The year 2018 was a memorable year. It marked the 70th anniversary of Sri Lanka’s independence, which CPA in turn marked with a Survey on people’s expectations of Democracy, Government and Governance. It also marked the lowest and highest points in our political and constitutional evolution on account of the October 26th constitutional coup launched by the President and the landmark decision of
the Supreme Court that led to its resolution, reaffirming the institutions and processes of liberal democracy in Sri Lanka.
In the drama that unfolded CPA was an active participant, upholding the integrity of our democratic processes, the role of Parliament and the Judiciary. CPA was the only civil society organization to petition the Supreme Court on the unconstitutionality of the dissolution of Parliament and at all times maintained that the rule of law, the institutions and procedures of democracy had to be observed and maintained.
Once the constitutional coup was averted, public discourse and speculation shifted to the impending Presidential election and the likely candidates, and in particular the issue of Mr Gotabhaya Rajapaksa’s dual nationality and his ability to revoke his US citizenship in time to contest the Presidential election. In addition there were the attempts to petition the Supreme Court on the issue of whether the current President was entitled to an extra year in office. CPA maintained that the Nineteenth Amendment was clear that this was not possible.
The fast pace of events during 2018 militated against the organization working on a strategic plan for the next three years, whilst on a retreat. CPA has always maintained that the winning platform of the 2015 election was one that it took a lead in designing and defending since its inception in 1996 and therefore the organization has a responsibility to ensure that the agenda is not forsaken but fulfilled. This could entail working with government to achieve this purpose as opposed to working for government, thereby risking the compromise of its organizational integrity as a civil society actor. The Strategic Plan will have to factor this in and come up with innovative ways of ensuring that the 2015 platform is not abandoned but fulfilled.
Members of the organization continued to be invited to international conferences on constitutional reform and transitional justice. Right to Information petitions were filed to impress upon the public the importance of the RTI regime for governance and the key point that RTI was for all citizens and not just for media actors. Another successful activity was the campaign to raise awareness of greater female participation in politics and the monitoring of the Local Government Election in which the party formed by former President Rajapaksa, the Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna triumphed triggering off the search for a new Prime Minister by the President and culminating eventually in the Constitutional Coup in October.
In 2018, CPA and indeed the country surmounted key challenges. The repercussions of all of this will no doubt spill into 2019. Consequently the organization will have to ensure that it has the ability to sustain itself in terms of resources and the political will and commitment to continue to pursue its mandate and mission.
Dr. Paikiasothy Saravanamuttu
Full report available at CPA Annual Report 2018