Parliament will meet next week to elect a new President to fill the vacancy created by the resignation of President Gotabhaya Rajapaksa (GR). He went missing after the events of 9th July, and surfaced again with a written message to the People of Sri Lanka, and a letter of resignation of office, on the 14th July.
While still in office GR tried to use the Constitution to create what he called “new governments,” the last with Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, and different partners of his Pohottuwa government. The failure of these efforts was manifested in the events of 9th July which resulted in him being forced to flee the country.
A powerful People’s movement with leadership by our youth, the Aragalaya, impacted to ensure the resignation of a near invincible President and his family members in government, as well as key officials. The people will not be satisfied by the election of a new President to fill the vacancy in this office if this once again results in a government headed by someone who is perceived to be closely associated with the same Pohottuwa government of GR. They have indicated that they will not trust such a government to resolve the current man-made crisis they have created themselves. This has had a devastating impact on their lives and their children and will also impact future generations. They realise that if the current political crisis is not resolved without any further delay, the country will lose all hope of resolving the prevailing economic crisis in a meaningful manner. We may not be able to obtain the international financial support and debt restructuring that will take Sri Lanka out of its bankruptcy and this man-made economic disaster.
Our country’s future is now in the hands of 225 members of Parliament. It is their obligation to safeguard the public interest by understanding and accepting the current reality. The People expect them to fulfill their obligations as Members of Parliament elected to office. They are the representatives of the People in Parliament, who by their vote can heed the demand for change in governance by the peaceful transfer of power to an All-Party short term interim government. It is also very clear that this vision will only be realised if a new President not linked to the GR government is elected next week by Parliament. Electing such a President is essential to give new leadership at this time and inspire confidence in the People.
It is therefore critical that a new President and an All-Party government trusted by the People is put in office for a short interim period before General Elections can be held. Failure to do so because of narrow party politics, personal ambitions of high office, or worse, because of money paid for a vote, will become information in the public domain very soon. A secret ballot will not prevent the votes cast being analysed to clearly demonstrate to the People who heard the Peoples’ voice for change, and who did not. Those MPs who put their party and personal ambitions above the public interest at this critical moment for the country, must know that the People will inevitably reject them for this betrayal, with their votes at the next election.
Party Leaders of the Opposition must in particular give critically important and vital leadership at this time, by putting aside party politics, and their personal ambitions and agendas. It is only by doing so that they will inspire the confidence that will place them in office to lead this nation, whenever elections are held. They must forge the unity that will help them field a SINGLE candidate for the vital post of President who will not perpetuate the original Gotabhaya Rajapakse government. With his resignation, that government has lost any fragment of credibility and the right to represent the People.
The election for a new President in Parliament is in many ways a last chance to fulfill the urgent need to place governance in the hands of a different All Party interim government and bring the political stability that is the foundation of economic recovery. It is essential that a new President must be elected who can command the confidence of the People and lead an All-Party interim government.
If the 225 Members of Parliament and Party Leaders fail our country by voting selfishly and without a future vision, they will be responsible for plunging all of us and our country Sri Lanka once again into chaos and conflict that will seriously impact all our lives.
Savitri Goonesekere – Emeritus Professor of Law and former Vice Chancellor, University of Colombo
Arjuna Aluvihare – Emeritus Professor of Surgery, former Vice Chancellor University of Peradeniya and former Chairman, University Grants Commission
Bishop Duleep de Chickera
Bishop Kumara Illangasinghe
Deepika Udagama – Professor of Law, University of Peradeniya and former Chairperson Human Rights Commission
Jayadeva Uyangoda – Emeritus Professor of Political Science, University of Colombo
Priyan Dias – Emeritus Professor, University of Moratuwa
Geoffrey Alagaratnam – Presidents Counsel
Harendra de Silva – Formerly Professor of Paediatrics, University of Colombo
Upul Sonnadara – Dean, Faculty of Science, Professor of Physics, University of Colombo
Camena Guneratne – Dept. of Legal Studies, former Dean Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, Open University of Sri Lanka,
Gananath Obeysekere – Emeritus Professor Princeton University USA
Thiru Kandiah – Professor of English
Arjuna Parakrama – Professor of English, University of Peradeniya
Gameela Samarasinghe – Dept. of Sociology, University of Colombo
Farzana Haniffa – Dept. of Sociology, University of Colombo
Shamala Kumar – Faculty of Agriculture, University of Peradeniya.
Ranjini Obeysekere Formerly Princeton University USA,
Ranil Abayasekara – Retired Senior Lecturer, University of Peradeniya
D. C. Ambalavanar, Visiting Lecturer in Surgery, University of Jaffna
Rev Dr. Jayasiri Pieris – General Secretary of the National Christian Council of Sri Lanka
Andrew Devadason, Clergy, Anglican Church, Diocese of Colombo.
Chandra Jayaratne – former Chairman, Ceylon Chamber of Commerce
Rohini Nanayakkara – Former General Manager, Bank of Ceylon and Chairperson LOLC
Shanthi Dias -former Principal, Methodist College, Colombo
Yohesan Casie Chetty – Attorney – at – Law and former Headmaster St. Thomas’ Preparatory School Kollupitiya
Tara de Mel – former Secretary, Ministry of Education
A C Visvalingam – former President, Citizens Movement for Good Governance
D Wijayanandana – Engineer
Dr Nalinika Obeyesekere – Veterinary Surgeon Colombo
Harsha Gunasena – Chartered Accountant
Bhavani Fonseka – Attorney at Law
Yamini Ravindran – Attorney-at-Law
Safana Gul Begum – Attorney-at-Law
Ranitha Gnanarajah – Attorney-at-Law
Shiekh M B M Firthous – Chairman, Bismi Institute
Shreen Saroor – Human Rights Activist
Ruwanthie de Chickera – Artists of the People’s Movement
Vanie Simon – Women’s Rights Activist
Bisliya Butto – Women’s Rights Activist
Mirak Raheem –Activist
Aneesa Firthous-– Women’s Rights Activist
Anberiya Haniffa -– Women’s Rights Activist
Alliance for Minorities
Women’s Action Network
Mannar Women’s Development Federation