New Year dawns with political uncertainty
Posted on January 5th, 2019

by Lakshman I. Keerthisinghe Courtesy Ceylon Today

At a time of global uncertainty, rising terrorism and enormous threats to peace, it’s right that we as a country should now seek to extend our diplomatic footprint overseas- Leo Varadkar-Irish Politician

We need to reject any politics that targets people because of race or religion. This isn’t a matter of political correctness. It’s a matter of understanding what makes us strong. The world respects us not just for our arsenal; it respects us for our diversity and our openness and the way we respect every faith.- Barack Obama-Former US President

It appears that the new year, 2019 has dawned on Sri Lanka at a time of political uncertainty. In the past, when there was a global democratic backslide, Sri Lanka was a purported political success story. Presidential Elections in 2015, resulting in the ascension of Maithripala Sirisena as President, was supposed to put the country on a positive course and push behind a decade of increasingly authoritarian rule by the former regime.

Maithripala Sirisena was sworn into office on 9 January 2015. Almost four years have passed by and now it is time to evaluate the record of the present Government and visualise what Sri Lanka could expect in the New Year.

Far-reaching reform

The chance that far-reaching reform will occur during President Sirisena’s tenure appears to be highly unlikely unless a concerted effort is made in this direction with a strong political will to do so. The new Government came into office with an ambitious agenda, but after four difficult years, a sober assessment of its progress reveals that stagnation and false promises have been the order of the day. There has been virtually no progress dealing with high-level corruption from the previous era and the current administration has yet to address its own corruption scandals such as the Bonds scam.

The present regime has invested its time and resources in its Constitution-building project. However, creating a new, improved Constitution appears to be a distant dream mainly not only because that would require a two-thirds majority in parliament and then approval through a countrywide referendum, tough hurdles for a government that has become increasingly dysfunctional and unpopular. It’s also quite uncertain that such a document would even include a power-sharing arrangement that satisfies the aspirations of the country’s Tamil community with unstinted support from the majority community.

Sri Lanka is a complicated, post-war society. An ethnic conflict engulfed the nation from 1983 until May 2009, when the Sri Lankan military defeated the Tamil Tigers, a ruthless insurgency that fought for a separate Tamil State in Northern and Eastern parts of the country.

If not for the valiant efforts of the Tri-forces with the able guidance of the former President Mahinda Rajapaksa for which the nation is ever so grateful, Sri Lanka would have ended up as a war-torn divided country.

President Sirisena himself has very properly indicated that war heroes” will be protected (from criminal prosecution over frivolous allegations of wartime atrocities. Ineffectual leadership from President Sirisena and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe has revealed that, even under ostensibly promising circumstances, the road to deeper reform is going to be a long, slow process. The former regime’s electoral defeat in January 2015 didn’t lead to a radically new era for Sri Lankan politics as envisaged by some.

Rather, it has resulted in another version of the flawed, majoritarian governance that the island nation has known for far too long.

Assuming the coalition government which was an awkward power-sharing arrangement based upon two opposing political parties – the Sri Lanka Freedom Party and the United National Party – which are longstanding rivals, manages to stay together, the remainder of its tenure was indeed characterised by an unwillingness to deal with many of the problems the previous administration also failed to address: persistent corruption; a lack of accountability for alleged wartime abuses; an inability or unwillingness to find a durable political solution to the country’s longstanding ethnic conflict. The new year may witness further disagreements between the two parties which are not conducive to the political stability of the country thereby resulting in political uncertainty in the future.

Right direction

In conclusion, the Sri Lankan people were undergoing great difficulties with increased taxation, rising commodity prices resulting in high cost of living under the Sirisena-Wickremesinghe administration when former President Mahinda Rajapaksa was appointed Prime Minister and for that short period the people were granted several relief measures such as lowering of fuel prices and prices of many food items and relief for farmers with low fertiliser prices.

The present PM Ranil Wickremesinghe has taken the cue and reduced fuel prices which although belated, is a step in the right direction. Sri Lankans eagerly await further reduction of the cost of living in these difficult times.
(The writer is an Attorney-at-Law with LLB, LLM, MPhil.(Colombo)[email protected]))

One Response to “New Year dawns with political uncertainty”

  1. Christie Says:

    Our problems are not ethnic.

    Our problem is Indian Imperialism and Indian Colonial Parasites.

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