|Sri Lanka First cut the
Get your one million people out now!
It is clear that the Elections Commissioner is not using his powers in the manner intended. This is a shameful indictment on himself and our pathetic civil society. A striking feature of this is the greatly enhanced climate of impunity surrounding these acts. In other words, our politicians are treating civil society particularly its leaders like dirt with the utmost contempt. In this respect, we really cannot find fault with our politicians since the leaders of civil society, particularly those from the organised business and professional community, have actually worked hard to earn this. They have earned this by their servility which has been tantamount to at least tacitly acquiescing with all the nonsense being dished out in the name of governance by successive governments particularly since 1970.
Although the country is on the brink of social, economic and political catastrophe leading to general anarchy, it is amazing that the critical general elections to be held on December 5 is devoid of any serious debate on any of the key issues which will determine the very survival of this country as a functioning democracy with at least some decent values. Another amazing feature is that there is no decisive protest from influential sections of civil society, particularly from the organised business and professional community and the religious clergy. After all, as repeatedly stressed, it is only these groups that have the countervailing clout to stand up to the excesses of our political leadership.
Sri Lanka First for Peace?
The Sri Lanka First initiative by key sections of the business community ostensibly undertaken to bring about a negotiated settlement of the complex ethnic crisis and the resultant war is a good example of the absence of the genuine sacrifice and commitment needed to fulfil this laudable objective. It also lacks professionalism and cohesion. It has so far merely involved joining hands for a few minutes on September 19th which was preceded by a lavish misplaced advertising campaign reportedly costing Rs. 20 Million. It is claimed by the organisers that a million people participated in this exercise. Now suddenly, they have once again woken up almost at the tail end of possibly the most violent and bloody election campaign ever, to commence another media blitz appealing to all candidates to desist from all forms of violence. We are not aware how many millions this campaign will cost. Do these people seriously think that the mere act of a media campaign will stop the blatant election malpractice and blood letting in the context where our politicians have even virtually ignored the recommendations of aid giving entities such as the powerful European Commission subsequent to the highly flawed October 2000 general elections?
Is it also reasonable to expect our politicians to take our business leaders seriously, when after all the malpractice and violence that accompanied the October 2000 general elections resulting in a government of questionable legitimacy, the joint business forum irresponsibly appealed to the UNP and PA to forget differences?
The utter contempt our politicians have for civil society is seen in the absence of any real issues being responsibly discussed in the run-up to the elections. Although the ethnic conflict is tearing apart the social fabric of this country, the respective manifestos of both major parties the PA and UNP lack specifics in terms of peacefully resolving this intractable crisis. It is also highly irresponsible and reprehensible that particularly the ruling PA is using this conflict for partisan political mileage by appealing to the fears and emotions of the Sinhala majority. This is most dangerous since apart from promoting communal dissension, it will adversely impact on the peaceful resolution of this complex issue through negotiation. If there is any wrong doing on the part of any citizen, it is the duty of the state to frame charges and try that person under the law of the land. The failure of the government to do so and its incessant propaganda blitz against the alleged offender leads one to the conclusion that the charges are mala fide.
The deafening silence of the Sri Lanka First organisers is characteristic of the nonchalance of our business community. To the credit of the UNP it must be stated that they have been largely adhering to the Liam Fox agreement for bipartisan consensus between the two major parties to peacefully resolve this issue. All this is taking place in spite of the business communitys Sri Lanka First peace initiative. This clearly indicates that their initiative is most ineffective. This is not surprising since the only language our politicians will understand is countervailing pressure which alone has the potential for decisive results. Mere servile appealing and urging will not suffice.
Time is fast running out and hence it is urged that even at this late stage, the business communitys Sri Lanka First leadership immediately galvanize itself for decisive results. The activities recommended will include:
1) Forging a coalition of leaders of civil society which will as far as possible include the business and professional community, the religious clergy, NGOs such as Sarvodaya as well as influential Sri Lankans such as the UN Special Representative for violence against women, the former Secretary-General of UNCTAD and the former President of the International Bar Association.
Jointly issuing a public statement with the maximum publicity in all the media as follows:
* calling for free and fair general elections devoid of violence and malpractice
* giving notice that the Commissioner of Elections will be held personally liable for not using the powers vested in him by the 17th Amendment
* giving notice that the IGP will be held personally liable for any failure on his part to ensure free and fair elections
* giving notice that the heads of government institutions will be held personally liable for any abuse of state assets for partisan election purposes
* giving notice that a government if formed through a flawed election process will not be accepted by civil society and will be severely ostracized by them.
File applications jointly as a coalition of civil society in the Supreme Court to ensure that the Commissioner of Elections fully exercises all the powers vested in him by the 17th Amendment to ensure free and fair elections devoid of violence, intimidation and any other malpractice.
Sri Lanka First which boasted that it got one million people on the streets on 19 September in a non-violent stand for peace must immediately enlist the support of these persons as well as others for another more massive and decisive show of force. This will be in support of the above objectives particularly to compel our political leadership to conduct free and fair elections based on specific issues devoid of violence and malpractice. It must also be demanded that the ethnic conflict must be debated in a responsible manner in terms of specific proposals. Such a coalition of civil society is precisely what this country needs in terms of exerting the needed countervailing pressure on our largely incompetent, corrupt and self-serving politicians.
Due to time constraint and other reasons, if none of the above can be achieved, it is strongly urged that at least a coalition of the business and professional community with Sri Lanka First playing the lead role issue a prominent public statement in both the electronic and print media in all three languages giving clear notice that in the event of an illegitimate government being constituted due to a highly flawed election process, they will not recognise it and will take appropriate measures inclusive of severely ostracizing it. It is hoped that this influential section of civil society will for once step out of character and undertake this activity at least in their own self interest.
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