Centre for Policy Alternatives on 14 January, 2015

Statement on the Presidential Election 2015

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Download this statement in Tamil here, and in Sinhala here.

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CPA welcomes the victory of the Common Opposition Candidate Mr. Maithripala Sirisena in the Presidential Election of January 08th 2015. We wish President Sirisena the very best in office and in particular, with the implementation of his 100 day programme of reform.

The election was significant for a number of reasons. It was the first time an incumbent president sought a third term and had arrayed against him the broadest coalition of political forces in our history with the JHU at one end and the TNA at the other. It was too, the first time in the history of the executive presidency that an incumbent was defeated and in an election with an unprecedented turnout of voters across the country. We hope, that this historic victory will lead to the abolition of the executive presidency or at the very least, a substantial diminution in the powers vested in it.

The election was especially significant because the triumph of democracy it constituted was a triumph of all of the peoples of Sri Lanka, defying the gross abuse of state resources, intimidation and propaganda throughout the campaign and even on Election Day. We salute our fellow citizens for their reaffirmation of faith in the democratic process and reinforcement of strength and confidence in our institutions. We especially acknowledge and commend the robust defence of the integrity of the electoral process by the Election Commissioner at crucial points in the election and likewise, in light of reported attempts to subvert democracy, the role of the commanders of the armed forces, the Inspector General of Police and his officers and the Attorney General. These are acts of individual courage and integrity, which also remind of the critical need of consolidating the institutional and procedural foundations of our democracy.

CPA notes that the election did not happen in a vacuum.   At a time when it was frightening and even termed unfashionable to stand up to the authoritarianism of the previous regime, there were individuals and institutions that did and amongst them some who paid for their democratic beliefs with their lives and livelihoods. We salute them as we do their vindication by fellow citizens. To those who stood against human rights violations and for accountability in respect of them, the families of the disappeared, those who gave their lives in the exercise of their fundamental, democratic rights in Chilaw, in the Free Trade Zone and in Rathupaswela to Lasantha Wickrematunga and Prageeth Ekneligoda to Nimalaruban and to Jeyakumari who still languishes in detention with countless others, to those who opposed the obnoxious Eighteenth Amendment and the illegal and unconstitutional impeachment of the Chief Justice and to those who bore the brunt of vicious religious intolerance and who exposed corruption, we owe and acknowledge a huge debt of gratitude.

They called us terrorists, traitors and thieves; we called ourselves citizens.

We still do and must. This is the opportunity for our country to become the functioning democracy all of its peoples desire and deserve it to be. And let us not forget that the role of civil society in the democratic life of any country, is not and cannot be, episodic.