Who are we?
Lankaforum is an initiative launched by a group of Sri Lankans who genuinely wish to see the dawn of good governance in the country. The recent election—which saw the emphatic rejection of an authoritarian, corrupt and dynastic regime—convinces us that we are not alone in this wish. However, at the same time, we realize that good governance is not about changing one leader or one regime but more about us—Sri Lankan citizens—holding our leaders accountable, responsive, and transparent. In that sense, we see the January regime change only as a first step in a long and arduous transition process. We feel the problem is more systemic and deep-rooted in our very understanding of the rights and responsibilities of citizenship and the expectations we place on our leaders. We also do not view this problem to be a recent phenomenon. Instead we recognize this skewed State-society relations prevailing under several generations of Sri Lankan leaders—of all political colors—running all the way back to the time of Independence.
Still, Lankaforum is not a platform for naysayers looking only to criticize everything the country has achieved. We are very proud to live in a unified country completely rid of the LTTE menace. This achievement of our brave soldiers was something many of us dared not think was possible in our lifetime. Similarly, we are very proud of some of the spectacular infrastructure developments the country has achieved in recent times. But, at the same time, we cannot ignore the complete breakdown of many of our country’s independent institutions. We have little confidence in the police force to provide us with security or the judiciary to mete out justice. Similarly, democratic norms like ‘separation of powers’ and ‘independence of the judiciary’ have been merely limited to paper.
The breakdown of State institutions has in-turn led to many of the dysfunctions we encounter on a daily basis. The degree of inequality is at an all time high ‘cringe-worthy’ level where a handful can afford to drive around in Lamborghinis while the majority struggles to eke out a bare living. Also the public discourse has been poisoned by an unprecedented degree of group-based vitriol and xenophobia creating a toxic environment for different ethnic/religious groups to co-exist. And internationally, we have been isolated as some kind of a pariah State.
This is where Lankaforum tries to contribute. As harmful as political leaders have been to the country, Lankaforum hesitates to put the entire blame on their shoulders. Instead, it believes that we—Sri Lankan citizens—are partly responsible for providing them the political space to act in the way they have done. We view any improvement in Sri Lanka’s level of governance invariably tied to the checks-and-balances we the citizens are willing to place around our leaders. To that end, Lankaforum hopes to provide a platform to initiate this discussion and to explore how we could mobilize better to hold our leaders more accountable, responsive and transparent.