What do we actually aspire for?
Why the urban middle class has no vision and no common aspiration for the future of Sri Lanka
For over a year now, the urban middle-class has been collecting many new words for daily use from Central Bank and Bond scam to Arjuna Mahendran, Arjun Aloysius, Perpetual Treasuries Limited (PTL), Mendis & Company, Hambantota Port, Port City, Chinese Loans, Rajapaksas, Hitler, LTTE and over a week ago even Vijayakala.
They would be lost in their daily conversations without these words, for they seem to know little or nothing about other important issues to indulge in. Thus the rotten “education system”, the seriously ailing “medical profession and health”, jammed up “public commuting”, the ever-starving “rural economy”, the dislocated and dismantled “law and order” situation in the country among many other serious issues do not enter their dialogue and search for answers.
What is being served and savoured in these “educated” urban middle-class circles and in mainstream media, leaves much to be desired as to what Sri Lanka wants for her future.
Media goes agog with petty stories sensationalised with “voice cuts” from self-appointed, foreign-funded “social activists” and politicians slandering each other.
Within that aimless and uprooted middle-class culture, China and loans with Rajapaksa was one time turned into a punching bag for urban recreation.
While the Port City died off early, Hambantota Port was kept alive with this ‘Yahapalana’ Government also accused of meddling with the contract the wrong way up.
Then “cheques” from PTL or its subsidiary Mendis & Co was in vogue for city gossip.
One newspaper alleged that both the candidates at the 2015 January Presidential Election-Rajapaksa and Sirisena -were funded by the same Chinese Company
That fizzled off with few saying they did receive cheques but that wasn’t a big deal with professionals, administrators and even few journalists having accepted cheques from the same source. The Bar Association of SL that was dragged in lately, virtually said: “yes, so what?”
Then came the explosive NYT exposure on Rajapaksas being funded by the Chinese company involved in the Hambantota Port project, for their January 2015 Presidential Election Campaign.
That hit headlines and became the main issue for Colombo’s anti-corruption “cheerleaders” and for the ever ‘gossip ready’ urban middle class.
Surprisingly the key players in the ‘Yahapalana’ Government did not jump on it, as they did on Viyath Maga, Gota and Hitler and thereafter on Vijayakala’s preference for a return to LTTE rule for law and order in North.
All these stories have their shelf life. But with the Colombo middle class, they often get ‘washed and cleaned’ for reuse or get recycled into a different format for new use, with new taglines.
NYT exposure on Rajapaksas being funded for the 2015 January elections by the Chinese Hambantota Port project fund, nevertheless lost its glamour and lustre as a carefully investigated story with another local news report in CT last Sunday alleging both candidates at the 2015 January Presidential Election, Rajapaksa and Sirisena were funded by the same Chinese company.
The news report also claimed, with that evidence surfacing, Police investigations were stalled. There were few “Post-2015 anti-Rajapaksa maniacs, who believed their validity in urban middle-class projects would run dry if they did not stand by the ‘Yahapalana’ rule, immediately said that CT report was a “weak report” with no proper sources.
It is common knowledge they lack, that in this ‘open for the corrupt economy’, the “Filthy Rich” with massive interests in giant projects play safe by greasing both sides of the ballot.
This became far more unbearably smelly with the US State Department’s 2016 Fiscal Report surfacing once again in ‘social media’.
The ordinary American citizen may not be aware, that USD 686 mn of their tax money in 2014, again USD 655 mn dollars in 2015 and then USD 585 mn dollars in 2016 had been spent for ‘regime changes’ across the globe
The fiscal report has a preface written by John Kerry as Secretary of State, who was one of the high-profile US diplomats to visit Sri Lanka in early May, after the 2015 January regime change.
He was very emphatic when he said while in Colombo “In this journey to restore your democracy, the American people stand with you,”
But the ordinary American citizen may not be aware, 686 million dollars of their tax money in 2014, again 655 million dollars in 2015 and then 585 million dollars in 2016 had been spent for ‘regime changes’ across the globe under the article “Democracy, Human Rights and Governance”.
As officially stated by John Kerry in the 2016 Fiscal Report, “We (US State Department with USAID) have supported important democratic gains in Sri Lanka, Nigeria and Burma”.
While in US diplomatic jargon “important democratic gains” would mean “regime change”, neither the US State Department nor the present Sri Lankan Government explained what these “democratic gains” were and what allocations the US set aside for them were. Perhaps “democracy and governance” is not about ‘transparency and accountability’ in regime changes.
Two things stand out quite clear with all these headlines, news stories and gossip that make city rounds with certification that they are from “very reliable sources”. One, the Colombo middle-class is not aware and probably not interested too in knowing how Sri Lanka should reach out to its future, as a modern pluralistic nation State. Corruption is their only big-time topic.
That for them is the most important issue in this country and they want to believe, cleaning it upsets everything else. They, therefore, do not bother to scratch the surface to find out what in effect leads to such heavy and all-encompassing corruption in every topic and issue that surface- from the Bond-scam to Hambantota Port to funding of Presidential candidates on either side.
From greasing politicians to administrators, to professionals and their associations that keep the system corrupt.
The second is the fact, proven or otherwise, in the absence of an “alternate development programme” that could mobilise and galvanise public support against this ‘open for corrupt economy’, mainstream political parties that are manipulated by the filthy rich, are also manipulated by big global powers for their geopolitical needs and preferences.
That is the reason for both China and the US to work towards retaining the regime and the other in changing the regime. That is also the reason why such external interventions are not seriously investigated in mainstream media.
Thus, people are dragged into elections that are only democratic procedures and are superficial, with campaigns that don’t address serious socio-political issues and needs.
Recent elections are restricted and left to regime changes with offers to change personalities and not policy and programmes as preferred by the urban middle-class in tandem with the filthy rich.
This has become the practice and the political norm with the urban Sinhala middle-class. They are yet again in a hurry to fix a Sinhala Buddhist candidate of their choice, the people will be asked to vote for.
They seem to dabble with PM Wickremesinghe from the UNP, President Sirisena who successfully contested the 2015 January Presidential Election as the ‘Common’ candidate with the promise it would be his first and last Presidential Election, again from the SLFP and a third, Gotabaya Rajapaksa in the absence of Mahinda Rajapaksa as possible candidates for 2020 Presidential Poll.
There are few others too who seem to want to enter the fray as independents, trying to create a demand for themselves in social media. These ‘would be new entrants’ as presidential candidates, are also staking a claim in establishing a “corruption free” society.
But “how?” is not the question they would answer convincingly and without rhetoric. They too don’t understand that it is this “free market economy” that nurtures majoritarian racism and is inherently corrupt.
That during 40 years of free-market economic life in this country, the whole State machinery, the political establishment and all professions have been basically bought over by the filthy rich, who remain the only beneficiary with a growing Colombo-centred urban middle class.
These few new and independent budding Presidential Candidates from the rich urban society, also lack any interest and knowledge and thus any viable programme to resurrect the already bankrupt education, health, public transport, rural economy, urban development and to bring back sanity into law enforcement.
None, therefore, has come up with any viable socio-economic and cultural programme for the whole country. Neither from the continually failed mainstream politics who would definitely dominate whatever election that came first and nor from those who stand anew in the periphery. This goes to say, the urban Sri Lankan middle-class has no vision and no common aspiration for the future of Sri Lanka.
They are petty and selfish in that sense. And the bottom line is, in an awfully corrupt society with corrupt and inefficient systems where people cannot decide whom they should democratically and independently elect as their authentic representatives but has to select someone who’s offered to them as decided by political parties run by the filthy rich and endorsed by the elites in Colombo middle class, there is no future for Sri Lanka to aspire for.
That is the space the big powers have in manipulating regime changes. That is the ugly space that China is accused of using during elections and is also the political space that the US State Department says they “supported important democratic gains”.
With a total absence in forging an alternative to this ever-growing, filthy rich economy, 2020 elections will not be without such external players helping us to make decisions that help them.