Hoping for a National Unity Govt. and righteous Sri Lanka

Published : 10:32 am  April 24, 2015 | No comments so far |  | 

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miracle occurred in Sri Lanka on January 8, 2015 when Maithripala Sirisena won the election and was sworn in as President. This was against all odds. No one expected the fragmented opposition to unite. The then Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) Secretary Maithripala Sirisena quit the then Government and led a buoyant and united Opposition to victory.

Historically, Sri Lanka rises from the ashes to which it periodically sinks. In the 1977 elections, J. R. Jayawardene and the UNP were victorious with an almost 7/8 majority. The UNP opted for an Executive President. Unfortunately, the Executive Presidency was given draconian powers. When J.R. stepped down after two terms, Ranasinghe Premadasa assumed duties as the Executive President.

Unfortunately, during JR and Premadasa presidencies concerted attempts were not made to resolve the ethnic crisis. They both had the mandate to do so.
Racial Riots first occurred in 1958 during SWRD’s premiership. Racial Riots occurred again during JR’s Presidency in 1977 and 1983. In the 1983 riots the mass killing of Tamils throughout the island by politically-sponsored thugs resulted in worldwide condemnation. This led to the rise of the Tamil militant and terrorist group, the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Elam (LTTE) and to the beginning of the ethnic war which lasted for almost 30 years.

Simultaneously, the Jathika Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) headed by Rohana Wijeweera was founded. The 1971 riots almost toppled the Sirimavo Bandaranaike Government. In 1988 and 1989, during Premadasa’s presidency, the JVP insurrection led to summary deaths. The people’s freedom to move around during the day and night, were curtailed. In 1989, the insurrection was crushed with Rohana Wijeweera and some of his chief lieutenants killed.

The Indian Peace-keeping Force was sent to the Northern Province by the Rajiv Gandhi government. However, this led to more problems and the IPKF was withdrawn. Most of the country became unsafe for our citizens and even the armed forces.

In May, 2009, the Defense Forces under the Mahinda Rajapaksa presidency, defeated the LTTE. The forces were led by Sarath Fonseka, who himself was severely wounded by the Tiger terrorists. On his recovery, General Sarath Fonseka led the armed forces to win the war. During the final stages of the war, Velupillai Prabakaran and some of his chief henchmen were killed.

Although we won the war and hostilities ceased, the Tamils were not really brought back to the fold. The Presidential Rule became a totalitarian regime. It blossomed into a ‘Family Affair’. General Fonseka who won the war, was jailed on trumped-up charges as he had dared to contest the incumbent President. He was stripped of his military rank and honours.

Members of the Opposition were bought over to join government ranks. The regime now boasted of a 2/3 majority. The cabinet had more than 104 ministers. They were however mainly decorative. The country was ruled by the President and family.

Disappearances became the order of the day. Lasantha Wickramatunge, the Editor of the Leader Newspaper, a fearless journalist who exposed the corruption and wrong doings of the then government was gunned down in broad daylight. MTV an independent TV channel  which televised unbiased news, had their main TV station destroyed by masked armed terrorists, in spite of the police being informed. Pradeep Ekneliyagoda and some prominent Tamil journalists mysteriously disappeared. Other journalists like Keith Noyahr who expressed independent views, were kidnapped and mercilessly assaulted. They have fled the country. Frederica Jansz who succeeded Lasantha as editor of The Leader, continued to write independently, exposing fraud and corruption. She was then threatened with death and left for Canada in the middle of the night. The ‘white van’ syndrome was established and this instilled fear in the ordinary Sri Lankan.

The family dynasty of the then President became stronger than ever. The brothers, sons and in-laws of the ruling family enjoyed enormous powers and held prime positions. The controversial 18th Amendment was hurriedly passed in Parliament. This gave more extra-ordinary powers to the President and also allowed him to contest even after two terms. The Foreign Service was infiltrated. Ambassadors and other key Embassy Personnel appointed were relatives or sycophants. Sri Lanka also became a transit hub for drugs. Strong rumours were afloat that certain ruling politicians were engaged in the drug trafficking racket. Both National Airlines — SriLankan and Mihin — became a nest of corruption, sex exploitation and inefficiency.

The abuse of power and corruption spread into other fields as well. The Judiciary, the Defense Forces and Police were infiltrated and Political Henchmen put into power. The then Chief Justice was removed by a biased parliamentary select committee.

Certain development work was initiated. Long felt needs like the Southern and Airport Express Ways were completed. However, the costs were astronomical. Preliminary probes now indicate that the cost per kilometre was way above the normal rate. It has also come to light that commissions were given as bribes to give the tenders to certain powerful corporations. No tender procedure was followed. The Hambantota Harbour Project went beyond the original estimate. The Mattala Airport and the Cricket Stadium were other ‘white elephants’. The Colombo Port City development is another controversial project. But it boosted the ego, pomp and pageantry enjoyed by the ruling family.

With this background, President Rajapaksa went to the polls on January 8, 2015 though he had more than 1 1/2 years left to complete his term of office. A miracle occurred and Maithripala Sirisena became the President.
At this juncture, it is pertinent to mention Lee Kuan Yew of Singapore. After World War Two, Sri Lanka got its independence in 1948. Sri   Lanka in comparison to Singapore had an advanced economy, a high literacy rate and good vital health statistical parameters. Meanwhile, Singapore was a backward little island. Malaysia with Singapore also got their independence after Sri Lanka. Singapore was forced to break away from Malaysia. Lee Kuan Yew was distraught about this situation. But the great man, an excellent economist raised his country to heights beyond anyone’s imagination. Lee Kuan Yew cited Sri Lanka as a country that was ruined by its politicians to achieve short-term goals.

Now it’s early April 2015. The media, a number of political, intellectual and professional groups are dissatisfied with the slow progress of the 100-day government programme. It must be reiterated that the government has to depend on the UPFA members elected at the last Parliamentary elections. It is no easy task to get Parliament to move in unison to carry out the reforms.

We should also realize that members of Parliament are human and prone to make mistakes such as the present fiasco committed by the new Governor of the Central Bank.

The fact that the Media, Professionals and Intellectuals are able to now openly criticise the Government, is a step in the right direction. Significant steps have been taken towards amelioration of the rights of  Minorities (Religious and Ethnic) in the Northern, North-Western, North-Eastern and Eastern Regions. According to the Supreme Court decision, delegation of powers from the Executive President to the Prime Minister has to be carried out by a countrywide referendum. The other requirements in the 19th Amendment have to be passed by a two-thirds majority in parliament. It is hoped that saner counsel will prevail and some of the rebellious UPFA members are persuaded to vote for the passage of the 19 Amendment.

The independence of the Judiciary, Public Services including the Police, Armed Services, Good Governance and zero-tolerance are essential in a democratic society committed to upholding the rule of law.
The re-establishment of the constitutional council and independent commissions are essential prerequisites. Transparency should be maintained in appointing Judges to the Supreme Court and Court of Appeal. The abrogation of the 18th Amendment to the Constitution (included in the 19th Amendment) are crucial and require urgent implementation.

Some of the UPFA members had protested and remained in the Well of the Parliament because the former President was summoned by the Bribery Commission. It is important to state that no person should be exempted from any inquiry.
The appointments of the National Executive Council, the National Medicines Regulatory Authority Bill are noteworthy achievements. Passed in Parliament with a large majority, the National Audit Bill and the Right to Information are still to be implemented.

The new President and Prime Minister are genuine in their aspirations to reform Sri Lanka, so that it attains its goals of a truly democratic country. Parliamentary elections will be held after the present Parliament is dissolved.

Sri Lanka is just a small island. Lets unite and take true pride in our country. We should stand firm against any threats to our territorial integrity.
Our Hope and Prayer is that after parliamentary elections, a National Unity Government is established and a future Sri Lanka takes its place as a truly peaceful and democratic country, boasting of a United People governed by erudite humane and democratic rulers.
Vox Populi

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