By Laksiri Fernando –
It was a rare occasion of transcending the ethnic divide and coming together, at least in a small way, to express their concerns about the possible vote rigging on the Election Day and in the counting, among other matters. They have called upon the government and particularly the President as the Head of the Commonwealth to ensure a free and fair election having realized that so far the election campaigning has been marred by violence against the opposition supporters, breaking of election laws, misusing of state funds and personnel for the election campaign of the President.
The group of people who have come together is small and from the beginning the target was to collect around 20 signatures/endorsements from a cross section of Sri Lankan origin academics and professionals in Australia. They mainly come from Sydney and Melbourne. The signatories consist of 13 Sinhalese, 6 Tamils and 3 women. Some are well known who have been active in political and social life before their migration to Australia and still continue their involvement in Sri Lanka in various ways.
I should be very frank about this missive. The purpose is to give publicity to their statement below which is self-explanatory of which I am also a signatory. Names are at the end of the statement.
Ensure Free and Fair Election; Towards Abolishing the Executive Presidential System
We being Australians of Sri Lankan origin, concerned about democracy, good governance and reconciliation in Sri Lanka, call upon all Sri Lankans to vote at the forthcoming presidential elections to enable urgently needed political, constitutional and administrative reforms, especially abolishing the executive presidency.
Based on historic experiences of many countries, we cannot imagine that all the changes that people desire will be achieved within a short span of time, or simply through change of governments. However, on the other hand, we strongly believe that this presidential election offers a window of opportunity to re-establish democracy, the rule of law, good governance and to begin addressing issues of social justice.
More than five years after the end of the devastating civil war that caused unspeakable levels destruction to the country, it is time to look forward and initiate reforms vitally needed to take the country into the future. This involves political, constitutional and administrative reforms at the centre and true devolution of power to the provinces, to meet the aspirations of the minorities and grievances of the poor and the marginalized in the remote areas and provinces.
We believe that it is not a coincidence that the dark period in the history of the country which started in the early eighties happened within five years of the introduction of the 1978 constitution, which established the executive presidency with enormous powers concentrated in one individual with immunity and without accountability.
Eventually, a pervasive culture of impunity and nepotism now prevails in the country accompanied by a ubiquitous presence of corruption. Even five years after the end of the war, the country is unable to reap the full benefits of the peace dividend, nor are all people able to enjoy the benefits of economic growth. Many of the legitimate demands of the ethnic and religious minorities remain unaddressed.
- We believe that the path to reform has to start with the restoration of the integrity and independence of institutions, and this in order should begin with the abolishing of the executive presidency. This is the urgent need of the hour.
- Further, we believe that whatever your view you hold of the current president, the same individual should not be allowed to hold such an office for more than two terms. Thus we lend our support to the common opposition candidate, and request all citizens of Sri Lanka to do likewise. We also demand that the opposition candidate keeps the promise of abolishing the executive presidency and reintroducing the 17th amendment within 100 days of being elected.
- We strongly call upon the government and the President, particularly as the Chair of the Commonwealth, to ensure a free and fair election without intimidation, violence or any electoral manipulation.
Mr Luther Uthayakumaran
Rev. Jeffrey Abayasekera
Dr Lionel Bopage
Mr. Asela De Mel
Mr Dhanapala Gunawardana
Mr. Wimal Jayakody
Mr Sarath Jayasuriya
Mr Noel Luther
Mr Srikantha Nadarajah
Mr Kandasamy Neelakandar
Dr Surjani Parenerupasinham
Mrs Winifred Peiris
Mr Lal Perera
Ms. Sris Ponniahphillai
Mr Ajith Rajapaksa
Mrs Mallika Samarasinghe
Dr Willie Senanayake
Mr Sam Wanigatunga
Mr Ranjith Weerasinghe
Dr Laksiri Fernando