brand logo

Ranil’s other, non-economic priorities 

9 months ago

Share on

During his address to the nation on Monday (16), newly appointed Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe put voice to some uncomfortable truths. While his straightforwardness in this regard can be appreciated when compared to the manner in which former Premier Mahinda Rajapaksa sugar-coated and downplayed the difficult situation the country is going through, trying to deliver the impression that he is the right man for the job of saving Sri Lanka simply through talking facts is not enough. It is true that the main challenge the country is encountering is the economic collapse, and economic reforms should therefore be prioritised. However, he should not forget that Sri Lanka is also a country that is struggling to see democracy and the rule of law being upheld. Wickremesinghe is the Premier, not a Minister for a specific subject, and he received this opportunity to also address the social and political crises that the country is dealing with. Therefore, his attention should not be confined to rebuilding the economy. In a context where President Gotabaya Rajapaksa has expressed willingness to reduce the powers of the Executive Presidency, Wickremesinghe is expected to play the main role in leading the Government, and therefore, while taking the necessary steps to rebuild the economy, Wickremesinghe has several other key responsibilities to fulfill. One of the main responsibilities is the taking of steps to support the enactment of the 21st Amendment to the Constitution, in order to give more powers to Parliament, strengthen independent Commissions, reduce the powers of the President or abolish the Executive Presidency, and make the country’s governing and public administrative structures more independent, efficient, and people-friendly. At the same time, Wickremesinghe is expected to pave the way to streamline and expedite several legal reforms, especially the abolition or replacement of the Prevention of Terrorism (Temporary Previsions) Act (PTA), which was initiated by Justice Minister M.U.M. Ali Sabry PC under Mahinda Rajapaksa’s premiership. In addition, strengthening the ongoing reconciliation efforts is also a major step that the country expects. While the said changes are aimed mainly at strengthening democracy and the existing governing system, it should be noted that they have an indirect impact on the economy as well. As was stressed in yesterday’s (17) editorial, the manner in which Sri Lanka upholds democracy, the rule of law, and human rights is a major concern for several countries and international entities from which Sri Lanka expects support. If the Premier is serious about getting international support to overcome the prevailing economic crisis, which was mentioned during his speech on Monday, he has to also prioritise the aforementioned areas, through which the international community measures how serious Sri Lanka is about preventing the economic, political, and social crises from developing into a nationwide humanitarian crisis. Therefore, the opportunity Wickremesinghe received through the premiership, despite not having secured enough votes to become a MP at the bare minimum, is also an opportunity to rebuild his own image – which was severely damaged owing to the events such as the Easter Sunday bombings in 2019 and the Central Bank Treasury Bond scam in 2015 that took place during his previous tenure as Premier – in addition to rebuilding the country’s tarnished image under Rajapaksa-led Governments. However, given the manner in which he acted in Parliament yesterday, this raises concerns as to whether Wickremesinghe has understood the importance of rebuilding confidence. Yesterday, when it was proposed to suspend the Parliamentary Standing Orders and debate the motion submitted by the Opposition parties expressing displeasure against the President as a matter of urgency, Wickremesinghe voted in support of the ruling party, and came under fire for further delaying a matter that the people have been demanding for weeks. This does not mark a good start, especially if he wants the people and Opposition parties to believe that he can change the status quo for the benefit of the people, not for the benefit of the President or the Government, both of whom the people have clearly rejected. The economic crisis is not a matter Sri Lanka can delay addressing, and prioritising it is understandable. However, waiting to address the other matters mentioned above until the economy gets back on its feet is not advisable, because they too play a certain role in how much assistance Sri Lanka receives to revive the economy. Sri Lanka is watching you, Mister Prime Minister!

You may also like