Tuesday, 06 March 2018 12:51

Civil Society Activists Ready To Take Up Challenge

Six days after the local government elections of February 10, civil society activists from several districts around the country involved in promoting inter religious cooperation for peace took part in a meeting organized by the National Peace Council in Colombo. They saw the government’s poor electoral performance as a result of its failure to honour the mandate it had received in 2015 for good governance, anti-corruption, strong state institutions, economic development and inter ethnic justice and reconciliation.

In addition, it was pointed out that at the Presidential election of January 2015, civil society at all levels had contributed to the victory. They had acted as a movement for change. However, at the Local Government election of February 2018, civil society had been marginalized.

Among the other reasons identified for the election debacle was the government’s failure to put a stop to corruption and to take action against those with allegations of corruption. The denial by each side of the corruption of their own was seen as a trap from which the country needed to extricate itself from but which the government had failed to do. Another reason given was the failure to address the problems of the poorer sections of the people even while striving to cater to international expectations.

An example given was the ban on asbestos sheeting that is used as roofing material by those with limited incomes, the reduction of the fertilizer subsidy and the replacement of the free school uniform by a voucher system. From the north came the observation that the failure to reduce the military presence symbolized the slowness of change and the possibility of a relapse into another era of impunity.

Other reasons given by participants included ministers not bothering to go back to their electorates to work for the people, that the personality of former president Mahinda Rajapaksa was more appealing to the masses than that of the current president and prime minister, the rousing of nationalism by the former president that saw him take his campaign to the Buddhist temples, the adverse comparison made between the infrastructure development of roads and ports by the former government as against the paucity of such development work today and the perception that the government was too ready to give in to international pressures.

What was encouraging was that these civic leaders were not disheartened but prepared to continue with their work for inter ethnic harmony, national reconciliation and economic development. They did not see the election result as directly negating their work.