5 December, 2020

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Opposition To 20A Calls For Powers To Be Used With Care 

By Jehan Perera

Jehan Perera

The passage of the 20th Amendment to the constitution has taken place at a time of unprecedented crisis in the country. For the past months since it surfaced as a draft, the government leadership had been giving it priority attention to garnering support for the legislation in the face of mounting challenges. Despite securing an enormous majority of seats in parliament, and only 5 short of an outright 2/3 majority required for constitutional change there were times when the challenge seemed too big to accomplish. The peculiar feature of the 20th Amendment was that it called on the parliamentarians to voluntarily give up their existing powers as a collective and entrust it to the presidency.

The unexpectedly forthright critique of the 20th Amendment by top ranking religious clergy and by prestigious associations such as the Bar Association created a momentary doubt about the prospects of the government obtaining the 2/3 majority. In particular the powerful statement issued by the joint Amarapura-Ramanna Samagri Maha Sangha Sabha which made its opposition to the 20th Amendment to the Constitution. It further stated that the proposed amendment was regressive “and paves the way for an undeveloped tribal society, that will seriously impede progressive characteristics of human society such as freedom of thought and action, and therefore, the Sangha Sabha decided to make a strong emphasis to the Government that they should not pass the proposed 20th Amendment.” The fact that so senior a collection of Buddhist monks issued this statement is indicative of the concerns within the larger community that can surface in opposition to abuse of power in the future.

The doubts about the passage of the amendment increased further when an internal critique also simultaneously emerged from within the ruling party. If the government had failed to obtain the 2/3 majority to pass the 20th Amendment due to an internal revolt by some of its members, the situation that would have arisen might have been like that which existed between the years 2015-19. During that period the coalition government headed by President Maithripala Sirisena who headed the SLFP and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe who headed the UNP failed to collaborate with each other which led to governmental drift and a failure to resolve problems. The continuing public support to President Gotabaya Rajapaksa is on account of his reputation for being decisive. It is also necessary that his team takes decisions that are in the best interests of the country.

Personalised Decisions 

The 19th Amendment which was the most significant legislation prior to the 20th, and which obtained near unanimous assent in parliament, reduced presidential powers and shared them with other state institutions. As a result of equalizing powers within the executive branch of government between the president and prime minister, it paved the way for conflict between the president and prime minister. This led to the irresponsible neglect of national security, which neither the president nor prime minister taking full responsibility for it, which culminated in the atrocious security breach on Easter Sunday 2019. The massive victory obtained by the present government, which mirrored the defeat suffered by the previous government, can be attributed to the failure of the power sharing scheme presented by the 19th Amendment.

The passage of the 20th Amendment has almost completely rolled back the power sharing arrangements of the 19th Amendment and will ensure the reality of a decisive government that is unfettered by checks and balances. This amendment will give back to the presidency almost all of the powers that were vested in it by the 1978 constitution in its original formulation. It might be recalled that the architect of that constitution, former President JR Jayewardene once described it as giving the president the power to be free from the “whims and fancies of parliament” as he put it. President Jayewardene sought cohesive and strong powers to take the decisions that had to be taken for the long term gain of the country. However, it would be prudent to remember that the super powers that he assumed to himself were not able to stop and indeed contributed to the events of 1983 and the armed conflict and subsequently also the resurgence of JVP violence.

Armed with the powers that the 1978 constitution originally envisaged, President Gotabaya Rajapaksa is likely to seek to directly implement development and problem solving activities in the country. The president has already showed his impatience with existing systems by going on surprise visits to government institutions and trying to put things right. He has also stated that his verbal orders should be considered by government officials to be actionable in the same way as written circulars. He has also appointed a plethora of retired military personnel to senior position in the public administration. There will, however, be dangers to be guarded against. Mixing civilians systems of administration with military systems is unlikely to work effectively. Military systems are essentially top-down with orders being expected to be followed without question.

Problemsoving Vision

By way of contrast, civilian systems are consultative, as civilian issues need to accommodate a diversity of perspectives and multiple interests. The system of checks and balances evolved out of the experience of power being utilized to satisfy narrow interests rather than broader interests. There are many challenges that the government has to take up including the escalating Covid spread, which is now emerging as community transmission, and its impact on the poor and marginalized, economic hardships that affect the majority of people, the mounting foreign debt and threats to national sovereignty resulting from this and repatriation of our migrant workers. In the face of these unprecedented crises both government and opposition parliamentarians need to dialogue before decisions are made and those with proven competence from professional fields are made part of this dialogue.

There is also the question of problem solving vision. With the passage of the 20th Amendment the presidency will wield enormous powers. Unless presidential leadership is utilized to resolve long standing issues made unresolvable by partisan politics such as the ethnic conflict and politicization of the public service, this will be another lost opportunity among many lost opportunities. A modern state that incorporates a nationally designed reconciliation process in which equal citizenship and inclusive development leaves out no section or part of the country needs to be the goal. A significant number of parliamentarians representing ethnic and minority parties, voted in favour of the 20th Amendment. If not for the support of ethnic minority parliamentarians who broke ranks from their party leaderships to give their support to the government a 2/3rd majority required for constitutional change may not have been a reality.

The drafting of a new constitution for which the government has called for public representations offers an opportunity to ensure values that will have the support of all sections of ethnic and religious communities living in Sri Lanka. Attempts at formulating a new constitution have been long drawn and not finalized in the recent past. The current attempt should not suffer the same fate in respect of the time taken and the failure to present a final draft due to divergent political responses. Especially in a plural society, such as Sri Lanka’s, dialogue and inclusion are more likely to lead to sustainable solutions than imposed solutions. Although such a process can take more time, it is essential for democratic problem solving with all stakeholders being made part of the solution. It is useful to recall the president’s pledge shortly after he took his oaths, that he was the president of all Sri Lankans and not only those who voted for him. It is also useful to recall President Ranasinghe Premadasa’s motto of the 3 Cs, consultation, compromise and consensus. These two visionary statements of two presidents stand the test of time.

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Latest comments

  • 3
    1

    Of course. Of course. :)

    Using the Coronavirus crisis the regime well known for war crimes and human rights violations will go on rampage against people and put the blame on the people.

    Isn’t there anyone with a moral compass within the military?

  • 3
    0

    The rajapukas do not care two hoot’s about any living being. All they desire is to thicken their powerful power base and thicken their wallets with the overflow going into their amudes.
    b.
    As soon as they are successful they will become mean mongrels and will trample any mother’s son or daughter who tries to be an impediment or two for them to grnish their wicked ways.
    c.
    If the so called maha Sangha try to be an obstacle they will not hesitate to use their blindly loyal military muscles to run amok and taking away a few lives will not be a cubersome piece of action.
    d.
    The Yakkos have made the biggest error by being brain washed 😂🤣 and blindly voting for these stinky oozing backsides of the pukas.

    • 3
      0

      e.
      The ever-obliging always laughing Lord Buddha who’s happy with the antics of the racist foolish stupidest of them all sitting shitting on their brains Yakko’s who by blindly voting for the entire rajapuka clan have been in one stroke of the pen has confirmed Lanka as the undisputed leader in the much recognized prestigious colony of the beggars magnanimously awarded the current hosting rights to the world-renowned coronavirus-19.
      f.
      The nation has no funds to scratch it’s balls, no jobs for the starving malnourished peasant citizens who will very soon drop dead, no educational institutions are allowed to function, no clothes to wear, no drugs at the hospitals for the sick, no fertilizer for cultivation as it has to have a change of name to NO Lanka.
      g.
      In 1956 the nation Ceylon was a well-respected rice exporter with its
      the economy always in the black and was the envy of many a country.
      h.
      Ever since the fateful poll, the island began a spiralling downward trend and now sits as the undisputed sultan of the colony of beggars where it holds by duress the position of gangster IRC chairman.

  • 3
    0

    Here is the head of a leading NGO writing in appeasement. It is true that the Rajapaksas have the best opportunity of solving the country’s problems. They had such an opportunity in 2009 when the war ended. But, they frittered away that opportunity in order to ensure that their family dominance was promoted. What guarantee that the same tendency will not continue? The hope that GR will use his powers for the good of the country still remains. He can solve the ethnic issue and withstand the backlash to any solution. But, his coterie consists of diehards who are fanatically majoritarian. It could be that he could develop the country. But, again he is surrounded by the corrupt. All his ministers except Sabry and a few others are seeped in corruption. So, what hope.
    His new acolytes, Diana Garage, the great Shakespearean authority on Mark Anthony and the Muslim MPs are suspect. So, Jehan, do not be carping. Do not be so gentle. Rage, rage into the dying of the light.

  • 3
    0

    Jehan, just like your countrymen you seem to have a short memory (how convenient). You seem to have already forgotten how Rajapaksas handled the last time. Duminda,Shirani,SF, the guy who raped and murdered the tourist does these ring a bell ????

  • 0
    4

    Dear Jehan

    Thank you.

    It does not matter what we do nothing will work unless otherwise we have a “job specification” for the MP’s and all other LG elected. Can your organisation work with the GOSL and to have this included in our government website please. We should publish this to all the folks so they can create spread sheets themselves and map the work by the MP’s.

    We should have a specific website all the citizens can login (not foreigners) and read/follow each elected’s reports as follows.

    Job specification/action list/milestones/progress report/surgery report is critical for any Head of State to function. This is like a CEO can not run a company without the management/team leaders all performing and reporting accordingly to their specified job scope???

    Only in our country we have this scenario as people made a living talking through their backside and landed us all where we are??? this must be most importent function of the civil groups

  • 4
    0

    I have an issue with a particular Government Department. After writing several letters and reminders and having failed to get any action or reply, I complained to higher authorities and ultimately to the President in December, 2019. Again, failing to get any response despite 3 more letters to H.E., and having learnt that a retired senior police officer had been appointed as Ombudsman by the President to solve such issues, I complained to Ombudsman on 12th June. Despite 5 reminders to him so far, Ombudsman had neither solved my issue or acknowledged my letters and reminders or replied me.

    Citing my case as an example, can the President’s efforts to put things right in the Government Departments succeed even after appointing plethora of retired Military (And Police) Officers to senior positions in Public Administration?

    Vela

    • 0
      2

      Dear Vela

      First of all your procedural approach on a systematic basis is super. this is one ion the things to do list where the accountability part is QA/QC etc.
      (I have done the same during my application for dual nationality too…not to undermine but to empower the system positively…I did have rational explanations kindly given by the respective superiors I respected)

      How can we use this as an example and get our media/journalist to write productive/critical articles and MP’s to discuss this in the parliament constructively(not party politics) talking about how to introduce this culture etc….the civic society can focus on this in their downhill meetings one similar topic after topic throughout the land to bring awareness/public rights/expectations etc.

      • 0
        2

        sorry…town-hall meetings/MP’s to explain this in their town-hall meetings without politics/finger pointing etc.

  • 1
    1

    It is highly likely the “mysterious author” of the 20A is the US, and the purpose was to have necessary powers for Gotabhaya to sign SOFA & MCC as an American citizen!!
    The SriLankan authorities NOW say that they would not compromise Sri Lanka’s sovereignty or sign agreements that are detrimental to our interests. If so, why is Pompeo here?
    TheUS has repeatedly proved that they have no respect for other countries. A country which does not value the lives of their own people, will never value the lives of our people.
    The government’s unbelievably meticulous details of the spread of the second corona wave, methodical testing, wide publicity and even allowing at-home quarantine for first time COVID19 patients, which they refused for months, are proof that the second wave was pre-planned by an expert hand.
    Gammanpila’s statement further proves that the corona second wave will stay “for months.” Quarantine curfews may have imposed to facilitate deployment of US troops without the public’s knowledge.
    The US is silently spreading American imperialism in Sri Lanka with the help of traitorous American citizens;Gotabhaya & Basil.
    I earnestly urge the SPEAKER to NOT sign the 20A and HALT IT for the sake of the sovereignty of our motherland.
    C’mon, Sinhalese!!!
    We still have time.
    Don’t give in to American imperialism!

  • 5
    0

    Jehan Perera,
    Trying to sound fair you display your unsound mind.
    ‘As a result of equalizing powers within the executive branch of government between the president and prime minister, it paved the way for conflict between the president and prime minister’, you say.
    Was 19A the real reason behind a fractured administration?

  • 3
    3

    “Unless presidential leadership is utilized to resolve long standing issues made unresolvable by partisan politics such as the ethnic conflict…”
    —-
    Ethnic conflict was resolved in May 2009.
    Separatist Tamil politicians passed the Vadukkodei Resolution and declared war against the Government of Sri Lanka to create a separate State called Elam in North-East of the country based on a bogus claim ‘Traditional Homeland’ and persuaded Tamil youths to take arms to achieve that objective. Tamils took arms and slaughtered Sinhalayo for three decades to achieve their objective. The Government of Sri Lanka that oppose the idea of breaking the country launched a military operation and defeated Tamils who took arms on the request of separatist politicians to create a separate State. That is the end of the story. There is no point in wasting time to talk about a non-existing ‘Ethnic Problem’, ‘Tamil Problem’, ‘Minority Problem’. The irony is although Tamils keep on talking about a ‘PROBLEM, they themselves do not know what is the ‘PROBLEM’. This is like what Sinhalayo call ‘Higannage Thuwalaya’ (Beggar’s wound).

  • 3
    0

    Dr. Jehan Perera
    Lately, I have known you an appeaser. Except for a handful of principled individuals among the Sinhala intelligentia, every other soul is a sellout – an appeaser if not a collaborator. period.

  • 4
    1

    Gotler is now firmly established in his kingdom and will rule, NOT reign, like other monarchs.
    There will never be any other constitution, in the foreseeable future.
    I weep for Ma Lanka

  • 4
    0

    ANY BODY CAN DAYDREAM.THE MAKING A NEW CONSTITUTION WILL NEVER TAKE PLACE UNDER THE CURRENT SITUATION.THE PROCESS WILL BE DELAYED BY ALL MEANS UP TO NEXT ELECTIONS.

  • 4
    0

    Kamal Gunaratne, Shavendra Silva

    Today news media reported the 19th Covid related death.
    We were led to believe by you that since you single handedly won LTTE, for you corona was nothing.

    Tell us the truth.
    Rest of the world is depending on medically trained staff.
    Only Dumbass leader could chose dumbasses to deal with pandemic.

    At the beginning ICRC handed over 1000 black bags.
    Do these dumbasses know how many Black bags still remain unused?

  • 1
    2

    “Power corrupts, absolute power corrupts absolutely”
    JRJ was very smart man in his era. A cunning fox as he was famously or otherwise known.
    No internet, zero social media etc
    He wanted to be the master of all he survived. That was possible then but in the third decade of the 21st Century its a new ball game . In that ,in the so called democracies people power should have a big say. In reality this is not the case in many countries. Power politics rule the nation and not the power of the people

    It could argued that a Military style rule may be short term solution for the ills of country like SL, provided it has inbuilt in checks and balances to ensure that democratic rights of ALL the subjects the are safeguarded. How would one achieve this in SL scenario. It is a 64 thousand dollar question . Its for another day and time
    None of us want another Burma type regime

  • 3
    0

    “President JR Jayewardene once described it as giving the president the power to be free from the “whims and fancies of parliament” “

    How is that so many countries with the Westminster parliamentary system have been very effective in governance in spite of more or less the same level of whims and fancies?

    And aren’t the same pool of voters selecting the president from the same pool of candidates from which they elect their parliamentary representatives?

    With the executive presidency, we have been dealing with the whims and fancies of a president (once again wielding unjust powers) on top of the whims and fancies of the parliament.

    Seems to me JRW was a big fraud who set the country up for eternal turmoil.

    • 0
      0

      *JRJ

  • 0
    3

    “Unless presidential leadership is utilized to resolve long standing issues made unresolvable by partisan politics such as the ethnic conflict…”
    —-
    Ethnic conflict was resolved in May 2009.
    Separatist Tamil politicians passed the Vadukkodei Resolution and declared war against the Government of Sri Lanka to create a separate State called Elam in North-East of the country based on a bogus claim ‘Traditional Homeland’ and persuaded Tamil youths to take arms to achieve that objective. Tamils took arms and slaughtered Sinhalayo for three decades to achieve their objective. The Government of Sri Lanka that oppose the idea of breaking the country launched a military operation and defeated Tamils who took arms on the request of separatist politicians to create a separate State. That is the end of the story. There is no point in wasting time to talk about a non-existing ‘Ethnic Problem’, ‘Tamil Problem’, ‘Minority Problem’. The irony is although Tamils keep on talking about a ‘PROBLEM, they themselves do not know what is the ‘PROBLEM’. This is like what Sinhalayo call ‘Higannage Thuwalaya’ (Beggar’s wound).

  • 3
    0

    Lankawe’s Royal dictators teasing the massive countries like US, India & China. Lankawe may need not or may need all of them or at least one of them for its economy & security. Lankawe must understand that these countries have their interest. By allowing Pakistan Military flights landing in Colombo, Lankawe is still paying for India. But setting up this massive superpower against each other is a serious game. This cannot be an annual celebration of pogroms on Tamil and make a radio speech “if I starve Tamils more, Sinhalese will be happy”. Lankawe cannot stand even for a serious accident. Iran is now paying for Ukraine & Canada for downing a Ukraine plane in its own airport. US & China & India challenging each other on Lankawe matters is in the medias, all over the world. That is an intolerable occasion to the opposite side countries involved. Chinese embassy standing in Lankawe soil and issuing challenge to US is a serious diplomatic code violation. He should go to China and do it there or Lankawe has to send him blacklisting him. If Lankawe is not curbing China on this issue, China will escalate this without fear and Lankawe will pay for this. China can claim Taiwan as its and start a fight there; but Lankawe Modayas diverting that to their land is absolute dumb.

  • 3
    0

    Mangala is asking why JVP didn’t protest when Chinese envoys came previous week. All in the world know how China stopped Old King getting Indian help to fix the Nuraicholai Power Plant. In 2016 when it died CEB Engineers blamed the China and but China claimed it was the unqualified engineers. But New King immediately classified the German Engineers report. Can Lankawe release the report to people know if there was sabotage either by CEB Engineers or Chinese employees in Nuraicholai? Can Lankawe tell actually who destroyed the Kerawalapitiya power plant this summer? How can China question other nations while it is sabotaging Lankawe infrastructure to control Lankawe? Good time Kathirgamar is executed otherwise Lankawe might have labeled him as LTTE for making deals with 32 opponents countries and put it in this dire situation, after 15 years of his deals.

    • 3
      0

      Mallaiyuran , you have a point. Chinese seems to be able to get away with murder so to speak. As you may be aware that they are talking about a fourth or may be a fifth Coal power plant ; supplied installed and commissioned by 100% Chinese labour. May be also the operation by Chinese , a BOOT Project( Build, Own, Operate and Transfer)
      There is no one challenge the big C. Even uncle Sam is not in a position take China to task.
      In the mid 60s I could recall a sabotage at the Kanthalai Sugar mills. The culprits were never identified. Sadly that’s the nature of things in SriLanka

  • 2
    0

    Jegan Perera as usual had made very sensible suggestions. He had admitted inherent contradictions within the 19 Amendment that had made the country ungovernable.

    Jegan Perera is among one of the first to admit shortcomings in the much acclaimed 19A, of course the western leaning civil society.

    What went wrong?

    Our Parliament had voted with near unanimity the 17A and 19A and with comfortable 2/3 majority the 18A and20 A and we the people in an unenviable plight.

    Did our Parliament have made informed decisions? Could they be assigned with the task of preparing a new constitution with a long-term perspective?

    The present committee that is entrusted to draft a new constitution is loaded with Lawyers and academics.

    The result will be another 1972 or 1978 constitution with short-term vision.

    Is there a way out of this dilemma ?

  • 2
    5

    6.9million sri lankan citizens voted for a president. Not a prime minister. They voted for an EXECUTIVE president to take FULL responsibility of their defense, security and well being of the country. NOT 2 drivers trying to drive the same bus. We also didnt vote for a puppet president. The same 6.9 million people voted to remove 19A and bring 20A to restore this executive presidency. You sir are a coward and your lies working for a NGO wont hide that fact about you. You dont need to tell the govt to use 20A powers cautiously LOL They have done so until 2015. No matter how much money you pay these “civil” organizations to run their mouth to what you want them to say, just know there are hundreds and thousands of patriotic sri lankans doing the same to make sure our sovereignty is not lost because of kalu suddo like you. Stop embarrassing yourself and retire. Lastly, president should be able to sack parliment as he chooses if the parliament is not doing their job which is serving the people without having to wait for president full term to be almost over which is once again what 19A did. Clowns

    kind regards,
    i will continue to give millions of dollars to make sure sri lanka remains a powerful state with a powerful president.

    • 6
      0

      A president should be able to sack parliament as he chooses if the parliament is not doing their job which is serving the people without having to wait for president full term to be almost over which is once again what 19A did. Conceding to your faith in the current President, how would this effect the country if another President like U NO Hoo is in place.
      Constitutions are not piecemeal sets of documents but should be for all seasons and all persons, generally. Power in the constitution can be used for good or evil and should not be tailor made for individuals. Hence the checks and balances needed to curb excessive concentration of this deadly power.

      • 5
        0

        Also just imagine the scenario, sometime may be in the future, if and when a president finds that people elect a parliament from his opposing party, and he has this power to sack that parliament even with 200 members of the opponents within a day or two.

  • 2
    1

    The more corrupt the state, the more numerous the laws.
    .
    All enterprises that are entered into with indiscreet zeal may be pursued with great vigour at first, but are sure to collapse in the end.
    .
    Tacitus

  • 4
    1

    The title of the article “Opposition To 20A Calls For Powers To Be Used With Care” is like asking a bandit who has just raped your wife and is eying the daughters to be gentle. Parliament and the courts can fill these roles well, I guess..

  • 2
    0

    SJB’s Mangala asked why didn’t JVP oppose Chinese visit but opposing State Secretary Mike Pompeo.

    SJB’s Nalin asking why the Slap Party did not oppose Secretary Pompeo visit now but they opposed in their time.

    SJB’s Marikar is saying Secretary Pompeo is coming Lankawe only to rob Lankawe’s resources.

    SJB’s six MPs voted to 20A, but the leaders of those partied voted against.

    Mano Ganesan signed to release Duminda. But he says he is asking to release Tamil political prisoners too. Will they release Tamil prisoners with Duminda?

    Any one of them may right or wrong, But isn’t this tells that headless SJB, put together with bunch of invalids to defeat Ranil, has lot of reasons to be defeated in national level.

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