By Jehan Perera –
At the presidential elections held in January this year Sri Lanka created its initial transition away from authoritarian rule in which ethnic nationalism was utilised to deliver repeated electoral mandates. The victory of the coalition of parties led by Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe at the Common Elections on August 17 will guarantee that the alterations brought about at the presidential election will be sustained. The majority of Sri Lankan voters reaffirmed the option they had produced in January when they voted in President Maithripala Sirisena and rejected the siren get in touch with of narrow ethnic-based nationalism. The principal significance of the newest election verdict is that it paves the way for transition to take location in two essential aspects of governance. The very first is that will consolidate the modifications that have taken arbitrary power away from people and vested them alternatively in systems.
The question at the common election was regardless of whether the modify that had taken place soon after the January elections would be reversed. The sustainability of the reformist good governance method lies in the fact that virtually all the political parties have agreed that the systems of government need to be strengthened. The second crucial transition that the country has taken as a outcome of the general election is the shift away from the governance method of the UPFA period that saw the escalation of militarization in a state that suspected conspiracies against itself and the targeting of ethnic minorities as possible enemies of the state. There is now a want to journey towards a society that is truly multi-ethnic and multi-religious in its selection creating and its alternatives.
The outcome of the common election guarantees that the procedure of transition will not be reversed any time soon. Even although the UPFA challenge to the new governing coalition was quite strong during the elections, now that the outcome is in, their challenge seems to have collapsed at least for the time being. Members of the defeated opposition are gravitating to the leadership of President Maitripala Sirisena who occupies the presidency of the SLFP as effectively as being chairman of the bigger UPFA coalition. Bereft of a well-known mandate, the twice defeated former president Mahinda Rajapaksa has small in tangible terms to supply to keep them loyal to him. It seems that a lot of in the opposition would be interested in joining the new consensus government to be formed by the signing of an MOU by the UNP and SLFP.
The agreement signed by these two parties soon after the elections is to work with each other for two years on numerous identified locations of great governance. They incorporate addressing corruption concerns, taking the country on a quick track of economic development, safeguarding fundamental freedoms and protection of the rights of females and kids. The MOU reflects the consensus that exists in society with regards to excellent governance. This can pave the way for constitutional reform which will not be controversial, and which the new government can do with no facing opposition. There are numerous unfulfilled pledges in the government’s one hundred day programme that it can start off to implement. Chief amongst these would be establishing the bipartisan Constitutional Council with members drawn from each the government and opposition and also from civil society.
The importance of the Constitutional Council is that it is the body vested with the authority under the 19th Amendment to appoint the members of the different independent commissions, most notably those pertaining to the judiciary, police, public service, bribery and corruption commission, human rights commission and elections commission. These institutions of state are of the greatest value exactly where it concerns establishing a system of checks and balances in limiting the powers of the elected politicians. For the duration of the UPFA period many ruling politicians and their supporters ended up behaving with the impunity linked with royalty in the feudal ages. They could pillage, rape and even commit murder with no action becoming taken against them.
President Sirisena’s readiness at the beginning of his term of workplace to reduce his own powers in the national interest was an act of statesmanship that has handful of parallels in Sri Lanka, and even internationally. There is explanation to think that his continuing commitment to very good governance will make sure that a lot more structures for checks and balances will be in place quickly. These reforms would incorporate producing a renewed try to pass the 20th Amendment which is about getting smaller sized electorates a lot more accountable to voters, and passing the right to info law which would give the basic public access to governmental documents. The lack of transparency in the governmental program was brought to light for the duration of both the presidential and basic election campaigns, with revelations of enormous corruption in government contracts that took spot in the past with no any transparency at all.
Another location of reform in the area of governance that will need to be tackled is that of inter-ethnic relations and the devolution of power. This was the essential theme in the election campaign of the Tamil parties in the North and East of the country. Though the winning party, the TNA, is regarded to be a moderate celebration on account of its willingness to engage in dialogue and trust-building with the government, it campaigned on a platform of greater autonomy and federalism for the North and East. In contrast to other concerns of governance, which relate to central government institutions, the problem of devolution of power is 1 on which there is much much less consensus in the nation. It is to be noted that those who got the largest numbers of votes in the defeated UPFA opposition have been these who took stands against the devolution of energy.
The problem of ethnic nationalism continues to be alive in the nation even although the inability of the UPFA to make it a winning formula at two successive elections suggests that it is receding as a force. It has been in existence given that the 1950s when the SLFP was formed and utilized the energy of language-primarily based ethnic nationalism to trounce the UNP at the basic elections of 1956. The past ten years of UPFA rule was mainly primarily based on ethnic nationalism with the common population getting constantly exposed to a barrage of anti-minority propaganda. For that reason there is a need to have for the government to commence an quick programme of public education on the concern of inter-ethnic relations and the choices for a political answer that would address the roots of the conflict. This could be done alongside civil society organisations to prepare the ground for future reforms that are needed to resolve the conflict in a sustainable and mutually acceptable manner.
In the meantime, efforts to win the trust and self-assurance of the ethnic minorities want to continue. The pay a visit to paid by President Sirisena and former president Chandrika Kumaratunga to the former war zones of the East to give back land taken over by the military to the men and women shortly right after the election indicates that the government is on the conflict-resolving track. The reality that President Sirisena is each on the side of the government and opposition presents a special chance for problem solving. It will imply that when the government and opposition sit with each other to go over how to deal with even contentious troubles, they will be sitting collectively and not necessarily as adversaries. They will not be engaging in negotiations in which 1 side should lose in order for the other side to acquire, but in dilemma solving exactly where every single side’s issues are taken into account so that all sides can acquire. This must not only be a wish, it can turn out to be reality.