From the time the date for elections were announced, a majority people in the country were certain that the Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) or the Pohottuwa as it is popularly known, would win the election. The only question was the margin of victory. On August 5, the truth of the prophecy was proved when the SLPP romped home with an absolute majority and with the five seats of their political allies received a 2/3rd majority. The party’s election platform, despite many pressing problems in the country, was the need for a two thirds majority to change the Constitution.
Well, they have done it. However no one - not even its die hard opponents - believed the Grand Old Party (GOP - the UNP - would receive the drubbing it received. Without a single elected representative! The causes of the defeat of the GOP were many.
Though some of the younger MPs were not tainted by corruption scandals, a prime reason for the victory of the ‘Yahapaalana’ or ‘Government of Good Governance in 2015 was its pledge to clean up the administration and rid the country of corruption. Unfortunately the exact opposite took place in the form of the Bond Scam, engineered by the very people who promised to rid the country of corruption and bring the alleged robbers to justice.
Despite over four years in power, not a single ‘robber baron’ was even charged, leave aside convicted in a court of law. Only rumoured accusations against the then former President and his family. To add to this toxic witches brew, a mega security lapse - a clear shortcoming on the part of the Prime Minister, his Cabinet and the President - led to the Easter Sunday bombing of Christians at prayer in Churches and tourists in 5-star hotels, which led to the death of the tourist trade.
Today skeptics, especially in the international media and a variety of local NGOs see the victory of the SLPP and its vow to change the 13th Amendment to the Constitution as a mega threat to democracy, via the expansion of the President’s executive powers. Sadly the critics of today, applauded when President JR Jayawardene gave himself these powers, as did the then media.
We have raised this question before, and raise it again... will Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa accept the position of a Premier “with the powers of a postal peon” as late President Ranasinghe Premadasa, described his position when he was PM to President Jayawardene?
The 19th Amendment was hurriedly rushed through parliament as an interim measure as the then government did not have a two thirds majority. It created an impasse, witnessed during the ‘Yahapalana’ regime. This needs to be corrected.
Foreign media refer to the defeat of the LTTE and the deaths of around 40,000 civilians during the final stages of the civil war as human rights violations. The government of the day denies such ‘atrocities’. Yet, war is about killing and civilians die during wars. When the US nuclear-bombed civilian targets of Hiroshima and Nagasaki at the end of World War II, hundreds of thousands of Japanese civilians were killed within minutes.
The US does not apologise for that action. It stood by its claim that by dropping those dreadful bombs which killed lakhs of Japanese civilians in minutes, hundreds of lives of American soldiers were saved! But what were the Americans doing in Asia anyway? And why are they still here, this time sabre rattling at China? Instead of pointing fingers at each other, let’s get together to ban killing, manufacture of weapons of mass destruction and war itself.
President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, the man accused of defeating terrorism in the form of the LTTE, successfully organised a mechanism which contained the spread of the deadly coronavirus in this country. It was a major contributory factor behind the thumping election victory of the SLPP.
Today our country is on the brink of economic ruin and there is a need to open the country once again to foreign trade and other necessary evils. One of his challenges will be to continue controlling the Coronavirus in the country. Among others, to halt the spread of hate speech which is dividing our people, bringing the drug lords to book and severing the tentacles of corruption which have spread throughout the country like cancer.
Let’s wish him, his PM and government well to complete this job.