An Echelon Media Company
Friday January 27th, 2023

Its Independence Day and what have we got

ECONOMYNEXT – So it is Sri Lanka’s 73rd Independence Day and what have got eleven years after the separatist war ended but continuing contestations between communities although the guns are now silent.

The major issues that caused the devastating 30-year civil war remain to be resolved and the current government’s policies, pandering to its Sinhala Buddhist majority base is eroding even the tentative steps towards reconciliation that the last government took.

Today the decorations will be up and Sri Lanka’s military will take centre-stage with a scaled-down march past and the National Anthem will be sung but in Sinhala only.

The Maithripala Sirisena administration had the anthem sung in both National languages but ever since President Gotabaya Rajapaksa won office Tamil has been omitted.

In the East, the Tamil National Alliance, led by some of its Parliamentarians began a march from Potuvil protesting what they call are the violation of minority rights in the North and East of the country.

These two incidents show that the political contest between the majority Sinhalese and minority Tamils has not ended.

We may not be pointing Kalashnikov assault rifles at each other, but despite the carnage on both sides of the divide for more than 30-years, we are yet to find true peace.

We, as pioneer peace researcher John Galtung would say, are in a state of “Negative Peace,” where there is an absence of active hostilities but no real efforts at peacebuilding.

REMEMBERING THE FALLEN – President Gotabaya Rajapaksa lays a wreath at the War Heroes Memorial on the 11th Anniversary of the end of the war in Battaramulla May 19, 2020/President’s Media Division

The current government, dominated at the centre of power by the men who gained fame and recognition as the military leadership that defeated the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) want to carry on with their triumphalism.
This government, therefore, is blocking even the small, tentative steps taken towards reconciliation and a lasting peace attempted by the last government by overtly causing issues that push back at the reforms.

For those who subscribe to the Sinhala Buddhist supremacy theory, and they are the main backers of the current government, reconciliation is akin to a dirty word.

Tamil National Alliance Member of Parliament M A Sumanthiran told reporters in Potuvil as their march began that they want to draw attention to the Government’s constant restrictions placed on minorities, land grabbing in the North, the continuing detention of Tamil political prisoners under the Prevention of Terrorism Act, and all other human rights violations in the country.

There is agreement amongst most scholars that the end of the armed conflict does not necessarily mean that all other issues have been ironed out. Some claim the disputes between the two communities go back to the pre-independence era, and that it is not something that happened after February 4, 1948. The issue that has plagued this country all these years between the minority communities and the majority Sinhalese was about the identity of the State and that of political power.

The Tamil community has always felt that political power centred around the Central government, dominated by members of the Sinhala community, would negatively impact them, and deny their right to make decisions on matters that affect their daily lives. They would, the Tamils believed, be completely dependent on the central government for everything.

They point out that initially, the All Ceylon Tamil Congress had joined the United National Party government which was formed soon after independence was won, but that, the Ilankai Tamil Arasu Katchi had split from the ACTC, on differences that arose over the citizenship Act.

That Act stripped citizenship rights from the Indian origin Tamils. It took many years for those who remained on the island to be finally recognised as Sri Lankans although generations had been born here. But that was not before a lot of heart-ache and fear that any stateless individual undergoes. There were pacts drawn up between the two countries, leading to dislocation of families who were required to choose in which country they wanted to live.

This incident caused the Tamils in the North and East to distrust a Sinhala majority government in Colombo and opened the way for the secessionists among the Tamils to gain ground. The Citizenship Act and the Sinhala only Act were both seen as examples that infringed upon the rights of the minorities.

STILL WAITING – Relatives of missing persons demonstrate in an undated photo, anxiously awaiting information

Successive governments have helped fester the wounds of the non-Sinhalese. Actions of the then UNP government led to various violations, including the burning of the Jaffna Public Library, the pride and joy of many a Tamil, and culminated with the riots of July 1983. Sparked off by the killing of several military personnel in the North, by separatist Tamil groups, the simmering tensions between the two communities finally came to a head, resulting in a permanent rift.

This created the monstrous LTTE which subjugated the Tamil civilians living in areas in their control in the most brutal manner. Children were abducted, bombs strapped on to their backs and made to run at the Army frontlines in the North. Young women were turned into living bombs to assassinate people striking terror all over the land.

The LTTE constantly used the people whom they said they were fighting for as human shields, even at the end on the sands of Mullivaikkal.

Though many may believe the rift could be easily fixed, the issue is far more complex. Unfortunately, the present government believes that economic upliftment of the people in the North and East is the answer. But that alone will never resolve the matter. As long as economic solutions allow the Centre to have more power, the unresolved issues that affect equality of all ethnicities will not be put to rest. It will be easy to stoke feelings of resentment.

The end of the shooting war also brought into focus other issues especially on accountability and justice, the militarization of the north and the east, displacement and acute poverty.

But democratisation and treating all citizens as equals seem to be furthest in the minds of those who walk the corridors of power.

On the one hand, we have seen many issues arise that the Tamil community feels strongly about. Earlier this year we saw the destruction of a memorial built at the University of Jaffna in memory of those who died in the last years of the war.

On the other hand, is the government’s stubborn stand on insisting all corpses of the Covid dead must be cremated refusing to listen to the pleas of the Muslim community that it goes against their beliefs. Appeals from local and world leaders have fallen on deaf ears.

Just a few days ago, there was an article on a website implying that the country’s cricket team was being Christianised. This same was charge was repeated in a television discussion on the country’s most popular TV channel by a well-known Buddhist Monk.

Such action just helps make communities that are numerically smaller feel powerless and it is this feeling of helplessness that drives conflict and alienation.

And for those who have been working for decades to bring about reconciliation, such incidents just make their work all the more harder.

One such is the initiative led by Galkande Dhammananda Thero in the Kebithigollawa area, in the so-called “border region,” which was the scene of a massacre in June 2006 where some 68 adults and children were killed when claymore mines hit a bus.

International investigators blamed the LTTE for the attack, and for the past few years, Dhammananda and a team from the Kelaniya University have been working to help a Tamil school and a Sinhala school in the area to bring them together, to learn from each other and build solidarity.

“The Tamil community has been very responsive but the Sinhalese are more reluctant,” Dhammananda from the Walpola Rahula Institute told EconomyNext.

Another initiative is Voices of Peace where ex-combatants on both sides tell their stories. Academic and humanitarian worker Sarah Kabir’s book collated these stories where a group of fighters tell their tales.

“As storytellers share their truths and narratives, the hope is that readers rethink the conflict and challenge entrenched beliefs,” Kabir notes in her book.

It isn’t easy though. The reality is that ethnic reconciliation in Sri Lanka will take a long time, there is too much mistrust and hurt on all sides.

The best thing to do in the short run is to not make it worse, but unfortunately, the government’s actions run contrary to that. (Colombo, February 3, 2021)

By Arjuna Ranawana

Comments (5)

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  1. Paneetha Ameresekere says:

    You have missed several buses in your analysis and one bus you missed was that in 1948, when we gained independence, Black flags were hung in Jaffna, signifying that independence for Ceylon was not independence at least to a certain section of the Jaffna Tamils.

  2. Namal Perera says:

    In the re-established Lawless Corrupt Banana Republic with Jungle Law, Kangaroo Courts with disgusting Family Rule, can we really enjoy Independence? It’s Independence for the Corrupt Family, immediate and extended families and all the criminals associated with them. Feel sorry for the majority Citizens. God save Mother Lanka from Corrupt Politicians and the IDIOTS who support them.

  3. dickie bird says:

    We have got increasing Foreign Interference, Meddling in our Internal affairs & bullying by super powers.

  4. Premalal B. Ranaweerage says:

    The bitter truth which many ignore

  5. Velu Jegan says:

    If there is a will there is a way. Ordinary Sinhalese are brainwashed by the corrupted and racist politicians. How many pacts were aborted and how many commissions. Recommendations never implemented. Only eyewash. Look at countries like Singapore. From JRJ the politicians are telling that they will make SL a Singapore. Of course, their families are. The curse is the Sinhala-Buddhist Supremacy mind among the leaders, Bhikkus and some so-called educated pundits.

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Comments (5)

Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  1. Paneetha Ameresekere says:

    You have missed several buses in your analysis and one bus you missed was that in 1948, when we gained independence, Black flags were hung in Jaffna, signifying that independence for Ceylon was not independence at least to a certain section of the Jaffna Tamils.

  2. Namal Perera says:

    In the re-established Lawless Corrupt Banana Republic with Jungle Law, Kangaroo Courts with disgusting Family Rule, can we really enjoy Independence? It’s Independence for the Corrupt Family, immediate and extended families and all the criminals associated with them. Feel sorry for the majority Citizens. God save Mother Lanka from Corrupt Politicians and the IDIOTS who support them.

  3. dickie bird says:

    We have got increasing Foreign Interference, Meddling in our Internal affairs & bullying by super powers.

  4. Premalal B. Ranaweerage says:

    The bitter truth which many ignore

  5. Velu Jegan says:

    If there is a will there is a way. Ordinary Sinhalese are brainwashed by the corrupted and racist politicians. How many pacts were aborted and how many commissions. Recommendations never implemented. Only eyewash. Look at countries like Singapore. From JRJ the politicians are telling that they will make SL a Singapore. Of course, their families are. The curse is the Sinhala-Buddhist Supremacy mind among the leaders, Bhikkus and some so-called educated pundits.

Sri Lanka’s Dialog Axiata hopes to hold prices despite rising costs

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s Dialog Axiata hopes to hold prices despite higher taxes, rising costs like energy, officials said as the country goes through the worst currency crisis in the history of its intermediate regime central bank.

High inflation following a collapse of the currency has reduced real incomes of customers.

“There are many factors to consider, especially with the last price increase we did in last year did not resulted in a significant increase in revenue” Pradeep De Almeida · Group Chief Technology Officer at Dialog Axiata said at the launch of its Future zone at Lotus tower.

In September,2022 following an electricity tarrif hike dialog increased its tariffs on Mobile, Fixed Telephone, Broadband Plans and Value Added Services (Prepaid and Postpaid) by 20 percent while tariffs on all Pay Television Services were raised 25 percent.

Value Added Tax (VAT) was also raised by the government from 12 percent to 15 percent on all Telecommunications and Pay TV services.

“Even though we increase the prices we only saw around 8-9 percent increase in revenue,” Almeida said.

“That is because many users cut off their usage to limit the spending”.

Dialog will increase efficiencies and manage costs in an attempt to avoid prices increases for customers, he said.

Over the 24 months to December 2022, Sri Lanka;s central bank has generated inflation of 76 percent, based on the Colombo Consumer Price Index official data shows. Following the currency collapse, more power tariff hikes are planned.

“We are trying to mainly bear the cost from our side. We are getting a massive support from our parent company Telekom Malaysia International,” Navin Peiris, Group Chief Enterprise Officer at Dialog told EconomyNext.

“Therefore as of now, there is no plan to increase prices”. (Colombo/Jan 26/2023)

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Sri Lanka shares fall at market close on profit taking

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka shares fell on Thursday as profit taking entered the market mainly on financial and diversified sectors, brokers said.

The main All Share Price Index (ASPI) fell 0.13 percent or 11.50 points to close at 8,926.56.

“The market was trading on dull trade mainly due to profit taking,” an analyst said.

“Also we saw investors taking a sideline as quarterly reports started to come”.

The earnings in the first quarter of 2023 are expected to be negative with revised up taxes and an imminent electricity tariff hike.

Earnings in the second quarter are expected to be more positive with the anticipation of IMF loan and possible reduction in the market interest rates as the tax revenue has started to generate funds.

The central bank’s policy decision was expected and investors have been eying on IMF deal with hopes of rapid economic recovery from the current unprecedented economic crisis, however since the market gained in the last sessions profit taking has come about, analysts said.

The market has been on a rising trend on the hopes of a faster IMF deal. However, the central bank government said the IMF deal is likely in the quarter or in the first month of the second quarter.

The most liquid index S&P SL20 fell  0.33 percent or 9.21 points to 2,798.

LOLC had seen some attention by investors as the firm disposed 90,256,750 shares held with Agstar PLC at 15-17.50 rupees a share.

The market witnessed a turnover of 1.2 billion rupees, lower than the month’s daily average of 1.9 billion rupees.

Expolanka dragging the market down closed 2.36 percent down at 186.7 rupees a share. Sampath bank fell 1.41 percent to close at 42 rupees a share while Royal Ceramic Lanka closed 2.59 percent dwn at 30.1 rupees a share.

(Colombo/Jan26/2023)

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Sri Lanka bonds yields steady at close

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka bond yields were steady at close on Thursday, dealers said, while a guidance peg for interbank transactions by the Central Bank remained steady.

A bond maturing on 01.05.2024 closed at 31.00/20 percent unchanged from the last close.

A bond maturing on 15.05.2026 closed at 26.60/90 percent, up from 28.50/70 percent on Wednesday.

A bond maturing on 15.09.2027 closed at 28.60/85 percent, up from 28.50/60 percent at the last close.

The three months bill closed at 29.75/30.25 percent unchanged from the last close.

The Central Bank’s guidance peg for interbank US dollar transactions appreciated by another 2 cents to 362.14 rupees against the US dollar.

Commercial banks offered dollars for telegraphic transfers at 360.49 rupees on Thursday, data showed.  (Colombo/Jan 26/2022)

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