There remains less than a year until Sri Lanka braces for its next elections. With the recent series of political dramas that unfolded, it is no surprise for Sri Lankans to witness the advent of new parties or old alliances being reborn. That is what happened during almost all the elections that have taken place. While the most asked question ‘who can measure up to be a politician’ remains debated in a country where there is no formal qualification to serve as a politician, a collective of Sri Lankan professionals, activists and artistes gathered at the Sri Lanka Foundation Institute (SLFI) on December 17 and formed a movement called National People’s Movement (NPM).
Absence of a feasible alternative
They emphasised that Sri Lanka as a country is eroding on multiple fronts — socially, economically and culturally. The professionals pointed out that the power of people is the strongest and it can solve almost all the burning issues in the country.
They stated that a power struggle and rivalry among main political parties may eventually pave the way for the evolution of a brutal dictatorship or even anarchy, in the absence of a feasible alternative to the people of the country.
The NPM platform is a collaboration of 17-member organizations including United Professionals Movement, Deshodaya Organization, Vinivida Foundation, Lawyers for Equal Rights, Sri Lankan Engineers Association, Trustees (Gte.) Ltd, Jathika Janatha Commission, Jathika Parisarika Sanvidana Ekamuthuwa, Alliance for Political Conscience , Paramparika Ha Deshiya Waidyawarunge Ekamuthuwa, Jathika Guru Balaya, Udara Sri Lanka Organization, Independent Organization to Protect Depositors, Mihithala Mithuro Environment Development Foundation, Janatha Niyojanaye Purogami Sabhawa, AI Imam Shafi Center for Education & Development and Dambulu Govijana Vyaparaya.
The people in power have become disconnected from the citizenry. They develop interests separate and apart from the voters. They push policies that benefit themselves and harm the broader population
The members of the NPM said that the movement was formed with seven main objectives. These objectives include being an active force that empowers people to create an impactful social, economic and political transformation, build a people friendly, modern and an efficient nation free of corruption, where equity, equality, justice and respectfulness prevails, develop a national agenda/road map through an inclusive process to address the social, economic and political challenges we face, ensure the establishment of a new constitution through a wide consultative and participatory process, establish a stable environment for innovation and creativity based home grown industries, promote national unity, ethnic and religious harmony and reconciliation and finally developing a new political leadership and a political culture to build the nation by identifying most suited individuals to run for government, while retaining power with the people.
Serving instead of ruling
NPM Media Spokesman Gamini Nanda Gunawardana began his speech with a stern reminder: “The people in power have become disconnected from the citizenry. They develop interests separate and apart from the voters. They push policies that benefit themselves and harm the broader population.”
He believes that by being an individual pressure group, there isn’t much an organisation could do in order to make a positive impact on the society and its citizens.
“We have gathered here today and formed our movement not to support an individual purpose, but for a common purpose. Public representatives should serve the nation instead of ruling the nation,” he said. He suggested that people of Sri Lanka should no longer wait till politicians fulfill their election promises. Responding to a question, Gunawardana said that the members of the NPM may contest upcoming elections.
Public interest lawyer Nagananda Kodituwakku believes that the Sri Lankan political system has become extremely corrupt and very unfair leaving people with no faith in it. “This sorry state of affairs reflects what we have become. It is just a system of Government, which we built, and which we could replace. So why don’t we replace it with something better?” he asked.
He pointed out that all the 225 MPs in Parliament don’t serve public interests, but that most of them are self-serving. He was of the view that those who have offered support to the NPM are not exploiters of public money and resources.
“People in both South and North have the same problems despite their ethnic differences. All like-minded individuals and organisations are invited to join us and transform the present political system to a more democratic and participatory system of governance,” he said.
Sri Lankan women
Representing the females, Samitha Ethuldora Arachchi, a psychologist, stressed that although Sri Lankan women have been given ‘all the rights’, they have unfortunately failed to create a strong and effective ideology in the society.
“Sri Lankan women have to break barriers and come forward to protect the country from evils just like they protect their babies,” she said.
Ethuldora Arachchi affirms that Sri Lankan women have to not only fight for their own rights but also must join hands with organizations such as the NPM to ensure a better country for the future generations.
It is just a system of Government, which we built, and which we could replace. So why don’t we replace it with something better?
Meanwhile, National Organizer of the NPM Palitha Abeywardana said that the professionals who make their voices heard only when they need to obtain vehicle permits and salary increments, should feel ashamed. “We were waiting to remove the tag ‘professionals’ and go right into the people as a people’s movement. For years, we have been working on this concept,” he said. Abeywardana stressed that the NPM isn’t another so-called trade union that works on a personal agenda.
The speakers said that Sri Lankan leaders who have ruled over 70 years since independence, have at various points in the history ventured to amend the Constitution with the basic intention of ensuring their political longevity and constitutional loopholes for their personal benefits, while eroding the rights of each citizen.
They also said that the leaders have also failed to manage not only the economy, geopolitical relations, socio-economic advancement of the populace, but also the preservation of the country’s environment and culture. They also invited other professional organisations to join them in co-creating the NPM to fulfill its seven objectives.