16 May, 2022

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The Need For A Whole Of Government Approach To Overcome Crisis

By Jehan Perera

Jehan Perera

The crisis in the country was evident in the long lines of vehicles parked outside gasoline stations awaiting the next consignment of diesel. They were to be found all over the country and at all times of the day and night. The hours lost and the inconvenience would have infuriated each and every driver of those vehicles, and their families and dependents for whom diesel means income, whether to transport goods, passengers or tourists and to harvest their fields. They would have cursed those responsible and occasionally, when lines were broken, cursed each other. Now again, there is no cooking fuel, but that is confined to the home and so the anger is less visible.

The political crisis within the government that has made its appearance comes in the context of the economic crisis primarily, but also in the face of the mounting pressure that is coming from the international human rights community. The strictures passed on the government have been severe indeed. If the government thought that its efforts to reform the Prevention of Terrorism Act would suffice, this has proven to be far off the mark. The critical observations of the UN Human Rights Commissioner have gone far beyond the scope of the PTA to include the lack of independence of key institutions that act as a check and balance in a functioning democracy, militarisation and ethnic majoritarianism in governance and continuing threats to civil society.

All of these will all be difficult to resolve so long as political and personal agendas prevail over the opinions of other legitimate sections of the national polity and the national interest. When President Gotabaya Rajapaksa was elected with a large majority those who voted for him expected a government under his leadership that would give priority to the national interest and to persons of merit to be appointed to positions of authority, rather than friends and relations and political cronies and past comrades in arms from the military. They expected the country’s sovereignty to be protected instead of being sold or leased at unconscionably low rates to foreign interests that had compromised the national interest by getting the country to invest in assets that have no commercial yield.

Massive Impunity 

The political crisis that has manifested itself in sacking of two top government ministers is due these national problems being used to promote personal agendas. The two ministers in question have pointed out the reality of corruption and the promotion of foreign agendas, but they have been selective in their targeting. It is not only the president’s brother, the finance minister, who is to blame for the crisis that the country is. It is not only one minister who is accused of corruption, the fingers point at many others too, in fact at almost everyone who is in the present government and in the past government too. It is a well known saying that when we point our finger at another, three fingers point back at us.

Among those who voted for the government there is general sympathy for the ministers who have been sacked. They were the foremost campaigners for the present government right from the time they were unexpectedly bundled out of power when they called for early elections in 2015. Their campaign was effective in destroying the credibility of the former government that was trying to win the support of the international human rights community by dealing with the human rights violations of the past. They never gave that government time to settle down and consolidate power by undermining them as traitors to the country. The departure of the duo who generated opposition to the attempts to deal with the past may mean that transitional justice, that combines elements of truth, accountability, reparations and institutional reforms may now be more viable.

The report of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and the strictures contained therein have now come back with a vengeance to bite the present government. The impunity with which criminals were pardoned and critics of the government have been incarcerated, even if relatively few in number, have sent a warning that massive impunity can come. The government’s efforts to amend the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA) and to revive the dormant reconciliation mechanisms that the former government devised have been deemed to be insufficient. While these changes have been positive, they need to go beyond the ministers of foreign affairs and justice, and envelop the entirety of the government to be credible. There is a need for a “whole of government” approach. The reforms cannot be isolated ones. They need to take place in all areas of governance.

Key Priorities 

The way out of the multiple crises that afflict Sri Lanka is for the government to first seek to win the hearts and minds of all of its own people by doing what is in their interests, rather than give priority to personal agendas, or those of foreign companies or governments. This is what those who voted for him with a large majority expected of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and his government. Instead of which, there are land grabs taking place in the North and East of the country, which are given an ethnic complexion, as those are areas predominantly inhabited by the ethnic and religious minorities. But land grabs are also taking place in the south of the country, where impoverished sections of the ethnic majority live, such as Moneragala where 65,000 acres of land have been grabbed for multinational companies to grow sugar from people who farmed those lands as small holders.

There are two key priorities from the people’s point of view. The first would be to solve the economic problem that has led to shortages of everything, ranging from cooking gas to diesel and to fertilisers. Instead of prioritising the repayment of loans to foreign governments and bondholders, the government needs to prioritise its scarce dollars to import essential commodities that will keep the local economy viable. It needs to go to the lender of last resort, the International Monetary Fund, and accept the conditions of transparency that members of the government vested with economic power do not want so that they may pursue their personal agendas. We need to solve our internal problems and be sincere about it if we really want the best for the country.

The second would be to restore the provincial council system that enables the ethnic and religious minorities, but who are regional majorities, to govern themselves and feel that they have an equal stake to governance in the country. In order to achieve these two tasks, and have the people behind them, the government needs to organize an all-party conference that includes the main ethnic and religious minority parties, and also representatives of the business community and civil society. The next two years could be devoted to restoring the relationships within the country in all dimensions, political, ethnic and religious, and with the international human rights community. If it is not President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, Sri Lanka has to find a leader to restore the faith of people in a leader without a personal agenda who would bring the rule of law and merit to the fore and treat all people and all ethnic and religious communities equally.

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Latest comments

  • 8
    1

    Looking at the picture, half of those chairs are empty and now Vasu is threatening not to work but warm the chair, poor Jehan wants whole of Govt approach ??

    • 9
      1

      DHAN SAPA DA???

      • 2
        0

        Bert,
        Good Morning.
        “DHAN SAPA DA”
        ‘Dhenda matta, mung koralla pennannang’ Magician of a Maestro.
        Don’t tell me he has forgotten what he said couple of years ago or disowning it??

    • 2
      0

      Where is the whole Government? It is a criminal family government.

  • 15
    0

    What one idiot cannot solve, 150 idiots will not be able to solve. The President can keep shuffling the jokers till he is blue in the face, but nothing will come of it!

  • 4
    1

    National Government is the answer to this. I have been writing about the need for a National Government since early 2021. The National Govt should have only 10 ministers and no State Ministers. All the State Minister posts should be held by Civil Servants. 19th amendment should be brought back to have independent commissions. Ranil should not be the PM (seen in some news items) because Ranil was kicked out of the Parliament by the voters. It should be Sajith who should be the PM or some one else and definitely not a Rajapakse. Only qualified experienced MPs should be appointed as Ministers. The military should be called back into the barracks. The Governor of the Central Bank should be changed and may be Hiran should be appointed the Governor. Speaker too should be changed and a strong impartial MP should be the speaker. Present Attorney General and the Chief Justice should also be changed. Once the National Govt has been established a new constitution should be presented to the people before mid-2024.

    Will the President have the guts to do all these or they are just my pipe dreams?

    • 4
      0

      Dear Buddhist1,
      .
      I haven’t any idea even which part of the country you live in (apart from not knowing your identity), but by now you have established yourself in my mind as a man who makes serious and responsible comments. This is one such. Thanks.
      .
      However, I don’t think that yours is a solution that will work. You suggest “Hiran” should be the Central Bank Governor. Hiran who? Please provide an answer to that.
      .
      Some of the steps that you have suggested sound good, but I don’t think there is any chance of the positions for which you have not named possible candidates will be filled by competent people.
      .
      I personally don’t think much of Sajith (never met him, though). Even if I knew them all, there’s no way that the will of a guy like me will prevail.
      .
      Bottom line: we need others like you having sufficient convictions to at least make serious suggestions.
      .
      Panini Edirisinhe

    • 2
      0

      It’s a tall order and unfortunately mere wishful thinking.. Ten ministers? Who are these and who selects them.
      Corruption and nepotism so rife within the ruling party and the gutless opposition isn’t any better
      The economy is in dire state and bribery and Corruption is plainly everywhere. Every one expects bribe
      This has become a norm
      The society have been brought to this
      sorry state by successive governments and also the opposition
      Even if the President wants a course correction the parasites surrounding him will not allow it. Very sad and sickening
      Sacking of those duo and replacing them with four I believe is a joke

  • 3
    0

    ….The first would be to solve the economic problem that has led to shortages of everything…
    And here is how they will solve it – bring discredited Ranil into the Govt as Premier.
    Jehan did you know this?
    https://lankanewsweb.net/archives/6064/mahindananda-confirms-formation-of-national-government-with-ranils-leadership-video/

  • 2
    1

    “A Whole Of Government Approach”

    Jehan,

    You seem to know everything ……… and have all the answers ……… So, why don’t you take over the government and singlehandedly give the ol’ “Whole Of Government Approach” by yourself?

    To have to not see/read this dross ……. I’ll double whatever the NGOs are paying you …….. some will even triple ……. Native will start a bidding war!

    • 2
      0

      nimal fernando

      “Native will start a bidding war!”

      Basil, Cabraal, ……. want your last cent.
      Gota may even appoint his old mates to run all the commercial and central banks.
      Please don’t get me into trouble.

  • 6
    0

    All these political parties clamouring for power or struggling to retain power have been proven to be part of a system that mutually supports each other although showing fiery opposition for the benefit of the gullible masses. The way they are asking for discussion, calling for unity, suggestions of a national government (to slurp at the trough of public wealth together instead of taking turns every five years) and the various stances like fringe ministers saying they will not do their ministerial duties or attend cabinet meetings but will remain with the govt are the height of hypocrisy, duplicity and fraud. The jokers of different colours have always taken the people for rides, and this is just a new version of the same old. What is required is for this parasitic system to be dismantled and individuals who genuinely care for the country and have proven it at various levels to be nominated for govt office at the earliest opportunity. However, I will not hold my breath waiting for it, as the rice-eating cattle will always vote parasites into power.

  • 1
    0

    nimal fernando

    “Native will start a bidding war!”

    Basil, Cabraal, ……. want your last cent.
    Gota may even appoint his old mates to run all the commercial and central banks.
    Please don’t get me into trouble.

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