Why I wish for a “change of guard”
Frankly (and in a few words), I am utterly disgusted with what I see! From such a promising future that was so easily within our grasp with the defeat of terror in 2009, we have done everything but capitalize on it; and even at the risk of being tagged a non-patriot, I am not willing to allow a regime to remain simply out of “gratitude”! We will be eternally indebted to H.E. President Rajapaksa (MR) for leading us with unparalleled political defiance during that period, thus paving the way for the ensuing military victory by our valiant forces; unfortunately though, the administration has failed miserably thereafter to manage the country according to democratic norms and standards accepted universally, such as good governance, the rule of law, equal and equitable distribution of economic benefits and this cannot be tolerated any longer by any right-minded citizen.
Denial of our sovereign power to govern ourselves
Although Article 3 of the Constitution proudly proclaims that Sovereignty of this Republic lies in us its PEOPLE and is inalienable, this regime has, by carefully calculated moves shrouded in meticulously stage-managed PR and media exercises, surreptitiously alienated those rights from us, which in my humble opinion, denies them the mandate to administer us any further. I am reminded of the authoritative wording used by the framers of the US Declaration of Independence – (quoting excerpts only)
“ … We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed … with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness… to secure these rights, Governments are instituted … deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed … whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government … organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness… when a long train of abuses and usurpations … evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security…”
Strong words, but a need of the moment nevertheless, indeed, at the time of promulgation it was considered an act of high treason, committed by anti-patriotic traitors; sound familiar? So what then are these “long train of abuses and usurpations” that I complain of, in our present context?
Belittling our sovereign legislative power
Article 4 “separates” sovereign power, reposed absolutely in us “the People”, temporarily vesting them “in Public Trust” in a parliament [A 4(a)] to legislate, an executive president [A 4(b)] to administer and a system of courts [A 4(c)] to ensure governance according to law; all to ultimately attain our best interests as absolute beneficiaries. However this regime has made a mockery out of our legislative process. The cancer set in with the “selling out” of our franchise, when they manufactured a two-thirds majority by securing elected members who had been mandated by the voter to espouse alternative (or opposition) political policy, who ended up “crossing-over” thereafter. I will not engage in the argument of who started it or why, under what inducement or proclaimed “conscience” for such moves, suffice to say that enough is enough; it has fallen from the sublime to the utterly ridiculous with these scores “jumping” from one side to another daily now! We need to immediately arrest this system, cure it and rectify it. “Jumping sides” is not the only area of concern –
- Capacity (or even capability) of elected legislators – how many times have we seen sittings been postponed due to absence of a quorum or lack of decorum
- Electoral Process – high expenditure associated with running for public office in a preferential vote system has dissuaded eminently suited men & women of stature and integrity from entering politics, in fact resulting in the very opposite of having mostly undesirable and corrupt ones entering
- Resulting in lack of legislation – the absence of “People’s benefit” is why world accepted laws like the Medicinal Policy was reported “lost” and the Freedom of Information Bill was stillborn
Having heard the proposals, I am reasonably satisfied that the constitutional amendments suggested by the Sirisena joint opposition (MS camp) will secure more responsible, prudent and respectable men and women to legislate on our behalf, should they be allowed to materialize.
Quietly “elevating” the executive to over-power others:
It is my considered view that over the last period of this administration, there have been carefully concerted moves to reduce the authority and public perception of the other two branches of government (Legislature & Judiciary), whilst centralizing attention on the Executive (not necessarily only the office of President but of executive government by extension); with the perceived benefit that the electorate will depend on the executive as the “all seeing, all giving divinity”, not their elected servant upon whom they have vested certain duties as custodian!
- Massive expenditure with little (if any) parliamentary oversight – the Opposition complains daily of high cost projects granted without tender procedure, however with the unethical securing of 2/3rd majority (see above) all they can do is complain, as the House has lost “the power over the purse”, it is now under the Executive
- Executive overrides bureaucrats / judicial process – several recent examples such as the distribution of arrested gold (said to have been retrieved from the LTTE) where “the will of the Executive” superseded the manner provided by law
- Manifest flouting of election laws – one does not have to look far, at every corner we see what an unequal race is being run by the incumbent, with no clear vision or purpose by either the Police or the Elections Commissioner to arrest it
- “Public” officers have been rendered “government” servants – Executive power used to operate upon devolved ministry portfolios, by public officers for everyday implementation. However incidents such as the shameless attack on Nonis, a diplomat based at one of our ‘A grade’ stations and worse, the cover-up that ensued show us in no uncertain terms the “power” behind the office of executive
The attraction for me in the joint-opposition (MS) camp is that everyone, including the UNP that introduced the EP system have pledged to immediately revoke it, whilst the MR camp that said so even in the Mahinda Chinthana have failed to live up to that assurance.
Creating a loss of confidence in the judicial process
The People’s judicial power exercised through courts & tribunals must gain their confidence, of being governed “according to law”. This unfortunately does not appear to be the case anymore.
- There are constant reports of discrimination, citizens being unequally treated going unpunished even after relevant complaints are lodged
- Where lawyers / litigants are forced into “settling cases” against their wishes under threat of their cases being dismissed or delayed do not display the People’s sovereignty being employed for their ultimate benefit
- Where there is even a likelihood of a citizen in litigation against the State entertaining any doubt that he/she would not be treated equally in Court, there justice favours the government and not the governed
- Where Judges are known to have been associated with the Executive directly, or even employed by it or even if there is promise or inducement that they will be so “looked after” following retirement, can a citizen expect impartiality
In my view there is too much “executive involvement” in our process of appointments that requires immediate amendment. A counter-argument may be that even in the USA the President appoints judges; however the difference is that there is security of tenure, they are appointed for life! Thus they do not have to “tow the line” with the appointing President afterwards (as many there have displayed). Also to reach judicial office there is both State and Federal oversight at the Senate, where prior to appointment (although nominated by the President) they may very well be struck down.
Will my “wish for change” come true
The race appears to be a close one, as indicated by unbiased polls. Objectively speaking, admittedly the MR camp has an advantage with the public image of this accomplished leader, which MS alone would not have mounted a cogent challenge to. However the strength of the MS camp is not in one image (MS) but of the dream-team that he fields and the package he assures; with the very formidable old (Horagolla) SLFP plus the entire UNP (Ranil + Sajith/Karu) forwards, flanked by the equally charismatic JHU (Rathana/Champika), DP (Gen. SF / Arjuna) in the wings, not forgetting the many Muslim / Tamil votes that appear to be fully-backing the forward thrust. Let us also not forget that the recently resurgent JVP under their vociferous new leader Anura Kumara is bringing in a side-attack to the incumbent, the old Left has broken away from their leaders and are backing MS as an alternate group, the TNA whilst remaining publicly non-committal appear to be speaking “in silence” to its votebase, whilst the likes of Anandasangaree and Ganeshan are more outspoken and several civil society movements led by the respected Maduluwawe Sobhitha nayake thero have also suddenly found a medium to voice their dissent against the present regime.
The valid question (often the main counter-attack by the MR camp) that this varied collection itself is too much of an “achcharu“ to form a government appears to have been thwarted well by the MS camp with the “100 day manifesto”; that yes they don’t expect to run the country for years and years in their “joint form” but that they have all united forces only momentarily, to secure a common objective; that afterwards they will face an election, the parties contesting under their own banners under a more legitimate and democratic system following the constitutional amendments. This is quite an attraction to the voter and an exciting prospect, from my purely political scientific view.
However should the MS camp become complacent with this perceived victory, they will lose at the village where this same message must be sold in a different package; democratic values that appeal to us in the city are of little consequence to the farmer / fishermen who hardly negotiate with these principles in their daily struggle for survival; thus it must be marketed to them in the language of rupees & cents, how such change results in direct economic benefit. It is sad but true that whilst we boast of near 100% literacy rate, that ability to read and write alone does not equate to intelligent choice-making free from emotion at an election; and all these jokers who have governed us up to now must take the blame for it! They have continued to ride on the shoulders of innocent and simple-minded Sri Lankans, whom they emotionally charge with passion or offer outright bribes with freebies during election time, and the poor voter return them elected “out of gratitude”!
Much to the dismay of my own family and friends I have been very forthright with my views; that is public knowledge! Indeed those who speak their minds may very well end up facing the wrath of the defeated or elected, either way; perhaps even stand in direct threat of persecution or even worse at some later stage; nevertheless how can one be silent to the call of conscience? As Plato says “the price good men pay for being indifferent to public affairs is to be ruled by evil men”; not in the least being immodest by reference to a “good man”, some of us have at least not been “silent”; as to whether we will still “pay the price” will ultimately depend on how many remain “indifferent”. We the PEOPLE have established this Republic, it is OUR sovereign power that is the fountain of statehood; thus it is once again OUR WILL that must find a better system if this one is not serving our ultimate benefit. Power to the PEOPLE!