By Elmore Perera –
You have decided to meet in Sri Lanka at a time when Democracy is struggling to survive in several of the states that constitute the Commonwealth. Observance of the Rule of Law and Principles of Good Governance are no longer distinguishing features of member states. Authoritarianism is rampant. The very survival of the Commonwealth is at stake.
In Sri Lanka, limitless resources have been expended in an effort to window dress the inherent beauty of our land and reflect the warmth of our welcome. You may find that this window may not accurately reflect the situation in the entire land.
Ever since Sri Lanka (then Ceylon) was granted independence in 1948, successive governments have progressively destroyed all traces of Social Justice.
There can be no stability without contented communities. Sri Lanka has been ‘home’ to persons of diverse races, religions, cultures and histories, using different languages. Adherents of Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam and Christianity inhabit this land. These inhabitants, who together constitute the People of Sri Lanka, need to have the right to develop their own language, to profess their own religion, to develop and promote their culture, to preserve their history and enjoy their due share of state power, including the right to representation in institutions of government, without in any way weakening the common Sri Lankan identity.
To stem the increasing tide of Authoritarianism and the arbitrary exercise of State power, the 17th Amendment – the only amendment to the Constitution initiated by the People – was passed without any dissent in 2001. With the appointment of a Constitutional Council and Independent Commissions, politicisation of key institutions was greatly reduced and Good Governance measures instituted. Regrettably, commencing in mid-2005, the Executive violated the constitutional provisions introduced by the 17th Amendment and rapidly politicised all institutions of government to unprecedented levels.
In the aftermath of the military defeat of the LTTE, the 17th Amendment was surreptitiously revoked and the Executive vested with unlimited power, by the 18th Amendment. Regrettably, the elected representatives of the people of Sri Lanka institutionalised Authoritarianism in our land.
The only barrier to unfettered authoritarianism was the Judiciary. In disregard of explicit decisions of the Superior Courts, the Chief Justice was hastily removed and replaced by a political appointee. The politicisation of the Judiciary is now virtually complete. Any form of dissent is swiftly quashed by arbitrary use of State power. Sadly, good governance is being relegated to the dust bin of history.
How the present dangerous trend could be reversed and adherence to the Commonwealth Principles ensured, will no doubt be addressed during your meeting as a matter deserving the highest priority.
*Elmore Perera- Founder CIMOGG & Past President Organisation of Professional Associations for and on behalf of Citizens Movement for Good Governance – The Citizens Movement for Good Governance (CIMOGG), founded in 2002, relentlessly endeavours to pursue the goal of restoring good governance and the rule of law in Sri Lanka.