In Sri Lanka, People’s Uprising for System Change Global Voices Français
This article was first published by a Sri Lankan jurist, author, poet and activist Basil Fernando in Ground views, an award-winning citizen media website. An edited version is posted here under a content sharing agreement with Global Voices.
April and May 2022 will be remembered as the most important months of the post-independence era in Sri Lanka. During this short period, the long-awaited popular awakening expressed itself with force. Those in authority did not see the writing on the wall although the wall is right next to the presidential secretariat and all over the country. Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa thought he only saw ghosts. President Gotabaya Rajapaksa believed in the comforting words of his friends when he knew the treasury was empty. The entire political establishment has preferred to take refuge in a fool’s paradise.
Some of them have rallied Mahinda Rajapaksa on May 9 to try intimidation tactics to quell the protest movement. It went wrong and the nation rose to defend the protesters and fight back against the violence. This brought the Rajapaksa era to an end although Gotabaya Rajapaksa nominally remains president. He is now an isolated person to protect.
The real problem now is what’s next? Only the people of Sri Lanka can give a valid answer to this question. Without their direct participation, no solution can emerge. The major problem is how to enable people to become agents of political and social change to solve the economic crisis. This can only happen if the national protest movement takes a step closer to achieving the goals it is fighting for by launching a discourse on how to achieve system change. That they want the existing political leaders, who are unwilling and unable to meet the heavy demands of the people, to go is quite clear.
There are several issues on which there is consensus among the people.
The law and law enforcement
There should be a review of the law and practice regarding deficiencies in the corruption control system. It is essential to reveal to the people why this system has failed to achieve its goals in such a dramatic way, causing difficulties and difficulties not only to individuals but also to the economic and political system. Legislative and institutional mechanisms can be developed to ensure methods of controlling corruption. There are many lessons to be learned from other countries, and experts in the field can willingly help Sri Lanka.
Democracy and rule of law
A system of governance based on democratic principles and rooted in the tradition of the rule of law and the rule of law should be incorporated into all laws, including that of the constitution. Any provision of law, whether found in legislation or in the constitution, shall be deemed to have no legal force if the principles relating to democracy, the rule of law and the rule of law are violated. If this recommendation is implemented, many problems related to the Constitution of 1978 can be corrected.
In all speeches that deal with the resolution of the current economic crisis, people should be informed of the discussions; attempts at secrecy must be rejected. People should be encouraged to participate in their localities and in their professional capacities to discuss ways to end the economic crisis and lay the foundations of principles and practices for dealing with economic issues. Local traditions and conventions should be built that would become part of the social consciousness, as has happened in countries where there has been genuine democratic change. People should be able to intervene in any interference with their economic system and their well-being.
A fair and equitable tax system should be established as soon as possible. The wealthy classes resisted being subject to a just tax system. When certain attempts were made by previous governments, the propaganda machinery was unleashed and the governments were defeated. A decisive attempt should be made to develop and implement a tax system where the wealthier income groups share the burdens of maintaining a sound economic life.
A clear agricultural policy
A clear agricultural policy should be developed in consultation with farmers, agricultural experts, economists and all who care to ensure that the food supply is not sabotaged by unnecessary imports and also to eliminate commissions when import of imports. This is linked to the strengthening of the legal system.
Opening political space to youth
Young people now play their role in political and social life. They are a new generation with a different understanding of society and with attitudes that were not possessed by previous generations. Every effort should be made to bring these younger elements into the public discourse. Respect for freedom of expression, association and assembly is essential when dealing with a societal crisis. When the younger generation enters public debates, they should be allowed to participate. This will cause a major shift in political culture.
Right to education
It is essential to preserve the right to education. In the face of the economic crisis, no attempt should be made to deprive young people of the rights to better education, which will contribute to economic development and economic and political stability.
food and medicine
There should be no shortage of food or medicine. The first priority is to ensure that a food crisis does not occur because of the measures taken to overcome the economic crisis. From now on, the government, as well as the international humanitarian organizations, must help Sri Lanka to avoid a catastrophic situation. There is already an increase in malnutrition as well as hunger-related suicides.
Money laundering and recovery of stolen national assets
the diversion of national wealth by individuals should be a matter of the utmost importance. Neither Sri Lankans abroad nor foreign investors will help overcome the economic crisis if they believe funds are being misappropriated. Many steps must be taken to ensure justice and fairness in all investigations and prosecutions and to ensure that the guilty do not escape. Anything illegally removed and deposited elsewhere should be properly investigated and recoveries made. Many international organizations are working on the issue of discovering the wealth of stolen nations with greater cooperation between nations.
The birth of a new social consciousness
It is the most agonizing experience that many Sri Lankans have had. Such moments can shape people’s political consciousness. Nationwide protests indicate that people are deeply concerned about their lives and the lives of their children. The people are united in the cry to save the country from the economic and political crisis it is facing. It is then that a deeper consensus emerges about what people want to be and what kind of institutions their societies need. People have a reason to show their resilience and participate in a process to improve their future prospects.
Now the discourse must change to seek answers to these questions.