“The woods are lovely, dark and deep. But I have promises to keep, and miles to go before I sleep” – Robert Frost
President Maithripala Sirisena, addressing the new sessions of Parliament last week said, the last three years has demonstrated that the country is still lacking in political and social maturity that is needed to realize the objectives of a coalition government and added that the power struggle in the Government and political parties in the last three years had driven the people to despair. He acknowledged the failure of the two partners of this consensual government to duly appreciate their own respective roles in the coalition arrangement has led to the present confusion and frustration of the people.
A day prior to making the policy statement in Parliament, the President clarified in his May Day speech, “I am not retiring in 2020. There are so many things to be done.” What he clearly stated was that he has many more goals to achieve and his task as President is only half finished.
He emphasized that, we, as a Government, should fulfil our responsibilities under a strong political thought, which gives prominence to our heritage, our great culture and our unique identities, in the journey of rising as a nation while achieving economic prosperity. “I believe that moving forward; we must work with a vision that represents our heritage and the needs of the common people.”
Outlining the economic policies, he said it is essential that we lead the country towards entrepreneurial management and adapt policies attractive to local and foreign entrepreneurs in order to build a strong and modern Sri Lanka. He emphasized that steps should be taken to beat the so-called ‘economy of friends’ and to build a ‘society and people-friendly economy’. The essence of the economic policy was to ensure an atmosphere conducive to prosperity, where everyone can prosper.
As President Sirisena rightly stated, to overcome the challenges faced by the country, the power struggle between the two main parties in this Coalition Government – UNP and SLFP – must cease.
Even though consensual governance is practiced in many countries in the world, it is a foreign concept to Sri Lanka. In the past three years, there were many occasions where the two parties in the coalition were working at cross purposes. This was due to deliberate political strategies on the one hand and lack of understanding as to how a coalition government should function on the other. The President appealed to the disgruntled elements in the two Parties to desist from attacking each other and work as a single unit for the benefit of the people for the remainder of their tenure, because the Unity Government has promises to deliver.
There is no doubt that the Government succeeded in the path towards establishing a democratic and humanitarian governance which is responsive to citizens and ascertained a path to fulfil the fundamental needs of the people. However, there are many more challenges confronting the country. It is important to pay serious attention to those challenges when choosing the new path of the Government. Furthermore, the new path of the Government should help the poor overcome poverty, and achieve efficiency in public service while delivering a people friendly service. This needs adopting new policies, implementing strategies and making crucial management decisions.
We must commit ourselves to the fast development that the people hope for, including the educated youth, the President stated. This can never be postponed to the future. For the past economic growth, achieving an efficient cooperation between public and private sector, increasing productivity and competition, optimizing resources to increase direct foreign investment, consolidating the country’s fiscal condition are critical.
As President Sirisena pointed out, another unfinished task is true reconciliation and a lasting solution to ensure communal harmony. The steps are necessary to further strengthen rule of law, democracy, human rights, and freedom of speech in the society, recognition of equal rights based on aspirations of the Tamil people, ensure the wellbeing and socio-cultural needs of the Muslim community and empower the upcountry Tamil community socially and economically.
One of the main platform promises during the Presidential election campaign in November 2014 to January 2015 was that stern action would be taken against bribery and corruption. The Government vowed to build efficient State governance free of corruption and fraud. The President’s absolute commitment to fight against corruption is evident from courageous action to appoint Presidential Commission to probe Central Bank bond issue. It became all the more evident when his Chief of Staff, I. H. K. Mahanama and State Timber Corporation Chairman P. Dissanayake who faced bribery charges were sacked immediately. Furthermore, he did not hesitate to suspend the new Chairman of State Timber Corporation, Anuruddha Polgampola, when he came to know about Polgampola’s previous arrests on misappropriation charges.
In his speech, the President has signalled a new beginning for the Unity Government and he also invited the Opposition to assist the Government, shedding the politics of hate and disruption. There is a need for collective efforts to overcome the challenges faced by the country.
Although every promise could not be fulfilled in the last three and a half years, there is an acknowledgement that the task of restoring the Sri Lankan Society as a democratic, humane, and accountable society has been completed successfully during the last three and a half years, which was the main demand of the people of this country who gave the verdict to this Government on 8 January, 2015.
The whole country today wants to achieve the freedom of prosperity. Standing against bribery, corruption and waste is the self defence of a nation, for its future. The people expect the period beginning from the new session of Parliament would provide an opportunity to achieve the noble goals outlined: Ensure economic prosperity of the people, eradicate poverty, generate new employment opportunities for the youth, further strengthen the rule of law, democracy, human rights, and freedom of speech in the society, meet the requirements of people with special needs, and establish a sustainable development vision by bringing together all ethnic and religious groups.