I’m writing this at the end of 2016 looking at Sri Lankan issues from a political angle. I’ll start by mentioning recent disappointments from my perspective that happened in the last 3 months of 2016. I don’t intend to go into detail discussing or explaining them in this article. These recent disappointments include the President’s controversial speech at the Sri Lanka Foundation Institute, the recent emergence of racial crimes & hatred, issues regarding the Government & Police’s response to these incidents, the Inspector General of Police being caught on a phone call implying he’s protecting someone under investigation, the possibility of increased fines for traffic violations cancelled due to a strike by private bus companies, a strike at the Hambantota port, the Navy Commander assaulting a journalist at that strike etc.
I think it is important that the Sri Lankan Government resolve the problems arising from these issues. This Government really needs to deliver in 2017 in light of these issues, and as more needs to be done based on what they were voted in for. On the positive side, there are some events set to take place in 2017 that could bring real benefits to Sri Lanka. Firstly, the Cabinet recently approved a yearly event National Integration and Reconciliation Week beginning from the 8th to the 14th of January 2017. This event will be promoting national integration among school children, creating sensitisation and awareness in the media in all three languages, encouraging the private sector to be involved in integration programs, north south dialogue & inter-village exchange programs and a competition to promote national integration.
As expected in January, Sri Lanka will lease Hambantota port to a Chinese firm raising about USD 1.12 billion which should help Sri Lanka pay off the USD 8 billion owed to China for the development projects under the previous regime. I hope that the Chinese firm will be able to make the Hambantota port profitable to bring more benefits than just the money. In June 2016, the Right to Information (RTI) Bill was passed in Parliament. The RTI Act will come into effect on Independence Day, 4th February 2017. It is from that day onward when citizens can file RTI requests, making the Government more open to its citizens.
The Sri Lankan Cabinet passed the Open Government Partnership (OGP) plan in October 2016. The OGP plan gives a 12-commitment national policy plan and sets up a steering committee to monitor its implementation headed by both the President and the Prime Minister. This national policy plan has a schedule until June 2018. Member countries of OGP, in endorsing the OGP Declaration, show a commitment to “foster a global culture of open government that empowers and delivers for citizens, and advances the ideals of open and participatory 21st century government.”
A promise of the 100 day program was a Code of Conduct for Parliamentarians, which still hasn’t been made law. There is some hope as the Code of Conduct was mentioned in the Sri Lankan media recently, and it was tabled and presented in Parliament on the 10th of December. This gives an indication that it will get passed in Parliament in the next 6 months, providing it gets enough votes. Sri Lanka is working on a new constitution right now and it’s possible that the new constitution will get completed or at least make real progress next year. The Megapolis project is in its early stages right now, and I hope to see much progress on it next year.
So these are some of the opportunities for Sri Lanka based on events set to occur in 2017. I don’t have any idea how 2017 will play out for Sri Lanka, but if the Government is mostly successful in the opportunities I mentioned, as well as in other events, 2017 could be a good year for Sri Lanka, compared to 2016.