Sri Lanka chamber calls on government to restore confidence; shed incompetence
ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s Ceylon Chamber of Commerce has criticized the government for the serious lapses in national security over Easter Sunday’s carnage, calling for immediate steps to restore public and investor confidence.
"The available information points to a serious lack of coordination, incompetence and ineffectiveness in handling national security," the chamber said in a letter addressed to President Maithripala Sirisena and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe.
"It is also abundantly clear that petty divisive political differences among the political leadership has contributed to a situation where interests of the country are subordinated to political agendas," the strongly-worded letter said.
It also said the events of October 2018 were Sirisena sacked Wickremesinghe, and replaced him with former strongman President Mahinda Rajapaksa, was also "an indication of this sorry situation, which was fortunately corrected by an independent judiciary".
The chamber said it was deeply concerned that the terrorist attacks, which left over 250 dead and 500 injured, were able to be carried out due to the negligence of the government machinery.
The chamber met with Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe on Wednesday to discuss the fallout of the Easter Sunday carnage, and was awaiting an appointment to hold discussions with Sirisena.
The Ceylon Chamber made proposals, including the activation of the National Security Council, and revival of affected sections of the economy like tourism.
The consequences of the terror attacks will impact millions of Sri Lankans depending on which sectors are adversely affected and will impair their livelihood prospects for a considerable period.
It called on the government to ensure speedy and sensible decision making in important areas and appoint persons of competence to key positions.
Effective communication was also necessary to inspire confidence of the people and international community to attract investment.
The chamber’s letter in full:
His Excellency Maithripala Sirisena, President
Honourable Ranil Wickremasinghe, Prime Minister
Hon. Prime Minister,
ISSUES ARISING FROM THE EASTER 2019 TERRORIST ATTACK AND EFFORTS REQUIRED TO REVIVE THE NATION
The Ceylon Chamber of Commerce is deeply concerned that the events that resulted in the senseless acts of terrorism that claimed the lives of so many people were able to be carried out due to the negligence of the Government machinery.
While terrorist activities aimed at achieving ideological objectives can never find justification, what is deeply saddening is that there was a failure on the part of law enforcement to prevent this attack despite being in possession of intelligence that warned of impending threats. The available information points to a serious lack of coordination, incompetence and ineffectiveness in handling national security. It is also abundantly clear that petty divisive political differences among the political leadership has contributed to a situation where interests of the country are subordinated to political agendas.
The events of October 2018 were also an indication of this sorry situation, which was fortunately corrected by an independent judiciary. On that occasion too, it was the people that suffered.
Going forward, the people of this country need to be assured that the government machinery to safeguard its people from acts of terrorists is effective, that national security will be accorded the highest priority and that the political leadership of this country has the capacity to work together setting aside political differences to accord the highest priority to national issues.
It is unfortunate but true that the recent events and the mishandling of security has contributed to the erosion of confidence in the political leadership to keep this country safe and to ensure that its economy which is challenged also due to external factors is further embattled due to domestic issues which are avoidable.
While the immediate victims of the Easter attacks were those that lost their lives and their families, the consequences will impact millions more whose dependence on sectors that are seriously adversely affected will impair their livelihood prospects for a considerable period. This is unfortunate..
We also condemn the utterances of elected representatives of the people and other political personalities of all parties who are continuing to engage in the blame game in an attempt to make political capital of the current situation. This is indeed a pathetic display of a lack of sensitivity to current national issues which should be addressed by all political parties collectively and in a spirit that accepts that there’s a national crisis. To engage in such narrow political pursuits is to demonstrate an inability to appreciate the true role of leaders of the people.
The need of the moment is for statesmen not mere politicians.
In these circumstances, we urge that the following be actioned:
While we appreciate steps taken after the Easter attacks, adequate measures should be sustained to handle national security.
The National Security Council mechanism should be activated and used with seriousness.
For this purpose, the portfolios of Defence and of Law & Order should be placed in the hands of those who have the capacity to provide leadership to handle current and future challenges with foresight and wisdom and devoid of political aspirations.
The President, the Prime Minister and Government should speak with a unified voice on the current and future actions after considered decisions are taken together.
A 24 hour Media response center should be established to respond to false reports that create fears and concerns among the general public.
The current legal provisions available (ICCPR Act) should be used to deal with hate speech.
2) Revival of the economy:
It’s vital to fast track a revival of the economy.
Formulate a national policy for the revival of the major sectors (such as tourism) that are currently affected. For this purpose, adopt an inclusive process that secures inputs from all stakeholders.
3) Decision making in Government:
To ensure speedy and sensible decision making in important areas, persons of competence should be appointed to key positions.
Identify key positions in Government relevant to implement the development agenda and re-examine the capabilities of current holders of those positions. It’s important that government functionaries should have the capacity to take decisions speedily and without fear. If necessary, invite private sector leaders to handle those key positions.
4) Overall revival:
Take appropriate action to inspire persons of all political parties to unite in the revival processes.
This is a time to unite for the good of the country. We will condemn the actions of those who seek to stifle a resurgence for narrow political gains.
Ethnic unity should be consistently called for and extremism of all kinds should be abhorred and acted against, by the political leadership.
The elected representatives of the people should be required to comply with a code of behavior when making public comments. They’re opinion makers and must act with responsibility.
The media should be required to comply with the need for responsible reporting.
5) Effective communication and management of perceptions:
In our efforts to recover from this situation, it is vital to inspire confidence in the people of this country as well as internationally. Such an effort if effectively carried out, will result in our ability to reinforce the pursuit of vital targets such as attracting investment, attracting tourists and being held out as a country that has systems and processes in place to deal with vulnerability to terrorism and the resilience to overcome such threats.
We, as representatives of the private sector, assure you of our commitment and support towards implementing all progressive measures that will contribute to revival efforts.
CEYLON CHAMBER OF COMMERCE
(Signed) Rajendra Theagarajah, Chairperson
(COLOMBO, 02 May 2019-SB)
Kithmina Hewage- Institute of Policy Studies