With the conclusion of an eventful year, climaxing with the dramatic events since October 26, one might need to anticipate another year where politics is probably going to take centre-stage. The President has told his dwindling party faithful to look forward to an election year. It could be any one, or all three – presidential, [...]


2019; Go for a proper power- sharing model


With the conclusion of an eventful year, climaxing with the dramatic events since October 26, one might need to anticipate another year where politics is probably going to take centre-stage.

The President has told his dwindling party faithful to look forward to an election year. It could be any one, or all three – presidential, parliamentary, provincial.

The political leaders have been already off the starting blocks, best seen by the way the President gave orders to government agencies to provide quick relief for the flood victims of the North and East, followed by the Prime Minister who asked his ministers to provide quick relief to these flood victims, and then the (southern) Leader of the Opposition, not to be left out, suggesting that the Government must ensure that quick relief for the flood victims be given in an efficient manner.

Having given these “orders’ they went their own way – to Bangkok, Nuwara Eliya and Tangalle for a well-earned rest, and recuperation after the near two-month political circus they were engaged in. At least, on Friday, the Prime Minister visited the areas hit by the floods. One might ask the reasonable question — would the government agencies that are supposed to provide this relief in normal circumstances not have moved unless “orders from the top” arrived.

The country is bound to see more of these competing forces at work. It would not be a bad thing for the citizenry to have political leaders woo them. Come 2019 and it will be the voter who will be king and queen.

Elections are no doubt the life-blood of a democracy. Yet, they are not the be-all and end-all of governance. How often do people vote with great enthusiasm at elections, mainly for change, only to be let down and have their hopes of a new administration delivering the goods shattered.

This Presidency is a classic example. The UNF-led Government disappointed the electorate very early by its mishandling of the Central Bank bond scam, and both, the Presidency and the Government began bickering in the open – and with the stroke of a pen, the President reversed the mandate of two elections in 2015.

Now, both the President and the UNF Government have a second chance to win back the lost confidence of their voters. They can, in fact, if they re-set their strategies, regain the support they have lost, especially in the rural hinterland.

There is some political pressure for an early election to some Provincial Councils that stand dissolved. That this pressure comes largely from the Opposition quarters is understandable, as they feel confident of electoral success. They see it as a launching pad for the bigger elections that will have to come if not in 2019, by early 2020. The (southern) Opposition Leader, who originally opposed the setting up of Provincial Councils is even complaining that it is because the Northern Provincial Council is defunct that flood relief work is not properly coordinated. The (northern) Opposition Leader on the other hand, who campaigned for Provincial Councils, collaborated in it being taken over by the Centre.

It is time political leaders of this country got out of this election syndrome at least insofar as the Provincial Councils are concerned. These councils serve neither man nor beast and even India that midwifed the system in 1987 under different circumstances, may agree the system needs a fresh look.

There are fears, imagined and genuine, that a Federal system is underway as that fresh look. That is not going to happen. Instead, a proper administratively efficient power sharing model is something to consider in 2019 and not mere rhetoric of elections to prove political one-upmanship at the expense of civil administration and economic development on a scientific basis.

Climate change ; a sobering thought as we enter 2019

While the local circus since October 26 took centre-stage as this year came to an end, much bigger issues face the larger world we live in. There is the scourge of terrorism; mass immigration, refugees and famine; there is the growth of missile systems with nuclear warheads and now Russia’s ‘invincible’ missiles. And there is a Climate Change.

While the rest of the world goes about destroying Planet Earth and the US space agency NASA seeks life on Mars probably for Earthlings to move to one day after destroying Planet Earth, climate change seems to be the early warning signal that has a direct bearing on countries like Sri Lanka, already ranked as one of the most vulnerable in the Global Climate Risk Index.

This year saw some major events from the worst fires in California and in Japan, to unprecedented floods and weather conditions around the world. Sri Lanka had its own share of droughts and floods. Scientists are cautious about giving definitive reasons for all the extreme weather, but seem to agree that the intensity and frequency increased due to climate change.

Still, naysayers keep coming back saying that disasters resulting from extreme events are exaggerated, and point out that unplanned development and similar reasons are more to blame. Thus, in a Sri Lankan context the focus ought to be more on having corrective measures in place on unplanned development, a task for the Ministry of Urban Development and the local government councils as first responders.

Last Sunday’s tsunami in Krakatoa must be a timely reminder of the co-relation between climate change and natural disasters. It was sheer luck that the terrifying tsunami in the seas around Indonesia this time did not come towards Sri Lanka.

The recent UN Climate Summit COP24 had almost no support for countries like Sri Lanka’s Climate Change Secretariat which woefully lacks financial allocations for climate adaptability and disaster recovery. The Summit itself was following up on the much heralded Paris Summit of 2015, but by all accounts, the rising trajectory of global Green House Gas emissions and the 2030 carbon budgets targets are a far cry away. Scientists feel that Planet Earth is continuing its merry way towards a 3+ degrees C temperature rise by 2100, which is well above the danger limit of 1.5 to 2 degrees C.

In short, the current level of global commitment will not be able to save the world, and countries like Sri Lanka will be hard hit.  Sri Lanka’s agriculture, forestry, ecosystems, marine and fisheries, biodiversity, tourism – all are at stake. A sobering thought as we enter a New Year.

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