The day the general election results are out (6 August, 2020), will coincidentally be exactly one year since the Buddhasasana Karyasadhaka Mandalaya, an organization comprising erudite monks and Presidents or representatives of leading Buddhist societies with Venerable DiviyagahaYasassi as Chairpperson and Most Venerable Tirikunamale Ananda Mahanayaka Thera and Venerable Professor Agalakada Sirisumana Thera as Joint Secretaries, presented a memorandum to all leaders of Political Parties at the BMICH. The document itself was unique and historic because it had the signatures of the heads of all religions including the four Mahanayaka Theras, the Archbishop of Colombo, the Bishop of Colombo Diocese, All Ceylon Hindu Congress, and President, All Ceylon Jammiyathul Ulama.The memorandum was titled “Towards the dawn of a new political culture of integrity in Sri Lanka. All Heads of political parties or their representatives, several ministers and MPs and other VIPs were present. Gotabaya Rajapaksa was handed the memo when he came to the Vajiraramaya to meet the Mahanayaka Thera. He later mentioned in an official communique that he was supportive.
What was the main reason for this never before attempted move? It was an expression of the deep and justified disapproval (actually disgust) with which the general public viewed many of the then MPs – lacking education and decency. Several had not even a pass in the GCE OL examination and very many were guilty of dishonesty and corruption. Most did not know how to behave in the Legislature and were totally incapable of judicious debate. The majority of these knew only how to heckle, hoot, and use indecent language Some had dubious backgrounds too; a few guilty of proven crimes. Hence the Buddhasasana Karyasadhaka Mandalaya took it upon itself to make the very necessary and urgent request.
The very next question before I go any further is: Was this memorandum given due consideration and were selection of nominees to contest the elections made taking into account the character, suitability and acceptability as true representatives of the people with loyalty to the country? . This would apply mostly to new persons who sought party nomination. Fortunately yes. The National Peoples Party (NPP) joining forces with the JVP presents some excellent candidates. In those who had been MPs, was their previous performance in Parliament or as State Ministers taken into account and the general opinion of the public?
A huge, loud, disgusted NO is the answer. It looks as if the parties have selected even those who were Members and Ministers of the previous Parliament whom everyone knew to be corrupt with bribe taking, enriching themselves stupendously, favouring their own relatives and sycophants, and not discharging their duties creditably. The only criterion when selecting contenders for the 2020 elections appears to have been whether the person could win a seat and give an overall majority to the Party. Thus the decadent who somehow or other have a following were given nomination. Sadly those with excellent character and educational and other qualifications will probably lose to the scum who are in the jousting for ballots. That is the voting publics crime.
Opinion backed up with statistics
I have got a message from one of those who helped to draft the memorandum I refer to. He has permitted me to say he was a senior public officer with high credentials and is now in robes having given up everything but having a deep concern for the welfare and well being of this country. I called him a VVIP; he replied: Never a VVIP, maybe a VIP on some occasions.
So please, as I will do, we must vote wisely. If possible let us make others know of the importance of their vote and to use it to stamp out as far as possible, corruption, nepotism, vice and injustice. The Ven Bhikkhu wrote: Please act according to your conscience. I, too, have avoidedpolitics throughout my life even as a layman. Evennow I avoid politics but there is aduty by our country and our people to create an environment for humangrowth. That is compassion.
He continues in his note to me:A general election is crucial because it enables the sovereignpeople to vote for a government they wish to have. In Buddhist texts we have theterm mahasammata, which means approved or accepted by the many. We now have a very civilized way of choosinga governmentand that is by casting one’s vote. Over 50 % of Sri Lanka’s population are females and I believe that almost 99% of them want to live peacefully in a decent environment. People have to understandthe value of their vote and hence, vote responsibly.
According to world indices Sri Lanka is placed 89th in corruption, 69th in Rule of Law, 71st in crime, 54th in healthy life expectancy, 130th in happiness, and 69th in qualityof life. If this country, with a majority Buddhist population, follows at least the five precepts, Sri Lanka should be within the first ten. For this to happen the country needs persons of integrity and honesty to be Members of Parliament and this is the chance in five years to send such persons to Parliament, and herald the Dawn of a new era.
Yes, we women are wiser and usually more reliable to choose correctly. Thus all Sri Lankans eligible to vote should exercise their franchise to select honest candidates with integrity. We may have party preference, but this time we must consider the choice of persons offered us and choose educated men/women of some standing. That is absolutely imperative. This is the final chance to be democratically governed. Both largest parties have split. In one, the offshoot has outgrown and outstripped its mother plant. It is said to be heading for a majority win.
The other large party, and older, which like its symbol the elephant was originally majestic, strong and dependable, unfortunately divided into two, solely due to hubris of leaders and deputies; personal considerations which mean selfishness overcoming party allegiance and loyal duty to the nation; and unwillingness to compromise. Both the party that gets into power and the opposition need good men who love this country and place the country before self and not vice versa. And we need a balanced parliament, with no party winning a two third majority or bribing the decadent to cross over to make up the two thirds. That too is imperative by voting the correct persons in.
It seems to be, we will all be holding our breath after voting and till results are announced (well over one day later). A huge consolation is the Elections Commissioner and the Commission are to be trusted. So let us fervently hope and even pray the elections proceed smooth, fair and unhindered and results declared ensuring the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka will remain thus intact, with straight standing men and women being the new MPS.
Development after the elections
By Jehan Perera
Many years ago, former Government Agent of Jaffna, Dr Devanesan Nesiah, explained the northern sentiment when elections were taking place. He said there was apprehension about the possible turn of events over which they had no control. The minority status of the Tamil people would invariably mean that their future would be determined by the outcome of the power struggle in the south of the country. I was reminded of these words of Dr Nesiah during discussions organised by the Civil Society Platform in the northern towns of Vavuniya and Jaffna on the democratic challenges arising from the forthcoming elections.
The main theme, at the present elections in the south, and most of the country, has been the need to elect a strong government and to give it a 2/3 majority to change the constitution, accordingly. The response in Vavuniya and Jaffna, by the members of civil society, was that a strong government would not heed the wishes of the people. Like people in other parts of the country, they felt let down by the political leaders and said they did not know for whom to vote. The issues that they highlighted as being their concerns were economic ones, such as the lack of jobs for youth and the harm to families caused by an unregulated micro credit scheme that made them vulnerable to the predatory actions of money lenders.
The civil society members, in the towns of Vavuniya and Jaffna, did not take up the issue of the 19th Amendment and the possible threat to civil society space that the speakers from the south put before them. This indicated a longer term need to have educational programmes on the importance of the rule of law and judicial independence, in particular, to ensure justice and non-discrimination. But they also did not comment or discuss the manifesto put out by the main Tamil political party, the TNA, which addressed longstanding issues of the Tamil polity, including self-determination, federalism, the merger of the Northern and Eastern provinces or the newer post-war issues of missing persons and accountability for war crimes.
The absence of public debate, at the civil society meetings in the north on the political dimension at the forthcoming elections, may reflect a wariness about speaking publicly on politically controversial matters. Civil society groups throughout the country have been reporting there is more police surveillance of their work. The fear of falling into trouble and being seen as anti-government may have restrained the participants at the civil society meeting in the north from expressing their true feelings. On the other hand, there is also the reality that existential issues of jobs, loans and incomes are of immediate concern especially in the context of the Covid-induced economic downturn. The short term concerns of people are invariably with economic issues.
One of the salient features of the present elections has been the general unwillingness of even the main political parties to address any of the issues posed by the TNA. This would be due to their apprehension of the adverse fallout from the electorate. It could also be due to their lack of ideas regarding the way forward. Apart from the 19th Amendment, another impediment to a strong government, that is identified by its proponents is the 13th Amendment. In the run up to the elections, there have been calls for the abolition of the 13th Amendment, which created the devolved system of provincial councils, along with the 19th Amendment that directly reduced the power of the presidency and increased the independence of state institutions. The provincial councils have been emasculated by denying them of both resources and decision making power and are condemned for being white elephants.
It has been noted, by the political commentator D B S Jeyaraj, that the TNA’s choice of focusing on issues of transitional justice, in dealing with war time violations of human rights, led to the TNA aligning itself with Western powers. This did not yield the anticipated benefits as the previous government failed to implement many of its commitments in regard to transitional justice. It would have been better to have focused instead on getting the provincial councils in the north and east to engage in more development-oriented work which would have met the existential needs of the people.
Jeyaraj has also surmised that if the TNA had chosen the path of utilising the provincial council system for development work, it could have obtained support from India, which had been the co-architects of the provincial council system, in 1987, along with the then Sri Lankan government. India has a moral obligation to contribute to developing the north and east of the country where the war raged in full fury and led to immense destruction. India’s role in destabilising Sri Lanka and enhancing the military capacity of the Tamil armed groups, including the LTTE, is a bitter and abiding memory which the journalist Shamindra Ferdinando has written extensively about.
A creative suggestion made during the civil society discussion in Jaffna was for the provincial councils to implement what governments have promised to implement but have failed to do. An example given was that of reparations to war victims. The previous government pledged to set up a system of reparations in terms of the UNHRC resolution in 2015. But, although an Office for Reparations was established, very little was done. The question was whether the provincial councils in the north and east could not have utilised their resources for the purposes of instituting schemes of reparations as it would be clearly within the policy framework of the government.
While the issues in the TNA’s manifesto will remain perennial ones to the Tamil polity, the people are looking for political leaders who will deliver them the economic benefits in the same way as in the rest of the country. The civil society meetings in the north suggests that the northern people are not showing priority interest in political issues as they believe these are non-deliverable at the present time. Instead of using its majority status in parliament and seeking to abolish the 13th Amendment, and the provincial council system, and creating a crisis with the Tamil polity and India, the new government would do better to work through them to meet the material needs of the people. They need to also realize limits of the constitution, and focus on social, economic and political pluralism and promote values of tolerance, pragmatism, cooperation and compromise, and consent of the governed.
A blazing story!
The local showbiz scene is ablaze with a story about the members of a particular band, who indicated that they are undergoing a tough time, abroad, because of the coronavirus pandemic.
It was a video, showing the members pouring forth their difficulties, and earnestly requesting the authorities concerned to bring them back home, that got others to move into action…and the truth has come out.
After having looked into their situation, extensively, knowledgeable sources say that the video contained a load of lies and, according to reports coming our way, the band has now been blacklisted by the authorities for lying about their situation.
These guys have, apparently, gone on Holiday Visas and have, thereby, contravened the Visa conditions.
The story going around is that they have had problems, within the band, as well.
The authorities, in Sri Lanka, are aware of the situation, in that part of the world, but there are many others who are waiting to get back home and, they say, musicians can’t get into the priority list.
So, it’s likely to be a long wait for these guys before they can check out their hometown again!
Top local stars to light up ARISE SRI LANKA
Richard de Zoysa’s brainchild, ARISE SRI LANKA, is going to create an awesome atmosphere, not only locally, but abroad, as well.
This telethon event will feature the cream of Sri Lankan talent, said Richard, who is the Chairman of Elite Promotions & Entertainment (Pvt) Ltd.
Put together as a fund-raiser for those, in the frontline, tackling the coronavirus pandemic, in Sri Lanka, ARISE SRI LANKA will bring into the spotlight a galaxy of local stars, including Noeline Honter, Damian, Mahindakumar, Rukshan, Melantha, Jacky, Ranil Amirthiah, Mariazelle, Trishelle, Corinne, Sohan, Samista, Shean, Rajitha, Umara, April, Shafie, Dr. Nilanka Anjalee Wickramasinghe, Kevin, Ishini, and Donald.
Mirage is scheduled to open this live streaming fun-raiser, and they will back the artistes, assigned to do the first half of the show.
Sohan & The X-Periments will make their appearance, after the intermission, and they, too, will be backing a set of artistes, scheduled to do the second half.
The new look Aquarius group, led by bassist Benjy Ranabahu, will also be featured, and they will perform a very special song, originally done by The Eagles, titled ‘There’s A Whole In The World.’
The lyrics are very meaningful, especially in today’s context where the coronavirus pandemic has literally created holes, in every way, and in every part of the world.
Aquarius will be seen in a new setting, doing this particular song – no stage gimmicks, etc.
The finale, I’m told, will be a song composed by Noeline, with Melantha doing the musical arrangements, and titled ‘Arise Sri Lanka.’
The programme will include songs in Sinhala, and Tamil, as well, and will be streamed to many parts of the world, via TV and social media.
Richard says that this show, scheduled for August 29th, is in appreciation of the work done by the frontliners, to keep the pandemic, under control, in Sri Lanka.
“We, in Sri Lanka, can be proud of the fact that we were able to tackle the Covid-19 situation, to a great extent,” said Richard, adding that even the World Health Organisation (WHO) has acknowledged the fact that we have handled the coronavirus pandemic, in an exceptional way.
The team, helping Richard put together ARISE SRI LANKA, include Noeline Honter, Sohan Weerasinghe, Donald Pieries, from the group Mirage, Benjy Ranabahu, and the guy from The Island ‘Star Track.’
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