Jan 26, Colombo: Sri Lanka's Minister of Finance and Mass Media Mangala Samaraweera yesterday said as the national unity government marked three years earlier this month, the crucial local government election next month will determine the course of the nation in the years ahead.
Issuing a statement ahead of the election, Minister Samaraweera said that the election on February 10th is much more than a regional contest to capture political power in urban and municipal precincts but an election that would decide if democratic institutions and traditions, painstakingly rebuilt since January 2015 would be torn down and laid to waste again.
Minister Samaraweera said he believed that it is important to be long-sighted and clear-headed about the monumental choice facing all Sri Lankans at the upcoming Local Government election.
Reminding the tyranny imposed upon the citizenry during the previous regime, the Minister said the election is an old regime's first real attempt to recapture power and restore an old, corrupt and dictatorial order.
"As memory fades and we are embroiled in the politics of the present, it is easy to forget that once, not so many years ago, a Government shot and killed its citizens for the crime of demanding clean water," he reminded.
The Minister said the people should ask themselves where all the white vans have gone?
"We must question why the Government's political critics and dissidents are not being thrown in jail. Why media organizations are not attacked and burned any longer. Why journalists are not being abducted or killed."
He said the "incumbency fatigue" and the monumental challenges ahead of Sri Lanka as the country strives to march towards sustainable peace and prosperity, weighs heavily on the January 8th constituency and the representatives elected to serve them.
"Disillusioned by the road ahead, which seems fraught with difficulty and the potential for lost opportunity, this constituency may waver."
But the Minister said he believes it is important to try and build on what has already been achieved and keep the window open for peace and change.
The Minister said the "culture of extravagance, abuse of state property and state terror" prevailed in the previous regime is trying to make a comeback in the February 10th local government election.
He pointed out that electoral inroads made in this poll could be used to attempt to recapture national control in future elections.
"So while the forthcoming election may be a 'little one' it has national consequences that could reverberate for years to come, casting long shadows over the lives of Sri Lankans who have begun to live unfettered and free again today," he said.
While the government is not yet where it hoped to be, it will get there since the will to change remains as strong as ever, the Minister assured.
"Change is incremental, political systems are entrenched and sometimes immovable; but the will to change remains as strong as ever," he said adding that on February 10th people will have to make a choice once more.
"On February 10th the people will have to choose once more - will we continue the march to freedom or herald a return to fear?"