ViyathMaga: Professionals for a better future
By Shanika Sriyananda
‘ViyathMaga,’ professionals for a better future, last week called on professionals, academics, intellectuals andentrepreneurs to become a force that guides the country irrespective of party politics.
Having its maiden annual convention on 4 March, it brought nearly 2,000 members including professionals, academics, intellectuals andentrepreneurs in different field to one forum to discuss how could they contribute towards a better future for the country.
Having a series of district conferences in Kurunegala, Kandy, Galle, Matara and Kuliyapitiya, it has members of all communities who are qualified professionals and entrepreneurs.
Dr. Nalaka Godahewa
Presenting a brief introduction about the objectives of forming ‘ViyathMaga’, the former Chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) Dr. Nalaka Godahewasaid that people of Sri Lanka todayhave to listen to gloomy stories, which say that the country is debt, about a standstill economy, thriving underworld crimes, increasing State pressure to suppress voices of opposition and a lawless State.
“When we look back the past 69years after we gained independence, you will agree with me that we can’t be happy about what we have done. But when we think about the past twoyears, the country has gone back to the same dark era with a drop in economic development rate by 14%,rise in unemployment rate by 7 %, increase in Government debt by 27%. State debts, as a percentage of the GDP in 2014, was 70.8% but it has increased to 81% today. Not only university students but the war heroes and judges are also staging protests,” he explained.
Dr. Godahewa said that only criticising the system would not help to bring a change but as professionals, they have to voice their views to lead the country towards a better future by playing active roles in the Government.
“There are highly-talented professionals, academics and entrepreneurs but they lack the opportunity. This is one reason we formed ViyathMaga and it is growing into a forceful professional body today. If the present Government overlooks our views, we will contribute our expertise to the next Government,” he explained, adding that the members of ViyathMaga are mainly focused on creating a better future for the country.
Dr. Dayan Jayatilake
Dr. Dayan Jayatilake speaking on ‘Changing World and International Affairs’started with the famous quote on Karl Marx’s tombstone – The philosophers have only interpreted the world in various ways: the point is to change it.
“We need to discuss Sri Lanka’s position with regard to a changing world and also where we should reach from there. However, Sri Lanka’s position in the changing world is very well indicated in the speech made by our Foreign Minister Mangala Samaraweera at the 34th session of the UN Human Rights Council sessionslast week. There he said for the last 69 years Sri Lanka proved to be a failed experiment and it was time to put a full-stop to that era. In other words the Foreign Minister who represents Sri Lanka announced the whole world that Sri Lanka is a failed state,” he claimed.
He said that Sri Lanka had three periods in which the country was highly respected worldwide. “The golden era of Sri Lanka started from 1956 to 1979 until the then President J.R. Jayawardena handed over the presidency of the Non-Aligned Movement to the Cuban President Fidel Castro. Then, it was during the President Chandrika Kumaratunga’s regime when foreign Minister Lakshman Kadirgamar took our foreign affairs to greater heights. Thirdly, during the former President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s regime, foreign affairs were handled efficiently while the war was progressing,” he explained. He said it was sad to see that Sri Lanka has fallen from these golden eras of foreign affairs to the bottom today.
He highlighted how Sri Lanka’s foreign affairs hadbeen shaped due to the country’s strategically important location which is at the doorstep of the Indian Ocean and in the midst of sea routes, how Sri Lanka’s fate has decided by nationalist and external factors and the need for understanding in answering the global concerns not nationally but through an international approach.
He said that if the country wanted to reach its due place internationally, Sri Lanka needed to have a well-designed concept but since there no such concept existed today, he would suggest the smart patriotism concept.
Dr. Jayatilake claimed that those who tagged themselves as intellectuals were not patriots while those who think that they were patriotic had no international knowledge but live with an island mentality.
“We need to change this situation, where the country needs patriotic professionals who can make our culture a part of the world culture. They should explainour nationalist ideas internationally like patriotic leaders like former Prime Minister S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike, Stanley Amarasinghe, NevileKanagaratne and Lakshman Kadirgamar in future,” he said.
He stressed that the country needs organic intellectuals, intellectuals who try to change the world, who are committed and engaged to change the situations internationally.
According to Dr. Jayatilake, organic intellectuals will be the new elite in society who can be a part of government decision making.
“They should be given the opportunity to take part in politics through the Executive and the National List. But this opportunity, except on a few occasions, is not used effectively.I suggest to give a percentage in the National List for professionals who represent the educated middle-class in the Cabinet like in Rwanda, Cuba, Singapore and Iran,” he requested.
Attorney-at-Law Premanath Dolawatta
Recalling the incident when some politicians stormed former Chief Justice Mohan Peiris’s residence and pressurised him to quit the posttwoyears ago, Attorney-at-Law PremanathDolawatta expressed his opinion on how the law should be equal to all citizens.
He criticised the remarks made by Prime Minister Ranil Wickramasinghe and some other ministers when the Supreme Court ruled on not taking former Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa into custody.
“They said that they are going before the Commonwealth and also the International Court against the Supreme Court verdict. The former CJ was illegally removed and the Government is using the Police to pressurise people,” he charged.
Questioning the legality of forming the FCID, Dolawatta claimed that the FCID was created by the IGP but according to laws such a unit should be established only under the directives of the Defence Minister, who is the President of the country.
“The IGP has no authority to create the FCID, whose main objective is to suppress opposing political views. There are no Police investigators in the FCID, which has its office close to Prime Minister Wickremesinghe’s residence. The so-called investigators are doing politics and they only investigate complaints about their political opponents,” he claimed.
Meanwhile, he also charged the anti-corruption fronts and other coalitions of being silent when the Government spreads false rumours about the Rajapaksa-owned Marriott Hotel in Dubai.
“Were they active only to end the Rajapaksa regime? Why they are silent now?” he quipped, adding that the FCID was fully geared to take political revenge.
Citing incidents like questioning and remanding former Minister Basil Rajapaksa, MP Namal Rajapaksa, and Yoshitha Rajapaksa by the FCID in an adhoc manner, he called on the Police to explain why they treat politicians in the ruling partywho are accused of corruption differently to those in the Opposition.
Concluding his speech, lawyer Dolawatta called on professionals to provide an equal service with no political differences but to rise against suppression by the Police.
President’s Counsel Manohara de Silva
President’s Counsel Manohara de Silva presented his views about the importance of a unitary state and constitutional amendments.
He explained the negative outcome of the remarks on giving Police powers to the north and the east and giving authority to the Police in the two provinces to handle minor crimes, civil affairs and family matters.
“The division of the Police force into twoseparate Police forces for the two provinces and the mainPolice to function at national level poses a danger. According to the Amendment, a Police officer from the Central Government cannot enter into a province to investigate a matter. The crimes committed by elites will be handled by the Central Police while the crimes committed by the ordinary people will be handled by the Provincial Police,” he said, adding that the Deputy Inspector General of Police, who will be in charge of the Provincial Police,has to follow the orders of the Provincial Chief Minister.
Explaining to the audience about the cons of the 13th Amendment, he said he was worriedabout why the Government agreed to fully implement the 13th Amendment at the UN sessions. He said except the north and the east,no other province intends to merge with other provinces.
De Silva said that the re-merger of the two provinces would legalise the Tamil Homeland concept and by amending the 13th Amendment, nothing could stop the declaration of an Eelam State in Sri Lanka.
“Why did the Government talkabout the 13th Amendment instead of a new constitution? Why didn’t five former Presidents, including former President Chandrika Kumaratunga, give land and Police powers to provincial councils? But because they were alarmed about the looming dangers,” de Silva said.
De Silva urged not to implement the 13th Amendment to maintain the national security of the country and sovereignty of the people.
“It is time to object to the constitutional changes to protect democracy and sovereignty of this country. There is a need to bring a constitution which is good for the entire country but not for provincial authorities to make their own laws.”
‘National Development and Sri Lankan Entrepreneurs’ was the topic addressed by Kamil Hussein, the President of the Tiles and Sanitary-ware Importers Association, who said that investors hoped for a better future for Sri Lanka as they mainly look for profits, investor confidence and stability of the country’s economy.
He said that if not for the presence of a strong leadership, investor giants like Shangri-La and other global brands would not have come to Sri Lanka during the post-conflict economy. “They invested in Sri Lanka because of the confidence they had in the political leadership,” he said. “A popular global entrepreneur told me that his company and another company have been waiting to invest in a huge industry in Sri Lanka for the last two years but they are still uncertain about the way the country moves.”
He said the country needed a strong leadership, which could take effective and timely decisions and also has a vision and passionto build investor confidence.
Hussein suggested the creation of a think-tank with all experts to bring in novel ideas to develop the economy while producing local products to suit the global market and global competitive prices.
Dr. SeethaArambepola, Consultant ENT Surgeon, expressing her views on how health sector professionals could contribute to a better health sector, stressed on the need for professionals being involved in policymaking from the inception to avoid last minute objections which will lead to trade union action. “The professionals in the health sector are ready to share our expertise using researchwith politicians to create a better health sector in years to come. Buttoday we don’t have that opportunity. I strongly believe that ViyathMaga has opened doors for us to be a part of the process,” she said.
Dr. Arambepola said that the professionals must break the myth that decisions should be taken by the top leadership of the country, the prime minister or the ministers.
“The professionals in various fields should be in a position to advice the politicians,” she said. “The professionals should not go behind politicians; politicians should come behind professionals.”
Dr. Arambepola also said that when professionals were independent, they would be able to advice and guide any government that comes into power.
“Butwe need a strong leader, who is able to take correct decisions, listen to experts and is also committed to implement the ideas of the experts,” she said.
Major General (Retd.) Kamal Gunaratne
වියත්මග වාර්ෂික සමුළුව අමතා මේජර් ජෙනරාල් කමල් ගුණරත්න මහතා විසින් කළ කතාව..
The author of ‘Road to Nandikadal,’ Major General (Retd.) Kamal Gunaratne taking the members of ViyathMaga through ‘Road to Nandikadal’ recalled the insults faced by the uniformed soldiers, their high tolerance level and discipline, and sacrifices made by the soldiers from MavilAru to Nandikadal until every last inch of the country was liberated through a total annihilation of the LTTE terrorists who played with lives for nearly 30years.
“There are no bomb blasts and sudden terrorist attackstoday, but remember, we brought a peaceful nation for all by sacrificing the lives of over 5,900 soldiers including officers and making over 29,000 soldiers including officers disabled. Over 10,000 young soldiers are lying in their beds in a vegetative state with no future as they have sacrificed their future for all of you to live peacefully,” the former Commander of the 53 Division, which was credited for killing LTTE Leader V. Prabhakaran, said.
Maj. General Gunaratne highlighting the success of post-war rehabilitation of over 12,600 ex-LTTE cadres said that they were living as peaceful civilians and not even a single terroristengagement has been recorded since 19 May 2009, while underworld thugs and political henchmen disrupt the peace in the country.
Appreciating all segments of society for contributing to the victory to defeat terrorism, he stressed that people would not allow anyone to turn back to the dark era and if land and Police powers were given to the two provinces under the new constitution, it would be the most disgraceful thing the Government could do to those young soldiers who were severely disabled.
“If that happens, I request the authorities to put the names of those who fought to liberate the country from the clutches of the LTTE on top of the list of those who have betrayed the country”, he stressed.
Maj. General Gunaratne said that reconciliation had become the buzz word and it could be heard everywhere today but this word with a great meaning could not be achieved when politicians were going in two different directions.
He requested the professionals to be alarmed about the new developments, which would affect the country’s future and also to come forward if there were any attempts to divide the country.
Former President Mahinda Rajapaksa, former Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa, former External Affairs Minister Prof. G.L. Peiris, former Economic Affairs Minister Basil Rajapaksa, Parliamentarians Vasudeva Nanayakkara, Gamini Lokuge, PavitraWanniarachchi and Udaya Gammanpila, former Governor of the Central Bank Ajith Nivard Cabraal, Rear Admiral Mohan Wijewickrema and Maj. Gen. G. A. Chandrasiriwere also present at the Convention.