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Sunday, November 29, 2020

Peace council believes Sri Lanka will be on the fast track to economic development & to sustainable peace

Issuing a statement Dr. Jehan Perera led National peace Council says that “Now the power of the people have been vested through the democratic process in the government.  We believe that through inclusive processes in which the hopes and aspirations of all sections of the population are met, Sri Lanka will be on the fast track not only to economic development but also to sustainable peace.”

Full statement:

The recently concluded general election has given the ruling party and its allies the 2/3 majority they sought in parliament.  The hopes of the general population are high.  The National Peace Council congratulates the government on achieving a victory never achieved before in Sri Lanka under the proportional electoral system and even considered impossible. With great power comes great responsibility and we hope that the duo of president and parliament will deliver this to the people so that this victory sets the stage for an era of magnanimous politics. It is our hope that the opposition works in cooperation with the government but also be a check and balance and be outspoken when necessary.   In particular we want to see that the rights of all people are respected through good governance measures that are implemented rather than being misinterpreted for partisan purposes.

We note that one of the government’s key campaign pledges was to make changes to the 19th Amendment.  This is a task that needs to be taken up carefully.  The 19th Amendment shared power away from the president and to the parliament when it was passed in parliament with 215 votes, far more than a 2/3 majority and with only one dissenting vote.  In addition, it set up independent commissions to safeguard public servants and institutions from undue political interference, the need for which has been highlighted by the president himself.  Thus, these important power-sharing methods may need to be safeguarded rather than discarded.

There are long standing divides in our society that need to be bridged and which the competing politicians did not discuss in the course of their election campaigns.  Even a strong government cannot win hearts and minds without justice.  We believe that the power-sharing mechanism of provincial councils in the 13th Amendment to the constitution may be a vent to permit local majorities to manage their affairs and to accommodate particular ethnic and religious needs.  It is significant the ruling party and its allies performed better than in the past in several areas in which the ethnic and religious minorities predominate.  This gives rise to the possibility that the provincial council system can be revived in partnership with them in delivering economic development and new hope to the people.

This is not the first time we have had the President and Prime Minister from the same party and enjoyed unchallenged supremacy in parliament.  A similar situation existed during 2005-2015, yet there was a change in 2015 as people found it unsatisfactory. Thus, power alone may not provide the best to the people, who have been waiting since Independence in 1948 for a system of governance and development that matches the world. Even though Sri Lanka is a middle income country a substantial proportion of the people do not enjoy its benefits as the distribution of income is so skewed that around 40 percent of the population are on Samurdhi welfare.  Now the power of the people have been vested through the democratic process in the government.  We believe that through inclusive processes in which the hopes and aspirations of all sections of the population are met, Sri Lanka will be on the fast track not only to economic development but also to sustainable peace.

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