The present government came to power pledging to establish good governance. According to a publication by the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific the main characteristics of good governance include being participatory, consensus oriented, accountable, transparent, responsive, effective, efficient, equitable, inclusive and follows the rule of law. Good governance is supposed to minimize corruption. The views of minorities and vulnerable people should be taken into consideration when making decisions. While certain characteristics are reflected in the activities of the current regime it seems that certain characteristics have been overlooked as well. The present govt. has come under heavy criticism by the very parties that thrived to make them victorious at the 2015 Presidential election. Against this backdrop the Dailymirror asked a few parties who were once very vocal in overthrowing the past regime and establishing the current govt. on its merits
“The judiciary is independent to a greater extent. It will take at least another two to three years to ensure the independence of the police and the public service though they are comparatively independent now,” he said.
Commenting on the economic situation of the country he said, “We have been a debt ridden country for many years and therefore the economic front is not very good. There has to be consistency of the economic policies. Now the government is at least attempting to have consistency. They have taken serious steps to win the international community which we had lost previously.”
When asked about the demerits of the government he said that the people involved in corruption and who were holding high authority were not penalized, but were instead retained in office.
“The government does not have a good communication strategy. So the positive actions they take are not communicated to the public. The print and private media are not favouring the government. They were linked very closely to the previous regime and they continue to support them,” he said.
He also said that since the government was a coalition of two main parties’ positives and negative will have to be experienced. “In both sides there are people who want to have their own government instead of a coalition. That is seen in many aspects. If the President and Prime Minister are committed to push the social political reforms together there is still hope,” he added.
Elaborating on the way forward, Weliamuna said that the President and Prime Minister should make decisions together. “They have to take bold decisions as well. For example they must get rid of the corrupt few high officials. They must take harsh but realistic decisions on Macro Economic decisions. You can’t please the people all the time,” he said.
“As far as the future of the yahapalanaya government is concerned what is absolutely necessary is for there to be a strategic communication plan which is unveiled and which requires the government to go out and champion both a new constitution, transitional justice and all the other aspects of its reform programme in a conversation with the people of this country. There is a lack of communication and this is leading to confusion and a sense of drift. This has to be rectified very importantly if this government is, in full or substantial measure, to achieve its reform programme,” said Dr. Paikiasothy Saravanamuttu, the Executive Director of the Centre for Policy Alternatives (CPA).
He said that there were still many promises with regards to transitional justice and constitutional reform to be fulfilled. “Now, it is not at all clear that the government is not going to fulfil them but certainly there seems to be concern that it is taking time. It is very important that the promises with regards to anti-corruption are kept. We have not yet had a conviction in respect of a major case,” he added.
The government has failed miserably in fulfilling people’s aspirations which were manifested through various parties in the presidential campaign.
“Now their activities are in line with the narrow agendas of the political elite. Rather than critically engaging,the government does things in an extremely arbitrary manner. When there is a lot of criticism about the development strategy they are not ready to discuss them. They are not willing to listen to the people who brought this government into power,” he said.
“Toppling the government is not possible because constitutionally you need to win the support of the majority in parliament. Therefore I don’t see any big obstacle for them to continue until the next election,” he remarked.
He noted, however, that the government was not popular among the populace. “They are not popular among the Southern Sinhala Buddhist constituency. The Tamils in the North, though not so happy, don’t mind this government in power because they can’t afford to create a situation where the Rajapaksas come back,” he said.
He added that the government was at an advantage as its dissenting forces are divided.
The 19th Amendment which curtailed the power of the executive president and the establishment of the independent commissions to have a proper, efficient, public service without political influence.“Then there is the constitutional council which is an independent body. The Right to Information Act has been implemented,” he added.
“As a whole I believe there is an atmosphere of freedom. Anyone can criticize the President, Prime Minister or the government without fear of being harmed. We didn’t have this freedom during the previous regime where we can draw examples of media persons being abducted, and murdered. That situation has changed now,” he said.
“This is seen today in how demonstrations are held on a daily basis by doctors, students, and various trade unions. So you can see the democratic freedom exercised by a vast majority of our population which opened up after this government came to power,’ he remarked.
Commenting on the negative aspect of the current government Viyangoda said that the people are very much dissatisfied with the government for not bringing to book those alleged to have been involved in mega deals during the previous regime. “But up till now nothing has been done except the prosecution of certain individuals who are kept in remand and later bailed out. No single case has been completed. No one has been convicted except Duminda Silva who was accused of murder. This was not organized by the government of that time. It was an individual who was involved. That is why the law was not obstructed,” he said.
“They said that billions of money was squandered by the previous government. You don’t see anybody being brought before courts,” he added.
He noted that there was delay in bringing the new constitution. “We have pledged to the international community on the transitional justice process. Under this process we have been obliged to open the Office of Missing Persons. Though the act was passed in parliament, the office has not been opened. As far as the new constitution is concerned they have appointed six sub committees and a main committee. But it seems that everything has come to a standstill,’ he said.
“Two years have passed but still there is doubt about the new constitution and the devolution of power as the solution to the ethnic friction. Yet, we have our hopes with the government. There are so many practical problems in making this a reality which we can understand. At the same time we have some suspicion that high ups in the new government are interfering in certain investigations which are going on. If our politicians can keep away from those investigations justice can be meted out very soon. That is what the people expect from the government.” he added.
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