By Jehan Perera –
With the debate over the 19th Amendment to the constitution getting into its final phase this week, the nation is entering a decisive phase. The passage of this constitutional amendment will set in motion a procedure whereby Sri Lanka will turn into subject to the Rule of Law and not the rule of males as was advocated by the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission in its report after having consulted a wide swarth of the nation’s intellectuals, decisionmakers and neighborhood leaders. The presidential program in Sri Lanka was flawed at its really inception, as it did not supply for an adequate technique of checks and balances discovered in democratic nations with profitable presidential systems. The 19th Amendment will go a signficant portion of the way to produce situations for much better governance in the country.
The abolishing of the presidential technique has been portion of the election manifesto of previous presidents. But it has been President Maithripala Sirisena who has been most committed to shedding his powers. He has had to endure barbs that he is not a robust leader. But he has shown strength in getting committed to reform the presidency as he promised in the course of the presidential election campaign. Even though most other political leaders will fight for their personal powers, he is being accurate to the Buddhist ethos of his upbringing to transcend that fight in which he prevailed for a greater purpose. The President’s efforts to push by way of a constitutional amendment that will reduce his own power is a uncommon instance of statesmanship, not only in Sri Lanka but worldwide.
There is a fantastic deal of international expectations about progress in Sri Lanka. The pay a visit to of US Secretary of State John Kerry will be taking place the following week. Sri Lanka is able to position itself as a post-war nation with a message to other nations that are struggling to come out of their own conflicts. The Sri Lankan model of changing governments, even quite potent and seemingly entrenched ones, through the democratic procedure is one particular that the international community would wish to support in other parts of the globe where adjust of governments are required. The Sri Lankan model of a president from one key party operating a government with a prime minister from a rival key party, and a government that has practically all parties in Parliament represented in it is exclusive.
The new spirit of goodwill and openness to the planet, which President Maithripala Sirisena spoke of in his address to the nation final week on the occasion of the one hundred day anniversary of his government is also present in civil society. This was evident at an international conference on religious tolerance and hamony that took spot at the Buddhist and Pali University final week. The university is meant primarily for the tertiary education of Buddhist monks. As a result it has the possible to have a significant impact on the leadership role of the Buddhist religious clergy. Most often those from the religious community who have taken to politics do so in a parochial spirit. Nonetheless, there is an ethos of universality in the Buddhist teachings which is too often not manifested by politically motivated sections of the community. The international conference organised by the Buddhist and Pali University represented the universal and wholesome approach.
The conference attracted participation from different parts of the world, such as India, Myanmar, Maldives, Norway and the United States. From within Sri Lanka there was participation from numerous universities, most notably Jaffna University which had a contingent of students and lecturers. At the conclusion of the conference, these who had come from outdoors, and been guests of the Buddhist and Pali University were full of praise for the organisers of the conference. The participants from Jaffna have been also moved to defend the organisers who had come in for criticism from outside. There was damaging commentary in a section of the media that the conference organisers had accepted monetary help from the US embassy for the conference. There was also criticism that the Buddhist flag was not put up at the conference venue. The conference showed that when Buddhist monks are offered the space and support, they will act in a universal manner as befits the leadership of any religion.
Till last week it seemed that nationalism was on the rise once again. The impunity with which the Sinhalese nationalist supporters of the former government waved distorted national flags, from which the two strips that represent the Tamil and Muslim communities were removed, was reflective of the rawness of their nationalism. The rambunctious rallies organised by these who advocate the return of defeated former President Mahinda Rajapaksa to the centre of politics have been also primarily based on the mobilisation of ethnic nationalism. Defeated at the presidential election on the major ground of corruption, they have been seeking to steer the political debate back to raw nationalism. Their nationalism was offered a increase by the resolution of the Northern Provincial Council which accused successive Sri Lankan governments of getting practised genocide against the Tamils from the time of Independence.
Because the final week the government appears to be a lot more confident. Twenty six persons, such as leaders of the pro-Rajapaksa group of parliamentarians who defied a judicial order stopping them from staging a protest in front of the Bribery Commission workplace, have been summoned by the police. They not only defied the judicial order, but also waved the distorted national flags. In a lot of countries, desecrating the national flag is regarded as a punishable offence. In addition, the arrest of former minister Basil Rajapaksa for financial misappropriation of government funds belonging to his ministry would have come as a shock to those who believed in the continuing energy and influence of the former government leaders. The public protest has been muted. It seems that individuals accept the Rule of Law, even as they acquiesce in the abuse of power by politicians.
Due to the 3 decades of violence and conflict in the country and the propaganda of the rival nationalist camps numerous Sri Lankan folks at this point of time look to be confused about the way forward. The government has done nothing at all that is anti-national. But the opposition claims it is, even though the Tamil men and women in the North particularly complain that normalcy in their lives, and justice, has yet to come to them. At the identical time there is a deep underlying social and cultural unity in the nation, which was pointed out by one particular of the international participants at the conference organised by the Buddhist and Pali University. This unity manifests itself effortlessly when there is goodwill and hospitality, which the Sri Lankan individuals are capable of displaying from the heart. This unity tends to make the challenge of healing and reconciliation achievable, rather than impossible. The freedom and space to meet, to dialogue and to get to know each other is crucial to protect.
In his televised adddress to the individuals on the occasion of the 100th day anniversary, President Maithripala Sirisena mentioned that eliminating the culture of worry was 1 of the achievements of this period. It has taken away the worry that shackled the creativity and self-confidence of the people. Nevertheless, in the North of the country, the full enjoyment of the correct to be free of charge from fear is yet to be realised. According to participants who came to the conference from Jaffna, the military presence continues to be oppressive. The military is less directive than it was in the previous. There is no need to get permission to conduct events. But the military will come and ask queries and take photographs. This intimidates the individuals as they are fearful as to what use will be produced of this proof in the future. They too look to the president with hope, even as he fights for constitutional reform and power-sharing as no one particular else has, and to generate a new polity in which the deep cultural and social unity in the nation and amongst its distinct communities manifests itself as political unity also.