“This country, with its institutions, belongs to the people who inhabit it. Whenever they shall grow weary of the existing government, they can exercise their constitutional right of amending it, or exercise their revolutionary right to overthrow it.” Abraham Lincoln
As the earthquake in Nepal killed more than 7000 people, this natural disaster has taken more lives than the Insurgency the nation was fighting for over the last decade. Bearing in mind the immense suffering borne by victims and their families a cue must be taken by disaster management institutes such as SAARC meteorological department which have made limited contributions to regional calamities. A natural disaster of the magnitude such as of Nepal magnitude may repeat. Preemptive measures are crucial to curtail the limitless catastrophe such disasters may cause.
Depending of the point in time in the arc of history where we live we revisit some of the iconic moments of the past. Through the historical narrative and experiences of people mankind witnesses numerous to curtail power of one individual and restore to a wider representational body. As the colonial empire imposed draconian rule it became impossible to govern the natives as the public believed in strengthening the representative system for their economic freedom and further political rights. The United States in 1619 introduced a general assembly that gave all adult men a say in the laws and institutions governing the colony. It was the start of a democracy in a step to move away from the British Empire which evolved to the constitution in Philadelphia in May 1787.
Sri Lanka experienced historical political achievement with the passing of the 19th Amendment with a Parliamentary majoiry. Such political progress will cut down the centralised power of the executive and moved towards the Prime minister and Parliament. At the memorial oration at the four time Prime Minister Dudley Senanayake, Karunasena Kodithuwakku noted that Prime Minister Dudley Senanayake seeing it as early as 1972, was knowing of the consequences of transferring a significant power to one person thus objecting to the executive presidency.
Former Presidents promised but failed to deliver. President Maithripala Sirisena factors in SriLankan political history as a leader who strengthened local democratic institutions at the expense of his own power, a first in post independence Sri Lankan politics. It is our opportunity to strengthen independent institutions and depoliticize them. Bribery Commission a place which should be equal to all citizens without political interference will have a massive local and global impact on our nation to improve on Corruption Perception Index. Tackling political corruption of all politicians should be done without any interference as the urban councilors, provincial councilors or member of parliament or former Heads of State are all representatives which represent us their shouldn’t be a difference in the process. Equality, as a clause engraved in our constitution leaves the author questioning as to why the commissioner was summoned by Speaker. We should ask what if the speaker has an allegation who should summon in such situation.
For the 19th amendment to function smoothly and Sri Lanka requires representatives with the highest standards within a functional meritocracy in the State system. As majority of members elected lack basic education a criteria that has to be looked at in the modern day world unlike the past. The next parliament elections should bring in more statesman people who could contribute for the economic prosperity and to create decent political culture. This could be done by the powerful ballot only and if this change is done we are looking at a brighter Sri Lanka or else it will be a repeat of what we had in the past.
A significant strength of our nation was taken away by the three decade war. Over a session last week at the Harvard Kennedy School the author emphasized the grievous political loss to the country in the assassination of Dr. Neelan Tiruchelvam, Lalith Athulathmudali, Lakshman Kadirgamar, President R. Premadasa and many other leaders. These carefully planned assassinations weakened our State. It’s time we strengthen back our governance structure by bringing the right people for the top jobs.
We will face many more challenges in the coming months and years specially after ending insurgency and terrorism specially to deal with the many clusters of the core LTTE group operating from west. To bring them to the reconciliation process to give up their idea on Tamil Eelam will be challenging. TNA should support the reconciliation process of the government and ensure the other groups could engage with us.
A fault in local decision making at policy level is its lack of consideration of research input from think tanks and research material leading ad hoc decisions. Research input should be a priority and we should develop our research capability as a nation. National think tanks and others should welcome public opinion and ideas before policy decisions are implemented in Parliament.
It is important to consider the foreign migration of our talented youth to Australia, US and many developed nations. A talented youth force is a necessity for nation building. They need to be engaged in this important moment of time. It is important to look at mechanisms to attract the expat Sri Lankan professionals back to our country reverse brain drain scheme like in India.
The 150th death anniversary of one of the greatest leaders through time, President Lincoln, was commemorated over the last month. President Lincoln ended a bloody civil war that took more than 600,000 lives and ending slavery while uniting a nation to ensure the freedom for all. Resultantly, a greater nation emerged. Lincoln with his constitutional reform, the 13th amendment build the nation creating equality and opportunity to all. We could draw a lesson from the political will of Lincoln to our present day constitutional reform, the much needed reconciliation process to build our nation as John Kerry said in his brilliant remarks “…what my country discovered to our own anguish during our civil war there were no true victors only victims. You saw, I trust, that it is obvious the value of ending wars in a way that builds foundation for the peace to follow.”