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Yahapalana is going to turn Sri Lankans to landless citizens like Hawaii

When Ranil Wickremasinghe Government took power in 2001 they allowed foreigners to purchase land and even coastal graveyards were bought. Returning to power again the Wickremasinghe Government has decided to continue to again facilitate sale of land to foreigners. What are the repercussions and consequences that the citizens will have to face in the future by governments with shortsighted gains? Greedy businessmen took Hawaii from Hawaiians – it can happen to Sri Lanka too.

Hawaii is made of 132 islands of which only 8 islands are livable. The eight major islands are Niihau, Kauai, Oahu, Molokai, Maui, Kahoolawe, Lanai, and Hawaii. Honolulu, the capital, is located on Oahu. Total population is 1.4million with a total 10,931 sq.miles. The state owns only 39% of land. In 1778, English explorer Captain James Cook arrived in Hawaii and its population declined by 80%. In 1794 George Vancouver, a British navigator, drafted an agreement with island chiefs to transfer ownership of the islands to Great Britain.

By 1878, the native population had dropped to an estimated 40,000 to 50,000 people. There are fewer than 8,000 pure Hawaiians living today. Most Native Hawaiians today have less than 50% pure Hawaiian blood. Fewer than 2,500 people speak Hawaiian as their mother tongue.

Japan bombed Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941.

Hawaii has been invaded thrice – in 1941 by the Japanese, in 1920s by tourists and in 1893 by American businessmen who overthrew Queen Liliuokalani illegally annexing Hawaii to the US. Christian missionaries arrived in 1820. With time tourists didn’t care about Hawaii culture except to enjoy in a luxury hotel.

In 1877, some 400 American businessmen forming the ‘Hawaiian League’ planned to overthrow the monarchy forcing King Kalakaua to sign the revised Hawaiian constitution which meant cutting his powers (Bayonet Constitution) which never went for a vote because people opposed it. No different to the present sentiments by the public against Sri Lanka’s constitution. Queen Liliuokalani, his sister took over in 1891 after the King’s death and planned to rescind the Bayonet Constitution and replace with one restoring power to herself & the natives. What is interesting is that Queen Liliuokalani was a follower of Buddhism & Buddhist philosophy and followed the teachings of Buddha in her rule. She imposed restrictions on foreign immigrants and decreased reliance on imports and foreign trade. She rejected American businessmen’s requests for immigration reform and reestablishment of trade-routes. American missionaries helped plot her overthrow and annexation to US in January 1893 with the help of 163 strategically placed American troops. The Queens ‘non-violence’ attitude proved her downfall. The Queen was arrested in 1895 charged with treason forced to abdicate and give up her throne. The US was quick to change things to their advantage – even Chinese immigrants were denied entry. Act 24 vested power in corporations. Even the Hawaiian language was banned. English replaced Hawaiian as the official language of government, business and education. Children were punished in school for speaking Hawaiian.We must wonder how many such are already stationed in Sri Lanka and look at the subtle manner Buddhism and the Buddhist ethos of Sri Lanka is currently being targeted to elimination – education, social, cultural, political, religious, constitution etc.

Native Hawaiians launched a massive petition drive to stop the formal annexation of Hawai’i to the U.S. Of the known population of 39,000 Native Hawaiians, 21,269 signed the petition. This was an incredible majority. But, Hawai’i was illegally annexed as a U.S. territory in 1898, along with 1.2 million acres of Hawaiian crown lands that had belonged to the monarchy and to the nation of Hawai’i.No compensation was paid to anyone.

Hawaii was administered as a U.S. territory until 1959, when it became the 50th state in August, 1959, following a referendum in Hawaii in which more than 93% of the voters approved the proposition that the territory should be admitted as a state. What was sold to the people was that America was working in the best interest of the Hawaiians & their economy. No different to the story sold in Sri Lanka. Hawaii’s natural resources became her downfall. Sri Lanka’s geopolitical position must its unknown & unappreciated resources will become Sri Lanka’s downfall too.

In 1983 President Ronald Reagan signed Proclamation 5030 granting US full control over all living and non-living resources within 200miles of US coastlines.In 1993, Congress (President Clinton) issued an apology to the people of Hawaii for the U.S. government’s role in the overthrow and acknowledged that “the native Hawaiian people never directly relinquished to the United States their claims to their inherent sovereignty.”Apologies however does not return land to its rightful owners.

Hawaiʻi has one of the largest United States military populations in the world – 11 bases. More than 100,000 US service members and dependents live in Hawaii. A 2011 study by the RAND Corporation showed that military spending in Hawaiʻi was linked to 18 percent of the state’s economy, and direct military and civilian jobs made up 16 percent of the state’s workers (about 101,000 jobs).

An interesting article by Nate Gaddis in 2014 titled “How much of Hawaii is concrete” a question most of us are now raising in Colombo viewing the massive structures coming up. Before tourism and U.S. military on the islands, agriculture was the biggest industry in Hawaii. Sugar, coconut, and pineapple formed the core of the plantation system. When the large plantations were established in the 1820s and 1830s, native Hawaiian men were employed as farm workers while Hawaiian women worked in the houses of white immigrants as maids and washerwomen. This is going to be the eventual outcome for Sri Lankans too.

With native Hawaiian population decreasing, importing of Chinese, Japanese and Portuguese took place and around 400,000 came between 1850 and 1880. This is no different to the importing of Tamils from South India by the European colonials to Sri Lanka.

Over the past century, 70 % of beaches on the islands of Kaua’i, O’ahu, and Maui have experienced long-term erosion. Everything and anything is now private owned and people are taxed. www.theguardian.com

By privatizing water and sewer systems, local government officials abdicate control.Privatizing local water and sewer systems usually does far more harm than good for our communities. In Hawaii, a privately owned water utility service costs 59% more than the public water service. After privatization, water rates increased at about three times the rate of inflation, with an average increase of 18 percent every other year. The situation is no different in other areas where privatization has taken place too.

What can be more humiliating than the thought of indigenous Hawaiians having to take a blood test to prove their land right! Will this not be the future of the Sinhalese too!

Shenali D Waduge


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