Dedication to good governance

Wednesday, 11 February 2015 00:00 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

CORRUPTION, or rather the fight against it, has become yet another link between Sri Lanka and her closest neighbour. India’s capital New Delhi is seeing a push for accountability and good governance that mirrors Sri Lanka’s own struggle. But both are fraught with challenges. Following predictions of exit polling, New Delhi’s population of 17 million have decided they have had enough with both corruption and family politics. Charismatic Prime Minister Narendra Modi saw his extended honeymoon since election last year wane as anti-corruption campaigner Arvind Kejriwal’s party headed for a landslide win. Kejriwal’s anti-corruption Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) took an early lead in 63 of the 70 seats, while Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party was ahead in only four seats. Congress, which was decimated in national elections, continued its dismal performance, failing to bag even one seat. The message was so clear that hours ahead of the official result being formally announced, Modi congratulated Kejriwal and offered support. It was the only sensible path to take given State support is essential for Modi to push through crucial reforms that would rejuvenate growth in the upper house of India. Interestingly AAP was routed in the election that swept Modi into power. But even after Kejriwal controversially resigned as Chief Minister last February after 49 days in office, when Opposition politicians blocked a bill that would have created an independent body with the power to investigate politicians and civil servants suspected of corruption, his popularity failed to diminish. Ultimately he is set to return to power almost to the day of his 14 February resignation. Delhi voters have proven they are unwavering in their quest for transparency and good governance. Can Sri Lanka’s voters stick to their guns in the same manner? The sensibility and progressiveness of Sri Lanka’s voters was hailed the world over just a month ago for uniting to oust former President Mahinda Rajapaksa over corruption and nepotism. Yet there are already rumblings of politicians readying to undermine this crucial victory for political gain. Leftist parties have announced they will join to support Rajapaksa to return as the prime ministerial candidate. Rajapaksa himself insists no overtures have been made. Additionally, the no-confidence motion of Minister John Amaratunga in Parliament has raised concerns it could force Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe to dissolve Parliament early, leaving the 100-day plan and the credibility of the coalition in tatters. Moreover, without implementation of crucial pledges to trim executive powers, establish independent commissions and pass a Right to Information legislation, a watershed moment in Sri Lanka’s history would be missed. The 100-day plan is not just a document to pass time. It locked down a timeframe to entrench essential legal and institutional frameworks that would safeguard the country’s deeply-injured democracy. After struggling for decades and braving repression, the public cannot now be thwarted of the gain they have worked so hard and single-mindedly to achieve. Just over a month since being voted unexpectedly into power, the Sirisena administration is seeing challenges piling up. Pressure to step up its anti-corruption fight is also gaining momentum, with the President announcing on Monday an establishment of a fresh commission to probe allegations. In a tit-for-tat move, reports also indicated the Opposition would consider a separate commission to probe alleged United National Party (UNP) excesses. As politicians hedge reforms for their own ends, the casualty will be good governance, forcing the public to be ever-vigilant their moment will not be lost.