10 December 2018
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General Elections is an opportunity to fortify notable democratic gains made since January

aaggslIn less than a month, the struggle for democracy and good governance in Sri Lanka will face its major test. Voters will be electing their representatives for the Parliament where the law makers will determine the fate of the country for the next five years. And all expectations are that a ‘National Government’ will be formed and tasked with the making of a ‘3rd Republican Constitution’ to steer the war-battered multi-ethnic, multi-religious country to a reconciled and prosperous nation. The question is will the people endure a paradigm shift from the past, or let the bitter past overtake and end that journey of hope abruptly.

 

When President Sirisena was sworn in on January 9th, the journey of ‘Good Governance’ began with earnest: The autocratic rule of the previous regime had come to an end. A new Chief Justice was sworn in and confidence in the judiciary was restored. Militarisation of civil administration has ended. Self-exiled journalists and human rights activists were invited to return. Freedom of expression restored and white-van abductions have halted. Over the ensuing weeks and months, the fear psychosis dissipated, cost of living was reduced by a reasonable measure, and corruption enquiries and anti-corruption measures commenced. Moreover, political appointments to overseas missions had been withdrawn, relations with NPC and EPC have improved, and most importantly international relations with key countries are on the mend.

But these important foundations made for the ambitious journey ahead are being shaken by the attempts of former President Rajapakse and his cohorts for a political come back. While widespread allegations of corruption, malpractices and abuse of power made against them are awaiting investigations, efforts are being made to whip up hysterical nationalism in order to regain power unashamedly. Needless to say that these are last-ditch attempts to cover-up the cardinal sins of ‘Mahinda Chinthanaya’ and its executors. To let them go scot-free is no option.
All parliamentarians are elected by the people, for the people. No politician should take it for granted that he or she should be re-elected, or feel entitled to lead a government. Voters on the other hand, should hold them accountable, ask them how they spent the political capital you invested in them, and what return you and the country will reap if they were to be re-elected. No one should imprison themselves to a party or to the past. Rather, weigh up the candidates, note any emerging positive changes, look to the future and vote with their conscience.

It is important to identify those who use the improved political climate for their own personal aggrandizement and prosperity. Don’t let them disdain the voters that their money could buy. Above all, responsible voters will reject those who show scant regard to the will and aspirations of the people.

With the 19th Amendment to the Constitution, the country is better placed to eliminate the culture of impunity and any tendency for returning to autocratic rule. But the journey for democracy and good governance will not be complete without reaching out to the Tamil political leaders to equitably resolve the national question, or by placing obstacles to reconciliation, such as denying internationally assisted enquiries into alleged war crimes.

Early in the year, Pope Francis, who visited Sri Lanka at the invitation of now defeated President Rajapakse, had a message of hope for them: "May all people here find inspiration and strength to build a future of reconciliation, justice and peace for all the children of this beloved land". The Sri Lankan people, who made the rainbow revolution only a few days before his visit, are capable of completing the difficult journey for good governance they themselves began. They need to stay wide awake until August 17th, believing again in people power, to make an important transition once more.

Only a collective political will for democratisation, rule of law, respect for human rights and inclusive governance will reap sustainable peace, prosperity and international recognition.

Press release:Australian Advocacy for Good Governance in Sri Lanka Inc.

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