29 September, 2020

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The 19th Should Be Revisited

By Malinda Seneviratne

Malinda Seneviratne

Malinda Seneviratne

Much has been said of the jumbo cabinet of the Maithripala-Ranil Government and the choices made by the decision-makers. There’s been hardly any cheering apart from the appointees and their supporters. The leaders have to pick from those available, this is true. However, it was they who nominated them in the first instance. Maithripala Sirisena is clearly the bigger culprit here. Revenge-intent and political expediency were clearly the overriding concerns for he made it possible to smuggle into parliament individuals rejected by the people and if this wasn’t bad enough gave them cabinet posts and other ministerial posts to boot.

One might have thought that saner counsel would prevail in nominating people to the Constitutional Council, but no, two of the ‘civil society’ nominees are compromised on several counts. Radhika Coomaraswamy, over and above her role in various anti-Sri Lanka moves including the attempt to have the pernicious R2P (Responsibility to Protect) mechanisms applied here, suffers from a serious integrity deficit. She deliberately sat on a report of alleged human rights violations, perhaps in order to get Government clearance for a plum UN post. Worse, she claimed ‘she could not remember’. All of this is in the public domain. His pioneering work in Sarvodaya notwithstanding, Dr A. T. Ariyaratne is a mixed-bag. In addition to the natural impediments of age, his preferences in appointments have raised questions about judgment.

Radhika-CoomaraswamyIn addition, the integrity of other members, all Parliamentarians with some ex-officio appointments, will always be suspect given the now apparent slavishness to leader that is the price extracted for membership. The 19th Amendment was flawed in this respect. One has to be an optimist of the extreme kind to expect this lot to deliver something that can balance off the excessive powers of the Executive Presidency.

Choice and suitability are, sadly, just surface issues here. The bigger issue is the constitution itself and in particular the 19th Amendment, at least with respect to cabinet appointments.

The 19th Amendment allows for a maximum of 30 Cabinet Ministers. Forty more comprising of Deputy Ministers and State Ministers can be appointed. If a single party/coalition obtains the minimum 113 seats for a majority, at least 42 will be just ordinary members (assuming that the 43rd would be the Speaker). So more than one-third would be unhappy. This was the norm way back when but things have changed; getting elected is not enough, people want ministries.

A ‘national government’ solves the leaders’ problems. He/she can say ‘have to accommodate guys from the other party, I am helpless’. That’s a legitimate out. Indeed, all MPs of the winning party can be given ministerial posts (19th Amendment 46(4), which allows Parliament to approve a number beyond the ’30’ legislated under 46(1)a and 46(1)b. It would seem, then, that a less than 113 outcome is, paradoxically, necessary for the alleviation of that kind of headache. Party leaders’ headaches however are their business. Someone could say ‘It’s a good headache to have’.

The problem with such an outcome is that the 19th Amendment does not allow for the kind of ‘national government’ Ranil and Maithri have put together. Article 46 (5) defines ‘National Government’: “A Government formed by the recognized political party or the independent group which obtains the highest number of seats in Parliament together with the other recognized political parties or the independent groups”. It does not say ‘any other’, which would have made this Cabinet legitimate. Of course neither does it say ‘all other’ (which would have made this Cabinet illegitimate). The wording is vague and shows carelessness and incompetence.

The common sense definition of ‘national’ as opposed to ‘coalition’ (which is what we have and which can be called anything, ‘Unity Government’, ‘Strange Bedfellows’ or ‘Colombo Knight Riders’) implies an all-encompassing entity. There could be no ‘Opposition’ in such an arrangement.

This brings us to the other examples of carelessness in the Amendment. The Leader of the Opposition is mentioned but the appointment and removal are not clarified. This was missing in the 1978 Constitution as well. The current confusion in and about ‘the opposition’ has as much to do with Maithripala’s machinations as with constitutional flaw.

As things stand, therefore, we can conclude that this jumbo cabinet’s principal problem is not size but legality. There’s an at least 50-50 chance of it being illegal (court determination will be required and let’s not bet on that, shall we?).

So what do we have? A half-way legal set of ministers and deputy ministers whose other-than-constitutional legitimacy leaves much to be desired and a Constitutional Council of misfits and slaves to leaders’ whims. We cannot expect statesmanship from them. The 19th needs to be revisited. The entire constitutional needs to be revisited. And even if such were decided we have a bunch of nitwits doing the re-visitation. Not a happy state of affairs, certainly.

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Latest comments

  • 11
    2

    Malinda

    Caesar’s wife must be above suspicion. You have raised questions over the integrity of Radhika.

    You mentioned that:

    “She deliberately sat on a report of alleged human rights violations, perhaps in order to get Government clearance for a plum UN post. Worse, she claimed ‘she could not remember’. All of this is in the public domain.”

    If Radhika has compromised her integrity on several counts as you mentioned here, she should not sit in the Constitutional Council even though she has now been nominated by her friend Ranil. I understand that she was a protege of Neelan Thiruchelvam and I believe she owes a lot to Neelan for her later positions in the UN. Like Mahendran, Radhika and Neelan were and are all buddies of Ranil and they all come from the same Colombo Seven society. What Ranil is doing now is no different to what Mahinda did when he was the President. He also appointed his relatives and friends to top government positions. Nothing has changed. When Mahinda was in power it was people from down South who were getting plum government posts and now with Ranil in power it is the turn of the Colombo Seven people to get appointed to top government positions. Nothing had changed under Ranil-Mathri’s yahapalanaya regime.

    • 6
      1

      Time has come for Civil Society to start a petition and stage weekly protests outside the Prime Minister’s office for GENUINE GOOD GOVERNANCE.

      Kishali Pinto jayawardene would be far better than Radhika C on the CC.

      Dr. Dushni Weerakoon or Dr. Saman kelegama would make excellent heads of the Central bank. Both are well qualified economists with doctorates and have served the country well at the Institute of Policy Studies, unlike Arjuna Mahendran who does not have an advanced degree and was a stock trader in derivatives in Singapore.

      Shibly Aziz the 3rd members of the CC is famous for turning a blind eye at corruption, along with Radhika who suppressed reports for UN jobs the CC will be useless, with Ariyaratne who is too old for the job in any case.

      Arjuna Mahendran and Nivard Cabraal whose cases were withdrawn when corrupt deals were being made between Sirisena, Mahinda Jarapassa and Ranil must both be investigated for insider trading, currency manipulation, and NSB pension losses at the Central Bank. The funds they have stolen must be brought back to the country and returned to the people of Sri Lanka.

    • 8
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      Malinda

      “Caesar’s wife must be above suspicion. You have raised questions over the integrity of Radhika.”

      This is coming from a Shill and White-Washer of MaRa MaRa ChaTu MaRa, the Lying, Corrupt, Robbing and Criminal former President Malinda Rajapaksa’s Shill and white-Washer, Malinda Seneviratna.

      Yes, Shill, you can always fimnd Modayas,, Mootals and Fools to accept what you say.

      All 300,000 such voters voted for Wimal Modawansa of 2/2 =0 fame.

      Malinda , you need a cure.

      Sing MaRa MaRa Chatu MaRa poem every day, and then sing the Jaya Mangala Gatha in Original Pali, to get rid of MaRa, MaRa.

    • 5
      1

      Naga

      Malinda and yourself have some reservation about her being appointed to constitutional council.

      Given that there is no one in this island as squeaky clean as Malinda, why don’t we recommend him as a member of the council?

      Beware, garbage in garbage out.

    • 4
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      Doomsayers

      Candidly, Taraki, Ramuuuuuuuuu

      despite your gloom and doom Jeremy won his leadership contest comfortably in a landslide victory, unheard of for a left leaning labour leadership contestant.

      In case if labour is going to be out of office for the next years, so be it. Jeremy has stirred up the conventional timid thinking, new kind of debate, not afraid of banks and media or confined by both, ……….

      Already conservatives have rolled out the big gun, followed by scare mongering, usual mudslinging, ………… as you do here in this forum.

      Unlike Dayan he is a peace monger.

    • 1
      1

      This writer has become a joke – to the very same manner so called self proclaimed analyst of the nation -Dayan Jayathilaka. Differnece is Dayan stays at least in silent mode right these days but this bugger still seems to have guts to express his stupidities. Absolutely a disgrace for a graduate produced by Harward – if he is graduate of the renowed uni.

    • 1
      1

      Malinda Seneviratne, Mahinda Rajapaksa Shill and White-Washer

      The 19th Should Be Revisited……..

      Malinda Seneviratne, Mahinda Rajapaksa Shill and White-Washer Should Be Decontaminated out of Mahinda Rajapaksa “Pol Kudu”, Coconut Refuse, and helped by circumcision.

      Sing….MaRa MaRa Chatu MaRa…

  • 8
    1

    Dear Malinda Seneviratne

    Your worry over the party of your choice unable to form the government well reflected in this rubbish of criticize for the sake of criticizing.
    “The 19th Amendment was flawed in this respect” that is regarding the Constitutional Council- the composition of it was forcefully changed from 5& 5 to present form by the then opposition party leader Nimal Sripala, on behalf of the eager to comeback as prime minister, and had the majority to do so, and therefore it requires revisiting, but not for the reasons you insinuated.
    Do you think that time lapsed would bury the facts?
    The fact is preventing further catastrophic to the nation, that is ensuring your master MR’s comeback has been effectively sealed off through a coalition government of two win-win parties, and thus the name as well the constitutional crisis is irrelevant as long as the objective of the MOST CONCERNED PARTIES, is established.
    Go for the constitutional tribunal for the NAME SAKE!

  • 6
    1

    Dear Malinda Seneviratne,

    For Heaven’s sake, give it a rest. Your idol Mahinda Rajapakse is gone, thank God, and you cannot bring him back. You are beginning to sound like Fox News ever ready to bash Pres. Obama whatever he says, even if they were Republican policies and once promoted by Fox News.

  • 5
    1

    “Dr A. T. Ariyaratne is a mixed-bag. In addition to the natural impediments of age, his preferences in appointments have raised questions about judgment”. Correct;in the context of his very subtle and shrewd anti Tamil stances in the past. He is not trusted by the Tamil speaking peoples. Bensen

  • 1
    9

    Most of the time I disagree with Malinda, but he is right this time he is on the right track.

  • 7
    1

    Malinda Seneviratne Shill and white-washer of Former President Mahinda Rajapaksa says:

    The 19th Should Be Revisited

    Malindas and other shills and crobies of MaRa unable to form the MaRa government is reflected in this rubbish of criticize for the sake of criticizing. Please sing:

    MaRa MaRa Chatu MaRa
    MaRa MaRa Amana MaRa
    MaRa maRa HoRa MaRa
    MaRa MaRa Dhushana MaRa.

    Malinda, the MaRa Shill. you can write 10 articles, using each line of the above poem, Kavi.

    The Shill and white-washer busters of Former President Mahinda Rajapaksa SHOULD say:

    Mahinda Rajapaksa and Malinda Seniviratna, should retire and do fishing in the Indian Ocean and recruit Dr. Dayan Jayatillaka and Dr. G.L. Peris..

    Can they fish?

  • 5
    1

    whoever whatever being passed, in the current context, MY3 and Ranil would not have any other better option. It is though sad to see that Ranjan Ramanayake with a higher number of prefereential votes to have been put in the same bin – giving him just a Deputy ministerial position, also Rosy Ramanayake with lower number of preferential vote gain to have been cornered – anyways, these are not seen as right at the moment, with majority of the people that seek justice and fairness towards the fair candidates -anyways, what I feel is out of the most appointed ones, they will be vacancies while them getting convicted for their crimes in the future – those vacancies then would have been filled by giving the mentioned canddiates a chance. On one hand UNP leadership is rigorous with their appointments while those who really need to be served better – also being marignalized by the system. In such issues, JVPers are right to have even decided better giving their most talented but defeated candidates a chances allowing them to go on with their paliamentary positions.

  • 4
    1

    I would suggest that the author of the above article expresses his vile prejudices against a well educated Yale and a Harward schooler and a retired top official of the United Nations. It’s pretty disengenious for the writer to make negative comments about this well educated lady that we has Sri Lankan should be honoured to have in a top committee advising the Government of the day. This tiny minded and should realise that All proffesionals are not yes men like him and do make critical comments if it is necessary that’s exactly what Ms Coomaraswamy did therefore please stop your sexist comments and the readers are pretty tired to read your prejudiced drivel.

  • 2
    1

    Congratulations Malinda for a candid view of a sordid political manipulation of tenets of good governance.

    Most of the comments are off color. If these wise guys have a different point of view they should express them without resorting to personal jibes.

    The main issue is whether it is good governance (forget about legality) to reject a list of names of national list nominees presented to the people.
    This is question of the sovereignty of the people and their fundamental right of franchise.
    Parliamentary opposition is already compromised. Now these wise commentators are attempting to muzzle press freedom.
    Woe unto you!

  • 0
    0

    Malinda,

    Not only 19A, but the entire 1978 constitution should be revisited.

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