The Chairman of the National Movement for Social Justice Karu Jayasuriya says that the government should not gamble with the lives of the people and must take steps to save the country which is on the verge of bankruptcy.
With the passage of the 20th Amendment, the entire power of the country has been placed in the hands of one person, he said, adding that the entire system of democratic institutions in the country has collapsed as a result.
At a time when the country as a whole is declining politically, economically and socially, he stressed that the only way out of this situation is to strengthen democratic process and institutions in the country.
Addressing a press briefing in Colombo on Friday (25), the former Speaker said:
Today our country is on the brink of a catastrophe. The country is facing a huge risk of economic bankruptcy.
Meanwhile, the Covid epidemic is also sweeping across the country.
In a background where the country has fallen into such a dangerous situation, the country's agriculture has also collapsed as a result of the arbitrary decisions of the rulers.
Farmers today do not have fertilizer to cultivate. The fishermen are helpless. The business sector of the country is collapsing day by day. Children are unable to get an education. The entire public service is inactive.
Therefore, the responsibility of rescuing the country from this unfortunate situation has been placed on the shoulders of us all.
We consider it our responsibility to make the public aware of these facts. Rulers need to pay close attention to this.
We must unite all parties for the future good of the country, ignoring all narrow divisions such as parties, races and religions, and move towards formal and clear action.
As we have repeatedly stated over the past several months, due to the 20th Amendment, the entire power of the country has been placed in the hands of one person.
As a result, the entire system of democratic institutions in the country has collapsed. That is why the country has not been able to cope with at least the serious epidemic situation.
Even in the face of such a catastrophe it does not appear that one is prepared to set aside the arrogance of power.
That is why it appears that decisions are being taken unilaterally without at least considering the opinions and expertise of epidemiologists.
We are well aware that the intellectual community living not only in Sri Lanka but also outside Sri Lanka is ready to help the country at such a moment.
But as a country we do not seem to take full advantage of them either. However, now we have to face the reality.
Militarised response to Covid
Dr Asela Gunawardena, Director General Health Services and General Shavendra Silva, Head of the the National Operations Centre for Prevention of COVID -19 Outbreak (NOCPCO) at a discussion with private sector hospital and laboratory authorities.
We believe that in order to curb this epidemic, the task should now be handed over to a civilian mechanism consisting of experts representing the health sector.
The security forces, including the military, should be affiliated with that civilian mechanism. We appreciate their service. But the militarization of the country will not eradicate epidemics.
It will only weaken the democracy of the country and the freedom of the people.
Therefore, we declare again and again not to jeopardize the lives of the people of the country by endangering the country and the people.
The risk to the country should not be underestimated. There were 45 deaths due to the Covid epidemic yesterday alone.
Accordingly 2814 deaths have been reported so far throughout the country. The number of infected people reported yesterday is around 1917. The total number of infected persons has increased to 248 050. This is a dangerous situation.
Against this backdrop, we have seen a number of eminent scholars in the country protest against the lifting of travel restrictions on the 21st.
Some major media outlets described the government's decision as merely self-deception.
Therefore, the government should pay close attention to this. Accordingly, we as an organization strongly urge that the process of combatting Covid be handed over to a civilian mechanism consisting of medical experts and experts in various fields. But of course the Army also has a role to play here.
Meanwhile, the arbitrary decision taken by the government regarding fertilizer without prior planning and proper assessment by agronomists has become a possible cause that could lead to the destruction of the entire agricultural sector of the country.
Today, farmers across the country are facing severe difficulties due to the lack of fertiliser to cultivate.
A group of farmers in Maha Uswewa, Anamaduwa staging a protest in a paddy field demanding fertiliser for their crops. (Photo: Hiran Priyankara Jayasinghe)
Experts say that due to this reckless policy of the government, the total agricultural production of the country will fall by at least 40%.
It is an unfortunate situation. If that happens, the country's food security could be severely compromised.
People could be in serious trouble because of the danger of a major food shortage.
At the same time, such a situation could lead to bloody protests across the country. Therefore, we urge the authorities not to gamble with the lives of ordinary people in this regard.
In all these circumstances the economy of our country is also facing a severe collapse.
Today, our foreign exchange reserves have shrunk to USD 4 billion. It is an extremely dangerous situation. It is ridiculous to attempt to find a solution through just USD 2 billion of foreign aid.
Although the government has obtained a temporary relief from the increase in oil prices, it alone will not strengthen the country's economy in the current context.
Accordingly, the responsibility of facing that challenge lies with the government. This requires a concerted and clear effort.
According to some ministers, the Government has the money to spend as it pleases. They would not make such claims if they had any knowledge of the country's economy today.
Meanwhile, billions of rupees in foreign exchange are being spent to import new vehicles for the enjoyment of the rulers. However, many imports, including those required to sustain the daily lives of ordinary people, have been restricted.
Today, it is not even possible to get spare parts needed for a computer or even a normal vehicle.
Therefore, the lives of the people of this country could be made even more miserable if a successful answer to that challenge is not provided soon.
Losing GSP+ concessions
If we lose GSP + at a time when the country's economy is in danger of weakening day by day, it will cause the country's economy to collapse.
At the same time, the country's manufacturing economy could suffer a major setback.
At present, a large number of people engaged in various products and services may lose their jobs due to this.
Many industries including garments, tea, and fisheries, in particular, have been hit hard.
Therefore, we need to demonstrate at this juncture that Sri Lanka is a responsible state.
The Sri Lankan government should hold discussions with the European Union.
The world needs to be given a clear assurance that the country's democracy, people's rights and freedoms will be protected.
Every country that represents the European Union is our friend. They are not against Sri Lanka either individually or as an association. But for a better world, they need to respect the criteria they hold most high.
We must also acknowledge that. We must acknowledge that these criteria also bring great value to us in terms of our history and culture.
We must understand that the country and its people will be protected to the extent that it upholds those values, such as the protection of the fundamental rights of the people, the rule of law, the strengthening of civilian governance structures, the elimination of bribery or corruption, and the strengthening of human dignity and democracy.
Such values, which we have also recognized as a post-independence country, have a high level of international recognition.
But some of the worst things that have happened in recent years have taken a toll on those values.
To date, the law regarding the assassination of prominent journalists and politicians has not been enforced in our country.
Shouldn't we as a country also be ashamed of the mass killings of prisoners in state custody?
How can we as a country justify the killing of prisoners in police custody when they are taken and killed in the guise of searching for hidden weapons? Will a child living in this country accept the reasons given by some?
The danger to Shani Abeysekera, a former director of the CID, of the planned injustice done to even the most responsible government officials in this country is outrageous.
Can the world justify the strengthening of democracy in the country and the abolition of our own independent commissions and the establishment of a partisan commission system consisting of political parties?
In such a situation, will there be confidence in the international community that free and fair elections will take place?
Will the international community feel confident in the rule of law, especially when it comes to creating so-called presidential commissions and working to free politicians and their accomplices from allegations of corruption?
The report of the Upali Abeyratne Commission on Political Victimisation is in the Parliamentary Book in the name of the Prime Minister. As a leader who respects democracy, the Prime Minister can remove this.
Tamil protesters hold placards in Colombo, Sri Lanka, demanding the release of political prisoners. (Photo: Niranjani Roland)
At the same time, the judiciary as well as in the intelligentsia must pay attention to the issue of political prisoners.
There is a real problem. Some individuals have been detained for 10/15/20 years without even filing charges.
In some cases, even the Supreme Court has turned its attention to those responsible. It has even been discussed in the European Parliament that they have been subjected to severe injustice.
Such situations can be caused by the irresponsible actions of certain police officers. Such things can also happen under the influence of certain superiors.
Accordingly, justice should be done to political prisoners. But criminals should not be pardoned under the guise of political prisoners without the consent of the courts.
We also need to understand that the 628 Members of the European Parliament who voted in favor of the EU's resolution to reconsider the GSP concession for Sri Lanka are our allies and they only do not agree with the violation of law and human values.
The country as a whole is declining politically, economically and socially. We can only get out of that abyss by strengthening democracy in the country. Only by ensuring the rights and freedoms of the people.
The peace of the country and the security of the lives of the people will be guaranteed only if the country takes such a path.
The first step is to limit the authoritarian, monopolistic powers created by the 20th Amendment to the Constitution and to strengthen the legislature with the collective representation of the majority of the people who are accountable to the legislature.
Only by strengthening and making independent the Electoral, Police, Public Service, Human Rights and Bribery or Corruption Commissions within democratic structures and only by re-establishing democracy in the country can deviate Sri Lanka from taking the dangerous path into becoming a Myanmar by further militarizing the country.
Ultimately, the only way to do that is to mobilize the entire country with the decisive determination to abolish the executive presidency, realizing that we are and are experiencing the consequences of concentrating all power in the hands of one person."