Friday Forum, courtesy of The Island, 9 July 2016
In January 2015 the majority of voters responded to the call for a return to good governance, accountability and integrity in the public sphere that we had been denied for a good part of a decade, and voted for a President who promised to achieve these goals and remedy mistakes of the past. The public expectations of the regime that was voted into office in January, received further endorsement at the general election of August the same year. Despite disappointment on the slow progress on many solemn promises, the public was prepared to accept the need for measured and responsible action towards fulfilling them. However this trust has gradually given way to a growing concern that the promised action is being held back for reasons based on the all too familiar ground of political opportunism and that the country is slowly but surely moving towards the mal-governance of the past.
Uneasy cohabitation between coalition partners is never conducive to achieving high standards of democratic governance even in the short term. The Joint Opposition has demonstrated time and again its incapacity to act in the public interest and avoid following highly personal and adversarial political agendas. However this environment is not an excuse for those in office continuing instances of nepotism, inappropriate appointments, greed, corruption and opportunism that we have seen over the last year. Since the Presidential election, there have been appointments that have been criticised publicly, because they indicate favouritism or family connections rather than competence to hold the post. The abuse of power and the corrupt acts of some of these appointees have added to public disenchantment and eroded the credibility of the government. Such appointments were recently crowned with the appointment, to a senior administrative position, of a person indicted and currently facing trial for criminal misappropriation of public property.
The level of corruption which prevailed under the earlier regime may have reduced, but it does not appear to have diminished in the manner that the public has a right to expect. Besides, there has been public criticism in regard to non-transparent and non-consultative decision making in some areas of importance. Inevitably this encourages the suspicion of ulterior motives as in the award of major projects such as the Jaffna Arcelor Mittal housing project. Interference in the public service includes acts such as provision of supporting letters for appointments to applicants for government and semi-government posts, or in State universities, by ministers and others who hold high political office. The recent public discussions and criticisms regarding renewal of a controversial appointment in the Central Bank, and the resignation of a competent and dedicated professional engaged in conservation and environmental management, allegedly due to political interference, reflect the continuing malaise of political control over the public service, and even of universities that should be guaranteed their academic autonomy and independence in making appointments. The President and the Constitutional Council created by the 19th Amendment, while having made timely appointments of vital bodies such as the Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka, need speedily to evolve and follow a consistent, credible and transparent procedure in making appointments to high posts specified in the Constitution.
Credibility once lost is near irretrievable. The public is beginning to doubt that corruption, nepotism and the numerous other failings of the earlier regime, that were so convincingly exposed on election platforms, will be eliminated in a new era of good governance.
We have not yet lost the opportunities created by the presidential and general elections of last year, a year that was a tribute to the Sri Lankan people and their commitment to democracy and good governance. There is little time left for persons holding high political office, and making decisions that impact on the people, to establish democracy and good governance. They must fulfill the solemn promises on which they rode to power.
Prof. Savitri Goonesekere Dr. Upatissa Pethiyagoda Prof. Arjuna Aluwihare
On behalf of the Friday Forum: Prof. Savitri Goonesekere, Dr. Upatissa Pethiyagoda, Prof. Arjuna Aluwihare, Bishop Duleep de Chickera, Prof. Camena Guneratne, Dr. Usvatte-Aratchchi, Mr. Priyantha Gamage, Dr. Selvy Thiruchandran, Rev. Dr. Jayasiri Peiris, Ms. Shanthi Dias, Prof. Gananath Obeysekera, Mr. S.C.C. Elankovan, Prof. Ranjini Obeysekera, Ms. Suriya Wickremasinghe, Mr. Faiz-ur-Rahman, Mr. Tissa Jayatilaka and Mr. Chandra Jayaratne.
Peoples’ Forum MEMORANDUM
Government Takes Damage Control Measures
This week saw the Government taking a few damage control measures to stem the downward trend of its popularity. The week saw the government overcoming criticism over the appointment of appointment of a new Governor to the Central Bank. The government arrived at a win win situation without aggravating the rift between the SLFP and UNP fractions in the government. It further fostered divisions in the Joint Opposition ranks as well The likes of Gamanpila opposing the new appointment while the likes of GL Peiris commending the appointment. However the battle is not over. All will depend on how the Cope copes up with the situation.
Similarly the President moved fast to arrest the growing opposition to the imposition of Vat by asserting that the government will look into the possibility of examining the areas where the VAT may have imposed extra burden on the traders. Government MPS were requested to remain in their electorates and counter act the blatant lies spread by the opposition in this regard. Prices of many commodities still remain lower than at the prices that prevailed when the Maharajah had to exit. Gas, Petro. Diesel, kerosene, rice, dhal sugar, milk food are some of the essential commodities available at a lower price. Some traders have taken the law into their hands and use VAT as an excuse to make profits. A high powered committee will address the grievances of the public and announce measures to overcome the hardships created.
The formation of a new front also created mixed feelings while those in the Joint Opposition claiming it as an effective measure to grab power in the future The SLFP members supporting the President claims the move as a step towards breaking the SLFP and paving the way for a There is pressure mounting on the government to hold the Laical Government Elections without further delay. It appears that the SLFP fraction of Maithreepala Sirisena is dragging their feet and purposely delaying the matter to deepen the drift in the Joint Opposition. UNP on the other hand seems to be ready to facc the elections any time as it is obvious that the Joint Opposition will field candidates as opposed to the SLFP thus ensuring a UNP victory.
The appointment of Mr kumarasamy as the New Governor has given fresh pastures or fodderto communalists. They pose the New Governor as a Close ally of the LTTE. The President addressing the Telecommunication Regulatory Authority stated that according to a survey carried out by him 85 percent of the News Telecasts carried out by private TV and Radio channels carried out antigovernment propaganda. If this had prevailed during the previous regime more bomb blasts would have occurred. Independent opinions maintain that
SIRISA is carrying on a vicious anti Ranil campaign due to the festering animosity between the Maharajahs and Mr Ranil Wickremasingha. SIRASA however gives some publicity to Sajith and Ravi Karunanayake. It is also making an valiant attempt to boost the personalities of Rev Seelaratna of Jana Sheha Peramuna which got only 20000 votes from the entire country and one Susil Kedelpitiya who lost under the UNP won Provincial Council under Sarath Fonseka did not receive nominations for parliamentary elections and contested under an alliance with Sri Ranga but both could not secure a single seat.
A popular journalist said that the country has had enough from one MAHARAJAH AND THEY
DO NOT WANT ANOTHER MAHARAJAH TO RUIN THE CDOUNTRY