Sri Lanka’s private sector in a show of unity has called on President Maithripala Sirisena and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe to come together to help revive the economy after the horrific Easter Sunday attacks. Penning a letter to the two leaders they have presented a three point plan, which they hope will be followed by the Government to assist the country to return to normal.
The key appeal from the private sector is that going forward, the people of this country need to be assured that the government machinery to safeguard its people from acts of terrorists is effective, that national security will be accorded the highest priority and that the political leadership of this country has the capacity to work together setting aside political differences to accord the highest priority to national issues.
Business leaders also pointed out that it is unfortunate but true that the recent events and the mishandling of security has contributed to the erosion of confidence in the political leadership to keep this country. This loss of confidence has a spillover effect to investment and economic revival, particularly when it comes to tourism where perception plays a huge role.
It is not just the private sector but the public at large that remain disappointed that even after such a tragedy the President and the Prime Minister cannot joint together for a common cause. The political infighting continues over appointing a new Law and Order Minister. The waters have been made muddier by the fact that even though the United National Party (UNP) has asked the President to appoint a separate Defence Minister, it cannot be done under the Constitution as the Executive must also hold that portfolio. Trying to score political points when Sri Lanka is faced with arguably the most challenging situation it has faced in a decade is discouraging.
The main points of the proposal presented by the private sector includes tracking the economy to make fact based decisions on where and how support should be provided for specific industries. It also calls for national policies to provide larger and smaller goals that can be focused on simultaneously. To reach these targets the private sector as called for the appointment of competent officials, which has not been a strong point with this Government, which has preferred to put political loyalties above competence.
The business community has also called for the Government to have an effective communication strategy where verified information is voluntarily disseminated to the public. Volunteering important information consistently to the public has always been one of the weak points of this Government which even did away with Cabinet briefings after the constitutional crisis. It is important as a democratic government to provide a platform to improve transparency, space to critique policies that are not in the national interest and gather additional information.
After the attacks in London, there were daily briefings to give the latest information to the people and inspire confidence but in Sri Lanka there is limited dissemination of information. The military and police have been providing information but there is little space to ask questions on investigations into the attacks, who were responsible and set up a complete picture of what took place. There also needs to be a parallel political discourse to understand the communal cost of these attacks and what can be done to foster unity. For that is the only thing that can revive Sri Lanka.