Can GR’s Administration continue Yahapalana’s work?
Posted on November 24th, 2019

By Shivanthi Ranasinghe Courtesy Ceylon Today

Since the conclusion of the election, a number of interesting messages have been floating around in social media. Some of these are obviously in support of the Yahapalana Government that just ended.

 The resigned Yahapalana loyalists write in hope that the new administration would continue the good work started by the Yahapalana Government. However, it will be difficult for the new Administration to do so for two reasons.

The main reason would be that the new Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s Administration strongly disagrees that the work done by the Yahapalana Government was good. 

The mandate the GR Administration received was in fact to reverse the steps taken by the Yahapalana Government.

 The other reason being, those who ask the new Administration to continue the Yahapalana work contradict themselves. For instance, there had been requests not to place National Security above the Constitution.

This betrays the ignorance of the requester. The basic definition of a Constitution is the primary law and the Constitution of a country is said to be the spinal cord of the law of the land. The law is created to protect the citizen and his right. 

Out of all the rights recognised as part of a disciplined, civilised society, the right to live is the most paramount of all. Life is valued greater than any asset or treasure. 

That right to life is enshrined in the Constitution and executed via National Security.

 Therefore, if in the execution of National Security, steps are taken beyond the written law or the written law is manipulated, then it is not in exclusion of the Constitution but very much in line with its core objective.

Those who voted for the Yahapalana candidate Sajith Premadasa write also of strengthening democracy, an independent judiciary, media freedom, independent commissions, and the RTI legislation. 

Those who thus speak are simply repeating blindly someone else’s carefully drafted script, rather than basing their assertion on facts.

It can be said, perhaps somewhat cynically that the Mahinda Rajapaksa Administration had a severe case of election diarrhea. Well ahead of time, elections were held.

 It was not just the General or Presidential, but all elections at every level were held.

 Areas such as the North that had not experienced any form of democracy or free will for almost thirty years were able to elect their Provincial Council members for the first time under the MR Administration.

  While it is noteworthy that elections were finally held in the North, it must also be noted that this was done so despite the resistance from within MR Administration itself.

After the war, all paramilitary groups that were supportive to the then Administration were also disarmed. This allowed the TNA that was the LTTE political proxy to once again regain their stronghold.

 Naturally, this meant that the North would not be an electorate that the MR Administration can win.

 Therefore, then Ministers such as Patalie Champika Ranawaka were strongly opposed to the idea of conducting any form of elections in the North.

It was because MR, as the then President, overcame such resistance that the TNA today stands exposed as a political entity with a self-serving agenda. 

Though the support from the North to GR was abysmal, the TNA also performed poorly during the 2018 Local Government Elections. 

In fact, the disappointment of the people had been over the TNA’s overall performance had been manifesting as way back as early 2017.

In April 2017 a group of ex-LTTE cadres took to the streets in protest against the agri-farms and preschools, maintained by the Civil Defence Force, being turned over to the TNA-run Provincial Council management.

 Protesters in their hundreds marched down the streets for they feared that if there was such a change in management it would result in the projects running to ruin and they themselves losing their livelihoods.

In an enclave where TNA had been carefully maintaining only one voice of opinion and that too exclusively theirs, this was certainly an unexpected outburst. 

None of those who expound on the need for devolution in the name of democracy had ever questioned the silence from the North. 

Even the smallest group that has the freedom of expression will have more opinions than members.

 Then, the fact that the North has one opinion, and that is maximum power devolution to the point of self-governance and not hum on economic development or any other social need, is strange to say in the least.

Even the protest march against the TNA in 2017 had been dismissed as a one-off incident.

 The voice of hundreds of protesters cannot be a “one-off incident”. There had been similar incidents that had exposed the disillusionment people have of the TNA.

 The emotional farewell Colonel Rathnapriya Bandu received in January 2018 from the people in Vishvamadu – a hotbed of the LTTE in a different era, passed not so long ago, was astounding.

 They grieved over losing the presence of an officer attached to the very Army that destroyed their Tamil Eelam dream.

In the same manner, time and again villagers have been protesting when Army camps within their vicinity had been removed. 

They claim the presence of the military was a clear impediment to anti-social criminal activities in the area. 

With the absence of the military presence with the removal of the Army, camp has increased these criminal activities and has made the area unsafe for the people. They also claim, for emergency and other needs, 

it has always been the Army camp that had come to their assistance and aid and never the elected officials in the Provincial Council.

Thus, when the Yahapalana Government quietly allowed all the Provincial Councils to become defunct by not holding elections after their terms expired, it is hardly surprising that the TNA hardly made a peep as a way of a protest. 

The greatest irony is that the Provincial Councils were formed to ensure that the Tamils in the North and the East have power devolved to them.

The then Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi did not fly down to Sri Lanka and the then JR Jayawardena Government did not sign the 13th Amendment under duress from India for the betterment of all Sri Lankan citizens.

 This was purely done to address a need articulated – violently and otherwise – by certain Tamil groups in the North and the East. 

In this context, the greatest protector and defender of the provincial council system ought to be the TNA, who are still on the same page of self-governance.

This exposes the greatest farce of the Yahapalana Government. Their core agenda was the maximum devolution of power and strengthening of democracy. Yet, they could not hold a single Provincial Council election.

 The very advocators of the Provincial Council system to the point that they want it to be self-governing did not make a single protest for they knew they would get booted out by the people. 

They were, in essence, clinging on to power against the will of the majority. Yet, the Yahapalana Government was able to establish that it had strengthened democracy.

The Yahapalana narrative highlights the establishment of independent commissions. The Election Commission is supposed to be one such independent commission. 

Yet, they were unable to hold the Local Government Elections on time and out of the nine, not a single election to appoint a new council for the provincial councils that fell defunct during the Yahapalana era. 

The first request the Election Commission Chairman Mahinda Deshapriya made of the newly elected President Gotabaya Rajapaksa was to allow the Provincial Council elections to take place. That one statement negates the entire Yahapalana narrative that they strengthened democracy.

It was also very obvious that the members of these so-called independent commissions were working towards their own private agenda. 

Professor Hoole, despite being a member of the Election Commission, clearly did not believe in elections. He went to Courts against holding general elections. 

While it is true that elections were not due, after Maithripala Sirisena declared his unwillingness to work with Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, people ought to have been given an opportunity to elect a stable government.

The only successfully executed project of the Yahapalana Government was to rewrite their failures in a flowery narrative. 

To the one who takes a cursory glance, the Yahapalana Government had done an excellent job. Yet, they failed to retain their power seats because they antagonized different people on different levels.

The election is over and a new Government is shaping up. Yet, the voter’s duty is far from done. As citizens, we need to stay involved than blindly following a well-crafted script. Staying informed is the only way to strengthen democracy

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