As dramatic people-led revolutions are being acted out on the world stage, globally attention is focused on human rights, democracy, transparency and good governance. In Sri Lanka the same issues are dealt with, in slightly different ways.
Weekend newspapers reported on a top Government panel having secret talks with the UN Secretary General – talks that to all intents and purposes were kept secret from players within the Government as well as the masses.
Ostensibly, the dealings of the UN were done to promote the actions of the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC) and how this organisation’s recommendations were being implemented by the Inter Agency Advisory Committee (IAAC).
Questions were raised as to why the steps taken by these bodies were not conveyed to the UN through diplomatic channels, especially since the UN Human Rights Council meeting was just around the corner, but the answers do not seem to be forthcoming in the near future. Clearly, transparency is lost even within Government ranks with not even the relevant minister being aware of the talks.
The question of democracy and good governance displayed against the unfolding events of the local government polls make for disheartening reality. Election violence is peaking with less than a fortnight to go. Since mid last week, an intensifying of clashes has been seen between the political parties, with two murders, 44 assaults, and 18 cases of damage to property reported. Strong rivalry within parties is also responsible for the escalation of violence, with monitors pointing out that the Election Commissioner’s actions have created a lopsided playing field. They also allege that Police has not moved quickly enough to quell the violence as well as remove cut-outs, banners and posters. The highest level of violations has been reported from Gampaha and Hambantota, while two United People’s Freedom Alliance (UPFA) candidates died in Galle.
The masses are also suspicious of the new Government programmes that are being launched with many fingering them as ‘election gundu’. The ‘Divi Neguma’ project that is being launched later this week at an initial cost of Rs. 10 billion, ostensibly to uplift economic contributions from rural areas, also mirrors another Rs. 1 billion project to assist war-affected businesses in the north.
According to reports, the new ‘speed demon’ railway tracks between Colombo and Matara are not meeting their expected standards, with part of the track not completed yet and the number of regular trains being scrapped. However, these hiccups have not prevented the Government from ordering 20 new train engines at a cost of US$ 80 million. Even the World Cup has become politicised, with the ‘world’s longest banner’ being draped at Viharamahadevi Park festooned with Government-backed development projects, which are getting more centre stage than cricket.
So while the world interest centres on the Middle East and the creation of new governments and systems of power, Sri Lanka is still plodding along to what it has become used to. The ideals remain just that and any possible change remains largely in the shadows.