Public protests that erupted in reaction to the country’s economic and financial freefall have now entered a dangerous phase with one person shot dead in Rambukkana. If a protest lasts long enough, chances are someone will be killed and looters will arrive soon enough. All kinds of forces will begin to fish in troubled waters.

The government should have known that the West was going to invest in regime change, given what happened elsewhere and in 2015. So a good army commander, even in retirement, should have foreseen that there will be those who try to undermine it.

However, no outside agent is needed when the army man shoots himself in both feet. In the case of Sri Lanka, these two legs are energy supply and food supply. The supply of energy depended essentially on the ability to purchase fuel using foreign currencies.

Empty food supply

The president is said to have listened to “Gnanakka”, Nalin, Jayasumana, Ven. Ratana and some doctors politicized by banning fertilizers, sidelining the very experienced scientists of the Ministry of Agriculture. Gotabaya went well beyond the ban on glyphosate, previously engineered by Ven. Ratana who was part of the Yahapalanaya government.

As civil servants, Agriculture Department scientists couldn’t say much without getting fired – those who dared got fired. Chamal Rajapaksa (a proponent of traditional ‘govikama’), many prominent monks, as well as a number of fringe scientists had supported the return to ‘traditional farming’ and low yielding ‘traditional’ varieties of rice seed . They objected to modern high-yielding hybrids or the use of agrochemicals. So if the president was wrong, he had company.

While scientists from research institutes like Maha Illuppallama, TRI, RRI etc. are gagged, some of us have been writing articles and even telling the powers that be not to shoot ourselves in the foot, but in vain. The scientists who spoke would be in the pay of large agrochemical companies. Associations of planters with decades of experience pleaded with the authorities, but to no avail.

Financial collapse

As for the financial collapse, already in 2010 (and before), Sri Lanka’s foreign exchange expenditure and foreign debts exceeded foreign income. So, even without great economic calculations and projections, you could see that the country will soon go bankrupt. What was to come quickly became very soon with the arrival of the pandemic.

But the pandemic took more than two years to have its full impact and so a smart government could have taken steps to avoid the heavy impact, especially when foreign credit agencies began to downgrade Sri Lanka’s creditworthiness.

However, financial prudence aside, even in the face of a deadly virus, ministers and the Speaker of Parliament have sought protection from occult powers and some have taken to throwing clay pots bearing charms into rivers.

When Gotabaya took power, he did not declare that the treasury was empty and subject to harsh restructuring; instead, he lowered taxes, gave MPs new cars, and spent freely. There were budgets under MR and then Basil R. Their budgets should have recognized that Lanka’s foreign income was less than its foreign expenditure and spelled out corrective measures.

They didn’t want to admit it; instead, a quick path to prosperity (“Saubhagya”) was promised.

Like irresponsible teenagers being given a credit card, the government started on a spending spree. They cut taxes, started building new highways, canceled energy projects and other previously tendered contracts, and opened new contracts using their own henchmen who could get new commissions. The country paid damages for broken contracts.

conspiracy theories

Where did the escape from parliamentary power begin? It started with Weerawansa, Vasudeva, Gammanpila and others leaving the government and campaigning against the electricity contract signed at midnight with an American company.

Thus, the rebels are not recognized as “puppets of the United States”. While it is clear that the JVP played an important role in organizing the protests in foreign capitals and in synchronizing the slogan “Gota go home”, its role in the local protests is much less certain.

Western enemies (“friends” for some) or any other enemy or “friends” from the North or East will exploit the situation to the fullest; they will infiltrate ongoing protests and start funding them. But they cannot be named the agents who started it, although such conspiracy theories would be very plausible to many people.

The first Rajapaksa government fell to regime change in 2015. So the second Rajapaksa government. under Gotabaya, fell into the same trap so it’s incompetence comparable to the Yahapalanaya thugs warned of the Easter attack but took no precautionary measures.

“Sinhalese Buddhists” (and many Sinhalese Catholics disenchanted with the Easter bombings under Yahapalanaya) rested their faith in Gotabaya. He let them down badly and allowed enemies of “Sinhalese Buddhists” (whether “ritual” type or “meditation type”) to mock the best aspects of what individuals like Anagarika Dharmapala, Baron Jayatilleke or EW Adhikaram, Malalasekera and others argued for, a century ago.

In any case, some may say that the Gota government was closer to American control than even the Yahapalanaya. So why would the West need to overthrow this government, especially now that it has gone to Washington for an IMF bailout?

Gotabaya caused the crisis himself, with the help of people like Venerable Ratana (who was the government’s authority on agriculture) and the government’s financial strategists.

During the war, Gotabaya listened to his generals unlike Chandrika or Ranil, who were more interested in winning the Nobel Peace Prize. During his time in urban planning, Gotabaya listened to architects. But maybe as he got older, and with more power in his hands, he became more superstitious and more irrational?

After becoming president, he is said to have listened to Gnanakka and others just as Ranil and others were rushing to the Tirupathi Kovil in India. It is said that when things started to go bad, Gnanakka asked the government to have a sandalwood forest in front of parliament and said that then all the “avaduru” (bad omens) would disappear.

Apparently the government followed Gnanakka’s instructions to appease the gods. Decidedly, the Gods want more!

Chandre Dharmawardana,

Canada.