Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe delivered a telling indictment on the direction that country had taken after 70 years of parliamentary democracy, on Tuesday. Addressing the special session of the House, to mark 70 years of parliamentary democracy in Sri Lanka, the Premier lamented that the people of Sri Lanka, who have enjoyed 70 years of parliamentary democracy and 60 years of independence had failed to come together as Sri Lankans. He said the Sri Lankan people failed to establish a true Sri Lankan identity by forging goodwill among all ethnic groups. This (failure to establish a true Sri Lankan identity) did not allow Sri Lanka to reap the maximum benefits of the open economy, introduced in 1978. The nation was embroiled in six decades of ethnic conflict and an ethnic war that lasted 30 years, he noted.
The Premier's lamentation no doubt has its foundation in the vituperative and contentious politics practised down the years, to the present day. Political opportunism overtook any other consideration. As a result, golden opportunities that were presented, on a platter, to solve the ethic problem, and other major issues confronting the nation, were spurned. The ethnic conflict was allowed to fester, until the genie was released from the bottle in the form of a full blown ethnic war that ate into the country's vitals, relegating it to the ignominy of a failed state. To think that the late Singaporean Prime Minister once, in the 50s, declaring he wanted S'pore to emulate Sri Lanka, in its development model.
The gains that could have been derived under a true democratic polity, if only the leaders of the day acted as statesmen/women instead of playing politics, would have made this country a prosperous nation today. Like the Primer argued, the advantages that could have accrued to the country under the market economy was squandered by the deep seated ethnic conflict and the prolonged war, that stemmed from it. The open economy that was operating successfully until the ethic flare up in 1983 simply foundered, thereafter, with the violence, and the blackened image of the country, not holding any prospects for investments and expansion.
What is worse, when the country today is enjoying peace, efforts are being made to scuttle progress by politically driven elements. Strikes, protests and acts of sabotage have become the order of the day, with even people who should know better, such as members of the medical profession, in the forefront of these acts. Bigoted elements, are, also, all out to scuttle efforts to bring about ethnic peace and communal harmony. They have taken the mantle of the protectors of the nation and the Buddha Sasana.
What the PM implied in his speech was that opportunities to build ethnic harmony were blocked, at every turn, by the leaders succumbing to the pressure of the radical elements, as what is being played out today. S.W.R.D. capitulated and so did Dudley. Both the Bandaranaike-Chelvanayagam Pact and the Dudley- Chleva Pact were consigned to the dustbin, following the pressures exerted by the hard line nationalist elements led by militant Buddhist clergy. Regrettably, we are witnessing more of the same, at present as well, with strident nationalist voices attempting to scupper the creation of a new constitution, that will pave the way for reconciliation and ethnic harmony. Echos of the past are being heard once again in this enlightened age, with politically driven Buddhist monks beating the ‘sell out’ drum and inciting the masses, even defying the sober sentiments expressed by the Mahanayaka of the Malwatte Chapter, who in turn, is being challenged by these chauvinist elements.
The tragedy is doubly so, since this is a golden opportunity to set about righting matters, with both major political parties, who right along were at each others’ jugular, having joined together to form a unity government, and despite repeated assurance by the President and Prime Minister that no clause will be included in the proposed constitution, that will be inimical to the sovereignty of the state, or the preeminent status accorded to Buddhism.
Namal in a twist
Former first son Namal Rajapaksa has made a grand discovery. He says that Germany’s Angela Merkel had won a fourth term as Chancellor, and that, the Yahapalanaya leaders had lost no time in congratulating her. This was in contrast to the big hue and cry made, when his father, Mahinda Rajapaksa, went for a third term via the 13th Amendment. Young Rajapaksa, no doubt, sought to demonstrate the double standards of the Yahapalanayites.
Rajapaksa junior has certainly got things mixed up. The German Chancellor is a parliamentary leader and became Chancellor (for the fourth time) by virtue of her Christian Democratic Union party winning a majority in the Bundestag (German parliament),ahead of the Social Democratic Party and the Alternative for Germany (AfD).
Hence, she did not go for the poll, as a candidate for President, for which a two term is the norm.
On the other hand, a single political party can be elected to parliament for more than two terms, as has happened in Sri Lanka.
Daily News, October 6, 2017