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Wednesday, November 30, 2022

Little has changed under Ranil presidency; Church of Ceylon expresses solidarity with movement for change

Image: Ranil’s govt used thousands of police personal to block the joint peaceful protest staged on 02 November.

Little had changed in the politics of the country under Ranil W. presidency despite the widespread support for many of the demands of the Aragalaya, says the Church of Ceylon issuing a statement.

The full statement issued by the Church of Ceylon on current political situation is as follows:

a) The extraordinary powers vested in the office of the Executive President remain despite calls for abolition of the office;

b) An excessive number of Members of Parliament hold various positions in the executive as Ministers, State Ministers and Deputy Ministers with all the attendant perks and privileges. Many of these positions are not necessary especially in times of an economic crisis;

c) The Prevention of Terrorism Act remains on the statute books and continues to be used to stifle freedoms and intimidate people;

d) Massive sums of money are allocated by our Parliament for defence expenditure, while monies for health, education and assistance to the poorer sections of our communities are reduced;

e) An initiative to create extended high security zones via the Official Secrets Act, blatantly ultra vires and illegal, is launched and then abandoned, with no public clarification as to who was responsible and why it was done;

f) Despite large sums of money and time spent on presidential commissions of inquiry and other investigations into the Easter Sunday attacks, 3 ½ years later, the people of the country still await answers, explanations and action against the perpetrators and their accomplices;

g) Promises made to the Mothers of the Disappeared, the people of the north and east and the international community, for investigations into allegations of war crimes, compensation, the restoration of normalcy including the withdrawal of the military from agricultural lands, the pursuit of national reconciliation, have not been fulfilled adequately 13 years after the end of the war;

h) Suddenly, with no prior warning and with no justification, an illiberal and draconian Bill titled the Bureau of Rehabilitation Bill to deal with “misguided combatants,” and “individuals engaged in destructive acts of sabotage” is presented to Parliament by the Minister of Justice and Constitutional Affairs in September, when the voice of the People was for an investigation into the destructive acts of corruption and economic mismanagement that has plunged the country into an unprecedented crisis.

i) While thanking the numerous petitioners from civil society who challenged the Bill and welcoming the Supreme Court Determination declaring the Bill unconstitutional, the questions of who was responsible for the decision to introduce such a Bill, its drafting and promotion, remain unanswered;

The fundamental concerns of the Aragalaya- the lack of responsiveness, public accountability and respect for the Rule of Law and human rights on the part of our political leaders, government officials, and Members of Parliament- remain completely unaddressed.

All this is happening while the cost of living, the prices of essential food items and commodities, gas, kerosene and petrol, skyrockets and the lives of the people particularly in our agricultural and fishing communities, plantations, and workers who have to reside in or travel to the urban areas and their families, and pensioners, are severely affected.

Given the above, the Diocese of Colombo:

1) Calls upon the Government to respond to the people’s long-standing demands for constitutional and legislative reform to abolish the executive presidency, promote effective checks on the exercise of executive power, restore independent Commissions and ensure that all executive and legislative actions incompatible with the Constitutions can be challenged by the people.

2) Calls upon the Government to ensure that any economic reforms to address the current crisis, including through agreements with the IMF and other international organisations, ensure that the poorer and vulnerable sections of society do not bear the brunt of the burdens entailed, that they have a safety net to mitigate their hardships, and that the affluent and wealthy bear their just share of the burden.

3) Since by their actions in the past 3 months, the Government and Members of Parliament have demonstrated their unwillingness or inability to heed the call for a change in the political culture of the country, calls upon the President to dissolve Parliament in early 2023 as soon as the Constitution permits him to do so, so that the people can choose a new Parliament that reflects its aspirations.

4) Expresses its deep appreciation of the young protesters who led and continue to lead the campaign for political change, civil society groups who participated in the struggle, including religious leaders from all beliefs and faiths and the Bar Association of Sri Lanka.

The Diocese of Colombo expresses its solidarity with the movement for change as it continues its important work in the year ahead.

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