The victory of the coalition of parties led by Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe at the General Elections on August 17 will ensure that the changes brought about at the presidential election can be sustained. The majority of Sri Lankan voters reaffirmed the choice they had made in January when they voted in President Maithripala Sirisena and rejected the call of narrow ethnic-based nationalism. The National Peace Council welcomes the formation of the National Unity Government with the UNP and SLFP which have been traditional rivals, joining together in it to share governmental responsibilities including the allocation of ministries. Political bipartisanship was demonstrated in the unanimous vote of Parliament to appoint the Speaker Karu Jayasuriya.
We also welcome the decision of Parliament to give the TNA an important role in governance by appointing its leader R Sampanthan as the Leader of the Opposition and the Chief Opposition Whip’s position going to Anura Kumara Dissanayake of the JVP. As a party that primarily represents the interests of the Tamil people in the North and East of the country, the TNA has hitherto been focusing its attention on issues of particular relevance to the Tamil people. These include a political solution to the ethnic conflict as well as issues of post-war recovery and accountability. Now with the leadership of the opposition in Parliament being formally granted to it, the TNA is provided with an opportunity, and a duty, to conduct parliamentary affairs in the national interests. As the leader of the opposition, the TNA leader is vested with a larger mandate that includes the interests of the people of all communities.
Amongst the priority issues to be taken up by the new government, the establishment of public institutions that are independent of undue political interference needs to be taken up at the outset. The 19th Amendment to the Constitution passed during the period of the last parliament requires the establishment of a Constitutional Council that will oversee appointments to key institutions such as the judiciary, police, public service, human rights commission, bribery commission and elections commission. The passage of the 20th Amendment which is to establish a new electoral system, the passage of the Right to Information Act and the establishment of a domestic mechanism to heal the wounds of the past are other priority issues. The National Peace Council calls on all parties in the National Unity Government, including those parties outside of the government to ensure that the systems of good governance are put in place without delay.
The President, the Prime Minister, the Speaker and the Leader of the Opposition have an unprecedented opportunity to provide transformational leadership to the newly elected parliamentarians who will function for the next five years. Identifying needed changes, creating a vision to guide these changes through inspiration and executing change in tandem with committed parliamentarians will serve to enhance their motivation, morale and performance through a variety of mechanisms. The plural, multi-ethnic and multi-religious nature of the new government increases the prospect of a significant move forward in the direction of post-war national reconciliation. The setting up of a new ministry for National Dialogue under Minister Mano Ganesan who himself has led a civic human rights organization is an opportunity for the government to take peace building and problem solving messages through civil society organisations to the general population. As a civil society organization, the National Peace Council will seek to engage with the government to expand and widen the scope of national dialogue.
- Press release by NPC