The Sunday Leader

Go West

By Paneetha Ameresekere, Business Editor

The recent Avurudhu message from the Foreign Secretary of the world’s most powerful country was indeed a bolt from the blue.

Usually receiving Independence day messages from friendly countries is generally the norm, but not so Avurudhu messages, especially when such a message was sent by no lesser country than the U.S.A. itself.

Of late Sri Lanka’s relations with the West, especially with the U.S.A. have not been at its best.

This is due to alleged human rights abuse in the prosecution of the now past Eelam war, coupled with Tamilian diasporan voter pressure in Western World capitals such as in the U.S.A. and U.K., which, coincidentally are Sri  Lanka’s numbers one and two  exports markets respectively, while the latter is also among Sri Lanka’s top two tourism generating markets.

And what of our own economic refugees, they don’t go to China? They go to the West or to Australia, the latter land of which the majority of its peoples are of European descent, and uphold such values, therefore, in that sense, it could also be classified as the “West.”

Those alone are sufficient pointers to drive home the economic importance of the West for the prosperity of this island.

Traditionally, S.L.F.P. led governments in Sri Lanka, with the exception of the Chandrika Kumaratunga Government of 1994-2004, have a history of distancing itself from the West, and  aligning itself with the old  Eastern Bloc countries and China, the economic consequences of which are still fresh in the minds of old timers such as this reporter.

True, a lot of water has flown under the bridge since.

China is now an economic power house, and with the dismantling of the Berlin Wall in 1989 and the collapse of the Soviet Union, a number of the former Warsaw Pact satellite states are now members of N.A.T.O. themselves,  having distanced themselves with Vladimir Putin’s Russia.

But still, from an economic perspective it will be suicidal to ignore the West and Japan and go in search of new friends such as Libya, Burma, et al, branded as pariah nations.
Where is that U.S.$ 500 million loan from Libya, “for which Rajapaksa visited Libya,” and Central Bank Governor Ajith Cabraal twice, all at tax payers’ expense recently?
The U.S.A. has seemingly walked that extra mile to mend fences with Colombo.

If Mrs. Hillary Clinton’s Avurudhu greetings are not enough, almost coinciding with the Obama Government’s New Year message, the Sri Lankan military and the U.S. military conducted joint exercises on disaster preparedness at Trincomalee.

These are pointers, that hopefully, Colombo, after a short period of isolation, at the height of the Eelam war, and its immediate aftermath, is now reciprocating, to the West, and more particularly to the U.S.A., by extending its hand of friendship.

In the island’s few pages of history after independence, events have shown, that there is economic progress, war or no war, when Sri Lanka aligns itself with the West, while the reverse is also true, sadly, war or no war, when Colombo distances itself from the West.
In this context, the imbroglio over the hackneyed G.S.P. + issue needs no further elaboration.

Now that the war is past and elections are over, the onus is on Rajapaksa and his new Government, to steer the country into an era of peace and prosperity, by learning the economic lessons from the island, in its short 62 year span since independence.


Economic management is not something which S.L.F.P. led governments are blessed with, not least the S.L.F.P./ U.P.F.A. Government of President  Mahinda Rajapaksa, which completed its first term of office recently, and has just started on its second six year term.

Recruiting of cronies and family members to public office (as opposed to recruitment on merit) is not good for a start. Political leaders, beginning with Rajapaksa, are stewards of this country. In fact no lesser person than Rajapaksa himself, in his various speeches, has emphasized this point.

But whether his words match his deeds is the million rupee question.

Accountability of the public purse, one may say, is the key to good economic management of a country, but such is easier said than done.

On the one hand there is a need to enhance revenue, while on the other, there is also  a need to curb public expenditure, for better economic management, while at the same time there is also a requirement to obtain concessionary loans and grants to keep the economy ticking, whilst simultaneously keeping an eye on public debt, especially those of a commercial nature, whether they be domestic or foreign, on the back of interest and capital repayments, which take up a sizeable chunk of government revenue at the present.

The economy also has to be looked at in the context of rising cost of living and shrinking consumer spend. Belt tightening was the popular slogan of the Sirima Bandaranaike Government of 1970—77, but those slogans don’t hold that much relevance in the 21st century.

Such slogans, if indeed they are to resonate once more, are more appropriate to Rajapaksa and his Government, and not to the suffering masses of the country.

7 Comments for “Go West”

  1. Murali


    • justitia

      GLPeiris said that Sarath Fonseka cannot contest the Presidency as he is not a registered voter! He also said that the European Union ‘can be sued’ for cancelling the GSP Concessions!
      Will he drop any more bricks as foreign minister?

  2. hotchoc56

    I can’t see the need for the general public to tighten their belts any further – we are bursting after 30 years of it! As long as the Govt spends money like there’s no tomorrow on worthless things (coupled with the commissions), and the fact that there are maybe two million government employees and armed forces earning tax-free salaries and duty-free vehicles, there’s no point in asking me to tighten my belt. GET STUFFED!!

    • justitia

      First, Mihinair must be closed down as it has lost Rs 905 Billion due to bad management by cronies and relatives of MR who have no qualifications. Air Lanka is sufficient for a small country like ours.
      The president must ban any “refurbishment” of offices of the new cabinet ministers at great cost to the taxpayer and the traditional 10% or more going into their pockets – this happens every time a new minister assumes duties.The ministers also must be told NOT to purchase new vehicles – the ones already there are sufficient. These two measures alone will save a great amount of money.
      All managers of Public Enterprises should be asked to resign and new qualified persons appointed – there is a lot of talent going waste.All unnecessary foreign trips should be disallowed. (Sirimavo B enforced “Exit Permits” for foreign travel).
      Financial perks of the new parliamentarians should be pruned. “Jobs” for relatives must be banned. All of them must be compelled to declare assets – none have liabilities – soon. This information must be made available to citizens – non availablity means ‘black money’ is part of their assets.

  3. correct

    1. What is Islaam?

    The word “Islaam” is an Arabic word that means “submitting and surrendering your will to Almighty God”. The word comes from the same root as the Arabic word “salam”, which means peace. Unlike the names used for other religions, such as Buddhism, Hinduism and Christianity, the name for the religion of Islaam was both revealed by God and carries a deep spritual meaning – only by submitting one’s will to Almighty God can one obtain true peace both in this life and in the life hereafter. Islaam teaches that all religions originally had the same essential message – which was to submit whole-heartedly to the will of God and to worship Him and Him alone. For this reason, Islaam is not a new religion but is the same divinely revealed Ultimate Truth that God revealed to all prophets, including Noah, Abraham, Moses and Jesus.

    2. Who are Muslims?

    The Arabic word “Muslim” literally means “someone who submits to the will of God”. The message of Islaam is meant for the entire world and anyone who accepts this message becomes a Muslim. Some people mistakenly believe that Islaam is just a religion for Arabs, but nothing could be further from the truth, since in actuality over 80% of the world’s Muslims are not Arabs! Even though most Arabs are Muslims, there are Arabs who are Christians, Jews and atheists. If one just takes a look at the various peoples who live in the Muslim World – from Nigeria to Bosnia and from Morocco to Indonesia – it is easy enough to see that Muslims come from all different races, ethnic groups and nationalities. From the very beginning, Islaam had a universal message for all people. This can be seen in the fact that some of the early companions of the Prophet Muhammad were not only Arabs, but also Persians, Africans and Byzantine Romans. Being a Muslim entails complete acceptance and active obedience to the revealed will of Almighty God. A Muslim is a person who freely accepts to base his beliefs, values and faith on the will of Almighty God. In the past, even though you don’t see it as much today, the word “Mohammedans” was often used as a label for Muslims. This label is a misnomer and is the result of either wilful distortion or sheer ignorance. One of the reasons for the misconception is that Europeans were taught for centuries that Muslims worshipped the Prophet Muhammad in the same way that Christians worship Jesus. This is absolutely not true since a Muslim is not permitted to worship anyone or anything besides Almighty God.

    3. Who is Allaah?

    Very often one will here the Arabic word “Allaah” being used in regards to Islaam. The word “Allaah” is simply the Arabic word for Almighty God, and is the same word used by Arabic speaking Christians and Jews. If one were to pick up an Arabic translation of the Bible, one would see the word “Allaah” being use where the word “God” is used in English. Actually, the Arabic word for Almighty God, “Allaah”, is quite similar to the word for God in other Semitic languages – for example, the Hebrew word for God is “Elah”. For various reasons, some non-Muslims mistakenly believe that Muslims worship a different God than the God of Moses and Abraham and Jesus. This is certainly not the case, since the Pure Monotheism of Islaam calls all people to the worship of the God of Noah, Abraham, Moses, Jesus and all of the other prophets.

  4. Gangdhi

    Your Busness editor is going West, hope he doesnt go to Greece. The West is looking to the East if he follows the real business world. The problem Ceylon (Sri Lanka) has is with the leftists of the West. When the conservatives are in power Ceylon does well. Democrats in USA, Labour in UK and Australia, Liberals In Canada are examples of left leaning governments of the West. The same applies to France and Germany.
    If Republican were in power they would have applauded Ceylon for wiping out terrorists. When Hon Thatcher wa sin office she made sure not a single Tamil refugee set foot on UK soil.
    The economic problems in Sri Lanka is the same as in Fiji, Kenya and Uganda. Mr Amarasekara go for a walk in Fort or Pettah and ask business owners how much money thay sent to India and the West?

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