By Kumar David –
The Port City (PC) Act has been signed into law. Despite a majority of citizens decrying it as paving the way to corruption and a travesty of democracy, some 149 Ministers, government MPs and cronies did not hesitate to put their personal benefits ahead of any residual feelings of allegiance they may have fleetingly had for Mother Lanka. Last week when I asked “What Next” it evoked much discussion in Colombo Telegraph, so I have decided to press on. Today’s column is not all cussing and swearing; that’s past. I am hoping to kick-off some discussion on what to do next.
This is only a start and the ideas here may not all be well formed, but some joker has to take the plunge. Let me introduce it in three chronological parts; the immediate period ahead, medium-term preparation of amendments or planning for a repeal of the Act, and third the longer-term – regime change and specifically ousting Gota at the next presidential election if it is held. There are numerous ambiguities built into the PC Act such as what land comes under the PC Commission’s mandate, provisions allowing PC investors to extend their reach into other parts of the country while continuing to enjoy PC privileges, ambiguous concessions that cannot be challenged in the courts, and other infringements. For sure these are not drafting blunders but deliberately inserted to give leeway for mischief. Hence opposition inside and outside parliament needs to form oversight teams to scrutinise every investment decision of the Royal Rajapaksas, Ministers and the President’s military cabal and flag doings that need to be reversed or to attract prosecution at the first opportunity, even before regime change if the Attorney General can be shamed into intervening and the courts agree to entertain action. This threat has to be transparent and potential investors must be forewarned that corrupt, illegitimate or undemocratic measures will be reversed.
Second: People’s movements (and the Opposition if it has the stomach) must begin a dialogue and a consultative process to set out amendments to the PC Act or in the alternative examine how best it can be repealed altogether. This may take fine and filigreed legal effort to work round contradictions with contracts that may have been awarded in good faith and may take a year to finalise and I would commend this as an initiative to entities like CPA, NPP-JVP and Lawyers Organisations that have resources and the manpower to take it on. The political-party opposition will be interested since these proposals can be inserted in future electoral manifestoes aimed at defeating one or both branches of the Double-Paksa Regime and reversing its power monopoly.
The final piece of the strategy is maturation of this process to defeat Gota at the next presidential election which must be held by November 2024. Things are sliding into an abys, hence defeating Gota in a free and fair poll is not hard. (In the event it is annulled or invalidated by gross fraud – desperation drives rulers to psychosis – how we the people should respond is outside the scope of today’s column). A resilient, trusted, democratic candidate is needed and with all due respect Mr Sajith Premadasa lacks the stature to pull it off. Hence it is sensible to cast around for an alternative figure, untainted by corruption, never associated with communalism and of high standing. For example a former Speaker, a former Judge, or a Minster of exceptional calibre who meets these requirements. Though Pissu-Sira was a clown his election did serve the fundamental requisite of the Common Candidate in 2015, viz. foiling a third Mahinda term and repealing 18A. A situation is emerging where a trustworthy liberal is better than another five more years of Goth malevolence. Since we are in the grip of an angry avalanche against Gota I argue again as I did in 2013-14 (people blame me for the Single-Issue common-Candidate strategy which actually served its primary objective) that all who are not a Double-Paksa supporters – and not a sectarian, opportunist or dreamer – should join this dialogue. Parliamentary elections, if not subverted, are different because parties of diverse ideologies and communities are free to try and maximise their representation.