Featured image courtesy puvath.lk

I wish I could answer this question with an unqualified yes, but I cannot. There has been significant progress on several issues, but also stagnation and even regression on several others. The gap between our hopeful expectations and the emerging reality is widening. Like perhaps a majority of our population, I rated the administration that was ousted in January this year to have been not only the worst since we attained independence, but also so firmly entrenched in authority that it could not be dislodged in the foreseeable future. The smooth and peaceful ouster of that administration, including its top leaders, seemed to be miraculous. In my expectation, and perhaps that of most others, the new administration, once established through reelection in August, would take us unimpeded towards good governance and reconciliation.

In fact progress has been disappointingly slow and uneven. There has been some credible progress in respect of some aspects of national reconciliation. But what has been achieved on the ground on some very urgent issues central to national reconciliation is minimal (e.g. the release of prisoners held without trial for many years with no charges framed against them). So too on the issue of greater devolution to the provinces, and that of missing persons.

In the last few months, the record with respect to corruption is also mixed and very much short of expectations. It won’t do to merely say that  no corrective action can be taken or punishment imposed till charges are proved. Have credible investigations of major allegations of fraud or nepotism or other irregularities been undertaken and assigned to agencies that are widely accepted as independent? Until recently there has been a long established tradition that the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) should be multi party and headed by a widely respected Member of Parliament from the opposition. This not only gives credibility to the PAC but also discourages baseless allegations being made by the opposition.  This principle should have been extended to all major allegations of which there is an increasing number. We do not see this happening.

Many of those who make damaging allegations may not be aware of all the facts; nor am I. But there are enough facts sufficiently well known to rouse suspicion of vices such as financial corruption, nepotism, conflict of interest and a false sense of entitlement, all of which had been defining features of the previous administration. There is a lack of cohesion and clarity among our leaders that cause people to believe in various conspiracy theories.  Even those leaders not under suspicion seem to be weak and unwilling to rock the boat. There appears to be no dominant figure among those of the current leaders not even indirectly tainted by association with the failings listed above to name and shame those guilty. Perhaps Sobitha Thero had the potential to be that icon, but he is no more.

As set out earlier, I lack full information, but the Central Bank Bond issue involving the Governor and his son in law appears to be damaging. The independence and the credibility of the Central Bank is vital. The Committee that inquired into this issue lacks credibility. Also damaging is the Avant Garde issue which involves allegations of fraud, subversion of national security and conflict of interest. This issue involves both the present and previous administrations. Thirdly, violence against defenseless students by Police and Service personnel as illustrated by the very public assault of those students demonstrating is degrading. The Police claimed that they used “minimum force”. If that was “minimum” force what is normal force? Disciplinary action against the guilty Policemen and those who led or instigated them is called for.

There are many other charges that need to be credibly investigated. Tragically, some of these charges implicate widely respected persons previously thought to be incorruptible. Moreover, many with shamefully corrupt reputations seem to have successfully “jumped the fence” from the former administration to the present one and seem to be happily continuing their corrupt activities.

I still believe that the present government is vastly superior to the earlier one but the gap is shrinking. If the trend indicated above continues, people will begin to doubt whether in fact there has been a transformation. This would be a disaster. Our new leaders need to quickly take account of the growing sense of disillusionment and effect strong corrective measures. Time is running out.

  • Jayalath

    Yes, there are progresses in some betrayal areas . Other than whole country is stagnated . We predicted what will certainly happen under incompetent Sirisena . Who was backed by the people who had secret agendas ,which is conspicuously seeing today .so, I do not agree with abolition of executive powers any more until the all communities understand the fundamental needs to well drive the country. I’m feared of come back of separatists sentiment . The northerners would not satisfy without partitioning and there are many more secret agendas under way . Therefore, it will be very unwise to abolish it today for personal benefits and blunders .
    I personally believe that Sirisena must realise now his mistakes and blunders , and he has no support in the country to run as a president. He must step down and leave to Ranil . Then , Rajapaksa can come back to compete with Ranil in next term .
    Can you tell me what areas are better than when Rajapaksa rules ? There aren’t any good areas , instead we only can see that whole country is hold back . Very sad , very pathetic .

    • Devanesan Nesiah

      The faults of the earlier administration are too many for me to elaborate.Some of those are also, to some extent, evident in the new administration.But definitely there has been significant progress, and the voters have already indicated that they recognise it.
      You are wrong about Northerners wanting to partition this Island. The people of the North never wanted partition, although the LTTE did and suppressed any opposition to secession. The Vaddukoddai resolution reflected the demands of a militant, separatist minority , not the wishes of the majority of the Tamil people. The LTTE understood this and that was why they killed nearly all the top Northern Tamil leaders despite that resolution.

      • Jayalath

        Why would we think that Isis menace would overwhelm the whole world ? No, it is not evil or unfair to think that Isis would be a threat to the peace in the world ,because we can experience through the collective threats caused by them recently . Likewise , we have scepticism regarding the LTTE sympathisers whether they will regroup and cause troubles . However , The LTTE took arms on the interest of separatism because the Tamil and singhala intellectual politicians and the elites failed to navigate the communities over politically ,socially and economically. And the central government economic policies also largely caused the rest of unrest among people irrespectively race or religion , which evidence two arms struggles waged in the south on 71′ 89,90. thus , our woes and wounds were yielding through the cynical and hypocritical political interest in the past , therefore , there are no room for the answers to our problems over separating on the religion or ethnic . So it can be delighted to hear from some mouths today that they do not advocate for separatism ,and it must be displayed by actions than just verbally. What we must initiate now is that constantly strengthening the commitments to generate the fair and equality to every citizen in the country . Which is the only way to build the real reconciliation between us . The internationalists would never ever be able to provide such vacuum.
        And Im not impressed with the progress of present regime which seems to me it is creating new wave of crisis rather committing to execute pledges of the good governance

        • Devanesan Nesiah

          I agree with you regarding the nature of the LTTE. Let it RIP. Since it is no more, we should turn our attention to Reconciliation in and the Reconstruction of our common motherland – Sri Lanka. Persisting in attacking the LTTE is, as expressed in a Tamil saying, like hitting a dead snake – a vain and stupid exercise.

          However, there are two categories of people who need to pretend to believe that the LTTE yet exists and is potent, viz:

          1) A section of the Tamil diaspora that had depended on the LTTE for their existence and influence.

          2) Racists within Sri Lanka who oppose Reconciliation for their own political reasons.

          We should ignore these two categories as irrelevant and proceed to rebuild our island and to promote the welfare of all Sri Lankans.

          • Anpu

            Mr Nesiah

            Majority of the Sinhalese Buddhist leaders do not practice Buddhism. But they are building viharas in the N&E. I do not see any progress.

            Tamil Guardian 06 December 2015
            ‘No one can put pressure on us’ states Sri Lankan prime ministerSri Lankan Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe burshed off claims that his government had come under pressure to sign the Rome Statue and join the International Criminal Court (ICC).

            Colombo Gazette reported the prime minister as saying,

            “No one can put pressure on us and no one has put pressure on us”.

            He went on to state that Sri Lanka would not be joining the ICC and reports of mass atrocities, as outlined in a UN report earlier this year, would be addressed through a domestic accountability mechanism.

            Tamil Guardian 06 December 2015
            Sri Lankan troops place 28 Buddha statues in new vihara buildingTroops from the Sri Lankan military orchestrated a religious ceremony and placed 28 Buddha statues in a newly constructed Buddhist vihara building in Kilinochchi last week.

            Tamil Guardian 06 December 2015
            Sri Lankan army constructs new Buddhist temple building in Eastern ProvinceThe Sri Lankan declared open a new building for a Buddhist temple in Batticaloa last week, according to an official army website.

            The new building at the Sri Pantharma Temple in Vellaveli in the Eastern Province, was opened on November 27th, as Tamils across the North-East and the world marked Tamil remembrance day.

            http://www.tamilguardian.com/

      • Justin

        If Vadukoddai resolution of 1976 reflected the demands of minority, how did TULF obtain 67% votes in 1977 election demanding a separate state?

    • Keynes!

      Jayalath,

      “Can you tell me what areas are better than when Rajapaksa rules ? ”

      The attacks on Muslims have stopped.

      • Jayalath

        To you and puniselva .
        I’m 100/% agree with you on Muslim issue , Rajspaksa did nothing to stop BBS . But the rest , nepotism , corruption ,borrowing , arbitrary behaviours , and promises have become blatant lies . We saw them by budget proposals as well .
        However , that many people forget about how we had to live under LTTE threats . They caused much worst problems than some atrocities caused by Rajapaksa regime .we must learn to analyse what happened in the past on reasonable and fair manner .unless ,if we deliberately tried to ignore the fate that would not bring any goods . The scale of crisis ,not only here that is in every where unimaginable level . So,we have peace today which at least a major consolation,but some people will not accept it as they did not get what they want .

        • puniselva

          we have low level of negative peace and a very low level of positive peace – much truer for the ethnic minorities than for the ethnic majority.
          We need a much higher level of both kinds of peace for socio-economic progress and reconciliation.
          Tamils are still suffering post-war situation and are dying to see an end to the conflict of 67yrs through a political solution to the causes of the conflict. It’s a shame we’re arguing about this now.

        • Devanesan Nesiah

          Jayalath,

          Several effigies of Sumanthiran have been burnt. This is
          deeply threatening. Sampanthan has not been touched because he is now widely
          regarded as an elder statesman, almost in the mould of Chelvanayakam.
          Anandasangaree was for long the prime target of the LTTE, but he was under
          heavy armed protection provided by the State. If you have real doubts as to
          what the Tamils want, read the latest election manifestoes of the leading Tamil
          parties.

  • Anpu

    Are we progressing towards Good Governance? NO, no, no, no, noooooooo….

    The United Nations Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances (UN WGEID) called on the Sri Lankan government to bring about truth, justice and reparations to victims of enforced disappearances, stating that “the time for action has come”.

    In a statement released to mark the end of the group’s visit to the island, the UN WGEID said the “extensive use of enforced disappearances, followed by an almost complete lack of judicial accountability and decisive and sustained efforts to secure the truth about the disappeared – including the determination of their fate or whereabouts – as well as the absence of a comprehensive reparation program and social, psychological and economic support for the relatives, have left profound wounds in society and a deep sense of mistrust among the relatives”.

    It further added “this context of mistrust is exacerbated by the continued and extensive presence of the military in the North and East of the country”.

    Calling on the Sri Lankan government to “translate that announced commitment into concrete and urgent specific measures to address disappearances,” the statement added:

    “The time for promises is over. The time for action has come.”

    “Today, the Sri Lankan Government has the challenge to transform its promises into a concrete, comprehensive, legitimate and participatory framework established to secure the rights to truth, justice, reparations, memory and guarantees of non-repetition for the victims, their families and Sri Lankan society as a whole, in the context of a reconciliation process,” said the group. “While reconciliation is extremely necessary in Sri Lanka, it cannot be achieved at the expense of the rights of the victims.”

    The statement went on to outline steps that the government should take going forward, including the immediate repeal of the Prevention of Terrorism Act and prosecutions for enforced disappearances.

    “The Working Group considers that prosecuting and trying only few emblematic cases will not be sufficient to comply with Sri Lanka’s international obligations nor to satisfy the expectations of the victims and important sectors of society,” said the statement.

    “According to Sri Lanka’s international obligations every victim of enforced disappearance should receive full and integral reparations without any type of discrimination,” it added.

    “The number of cases before the Working Group is the second highest in the database of the Working Group worldwide,” it noted. “Nevertheless, it unfortunately represents the tip of the iceberg.”

    The statement comes after the group announced it had discovered a “secret underground detention cum torture centre” located in Sri Lanka and called on the government to reveal the existence of other such centres if any existed, in a press conference in Colombo.

    UN confirms existence of secret torture camps in Sri Lanka, calls on gov to reveal other possible locations (18 Nov 2015)

    • Devanesan Nesiah

      I am broadly in agreement with you except that I think you overstate your case and under estimate even the modest progress made . The present administration is weak, divided and unsure of it self, but is incomparably superior to the earlier one.The Srisena / Wickremasinghe leadership needs to be strengthened, not demolished. It needs to be prodded on by constructive criticism. The passing away Rev.Sobitha Thero is a disaster. Hopefully, other strong leaders will emerge to help us to progress. The return of the earlier administration would be an unqualified disaster.

      • Anpu

        Thank you Mr Nesiah for your reply. I agree with you from “The present administration …” How long we need to wait for the final solution and what that would be?

      • puniselva

        We cannot afford to fail to follow Rev Sobithe Thero’s path – the last hope for a political solution to the conflict.

        • Devanesan Nesiah

          To Anpu and Puniselva,

          It is difficult to set a time frame for radical change. We need to keep pushing and remain both patient and vigilant.

      • Justin

        Can racists who are not brought back to senses ever be constructive in criticism on linguistic matters? Can an anti LTTE person be neutral and sensible on Tamil matters?

        • Devanesan Nesiah

          Justin,

          Tamil people
          in the north east have no acceptable alternative candidate or party to vote
          for. In any case the voters knew that their leaders wanted devolution, not secession.
          The Tigers also knew this, which is why they killed so many of those leaders.

      • Independent

        You have given a very sensible answer.
        There are 3 kinds of people.
        1. Those who inflicted with “Rajapakse” decease
        2. Those who inflicted with “Tamil Cause” decease
        3. Those who are healthy.
        We all should try and live at the present moment and think of priorities.
        1. Bring back proper Law and Order
        2. Bring back proper Law and Order
        3. Bring back proper Law and Order
        All other issues will be addressed automatically. Past is past, but today we have a President who appointed his brother to a position he doesn’t deserve. We have a President who appointed a Minister, who then appointed his own brother to a position he cannot even function. Today we have a Prime Minister who appointed a CB Governor who clearly acted unethically without ANY heart to poor tax payer. To day we have a defence minister who went to Disney Land with a man who bribed virtually every politician.

  • mola

    [Maithripala] better? Ha, ha, ha, hoh, hoh. hoh. What a joke. All he does is reminisce about how hard done by him, by MR, it’s like a mantra. Me, me, me, poor me! Just like a wife abandoned by her wayward hubby !!!!!!!!