By Mass L. Usuf –
The prevailing circumstances in the country can be turned into one of a great and historic opportunity for this nation. It all depends, again, on the strong will and determination of the people. All the struggle and suffering the general public endured up to this stage of cataclysm will be in vain if the correct and proper strategies are not seriously looked at.
What to do?
Any strategy should be focussed on the welfare of the people and the country. For whomsoever who is interested, I give below a list which is not exhaustive but may be considered as some of the priorities. The broad strategies to be looked into are:
(1) Reducing the powers of the Executive President and transfer same to the Parliament.
(2) Good governance and Independence of the Commissions.
(3) Anti-corruption and Anti waste reforms and prosecutions.
(4) Strict and effective checks and balances through Parliament and other Institutions.
(5) Independence of the Judiciary and strengthening of the Rule of Law.
(6) Revisiting all the court cases of the Politicians that have been questionably closed.
(7) Probe into the Easter Sunday bombing.
(8) Tracing and recovery of misappropriated public wealth.
(9) Explore areas for the prosecution of members of the present government.
(10) Amendments to the Election law.
(11) Developing a matured foreign policy.
Who will do?
Several methodologies can be adopted. One of which is for the parliament to set up a Special Office called the Commission for National Reformation by an Act of Parliament and empower the Commission with the required power and authority to act independently. All the wherewithal necessary for the effective functioning of an independent Commission has to provided. Details of the Commission to be determined via a process of deliberation. A team of eleven Commissioners may be appointed, one for each subject. This Commission will be accountable only to the Parliament. The independence of the Commission and its members shall be legally guaranteed and protected to enable the members to act with a clear conscience without fear or favour. Their salaries etc. shall be via the parliament Consolidated Fund. They shall not hold any public office for at least two years after completion of their tenure. Retired Public Servants of repute and dignity, SLAS officers who had served with dignity, experts who are professionally acknowledged and such others have to be recruited.
How to do?
The details of each of these have to be delved into with earnestness. Different teams of professionals and sector experts for each area have to be mobilised by the Commission. This has to be absolutely apolitical. Therefore, no politicians should be involved in this exercise directly or indirectly. Interference with the affairs of the Commission, the Commissioners and its staff shall be considered a punishable offence. Upon successful completion of the task of the Commissioners, the Commission may be dissolved by the Parliament. The Commission shall be subjected to the Right to Information Act. The final outcome will constitute the tools that will assist to usher in an era of national development and socio-economic stability. They will also serve in the future as constitutionally entrenched guidelines for any future governments too if incorporated suitably into the constitution.
Changes/Amendments To The Laws
This initially would require some drastic changes to the laws. A caretaker or national unity government is expected to have a 2/3rds majority. Not by virtue of the victory of a single party but through consensus of the coalition of parties represented in the parliament. The availability of 2/3rds majority will easily facilitate the amendments to the laws and the passage of new laws in keeping with the strategic vision. This will include legislation amending the 20th amendment aimed at reducing Executive powers and ensuring independence of the Commissions. Those with vested interests will back off when the changes to the laws are brought before parliament if their interests take precedence over that of the country. It is at this point that the people will be able to sift the chaff from the grain. The power of the people should be brought to bear on such dissenters for reform. There cannot be any room for horse trading, underhand dealing etc.
Timeline and Transparency
A clear time line has to be mandated for the completion of the entrusted tasks. One timeline for all aspects is not practical. Some are complex while others are simple and straightforward. A dedicated team for communication has to be established to keep the general public informed of the progress each day via the media. This will form the mandatory first news of the day. It will form part of the daily progress report, in all three languages for the information of the citizens.
Dissolution of Parliament
Upon the completion of the task of the Commissioners, the recommendations shall be implemented immediately or as fast as practically feasible. Steps should be mandatorily taken to ensure that all the necessary institutional arrangements are in place, areas with shortcomings rectified, adequate checks and balances assured, necessary amendments to the laws are passed and a system which will be able to function on its own is developed.
The next step would be to dissolve Parliament and call for fresh elections. By that time the required strategies would have been implemented. In this election which will be held under the amended laws and other institutional remedial measures taken against systemic pitfalls, we will not see the corrupt but, people who are able, being elected as representatives. This will bring an era of prosperity for this country.
In this strategic exercise, special mention must be made of certain ‘types’. The reason for this is, to put in aviation terms, they would act as the ‘reverse thrust’ decelerating onward movement. Ultimately, paralysing, weakening, slowing down or even influence to deviate from the vision.
First, ‘National Security’: This is the hitherto bandied and misused phrase. The entire country had been taken for a ride with these two words creating an artificial sense of fear, apprehension and doubt in the minds of the people. While distracting the people with this exaggerated fear, the actual and true aspect of national security had been made pawned making our country vulnerable to current geopolitical manipulations.
Internal national security will automatically be addressed when stability and the Rule of Law is achieved. What the country has to focus is on averting threats to national security from external forces.
Second, ‘Undesirables’: It is expected that with amendments to the Election laws, most of the undesirables who have thus far ruined the country serving as people’s representatives will be automatically thrown out. These are the ones who will oppose the passage of amendments or new laws in parliament. People will then come to know of such so called representatives.
Third, the ‘Monks’: They should not have any role to play in politics. No representation should be given to monks in the parliament. Positions in Governmental institutions for qualified monks will be subjected to a strict process of transparent whetting through the proposed checks and balance mechanisms for good governance. The use or involvement of monks in politics by all political parties will have to be made unlawful via amendment to the Election laws. The damage they have wreaked upon this tiny nation is enough. There is no need to list out their mischiefs as they are well known. Venerable monks who have earned the respect of the people and live a dignified dhamma life, as a true disciple of Buddha, may always be approached for their guidance and advise only.
Fourth, ‘Racism’: The evil of racism has to be stemmed out completely. If the more than seven decades old apartheid in South Africa could be wiped out, why cannot we do the same here in Sri Lanka with racism. It is possible. With the implementation of some of the strategic components listed above, racism can be eliminated and a nation of ‘Sri Lankans’ can emerge. A nation which can be proud of its multiple religious, ethnic and racial diversity. Sinhalese, Tamils, Muslims and all others living together as one Sri Lankan nation.
Fifth, ‘Majoritarianism’: The idea of majoritarianism is an indoctrination. This very thought creates the opposite camp of minorities. This misguided thinking has brought only destruction to this nation. History bears witness to this, with tears continuously flowing from the eyes of Mother Lanka. This backward notion has to be discouraged and necessary legal measures taken to address such issues.
Benefits Of The Strategies
A clear strategy of this nature will have several benefits. Some of which are that the global community will begin to respect Sri Lanka and Sri Lankans. Reforms to the systemic evils will be commended by the world at large not to mention the funding donors and other global financial institutions. A reformed foreign policy will receive international recognition. The country ratings will go up as a result of these steps towards reforms. It will serve as an incentive for Foreign Direct Investments into the country as investors will be encouraged by the element of security of their investments. Employment will increase, export production will be enhanced bringing in the much-required dollars, local producers will be encouraged to produce, our migrant workers will be encouraged to remit valuable foreign exchange and the economy will thereby be oiled for a smooth transition towards stability.
I have not forgotten the need to overcome the current woes faced by the people. These have to be given priority. Any negotiations with the International Monetary Fund to alleviate the ongoing crisis will get positive feedback if the above strategic reforms are undertaken.
It is only if the above methodology is undertaken, there can be a gradual transition towards a stable government in the future. If not, the caretaker or national unity government will not succeed so long as the systemic evils are not addressed and rectified especially, the powers of the President. The efforts of all of us, as citizens of this country, at this time of crisis will be in utter vain. We just cannot afford to allow this opportunity to pass by without proper and meaningful intervention which will transform and reform not only our political culture but also the socio-economic stability of the country.
With the successful implementation of this strategy, we will be able to leave behind a nation where our progeny can live happily free of corruption, nepotism, racism but filled with the feeling of one nation and one citizenry – THIS IS OUR MOTHER LANKA! WE ALL ARE SRI LANKANS!
*The writer is an Attorney at Law and can be reached via email: firstname.lastname@example.org