The political crisis, even if overcome in the short term, will have grave international and national repercussions for the country in the long term, particularly, if the world is in doubt as a credible and stable economy with reliable polices for international investment, trade and services. The likelihood of being condemned as a failed state is extremely high. Very few people realise that the damage is done and now irrevocable. It is a damning and unpardonable crime against the nation.
Very few seem to know that the public service has quietly come to a virtual standstill due to conflicting instructions from the de jure and de facto governments. One need not emphasise the serious repercussions to the administrative service as a consequence. The Presidentis appealing to the Public Service to perform their functions as usual.
Large-scale capital flight from bond and stock markets are exacerbating our already strained foreign exchange reserves. The consequential down grading of our credit ratings will result in rollover of external debt at much higher interest rates than envisaged previously.
Tourism has already taken a beating with massive cancellations, particularly, during the current the high season resulting in a further loss of foreign exchange earnings.
The Financial Action Task Force(FATF), the international body for combating money laundering, has already rated Sri Lanka as a high risk country classified with countries such as Yemen, Ethiopia, Pakistan and Syria of dubious repute.
Money laundering is a crime usually committed by Politically Exposed Persons (PEPs) receiving massive illegal commissions on mega development projects from international contractors. The monies are usually deposited in overseas bank accounts under proxies and subsequently transferred to Sri Lanka through legitimate channels thereby laundering dirty money. Hence, it comes as no surprise that Sri Lanka’s soft pedalling on its commitments to counter money laundering as well as prosecute offenders has been dismal mainly due to political expediency.
This unacceptable situation can lead to further downgrading of Sri Lanka’s status which may result in curtailing of international banking facilities which could lead to several problems including restrictions on essential imports which could seriously compromise national food and fuel security. As an import dependent country, the rapidly depreciating rupee will, very soon, severely impact the impoverished majority through the skyrocketing of prices of consumer goods causing danger of civil unrest.
International companies specifically in the IT and logistics sector are already packing their bags in a bid to move to stable destinations in south Asia as they cannot afford to wait and see. It would not be long before manufacturing concerns will follow suit. There is a high risk of rising unemployment within a few months if not weeks as well as food and fuel shortages if international sanctions kick in. Other trade and services benefits such as GSP plus and preferential trade agreements can be seriously impaired. Receipt of much needed Grants and concessionary loans may also be compromised resulting in penury and economic decline.
No foreign government has formerly granted diplomatic recognition to the de facto government except China which has, opportunistically, granted two large commercial loans without formal tender procedure, for two low priority mega projects which will increase our already unsustainable debt burden even further at this critical juncture.
On the other hand, the US Government has just announced that they will put on hold the Millennium Challenge Grant for poverty alleviation until the disruption in the democratic process of governance is sorted out. It appears that, instead of maintaining neutral status, we have fallen into the trap of big power geo-politics. To make matters worse, rumours are now rife that the Commonwealth may impose sanctions against Sri Lanka.
International banks are likely to soon set plans in motion to leave our shores as well due their high sensitivity to political instability. If so, the banking system will surely collapse leaving the economy penniless.
The only democratic way of restoring the de jure government, despite its very poor past performance, could be through a well-planned, mass-scale passive resistance movement by the majority of citizens both rural and urban. We need a people’s movement free of party affiliation to orchestrate this action in the name of democracy.
Do we need a Ghandian style leadership which espouses passive resistance to lead us towards democratic victory through peaceful means? Cynics laugh at such a simplistic view but the truth is that Ghandiji was able to topple the rule of the formidable British Empire just that way. He was passively aggressive in confronting oppressive forces of power which he knew was the only path to peaceful change. This is a fundamental and universal spiritual truth which forms the bedrock of all religious philosophy as well as the concept of Democracy.
What good is the concept of democracy in our Constitution if we do not exercise our fundamental right through passive resistance to choose a benevolent and an unselfish, if not selfless, leadership which will stand up for our democratic rights and freedom?
Or we can keep partying parliamentary style!