In our last editorial for 2017, the Daily Mirror analyses the positives and the negatives of what happened this year in the socio-political, economic and other areas.
It is good to begin with ourselves and speak about media freedom. With the election of President Maithripala Sirisena on January 8, 2015 and the formation of the National Unity Government in August that year, media freedom was restored.
On the political front, one of the major events was the decision to change the system of elections and the announcement of elections to 341 local councils on February 10.
The Ward System has been restored, and in terms of this, 60 percent of candidates will be elected according to the Ward System and 40 percent according to the Proportional Representation System. The new mixed system also demands 25 percent representation of women among the elected candidates.
For the first time since independence, the two major parties - the UNP and the SLFP- have been governing together in the National Unity Government. There have been disputes and divisions between them mainly on economic issues and the two parties are due to decide by tomorrow whether they will renew their Memorandum
Most analysts believe that whether an MoU is signed or not, the two parties are expected to govern together in a coalition, because 2018 is likely to be a vital year especially for the economy, with foreign direct investments coming in and growth rates rising.
Analysts also believe it might be good for the country and the people, especially for the villages, if parties worked together in the Local Councils also.
On the economic front, we saw the restoration of Generalised Scheme of Preferences, known as GSP Plus on exports to the European Union.
The EU also lifted the fish import ban which had been imposed because of Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) fishing practices during the former regime.
This year alone, Sri Lanka exported about 18,000 metric tonnes of fish to Europe.
One of the main allegations against the former regime’s VIPs and top officials was corruption.
Though the new Government promised immediate and effective action to bring them to justice, it did not happen. The only significant incident that came to courts was the alleged misuse of Sil cloths to the value of Rs. 600 million, during the 2015 Presidential Election.
The former presidential secretary Lalith Weeratunga was remanded for two weeks but released on bail while the case continues.
The Government decided late this year to appoint three special three – judge High Courts to hear cases relating to corruption, fraud or other political crimes. Thereby the cases are likely to be completed within months instead of years.
But corruption continues and a bombshell hit the Government itself with a Presidential Commission being appointed to probe the alleged bond scam in the Central Bank.
Senior Minister Ravi Karunanayake was virtually forced to resign because of allegations made against him during the Bond Commission sittings, and the Commission’s report is expected to be handed over to the President during this weekend.
The Commission’s recommendations and the February 10 Local Council election results are expected to be key factors in what happens or does not happen in 2018. Most analysts believe it would be good for the vision 2025 programme to be continued with the goal of creating a peaceful, just and all inclusive society.