A group of responsible citizens have come together in a citizen’s collective, ‘Nidahasa,’ to upholding and defending Sri Lanka’s most valuable political legacy and hope – democracy. The movement was launched on 8 July in Colombo ahead of Sri Lanka’s crucial elections scheduled in early August.
At a press briefing held in Colombo on 15 July, the movement stressed the crucial responsibility of the government to safeguard the citizens amidst fears of a second wave of COVID-19, with increasing numbers tested positive within few days across the country.
“The health guidelines for the conduct of polls that are now being cleared by the AG’s department should have been issued long ago by the Health authorities. We have learnt that the guidelines are now with the Minister of Health without being gazetted. This has created undue pressure for the officials to carry out their election duties. Therefore, as responsible citizens we urge the Government to immediately rectify this matter,” said Gamini Viyangoda, member of the Nidahasa movement.
Speaking at the meeting, Prof. Rohan Samarajiva, member of the Nidahsa movement, said, the importance of upholding democratic systems is central to sharing accurate information on the epidemic with the citizens and decision makers. He also stressed that during any response to the emerging COVID situation, the Government should comply with the constitution and safeguard the rights and protection of the citizens.
“People are concerned of another wave. However, in any circumstance, the elections should be held as a way of establishing democracy and safeguarding democratic institutions. This is a must, hence the government now should gazette the health guidelines as soon as possible so that the officers engaged as well as citizens comply with the highest safety measures during this election time. People are confused about the law of the country. We saw how the government reacted during the funeral of a former minister. It has given grave messages and double standards to people of the safety measures they should adopt,” said Javid Yusuf, member of Nidahsa movement.
“We advocate to hold the elections. The Government has the responsibility to the people, and should find the feasible and safety means of conducting it. When you look at the current situation, it’s the government mechanisms which have failed. This is a national endeavor. Different levels of decision making and different experts, representatives of the political parties should come together, the Government should not try to make it their own personal issue, this needs to be treated as a national issue,” said K.W Janaranjana, member of Nidahsa movement.
“Throughout the response process, disaster management specialists were not adequately consulted, they were not in any of the task forces to combat COVID-19. These experts have been well trained to serve in a disaster situation. It’s a job throughout – all 365 days in the year. There are also reports that the national task force has not met for some time. This is why we strongly question the absence of the disaster experts. Is that one reason that we face this unforeseen situation?” said Manu Tissera, member of Nidahasa movement.