n what could turn out to be a landmark speech made in Matara last Friday, President Maithripala Sirisena publicly pledged he would not cover up or tolerate any act of bribery, corruption, nepotism or other vices by Ministers, MPs or other top officials of the National Unity Government. This would be in line with the new government’s vision of restoring a clean, selfless, sacrificial and people-serving politics in Sri Lanka.
He made the pledge at the first joint meeting held by the United National Party (UNP) and the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) to mark the first anniversary of their decision to form a National Unity or Consensus Government for the first time in Sri Lanka since independence in 1948. The President’s speech was broadcast live to millions of people, while the State television and radio gave repeat broadcasts over the weekend. It was widely regarded as President Sirisena’s most powerful and toughest speech since he was elected to office in the people’s Silent Revolution on January 08 last year.
The President was speaking two days after he fired more than 40 of the SLFP’s district and electoral organisers, who are still loyal to former President Mahinda Rajapaksa. He warned that if the dissidents formed a new party, he would fully expose all the bribery, corruption, nepotism and wasteful expenditure of the former regime, where VIP politicians and officials allegedly plundered billions of rupees, which belonged to the people.
The President in the hard-hitting speech which analysts believe could mark another turning point in the country’s history said the former regime’s so-called patriots had sent the country reeling to bankruptcy with the total public debt being a staggering Rs. 9000 billion. Besides having to pay this huge debt with interest, the National Government also had the major diplomatic task of restoring Sri Lanka’s relationship with the international community, that task had been successfully accomplished. If not Sri Lanka might have faced economic sanctions with food riots and other disastrous consequences.Lashing back angrily at those who personally attacked him, especially during the recent Kandy-Colombo march, the President said Mr. Rajapaksa had called for an early election in January last year because he knew he would not be able to win an election later in a bankrupt and isolated country crippled by international economic and political sanctions.
Mr. Sirisena said he was horrified that those responsible for such plunders and plunder were now accusing him of putting national security at risk.With Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe seated next to him, the President said the National Unity Government headed by them had come together to save the country from its worst ever political and economic crises.
The National Government was successfully doing this though it might take another year or two for the practical benefits of this to flow down to millions of people. This would be mainly through the provision of well-paid jobs, mainly in the new technology areas, the revival of agriculture, industrial and service sectors with the extensive use of digital technology.
Bluntly rejecting the Rajapaksa group’s claim that it would be able to topple the National Government soon, the President said no one would be able to topple the Government till 2020. He said that he believed that at the next election also the people would give a mandate to continue the policy of sustainable, eco-friendly and all inclusive economic growth, along with practical steps towards reconciliation and the rebuilding of a truly multi-racial and multi-religious country through unity in diversity.
While sharing the National Government’s vision and goals, we also hope the President will put his pledges into action and deal with anyone found to be involved in bribery, corruption, fraud or the waste of public money.Over the weekend, the Voice Against Corruption movement said it would be going to the Financial Crimes Investigation Division (FCID) to file bribery or corruption allegations against five high-ranking members of the present Government.
While expediting legal action against the former regime’s alleged plunderers, we hope the President would take tough action against Ministers, MPs, other politicians and officials against whom substantial evidence is found. The President also reiterated he was the Chief Servant Leader of the people.We hope he insists that Ministers, MPs and public officials also should change their attitude and become sincere servants of the people, while giving what they have to the country instead of trying to grab from it.