ONE: Jehan Perera, “Teamwork and Measured Approach to meet Challenge of 00-day Programme,” 28 January 2015
The government is proceeding with its 100 Day programmme that President Maithripala Sirisena presented as part of his election manifesto. This plan promised a national government and new cabinet with UNP Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe as its Prime Minister after the presidential election. It also contained a promise to change from a presidential to a parliamentary system, to repeal the 18th Amendment, to come up with a 19th Amendment to the Constitution, restoring independent commissions, setting up a national advisory council and also presenting an interim budget. The detailed plan also included setting up a special investigatory mechanism to probe corruption and passing legislation on right to information and a new health policy.
Previous presidents made big promises that they did not keep and their promises ended up being seen as gimmicks simply to win votes and the election. Viewed in the context of promises made by previous governments, the 100 day programme is impressive in both the national consensus it has obtained and also in being implemented. The first promise that was fulfilled was the appointment of UNP leader Ranil Wickremesinghe as prime minister. The promise to establish a National Advisory Council has been fulfilled by the appointment of a National Executive Council thought still without the civil society representation that was promised, but it still is an impressive body having the participation of virtually the entire range of mainstream political parties, including the ethnic minorities.
The unity between the several political parties that constitute the National Democratic Front (NDF) government has been holding better than expected. During the election campaign an unfavorable comparison was drawn between proven stability of the UPFA government headed by former President Mahinda Rajapaksa, which appeared set to remain in power for another generation at least, and the uncertain combination of opposition parties that were challenging him. There was, and remains, a concern that the opposition alliance would be too unlike-minded for governance to take place effectively. The alliance includes members of political parties that have been severely critical of one another and who come from different ideological persuasions and ethnic communities. But their political fight together against a most formidable political foe seems to have brought them together in bonds of unity and trust.
SMOOTH TRANSITION: After the presidential elections there has been an exceptionally smooth takeover of the reins of government by the political parties that constitute the NDF government. One of the key factors in the smoothness of the transition of power has also been President Maithripala Sirisena’s readiness to keep to his pre-election promises. During the election campaign President Sirisena recognized that his voters would come largely from the main opposition party headed by UNP leader Ranil Wickremesinghe and promised to appoint the UNP leader as Prime Minister. By way of contrast, the once powerful UPFA is today in shambles and its former leaders are being discredited with more and more revelations of corruption, violence and even of seeking to abort the presidential election outcome when they knew they were losing. The law and the unfettering of the media from the thrall of fear and self-censorship are dispelling the myths of the past about their claims of patriotism and national interest.
President Sirisena’s decision to appoint Ranil Wickremasinghe as prime minister within minutes of his own oath taking as president lay to rest any apprehension of conflict between the two leaders. There was a possibility that once elected, and vested with the plenitude of powers of the presidency, President Sirisena might renege on his promise and seek to take control over the new government himself. But the working relationship between the president and prime minister, and the division of responsibilities between them, has so far been very good to all appearances. There has been an appearance of honor and realism on the part of the president who was elected with mainly UNP and ethnic minority votes and an acknowledgment of the debt owed. This positivity and an attitude of power sharing and team work that did not exist in the former government permeate the structure of new government at the present time.
An example would be Minister Sajith Premadasa’s acceptance speech of his ministry when he said that at the forthcoming general election, whatever the outcome would be, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe would remain prime minister. The past conflict between these two leaders of the UNP threatened to sink the party during the long stint in the opposition, but now they seem to have overcome it in government. Another example would be Minister Navin Dissanayake’s speech when he assumed office as Minister of Sports and Tourism. In welcoming his deputy Wasantha Senanayake the minister said that he would have a free hand in doing his work honorably. He said this would be unlike his own experiences as a minister in the previous government. Most of the senior leaders of the former government who crossed over to the opposition, including President Sirisena himself, complained that they had no scope for independent decision making within the highly centralized structures of the former government.
SHARING POWER: The willingness of those within the new government to share power with one another and work as a team is a refreshing break from the past. The previous president centralized more and more power in himself and his close associates. As a result there was a lack of transparency in their dealings, but also a lack of creativity. The former government engaged in giant infrastructure development of roads, ports, airports and building of offices, hotels and apartments, but with little or no participation by other actors in the polity. Therefore the benefits seemed to accrue primarily to a few and not to all. In the present government, on the other hand, each minister is vested with authority in his or her own sphere. As a result reading and listening to the news has become interesting because there is something new and creative being done, or being promised, by different members of the government.
Diversity is a source of strength as it offers the possibility of different solutions to different challenges. The diversity within the government is a source of strength as it represents the diversity of the people of the country. The power sharing that is taking place within the new government and the ability of political parties with differing ideologies and ethnic constituencies to work together is a sign of unity in diversity. When such political parties can work together in the government, no significant section of the people are likely to feel marginalized and left out and so they are less likely to rebel against the government.
To its credit, the government is also addressing other crucial problems that it did not include in the 100 day programme. During the election campaign, there was one significant issue that they did not talk about in any depth. This was the ethnic issue. This left the space open to the propagandists of the former government to exploit it to the maximum and without adequate rebuttal. During the past ten years, nationalist (and racist) ideology was dominant due to the former government’s use of all propaganda tools at its disposal, especially the state media. This propaganda got very much worsened during the run-up to the presidential elections when the propaganda got more vile and venomous. The former president and his campaigners showed highly dramatized versions of events of the past on national television and at their campaign rallies. They made maximum use of anti-LTTE and war propaganda to cause fear and hatred in the people. They showed no concern at all for the unity of the people.
CONTENTIOUS ISSUES: However, soon after the elections, the government has been moving swiftly to address this lacuna. Foreign Minister Mangala Samaraweera immediately flew to India to obtain Indian support to address the contentious issues of a political solution to the ethnic conflict and also to deal with the UN probe into war crimes. He said that the government had the political will to push through a solution, so there was no more need to form committees and to deliberate on what the solution should be, as this had been done several times over. He also said the government was committed to implementing the 13th amendment on devolution of powers to Tamil-majority areas, but would start discussions with all parties after the next parliamentary elections. In addition, the government has sent the country’s top international diplomat, and former UN Under Secretary General Jayantha Dhanapala to meet with the UN Human Rights Commissioner in Geneva to seek a better solution to the war crimes issue.
The UN inquiry got under way due to the failure of the previous government to undertake such an inquiry itself. There was no credible national investigation to ascertain the truth of what had happened. However, by refusing to engage with the UN on the issue, the government escalated the conflict with it. This was a conflict with, essentially, the rest of the world that it was destined to lose. It is when national processes fail that international processes kick in. The change of government in Sri Lanka has given the new government a window of opportunity, and a breathing space, to hold a credible national investigation. There is a need to be responsive to the concerns of the Tamil people who were the main victims of the last phase of the war to know the truth, and of international demands for accountability.
But there is a need to tread this ground carefully. Putting the house in order is a cooperative and considered task. Although the government that spread nationalist fear and hatred is gone, there is a need to heal the wound they left in the body politic and which will continue to exploit. The nationalism that the former government aroused was not a Sri Lankan nationalism that would unite the people but one that was based on extreme ethnic nationalism that divided the ethnic communities. This gained the former President the majority of Sinhalese votes in the rural areas in particular.This is a divide that needs to be healed as it is liable to be exploited again during the run up to the general elections that are due in June. There is also a need for a more holistic public education campaign that would sustain the positive changes that have occurred.
TWO: Kanthar Balanathan — “The Current Regime and Its Perception of the Thirteenth Amendment,” mid-January 2015
It has been a pleasure to read the 100 days implementation program by the new regime, 2015, in a country (Sri Lanka) that practices, bribery, corruption, thuggery, gang warfare, religious conflicts, racial and regional ethnicity conflicts.
It be that citizens of SriLanka should appreciate and welcome the changes. The change has been change of governance, may be, in agreement with some western influence and manipulation, because of their falcon formation, defence/offence strategy. It is expected that the current regime will not genuflect down, and implement whatever is thrown onto them from the west and India.
The President and the Prime Minister should remember that LTTE was originally formed, and declared by the Tamils with the blessings and support of ITAK, on the 22nd day of May 1972, on which day, the country became a republic to govern by itself with a Head of State (late Srimavo).
Today US has allowed an illegal Transnational Government of Tamil Eelam (TGTE) to operate, and brain wash some ignorant Tamil Diaspora, who have no interest in the development of the N&E, but sprint for absolute power. Does it mean that US is threatening SL to agree to their terms by allowing TGTE to operate freely in the US soil?
The ITAK secretary Mavai Senathirajah is a known separatist who has been campaigning for absolute power and secession in the past. In the early 2000, TNA was a part of LTTE, who were commanded to heed to the instruction of Vellupillai Prabakaran, leader of LTTE.
To date Tamils in the N&E carry that approach to secession, and their own governance. They have forgotten the past how they survived, financially, economically, technically with limited or nil resources in the North.
Without import, and coupon mode foodstuff, most lower and middle class Tamils could not have survived, educated their children and got employment. It could be clearly understood that we Tamils still have not got the perception that a region can become autonomous only if has natural resources and generates adequate income.
On receiving independence, Tamils should have joined the governance and developed the N&E. e.g. Water is a resource required for agriculture. All Tamils ran out of Jaffna and Batticaloa to find employment in the South. SJV Chelvanayaka(m), a Malaysian born, lived and completed his education in Colombo and became a fanatic politician to fight for Federalism. Did he perform an economical, technical, and political analysis prior to the formation and declaration of the FP? His relative Ponnambalam Ramanathan wanted lower caste Tamils not to have voting and educational rights. How is it possible for such an arrogant racial, caste oriented group of Tamils to be empowered governing rights?
100 DAYS’ WORK PROGRAMME – Ref: (http://indi.ca/2015/01/maithripalas-first-100-days/ )
The 100 days’ work programme is not a new action plan in the world. Hon Tony Abbot, PM of Australia put forward a plan in 2013. Readers could view.
Sri Lankan 100 days’ work programme strongly focus on authoritarianism and retribution of their opponents. Could we assume that Sri Lankans have a time lag in understanding politics and governance? JRJ was elected in 1977 and in 1978 changed the constitution and became an executive president. It has taken 37 years for politicians and people to understand about the presidential system.
If people voted for change of the system, what did the Tamils vote for?
DID TAMILS VOTE FOR ANTI-MR PROPAGANDA, OR VOTE FOR TAMIL EELAM, ASSUMING THAT HON MS & RW WILL GRANT SELF-GOVERNING AUTONOMY, LEADING TO SECESSION?
On the 21st January: The process will begin of abolishing the authoritarian executive presidential system …….. a Public Service Commission, an Elections Commission, a Commission against Bribery and Corruption and a Human Rights Commission. This will be through a 19th Amendment to the Constitution, which will be presented to Parliament and passed as swiftly as possible.
This is most welcome and the forum who prepared the programme should be congratulated. The Human Rights Commission (HRC); The commission should be empowered to address and punish those who ill-treat child labour, caste discrimination, regional and religious discrimination etc. Well, the 19th amendment shall detail out clearly, the HR violations that can be addressed and punished by the HRC Commission.
On the 22nd January: A Code of Conduct will be introduced for observation by all representatives of the People.
On the 2nd February: An ethical Code of Conduct will be introduced legally for all representatives of the People.
The word “Observation” does not mean anything. If found guilty by the appropriate commission, the representative, irrespective of their position, should be removed from politics. Any citizen should have the rights to report such corrupt practice of representatives to the appropriate commission(s).
The 2nd February action plan of “legally” is assumed that an act will be passed. Then why should the 22nd January state the word, “observation”. The 2nd February should suffice for the “code of ethics”.
The 100 days’ programme does not address removing “Thesavalamai Law” (Ref: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thesavalamai), which was introduced by Dutch as manoeuvred by the Elite Tamils in 1707. Do Tamils want a separate law for them? Are we not SriLankan? All SriLankan should be governed by one law. There shall be no separate law for Tamils, Muslims and Sinhalese (Kandyan & Others), which clearly advocates ethnic tic supremacy. All males shall have only one legal or illegal wife (not four).
On the 29th January; – A Vote on Account will be introduced in Parliament to implement special measures to provide relief to the people by reducing the rising Cost of Living.
On the 30th January; – Salaries will be raised and direct and indirect taxes on necessary goods and services will be reduced.
Is the item focussed on relief for lower and middle income earners? If this is the case, has the regime addressed the mode of revenue accrual to cover these costs? Where is the “Opportunity Cost” accrued from?
If this governance is free, fair and honest to people, then they should declare and make all income and costs transparent to public.
On the 5th February; – Special Commissions will be appointed to investigate allegations of massive corruption in the preceding period.
This is a case of retribution and avenging opponents. Yes devastating corruptions have to be investigated. However, the investigation shall not be limited to, from 2005 to 2015, but shouldn’t the investigations be from 1970 to 2015 or even before those periods? Is it not true that previous ministers and politicians were corrupt in the UNP and SLFP regime prior to 2005?
It is of the view that the “Special Commission” should investigate, current and past politicians and ministers, to crusade the country to a corrupt free country. SriLanka was once known to be an unpretentious and ethical encompassed country in the late 40s and early 50s. However, did travel to India make our politicians to copycat Indian political behavioural model?
ITEMS NOT ADDRESSED IN THE 100DAYS’ PROGRAMME
Sri Lankans are aware that the 13th amendment and the nine Provincial Councils are a burden to them because of the huge cost of managing the PCs. Dr. Laksiri Fernando in his article analyses the costs as follows:
The recurrent expenditure for 2009 was Rs 111.366 billion. Do we know the cost for the 2009-2014 periods?
How do we fund governing the PCs? How does GOSL plan to generate funds for this additional liability?
Risk No.2-Corruption Proliferation
- We talk of bribery and corruption. With the nine PCs, bribery and corruption will increase to nine times.
- How could the government fund travel and other expenses of PC Councilors?
- The political differences, ideological differences, personal conflicts, power avidity, may unfold and spread-out to the parliament.
- Already we know about the physical fights in the NPC house.
GOSL, do you think you could control the nine PCs from Colombo, either yourself or through a Governor?
Risk No.3- Racial Supremacy
Mr. Rishad Bathiudeen (RB) – Minister of Industry and Commerce has made an announcement in Seithy, a media that people who are not from the Northern Province will not be allowed to settle in the North. Isn’t this a demoralizing racial statement?
Approximately 49% of Tamils are domiciled in the South. By Mr. RB proliferating such a statement, it may clearly force people belief that either Mr. RB is racial, or the N&E (TNA) have a strategic racial ethnic program. How will the forthcoming HRC of SL address RB’s statement? Could RB be subject to political reprimand or atonement?
(Any SriLankan should have the rights to live anywhere in SriLanka!)
Risk No.4- Threat to National Security
If the government is not prepared to abolish the 13h amendment and do away with the PCs, because of fear of lack of democratic votes, and if the government consider granting “Police” and “Land” powers, the strategic threat to NATIONAL SECURITY may emerge as follows:
- Tamils are waiting until powers are granted, for them to build their own political make-up under their strategic plan.
- No Sinhalese may be allowed to; settle/resettle in the N&E, build Buddhist temples, have Sinhala medium in schools, and make N&E a pure Tamil settler region.
- Over a period it could happen and subsequently Tamils may resurrect the secession program with the UN; claiming Tamil areas and the Tamil Eelam concept.
GOSL should understand and accept the fact, undoubtedly, and comprehensively that there is no Tamil area separately in the island. All are equal and should be able to live, study, and sermonise their religion in SriLanka anywhere.
If such a threat to national security surfaces over a horizon of 5-15 years, what would the government do? The 100 days’ programme does not address and stress on 6th amendment.
I wish to refer to a letter written to the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights. Ref: http://nrnmind.blogspot.com.au/2013/08/open-letter-to-unhrc-from-kanthar-p.html
- It could be stressed that the only position that does not require a job specification is to become a “Politician”. Anyone can become a politician in a third world country. Could it be possible to formulate a plan for job specification, either directly or through a commission?
- Could the credentials of current and past politicians be verified and confirmed for criminal activities, and those be removed from politics?
- What are the credentials of Mervyn Silva and Sajin de Vass Gunawardena?
- Does SriLanka need people like the above?
- The only organisation in SriLanka free of bribery and corruption is presumed to be the University and the University academics. Why not GOSL draw academics from each of the University, and form a non-executive, Consultative Council to provide advice on matters concerning governance, democracy, freedom, constitutional reforms, and Human Rights etc. Although University should not get involved in politics, we are discussing on Consultation, and not executive committees. Why not use the resources available in SriLanka rather paying large sum to foreign Consultants.
- Why not all politicians read and understand the Constitution of the DSROSL?
- Current regime shall give serious consideration of removing/limiting powers to the Provincial Councils.
- Provincial Councils should be advised to manage with whatever they have been granted.
- India should mind her own political business, as they are the largest Human Rights violator in the world. SL is a republic and can manage her own activities and does not need any advice from Indians. India should advise her politicians not to make statements against SL, as it is construed violation against international norms of discrediting and invading into a sovereign republic, and causing a national security threat.
- 6th amendment shall be observed and applied to all violators.