Colombo Telegraph

Is Regime-Change Alone The Answer?

By Chrishmal Warnasuriya

Chrishmal Warnasuriya

Two Years On Since Our ‘Silent Revolution’

Soon we will celebrate the 2nd anniversary of our Peoples Revolution of 8th January 2015, one which this writer himself described as “our third independence” in its immediate aftermath; having played at least some minor role in overthrowing a manifestly despotic, fearfully oppressive and overtly nepotistic regime that was said to be insuperable at the time. Therefore it is prudent and our duty to look-back and critically evaluate what we have (or have not) secured with that change; as that common saying goes these days – sathutui da den (are you happy now)?

A resounding “YES” is the answer for the basic freedoms we have managed to secure, which is evident in the thousands of voices springing up daily, both as collectives or individuals under the common theme of “civil society”; many who were too fearful to speak-up during that period of “white vans” but who have now found a democratic way of expression. However is that freedom of speech and expression alone sufficient? Do we allow several political cronies who were carried to office on the shoulders of the common man to now shirk their responsibilities by simply showing us that “freedom-candy” and continue in the same corrupt bandwagon of merry-men; with absolutely no difference in the management (or mismanagement) of the State and its resources to that of the previous lot? This is a question that we must collectively answer!

I, Myself & Me – Personality Variables Superseding Public Need

In the scientific study of foreign policy and global politics, we are confronted with a theory by James Rosenau that role variables of leaders in smaller or developing countries play a significant part in the behaviour of nation-states. This can be seen in our comparative political history too, as for instance between the statesmen in premier SWRD or President JRJ who opted for less “limelight” in their affairs to the more PR oriented tenures of Presidents Premadasa or Rajapakse; the latter pair predominantly playing to the “populace gallery” in managing the State where they were much loved by the masses.

These personal yearnings of leaders for attention, to garner credit for themselves for duties owed by the Institution are not only common to politics but unfortunately, filters down to the very root of most of our civil interactions. At the village level, in a temple or church (I’m more comfortable discussing the latter) even men of the cloak, from junior priests to Bishops would much rather be surrounded by sycophantic “yes-men” who will never dispute anything and thereby miserably fail to manage the Institution, where they could have delivered much better results had they worked with constructive critics with knowledge and erudition. The same is true for schools, principals or headmasters or any other such Institution; these same ego-centric desires have reached up to national level politics.

In such a backdrop, we need to question whether changing a regime alone without addressing these fundamental questions, by simply changing faces within the same old cancerous system without a conscious effort to cut-out that self-centredness of those assuming public office; will deliver to us the service standards commonly accepted as a benchmark by tax payers in any developed nation.

Article 4(a) The Peoples “Legislative Institution” – Parliament

In August 2015 riding the crest of the January 8th wave, we the People, by exercising our sovereign franchise vested in 225 Members of Parliament, in Public Trust, our inalienable sovereign power to make laws to govern ourselves. This evening on news even the Most. Ven. Maha Sangha were heard to be questioning their qualifications to hold such office! Therefore we must now critically evaluate whether that Institution has delivered the desired results over this period. (Due to printing constraints and as I’ve discussed this over the electronic media available on You Tube only a few instances are critiqued):

Enacting Laws For Us or Enriching Themselves

  • The most recent “Development (Special Provisions) Bill” has been defeated by all Provincial Councils (for attempts to usurp their powers) and attempts to create a monstrosity of a provision giving “super powers” to 02 only members of the 225 over and above the others, for a limited period of 3 years (perhaps a premonition of the tenure of office);
  • The attempt to bribe some 50-odd members with special allowances and vehicles reaching in total to around half-a-million rupees per person monthly, apparently to serve us better;
  • We had the Appropriation Bill with the now customary joke of having so many amendments after presentation it is questionable whether there was any concept in the first place;

Is this a Westminster Model Parliament

  • For what can only be described now as self-interest, the UNA that marginally won the election and some from the PA who lost (also marginally) have joined in what they call a “Unity Government”, forsaking all assurances given to us of a limited Cabinet etc and are now enjoying the perks of “serving us together”. Around 50 others who (for some reason) did not join the merry bandwagon are heard raising the main voice of Opposition, though they are in fact not so recognized because there is a de jure Opposition in the TNA, though they have less seats in number. In the midst of this my election comrades have also been appeased by allotting the post of Chief Opposition Whip – how all of this sits within a classic Westminster styled Legislature (if at all it can) I will permit the reader to decide.

IF you are equally concerned then we have to pose the serious question, have these personalities become larger than the Institution itself, thus, denying us the service we have entrusted them to do, who derive their livelihood (rather luxuriously these days) on our taxed income?

Article 4(b) The Peoples “Executive Institution” – President (and Cabinet)

On 8th January 2015, we the People, by exercising our sovereign franchise vested in H.E. President Sirisena, in Public Trust, our inalienable sovereign power to execute policy for ourselves, who has thereafter, on the 9th appointed the Hon. Prime Minister following which a Cabinet of Ministers, who collectively share that responsibility by extension of law, read with A 43 of the Constitution. We must therefore now question whether that Institution has served us to our satisfaction over this period.

  •   Divergence of opinion between Green Vs Blue – Lack of Collective Responsibility:Just this evening we saw on the News how several Hon. Ministers of the same Cabinet do not appear to know whether or not the Hambantota deal has been entered! Cracks appear to widen daily in what is expected lawfully to be a “collective Cabinet”, which has now gone to the extent of the Green set telling the Blue set to shut-up or get-out! The question from us the People to the Head of this Cabinet, President Sirisena is – Sir, we vested our sovereign Executive Power on you for a limited time to form a government for our ultimate benefit, instead are you now simply “balancing” shambles of a purported government with the solitary intention of keeping it going for the benefit of yourselves?
  •   Ceiling-less Cabinet where kissing goes by favour:What we were originally assured, of limiting the number to 30-35 and rapid curtailment of exorbitant expenditure and what we have ultimately been asked to settle for, numbers rising higher by the day with more and more appeasements to those who cross-over are a clear breach of our social contract. The argument that they had to be “accommodated” to ensure a 2/3rd majority support in Parliament must be weighed against the relative benefit the People have received from such appeasement; which is zero! In the absence of such justification we can only surmise that the move was aimed at forming a government at any cost, only for its own survival for 6 years with hopes of continuous merry-making and increasing personal benefits.

IF you agree with this analysis then has this Institution not failed in its purpose? Are a handful of its “jet- set members” not acting over and above the Cabinet itself?

Article 4(c) The Peoples “Judicial Institution” – Courts of Law & Tribunals

As the sad news of the passing away of one of our greatest legal luminaries, Sri Lankabhimanya Justice Christopher G. Weeramantry reaches us this evening, even as we look back at the wisdom and integrity of Solomon displayed in that distinguished career, mostly in attempts to make justice more accessible to the common man; it is an opportune moment and a tribute to His Lordship for us, the People to critically evaluate the performance of the Judicial Institution, in which we have, in Public Trust, vested our inalienable sovereign judicial power.

During the period in question, we must compliment the independence aspect of the judiciary has been strengthened. We do not hear of any direct interference with judicial matters at the apex level as before; however this is only one aspect. We cannot be blind to the fast diminishing Peoples’ faith in judicially resolving their issues and attempts to take the law into their own hands; which can only be rectified by questioning ourselves whether the Institution is serving its purpose and what action (if any) this regime has taken during the period in question to address them:

  • Finding an answer to Laws Delays

We are personally aware of the apex courts sitting in the afternoon (at times leading up to evening), directions issued by the Lord Chief Justice for continuous trial dates etc which are steps in the right direction. Perhaps we could also look at scheduling times for hearings, pre-trial case

management tele-conferences, filing skeletal arguments with time limits etc (as successfully done in other jurisdictions) which will immediately arrest unnecessary time-wastage in courts;

  •  Continuous Professional Advancement & Regulations

I am well aware that the “R-word” (Regulation) is not the most popular theme of discussion in any field and can already picture a few raised eyebrows in Hulftsdorp when we meet next week after vacation. However even if not from the more benevolent interests of judicial advancement, if we can at least look at the selfish need to build confidence in our clients so that the profession itself will survive, we must look at some form of self regulation in our fee structures, time management, code of conduct and importantly, to update ourselves with laws developments continuously. If we are to project ourselves before a citizen and proclaim to know the law, it simply cannot be only what we may have learnt 20 years ago in Law School!

IF You Agree With The Above – Will A Regime Change Alone Change Our Fortunes?

IF even after two years since the last regime change of January 2015 which didn’t just happen at the will of some politician (as some appear to think) but was the result of years of relentless agitation by many ordinary citizens, at times under severe threat to life and limb of themselves and their families, we still have not secured what we desired; then, even if we change the regime again WITHOUT ALTERING THE STATUS QUO, will it be any different? IF your answer is “YES” then should we not ask ourselves:

  •   Are we getting the democratic representation we deserve or being simply asked to pick from a list dished out by a party leadership prior to an election – if not WHAT ARE WE DOING ABOUT IT?
  •   Are we organizing ourselves collectively to assert OUR SOVEREIGN RIGHTS or (in typical Sri Lankan fashion) relaxingly watching the News expecting others to fight our battles for us?
  •   Are we making sufficient demands of our respective political parties or movements to have intra- party democracy, so that WE decide who will represent our sovereign power?
  •   Should the 4th pillar of democracy, THE MEDIA not be raising adequate public awareness of these issues, particularly in the native languages that reach the masses, or are they also restricted to their own political agendas or personalities for their own personal gain?

FINALLY do we, as a People need to even raise these questions, after almost 70 years as an independent nation and if we are still searching without an answer, why do we really bother electing successive governments even further and waste our time and energy in the process?

Power to the People! Subha Aluth Avuruddak Weva!

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