Sirisena strikes out on a daring path

The desire for change lies in every leader's mind.

The desire for change lies in every leader’s mind. To progress to a statesman from an ensconced political leader who clings to power is an ambition that often lies within but is rarely tested in the open. Maithripala Sirisena seems an exception. He is headed on a course that could be transformative for him as well as his nation. In taking steps towards writing a new Constitution the President is placing Sri Lanka on the path to becoming a more peaceful and united state, one that concentrates on progress and leaves its ethnic strife behind.

The Sri Lankan President is out on a braver path after a fruitful year in office in which he has won a bigger vote of trust in a national unity government. A cynical world might see this as another wish doomed to failure in the face of resistance from majoritarian religious forces, but in attempting to change the national Parliament into a Constituent Assembly Mr Sirisena is trying to take the national mindset to a higher level. His offer to abolish the executive presidency is the clearest sign that he is a transformational leader.

The war ended around seven years ago and genuine reconciliation is possible provided the victor did not see it as a time to display triumphalism. Towards this, Mr Sirisena’s most recent gesture — forgiving an LTTE assailant of 10 years ago who aimed at taking his life — is significant in a country that was torn apart for more than 30 years by ethnic conflagration. Mr Sirisena’s offers to rebuild the lives of the displaced Tamils in the north, beginning with constructing homes for them and freeing their land, has the same positive ring, not so much of a reform process as a genuine change of heart in his inclusiveness.

Mr Sirisena’s partnership with Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, which has ensured a crushing majority in Parliament, has emboldened the island nation to crack down on corruption and cronyism while also seeking out a brave new alternative in granting the devolution powers promised for decades but never delivered. The ground realities may be different and granting autonomy to the North as well as ethnic equality are riddled with internal complications. There is much to do before Mr Sirisena’s sweeping reforms become concrete.

Long before the major constitutional reforms can be put in place after taking all the stakeholders’ opinions, including that of the people in a referendum, the Sri Lankan President has to set up an acceptable judicial mechanism regarding the war crimes investigation to satisfy international concerns. Mr Sirisena has dared to go where no predecessor has dared to and will be backed by the world’s good wishes.

( Source : deccan chronicle )
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