As the year draws to an end – an ignominious one at that – one of Asia’s oldest democracies, would rather bury its head in shame and disbelief. Disbelief because the actions of some of its pseudo democrats mainly elected by the people directly and others appointed by those elected. In Sri Lanka that bit is known as the ‘National list’.
The stock market in Sri Lanka has been best described as ‘staid’. There were no runaway gains, the market activity was quiet and low key. In fact thanks to the depreciating rupee in real terms, in dollar terms the majority of blue chip stocks and the bulk of the balance suffered substantial downgrades in real terms. The prices in January 2015 and the prices by December 2018 has shown huge downward spirals and those that showed exceptional profits and trading, were the only ones able to mitigate the effect the exchange rate had on their shares.
There was one market however, not open directly to all the population that did remarkably well. And the country and the privileged 225 had Sarath N Silva to thank for that. It was the marketplace called the Parliament. Huge sums of monies – far beyond the reach of the average citizen was on offer to the peoples’ representatives. It was mind boggling that these elected representatives would prostitute themselves before the altar of corruption simply to retain power and the possibility of further illegal and immoral largesse.
An average citizen earning the per capita GDP amount generously rounded up would earn around RS 600,000 per annum. Even if that was rounded up to say Rs 1,000,000 per annum it would take Joe public 300 years to reach the kind of money being offered to parliamentarians to crossover or stay put even.
Astonishingly now one member is threatening stern action if he is not given a cabinet role in exchange for what he calls his pivotal role in returning Wickremesinghe as premier.
Very clearly ethics went out of the window several years ago in Sri Lanka’s parliament. Most of the members have proved themselves as being devoid of the public interest and apparently could not care tuppence for the aspirations and demands of the voting public.
Almost every single transaction of national import has been tainted by the unsavory flavor of corruption although one senior cabinet fellow had the temerity to deny that he had ever done any deal: although he has spent a lifetime in the commercial world and made his money in the garment industry.
It is utterly shameless that this so-called government has failed to deliver anything of any substance and has spent the past year dealing with the effects of its own actions.
For all the bravado of having had or has Rs 400,000,000 (four hundred million) in the bank or in the form of assets, senior crossover fellow Lakshman Kiriella has never released his asset declaration for public consumption.
The chief at the United National Party is no better. In spite of forcing Transparency International to go the legal route and obtain an order to have the premier’s declaration released, approaching a month later, Wickremesinghe appears not to have an appetite to be transparent and to comply with the requirement even if it has been so ordered by the RTI Commission.
Fourteen years after the Tsunami of December 26th 2004 the housing problem of thousands of that tragic event has yet to be fully resolved. The problems faced by the residents of the former war areas has also been met with largely cosmetic achievement apart from perhaps the Office of Missing Persons.
The apparent silver lining in an otherwise grey and cloudy sky has been the activities of one Sajith Premadasa who has quietly kept out of the political spotlight and gone about delivering housing. For all his efforts the former war areas still requires at least 65,000 homes and it would appear that Mr. Premadasa is being stymied in his efforts by funding and manpower to deliver homes speedily in order that the homeless can begin living and stop merely existing in the periphery of destitution.
As for democracy – it is completely unacceptable that one of the oldest democracies in the region has had to suffer the consequences of partisan parliamentarians to say nothing of the inaction of the diplomatic community in this country.
The same diplomatic community who are largely silent in the matter of the provincial council elections and appear to be more than equitable in their support for the Wickremesinghe combine have apparently thrown their lot behind the UNP in the hope that one day some day they will be able to obtain a brand new constitution which they hope will pander to their own wider agenda.
Sri Lanka is full of hope and endeavor. The skyline is rapidly changing with apartment after apartment towers rising vertically. Yet the rupee has done a runaway depreciation meaning that the government can celebrate yet another 50. That is Rs 50 of a depreciating currency. From Rs 131 in 2015 to around Rs 184 today, the economic mismanagement is no better highlighted than by looking at our reserves, our sluggish growth rate and of course our currency.
Not a single big scale investor has arrived in Sri Lanka to help boost our exports and at the same time provide training and employment to our people. One cannot envy the role of our diplomatic representatives overseas who must have to bear the brunt of disinterest shown by western commercialdom when asked to consider Sri Lanka.
Despite and in spite of all that the saving grace is that the people of Sri Lanka are a significantly resilient lot – and will endure these frustrations up until the next election comes along.
Happy New Year and God save Sri Lanka. Jayadevan.