4 December, 2023

Blog

President Needs To Implement Pledges Before Elections

By Jehan Perera

Jehan Perera

After much procrastination the Election Commission has finally decided that local government elections will be held on March 9. The elections to these bodies had already been postponed by a year as permitted by law. Postponing elections beyond a year would take the country into the murky realms of extralegal governance which would pose a threat to democracy by eroding the rule of law. The country is being propelled in the direction of elections. 

It is not the desire of the government that is ensuring that elections take place but the desire of the opposition political parties and their candidates who are optimistic about their prospects, and civil society election monitoring groups who stand for the principle of regular elections. The politicians see the opportunity to capture elected office. Civil society organisations that work for democracy see the need to ensure that democratic mechanisms continue to operate in the midst of an unprecedented economic and political crisis.

Despite the election commission’s decision to conduct the local government elections on March 9, there remain doubts that the local government elections will actually take place at this time. Spokespersons for the government are claiming that there is no money in the treasury to hold elections. The government has made this case before the Supreme Court. Other government spokespersons, including the president, have been arguing that the country needs political stability for economic development until the economy takes off. Another curious argument made was that the Election Commission decision on the date of the election was questionable as only two of the five members were physically present at the time of the decision. The Election Commission had to respond that the other three participated virtually on Zoom.

The multiple efforts being made to postpone the local government elections may or may not come to fruition. But the consequences will be fraught in either event. If the elections are somehow postponed even after the date has been fixed by the Election Commission, this will be resisted by the opposition parties. They will go to courts to seek redress. Civil society election monitoring watchdog organisations will join in this. The question posed to the court will be whether to heed the political and economic imperatives of the government or to abide by the straightforward application of the law. In recent cases, most notably the Easter bombing case, the Supreme Court has shown a willingness to bring about the much demanded “system change” by legal and legitimate methods.

Protest Movement 

There will also be immense pressure on the political parties to take the campaign for elections to the streets. The opposition parties will feel emboldened to do so because they will make an assessment that the government is fearing electoral defeat as it does not enjoy popular support. Very few are today willing to see the government’s point of view regarding the need to protect the economy in the face of the government failure to bring holders of ill-gotten wealth to task. The reports that the amount that has been stashed away by unscrupulous business groups is in the region of USD 53 billion, enough to cover the country’s debt is offensive to people who are living on the margins and falling below it due to high taxes and inflation. There is no sign that the government will take action these companies and individuals to bring in that money.

The ability of a government to crack down on the protest movement in a context in which it has waning public support will be limited. The security forces will be concerned about the repercussions to them of acting on behalf of a government that is both unpopular with the masses of people and is shying away from democratic elections. The armed forces are part of the people and will feel with them and for them. 

The Canadian government’s sanctioning of two former presidents of Sri Lanka for violations of international human rights will also be a warning that the same fate can befall them. It is to be remembered that the security forces under former president Gotabaya Rajapaksa acted with utmost restraint in confronting the protest movement as they did not wish to go against the wishes of the people and support a president who had so evidently lost his mandate.

On the other hand, if the government decides to go ahead with the elections its fears are likely to be realized. The inability of the government to get the economy rebooted will go against its electoral prospects. While there is an appearance of economic stability and no long lines outside fuel stations or long hours of power cuts, the economy is providing a significantly smaller income to the vast majority of people who find it difficult if not impossible to make ends meet. The economy shrank by 8 percent last year and is expected to shrink by 4 percent this year. With the long anticipated IMF loan yet to be secured, the government is unable to access international credit lines for purposes of economic growth.

The Promise 

A significant loss or even a whitewash at the local government elections will mean a further reduction in the legitimacy of the government. The government’s ability to make and implement its decisions will be negatively impacted in the aftermath of an electoral setback. At the present time the government is able to claim the legitimacy of the mandate received it received at the general elections of August 2020 which gave it a near two-thirds majority and even today a solid block of 134 seats out of 225. The success of the protest movement last year in forcing the resignation of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa eroded the legitimacy of that mandate. The skillful use of political and military power by President Ranil Wickremesinghe who succeeded him turned the tables on the protest movement. However, a loss at the local government elections will weaken the government’s ability to continue to govern effectively.

The next phase of the protest movement, whether or not the local government elections are held, will be led by the mainstream opposition political parties. It will be unlike the first phase, which was spontaneous and did not have an organized political leadership with it. As a result, last year’s protest movement could not replace the former president and his government when they resigned from office with their own leadership. On this occasion, however, it will be the mainstream opposition political parties that will lead the protest movement. Their main demand will be to hold general elections which will coincide with the president getting the power to dissolve parliament after two and half years of its term. In these circumstances, the president has a shrinking time frame to initiate the political reforms he has been promising for the past three months. 

The promise, which has generated much hope especially in the north and east of the country, and amongst the ethnic and religious minorities, is the promise to resolve the vexed ethnic conflict that has been with the country since the dawn of its independence. If he so chooses, President Wickremesinghe can make his mark in Sri Lanka’s history as the leader who cleared the country of obstacles to national unity, reconciliation and development and set an example to the world that the Nobel Peace Prize committee would consider.

The president and the TNA, which represents most of the Tamil people in the north and east, have identified the issues as the full implementation of the 13th Amendment, release of prisoners held for decades under the Prevention of Terrorism Act even without charge, the repeal of the PTA, return of land acquired by the military and by the archaeological department without consideration of the rights of the property owners and the establishment of a truth and reconciliation commission to look into the human rights violations of the past and recommend ways and means to heal the wounds of the past. These confidence building measures need to be taken before March 9.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Latest comments

  • 5
    0

    President Needs To Implement Pledges Before Elections

    Before the election pledges are given what is the guarantee that the pledges will be fulfilled.
    He supported Aragalaya from where he got the energy to President then arrested the Aragalaya not the people who made the country bankrupt. Government has no wealth, and when a politician promises to give you something for nothing, he must first confiscate that wealth from you — either by direct taxes, or by the cruelly indirect tax of inflation, He cannot satisfy the IMF no one has trusted up to now.

  • 8
    1

    “President Needs To Implement Pledges Before Elections”

    Geeze Man Jehan …… are you for real?

    At this stage, there is a better chance of you getting married to Ranil and having babies …… than anyone fulfilling any pledge.

    We are all still waiting for the Messiah. There’s a remote chance one of the babies might turn out to be our saviour ………. other than that there’s no one around.

    Get used to it.

    • 5
      3

      Those who know it know that the federal system cannot divide the country.

      Switzerland’s devolution is a big surprise in the nation of 7 million. They distribute power not only to regions but also to smaller units such as “cantons and bezirks”.

      Human Psychology is not psychiatrics. Buddhism is not “sinhala buddhism”, Million is not billion.PhDs are not MBBS holders. Unfortunately, the Sri Lankan media deliberately refrains from correcting misinterpretations of understanding for their ulterior motives, which are to make profits by ratings.

      Our Rajapaksa looted, society misled, almost distorted and misinterpreted for their ploys to gain power.The term Rajapaksa is now synonymous with mulitople-robbery. But the whole country and the nation are still silent about it….. The silence of the people seems like a cat suffering from a fish sting in its mouth.
      :
      Enough… we’ve procrastinated enough…..
      Elders including experts should be involved in convincing the majority of punnakku eaters in this country that they should finally get rid of wrong thinking.
      :
      If all the powerful nations can make it with Federalism, why not Sri Lanka? In addition, it should be made according to our country, – it should not necessarily belong to the models of other nations, but the basic model should be based on federalism.

      • 2
        2

        Federal…..joking ask Soorawamsa Weerasekara golden robes even sajith AKD all silence look at the Toilet Nadu how they progressing
        Then again asking for system change….may be Taliban with mullahs

    • 8
      1

      Dear nimal,
      .
      Here’s what most CT readers were probably waiting for:
      .
      The NPP’s Economic Plans. 2 hours 17 minutes at the Galadari. I’ve just begun listening, but I’ve paused it to share with you. I expect most of it to be in English, but it looks as though AKD has stuck to Sinhala, throughout. Very sensible of him.
      .
      Lankans have to learn that language is for communication, not to keep others down. What a fuss has been made of my acknowledging that I cannot write Sinhala – not acceptably, anyway. However, I can understand it perfectly, especially the spoken word.
      .
      These 38 minutes probably contain AKD’s speech in Sinhala.
      .
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H6IkyRTiWyU
      .

      Who is AKD? Not out King-to-be. Merely the most effective leader whom we have at this juncture. We have three languages that matter in this country. He, fortunately, speaks the one that is spoken by the largest number – and speaks it brilliantly.
      .
      There are other issues that matter. Some of them are touched upon here:
      .
      https://www.colombotelegraph.com/index.php/no-resolution-to-the-tamil-issue-no-system-change/
      .
      Comments are over; before I could respond to Mahila.

      .

      • 2
        0

        SM,

        Thanks.

        Don’t believe in “Socialists” gallivanting in Galadari! :))

        They all want to go upmarket.

        Unbeknownst even to some of them …….. social-climbing is the ultimate goal/desire of politicians. ……… To get to the other-side; they so fervently claim to hate!

        Do you want me to waste my time giving examples? …… Surely, you are old enough to find your own. :))


        Giving current Lankan leader/set-up a wide berth ……… Native has found his in far off China. :)))

        • 1
          0

          Some truth in that, nimal, but I feel that it is different from what prevailed fifty years ago. At that time the typical “village socialist” was full of envy of those who were better off. That is not so, today.
          .
          Let me hasten to add that in the 1930s socialism (and even Marxism) were popular in the Ox-bridge Universities and the effects spread even here. I’m thinking of the likes of NM, Colvin, Dr S,A,Wicks, Keuneman: elites who déclasséd themselves. A big problem when I began to work was that many “villagers” with samajavadi adahas (socialist ideas) wanted to drag others down. That’s not so prominent now.
          .
          I was full of admiration for AKD using Sinhalese throughout, and making it seem the natural thing to do. I see a difference, and for now, race doesn’t seem to matter.

    • 2
      0

      How like me, nimal?
      .
      I’ve given you everything, except the link to the 137 minute YouTube:
      .
      Here it is:

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AKLQTR6Ydsw

      • 2
        0

        S-M: For some, it was not the “Policy Statement” that matters most, but the “VENUE” of the meeting – Galadari Hotel. This was the same with Sajith, who said at a meeting: “Look at the shirts and shoes that these NPPs are wearing. Those are of more than Rs.5000 to 12,000″. value”. What are the types of politicians we have? So don’t waste your time trying to talk sense to them.

        After this meeting, I spoke to some of the “S&M” Industrialists whom I know. Some said, that addressed some of the concerns but needed more clarification. They said, a communication link has been provided, and shortly they would forward their views and concerns for clarification together with their proposals. Overall, they had very positive hopes after the meeting.

        • 2
          0

          “but the “VENUE” of the meeting”

          Simon,

          There is absolutely nothing wrong with the venue …….. but there is a lot wrong with the pretence.

          In Lanka, most politicians pretend to be one thing while doing exactly the opposite. One thing in the daytime and something else in the night.

          I’ll give an example that your “love” wont blind you to. :))

          For political expediency/advantage ……. the Rajapakses pretend to be salt of the Lankan earth: wearing the national-dress, the red scarf etc …….. but while sending their kids to STC, riding in the most luxurious cars, staying in the best hotels, dining in the best restaurants …… migrating to the Mecca of capitalism at the first opportunity ……..

          There is absolutely nothing wrong in people being what they actually are: cut the pretence.


          “it was not the “Policy Statement” that matters most”

          Sorry, I didn’t read Gota’s Vistas of prosperity and splendour either.

          But if the JVP/NNP wins and carries out what they are promising, I’ll be one of the happiest guys in Lanka ……. but JVP/NNP aren’t the first to make promises ……. promises have been made in the past. :))

          Like someone quipped …… History never says Goodbye: it says, see you later.

          • 1
            0

            nimal fernando: Thanks. I agree without any qualms about the “Rajapakses” lifestyle of “Deception”. Haven’t we seen that all this while beginning in 1948? For the last 75 years, this was and is the scenario. That is why I always refer to them as “Elite” (parasites of the peoples’ body politics) and this “Class” must be kicked out.

            I too have “Hope” for JVP/NPP, because that is the only remaining body politics that some “Change” could be expected. I am not a “Slave” to be with them. I saw their “Style” in Tissamaharama UC in 1980 and a “14 Month” in the Cabinet of Chandrika. Like you, I too “Hope” and “Expect” something for a “Change” and that “Change” to be better than what we have.

        • 1
          0

          I rather doubt our understanding all the complexities of the election, given the huge number of candidates, Could the number from all parties total about 40,000?
          .
          The solution is to see it in terms of issues, and those are simple enough.

          We’ve been asked to look here:
          .
          https://www.npp.lk/en/
          .
          I have discovered some useful things there, but let’s not imagine that we have to know “everything”. We must respect ourselves also! We’re just humans!

  • 6
    1

    Despite wielding so much power, the president is unable to get anything constructive done because he is not willing to take a decision on his own on controversial matters. Where troublesome issues are concerned he goes around seeking the approval of every Tom, Dick and Harry in the government machinery. Decisions are made personally and instant action is taken only when dealing with peaceful protestors – no consultation or consensus is deemed necessary for that!

  • 3
    1

    “These confidence building measures need to be taken before March 9.

    Did all the parties or at least the members of parliament of the government agreed publicly that the confidence building measures that President talking about the things he agreed with TNA? What is the gurantee that all these can be reversed back again? Why should it happen before election instead of Feb 4th independence day?

  • 3
    1

    The man has never had it so good. Only pledges left to fulfil are those made to his masters who continue to call the shots with absolute impunity.

  • 1
    2

    How many elections, pledges, promises,….it’s all please to IMF WB until get the cow of cash

  • 3
    4

    What President Ranil W has promised are: (1) The FULL implementation of the 13th A (2) the Release of all Tamil Prisoners held on “PTA” (3) The release of Land in the North and East that has been vested with the Armed Forces.

    President Ranil W, as usual, thinks that the prevailing “Crises Times” is the best to settle these “Issues” while the people are engaged in a “Struggle” to “LIVE” because they wouldn’t mind (rather forgotten) if the day-to-day living problems are addressed. In a way he is correct. Ranil W has already made his stand on these “Tamil Issues” publicly, but do the people (civil society, politicians, religious)worry or openly discuss/express an opinion “Against/For”? NO. The “Politicians” are not expressing any opinion, because it is “Election” time. So goes with other groups too.

    But the “Million Dollar” question is: Can he fulfill these pledges by himself alone as the President? NO. If he, like “GOTA”, with that “Superior Ego” (I am the MAN) and moves to fulfill these “THREE PLEDGES”, he will make his “End” in “Waterloo”. Not only that the whole country will go up in flames once again.

    This President, Ranil W is like the “Mythical” “MALIK” – the King of “Seven Hells” who is “DEAF”. So he is dangerous.

Leave A Comment

Comments should not exceed 200 words. Embedding external links and writing in capital letters are discouraged. Commenting is automatically disabled after 5 days and approval may take up to 24 hours. Please read our Comments Policy for further details. Your email address will not be published.