30 September, 2020

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Compromises To Stabilise Good Governance 

By Jehan Perera

Jehan Perera

Jehan Perera

Following the initial relief amongst those who wanted to see the change of government that took place in January sustained, the aftermath of last month’s general election is not generating the euphoria that accompanied that of the presidential election earlier in the year. The presidential election saw an immediate change of government, in terms of both personalities and policies. President Mahinda Rajapaksa who had undermined systems of government to impose his will on the polity was removed from power. There was a palpable lifting of the sense of threat from an oppressive government which was getting increasingly lawless and acting with impunity. The new government team began to swiftly implement the 100 Day Action Plan that they had promised during the presidential election campaign.

However, three weeks after the general election the new government has still to be finalized with nearly half of the ministerial slots still remaining to be filled. Almost all of the cabinet positions were filled last week, but all of the other ministerial positions remain undisclosed and unfilled. In the background of the delay in the appointment of ministers is the decision of President Maithripala Sirisena and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe to form a national government through an alliance of the two largest political parties in Parliament. The slim majority that Prime Minister Wickremesinghe’s alliance obtained made it politically pragmatic for the two main parties to work together in Parliament rather than separately.

MaithripalaIf the UNP and SLFP had not agreed to enter into an agreement to work together in a national government there would have been a danger of political instability due to the prospect of cross overs from one side of parliament to the other. This danger was magnified due to the proven ability of former president Mahinda Rajapaksa to engineer defections in the past. He first showed this ability after becoming president in 2005. At the previous parliamentary election held in2004, the UPFA alliance won only 105 of the 225 seats, allowing it to form a minority government. Upon winning the presidential election in 2005, President Rajapaksa engineered defections from the opposition and increased the number of government MPs to 129, almost all of whom were rewarded with ministerial posts.

Bad Governance 

The sharing out the ministerial positions to ensure that the government is stabilized is proving to be difficult. This has also accounted for the swelling of the number of government ministries. The large size of the cabinet and the number of other ministers who total over 90 in a parliament of 225 is being subjected to popular criticism. The practice of swollen ministries began three decades ago, and is a means used by governments to attract opposition members to their own side and to prevent defections. This practice is extremely unpopular with the general public who see the wastage of resources in the upkeep of so many ministers. Both President Sirisena and Prime Minister Wickremesinghe campaigned on a platform of good governance, which included reducing the wastage of resources. The 19th Amendment to the Constitution that they gave leadership to specifies that the cabinet of ministers should be less than 30.

However, the 19th Amendment itself provides for a larger number of ministries in the event of the formation of a national government if this larger number is ratified by Parliament. This procedure was followed by the new government, which obtained the sanction of Parliament for increasing the number of ministries to 48 with 45 deputy ministers. It can be argued that the large size of the cabinet and the total number of ministers is part of the transitional process from bad governance to good governance. It is born out of the political necessity to keep former president Rajapaksa and his allies from returning to power by employing the same means of providing their own set of incentives to parliamentarians to join them in forming a government. A return of the former president and his ways of misgoverning the country would have been extremely injurious to the country.

Although defeated in both the presidential election and at the general election where he led the opposition UPFA alliance in the election campaign, the former president cannot be ruled out of staging a comeback in his quest for power. At the general election, he demonstrated his ability to stage a comeback by overcoming the opposition to his candidature from the chairman of the UPFA, President Sirisena himself, to take on the leadership of the UPFA campaign. Even thought his ambition to capture power by winning the general elections was thwarted, there is no ruling out other attempts if the opportunity presents itself. The former president continues to exert a powerful influence over the majority of UPFA parliamentarians to this date who thrived in an environment where checks and balances and the rule of law were in abeyance.

Preventing Comeback 

The selection of the Leader of the Opposition in Parliament gave an indication of the challenge that President Sirisena faces within the UPFA. Over a half of the UPFA parliamentarians proposed that Kumara Welgama, a staunch supporter of the former president, should be appointed as the Opposition Leader. However, this request was disregarded by the leadership of the UPFA, whose chairman is President Sirisena. The UPFA’s official position is that it is a part of the national government and hence cannot be simultaneously a part of the opposition. But a sizeable number of the UPFA parliamentary group is not in favour of the formation of the national government and prefer to try and topple the UNP-led government and get back to power as soon as possible. Most of them defied the party whip and abstained from the parliamentary vote that saw the elevation of TNA leader R Sampanthan to the post of Leader of the Opposition.

The appointment of candidates of the UPFA who were defeated at the general elections as national list MPs by President Sirisena has also come in for strong criticism. The national list enabled political parties in parliament to nominate those of professional and moral standing in society to parliament in proportion to the number of votes won by each party. The practice of appointing defeated candidates back to parliament on the national list is a vitiation of good governance. But it is a practice by all parties, which have nominated one of more defeated candidates back to parliament. In the case of the UPFA list, they are all loyalists of President Sirisena. This was a bid to increase the strength of the president within the UPFA in the face of the continuing challenge posed to his leadership by the former president.

Politics is said to be the art of the possible. At the present time political compromises and accommodations are taking place with the intention of stabilizing the government which has pledged to engage in national reform, rebuild the faith that the people have in their government and to put in place structures of good governance. One of the positive signs is the election of TNA leader R Sampanthan as the Leader of the Opposition and the JVP leader Anura Kumara Dissanayake as the Chief Opposition Whip. Both of them represent political parties that have remained outside of the national government, yet they have been provided an important and independent role in governance to be a check and balance on the government. The setting up of a new ministry for National Dialogue under Minister Mano Ganesan who himself has led a civic human rights organization is an opportunity for the government to take peace building and problem solving messages through civil society organisations to the general population. The plural, multi-ethnic and multi-religious nature of the new government increases the prospect of a significant move forward in the direction of post-war national

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Latest comments

  • 1
    2

    What can a Ministry of National Dialogue do?
    What did the Ministry of National Reconciliation do in the previous regime?

    Sand in the eyes of the international community!

    • 0
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      Great pity to see the Minister for Reconciliation almost begging the army of occupation to respect President Sirisena’s token return of some land in Jffna HSZ: Ttmilnet.com , 2 July 2015

    • 0
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      I cannot agree more. Bensen

  • 6
    2

    The reality is that Mahinda Rajapakse is not prepared to accept the defeat or the choice of people. In simple terms, he is an underground Terrorist plaaning to capture Srilanka through illegal and violent way. If they don’t agree with the President & Government elected by the people they should have formed a new political party or contested under existing party. They should have contested under BBS party. Still they can leave SLFP and join BBS.Then they will have a reasonable number of people to become opposition. Why they are not doing this? They knew if they leave SLFP, that is an end to their future.

    • 2
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      The minister of Justice Wijeyadasa Rajapakshe assumed duties as the new minister of Buddhasasana.

      What is the point in having a Buddhasasana ministry if it is only a silent observer to all the anti-Buddhist acts committed by the Buddhist clergy? The new Buddhasasana minister under President Maithree should think of forming a Buddhist Disciplinary Commission/Committee under the Ministry of Buddhasasana to maintain the Buddhist Vinaya (disciplinary code) among the Buddhist clergy. Respected Buddhist monks like Ven. Maduluwawe Sobitha Thero can chair such a committee. All the rouge Monks (hora ganayas or cheevaradharis) who are hijacking the Buddhist religion with their anti-Buddhist activities and disrupting the peace in the country should be subjected to disciplinary action and should be disrobed. Buddhist disciplinary laws should be enacted specially for the Buddhist clergy who violate the Buddhist values and principles. This has become an urgent need in Sri Lanka if Yahapalanaya is to succeed.

      Let us hope that the newly appointed Buddhasana Minister Wijeyadasa Rajapakshe who is also the minister of justice will bring in new laws to overcome the above issue.

  • 0
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    What can a Ministry of National Dialogue do?
    What did the Ministry of National Reconciliation do in the previous regime?

    Sand in the eyes of the international community!

    UNP waas in wilderness for a long time and it needed help – SLFP’s help means no corruption of the previous regime will be exposed. UNP is happy because it can go back to Sinhala votebank next time saying we ”protected” our Sinhala brothers to get re-elected.

    Watching Ranil closely tells me his ideas of Constitutional change of power to districts(sustainable development becomes more difficult and unsustainable development becomes more inevitable – esp in war-ravaged NP with high militarisation) is to weaken Tamils and to evaporate TNA.

    Tamils, take note.

  • 2
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    “There was a palpable lifting of the sense of threat from an oppressive government which was getting increasingly lawless and acting with impunity. “

    That was for 6 million voters, the rest, the 5.8 million, would have felt a palpable sense of defeat.

    There is really no point voting if the losing side is going to be marginalized, opressed and vilified. There is no point in deepening the divisions already in place, and upsetting as many people with jumbo cabinets, national lists and bad governance.

  • 2
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    Politics is said to be the art of the possible—–lies ad cruelties

  • 2
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    After the election they will say need time to do things. halfway through they will say they can, do anything against sin people’s wish because the election is coming. Sampanthan, sam and tmil are illavu katha Kili. wait and see. Mara influence prevents forming of the reasonable cabinet. crooks are infiltrating. Fair governance and Tamils aspirations vaporize, goes as mirage.

  • 1
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    After the election they will say need time to do things. halfway through they will say they can’t do anything against sin people’s wish because the election is coming. Sampanthan, sam and tmil are illavu katha Kili. wait and see. Mara influence prevents forming of the reasonable cabinet. crooks are infiltrating. Fair governance and Tamils aspirations vaporize, goes as mirage.

  • 0
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    TO:PACS
    I agree with your elavu-katha-kili comment.but right at the moment what is the alternative available to the tamil community.following are more ealvu -katha-kilis

    Banda-selava pact-sjv-selvanayagam
    Dudley-selva pact-m.thiruchelvam
    District councils-a.amithalinkam
    North-east provincial council-varatharaja perumal
    MAN IN WAITING-northern provincial council-justice vickneswarn

    now last man SAMPANTHAN is trying his luck as he has nothing loose personally as he is in late evening of his life and politically he has to find a man a leader to hand over what he get or loose.that may be sumanthran.

    one more elavu katha kili in awaiting to DAMAGE THE PROCESS IF ANY THIGNG TO GOING TO HAPPEN IN NONE OTHER THAN SURESH PREMACHANDRAN.

  • 1
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    Jehan Perera

    Despite the full page of pontification, you have not considered it worthwhile to mention WHY “At the present time political compromises and accommodations are taking place”. Are you afraid to say it out loud?

    So let me spell it out for you. Next please write it – in your journalese.

    Now that MPs have been bribed by the President and Prime Minister, including Minister posts awarded, at least temporarily they command the necessary majority to amend the constitution. If these two men are honest let them immediately pass legislation to purge from Parliament any MP who crosses over from his current political party.

    If they do not attend to this right now, there is only one explanation. Both are dishonest, or not sincere in their declarations.

    Sirisena must have employed someone full time, to scour newspapers/websites, and report back to him daily about readers comments. I have called him dishonest. So let this be reported to him. It is up to Sirisena to prove me wrong by getting the legislation passed. Sirisenaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa……(with apologies to Booruwansa)

    Politics is said to be the art of the possible. At the present time political compromises and accommodations are taking place with the intention of stabilizing the government which has pledged to engage in national reform, rebuild the faith that the people have in their government and to put in place structures of good governance.

  • 0
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    “Politics is said to be the art of the possible.”

    [Edited out] If Dr.Jehan, who show him as good media practitioner do this Kind of Sinhala Intellectualism, what can you expect from the average Sinhala Buddhist MPs, out of it a 55% uneducated?

    “Politics and Jehan Media practice are about possibilities.” That may be right. But his mix up and confuse the “Good Governance” with the possibility politics is showing what is he holding his PhD in.

    How the Sinhala Buddhist MPs who are not ready to support a national government to a good governance without wasteful minister post going to give up the support for 40% commission contracts? For the shake of the Goodness will Jehan read “Maithri’s Daughter Chathu Kicks “Own-Goal” With Daddy’s Powers” and write a comment underneath it? How is this behavior of the Royal Families are connected with giving minister post to form a national government?

    He trying to hit JVP on the stomach. He is saying giving a national MP for a defeated one is vitiation of good governance. But he is arguing giving a minister post for the past criminal and allowing him/her in cabinet is conducive for good governance. Even the Sinhala Buddhist Mps, the 55% of the non O/L completed who are fighting for Ministerial posts are going to read Jehan’s opportunistic politics and laugh at him.

    Isn’t this is showing his poor understanding of the Lankave’s election system? How is if one in Lankave’s election lost MPs post, he could be treated as a lost candidate? Lankave’s election system is knocking down a candidate with higher preference from one party and giving that MP post for a lower preferential candidate from another party! This is the trick UNP and SLFP brought to steal the Tamils MPs posts for them. Let the candidates be like human being to compete one on one. That is the way westminster parliamentary system formulated. Then what kind of moral Jehan to call someone as a defeated candidate?

  • 1
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    Jehan Perera
    Despite the full page of pontification, you have not considered it worthwhile to mention WHY “At the present time political compromises and accommodations are taking place”. Are you afraid to say it out loud?” – NAVIN……………
    NAVIN – did U not know Jehan [Edited out]

    BIGGEST LOOSERS ARE WE THE VOTER WHO KICKED OUT CORRUPT CANDIDATES AT THE ELECTIONS.
    NEVERTHELESS, REMOTE CONTROLLED SIRA (MY3) BRING THE LOOSERS THROUGH THE BACK DOOR FROM THE NATIONAL LIST INTO THE PARLIAMENT AND DO NOT STOP AT THAT ADD INSULT TO INJURY CUSHION THEM WITH MINISTERIAL POSTS AND OTHER PERKS.
    SIRA’S(MY3) REMOTE CONTROLLER WHO HAD UNDERTAKEN AN OUTSOURCED JOB AND RETURN TO SRI LANKA IS A ‘CURSE’ TO THE WELL BEING OF THE COUNTRY.

    We must not under estimate that 4.7m votes whether good or bad were purely a vote for the so called and labelled VILLAIN. Those who rode on him got voted in.

  • 1
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    This time betrayal of Tamils not only by Singhalese but also by the universal community.

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