By Krishan Deheragoda –
Dear Hon. Member of the Parliament Representing the People of Sri Lanka,
Sri Lankan Alumni and Professionals Association (SLAPA) represents the scholars and professionals of Sri Lankan origin, who are conscious of their indebtedness to the People of our Motherland for the gift of free education and are religiously dedicated to achieve the primary goal of SLAPA ‘to make our Motherland a better place to live for ourselves and our posterity’.
We recognise that it is our fervent duty and priority to be united and arrest the gradual erosion that has occurred during the last few decades in national unity, dignity, peace, good governance, rule of the law, social equity, rights of the people and social values as clearly evident by all relevant indicators. Unless we abandon this destructive course and effect a conscious change in our vision and engagement, our hope for a better Sri Lanka would become a mere myth.
We value and welcome the promises given by both Presidential Candidates at the last presidential election in their respective manifestos for amendments to the constitution, good governance and other people friendly reforms. These positive changes have been endorsed by 6.2 million and 5.8 million people respectively. Our informed opinion is that the entire constitution must be replaced. However, we expect all parties in the Parliament to work in a harmony and achieve consensus not to waste the present window of opportunity arising from a unique political formation for effecting at least limited constitutional changes that are nationally important and constructive in the long run as outlined below:
The independent commissions established by the 17th Amendment as the foundation for good governance, but had been defunct by the 18th Amendment to be reinstated with further improvements through the 19th Amendment;
Transfer some of the powers of the Presidency to the Executive selected by the Parliament that constituted from among the representatives of people to the maximum extent possible as per the directives of the Supreme Court, avoiding a referendum; and Introduction of a new election system replacing the existing corrupt, hateful and wasteful election process.
The entire Sri Lankan Nation expect the new government and all parties that make the current Parliament to effect at least these fundamental changes. However, even at this stage it is voiced that the proposed 19th Amendment comprise not all but only some of the changes related to even 1 and 2 above. Under these circumstances, the broad consensus and mutual trust that prevails among the members of the government and the opposition need to be further strengthened to conclude at least these limited positive changes.
Therefore, in the name of the posterity, we appeal to the new government and all the representatives of the people who make the current Parliament to treat the prevailing unique political formation as an invaluable opportunity for constitutional reforms and do justice to the Motherland. This might be the last chance we may get for any such constructive change. Therefore, we emphasise that at this hour, we all must dedicate ourselves to manage the present historical opening without pursuing selfish agenda but, to bring about a turning point to re-establish peace, equity, justice, and dignity for the entire Sri Lankan society.
We are pleased that the great majority of parliamentarians have in principle shown agreement to the proposed amendments to the constitution and this may be the result of the discourse that has prevailed over a long period on this subject. However, in view of the current dialogue, it is doubtful whether there had been adequate discussion in the Parliament Select Committee on the reforms to the electoral system. Here, we, and you – as a representative of the people, must be clear as to whether an electoral system acceptable to all parties should be ushered or one that best fits the partisan interests of your party must be pursued. Discussions our Association had with many groups and political parties conclude that minority and small parties and minority religious groups prefer fully fledged proportionate system, but the political parties that have a larger vote base in the South and/or the North prefer a mixed method of First Past the Post (Direct) and Proportionate systems. Almost all agree to differing degrees that the ‘Preferential Vote System’ must be dumped forthwith and our Association also fully subscribes to that view.
The learned opinion is that some are making a tremendous effort to promote the misleading proposition that electoral reforms are a long drawn and difficult exercise to safeguard their own selfish interests that are inter wound with the existing system. Perhaps, that proposition may be an attempt to justify back paddling the National need for electoral reforms as well. The simpler alternative is to appoint an Electoral Reform Commission, which could be conveniently done as the 20th Amendment. We believe three months would suffice for the Commission to conclude its analysis given the effectiveness of new technology and make its recommendations. If the next parliamentary election is to be held prior to the conclusion of the work of the Commission, then by the 20th Amendment the current ‘preference vote’ may be abolished, as an interim improvement to realise that positive change as well.
An intelligent and analytical examination candidate would not dwell on the difficult questions in the exam paper wasting all the time, but would expeditiously answer the easier questions. Let us answer the easier questions that are in front of us first but, in the context of more difficult ones, progressively seeking the correct solutions to them as well. Expectation of the people is that we follow the example of the intelligent and analytical examination candidate and answer the easy questions first.
Therefore, we appeal to you as those who represent the expectations of the people to act with responsibility and not to squander this historical opportunity. We respectfully urge you to be decisive within a framework of truth, practicality and fairness and obey your conscious.
Further, we must think and act with wellbeing of our posterity in constant focus. Our common goal must be to make this Land a place where our future generation will live independently and freely, without any fear or anxiety, and in peace, unity and dignity.
Dear People’s Representative, we emphasise that it is your moral duty to be selfless and patriotic in making decisions at this historical moment. We appeal to you repeatedly to make the best of this golden opportunity given by the people for the people and remind you that your positive contribution in this regard will be considered as fulfillment of your duty by the Nation and opposing the same will be equivalent to destroying the soul of the Nation.
*Professor Krishan Deheragod -President – Sri Lankan Alumni & Professionals Association