English translation of the Ravya Editor Victor Ivan’s speech @ the Ravaya 25th Anniversary
By Victor Ivan –
Reverend Sirs, His Excellency the President of the Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka, the Honorable Leader of the Opposition, the Leader of the TNA, Distinguished Guests, Dear Friends,
At the outset, let me explain to you, the reason why I ventured to convene this special forum with the distinguished presence of the head of the state, the leader of the opposition, the leader of the TNL, a selected number of people’s representatives, public officers, professionals, academics and intellectuals, artists, journalists and the Ravaya readers on the occasion of the 25th anniversary celebrations of the Ravaya newspaper.
To start with, I should stress that as a country, we have reached historical crossroads today which is of critical importance. But, it is unfortunate that most of us don’t seem to have realized the gravity of the situation which the country is confronting. This matter is vital for every man, woman and child of every political party, of every ethnic group, religion and caste. It is with the intention of drawing your attention to this vital issue that I ventured to convene this meeting. I thank all of you for having accepted my invitation and graced this occasion with your distinguished presence.
Few weeks ago, we celebrated the 64th anniversary of our independence. Nearly one half of the period after independence , we have spent through appalling violence and bloodshed. Viewed as a percentage of the total population of the country, the number of people who lost their lives and the number injured consequent to violence is extremely high. Even those who were lucky to have escaped death or injury during these events, undoubtedly, have gone through unbearable trauma and serious pain of mind. In that sense, there is none that had not been affected by violence that prevailed during the past 30 years. In such circumstances, I hope I would not be misunderstood, when I say that the entire society is in a state of psychological disorder needing spiritual healing. A society that had gone through a protracted period of violence, witnessing atrocious killings and bloodshed and was compelled to live with persistent fear of death for such a long time cannot be considered normal or healthy.
The state of distortion thus created has impacted not only on our individual lives but also on the social and political fabric and the institutional system as well. However, it is not possible to cite the violent atmosphere that persisted as being the only reason for the distortion that we witness today. Obviously, there are two other important factors which have led to this situation that we have not been able to address when or since we gained independence.
From a modern sense of the word, it was from the British that we inherited a Nation State and the system of democratic governanance. But in the run up to independence or even after that, our leaders were unable to envision the dire need for ushering a United Nation and a Democratic Society which form the essential prerequisites of a nation state. Consequently, they lacked the pluralistic vision which only could have allayed the fears and differences extant in our society based on ethnic, caste and religious factors and realized the fundamental necessity of addressing these differences for establishing a democratic society. Instead, they all chose to sow the seeds of mutual distrust, hatred and anger among the people and exploit ethnic, caste and religious differences for their own narrow political gains which ultimately led to exacerbate the differences rather than allaying them.
Naturally, this situation has resulted in creating a serious distortion in the governance system and social relationships between different ethnic, caste and religious groups eventually plunging the country to an internecine blood shed , both in the North where the population is predominantly Tamil and South where it is predominantly Sinhalese. These developments in turn, had further aggravated the distortion and the anomalies in the system of governanance and the social relationships. The presidential system of government introduced in 1977 can be considered as the culmination of the distortion.
Presumably, lawlessness, bureaucratic rigidity, raging corruption and wastage, revenge, disregard for qualifications and lack of distributive justice seem to have become integral and seemingly inalienable features of the presidential system of government. Despite these unpleasant characteristics, the violent struggles that prevailed persistently had made it impossible to make a fundamental change or reorganization in the political system. Moreover, the violent struggles had apparently blinded the people in clearly seeing the unpleasant and confused state of political affairs prevalent in the country. People had been compelled to live in constant fear and implicit threats to their lives during the protracted violence and terrorist threats. They were focused more on the violent scenario and their own survival. Consequently, the unpleasant features in the political system and the distortions associated with it fell from the notice of the people.
At the end of 1989, the Premadasa Government was successful in defeating the JVP insurrection which had resulted in a dual rule in the country for a period of two and a half years causing death threats to the Sinhalese of the South. But, the violence unleashed by the LTTE persisted unabated. However, during mid 2009, the Mahinda Rajapakse government overwhelmed the LTTE which ran a de facto regime in the North which pushed the Tamil people to live under the said dual rule for nearly 30 years. Despite the fact that there were reasonable grievances for both the JVP and the LTTE, one should admit that the defeat of terrorism and insurgency remained an essential condition for country’s progress and development.
With the eradication of the threat of terrorism, the major obstacle to change or reform the country’s distorted political and administrative system has now completely disappeared. The degree of degeneration extant in the system was apparently exposed only after the defeat of terrorism. With the exposure of the nakedness of the system, evidently, the faith that the people had in these institutions has eroded and is nearing a point of evaporation. The vehement orchestration of the socio -political crisis that we witness today can be treated as a manifestation of this trend. It can also be described as a historic cry that is being made, demanding a major change or an overhaul in the existing political fabric and the administrative structure of the country.
‘There are only two ways open for solving a crisis of this nature. One is through a mass revolution of the people which is violent and destructive and hence has to be profoundly deplored and avoided. The other alternative, I personally favor, that the political hierarchy including the Head of the State and all leaders of the opposition engage in a frank and positive dialogue to reach a consensus on the preponderant conditions for a common agenda and to formulate an action plan cum a road map for national integration and restructuring with firm political commitment to implement it in a spirit of genuine honesty, for the common good of the country, without endeavoring to secure narrow political advantage to their own sides. That is the most sustainable road tocreating a new and vibrant Sri Lanka.
The reorganization plan should find a sustainable solution to the ethnic crisis; restructure the degenerated institutional system in a manner to restore the public confidence in it, and usher in a united nation and a truly democratic society buttressed by an appropriate system of good governance which upholds the rule of law as an important goal of the agreed upon road map. The recommendations of the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission too, can be taken into serious consideration in formulating the plan of national reorganization. The final objective of this reorganization should be to create a new Sri Lanka which will promote faith, confidence and respect of all citizens
The purpose behind convening this special public meeting on the occasion of the 25th anniversary of the Ravaya newspaper is to place this message before the Head of the State and the Leader of the Opposition and seek their response to the issues raised therein. We must not hand down the present unpleasant situation that has been created by our mistakes to future generations. It is the responsibility of all of us to endow the posterity with a country that they can be proud of and will enhance their confidence and respect. I wish that courage and wisdom may dawn on the Head of the State and all political leaders to enter the path leading to an epoch-making overhaul of the entire political and institutional system of the country..
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