By Visakha Tillekeratne –
I am an ordinary citizen of Sri Lanka, born in 1965, twenty years younger than you short of six months and 3 days. You were born on 18 November 1945 and I on 15 May 1965. So I am sure you will take this sincere note as an older brother, or even a father or an uncle would. You are also very fond of children, it is said, especially daughters. I could even be a daughter to you with this age gap. The Mahinda Chintanaya also gives top priority to women. So as a female writing to you, I know for sure you will give this note a thought.
This letter is written in the spirit of “the country and our people doing well”. If you do continue in existence as President for many years, that is not an issue to me personally. I have given up on politics and political parties and have decided not to vote for any of the parties or persons currently in existence, as all have been brutal to the people of this country. We all can remember 1971, 1983, 1989 and 2009. However your continuing to stay for many years could be an issue for good governance, as it is a practice of good governance to rescind power every 5 or 6 years for fresh blood to participate in governing of the country.
In fact if we form a party for animals or the environment, I may vote for them, as the cause is worthy.
Let me begin with the last 5 years. However it was done, you ended the war. I do not support war however trying a situation it is, but you brought the bombs to an end with that able man called Sarath Fonseka. Many people thank you for this, even grudgingly, so do the people of the North and East. I have personally met thousands of these people during the course of my work and this is a fact. There are some post war positive outcomes of your tenure. These are mainly the beautification and cleanup of the capital and some other key cities and we assume that tourism is on the rise. Diaspora are also visiting home, grudgingly admiring the country and coming more frequently. Globally Colombo is beginning to be recognized as some kind of an event hub mainly because of infrastructure development which is considerable. Even though this development may not be pro poor and accomplished not with net foreign investment, but on a number of loans, the result is eye catching and convenient to those who can afford.
However beyond the beautiful tarmac, convenient and luxurious travel stops, billboards with your smiling face, the more frequent carnivals and musical shows, restored colonial buildings, walkways and parks and night races, luxurious and decadent lifestyles of that close club that supports you, the picture is not so rosy.
Governance is in total disarray. An opposition that is impotent is not a reason to ride rough shod over governance issues. You are a seasoned politician and a man of the soil, or rather you were once upon a time, so you already know all this. The Note is merely a reminder.
You are a lawyer no less. It is ironic therefore that the judiciary is not restored and strengthened as the pinnacle of justice and fair play. In fact the dismal state of justice and the judicial system with a lawyer being the President is highly unacceptable and IRONIC. The system has to be restored if we are to have any hope. Let go of the judiciary. You are the key guardian of Latimer House Principles as the sitting Chair of the Commonwealth in the next years. Dispel the saying “Narinta kukul kotuwa baradunna” (the fox in this case you and the chickens being the rule of law viz a viz Latmer House). As people know there is no rule of law, over 300 incidents of extremism and hate instigated by Buddhist groups have been swept under the carpet. Violence against women and children has reached unprecedented proportions, kudu businesses among your own colleagues are thriving. Corruption is rampant. The Root Cause- No Rule of Law!
The fact that an Economic Development Ministry has been named and put in place for the first time in the history of this country by you and the contradiction of failed enterprises such as Sri Lankan Airlines which was thriving before, a flying white elephant called Mihin Air not being restructured at least to be made viable, cronyism and the resultant mess in the Cricket Board, assets that are not creating the expected dividends which ate and continue to eat up billions of public rupees, spending so much on a Conference called CHOGM which has done nothing even to restore the image of the country and thus pacify vociferous voices overseas, is just not good enough. It is hoped that the Divi Neguma Program, an ambitious enterprise will really do something to address the huge economic disparity among regions and the D Pereras vs Siyadoris of Siyambalanduwa . Direct foreign investments are necessary to have meaningful growth rates. Citizens do not see this coming. To our naked eye what we see are loans being taken and our own money being pushed around for development. So where are the net gains? It is also ironic that the BOI and the SEC see a record number of changes in those heading these, the institutions that form the backbone of a robust economy. How come the same person is investing in all the large enterprises in the country, despite a regulatory mechanism called the SEC. Did the SEC not replace the functions of the Monopolies and Mergers Commission to avoid exactly this, where all investments are controlled by a “monopolist”? Even a housewife in ancient times knows that one does not put “all one’s eggs in one basket”. Is it not ironic that you have an excellent mechanism called the COPE and you are not giving the green light to “Cope” with the findings and clean up this mess?
Also your Excellency, who is advising you on Casinos as the best form of investment? You are the custodian of ethical business in this country. How can you say “Rate hondama deval lamuntai” or the “best in the country is for the children” and put up vice dens such as these? You know the results of the Casino culture – illicit sex, more drugs, materialism. In short this is a “night race” to hell. Please remove all the Pirith nool on your wrist, when Packer comes to town and put on a Packer wrist band. I was shocked the other day to hear that a foremost corporate in this country had bull dozed their own prime office land in Colombo 2 to put up a Casino Complex!
It was so depressing to read the full page article in the Sunday Times today on the shell of the Foreign Service or Family Service? If over 60% of key positions are held by your friends, family and political supporters and over 75% of them do not have basic qualifications and do not know the basics of an office environment let alone the analysis and cutting edge business of international relations and negotiations, how can you draft and implement a proper Foreign Policy? We may not condone the US and its double standards. However let us point our finger towards our self on the quagmire in Geneva. This is of our own making. What is preventing us from making the recommendations of the LLRC put together by your late and great friend – Chittaranjan de Silva – CR? The lack of the rule of law from which stems the disregard to restore human rights together with a lopsided economy which is wasting away billions, in turn, depriving needy communities all over the island, especially in the North and East, of the much needed financial resources required to restore basic amenities, agricultural inputs, housing and proper schools.
This note cannot go on. There are many aspects to be mentioned such as the decimation of the environment and crimes against elephants, committed by those nearest and dearest to you, the cost of living which is killing all of us, the sad state of the fuel economy, the dream that is reconciliation, an education system that badly needs the 6% for revamping, a health service that is not free to those who need it most and much more.
THE ROOT CAUSE my dear Excellency are those two Cs that will strangle your political future finally – CORRUPTION and CRONYISM. So please give us a restored Country back! An earnest plea from a humble Citizen.