New political culture, altruistic leaders can save Sri Lanka: Deepika

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By Sanath Nanayakkare

Now that the people have realised the need to fight for their rights, they should make a holistic effort to push lawmakers to create a political culture, where politicians were not entitled to unnecessary privileges, comforts, fancy vehicles, large security details, etc., says Former Human Rights Commission (HRCSL) Chairperson Dr. Deepika Udagama.

Dr. Udagama made said so, taking part in a political programme (Mawatha) on Sirasa TV.

“I am glad to see that eventually today’s younger generation has recognised their citizenship rights and risen against the deprivation of the people’s basic human rights where the government has not been able to make basic living needs accessible to them.

“In my view, the erosion of democracy over the years started with the advent of the all-powerful executive presidential system and then the 20th Amendment – a much uncivilized law – consolidated that trend. What we see today as an economic crisis, is the result of undermining our democracy over the years and even our food security through the recent ban on using chemical fertiliser which should have been done more methodically by listening to agricultural experts.”

“Although we have discussed democracy and human rights over the last few decades, it was difficult to convince those fundamentals to our society because they had trust that they would be able to achieve productive governance through the existing political system. As it has not happened and as the patience of the people has run out, now we see that the real citizen, that was in slumber, has eventually woken up. That is the silver lining I see in these dark clouds. I bow to the young people staging protests on the streets because they engage in these activities with restraint and in a mature way. They are not demanding the uplifting of their economic and financial wellbeing. They demand the creation of an accountable governance system for the citizens of the country.

“When people don’t have access to pharmaceutical drugs and medical treatments that is also a grave violation of a human right. When such social and economic rights were deprived and the social and political contract between the government and people was breached, they came forward to use their civil and political rights. They use the freedom of speech, take to the streets and make agitations. So, these rights need to be safeguarded or otherwise the people’s voice on those issues won’t be heard. The IMF knows very well about the ground realities in any country they fund facility programmes. So politicians should act with humility in tackling these issues. They need to be humble. They should listen to experts’ advice. I say this for both government and opposition politicians. Now, we hear the call to form an all-party interim administration. The authorities don’t seem to be responding to it.

“Although people are miserable, they have risen. They are in a rage. This, however, shows their energy, awareness and inspiration in terms of their democratic rights. We all need to get together to find solutions for this. My view is that we need to restore the economy soon or it will collapse completely, if that’s still not the case. But to resolve this in the long term, we must change the system of governance. We must create accountability of politicians to the people. For this, we must abolish the executive presidential system. We must bring in the 19th Amendment with appropriate changes because even an executive PM could turn to be adamant. The constitution needs to be changed with more democratic features.

“Leaders must listen to the young people’s voice as adults rather than mere leaders, and then we should see some degree of political discipline. Not only humble, they should be simple and altruistic. It doesn’t appear to be happening any time soon. But now we see the foundational stage for it. This momentum needs to be maintained and strengthened going forward.”

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Disclaimer: New political culture, altruistic leaders can save Sri Lanka: Deepika - Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not necessarily reflect point-of-view

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