When President Maithripala Sirisena and I embarked on the campaign for Yahapalanaya on November 21, 2014, we were responding to a nationwide outcry to lift Sri Lanka out of the shackles of nepotism, and into the spotlight as a proud and independent member of the community of nations, states Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe in a statement to mark the third year of the Unity Government.
The Prime Minister’s statement adds: “Our promise to the people was that should they elect us to right the course of our country on January 8, 2015, we would rescue the economy, put an end to state-sponsored extra-judicial violence, and restore the independence and respectability of our law enforcement and criminal justice systems. While our journey together has much more to accomplish, I am proud today to reflect on how many hurdles have been overcome so far.
“In the three short years that we have been at the helm of the state, the Unity Government has implemented the 17th Amendment to the Constitution and given life to the Constitutional Council and Independent Commissions that allow the police, judiciary and public service at large to act according to their conscience and not the whims of their political masters of the day. We have passed legislation enshrining the right to information to all citizens, and the right to assistance and protection for those of our citizens who are victims of crime or witnesses before the law.
“We have empowered the police, for the first time in the country’s history, to investigate and bring charges for complex financial crimes against the state.
“The unity government has been at the forefront of these steps, making it a priority to take powers and privileges that were for so long hoarded by the executive branch, and indeed by a single family, and restore those powers to the independent arbiters of the people, where they rightfully belong in a transparent, secular liberal democracy.
“Despite all we have accomplished, there is much left to be done to bring justice for the sins of the past and heal this country from the culture of brutality that prevailed for nearly a decade.
Ours was a fight against unchecked corruption, against the re-engineering of the entire public service to serve the whims of a single family, and against the deadly white vans and death squads that aimed to cow the media into acquiescence.
“One of the most heroic victims of this culture of brutality, Lasantha Wickrematunge, wrote in his last ever editorial of how it was the family of President Mahinda Rajapaksa that operated what he called “the machinery of the state.” His editorial, written in anticipation of his own murder, could not have been clearer: “Now, it is clear to all who will see that that machinery has operated so well that my sons and daughter do not themselves have a father.”
“Today, three years from the inception of the Unity Government, also marks nine years from the date that Lasantha Wickrematunge was killed. We vowed then, that his killers would face justice, as would the perpetrators of so many acts of violence perpetrated against media personnel in the dark days of the former regime. The government remains committed to this goal, which is an essential step in allowing the country to permanently rise out from under the threat of lawless rule by the sword.
“I thank the people for placing their faith in us and in President Sirisena as they cast their votes on
January 8, 2015, and assure them that both the President and I remain committed to the ideals and vision that united us three years ago. Today, let us unite not only in reflection of all we have accomplished together, but in appreciation of all that is left for us to do”.