23 October, 2020

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Strong Government Is Disciplined Government

By Jehan Perera

Jehan Perera

The government has announced that the draft 20th Amendment bill will be presented to parliament on Tuesday. It will be the same version that caught the country by surprise when it first made its appearance to the public on September 3. The extreme nature of the proposed amendment, which has been the cause of much disquiet, is epitomized by the power it seeks to give the president to sack the prime minister and ministers at his discretion and to dissolve parliament after a year of its election. Undoubtedly it was concerns within the ranks of those elected to parliament from within the government side itself that prompted Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa to appoint a committee consisting of parliamentarians of stature to give their opinion on the proposed 20th Amendment and to suggest further amendments to it.

There are disturbing features about the draft 20th Amendment. The most significant is the overwhelming power it seeks to give the institution of the presidency by transferring the powers currently vested in other institutions to it. The proposed amendment immediately evoked protests from the opposition political parties and civil society and was soon followed by more subdued expressions of dissent from within the government itself. Government members have not openly criticized the erosion of parliamentary powers but instead appear to have chosen the option of stating their objections to less significant clauses in the proposed 20th Amendment. One of these is the removal of the ban on dual citizens from contesting for political office and the removal of the oath against promoting separatism in the country.

Another concerning feature of the 20th Amendment is the unwillingness of anyone to claim the responsibility for its creation. It can be expected that those elected to parliament would not wish to take the responsibility for the proposed amendment which seeks to erode their own position. This has resulted in President Gotabaya Rajapaksa stepping forward to take responsibility as the head of the government along with the rest of the government as a collective group. The president may be feeling the burden of the heavy responsibility placed upon him by popular expectations. His frustrations are becoming more evident as he has begun pointing out the inefficiencies that exist not only the governmental system but also the wider society. These inefficiencies in the public service can be attributed to politicization during the past decades for which past administrations have to take equal responsibility.

Politically Astute 

The parliamentary committee appointed by the prime minister to look into the issues arising out of the draft amendment has not presented their conclusions to the general public or incorporated their ideas into the draft amendment. As a result it will be the same draft that made its appearance on September 3 that will be presented to parliament. It appears that the government’s current position is that the 20th Amendment bill will be presented to parliament in its original formulation and changes to it, if any, will take place in the course of the parliamentary debate regarding it. This could be politically astute, from the government’s perspective. From a political transformative perspective it offers scope for parliamentarians to engage in a meaningful process of consultations to achieve sufficient consensus following an intellectual discourse.

There are, however, two consequences that flow from the direct presentation of the draft amendment to parliament without any changes. On the one hand, this will have the adverse effect of making it more difficult for those opposed to the draft amendment to take it before the courts of law. As they will have only a limited time frame of one week to file their cases in the courts, they will have to file their objections to the original version of the 20th Amendment and not to the subsequent changes that may take place as a result of the parliamentary process. A second consequence flowing from the strategy of seeking amendments to the draft 20th Amendment in parliament itself is that it will conceal the division within the government on the question of the amendment.

The government’s decision not to share the results of the deliberations of the prime minister’s committee with the general public could be due to the concern that the division of the government members into two camps will be seen. On the other hand, a debate in parliament will bring in the opposition political parties so that the lines of division would be more complex. For instance, the opposition parliamentarians would not wish the president to have the power to dissolve parliament after the passage of one year, which is likely to be shared by government members also. On the other hand, the opposition is also likely to bring up other issues such as the need to safeguard the independence of institutions such as the courts of law and the auditor general’s office.

Strong Government 

The 20th Amendment is a reaction to the problems in the 19th Amendment which showed the possibility of deadlock within the executive branch of government when the president and parliamentary majority were of two minds. President Gotabaya Rajapaksa is reported to have informed the cabinet of ministers that without the changes proposed in the draft 20th Amendment it was difficult to run the country. However, the parliament was also elected by the people and has a five year mandate and the powers being withdrawn are so significant that they may require a referendum. Indeed, parliament is more representative of the plural and diverse nature of society and of the different ethnic and religious communities and needs to be empowered rather than being disempowered.

Among the extreme features of the proposed 20th Amendment is the power to be transferred to the president to appoint all judges and top state officials at his discretion and to exclude many government departments and government-owned entities from being centrally audited. The question is why an equally sovereign body that is parliament is denied this power. The fate of the strong government that was elected in 2010 in the aftermath of the end of the three decade long war, which pledged to develop the country, and of which much was expected, and which failed, must not happen again. The main flaw there was that power was centralized in the institution of the presidency at the expense of the others and corruption and abuse of power got out of control.

Strong governments in which one institution dominates all others and in which there are no checks and balances rarely deliver good results to the people so that they enjoy the benefits of development and the protection of human rights. Strong governments that deliver both, of which there are many examples in the world and particularly in the Western world but now also in the eastern countries such as Japan and South Korea, operate under the rule of law, with checks and balances and take severe action against those found engaging in corrupt practices. They are an outcome of disciplined systems of government which deliver constructive results to the people over the longer term. Recent examples of South Korea and Malaysia are cases in point.

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Latest comments

  • 12
    1

    Why is Jehan Perera noncommittal. Journalism is about presenting the facts – truth – forcefully.

    • 10
      0

      How can we talk of a strong govt- a strong parliament knowing well that all those demolished the parliament chamber incl. speaker’s chair are all reelected and sitting in the ruling side today ?

      This is why this country would never move an inch of progress towards its future. People and their repersentatives behave like animals. But these animals self proclaim to have achieved something. Self glorifciations and adulations are through their media men so that the rest could also be misled easily.

      I think srilankens would never change their mind set even if another two decade pass by.

    • 2
      0

      I do not think that the writer is non-committal. He is presenting his perspective of the matter. What is it that is expected of him, bash the Rajapaksa’s and earn the encomiums or praise the Rajapaksa’s and be condemned? Certainly, there are problems with 19A and that is why there is a cry for 20A. But what is done in the name of remedying can be another. Whatever be the A, the real issue is whether decency and fair play is practised in governance. I keep on saying that none of the main presidential aspirants in Nov 2019 can do it. It is “My way or be CONDEMNED”. If we concentrate our selves only to the A’s to the constitution did, we ever dream that while giving a decent posture of a 19A to the Constitution, to perform the Bond scam and end up with a 04/21 Carnage? Frankly, I didn’t. But now I am wiser.

  • 17
    4

    Why not cut it short and come to the point.
    Gota and his cabal have made a firm decision to inaugurate an authoritarian or authoritarian-dictatorial regime. Let’s not beat about the bush; the government is determined.
    We must prepare to fight it before and after the event.
    Polite pussyfooting is a waste of time, or worse a distraction.

  • 7
    4

    If one ever thinks that the power-hungry rajapuka’s will ever draft a replacement constitution which technically is not needed he or she should enter the lunatic asylum.?
    #
    Ever since when CBK desired to appoint the late Luckshman kadirgamar as the next PM, Alibaba Mahindan Rajapuka got hold of the always poking their stinky fingers in unwanted places to launch a moaning cry and a wail to get him Alibaba to be appointed as the next PM.
    Once seated on that latrine he wanted to become the president and he used his cunning guile to bribe Velu Anna to order the hapless Tamils not to vote at the 2005 poll.
    #
    Then he destroyed by illegal means+ the LTTE and the Tamil people who helped him to squat on the latrine.
    #
    If one ever thinks his younger brother the Kalla kallathoni is made out of a different broom he or she is sadly mistaken once again.
    He on replacing the perfect constitution will get the help of his few war criminal goons will run the country worse than North Korea.
    #
    Am waiting with bated breath to see the military man-eating white van operator to get into action to walk all over the nearly 7 million and all the other innocents who only if they had cast their sacred ballots would have been able to save their skins.

    • 2
      0

      [edited out]
      .
      It’s all right some of us plebs being a bit mad. The problem is that the guys trying to rule us seem to be both more bad and madder than all of us – not to mention “stupider” – is there such a word? Should the comprative be “more stupid”.
      .
      May I close saying that Prof. Kumar David seems to sum up very well what I want to say.
      .
      Unfortunately, Kumar seems not very bothered what happens to the Anglican Church in which he was brought up, or the good old alma mater. I telephoned the Bishop’s Office (close to the BMICH, which everybody knows, of course), and spoke to the lady called Mercy. She said that they too are waiting anxiously to hear what Justin welby has decided.
      .
      I hope this doesn’t sound gibberish to many readers.
      .
      Devout Christians (I’m not one) must be expecting some “Second Coming”.
      .
      Panini Edirisinhe aka “Sinhala_Man”

      • 1
        5

        Sinhala_Man,
        Replying to one of my comments you wrote:
        “Eagle Eye, please start by answering this question unambiguously. Are you H.L.D. Mahindapala?”

        Why the hell you want to know whether I am H.L.D. Mahindapala? Does it make any difference to understand what I write?

        Replying to Punchi Point you said:
        “I have read many of your comments, although this may be the first time that I’m addressing you. Please try to engage with the issues raised, instead of trying to pour personal scorn.”

        I suggest you practise what you preach to others.

    • 2
      0

      This comment was removed by a moderator because it didn’t abide by our Comment policy.

      For more detail see our Comment policy https://www.colombotelegraph.com/index.php/comments-policy-2

    • 2
      1

      This comment was removed by a moderator because it didn’t abide by our Comment policy.

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    • 2
      0

      Dear Mr SM,
      .
      Whenever I read anything coming from commenter- Pasqual – It reminds me a dog in the vicinity of Galle busstand ( In mid 80ties), a stray dog who ate road side heaps of excreta on one go.
      *****
      *****
      We then waited for our school buses there hours long. I was a good observer also in my schooling days. I have no idea, why I am compelled to compare mlechcha Pasqual with that dog’s behaviour, may, be, nothing can more disgustful than the kind of scenes. – his repeated comments to CT are filled with high degree of total ignorance.

      The kind of guys would never see it right becasuse they dont want to. They dont know the basics of REAL BUDDHISM as LB taught it. Mahinda Rajaakshe the leader to go for BAN CATTLE SLAUGHTER – eats tons of MEAT at his place, cant be without arrack yet today. Although they now paint the pic that these rascals grew up in a WALAWAA – that is another myth misleading masses. Their father DA RAJAPAKSHE was one DASA to BANDARARANAYAKAs, as my elders taught me then.

  • 11
    2

    there is no discipline in Sri Lanka government.
    Strong Government is to pave way for corrupt government .

    • 2
      0

      Disipline should start from the kindergarten.

      Is that possible yet in SL ? No

      If over 6.9 millions of island population voted for HIGH CRIMINALS (rapists, chain robbers, tsunami embezzlers, murderers), there should be something ” very abnormal” in the PERCEPTION of those voters.

      Why do UNIVERSITY experts/higher professionals stay mum on the topic, knowing this is now like “§an elephant in the room” – ? Is that not because PEOPLE are scared of being ABDUCTED/RAPED/GUNNED down to the manner Lasantha Wickramathunge ( late editor of SUNDAY LEADER NEWS PAPER), those 23 or more unarmed prisoners, those young boys in RATHUPASWALA, those 11 youth from COLOMBO rich circles that were ready to leave for their high education but caught by RAJAKASHE extra judicial killings, and those mothers stay mourining yet today… the list could continue…. all these are PUBLIC secret, but as if SEX slaves would demand of a their FUHURER, people in this country ( I mean masses) gave them a mandate not even any civilized world could ever guess at.
      Besides, the worst of worst as International community highlighted it – SRILANKA TODAY ALLOWS CONVICTED MURDERERS ENTERING THE PARLIAMENT UNDER HIGH CRIMINAL RAJAPKAHES.

      https://www.nytimes.com/2020/09/08/world/asia/sri-lanka-parliament-murder.html

      Banadaranayakas were known as HIGHLY educated LEADERS; but RAJAPAKSHES are identified as high criminals like GADAFI and the like dictators.

    • 0
      0

      JP,
      Disciplined government is a strong government. Disciplined military is strong military. Not the vice versa.

  • 9
    2

    The entire country will suffer for many more years if the Parliamentarians pass the 20 th Amendment without corrections. We need to keep the good ones of the 19th
    Amendments+ Keeping the Judiciary independent + keeping the constitutional council as it is+Media freedom+ Human rights + President and other rulers to obey the laws of the country before during or after their rule

    • 3
      1

      Naman,
      .
      Congratulations. It sounds as though you actually understand all that stuff.
      .
      It’s a relief to me that somebody is in control of most fauculties that we’ve been endowed with.
      .
      25 minutes in Sinhalese (Harini’s English is better). If you study this properly all your queries get answered.

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8o4uNjiZXGE
      .
      That is from what I wrote to some people while it was still dark. I hope that many listen to that.

  • 10
    0

    The real “DANGER” I see in this “Hurriedly” drafted “20A” is the “DISASTER” that will keep “Bombarding” the country with every present and future Presidents to be elected. I remember, how JRJ was cursed after the introduction of “HIS” Constitution. Now, with this “20A” if continued to be adhered to by future Presidents, the people will start “Cursing” the present President and his Government. Why? Mainly because all these provisions are made centered on “Personal Agenda” rather than on the basis of “General Welfare” or Larger Interests. This fact of “Personal Agenda” was the main reason confirmed by none other than the Minister of Education Prof. G.L.Peirisis. He said: “This President is prevented and cannot carry on with what he wants to do with the “19A” in the Constitution”. If that is the “Defense” for “20A” by a “Prof” in charge of Education in the country, what more “Sanity” to discuss on the subject of Constitution making?

  • 8
    0

    In a strong Government, discipline should come from the top, not from the bottom. Otherwise it becomes like CRAB MOTHER asking the son “why do you walk sideways without walking straight?” In SriLanka, almost all the leaders, especially Rajapaksas, want us to be disciplined and virtuous, while their kith and kin broke/ are breaking all the rules in every possible way. In Singapore LKY set up the rules by following rules. He sent his close friends to jail, and even made some to commit suicide. What are our policy makers doing by trying to stay above the law by implementing 20A? Public money spent by the President and his men will not be able to audit, actions will not be able to question. If someone is disciplined and guiltless, why worry about the transparency? Why the need of autocracy? His past record is not clean, human right violations, abuse of public funds, trying to evade the law and many more. Naturally people get suspicious about him and his family. Parliamentarians have become just a bunch of scarecrows. If this was even suggested by the other party, imagine what Wirawansa, Gammanpila would have done. At least Vaasudeva has some courage. Hats off to him.

    • 2
      1

      Guruge,
      I am bored; bear with me, for this distraction.
      I relish crab-curry. Know nothing about crabs.
      Do daughter-crabs walk straight. Or, does the mother crab take only the sons to task.

      • 1
        0

        Nathan,
        Your comment reminds me of something I learnt in the past, from ලෝවැඩ සඟරාව.
        ලිප ගිණි මොලවන තෙක් දිය සැලියේ
        සැපයක් යැයි කකුළුවා දිය කෙළියේ
        Meaning; Until the fire is lit under the pot, the crab was playing in the pot thinking how delightful the situation is. Soon the country is going to be a hellhole, you are reminiscing of a crab curry.
        Way to go my man.

    • 4
      0

      Mr Guru@ great comment, u articulated qit as no others.. ??????????

    • 4
      0

      Guruge,
      You are absolutely right that the decipline should come from this government or the president who came to power with a two third majority in the parliament from the same political party and the same family. What is the necessity for this amendment now? It clearly shows that this government and president are afraid of people, particularly Sinhala people. It is also highlight that the Sinhala masses are going to be suffered more under this government and the president. If the people give a free approval to this amendment then you can’t stop whatever they do. They don’t spend a single penny to this country from their pocket.It is your money and the money they borrow in your account from China or USA or India. The people wanted to get rid of the executive power which destroyed this country for four decades and now after 40 years are we going to renew that to completely destroy Srilanka.

      • 4
        0

        Ajith,
        20A is for their protection, as they already know their fabricated stories are exposed to some people, soon many more will come to know. People with some brains know they are going to sign MCC. They came to power by fearmongering about MCC, ACSA, SOFA and Easter attack. They know, soon they will fail not only in their promises, but also in economic plans. To suppress future backlashes they need an autocratic ruthless ruler. They are planning for that by empowering military in most of the key Government establishments. We will see many more Weliveriya type (2013) suppressions (worse) in coming years. They are taking all the defenses to prevent what happened in 2015 again, for them to have power for a long time. Aging Ranil, just want to have a comfortable life for the rest of his life, has been helping them out in that. Many Parliamentarians, ex. Premajayanth, Gammanpila, have families in the west, no matter what happens to SL, their families are safe. But people like Wirawansa should keep their eyes opened, because once the 20A is approved, his braying become useless to Rajapaksas, will be just a doormat like GLP. GOD help to save SL.

  • 2
    0

    We all knew if RAJAPAKSHES would be back, things would worsen. An elephant is in the room – but no public domain media care much about the truths. Why ? Media is kidnapped by Rajapakshe underground net works. Why Basil aka 10% was seen succeesful whatever he spearheaded was not because of his talents, but he pumped millions in to those media institutions: This was coninued since MR was defeated in 2015. That is why, even if GOOD GOVERNANCE achieved a lot, were not known to the public. But they today publish – namal bastard son s baby birth – as headline news on numbers of tabloids and TV channels. How come ? Is this seen any of the civilized countries ?

    Atleast 6 mio of us knew it right ? Nevertheless people voted for them, because EASTER SUNDAY DISASTER (also made by them) stood out as the biggest mistake. Rajapakshes would do anyhting and everything by manipulating the gulliable/vulnerable mind set. It was seen like ” fishing on muddy waters”: Ridiculously enough, they continue this being close to so called BUDDHIST monks (Buddhagama skin heads), because that way only they could outreach any easy targets. This is very tricky, but even youth of this country – are now brainwashed for their political survival. Most supported them would not know the ABC in srilanken politics. They just joined to the moving caravan only.

  • 2
    2

    We should either have a presidential system or the parliamentary system with a PM. having both the President and the PM sharing powers is not going to work. The president has been elected with a clear majority whether we like it or not where as the PM has not been elected as the PM but appointed. Therefore transferring some of the Presidential powers to the PM should have never been carried out without a referendum. In Asian countries a strong leader is a must for the development of the country like in Singapore or Malaysia. Parliamentary system is good for European countries who value discipline and democracy. We are an indiscipline country and take undue advantage of being democratic. Discipline should be improved at any cost specially on the roads.

  • 0
    0

    20A is said to be coming because of 19A. We have pointed on this matter earlier too. It is only All my Children and only a Family Feud. So there is no need for a 20A for any matter. To invoke emergency or deploy army or to arrest anybody any time and keep any longer in prison, thanks to LTTE excuse, there are ample laws available already. So one can do is to assume the initiations to 20A is attached to more subtle and/or vile purpose. This is a high risk game. Even if one of their MPs falls sick, it cannot be passed. As far as Aanduwa is concerned, 20A going defeated is not a problem. They appear to be on a no concern mood or know the result already. There could be a plan B, but it is difficult to predict, if so, then what it would be. This may be a Vellaudam (Rehearsal) for a larger plan. If they face any problem with this unwanted, then they can rearrange the pawns and play the next game. Their proposed constitutional change is yet to come out. Or there may be some other larger plans, like giving half of Colombo to China.

    There are already 14 court cases. But sadly their footing is on referendum.

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