By Sunil J. Wimalawansa –
Part 21: Sri Lanka—Changing Pillows to Cure Headaches: The First Step of Aragalaya is Completed: What is Next?
Developing countries, including Sri Lanka, are not under-developed; they have rich history and cultures, humanities, and abundant resources. However, the development and the true happiness of people and advances are prevented by over-exploiting resources and loan traps by opportunistic extreme capitalists and predatory foreign governments. While many came from outside the country, they used and enticed those in power (e.g., bribes and commissions given for worthless projects) within Sri Lanka. Many of these were done not for the benefit of the people or to develop its economy.
Not only politicians but many senior government administrators and consultants were involved in these corrupt practices, known as profit sharing, which is an attempt to legalise taking bribes. These harmful activities are sustained intentionally through the policies and loopholes in the constitution. Especially the intentional constitutional changes brought in “after” the 17th amendment by the parliamentarians.
Such practices opened doors not only for influencing the judiciary and bringing it under the executive presidency but also paved the path for broader corruption without consequences, auditing, or scrutinising by Commissions. To date, we have not had a single honest executive president in Sri Lanka: so it is a fundamental problem and the root of corruption. This menace rapidly spread to all government administrations, including the lowest level employee in Provincial Councils and Municipalities in Sri Lanka.
Fake news and the cultural effects on the current crisis
Sri Lankans, by nature, are deeply attached to its history (former glory) and culture without a clear understanding of what that means. Consequently, it flourishes in rhetoric’s and engulfs mystics and ritualistic activities without focusing on the current moment and the future needs.
The System became worse due to the false narratives, propaganda, misleading information and opinions, and political brainwashing of the public with fake partisan news by the mainstream media (MSM) in favour of the ruling party. Instead of informing the public with facts and figures and educating them, they continue propagating phoney news and useless opinions. Perhaps, mainstream media copied from the failed schemes and institutions in the USA, like the New York Times and CNN, originators of fake news. This scenario was made worse due to false and biased media portraying a glorious picture of dishonest rulers as saviours of the nation.
For the past seven decades in Sri Lanka, politicians from all parties have used this same uneven platform to trick naive people with false promises and divert their attention from real issues affecting them and the country while systematically robbing the treasury. The latter got escalated over the past 15 years. Politicians and administrators collectively managed to engage in destructive and non-value-added superficial activities and robberies without being penalised for fraud. The independence of the judiciary took away via the last three constitutional amendments (especially the 20th A). It constantly diverted attention elsewhere, leading to the country’s lack of law and order.
The latter includes bringing in foreign teams to play cricket, manufacturing religious or other interests and unrests, approving untimely celebrations and large-scale processions (perahara), providing handouts to party followers, and planting seeds to create tensions between various ethnic or religious groups, etc. Diversion of attention from real issues (e.g., impending financial crisis) became the primary strategy of recent political leaders that kept postponing taking right policy decisions for the betterment of the country.
The ongoing crisis has now become an emergency
The country is bankrupt—there is no time to waste—thus, the Public, who has the ultimate power over the government, must rescue it. The new prime minister, who was parachuted from hell, continues to make things worse for the country: he must resign now (today) unconditionally without continuing to be a parasite to the country.
As an institution, yet again the government failed. It failed to protect them and the public from police brutality. Nevertheless, the Public has the supreme power: thus, they won the first step. However, this is just the beginning. The first step of chasing away the president—GotaGoHome—was successful and achieved peacefully, despite the widespread police interference and harassment. BASL should have obtained a valid court order to prevent these crooks from deserting the country so they could face justice in Sri Lanka.
Do not let politicians fool the country anymore
The current politician had enough time to resolve the issues, but they did not put effort into doing so. They miserably failed to resolve the political and fiscal crises. They neither desire to do so nor apparently have the brains to solve problems affecting the country and its people. In addition, they are selfish and only want solutions and benefits and payments for themselves, with zero empathy for the public.
Therefore, do not let the current unscrupulous politicians continue to mislead the public (even now), dragging the country down the drain and exacerbating the people’s suffering. The president, prime minister, and all ministers who served in the cabinets over the past year failed. Thus, they have no right to participate in the interim cabinet or be elected as temporary president.
Therefore, the general public and educated persons with specific expertise, wisdom, and altruism must come forward to take care of the next step of the Aragalaya: i.e., setting an interim government and solving the current crises. The current lot in the parliament failed miserably, especially the ruling party; thus, they have disqualified themselves from participating in the interim government. The country needs new blood into the cabinet: people with out-of-the-box ideas and solutions, not failed entrenched politicians.
This needed exchange of “heads” can be achieved by replacing all 29 unelected national lists members in the parliament [who came through the back door because of a constitution (amendment) loophole] with those people mentioned above: who are dedicated, honest, experts in subject matter and experience in negotiations, and “country-first” professionals.
Time to Act now
The country is bankrupt—there is no time to waste—the Public must rescue it. There is no purpose in letting the current ineffective politicians drag the country down the drain and worsen the suffering of the people. Take the lead and follow up with suitable, peaceful persistent protests without occupying those seized buildings by 13th of July. Time to change the Aragalaya to a “strategic intellectual” action plan needed to rescue the country from crooked politicians and administrators destroyed for a better future. Find ways to prevent them from contesting and/or reelecting at the next general election.
While protests are happening, honest and altruistic experts with a dedication to the country must come forward and join immediately and prepare the next series of steps, strategies, and documents necessary for resolving crises in Sri Lanka.
In parallel with the proposed new constitution, the country must re-establish the “constitutional democracy:” three branches of government, the executive, legislative and judiciary. In the interim, it is best to void the last three constitutional amendments that took away the power from the judiciary and give the per back to the people: with equal legitimacy between the three branches.
What needs to be done now?
To commemorate the momentous event on 9th July 2022, the peaceful social revolution, the author suggests people consider, from next year onwards, changing Independence Day from 4th of February to 9th of July (note: the country does not need two independent days). Now that the first historic step was taken yesterday to re-establish the democracy in Sri Lanka, it is crucial to move forward with the right approaches.
This includes appointing an interim president from within the 224 MPs, and a 12-member all-party, temporary cabinet with persons with proven “expertise” in their fields, but not based on a political party of seniority. All previous cabinet members have failed to do their jobs. Therefore, none of them is qualified nor should appoint to the interim cabinet: they are already disqualified.
As noted above, all new cabinet members—12 experts in the relevant subject matter and experience in international monetary negotiations—could be from outside the current MPs. They can be appointed immediately after replacing those 29 national list members within a week. By doing so, the new cabinet members will not have any political distractions, baggage, conflicts of interest, or desires to satisfy constituents. Therefore, they will be able entirely to focus on resolving the fiscal crisis and other issues affecting Sri Lanka, which is 100% feasible.
Once the interim president and 12-member interim cabinet are appointed, there is no use for the parliament, so it should be dissolved immediately after appointing the interim cabinet until the next general election in 6 to 9 months. Some prefer 20 members for the interim cabinet: however, more the number, the higher the likelihood of chaos and delays in taking the right actions.
Running the parliament is expensive and a worthless venture at this stage, and it is unnecessary. In addition to expenses, it will be a distraction hindering solving the issues. Remember that there was no running parliament for approximately nine months during the COVID era. Besides, there are no constitutional barriers to doing so. Do not get stuck with words and sentences going in circles. The country needs immediate actions for a better future. Desperate situations need drastic but peaceful actions to overcome current crises.