Political Commentary

Jehan Perera Colombo TelegraphWater skiers ride the waves. The bigger the wave the higher they go. Those who try to duck away go under the wave. It seemed that President Ranil Wickremesinghe would ride that wave that calls for local government elections which is being generated by the opposition political parties. The elections are legally due by March this year. These elections are likely to show the low esteem that the electorate has for the ruling party. This could strengthen the hand of the president in his dealings with them and compel them to support those measures needed to rebuild the country. In fact the president made an early assertion that he would not campaign even for his political party at the elections and would stay away from it, as his mandate was to revive the national economy.

கலாநிதி ஜெகான் பெரேரா

நீண்டகால இனநெருக்கடியை இலங்கையின் 75 வது சுதந்திர தினமளவில் தீர்த்துவைப்பதற்கு ஜனாதிபதி ரணில் விக்கிரமசிங்க வெளிக்காட்டியிருக்கும் உறுதிப்பாடு ஏனைய விவகாரங்களிலும் நேர்மறையான முன்னேற்றங்களை காண்பதற்கு நம்பிக்கைதரக்கூடிய தளமாக இருக்கமுடியும்.இது நடைமுறை யதார்த்தமாக மாற்றப்படவேண்டிய ஒரு நம்பிக்கையாகும்.இனநெருக்கடியை அரசியல் ரீதியில் தீர்த்துவைப்பதற்கு கடந்த காலத்தில் முன்னெடுக்கப்பட்ட முயற்சிகளின் வரலாறு ஒரு நம்பிக்கையான தோற்றத்தை தரவில்லை.

Jehan Perera Colombo TelegraphPresident Ranil Wickremesinghe’s pledge to resolve the country’s long standing ethnic conflict by Independence Day on February 4 can be the optimistic base on which other positive developments can be built. This is a hope that needs to be translated into reality. The past history of efforts to politically resolve the ethnic conflict do not present an optimistic picture. The list of Sri Lankan leaders who have sought to resolve this conflict but failed starts with the illustrious SWRD Bandaranaike up to the present president Ranil Wickremesinghe. In his previous leadership roles as prime minister, the president too failed. The political and mass opposition that was ignited to the prospect of a compromise that met the other community’s demands half way was too strong for those leaders to overcome.

යාපනය බලා පිටත්ව යන රාත්‍රී බස් රථයේ ආසන සම්පූර්ණයෙන් වෙන්කර තිබිණි. විදේශගතව සිට නිවාඩුවට පැමිණ සිටි ඩයස්පෝරාවේ පිරිස නැවත පැමිණ අදහස් බෙදාගැනීමට හැකියාව ලැබීම පිළිබඳව සතුටට පත්ව සිටියහ. එක් අයෙක් පැවසුවේ සති දෙකක් කොළඹ රැඳී සිටි අතර, දැන් තවත් සති දෙකක් යාපනයේ ගත කිරීමට යමින් සිටින බවයි. ඔහු ශ්‍රී ලංකාවේ ස්වභාව සෞන්දර්යය සහ රටේ මිනිසුන්ගේ උණුසුම ගැන ආදරයෙන් කතා කළේය. සම්පුර්ණ මාස දෙකක කාලයක් ශ්‍රී ලංකාවේ ගතකිරීමට තම සුදානමින් සිටින බව ඔහු සඳහන් කළේය.

Jehan Perera Colombo TelegraphThe night bus to Jaffna was also fully booked. Those who had returned on holiday from the diaspora were happy to be back and to share their views. One said he had spent two weeks in Colombo and was now on his way to spend two weeks in Jaffna. He spoke fondly of the natural beauty of Sri Lanka and the warmth of its people. He said he was spending two months in Sri Lanka on vacation as he had accumulated the leave to do so.

Jehan Perera Colombo TelegraphThe past week was devoted to the hosting of human rights events by a number of organisations with interest in that particular subject. Human rights have become a matter of controversy especially after the suppression of the protest movement. There was and is tension between the interests of those who prioritize the claim of national security and stability and those who prioritize justice. The issue of justice has come to the fore in the context of the debilitation of the economy, which is seriously affecting the great majority of the population even if it does not or may not impact so heavily on some others. What is being seen is a continuing plunge of the economy with those who are most responsible for the economic calamity still in power and bringing in more of their numbers to the seats of power ignoring the impacts of their actions in the past and present on the people at large.

Jehan Perera Colombo TelegraphThe passage of the budget by a comfortable majority confirms that the government’s parliamentary majority is holding in the face of adverse circumstances. The ruling party has lost over twenty of its members who no longer follow the party line. But the rest of them appear to be staying together despite the lack of a clear and public leadership. Prof. G L Peiris who gives leadership to one of the breakaway groups has assailed the ruling party members for having betrayed the mandate on which they got elected. At the previous elections, the SLPP had committed itself to protecting state assets including state-owned economic enterprises (SOEs).

Jehan Perera Colombo TelegraphPresident Ranil Wickremesinghe’s statement that district committees can be considered as part of the solution to the vexed problem of power sharing between the ethnic communities has caused a considerable furor in the Tamil community. It came as both a shock and a disappointment as the president has also been speaking about fast tracking the national reconciliation process. The president said he is ready to reintroduce District Development Councils when former president Maithripala Sirisena proposed setting up of district councils under the provincial councils as a cost cutting measure. “Former President, I listened to your comments on District Development Councils and I am ready to do it,” the President is quoted as having said. Subsequently, the president’s media unit clarified that the President meant that the District Development Committees (DDCs) will be established within the Provincial Councils.

Jehan Perera Colombo TelegraphThe Tamil polity has responded with a degree of skepticism to President Ranil Wickremesinghe’s declaration that he will talk to Tamil leaders and find a solution within the course of the next year which is also Sri Lanka’s 75th anniversary of independence. They are aware that the promises made by successive governments since the 1960s were never delivered wholeheartedly if at all. The president’s previous periods of governance were not any different. In the period 2015-19 as prime minister, he promised a new constitution in which the concept of power sharing would be entrenched. He was arbitrarily sacked by the then President Maitripala Sirisena in 2018 in the infamous 52-day coup. It was the Tamil leadership in parliament and outside, such as TNA leaders R .Sampanthan and M.A. Sumanthiran who led the fight for his restoration. When the prime ministership was regained by him, there was still a hope he would deliver on his promise of constitutional reform. But nothing happened. Not even the provincial council elections were held.

Jehan Perera Colombo TelegraphThe primacy being given to the defense budget at time of cost slashing in virtually every other area is a pointer to the government’s reliance on the security forces to maintain and exhibit political stability and their grip on power. It is also a reflection of the government’s fears that the worst is still to come. This does not bode well for the people who are hoping that the country will come out of its worst ever economic crisis soon. President Ranil Wickremesinghe’s accession to power was greeted with the hope beyond its query of legitimacy that he would be able to navigate through the prevailing political instability and access international support through his familiarity with international systems. This hope has still to materialize. The last significant economic support to the country came from India before President Wickremesinghe took office.