In Sri Lanka still ‘who you know not what you know that matters’

In Sri Lanka still “who you know” that counts and not what you know that determine how people advance in life. When a Sri Lankan has a problem rather than rely on the system to deliver, will look for a strong person to contact within the system to appeal, who will ensure that things get done without unnecessary delay, in return the strong person gets rewarded either in cash or kind who would invariably be a politician or one connected to one. In this environment, those poor people who are out in the rural areas countrywide, particularly in the war devastated areas are struggling for survival without representation in government are pawns in the hand of those opposing the government.


Earlier, it was the abhorrence of corruption that ultimately caused the defeat of former President. Although it became the single issue, abolishing the presidency was in itself the culmination of multiple frustrations in society caused by menace of drug use and trafficking, corruption and killings they entailed that drove the campaign against executive presidency. The January and the August elections of 2015 were expected to deliver a new government that would be different from its predecessor not just in appearance but more fundamentally in substance. In the political transactions there were too many compromises and giveaways that allowed the old legislators with their old ways to take control of the parliament that led to the emergence of the current president as the common opposition candidate, who defying all odds to cause the defeat of former President at the Presidential Elections on 8 January 2015. It is said the new President was pre occupied keeping his divided party together, while the Prime Minister and his men dominated by his old school “posh boys” went about with their efforts to complete the 100 days programme. Truth is it’s not where they have come from that mattered, rather where they’re going”, when the past corrupt activities of the old legislators with their old ways came to light that has killed the goose set to lay golden eggs and the public remained sceptical about the much talked about yahapalanaya rule under the Unity Government. The people who hoped and worked for substantial change by voting for the Unity Government are disappointed with its performance of the three and a half years; are now accepting to the ways of the new government.

The President elected to deliver good governance and cast out corruption, has not covered much territory beyond the 19th amendment. Indeed, there are some legislative cosmetics – right to information act, less than ideal electoral reforms for local and provincial elections and an office for missing persons. What is missing was the commitment for the director general of the Commission to Investigate Allegations of Bribery and Corruption (CIABOC) was compelled to resign because the President was shocked and surprised that a former service chief was made to appear before a magistrate; while the Prime Minister was mired in scandal and the corruption investigations initiated with great rumpus have lost all signs of bounce and buoyancy. Unfortunately, the scandal that made the change was the brain child of actors outside the legislature and guided by external forces in an environment where not all legislators were prepared for a change of government as most of them were directly benefiting from a corrupt system of rule. While these successful corrupt actors simply continued with their past business routine to identify a powerful-enough minister or strong legislator in government to further their business or start-up new projects, while others denied of opportunities stagnated behind with their business and were unable to get any new projects off the ground.  When the time came to face an election, these legislators once again looked to these corrupt actors to finance the cost of canvasing votes for their party candidates, as seen at the 2018 Local Council elections, the results of which shook the foundations of the Unity Government and those political parties that supported the government from opposition.  This mode of seeking funds did not exclude those legislators in the Unity Government nor those who opposed the government and though proved to be great setback for them most had benefited from the devious activities under the previous corrupt regime, who has virtually bought their way and ended up filling the seats on either side of the legislature. It was these corrupt legislators in opposition who never missed an opportunity to shoot down many moves of the Unity Government at its root; while those with the government were able to get reversed many policy declarations of ministers and authorities to please their hidden pay masters. For these corrupt politicians more so those made to the legislature through the national list survival in power was the name of the game and cared less about the issues affecting their voters. These legislators have no moral ethics to be representatives of the people and the Sri Lankan population that voted for a change to bring a Unity Government in 2015, are today disillusioned and concerned about the prevailing unfairness in Sri Lanka. For they had relied heavily on the President and the Prime Minister as leaders of SLFP and UNP respectively to resolve their many problems including finding a permanent political solution to the ethnic conflict which has been the country’s long unresolved problem.  For that the two leaders should have made strong their first ever alliance and together with the ethnic minority parties in government, exploited all avenues to project a strong government. That true strength would have paved the way for the Unity Government to concentrate their efforts to resolve all the ills of the country; in particular to resolve the ethnic problem and the urgent needs of the people in the North and East that includes construction of much needed houses, road network and other infrastructure facilities such as domestic airports, harbours and revival of industries to boost economy of the divided Northeast Province that has fallen behind other provinces in development. All is not lost for the Unity Government that has since coming to power has brought in a variety of new laws, the most important of which is the 19th Amendment to the Constitution, that has given the space to those appointed to various state bodies to make their decisions free of political interference.

With the 2018 LG Polls political tsunami rocked the foundation of the alliance, it appears that both President and Prime Minister as leaders are mindful of the concerns of the people; have decided to continue with the partnership for the full duration and work together to the next general election due in 2020 and have initiated many development projects with international support. While those opposing the government continue giving dire warnings about the betrayal of the country and pressure continues to follow international law in its internal affairs.  Considering the mess it inherited the Unity Government has made many advances to provide promised ‘yahapalanaya’ rule; yet falls short to meet all the expectation of fundamentalists on either side of the divide. Especially with many thorny issues of the battered people not yet resolved has left them to continue their life in misery in the divided war torn northeast region; would take long and perhaps go beyond 2020, for Rome was not built in a Day.