By Rusiripala Tennakoon –
We are in a situation where we do not know what will happen here or elsewhere in the world tomorrow and in the near future due to the highly sensitive issue of the Corona virus pandemic affecting the earth. Governments will be sacrificing their future if they do not consistently adhere to dedicated action programs to eradicate this menace. In this dark hour of human history people as well as governments will have to tow alike in one direction with absolute understanding and commitment.
In this country we are now passing through an extraordinary perplexed state in the administration of the affairs of the nation. Parliament has been dissolved, nominations for elections have been sealed while the date for the new parliament remains fixed, the developing situation keep pushing the date of election further away. Constitution has laid down the date for elections as not later than three months after the date of proclamation of the dissolution of the parliament. In the context we hear different view- points expressed by many.
Large numbers are suffering from hunger and shortages of basics while few others are starving with ambitions. While it is necessary to pay heed to all sentiments expressed each need to be evaluated in the percept such deserve.
This is not a time for humor. Unfortunately, we come across many hilarious episodes in relation to the present crisis. Therefore, hesitantly though, some reference has to be made to certain public expressions of many sorts, press interviews, statements, and social media exposures etc. which deserve clarifications.
More than the humor what is irrelevant is the wrong mind set imparted by those. Presuming that the target audiences would understand the truth that ‘every thesis has an anti- thesis’, will proceed to deal with some.
“Dialectic is the handmaiden of virtue; and all clarification is morality”.
Demand to convene parliament
The dissolution of the Parliament has taken place according to the constitutional provisions. The system of governance in Sri Lanka depends to a large extent in the co-operation between the President and the legislature. After the series of amendments our constitution has gone through so far, the earlier requirement for both President as well as the Cabinet to be responsible to the Parliament separately, has been amended now for the cabinet of ministers only to be collectively responsible and answerable to parliament. However President is a member and the Head of the Cabinet . Constitution has not envisaged the possibility of situations in which the President and the majority in the parliament belong to opposing political camps.
After the Presidential election, a President has been returned with an overwhelming majority, while the parliament comprised of a majority from the party opposed to the President. Under these circumstances the only sensible and practical step was to appoint a cabinet of choice by the new President and dissolve the parliament providing for a general election. This is not a new thing. We have a precedent created in 2015, where a government was formed and a new cabinet appointed while the parliament majority was held by a different party. The dates for election of new MPs and summoning of the new parliament was duly announced in the Proclamation by the President. The Election Commission accordingly fixed the time table for the nominations and elections.
However due to unforeseeable circumstances the contemplated action plan, understandably has gone haywire. The current epidemic situation will have to be dealt with under the rules regulating the system of government. There has to be common-sense considerations of practical convenience in handling such situations. The Cabinet of ministers functioning immediately prior to the dissolution has to continue to function under the political authority and power conferred under the constitution to be exercised among the organs of the State. The decision making powers in Public Administration is vested in the Executive, Cabinet, Govt. Departments, Public corporations, local authorities, Local govt. officials, tribunals and courts. Hence the claim of convening the Parliament for dealing with the current situation appears to be redundant. In the amended constitution, Chapter VII The Executive- dealing with the President of the Republic; article 33 on the Powers and Functions of the President it is stated as follows;
In addition to the powers and functions expressly conferred on or assigned to him by the constitution or by any written law whether enacted before or after the commencement of the constitution, the President shall have the power- inter-alia,
(f) to do all such acts and things, not being inconsistent with the provisions of the Constitution or written law, as by international law, custom or usage he is required or authorized to do.
The experience of the public about the role of the parliament in several important instances in the recent past is most abhorrent and filled with contemptible cynicism. We saw how the ex-parliamentarian Sumanthiram, just with one simple move, prevented the much awaited tabling and debating of the Central Bank Bond Commission report in the Parliament, under a democratic objection demanding a Tamil translation rationalizing his stand.
World has witnessed the prostitution of Democracy, ostensibly under equal rights, good governance and such in many instances. Focus of the society on big ethical and moral issues have often been bartered under illusory justifications. Surely any party or an individual Ex-MP could submit any proposal or view to the President or the Cabinet on any issue they consider important.
While stressing the need to summon the Parliament, Sumanthiram has stated that in the present context, all MPs need not attend Or they can even follow the Maldives example to have phone conferences in favor of his claim. The degree to which Mr. Sumanthiram and the driving forces behind him have abdicated their earlier rigidity to find alternatives beyond the accepted norms looks a little strange. It appears that there is a surreptitious intention to kill another bird with the same stone.
We have seen many a time how the parliamentary privileges have been used by some MPs to let loose things which they do not dare to state in public outside. Anyone interested in proposing anything in the National interest can do so through several avenues already made available by the government. After all, debates can do very little or nothing, in addressing calamities of this magnitude. Greatness is to rise to the occasion in perfect harmony when faced with a grave challenge. We have to work as one and become the masters of the problem to defeat it. The President may by proclamation summon the dissolved Parliament if he is satisfied that an emergency situation has arisen which warrants an earlier meeting of the Parliament giving not less than 3 days’ notice if necessary.
Vociferous Pronouncements and Media Shows
We are also witnessing a fast growing trend where Organized bodies and Trade Unions representing some extremely important and vulnerable sectors of the country almost on a daily basis expressing comments, criticisms and making terrifying inferences about the Covid- 19 situation. Strangely some officials of these organizations are also seen participating in direct discussions with the President and other authorities at high level conferences on the same subject. We fail to understand what these actors are trying to achieve through media shows at a disastrous situation like this. Some of them are in employment and have enough avenues to meet the authorities concerned to either advise or enlighten them with their professional overtures instead of making public complaints. Unless it is due to some grudges they wish to settle or use this opportunity to show off, the type of exposures they are making through the media shows are of absolutely no use to the Public. In fact, such things go against the spirit of unity and understanding that we should cultivate at a difficult time like this. Such nonsensical acts and absurd media performances in effect dishearten those who are involved in the relevant activities at great personal risks.
The Government as it appears provide sufficient information and guidance through responsible experts in the field who are really engaged in the tasks. As members of the Public we whole heartedly endorse and appreciate the hard work done by those engaged in the tasks now. We appeal to those who stand committed and involved to the hilt not to get hurt by such despicable idiosyncrasies.
Prophetic policy announcements & Ice breakers
We are also seeing many pronouncements some highly prophetic and others irrelevant in the current context. This happens due to the desire of players to be present in the arena in an also ran basis throwing even dud bombshells. As in Hamlet, “there is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so” !
Former President, beloved Chandrika Kumaranatunga appeared recently in a guest column and suggested the following nostrum for the fast spreading Corona Virus Syndrome.
“To achieve this, it is proposed that an international meeting of a selected number of former and present leaders of government, together with experts, be summoned without delay, with the objective of formulating policies and a program of action. This process could be coordinated and/or led by the UNO.”
What a great idea! It appears that in her internationalized mindset slightly tilted towards neo-liberal development strategies influenced by her new associations with RW, she has announced this relief. Although the effectuality is slightly far-fetched it may have relieved her of her vicarious obligation to the nation in this hour of disaster! Her reference to the former leaders is important because they will be able to guide the present!!!
A few days back we saw the former Governor of the CBSL proposing to release Rs 500 Billion from the EPF to the stake holder members to boost the ailing economy. Not a bad idea. We need fire extinguishers and fire engines for effective fire- fighting. So what is the harm in opening an LC to import those, taking cognizance of the towering inferno?
We cannot ignore the contribution by our Ex-PM RW who came forward to advise the Monetary Board of the CBSL in how to prevent the pending ‘economic corona’. His advice to the CBSL and its former Governor, now turned fugitive, is very much fresh in our minds, and we can deal with his advice accordingly with no qualms about it.
In the play on stage today we need serious actors and not too many jesters.
People would like the play to be a happy ending instead of a tragedy or comedy.
Let sanity prevail in this perilous moment.