By Hema Senanayake –
“The military is being used to spy, tap phone lines and even hack email accounts…My friends are questioned by the CID the very next day, if they happen to visit me. This is not a harassment that I alone go through, but by anyone who bears views opposing to that of the present governing parties.” If this was told before the UNHRC by the person who told this recently, the UNHRC would admit it as a truthful testimony. This has been said by former president Chandrika Kumaratunge in a recent interview with the weekend edition of the Aththa newspaper.
Not only the UNHRC, the people in the Uva province is increasingly believing it. Repression is what Sri Lankan people hate the most. The Minister Vasudeva Nanayakkara truly knows it. Recently he said that, “The only way to ensure unity and national reconciliation is to strengthen democracy. Only through democracy can we get equality for all citizens and build ethnic coexistence.” He said this in his speech at the National Convention on Inter Religious Integration organised by the National Peace Council. At the event US Ambassador Michele J. Sison too, was a speaker.
When the law is broken by the Urban Development Authority at Wanathamulle, people in the Uva province feel it. When the law is broken in the Northern Province to appropriate lands belonging to the innocent Tamil speaking people, the people in the Uva feel the pain. Do you need any evidence for my observations? If so, for this matter listen to what Vasudeva has to tell after the election. He points out that, “the opposition has been able to reap the advantage of the frustration of the downtrodden whose abodes have been destroyed and their self-employment avenues abolished due to the move by Urban Development Authority to remove them from urban areas and grab their lands.” This is not the only reason.
When the Chief Justice was sacked hastily, even though the poor villagers in the Uva province no nothing about constitutional law they intuitively know that the power was abused by the top elected officials in the government. When the political players who sent thugs with full helmets to hang around the office of the President of the Bar Association, Upul Jayasuriya in a threatening manner, they might have thought that the people in the far reaching villages in Uva province are not interested in such events, but they are wrong.
The people who live in the rural villagers in Uva intuitively know how communal violence put into action against Muslims recently in Aluthgama. Those poor villagers do not know how to express their feelings eloquently, but they know what to do when the opportunity comes. Their feelings become to resonate with the eloquent speeches of true political leader and campaigner even though he or she could be young; this is what happened in the Uva election.
I, as an economic analyst, agree that the government is doing something on the area of economic development. They do highway projects. They do rail tracks to North. They stabilized the rupee, brought down interest rates; and I forecasted this, in November last year writing an article to Colombo Telegraph. The article was titled “Budget 2014: No Rupee Devaluation Shocks.” So far, in this year as I have predicted the rupee maintains its value steadily.
Also the government recently entered into a Currency Swap Agreement with China; I wrote that this agreement would stabilize the rupee further. All these economic activities are good and the development is what the government should do. The government is obligated to manage the economy better. Yet, it is the repression that the government should not do. Development and good governance are what people want, not development and repression.
A couple of months ago, in a private gathering, one of my friends who has links to opposition political parties asked me about my prediction in regard to the economy of the country. In fact he was asking whether I foresee an economic crisis in the months to come. His understanding is that, if there is an economic crisis, the opposition has a better chance to change the regime. Even Dr. Dayan Jayatilleka thinks so; he says, “the perception of economic adversity can only impact negatively on his (Mahinda Rajapaksa’s) vote” if the presidential elections delays beyond the first quarter of next year.
Unfortunately for my friend and Dayan, I do not see any sudden economic crisis in the next year. Sri Lankan economy will not face any sudden economic crises at least for another couple of years, even though there are economic difficulties on the part of employees and consumers. It is true that economies like ours could collapse suddenly even amidst growth; but that happens only if the local currency plunged in its value significantly. Sri Lanka experienced such a crisis in early 2011.
However, the Sri Lankan rupee is stable as at now and will continue to be stable at least in the next couple of years. If Dayan’s or anybody’s perception of growing economic adversity is about macroeconomic situation, then that perception is wrong. Hence this should not be a factor for the president in determining the election before March next year.
Also, even though I am not a political analyst, if the perception of economic adversity would arise from an “impending blow in Geneva in March,” then, it is also wrong because international community will not put any sanctions that will affect the macroeconomic situation so easily and quickly. Therefore this also should not be a factor for the president in determining the timing of the election.
However, if Dayan’s perception of growing economic adversity is related to the distribution of the distributable output of the economy, then it can be a true observation. I know that people in this country know a better and simple word for a distribution crisis of the economy in developing economies; that word is “corruption.” When you put another word in combination of the word “corruption” then it will give a deeper and more realistic meaning and that word is “nepotism.” If somebody claims that the economic adversity would arise from the “corruption and nepotism,” I would not argue against it; because it is a possibility even though the overall economic impact is less.
In the economy, the macroeconomic growth matters; and the distribution is equally important. The distribution of distributable output determines the wellbeing of each and every family of the nation. People expect the government to devise proper economic distribution policies. When the government fails to do it, the distribution distorts making good number of families to suffer with economic difficulties in spite of the macroeconomic growth rate looks better. Corruption and nepotism further enhance the distribution distortion; but this is more visible than the policy failure. Corruption means that certain individuals or families are allowed to appropriate more distributable income that they are not legitimately or morally deserved. In other words they rob the distributable income of others, Period.
In view of above, Minister Vasudeva Nanayakkara has a better advice than Dayan’s. He suggests that, “the governing system and the economic policy has to be changed.” In brief what he suggests is to pursue development with good governance, not development with repression. Good governance is not just subjective thinking of any ruler instead it must be backed by institutional arrangements. Such arrangements if we had a few in our system, was destroyed by the 18th amendment of the constitution. When Vasudeva voted for the 18th amendment of the constitution he might have perceived that the good governance was something subjective, not objective. Let us ignore his lapse and let his true conscience be out.
Like Vasudeva, I respectfully request the President to change the cause if you count on my vote. Or else, I will not vote for you Mr. President, I am sorry