Marking the ‘World Day of Social Justice’ today (Feb. 20), UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said: “As we seek to build the world we want, let us intensify our efforts to achieve a more inclusive, equitable and sustainable development path built on dialogue, transparency and social justice.” Inspiring words indeed, but in the context of globalisation, regions and nations like Sri Lanka with small populations and weak economies have virtually no say. Despite this, Sri Lanka has demonstrated a long-term commitment to issues on Social Justice where many countries have struggled to find their cause within the pressures of a globalised environment. Families and individuals are continually faced with the struggle to safeguard their identity, dignity, development needs and sustenance. In the name of global requirements, defined and derived by a few ‘haves’, the ‘have nots’ (the majority) are made to obey and serve as pawns.
By Asitha G. Punchihewa
The promoted global requirement is to make all humans healthy, wealthy and wise; but this again is according to the definition and derivation of the ‘haves’. The ‘haves’ have always decided on behalf of the ‘have nots’, resulting in a vicious circle. As we speak, nearly a billion people on earth are under-nourished despite their being enough food supplies, over 1.6 trillion dollars is spent annually on strengthening defence, six trillion cigarettes are produced annually while governments struggle to fight around 25 percent of deaths caused by heart disease and stroke and 1.8 million people die of HIV/AIDS while companies continue to monopolise drugs.
And through all this capitalists invest through the World Bank in a supposed attempt to realise the Millennium Development Goals. Corporations have been able to influence and direct national and international agendas. In the US alone there are over three million millionaires while over two billion of the world’s population is enslaved for under US $1,000 a year. So is it realistic to believe that the ‘haves’ would give way for the ‘have nots’ to define and derive their own path?
Resource allocation at the national level, already influenced by super powers placed under pressure by transnational corporations, is done to appease corporate interests. One recent example is the “Regaining Sri Lanka” policy document that came under criticism for prescribing an action plan that essentially bargains with public interest. Although the critics have exchanged their chairs, the ‘Asian Highway Programme’, to lay 1,200 kilometres of highway including the Southern and Katunayake expressways, is still underway to appease the world order and a wealthy minority in Sri Lanka.
The wealthy have always been able to dictate terms. Even the battle between Choola-udara and Maha-udara can be seen as a war between the large bellied and small bellied. In instances where the poor become rich, they shift to cruise control to identify with the rich and forget their mates of yesteryear.
Then what plans exist to satisfy the family level down to individual level? ‘Mahinda Chinthana’ as a policy can be the panacea, but its full realisation is hamstrung by counterproductive systematic flaws and the personal interests of a few.
Sri Lanka has drastically derailed from its programme of becoming the knowledge hub of Asia, the miracle of Asia and many more goals due to a few greedy ministers and administrators operating as economic assassins.
Most Sri Lankans are constrained in almost every aspect of life. They are unable to safeguard their identity, dignity, development needs and means of sustenance. However, they are not alone as they represent a majority of the world’s population that is made to believe that they have reached the end of the tunnel. In reality they are in a hypnotic deep sleep and nowhere close to escaping this stranglehold where even unborn children are put in debt. The hypnotist is the mass media whose pay check is channelled by the corporate to use every trick in their hat to blind the public from reality.
Although media freedom is a much talked about issue in Sri Lanka, media personnel and politicians have operated ultimately to safeguard the interests of billionaire investors in a foreign land.
So it is a matter of intervention for all strata to help the struggle for individuals to become autonomous; to promote and compromise for a win-win situation for all. Creating win-win situations is by no means a smooth ride. In such a context turning the world up-side-down to secure social justice is no mean task, with consequences similar to a Chihuahua taking on a Great Dane. But if we don’t take our chances and challenges now, who would? If we do not realise our role, we would be leading our future generations, both rich and the poor, to the gallows.
There is a need to find a way to encourage humanity and humaneness to be reflected in every aspect of individual, family, social, national, regional and global platforms so that the ‘haves’ could be mobilised to be more considerate about the plight of the ‘have nots’. Human beings must be mobilised to become more aware of their role on the earth as a single species in this short lifetime.
(The writer is Development Professional and Consultant Researcher attached to the University of Colombo. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)