Economy, Elections, Human Rights, Human Security, Peace and Conflict, Politics and Governance, Post-War

Dear Mr. President

Dear Mr. President,

I’d like to congratulate you in advance for your impending victory of the Presidential election in the following days to come. With the SLFP consolidating their power through the provincial council polls in the aftermath of the war, a presidential re-election and another term with you as President seems inevitable.

The potential in Sri Lanka knows no bounds; therefore boundaries must be clearly drawn so that this potential is not exploited by a few for themselves and for their kith and kin. This has undoubtedly taken place in Sri Lanka time and again, with every administration that has governed the country. This needs to be addressed by the authorities and checks need to come into play. For example, it is not only unlawful but also very ugly to see policemen being transferred for obeying the rule of the law and for cleaning up the visual pollution that has plagued our country during the time of this election campaign.

Whatever the political outcome for the North and East, the citizens of those areas deserve a chance to embark on development with the rest of the country which I do not doubt would occur under the next regime. It is whether that development will take place while allowing those citizens to keep their dignity or whether they would have to go to the government, begging bowl in hand to request for the basic rights and security already promised to them through the UN convention and our constitution. For example, the number of those who go missing and finally arrested without warrant is a complete breach of human rights, yet it is a frequently occurring in the areas of Batticoloa and Ampara. The arrest of the journalist Tissanaiyagam is a clear example of an innocent man being kidnapped, then arrested and finally found guilty and sentenced to 20 years rigorous imprisonment for what the government feels are defamatory statements. His recent release prior to the election is another example of the ability by the government to manipulate the judiciary. A second example is of the reappointment of P.B Jayasundara who was ordered by court to resign, only to be later reappointed under the President’s orders. Yours.

The shockingly large cabinet that has grown under your previous term, 230 ministers to be exact, is another clear display of how citizens’ tax money is being thrown down the drain. With your entourage reaching a 2000 man squad, Mr. Gotabaya Rajapaksa, Chamal Rajapaksa and Mr. Basil Rajapaksa at 500 each, Mr. Namal Rajapaksa and the ex-Col Karuna at 300 security guards each, the total amounting to Rs. 147 million a month for the salaries of security personal alone (at the rate of Rs.35,000 per Special Task Force soldier). This excludes the cost of petrol for the Rs.200 million rupee bullet proof vehicles that are used by most of those mentioned above. This does not go to say that security is not a necessity, I mean only to say that when this is the example set by the highest in authority, then it is inevitable that the rest of the 200 odd ministers will follow suit and continue to exploit the same system which they are meant to be protecting. The abuse of government property such as vehicles and labour are only two of things which are abused by numerous ministers to the knowledge of the public, judiciary and government. Sri Lanka is currently the 97th most corrupt country in the world according to Transparency International. The chairman of Transparency International has been threatened and even a grenade was thrown into his house where he lives with his wife and small children. Yet no one has been arrested. The varying types of corruption, from murder to theft is rife within the government departments in Sri Lanka, with those in the lowest of positions feeling the trickledown effect of corruption through the administrative lines and thus making the system inefficient and inaccessible to its citizens. More than ‘Mathata Thiththa’ it may be corruption that should be addressed with immediate effect. By empowering the citizens with the right to information is what will ensure that corruption would be monitored and then dealt with through the Supreme Court if no action is taken on corrupt individuals by the government.

According to PAFFREL, Caffe and the elections commissioner, the forthcoming elections have been rife with violence and irregularities. As of the 20th of January, 391 complaints have been confirmed. The elections commissioner has stated that he will resign after the Elections tomorrow.

Following the war, I feel we no longer need any more trouble. For the last 26 years Prabhakaran and his twisted political struggle was the blame for the deteriorating education and health services as well as other social services in the country. Billions had to be spent on the military while billions more was lost in money that was never made in the economy. Politically the focus, even in this post-war election, has been purely on defence and not on social development and empowerment. That work was left for the NGO’s to do and for some to abuse. However it was not only a few NGO’s who profited from crises like the 2004 Tsunami. Reports have it that USD$1 billion is missing to this day from the $2.5 Billion that was donated to the government.

Corruption continues to infest like a cancer in all corners of government at different levels and varying types of it. Whether it’s the drug market, commissions and sometimes thuggery or murder; sadly the finger always points towards government ‘servants’.

Sri Lanka has been given a new lease of life with the ending of the war but more importantly, we have been given an opportunity to finally divorce the political process from the military which had suffered due to the corruption and undisciplined nature of politics on institutions. Politics too has been given the opportunity to be separated from the military and be dealt with independently; therefore creating an effective and efficient system that is accessible to all citizens undisputedly. With these two issues settled, the single most important issue is corruption. An issue which ex-General Fonseka stressed on throughout his election campaign. An issue which got him neck and neck in these presidential elections.

As the government servant in the highest position, I ask you Mr. President to please put in place the tools such as the freedom of information Act and the 17th Amendment with immediate effect of your new term since transparency and the establishment of good governance is the need of the hour. A clean, independent police force is a requirement in order for us, the public to prosecute those violating our fundamental rights by using state resources and abusing state power for their personal benefit. Without these instruments in place, the ordinary citizen is powerless, leaving only you responsible for the losses made.

I wish you the best in your next term in office. I look forward to seeing real change and progress in state, society and the economy.

Kind regards,

Samath Gammampila