27 October, 2020

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17 Questions President Gotabaya Rajapaksa Should Answer Before The Public

Soraya M. Deen

Stand up for what is right regardless of who is committing the wrong.” ~ Suzy Kassem

The stakes for democracy are high in Sri Lanka. The newly elected government of Gotabaya Rajapaksa is hastily seeking to amend the Constitution by introducing a 20th Amendment granting unchecked, unlimited, and unnecessary power to the President. In the absence of clear and transparent reporting by the media and the lack of open communication by the government; about the true nature, the breadth and scope of the amendment, there is legitimate concern brewing in the country, about the mala fides of this amendment.

Means must justify the end

As President of the country you must have intentions and ideas that  you plan or intend to carry out for the development and the betterment of the country. Your directives and spontaneous appearances at government offices to investigate efficiency and your direct promises to the aggrieved that you intend to  right every wrong have demonstrated to the people your methods of operation and your good faith. However, a mere expression of good intention does not mean that you are always doing the right thing. In fact, great intentions have tragic consequences, when implemented without careful thought.

Misplaced priorities

In these  moments of unprecedented uncertainty, the global pandemic and the burdens of polarization, poverty, hunger and the economic downturn, tension is high in our country.

The goals of the government and the presidency should be to create a “blueprint to achieve a better and more sustainable future for all Lankans” and not a “blueprint to achieve power and impunity for the President.”

And if you are to sincerely do that, you have to first give your best to us. Become a sincere partner with all the citizens, in the progres of our country. Perhaps as the country’s leader you will begin to think differently about us. We are a diverse citizenry of intelligent people capable of understanding the concepts of power, leadership, democracy, freedom, justice and love for motherland.

In a recent statement made by former minister and Member of Parliament  Mano Ganesan, (later echoed by some Buddhist clergy as well), Mr. Ganesan referred to the power already vested in the President. He reiterated that the President had no shortage of power that warranted an amendment to the constitution, to confer more power to the President.

The President, Mr. Ganesan said, is the Commander in chief of the tri-forces. His brother is the Prime Minister, another brother is in charge of the finances, his party has the majority in the parliament and several other members of his family were holding high office in his government.

In a normal democracy one would hope that the people will be protected from the excessive power of the leaders. Why is it that you as the President are pretending that your power is fragile and you need more power to protect yourself from the people, when you, in fact, possess absolute power?

Your priorities Mr. President

As President of the country your top priority is to alleviate poverty in Sri Lanka. How much more power would you need to do so, “When you are  the Commander in chief of the tri forces. Your brother is the Prime Minister, another brother is in charge of the finances, your party has the majority in the parliament and several other members of your family were holding high office in your government?”

In September 2015, the United Nations General Assembly adopted the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development that includes 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). They address the global challenges we face, including poverty, inequality, climate change, environmental degradation, peace and justice. Building on the principle of “leaving no one behind”, the new Agenda emphasizes a holistic approach to achieving sustainable development for all.

Would you not agree that Sri Lanka needs a robust path to achieve this vision? And I invite you to please tell us why you need a 20th amendment to take our country to prosperity and self sufficiency.

Here are the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDG’s) and and as you can see there is not a need for a 20th amendment to accomplish any of these goals;

GOAL 1: No Poverty– How much power do you need or what power do you lack to work toward the goal of alleviating poverty?

GOAL 2: Zero Hunger – How much power do you need or what power do you lack to work toward the goal of zero hunger?

GOAL 3: Good Health and Well-being – How much power do you need or what power do you lack to work toward the goal of promoting good health and well being of the people?

GOAL 4: Quality Education – How much power do you need or what power do you lack to work toward the goal of providing quality education?

GOAL 5: Gender Equality – How much power do you need or what power do you lack to work toward the goal of promoting gender equality?

GOAL 6: Clean Water and Sanitation – How much power do you need or what power do you lack to work toward the goal of providing clean water and sanitation?

GOAL 7: Affordable and Clean Energy – How much power do you need or what power do you lack to work toward the goal of achieving affordable and clean energy?

GOAL 8: Decent Work and Economic Growth – How much power do you need or what power do you lack to work toward achieving decent work and economic growth?

GOAL 9: Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure – How much power do you need or what power do you lack to ensure industry, innovation and infrastructure?

GOAL 10: Reduced Inequality – How much power do you need or what power do you lack to work toward the goal of achieving reduced inequality?

GOAL 11: Sustainable Cities and Communities – How much power do you need or what power do you lack to work towards the goal of promoting sustainable cities and communities?

GOAL 12: Responsible Consumption and Production – How much power do you need or what power do you lack to promote responsible consumption and production?

GOAL 13: Climate Action – How much power do you need or what power do you lack to promote climate action?

GOAL 14: Life Below Water – How much power do you need or what power do you lack to work toward the goal of preserving and protecting life below water?

GOAL 15: Life on Land – How much power do you need or what power do you lack to work toward the goal of promoting and preserving life on land?

GOAL 16: Peace and Justice Strong Institutions – How much power do you need or what power do you lack to work towards preserving and upholding peace and justice and strong institutions?

GOAL 17: Partnerships to achieve the Goal – How much power do you need or what power do you lack to work toward building partnerships to achieve these goals?

Gandhi reminds us that there is a higher court than the courts of justice. And that is the court of conscience. It supersedes all other courts..We ask you that your conscience be your  compass.

The constitution is not a political prop

Is the 20th amendment truly necessary? Did the  mandate given by the voters approve of such a broad sweeping amendment to the constitution that granted power to the President without any checks and balances? Does the provisions of the 20th amendment seek to secure the rights of the President and disregard those rights of the citizens?

Briefly, under the 20th amendment, the President seeks impunity, where no legal action can be taken against him, promotes citizens with dual citizenship to hold parliamentary office, seeks the complete eradication of commissions, dispenses with  audits of government institutions, the president seeks to reserves the sole prerogative to appoint and remove judges – severely compromising  the independence and integrity of the Judiciary, the president also seeks to reserve the right to appoint and remove any number of ministers…. and the list goes on.

The callous lack of transparency and accountability by those seeking the 20th amendment and  the underlying attempt to desecrate our constitution and democracy is shocking and troubling.

What is deafening is not the clamour of the Minister of Justice Mr. Ali Sabry to promote the amendment, but the inordinate silence of the members of the parliament, particularly those of the ruling party.

Not justifiable nor justiciable

The President must be advised that the  need for a 20th amendment  even from a layman’s court  is neither justiciable nor justifiable. In a court of law, justiciability concerns the limits upon legal issues over which a court can exercise its judicial authority. It includes, but is not limited to, the legal concept of standing, which is used to determine if the party bringing the action is a party who can appropriately establish that  an actual adversarial issue exists. Let’s assume here the President’s adversarial issue is the claim to a lack of power and the need  to consolidate unlimited power!

Essentially, justiciability here would be the granting of unlimited power to the President.

There is no need for such power and therefore in a peoples court the matter is not justiciable.

Is the 20th amendment capable of being justifiable? Can the President show that it can be defended as being just, warranted; defensible? In the people’s court amassing unchecked, unlimited power is not justifiable.

The people know that there are always risks in challenging state power, but people also know that the risk of not challenging excessive power is dangerous and a precursor to abuse and corruption.

*Soraya M. Deen  is a lawyer, community organizer and an award winning international activist. She focuses on countering violent extremism and deconstructing Received Theology by educating and empowering women to action. She is the founder of the Muslim Women Speakers Movement and Author of SERVE: A Call to Muslims, She is also the President and co-founder of the Interfaith Solidarity Network, one of the largest interfaith organizations in Los Angeles.

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Latest comments

    • 14
      1

      Gota’s reply “Sit Down”!

      • 0
        2

        Gota says, “do what as I say, not as I do”

    • 17
      2

      Presidential OFFICE will response the question as – President is media shy and he does not want to ansswer not a single question.

      Gallery will be made to applaude…

      Gallery and Saffron Clad Mission are being well trained to behave no second to MERCY cows.

      But let s patiently look at them how far these criminals would go ….

  • 18
    2

    Soraya:
    The President doesn’t seem to lack the power to carry out the matters you have referred to. However, he seems to think that he will not be able to successfully carry out the duties successfully due to his arrogance and non- delegation of powers to other ministers. The ministers appear to be reluctant to carry out their duties for fear of antagonizing the president. Hence the president is looking for a scapegoat to justify his possible failure- that is to say, that he failed due to lack of power as prescribed in the 20thAmmendment.,

  • 20
    2

    Part I:

    Now … Now … Soraya … That’s not the way to talk to a President. First you must understand the ground reality. What is the ground reality? Let me tell you. Your understanding of power is just theory … just text book stuff. The ground reality is MY POWER comes from the PEOPLE WHO VOTED FOR ME … people who ACTUALLY voted for me. Not from ALL the people who participated in the election. You must get that clear in your head. You’re talking about power vested in the President’s chair. But who put me on that chair? WHO? It is the overwhelming majority of SINHALA-BUDDHISTS and other Sinhala patriots. That is the ground reality. So who should I serve? Now tell me, even if I give everything the minorities are asking, will they vote for me in the next elections? NEVER. They will vote for their own people or for the opposition. Not only that … I will lose MY vote base too. It is simple arithmetic. That is how the real world works. So my priority is to satisfy my power base which is Sinhala-Buddhist. Now many of the things they are demanding cannot be implemented within the existing constitution……………….[Contd]

  • 14
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    Part II

    I need much more power … absolute power … I need to curtail many of the useless, so-called human rights. Otherwise I’ll be running into endless legal quagmires, and nothing will get done … including many of the things you have mentioned in your stupid little list. Circulars and ARs & FRs are overrated. Democracy is overrated. That’s what I mean by “One Country, One Law.” MY LAW. See … being a President is not easy as you think. Now one more thing … Don’t listen to that Ganesan fellow. He’s a jumping Gemba and he talks out of turn.

  • 12
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    We can keep on writing and expressing our opinion, which is our sacred right, but the politician, Sri Lankan variety in particular, wants to have his/her way. The watch word is “L’loi! L’loi! L’loi ce moi!”. (The French equivalent of “The Law! The Law! I am the Law!”) This is particularly true for both NGR and SRP who are absolutely impatient. NGR let the cat out of the bag when he said that his pronouncement is the circular. SRP is no better, he already committed the guffaw of saying that his mouth is as good as “Sri Muka”, although he later apologized. But to those who dare to go against his wishes, even unwittingly, better receive the last rites every day. If NGR prefers to reflect back, how did he at least perform in achieving the controls for the spread of the virus? What real power? He may have had some, but the reality is the public co-operation, save the drug addicts and other cranks. True! There are serious problems with the 19A, in its implementation. The Constitutional Council was a farce. All that mainly arose not because of constitutional or legal provisions but due to human weaknesses.

    • 5
      2

      Dear Good sense@
      U are dead right. NGR S politics is not it’s all cracked up to be. He proved well that he is politically immatured going beyond modya Sitisena. MRI TALENTED HEAD WAS SACKED BUT AGAIN HE IS APPOINTED AS COVID SPOKSMAN. NGR s reaction s are similar to sacking of FCID chief Dilrul

  • 15
    2

    Dear Soraya M Deen,
    Thank you for your timely article. You raised several questions to the President to answer. Unfortunately, as a military leader he do not answer questions whether it comes from Judiciary or Media or People. So, he is not going to answer the people, media , Judiciary or even parliament. As a military man he doesn’t trust trust anyone including his brothers, friends, relatives or parliament. In that case he need a complete and full power to do whatever he things is right. He does not anyone or anything to be a barrier to his intentions whether it is good or bad. He gave up (not sure whether it is a deal no deal) his USA citizenship on the conditions that he is safe from all the wrongs or crimes that was done in the past or going to do in the future. He constantly maintained that his intention is development of the country but never mentioned about how he is going to reach that development. I don’t know what he meant by development. I think in this process he wants to use military in full power and he is not bothered about consequences. For example if a group of government officers go for a strike action, he will replace them with military or use force those officers to work under military.

    • 8
      2

      Ajith,

      Even a down syndrome patient would be in demaind in SRILANKA if various racial forces (= masses) would be able to paint the picture in favour of fake patriotism. That is the situaton in srilanka.

      But those SO CALLED PATRIOTS seem to be enjoying their life on the cost of tax payers funds, – they dont care little about the grievances of the people. This has been the reality all along in this country. People dont take it serious and let them to abuse their votes again and again. Walking on a curve ????????

    • 2
      6

      Ajith,
      Dumbo, please read his manifesto:
      https://gota.lk/sri-lanka-podujana-peramuna-manifesto-english.pdf
      https://gota.lk/sri-lanka-podujana-peramuna-manifesto-sinhala.pdf

      “He constantly maintained that his intention is development of the country but never mentioned about how he is going to reach that development. I don’t know what he meant by development.”

  • 6
    1

    Excellent questions. I think this is one of the thought provoking articles I have read in a long time. To write such an article, leave alone writing, even to think so deeply in an unbias manner one should be a “genius”!

    This article alone is enough for Sri Lankan politicians to reset their priorities. If at all, with the permission of the author I would like to add one point to it:

    How much power do you need to make all those born in Sri Lanka “Sri Lankans” and not divided by their race, religion or cast?

    Excellent work Soraya.

    • 7
      1

      A Non Sinhala Buddhist is able to preach “Buddhist Philosophy” which was taught by Lord Buddha. None of the Mahanayakes have been able to do this.

    • 0
      0

      I haven’t read this particular article, but I have decided to park this very well-reasoned article here:
      .
      https://ceylontoday.lk/news/professional-mechanism-of-animal-slaughter-enhance-sustainable-development
      .
      In a sense, this is an unsuitable place because both articles are by Muslims, and my giving the link here may strengthen the stereotype that the Sinhalese have that all Muslims kill animals, and even enjoy it. Wrong, of course. And I myself am pretty omnivorous. who are the killers of pigs and of fish in Sri Lanka?
      .
      The suitability of this place is because the sole (sic) reason for this ban on cattle slaughter is to get “Sinhalese-Buddhists” to hate the minorities. trying to sandwich here between the good “Buddhist1” and LM.
      .
      Please read the article because it covers the subject thoroughly and objectively. I wish that I had the capacity to write it. I endorse every word of it.

  • 3
    1

    There wasn’t a need for a rushed up 20th Amendment with lots of controversial stuff.
    Parliament, Judiciary, & INDEPENDANT commissions to check on expenditures by government institutions and to check on jobs for higher Government posts

  • 5
    3

    Dear Soraya,

    Thank you so much. This is a timely article. As you had very rightly stated his ultimate goal is not easily attainable unless he is able to put his OWN house in order. He should not ask for more powers. He needs to be guided by his confidants that he has enough powers more than what he needs and POWER is restrained BY THE CONSTITUTION for very good reasons. IT IS TOTALLY UNACCEPTABLE TO STRENGHTEN THE PRESIDENT HAVING WEAKENED THE OTHER DEMOCRATIC INSTITUTIONS IN THE COUNTRY. I MUST ADD THAT THE PROBLEMS WE ARE CURRENTLY FACING IS ALL DUE TO SUCH IGNOBLE MOVES BY OUR PAST LEADERS.

    He should also try and fit in to the role of the EXECUTIVE PRESIDENT in CONSTITUTIONAL STATE. HE HAS MORE POWERS THAN WHAT HE NEEDS TO RUN AN EFFECTIVE DEMOCRATIC GOVERNMENT. As you had correctly stated he needs a blue print so that he could employ everybody to ensure the attainment of the goals successfully. I too personally believe he has the necessary leadership qualities IF ONLY HE COULD COME OUT WITH THE AIMS OF HIS GOVERNMENT. IN FACT, HE HAS ALREADY PRESENTED A MANIFESTO TOO AND PEOPLE HAVE OVERWHELMINGLY ENDORSED IT ALREADY. It is also a good idea that you had pointed out the need to achieve SDGs too.

  • 7
    0

    I will ask him just one question.

    As the President of this country , what do you think is your responsibility towards ALL the citizens of this country, not just Dual Nationals?

  • 7
    2

    None of them is his concern. He is only after his own family rule against that of Mahinda. That is why 20A. Gota wants his wife and son to be president after him. He knows they are not popular among politicians. 20A will shut up other politicians and allow Americans to become president and MPs.

    20A is all about Mahinda clan verses Gotabaya clan.

  • 4
    2

    Therecare acters like Ronald Reagan, originally an American actor and politician, became the 40th President if they can answer miltiary question why cant a miltary answer all question and work and controll the world not only america

    The President doesn’t seem to lack the power to carry out the matters you have referred to

    The greatest leader is not necessarily the one who does the greatest things. He is the one that gets the people to do the greatest things. not some people

  • 11
    2

    None of the goals the author has listed are political goals; Sri Lankan politicians have political goals, not public welfare goals…so, its a wasted effort to the extent that a politician reading the article will amend his ways..he might merely laugh from both ends if that were truly possible..

  • 1
    1

    His motto “do what as I say, not as I do”

  • 1
    0

    Men may come men may go but I go on for ever…………….

    ( Apologies to poet Tennyson )

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