SRI LANKA: A New Era Of Politics Begins In Sri Lanka

By Basil Fernando

A peaceful mass uprising on 9th July 2022 has brought about the end of a political era which started with the promulgation of the 1978 constitution of Sri Lanka: that constitution completely undermined democracy, the rule of law and human rights in the country. During a period of continuous protests over 3 months, the people constantly demanded the resignation of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa. However, Rajapaksa had repeatedly refused to comply with the people’s mandate, claiming that he had been elected by an overwhelming majority of the people. Finally the exasperated people gave the president an ultimatum: resign by July 9, 2022! A vast number of people from all over the country gathered before the president’s official residence and finally occupied presidential house and secretariat buildings. As a result of this clear demonstration of extreme dissatisfaction with his family’s greed and the president’s incompetence, which had brought about a complete breakdown of Sri Lanka’s economy and its disastrous effects on the lives of most people, the president finally had agreed to resign on 13 July 2022. His decision has been communicated to the honorable speaker of the house. The prime minister has also offered his resignation.

We will later learns the details of how a new administration will established in the near future. However, we also need to maintain our focus on the long term changes that are required. There are several fundamentals that need to be considered if we are to resolve the structural problems that have been inherited as result of the introduction of 1978 constitution. For all practical purposes this constitution is a dead letter. However, it needs to be formally abolished by employing a process that involves the full participation of the people of Sri Lanka! We need to enact a constitution which is holy based on the principles of the rule of law, democracy and respect for human rights: these basic principles are the essential foundation and framework for building new structures of government and reforming all public institutions. Given the systemic theft of the country’s and people’s resources and wealth by a small number, but well-organized elite families, in order to decisively end corruption and the abuse of power, the most urgent need in the country is the establishment of a comprehensive legal framework, with structural checks and balances, as well as clear and open accountability. Without a clear, comprehensive and enforceable law to stop corruption, there will be no fundamental change in the functioning of the state. The establishment of functional state is an essential pre-condition for resolving of the problems associated with the complete collapse of the economy that resulted from the debt crisis. Ridding the country of corruption is also an essential condition for the creation of a stable political system, which could provide the requisite leadership to resolve the current economic and long-lasting social problems. Only then will the government be in a positions to provide for the full welfare of all the people.

A stable political system can only be built and maintained on the basis of the effective system of administrative of justice. This necessarily involves the reform of the police, particularly the investigative branches of the police, by bringing the attorney generals department completely under the rule of law and removing all obstacles to the independence of the judiciary. This requires the strict enforcement of laws relating to non-interference with the administration of justice.

In the present circumstances, parliament should give priority to the necessary legislative changes, including making the requisite budgetary allocations, to achieve these changes.

Given the present desperate financial crisis in the country, at this critical moment, every higher income individual should agree to cooperate with all the citizens of Sri Lanka and agree to contribute their fair share in taxes, in a substantive manner, to bring about economic and political stability in the country.

The establishment of a credible political system, that can eliminate systemic corruption and provide full accountability is essential to obtain the full cooperation and support of all Sri Lankans, including those currently living outside the country. Once those systems are in place and effectively operating, Sri Lankans living abroad will be more prepared to contribute generally to helping deal with the Dollar crisis and thus resolve many of the hardships that people face as a result of the dollar denominated debt crisis.

Without such an overall change to the political system it will not be possible to win the cooperation and support of the masses of people who have taken to streets and also others who are unwilling to contribute financially for the lack of confidence in the political system. Obtaining the support of international agencies and other governments will also depend on the measures set out above that need to be taken to ensure a true political stability.

The attack on the Sirasa Media team at the Prime Minister’s residence needs to be condemned and immediate action should be taken to investigate the incident, arrest all suspects and consider criminal charges to ensure justice.

As shown by peoples interventions in recent months, the freedom of expression and freedom of association and assembly are the basic pillars for the protection of society and also individuals. The present moment should be utilized to consolidate these rights: such a consolidation will create a fundamental change in the political culture in Sri Lanka.

The constant ongoing vigilance of the people is the only way to ensure that new systems of administration that are to be established will function for the benefit of the people and the nation. Therefore, people should keep a peaceful vigil, particularly at the present time and in the months to come, to ensure that the needed substantial change for the better could be achieved in Sri Lanka. The people also need to establish new civil society groups to help monitor the developing political landscape of Sri Lanka and to ensure that future permanent structural changes will include new features on the basis of, and which will protect, democracy, the rule of law and human rights.

Document Type : Article
Document ID : AHRC-ART-022-2022
Countries : Sri Lanka,
Issues : Administration of justice, Democracy, Freedom of expression, Rule of law,