President Maithripala Sirisena in his maiden meeting with the heads of media institutions spoke of difficulties. He confessed that until he became President he hadn’t realized what a difficult situation Sri Lanka was in, internationally that is. This much he had gathered, he said, when he met Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi (in India), British Prime Minister David Cameron, Queen Elizabeth as well as other important foreign dignitaries including UN officials.
Given that Maithripala Sirisena’s ascension to power was taken as a personal victory by some of the above worthies on account of antipathies towards his predecessor it was to be expected that the new President would not have the same kind of pressure that Mahinda Rajapaksa had to deal with. It was, however, at best a hands-off position with a qualifier, ‘for now’. In other words he is on probation, at least in the eyes of certain powers who believe they have some kind of divine right to decide what’s best for Sri Lanka and the majority of Sri Lankans.
Ideally, a seasoned politician ought to know these things long before he or she is elected to office and before he has been read a politer version of the relevant Riot Act. At any rate it is good that our President is now ‘in the know’.
Be that as it may, President Sirisena has now informed the nation that while recognizing the importance of securing sustainable reconciliation, he is not ready to attend to that particular issue right now. It is not likely that Prime Minister Modi’s polite nudge in a direction that goes beyond the 13th Amendment was ‘unfelt’ by the President. The unvarnished communalism mouthed with increased frequency and volume by the Chief Minister of the Northern Province is no doubt another factor that the President has taken note of.
For all this, the President has to be applauded for taking a sober and pragmatic position on the matter of reconciliation. He told media personnel that he had informed Modi, Cameron and others that right now he has to focus on the 100 Days Programme. The issue is far too complex and extremely sensitive and therefore it would be erroneous to make any pledges one way or the other just because some powerful international actor brought up the subject. One remembers that the President’s predecessor complicated things quite a bit by adding a ‘plus’ to the contentious ‘thirteenth’ at a time when he came under a lot of pressure.
President Sirisena has clearly indicated to all and sundry that he will not sweep the issue under the carpet. The sobriety he has demonstrated, one hopes, will be applied to post-election efforts at hammering out a solution acceptable to all. In this, it is imperative that a mechanism be devised where the problem is articulated and all its dimensions discussed and agreed upon. Starting from a proposed solution would be putting the cart before the horse. The only way this can happen in a rational manner is through the strengthening of democratic structures. Constitutional reform, in short. Better representation, put another way. Consecration in real terms of freedoms associated with the word ‘democracy’.
Seeing the reforms pledged through, therefore, is a must. President Sirisena has clearly got that part of the story right. The challenge is to resist all moves to scuttle or postpone reforms in a scandalous fixation on delivering on just one thing: dissolution by the 100th day. It was his maiden meeting with media heads and a continuation of a tradition launched by his predecessor. The President came off as a sober, no-nonsense and focused individual whose ready smile and charm should not be taken for weakness in purpose or a propensity to be ambivalent on important issues.
For now, this is a positive.
Excellent editorial Ms. Liyanaarachchi - Thank you for an insight on the new Presidents thinking - It amazes me time and again how the average SriLankan voter spews forth the correct politician for the correct era. If your judgement is correct, sobriety and a measured approach is the current requirement. Not a bellicose nationalistic approach peppered with majestic false pledges. We hope this President will continue his humble but measured approach. And as an afterthought, I must add that your editorial style is starting to dwarf the likes of Lalith Alahakoon, Sinha Ratnatunga and Nisthar Cassim. Keep it up and well done Madam Editor. Good Job.
madman Friday, 20 March 2015 07:59 PM
Boo, hoo, hoo .... tra la, la.
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