We have had the best of times, the worst of times and now we hopefully are in historic times which will be remembered for generations or centuries. In Parliament, whose status is being restored to be the supreme body of the elected representatives of the sovereign people, we saw this week the formation of an all-party National Unity Government under the New Democratic Front (NDF) administration of President Maithripala Sirisena and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe.
Politics and party political structures are changing, attitudes and approaches are changing and the confrontational politics of the past few decades is hopefully being transformed into consensus politics in the spirit of accommodation on the middle path. Equally important is the spirit of servant leadership and a lifestyle that is simple and humble.
President Sirisena set the example for it when he took his oath of office at Independence Square on January 9. In terms of time it was sunset, but in spirit it was a new dawn. The simple ceremony reportedly cost only Rs.6,500, whereas in the bad old days they may have busted up about Rs.650,000 for such an occasion.
In the first address to the nation from the Sri Dalada Maligawa on January 11, President Sirisena pledged he was ushering in an era of servant leadership and he would be the chief servant of the people, working for them in a sincere and sacrificial way. He said he hoped the Cabinet Ministers, MPs, local councillors and top public officials would also be servants of the people and give their best to the country instead of grabbing from it. Indeed it is more blessed to give than to receive, and those who wish to take leadership must be willing and ready to be the servants of the people.
On January 12, the first major promise of the NDF Government was fulfilled. President Sirisena, again in a simple ceremony, swore in 27 Cabinet ministers – a dramatic contrast to about 70 Cabinet ministers in the discarded and discredited Rajapaksa regime.
Another major task of the NDF administration will be a strict check on corruption including rapid action against powerful VIPs and others allegedly involved in multi-million-rupee acts of corruption, mainly during the past five years.
On Monday the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) which has not joined but is supporting the NDF Government filed a petition in the Court of Appeal seeking the arrest of Kumaran Pathmanadan or KP, a multi-millionaire who was earlier the chief arms dealer for the LTTE terrorists. KP, who was arrested by Interpol in Malaysia and sent back to Sri Lanka four years ago, has since enjoyed the protection of the Rajapaksa regime and lived in luxury. He is alleged to be the owner of several ships, tons of gold, supermarkets and fuel stations in several countries. What happened to thousands of millions of dollars in KP’s name is not known, but the JVP wants all his ill-gotten assets seized and given to the people of Sri Lanka.
The once-independent Central Bank, politicized under Governor Ajith Nivard Cabraal, is one of the institutions that came under heavy criticism. The task before the new government is to probe into these allegations and bring those responsible to book.