29 November, 2020

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Preparatory Stage Must End In 2016 With Implementation In 2017 

By Jehan Perera

Jehan Perera

Jehan Perera

The more positive way to view the year 2016 that comes to a close this week is that it was about the government preparing for the changes to come in 2017. This period of preparation must necessarily change into one of materializing of plans if the support of those who voted to bring the government to power is to be sustained. Apart from the lifting of the thrall of fear, everything else appears to be in a preparatory stage instead of being susceptible to speedy implementation. This is leading to erosion in public confidence in the government although there is no indication as yet that the political opposition is getting substantially stronger. In the coming period there will be three areas of governance in which the government will need to show evidence of results that are tangible. These would be in the areas of corruption, economic development and political reforms that address the ethnic conflict.

The government’s greatest accomplishment came within weeks of taking office in January 2015. The release from fear of a state that gave priority to impunity above the rule of law was immediate. The sense of relief was greatest in the North and East which had been the primary theatre of the three decade long war. But even in the rest of the country the relaxation in the level of tension came as a relief to those who felt that they were not part of the majority, in whatever way it was defined. The main other accomplishment has been to stay on in power as a national government in which the two main parties are in alliance. It is not that nothing has happened in the three areas of corruption, economic development and political reforms. The problem is that what is happening is slow and is not benefiting the people directly.

The area in which the government’s credibility has suffered the most would be in terms of its failure to deal with the issue of corruption. Only in the North and East of the country would the priorities be different. The government’s credibility is suffering there mostly on account of its failure to address problems that are specific to the ethnic and religious minorities. They have a sense of injustice in which the focus is on the government’s failure to correct the wrongs of the past. A group of youth from the North who recently visited Colombo expressed as their priority concern the use of Buddhist symbols, and the building of Buddhist religious sites in the North and East. They saw this as symbolic of the government’s neglect of the interests of the ethnic and religious minorities. They said that this problem had arisen during the period of the previous government but even the present government had failed to act convincingly on it even though its leaders speak words against invasive actions.

Development Difficulties 

During the run up to the elections of 2015 and in the months that followed the change of government there were many allegations of corruption on a vast scale that was leveled against members of the previous government. However, the legal action that has taken place after the allegations were leveled has been far from satisfactory. There have been investigations, but no legal or punitive actions that have a long term consequence. Instead the legal actions that have been taken are about short term and temporary punishments. Those taken in for questioning have been put into remand custody until they are bailed out. Thereafter they are seen to be behaving as if their arrests are part of a political drama rather than having real life consequences for them. Making matters worse, and casting doubt on the possibilities of further legal action, is the corruption that is widely believed to have taken place and which is continuing unpunished under the present government.

From the perspective of the general population, the situation with regard to economic development has been to focus on the negative. The only large scale investments that the general public appears to know about, and be interested in, are the Chinese investments. In Hambantota they have yielded poor results so far, as neither the international airport nor port are even semi operational. The previous government put the country into huge debt to create these presently unproductive assets. The present government has been forced to find answers to problems that were created by the former government. The government’s proposal to bring in Chinese investments by granting 99 year leases on these assets and offering some 15,000 acres of land, are said to have the potential to bring in several hundreds of thousands of jobs. This is not the experience worldwide where Chinese labour has been utilized rather than local labour.

Therefore the situation with regard to economic development of the country that benefits the majority of people continues to remain bleak. Unless the new projects are started and bring improvement to the lives of the masses of people, there will be dissatisfaction. This accounts for the reluctance of the government to hold local government elections, which have been postponed for about two years now.

There are many projects that are reported to be in the pipeline and about to he started. There are also many plans being announced that give an impression of being game changers. There appears to be a visionary understanding of Sri Lanka’s strategic geographical location that feeds into the interests of countries with giant economies such as China, India and Japan and the European Union. But at this time these visions only remain visions, as they will need to more time to be materialized into the realm of visible reality. The challenge will be to make them happen in 2017.

North-East Concerns 

In the North and East of the country the people’s concerns would extend beyond the domain of corruption and economic development issues on which the rest of the country is focusing upon. Their concerns would be related to the failure of the government to adequately address the issue of human rights violations that occurred during the past three decades of war. These include the return of land taken over by the security forces during the war, the tens of thousands who went missing during the war, the release of more than one hundred persons accused of having had links with the LTTE and the demilitarization of the North and East. In all these areas there has been some progress, but it is still too slow to be convincing to the people of the North and East that justice will be done by them. The passage of the law setting up an Office of Missing Persons over three months ago, but with no follow up action adds to these doubts.

It is likely that the coming year will be decisive in respect of dealing with the past. The report on public consultations on mechanisms for accountability, truth, reparations and non-recurrence in Sri Lanka conducted by the Consultation Task Force on Reconciliation Mechanisms is to be submitted to the government on 3 January 2017. The voluminous 639-page report with an executive summary and recommendation to the Government would be seriously considered for implementation. Backed by the 11-member task force, the task force conducted a survey in addition to 15 public sittings in 15 zones at which 7,000 people spoke. It is likely that the government will proceed to implement its reconciliation programme on the strength of this report with the result that the Office of Missing Persons, as well as other envisaged institutions, such as the Truth Seeking Commission and Office of Reparations will be set in motion soon on the ground.

The other major issue that the government will need to face up to is with regard to constitutional reform. The preparatory process for these reforms is now nearly over. A draft of a new constitution is reported to be near completion. The question is whether the government will choose to make the constitutional reforms far reaching enough to require a referendum. This is a challenge that the government may not be willing to take up, with implications for the depth of constitutional reforms. The recent international experience of referendums has not been positive for governments. Defeat at a referendum will erode the political credibility of the government. Those who lead the government may take the position that it is better to be safe rather than sorry. While there is a need for the year 2017 to be a year of implementation, a hitherto unwitnessed bold and decisive political leadership will be necessary.

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  • 5
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    A lot of talk but there seems a very little action which can be felt by the majority of masses. They only visible actions seems to be increasing taxes,in whatever form,and looking after parliamentarians with duty free (windfall) permits, special allowances etc,etc.

    The problems of cost of living, N-E issues, improving/increasing job opportunities etc, etc are all stagnant.

    Two years have passed, and, at least in 2017 we look forward to some dynamic actions, so that the masses can be made to feel happier in some ways.

  • 0
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    Jegan,

    You are very charitable!

    “A draft of a new constitution is reported to be near completion. The question is whether the government will choose to make the constitutional reforms far reaching enough to require a referendum. This is a challenge that the government may not be willing to take up, with implications for the depth of constitutional reforms. The recent international experience of referendums has not been positive for governments. Defeat at a referendum will erode the political credibility of the government. Those who lead the government .”

    Is this clue as to what is likely to happen? A mountain labouring to deliver a mouse!

    Dr.RN

    • 3
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      The Malwatte and Asgiriye prelates have blown the whistle on the Church of England secret agent Ranil W’s plans to denigrate Buddhism in this Buddhist country, through a ‘reconciliation constitution.

      Romans like Jehan Perera will not give up until a Tamil separatist stae is formed within the Sri lankan state, so that their Roman state can be created later.

      A lot of blood is going to be shed if this sneaky plan is tried.

      Lets see.

  • 1
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    This comment was removed by a moderator because it didn’t abide by our Comment policy.For more detail see our Comment policy https://www.colombotelegraph.com/index.php/comments-policy-2/

  • 0
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    [Edited out]In any case, when there is whole river in flowing from the entirely corrupted Yahapalanaya – Chitanta governments, all what he could have collected for him could only be pot of water. It might have enough for Jehan PhD to quench his thirst and to take care of the ones around him; still it is negligible with the numbers we hear from Aanduwa, which are in only in billions.

    The release from fear of a state that gave priority to impunity above the rule of law was immediate.
    This is what I wrote yesterday somewhere else: The current IGP was brought in accusing LTTE IGP participated in covering up of Lasantha, Thajudeen, Ekneligoda murder investigations. He announced impunity to a corrupted Nilme with the blessing of Law and orders Ministry on microphone to the entire country hear. The Navy Commander who assaulted a media reporter promised positions after his retirements. For the first time in Lankawe History, Ranil and New King, the First and the second of the country’s leaders, openly demanding and obtaining impunity to their acolytes and to them. (This was not done even by Old King and DM though they too were also corrupt.) Without putting CBG Mahendran in court, Ranil fought with the system and suppressed that case. Even after Edirisinghe Jayamanne’s death, New King shamelessly fired Dilrukshi and demanded and had his acolytes army personnel released from Holiday Inn prisons.

    “The sense of relief was greatest in the North and East which had been the primary theatre of the three decade long war.” I don’t know if Jehan PhD is telling that North-East was under an ocean of water, now only under a sea, but is anyway a meaningless talk because a man can live only if the water is under his nose.
    Incidents may have come down, intensity might have been reduced but it did change the direction or color. There is no war. Here is 150,000 soldier army stationed. It is day and night sucking the North’s resources and reducing it to a barren land. But a suicide Jacket was placed in the house of rehabilitated youth. His two wives were used for this army operation. Sampanthar was threatened to going to army camp with their permission. Many school girls were raped and murdered. Gobi’s wife was arrested for preparing to go board with the help of a NGO, but Wimal was allowed to go on false passport. When Ranil went to North, he ordered a principal to shut up and sit down, like a master telling to his dog, in front of his teachers, assistances and students. To carry out additional arrests, two university boys were shot. Using this army and police initiated incident, many boys were arrested, no word on those arrests. Even Jehan PhD used this incident to go to Jaffna University and issued warning to those boys. Government used the occupying army to set up Aava Kuzhu. Now, Aavakhulu is solely representing all EPDP and other paramilitary. North is categorized as most alcohol consuming part in the country, most drug addicted and dealing, highly forced into prostitution, daytime-night time burglaries and robberies, artificially induced caste and religious fights by government agents and all other social ill behavior forced to them by the occupying 150,000 army. Most of these became under this government administration. Basically North gained any of its leadership in notoriety only within the last two years. The people now do not have the bombing fear, but Aava fear and army fear and all other fears.

    China game in Hambantota is not about employment, it seems though Jehan said it is. It is a careful build up against future Trump administration, before they start to play their game with his administration. This new Chinese game is the reason it seems now India is backtracking on signing the ETCA, for which all these time India was pressing hard to have implemented. Ravana Balaya has indicated that the number anybody having about the Chinese game may not be accurate. It is saying no minister has said the truth outside. So, there are only questions about Hambantota, no answers. Ranil has ordered to build new Navy camp in Hambantota. It would be very foolish idea if one thinks Ranil wants a full camp just to control the protesting workers, after all they are not Northern Tamils to bullied by Navy, they are Hambantota Sinhalese.

    News is revealing there 1 million Visas are going to be issued for workers to come and start this project. This is a 2×100 years lease. The workers coming here are coming to live permanently. There is no Udarata Menike running between Hambantota and Beijing to come and go every day. It will be stronger than Hong Kong, because it was only 99 years lease. Soon one million Chinese workers will be in Lankawe to live. Say no additional workers that is an impractical assumption, then within three -four years the families of these workers will come and join them. The teachers, the religious leaders, food vendors, Native medicine doctors, home aids etc…will be coming. In three years Chinese will be about 3 million in Lankawe. In five years they will be more than five millions and they will be the first largest minority in Lankawe, neither Tamils nor Muslims. This is telling that not the entire needs of the new immigrant Chinese needs can be accommodated with in Hambantota district. This is by normal assumption. But the current nature of the Chinese aggression is Lankawe, if there is a sudden outburst of Chinese population appears in Lankawe, there will be no reason for surprise about that. But is there a way for us to confirm any of this? No way. Even Ravana Balaya is complaining it does not know what is going in Hambantota.

    Why Yahapalanaya is hurriedly negotiating for this big sell off with in the last two – three months? One reason could be they want to have their table set off first before president elect Trump take up his position. Lankawe’s Appa diplomacy tells until one gets strength play friendship, when there is a need to negotiate, negotiate with strength. They plan to negotiate with Trump. So far Trump has expressively let others know about his stance on China. New King has expressed his willingness to negotiate with Trump administration. China’s present in this large numbers will be their trump card to talk with Trump. China game does not appear to be with any intention of producing employment as Jehan PhD is trying to twist.

  • 0
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    Jehan Perera has dutifully gone through all the items on the government ‘things to do’ list.

    The real problem is that this government is in a wait-and-see state and will only act when forced to. And, I don’t see anybody forcing them to do anything. The Real Opposition )aka the next government) is currently biding their time.

    Kiss goodbye to reconciliation. The current actions of Justice and Buddha Sasana Minister Wijeyadasa Rajapakshe has just put back any hope of bringing communities together by giving the BBS a leg-up and promoting them to sit at top table, and, mark my words, the BBS will dictate to all, even the President, what future direction should be. As for Wijeyadasa Rajapakshe, watch him. He is playing a long game and is preparing for a place when change comes.

    As for minority communities,party leaders now see that the minority vote will only count when the Bauddha-Sinhala vote is evenly fractured. So, simple solution; the leading parties will now go dog-eat-dog in their efforts to win the lion’s share of the 75% Sinhala electorate. We all know what that will mean.

    2017 will surely be a year of promises; sadly, mostly broken

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