Who we are not...
As we introduce Lankaforum and highlight what it stands for, we also need to be explicit about what it is not. Despite the nature of its content, Lankaforum is decidedly not a political platform to support either one political party/leader or another. Given the highly political environment, we want to be explicit about this upfront to prevent any confusion or misunderstanding.
No doubt we are clearly happy about the outcome of the January elections. However, it is only to the extent that it institutionalized the electoral process as an effective mechanism to get rid of even the most powerful of leaders. In that sense, by setting a good precedent, the January elections empowered the citizens’ vis-à-vis their leaders. As for endorsing the new set of leaders, we feel it is a bit too early to make a definitive call either way. However, having said that, we also need to acknowledge that it is the new regime’s openness to ideas of good governance that has provided us with the space to have this discussion.
At the election, the current regime did campaign on a platform of good governance. However, they articulated the problem somewhat narrowly pinning all the deficiencies on the previous regime and the system of Executive Presidency. Lankaforum does not see Sri Lanka’s governance problems limited to the mere details of its institutional arrangements (parliamentary vs. Presidential etc.) or limited to a particular leader, one regime, or even one political party. In fact, we do not even see them contained within one generation of political leaders and see them plaguing the country ever since independence. Instead, Lankaforum sees the problems of governance deep-rooted in our inability to hold our leaders accountable, responsive or transparent. This goes beyond one leader or one regime right down to our perceptions of leadership and understandings of the rights and responsibilities of citizenship and State-society relations.
In cricketing parlance, we see the match as fixed. It matters little what the composition of the team is or who is captaining the team, if the rules allow rival teams and the umpires to collude together to manufacture outcomes. Therefore, when we defend our political parties and leaders and sweat over their political defections, we are like a bunch of ignorant spectators arguing the call on the field without realizing that the whole game is rigged to begin with. Of course, to prevent us catching on, the politicians keep us sufficiently stimulated with enough drama on the field—an appeal here, a review there, a close-call here etc. But the truth of the matter is that most of them constitute a charade to cover the back-door deals that politicians cut among themselves.
As bad as all this sounds, the worst is that these political elites also do not hesitate to distort information and manipulate narratives to serve their personal ends. And at times—when they appeal to our ethnic/religious emotions—they also tear the social fabric apart and undermine national cohesion. This is where Lankaforum believes that having a uniform understanding, among all ethnic and religious groups, of the rights and responsibilities of citizenship and State-society relations will insulate us—the Sri Lankan Citizens—from the self-serving narratives of our politicians and subject them to our supervision.