16 December, 2017

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A Political Alternative For New Year 2014

By Kusal Perera

Kusal Perara

Kusal Perara

What’s there to talk about 2013 ?

The only good thing is, in about 80 hours from now – mid day 28 December – this year would be over. There’s nothing nostalgic about it, except in personal and private terms. Politically, much expected Northern Provincial Council elections and the much favoured electoral victory for the TNA seems no exceptional achievement in post Northern and Tamil politics. For the Southerner, casinos have been decided upon and is being half heartedly protested by “puritans”. None is asking what benefit would they have for the poor and the deprived. What social equity and what contribution to rural development, is not what is asked about. There are also NO Anna Hazares, NO Kejriwals, NO Aam Admi Parties, but a popular, Sinhala President there is, sans an opposition. There is ever growing massive corruption, fraud and extortion, shipping, transshipping and peddling of drugs reported almost every day, battalions of saffron clad rogue clerics allowed free roaming, Tsunamis of murder, rape, sexual assaults, child abuse cracking all indexes of failed and falling States and also a much feared and revered Defence and Urban Development ministry Secretary sitting tough, under whom the police and civil security is, since 2005 December.

The year also ends with the UNP Convention, its 55th since it was formed. Undemocratic as it exhibits itself to be and the convention presided over by a leader who sounded more a school’s principal sitting over a Monday morning assembly, passed four resolutions that again was mere tradition and nothing more. The first resolution says the party would work towards victory at the next elections headed by the new leadership council. Wonder why an opposition party has to pass an unanimous resolution to say it would work towards electoral victory. That’s what it obviously has to do.

The second resolution promises the party would abolish the Executive Presidency. Abolishing the presidency would take us back to a parliamentary system. We have had two parliamentary systems, with and without an upper house during the first 30 years after independence, under two different Constitutions; the Soulburry and the first Republican Constitution. The Soulburry constitution allowed for total disfranchising of Indian origin Tamils, making them stateless and then allowed the whole State to be “Sinhalised” with Sinhala language made the ONLY official language of the country. That parliament could not safeguard the right of minorities, nor could it arrest the decline in social life leading to a political crisis that paved for the first Southern Sinhala armed uprising to catalyse in late 1960s.  The first Southern Sinhala armed insurrection broke loose in 1971, just a year ahead of the change in Constitution.

The first Republican Constitution ushered in thereafter in 1972 stressing the importance of being wholly independent and neutral from the British crown, allowed for politicisation of the State with the PSC brought under cabinet authority. Buddhism was written in as a very special religion to be treated exclusively under the Constitution. That parliament allowed for continuous rule under Emergency regulations that even allowed for very strict enforcement of food rationing in a tightly closed State controlled economy.

Performance of all governments during these first 30 years within a parliamentary system was inefficient, dismal and off the mark where curbing of rights and socio economic development was the unwritten norm. Therefore abolishing of the Executive Presidency per se to get back to an undefined parliamentary system is no answer. What if the Executive Presidency is instead curbed and its immunity removed, I may ask.

Third resolution calls for end to corruption and reducing of cost of living. Is the UNP calling on this Rajapaksa regime to honour this resolution on “corruption and CoL” ? There can be nothing more insane than that. That resolution would have had some meaning if it was a pledge instead to form a government sans corruption and fraud and would reduce CoL. The fourth resolves to work “collectively” to form a people friendly government. That seems the only valid resolution at the UNP convention for a party that had over the past decade showed, it has no collective political decision making and no collective campaigning on a single political platform.

This therefore ends where it began and explains why within the UNP, there are factional perspectives, each searching once again for a presidential candidate, “common” to them. End of the day, no lessons learnt, we are going to be told, never mind the promises doled out its “a face with a name” we would have to choose, to vote against a regime that is far outdated and far too toxic to live with. The promise for abolishing of the executive presidency within just 06 months is now 19 years old. Win or loose, others who followed also promised same, but we continue to live under an executive presidential rule, a dead weight to carry along that once again prompts change. But on what programme ?

It is therefore time to leave these worn out faces and corroded names as “common candidate” aside. The only thing common in them is their willingness to swim with the Sinhala tide and carry the promises over to another election. The end of year 2013 and the 65th independence celebrations round the corner, it makes sense to start talking in terms of a clear socio political programme to gain long robbed prosperity. Perhaps 2014 is a good year to begin such dialogue at the end of which, the opposition in particular could be demanded to adopt same, IF they wish to have people vote for them in a country that had been voting since 1931 and literacy had increased to well over 93%, but votes rejected at parliamentary elections had increased from 03.8 percent in 1994 to 5.09 percent in 2010, in the Colombo district itself.

IF that is any indication the people are loosing faith in parliamentary democracy, it also says the people are fed up with all political parties that come with empty calls for change packed with low grade entertainment to entice the voter. It is therefore time to be serious in politics and talk of political programmes for socio economic development, for establishing a functional democracy and genuine promise of a future for ALL. This draft programme therefore identifies the following 04 major areas as the most nationally important areas for political intervention in fairness to all citizens.

  1. Executive power and the independence of the legislature
  2. Tamil political demands that include power devolution
  3. Demilitarisation of whole society, including the economy
  4. National and rural economy that lay stress on education, health, public transport and local environment

Draft for dialogue, critiquing and improvement

01. Executive power and the independence of the legislature

The All Party Representative Committee (APRC) proposed by President Rajapaksa that included the JHU, the MEP and the SLFP has unanimously agreed on a proposal that allows for a total new structure in governance in three tiers. This could form the basis of the proposal for the future State reforms on a new Constitution. In brief it would be,

01. Parliamentary form of government at the centre with powers of the people shared at three tiers of the government, namely the Central Government, Provincial Government and Local Government. A snapshot of the system would show the following,

  • a bicameral parliament
  • a stronger provincial system with devolved power
  • two elected community councils for Tamils of Indian origin and for Muslims outside North and East
  • an upper house, the senate to include provincial representation
  • a Constitutional Court independent of the judiciary to safeguard the Constitution from omissions and commissions committed against the Constitution by either the parliament or the PCs.

The Final Report of the APRC presented to the public by R. Yogarajan, MP and Nizam Kariapper of the SLMC, both who sat in the APRC deliberations, is a mirror image of the Final Report handed over to the President by the APRC Chairman, Prof Tissa Vitarana and had been reluctantly accepted as true to his copy. Thus it is proposed as a comprehensive draft proposal for a new Constitution.

02. Tamil political demands that include power sharing

The APRC is the basis for resolving of the Tamil political aspirations that for the first time gained political consensus from Southern Sinhala political leadership and what could be termed a “home grown” solution. It is thus proposed to adopt the APRC Final Report as the answer in paving the way for reconciliation and conclusion of the political disagreement that the LLRC also says needs democratic space for resolution.

The proposal under “ 01. Executive power and the independence of the legislature” is a major part of this proposal for power sharing.

03. Demilitarisation of whole society, including the economy

This society needs to get back to civil life under rule of law, policed by an independent police department and administered by civil administration. The police department should therefore be gazetted under the Home Ministry as it was in the past. This was stressed in the LLRC Report and is therefore proposed to be included in a political programme for democratisation. Not only should the security forces withdraw from all aspects of day to day civil life, the security forces should not be allowed to play an “investor” role in the economy. Right now the security forces are involved very much in the hospitality trade and their entry into business activities, deforms the market economy too, with tax payers money going into recurrent expenditure in all economic ventures of the security forces. Also, these investments, rob economic space and opportunity meant for other investors who would create employment and livelihood for youth and civil life.

04. National and rural economy that lay stress on education, health, public transport and local environment

Most “development projects” in multi billions that come, do not seem to address the major issue of social development for the larger population of the country. Massive investments talked of in terms of leisure entertainment and gaming centres will not be adding anything to improve rural life and alleviate poverty. There is no mention of how the rural poor would gain out of these leisure and gaming centres in improving the quality of their family life. These massive projects would instead end up creating a new elitist urban sub culture in the Western Province, decided by big money.

All these projects have already shelved the National Environment Act and would seriously damage the environment, beyond repair. “Dreamland cities” proposed to be created artificially by reclaiming long stretches of the Western coastal sea, would certainly dislodge marine fishing and may result in heavy erosion along the coast.  Yet there are no Environmental Impact Assessments (EIAs) carried out as required by the law of the land.  There is also no discussion on how all such investments would help improve education, health and public transport, all gone into festering degeneration.

Sri Lanka therefore needs far sighted, far reaching reforms in formal and informal Education, preventive and curative Health at community level and Public Transport with serious restrictions on hitherto unlimited import of vehicles resulting in unnecessary consumption of fuel at the expense of those poor people who can not even afford a push cycle. These reforms will have to be designed and positioned within a long term national development policy/plan.

In short it is proposed to have a 15 year National Policy on Education, Health and Public Transport that would be part of the 2015 – 2030 Socio Economic Development Plan of Sri Lanka. Conscious stress would be on social equity (fair access to livelihood, education and resources; full participation in the political and cultural life of the Community; and self-determination in meeting Fundamental Needs) and social justice in development, as against  investment from wheeler dealers and without a plan.

Does the educated, middle class Urban polity want such a national programme for the future ? That is another more serious question at hand. They would have to prove, they are not selfish in an economy they are now comfortable living in, while all others feel their lives are crumbling in a chaotic world without answers. Where will the next generation go, if this country is allowed to be morally and culturally ruined with few stacking wealth to Himalayan heights under despotic rule, is one question the elder generation will have to answer, if not in public, then to their silent conscience, while 2013 fades away.

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Latest comments

  • 4
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    Past 60 years didn’t make a change
    Is this 80 hours going to make change .
    Another year starts and end also racist government take power and change
    Thats is

    • 2
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      A Political Alternative For New Year 2014: No Kusal Perera it will start from Geneva in March 2014; be patient and see how it unfolds. I am sure it will benefit all peoples of the Sri Lanka island!

      • 0
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        You buffoons can keep dreaming, good for your health.

    • 0
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      This is a very constructive contribution received through email from two legal experts from India, residing in Chennai.
      Kusal Perera

      Very interesting article Kusal. The other areas which i feel you should conisder including are about the following issues:
      right to secure livelihoods – covering the informalisation of the economy and the exclusion of major numbers of ordinary unskilled and semi skilled young labour from formal economy. The issue of labour rights and security, which though not an issue for the urban middle class, nevertheless becomes important in the context of the pervasive `hire and fire rule’ followed by most corporates. The winners of this russian roulette may not be bothered; but this game essentially has many losers whose only fault was to be historically in the wrong position and to the incidental casualty in a no-win game. This section also needs to be addressed.

      right to sustainable development: from what i am now reading about the water crisis, environmental / ecological crisis and agriculture challenges, before too long SL is going to face a major problem. COnsidering the size of the island, there are not too many alternatives either. I am recently reading mails from different environmental groups in SL about this issue which still does not seem to have entered mainstream english media discussion. Which is a pity.

      decentralised devolution of powers and structural (through legislated provisions) invovlement of local community in decision making: this issue which is what has fuelled many movements in India with the demand to involve and be concerned about grass roots events also need to be included in a future programme.

      accountability issue. – of the current rulers to the massive fraud and corruption.

      How will you raise issue of accountability for war crimes, if that is relevant at all in the type of article you have written.

      Dr. V Suresh & Nagasaila

  • 0
    2

    What a wonderfool year. We have an aristocracy and we have a british joker doing a dance at CHOGM. We had the prince – and princess?!- over for birthday party. We have won the battle against the ocean and are about to manufacture 500 acres of fresh new land on the galle face. We have a SATELLLLITTTTEEE you know with a striped tail and all that – it eats chinese food too. AND we had der NANO TECH – not Nana you idiot! and we SOLE it to the injuns for 372 million USD no?. We started work on the PENTAGON you know. We are working on the american dream of an israel in south asia.

    Next year we will make PORK the national food and give free PORK mid day meal at all schools. That will solve the big problem we have. The small one is already solved with the wee wiggie winkie in place.

    • 0
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      Get prepared for eating porridge by March the process begins.

  • 1
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    The nation is driven by what `Sri Lanka Rajawansa Vibooshana Dharmadeepa Chakravarthi’ wants to do, and not the likes of ordinary people. He is advised by his personal astrologers. According to their advise, when the times are bad he has to merely exit the country and go on a world tour to escape the malefic effects of the planets. Otherwise he is quite safe on his throne.

    Things are rosy for himself and his family, so why bother about the people. The Hoi Polloi too are are quite happy to exist in peace and silence, apart from the occasional demonstration in front of the Fort Railway Station. They have been provided with jogging tracks and parks to dissipate any excess energy if any.

  • 0
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    The Executive Presidency is the bedrock of survival for the Rajapakse Clan – more than anything else – & its abolition is hence a ‘pipe dream’.
    An ‘upper house’ will benefit only senile failed politicians of the ruling party and political discards/faithful acolytes of the Rajapakse Clan.

    What is needed is a National Party of Distinguished Citizens to form a government by concensus at a nationwide election conducted by an international eletion commission,with the army in barracks.
    This may seem like a ‘dream’ but many dreams have become realities in politics.

  • 0
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    You miss out on the most important individuals in this article. What about the Kandyans? What happened to the power they held? We need more power in their hands as they are the true owners of this country. Individuals from the Western, Southern and Northern provinces are of a lesser breed and should be eradicated from power and put into their rightful place as workers.

    • 1
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      Sri Lanka was ceded to the British in 1815 by the Kandyan Convention. Therefore the British when granting Independence should have handed back the reins to those from the families of who signed the Convention. Instead the British handed the country back to Somebodies who were earlier Nobodies. There started the rot.

  • 0
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    Christian and Muslim must decide with out fear for separate country’s in sri Lanka.because Buddhist and Hindus only waiting for India or USA come and divided sri Lanka in to pieces, until 2020 Buddhist and Hindus will play this drama benefit for both side.sri Lankan Christian must know what happened to Southern Christian just after the independent..

  • 2
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    Senior journalist and political analyst Kusal Perera attempts here what the more initiated in the citizenry should do when the Motherland is in trouble. He sets out his ideas on what should be done. Kusal must be congratulated for his daring for he takes the powerful GR in strong words risking a ride in the ubiquitous White Vans.
    The prospect becomes more likelier with his established closeness to Mangala S – no special friend of the Defence Secy.

    Much of what Kusal recommends here appear to be in the right track. I have, however, my reservations on the suggestion of a Council each for the “Indian” Tamils and Muslims outside the NEP. By the way, the Soiulbury Constitution did not provide space for the de-franchising of the people of recent Indian origin who already enjoyed voting rights when they were rudely declared Stateless. Features of 29C could have been stretched to protect them but the problem was an unsympathetic DSS regime, an equally prejudiced administrative machinery and sections of the judiciary that fell prey to the rising anti-Indianism then. Both communities were already within the system although Dinesh Gunewardena’s effort through Parliament was aimed to reducing even the little influence the 2 communities have in the Parliamentary process of governance.

    I hope Kusal will not feel offended if I state his thoughts understate the NPC role. The demand for meaningful, adequate and workable devolution for the Tamil areas is at the very root of our National Question since the early 1950s. One might even say it is the only serious question that threatens the very life of the country. But the majority Sinhala governments have been unwilling or unable to grant what is due and rightful because of the fear of the pseudo-nationalists – lead by the powerful Buddist clergy. There is no mention of this in Kusal’s thoughts, unfortunately,
    obstinate and divisive feature that has bedevilled our social,economic and poloitical fabric for over 6 decades that also includes a full fledged war from land, sea and air. Even after the people concerned having expressed their views, almost unanimously, the NPC is paralysed by design since September when the Tamil people spoke so passionately and in such unison. This against a no-quarter giving army and armed proxy gunmen under the direction of quislings to violently intimidate voters.

    This constant reminding of the fear of a Tiger come-back to refresh Sinhala minds is only to keep their focus from the actual crisis in the South – that of an under-performing economy that exacerbates the
    Cost Living that has been rising astronomically with every passing year. While an infantile Minister displayed what goes as ministerial wisdom by stating a family of 4 can live with Rs.7,500 per month the
    real figure, even for the lower end of the sub-middle class, is in the neighbourhood of Rs.35,000 relying on the cheaper varieties of fish, vegetables and chicken once a month.

    The Rajapakse Government has failed in attracting its much boasted US$ 50 billion FDI and has to now settle even for US$2 billion – much of it from the Gambling and allied support industries which goes against the ancient culture of the country, its long held traditions and Buddhism.

    As to Ranil and the UNP this, I am afraid, is more an irony of fate that will continue to affect the entire nation for some years to come. Ranil, in many ways, expects the Presidency to fall on to his lap and counts heavily on his clout with the Western powers to bring him back. He has wasted years for the economy to collapse. The Rajapakses are far too street-savvy for that which is why they beckon the Casino world to provide oxygen to their tottering regime. Also, despite the connections of his family to the Kelaniya Raja Maha Vihara, the Sinhala electorate still see Ranil and his family as more Christian. Ranil’s credentials as a liberal and honest politician falls by the wayside considering he, together with Weragoda, hid that valuable NGP Panditharatne Report where in every chapter District units and leaders of the UNP were critical of Ranil’s lacklustre and weak leadership. But what works for Ranil today is there is none in the Party to match his stature and national recognition. Karu J is a serial failure and the untested Sajith P has problems with his background, caste and inexperience.

    This question of the electorate enjoying over 93% literacy does in no way advances our credentials as an “educated” democratic country where the one-man-one-vote is an important tool. The truth is, except for a handful of graduates, the multiple thousands of graduates
    churned out of our universities are still under-grade students – hardly useful to a hungry employment market in the private sector that has space for efficient graduates to work in offices trading with the outside world. A rice-packet, half a bottle of arrack and Rs.500 appears to be the going rate to buy votes. Universities have become JVP-type recruiting centres where the survival of the fittest works. Look at the case of Weerawansa, now an established millionaire, said to be living in a palatial house as opposed to the wooden rented shack in Kadawatha he came from only recently. That is what politics in the country has become.

    The way out of the impasse for the Rajapakses is to reach out to the Tamils, honestly and with purpose. Rubbing India or the international community on the wrong side will not do. The alternative is far too frightening to imagine.

    Senguttuvan

    • 0
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      Thank you Senguttuvan, for this very long and descriptive contribution.
      Well, this article was written as a basic draft to kick start a serious dialogue, but most comments prove there are no serious men or women who would want to discuss a way out. Obviously, the Rajapaksas are always winners with this type of people who only want to enjoy making fun of MR.
      As for accountability and far reaching devolution that I have been arguing for from a very long time, well I think, if the Sinhala polity can be pushed to implement the APRC Final Report that has consensus for re structuring the State, then it would provide space for the next move in a very functional democracy. Right now we are trying to have mechanisms for accountability in a society that has all the democratic provisions switched off.
      So, mine is one approach. There could be different approaches. Let’s discuss.
      Kusal

      • 0
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        Kusal,

        I missed out to say I am all with you on the abolishing of the Executive Presidency and blanket life exemption for the holder.
        The President’s powers should be subject to scrutiny both by
        Parliament and Cabinet. A responsive form of governance is what
        I have in mind like that event recently where the British Parliament refused to give PM David Cameron sanction on the “Attack Syria” issue.

        Since we are generally held back by compulsions of the cleavages of political parties in our many searches for an acceptable solution to the National Question, we might look into the possibility of inviting a Group of established senior lawyers of eminence from the different communities to form a Committee to provide some options. If you recall, a similar effort proved a useful purpose in Bangladesh not long ago.

        Senguttuvan

        • 0
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          The APRC Final Report has the advantage of most extremist Sinhala groups agreeing in real terms for power sharing and removing of the Exec Prez too, in a draft form of a basic constitution. That is why I keep talking about it often.
          But, we can also invite a group of eminent South Asian lawyers, some who were seriously involved in the Naga negotiations to facilitate a discussion to improve on the APRC Final Report through public consultations. It’s worth the effort I think.
          Kusal

  • 0
    0

    SriLankan Christians are well tolerated and even venerated by the Hindu Tamils. The Tamil leaders Samuel.V.Chelva in the past and Father Emmanuel at present are Christians. Whereas in the south 300 churches were burned down ,Mosques and temples are destroyed by Buddhist monks.
    The South needs to educated if the country needs alternate politics.

    • 0
      0

      churches are burnt in South? where?

      • 0
        0

        This dude sure not in mother Lanka. No point replying.
        Amarnath

      • 0
        0

        Read this news in CT you Dude. These had been attacks on X’mas even and in the South proper.
        “Three Churches Attacked On Christmas Eve”
        AS

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