Sri Lanka is on the verge of a catastrophe as never before in its history and the moment to take a united stand to protect the country has now dawned, former speaker Karu Jayasuriya said.
Addressing a press briefing organised by the National Movement for Social Justice (NMSJ), Jayasuriya said that he strongly believes that solutions to all these challenges can be found if all national leaders who love the country, act wisely, with foresight and work in harmony.
He said that the organisation, as an impartial and independent body, has decided to bring certain issues to the attention of all religious leaders, including the Maha Sangha, the President, and all citizens of Sri Lanka.
"We don't seek to criticise the current government. Our objective is to bring to the attention of the President and the ruling alliance the prevailing majority opinion of the country," Jayasuriya said.
Speaking further, the Chairman of the National Movement for Social Justice said;
Previously, we have highlighted how the 20th Amendment to the Constitution not only destroyed democracy but also how 82 per cent of the people did not approve of the amendment when it was presented.
We have also been informed on several occasions that even the Venerable Theras’ representing the Supreme Sangha Sabha did not expect such a bill to be enacted.
Yet another survey conducted in September has now reported that the number of people who do not approve of the 20th Amendment has risen to 94%.
That is because despite the 20th Amendment to the Constitution and a two-thirds majority, eight gazette notifications issued by the government to control the prices of food items, including rice and sugar, have proved to be futile.
Therefore, the hope of the people now is that the President will rectify the injustices caused through the enactment of the 20th Amendment to the Constitution.
We truly appreciate the participation of the President in the United Nations General Assembly.
At the same time, we now have renewed hope after the President assured the UN Secretary General that the government stands for democratic principles such as democracy, the protection of human rights, freedom of the press, acceptance of dissent, and co-operation with civil society.
More than 600 members of the European Parliament voted against Sri Lanka because of their current opinion towards our country.
Therefore, following the President's visit to the UN, we hope that Sri Lanka will now be able to convince the international community that it is a free, independent country that respects democracy and is not subject to any higher power.
15 point proposal for a just society
We would also like to draw the attention of those in power to the following points to create an environment where the present and the furture generation can live with self-respect.
(1) Immediate removal of dictatorial powers created by the 20th Amendment through a new Constitution. It must now be understood that all this was futile. This can be rectified through a new Constitution.
(2) It is the duty of the government to give the people of Sri Lanka the freedom to choose the political leadership, party and representatives of their choice. It is a basic human right.
Therefore, all commissions, including the Election Commission, should consist of apolitical independent members. It should be noted that although there are many intelligent and uncorrupt people in the commissions, the confidence in the commissions has been shattered due to the presence of a few people who are active in government politics.
(3) Also, in appointing members, they must be appointed with the full consent of the Leader of the Opposition and Representatives of the opposition. All appointments made by the previous government were made in that manner with the consent of both parties. However, current appointments are made at the sole discretion of the government. The current process is unfair and unjust.
Ranjan Ramanayake was sentenced to a four-year rigorous imprisonment over the contempt of court case by the Supreme Court.
(4) The President has indicated that the “One Country, One Law” concept will be followed in the future. While pardons have been granted to those accused of murders, extortion and other violent crimes, popular actor Ranjan Ramanayake who did not commit a criminal act continues to be incarcerated. It is our responsibility to also point out that the society as a whole does not approve of his imprisonment when those involved in the recent Anuradhapura prison incident and the destruction of the Kurunegala Buwaneka Royal Court were never questioned and continue to roam free. Therefore, in the name of humanity and justice, we request a pardon for Ranjan Ramanayake.
(5) It is a democratic tradition that the security services should be completely independent. Our police service is an honourable service consisting of talented officers. However a few officiers purposely harassing those in the opposition while turning a blind eye to the wrongs of those partial to the government is causing disrepute to the Police service. Therefore, we hope this matter is brought to the attention of the Hon. Minister and the Inspector General of Police.
We have a distinguished and brave military. We should be proud of them. We appreciate the commitment of the Army in controlling the Covid pandemic.
However, we hope that the Minister of Defence and the Army Commander will take the necessary steps to rectify the stigma attached to the collective involvement of Army intelligence officers in a recent murder.
(6) After 73 years of independence, Sri Lanka is a country that has only gone backwards due to racial and religious divisions and struggles. It is our belief that it is the duty of the Heads of State to ensure that those flames of racial tension do not recur.
The Sinhalese are divided as Buddhists and Christians, and Catholics. We also see an attempt to create a Sinhala-Muslim divide. The clergy too appear to be divided into different factions over mere walking paths. If these issues are not resolved soon, the country will be engulfed in fires yet again. We feel that it is important for the Hon. President to decide whether walking paths are now an urgent need for the country.
(7) There seems to be a great deal of anguish among Sri Lanka’s Catholics over the Easter Sunday terror attacks. In order to dispel this suspicion and build trust, we feel it is imperative for the sake of national unity that all details and reports related to the investigation should be released to the public as soon as possible.
The current mistrust is detrimental to the national unity of the country. We urge the authorities to take immediate action to resolve this without allowing it to escalate into an international issue.
(8) The government's strong stance on the use of compost fertiliser has proven to have an impact on agriculture. Many people, including farmers and planters, are asking for artificial fertilisers. We consider it important that the government pay attention to this as there is a strong social unrest over the issue.
It appears that many farmers are enraged as a result. According to a survey conducted by the Planters' Association, tea and rubber production is set to decline by 40% and 20% by 2022 respectively. This is a dangerous sign.
(9) We don't agree with the decision to summon eminent and well known newspaper editors to the Criminal Investigation Department. Where there is no free media, there is no democracy. Meanwhile, it should also be pointed out that the constant summoning of only Opposition MPs for Police inquiries is detrimental to the dignity of Parliament.
(10) In many countries in the world, the civil society is considered as part of its development and governments as a result often cooperate with them. The President has also stated this to the UN Secretary General. We believe that civil society activities will strengthen the government.
Unfortunately, Sri Lankan civil society is still seen as enemies and traitors, so I urge the President to explain to the relevant authorities the importance of working with these institutions.
(11) We would like to reiterate that as long as the recommendations of the PCoI on Political victimisation remain in place, they will do great damage to the reputation of the government and the judiciary.
(12) There is a great deal of dissatisfaction in the public service with the removal and replacement of public officers with high ranking former military personnel. Even if retired military personnel are deployed when disciplinary action is required, we would like to point out that the marginalisation of experienced administrative officers is detrimental to the country. We have seen instances where the government has been adversely affected by the non-utilisation of the administrative service in statecraft.
(13) We notice that children and parents are greatly disturbed by the closure of schools.
The loss of a child’s education can be considered a great sin. Therefore, we urge you to take steps to open schools as soon as possible as one can never return to childhood once it is lost.
(14) A delegation from the European Union has recently arrived in Sri Lanka. The Foreign Minister has stated that the current discussions were very successful. We strongly urge the government not to lose the GSP + concession. If so, it should be noted that it will be highly detrimental to the country’s economy.
(15) We must attract foreign investment, and it is common practice to make the transfer of public resources transparent. Had the 2018 Procurement Bill not been revoked before it was tabled in Parliament, the Commission appointed through it could have prevented the various allegations of corruption that are currently being made. It is with deep regret that one must mention that many powerful sections of state worked hard to prevent the release of this bill. This commission could have stopped corruption and saved billions of rupees in the process.
We appeal to the President to implement this committee on behalf of the people. In doing so, we would also like to point out that the developed countries of the world follow this methodology. Since the President is also aware that frauds are taking place in the country today, we request the government to reconsider this matter.
Public outcry over the controversial Yugadanavi/New Fortress Energy deal.
There is a great deal of controversy among the people and the trade unions over the transfer of state resources to foreign companies. We feel that there is strong public opposition to the way the Yugadanavi/New Fortress Energy deal was done. The people feel that it did not happen in a transparent manner, and that New Fortress has been given a long-term monopoly. We believe these public sentiments are valid and fair.
We would like to inform you that the people appreciate the steps taken by the Hon. President to lift the state of emergency, to select his delegation during the recent foreign trip in an exemplary manner and his decision to not to spend public money on accompanying family members. May this move set an example for future leaders.
It is essential to pay close attention to the expert opinion if the program to control the Covid pandemic is to be more successful. We are also happy that the vaccine drive is now at a successful stage.
However, it must be emphasized that expert opinion is essential for the success of the fight against the Covid pandemic.
We also believe that continuing the transparent, well-planned vaccination process will address the shortcomings that have already occurred and the government will pay close attention to it going forward.
We would also like to express our gratitude to the World Health Organisation and to our friendly countries for their contribution to the well-being of our people during this difficult time."