Colombo Telegraph

Mr. President, Do Not Take It For Granted!

By MYM Siddeek

Dr. MYM Siddeek

The eagerly expected Presidential election was over in January. A tyrant was thrown out of the office by the democratic will of the people. Although the former president made several attempts to get him re-elected by deception and fraud, the peoples’ power won. There was very clear evidence for violence, misuse of the military for campaigning, wasteful distribution of benefits to government employees to ‘buy’ their loyalty and other misuse of state resources, creating confusions by leaflets/media and other violations of election laws. They were also reported by various election monitoring bodies. All his efforts including 18th amendment to the constitution to pave the way for him to contest the presidential election 3rd time had been a waste for him and brought a dreadful results for him and for his future political career.

Now parliament is dissolved because the corrupted and greedy politicians did not allow the democratically elected government to continue on some disagreements known to the country. But it is shame that the defeated President MR is trying his ‘best’ to get into the nomination list and contest the elections. He is trying his lack from every angle. He should learn from gentlemen politicians like Ed Miliban of Labour party and Nick Clerk of Liberal Democratic Party in the UK. As soon as their parties were defeated by the peoples vote in the last elections, they did not even wait a minute to announce their resignations. They are the gentlemen politicians. What a shame we had a President he wants to hang to the power by hook or by crook. He has already revealed in public meetings how he managed to hang on to the power by immorally and illegally satisfying his aides and concealing corrupt practices of some of his MPs. Although some of the reasons for the defeat of MR are corruption, irregularities, lack of good governance, family rule and miss-use of public resources, the main reason was the manner in which he treated minorities of this country. He failed to address the grievances of the Tamils even after the defeat of the LTTE and to protect the Muslims from the false propaganda of the BBS. He also failed to provide remedies to the victims of Aluthgama and Beruwela victims.

This is a very good lesson for the President Maithripala Sirisena (MS) and his associated parties too. The minority vote is still a powerful weapon in Sri Lankan politics to bring change. There is no doubt that the minority voters have helped MS very much in the last election for him to be elected as President. This is evidenced by majority votes cast for him in the Northern and Eastern provinces and in the electorates where there are significant proportion of minority voters. However, the votes cast for MS did not necessarily mean that they had accepted his coalition and its policies and programmes. They could not see much differences between MR and MS on the issues facing minority communities. This was evidenced by the allied parties of MS. For example, JHU is a party that opposes federalism which the minorities believe will give some freedom to rule themselves at regional levels. JHU even campaigned before the election to bring changes to the 13th amendment to reduce power to provincial councils. Like MR, MS too had declared that they would not co-operate with the UN inquiry into the war crimes and human rights abuses and had pledged that senior commanders would not face legal action over war crimes. MS also had stated like MR before the Presidential election that Sri Lanka was indivisible. He has also stated that he would not reduce military bases in the north. Minorities did even believe that he would entertain serious discussions about the kind of political reforms that might satisfy the Tamils and Muslim minorities.

Transitional justice for the people in the North and the East is not done. They did not think that MS would seek justice for the war crimes that were committed at the end of the war since the former army commander, Sarath Fonseka would be a key member of his government. But still the parties which represented Tamils and Muslims came together to support MS. Neither of them (MR and MS) offered any policy to recognise the legitimate grievances of the Tamils and Muslims. This indicated that the minorities did not necessarily agree to the policies and programmes of the coalition. The majority of the votes cast for the common candidate were the votes to end the corruption and family rule of MR era, re-establish the independence of the judiciary and the rule of law, to abolish the executive presidency (at least to reduce the power of the President) and to re-establish the superiority of parliament. Although MS has shown some indications during the very short period of time that he is a better person for good governance, justice and rule of law than any others, the work he has done is not sufficient to meet the expectations of the voters. The people will also realise the fact that the time available for him between January and the scheduled parliamentary election is very short and the voters will be able to forgive him for not meeting their expectations, if he will be able to put forward some genuine programmes that will meet their aspirations and guarantee their rights in future. They should be able to believe that the people of Sri Lanka from all religious and ethnic groups will have equal rights and freedom to practice their religions, law makers will not be allowed to break the law, the places of worships will not be attacked, there will be a balanced development in all the areas and regions of Sri Lanka whether they are in the North, South, East or West and he will honour all his pre-election promises. Although the people voted in a rush in the last Presidential election to get rid of a cruel ruler, now the people in this parliamentary election will carefully evaluate the performance of MS and his associated parties (the government) and future programmes and cast their votes very carefully. Therefore, Mr. President, do not take it for granted.

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