(COLOMBO, LANKAPUVATH) –The National Unity Government which was ushered in through a historic and revolutionary election in January 2015 recently marked three years in office and although the government has made many strides, the road ahead remains long and challenging as the country stands at the cusp of a crucial election, Finance and Media Minister Mangala Samaraweera said.
This election, he says echoing the sentiments of many will decide if democratic institutions and traditions, painstakingly built since 2015 will be torn down or strengthened for the years to come.
“It is after all, an election which will determine if Sri Lankans will live free or in fear, with impunity and grotesque abuse of power by a single family and its henchmen.
It is viewed by many that this forthcoming Local Government elections, which is three weeks away is more than a regional contest to capture political ground within urban and municipal precincts. “It is an old regime’s first real attempt to recapture power and restore the old, corrupt and dictatorial order.”
“Incumbency fatigue and the monumental challenges ahead of Sri Lanka, as the country strives to march towards sustainable peace and prosperity, weighs heavily on the January 8 constituency and the representatives elected to serve them. Disillusioned by the road ahead, which seems fraught with difficulty and the potential for lost opportunity, this constituency may waver,” Minister Samaraweera said.
“But, I believe it is important to try and build on what has already been achieved and keep the window open for peace and change. I believe it is important to have a long memory. I believe it is important to be long-sighted and clear-headed about the monumental choice facing all Sri Lankans in this crucial election,” he said.
The Minister reminisced of a time when protesting for clean water was a crime, when marching for press freedom meant putting your life on the line and voicing dissent was met with dire consequences, many of these notions are so easily forgotten.
“We need to ask ourselves, where all the white vans have gone. Where have the grease yakas gone?
“We must question why the Government’s political critics and dissidents are not being thrown in jail. Why media organizations are not attacked and burned any longer. Why journalists are not being abducted or killed. “Remember the night races – the gift of an indulgent father who wielded all the power of his presidential office to ensure his sons could have a good time? Remember the time when young men paid with their lives for the crime of being a rugby rival? Remember when an incompetent brother in law to the President ran the national airline to the ground?
Remember how it was impossible to speak openly about the excesses of the ruling family except in hushed whispers not so long ago?” he asked.
While these are basic freedoms that citizens in any functioning democracy should take for granted, he added that it must not be forgotten that there is a profound co-relation between the end of this tyranny imposed upon the citizenry and the fall of the Rajapaksa regime in 2015. “And it is this culture of extravagance, abuse of state property and state terror that is trying to make a comeback in the February 10th local government election,” the Minister said.
He added that electoral in-roads made in this poll could be used to attempt to recapture national control in future elections.
“The elections can and will have national consequences that could reverberate for years to come, casting long shadows over the lives of Sri Lankans who have begun to live unfettered and free again today. Yes, perhaps we are not where we hoped to be by this time. But we will get there. Change is incremental, political systems are entrenched and sometimes immovable; but the will to change remains as strong as ever.” He said in a statement. “On February 10th the people will have to choose once more – will we continue the march to freedom or herald a return to fear?”