Following the initial turbulence of establishing a so-called national Yahapalanaya (good governance) administration, which to an unassuming observer at one moment seems to teeter on the edge of a precipice with coalition partners turning on each other at the bat of an eyelid, pitting their acid tongued wit against each other and prevailing upon foes and allies alike in the Opposition while maneuvering the political riptide, and at other moments, seemingly united in their efforts to bring about lasting political and economic change within the country, the Government now enters its mid-term.
At present, the talk of the town revolves around the proposed new Constitution and massive economic development plans with promises made, kept or broken. Summarizing the year’s performance by the Government in relation to various aspects and sectors of the country and ideal changes, the Nation spoke to the stakeholders including pro-Government officials, non-partisans, naysayers and the harbingers of doom and even the apathetical villager with a view to obtaining a glimpse into the future.
Civil Society issues clarion call for economic development and the new Constitution
The Civil Society called on the Executive and the Government to put in place an economic development plan to fulfil the requirements of the people, which is the need of the hour of the country.
Addressing the question of political reforms, Civil Society Organizations pointed out that the new Constitution should be created.
The National Movement for Social Justice (NMSJ), founded by the late Maduluwawe Sobitha Thera and the Purawesi Balaya (People’s Power) explained that the new Constitution should change the electoral system, establish the rule of law, bring about national reconciliation, strengthen independent commissions and expand the Fundamental Rights Chapter of the Constitution which dealt with human rights.
Member of the Chief Committee of the NMSJ and Co-convener of the Purawesi Balaya, Saman Ratnapriya pointed out that the mechanisms established for dealing with acts of theft, fraud, corruption, thuggery and murder were weak.
“In a recent decision, the Colombo High Court acquitted the suspects in the murder of former MP Nadaraja Raviraj. The Court judgment raises the question of whether Raviraj committed suicide even though it is clearly evident that he was murdered. It is these kinds of verdicts that lead to the breakdown of the faith and trust placed by the people internally in the judiciary and the justice system and strengthens the call for international involvement by way of sitting foreign judges as far as the issue of investigating alleged war crimes is concerned. A proper mechanism is essential,” Ratnapriya explained.
He added that while the Civil Society was not happy with the manner in which the Development (Special Provisions) Bill had been brought, they however acknowledged that there were weaknesses in relation to the institutions entrusted with bringing in investments.
“Such a new Bill is required but it should not be to increase the powers afforded to Ministers. It should have been discussed with the Provincial Councils (PCs). The shortcomings in the Bill must be rectified. A mechanism is required to enable investors to invest. PCs alone cannot engage in development projects. They have to work with the Central Government in this regard. While opposing the Bill on the grounds of pointing out shortcomings is fine, they must not assure the Prime Minister during discussions with him that they will support it after the relevant amendments are made and in turn go back to their Councils and change their minds,” Ratnapriya said.
“Investments and employment opportunities must be generated and incomes must be increased. A proper plan is required for all this development that is expected,” he emphasized.