Say No to Violence | Daily News

Say No to Violence

A consensus is emerging in society that the Aragalaya may have gone too far, with at least three deaths reported up to yesterday, not to mention those injured. The Aragalaya did begin as a truly non-political movement (Nirpakshika) to effect a system change in the country, along with a call to replace the political leadership.

However, it is no secret that certain Leftist political parties, some with a history of violence, entered the Aragalaya with ulterior motives in mind. This was perhaps acknowledged by the original Aragalaya youth themselves, who then began to call themselves “all-party (Sarva Pakshika) Aragalaites”. It is believed that some of these elements were responsible for the violence unleashed against ruling party politicians on May 9 following the attack on the Gota Go Gama protest site.

But in the aftermath of Wednesday night’s violence near Parliament and the Prime Minister’s office in Colombo, the Aragalaya seems to have reached a turning point. The Aragalaya leaders seem to have split into two camps, with one camp openly calling for an end to any further violence, now that their prime objective of ousting the President has been achieved. In fact, in keeping with a request made by the Bar Association of Sri Lanka (BASL), they have decided to vacate all State buildings they have captured, including the offices of the President and the Prime Minister and hand them over to State and Security officials. This is a positive move and we hope that no major damage has been caused to these historic structures by the huge crowds that thronged them for several days. After all, any repairs and replacements that need to be done will be funded by the public purse.

All camps represented in the Aragalaya and some of the political parties that seemed to have influenced the Aragalaya youth should now desist from any form of violence. Alarmingly, the leaders of some of these political parties have made chilling comments about gaining power outside the provisions of the Constitution.

As Acting President and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe has observed, that it is simply out of the question. Any victories gained by the Aragalaya and any changes proposed by the political parties should strictly be within the contours of the present Constitution. Any other proposals will have no validity before the Supreme Law of the country.

However, some proposals will have no legal Bar for implementation, including the one for a People’s Council (Mahajana Sabhawa) that will include Aragalaya representatives, professionals, academics and experts in various fields which will advise the Government and political parties on socio-economic and political issues. It will then be up to the Government and political parties to consider these proposals. We earnestly hope that they will give their recommendations on resolving the current economic crisis that has dragged the country back by several decades.

As for any proposals that cannot be accommodated now due to the inherent limitations of the present Constitution, there is always the option of drafting an all-new Constitution once Parliament meets. In fact, outgoing President Gotabaya Rajapaksa has already set this process in motion, having appointed an expert panel. This draft can be revised as necessary to include any viable proposals from the Aragalaya youth, political parties and individuals. But there is no doubt whatsoever that Sri Lanka needs a new Constitution to address some longstanding issues. Meanwhile, a revised version of the 22nd Amendment should be passed in Parliament soon, in the light of recent political developments. This, we hope, will redress the present imbalance among the Executive, the Legislature and the Judiciary on certain issues.

In the meantime, swift steps should be taken to restore law and order and the day-to-day lives of the people which have been disrupted by the incessant protests and the economic downturn. An All-Party Government (APG) or any other governing mechanism that takes the helm on July 20 must give priority to addressing the shortages of essential goods including fuel and LP Gas whilst negotiating with international lending agencies and donor countries in order to boost the local economy. Any such funds should be wisely used since Sri Lanka has a history of not utilising foreign aid properly.

Since a resolution of the political impasse is imminent, religious leaders and political leaders should appeal to the people to act with calm and restraint during this crucial transition period. The people too should refrain from unnecessarily participating in protests in their own areas or in Colombo in the face of an impending political change.

While this arrangement may not be to everyone’s liking, we must bear in mind that the people will get another opportunity to elect an all-new Government of their choice in six months to one year from now once the agreed term of the APG comes to an end. However, this time the voters should not make the mistake of voting for uneducated and uncouth individuals who are partly responsible for the mess we are in today, even if political parties do nominate them. The voters too have a great responsibility to ensure that only those capable of engaging in clean politics enter the August Assembly.

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