January 9 saw the rousing of hope in the hearts and minds of a discouraged, despairing and completely cowed people who had narrowly and miraculously escaped from the crabbed, cabined, confined and uncertain existence they had been forced to live for several years. For the first time in Sri Lanka’s history several parties, with diverse [...]

Sunday Times 2

Red Alert: Something is lacking, someone is lagging in the State of Sri Lanka


January 9 saw the rousing of hope in the hearts and minds of a discouraged, despairing and completely cowed people who had narrowly and miraculously escaped from the crabbed, cabined, confined and uncertain existence they had been forced to live for several years.

For the first time in Sri Lanka’s history several parties, with diverse ideologies and agendas, encouraging the people to follow their example, decided to sink ethnic, cultural, linguistic and religious differences, for the common good of the land and all its peoples. They had finally, fully realised that the surest safeguard against any threat, internal or external, to the unitary status of our motherland, was a United Nation; a Nation in which every citizen, whether he belonged to the numerically Sinhala majority or any other smaller grouping, enjoyed the same rights, privileges and freedoms. There could be no first class and second class citizens in such a United Sri Lanka.

Is this government run by the President or the Prime Minister? Who is responsible for promises?

When this dedication to the benefit of the country and all its people, together with the support of thinking, not emotionally driven or misled people, achieved this essential aim of unity without coercion, by replacing the then incumbent president who paying scant respect for the Constitution and the Laws of the Land had ruled as an uncrowned monarch, with a common candidate who was more concerned with instituting Good, People Centered Governance rather than seeking personal power and glory, there was naturally a sigh of relief that swept the land.
The people’s hopes were further strengthened when President Maithripala Sirisena, putting forward his programme for the setting up of such a people-oriented governing body — where the sovereignty of the people would cease to be mere verbiage — declared himself to be Public Servant No 1.

Murmurs of discontent

Unfortunately, just a month and a half after the assumption to office of the new president and the appointment of a prime minister and a cabinet of ministers together with various advisory committees, to ensure the effective implementation of the ‘Sirisena Good Governance Plan’ there are murmurs of disaffection and discontent, if not despair among many stout supporters of the newly appointed President. They feel that the Government is not acting effectively and speedily on one of its major promises: namely the bringing to book of highly placed politicians and public offices alleged to have been responsible for robbing the people’s money to the tune of billions, and more seriously engaging in arms deals which have raised a grave security threat to the country.

No fair-minded citizen would expect the President to take action against miscreants without a proper investigation and indictment based on the norms of justice and the existing laws of the land. But two of the most important watch-dogs of the nation’s purse, COPE and the Auditor General’s Department have, during the previous regime, presented to parliament several damning reports of the activities of certain highly placed public officials, but, no action had been taken. Why, the people ask, cannot action be taken by the present government? Furthermore, in addition to the above reports, there is the recently issued report of the Public Accounts Committee.

President Sirisena, shortly after he assumed office, addressed, in his customary polite fashion, secretaries to ministries and requested them to ensure that work in the ministries was carried out effectively, with diligence and without corruption. But then, this request is pitched to the present and the future. Surely an experienced politician like MS should know that the best deterrent against present and future abuses is the decisive and maximum punishment of those proven guilty of financial misdemeanours in the past.

There is a growing murmur of discontent among strong supporters of the Sirisena Programme, that apart from the impounding of a few passports, no real action has been taken against those guilty of serious crimes. A most recent example is the much publicised three-day grilling of a former powerful politician and a police statement that action would be taken soon. But nothing has happened to date.

Is MS dragging his feet?

People are beginning to ask. Why is MS dragging his feet in regard to these matters? In fact, there is a serious allegation against a minister of the current cabinet, but we have no news of an investigation into the matter. The allegation even led to a proposed No Confidence Motion against this minister, which was squashed by the PM threatening to dissolve parliament, if this motion was moved. This is shockingly reminiscent of the press gang tactics of the deposed former president and is certainly no evidence of good governance. We trust that move does not have the approval of the President.

No! The only course of action that might restore the confidence of disappointed people is a swift unbiased enquiry into the minister’s alleged action, and if found guilty, that he be relieved forthwith of his cabinet post and have to face the full force of the law.

There is another serious question that people are asking. Is this government run by the President or the Prime Minister? In the sharing of responsibilities between President and Prime Minister, is the latter the Big Boss while the former is relegated to the role of a mere onlooker carrying the title of Head of State? Further credence is given to this dangerous scenario by the PM stating boldly and without any qualms that he will be the PM of this country for the next six years. Is this wishful thinking, a serious misjudgment or sheer arrogance?

While I believe all parties are united in maintaining that the general elections be held under the proposed reformed electoral system (on the lines of the Dinesh Gunewardena report) and certainly not under the proven disastrous existing system, there is argument about the necessity or not of a delimitation commission before the elections. Some say this and some say that. I cannot comment because I know next to nothing about the pros and cons of this matter.

Extend the time-frame

One thing I wish to say though. If thismost important matter cannot be settled within the highly ambitious time frame for the accomplishment of the MS programme, then the President should boldly state that while he intends going through with his promised programme, he is compelled to extend the time-frame to execute this programme. As for the time needed for a Delimitation Commission, the last commission in 1988 (Rodrigo Commission) took just over one month to submit its report; and this was in the days when higly sophisticated digital data gathering computer technology was not available. While such technology is now available at least in the Elections Commissioners Dept., surely this time limit could be considerably shortened.

I hope President MS realises that the former regime may be out but is certainly not down, and considering their past record cannot be dismissed lightly. The merry band will make capital of the confusion among the cabinet ministers. One minister says one thing to be contradicted by another. The confusion in the government ranks can only further confuse the people. This is not the time for loud-mouthed bragging, but for positive, concrete action.

It is time that the President clearly asserted himself as the Head of Government and Head of State and ensures that appointments to ministerial posts and to important government or semi-government ventures are made on merit and not as rewards for loyalty displayed or promised in the future. A murmur of discontent can easily rise to a roar which ends in an explosion. I and likeminded concerned citizens sincerely hope that the President will act swiftly and effectively to forestall this explosion which will be a disaster for the country and all its people for years to come. Time is of the essence.

Finally, I wish to remind the President of the well known and often quoted adage:

“Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned” Let him replace ‘woman’ with ‘people’ and keep pondering this adage from time to time. Beware of those who tell you all is well in Sri Lanka. All concerned citizens, all true patriots, wish you, Mr. President , all success in the implementation of your proposed program for the institution of Good Governance.

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