On Wednesday, February 4, Sri Lanka celebrated its 72nd Anniversary of Independence or its National Day by remembering with gratitude the untiring efforts of our founding father Don Stephen Senanayake and the political stalwarts from the Sinhala, Tamil, Burgher and Malay communities, who rallied round him in the struggle to gain our independence from British rule on February 4, 1948.
Tuesday’s celebrations underlining the theme, “A Secured Nation - A Prosperous Country”, held at Independence Square were presided over by President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and attended by Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa, some 2,500 guests, including foreign diplomats and the public. The celebrations were marked with the pomp and pageantry that accompanies such an important national event.
The celebrations began with President Gotabaya hoisting the national flag soon after a two-minute silence to commemorate the patriots, who had sacrificed their lives to secure the independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity of Sri Lanka while a countrywide tree-planting programme was held to coincide with the main celebrations.
In his address to the nation, President Gotabaya said special attention had been paid to the strengthening of national security and assured all Sri Lankans that there was no room in this country for any form of extremism or terrorism and pledged to ensure the rights of all Sri Lankans to think freely, hold independent opinions and express themselves without let or hindrance. He said he respected the right of every citizen to follow the religion of his or her choice and paid tribute to the Sinhala, Tamil, Muslim, Malay and Burgher leaders who dedicated themselves to achieve Independence in 1948.
The President underlined the need for a strong executive and legislature and an independent judiciary and added that any loss of public confidence in any of these key institutions could give rise to anarchy.
Meanwhile, the main Opposition United National Party (UNP) appears to have resolved its leadership crisis or has it? Where the leadership crisis itself is concerned the status quo remains unchanged with Ranil Wickremesinghe remaining as UNP leader while Opposition Leader Sajith Premadasa was appointed as the leader of the UNP-led alliance and the prime ministerial candidate. Political analysts are of the view that Mr. Wickremesinghe lost the best if not a golden opportunity to resuscitate the party with juniors appointed to key posts soon after the October 26 conspiracy when the then president Maithripala Sirisena who rode on the back of the UNP to the presidency sacked his own government and its then prime minister Ranil Wickremesinghe. What happened with the subsequent dissolution of Parliament is of course now history with the fallout from this unwarranted political coup resulting in many and varied repercussions socially and economically. A majority of Sri Lankans heaved a sigh of relief when the agony was brought to a close with Sri Lanka`s Supreme Court in a landmark judgement ruled that the then president had blatantly violated the Constitution.
Whether the UNP -- fondly known as the Grand Old Party, having been founded in September 6, 1946 – will suffer the same fate which has befallen the SLFP under Maithripala Sirisena’s leadership is a matter for conjecture.
Vacillation, procrastination and dilly-dallying by the UNP hierarchy and the internecine squabbles, will without doubt, make it only too easy for the government to secure a two-thirds majority at the upcoming elections.
Be that as it may, the government is not having it easy either, having to contend with the vegetable prices still remaining beyond the reach of ordinary people, compelling them to do without the essential greens. Next in line are the reports of the forensic audit on the Central Bank bond scams from January 1, 2002 to February 28, 2015 with a parliamentary debate fixed for February 18 and 19.
According to the Forensic Audit reports, released last week, the Government is estimated to have lost some Rs.10.47 billion through direct placements of Treasury Bonds between January 1, 2005 and February 28, 2015 while the CB Governor from July 2006 to January 2015 was Ajith Nivard Cabraal, currently the Senior Adviser on Economic Affairs to Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa.
The sad part of governance is that President Gotabaya has to work with MPs, ministers, state ministers, deputy ministers and State officials, who have been tried and tested under previous governments and found to have fallen far short of what was required of them. We hope the President will uphold his pledge to appoint qualified professionals without any stain of fraud, bribery or corruption to high government posts