It is a widely known fact that many citizens relying on government funds such as Samurdi, Covid-19, pension and other payments are subjected to needlessly excruciating barriers coloured with corruption and red tape, and given the extensive amount spent securing these payments come at a huge personal cost to the individuals, a very vulnerable group of citizens.
On the flip side, the government too encountered many difficulties with regard to managing the transfer of various social payments to the public, due to many of them not having bank accounts. The current system in place to process and deliver these payments is outdated, relying on physical record keeping and transactions. People receiving social benefits, rely on cheques being delivered via post, or having to personally make the trip to collect the monies issued by such payment orders by visiting relevant government offices. In an era where electronic payments are increasingly becoming the norm, as well as a preference for its many benefits, measures to move away from physical transactions to safer and efficient systems should be taken.
Our government has a clear opportunity to better manage this by first making it mandatory by law for citizens to register with a bank for a savings account. This would minimise systematic errors and maximise resources and process efficiencies.
Sri Lanka has proven its potential to be a very technically affluent demographic, as such if the Central Bank were to work along with the current government to take active steps to shift the existing processes to a digital more cost effective and manageable process, the many issues that are encountered could not only be avoided but also controlled in a more profitable manner.
In an effort to plot a path in the right direction for the future, the government should also consider designing and launching an initiative to encourage every person, in the demographic of 16+, to open a personal bank account by the time they are issued with their National Identity Card. There is a good opportunity to capitalise on this market by offering savings account options with good interest rates and current account options such as Mahapola payments, scholarships, medical insurance coverage, educational benefits and with good external incentives and without any annual bank service charges. Youth engagement plays a huge part in the future of economic development, and by enabling this group to become active members in the community and our industries from a young age it would produce a breed of young professionals in the country.
Another point of interest to consider would be to offer private and government sector employees special banking packages, benchmarking the ones offered in countries like the UK, where banks liaise with external businesses to issue value-added services such as mobile insurance, car insurance, life insurance, Spotify/music, hospitality, mortgage benefits to first time buyers, and would serve as incentives to encourage savings. This of course could be locally customised.
The right implementation of such efficient systems with an affordable interest rate, would not only encourage savings account holders to save on their monthly income, but having such support would also enable the individuals to set life-goals seen as achievable. Furthermore moving towards a digital platform will create awareness and behavioural advancement in personal financial handling that would ultimately allow people to enjoy life without any unnecessary external disruptions or barriers. Improving the chances of having a better quality of life in would ultimately lead to an ambitious and a productive workforce.
This brief proposal is to invite our government officials to embrace innovation and outside-the-box-thinking, to provide a much-needed change in our existing outdated banking packages, to be more in line with the new generation and embrace the digital age. Such systems would work to capitalise on the market to bring revenue to the government coffers , as well as protect people’s lives by training them to have positive financial goals. Such stringent systems would be a beacon and deter any illegal activities and corruption.
H. H.S ARATH
Duel with Dual Citizenship
The 20A almost failed to get passed through because President Gotabaya wanted the ban on dual citizens holding the highest offices binned. A worry that was not there before the 19A has now become a passionate concern.
Interestingly, the very people who opposed the 20A (from the Government side) were the very ones who wanted Gotabaya Rajapaksa as Sri Lanka’s President. When he was persuaded to run for presidency he was a dual citizen. Throughout the presidential campaign he was a dual citizen. He only renounced his US citizenship just a few months before the elections.
Yet, his dual citizenship was not a concern to any who supported his ascent to presidency. His opposition – the Yahapalana Government, certainly tried their level best to use Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s dual citizenship against him. This was laughable and only served to discredit them further.
Hypocrisy and Vindictive Politics
After all, having appointed a foreigner as the Central Bank Governor, their worry over a dual citizen cannot be taken seriously. The Yahapalana Government on blind faith co-sponsored the UNHRC Resolution against Sri Lanka. After thus caving into US pressure so treacherously, to anticipate such a move from Gotabaya Rajapaksa was hypocritical. The Mahinda Rajapaksa Administration risked antagonizing our neighbour by politely sitting on the ECTA. The Yahapalana Government, on the other hand, signed with flourish an FTA with Singapore that spelt doom for our trade, industries and manpower.
Clearly, the Yahapalana Government’s concerns over dual citizenship were not genuine. The sole objective was to prevent two of the Rajapaksa brothers from contesting at the presidential elections. This is the point that President Gotabaya directed the attention of his MPs and clergy. He noted that the clause on dual citizenship stemmed from vindictiveness. Therefore, the principle on which this is based on is unacceptable and on that basis the clause needs to be rejected.
However, he assured, at the ongoing exercise of making the new constitution, genuine concerns over dual citizenship can be revisited and the ban can be re-imposed. Clearly, no one in the Government could reject this irrefutable logic and so supported the 20A.
Now that the Government MPs have supported the 20A with the intention of repelling this clause from the new constitution, they have an important task ahead of them. That is, to genuinely analyze the real reason to oppose dual citizens in high offices. The clause was removed because the principle in which it was introduced was corrupt. Then, they cannot re-introduce it on a corrupt principle of their own. That is, their decision cannot be influenced by the effect this would have on Basil Rajapaksa.
Pros and Cons of Dual Citizens
Many unfairly equate dual citizens to the Tamil Diaspora. While some of the Tamil Diaspora may be dual citizens, not all dual citizens are part of the Tamil Diaspora. Therefore, to take a decision on a whole group based on the reservations against some in that group is wrong.
On the whole, one million Sri Lankan expatriates (in which group a subset are dual citizens) remit USD 7 billion annually. As was pointed out by an FB post, when we travel overseas, Sri Lankan expatriates (who may hold dual citizenship) host and save us from food and lodging expenses. Sometimes they even chauffeur us around, saving us from our transport expenses. They send us fancy goods or essential items not available in Sri Lanka. They also fight in our stead with their host governments.
Furthermore, the Yahapalana era attests to the frightening aspect that the physical presence of the Tamil Diaspora is not needed to carry out its separatist agenda in Sri Lanka. Therefore, simply banning dual citizens from becoming leaders or decision-makers alone is not enough. We need to include the matter of foreign funding and influence into this debate.
In the US, it is not enough to be a citizen to hold a high office like the presidency. One must be born in that country as well. However, our best brains are draining out of SL to end up in the US. So, naturally the US can be picky where as it is not clear if SL can afford the same luxury.
Gotabaya Rajapaksa is a case in point. Certainly he became the Defense Secretary because his big brother was the then President. However, nepotism may secure the job but keeping the job is up to the individual. Gotabaya Rajapaksa not only justified the appointment by defeating the LTTE, but also proved himself as an administrator with a vision with his urban development projects. Today he is the President of SL all on his own merit.
The bottom line is, as a Colonel Gotabaya Rajapaksa outperformed the Generals in the same Army he served. The Generals before Mahinda Rajapaksa’s Administration too received political support to defeat the LTTE. Gotabaya Rajapaksa as Defense Secretary managed to convince President Mahinda that Sri Lanka was on the winning path. Had he failed, then the political will of that administration too would have waned.
In the 10 years in the US, Gotabaya Rajapaksa was in an environment where he met intellectuals and academics from different cultural and ethnic backgrounds on a daily basis. Coupled with the Sri Lankan Army’s “nothing is impossible” motto, he had developed an attitude to think “outside the box” (a phrase he uses frequently).
It is clear that an outstanding officer had returned home as an exceptional human being. He is however not an isolated case. Many Sri Lankans returning home have undergone this transformation.
At the same time, we cannot ignore the fact that as dual citizens these individuals have pledged their allegiance to another country. Interestingly, as natives we have never pledged a similar allegiance to our own country. This natural bond one forms with his birth country that defines him and his loyalty to his adopted country that caters to his comforts would be a very difficult one to gauge.
Loyalty is one that can only be proven with action and time and can be fickle at the most unexpected moment. This makes the question of loyalty so serious and significant that it pales all pros of a dual citizen. Decisions of leaders affect the whole nation. Therefore, we must be without a reasonable doubt on the integrity of prospective candidates – whether they be dual citizens or not. In the question of dual citizenship, however, it is important that our leaders and decision makers should not have an escape route from the effects of their own decisions.
It is thus hoped that our own lawmakers, intellectuals, academics and other analysts and opinion-makers would initiate this debate in earnest. It would of course help the country that if this debate was engaged with an open mind. If the participants enter the debate with a preconceived opinion, and interpret facts from that perspective then this would become a lost cause.
Croc skins for Prado
Soon after the Cabinet decided to ban cow slaughter, Minister Dallas Alahapperuma, announced, at a meeting in Galle, the idea of a crocodile farm. Its purpose will be to breed crocodiles to be slaughtered, for their exotic hides to be exported to upmarket European stores, as Prado and Gucci, to manufacture footwear and handbags.
I am sure that croc meat will be popular among East Asian gourmets, both here and further east.
If and when this farm is established, we can cease calling ourselves a Buddhist country.
Dear Pompeo… don’t bully a small nation
Welcome to Sri Lanka. Sri Lanka welcomes you with its warm smiles and hearts, the hallmark of our people. The respect, welcome and hospitality Sri Lanka has shown to all nations for 1000s of years is extended to you, too. It is the same open and generous welcome that legends from distant history, like Fa Hein, Marco Polo, Ibn Battuta, enjoyed and gushed about on this island of plenty.
We hope and pray your visit will be one of genuine efforts by the US to normalize and strengthen relations with a strong, democratically elected government, and a President with an unprecedented mandate. You are truly dealing with the most powerful government Sri Lanka has ever seen. It’s no secret that our relations had been soured by lies, mistrust, accusations, deceptions and perjury by parties hostile to Sri Lanka. These interested parties have sullied Sri Lanka’s name, muddied the waters, and our relations have suffered. We have enjoyed friendly, cordial relations with mutual respect for years, before the mischief-makers have almost broken it down. We fervently hope your visit is a sign of the strengths of our relationship surfacing again, against the forces that try to divide us; and with your visit, we will be able to reset our relations once again to what it was, and what it should be.
The goverment is the representative of the people, and as such please deal with the government accordingly. With respect and honesty. With no preconceived biases. Do not be distracted by the side actors, like NGOs, LTTE reps, Media, etc. Even some official organizations, like the UN, CNN, BBC and some US organization/foreign offices, have been infiltrated by LTTE supporters who are detrimental to Sri Lanka and its sovereignty. They have become their mouthpieces, churning out untruth after untruth. They are loud and noisy on the world stage. But they are small and insignificant, and have NO representation here. Though their malicious campaign has sullied our name, we stand strong and tall as a people of a peace loving and democratic nation. That is our history and heritage, long before these lofty words were coined. Please do not hold over Sri Lanka, these unsubstantiated malicious blatant lies to man-handle or force us.
It is said you are coming here to force us to choose between you and another country. Please don’t give us choices. Choices we don’t want, nor have we to make. All countries are important to us. The quarrels and feuds between other countries are not our concern. We wish to stay as far away from them as possible. As such, please do not force them on us. Respect our desire to remain neutral and friends with both the US and China. These feuds are short-lived and transient in global politics. Soviet leaning India, which fiercely opposed our close friendship with America in the seventies and eighties, is your best mate now. But back then, India went to the extent of making and supporting the world’s most ruthless terror group, LTTE, to browbeat and decimate Sri Lanka, because they did not condone our capitalist path different to theirs! But today India has come full circle to join us.
Today, Sri Lanka recognizes its regional importance. New geopolitical forces are active in the region. New economic trends are blowing. We will manage and navigate these. With no harm to any, and benevolence to all. The true Hela, or Sri Lankan way. The 2500 years or more of history will tell you, that’s how we have been in the past, and we will continue to be so.
You come as a representative of the American people. Who they are represented by, Trump or Biden, we do not care. Either will have our support, because they represent the people of America. I’m sure theirs is not the wish to bully a small nation to their own selfish benefit. Hope your people’s lofty ideals of freedom, democracy and fair play will transcend beyond their shores with your visit.
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