SRI LANKA: Electoral change beyond mere placebo effect

In medical science a placebo effect means a remarkable phenomenon in which a placebo–or a fake treatment, an inactive substance like sugar, distilled water, or saline solution, can sometimes improve a patient’s condition simply because the person has the expectation that it will be helpful. These days many people question as to whether the electoral changes achieved in 2015, had only a placebo effect, or whether it is possible to achieve something rather substantial instead.

Now the time is ripe for the new government to give a satisfactory answer to this question.

In the context of over 40 years of continuous political chaos in Sri Lanka, it is not surprising that any change of government causes a placebo effect on most people. People who suffer from seemingly incurable diseases often fall prey to any fake medicine and for some time enjoy the happiness created by the effect. The political crisis of Sri Lanka during the last 04 decades has made people so despondent that they may feel good by seeing the fall of any government, as these governments have failed to produce anything other than greater misery.

The fall of a government that is as repressive as that of Mahinda Rajapaksa’s would naturally cause a placebo effect. However, as the months go by,it is natural for people to ask whether there is a real change and this is basis of the conversations that are taking place now.

If the people are to believe that some real change is being initiated then, genuine hope may be generated. Otherwise, people may fall back into their normal habits of recovering from the placebo effect by dreaming about yet another change.

The test of a real change is the policies that a ruling government can place before the people which will indicate that the government has understood the real problems that beset the country and that it has thought out ways to resolve them.

What then are the real problems or at least some of the major problems faced by the country?

For a long time now, people have identified that one of the major problems of the country is the widespread lawlessness. We have witnessed already in the year 2001 when the parliament nearly unanimously voted for the 17th Amendment to the Constitution the entire country identified that there had been a collapse of all the basic institutions of the state, and the first step towards recovery is to bring these institutions back to life.

This government, when it campaigned as the common opposition,promised again to revitalise the basic institutions of the State and to establish the rule of law.

However, any hope that the people had for their country, towards establishing the rule of law is now fast being lost. The government has done almost nothing to re-assure to the people that the promises made on that score was made seriously.

Any observer may ask what plans the government hasto ensure the law enforcement capacity of the Sri Lankan policing system and for strengthening the administration of justice. What plans can the government show, which would result in any substantial improvement of the protection of the people? It is time, for the government to set their minds to answer these questions in a convincing manner.