27 September, 2020

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100 Days Target Without A Consultative Process Poses Significant Problems: Friday Forum

A non consultative reform process adopted to meet the 100 days target, cannot be in the public interest, as it can pose significant problems of implementation, the Friday Forum said today.

Prof. Savitri Goonesekere

Prof. Savitri Goonesekere

Issuing a statement the Friday Forum said; “It is important for us as citizens to ask that implementing these commitments should not result in hasty and non consultative policy formulation and law reform regarding matters that are of critical importance to the people.”

We publish below the statement in full;

The hundred days programme and the public interest

There have been some recent critical comments in public fora on delays in the government’s response to issues of concern raised at the Presidential elections of 8th January 2015.

The Friday Forum appreciates the difficulties faced by the government in implementing within a short period of 100 days, the ambitious programme of work promised in the election campaign. Speed in implementation however, must not be at the expense of consultation with the public which is of the essence of good governance. It is important for us as citizens to ask that implementing these commitments should not result in hasty and non consultative policy formulation and law reform regarding matters that are of critical importance to the people. A non consultative reform process adopted to meet the 100 days target, cannot be in the public interest, as it can pose significant problems of implementation.

Law and policy reform

Enactment of a National Audit Bill requires review and consultation with stake holders, including concerned professionals. Some legislation like the new Children’s Act and the amendments to the colonial Vagrants’ Ordinance were prepared during the last government’s administration and require change due to new policy perspectives. The Vagrants Ordinance in particular, which follows 19th century English law in criminalising poverty by punishing beggars and the unemployed, needs to be repealed rather than amended!

It is welcome that the Right to Information Bill and the proposed 19th Amendment to the Constitution dealing with the executive Presidency and the Independent Commissions are available for public debate and discussion. The Constitutional amendment is an opportunity for all Parliamentarians to engage in constructive criticism that will ensure changes in the Constitution in the national interest. Voters have a right to expect that those who seek their votes do not engage in adversarial politics, or make their support for the amendments conditional on receiving personal gains.

Appointment and removal of judges of the superior courts

Given the controversy and divergent opinions that have emerged in regard to the office of Chief Justice, it is critically important to include amendments to the Constitutional provisions on appointment and removal of judges of the superior courts. The procedures must be clarified to ensure due process and the independence of the judiciary. Provisions in the draft Constitution of 2000 and the Indian Constitution provide useful comparative material that can be used in drafting this amendment without delay.

Electoral reforms

There is an emerging consensus on the priorities for electoral reform including preventing the appalling practice of crossovers. There must be support for affirmative action to prevent the abysmally low representation of women in the legislative bodies of Sri Lanka. The Commissioner of Elections and his staff have a wealth of experience that must be used in drafting the Constitutional amendment on the Elections Commission as well as the electoral reforms. These reforms are complex and it may not be possible to complete them within the 100 days programme. The government should clarify for the public whether these reforms will be enacted now, and if not, the content and time frame of these reforms.

Corruption and abuse of power

It is important that there is public confidence in the government’s anti corruption drive. Information in the public space on allegations of massive corruption, irresponsible abuse of authority and plundering of public funds and national resources require, in our view, an urgent response from the government. We recognise that good governance requires prosecutions only after adequate investigation and due process.

However the public must be briefed regularly by a senior official on the measures taken so far, and the stage at which these proceeding are currently placed. A public perception of government apathy and indifference is encouraged by the lack of clarity and transparency in these matters. There should not be any room for citizens to think that insignificant cases are given priority by the Executive, while serious allegations of corruption and abuse of power by politicians and senior officials of the former government are being ignored. In particular, the manner in which the Central Bank and the Monetary Board functioned in matters such as the hiring of allegedly bankrupt firms and authorising expenses relating to the Commonwealth Games and the conference, demands an immediate investigation.

Care must also be taken to ensure that there is public confidence in the professional competence and independence of committees appointed to investigate allegations of corruption and abuse of power. This confidence is seriously undermined when it is sometimes alleged that the investigations are being conducted by persons with political connections. Due process and “yahapalanaya” also demand that a senior official or chief executive whose actions are being investigated, takes leave from his post pending the investigation.

Appointments to key posts

Appointments were often made to key posts in public administration and corporations by the former regime on the basis of political connections rather than proven merit and competence. The new government has faced serious problems in making fresh appointments to these posts. A quick review of these provisions in the relevant legislation must be undertaken. Legislation can be amended to provide guidelines and strengthen appointments to corporations and regulatory bodies such as the University Grants Commission, to ensure that the Executive’s discretion to make political appointments is curtailed. Professional bodies such as the OPA, the Chamber of Commerce and the Sri Lanka Federation of University Women can be given a role in submitting lists of persons suitable for such key appointments. A gender balance in appointments must also be ensured to address the current gender gap in appointments to these institutions. Above all the government itself must be scrupulous in not appointing relatives to key posts when the appointing authority is a politician exercising a discretionary power. Such appointments create an impression in the public of continued nepotism by this government.

Misusing executive authority and the armed forces

Concern has been expressed in many public fora with regard to an allegation that the former President took steps to interfere with the results of the January elections. It is important for the public to know what steps have been taken so far to investigate this claim, and the stage of these proceedings. The events associated with these allegations also require an immediate review of the current practice of renewing by gazette notification the power to call out the armed forces. Good governance and the rule of law require law enforcement to be viewed as the duty and responsibility of the police.

Prof. Savitri Goonesekere                               Dr. Upatissa Pethiyagoda

on behalf of the Friday Forum

Professor Savitri Goonesekere, Dr. Upatissa Pethiyagoda, Prof. Camena Guneratne Ms. Damaris Wickremesekera, Professor Arjuna Aluwihare, Bishop Duleep de Chickera, Mr. Faiz-ur Rahman, Dr. Deepika Udagama, Dr. Selvy Thiruchandran, Mr. Ananda Galapatti, Pulasthi Hewamanne, Dr. Ranjini Obeyesekera, Rev. Dr. Jayasiri Peiris, Professor Gameela Samarasinghe, Mr. Saliya Pieris, Mr. D. Wijayanandana, Mr. Tissa Jayatilaka, Mr. Priyantha Gamage, Mr. Javid Yusuf, Ms. Shanthi Dias.

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Latest comments

  • 6
    4

    Only respect I have for this group is for their AGE !

    They were in hibernation for 10 long years and have woken up suddenly on the 9th of January !!

    Were they bought over by the former regime or scared of white vans is the million dollar question ?

    • 7
      1

      I suggest you look up CT archives, they were active then during the regime of MR.
      (Except Jayantha Dhanapala who was then in the FF but who also had fingers in the CT blocking dialog pie).

      If anyone holds the new regime more accountable, then it is because they promised to be. It was based on that promise that they were voted in. This rush with the 19th amendment seems like the way the 18th was rushed through parliament. There is definitely a lack of public consultations on this issue with multiple versions floating around with amendments to amendments being presented.

    • 6
      5

      Prof. Savitri Goonesekere

      You remind me of a bunch of Old Ladies and Old Men Playing Cards on Fridays, and eating Fish. Why don’t you review your activities during the past 5 years, and do an internal soul-searching, to see where you did right and where you were silent or short.

      Right now, you need to give constructive criticism and support to the current State. They have 10 years worth of corruption to undo.

      1. Friday Forum was generally mute during the Mahinda Rajapaksa Corruption years. Ate only fish.

      2. JVP was very active in educating the populace in the dangers of MaRa regime.

      3. The Common Opposition did a wonderful job in unseating the Corrupt Rajapaksas.

      4. The thousands of Social media posters, websites and media did their job of educating the masses who could be reached despite the MaRa restrictions.

      What the Friday Forum can do, while eating Fish, is to recruit Sri Lankan writers to write the Sri Lankan versions of the Common Sense Pamphlet and the Sri Lankan Crises Pamphlets just like Thomas Paine did for the Americans in 1776, and further inform the unreached masses, to get them to acquire common sense. Remember, the average IQ of a Sri lankan is around 79, while the IQ of a Singaporean is 108.

      References:

      Common Sense (pamphlet)
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Common_Sense_%28pamphlet%29

      The American Crisis
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_American_Crisis

      National IQ Scores – Country Rankings
      http://www.photius.com/rankings/national_iq_scores_country_ranks.html

      • 5
        1

        Amarasiri, you have a good point there with regard to printing of pamphlets 65 percent in Sinhala, 25 percent in Tamil and ten percent in English.

        However….

        I take offence to your remark of “bunch of old ladies and old men playing cards on a Friday and eating fish”

        I am made to understand that the FF is non political and the members are contributors to nation building by their academic achievements.

        There is no age barrier for forums and their reports as the findings comes from a group of respectable educated intellectuals who make the core of the forum and such valuable advice has to be studied carefully
        and used where it would be beneficial.

        I remember the Friday Forum contributions of the past but they were not given publicity or prominence by the previous tenant due to obvious reasons and the forum itself was subject to keep a low profile in interfering into politics and government matters.

        I hope you someday you would be part of this FF or listen to their valuable debates and perhaps eat some fish too.

        • 4
          0

          Yasin

          1. “I take offence to your remark of “bunch of old ladies and old men playing cards on a Friday and eating fish” “

          I agree, it is a bit harsh, but I guess that is the way the MaRa Corrupt regime, looked at the Friday Forum, and did not try to abduct and kill it’s members. On the other hand, the MaRa regime did harass and kill the Journalists.

          One Jayantha Danapala was a Friday Forum member and a director of Dialog that was blocking several news websites, including the CT. Fortunately, they could not do that with Facebook, Twitter and some other social media.

          2. “I hope you someday you would be part of this FF or listen to their valuable debates and perhaps eat some fish too.”

          It is far more effective to join JVP and participate in their activities than the Friday Forum. Why? They take the message to the grassroots, common man, to the Modayas, mootals and fools who voted for Mahinda Rajapaksa, with their average IQ around 65.

          Instead of joining the FF and eat fish caught by fishermen, we all should join the fishermen and go fishing, and explain to the fishermen the crocked Mahinda Rajapaksa Regime. However, this could be done far effectively and efficiently by the Sri Lanka Common Sense Pamphlet, that will reach the fishermen and non-fishermen alike.

          FF should get the Sri Lanka Common Sense Pamphlet done, and make sure every inhabitant especially at Medamulana and the Hambantota District gets it.

          Can the Friday Forum do that? Is it just talk. Thre was one american, Thomas Paine, in 1776, did that on his own.

          Until the so-called Friday forum does that, Amarasiri feels justified in calling the Friday Forum a “bunch of old ladies and old men playing cards on a Friday and eating fish” .

      • 4
        0

        Please note that Friday Forum and particularly Prof Savithri G was very critical of the activities of MR.

        • 2
          0

          maali karunaratne

          “Please note that Friday Forum and particularly Prof Savithri G was very critical of the activities of MR.”

          How effective were they? Did it reach the common man? Did it reach the Modayas, Mootals and Fools? Were they more effective than the Sri Lankan artists?

          [Edited out]

        • 3
          0

          Even I (and many more) was very critical of the activities of MR !

          I totally agree with Amarasiri ! How effective were they ???

    • 2
      0

      Yours is one of those unfortunate attitudes that is the bane of this country realising its potential. The learned ladies and gentlemen of the Friday Form, in the view of many, are dedicated sons and daughters across the ethnic reality of this failed and divided land. They try to help in every way they can to help in the country’s recovery and march to unity and reconciliation. You seem blissfully unaware of their regular Communiques in matters of immediate public interest and concern. For many years they have voiced their altruistic opinions without fear or favour. I suspect they have moved different administrations to action by their well-published calls.

      I have no connections with them. But they win my respect for their social responsibility. I know a large many who share my views. The least people like you can do is not to throw irresponsible aspersions in sheer ignorance.

      Here one must thank Colombo Telegraph for providing the space for the Forum to broadcast their appeals to the attention of the public and the authorities concerned.

      Kettikaran

  • 4
    0

    See how cleverly they are pussy footing
    to call a spade a spade.

    They are too scared to take the government
    on face to face.

  • 2
    1

    Just because Narendra Modi came out with a highly orchestrated 100 day Programme was no reason for the Sirisena Administration to follow suit.
    Very little can be achieved in a country like ours even to dent crippling matters in such a short time. Even Modi is under much fire in India for disappointing public expectations that he raised. Fortunately, for him, he has a staggering majority in the Lok Sabha. The Maithri-Ranil-CBK-Mangala Quartet does not enjoy this luxury in crisis-ridden Sri Lanka.

    R. Varathan

  • 0
    0

    I agree with “Point of view” it is only their age that we should respect because as an old saying goes in sinhala that the “intelligent cannot cross the bridge” or something to that effect. If this is not passed soon we can be assured that the government will be toppled and another government will be born with no 2/3 rd majority that will not be capable of implementing an amendment to curtail the presidential powers. This in turn will create another Monster (not the current Mr. President) which I am sure no body will be able to topple.

  • 2
    0

    Whatever the past may be, the issues raised are valid. The 100 day programme cannot address all issues, but they need to be noted and addressed subsequently. The main problem was the 18th amendment which need to be rectified first. I would add one more, that is to bring in legislation to monitor the Police and the Judiciary because they are equally, if not more corrupt.

    • 1
      0

      Then, why was it called a 100 days programme,instead, calling it a 365 days programme,would have been an appropriate term, knowing that Sri Lankans generally pull in different directions and they are slow moving
      Just because MS Modi & Obama called it a 100 days programme,Mr.Sirisena
      had no reason to follow suit, knowing above obstacles. His trustee PM Ranil himself is pulling in different directions and causing problems.

      What have we achieved so far and every thing is in stand still position
      how could the govt.now face the people as they are simply handing over to the opposition,more power and publicity on a platter due to their lethargic attitude towards completing what they promised to the people.
      The Govt.found hundreds of people involved in corruption cases, amounting to billions of plundered public money but none indicted yet and handed jail terms, as he or she is somebody’s somebody of the current govt. The way the Govt.is proceeding,the complete govt.
      machinery may come to a stand still some day soon, as officials of the previous regime are interdicted with full pay but not indicted yet and replacements are not made as court decisions are expected but cases are not filed in courts yet and every dept.says that they do not have a head to make decisions.
      So is the state of affairs in Sri Lanka today and the troika consisting
      of M/S Sirisena, Ranil & CBK supported by Rajiva & Managala, who danced
      to the tunes of the revellers on 9th Jan,will be held answerable to the
      people, who voted the new govt. to power, if their fail to deliver as voters fought hard ,taking risk of their lives to vote Mr. Sirisena to power. The troika promised that the entire SLFP’ers except a few hard
      core, who supported MR,will be on their side but their thinking went absolutely wrong and had to accept into the cabinet,for survival of the govt. who were earlier called, swindlers of public money by the same govt. and now they are in a soup as corrupt people are in and out side the govt.

  • 1
    2

    Friday forum wants to screwe up Sri lanka. they just have the colonial mentality which thinks every thing that weswt do it the best.

    Sri lanka had toe first woman prewsident, prime minister etc., No one banned it.

    So, why do we need to promote women in the parliament by force. LEt them come if they want.

    See what women graduates do ? what happens to them once they get married ? most disappear.

    • 4
      0

      Jim Softy,

      “See what women graduates do ? what happens to them once they get married ? most disappear.”

      What about those women graduates who do not disappear?

      Become Air hostesses for Namal Rajapaksa and other Rajapaksa cronies? Abused by the UPFA Politicians?

      We need to do a Mass balance of women graduates.

      Graduated Women Graduates = Disappeared Women Graduates + Other women Graduates.

  • 1
    0

    Jayantha Dhanapala[J.D],a leading member of the Friday Forum kept a loud silence during the blockade of Colombo Telegraph.Dialog was also responsible,and JD was on its Board as a paid member!

    Double Standards Friday Forum!

  • 1
    0

    This lady gave coverups for the most corruptive VC in Colombo University: WD Lakshman.

  • 3
    0

    Just because SL has had women a prime minister and a president in the past does not mean that a career in politics is accessible or perhaps desirable for SL women.

    If we take a look at some women (perhaps majority) of women politicians, they were actresses and/or beauty queens, who were recruited by political parties to exploit their popularity. Once elected, did these women operate independently, or did they just “give face” and enact policies that their benefactors wanted?

    Why would the average SL woman be averse to a career in politics? I highly suspect that politics is seen by many Sri Lankans as a down right dirty career – one that is corrupt to the core and rife with violence and thuggery. Such a career is not attractive to most – especially women.

    Thus my suggestion to improve women’s participation in politics is to clean it up – get rid of corruption, thuggery and violence associated with politicians; such a clean up would encourage many more women to seriously consider a career in politics.

  • 2
    0

    Arm chair critics!!!

  • 1
    0

    The time is now. A two third majority may not be a possibility. Ammedments can be introduced after discussion if it is possible to passit. There is a threat of progrisive legistlature be repeald as happened before. The choice may be yours. Profesional bodies in the medical and Engineering field as wel as university academics should be heard on different subjects.

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