Sri Lanka experienced 52 days of chaos which ended up on a rather smooth note thanks to the judiciary. However, the on-going recovery period seems challenging. This is because it has much to do with shame, economic losses and abuse of power.
Sri Lanka, has now come under the spotlight and the international community is being observant as to how fast it will recover. As the clock ticks , there seems to be a delay in appointing the cabinet; once again raising doubts among onlookers. But, on a rather positive note, the crisis period offered an opportunity for all citizens to voice out for their rights; which was in the name of democracy. And the fight continues.
Hence, the Daily Mirror spoke to a few individuals, who actively protested to bring the country back to normalcy, to find out what they now expect from those who will wield power in a few days time.
Prez likely to interrupt RW’s agenda
“Following the Supreme Court ruling, President Sirisena had to reappoint Ranil Wickremesinghe (RW) as the Prime Minister, but he specifically mentioned that he didn’t want to work with him,” recalled Prof. Sarath Wijesooriya, Convener of the Movement for a Just Society. “This is a warning that he will not allow RW and the cabinet to function smoothly. Therefore it is highly likely that he would interrupt the agenda of the yet-to-be established government and try to prove that RW cannot do anything. We are already witnessing a delay in the appointment of the cabinet and ministerial portfolios,” said Prof.Wijesooriya.
A politician’s responsibility is to win the hearts of the public and stay clear of allegations
Prof. Wijesooriya further said that the United National Front and the Prime Minister should adopt the criteria suggested by Prof. Siri Hettige in appointing cabinet ministers. “He has drafted this document on a scientific basis, so that politicians with less allegations and accusations could be appointed to their posts. In this backdrop nobody can hope for any development until the crisis situation is fully settled,” he added.
Referring to the appointment of cabinet ministers, he further said that neither the seniority nor the close ties between them and the premier should be an added advantage for these appointments. “Those who have failed in their duties should be debriefed and opportunities should be given to young blood. A politician’s responsibility is to win the hearts of the public and stay clear of allegations or accusations if he or she wants to have a successful career in politics.”
The Presidential system doesn’t suit our country
“We recently faced the biggest challenge after 2015,” said Gamini Viyangoda, co-convener of the movement Puravasi Balaya. “The President said that he will not support the PM and therefore it is clear that he would not allow the government to run smoothly. In this situation we cannot talk about development or the way forward. If they don’t compromise we will have to go in for a Presidential Poll. Somehow it has been proved that the Presidential system doesn’t suit our country. After 1978 the past few weeks have dragged the country back to square one.” he said.
The President said that he won’t support the PM and therefore it is clear that he would not allow the government to run smoothly
People of this country deserve better
“As far as many of us are concerned, the fight for democracy is not over yet,” said Aritha Wickramasinghe a lawyer by profession. “Over the last 50 days of this crisis, many of us were on the streets demanding the upholding of our Constitution, the rule of law and a fresh political culture. The Constitution is at the very heart of our Republic but we are deprived of our rights and freedom. People expect those responsible for this attack on the very foundation of our country to be held accountable for their actions. The Supreme Court was very clear in its judgment that no one is above the law. We expect our representatives in Parliament to take note of the Supreme Court judgment and to take action against all persons responsible for unconstitutional acts. We also demand a new political culture. Many people thought this would have happened beginning in 2015, but clearly it hasn’t. People are tired of constantly being given a raw deal by their politicians. The people of this country deserve better,” he opined.
We expect politicians to take note of the Supreme Court judgment and to take action against those responsible for unconstitutional acts
Time for politicians to uphold rights of citizens
- Ruwanthie De Chickera
During the period of the Constitutional crisis, several groups took to the streets and protested in the name of democracy. Among these groups was a protest done by a collective of women representing various fields of expertise. The women joined during a heavy shower and handed over a petition to the President himself. Airing her views on the need to restore democracy, renowned dramatist Ruwanthie de Chickera, who was also an active participant at this protest by women, said that as Sri Lankans we are a long way from achieving democracy. “It is a long process. Politicians are still not held accountable for democracy. They are enjoying impunity, perks and benefits. But it is important to note that everybody is equal before the law. However, what is significant is that after a long period of being inactive or partially active, minority groups have started to fight for democracy. All citizens saw how easy it is for politicians to create chaos overnight and how shaky our foundations of democracy are. They have seen how fragile our democracy is and now they have begun to claim it as their own right. Now, different people are willing to fight for their principles.” said de Chickera.
She further said that the crisis isn’t over yet. “The citizens have to continue with holding politicians accountable for democracy. We don’t have a constitutional crisis anymore, but we now have a crisis in terms of democracy. It is a severe crisis in terms of leadership and governance. We saw how citizens stood by politicians during the period of the Constitutional crisis. Now that it has been solved, we have to question whether the politicians will standby the citizens in bringing about democracy. It would be interesting to see if they would continue with upholding the rights of the citizens. Every one who took to the streets had undertaken risks. There was a chance that people whom we were protesting against would have returned to power,” she said.
We saw how citizens stood by politicians during the period of the Constitutional crisis. Now that it has been solved
She further said that we have a morbid culture of politics. “The next steps depend on whether the politicians and the citizens would work together rather than against each other. Politicians have to show that they are responsible, decent and humble and are ready to accept valid criticisms against them. They should have the humility, honesty and integrity to acknowledge change. But if they don’t do that, people will have to protest against them,” de Chickera said.
Public should engage in civil rights activism
The main objective of protesting was to restore democracy rather than protect politicians or their interests said Visakesa Chandrasekaram, a fiction, screenplay and creative writer, a film director who is also practicising as a human rights lawyer, a community legal educator and a diversity practitioner in both Sri Lanka and Australia. “The public therefore should engage in civil rights activism. The crisis situation was an ideal opportunity for civil rights movements to participate in protests, write opinion pieces and engage in public discussions. The distance between communities has also minimized due to technology and the effective use of social media. There is another task vested upon the people. That is, as much as we allocate our time to sleep, for recreation and other purposes I think we also need to allocate our time for civil rights activism. If it doesn’t happen it will not become a priority for the people,” said Chandrasekaram.
When asked what immediate measures have to be taken to restore democracy, Chandrasekaram said that it is important to bring about stability in the government. “They should elect the cabinet soon. Then they should move a motion in Parliament to abolish the Executive Presidency and it should be done within the next six months. It’s important to ensure the rule of law. People now have some faith on the judiciary after its judgment. The law is equal to everyone and all criminals-those involved in the Constitutional conspiracy, those involved in the bond scam and other abductions and murders- should be punished.” he affirmed. Chandrasekaram said that in the long-term, it is important to establish the independence of the public service. “Everybody from the labourer to the executive officer should be appointed on a merit-based system. It is also important to ensure the independence of quasi-judiciary institutions and while doing all that we need to awaken the public,” he concluded.
They should move a motion in Parliament to abolish the Executive Presidency and it should be done within the next six months