The mood at the Orchid was calm, but most felt the tension that was building as key movements, National Movement for Social Justice, PuravasiBalaya (Citizen’s Power), Vame Kendraya (the Left Centre), and Puravasi Viyaparaya came together to recommence their revolutionary struggle to instill the concept of the original ‘Yahapalanaya’.
“You are all ‘satansagayan’ (combatants),” Editor and Attorney at Law K.W. Janaranjana said addressing the crowd. He made the parallel because they gathered once again to resurrect a fight. Janaranjana took the podium following a minute of silence to remember and pay tribute to the late Ven. Maduluwawe Sobitha Thera.
He explained the new agenda for Yahapalanaya was built over a long period of time through discussions with relevant society representatives, creating and amending, and finally perfecting so that the next presidential hopeful, “whoever it may be” could carry it forward.
The agenda comprises 19 key areas including the State Structure, national security, electoral system, legal system, and peace and reconciliation. It stressed the importance of giving power to the parliament and not a single individual. “With a presidency system that existed before 1977 (before the introduction of the executive presidency), a parliamentary ruling system with powers to the Prime Minister and cabinet ministers should be introduced by completely abolishing the executive presidency,” the agenda stated.
It added, the elected president should make the necessary changes to the presidential system “within a year of coming to power”. The Government must ensure that national security is one of its primary responsibilities, it states, proposing to create a ‘national security advisory board’ where members are not from the military but with international knowledge on how to counter any threats. “This board has to communicate with the Prime Minister and the cabinet, daily” it added.
It called to tackle the issue of bribery, corruption and loss-making. Constitutional Council member attorney-at-law Javid Yusuf said Maithripala’s name was put forward for 2015 presidency secretively. Today, there are three candidates already publicly campaigning.
“We can see a difference in the environment of the 2015 elections and this one,” Yusuf said referring to the ‘freedom from fear’ Sri Lanka is witnessing under the new government.
However, there is much more that was promised but never delivered.
“We are embarrassed to be here,” Puravesi Balaya Co-Convener Gamini Viyangoda declared.
It is embarrassing to get on stage once again and make the same statements. Nevertheless it must be done.
When they nominated then Minister Maithripala Sirisena as the common candidate, they believed he would work independently. Today they are at square one, but he is hopeful that this time the fight would bring in the changes they expected.
People expected freedom under President Sirisena’s rule, instead they saw a writer being jailed for three months. Author and poet Shakthika Sathkumara who was held under the ICCPR Act was in the crowd. So were Speaker Karu Jayasuriya, Minister Ravi Karunanayake, MPs Field Marshal Sarath Fonseka, Dayasiri Jayasekara, Mujibur Rahuman and former general secretary of the UNP Tissa Attanayake.
Speaking about two candidates, Viyangoda said, the country has a snake-charmer inside who promises to abolish the executive presidency in one night, and a dictator on the other side. Former could be laughed at but the latter not so.
It is going to be a grueling journey, but they can’t make the same mistake again. They won’t give up.