Friday 29 July 2022


29 July 2022

Gajalakshmi Paramasivam



Various reasons have been published for the economic collapse in Sri Lanka. To the extent they are belief based, they would all be right. That belief needs to be in Sri Lanka as well as in the measure being used. Intellectual analyses by global experts rank after such expressions of belief, as do the reasons provided by those who stand to profit from the exercise. In democracy, believers rank foremost. True elders tend to speak through their belief

A Sri Lankan community elder wrote ‘The country got messed up because the minorities had been discriminated against


I responded as follows:


‘I am not able to make a connection between racial discrimination and economic wellbeing in Sri Lanka. Tamils wo accepted ‘junior’ status – be it under the British or Sinhalese were economically better off than Tamils who never left their ancestral homes. The latter would not have known the difference in relative terms and v.v. Those in multicultural areas had to learn the ways of majority culture to live and develop their ‘homes’ – just as we are doing as migrants in Western nations.  But the ‘productivity’ of those living in ancestral homelands is greater in areas such as farmingnative to that place. They are empowered by their ancestors. In contrast, those in multicultural areas need to learn lateral skills towards going global. IT skill is an example of this. English of current style is useful in this regard.

Had minorities accepted ‘Sinhala’ as a working language and Buddhism as working religion’ we would have been politically stable and this would have attracted foreign investments and the capital that comes with it.


But there comes a point when the belief based ‘internal’ pictures become more important to us that the economy based external picture through which we are ‘seen’ by others. Young rebels tend to ‘show’ this to get credits and hence the insurrections by armed youth.


To the extent they sacrificed what was theirs, they get the maturity and have positive value of mental satisfaction. But majority in the rebel groups are often from disenfranchised sections of the community and they are in it for better economic life. Hence the longer the rebellion lasts – the better it is for them. Hence the JVP involvement in the current protests.’


Thinking further about it, I recalled how the then president Gotabaya Rajapaksa, passionately stated around December last year, that he was Goigama. Goigama is presented by Wikipedia as follows:


[Goigama  is a Sinhalese caste found in Sri Lanka. They form approximately half of the Sinhalese population and are traditionally involved in agriculture. The term Goigama became popular during the last period of the Sinhalese Kingdom of Kandy. Its members have dominated and influenced national politics and Sinhalese Buddhism.]

With about 75% of Sri Lankan population being Sinhalese, the withdrawal of fertilizer subsidy, would have had a strong impact on the Goigama group

On 24 November 2021, Reuters reported as follows:

[Sri Lanka rowed back on its goal to become the first country to fully adopt organic farming on Wednesday by removing the ban on the use and importation of chemical fertilisers after months of mass protests by farmers and a surge in food price inflation.

The government had completely banned chemical fertilisers when it unveiled a new agricultural policy in April.

Explaining the U-turn at a cabinet briefing, Agriculture Minister Mahindananda Aluthgamage said only the private sector would be allowed to resume imports, which would be expensive as a subsidy for chemical fertilisers would not be reinstated.

"As a country that is sensitive to the people, because farmers have asked us to do this, cabinet decided to voluntarily rescind the gazette notification banning imports," he added.

The ban on all chemical fertiliser, pesticides, weedicides and fungicides was implemented on April 26, prompting thousands of farmers to protest and demand the government adopt a hybrid policy to allow organic and chemical fertiliser.]

This is directly related to caste. In its article headed ‘Caste and Sri Lankan politics’ the reported as follows:

[The Sinhalese caste system is best described as an upside down triangle where ‘the higher in the hierarchy, the greater the numbers’ and ‘the lower in the hierarchy, the lesser the numbers’. Therefore, the introduction of democracy — a system in which numbers matter — did not directly contribute to the emancipatory aspirations of lower caste groups in Sri Lanka. Despite the increase of parliamentary seats by more than two-folds and the transformation of the electoral system from a simple majority system to one based on proportional representation with preferential voting that favours numerically smaller groups, the Goigama caste that is considered to be ‘superior’ and dominates in numerical terms has continued to receive greater representation in the national legislature. The 2020 election result bears witness to the persistent salience of caste in Sri Lankan electoral politics as well as its ability to survive under different political ideologies — conservative, liberal, nationalist or even technocratic.]

Be it Tamils or Sinhalese, Caste hierarchy was originally based on type of work done. Farmers ranked highest in both communities. Interestingly, both JVP as well as LTTE belonged to the next highest – the warrior-caste – Karayar in Tamil and Karawa in Sinhalese. Wikipedia presents as follows:

[The Karaiyars emerged in the 1980s as strong representatives of Sri Lankan Tamil nationalism. The nuclear leadership of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam have background in the wealthier enterprising section of the Karaiyars]

The community elder mentioned above, had this to say about the separation within LTTE:

[Even the LTTE that began the movement as a caste less, class less entity , finally broke up because of the antipathy between the Batticaloa Tamils & the Jaffna Tamils; Karuna trotted this out as the main reason for his leaving the movement which was dominated by the North - Jaffna boys - according to him]

These are ancestral values of internal classes within a community. The Fertilizer subsidy would have been like settlement of ‘Pithur/Pithru kadan’/ancestral debt.  Its withdrawal for current benefits was ‘disturbance to heritage.’ Hence the pandemic type of collapse.

Its parallel to a warrior caste leader would be withdrawal of subsidy to produce Arms.  

JVP within the Protestors would want to react to government forces – so they would have the opportunity fight.  By work, Mr Gotabaya Rajapaksa became a Karawa leader in a country where caste grouping  is still active. Removing the fertilizer subsidy to farmers is the parallel of removing arms subsidy to the Defence forces. Effectively, Mr Gotabaya Rajapaksa did just that when he failed to deploy the armed forces when some protestors got violent in May.

Vast majority of Sri Lankans continue to practice the caste system consciously or subconsciously. Hence political leaders need to be without ancestral debts to manage during their terms of leadership.

The Protestors sent the President home – Go Gama, - because he was Goigama. They fooled the world – probably not knowing they were doing so.




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