29 October, 2020

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The 20th A: An Opportunity For The President

By Malinda Seneviratne

Malinda Seneviratne

Malinda Seneviratne

The majority of those who cast valid votes on January 8, 2015 wanted ‘change’. The ‘change’ candidate and his supporters outlined in manifesto what that ‘change’ was going to be. There was change. An incumbent was removed. We got new face in the President’s office and a new Government. But ‘change’ was not to be just that.

The pledge was to right a lot of wrongs within 100 days. That was quite a bold promise. Realists would say ‘over ambitious’. But then again, people in this country have a decent enough idea about promises that are not kept, delays in implementation and of course the fact that rhetoric is several times larger than what actually gets done. Big on talk, small on delivery; that’s a given, almost.

The 100 days came and went. It was beautiful the way it went. It was almost as though the completion of the number of days was more important than the tasks that were to be accomplished within those 100 days. There was no insistence by the general public that the Government finish what it started, never mind the delay.

The work was derailed first by the announcement of a General Election, then by the campaign, then by the long drawn out process of appointing a Cabinet and then by the second of the twice-a-year UNHRC Circus in Geneva. There’s nothing ‘major’ left to distract the Government from revisiting its to-do list. A word of caution, though: distractions can be manufactured, for example a huge ha-ho can be conjured over the UNHRC Resolution, hybrid courts and relevant prosecution. Let’s hope that such noises are left for the Opposition to indulge in. Deep down they would know that there’s no regime-change on the horizon. The Government can get (back) to work.

Speaker Karu Jayasuriya has promised to get the Code of Conduct for MPs done. The Government has promised to bring the Right to Information Act. So far there’s been absolute silence on one of the most significant pieces of reform pledged by Maithripala Sirisena: the 20th Amendment to the Constitution, namely Electoral Reform.

President Sirisena is secure in this regard because a) he has vowed that he’s already contested his last election, and b) the 20th Amendment won’t have any bearing on his office or the powers vested in it. He can and must take the lead in this all-important democratizing process.

The United National Party, led by Ranil Wickremesinghe, dragged its collective feet from January onward to the point that they could cite ‘not enough time’ with respect to the 20th Amendment. There’s delimitation that’s necessary. The 19th Amendment refers to a Delimitation Commission and the appointment of the same was not possible without the Constitutional Council (CC) being appointed. Problematic though the composition of the CC, it’s now in place. We are told that the Commissions will be constituted soon.

Such things, however, come into play later. First the 20th Amendment has to be tabled, debated, amended if necessary and passed. First there has to be a public debate on a draft 20th Amendment. If delay was orchestrated so that incumbents had a better chance of re-election, now that problem does not exist. MPs can feel safe for the next five years. Those among them who see further than the others may not want this kind of ‘change’ of course, but if President Maithripala Sirisena puts his foot down everyone, including those in the UNP, will have to play ball given political realities and how fragile coalitions are.

He has a strong ally in the UNP leader. His nominee to the CC, Patali Champika Ranawaka, is also the General Secretary of the UNP-led coalition that won the August Parliamentary Election. He is a strong advocate of electoral reform. It’s easy to get the ‘Change-Chorus’ to sing again, if some public ‘demand’ needs to be shown.

This is President Sirisena’s moment to set the ball rolling to the point that lasting and progressive changes are realized. The rationale is crystal clear: better representation. Poor representation has been a major drawback in the democratizing process. President Sirisena knows it and he should be honest and humble enough to acknowledge that he hasn’t exactly helped. But he’s seasoned enough to know that he can still redeem himself and very easily too. All he has to do is to make a short statement.

Something like this: “We are going to begin a new chapter in the democratic political life of our country — we are going to get the 20th Amendment passed. If this is the only thing that I accomplish during my presidency, it will still be enough I feel. Support me.”

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Latest comments

  • 6
    2

    “But he’s seasoned enough to know that he can still redeem himself and very easily too. All he has to do is to make a short statement”

    A short statement is not enough. He also has to dole out a few free laptops.

    • 5
      1

      I would like to know what goes through the heads of the ones like Malinda And Dayan Jayathilaka ? Colombo University should better be engageed offering Master of Doctoral theses to study tthe nature of the kind lanken so called educated personalities. I wonder why MS cant grasp things yet – even after almost everything about the manner how MR et al looted and rooted the nation is slowly revealing to the people of the country. We are more aware of the facts this week than the last week. Next week and the month will be more informed about the grabs of few of Rajapakshes. There, Malinda or others would have to go striping- I never thoguht a state oberhaupt after Premadasa would go this abusive – but almsot everyone is becoming clear alone looking at the way MR is passing the ball to the UPFA or someone else asif he worked on the orders of someone else. May be his Royal Astrolger has to add lot more on this.

  • 3
    1

    Big on talk, small on delivery

    Viktor Yanukovych of Ukraine was similar to Mahinda Rajapaske.

    They were big on delivery yet operated in a way that were corrupt to the core.

    These kinds of behaviors are similar to waving a red rag to the crazy western-liberal buffalo. Ukraine had no internal process such as the 100-day program that identified the looming threat.

    You should be lucky the 100-day thinggy deviated the country from the Ukraine type of destiny.

    Considering the results I think 100-day program OVER delivered. I think the responsibility for everyone now is to ensure the program actually implemented.

  • 4
    1

    Malinda

    Your boss MR did nothing during his second term but cultivated nepotism and corruption.

    So give MS and RW a chance.

    They wil deliver the promises during the fort two years.

    Jagath.

  • 2
    1

    By the way who is the real president ?

  • 4
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    Let’s not hold our collective breath for President Sirisena to ‘do the right thing’, as his deafening silence on the growing nepotism within his administration (including his precedent-setting brother’s appointment and his inexcusable silence regarding his daughter’s and son’s actions) is not something we expected from his pre-election rhetoric.

    Having said that, we must be thankful for his part in ridding the country of the despicable Rajapakses and their gang of thugs!

  • 4
    1

    We escaped from the frying pan. Looks like we are now heading for the fire. God save us all.

  • 1
    2

    From the “Known” to the “Unknown” in search of CHANGE!!

    We deserve what we get for gambling without responsibility!!

  • 3
    0

    What ‘better representation’, when those who lost elections are ‘parachuted’ into parliament via the backdoor also known as the ‘national list’?
    What 20th amendment – so far not even an outline of it is available – this “delimitation” can go on forever as has been, in the past.
    Let the MS/RW regime get on with urgent national problems without wasting time on ‘delimitation’.

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