| by Victor Cherubim
( November 18, 2013, London, Sri Lanka Guardian) Using Cameron’s visit, to win favour with the Tamil community in U.K.
Using Canada’s Harper to boycott, may be an attempt to convince Tamils in Canada.
Using Manmohan Singh to stay at home instead, could be a missed opportunity.
Using Mauritian absence thus causing the loss of holding the next CHOGM in Port Louis.
Using Trinidad and Tobago, and “making it” not to participate in Colombo’s CHOGM.
Many observers feel, all these shenanigans have only one thing in common. They have made the world to think again, the poverty of mind and spirit of the so called “Commonwealth nations.”
While there are so many issues which could have drawn the attention of this body of nations,
the media’s exclusive attention on Sri Lanka, is a lesson for future summits. It is not known whether this was a charade to divert attention from the poverty prevailing in the Commonwealth. It was thus not surprisingly that the final report of the leaders incorporated “Poverty Alleviation and Climate Change” and made no mention of human rights abuses.
Common poverty v Common wealth
The poor of the Commonwealth have long been ignored. In almost all these nations there is a gnawing feeling that over the years the Commonwealth has become a “rich man’s club.”
The responses to poverty, particularly rural poverty, including food price increases, are a phenomenon prevalent not only in Sri Lanka, but also around the Commonwealth. Poverty and
Vulnerability can be assessed and explored by how rural poor households respond to changes in economic circumstances and labour market conditions.
“How they react or adjust to a deteriorating situation, what strategies they adapt to limit the impact or shocks and generate additional resources,” has to be reviewed.
What has been researched is that many Commonwealth communities cope in remarkably similar ways, perhaps due to their common bond. While analysing these coping mechanisms, we can identify not only the threat, but also the “resilience” in exploiting opportunities and in resisting or recovering from the negative effects of the changing environment.
The extinction of the Middle Class
We note that one of the common concerns in many, if not most of the poorer Commonwealth nations, is the complete extinction of the so called “Middle Class.” Income inequality is now as high as it has been since the 1920’s. The rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer. There is no “Middle Class.”
Those on middle and low incomes did well out of rising prosperity as inequality fell over a part of the second half of the 20th Century. But since 2008 this process has gone into reverse. Growth has been heavily “colonised” by the “Super Rich” leaving the bulk of the workforce with little better than stagnant incomes. “Managed Capitalism” has driven work out. The market forces of supply and demand which is perhaps the cost of this uncertainty, has now impinged on food poverty, with prices doubling in quick succession over the past three years.
A disproportionate number of the so called “Middle Class” have joined the ranks of the poor.
With a growing percentage of the current generation facing a lower standard of living than their parents, more fear and are worried of a further loss of livelihood. Most of the so called “poor”
around the Commonwealth don’t even realise what is happening. They are sooner rather than later going to become dependent on the State.
Government dependence is something that the Commonwealth has not taken seriously into
consideration. It is a time bomb ticking over, as wealth is being funnelled to the top.
Grievances and the grief
To blame all the ills of the Commonwealth, on Sri Lanka, is a “wonderful way” of the rich nations
to divert attention from their responsibilities for causing this chaos. “It is a well known fact that ethnic Tamils have themselves been accused of killing of civilians, using them as human shields and also forcibly recruiting child soldiers, and both sides have to take the blame” say many in Sri Lanka.
But the flip side of the coin perhaps is that food poverty could be the real reason for the “conspiracy of silence” among the rich nations, for the situation experienced in the Commonwealth.
As Prime Minister John Key of New Zealand diplomatically admitted:
“We’re not going to go in and lecture the President, because I don’t think that will take us anywhere. But we can put on the table legitimate questions that we need answers to.
..............there is nothing to be gained from boycotting the meeting and it had raised extra international attention. There is an awful lot more to be done here, but this is a country that is evolving” (and so is the Commonwealth).
Leadership to the fore
It appears irrespective of what Sri Lanka achieved by hosting the Commonwealth summit, the
fact remains, Sri Lanka came out playing cricket, lovely cricket. It was gracious to its guests.
President Mahinda Rajapaksa was not unruffled, by the bouncers thrown at him. There are two more years of his leadership of the Commonwealth, to show if Sri Lanka can not only make progress in reconciliation at home, but also deliver his message to eradicate the “common poverty of the Common Wealth.”