Reviewed by Fr Chryso Pieris SJ, Galle
All authentic prophets, modern or ancient, are voices in the wilderness yet never wavering from their stand, never compromising with power, prestige or pelf, always consistent, comprehensive and compassionate.
Dr Mervyn D. De Silva is one such rare prophet from Sri Lanka in our times. I had, now and then, read some of his articles in the newspapers but this collection is a real boon to all those who are interested in the common good of not only the people of Sri Lanka, especially the poor, but of the whole world.
“The world today, for those who have eyes to see and ears to hear and for intelligent and objective observers, has sunk into decadence, economically, socially, culturally, morally, ethically and seems to be immersed in a quagmire of unprecedented superficiality. There are wars between nations, ethnic and religious groups, social upheavals between haves and have-nots, heinous forms of crimes, domestic violence, political violence, breakdown of law and order, revolutions and counter-revolutions; corruption by the mightiest, politicians, bankers and businessmen, blatant violations of time-honored principles and codes of conduct and decency; blatant violation of constitutions, democracy, the judiciary and the executive organs of administration.” - Page 9.
Though the author starts this paragraph with the words “The world today” actually it is all about the current ugly situation in our own country, Sri Lanka.
And that is what the subtitle of the book says:
“The failed Neoliberal Paradigms of Economics, Politics, Governance, Society and Science in Sri Lanka and Globally”
Agriculture is the speciality of Dr Mervyn and eradication of poverty is his chosen goal in life. For him, the two are connected but the powers that be are so ignorantly and culpably superficial about this connection it is tragic.
“… the governments undertaking utterly puerile tamashas in the rural paddy fields (1977) and farmer seminars in the capital city (1996) reveals the truth that the crux of the success of the modern techniques of food production and the massive support it requires have not been properly understood by the rulers.” – page 34.
Dr De Silva consistently shows that the root cause of every unjust and evil aspect of society is economic poverty.
Whether it is hunger and starvation, violence and terrorism, overseas slave labour and human trafficking, drugs and prostitution, inequality and income disparities, ill health and failure in education, are all due to the basic fact that the majority cannot make ends meet at the end of the day.
For him, the eradication of poverty is a top priority and the ethical, moral, social and political imperative of any responsible government.
His scathing attacks on the Washington Consensus Institutions, The World Bank, the International Monetary Fund and the World Trade Organization are unmatched by any leftist rhetoric.
Nothing escapes his eagle eye: Glasnost-Perestroika, GATT and RCN (Remote Control Neo-Colonial Status) Debt Crisis and Aid, Structural Adjustments, Mad Cow Disease, Free Market, Super NGOs, Privatization and Ecological Disasters.
"If the people lead, the leaders will follow our attempts to end this unapologetic barbarism. Rise up to the occasion please"
He exposes their hidden agendas, double standards and hypocrisy, objectively and fearlessly.
He was in the Ministry of Planning and later an MP in the Sirimavo Bandaranayake Government.
He comments on why ‘planning’ became an anathema, what the proper role of the Ministry is, the Presidential responsibilities, performance monitoring and reorganization of the Ministry.
He reveals with great clarity and responsibility how democracy in our country began to erode from the seventies onward. Today it is a mere façade and the people are left utterly helpless, politically stranded and their dignity dragged in the mud.
The articles are all relevant to the immediate socio-political needs of the country; searching for solutions to vital problems; analyzing the situation and critiquing it; but always Dr Mervin’s basic tenets are clear and demanding; the unitary status of the country, the inalienable sovereignty of the people, a legislature of honest, committed ladies and gentlemen untainted by corruption and nepotism and the top priority of a sustained campaign to eradicate poverty not in some hazy future but within a planned rational time frame and clear deadlines.
A victim of Government wrath when he exposed the Dambala Hoax Dr De Silva has paid dearly for his uncompromising stand against injustice, dishonesty and corruption.
“Dr De Silva insists that there can be no question of abandoning those in need.” Director of Tulana Fr Aloysius Pieris SJ states.
The dire need of the hour, if we want to save this country intact for another generation, is for us all good and honest people to rouse ourselves and work together to bring about the downfall of the present governing kleptocracy; this indeed is the last plea of Dr Mervin in his collected articles; it is on page 302;
“Patriotic countrymen with brains, guts and courage take up the gauntlet, get on the phones, make e-mail connections, contact anyone prepared to help, assemble groups, contact professional associations, inspire confidence, do more and talk less, don’t throw cold water. Let’s take one step in the right direction. If the people lead, the leaders will follow our attempts to end this unapologetic barbarism. Rise up to the occasion please.”
I dream somebody taking his articles and translating them into Sinhala and Tamil and publishing them, one by one, serially, in our national vernacular newspapers. I wish very much my dream comes true soon.
The book itself is a beauty, thanks to the Media Unit of the Tulana Research Centre led by Robert Crusz, Sudath Attanayake and the printers Karunaratne & Sons (Pvt) Ltd.