Peace and Conflict

One year of Mahinda Chintana

Editors note: Text from the Mahinda Chintanaya referred to in this post is in bold. The Mahinda Chintanaya can be downloaded here.

Mahinda Chintana (Mahinda Vision) is a document written for the 2005 presidential elections. It gives a vision for the changes that the President would like to bring about during his tenure. After one year it is time to revisit some of the statements made and to assess what has been achieved and start a discussion with the Sri Lankan people on what seems to have been election rhetoric and what has been achieved so far in reality. A first attempt hopefully followed by reactions by many of us who follow the present development in the country. Each section starts with a quote from the document followed by an observation.

Page 4

I will be dedicated to the task of totally eradicating the drug menace presently experienced in Sri Lanka. I will do so within a period of three years through a co-ordinated effort covering the implementation of laws, the actions of police and other social institutions.

The government did indeed not loose any time in trying to eliminate criminals who promote drug trafficking in the country. These underground dons were, however, not arrested but illegally eliminated while strengthening those underworld figures favourably to the present regime.

Page 7

Graduates will be provided 10.000 more jobs during the year 2006, in addition to the 42.000 jobs already provided by the UPFA government to those graduates who were compelled to join the queue of the unemployed.

Indeed it sounded to good to be true. Thousand of graduates were given jobs. However, without training, proper induction, and proper competency profiles these graduates are now hopelessly frustrated. Some may be happy with a government job. Most of their skills are under-utilised and they are quickly being assimilated in the ineffective ways of working of most government departments. A lost golden opportunity.

Page 23

I wish to have all villages of the country emerging as micro-centres of growth of modern lines, whilst retaining the strengths and impressive features of rural life that had perished over the past few years.

Nothing much has changed on this score. Thugs loyal to the ruling party are the bosses in most rural areas and nothing can be done in that area without their support (and without paying illegal dues and kickbacks). Local economic activity suffers in consequence

Page 26

The freedom of our country is supreme. I will not permit any separatism. I will also not permit anyone to destroy democracy in our country. It is through loving kindness, compassion and altruistic joy (mettha, muditha, karuna) that the civilisation of our country was built upon. …. I will respect all ethnic and religious identities, refrain from using force against anyone and build a new society that protects individuals and social freedoms.

Do I need to comment? Illegal killings and disappearance are daily reported in the media. The Government is unable to protect its citizens. So indeed a long way to go before Mettha, Muditha and Karuna are once again ruling the country.

Page 27

A virtuous state: Due to actions on the part of some of our rulers who distanced us from our respective religions, our country which was once known as a “Daham Divaina” (sacred island) has been engulfed by a wave of crime. In order to move away from this trend, I propose that people develop closer links with the temples, churches, kovils and mosques.

If the resent meetings in Anuradhapura are an indication one would have to conclude that Buddhism is being degraded by Ministers, Deputy Ministers and Bureaucrats alike. It is embarrassing to see how the robe is being abused, religious ritual is being subverted and that Buddhism has become associated with the use of abusive language (in and outside parliament).

Page 30

An undivided country, a national consensus, an honourable peace …My intention is to devolve power to the level of the citizen. I believe that by developing a strong citizen, we would be able to reach a solution in this national conflict… I shall initiate direct talks with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam. … At such talks I shall present the consensus reached to the LTTE…. Our agenda, which shall be open and transparent, shall include vital concerns such as renouncing separatism, demilitarisation, entry into the democratic process, a discussion towards a final solution and the implementation of such solution.

Consensus reads more as verdict in this formulation. But by all means safe us from the LTTE, but be aware of not creating a monster biting your tail in the process. There have been no direct talks, no consensus was built and the decision to return to war was all but transparent.

Page 36

I shall introduce a National Security Policy, which will preserve the Sovereignty and Territorial Integrity of the country. … To build up a national security force with high morale, excellent training and strict discipline.

As Sri Lanka citizens have been dreaming about this for a long time it would be a welcome change. If politicians would just refrain from phoning police stations when one of “their chaps” need to be released, who knows. Has the National Security Policy been published?

Page 37

A judicial process will be introduced to prevent breach of fundamental rights of all citizens, and to provide redress expeditiously in an inexpensive manner in the event of violation of fundamental rights.

Contrary to what the plan must have been the judiciary has been further subverted, fundamental rights of citizens continue to be withheld and redress remains expensive and takes a long time.

Page 38

The police department will be modernised … while transforming the police service into a people friendly and impartial service.

Now this is something that has been improved. Do not you think? Police are courteous, correct and to the point, not asking for bribes or cigarettes any more. But why do we see so much of them and why do we have to interact with them to frequently?

Page 39

A national economic policy will be formulated by integrating the positive attributes of free market economy with domestic aspirations in order to ensure a modern and balanced approach where domestic enterprises can be supported while encouraging foreign investments.

Domestic aspirations are to simply be able to set up and run a business without being held to ransom by political thugs in connivance with the police. From what we read India is the biggest investor in Sri Lanka buying all it can and strengthening its grip on the local economy.

Page 83 and 84

Eastern revival. …

We only read and hear about war and destruction in the east. We hear about the Karuna group being supported (armed and sustained) by the Sri Lanka army, we hear of elected members of local authorities being killed, we hear of … Are we being badly informed or is revival of the east the least of worries for the Government?

Page 94

The state media will be de-politicised. .. develop a Code of Ethics for media to ensure that media will not be used in an irresponsible manner…

If we hear about the disappearances, killings and illegal arrest of journalists: how can we take this statement serious. Or is this code of ethics more in the style of the US-Bush administration: You are either for or against. And if you are against you are a terrorist and need to be eliminated.

Page 98

It is my belief that the United Nations Organisation and International Financial Institutions should be more democratic in their approach. We will actively intervene in this regard.

The IMF has left Sri Lanka we read? Are the World Bank and the Asia Development Bank also on the way out, or will they burden us with yet bigger loans crippling our economy, stifling our future generations with depths they can never repay, while making a small elite in Colombo fabulously rich?

All in all not a satisfactory start of Mahinda’s vision. Let’s hope the record improves.