President Maithripala Sirsiena, addressing the 66th anniversary celebrations of the SLFP said he gave his predecessor six reasons as to why the latter should not go for a premature election. One of the reasons was that Rajapaksa had miserably failed to introduce democratic reforms and a proper reconciliation process to build the shattered lives of the people in the North and East, after the conclusion of the war. It is this very fact that alienated the country from the international community, earning for it a multitude of sanctions and reprimands. The President said the threat of war crimes charges, economic sanctions and the hostile attitude of the global community against Sri Lanka was the direct result of the Mahinda Rajapaksa regime's failure to create an atmosphere of reconciliation. He asked as to what would have been the situation, under this extremely hostile environment, if there had been no regime change and the status quo allowed to prevail.
He said it was left to him, as the new President, to convince the world leaders to afford him time to set things right and effect the necessary reforms, restore democracy and put the reconciliation process in motion. These leaders responded positively and gave the new government ample breathing space to set matters right by pulling the country from the parlous state it had plunged into.
The President could not have been more correct. The Rajapaksas took the flood of the popularity generated by the war victory at the tide and bulldozed their way, trampling over all norms of decency, values, ethical standards and democratic ideals which were replaced by autocratic rule, nay an oligarchy. Democracy gave way to family rule, with the law and order machinery and the justice system undergoing total collapse. Crime and murder, sanctioned by members of the first family, went by default, with no investigations carried out or details suppressed, as is now being unraveled. Plunder of the national wealth continued unabated, with no one called to account.
Minorities mattered no more to the rulers and the Tamils were treated as a vanquished race, to be at the mercy of the majority community. The first parliamentary session, after the war victory, presided over by the emperor, provided an inkling as to what awaits the minorities and Tamil community in particular. It was clear that Rajapaksa was not letting this opportunity go without being harnessed to his maximum political advantage, both for the present and the continuation of Rajapaksa rule deep into the future. The text was drafted to appeal to the core element of the nationalist sentiment, exclusively targeting the southern electorate.
Rajapaksa declared from the throne that there was no longer a majority or minority community in Sri Lanka but only those who are with ‘us’ and those who are not. He also hectored that a solution to the ethnic problem would certainly be found, but strictly on ‘our’ terms and not those imported from outside. Military parades took the form a spectacle, to celebrate the war victory, held at regular intervals, giving the whole affair the patina of an army on the march after conquering a foreign enemy and aptly termed “victory parades”. President Sirisena should be commended for doing away with the practise and converting this into a commemoration day, of sorts, in remembrance of ALL those who sacrificed their lives in the war, both, civilians and combatants.
Other steps too were taken to slight and hurt the feelings of the Tamil community, such as doing away with the practice of singing the national anthem in Tamil, in schools and government institutions in the North. No action was taken when a burial ground of the LTTE's dead in the North was bombarded, allegedly by the unruly elements in the military, nor any form of commemoration permitted, to mourn the dead of their loved ones, to the people of the North.
Not just the Tamils, even the Muslims were targeted by the regime by inaction in the face of open hostility towards the community by saffron robed marauders. The police were made mere onlookers when mobs stoned Muslim establishments and businesses. They (the police) would not dare take any action, what with Gotabhaya Rajapaksa seen in the exalted company of the monk who led the mob.
President Sirisena also spoke of the assault on the judiciary and justice system in general. No doubt he would have had in mind the numerous instances where the wrong doers, against whom there were cases pending, were allowed to go scot free, curtsy the Attorney General's Department which was under the head of state. Nor, how the country's only lady chief justice was hounded out of office for failing to rule in favour of a Rajapaksa sibling who was an all powerful minister.
President Sirisena appealed to the SLFP supporters to help him cleanse the party and rid it of the rot that had set in. He wanted their assistance to rescue the party, that had been infected with corruption, nepotism, crimes and waste in the recent past and take it to victory in 2020.
Daily News, September 6, 2017