By W. Vishnu Gupta –
Where is Credibility?
The people, especially the millennials have been asking freedom to live in peace and pursue their dreams wherever they live without any economic, security uncertainties and in a state devoid of corrupt political leadership. They are demanding a “System Change” and not any constitutional concoctions prepared by those who precipitated the current economic insecurity in the country. Mismanagement, corruption, and illegal activities were the norms of all governments since 1956. Many including the 6.9 million voted for the current government have understood the outcomes of failed policies of the past governments and come to express publicly that the entire lot (225+1) in the legislature and the executive branch of the government are corrupt to the core. Also, lack of credibility of those assigned to oversee the state affairs recently challenges the legitimacy of the government that is moribund. What an incongruity, instead of accepting the will of majority and resign or make plans for transitioning the controls, President and equally unpopular PM are digging trenches around them and determined to hold on to power either by hook or by crook. The appointment of Ranil as the PM was the first misstep. Now, the people must rely only on the judicial branch, and they should not fall into a similar terminal decline leaving the citizens to rot and suffer in the hands of a corrupt autocracy. All worldly entities are fallible; hence the institutions that derives the authority from citizens and maintained at the taxpayer’s expense must be willing to accept criticism and listen to the legitimate grievances of the masses whether it is positive or negative. The people living in a state run by constitutionalism should be free to express their views without fearing instant reprisal by those sworn to be subservient to the will of the people or the sovereignty that belongs to the people.
All three branches of the government since 1978 have been hiding behind the deficient constitutional clauses they themselves took part in the design, development, and implementation phases. There have been 20 amendments so far to the current constitution since 1978. It means that the constitution of then UNP government, drafted by JRJ’s brother HWJ and subsequent 20 amendments were deficient. It has failed to provide meaningful and acceptable fundamental rules and principles that govern the state of Sri Lanka. The root of the prevailing chaos in the country can be traced back to the botched constitutional projects of all governments since 1970. Can we expect a similar set of incompetent office-bearers occupying all branches of the government, especially those who live by the principle of “you scratch my back, I will scratch yours” to come-up with a set of rules and principles to satisfy the needs and aspirations of Sri Lankans? The obvious answer is No, Nada or Zilch. Their hasty and perfunctory efforts on the constitutions of 1972,1978 and the succeeding amendments have cost the citizens probably billions of rupees counting the billions spent on ‘staged’ information gatherings conducted by political henchmen claim to be the legal experts, legislators of whom majority are illiterates and semi-literates assign to debate these rules and principles in the parliament, to engage attorney general’s staff, and to finally ask the opinion of the apex judicial body of the country. Strangely enough, these institutions seem to love this type of exercises more than anything else. The country is bankrupt, the people are hungry due to lack of staple food items, agricultural economy is in ruin, farmers are begging for fertilizer, industrial and transport sector is impeded, people are dying due to lack of medicines, yet the government has given top priority to fix the constitutional concoction, a document to safeguard and look after the interests of the legislators and the president for the 21st time.
21st Amendment is hazy
There is no argument about amending the constitution of any country based on the compelling circumstances affecting people or a segment of the citizens but amending the constitution to safeguard incompetency of the president and to let the MPs to indulge in their corrupt lifestyles and fickle behaviour cannot be justified as valid and compelling reasons. Though it is botched, the current version of the constitution has stipulated how to deal with an incompetent executive president. Article 38 Section 2(a) states:
“Any Member of Parliament may, by a writing addressed to the Speaker, give notice of a resolution alleging that the President is permanently incapable of discharging the functions of his office by reason of mental or physical infirmity or that the President has been guilty of – (i) intentional violation of the Constitution, (ii) treason, (iii) bribery, (iv) misconduct or corruption involving the abuse of the powers of his office, or (v) any offence under any law, involving moral turpitude and setting out full particulars of the allegation or allegations made and seeking an inquiry and report thereon by the Supreme Court.”
So far, not a single legislator, has taken the opportunity to challenge the President under the above Article 38 Section 2(a). It is irrelevant whether such a motion will succeed or not in the parliament. The people already know the outcome in a parliament filled with tainted and self-centred individuals, yet it would have shown the citizens that there is at least a single MP who understands the economic insecurity of the state which was the result of mismanagement and corruption. The 21st amendment versions proposed by SJB and Wijeyadasa have no veracity and relevance to the above clause in the Sri Lankan constitutions.
Our political leaders have always turned blind eye habitually on the pressing needs of the population even if the survival of the state is threatened and always ready to fill their plate quickly. For example, they were more interested in the compensations for the properties, some are alleged to be ill gotten, destroyed because of the island-wide social uprising triggered by the political goons convened by MR on May 9th at his official residence. Nevertheless, it is obvious from the endless mushrooming of peaceful and non-violent protest and citizens’ rallies throughout the country, including that of “Gota Go Gama”, the President Gotabaya is incapable of discharging the responsibilities assigned to him. The legislators as usual have also failed to grasp the seriousness of prevailing economic insecurity and the culpability of president’s economic policies and his high-handed approach to national affairs. The appointment of Mahinda’s eternal friend and the proxy Ranil as the PM has complicated matters further as citizens do not expect any difference between these two detested politicians who are known to uphold the principles of despotism and feed corruption. For instance, no legislator has understood that the country is denied of billions of US dollar remittances made by the expatriate workers until the exit of Rajapaksa clan lead by Gotabaya and protected by Ranil. Neither they understand the expectations of the World Bank and IMF. Hence, the legislators mostly illiterates and semi-literate have resorted to familiar diversionary tactics and embark on another useless exercise of amending the constitution while the masses are facing an untold misery in the history of Sri Lanka.
A man with a questionable past record as the newly appointed Justice Minister is championing the 21st Amendment this time, citing somewhat laughable excuses such as there is a looming danger of Basil becoming the next President, Bloody humbug! It seems, this man famous for many political deals is making some feeble justifications to pave the way to fulfill his dream of becoming the next Prime Minister with the help his brainchild; the proposed 21st amendment. It is appropriate he and other legislators must be reminded of the promise made to the Late Most Ven. Maduluwawe Sobitha thero by Ranil Wickremesinghe and Maithripala Sirisena and other yahapalanaya charlatans. These two yahapalana leaders pledged to Abolish Executive Presidency and restore parliamentary democracy by introducing the electoral system based on “First Past the Post (FPTP).” Ranil, Wijeyadasa, Rajapaksa clan and the new cabinet ministers fear FPTP voting system more than anything else because it will end their political dreams forever in Sri Lanka. It is common knowledge that Ranil, Maithree and few other leading politicians including Wijeyadasa betrayed Ven. Maduluwawe Sobitha Thero, when 19th amendment was introduced in 2015. Now the same gang is colluding and conspiring with like-minded politicians to bamboozle the voters once again and annihilate or subdue the struggle waged by nonpartisan citizens of the country for real democracy. The people want a System Change very soon in their sovereign state, yet MR’s proxy Ranil and the hastily arranged cabinet of ministers have opted to ignore the will of the people as expected. Consequently, the proposed constitutional patchworks designed to strengthen the most unpopular government in our history are bound to destabilize the political environment further and deepen the present economic insecurity.