Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, delivering a speech at the ‘Sri Lanka Twin Crisis Conference’ held at the Sri Lanka Foundation on Friday, said: ‘We have relied on the UK Constitution. The majority has the power, the minority starts talking and shouting, that’s all. But then we changed the first past the post to a PR system. Now you are going to abolish the Presidency so do you want to go back to the English system, the Westminster system, or do you want to have one in which there is more cooperation like the old Donoughmore system, the Council of State ? This is a question everyone should think about.
Excerpts from the speech: I have been asked to tell you about the twin crisis in Sri Lanka. One has already started, the economic crisis in Sri Lanka. I do not need to go back in time to find out how we deprived ourselves of our foreign currency, how we decided to continue doing it alone and how the facts were concealed not only from the public but from
Parliament and members of the government of the time. And there is also a political crisis, the question of the loss of confidence in a political system that has allowed the country to descend to this level. So that’s what we’re tackling.
There is a second crisis. The second crisis is the global impact of the Ukrainian crisis. We only see the beginning of it, the increase in fuel (price). It will get worse over time. As you go, you will probably find that there will be a shortage of food.
Food shortage will become widespread until 2024. After all, Russia and Ukraine, one is the largest grain producer, the other is the fifth. You can’t import grain from Russia, and to Ukraine what’s left can’t be shipped. Their ports are closed by the Russians, and their gauge of the railways is different from that of Poland. Thus, each cart must be lifted and placed on the Polish track. You cannot send food there. And many fields in their agricultural zone are destroyed. If the war stops even tomorrow, it will take Ukraine at least three years to get its culture back on track. Then the rise in the price of fuel, the rise in the price of corn, again the shortage of fertilizer. So it affects the whole world. There’s a fertilizer shortage in California, there’s a fertilizer shortage in Brazil. How do you meet him? And there’s going to be a shortage of food. Already, countries are banning the export of foodstuffs. It’s the second one you have, which you’re facing.
There is no priority list. Even until recently, different agencies used the different lines of credit to order what they wanted, there was no priority. If someone said “I want fertilizer”, that was the effort, if someone said “I want gasoline”, that was it. We had to prioritize and sort of centralize access to foreign lines of credit. So that’s just the beginning of what we need to do. The worst is yet to come. As you know, there will be no food, because our food reserves will be sufficient until about September-October because we didn’t have enough fertilizer neither for ‘Maha’ nor for ‘Yala’. Now we are trying to get fertilizer for the next ‘Maha’ season. If we do, we will definitely be self-sufficient by February next year. What are you doing in the meantime? As the economy collapses, more and more jobs are lost. More and more businesses, large and small, are collapsing. This is where we are headed. A time will come when people will no longer eat three meals a day. They can eat two meals; this situation can happen for some of our people.
We must avoid hunger. Is there an end? Well, we’re talking with other nations, our friendly nations, for help. There is light at the end of the tunnel, but we have to make sure there is no landslide as we go through the tunnel. This is the problem. We cannot get through this year on our own. We need a few billion dollars to come from outside. Otherwise, this country cannot survive. We need to reach out again to those we have rejected. The Japanese have been our friends from 1952 to this day who are hurt by what happened. What country rejects 3 billion dollars in aid, mercilessly, without even negotiating? I just said we don’t want it. How do you restore trust with these people? We are lucky that India stepped up to help us when we needed it. Other countries are stepping in. China came with help, but someone in the government went to negotiate a loan, an exchange, which we cannot use.
So we have to prepare ourselves to go through a difficult period and to change the system. Changing the system and making it export oriented, I don’t think that’s going to help much Hiran De Silva, President – Rakimu Jayathu Lanka. But his sons and daughters and grandsons and granddaughters are going to have a new Sri Lanka. This is what we work for. A prosperous Sri Lanka. Let this experience be our last experience with this bitter policy. Let’s think again.
And that goes back to the Constitution. We based ourselves on the British Constitution. The majority has the power, the minority starts talking and shouting, that’s all. But then we changed the first past the post to a PR system. Now you are going to remove the Presidency so do you want to go back to the English system, the Westminster system or do you want to have one in which there is more cooperation like the old Donoughmore system, the Council of State system ? This is a question everyone should think about. I have made some proposals for Parliament to work together, but this is only the beginning. So think about it and remember that this is the start of a new journey. So think about it and start traveling.