I thank you, Mr. President for your bold attempt and resolve to bring back rule of law, good governance, minimize corruption and bring to book perpetrators of vices that were lacking in our country for the last decade. This is what the majority of Sri Lankans had silently prayed for, during the tenure of the last regime, which allowed political goons to override any sense of rule of law.
Your attempt, with the support of Prime Minister Ranil Wickramasinghe to propel the government with support of crossovers from your former leaders coterie, who would continue to demand their pound of flesh, is no mean task. Political patronage for drug peddling, illegal import of ethanol and alcohol production, unprecedented corruption and violation of human rights were hallmarks of a sizable fraternity of your former colleagues in the UPFA government, who have now pledged to support you to implement your 100 day reforms. Their holding you to ransom is evident on your continued inactions and not booking these criminals since you are in need of their support to get through the constitutional reforms you envisage. Your voters would forgive you, should you have difficulties in honouring all your election platform pledges and promises in your 100-day marathon, but will not if you allow these political scoundrels to cut deals with your government to abscond their place at Welikada. The promise of reestablishing the rule of law is as important as the label on the cigarette packs that you resolved to implement at any cost.
The Rajapaksas were accused of controlling all revenue generating activity in the country during their tenure, while some accuse the Sirisenas of controlling trade in Polonnaruwa. Your proclamation to halt the destruction of the environment due to the sand mining is most welcome, which is mostly controlled by your siblings in your hometown, Polonnaruwa. The majority who voted you would also carefully monitor the implementation of your edict. The Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) who has become the unofficial policemen of the 100-day programme too would ensure that there are no lapses in the implementation of these bold and vital endevours.
In the run up to the presidential elections, Chairman of the Sri Lanka Nidahas Divi Neguma Organization, Ananda Jayapadma, accused you of being involved in the rice mafia, in Polonnaruwa. Furthermore, he stated that your siblings are squandering state resources, especially in the North-Central Province. Finance Minister, Ravi Karunanayake’s sunshine budget did not provide relief to the majority of rice consumers, which is the most important staple food for many Sri Lankans. Fingers are pointed at you, accusing you of tacit support to your siblings in the rice mafia, due to this indiscretion by your finance minister. While, I will join you in defending your siblings’ their right to continue their business interests, unfair or unethical patronage if any would need to be addressed. National Freedom Front leader Wimal Weeranwansa’s verbal diatribe of not addressing the high cost of rice is also seen by the majority as a direct reference to the control of the rice trade by your siblings, who shifted the rice capital from Maradagahamulla to Polonnaruwa, hence your immediate action to provide rice at a reasonable cost to the consumer would be appropriate.
Consumptions apart, you also need to address the most important issues of reconciliation and peace. Your predecessor, President Mahinda Rajapaksa will always be remembered in the hearts and minds of Sri Lankans for his success at ending the scourge of terrorism. He would also be remembered for not addressing the root cause of terrorism and finding solutions to the legitimate grievances of the Tamil population in the North when he had the opportunity, after the military success against the Liberation Tamils of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) in 2009. His popularity after the war victory and the euphoria of the people would have been the best opportunity to build a truly united reconciled Sri Lanka.
You now have the opportunity to address them and find solutions to the legitimate grievances of the Tamil people and offer the people of the Northern province solutions that would bring them dignity and justice.
Further, as you are aware, the Christian and Muslim communities were threatened with unprecedented violence and intimidation during the last 4 years. The Christians have recorded over a hundred incidents of violence and intimidation against them while the Muslims have records of over 350 incidents starting with the destruction of a shrine in Anuradhapura to the pogrom of Aluthgama and Beruwela. These are incidents that should not have taken place in a country where there has been religious and cultural tolerance for centuries. Sri Lanka’s majority Buddhist community has been most tolerant and respects the right of all communities to practice their faith in peace. Vested interests in the former government used extremist Buddhist forces to destroy the peaceful co-existence by creating violence and intimidation. Addressing this should also be one of the highest priorities of your 100 day government which has resolved to fast track numerous reforms that would take our country to be the real miracle of Asia.
The United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) continues to threatened Sri Lanka with an international inquiry and sanctions could be on the cards by Europe and America along with other forms of intimidation by the international community unless we address issues related to the final stages of the war with the LTTE. We should, as a nation move ahead with our own inquiry as suggested in the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC), not just on the conflict with our Northern brethren, but also to include the hate and violence perpetrated on the Christian and Muslim communities by Buddhist extremists to prove to the international community that Sri Lanka has re-emerged as a nation that respects the rule of law and democracy. This inquiry need not be a commission that would solely punish the offenders, but could take the form of a Truth And Reconciliation Commission, as was successfully undertaken by the South African government after decades of apartheid. Expertise and support from the South African government could be sought to undertake this effort, which would be to the satisfaction of all stakeholders. This would give an opportunity for all communities to make representations, arrive at corrective measure and ensure that there would be peaceful co-existence with a resolve never to repeat the unfortunate incidents of the past. This I believe would be the best option to have a win win win situation for all.
By Hilmy Ahamed