By Dr Upul Wijayawardhana
Of many a wonderful saying that embellishes the Sinhala language, none seems more appropriate, at present, than the expression “Yanne koheda? Malle pol“; when asked “where are you going?”, the reply is “I have coconuts in my bag!”. Of course, it is a well-known tactic adopted by politicians of all shades, the world over; when asked a penetrative question for which they have no answer, instead, they answer their own imaginary question! Judging by similar responses to my article “Continuing craziness” (The Island, 11 November) I wonder whether there is, perhaps, ‘Covid-induced confusion’.
Whilst thanking G A D Sirimal (Continuing craziness: The Island, 15 November) for his advice on how I should write about the ‘war victory’, may I point out that his blaming me for not giving the credit to General, sorry, Field Marshall Sarath Fonseka shows that he seems to have completely failed to grasp the context of my piece. In my article, I was not discussing the war but expressing my total disbelief that the two people, at the helm of the country, are unable to tackle the total indiscipline rampant in the country with the resultant chaos, though they were able to defeat a ruthless terrorist group! In this context FM Fonseka is totally irrelevant as he is far from being at the helm!
I agree with Mr Sirimal that “The government, under Mahinda Rajapaksa, won the war” is the most accurate way to describe the war victory. Afterall, it is the ‘ruler’ who gets the credit for a war victory and, in fact, blamed in case of defeat. Though no one can deny the part played by FM Fonseka for the war victory, unfortunately, it was his own behaviour, following the end of the conflict, that soured the victory. Because he was so convinced that the victory was primarily his that crafty Ranil was able to convince Fonseka to stand against Mahinda at the presidential election. During the campaign, Fonseka declared that the day after victory he will hang the Rajapaksas in Bogambara prison. Meanwhile, Ranil was giving assurances to the Tamil diaspora in Europe that he would sort out ‘the minority problems’, as he would become the ‘executive’ PM, once Fonseka was elected President!
It is beyond comprehension how FM Fonseka got in truck with the UNP, which acted with disdain, mocking the army at every turn. The UNP ridicule was mostly directed at Fonseka, one MP stating in parliament that he could not lead even the Salvation Army! As PM, Ranil signed a peace treaty with Prabhakaran at the instigation of Norway, which was breached by the Tigers even before the ink was dry! Army suffered many setbacks due to his actions. The UNP continued to ridicule the attempts of Mahinda’s government at defeating terrorism.
To grab political power, Fonseka was prepared to forget all those insults. Worse still, he was prepared to let down his own army. When unfair accusations of human rights violations were made Fonseka’s explanation was that he was abroad when ‘the white flag incident, etc. occurred. As he was abroad at the time of winning the war, how come he claims the major part of the victory? Further, his attacks on the Navy Chief Karannagoda is despicable, to say the least. In the final phase of the battle, our Army was advancing under the cover of the Air Force and the enemy was cornered because the Navy effected a blockade, preventing the escape of terrorists. Who coordinated all this? It was Gota and that is why the Tiger rump has named him the “Terminator”. Aided by some burning with jealousy, The Tiger rump levelled many accusations against Gota but nothing was ever proved. The fact that the eace-loving Sri Lankan voters could see through these was shown by the massive endorsement Gota received at the presidential election.
FM Fonseka’s thirst for political power seems totally unquenched. After having made mincemeat out of the reputation of Sajith, and his father too, in a “Derana 360” programme prior to the last presidential election, unashamedly he became a Sajith devotee, after the announcement by Sajith that FM Fonseka would get a top post in his administration. Now it is rumoured that he is in competition with Champika in the move to oust Sajith! A significant proportion of his recent outburst in Parliament had to be ‘bleeped-out’ for broadcast news. Had he retired gracefully, instead of taking to politics, he surely would have earned a much better place in history.
Commenting on my article, Buddhi Perera in his opinion piece “From Craze to prosperity” (The Island, 12 November) states: “When thinking about the past performance of these brothers, namely Mahinda, Gotabaya and Basil, the last two names would not give rise to pleasant memories. As Secretary of Defence, during Mahinda’s rule, Gotabaya gave all assistance to our security forces Commanders by providing all men and material they asked for and some named the battle as Gota’s War. One may always wonder why it was not Mahinda’s, Sarath’s, Wasantha’s or Roshan’s War”. Maybe, in a “Yanne Koheda? Malle Pol!” stance, Mr Perera states providing all assistance would not give rise to pleasant memories! Memories would not be pleasant only for Tiger sympathisers!! The reason why some named it ‘Gota’s war’ is simply because Gota performed that vital function of coordination which, according to many defence experts, was the most important reason for the ‘war victory’.
Perera also refers to an opinion piece by Rohana Wijayawardhana (Country in peril? The Island 11 November) which was printed beside mine, expressing an opposing view, which illustrates the high journalistic traditions maintained by The Island over the 40 years of its existence.Wijayawardhana, by the way is no relative of mine, fears the country is in peril due to the following reason: “The present set is being led by a person who had many serious allegations against him even before his election while all past leaders did not have such allegations”. Whilst I greatly doubt whether all our past leaders were squeaky clean and had no allegations against them, am more concerned that the present President is being castigated on the basis of unproved allegations. It looks as if the vilification campaign of the Tiger rump has had the desired result!
In spite of the recent political setbacks, I still feel that provided Gota and Mahinda can repeat their past performance, the prevailing chaos can stop so that Sri Lanka starts a journey towards prosperity. Others may disagree but I still feel they are the only hope as there is no alternative in sight, at the moment. The fact that the opposition is failing badly was well highlighted in the editorial “Enemies of people” (The Island, 17 November).
My fervent hope is that all politicians realize the great danger the country faces and work together for better times.
Harin batting for India
The Minister of Tourism, Harin Fernando, has stated that the Sri Lankan Government will be handing over the operation of Mattala International, Ratmalana International and Colombo International Airports to India. He has added that Sri Lanka is a part of India! Has he lost his senses?
Separately, should it not be the role of the Minister of Ports, Shipping and Aviation Nimal Siripala de Silva to make such a far-reaching decision?
Mattala, Ratmalana and Colombo are the three main airports of entry to Sri Lanka. Giving their management over to Indian organisations is tantamount to putting the proverbial snake inside one’s sarong and complaining that it is stinging.
What then will be the future of Airports and Aviation Sri Lanka (AASL)? They are, in any case, a ‘service provider’.
It is the responsibility of the government of Sri Lanka through its regulator, the Civil Aviation Authority Sri Lanka (CAASL), to adhere to International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) requirements and regulations. Will this be compromised?
The International Air Transport Association (IATA) guidelines for airport governance declare that the State (in this case Sri Lanka) must be accountable irrespective of national, legal or regulatory framework, or airport ownership and operating model. Could that be ensured under this recently announced arrangement?
Such accountability must be guaranteed by enactment of primary legislation in the aviation sector, mindful of the adage that a chain is only as strong as its weakest link. I believe that the Legal Draughtsman’s Office will take an inordinate amount of time to deliver this guarantee, amongst other things.
There is also the matter of establishing an effective regulatory framework with CAASL to monitor technical/safety and economic performance of the aviation sector, and compliance with International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) obligations, Standard and Recommended Procedures (SARPs), and policy guidance.
In my opinion CAASL is not yet capable of that. In a combined operation such as this, IATA stipulates “Awareness and mitigation of potential conflicts of interest inherent in the regulatory framework or ownership and operating model through clear separation of powers, for example conflicts between economic oversight and shareholding arrangements, and separation of regulatory and operational functions”.
So, it is not an ‘open-and-shut case’, as Fernando believes. It is complex. His optimism is amazingly unrealistic, to say the least.
Remember, certification of aerodromes by the technical/safety regulator under ICAO requirements will continue to be carried out by CAASL as at present. According to the Organisation of Professional Associations (OPA), report Sri Lankan regulators tend to be more “obstructive” than “facilitative” when it comes to certification. CAASL needs to be revamped for greater efficiency.
Other refinements involve the independence of regulatory authority (CAASL) from government, and striving for separation of economic regulation from technical/safety regulation. CAASL was formed under the ‘Private Companies Ordinance’ but unfortunately it has drifted back to conducting its business as a regular government office, with political interference and all.
Besides, it is vital to establish an Aircraft Accident Investigation Authority, preferably independent of the CAA. Annex 13 to the ICAO convention says: “The State shall establish an accident authority that is independent of the aviation authorities and other entities that could interfere with the conduct or objectivity of an investigation.”
That, I believe, is what ‘checks and balances’ are about.
Meanwhile, the silence of the Aviation Minister is deafening.
The proposed ‘Indian involvement’ is a sad state of affairs when we have aviation experts in this country who have retired from careers in many parts of the world, and are now capable of sharing their knowledge and experience to good effect.
There is already an Indian-managed flying school at Ratmalana catering to Indian students. Maybe the camel has already put its head in the tent, and only money will talk.
Pledges to abolish executive presidency
With the presidential elections around the corner, the abolition of the executive presidency has come up for discussion once again.
This time around, the proposal for abolishing the executive presidency has come from former President Chandrika B. Kumaratunga. She pledged to scrap it first when she ran for Presidency in 1994. But she did not fulfil her promise.
Former Presidents Mahinda Rajapaksa and Maithripala Sirisena are also now for scrapping the executive presidency.
Almost all the former Presidents came to power promising to scrap it but once in power they swept it under the carpet.
The Opposition parties claim they are for the abolition, but after the next presidential election. which, they say, they are confident of winning.
Mahinda has recently said it is preferable to abolish the executive presidency because he has already held it twice. However, he seems to have forgotten that he was greedy for power and he failed in his third attempt. For him and most other past Presidents, executive presidency is sour grapes.
They are now trying to have the executive presidency abolished in the hope that they will be able secure the premiership.
Ironically, Anura K Dissanayake, NPP leader and presidential candidate is against the abolition of the executive presidency as he is confident of winning the next presidential election.
So, all of them are in the same boat and one thing is clear; whoever becomes President will never have it abolished.
The campaign for scrapping the executive presidency will go in circles, forever.
Dr. P.A. Samaraweera
Dispelling Misconceptions: Visionary Future of an NPP-led Sri Lanka
by Shantha Jayarathne, PhD
In recent discussions, concerns have emerged about the National People’s Power (NPP) in Sri Lanka, with some fearing a return to outdated communist traditions if the party ascends to power. These apprehensions, often fueled by political agendas, particularly target those with limited political literacy. This article aims to dispel these misconceptions and shed light on the NPP’s forward-looking vision for a progressive and prosperous Sri Lanka.
Coalition of Visionaries
Contrary to the narrative peddled by certain factions, it’s essential to recognise that the NPP represents a diverse coalition of 22 parties and civil society organisations, with the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) as its main partner. Importantly, both the NPP and JVP members boast of a commendable track record, free from accusations of corruption, nepotism, or cronyism. Nominations are filed for any election from the NPP under the “Compass” symbol, and contestants with high repute and integrity will be drawn from all 22 constituent parties in the broad coalition.
A Clear Development Roadmap
The NPP has consistently articulated a comprehensive roadmap for the development of Sri Lanka. Emphasising the importance of a thriving Agriculture, Industry, and Service sectors, the party is committed to eliminating barriers hindering investments. Corruption, favouritism, and covert dealings of officials and people with vested interests will be totally eliminated under an NPP government. Furthermore, the NPP pledges to introduce efficient systems, ensuring minimal delays and promoting a business-friendly environment that attracts both local and foreign investors.
Government’s Primary Obligations
Addressing fears of property takeover, the NPP asserts that its government will not engage in business activities but will focus on essential public utility services, education, health, social security, and defence to ensure the well-being and security of the nation. NPP will not only encourage local investments but also it will take all possible measures to attract foreign direct investments. State-Owned Enterprises (SOEs) facing financial challenges will undergo restructuring with utmost transparency, fostering efficiency and accountability.
Business Friendly Environment
The NPP is dedicated to creating a level playing field for businesses by implementing regulations inspired by the most developed economies. Consistent antitrust laws, investment protection laws, and laws that are inconsistent and complex will be amended or new laws will be enacted to ensure fair competition and safeguard business interests. By fostering an environment that encourages innovation and competition, the NPP aims to boost economic growth and prosperity. NPP plans to streamline the systems and process to facilitate investments within the shortest possible timeframe whereby it aims to take Sri Lanka in the Ease of Doing Business Index from 99th position today to a position within the first 50. The Cooperative system will be strengthened in an NPP government and they will be regulated to deliver an effective and efficient service to the periphery.
Transparent Tax Policy
Simplifying Sri Lanka’s tax policy is a priority for the NPP, aiming to create a transparent and tax-friendly environment. NPP will ensure a stable and consistent progressive tax policy in the country, and all regressive taxes will be eliminated. Citizens will be provided with clear information at the end of the Tax Year on how their tax contributions are utilised for public services, promoting accountability and citizen engagement. This transparency is crucial for building trust between the government and its citizens.
Learning from Developed Countries
Taking lessons from successful models of governance in developed countries, an NPP government will strive to implement best practices in public administration. Emphasising the importance of accountable institutions, streamlined bureaucracy, and effective public service delivery, the party is committed to ensuring transparency and efficiency in governance. There will be a minimum number of cabinet ministries for key areas, and their roles and functions will be clearly defined while making the officials accountable to their respective assigned functions. Zero tolerance for corruption and the law of the land will be applied to everyone alike.
Economic Adjustments and IMF Negotiations
Acknowledging the need for economic stability, the NPP plans to initiate negotiations with the International Monetary Fund (IMF). This strategic move aims to strike a balance between economic adjustments and safeguarding the livelihoods of the people in the country. The NPP is dedicated to ensuring that any economic reforms are implemented with a people-centric approach, minimising adverse effects on the general population and the industry.
Nonaligned Foreign Policy
The NPP upholds a nonaligned foreign policy, reflecting a commitment to Sri Lanka’s sovereignty and independence. While fostering international relations, the party is resolute in not allowing foreign nations to utilise Sri Lanka’s soil for military purposes. This stance ensures that the country remains neutral and independent in its dealings with other nations, safeguarding national interests and security.
Repositioning Sri Lanka in the World Order
A central tenet of the NPP’s vision is the repositioning of Sri Lanka in the global context. The party is dedicated to identifying and leveraging the country’s potentials, addressing weaknesses, seizing opportunities, and managing threats, both internal and external. This strategic approach aims to elevate Sri Lanka’s standing on the world stage, fostering positive engagement with the international community.
Quality of Life Improvement
A key focus of the NPP government is enhancing the quality of life for all citizens. The party recognises the importance of social welfare, healthcare, education, and infrastructure development in elevating living standards. By prioritising these aspects, the NPP aims to create a society where every citizen can enjoy a higher quality of life, emphasising the well-being and prosperity of the people.
Addressing False Propaganda
Amidst the misconceptions surrounding the NPP, it is crucial to address the motivations behind certain groups disseminating false propaganda. The fearmongering tactics employed by those with vested interests seek to perpetuate a status quo that has allowed for ill-gotten wealth and alleged illegal transactions. These groups, resistant to change, attempt to sway public opinion by sowing seeds of doubt about the NPP’s commitment to a fair and just governance model.
However, when one closely examines the NPP’s dedication to transparency, efficient governance, and inclusive development, it becomes evident that these accusations are nothing more than a desperate attempt to cling to the shadows of a fading era. The party’s emphasis on tackling corruption, restructuring inefficient State-Owned Enterprises, and simplifying the tax policy directly challenges the interests of those who have thrived in an environment of opacity and undue influence.
As citizens, it is paramount to discern the true intentions behind such narratives and recognize the NPP as a force poised to break free from the shackles of corruption and vested interests. By supporting the NPP’s vision, Sri Lankans have the opportunity to usher in a new era – one marked by ethical governance, economic prosperity, and a society that prioritises the well-being of its people over the interests of a privileged few.
In conclusion, the NPP stands not only as a political entity but as a beacon of hope, calling on the people to embrace change, reject false narratives, and collectively forge a path towards a brighter and more equitable future.
(The Writer, a UK resident, is a former Senior Consultant at the Sri Lanka Institute of Development Administration (SLIDA). He is a member of the NPP-Policy Development Team, and he can be reached through email: firstname.lastname@example.org)
Fair weather will prevail except for evening showers in Kalutara, Galle, Matara and Rathnapura districts
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