13 November, 2019

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Political Machinations: In Praise Of Prof Pieris

By Rajiva Wijesinha –

Prof. Rajiva Wijesinha MP

After many months of thinking Prof G L Pieris was leading the President down the garden path, I was pleased recently to find that he had lived up to his intellectual reputation and given some reasonably sound advice. This was with regard to the effort to amend the 13th Amendment, as to which initially there were four areas of apparent concern.

When the Cabinet was finally given some amendments to consider however, there was only one proposal for change. This was after G L had been asked for advice, and it looks like he had very sensibly said there was no point in worrying about land and police issues. Given that National Policy on all issues remains with the central government, and given the practices that have been instituted since the days in which the 13th Amendment was passed, there is no doubt that government will continue to be in charge of these areas. Implementing national policy through regional agencies, whether elected or appointed, will of course continue, and I can only hope that government moves swiftly towards making sure this happens through small units which can actually relate readily to the people.

With regard to another issue, though the advice G L gave was ambiguous, he had made it clear that the immediate worries about merger could be assuaged, not necessarily by amending the 13th Amendment, but also by changing the Provincial Council law, under which the President had been mandated to merge two Provinces. Though the Liberal Party has always opposed merger, and indeed saw it as a seminal flaw in what would otherwise have been a reasonable mechanism to bring government closer to the people, it would certainly be a mistake now to tamper with the 13th Amendment unless there were a comprehensive overhaul that gave at least as much as it took away, in the interests of clarification as well as efficacy.

GL’s simple answer then provides the most acceptable solution. I realize that this might not satisfy all, and in particular Muslims who are fearful of the traditional homelands argument being resurrected (for they remember how the original idea of a homeland for the Tamil speaking turned into a homeland for Tamils, from which the Muslims were chased out). But while I can see why they would like any possibility of merger eliminated, the possibility that remains in the Constitution can be dismissed since there is no further need for Parliament to legislate as to how the merger of any Provinces that wish it would be implemented. That element should be removed in an overhaul, but such an overhaul should also fulfil the President’s commitment to add something, which can be done through a Second Chamber as well as streamlining of the concurrent list.

If this last were done – and it should be, given how so much more could be done in so many areas covered by the concurrent list if provinces were given clear powers, and a coherent policy according to which they could exercise these – that would also help to get over the area in which I feel G L has been too indulgent to those opposed to the 13th amendment. I refer to the proposal that did come before Cabinet, to change the provision that prevents legislation being passed affecting subjects on the Provincial List without the concurrence of the affected Provinces.

A little thought however should have made it clear that the current provision need not be changed. Now governments can pass such legislation with a two thirds majority to have it apply to all provinces, while with a simple majority it will apply only to those provinces that have concurred.

However, government should in fact not be passing legislation on matter that lie within the purview of the Provinces – as opposed to matters on the concurrent list, as to which a simple majority suffices for it to affect all Provinces. If indeed it deems it essential to work on matters on the Provincial List, it must be in terms of National Policy, which is a reserved subject – which means that the central government can introduce legislation without even consulting the Provinces.

Unfortunately government, or some elements in government, got carried away by the judgment the Supreme Court delivered with regard to the Divineguma Bill. As I pointed out at the time, the judgment indicated that we should be more careful in introducing legislation, and in time I believe everyone in government agreed, given that the changes the Supreme Court had asked for re-established the parliamentary controls on expenditure that would otherwise have been delegated.

In any case, given the provisions of the Constitution, government should work out how to develop national policies on all issues and ensuring these are followed, which means institutionalizing the power to monitor and remedy any shortfalls. Once this is clearly established, the question of provinces acting contrary to national policy should not arise. In turn, government should allow provinces the freedom to develop their own systems with regard to improving the lot of the citizenry in terms of national policy.

This should be accompanied by ensuring greater participation of the provinces in the central government and in the formulation of national policy. While it would be good to ensure that the Cabinet has active representation from all over, we should also move swiftly on a common mechanism to achieve this, which is a Second Chamber based on provinces. When the concurrence of that Chamber is also required for legislation, the fears of the provinces, that majoritarian tendencies will govern legislation at the Centre, can be assuaged.

We must after all remember that, while the fears of the majority cannot be dismissed out of hand, and must be addressed positively = , which is why the position GL has advanced is generally beneficial – it is even more important to lay to rest the fears of minorities too.

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Latest comments

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    The worst is yet to come so forget the last supper.

    At the next reshuffle soon neither GL nor Rajiva will be in parliament and Gota will the PM.

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      Rajiva is valiantly trying to appear as a Liberal despite his hands and legs and b..om’s are thick with the blood of the war criminals…!

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        Liberal? What bloody liberal is he? He is a bloody stooge, who would hide his tail between the legs, with stare from MR.

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          The type of language that one uses will portray a true picture of a stooge and a liberal…It expresses one’s just anger rather than being a critique

  • 0
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    In 1987 We had Air “Parippu” Dhal drop. Wonder what this time going to be.
    Mr.Sharma is still waiting to see what the Home Grown “Mun Eta”Kiri Bath Green Gram Milk Rice …plus 13 +++ going to look like.

    President with his plane load of “Nade”….antourage in Tanzania to sign three important Agreements which today’s daily news describe as…….

    “Sri Lanka and Tanzania signed three agreements covering visa exemption for diplomatic and official passport holders, Intelligence, Defence and Security Cooperation and Cultural Cooperation.”

    The three agreements are Visa excemptions for Diplomats and Govt.Officials, Intelligence and Cultural exchange.

    I wonder who is going to benefit from any of these Agreements that required to go all the way to Tanzania other than a photo-op fun tour.

    Money well spent. Oh, Tempora…Oh,Mores.
    Kangetta Saranan Gachchami… Sadu…Sadu…Saaaduuu.

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    Hold on, wasn’t it G.L who introduced the amendments to cabinet?! So he advises one way and acts in another?

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    Agree with Rajeeva Wijesinghe. Ideally, the PCs in their present form do not lend to good governance and the system needs a thorough overhaul. I feel that the those elected in the provinces must form the centre(ie. the parliament) whilst the PCs are administrative bodies implementing the policies of the centre. Those elected in the PCs must have a dual role in their PCs and in the parliament.

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      All I could say is the the politics of Sri Lanka, it’s way of Governance, it’s absolute corruption, it’s overall administration are in a total mess and disarray.

      A complete new administrative style is needed including 13th Amendment…… But not before the North East and Wayamba Provincial counsil elections.

      They all should be discussed after the North/ East Provincial counsil elections. We already carried this systen for the last 25 years and carrying for few more months won’t hurt anybody.

      Amending now or changing anything will bring Political Catestrophe.

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        Tend to agree with you. The problem is that nearly everything Mahinda Rajapaksa does is rotten. There is no hope for any decent reform as long as he is President.

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    Any changes should be done after the NCP elections after consulting all parties concerned. In any case Police and Land powers are effectively with the President and there is no reason to panic. Merger of provinces too is a non starter as nearly all parties and muslims are against this. The only problem is the passing of legislation pertaining to the provinces by the Center without the agreement of the PC’s. This may be a neccesary safeguard to protect democracy and devolution.

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    By giving Police and Land powers, North and Easten Provices can create
    unwanted problem for the united Sri Lanka. Definitly TNA will get hand with Thamil Nadu and declare as seperate country. That is the fear mejority of Sinhalese people are having at the moment.Who can give the guranttee that TNA would not take such action. Their voice is LTTE
    voice. If all Temil people like to live as one nation united as AMERICA , there is no problem . Here in States nobody trying to live as seperate nation. Best thing is while keeping the whole powers with President, let Provicial councils to administer Police and land powers.If anything goes wrong, President should have the rights to disolve such PCs.

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