If opposition leaders are to live up to the hopes ignited by the Sirisena presidency, it is now crucial to prioritise a mode of governance marked by the new President’s stamp. The worst-case scenario is indeed a government in which President Sirisena will be relegated to passively adopting a Wickremesinghe or Bandaranaike agenda.
“The new Sri Lankan president, Maithripala Sirisena, has a chance to make some changes, but only if he can keep an uncertain coalition together. Resetting relations with Delhi and Washington will be an important part of this – and his country’s friends need to give him some space.”
Millions of Sri Lankans learnt only by late Friday morning that the major thrust by Opposition political parties brought an end to the near ten year rule of President Mahinda Rajapaksa. As the counting began in centres countrywide after polls ended on Thursday, families and friends sat around their television sets for the results. There was fear in the minds of most. Only a day earlier, in the main cities, shops and supermarkets were crowded by people panic buying stocks of food to cope with a possible post-poll curfew on Friday, marred by violent incidents. There was no cause for such a move. The reason – there were brave men in the security forces, the judiciary, the Department of Elections and other establishments — who literally placed their lives on the line of fire to make a free poll possible.
“This incredible electoral manoeuvre with a massive minorities vote worked to dislodge the Rajapaksa regime and open up democratic space, but the Opposition’s campaign was silent on a number of crucial issues including, demilitarization, the national question and an equitable economic programme. The critical question is whether a credible political process could be initiated to address the grievances of the minorities. But a sustainable political solution will require a national consensus. The picture of the Sri Lankan electoral map show a clear North-South divide in the districts voting in majority for Sirisena and Rajapaksa. In this context, any political process has to address the concerns of the Sinhala South as much as the grievances of the minorities.”
On a Sunday four months ago, a vessel pulled unannounced into Sri Lanka’s Colombo harbor: the Chinese Navy submarine Great Wall No. 329, which is designed to carry torpedoes, a cruise missile and a 360-pound warhead.
“Sri Lanka is falsely framed as a country solely polarised by ethnic divisions between Sinhala Buddhists and Tamils, and that framing has been shattered by the alliances created with nominations for Presidential Elections one month ago. The election victory, which became possible with the overwhelming support of the minorities, including the Up-Country Tamils, Muslims and Tamils in the North and East, is testament to the potential for the ethnic minorities to work with sections of the majority Sinhala community, when the fate of the country is at stake.”
Maithripala Sirisena a été élu Président de Sri Lanka à une courte majorité (51,28%); les élections n’ont pas donné lieu à des incidents majeurs et le taux de participation a été élevé (environ 70%). On trouvera sur le site de Ada Derana une présentation détaillée des résultats: www.adaderana.lk/presidential-elections-2015/
Nous reproduisons ci-dessous le programme des cent premiers jours du candidat vainqueur, ainsi que la liste des réformes socio-économiques qu’il a promis de mettre en oeuvre.
100 Day Work Programme After Maithripala Sirisena Becomes President – Detailed diary description
Saturday January 10
The new President, Maithripala Sirisena, will take his oath of office
Sunday January 11
A Cabinet of not more than 25 members, including members of all political parties represented in Parliament, will be appointed with Leader of the Opposition Ranil Wickremesinghe as Prime Minister
Monday January 12
In order to strengthen democracy, a National Advisory Council will be set up inclusive of representatives of parties represented in Parliament as well as Civil Society organizations.
Parliament will meet Tuesday January 20
The Standing Orders will be amended and, in terms of Proposal 67/10 now tabled in Parliament, Oversight Committees will be set up comprising members of Parliament who are not in the Cabinet will be established and their Chairmanship will be given to representatives of all Ministers in consultation with the leaders of all parties represented in Parliament.
Wednesday January 21
The process will begin of abolishing the authoritarian executive presidential system and replacing it with an executive of a Cabinet of Ministers responsible to Parliament, and of repealing the 18th Amendment to the Constitution with legislation to establish strengthened and independent institutions, including a Judicial Services Commission, a Police Commission, a Public Service Commission, an Elections Commission, a Commission against Bribery and Corruption and a Human Rights Commission. This will be through a 19th Amendment to the Constitution, which will be presented to Parliament and passed as swiftly as possible.
Wednesday January 28
An all party committee will be set up to put forward proposals to replace the current Preference Vote system and replace it with an Mixed Electoral System that ensures representation of individual Members for Parliamentary Constituencies, with mechanisms for proportionality.
Tuesday January 29
A Vote on Account will be introduced in Parliament to implement special measures to provide relief to the people by reducing the rising Cost of Living.
Thursday January 22
A Code of Conduct will be introduced for observation by all representatives of the People.
Wednesday January 30
Salaries will be raised and direct and indirect taxes on necessary goods and services will be reduced.
Monday February 2
An Ethical Code of Conduct will be introduced legally for all representatives of the people.
Thursday February 4
Independence Day will be celebrated with re-establishment of Democracy and Good Governance and the Sovereignty of the People.
Thursday February 5
Special Commissions will be appointed to investigate allegations of massive corruption in the preceding period
Friday February 6
A Bill to implement the National Drugs policy will be tabled, following adoption of the Policy by Cabinet.
Wednesday February 18
Independent Commissions will be established and required appointments made
Thursday February 19
The National Audit Bill will be introduced and passed within 3 weeks
Friday February 20
The Right to Information Bill will be introduced and passed within 3 weeks
Monday March 2
New elections laws will be prepared in accordance with the proposals put forward by the all party committee
Tuesday March 17
Amendments to change the system of elections will be placed before Parliament and passed as swiftly as possible
Wednesday March 18
The National Drugs Policy will be passed by Parliament
Thursday March 19
The National Audit Bill will be passed by Parliament
Friday March 20
The Right to Information Act will be passed by Parliament
Monday March 23
The Constitutional Council will be set up and the process of making appointments to and establishingIndependent Commissions will begin
Monday April 20
A Parliamentary system will be put in place instead of the Executive Presidential system.
Thursday April 23
Parliament will be dissolved and free and fair elections held under a caretaker government. Following that election, the Prime Minister will be appointed from the party getting the highest number of seats at such election, with a Deputy Prime Minister from the party getting the next highest number.
A National Government of all parties represented in Parliament will be established to govern for a period of at least two years.
Under that government a National Policy Framework will be formulated to deal with the principal challenges the country faces, and a political culture will be developed to act in accordance with that Framework.
The nation is suffering from authoritarianism, and decisions taken by a few family members with no consultation of or care for the people. The destruction of ethical and socio-cultural values has led to grave suffering, through massive waste and abuse and corruption and absolute impunity. We need therefore to provide immediate relief to those who are oppressed, and embark on social and economic reforms that will restore normalcy and lead to prosperity for all.
Projected socio-economic reforms
The salaries of public servants will be raised by Rs 10,000 a month. Immediate relief will be provided by a payment of Rs 5,000 in February. A consolidated salary scheme will be put in place then, to cover all arrears
Full relief will be provided on the loans given to public servants for the purchase of motor cycles. Those who have paid previously will be refunded.
Graduates from whom virtual slave labour is obtained will be given regular appointments in a systematic fashion, and opportunities for promotion will be provided in accordance with suitable criteria.
An allowance of Rs 5,000 will be paid to pensioners, pending adjustment of anomalies in pensions.
Rs 1 million of the deposits in State Banks of each pensioner will receive interest of 15%.
The Samurdhi Allowance will be increased to 200% of the present rate to a maximum of Rs 2,000.
Pregnant mothers will be given an allowance of Rs 20,000 to supplement nourishment.
Excessive taxes will be lowered to reduce prices on ten essential food items. At the same time, special provisions will be put in place for protection of those producing such goods locally.
The current excessive taxes on fuel, amounting to around Rs 40 billion a year, will be removed and the benefits of this reduction in cost will be passed on to consumers.
The efficiency of both state and private transport services for the public will be improved through providing appropriate incentives to the transport sector.
The price of a cylinder of domestic gas will be reduced by Rs 300.
The guaranteed purchase price for a kilogramme of rice will be Rs 50.
The guaranteed purchase price for a kilogramme of potatoes will be Rs 80.
The guaranteed purchase price for a kilogramme of tea leaves will be between Rs 80 and 90.
The guaranteed purchase price for rubber will be Rs 350 per kilogramme.
The guaranteed purchase price paid to dairy farmers for a litre of milk will be raised by Rs 10 from the present Rs 60.
Relief of 50% will be provided on loans taken by farmers, and the remainder will be compounded to allow for payment on easy terms.
The low quality fertilizer that threatens life as well as soil and produce will be replaced by fertilizer of better quality that conforms to regular standards
Instead of low quality fertilizer tea smallholders will be provided with fertilizer of better quality that conforms to regular standards
Compensation of Rs 1 million will be paid to fishermen who lose their lives at sea through an insurance scheme with state contributions
An insurance scheme for crops will be introduced for farmers with state contributions
A new pensions scheme will be introduced for farmers and fishermen.
A pensions scheme will be introduced for Three Wheeler Drivers, Masons and Carpenters and those engaged in small scale retail trade and other informal occupations.
A pensions scheme will be introduced for migrant workers, and the interest on their NRFC deposits will be increased by 2 ½%.
A programme will be put in place to ensure support and protection for the families of migrant workers in the Middle East and elsewhere who provide an invaluable service to the country through their labour
Relief will be provided on the interest and penalties payable on pawned gold items upto a value of Rs 200,000
Measures will be taken to provide relief to those caught in a debt trap though falling prey to various promises made by finance companies, credit card scams and pyramid schemes
New laws will be put in place to prevent abuse of women, abuse of children and sexual harassment of women and measures taken to ensure that women and children can live without fear in Sri Lanka, with responsibility undertaken to enforce the laws effectively
Measures will be put in place to protect those of all races widowed during the conflict, and their families.
So as to increase the participation of women in political decision making, legislation will be introduced to ensure at least 25% of women’s representation in Provincial Councils and Local Government bodies.
To fully overcome the unemployment problem that affects our young people, we will put in place a million jobs programme for local and foreign employment and for self-employment
We will strengthen provisions that enable young people to hold opinions and express them freely, and illustrate them creatively, and to freely enjoy the rights associated with youth
Wi-fi will be made available free of charge in Centres in every town to facilitate Internet access
The Youth Parliament will be given financial powers to implement projects relating to youth proposed by the Youth Council and other youth organizations, and will receive an allocation of Rs 250 million for this purpose for 2015
Those engaged in Small and Medium Industries who have fallen into a debt trap and been blacklisted by CRIB, and those who suffer the same because of credit card debts, will be relieved from this through an easy repayment scheme.
Instead of the hijacking of the economy by a few individuals engaged in deals with regard tocasinos and drugs and ethanol, we will develop a national business sector working towards the prosperity of the country, in particular by establishing schemes of credit on easy terms for Small and Medium Enterprises.
To develop more jobs and increase exports we will regain the GSP+ provisions that were lost
We will review the current programme to integrate finance companies and banks
An institution will be established to regulate and develop micro-finance
A Bureau will be set up to protect Small Enterprises
To promote the Trishaw business, a government office will be set up inclusive of Trishaw drivers and the banking sector
We will set out to raise to 3% the current 1.8% allocated for the free Health Service.
All drugs needed by patients attending government hospitals will be made available without shortages in those very hospitals.
An intensive programme will be implemented to swiftly get through the waiting lists for patientsat government hospitals.
Government hospitals will offer services to out patients until 10 pm every day.
We will put a stop pending investigation into import of fertilizer and chemical substances suspected of contributing to kidney disease, while immediately preparing plans for short term and long term measures to deal with the problem, and ensuring their implementation.
Steps will be taken to put in place an effective institution to regulate trade in food items,cosmetics, drugs and other essential items
Steps will be taken to strengthen ayurvedic health services
Measures will be taken to efficiently coordinate services in Western, Eastern and Indigenous medicine and provide a unified service to the people
We will set in place a programme to systematically eliminate the drug menace, that includes heroin and ganja, and institute with international support a comprehensive, quick and effectiverehabilitation scheme for youngsters addicted to these substances
A special consolidated Task Force will be set in place to deal with drug abuse
Pictorial warnings with regard to the dangers of smoking will be increased to 80%.
Casino businesses which were granted excessive tax relief in opposition to the advice of the Mahanayakes and the views of the people will have their licenses revoked
We will put a stop to the Ethanol scam which avoided payment of required taxes
We will set out to raise to 6% the current 1.7% allocated for free Education
Powers with regard to universities which are now exercised by the Minister will be restored to the universities through the University Grants Commission, and the politicization of the universities will be halted.
Mahapola scholarships at universities will be raised to Rs 5000.
Provision will be made for all those who qualify in three subjects at Advanced Level to study towards obtaining a degree or diploma
A fair scheme for admission to Grade 1 will be instituted and implemented transparently. Those who have suffered from abuse in this regard will be provided with immediate relief.
Delays in admitting students to schools will be stopped and all students will be guaranteed entry to Grade 1 at the beginning of the school year
The Circular regarding religious education in schools will be made applicable to all schools, and a committee with representation of all religions will be established to monitor its implementation
International schools will be made subject to monitoring by the State
Current excessive taxes on fishing boats, nets, equipment and engines will be removed
We will put a stop to the incursions of foreign boats into our national waters
Measures will be taken to revive the European Union market from which our fish is now being excluded.
A Meteorological Inquiry service will be established to provide accurate information immediately to fishermen with regard to storms and other dangers.
Immediate steps will be taken to repair irrigation channels that have fallen into disuse.
Immediate steps will be taken to clear up reservoirs that have silted up.
The heroic members of the armed forces who are deployed in menial work such as cutting grass, sweeping roads and clearing drains will go back to only fulfilling the regular duties appropriate to the forces
The present politicization with regard to promotions in the police force will be replaced with a transparent scheme based on capacity, skills, commitment and efficiency
The seniority of officers of the regular police force will be safeguarded and any irregularities arising from integration of the auxiliary police force into the regular police force will be corrected
There will be an immediate stop to using members of the armed forces for the protection of Ministers and politicians and their family members. Police protection will be provided in accordance with clear specifications, and the practice of Ministers and politicians inconveniencing the public by travelling with security vehicles will be halted
Steps will be taken to provide land ownership and proper housing to plantation workers instead of their current confinement in line rooms
Facilities will be provided in schools for the children of plantation workers in the Badulla, Nuwara Eliya, Kandy, Matale and Kegalle Districts to have access to education in the Tamil medium upto university level including in Science
Relief will be provided to all those illegally displaced for various reasons from their homes and lands
The value will be calculated of the housing and land of which residents of Colombo have been deprived, and that will be deducted from the housing loans they are now paying
A programme will be implemented swiftly to provide housing to the hundreds of thousands who have no shelter
A democratic civil administration will be put in place in North and South
Through legal and social means steps will be taken to prevent actions and speech that lead todenigration of other races and religions and of religious leaders, and spread hatred between those of different races and religions
Protection will be provided to all places of religious worship
National and Local Councils of religious leaders will be set up to promote reconciliation between those of different religions and work effectively against the spread of religious animosities
Measures will be taken to preserve and protect archaeological sites
Outlets for alcohol will be removed from the vicinity of places of religious worship ncluding the Temple of the Tooth, and car races in those areas will be stopped.
Proposed amendments to the Buddhist Temporalities Act will be finalized after consultation of the Heads of Buddhist Orders to obtain their advice and guidance and approval.
A programme will commence to develop pirivena education and train teachers for religious instruction
The foundation will be laid for an International University which will also work towards raisingeducational standards at pirivenas to international standards
Laws will be passed swiftly to put a stop to ill-treatment of animals
Hindrances to the work of Civil Society groups concerned with economic and socialdevelopment, environmental issues, and with issues of Good Governance and Human Rights, will be removed
A culture will be established that safeguards and values the independence and artistic integrity of practitioners of the arts
Both immediate and long term measures will be taken to safeguard the independence of media personnel and institutions
The Right to Freedom of Thought and Expression will be strengthened
Parliamentary proceedings will be telecast live
Since Sri Lanka is not a signatory to the Rome Statute regarding international jurisdiction with regard to war crimes, ensuring justice with regard to such matters will be the business of nationalindependent judicial mechanisms
Their positions and rights will be restored to victims of political revenge and punishments, including former Army Commander General Sarath Fonseka, and 43rd Chief Justice Shirani Bandaranayake.
A respected Foreign Service free of political interference will be re-established
Areas designated by law as Environmentally Protected Lands will be protected and care taken to safeguard their boundaries
Areas of environmental importance which are now subject to threats of destruction will be further identified and necessary steps taken to protect them
Steps will be taken, using contemporary international technological knowledge, to restore areas of environmental importance that have been harmed or are suffering threats
The Wild Life Protection Ordinance will be effectively implemented without fear or favour
It will be compulsory to have an Environmental Assessment Study at the very inception of any development projects
A historic election and a historic victory. But why is it so historic..?
Not one, but there are several reasons for it to be significant among other Presidential Polls held in the country. The first is its national outreach. In fact Maithri could be proud of being the first President to be elected through a true national election. The participation of North – West – East and South as one electorate was unique in its own dynamics. Probably this could be the first ever indication of national reconciliation in post-conflict Sri Lanka.
“For the first time since 1982, Tamils in the North are voting free,” journalist Parameswaram told me on Thursday when I inquired about polling patterns in the north. Polls were free and fair in every part of the country, too, but North and East were noteworthy as it was a different case for the past three decades.
No argument that there was a clear division in the votes for the two main candidates. Mahinda championed in the Sinhala Buddhist platform while Maithri performed well in both minority as well as majority community areas. But one could easily argue that Maithree’s victory was mainly due to the minority vote.
The Sri Lankan president, Mahinda Rajapaksa has conceded defeat in an election he had been widely predicted to win before a member of his own party defected to run against him, the presidential office has said.
“An emergency cabinet meeting has been summoned at which the President is expected to announce dissolution. As sitting President, Rajapaksa is empowered to dissolve the parliament until the Elections Commissioner declares the final result.”
The National Democratic Front (NDF) yesterday said that President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s attempt to hijack the electoral process by abusing military and government power at yesterday’s Presidential Election had failed badly due to the indefatigable efforts of the Polls Chief and the Inspector General of Police.
This week Rt. Reverend Shantha Francis, the Anglican Bishop of Kurunegala, resigned from his position claiming that “he, being a Tamil, was under pressure from Tamil Diaspora groups to toe their line.”(DM, 05/01) According to Bishop Francis the Diaspora is against his support for a unitary state and his lack of speaking for the rights of the minorities. Bishop Francis was never actively involved in a campaign to support unitary state or rights of the minorities. He may have expressed his support for a unitary state. I am not aware of any Bishop who openly rejected the idea of unitary state in their official capacities, even in situations when they have spoken for the rights of minorities.
“The vote is an indication that the campaign for democracy, reconciliation and demilitarisation has emerged victorious. But we have a tremendous challenge. I am compelled to say that the North has voted for change. It is our duty to deliver the freedom for the people. The women in the North who are tillers of the land want their rights. Their faces and tears once again reminded me of the difference between my reality and their life experiences. The massive difference of votes between the swan and the beetle leaf in the Tamil homeland has to be understood properly. Sinhala political leader who are going to lead this country towards changhe has been trusted by them to take them towards this new future. I hope and pray we will not let them down.
I salute the citizen’s of Sri Lanka for igniting their conscience after several years.”
It is that negative difference that has fuelled an electorate’s call for a political change, perhaps at great risk, still with the hope that a new administration may have the political maturity to tolerate dissent and celebrate a plural Sri Lankan identity.
“A quarter century ago, as an eager first time voter, I cast my maiden vote for a young journalist friend who had recently taken to electoral politics.”