Going beyond Sarath Fonseka in achieving democracy for people
A visibly shaken wife in tears, Anoma Fonseka told the media â€œthis is the gift my husband got for finishing a 30 year war”. Gen Sarath Fonseka was arrested, or detained, or taken into custody or may have been even abducted by a military group late in the evening on Monday from his office, in Colombo. What ever label one gives for such exercises, they eventually end up as legal arrests in Sri Lanka, as was earlier proved in the case of Uthayan and Sudar Oli editor N. Vidyadaran’s abduction, on 26 February, 2009 while the war was on and Gen Fonseka was the army commander.
Apparently the end of the war has not changed it to be any better. As for what’s now happening, the reading was on the wall. Quite plain and clear while the two opposing candidates fought their battle for presidency with rhetoric sans politics. Accusing each other, of plotting to kill each other.
The presidential elections thus cleared and prepared the ground for such blatant violations of the law and DEMOCRACY, irrespective of who won the elections. The war hyped on Sinhala patriotism enabled the State machinery to be as ruthless as it is now, when Gen Fonseka is removed from where he was. Make it so elusive, that none would know how journalist Ekneligoda went missing. â€œLanka” news paper editor is detained under emergency law that was unconditionally supported by the JVP also. War that gave it all teeth and might to violate the law and still make the big bite, legal and justified.
Irony of fate it is now, that Gen Fonseka has to go through similar violations of rights and be treated this way. Yet, it should not be. Gen Fonseka, has a right to be treated fairÂ according to law and within democratic norms of justice. Allowing this regime to continue to act with impunity is not punishing Gen Fonseka for his part in erecting this brutal regime, but giving into a regime that would continue to punish any or all who would stand for rights and democracy.
While there is urgency in demanding justice for Gen Fonseka, there is also the need to discuss how law and order and democratic life could be achieved in this country. It is this political necessity that the UNF is ignoring, trying to make electoral gains for the upcoming parliamentary elections through loud noise and larger numbers. The necessity now is not just to have a large alliance but to have a strong democratic programme for the next parliamentary elections. It is the political programme that should decide the alliance.
What should this programme include as current and urgent ?
Today it is urgently necessary to identify democracy, law and order and development, as key issues and as core problems in living a safe, decent and a satisfied life in Sri Lanka. Democracy and law order can not be achieved as â€œonly for the South”. Unless Tamil democratic life is assured, there can be no democracy, no law and order for the Sinhala and Muslim people only. Its just common sense. Its only one centralised and repressive State that takes on all ethnicities.
The Sinhala society therefore has to be told that their right to law and order, democracy and development have been hijacked by substituting a â€œSinhala patriotic” voice that has only kept them burdened with an everÂ growing repressive State and socio economic problems all through the 62 years, after independence.
The Tamil society has to be provided with a leadership that need not necessarily be Tamil in ethnic terms. This was so, when the old LSSP stood for parity of status. It would be Tamil, to the extent that it represents their present, post war aspirations. Thus the issue of IDPs would have to be taken in real political terms, a political factor that is not being addressed by the Opposition in the absence of a credible Tamil leadership, strong enough to voice their concerns.
The issue of especially the Eastern Muslim population and their right to undisturbed livelihood in a democratic environment sans guns and grenades, is one tied to their cultivable land as well, that is in dispute all through the war and even at present. These could only be sorted out within democratic structures in a law abiding society.
The total programme thus would have to have a â€œpeople’s face” with the voices of Sinhala, Tamil and Muslim societies.
That programme should therefore in brief include,
01. Call for ethnic and social reconciliation for all war affected people to leave their burdens behind and become active members of a unified society
This is a necessary democratic process that has to be allowed to independently establish and grow outside State intervention, but with a political undertaking by the government and the opposition to honour its recommendations and conclusions.
This is a socio political necessity, as allowed in South Africa with â€œTruth Commissions” that healed its deep rooted social wounds from apartheid rule in the face of war crimes accusations, that any government in such crises would have to deal with.
02. Call for immediate demilitarisation of society to allow freedom to people’s undisturbed daily life and policing of law and order
The issue of maintaining law and order in a non-political environment in society is almost directly linked to the extent the society is left under undue security concerns and how politicised the organs of the State are. Today, with the war declared over, the necessity for people’s elected representatives to move about with armed security is wholly unnecessary and leads to their alienation and for arrogance in relating to social issues. Therefore the removal of armed security assigned to elected representatives has to be immediately called for starting with Provincial Council members. The disbanding of para military groups has to be called for immediately to ensure that the legal State security forces are held responsible for social security.
The police should be turned into an independent department under an independent Commission established according to the 17th Amendment to discharge its duties and responsibilities in the manner it is meant for â€“ maintaining law and order in civil terms.
03. Call for a â€œRoad map” for resettlement and rehabilitation of IDPs to be presented in parliament with budget allocations, to make the process responsible to parliament and accountable in terms of public money
The issue of the IDPs is not one of Tamil concern and Sinhala compassion. It is a political issue that has to be settled within democratic politics. The Tamil people have the universal right to freedom of movement and the right to settle where they were, prior to the war or to chose where they wish to settle. Therefore, the government is duty bound and morally responsible to tell the people what its programme is and the time frame for implementation. The government also has a responsibility to tell the public, Sinhala, Tamil and Muslim, how much money would be disbursed for the purpose as public money is being utilised for all such work. The call therefore should be to present a programme in parliament for resettlement and rehabilitation of IDPs with due allocations of money and responsibility.
04. Call for Democracy for lost development in the South
This would explain that the Unitary State, under all 3 Constitutions â€“ Soulbury, Republican and the Presidential â€“ have failed to deliver an economically viable society to the South. Districts in the South are the most poorest of all districts with 53% of the national wealth accruing in the Western Province with Colombo as its centre. People though electors of legislature, loose their representative power in deciding where their money go and how. A massive majority of migrant labour from the undeveloped rural areas, earn 35.9% of the foreign exchange for this country and still live among over 37% of poverty in the rural areas. It is thus a prime necessity to promote a participatory system of power sharing for the provinces to decide provincial development within a national policy framework. This would also raise the necessity of a new â€œconstitution” with strong devolved power.
05. Call for a â€œnational development plan” with emphasis on rural development, education, health and public transport
The issue of â€œNational Development” has always been limited to budget proposals that never get discussed seriously even in parliament and never have follow up interim discussions, even in parliament. Most other â€œdevelopment” projects are totally outside the budget and are implemented by ministries on their perceived importance and availability of donor assistance. This has led to a situation where the labour market in a regional perspective is never surveyed and the rural economy plays no part in job creation, with education seeing no reason to have any relation to â€œdevelopment”. Thus the necessity to open up a social dialogue on national policy, taking into serious concern the provincial necessity of meeting local needs, for which the 13th Amendment needs to be honoured.