“Citizens for Justice, National Reconciliation, and Good Governance” has today called upon the people to reject outright the Rajapaksa group, and support politicians who will advance the January 8 goals.
Forthcoming Parliamentary Elections
As a group of citizens for justice, national reconciliation, and good governance, we call upon the people to reject the Rajapakse Alliance:
1) The election of President Maithripala Sirisena on January 8, 2015, and, following that, the restoration of a high degree of independence to the judiciary and the passage of the 19th Amendment constitute significant reversals of the march towards a family dictatorship that was taking place prior to January 8. Concrete steps taken in the last six months are further strengthening the good governance movement to expose corruption under the Rajapakse regimes; the corrupt have been pursued mainly under the executive fiat of the Financial Crimes Investigations Unit( FCID) set up by the Cabinet, and the Bribery Commission (BC) under new leadership. Significant progress seen in the anti-corruption investigations is largely on account of non-interference by the Presidential Secretariat and the present leaders, and the courts being able to act independently on complaints filed before them. However, much more needs to be done on the anti-corruption front.
2) It is important to recall that the ten year Executive Presidential rule of Rajapakse was probably the worst period since Independence for misuse of power for personal gains, state-sponsored violence, loss of state resources due to corruption and mismanagement, curtailment of civil liberties including illegal detentions, and, most brutally, murder of civilians abducted in white vans. The assault and murder of Mr. Lasantha Wickremathunga, the high profile independent Editor of the Sunday Leader, in 2009, on a public highway in front of dozens of passerby, and the failure of the Rajapakse regime to arrest and imprison the killers, was a bellwether of crimes to follow.
3) Since January 8, strong evidence has surfaced that during the decade under the Rajapakse presidency:
a) Billions of Rs. have been swindled from the public sector through inflated contract prices or non-competitive procurement in general;
b) There has been indiscriminate borrowing from international lenders for investment in many non-productive mega-projects, e.g., the Hambantota projects, have, firstly, contributed to trebling the foreign debt service-to-GDP ratio; and secondly, in consequence and with some more borrowings unavoidable, made Sri Lanka vulnerable within the next 10-15 years to international financial manoeuvres, and especially to further substantial depreciation of our currency, a new financial crisis and a 20-25% lowering of wages and pensions in real terms within the next 10-15 years;
c) Tens of thousands of unarmed Tamil civilians are reported to have been killed around 2008-09, most of them preventable deaths, together with dozens of those that surrendered to Army with white flags, including women and children, and large numbers of combatants captured by the Army, so much so that senior leaders of the Rajapakse Administration are likely to face criminal charges before a local and/ or an international tribunal.
d) The minorities including the Muslims and Christians have been subjected to sectarian violence, humiliating them and placing their lives in despair.
Under the new dispensations, every allegation of corruption can be duly investigated and corrective action taken.
4) The group built around former President Rajapakse in the just-dissolved Parliament had the support of the majority of its 225 members. What did they do in the post-January 8 period within and outside Parliament? Except for the single act of supporting the passage of the 19th Amendment, that too under considerable duress from President Sirisena, and after substantial mutilation of the original bill, they were mostly engaged on propagating against, engineering delays in, and sabotaging the implementation of key features of the Good Governance 100 day programme that the people approved on January 8, within and outside Parliament.
5) Their total opposition to the Good Governance programme, especially to its anti-corruption goals, has to be understood in terms of the following: a) many of the Rajapakse group, and others too, are likely to be arraigned before the courts on charges of political or financial corruption if the Good Governance programme were fully implemented, and already a few of them have been sent to remand jail; b) many amongst these stand to lose their ill-gotten assets if convicted; c) top leaders face war crime charges. They see re-acquisition of state power which they lost on January 9 as a safety net of defense against above charges. The people of Sri Lanka must resist these selfish manipulations.
6) What are the important goals that people seek through their franchise in this election? Economic development, greater democratic governance and national ethnic reconciliation are three important issues. We support parties and policies that take a concrete approach to economic and infrastructure development that minimises harrowing inequalities in our society, promote foreign direct investment instead of foreign debt, raise the investment in education to 6% of GDP, adding up both state and private investment, and support a strong national health service. In a society at the level of GDP per capita of around $3000 or below that in many hinterland provinces of the country, a welfare state is essential to minimise inequalities. Increasing state revenue is an important determinant of the ability to maintain welfare without a high level of sovereign debt. An active role of the state, not just regulatory, but in investment and economic management and in partnerships with the private sector, is essential to raise and sustain state revenues in a mixed economy, since direct and indirect taxes have political limitations.
7) There is little doubt that people wish to pursue the goals of democratic governance they voted for on January 8. The minorities, Tamils, Muslims, and others, continually demand concrete steps towards maximum devolution with a United Sri Lanka to move the country towards genuine and permanent reconciliation. We recognise measures taken towards devolution and reconciliation as an integral part of democratic governance. The huge financial losses and the exodus of over 100,000 skilled workers on account of the war have contributed to the slow growth of the GDP per capita and underdevelopment of the hinterland provinces. The resolution of the national question is a priority for the new Parliament. 8) Considering the electorally more important political groups, the sympathies of those who stand for national unity and reconciliation are with the JVP, JHU, and the Maithripala Sirisena wing of the SLFP, the latter including sections of the LSSP and the CP that were earlier suspended. Though these groups have no categorical position on the national question especially on devolution of power that the minority communities are able to embrace readily, nevertheless they stand firmly for reconciliation.
The SLFP is clearly divided in this election as seen from the public call of President Sirisena to reject former President Rajapakse. The UNP in its manifesto has promised maximum devolution to the regions within a unitary constitution. The UNP has been strongly arguing for national reconciliation both within and outside the country. Amongst the parties in the North and East, the TNA has called for a federal solution within a united Sri Lanka. The TNA is the only major political group that has consistently sought a negotiated solution. It is noteworthy that the TNA was a source of decisive support to President Sirisena on January 8 and can be expected to support actively measures for strengthening democratic governance and national unity.
9) Finally we call upon the people to reject outright the Rajapakse group, and support politicians who will advance the January 8 goals, and follow social and economic policies outlined above.
Prof. Arjuan Aluwihare
Danesh Casie Chetty
Prof. Kumar David
Prof. Sivaguru Ganesan
Dr. Devanesan Nesiah
Rev. Jayasiri Peiris
Dr. Selvy Thiruchandran
Emil van der Poorten
Citizens for Justice, National Reconciliation, and Good Governance