Remarks by Karu Jayasuriya, Chairman of the National Movement for Social Justice at a press briefing on 13.01.2022
It is the nature of citizens to expect the words and promises of a head of state in politics to be firm and consistent. Therefore the main focus of the press conference today is to remind His Excellency the President of two promises he made to the country in 2020 and the need to fulfil those promises.
We can recall that the President promised before an advisory committee consisting of the most revered Maha Sangha that he would take steps to introduce a new Constitution within two years of coming into power and to also impose limitations on dual citizens.
It is pivotal that Sri Lanka regains the respect and trust of the international community at a time where the country’s democracy has been completely destroyed by the 20th Amendment to the Constitution.
Similarly, the country today also understands and accepts the need for an honourable and independent Constitution. Therefore, the government must take steps to make the public aware of the proposed constitutional principles of government on or before February 4, the day of Sri Lanka’s Independence. It is the responsibility of the government.
It is reported that the committee led by Romesh de Silva PC has already submitted the proposed recommendations to the President. However, the Constitution which evidently affects a country should be drafted by the Parliament and the people of that country. Therefore, it is with deep regret it must be said that the people have no faith in a Constitution made by the government. It is a betrayal of the mandate given by the people.
Instead of the 20th Amendment, which was presented quite unexpectedly and hands unlimited powers to one individual, a new Constitution should be enacted through Parliament to protect the sovereignty of the people. The government will not be allowed to ignore this demand of the people.
It must be noted there will be no national-religious co-existence in Sri Lanka until an environment is created in which brotherhood, mutual trust and respect between the Sinhalese, Tamil and Muslim communities are fostered. If the country is to move forward, we must have strong mutual trust so that we do not have unnecessary problems with the diaspora and do not pass those problems on to the next generation.
The only wish of educated and intelligent members of the diaspora is that we all live in unity in one country, regardless of race or religion. This could be the beginning of a new journey for Sri Lanka. If our political leaders understand this message correctly, we can once again truly transform into the pearl of the Indian Ocean.
The main purpose of human life is to live a comfortable life with basic amenities. However, today, this has become a mere dream. The daily lives of the people have become a great struggle. Many families are not able to have three square meals. What has become of our country? Today it is heading in a direction where there is no plan, no vision, no discipline and is instead facilitating the rise of a group that is plundering the country’s assets.
The country does not have adequate foreign exchange to import the essential foods, milk powder, sugar, cement, gas, medicine, etc. We should also be ashamed of the manner in which we are attempting to secure loans for the country. No top government or cabinet decision has yet been made on the repayment of foreign debt amounting to USD 500 million. Over the past few days, leading intellectuals in Sri Lanka have presented valuable ideas and suggestions on the matter. The President, the Prime Minister and the Governor of the Central Bank should take an immediate decision in the next few days. Failure to do so will only aggravate the issues faced by the common man.
As an active and patriotic civil society organisation keeping away from politics and considering the expert opinions of Sri Lankan intellectuals working around the world, we believe the most appropriate course of action for the country now is to initially settle only the interest owed with the full consent of the creditors and to initiate further negotiations on settling the debt.
If such a step is taken, instead of paying the entire loan amount of USD 500 million at once and leaving the people in hunger, a portion of the foreign exchange can be used to save the lives of the people by providing them with necessary food, milk powder, sugar, medicinal drugs, gas, cement, machinery and industrial raw materials.
We sincerely hope that the authorities will understand that such a move is not uncommon and unheard of in the world. The authorities should realise that when ideas and proposals that are favourable to the country are presented, instead of ridiculing them, they should be considered wisely to benefit the country and the people.