Vision 2025: an indication of continuity of marriage between SLFP and UNP?

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2017-09-10

BY GAGANI WEEERAKOON

President Maithripala Sirisena and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe who arrived together in a super luxury Mercedes-Maybach S600 Benz to unveil 'Vision 2025'the eight-year economic plan that aims at making Sri Lanka an enriched country, were greeted by a documentary titled Nonawaruni Mahathwaruni Samawanna before anything else. The documentary was about a dark era where the country was under the clutches of 'one family' sans democracy, transparency, clarity or accountability.

The launch did not have any political speeches by either leaders yet they shared their views on certain areas mainly on youth and reconciliation by way of answering questions posed to them.

They observed that the Unity Government proved a success during the past two years as the only one of its kind in the global political history because the two main rival political parties had joined together to ensure development while guaranteeing the rights of the people.

Even though allegations were levelled against the consensual government, or how challenging that journey, it is a must that we should perform for the benefit of the country and its people, President Sirisena noted.

Although, we cannot achieve 100% successful results from the consensual government which was built uniting two main rival political parties over 60 years, in a short span of time, all were able to fulfil that challenging responsibility while fulfilling their duties in a more disciplinary manner during the past two and half years.

The President emphasized that responsibilities towards the country and the people will be fulfilled with commitment in the future too, while taking forward the concept of consensual politics with a comprehensive understanding.

Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe responding to a question on the Unity Government's means to write off Sri Lanka's debt burden accrued from the previous regime said that the government could at the least meet its loan repayments at the time the Unity Government was elected, through its revenue and earnings.

"But, now we are stable enough to settle the premiums. We will have to obtain loans on some occasions. But,the country hopes to repay all its outstanding loans by 2025. The income from the massive investments that we would get during the next three years will be added to the revenue in 2025. Thereafter,it will not be a difficult task to settle the loan premiums. In such a situation,we would solve these issues and hand over a developed country to our future generations," he noted.

The Prime Minister said the country would then undergo a greater development drive than it experienced in 1977. The Prime Minister added that the North, South, West and East could be developed on an equal footing as there would be no conflict situation.

Responding to the query as to what the strategy would be in creating one million job opportunities and increasing the per capita income to US$ 5,000, the Premier said that first the country needs investment and for investments, investors are needed.

"For them technology is needed. We need technology for the agriculture, service and health sectors etc. If we do not have the proper technology, investors will not be forthcoming. That is why stability was created. There is no religious or racial conflict in the country.

We have to provide training to boost the country's human resources. Then they will be able to compete in the international market," the Prime Minister said.

President Sirisena responding to a question as to what the government would do to bring about reconciliation and development with the regained international recognition said, "we were able to gain international trust and recognition as we maintained democracy, human rights, fundamental rights, media freedom, independence of the judiciary etc. The previous government could not obtain international support as it failed to maintain these rights and standards."

The Premier responding to the same question said that Sri Lanka had to maintain a non-aligned policy. But, we had problems with the UN and other countries and we lost many facilities and opportunities.

"Our exports dropped as we did not have markets. The garment industry was dealt a severe blow as a result," the Prime Minister added.

However, the government's Vision 2025 has raised many concerns as it is not clear as to who would continue with this policy as there is a Presidential Election to be called by December 2019 and a General Election by August 2020.

So, is the government planning to do away with these elections or are UNP and SLFP confident of contesting in future elections under a common banner?

Many UNP members have said of the continuity of the Unity Government even beyond 2020 – the most recent one being the Leader of the House, Minister Lakshman Kiriella.

In an interview with a daily newspaper Kiriella said that they have unveiled the economic plan for 2025 because there is a strong possibility that it (MoU) will be extended even beyond 2020. "That is the reason for us to launch this programme and extend it till 2025. There is a very good understanding between President Maithripala Sirisena and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe. They need each other," Kiriella noted.

While it is arguable as to why President Sirisena and PM Wickremesinghe need each other, as outlined by Kiriella, it is noteworthy that none of the SLFP or UPFA members who are now in the government have voiced anything to that effect.

In fact, at the recently held SLFP Central Committee meeting the majority of the ministers have voiced their concerns in going for future elections without the SLFP majority who are in the Joint Opposition.

According to sources, Deputy Minister Arundika Fernando who continues to vow that several ministers would leave the government, had got into a heated argument with former President Chandrika Kumaratunga over the matter.

It erupted when Kumaratunga accused Fernando and several others, who voiced their concerns about difficulties in winning a future election without bringing the party together, of scheming to bring the Rajapaksas back into power.

Arundika Fernando has retorted saying that Kumaratunga has no idea as to what the voters in the villages think of the party that is hanging in the balance of splitting.

It is in the midst of this that Sports Minister Dayasiri Jayasekera opined of taking disciplinary action against the rebels as 'they' show no interest to reconcile.

His remarks transpired in the wake of former President Mahinda Rajapaksa openly declaring that he would support the Sri Lanka Podujana Front (SLPF) and invited everyone else to contest under the Lotus Bud symbol.

It is widely believed that the majority of disgruntled UPFA members in the Unity Government would contest under the Lotus Bud symbol in future and as an initiative, a group of ministers would go in separate ways by 20 September.

Gota's entry

The finalizing of proposed constitutional reforms has still not indicated any progress with the SLFP and the UNP standing poles apart on key amendments. While the UNP has shown the green light for abolishing the Executive Presidency and for several key power devolution recommendations, with the backing of the TNA and the JVP and SLFP being strongly opposed to the moves.

However, as it is, many of the amendments or in the event it is a completely new Constitution, will have to go through a referendum.

It is in the midst of this that 'Eliya-Illuminating Aspirations' – an organization formed under the patronage of former Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa was being launched with the sole intention of defeating any move to divide the country through constitutional means.

Alleging that proposed new Constitution would give separatists what they had failed to achieve through terrorism, Rajapaksa vowed to defeat the project.

The proposed constitutional reforms were meant to appease the LTTE rump, pro-LTTE Diaspora and a section of foreign powers, Rajapaksa said, lambasting the ruling UNP-SLFP government for seeking to divide post-war Sri Lanka on ethnic lines.

Alleging that the new Constitution could be a neo colonial project, many key speakers at the event shared similar sentiments as former diplomat Tamara Kunanayagam where she said, "a radical overhaul is underway - of our political, economic, financial, social and cultural system. A new Constitution is being discussed, also a plethora of radical reforms are being rushed through. The fact that many are being challenged as unconstitutional indicates that the new Constitution is aimed at making what is un-constitutional, constitutional tomorrow, making legal what is illegal by a simple trick of changing the law!"

"The issue is not whether a new Constitution is needed or not, it is the fundamental and inalienable right of the people to determine the economic, social, political and cultural system in which they choose to live. But that choice will be theirs only if it is made freely, not with a gun pointed at their heads. Today, Sri Lanka finds itself practically under a form of tutelage to the US, a global power whose strategic objective is to maintain its global hegemony".

Kunanayagam said that it is symbolic that the US Ambassador chose to announce Washington's decision to 'assist' Sri Lanka draft its Constitution and implement the Human Rights Council resolution, standing on the deck of amphibious warship USS New Orleans, which is used to land and support ground forces on enemy territory and patrols provocatively close to China.

"It is also ironic that it is from Temple Trees that the Acting US Secretary of State Alice Wells declared last week that 'The United States is – and will continue to be – an Indo-Pacific power.' She was the first to announce America's 'First ever naval exercise' in Sri Lanka in October, in Trincomalee. You will agree that rewriting the Constitution under such conditions can only advance Washington's cause, not ours! There are other guns pointed at us: the 2015 Human Rights Council resolution and the notorious IMF/World Bank conditionalities."

She said that what began as an agenda to abolish the Executive Presidency was transformed overnight into a full-blown reform of the Constitution after that.

Following are the excerpts:

"Yes, 'Good Governance" – or Yahapalana as we know it here – was not invented by Ranil, Chandrika, Sirisena or Mangala! The IMF, World Bank and the US Treasury coined the term in the late 1980s as a political conditionality for the enslavement of indebted Third World countries such as ours to make us permanently indebted and dependent, facilitating external interference and domination!
Good Governance takes politics out of government and manages a shift from government to governance. By doing so, it has undermined nation-building wherever it has been implemented, and fuelled identity conflicts especially in multi-ethnic societies.You will find the same buzzwords in the Human Rights Council resolution and in the 'good governance' conditionality: 'rule of law,' 'democracy,''devolution,' "participation," etc. These are the same buzz words parroted by the Yahapalana regime. In January 2016 last year, the Prime Minister, Ranil Wickremesinghe, told Parliament that the purpose of the new Constitution was, among other things, to establish "a political culture that respects the rule of law and strengthens democracy.

The aim of 'Good Governance' is to convert whatever remains of the State into effective and strong State agencies that guarantee the interests of foreign capital in particular. This not only means that the State will no longer serve the public interest; it will actually be turned into a repressive State against the very people it must serve. Even the World Bank admits that good governance is anti-democratic, that it demands measures directed against the expectations of the majority of the people. In a 2002 report, the World Bank was explicit: 'Good governance requires the power to carry out policies and to develop institutions that may be unpopular among some − or even the majority − of the population.'

Behind both these threats – the Human Rights Council resolution and the IMF/World Bank conditionality – is the same face:

Washington's!

Let's be clear. The demands contained in the Human Rights Council resolution are not Burundi's or Cuba's or Russia's or China's.

They are Washington's. It was Yahapalana's abject servility that made it possible for Washington to turn it into a weapon against the Sri Lankan people and their nation. As for the international financial institutions, they are dominated by Washington, which controls nearly 50% of the IMF vote share, compared to Sri Lanka's 0.19%!

The reforms demanded of us are so fundamental that they cannot be implemented without changing the Republican Constitution. A hybrid Court is one. Another is the so-called devolution of power, which is a project to dismantle the State. Yet another is the conversion of our armed forces into an auxiliary of the US armed forces against our national sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity. That will require wide-ranging security sector reforms; demilitarization of the North and the East (which means two-thirds of our coastline); external control over recruitment and vetting of employees and officials; ending military involvement in civilian activities; etc. etc.

Underpinning the resolution is the demand for accountability. Accountability is the pillar on which the so-called "Responsibility to Protect"(or R2P) stands, and the goal of R2P is to legitimize US intervention and domination!

In the late 19th century, the US and Great Britain justified their 'savage wars of peace' as the 'White Man's Burden' to bring 'civilization and progress' to barbaric non-Western, non-Christian, non-white peoples. Today, the justification is "Responsibility to Protect," which is claimed by the US and its junior partners in the West as the right to intervene in other countries under the pretext of protecting the citizens of those countries. The moral rhetoric is human rights and humanitarianism. The victims are the same – non-Western, non-Christian, non-white.

R2P is a project of re-colonization, associated with tutelage. In a report on Responsibility to Protect, the UN Secretary General called for revising the UN Trusteeship System, i.e., the system of tutelage for 'non-self-governing' colonial territories (2013).The original proposal came from former US Ambassador Edward Marks who was the Deputy Chief of Mission in Sri Lanka, in 1987. Marks talked about an international regime of tutelage for multi-ethnic societies, which he said were 'failed States.' His argument is that, "the transition from colonial rule to political and economic independence in the nation-state model is proving to be too much for some very fragile multi-ethnic societies."

The implications of the resolution are far reaching in terms of the ability of foreign powers to intervene in the sovereign affairs of a country, despite domestic opposition. An OHCHR Report on Rule of Law tools for post-conflict States (2006), is unambiguous.

According to it, in case of domestic opposition to international involvement, an international mandate "provides international actors with the authority and means to intervene directly in domestic affairs and overrule domestic procedures if necessary."

US interference in Sri Lanka began long before the resolution was adopted. It was, however, the Yahapalana regime that gave it wings and also international legitimacy.

The US Secretary of State John Kerry arrived in Sri Lanka to fix the road map even before a legitimate Government was in place. The two visits to Sri Lanka of Jeffrey Feltman, the UN Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs, are also significant. On his first visit shortly after the 2015 Presidential election, Feltman declared he was here 'to assist in the process of accountability and reconciliation.' On his second visit last month he revealed that accountability and reconciliation had meant changing the Constitution.

He came to monitor progress.

Feltman is a former US Assistant Secretary of State, a neoconservative hawk linked to Robert Kagan – their theoretician, Victoria Nuland and Samantha Powers. Feltman has been involved – at the highest level – in regime change, destabilization, the break-up of sovereign States into ethnic enclaves, fomenting violence. I would require more time to give an account of his role in covert operations in the Ukraine, Russia, Syria, Iraq, Lebanon, Moldova, Georgia, Venezuela, Colombia, El Salvador, etc.

Other significant visits include that of Samantha Power, also known as the 'Liberal War Hawk,' and George Soros, US multi-billionaire who believes we don't have enough "constitutional democracy."

Pic by Sajeewa Chinthaka Kahadagamage

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