| by Milinda Rajasekera
(October 24, Colombo, Sri Lanka Guardian) The position of greatness to which President Mahinda Rajapaksa intends elevating this country by implementing the policy of Mahinda Chinthana, as stated while addressing a gathering at Vavunathivu, Batticaloa on Wednesday after commissioning a mega water project, is indeed a splendid expectation. The implementation of this policy will take the country forward with greater speed and vigour and create a better future for all communities, he has added.
The hurdles and obstacles that have to be cleared in this forward march, however, are numerous. The biggest hurdle that has now emerged causing much public concern is none other than the grave threat to safety and security of the people posed by violence, lawlessness and the dangerous collaboration between politicians and criminal elements in the commission of corrupt and criminal acts. The recent incidents and events have in fact awakened all sections of people to the urgent need for taking effective remedial steps. The people of this country who had just been relieved of the menace of terrorism are now exposed to a grave threat posed by a fraternity of criminal gangs and unscrupulous politicians. They are even more dangerous than terrorists since they carry out their operations while living in society unidentified and unknown by people.
Concerned sections constituting the present government have alerted those at the helm of affairs to the impending danger if they fail to take quick and meaningful steps to curb the trend. Minister Champika Ranawaka – whose party, Jathika Hela Urumaya (JHU), was mandated to bring about a righteous society in this country – is among those who have emphasized the urgent need for changing the political culture of the country. He has said the government should use its clear majority in parliament to change the entire political system to bring to politics persons of high calibre. The JHU with its religious dedication obviously has a special responsibility to play an effective role in accomplishing this objective.
There is clearly an urgent need for radical changes in all spheres of administrative activity in the country. In fact, nothing less than a complete overhaul of political, economic, social, religious and cultural systems would be effective enough to avert a descent to further degeneration. Priority, of course, has to be given to reforming and refining the political system the weaknesses and deficiencies of which have spawned most of the evil in our society. In this exercise of bringing about political reforms it is imperative that formula should be found to remove the discontents and grievances of all sections of people. More time should not be wasted in finding a reasonable solution to the ethnic problem which bedeviled this country turning it into a virtual ‘killing field’ and obstructing its progress for decades.
It is this situation of a country with a section of disgruntled citizens that provides excuses and opportunities for the outside world to interfere in the internal affairs of that particular country. These interferences are carried out with hostile or friendly motivations depending on the level of cordiality maintained between the relevant countries. A reasonable solution to the ethnic problem that will provide opportunities for all citizens to live with honour and equality will, therefore, be a vital factor in removing much of the hostility that is generated abroad against our country.
It is a mistake to imagine that the ethnic problem has ended with the elimination of Velupillai Prabakaran and his terrorist gang. It is the residual sense of discrimination that still fans the embers of communalism that previously engulfed the country. President Rajapaksa, no doubt, makes an effort to remove this sense of frustration by making conciliatory statements and holding out promises to assuage the aggrieved sections. In fact, his assertion that the country no longer had minority communities was reassuring to the minority ethnic groups. But the fact remains that the government has so far failed to proceed beyond these statements of good intentions with concrete administrative steps. The reason for this dawdling understandably was the government’s preoccupation with elections that came in rapid succession. Now that the elections are over, the government has to proceed with the important task of ending the country’s longstanding problem.
Bringing about electoral reforms is equally important. It is unfathomable as to why the government is hesitant about accomplishing this task when the recommendations made by a parliamentary select committee after much deliberations have been made available to it for implementation. While going ahead with these proposals it is incumbent on the government, if it is serious and honest about conducting free and fair elections to repeal the 18th Amendment to the Constitution and restore the 17th Amendment with the recommended amendments to it, incorporated. This would pave the way for the establishment of vitally needed independent elections commission and other commissions that are necessary for preparing the climate for democracy, good governance and free and fair elections. The 18th Amendment, in the opinion of concerned and discerning sections in this country, has torpedoed the good intentions that paved the way for the 17th Amendment to the Constitution.
Radical steps are also necessary in the spheres of economy and in several other fields of administrative activity if the overall political culture of this country is to be improved thus enabling the country to achieve greatness among nations.