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Pres Polls: Pro-Govt civil society activists to back whoever committed to democratic goals

Civil society activists who were instrumental in bringing the Yahapalana Government into power in 2015 told RepublicNext yesterday that they would throw their weight behind any party or presidential candidate that would, in good faith, help realise the democratic ideals they had always espoused.

Acknowledging that lapses had occurred on the part of the Government, Centre for Policy Alternatives (CPA) Executive Director Dr. Paikiasothy Saravanamuttu said that accountability should be at the forefront of the conversation.

“What I strongly feel is that the question of accountability in respect of what has happened should not be lost. That should be at the forefront, in terms of Parliament setting up a select committee or whatever. All the questions that arise in terms of accusations or who should be held responsible — all of those things should be put fairly and squarely on the table and must be investigated,” he said.


Dr. Saravanamuttu made this remark to RepublicNext on the sidelines of a conference held in Colombo yesterday (21). Organised by the Civil Society and Trade Unions Collective, speakers at the event included such vociferous critics of the Rajapaksas as Ven. Dambala Amila Thero, Dr. Chandraguptha Thenuwara, National Peace Council Executive Director Jehan Perera and NSSP leader Vickramabahu Karunaratne.

He also spoke on the importance of transparency.

“I think, in a democracy, what is happening needs to be known by the people so that they can make the important decisions that govern their lives,” he said.

Asked where he stands politically, now that the United National Front (UNF)-led coalition that he had openly supported is becoming increasingly unpopular with the voting public, particularly in the wake of the Easter bombings, Dr. Saravanamuttu said any alternative must be committed to not taking the country back to the past.

“Politically, I stand where I stood in 2015. That has not changed, in that I do not want to see a situation where we return to the past as far as government is concerned. But we need to be able to make sure that we have an alternative that is firm that is committed and will deliver. That is the question now, in terms of what the alternative is going to be,” he said.

If social media posts are anything to go by, it is apparent that the public is taking an increasingly anti-establishmentarian stance electorally, grown ever cynical as they are by the shenanigans of their political leaders. Conversations abound of bringing in an “outsider” to change the status quo, come November. Dr. Saravanamuttu is enthusiasm to this sentiment appears subdued.

“There is the argument that with regard to corruption, with regard to a whole lot of decisions that have to be made, that if you don’t get rid of the 225 in Parliament in the present moment, you’re not going to get anywhere. If that is the case, let that happen, let’s see how it goes.Let’s see what the mandate, the platform and the mission of this group will be,” he said.

Ven. Dambara Amila Thero, meanwhile, said it’s too early to give a direct answer to the question of who he would support, in the event of a presidential or general election.

“It’s too early to give a direct answer to that question, but I can tell you this. There were some good governance objectives that are left to be achieved. Whoever is going to see that those remaining ideals are realised, whoever is willing to take charge, we will support them,” he told RepublicNext.

Asked, in a lighter vein, if it makes a difference if that future leader were to be a businessman or a cricketer, he said: “That is irrelevant. Whoever comes in whatever forms, they will be helping us achieve our democratic goals. Why? Did you think Sangakkara was coming?”