As Sri Lanka approaches a significant milestone in its history, the commemoration of 75 years of independence, it is crucial to reflect on the nation’s journey. While the current crises may overshadow the celebration, it is essential to remember that in 1948, as Ceylon transformed into Sri Lanka, the country possessed several positive attributes among its Asian counterparts. Let us delve into the nation’s past and ponder the aspects worth celebrating today.
The Land of Potential
In the early years of independence, Sri Lanka stood out among the newly established Asian states. It boasted a thriving economy and a higher standard of living compared to its Asian counterparts, except for Japan. The question that arises is: What went wrong? Some critics attribute the country’s decline to the excessive indulgence of the welfare state. However, this perspective fails to acknowledge the pivotal role the welfare state played in maintaining high social development indicators for a significant period.
An Exceptional Path
Sri Lanka was remarkable in two significant ways when compared to its South Asian and post-colonial counterparts. Firstly, it had a welfare state that protected the poor and fostered upward social mobility, even during times of economic decline. Secondly, despite facing two civil wars and an authoritarian transformation of the state, parliamentary democracy remained intact. Regrettably, successive elected governments failed to fully utilize the advantages offered by these exceptional features. The reasons behind this missed opportunity remain largely unexplained.
Lessons from History
It is puzzling to witness the ruling elites’ persistent refusal to learn from past events, leading to recurring systemic crises. The response to major social unrest and armed rebellions tended to focus on short-term victories rather than addressing the fundamental issues. The over-reliance on patronage politics and the prioritization of ethnic majoritarianism further exacerbated the situation, resulting in tragic consequences throughout Sri Lanka’s political history.
A Time for Change
As Sri Lanka celebrates 75 years of independence, one cannot help but wonder if a new mindset has emerged within the ruling class. Unfortunately, recent events suggest otherwise. Last year, a citizens’ protest campaign emerged spontaneously, demanding accountability from the entire political class for decades of misrule and mal-governance. However, instead of genuine reform, the ruling elites restored the old order, ignoring the citizens’ rightful demands. This reluctance to change has left many Sri Lankans disheartened and frustrated with the current state of affairs.
As we enter the year 2023, the 75th year of independence, a sense of misery and despair looms over the majority of Sri Lankan citizens. The worsening economic crisis intensifies their struggles, fuelling anger and hopelessness. It is likely that this deep discontent will inspire a new wave of protests, demanding the replacement of the inept and insensitive ruling elites. The citizens of Sri Lanka yearn for meaningful political change, but it remains to be seen whether their aspirations will be heard and acted upon.
In conclusion, while Sri Lanka faces numerous challenges today, it is important to remember the nation’s past achievements and potential. The celebration of 75 years of independence serves as a reminder of the resilience and determination of the Sri Lankan people. Let us hope that the future holds brighter prospects and a renewed commitment to addressing the nation’s pressing issues.