15 April, 2024

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Bipartisanship Beyond 22nd Amendment Is Needed

By Jehan Perera

Jehan Perera

The passage of the 22nd Amendment to the constitution came as a surprise. It was originally scheduled to be debated in parliament a fortnight earlier. When the decision to postpone was taken it seemed as if the 22nd Amendment would not be taken up again in the near future or even if it was, it would not be passed. There were two contentious areas on which members of the government and opposition were in disagreement. The disagreement was not only between parties but within them. The first contentious issue was the president’s power to dissolve parliament at his discretion after the passage of two and half years. The retention of the two and a half year provision is a clear political triumph for President Ranil Wickremesinghe.

The 20th Amendment and now the 22nd Amendment states that the President can dissolve parliament in two and a half years. The 19th Amendment that preceded these limited the president’s power to dissolve parliament by affirming it could only be done after four and half years. But the 22nd Amendment retains this presidential power to dissolve parliament after two and a half years. This can be construed as an erosion of parliamentary democracy. Under normal circumstances, it is not a good democratic practice for the president to dissolve the parliament so soon after the people have given it a mandate for five years. President Wickremesinghe was himself a victim of this use of arbitrary presidential power in 2004 when his term as prime minister was cut short by then president Chandrika Kumaratunga.

The second contentious issue was the right of dual citizens to contest elections and be elected to parliament and other elected political office. The 20th Amendment gave dual citizens the right to contest elections which the 19th Amendment had specifically taken away in the same way that the 22nd Amendment does. There are reportedly around ten MPs who are dual citizens and who will now have to make a choice between renouncing their citizenship of those foreign countries or having to leave parliament. This would be an especial blow to the ruling party, as its national organizer and power centre, Basil Rajapaksa is known to be a dual citizen. There are calls from within parliament for them to step down and the matter may need to be settled in court if they do not.

Volcanic Problems 

The passage of the 22nd Amendment by 174 votes with only one dissension can be considered to be a victory for President Ranil Wickremesinghe under whose leadership a significant restructuring of the state’s system of checks and balances has taken place with virtual unanimity. It is also a defeat for the old guard and strong men of the ruling party who have seen its disintegration in three or more parts. There were only about 30 plus MPs out of a total of 134 in the government who opposed the 22nd Amendment and the effective removal of its party’s national organizer from parliament. Unless former Finance Minister and national organizer Basil Rajapaksa renounces his foreign citizenship he will have to lead the party from outside parliament. This may not seriously disadvantage him as his political acumen and strength lies in grassroots mobilization which can be done outside of parliament.

The passage of the 22nd Amendment will reduce some of the powers of the presidency particularly with regard to appointments. The president will lose the powers he had under the 20th Amendment to pick and choose whomever he wanted to be members of the independent commissions and high officers of state. These included the Chief Justice, judges of the Supreme and Appeal courts, the members and chairpersons of the Election Commission, Human Rights Commission and Police Commission and the IGP. This power will now be transferred to the Constitutional Council over which the president will have influence but not unilateral power, as they will be selected by the president together with the prime minister and the opposition parties as well. The three civil society members of the Constitutional Council who can best ensure a non-partisan selection will be appointed jointly by the prime minister and leader of the opposition. In giving up some of his power in this manner, the president will gain legitimacy as a leader who has forged an unexpected consensus in a parliament that was hitherto bitterly divided.

The fragmentation of the ruling party into three or more factions will also permit the president to play a greater role as a visionary and strong willed leader in forging a consensual approach to the serious problems that the country faces. This includes the economic crisis and the long term corruption and mismanagement that reached volcanic proportions in the last two years. The restructuring of the economy is going to be one that will place large burdens upon people at multiple levels and will best be introduced to them through a bipartisan approach. The same is true of the long standing ethnic conflict which has defied a political solution since 1956 and seems to be a dead volcano after the end of the war though in reality it is not.

Sincere Approach 

Sustaining consensual government requires sincerity by a demonstration of consistency in word and deed. Opposition Leader Sajith Premadasa made this point when he said that the amendments should be brought with good intentions. There was mutual accommodation in the process of reaching a consensus with the Minister of Justice, Wijeyadasa Rajapakshe agreeing to the Opposition Leader’s request that the three civil society appointees to the Constitutional Council should be selected jointly by the prime minister and opposition leader and not be chosen through a vote in parliament which would give the government the possibility of appointing all three. However, there are two areas where the consensus can break down early and which need to be guarded against.

After the collapse of the economy and rise of the protest movement, the need for fresh elections has been articulated at all levels of society. Local government elections fall due in March this year. The opposition parties have jointly agreed that these elections ought to be held on schedule without postponement as the term of the local government authorities has already been extended by the maximum duration of one year permitted by the election law. The second area of contention is the ongoing spate of arrests of those who protest even peacefully against the corruption and mismanagement in the government that led to the collapse of the economy. Those who want a corruption and mismanagement free society are being punished and roughly treated while those who are the perpetrators continue to hold high positions in parliament and the government.

With the passage of the 22nd Amendment, Justice Minister Wijeyadasa Rajapakshe has opined that all independent commissions will cease to function. Opposition leader Sajith Premadasa has appreciated the work of two commissions in particular and has made the case that they should continue in office. There will be two commissions in particular that will be looked at keenly by civil society also. They are the elections commission, which has taken the position that local government elections can and should be held without postponement, and the Human Rights Commission which has stood amazingly (for a state institution) for the rights of the people to freedom of association and expression as is rightfully theirs in a democracy. Those who have spoken truth to power need to be protected by statesmanlike leadership from the treacherous winds of political change as they guide the ship of state to a safe harbour.

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Latest comments

  • 4
    0

    I am trying to figure out how 22nd A hurts Basil Rajapaksa, a dual-citizen.
    Jehan thinks that this may not seriously disadvantage him as his political acumen and strength lies in grassroots mobilization which can be done outside of parliament.
    That is a correct observation; but, not the reason given by Jehan.
    From the time Gota became President, Basil had developed a taste for the Presidency! His roadblock is his nephew not his citizenship.
    (If you have missed it, Basil can’t stomach Namal.)

  • 3
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    With just 3 civil society members the 10-member constitutional authority can only be a lapdog of the politicians.

  • 3
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    As long as power cracy remains in Sri Lankan politics the amendments do not help to bring political instability and economic development in this country. Major problem in the country the elected parliamentarians does not bother about policies and programmes and people. They only bother where they can make money and when they can cross over and get ministerial posts. In this parliament nearly more than almost more than two third are now ministers in government party and if you cross over you are guranteed a minister post. Can you trust that your Member of Parliament from a political party remains to that party?

    • 0
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      Ajith: To see how “Bipartisanship” works, “Google” – Manthri. lk

      You can see how these “Peoples’ Representatives” have voted for the Constitutional Amendments” so far. “18” MPs voted for all the 17, 18, 19, 20 & 21. Next 43 MPs voted for 19, 20 & 21.

      In that “LOT” you can see the names such as Dallas Alahapperuma – an MP who now leads a “GROUP” along with Prof. G.L.P. Another such name is Wimal Weerawansa who now leads another “GROUP” with Vasu, Gammanpila. Interestingly the present PM – Dinesh Gunawardena – the son of “Boralugoda Sinhaya” has voted for all Amendments.

      What a bunch of “IMBECILES” the people have entrusted their “Paramadhipthiya” (Peoples’ Sovereignty)?

  • 2
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    22 Amendments in 44 yrs…………Not bad……..

  • 3
    2

    Valaiththodam asked for bringing amendments with sincerity. Yahapalanaya wanted the EP not to dismiss the parliament before 4 1/2 years because Evil was the PM that time. Now the 225 Afghani donkeys agreed to go home with half term + New members lose the pension. If they get a gut to contest with the Evil Emperor. (What Jehan PhD says is that “we have set up all things in order to give the Tamil Eelam to Tamils, so Disney can open their theme park in Hangbangtota for Sinhala Intellectuals to have fun, one day in Colombo Pong Cing’s night clubs & the other day in Disneyland” . If somebody says that this is sincerity, then instead of believing this gimmick I would wear my pants as a turban on my head and parade on the roads. After all, Deal Dasa left his ministry of Yahapalanaya government last time only to save the Royals. Every time the rogues cheat, the people willingly become fools. Jehan PhD works on EU’s money to push in the needle on a banana.

  • 3
    2

    Parliament should have been dismissed in April 2022, as protesters asked, instead of Evil’s Emperor jumping in the sunken ship, the Appeh Aanduwa. With all the known, sworn honesty, leaders got the Donkeys voted for 2 ½ dismissal only to give a resignation letter from all Donkeys in one paper, instead of many papers like they did in Junious Richard’s time. Now 225 monkeys will have to dance for the piper the Evil Emperor, or all lose their jobs & some with their pension. It is the Evoy Solheim word that Lankan politicians would not give anything for Tamils without a fight. Further during the peak time of protest, he said that there is no gentleman in Langkang to give what the protesters were asking. I cannot believe Jehan PhD says it is he who is playing the Characters of Sampanthar Aiyya & Sumanthiran PC’s roles in the “Secret Solution II”.

  • 0
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    Bipartisanship Beyond 22nd Amendment Is Needed

    Due to this IMF is thinking the restructure is not good enough and not unchanging and self-benefiting until there is equal and fair portion of openings allocated for every citizen, the power structure may need to be restructured

  • 0
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    22nd Amendments father is RANIL AND MOTHER IS WIJEDASA.But it was delivered at jayawadenapura hospital with the help of few qualified doctors and few nurses and lot of unqualified ward boys but every body is claiming the parental hood for the child.at the end those who elected the father,mother,doctors,nurses and ward boys have become ORPHANS AND ARE MADE TO BEG FOR FOOD AND MEDICINE ON THE STREET AS THEY CAN NOT FILL THEIR BELLY WITH 22nd AMENDMENT AS THIS BILL WAS PASSED ONLY TO HELP TO FILL THE BELLY OF MEMBERS OF PARLIAMENT ONLY.

  • 3
    1

    All of you seem to think there is something wrong with the country.

    I see nothing wrong. Everything is hunky dory.

    I believe in the 25-year development plan put forward by the 75 year old president that will make Lanka a fully developed country by 2048 ………. just about the time young kids like Native Vedda will be reaching puberty ………


    Results, results, results ……….. Jehan has been writing all his life: what results has his writing brought? Has it changed anything one iota? ……… Has it even given him a chance to buy his own freedom? Freedom from the NGO dollar? Man, what a life to end up daily writing this dross to earn one’s keep: I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy. Not even on Ranil.

    I can’t even spell to save my own soul; let alone write …… but try to write now and then in my disjointed rudimentary way ……… to convey the utter futility of it all.

    We, as a country, are well and truly fucked. ………. And dross peddlers like Jehan who haven’t the guts to call a spade a spade are responsible – more than they might think – for the state we are in ……….

    For fire and brimstone ……. for straight talking ……… thank God for Jehan’s daring brother ……… Chameera Perera: the second coming of Buddha

    • 0
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      Colleagues,
      Nimal these days sound like depressed worrying the health of Appeh Aanduwa. Let’s have a celebration when Native Veda reach Puberty, pulling off his Amude and clad him with a Sarong, for his sarong Ceremony. That seems to be the pacifier to Nimal.

    • 2
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      nimal fernando

      “Man, what a life to end up daily writing this dross to earn one’s keep: I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy. Not even on Ranil.”

      Don’t you think it morally better than being a politician and am MP, Minister or President?

      Thanks a lot for keeping an eye on my manhood.

  • 1
    1

    Once the IMF approve the loan, the Bi-partisan team (Joint Comedy Club & Yahapalanaya or the UNP – SLFP dual) will send the White Kottiya (Mr. Solheim) back to Norway. America may be thinking if it starts an investment project many times heavier than Cheena’s Hangbangtota, it can out do the Cheena’s People Army with the Disney Child Soldiers in Hangbangtota. Remember the American LNG electricity plant, WCP(Yugathavi) which Hitler shut down? It looks like Aanduwa had leaked the secret of American Project in time to Cheena, so it is using this interval to Colonize North. It was the US Secretary Condoleezza Rice who shut down the SLMM and sent them back to Scandinavia. Right after the war, Muttiah Muralitharan closed the Dole’s Somawathi National Park’s Banana plantation and sent Dole back to the US. The International politicians try to harvest the young vegetables and pump ethylene to make them fruit. That technique didn’t even work for Dole’s Banana plantation because Murali reaped his investment even before the Dole’s Banana plants formed the first buds. Pumping ethylene does not work aginst the Aappa Diplomacy. The Evil Emperor knows how to hire all these diplomats to work on the project of “saving the Royals from the UNHRC.”

  • 3
    0

    Good and pertinent write up.
    Unfortunately, nothing will change unless and until there is a brand-new constitution with age limits and term limits and equal representation of both sexes in the parliament.
    S L is fortunately blessed with bright young people, but the culture of impunity prevents getting them involved positively in the political system which is basically dominated by “senile” political hacks; this has to change in a significant way.
    The present lot in the parliament have ulterior motives to remain in power and are good at manipulating the system; RW, the current President and MR and GR the previous P M and President are good examples.
    The future remains bleak if the status quo persists.

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