Vision & Mission

Vision: A peaceful and just country in which freedom, human and democratic rights of all people are assured.

Mission:To work in partnership with different target groups to educate, mobilize and advocate to build a society of rights conscious citizens and a political culture that enables a political solution to the ethnic conflict and equal opportunities to all.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011


                           The forthcoming local government elections on July 23 will be a critically important testing time for the government.  When the date for local government elections came earlier this year in March, the government postponed several of them especially those in the urban areas such as Colombo, Kandy and Matara. At that time there were anxieties about erosion in the government’s support base.   The inability of the government to even fulfill its promises of a salary increase in the face of an inflationary rise in the cost of living was believed to have shaken the confidence of the people in the government.  These doubts motivated the government to take maximum precautions to ensure victory with measures that included postponing elections in the urban areas most affected by cost of living issues.

Another set of elections where elections got postponed were in the north of the country.  Due to a slight inaccuracy in the translation of the name of the ruling alliance into the Tamil language, most of its candidate lists were rejected by the Election Commissioner.  The postponement of the local government elections has enabled the government to deal with this situation.  However, the challenge to the government still remains.  While the government virtually swept the board in electorates where the Sinhalese majority was dominant at the March elections, it failed to win in the north of the country where the Tamil minority is dominant.   The Tamil National Alliance, which has traditionally stood for the political rights of the Tamil people in relation to the devolution of power was the most successful.

At the forthcoming elections the government will face a major challenge to win the elections in the urban areas, whether in the north or south of the country due to its continuing inability to deliver an economic peace dividend to the middle and working classes. The stark reality is that the high rates of economic growth produced by the Central Bank have failed to cushion the adverse impact that inflation has had on the urban people.  The recent labour agitation that has been taking different forms, such as the protests by the workers of the Free Trade Zone and the protracted strike by university teachers is an indicator of urban discontent that the government will be hard put to overcome. 


The north of the country poses an especially complex challenge for the government to obtain electoral success.  The last phase of the war was fought almost entirely in the north and was a no-holds barred effort that led to the massive destruction of economic and social infrastructure and to consequent loss of life.  The report submitted by the Expert Panel appointed by the UN Secretary General and the UK-based Channel 4 video have both especially highlighted the human costs of the war.  Although the government has made some effort to address the problems in the north they have fallen well short of meeting the expectations of the people living there.

When the war ended there was a general expectation in the north, as there was in the south of the country, that there would be a peace dividend in the form of a comprehensive resettlement and reconstruction effort.  The pathetic conditions under which the war-affected people continue to live would be a scandal to those who have been personally witness to this reality.  However, the government has been insisting that its programmes, such as Northern Spring are much appreciated by the people.  The forthcoming elections in the north would offer the government an opportunity to disprove its critics, and demonstrate that it enjoys substantial popular support from the people of the north. 

Indeed, a convincing victory at the local government elections especially in the north can assist the government to strengthen its case that the allegations contained in the UN panel report and the Channel 4 video are exaggerated.  One element of the government strategy has to engage in infrastructure development that is visible to all people, even if it does not immediately provide them with livelihood opportunities.  The opening of the communication tower in Kokavil was described by the government as providing for job opportunities and economic development in the near future.  On the other hand, economic and infrastructure development are not the only requirements when it comes to winning the political allegiance of the people.  There are also issues of governance that will weigh heavily in the voting decisions of the northern electorate.


The physical attack of those attending a TNA election meeting in Jaffna a fortnight ago by army personnel in uniform needs to be viewed in the context of the forthcoming local government elections.  Government spokespersons have argued that the meeting was unauthorized apparently to justify the storming of the meeting.  On the other hand, the TNA has pointed out that it was not a public meeting and hence did not require the approval of the Police.  The use of force against citizens engaging in lawful political activity is unacceptable.  It violates the Sri Lankan constitution and contradicts the claims of the government that it is doing its best for the people of the North without any discrimination. It is also detrimental to restoring normalcy in the North, whose people would wish for peace and reconciliation, as would right-thinking people anywhere, based on a mutual recognition of human dignity and equal human rights.  

Recently on a visit to the north, people there including schoolteachers reported that they believed that any meeting, including a school meeting, had to be authorized by the military.  They said that they also feel obliged to invite military officers to their functions for fear of offending the military authorities, as occurred in the case of the TNA meeting, which included several Parliamentarians.  At the same time the government affirms that it has restored normalcy and peace throughout the country. A strong military presence in the north following the war may be deemed to be a necessary security precaution by those who view national security through traditional modes of thinking.   However, the intervention of the armed force in daily civil life cannot foster reconciliation or give a sense of security to the people. 

Indeed, the threat of interference in civic meetings will tend to increase fear and sense of alienation, hindering the government’s vision of a reunited and peaceful land. This is not the way to win the hearts and minds of the Tamil people for reconciliation with the rest of the people. This incident in which elected representatives of the Tamil people were not permitted to conduct a peaceful private political meeting reinforces the political marginalization of the country’s minority groups and erodes their democratic rights, a practice that has had dangerous consequences in the past. Electoral success in the north would require the government to provide the people of the north with the same political rights available in the rest of the country.  It is such uniformity of political rights without discrimination that can generate the electoral support that the government is looking to confound its critics.

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