The infamous 13th amendment was forced upon both the government of Sri Lanka and the LTTE terrorist outfit by India for a problem that would have been solved between the government and the terrorists. The said amendment was a solution that had no sensible approach at all. Both the government and the LTTE equally opposed it and the then president late Mr. J. R. Jayawardene had to sign it as he was forced to do so by going against his own cabinet and the rest of Sri Lanka. This is the high time that a totally new constitution is introduced by taking the issues in the immediate past and the foreseeable future are addressed. This has to be done with the participation of all ethnic groups to make everybody feels they are part of one Sri Lanka. Each different ethnic group would have to sacrifice some of the long enjoyed privileges and come to a compromise.
There are three leaders the new President can learn from. Rwandan President Mr. Paul Kagame who made Rwanda the “Switzerland of Africa,” Pakistani Prime Minister Mr. Imran Khan who tries his best to fight corruption, end the terrorist issue of the Taliban, and the Philippines President Mr. Rodrigo Duterte who fights the drug war, underworld activities, jihadist terrorism and corruption. All these leaders are far from saints. Well, no one in politics is. Most charismatic leaders who changed the fates of the countries had many a skeleton in their closets. Obviously our own President cannot be an exception. So, we have to live with it to see a REAL change.
However, Mr. President’s main challenge would be to keep Mr. Mahinda Rajapaksa, the Prime Minister and his notorious three sons who are popularly known by the citizens as “Three Idiots,” at bay throughout the President’s office. Mahinda Rajapaksa has done his share of duty to the country by finishing the terrorism that no one expected to happen before 2009 and then improving infrastructure (even amidst massive corruption allegations) and the best thing he should do is to help the present President with his political experience and help groom a new leadership to take the country forward. Mahinda can become a senior adviser than in active politics anymore. It would make more sense if he becomes such one without accepting a remuneration and any other privileges that he is entitled to as an ex-president. (But this would be the last thing one could expect from him though.)
I know very well that many will criticize my stance about the new President here. At the moment, I have seen his positive moves. If he disappoints me and the rest of the country, it is our bad luck. So, for the moment, we will just wait and see. If the things go wrong, you would know it well because I won’t be able to write this monthly review about him anymore. You know what I mean. 🙂
Even though the president earned a lot of appreciation by appointing a smaller interim cabinet soon after taking oath, within a few days he lost the very admiration by appointing a large number of state ministers, obviously the almost the whole lot of rogues. I understand that it is very difficult to keep the MPs happy but they should understand that the new era has dawned and they have to support the changes the president aspires for.
Reopening some of the buried legal and corruption cases look like witch-hunting prima facie but if they do so, both the present and the past governments’ misdeeds should be taken with equal treatment. But I have no hopes in this.
The most unfortunate Swiss embassy employee’s drama has happened and I personally don’t think the government would be involved in such a stupid activity within the first month of the new president’s rule. But, this has to be delicately handled as there are hyenas who are eagerly waiting to see till blood spills in the politicalsphere in Sri Lanka again.
There is much talk about abolishing or amending the 19th amendment. We all agree that the amendment in question was done by the Sirisena-UNP coalition with political motives, but good things like limiting a president’s term to 5 years and maximum 2 terms are fair by every measure. If a leader cannot develop a country up to a decent level within 10 years, it is ridiculous to let such a leader to take another term or to do it.
I am not an economist so we will have to wait and see how the recent tax reductions could help the economy in the long run. This is a gamble the new president is indulging in and the gamble should have a meaning beyond the forthcoming general and provincial council elections. But like everyone else, I too smell a rat here as Sri Lanka does not have a stable economy to tolerate such huge tax cuts and reductions at a time like this.
Another good thing that has happened is that the horrific underworld activities have been reduced remarkably since the new President’s ascend to power. He is known as a ruthless executioner when it comes to underworld crimes and let’s wait and see the present reduction of the underworld activities are continued. The same can be said about the drug mafia too. Sri Lanka has become a big drug distribution center if not a cartel. One cannot imagine the mammoth amounts of narcotics hauls sporadically nabbed by the law authorities. Looks like the import if drugs might well surpass the import of wheat flour if the former drug mafia is not subdued at the earliest.
Doing away with sand and soil transportation licenses has come under heavy criticism and this has to be revisited before it is too late. The same could be said about rice and vegetable mafia that deny the farmer or the consumer the benefits but allow some greedy middlemen disguised as “traders” in so-called economic centers to profiteer.
The UNP-led Sirisena government failed big time in every step it took except for some timely reforms in education with the then Minister of Education Akila Kariyawasam having been able to introduce largely pertaining to changes in new subject areas for Advanced Level streams. He wasn’t scared of those strong teacher unions and had the stomach to take the bull by horns. Apart from that, I could not see any other major contributions from that failed coalition for the country to do the justice for the citizens who voted them in. This is exactly why they lost the presidential election with such a heavy defeat. But the president should not undo the good changes they did such as forming police, election and judiciary commissions, etc., at least to ensure partial transparency and good governance. If there are any flaws in those commissions, those should be rectified but the last thing the present government should do is to abolish or weaken them.
One main surprising difference is how both his admirers and even some of the distractors, largely the youths irrespective of petty ethnic, religious and class differences got together without any directions from the top started making the cities and the villages beautiful on their own initiative. I am not sure if such a reaction happened even once we gained the Independence some seventy years ago. The youths seem to have some “hopes” for the first time in Sri Lankan politics I guess. Hope Mr. President won’t ignore this commendable gesture by the youth and act against their fresh hopes down the line. (The youths also should not get carried away by overstepping their limits by painting the walls by erasing road signs.)
Some people think that appointing ex-military personnel to state institutions would create a military style government in the long run and you can’t totally ignore that, can you? But, my point is that the state machinery is too slow, lethargic and outdated, they should run in an effective manner and if the military is the best option, let that be for some time and see the difference. The large number of government servants are not contributing to the nation productively at the moment. They will have to work hard to retain their jobs but there should be a system to check and balance the status quo in the public services to prevent a communist style bureaucracy that took the economy of the former Soviet Union backward to a point where the once mighty empire crumbled unexpectedly.
Regulating and monitoring the NGOs by the Ministry of Defense has come under heavy criticism but what I think is the good NGOs who work for the needy won’t have to worry about this measure as long as they keep their financial records transparent and don’t step beyond their limits. The national security of a nation is of paramount importance and the last thing we want to see is that the hard-earned peace we achieved after decades of terrorism couldn’t be put at stake to satisfy some NGOs. We saw well how big moneys flowed to local shady initiatives that created the Muslim jihadist terrorists who staged a massive attack on civilians last April in the guise of relief aids and religious education aid to Sri Lanka. The same happened during the Tamil terrorist war and a lot of NGOs were directly supporting the terrorists. One should understand that nobody is above the law of a country.
Earlier, I strongly believed that Sri Lanka had to elect a benevolent dictator who uses extreme powers to take Sri Lanka to the right track out of the present quagmire it is in but now I feel that Sri Lanka has to run like how a modern private corporation is run by a capable Chief Executive Officer. (My role model in the Sri Lankan corporate sector is my former boss Mr. Dian Gomes who was a group director of the famous MAS Holdings conglomerate and I am glad that the President has appointed him as one of the members of a special panel to select capable heads to government bodies in Sri Lanka.) So, I believe the President is on the right track and we should give him enough time to bring things under control.
Everybody expected the President to be an undemocratic tyrant from day one but he has disappointed them largely with the delicate way he handles things. Some of his much-admired initiatives could be done with a little or no additional cost incurred to the state treasury and one might think why (the hell) his predecessors, including his own brother who ran two presidential terms didn’t even think of doing these. Not hanging the President’s, Prime Minister’s and the relevant Minister’s photos in government institutions and hanging only the National Emblem of Sri Lanka instead, enacting the relevant authorities to ensure the cleanliness in the country, not naming the roads with politicians’ names, not spending public money for festivals, etc. did not cost much or any money. Maybe, I reiterate maybe, being in the army for over 20 years and being an American citizen for 7 years might have taught him these basic disciplines and decorum the country desperately needs. Still, let’s keep in mind the good old idiom “a new broom sweeps clean” and ensure that he continues the good initiatives in the long run too. 🙂
Contrary to our beliefs as an easily provocable person, Mr. President shows a great deal of composure in everything he does up to now since his taking oaths as the President. I can remember how harsh he was when he was the Secretary to the Ministry of Defense and Urban Development during war time and even after that. Maybe the occasion demanded to be so during that volatile era.
I originally wanted to publish this post to coincide with the completion of the new President Mr. Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s first month in his post. But I purposely delayed this as I didn’t want to sensationalize the president unnecessarily by getting carried away with what happened during his inaugural month in office. Besides, this had been the country where in 2015, a senior cabinet minister from the then ruling party contested as a common candidate from the opposition by challenging his own president came to the high office all of a sudden and showed the citizenry how simple he was by using just a cheap ballpoint pen to sign the papers when assuming duties by promising not to misuse public money for his personal luxuries and ended up by globetrotting around the world by literally missing only Vanuatu and asked for a palatial twin-house be refurbished wasting zillions of public money for his retirement and ended up as a hypocrite if not a clown.
In fact, I had earlier decided to write this post under a pseudo name for some other news website but now that we are pretty eased and comfortable about Mr. President that his infamous alleged white van squad won’t give us a ride for publishing what we write, and I get that I can write this piece with my real name and publish it in my own blog. I am yet to see if I would have the same ease and comfort to write my second post about Mr President. You can witness whether we have that freedom if you won’t see me writing a second post. You can never trust politicians, can you?
I would still love to call the President fondly as Gota as I was used to in my previous posts about him before the presidential election but now I have to call him Mr. President instead just to keep the protocol intact. Besides, you can’t take too many risks at the same time, can you? This is the same country a top level journalist was fired from a leading newspaper a couple of decades ago for writing ජනාධිපතිවරයා (the president) instead of ජනාධිපතිතුමා when mentioning the late president while he was in power around 1980s.