by Victor Cherubim
( July 22, 2015, London, Sri Lanka Guardian)
More than 60 political parties and over 100 independents, a total of 6151 candidates will be contesting 196 seats in the 225 member parliament of Sri Lanka. The remaining 25 seats will be filled on a proportional representation (PR) basis from the total number national votes won by each party.
Thirty six Buddhist monks will be contesting the General Election on 17 August 2015, including the first Buddhist monk to enter Parliament, Ven.Baddegama Samittha Thera – all from UPFA, while Ven. Galagoda Aththe Gnanasara Thera will be contesting from the Bodu Jana Peramuna, with 15 other months. Ven Athureliya Rathana Thera and Ven.Omalpe Sobitha Thera are on the National List.
The Mahanayake Malwatte Chapter Most Ven.Thibbatuwave Sri Sumangala Thera recently addressed that, “no proper development had trickled down to the villages”.
If we accept the general feeling that the needs and wants of the Sinhalese and Tamils, particularly in rural areas have not seen much improvement in their lifestyle over the past years, it is hoped that a new influx of people representing the poor and the needy will not only be a refreshing and long awaited change in the new parliament, rather than the rich and the mighty who have enriched themselves.
The outcome of the General Election?
We can examine the outcome based approach in crafting strategies for the parliamentary election, under three broad categories:
1.In Sri Lanka 2. External environment 3.Expected Outcomes
We can also project the expectations of the people and the expected outcomes after the general election, under a further three categories:
1.The needs and wants of the rural population
2. The role of women and
3. National unity.
The identification of issues
Sri Lanka, like many other nations, small and large, is today in a melting pot. It is a scene of revolving conflict and also attempting to resolve this conflict. If this conflict, or the war which caused this unease, seems over or finished, the conflict goes on and the landscape both economic and security for ordinary Sri Lankans, remains extremely uncertain. The forthcoming parliamentary election in August and the new configuration it is likely to create are fraught with further dangers and possibly new obstacles. The public expectation is the hope that at the very least the lifestyle conflict can be contained from escalating, allowing for the vagaries of development.
The first scenario pre-supposes a government voted into office which is dependent on international aid both for the reconstruction and for the stabilisation of an economy, which is in tatters. as assessed by some observers.
If candidates and international actors are to make use of the window of opportunity, provided by this election, lessons learned from the past should be borne in mind, first that “national solutions over national issues,” are given precedence over international agendas.
The second scenario underlies, in order for the situation to change, underwriters mainly of Sri Lankan origin, diaspora and others will have to come to the fore with real money power and influence, as the international community is overcommitted with its own concerns and unwilling to provide the financial backing for capacity building. In the foreseeable future, with uncertain economic climate even diaspora assistance is possibly unlikely to happen, if either through the electoral process or alternative routes to change, no transformation is envisaged, or if the uncertainty of safeguarding their investment is not guaranteed.
Another key conflict issue is the understanding and perhaps recognition that the Tamils and Muslims of the North and East and elsewhere in Sri Lanka as both multi-ethnic but more so national Sri Lanka communities and their access to state resources and territory are recognised and accommodated.
Social Change and Development outcomes
Research using analytical models, is the reduction of the complex reality and have to be viewed only as tools and not the reality. Conflict analysis presupposes conflict ideas with respect to the positions, interests, values and needs of all the parties to the conflict.
Social change, in the vast majority of cases whether it affects Sinhalese or Tamil is gender based, with women as bread winners in their households. Gender based violence and gender sensitisation translates in gender inequality of access and opportunity to work. This is lacking in both communities. Until skills and capacity building for women are encouraged, and the promotion of greater women’s participation in politics and in local government activities take precedence, social change will remain stagnant.
Development outcomes will involve promoting private enterprise policy reform. Decentralisation of development decisions at Pradeshiya sabha level will go a long way for promoting private initiatives.
The fragility of the processes after the election
Conflict resolution has been confronted with a series of setbacks and resistances. Corruption which has been rampant over time perhaps has been due to excessive red tape. Red Tape has been tackled by cutting it lengthwise, instead of cutting it in pieces, up and down the administrative chain of command. Lateral thinking in drug abuse has not been explored. The hope is that the change which the election will usher in, though fragile, will empower the diverse segments of its citizens for a united Sri Lanka.