By Hilmy Ahamed –
The much promised good governance of the 100-day government of Sirisena-Wickremesinghe has come to the end of its promised period. No dissolution of parliament as expected has taken place. A confident president went on national media and claimed a successful 100 days of governance. The promise of dissolution of the parliament on the 24th of April and early general elections is unlikely to happen until the 20th amendment to the constitution is passed and sufficient time is allocated to conduct the next general elections under the Proportional Representation (PR) system at the district level to a mixed First-Past-The-Post (FPTP) and PR system.
The majority of Sri Lankans who elected the incumbent against all odds were treated to unprecedented uncertainties during these 100 days. The end of the current government’s 100-day programme has not yielded the promised results as expected, even though people are able to sleep in peace, devoid of the Rajapaksa tyranny. The SLFP led UPFA called the shots in parliament during this 100 days and made sure that the Sirisena-Wickremesinghe was held to ransom at every opportunity so that the corrupt and criminals among them would go scot free. Their trump card was their majority in parliament. President Maithripala Sirisena failed to use his executive powers to take control of the political chaos and ensure proper governance.
Will President Sirisena pay the price by becoming a President under siege in the next parliament, should Mahinda Rajapaksa manage to get a sizable representation through a now inevitable coalition of political discards of the UPFA that he would lead? Fragmentation of the Sri Lanka Freedom Party votes is likely to ensure a long stay in opposition for those who will remain in Maithripala’s SLFP and Mahinda Rajapaksa’s coalition.
The record book of the Sirisena-Wickremesinghe administration over the last 100 days has had mixed results. The President and Prime Minister have claimed much progress, yet the most important promises of repealing the 18th amendment to the constitution and passage of the 19th amendment are yet to be realized. Inquiring and prosecuting those involved in corruption, violations of human rights, appointment of independent commissions, and reestablishing the rule of law could be realized only with the passage of the 19th amendment. Even though the Commission to investigate corruption was appointed two weeks ahead of schedule on the 22nd of January 2015, the big sharks have managed to escape from prosecution. With all the evidence the government claims to posses on various politicians of the former regime, not a single arrest has been made. The loot, the Rajapaksa’s had supposedly stolen has not been recovered and have probably been neatly stacked away in the 100 days of grace offered by the Sirisena-Wickremesinghe nexus.
The main platform slogan of the common opposition was the widespread corruption and the interference in the rule of law by the Rajapaksa regime. Even though there have been hyped up complaints against the family and their cronies with various enforcement arm of the government, action is yet to be initiated. This is seen as the biggest failure of the good governance promised by Maithripala Sirisena.
Further, in its efforts to ensure the passage of the 19th amendment to the constitution, the most corrupt members of parliament from the previous administration have been embraced to join the national government by offering them ministerial portfolios and perks. This is contrary to the promises made by the common opposition in the run up to the election that eliminated the Rajapaksa misrule.
The defeat of the dictatorial regime of Mahinda Rajapaksa dynasty on January 8th 2015 was a dream come true for most Sri Lankans. There was a sigh of relief from the ethnic minorities that the dark days of hate and racism were over. There was renewed hope that they would be able to be truly part of the Sri Lankan state.
The end of the war in 2009 and the winner takes it all attitude of the Rajapaksa’s drove away any chance of reconciliation with the Tamil population. The war winning government that had a golden opportunity to win over the support of the Tamil population by being magnanimous and offering concessions that would have addressed the root causes of the 30 years of turmoil were not exploited. Instead, the Rajapaksa’s destroyed this opportunity by their blatant harassment of the Tamil population and militarization of the entire Northern region. The Tamil population, on January 8th 2015 overwhelmingly used their vote to send home their tyrants.
The Muslim community that stood for a unitary state and supported the government during the ethnic conflict ended up being the new front for the racist elements of the Rajapaksa regime to unleash their wrath. The Muslim population was victims to over 500 incidents of threats, intimidation and violence against their religious and cultural practices. A number of extremist Buddhist groups were unleashed against the Muslim community to attack them with impunity. The Muslims ensured that the Rajapaksa’s paid their price by sending them home on the 8th of January 2015.
The Christian community too came under unprecedented attacks during the Rajapaksa regime. They too continue to live in fear. Demands for a commission of inquiry in to the hate campaign and racism have fallen on deaf years.
While there is still hope that the incumbent will stick to the promises made in his election manifesto, implementing them is becoming a challenge because of the stranglehold the Sri Lanka Freedom party has over the Sirisena-Wickremesinge administration with its huge majority in parliament. There are promises of consensus on the way forward, but early general elections may be the only option left to bring in the good governance promised under a new Sirisena-Wickremesinge government.