John Fitzgerald Kennedy (JFK), as the 35th President of the United States of America once told his people “Let us not seek the Republican answer or the Democratic answer, but the right answer for the country. Let us not seek to fix the blame for the past. Let us accept our own responsibility for the future.” What JFK, as President of USA then told his people, is very fitting today for the people to inform our legislators of all shades and colour “Let us not seek the UNP answer or the SLFP answer, but the right answer; Let us not seek to fix the blame on JO for the past, but let all the political parties in the legislature accept their own responsibility for the future and find the right answer for the country.”
In Sri Lanka, the political system had always lacked acceptability even in the days of state council before it gained independence in 1948; where the political leaders ruled the country than serving the people. As the result all minorities were wilfully excluded from the political process that resulted in two southern uprisings from marginalized economic minorities and later witnessed much more bloodbath with the ethnic minorities uprising that followed from north and east. All three uprisings were crushed by the Government of Sri Lanka (GoSL) each time with foreign assistance, including the last external interference in 2009, which ended the three decades of civil war; demonstrating yet again in the inability of the rulers to serve the people wisely. This undertaking to overcome the last uprising by force has today left the state with an oversized military force that a small developing nation like Sri Lanka is struggling to maintain. There were also evidence of human rights violations by the state on its people after the war had ended, confirming the inability of the government to face the people even in peace time.
Natural course of action would have been for the state to delist surplus armed personnel to reduce the number of security personnel to peacetime level, thus cutting on the cost and get on with the reconciliation activities to re-build the nation. But after nine peace years, the state is still keeping the same number of tri-forces in service; to this add the cost of corruption that has been growing in the country during the war years and beyond, meant the population in general was getting poorer; while few in power enjoyed the wealth of the nation; as the rulers grew greedy and continued to take on loans at high interest that were not serviceable. Needless to say, the country was heading fast to bankruptcy and the economy was in shambles; reached a point it was unable to meet its debt repayment obligations. In addition, the state paid no attention to address the grievances of the war affected people forcing them to suffer in pain and failed miserably to investigate human right violations that occurred during the final stages of the civil war; a promise made after the end of the civil war by the previous head of state to the international community.
The anticipated external interference by concerned international community on Sri Lanka occurred in 2010; when EU withdrew the GSP+ scheme from Sri Lanka due to its failure to effectively implement human rights conventions. Once again GoSL carried trouble on to themselves by not fulfilling their agreement to conduct investigations to find the truth of crimes committed during the final stages of the civil war and to address the grievances of those affected and opened the doors for another external interference that changed the ruler. Then following the change in the administration in 2015, the new GoSL having committed itself to the international community and its people to introduce substantial reforms and thereafter also re-applied for GSP+ membership.
But because the commitments have not been fully met yet and now the Member of European Parliament (MEP) responsible for GSP+ has issued an ultimatum to GoSL, demanding Sri Lanka to amend the Code of Criminal Procedure Act and the Prevention of Terrorism Act ensuring their full compliance with international standards to meet its obligations; failing which would likely vote out the GSP+ programme altogether from Sri Lanka. The GoSL having given assurances to implement the Geneva resolution and is required to act fast; but is now talking loud that it had managed to shift the discussion from international war crimes tribunal to something completely different. The international community that helped Sri Lanka to pack off the previous regime to bring about the change in 2015, is going easy and has given time for GoSL to address all the commitments made in Geneva.
To this effect the Parliament was turned into a Constitutional Council and many meetings with the people were held at various levels in various parts of the country; thereafter many sittings of the Steering Committee took place on constitutional reforms. People were expecting GoSL to come up with a New Constitution, but now the rulers are once again getting ready to take the people for a ride. This is nothing new to us Sri Lankans, who have witnessed such behaviour from the two main political parties UNP and SLFP time and time again; when one political party comes up with a proposal the other always opposed them to resolve the ethnic problem, which is the country’s main problem that caused the bloody civil war lasting three decades and loss of thousands of lives and miseries to many more in the country.
The UNP and SLFP are preoccupied now preparing for the next General Elections due in two years. As part of the act to gain more votes the SLFP has said they are opposed to reforms requiring referendum and are only prepared to support proposals which does not require the approval by the people at a referendum. If the government fail to deliver a New Constitution and let the country miss another opportunity to solve the main ethnic problem then the two leaders will go down in history as the least successful leaders ever and people will regret all their life for voting them in at the last General Elections. Only way out for the two leaders of the main political parties UNP and SLFP is to conclude the process of preparing the New Constitution at the earliest and presenting it to the people as a referendum before the next General Elections and at the same time deliver all the commitments co-sponsored in Geneva.