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Tuesday, June 28, 2022

For an inclusive and peaceful Sri Lanka, we must break from the practices of hate, fear, division and violence – “Justice for All”

Image: From the Gota Go Gama, Colombo.

Broad Principals of Justice for All

Sri Lanka has faced multiple challenges over the decades and witnessed discrimination
against its citizens, cycles of violence and authoritarian rule. Many attempts at finding a
political solution to the ethnic conflict and through political means and reconciliation
have failed. The war may have ended over a decade ago, but the conflict remains
unresolved and peace, elusive.

It is not only our colonisers who adopted a ‘divide and rule’ policy, but also our own,
who have governed us since independence in 1948. The policies of our post-
Independence state have torn our country apart. The rulers pit communities against each
other for their own political gains and consequently entrenched narrow nationalisms that
have set us back by many decades.

“At this crucial juncture, we must come together to robustly and democratically challenge this trajectory, in order to build a better future for our children. We must strive for a society that upholds constitutional democracy and the rule of law. And ensure there is peace and pluralism in a country that is rich in diversity.”

The political elite from all communities have exploited this situation, and continue to
portray ‘others’ as enemies, rather than as fellow citizens with similar aspirations and
demands. Thus, every ethnic and religious group feels victimised, by an “other”,
projected as the oppressor or the trouble maker.

To aspire for an inclusive and peaceful Sri Lanka, we must break from these practices of
hate, fear, division and violence

We must start from ‘square one’ as it were, asserting our collective right to dignity and
equality, irrespective of ethnicity, religion, language, class, caste, gender and sexuality.

As a country, the root causes of the three decade-old civil war are sustained and
reproduced with new challenges emerging following the Easter Sunday attacks and more
recently, the pandemic. All these have created unprecedented challenges and exposed Sri
Lanka’s fragile peace.

The democratic backsliding has accelerated amid a steady assault on the fundamental
rights and freedoms of our people. Intolerance and violence are on the rise; structural
inequalities are deepening, while the state is responding with chauvinistic policies,
authoritarian governance and militarisation. We are also witnessing a steady attack on
the separation of powers, and the rapid erosion of the rule of law.

Further, Sri Lanka is experiencing alarming environment degradation, high levels of
corruption, and impunity. Compounding this, is an unprecedented economic crisis and
new levels of poverty stifling the country, while the government’s chosen foreign policy
threatens our sovereignty.

Against this backdrop, the rulers are yet again propagating fears of the ‘other’. This is
nothing but a carefully calibrated diversionary tactic to deflect attention from their own
inadequacies and failure to govern efficiently and take our country towards peace and
prosperity. It will yet again divide our country, pushing us to new cycles of violence and
devastation.

This calls for envisioning a new politics of restoring democracy, freedom, justice and peace in the country.

At this crucial juncture, we must come together to robustly and democratically challenge
this trajectory, in order to build a better future for our children. We must strive for a
society that upholds constitutional democracy and the rule of law. And ensure there is
peace and pluralism in a country that is rich in diversity.

Many of our citizens are compelled to bear the burden of economic devastation caused
by the continuing economic crisis during the past decade as well the current pandemic. Poorer sections of the citizenry are the worst affected.

We will work towards a new economic and social development perspective that will give
priority to eradicating economic and social inequalities and protecting livelihoods of
affected citizens while focussing on people-oriented economic growth and development.

We therefore pledge to work towards building a just and open society for all our people.
We commit ourselves to work in solidarity with people from all communities to fulfil
their aspirations for a democratic, peaceful and stable Sri Lanka premised on dignity,
equality, freedom, economic and social justice for all.

We will promote, protect and respect fundamental freedoms and rights of all citizens,
and foster a tolerant and plural society. We will work to strengthen accountable and
transparent systems of governance, independent media, and challenge all forms of
corruption and attacks on our environment.

We will promote free and fair elections, electoral reforms and a system of just
representation that is accountable to its constituencies and take governance closer to the
people by adhering to the principle of subsidiarity.

To realise these, we invite our fellow citizens to join us in envisioning a new Sri Lanka.

A M Faaiz
Bhavani Fonseka
Shanakiyan Rasamanikam
M A Sumanthiran
Ermiza Tegal
Jayadeva Uyangoda

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