Photo: Protests in Sri Lanka. Source: FAZ - Photo: 2022

Open Letter to The President of Sri Lanka

By A patriotic group of Los Angeles-based Sri Lankans

It’s not too late!

LOS ANGELES, USA (IDN) — The current state of our beloved nation could be broadly described as a story, a story that is excruciatingly painful to hear, watch and read. The current tragic drama seems to have only villains.

One might say that it is absolutely useless to engage in a conversation or activity to find out who is primarily responsible for this sorry state of our melancholic story. But as incumbent ruler of the country, you simply cannot abdicate from your fundamental function of being answerable for its existence and finding a remedy with the least amount of bitterness and pain for our country is today.

Those in power today have to own the problem, and if they are able to find a lasting solution to the problems, they certainly can own the answers and solutions too. The members of the Sri Lankan diaspora living in the United States of America will have no issue with who comes out the winner so long as the majority of our compatriots are satisfied with the proposed solution.

It is with that selfless belief and objective mindset that we are addressing this missive to you.

In our parliamentary democracy, politicians are elected to office once every four or five years. Those who win the elections form a government. With these elections being held in reasonable regularity, those elected to office mistakenly conclude that they would have to be accountable only at these elections.

Given the fact that most of these elections are held in almost unidentifiable circumstances, and the eventual winners do emerge after making undeliverable promises and election pledges, one cannot repose an ounce of faith in these complicated elections.

But every now and then, there comes a time when the rulers are being held accountable well before those artificial due dates prescribed by the Elections Commissioner. Protesters at the Aragalapitiya (Galle Face Green) have made sure it is so. The time has arrived.

When in 2019, Mr. President, you were elected, the people of this country placed faith in no unambiguous measure in you. Alas, the last two and half years witnessed the foolhardiest decisions and implementation of flawed policies by you, your family, and the Cabinet of Ministers you appointed. To mention a few:

  • the tax policy that resulted in the loss of an enormous amount of local money to our treasury,
  • implementation of fertilizer policy, which resulted in an anticipated loss of harvests in paddy, tea, rubber, and coconut,
  • artificial maintenance of the rupee at a fixed rate
  • refusal to negotiate with the International Monetary Fund (IMF)
  • provision of space and time for undiluted corruption and nepotism in government business

The resultant Aragalaya that emerged all over the country, including in some remote rural areas, issued a direct challenge to the day-to-day affairs of the State and paralyzed the whole government machinery for almost a couple of months.

As a direct consequence of this Aragalaya movement, Basil Rajapaksa, your younger brother, had to flee from his Ministry of Finance, and Mahinda, your elder brother, had to abdicate from the post of Prime Minister. 

When the protesters cried for the removal of you from the Presidency, Mahinda from the Premiership, and the removal of all 225 MPs from the governing apparatus, it was more symbolic than literal. Any person who understands elementary civics knows that within the context of the current Constitution, removal of the President, the Chief Executive, is not a possible proposition unless and until an interim solution is found. 

Nevertheless, given this backdrop, we are asking you to implement the following measures in order to establish at least a modicum of stability and a more assured path to economic recovery within a reasonably acceptable timeframe. 

  • Come before the people and declare that you shall introduce amendments to the Constitution ensuring total dissolution of executive powers that the current holder of the presidency enjoys 
  • All amendments shall be in line with the proposal presented by the Bar Association of Sri Lanka (BASL). 
  • Announce that you shall leave office within a specific timeline, a maximum of six (6) months. 
  • Invite all party leaders and a group of representatives of the Aragalayawith a view to forming an all-party government for one year with no more than a fifteen (15) member Cabinet of Ministers. 
  • Call for General Elections at the end of this one-year period. 
  • There won’t be any necessity to call for Presidential Elections as the new President shall be merely a ceremonial President nominated by the ruling Party in the government. 

You will note, Mr. President, that these proposals would definitely lend you a dignified exit strategy. 

Accountability and Transparency are two pillars upon which shall rest the entire execution of political power. The drastic results of such a cavalier system of governance are on wide display today, almost in every facet of the political life of the country.

It is not too late for our men, women, and children to dream of brighter and more auspicious days. Should you choose to adopt the aforementioned ideals, a new story shall be written of our Motherland. Our unborn generations might remember you as a hero, not a villain. This is the story they shall wait to hear.

A patriotic group of Sri Lankans resident in Los Angeles, California, who meets weekly with informed guests from Sri Lanka via Zoom – Dr. Nandi Jasentuliyana (Former Deputy Director-General, U.N.); Dr. Nalin Nanayakkara (Surgeon); Dr. Stanley Wijesekara (Physician); Pradeep Gunaratna (Engineer); Palitha Pelpola (Former Secretary to the President & Cey Bank & CCB Chairman); Senaka Abeywickrama (Engineer); Prabha Chandran (Accountant); Jayantha Pusswella (Accountant & Entrepreneur); & Dharshan Sudharshan (Aerospace Engineer). [IDN-InDepthNews – 02 July 2022]

Photo: Protests in Sri Lanka. Source: FAZ

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