30 September, 2022

Blog

Implement President’s Pledges To Revive Economy 

By Jehan Perera

Jehan Perera

The three-wheel taxi driver did not need much encouragement to talk about the hardships in his life, starting with spending two days in the petrol queue to get his quota. He said that he had a practice of giving his three children a small packet of biscuits and a small carton of milk every morning. But now with the cost tripling, he could only buy one packet of biscuits and his three children had to share it. This is because their beloved country is facing one debacle after another for no fault of those kids or the larger nation. The latest is the failure of the government to make headway in accessing either IMF funding or other funding on any significant scale. Several countries have made donations, but these are in the millions whereas Sri Lanka requires billions if it is to come out of its vicious cycle of a dollar shortage.

There was much anticipation that the appointment of Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe would bring in the billions that are desperately needed by the country if it is to obtain the fuel, food and medicines to keep the people healthy and the economy moving. But things have not worked out in this manner. The pickings have been slim and sparse. The IMF has given the reasons after the ten day visit by its staff to Sri Lanka. They have specifically referred to “reducing corruption vulnerabilities” in their concluding statement at the end of their visit. The international community in the form of multilateral donors and Western governments have prioritized political stability and a corruption-free administration prior to providing Sri Lanka with the financial assistance it requires.

The pressing need in the country is for the government to show there is political stability and zero tolerance for corruption in dealing with the prevailing crisis. It is not enough for government leaders to give verbal assurances on these matters. There needs to be concrete arrangements that convince the international community, and the people of Sri Lanka, that the government is committed to this cause. Several foreign governments have said that they will consider larger scale assistance to Sri Lanka, once the IMF agreement is operational. So far the government has not been successful in convincing the international community that its accountability systems are reliable. This is the main reason why the country is only obtaining millions in aid and not billions.

Independent Commissions

The draft 22nd Amendment that is now before the parliament (which will become the 21st Amendment should it be passed) would be a good place for the government to show its commitment. The cabinet has approved the draft which has three main sections, impacting upon the establishment of the constitutional council, the powers of the president and dual citizenship. However, the cabinet-approved draft is a far cry from what is proposed by the opposition political parties and civil society groups. It is watered down to the point of being ineffective. Indeed, it appears to be designed to fail as it is unlikely to gain the support of different political parties and factions within those parties whose support is necessary if the 2/3 majority is to be obtained.

In the first place, the draft constitutional amendment does not reduce the president’s power in any significant manner. The amendment is drafted in a way that the reduction of presidential powers will only occur with the next president. The president now in office, who has publicly admitted failure on his part, continues to be empowered to appoint and sack the prime minister and cabinet ministers at his arbitrary discretion. He is also empowered to appoint and dismiss the secretaries to ministries, who are the highest ranking public service officials. In short, the executive arms of the government are obliged to do the president’s bidding or risk their jobs. This indicates the Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, whose party has only a single seat in parliament, has limited independent strength, but is there at the will and pleasure of the president.

In the second instance, the draft amendment was expected to set up a system of checks and balances for accountability and anti-corruption purposes. The pioneering effort in this regard was the 17th Amendment of 2001 that made provisions for a constitutional council and independent commissions. According to it, the members of all state bodies tasked with accountability and anti-corruption functions, such as the Bribery and Corruption Commission, the Human Rights Commission, the Police Commission, the Public Service Commission and the appointees to the higher judiciary were to be appointed through the constitutional council. The 17th Amendment made provision for seven of the ten members of the constitutional council to be from civil society.

Death Blow

Unfortunately, in a manner designed to deal a death blow to the concept of checks and balances, the draft amendment sets up a constitutional council with the proportions in reverse to that of the 17th Amendment. It reveals a mindset in the political leadership that fears de-politicisation of decision-making. Seven of the ten members will be appointed by the political parties and the president in a way in which the majority of members will be government appointees. Only three will be from civil society. This ensures a majority representation in the Council for government politicians, and the ensures government dominance over the political members. The composition of the constitutional council proposed in the Bill undermines the independence of the institutions to which appointments are made through the Council who will be unable to stem the wildly growing tide of corruption in the country.

It is no wonder that the furious people in the endless queues for petrol and diesel should believe that there is corruption at play in the continuing shortage of basic commodities. The government promised that ships would come in laden with fuel a week ago. Then, inexplicably, the information was disseminated that no ships were on the horizon. In any other country, except in a country like no other, the concerned leaders would have resigned. Due to the lack of fuel, perishable farm produce rots in rural farmhouses and markets in urban centres are empty and prices are rocketing up. In the meantime, the media has exposed rackets where the privileged, politically powerful and super rich, are given special access to fuel. It is patently clear that the government has failed to deliver on the results that were expected. The situation is getting worse in terms of corrupt practices.

To the credit of the Sri Lankan people, they are being patient. The bonds of social solidarity still prevail. Bu the anger at the self-seeking and incompetent political leaders is reaching the boiling point, as it did on May 9. President Gotabaya Rajapaksa pledged to set up an interim government in consultation with party leaders in parliament. However, he did not do so but appointed UNP leader Ranil Wickremesinghe as Prime Minister and thereby ended efforts of other parliamentarians to form a national unity government. The president’s pledge, made in the aftermath of the cataclysmic and unexpected violence that took place that day, was to reduce his presidential powers, transfer those powers to parliament and to appoint an all-party and interim government of no more than 15 ministers. These pledges remain unfulfilled and need to be implemented to be followed by elections as soon as the situation stabilises.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Latest comments

  • 4
    1

    The country is in dire straights. We face a bleak future. This is not the time to criticise the Regime.
    However, I need to point out an indisputable anomaly noticeable between IMF and UN.
    “The international community has prioritized political stability and a corruption-free administration prior to providing Sri Lanka with the financial assistance it requires”.
    The international community is demanding proof, not promise!
    Why then it is different when UN deals with the way our Govt. handles the Tamil issue?

  • 14
    1

    The army officer with boots-on kicking a youth waiting for fuel is another disgraceful video doing the rounds internationally. Now, instead of punishing the lieutenant, even jailing and sacking him, the army says it is holding an inquiry and has decided beforehand that the youth was drunk. This is a matter for human rights groups and BASL. This is what our leaders prescribe. Kick the public into submission.

    • 11
      3

      However was not an issue and was not disgraceful, when they were kicking, killing, torturing and raping Thamizh in the north and east. They were hailed as ” Golden Heroes”. Now the so-called ” Golden Heroes ” are neither heroic nor golden as they have started to kick and assault the very same Chingkallams who praised and worshipped them. Oh, how the mighty fall. May have to kick and assault a few more Thamizh in the north and east to at least attain Rolled Gold status.

      • 5
        3

        PK even now we can see there are two different laws in operation. An army officer assaults a Sinhalese civilian, he is disciplined and employment immediately terminated. However, members of the armed forces can assault, rape, torture, kill, commit war crimes and threaten( like the Brigadier in the UK) Tamil civilians no action is taken. Even if they are sentenced by the court, a presidential pardon is given and in lots of instances rewarded with promotions or plum ambassadorial positions overseas. Aragalaya or whatever they call it or not this will never change. This racism is very well entrenched. I have seen many comments on various forums by many Sinhalese, rightfully condemning the army officer’s assault on this Sinhalese civilian but still supporting the actions of the Sri Lankan state and armed forces and praising them for the action taken against the Tamils, especially in May 2009. Blaming the Tamils and the LTTE only for what happened but never taking responsibility for their racism and the racism and violence of the Sinhalese Sri Lankan state against the Tamils, from the time of so-called independence, that led to this calamity and is still continuing, despite the current hardship.

        • 0
          2

          Siva Sankaran Sharma
          “However, members of the armed forces can assault, rape, torture, kill, commit war crimes and threaten( like the Brigadier in the UK) Tamil civilians no action is taken.”
          —-
          You must be referring to IPKF. It is too bad that they did all these things to Tamils. They were sent to disarm Tamil terrorists, not to do this kind of things.

    • 4
      0

      So belatedly we’re told the high-kicking Army officer has been temporarily relieved of duties. The Army is supposedly holding an inquiry. What need for inquiry? The video is as plain as daylight. This is now a police matter. The youth is kicked in the face by a booted Army man. He should be sacked and serve a jail sentence. He has brutally assulted a member of the public. When last I read about the young victim, he was said to be in police custody. So that’s the way the victimised in this country get treated. You end up in jail. The culprit is cast as the wounded victim who gets the benefit of an inquiry held by his comrades.

  • 2
    0

    Implement President’s Pledges To Revive Economy

    Leadership offers an opportunity to make a difference in someone’s life, no matter what the project. The Project is bankrupt after all having 225 thinkers. When you are in military the military security defense system is needed and running a country food and basic needs security is required Identification of this two is leadership Watchfulness level of situational awareness is low or ignored due personal gain.

    • 3
      0

      RBH59

      “Implement President’s Pledges To Revive Economy”

      What pledges?
      Did he pledge to uphold Sinhala/Buddhism, enforce Sinhala/Buddhism, release all common and war criminals from prison, exonerate accused before the cases are brought to courts, ….. protect all human rights violators, starve the people to death, …….?

      When is it going to be his last hurrah?

  • 9
    1

    “The pressing need in the country is for the government to show there is political stability and zero tolerance for corruption in dealing with the prevailing crisis.”
    The basics of political system of this government is creating political instability and corruption. In other words, the political parties needs racism and religious fundamentalism to get majority votes and allowing corruption by giving freedom to MPs and Ministers to make deals in all development projects and to buy the MPs. So, political stability and zero tolerance to corruption is out of question for this government. At this stage Government’s survival on those MPs.

    • 1
      4

      Ajith,
      “In other words, the political parties needs racism ….to get majority votes…”

      Is that the reason why Tamil politicians use anti-Sinhala racism during election time?
      *****
      “In other words, the political parties needs ….religious fundamentalism to get majority votes “
      —-
      Is that the reason why Muslim politicians use anti-Buddhist religious fundamentalism during election time?

  • 3
    0

    All politicians must be compelled to declare their assets publicly. This is the only way to eradicate corruption. This is required of Tamil Nadu politicians before every election. Those refusing to do so, must be disqualified from contesting all elective offices. All/any assets held overseas must be returned to bank accounts in Sri Lanka.
    Dual citizens must be disqualified from holding any office. This should be part of the constitution.
    The idling army should be ordered to become a “Land Army” to cultivate rice and vegetables under the direction of agriculturists – not generals. This should commence with organic manure – if Bhutan can do it, why cant we?

    • 3
      2

      LOL. There are around 255000 of them in the Tamil north and east, yes they must be made to work as farm hands and agricultural labourers in the Tamil farms and lands, instead of trying to harass the local Tamils, steal their lands under various excuses or help rabid Sinhalese Buddhist monks or extremists to destroy and convert ancient Hindu temples to Buddhist or install Buddha statues everywhere in the north and east. However, I suspect they will now use this as an excuse and steal more lands from the Tamils, on the pretext of being used for food production.

      • 1
        4

        Siva Sankaran Sharma,
        “Sinhalese Buddhist monks or extremists to destroy and convert ancient Hindu temples to Buddhist or install Buddha statues everywhere in the north and east.”
        —-
        Sinhala Buddhist monks or extremists did not destroy Hindu temples to convert them to Buddhist temples. It was Hindu Tamil invaders who destroyed ancient Sinhala Buddhist temples and built Hindu Kovils on top of them. Buddhist monks are trying to reclaim these Sinhala Buddhist heritage sites vandalized by Hindu Tamils to erase thousands of year old Sinhala Buddhist heritage in NE.
        NE is still a part of Sinhale, the Land of Sinhalayo and Vedda Eththo. Indigenous Sinhala Buddhists can build temples or erect Buddha statues in any place in their country. No need to seek permission from people who occupy Sinhala land in NE.

  • 3
    1

    We NEED a parliamentary election now in order to get rid of almost all the current MPs. We should also put forward a new constitution for referendum at the same time.

  • 1
    0

    Dear JP,
    Your last two sentences : “The president’s pledge, made in the aftermath of the cataclysmic and unexpected violence that took place that day, …………… and interim government of no more than 15 ministers. These pledges remain unfulfilled and need to be implemented ………….situation stabilises” should have been addressed to your President, who you still support.
    Waste of time just detailing the happenings in the rest of the article, which everyone knows.

  • 0
    0

    JP
    Talking about POLITICAL STABILITY, we should be make the SL Citizens (especially in the Singhalese MIND/THOUGHT PROCESS ) REALISE that political Stability can NOT be achieved without the rights of the minorities being GUARANTEED with INTERNATIONAL backing.
    Tamils have had enough of the third’ grade treatment over the SEVEN DECADES. In the cursed Isle there will be no peace and prosperity unless the Sinhala Buddhist Supremacist attitude is completely ELIMINATED

Leave A Comment

Comments should not exceed 200 words. Embedding external links and writing in capital letters are discouraged. Commenting is automatically disabled after 5 days and approval may take up to 24 hours. Please read our Comments Policy for further details. Your email address will not be published.