Me in Unawatana, photo deeply overexposed.
Bit torn this Independence Day. Happy to see the LTTE thrashed, but sad that it’s at the expense of bombing our own civilians. Proud of the soldiers, but ashamed of their civilian commanders. Mahinda’s speech talked of opportunity for all minorities and asking the diaspora to come home, but the PM’s speech spoke of traitors in our midst and people online still tell people like me to leave. But let’s go by the President’s words and hope for the best. He speaks of ethnic harmony and returning full Constitutional rights to the Tamil people. Let’s hope so. Let’s hope that the fundamental rights are restored, and that all the amendments are implemented. And that the President’s speech is the true one, and that the PM and Gotabaya don’t speak for the state.
I dunno. I hesitate. They say that the LTTE is on its last legs, so perhaps we’ll be free of that at last. But what does that Independence hold, or mean? Because a nation needs to be founded on something more than the prevention of terror. Ideally, it should be founded on ideals. We have a Constitution, but we’ve been disregarding my entire life. Under Emergency it is literally suspended. But if you suspend something for a lifetime, does it still exist? More importantly, does anyone in Sri Lanka care about the Constitution? Does it form any part of their identity? Our founding story is a dull handover. Our founding father was both racist and not racist enough and his progeny have been largely a waste of precious time. We are still a very, very young nation and I’m not sure that we really know ourselves.
But as you can note, I have little of value to add to this day. I love Sri Lanka and I’m happy to be here. I have tried in my way to make this nation better and I’ll continue to do so, even in the face of people who tell me to leave. I’m glad if the war is going well and I still feel terrible about our civilians being killed and displaced and put into semi-permanent camps. I can hold more than one thought in my head at once.
The best thought I’ve seen today came from Rajaratarala, the repat farmer blogger. He said:
Please let us not forget the true heroes of this victory. They are the men and women who work so hard in foreign lands, and send their hard earned money back home, whose remittances now amounting to about US$4Billion a year, that has enabled the war to be fought, the soldiers to be paid, the expensive hardware and ordnance to be purchased from overseas, and the bloated government kept in relative luxury, and foreign travel, when compared with the families of those who actually remit the money.
I want to make a very important point on the above statement. The US$90,000 remitted by 45 maids working in Dubai at an average of US$2,000 each per year, will buy a tax free latest model BMW for a Minister. At todayâ€™s exchange rate after transaction charges the Mid East workerâ€™s family receives Rs 225,000 for the year. If the government had devalued the rupee by 20%, the least that is immediately required, this family would have received a further Rs50,000 or a little over Rs4,000 a month more. The Beemer would still cost the same in dollars. However if our cash rich Politicians want to buy dollars after devaluation, they will have to pay 20% more in rupees, so it is the maid in effect who subsidizes the overseas travel of the wealthy, and their foreign assets.
Over 75% of the citizens of Sri Lanka were born after Independence and therefore, British rule is just part of history. A history nevertheless that to this day has affected the â€œNational Psycheâ€ that has resulted in the 30 year ethnic terrorist conflict. We must try and take all steps necessary to erase this Psyche and replace it with a visionary Patriotism one based on a global perspective, where personal differences are truly immaterial in the pursuit of freedom from want, from hunger, from bondage, where we can all think freely, talk freely and act freely, within international codes of conduct, ethics, and morality without impinging on other peopleâ€™s freedoms (link)
He’s right, and those people don’t even have the right to vote. Of course, the danger this year is that the remittance flow that props up the government will dry up. Because the global economic crisis is hitting the Middle East and they’re cutting those jobs. I’ve heard very serious talk that our foreign exchange will dry up by March/April forcing us to
1. Devalue the rupee (which is artificially propped up). This makes exports stronger but makes cost of living higher
2. Set import controls, like in the 70s. I don’t think the bureaucracy exists or can be constituted.
3. Get bailed out by the IMF. With conditionality, of course
4. Get bailed out by India
So, in short, I don’t know. I have hope, and worry, and I’m proud to be Sri Lankan. I’m not sure how any of these things fit together, but I guess that’s what I am.