Majority of the Sri Lankans are celebrating the victory of the joint candidate Maithripala Sirisena. They deserve to celebrate, as this is a victory of the common against some evil powers not necessarily by President Mahinda Rajapaksha but his subordinates. However, I salute President Rajapaska for facilitating smooth transfer of the power.
It’s time to think what went wrong to become people’s man to an autocrat. Many people say that power corrupt people. But Aung San Suu Kyei, said, “It is not power that corrupts but fear. Fear of losing power corrupts those who wield it and fear of the scourge of power corrupts those who are subject to it.” I believe this is true for President Rajapaksha.
This election results shows that majority wanted the abolition of the executive presidency which gives one man an enormous power. Also it shows that people did not like to drug politics and the thuggery. Lack of good governance was a major concern for many people. I was happy to see that people even at the local level started taking about good governance, although they may have not understood it clearly.
Good governance entails many different combinations as practice by various groups. Some also believe that better governance is more appropriate word. Participation, Access to information, Rule of law or Predictability and Accountability are the minimum factors to ensure good governance.
As an environmentalist I believe both good governance and environmental justice are key factors for green politics. I believe that both were missing in the last decade in Sri Lanka. It is always the case that the dilemma of the most governments of saving the environment when concentrating the GDP oriented growth and development. World summit on Environment and Development in 1992 brought the sustainable development as a concept to balance the two.
When last regime decided that growth is far more important than the environment it went against the wishes of many, while some shortsighted people are happy. As an environmentalist I was against the destructive development. I was also unhappy when the country was burrowing of too much money with high interest rates making the country indebted.
Unnecessary land grabbing by the military and others, capture of wild elephants, violation of EIA regulations, destruction of Forest, wildlife, wetlands and coastal ecosystems, made me unhappy about the last regime.
Politicizing the government agencies such as Central Environmental Authority, Wildlife Department and bringing the Urban Development Authority, Coast Conservation Department under the Ministry of Defense made me unhappy too.
Such moves allowed the past regime to dictate the development. This is how they got the approval for the Colombo Port City, Yan Oya and Uma Oya Project, Matara- Mattala Expressway, Mattala Airport and Hambantota harbor to name a few. They all violated the EIA regulations and public opinion either not sorted or neglected. Local voice not heard and no respect to the environment.
I believe Sri Lanka now has very high illegitimate debt due to the recent burrowing from the Chinese Exim Bank. According to the Asia Pacific Movement on Debt and Development “the debts involve the gross violation of basic assumptions of debt contracts, as well as widely accepted ethical, social, political, economic, environmental values, standards and principles and the debts cause harm to the well being of the people and communities in whose name the debts were incurred and who are the ones paying for these debts ate called illegitimate debt” are treated as Illegitimate debt. I believe Mattala airport, Hambatota harbor and the Colombo port City are some project that incurred illegitimate debt. I believe that Sri Lanka should have a clear opinion on how they deal with such illegitimate debt including cancellation.
Meantime it is equally important to either abandoned some so called development projects, which are unnecessary for the country or follow the environmental regulations if the new regime want to continue in some cases. Under the new regime we want to stop illegal land gabbing, violation of the environmental laws including the EIA regulation. We also wanted to make sure that civil society and community voice heard in development decision making. While ensure abolition of the executive powers, next constitution should ensure right to life, right to health, right to environment and nature, right to water and sanitation as the fundamental rights. We also believe that they should respect the environment and the ecology and bring ecological democracy rather than just political democracy. We also believe that they should bring the ecological agriculture and stop heavy dependence on the agrochemicals. Restoration of ecosystem is a must today. Increasing environmental literacy is also vital for the nation.
I hope that the President Maithripala Sirisena will respect to the voices of the environmental community as he agreed during his election campaign and bring a country wide environmental policy detailing the various environmental requirement and safeguards in the next 100 days. We hope Prime Minister, Ranil Wickramasinghe, Venerable Athuraliye Rathana Thero, Mr. Champika Ranawaka, Mr. Anura Kumara Dissanayake and rest of the political leaders will assist to keep this promise and not to make the same mistake done by the previous regime.