On February 4, 1948, Ceylon was granted independence by England.
The British didn’t exactly pack up their things and move out overnight, however; Ceylon remained a Dominion of the British Commonwealth for the next 24 years. Being a Dominion meant that the Queen, God Bless Her, knew you were independent, but you still had to bend the knee and make polite noises. It wasn’t until 1972 that we really became a Republic, and it wasn’t until the (in)famous 1978 Constitution that we became the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka (whatever that means).
All of this is complete irrelevant, because what I really want to discuss today is President Maithripala Sirisena. Or, more specifically, what the man has achieved in a year of office. It’s his second Independence Day in the hot seat, so let’s see …
- More freedom across the board.
Pick up a newspaper and read the headlines. Courts can now arrest the head of the BBS. The Rajapakses can be investigated. Journalists (and the FCID) can dog a minister’s steps. Titles like ‘President should be questioned, if outsiders appointed’ are no longer relegated to rogue news sites like the Colombo Telegraph. I’ll be lying if I said it isn’t a freer country now.
- Better foreign policy
A change of government, the right mumblings, and lo and behold, the rest of the ‘free’ world is back to condemning and funding jihadists.
We’ve lost nothing – we still have our corrupt politicians and our despotic traditions – and yet we’ve managed to get the UN off our back.
- Tourism is on the rise
A strong push from the private sector, a friendlier government attitude towards the suddas and a gradual shutdown of restrictions to entering parts of Sri Lanka has made it a lot easier for someone to fly in, contribute to the local economy and fly back out with an empty wallet (and a head full of memories).
- Racism is dying down
Despite the Sinhale campaign, the lack of a public, racist figurehead with the highest levels of political armor and a few official noises about racism are slowly making people saner again. Or at least, it seems that way.
- The Megapolis may happen
The Megapolis is Ranil’s plan to expand Colombo into a proper city, stretching from Negombo to Kalutara. It was one of my chief reasons for voting My3 in the first place, because face it, a city 37 square kilometers in size (which is what we have right now) is just a one-horse town with pretensions.
- Good Governance is a sham
Maithripala Sirisena didn’t take long to jump down from his high horse and begin his own regime of nepotistic favouritism and political dogfighting. The Right to Information Act has been slowly hacked to death and lies in a ditch, forgotten.
- The economy is on the highway to hell
The rupee is down, that clown Ravi Karunanyake is presenting Budgets, and we just borrowed $600 million from Japan and $175 million from the Asian Development Bank. An unnamed ‘Belgian citizen’ is parking billions in the country. On top of it all, we’re trying to buy fighter jets from Pakistan and getting threatened by India over it. Even getting drunk is difficult now; there’s a strong chance you’ll kill your bank account long before you kill your brain cells.
And we thought getting loans from China was bad.
- The Indians are still stealing our fish
Go get your own fish, dammit.
- The Indians may steal your job, if you’re in the IT industry
But nobody’s sure, because the government chose to keep CEPA secret, even from industry bodies like SLASSCOM. So much for transparency.
- Maithri is obsessed with bras, and that’s making him look bad.
Let’s look beyond the surface of the bra (pun intended). Maithri seems to have appointed himself to the role of a cultural guardian, enforcing a set of conservative morals. (We cannot in all good faith call them Sinhala Buddhist morals; disgust against bra-throwing and alcohol consumption is not a uniquely Sinhala or Buddhist phenomenon. No, these are the morals of Sri Lanka in the 80’s and 90’s).
Unfortunately, the last thing we need is a cultural dictator. That’s not the President’s J.D. The trajectories of women’s underwear are problems for young men and women to solve. It’s the President’s job to remain impartial and provide government rather than cultural guidelines.
In fact, this obsession with culture has only weakened Maithri in public perception. We thought we were electing a man who could focus on the bigger picture of good governance. Instead we have someone who keeps missing the wood for the bras.
- Gota wants to end tyranny
Even NewsCurry couldn’t have come up with that one.
- Our Traffic Police are still terrible at what they do
Has anyone told these gentlemen that they’re supposed to be preventing traffic jams, not creating them?
- Maithri is still better than the Rajapakses of 2014
Which tells you a lot about how far we, as a nation, bent over to take that rod.
Democracy is a process, and that process is useless if we don’t periodically look back on our decisions, reflect and understand the ripple effects of what we’ve done. So, to that end:
Maithri is not the hero Sri Lanka wants. He’s not even the hero Sri Lanka needs. However, he IS the hero we’ve got, and he’s still better than the old one. How far this state of affairs can continue is up to the wind. But for now, we just sang the National Anthem in Tamil for the Independence Day Celebrations.
Onwards, Mr President. Happy Independence Day.