By Sunil J. Wimalawansa –
Part 24: Sri Lanka—Changing Pillows to Cure Headaches: The Despot president was replaced by a Tyrant in Sri Lanka
As demonstrated over the years, the current politicians have no interest in the welfare of constituents and the country. Hardly anyone seems to put the country first. Instead of proper planning and developing the country and bringing legislation to support it, the young and old politicians systematically promoted ethnic and religious divisions and animosities within groups as distracting tactics for self-gain.
The only way to have a meaningful and sustainable System Change is through major political and social changes. This must be followed by introducing a new constitution, bringing in an entirely new set of members of parliament, restricted to 60, including 12 ministers to govern the country fairly. It is crucial that the constitution include recalling any, in the event anyone of them is inefficient or destructive, or become corrupt and completely removing the judiciary from politician control.
Patching up the miserably failed JRJ’s-1977 constitution with amendments will not help the country. Meanwhile, it is time for the police and the military to stop taking unconstitutional orders from corrupt politicians. The latter includes illegally arresting and manufacturing charges, engaging in violence against protesters and harming people. Doing so is state-sponsored terrorism, which is punishable by law.
Removal of accountability and the independence of the judiciary via amendments
One of the most damming things in recent constitutional amendments was removing the judiciary’s power and bringing it under the executive president. Today, it paralysed the judiciary leaving politicians to cause havoc in the country. It removed a critical element of a democracy: the separation of power between the three branches of the government—the separation of the judiciary from the legislature and executive branches.
The independence of the judiciary was systematically taken away via recent constitutional amendments. With the enacting of the scoundrel 20th amendment, justice/judiciary, law and order, and accountability virtually disappeared from Sri Lanka—turning into a lawless society.
Economic downhill of Sri Lanka
Tormented constitutional amendments created a perfect system for the executive presidents and ministers to pilfer national resources (perhaps, fortune-sharing) without fear of consequences. Misinformed, selfish presidents were hoodwinked by unscrupulous advisers, bureaucrats, and businessmen: one of the critical reasons for bankruptcy.
Following the 20th amendment, misfortunes for the public escalated. 20th A purposefully designed to remove all independent commissions that oversaw the legislative and executive branches of the government that had the legal power to prosecute law-breakers, including the judiciary. Politicians infiltrated the Constitutional Council, providing the opportunity for the politicians and senior administrators free tickets to ransack the treasurer and national property. Because of these malfeasants, the average person is now paying much higher prices for goods and services and commodity prices, causing shortages of food and medicine. The result is people’s suffering.
Bad behaviour of politicians
Nowadays, practically anyone with much money can become an MP. As per the Hansard report, there are drug dealers, murderous, and convicted criminals in the parliament. Leading politicians and political party leaders sometimes acted like clowns in an old but expensive circus—breaking the law. Other times, MPs turned the parliament into a teledrama for TV appearances—public entertainment. One example was during a political crisis in 2018; they behaved irrationally as thugs and destroyed public property with impunity. The public wants to know why none of these political thugs was brought to justice for violent behaviour and destroying public property. Why are these double standards?
Both elected and unelected MPs have become thugs within and outside the parliament, abusing their powers under smoke screens of quasi-protection. The parliament has become an ineffective but costly affair to the public and a destructive institution that gives lousy behavioural examples: a poor role model, especially for children. This worthless circus is run by ‘comedians,’ abusing public funds, just like useless provincial councils.
Kings of corruptions
Corruption is not only among politicians but is embarrassingly rampant among administrators in all government agencies and institutes. It has spread across municipalities, customs, inland revenue, agencies issuing licenses, passport offices, universities, etc. There is corruption wherever governmental authorities issue something or people need approvals—no government office where there are no bribe takers. Ironic that those who are accused as culprits of major scams like Bond Scam, instead of bringing to justice, are now promoted to the highest positions in the government, and more are brought in.
It is the same reason why many government institutions like LitroGas, petroleum corporation, Ceylon Electricity Board, Transport sections (trains and buses), SriLankan airline, etc. running at a loss: full of corruption and nepotism. All these institutes and corporations have a higher potential to make a profit, but they don’t. Due to inefficiencies, escalated expenses, misappropriations of funds and pilferage, these report massive losses. Removing oversights, including accounting, auditing, and bribery commissions, created a perfect storm for stealing funds without consequences.
Continuation of unconstitutional activities by the executive branch
Meanwhile, the former president illegally pardoned and released murderers and criminals and even gave them higher government positions! He also appointed persons with no capability or credibility to governmental Committees and institutes and even sent some abroad as ambassadors and senior embassy staff—classic cases of nepotism. Ongoing corruption also allowed people who lost elections, those who were not contested, or not even on the “national list,” like the current president, to enter as members of the parliament (MPs). Such extreme corruption happened only in Sri Lanka and is being documented in the Guinness Book of world records. These continuing acts by Sri Lanka politicians are disgraceful.
The leaders of all opposition parties and the judiciary ‘failed’ to block these illegal appointments of MPs to the parliament: no one even objected to them! Consequently, they allowed some of them to become not only MPs but also ministers, prime ministers, and even the president! The resultant negative results for the country are apparent. What an absurdity! Most 225 parliamentarians knowingly contributed to these ongoing fraudulent and unconstitutional activities. Such ploys are happening only in Sri Lanka.
Pathway to the bankruptcy of Sri Lanka
In conjunction with corruption, bad judgments, and harmful policies, these organisations paved the path to bankruptcy in Sri Lanka. The second major issue is exceptionally high public expenses—1.5 million public employees and maintenance costs. Incredibly, even after 12 years of peace, unnecessarily maintaining the over-blown military. These measures were discussed in detail under “the importance of the reduction of costs,” parts #9 through 11th of this article series. This must include slashing the human strength of the highly over-employed armed forces by half. However, not even a hint that the government is doing so—sheer absurdity of the administration.
Over the past decade, the governments should have gradually reduced the strength of the military by 10% per year (primarily through natural attritions); that would have markedly reduced expenses and helped to correct the annual budget deficits, but the government failed to do so. Successive governments did nothing to reduce their expenses.
Military labour is too expensive to use for construct pavement, beautification and building construction, and repairing homes of senior military officers (i.e., use as free labour): that is not the military’s job. All unnecessary privileges given to current and former military leaders (that do not enjoy by civilians) like personal allowances given for petrol, electricity, etc., must be revoked immediately, so as for politicians and government administrators.
Enforce the law, not autocratic forces
Fortified with an unfounded emergency declaration, the president pushed arbitrary arrests of protesters and activists. As per the constitution, people have 100% right to protest against this failing, undemocratic government. Although unclear, the police seem to manufacture charges against the protesters to satisfy unlawful arrests and fulfil the orders from a handful of dishonest politicians directed to them through their superiors.
Evidence suggests that the military is aiding this illegal activity to satisfy the president, which is unconstitutional. President must unconditionally release all political prisoners and others arrested illegally and allow the freedom of expression without intimidating and exploiting using military intelligence and other human rights abuses.