“Yahapalanaya” is in a right royal mess!

PM confident ‘the way they had started’ Are the people happy?

By Lacille De Silva (Ceylon Today : Cartoons from the same newspaper added by TW)

Prime Minister, Ranil Wickremesinghe, who is experienced, sharp and incredibly designing, in an interview with Hindu, at the Temple Trees, had said that having created a National Government, they had stabilized and prepared a new policy framework. PM had also said “We have sort of created the stability and the way (for the benefit of parliamentarians?). Now, next year is when we must deliver our promises (to the people?) … The President is now focussing on the rural poor. (Who is focussing on the urban dweller, including urban-poor) …I would say the next two years are important for us to consolidate the gains we have made.”

Let me add that I have carefully chosen the prefix “Mr. Prime Minister” like in developed countries such as Australia, New Zealand, UK, USA, and Canada. Mr.PM, has reassured that within the next two years after “consolidating the gains” and “getting the investments, creating more employment, increasing income levels, reviving the rural poor and the economy”, he is “confident the way we started off”.

It must not be forgotten that MR regime, after having won the war, had been thrown out of power, due to nepotism, misrule, corruption, authoritarianism and so on. Their words and actions did not agree with the reality. MS/RW therefore campaigned together during elections that they would boldly root out corruption, restore law and order, nepotism to prevent the rot.

In the 2005 Election Manifesto in Mahinda Chinthana, MATHATA THITHA/END TO ALCOHOLISM, was another captivating slogan.

However, no tangible improvement was seen other than the enactment of the Act titled ‘National Authority on Tobacco and Alcohol’. Astonishingly, during the latter part, consumption of liquor in public places too had drastically increased. In Australia, consumption of intoxicating liquor is completely prohibited in public places, which has been prominently displayed. Police enforce the law to the letter. Could politicians lift our country to Australian standards, based on the way the present regime had started off?

President having accepted the SLFP leadership formed a so called ‘coalition’ and expanded the size of the Cabinet of Ministers beyond the Constitutional restriction, despite an assurance given to restrict government spending. As the leader of the SLFP, defeated candidates too were nominated to Parliament through the National List. Surprisingly, most of these who had been appointed to hold ministerial posts were in several ways linked to corruption.

Furthermore, the well-known human rights lawyer J.C. Weliamuna, sometime back accused the government that the failure of the present government to enact the legislation pertaining to ‘electoral reforms’ is ‘a complete reversal of the mandate of the people’.Let me ask the question – Is the government genuinely concerned about making the changes?

The President too following his predecessor’s steps appointed corrupt politicians as Cabinet Ministers and appointed his own brother Sirisena Kumarasinghe as the Chairman of Sri Lanka Telecom. These appointments at the early stages of the Unity Government indicated the likes and dislikes of the present leadership. Moreover, owing to these double-dealing, there has been widespread criticism. These had finally blown Yahapalanaya into smithereens.

However, the newly elected government has brought about numerous changes having granted relief to the people in several areas such as salary increases to public servants, pensioners, reduction of fuel prices, gas and so forth. I think I will be failing in my duty if I do not thank both the President and Prime Minister for the space provided by them to take up their shortcomings enthusiastically for the enhancement of the democratic rights in a longstanding democracy, which had survived many vicissitudes.

It has been reported that both the LTTE and the previous government allegedly committed human rights abuses, extra judicial killings, enforced abductions, disappearances and torture. LTTE allegedly used civilians as human shields and recruited and deployed child soldiers. Considering all these, we must also build bridges to vigorously strengthen ethnic harmony.

It is encouraging that both the President and the Prime Minister have been trying hard in this area to foster post-war reconciliation. It is my doubt, however, whether the present government too has introduced necessary measures to satisfactorily embark on social and economic reforms to ensure prosperity to the Nation, despite the claims PM had made at the interview referred to above.

The leadership has so far failed to engage the Sri Lankan people, which no doubt will be the heart for improving democratic governance. Now that both the President and the Prime Minister had been involved in politics, very long, I cannot imagine why they have permitted the elected representatives to have their say, when in fact it…should be other way round. Both these leaders should now experiment how to create a people- friendly, accessible government to take the country forward. And shouldn’t they learn from the mistakes of the previous regime, if they need to do better.

I have no doubt unprofessional, selfish, power-hungry, unenlightened politicos had been preferred for contesting elections, by the corrupt political leadership. Time has therefore come to change the total outlook to take the country forward. The two leaders prior to elections assured that the necessary independence would be given to the Public sector, Police and the Judiciary. I am convinced that the institutions responsible to investigate corruption have also not been appropriately strengthened, with the necessary powers to independently conduct their investigations against corruption.

I met the President personally during my days at the PRECIFAC and requested that the PRECIFAC be strengthened and empowered to investigate the present administration too. Let me be frank – “It is simply lip service and nothing beyond that.”The law should apply to everybody alike – why only those prior to January, 2015? What a waste of government funds in the name of ‘investigation of serious frauds corruption and abuse of power”!

The majority voted for the UNP at the last Parliamentary Elections held on 18 August, 2015, where UNP secured 106 seats, while the UPFA led by the former President secured 95 seats. Only time will prove, whether, the MS / RW Government have the political will, to implement the mandate given at the two elections. Would they introduce necessary structural reforms for the country to climb up to its place on the international stage?

Professor Sarath Wijesuriya of the National Movement for Social Justice (NMSJ) had accused the President and the Prime Minister of complete disregard to their mandate. Venerable Madoluwawe Sobitha, who had been a signatory to the agreement, had insisted that the proposals should be implemented within the 100-Day Programme. In fact, what Ven. Sobitha insisted was, that all promises should be fulfilled before the general elections. The political leadership had totally disregarded this including the reforms to the present electoral system.

Prior to the elections they promised that a Cabinet of not more than 25 members, from all political parties will be appointed with RW as the PM. They also announced that in order to strengthen democracy, a National Advisory Council will be set up inclusive of representatives of parties represented in Parliament as well as Civil Society Organizations.

It was intended that the process would be commenced by abolishing the authoritarian executive presidential system. It was further assured to replace the electoral system with a mixed-electoral system that ensures representation of individual members for parliamentary constituencies, with mechanisms for proportional system and abolish the preferential voting system. And many more!

After nearly 70 years since independence, the new Coalition Government had been mandated to deliver its promises to build a strong prosperous country through good governance and establishing rule of law.

They have purposefully ignored and thereby failed to introduce policies to curb waste, corruption, mismanagement, inefficiency and so on. They do not want to improve the delivery of all public services to the betterment of the country and its people. The President recently accused that the tender processes are being manipulated and politicians are even now contravening public policy to favour their kith and kin. This is after nearly two years in office.

If so, why did they fail to put in place the policy foundations to establish a country – better Sri Lanka that the majority voted for. They are in a right royal mess for several good reasons? As far as I could imagine, there had been numerous revelations where UNP, UPFA leaders have been discredited for corruption. Let me quote the President’s own words “We should promote good governance and democracy, the rule of law and equal administration of justice, transparent institutions with strong civil societies, and respect for human rights; as democracy and economic growth go hand in hand.” PM too has always expressed similar sentiments. Is it happening in real life? Our leaders do not know that discipline is doing the right thing even though you do not like it. How miserable are our leaders?