Government should pull country out of crisis - Dr. Harini Amarasuriya

18 September, 2022

Dr. Harini Amarasuriya, a former Grade One Senior Lecturer in Sociology and Social Anthropology and Head of Department Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences at the Central Campus, has been a National People’s Power (NPP) party’s national list MP since August 12, 2020.

The following is an interview with the Sunday Observer.

Q.How do you think the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP)-led NPP can contribute to rescuing the country from its current financial crisis?

A.It is the Government’s responsibility to pull the country out of the current economic crisis. The JVP is not in power to do anything about it. Still, the JVP has warned the people for years that the rulers are dragging this country into its ruination.

Q.Do you mean that appointing 37 State Ministers to the Government would assist the country in overcoming its current economic difficulties?

A.No, we don’t think so.

Q.What do you think?

A. It is clear that adding more Ministers and State Ministers to the Government will burden the economy. This is a burden on the public. The public is being further burdened by this. Is this how a responsible Government make tough sacrifices for necessary reorganisation of the country to come out of its problems?

How does one expect that anyone should support such actions of such a Government?

Q. The Government has appointed 37 State Ministers, but it has not allocated a separate budget header for their expenditure. These State Ministers will have to manage with the funds of the Cabinet ministries they come under and they will be responsible for delivering the results of the tasks that have been delegated to them. How would you look at this?

A. Don’t these State Ministers get cars, fuel quotas, and other perks? They’re going to bag them all eventually. What do the people get in return? Do they have to bear that burden on top of their current predicament, which includes food scarcity, child malnutrition, skyrocketing electricity prices, children not attending school because their parents cannot afford to buy uniforms and shoes for them, children losing their education, a lack of medicine, rising fuel prices, violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms? Do I have to go on?

Q. State Ministers will have to get their fuel under a price cap; their allowances are limited by a Government decision.

A. If so, what is the fuel allowance’s price cap? Allow them to first reveal them.

Q. How do you assess the situation in which some countries, including the UK, the US, Germany, Canada, Malawi, North Macedonia, and Montenegro, were planning to introduce a new resolution against Sri Lanka in the current 51 UN Human Rights Commission session held in Geneva, in order to establish an external monitoring and accountability mechanism in the country?

A. Isn’t that obvious that after seeing Sri Lanka’s current human rights situation, the recent crackdown on peaceful protesters that prevented them from airing their grievances amid the nation’s economic collapse, the abuse of the emergency law against the protest movements, the country’s pervasive corruption, and the arrests of students under the Prevention of Terrorism Act, these countries would have felt compelled to act to restore the human rights in Sri Lanka?

The Government has failed to demonstrate its support for the UN special procedures and call for a moratorium on the PTA.

Would a diplomat, such as USAID Administrator Samantha Power, tell Sri Lanka’s President that political reforms and political accountability must go hand in hand with economic reforms and economic accountability without a reason?

Q. Are you implying that having an international mechanism in place to monitor the country’s internal activities would be desirable?

A. How can any such external mechanism be desirable to a sovereign country or its moral principles?

Q. Some countries, including China, Russia, and Zimbabwe, have spoken out in support of Sri Lanka at the UN Human Rights Council’s 51st session. Some countries have told the gatherings that the UNHRC is acting like a political organisation in its Opposition to Sri Lanka. What are your thoughts on this?

A. That is how global politics work. There are various global power centres, and Sri Lanka has become a source of discussion and contention among them. It’s something to expect.

That does not imply that they support us. They could be working to advance their own agenda. These power blocs can also use Sri Lanka to their advantage.

Sri Lanka must have strong foreign policies in order to avoid being abused or exploited by other power blocs.

Unfortunately, Sri Lanka is no longer in a position to maintain its independence.

As a result, it becomes entangled in global power struggles.

Q. Didn’t the JVP agree to get the support of the International Monitory Fund (IMF) to resolve the present financial crisis?

A. JVP didn’t agree to the IMF coming in. The JVP did not say that. The JVP said that we will have to get international co-operation for restructuring our debts.IMF is one of the players we will have to engage with.

Regardless of which international agency we negotiate with, unless we have our own economic strategy, their conditions will be imposed unilaterally on us.

IMF interventions in the past have not always helped to resolve our economic issues because they cannot intervene to address our political issues, such as governance and corruption.

Unless we address the fundamental political issues, whatever the IMF does will be a band-aid solution.

Without local political reforms, no international agency can save us from the crisis we are in.

– Sunday Observer Sri Lanka

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