By Lukman Harees –
In November 2014, when Mahinda Rajapaksa (MR) received the unanimous approval of his party Ex-Co, to declare a snap presidential election in early January 2015, two years ahead of schedule, he was brimming with confidence. According to the Daily Mirror, a separate committee headed by SLFP General Secretary Maithripala Sirisena (MS) was appointed to coordinate the election campaign. MR little realized that his contender for the Presidential Election was sitting under his very nose and would be none other than the person billed to coordinate his election campaign. This reminds me of the story of Moses who challenged the oppressor Pharaoh , growing up as a foster child in the very house of Pharaoh, without latter’s knowledge. How strange is history! Thus MS appears to have emerged through Divine Providence , to challenge the invincible MR in his own den and any other candidate would not have beaten him ,the way MS did. He is indeed the ‘Attlee’ who beat the War Hero Churchill in 1945.
The euphoria surrounding the remarkable victory of President MS will die down soon, and both the Nation and the international community will keep a close eye on him and his 100 day program. It is upto MS to interpret the verdict correctly and move quickly to prove his words right , as otherwise history will one day brand his massive mandate as merely a ‘Anti–Rajapaksa’ rather than a ‘Pro-Maithree’ one. There is an urgent need to change the political culture of this country for the better and make politics ethical and attractive to our future generation.
‘Hindu’ Newspaper of 09th January listed five immediate task for MS ,(apart from his challenge of abolishing the much maligned Executive Presidency), which are as follows:
- Restore Rule of Law . The new President will also have to infuse independence and autonomy in the functioning of the police and rein in anti-minority groups like the Bodu Bala Sena.
- Restore Independence of the Judiciary . The new President may also look at ways of reinstating CJ Shirani Bandaranayake, or at least take legislative measures against the abuse of the impeachment clause.
- Strengthen institutions by according them functional independence and scrapping of the 18th Amendment .He must reverse retrograde measures taken by MR which have severely undermined the integrity and autonomy of democratic institutions such as Elections Commission, the Public Services Commission and the Anti-Bribery Commission.
- Cooperate with the elected Northern Province government, give it freedom to govern devolved subjects
- Halt the pervasive militarisation of the northern province
On the international front too, MS has to contend with the twin challenges of the UN Probe regarding the alleged war crimes in the last phase of the War , as well as repairing the tarnished image about Sri Lanka in the community of nations. Besides, MS should realize there is another coveted international responsible position being placed in his shoulders, by virtue of his election as the Head of State of Sri Lanka, namely the Chair position of the Commonwealth. India and China will be watching from opposite sides, about the approach MS will take in dealing with them.
There is also an attempt in the social networking sites to interpret the MS victory as one engineered by the minorities , and being reinforced by MR , when he visited his home town of Medamulaana after his defeat, who stressed that N and E did not vote for him, thus trying to portray himself as the Champion of the Sinhala people . Wimal W. too at the UPFA Press Conference tried to introduce a racist angle to the results. MS should move quickly to reassure the majority Sinhala people as well as the other minorities by word and deed that he is the THE President of all of them. Otherwise, divisive hate mongering characters such as Gnanasaras may try to cash in, on the inner unfounded fears of the majority to create trouble once again.
Promises are usually based on the rosiest of possible futures. It is unfortunately the common public perception that a great number of election promises are meant to be broken. Many even regard this as a severe issue that disaffects people from the entire political process, increasing apathy and lowering voter turnout. But at this decisive election, the voters came out in appreciable numbers, which showed their determination and will to make a qualitative change in politics, despite their bitter experiences with various ‘Chinthanayas’ in the past. The constant stream of broken promises has annoyed many voters and now politicians have begun to adopt techniques to make their promises more believable. The 1993 Canadian Liberal Red Book , which laid out a long list of changes that the Liberals would make if brought to power, was one example of this while there is also another popular way to add credibility such as by setting a more specific time for when promises will be implemented, with politicians listing what they will do in their first week or first hundred days in office.(Wikipedia) .
In developed countries too, broken promises are not rare. Australian Prime Minister Bob Hawke, in 1987, said that “by 1990 no Australian child will be living in poverty”. It never materialized . The Liberal Democrats‘ in UK pledge not to increase tuition fees, whereupon it formed a coalition with the Conservative Party and soon after voted for a threefold increase in tuition fees. President Barack Obama vowed repeatedly during the 2008 election to close the terrorist detention center at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, but the prison is still open as of 2015.
It is therefore imperative that the MR and his team ensure that his 100 day plan and other promises to restore good governance , promote racial reconciliation and rid the country of corruption, are realistic and workable and not a ‘Chandha Gundu’ (election gimmicks) , as one more disappointment may lead the people to completely lose confidence in the electoral system and even resort to street-level rebellion . Sri Lanka is famous for missing historic opportunities since Independence to make bring peace and prosperity to this Paradise Isle and if MS does not deliver, then Sri Lanka will be doomed for forever. It will be up-to us as those who voted MS to high office him to hold him to account .