Change Now
Daily Mirror Editorial
Mar 6, 2011

Self-realization is the best form of visualization. After more than three decades of following or swallowing wholesale the globalised capitalist market economic system, Sri Lanka has now come to the realization it cannot proceed or develop further without social justice.

Social economists believe that at present some 40 per cent of our people are struggling or surviving on the poverty line. That means they are earning only about Rs.200 a day for an average family of four. They perhaps cannot afford even two nourishing meals a day and are forced to borrow money often at high interest rates for education, healthcare, travelling, clothing and other expenses. Statistics show that while millions of people are trapped in a cycle of enslaved poverty, some 55 per cent of the country’s wealth and resources are in the hands of 10 per cent of the people comprising mainly the rich and ruling elite. We know who they are. With insensitivity that borders on senselessness, the elite continue to indulge in a luxury lifestyle that is often vulgarly extravagant. They still suffer from the delusion that the trickle-down theory is working but what we see to a large degree now is the horrible or hellhole concept of the poor being forced to survive on the crumbs that fall from the banquet tables of the elite. With the cost of living soaring to its highest ever levels after the huge increase in fuel prices last month and the devaluation of the floating rupee, immediate and effective steps need to be taken now for structural changes to bring about a more equitable distribution of the country’s wealth and resources.

Such structural changes like the ceiling on the ownership of land and houses were implemented in the 1970s by the United Front Government led by Prime Minister Sirimavo Bandaranaike with key portfolios being held by committed socialists such as N.M. Perera, Peter Keuneman, Colvin R. De Silva and Hector Kobbekaduwa. But wealthy capitalists within the Government, aided by the West and transnational corporations sabotaged the structural adjustments that were bringing about a more equitable distribution of wealth and resources.

After that Sri Lanka went on the reverse gear and we have ended up where we are today -- the country in a debt trap, the people in a debt trap and facing the worst economic crisis. Unlike in the 1970s, the socialists in the UPFA government today appear to have little influence and are struggling for survival.

Besides structural changes, attitudinal changes also are necessary, and they must begin at the top. Sri Lanka has no option but to get back to one of the hallowed concepts of our ancient civilization -- a simple and humble lifestyle or alpechchathawaya where we learn to be content with our basic needs while saving more and sharing more. This vital turnaround and change of course must begin at the top.

For instance our world record breaking number of ministers are known to be getting about Rs.200,000 a month including their legitimate allowances, not to mention the illegitimate millions known to be circulating in the whirlpools of rampart political corruption and fraud. The political leaders are now seeing the danger signs and hearing loud and clear the alarm bells of public uprising against injustice, deception and hypocrisy. Political leaders must change their lifestyles and attitudes to become what they ought to be -- sincere, sacrificial, servant leaders of the people. If they do not change and change now, the consequences could be devastating.

Source: Daily Mirror - Sri Lanka