ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka has all but become a colony of China and trade unionists and others who vehemently opposed a recent deal with India haven’t said a word in protest, Former President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga said.
Speaking to the privately owned NewsFirst network yesterday at a ceremony marking the death anniversary of her late husband Vijaya Kumaratunga, the former president said the parties that opposed the Indian deal are keeping mum about every national asset allegedly being handed over to China.
Kumaratunga was likely referring to the now-scrapped plan to hand over a minority stake in the Eastern Container Terminal (ECT) of the Colombo Port to a firm in India. The proposed deal drew heavy opposition from trade unions, left-leaning political parties, members of the clergy and sections of the government itself.
“If you look at their bank accounts – those in trade unions and others – how they become millionaires overnight – you have to wonder,” said Kumaratunge.
Both her parents – former Prime Ministers S W R D and Sirimawo Bandaranaike – followed a decidedly non-aligned foreign policy, a policy that she herself adopted in her years as president, she said.
“We didn’t bow down to anybody. Those who are in charge must have an understanding of foreign policy and foreign relations,” she said, noting that certain individuals in the present government used to openly mock the very idea of foreign relations.
“Today, for all intents and purposes, we are a colony of China,” she added.
Kumaratunga further said that in order for Sri Lanka to make any progress, the people must change in their outlook and look for leaders of a different calibre.
“Each administration keeps undermining the one that preceded it. This is no way forward for this country. The people must change first. To change the people, the education system must be overhauled. We also need political leaders of a different calibre: young, educated, not given to corruption – people who do not treat politics as a business opportunity,” she said.
People of some means – not necessarily wealthy families, but gainfully employed professionals such as doctors, lawyers and even entrepreneurs – must take over, she said.
“They don’t all need to be educated either. We just need people who are willing to serve the country with integrity and go after two terms,” she said.
Asked if she will step forward to save the country, Kumaratunge said: “I take a step every day. I don’t know if it is to save the country, but I have no intention of stepping back.” (Colombo/Feb17/2021)