July 24, 2021
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    Requirement to strengthen people’s aspirations

    January 21, 2020

    The current electoral system provides some Parliamentarians with a platform for running a business; they, who invest on campaign and win elections deprives the knowledgeable/ patriotic members with true aspirations a chance to work for the people. The people represented by professional bodies and civic organisations must ensure that the so-called big, small and the ethnic-based parties has little say in amending Constitutional provisions governing the electoral systems. Utterly selfish attitudes of certain political leadership, (history has proved) will never allow a proper compromise on a critical piece of Amendment. A well symbolized Constitutional Council consisting of both the politician and civil society members should handle the drafting of such important articles.

    Violation of Constitution by former Presidents

    Former President, as “promised”, (Maithripala Sirisena’s election manifesto, under the theme, ‘Compassionate governance under a stable government’ in its page nine substantiates the statement he made at the first media briefing announcing his candidature, on November 21 “…The leader of the Opposition Mr. Ranil Wickremesinghe will be appointed as the Prime Minister of the National Government”) , he even by-passed all the rules, norms and traditions in signing the letter of discontinuation on incumbent Prime Minister D. M. Jayaratne; in fact the letter, they say, was never served on the incumbent, but he honoured his election pledge within minutes of taking oaths as the Executive President of The Socialist Democratic Republic of Sri Lanka on January 9, 2015 and proceeded to swear-in the Leader of the Opposition, Ranil Wickremesinghe, who was leading his minority 43 members in the house as the new Prime Minister. The new amendment must address such issues. This he did in total violation of the Chapter VIII… 42.[3], of the Constitution of the Socialist Democratic Republic of Sri Lanka, where it is stated – ‘The President shall appoint as Prime Minister the Member of Parliament who in his opinions is most likely to command the confidence of Parliament.’

    It was Robert J. Kolker who said, “Rules are meant to be followed, but prudent predator learns how to ‘game’ any rule-based system. Most human progress is made through loopholes”.

    Election pledge supersedes the Constitution?

    There is no dearth of Constitutional experts, political analysts and legal luminaries of profundity in this land, most of them are self appointed types though. However, little is spoken or discussed about the inaptness or appropriateness of the Executives action in violation of the above Provision. The former Health Minister in Mahinda Rajapaksa government, who was forced to waste six hours on a bench in a Police station in the East on February 24, 2013, to rescue his son who was involved in a clash with a son of a DIG due to unconcerned attitude shown by the authorities.

    Maithri the Executive President was there as de jure President in the so-called ‘yahapalanaya’, while as many de facto Presidents had been working back stage, a pathetic state of affairs that he failed to manage. The former President did not stop there; he corrected ‘an injustice’ caused to a former Chief Justice, impeached by his predecessor, which action he described as ‘vindictive governance.’ Maithri hastily reinstated the head of judiciary, after arbitrarily sacking sitting Chief Justice— undoubtedly, a ‘dangerous precedent’ committed silencing the custodians of ‘Rule of Law’, the Bar Association and civil organisations who maintained stoic silence on that instant. People should be happy that he did not follow Machiavelli in, “The promise given was a necessity of the past and the word broken is a necessity of the present.”

    This situation needs to be addressed by the draftsmen of the future 20 A.

    Handbook on Ethics and Conduct for Parliamentarians by WFD

    Westminster Foundation for Democracy, introduced a ‘Handbook on Parliamentary Ethics and Conduct: A Guide for Parliamentarians’. First released in November 2009 at the Conference of States Party to the UN Convention Against Corruption which provides a tool for legislators to develop and reinforce ethics as well as promotion and upholding of best practices. It is a combined effort by WFD and Global Parliamentarians Against Corruption. The handbook a valuable guide, is available for reference by all law-makers.

    20A: to apprehend the ‘Jumping frogs’

    The 19th Amendment is ample proof of lack of constitutional understanding by those who drafted it; the SC found that the amendment was inconsistent with other provisions of the Constitution. A few more clauses to ensure the freedoms people enjoy with added guarantees are desirable. A cross over bill will not suffice; the banning of crossing the floor of the house for political or personal reasons should be preserved in the Constitution itself. As evidenced by the hollow bickering of party politics, abusive uttering by law-makers obviously, is for their personal fortification.

    The draft proposals of 2000 prepared by GL Peiris in consultation with Neelan Thiruchelvam spoke about a united country with maximum devolution of power. The draft was a brilliant effort by the two gentlemen worked out during President CBK’s government. The UNP in the opposition helped throughout the drafting process too, but, opposed it when it was placed before the House and did not give the required seven votes for a 2/3rd majority, accusing Prof GL Peiris of sneaking in a clause to extend Chandrika’s term by two years. The draft died in Parliament without seeing the light of the day, due to political infighting.

    The 1978 Constitution is vague and ill-defined —there are quite a few inconsistencies in English and Sinhala versions as well. Leading Western nations like Great Britain (operate on traditions with no written constitution), Australia, USA, and Canada haven’t changed their respective constitutions since the initial introduction. They never had any problems in the governing process or in the achievement of their political aspirations and goals.

    Unlike the former Presidents, Sirisena could not dissolve the Parliament using his authority, Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga sent home Ranil Wickremesinghe prematurely in 2004. Currently, the President’s hands are tied by 19A, making a mockery of the office of Executive Presidency.

    Parliaments in the past few decades have been unproductive, weak, or neglected. Upgrading and restructuring in Parliamentary practices therefore are long overdue. In order to achieve a substantial progress, development of quality institutions is a must. Any act of the Government is in the final analysis, acts of people processed through their representatives.

    “A politician thinks of the next election; a statesman of the next generation” - Ja



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