I find writing this Sunday Leader column very hard. It’s 750 words but I end up writing like 3000. I spent all day writing this and it sucks so I scrapped it and wrote something else. Which hopefully sucks less. Posting what is basically notes here anyways:
The war has not passed and the economy has not crashed so the national opposition just seems to be waiting it out. Like JR, Ranil seems to think that if things get bad enough, leadership will be his. Perhaps, but that’s not leadership. Leadership is not a title, it’s action. It’s those who keep organizing even when opposition is not opportune. Many say that the time is not right, that things are dangerous, to wait it out. More cynically, some say that the economy and war will get so bad that people come running back to the UNP. Well, OK. But who wants that? Personally, I don’t want the government to fail, because I don’t want the country to fail. I just want change.
The Short Term
The current government is coasting on war and sheer bluster. These are fires made of newspaper, they burn bright, fast, and gone. If there’s any lesson from the global crash it’s that long term planning, integrity and institutions matter. Sri Lanka will suffer if we don’t reach a political solution, if we don’t stem corruption and abuse, if we don’t restore the free press and rule of law. Yet these are the very things which Sri Lankan people are willing to sacrifice to win the war. It almost seems rude to ask, but then what?
There is an economic crunch coming which no one knows the colour and shape of. The numbers are manipulated and the Nivard Cabraal is giving bad advice and worse interviews. The Central Bank said the USD $1.9 billion IMF bailout is going for North and East development. This is false. IMF money doesn’t enter the national budget, it simply can’t be used like that. As a clue, the government owes something like $1.1 billion to Iran for oil and around $800 million on the hedging mess, though that may be a coincidence. The $500 million in bonds from October 2007 mostly went to pay off debts. This government is basically paying off one credit card with another, and it’s not sustainable.
Punch Drunk War
Post-war reconstruction is also something we don’t understand or think about much. Leave aside that the end of the war has been a few days away for almost two months. How much have we really thought about or planned for a political solution or rehabilitation? How much patriotic fervor does that arouse? After the shock and awe of the Iraq war, it was the post-war reconstruction that proved the most tricky. Not that our war is easy or that the sacrifices of our soldiers are any less heroic. It’s just that real care must be given to political and economic reconstruction or else those sacrifices might be in vain.
Today – whatever their position on the war – reasonable people are glad the LTTE doesn’t occupy so much land. Perhaps their organization could have been broken apart in a more cunning and peaceful way, but at least it no longer oppresses so much of our map. That’s great. However, the work to hold that land and make those people fully empowered Sri Lankans has only begun.
In order to make the difficult changes we need to fix our economy and nation we need to begin by changing ourselves and our neighborhoods. A collapse followed by Ranil sweeping into power (JR style) doesn’t actually solve our real problems. The real solution has to come from us, and it can start with the upcoming Provincial Council elections. This is the next generation of leadership, one which hopefully won’t be killed off before they bloom. Admitedly, the campaign looks a postering and printing contest, but there are some exceptions.
You’ll need to research yourself, but personally I’m voting for number 39 in the Colombo District, Shiral Lakthilaka (www.shiral.net). He first caught my interest when he publicly declared his assets, and because he has a Facebook page. I called him and managed to meet with the man for 10 minutes. He said that while the Provincial Council doesn’t have much political influence, it can bring real development projects to the grass roots level, especially tackling urban poverty. More than anything, though, he espouses a vision where politicians aren’t in it to enrich themselves and give out presents at photo ops. Instead he talks about enabling people and small business.
THERE IS NO CONCLUSION AND THIS MAKES NO SENSE