By Hilmy Ahamed –
Nepal, after centuries of rule by powerful monarchs embraced democracy in April 1990. After several unsuccessful campaigns against the Government, the Nepali Congress allied with several Communist parties in a pro-democracy movement, pushed the King of Nepal to concede their demand for democracy. This came about as protests mounted, the armed forces fired on unarmed demonstrators in Katmandu, killing dozens and prompting a surge of sentiment against the king, government and authorities.
The puppet Government of the monarch fell within days and opposition won sweeping concessions from King Birendra Bikram Shah Dev, who lifted a 29-year ban on political activity. The political system was converted from an all-powerful monarchy to a constitutional monarchy.
The king asked the Nepali congress leader to form a coalition government to frame a democratic constitution and conduct free and fair elections in 30 years.
The democracy-starved people of Nepal believed that anything and everything was possible in a democracy, helped to destroy any semblance of stability. The Nepali communist party continuously threatened the Government with its insignificant majority. The peoples expectations were very high and wanted immediate returns. Thus began decades of turmoil and instability to the nation of Himalayan splendor.
Are we going to see parallels in Sri Lanka on our current hard fought democracy? Even the very people who stood by President Mahinda Rajapaksa until he quit, voluntarily or otherwise are celebrating his unexpected exit after conceding defeat. The disgraceful behavior of these political animals is beyond comprehension. While tales of gallantry are heard of the Inspector General of Police and other officials standing their ground against attempts to annul the election through the use of force, President Rajapaksa’s men are flocking around President Maithripala Sirisena like vultures hovering over a rotting carcass. Are they joining the band-wagon now, looking for insurance against their transgressions during their past years, some of whom have been suspected of links to illegal ethanol imports, drug dealing, corruption, murder and total abuse of power.
The tidal waves of crossovers that we witness today were expected at the beginning of President Maithripala Sirisena’s campaign. Some of thecurrent pole-vaulters are the ones who were chastised by every speaker on the Maithri campaign platforms. How can the opposition that questioned the corruption, nepotism, and abuse of power, and everything illegal agree to sit in parliament as bedfellows in the same government? President Maithripala Sirisena, in order to wade off a challenge by ex-President Mahinda Rajapaksa to re-enter parliament and stake his claims on the Executive Premiership is willing to embrace these rogues. Is this the good governance, rule of law and compassionate government that was promised from the platforms on his campaign trail? People voted for good governance and rule of law, and the current approach of survival at any cost tantamount to collusion.
It is indeed heartening to note the mature approach of the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP), the Jathika Hela Urumaya (JHU) and some of the young parliamentarians’ resolve to bring the perpetrators of crime, corruption and violence to justice. Their commitment to ensure the safe return of the country’s looted wealth is commendable, and it is imperative that it is done, well within the rule of law and justice.
However, it was shocking to see Patali Champika Ranawaka, Shiralal Lakthilake and Maithri Gunaratne, forming their own vigilante brigade calling upon the people to provide them with information regarding alleged corruption and other illegal activities. While every citizen would be pleased to see the perpetrators of these crimes being brought to justice, it has to be undertaken under truly democratic governance, if Maithipala Sirisena’s campaign objectives are to be met. These well-meaning champions of anti-corruption and good governance cannot take the law in to their own hands and expect to deliver justice. Instead, they should put in place government mechanisms that would deal with these criminals. Parliament will have to enact strict laws, and appoint above board officials to a commission that would inquire in to the misdoings of the lot that departed if existing mechanisms are inadequate.
One of the biggest threats that could come out of vigilante groups collecting information for prosecuting offenders is that the information, falling in to the wrong hands may lead to unprecedented corruption, intimidation and violence. It could also be used to settle old scores or used to hold to ransom perpetrators of these crimes, ending up sharing the loot as it often happens. President Maithripala Sirisena’s administration has to go beyond these and a transparent mechanism put in place to ensure that every questionable aspect of the Rajapaksa regime is investigated. Individuals of the caliber of Ven. Athuraliye Rathana Thero, Patali Champika Ranawaka, Anura Kumara Dissanayake, Shiral Lakhtilake would be ideal to lead a parliament approved government mechanism to track the country’s loot and bring to justice the perpetrators.
It is not rocket science to understand that criminals buy their insurance through funding political campaigns of the main contenders. It is well known that Maithripala Sirisena’s campaign was starved of funds while President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s cash rich campaign had unprecedented resources. A proper inquiry in to this could be the best link to track down, expose and prosecute the wheeler-dealers the country witnessed during the Rajapaksa administration. Failure on the part of President Maithripala Sirisena to deliver on the promises of his campaign will be the last nail on the coffin of good governance and rule of law that the country is yearning for.