Major events in neighbouring India generally have a signal or message for Sri Lanka and the leaders of the all-party National Unity Government need to reflect deeply over what happened at last weekend’s elections to the Delhi Municipal Council. The anti-corruption Aam Admi Party or common man’s party led by the charismatic Arvind Kejriwal won an astounding victory -- dealing a massive blow to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Barathiya Janatha Party (BJP).
World news agencies and analysts said the election result was a clear message to Mr. Modi that he was not invincible though he was swept to power last year in the biggest national election victory in three decades. The result where the AAP won 67 of the 70 seats, was an indication of the people’s frustration with endemic corruption.
Analysts said the scale of the defeat of Mr. Modi’s BJP was a wake-up call for the government. “Mr. Modi came to power in May making promises to people. But he has little to show on the ground even though eight months has passed,” according Zoya Hasan, a political analyst with New Delhi’s Jawarhalal Nehru University.
Mr. Kejriwal had made opposition to widespread graft a centrepiece of his political work. During a brief stint as New Delhi’s leader last year, he promised tough action against police officers and officials caught accepting bribes and encouraged ordinary people to carry out sting operations by filming officials accepting bribes.
In Sri Lanka, 33 days after the election of the government led by President Maithripala Sirisena and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe even supporters of the new administration were speaking out loud and clear. For instance the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) which gave and continues to give moral and political support to the National Unity Government said this week more than 6.2 million people who voted for the new administration or the Maithripalanaya were getting disappointed or frustrated. The JVP said the people were losing hope over what they saw as a go-slow process in probing widespread allegations of multi-million rupee corruption in mega deals, abuse of power and the alleged plot on election night to suspend the election, sabotage the people’s mandate and enable the Rajapaksa regime to continue in power.
Finance Minister Ravi Karunanayake, emerging as a key figure in the new Yahapalanaya administration, has repeatedly said the new government’s intention was not just to curb corruption but to eliminate it. However, the JVP’s outspoken leader Anura Kumara Dissanayake and General Secretary Tilvin Silva warned on Wednesday the Government for some reason was dragging its feet on the investigations. They warned they would have no option but to get the people on to the streets to bring to justice the VIPs and others who plundered the people’s wealth and resources.
President Sirisena also acknowledged this week, he was under growing public pressure to expedite investigations on alleged mega corruption and blatant abuse of power. He promised he would act fast in setting up wide-powered Special Presidential Commissions similar to those set up by the first Executive President J.R. Jayewardene.
One of the main allegations during the previous regime was the widespread smuggling of heroin by racketeers and their political patrons. Heroin addiction is a crime that affects not only the addicts but also the family and generations to come. Soon after the election, the CID arrested ‘Wele Suda’ alleged to be one of the most notorious heroin smugglers in South Asia. Acting on what he disclosed, CID detectives for three days have been questioning parliamentarian Duminda Silva.
We agree that Sri Lanka cannot be dragged back into jungle law or kangaroo courts of the Rajapaksa era. While justice hurried could lead to justice miscarried it is also a fact of history that justice delayed is justice denied. We hope government leaders, while maintaining the concepts of good governance, democracy and social justice will not indulge in procrastination till they are hit by a thunderbolt similar to what shook Narendra Modi last week.