25 September, 2020

Blog

The Impact Of The 19A

By Elmore Perera

Elmore Perera

Elmore Perera

“A prophet is not without honour save in his own country”. My many weaknesses are well known to CIMOGG. I therefore consider it as a signal honour to have been invited to “prophesy” as it were, about the possible impact of the 19th Amendment.

Judge Learned Hand, a distinguished American Judge made these observations. I quote “What do we mean when we say that first of all we seek liberty? I often wonder whether we do not rest our hopes too much upon constitutions, on laws and upon courts. These are false hopes, believe me, these are false hopes. Liberty lies in the hearts of men and women. When it dies there, no Constitution, no Law, no Court can ever do much to help it. While it lies there, it needs no Constitution, no law, no court to save it” Unquote.

As chief guest at my induction as OPA President in 2007, Justice Mark Fernando said, I quote “What is required are Just Persons. Not Just Constitutions, Just Laws or Just Institutions. Right persons and not institutions, because Paradise even on earth is not a physical place of material development but a set of values: fairness, tolerance, non-discrimination and so on. A Nirvana in which people are liberated from craving and evil.” Unquote.

The United Kingdom is perhaps the only nation that survives without a written Constitution. Since gaining Independence in 1948 we were governed by the Constitution of Sir Ivor Jennings which provided for an Independent Public Service Commission and the entrenched safeguard that no citizen may be conferred any right which is denied to any other citizen.

Ranil MaithripalaIn 1972, the first Republican Constitution abolished the Independent Public Service Commission and vested sovereignty in the National State Assembly. In 1978, the Second Republican Constitution provided in Article 3 that Sovereignty, which includes the powers of government, fundamental rights and the franchise, was vested in us, the people, and was inalienable. In Article 4 was set out how the people’s Legislative, Executive and Judicial powers that constitute an essential part of our sovereignty, shall be exercised and enjoyed (not suffered!) by us. In reality, however, this sovereignty was limited to the short periods of time preceding elections.

“Politics is too serious a matter to be left to the Politicians,” said General Charles de Gaulle. The truth of this assertion was confirmed by the duplicitous conduct of our politicians in respect of the 17th Amendment drafted by the OPA after extensive consultation with them. Acting in concert, our politicians watered it down in 2001, rendered it ineffective in 2005 and finally rejected and replaced it with the 18th Amendment in 2010, paving the way for an inevitable dictatorship.

By 2013, across the board 70% of the people’s representatives were reaping a bountiful harvest under the patronage of an all-powerful Executive President. There was scarcely a whimper from the other 30% who suffered a severe loss of credibility. Anarchy reigned.

It was widely agreed that 35 years of experience had shown that the Executive Presidency had contributed immensely to several of the ills that plagued the country. Foremost among them were, the tendency towards Constitutional Authoritarianism, collapse of democratic institutions, blatant disregard of the rule of law, breakdown of law and order, corruption, nepotism, interference with the Judiciary and the militarization of Society. Despite the defeat of armed separatism, we had yet to win the peace.

Dissent of any form was not tolerated and the media was under severe pressure. The rise of extremism posed a threat to National Unity.

It had become quite obvious to a vast majority of our people that the progressive disintegration and collapse of our political structures over a period of time had now become complete. They were conscious of the fact that, not only those in the Cabinet and the Parliament, but also those in the Provincial Councils and Pradeshiya Sabhas were active collaborators in the existing corrupt system. The people were well aware that the only function those representatives performed was to effectively abuse their positions to maximise their personal benefits and those of their families. The all powerful Executive Presidential System facilitating one single individual to wield enormous powers without any responsibility or accountability had obviously become the key instrument which sustained the corrupt, irresponsible and inhuman system of government. The abolition of that system was seen as a prerequisite for the creation of a just and equitable society and the transformation of our country once again, to a land suitable for decent, law abiding people to live in.

Three years ago, the Visionary that he was, Ven. Maduluwawe Sobitha Thero realized that Sri Lankan Society was corrupt to the core, and envisioned remedial measures that were urgently needed.

To establish a Just Society in Sri Lanka he set about bringing together the people of the country, irrespective of their political affiliation, race and religion. His aim was to re-establish a Society which respects and values democratic good governance and the rule of law.

Under his leadership the National Movement for Social Justice (NMSJ) was formed .The long-term goal of the NMSJ was to create an awareness among the people, political parties and the government.

The following objectives were identified.
1. Democratic Governance: Abolish the Executive Presidency and introduce an electoral system with an equitable mix of the first-past-the post and proportional representation systems with no preferential voting.
2. De Politicised Governance: Repeal the 18th Amendment and reinstate the 17th Amendment with necessary refinements.
3. A stable country with Contented Communities : Implement the recommendations of the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC)
4. A strong national economy : Priority for manufacturing industries, modernize agriculture, strengthen the farmers’ pension scheme, promotion of exports through the production of high quality and high value-added products, planned control of imports that adversely affect the economy.
5. A Civilised and law-abiding Society: Restore the rule of law. Application of the law equally to all.
6. Democratic government free of bribery and corruption: a decisive end to bribery, corruption, wastage, nepotism and cronyism in governance; a new fundamental rights chapter with broadened civil and political rights guaranteeing equal rights to all citizens and the recognition of Social, Economical and Cultural rights as well as women’s rights and children’s rights.
7. Women’s rights and Child protection: More effective legislation for protection of rights of women and children.
8. Free education and healthcare and other social infrastructure: Sufficient budgetary provision to revive and resuscitate free education, health care and other social infrastructure.
9. Empowerment of the People: The right of the People to information, subject only to reasonable safeguards to protect the interests of society.
10. Planned governance and prudent state management: laws to prevent recurrence of misdoings such as hedging, import of low quality oil, sale of state assets at a loss or at heavily discounted prices, Inquire into the numerous instances of bribery and corruption reported in the reports of COPE and bring the perpetrators to Justice; planning of the management of the state sector with and through institutions consisting of professionals and implementing such plans, ensuring social justice.

The NMSJ neither sought allegiance to, nor opposed any political party. It was not in the least interested in contesting any election. Having no political agenda himself and with absolutely no intention of seeking election as President, the Ven. Thero vigorously campaigned in Colombo and several outstations on the basis that the Executive Presidency was consistently opposed by all parties, other than the UNP which introduced it. His clear position was that the most desirable win-win situation was for the UPFA government which then enjoyed a 2/3 rds majority in Parliament, to agree to the abolition of the Executive Presidency and bring in a Constitutional amendment to that effect.

Most, if not all, members of NMSJ were certain that Mahinda Rajapaksa would never agree to abolish the Executive Presidency or even agree to any reduction of the powers he had arrogated to himself and extensively enjoyed after the passage of the 18th Amendment. He was not at all likely to do anything, apart from drawing a red herring by paying lip service to such abolition.

Hoping for a miracle, the incumbent President’s attention was drawn to the fact that not only had he led a pada yathra urging the abolition of the Executive Presidency, he had also specifically pledged to do so in the Mahinda Chintana in 2005 and reiterated it in his Idiri Dekma in 2010. He also enjoyed a clear 2/3 rds majority in Parliament and there was nothing to prevent him from fulfilling his repeated pledges. Typically, Mahinda Rajapakse never overtly rejected this appeal but covertly acted to neutralize, if not destroy, this strictly a-political threat to his reign.

Fielding a common candidate at the next Presidential election seemed to be the only option available to deny Mahinda Rajapakse a 3rd term as Executive President. Identifying a politician whose pledge to abolish the Executive Presidency once elected to that position, would be believed by the people, seemed an impossible task.
As a means to fulfill this aspiration of a vast majority of our citizens, the NMSJ proposed that a “Common Candidate” who will hold office for a maximum period of six months, be presented and made victorious.

In that backdrop the NMSJ identified the following tasks to be assigned to the Common Candidate, as being urgent in the National interest.
i) Abolish the Executive Presidential System of government which inherently facilitates the genesis of constitutional dictators, and establish a Parliamentary System of government headed by a Prime Minister who shall be accountable to the Parliament and the People.
ii) Replace the present electoral system with a system that has an equitable mix of the first-past-the post and Proportional Representation Systems so that every elector will have his/her own Member of Parliament, and there is no preferential voting.
iii) Repeal the 18th Amendment which has consolidated the Executive Presidential System and reinstall the 17th Amendment with necessary amendments to restore the Independence of the important Commissions such as the Judicial, Public Service, Elections and Human Rights Commissions.

If the UPFA government did not agree to do so, abolition of the Executive Presidency would be the first priority of a common candidate who was willing to abolish the Executive Presidency. Such candidate should be committed to a draft Constitutional Amendment which would in effect be the election manifesto whereby a mandate would be sought from the people to abolish the executive Presidency and reform the Electoral system. When such candidate wins he/she would immediately dissolve Parliament.

The first Bill to be placed before the new Parliament, to be passed within 120 days, will be the proposed Constitutional Amendment. No difficulty was envisaged in thereafter obtaining the necessary 2/3rds majority at that time as the Opposition, having been defeated at the elections, was unlikely to wait another 6 years to try to regain power. In the event of the Supreme Court holding that the proposed amendment required approval by the People, a referendum would be held. That would create a climate in which, it would be possible to discuss issues rationally and implement measures to effect not only the other urgent reforms that had initially been identified, but also others that may have been subsequently identified, as being necessary to achieve Social Justice in Sri Lanka.

It became clear that far from abolishing the Executive Presidency, Mahinda Rajapakse was seeking to consolidate his position at the earliest opportunity. A two stage process was then envisaged.

Stage 1– The election of a Common Candidate wholly committed to:

(i) Abolish the Executive Presidency and replace it with a Parliamentary system consisting of a Prime Minister and a Cabinet of not more than 25 Ministers with not more than 25 Deputy/ non Cabinet Ministers,
(ii) Repeal the 18th Amendment and restore the Constitutional Council and Independent Commissions (as in the 17th Amendment), and
(iii) Guarantee to all Sri Lankans the same rights irrespective of Race, Religion, Caste, Creed, Culture or Gender and establish a Commission for the promotion and protection of the rights of Cultural, Religious, and Linguistic Communities.
Stage 2 – When elected as President, the Common Candidate who would be vested with all the then existing powers of the Executive President (including those under the 18th Amendment), will in the lawful exercise of those powers, appoint:
(1) A Prime Minister, 25 Ministers and 25 Deputy/Non Cabinet Ministers from amongst the sitting MPs,
(2) Chairmen and Members of the Independent Commissions, and
(3) Other key officials, as provided by existing law

Two weeks after these transitions become effective, the President will submit to the people by Referendum, the proposed amendments to the Constitution (including Electoral Reforms) and immediately thereafter dissolve Parliament, having issued proclamations that the General Election and the Referendum shall be held on the same day.

The President, Prime Minister, Cabinet Ministers, Members of the Independent Commissions and all officials who continue in office, will, inter alia, draft the Constitutional amendments and other legislation to be placed before the newly elected Parliament. The Elections and Referendum will be conducted with the Independent Elections, Police, Judicial and Public Service Commissions in place. A drastic change in the Political Culture was inevitable.

The constitutional amendments (including Abolishing the Executive Presidency and Electoral Reforms) and any other necessary legislation would all then be satisfactorily concluded, and the Common Candidate would step down on day 181 i.e. (9th July 2015), if not earlier.

Every possible effort was made to enlist the support of all political parties, civil society groups and individuals unreservedly committed to these objectives.
Increasing numbers of political parties and other civil society organisations, totaling 47, agreed to support the Common Candidate who had still not been named MOUs were signed and numerous agreements reached, in support of this endeavour. Many activities were planned and executed.
The problem was to find a “Common Candidate”. The Ven. Sobitha Thero who initially ruled out any suggestion that he should be the common candidate, after much persuasion by the members of the NMSJ, agreed to perform that function, only if it was just not possible to find a suitable common candidate. With that assurance NMSJ pressed on.

Ven. Sobitha Thero who had been hospitalized, discharged himself from hospital and returned to his Temple on 18th November 2014 to give leadership to the campaign.
At our meeting on 20th November 2014, soon after the announcement had been made, that the Presidential election would be held on 8th January 2015, we were delighted by the news that Maithripala Sirisena was quitting the government to be the Common Candidate. Most delighted to receive the news was Ven. Sobitha Thero. Relieved of the prospect of Ven. Sobitha Thero having to contest an election, the NMSJ fully supported the common candidature of Maithripala Sirisena and spared no pains to ensure his election.

This heralded the dawn of a new era in Sri Lankan Politics. The Sovereign People had great expectations of a significant change for the better in our Political Culture.
On 1st December, 2014, at the Viharamahadevi Open Air Theatre, Maithripala Sirisena entered into an MOU with the 47 groups that had rallied round the NMSJ to support the Common Candidate.

Having defected from a dictatorial regime, and been nominated as the Common Candidate, Maithripala Sirisena, in a hastily drafted election manifesto, pledged, within 100 days of election as president, to inter alia

(1) Introduce in Parliament on 21st January 2015 a draft 19th Amendment to replace the existing Executive Presidential System with a Cabinet of Ministers responsible to Parliament and to repeal the 18th amendment and activate, as soon as possible, Independent Judicial Service, Police, Public Service, Elections, Bribery and Corruption, and Human Rights Commissions.
(2) By 28th January 2015, appoint an inter-party Committee to make recommendations to abolish preferential voting and introduce a mix of the first-past-the post and proportional representation systems such that every electorate will have a representative.
(3) By 2nd February 2015, enact legislation for a code of ethics for Parliamentarians.
(4) By 18th February 2015, establish Independent Commissions and make relevant appointments.
(5) By 20th February 2015, introduce a “Right to Information” Bill.
(6) By 2nd March 2015, draft legislation in terms of the recommendations of the Committee appointed on 28th January 2015.
(7) By 17th March 2015, submit to Parliament the proposed Electoral Reforms, to be passed as soon as possible
(8) By 20th March 2015, get the “Right to Information’ Act passed .
(9) By 23rd March 2015, establish the Constitutional Council and initiate the process to make appointments to the Independent Commissions.
(10) By 20th April 2015, activate the system of government with a Cabinet responsible to Parliament replacing the existing dictatorial Executive Presidential System, as proposed in the 19th Amendment introduced to Parliament on 21st January 2015.
(11) Immediately after 23rd April 2015, dissolve Parliament and take steps to conduct a free and fair election under a Caretaker Government.

It is in this backdrop that the sovereign people pinned all their hopes on the smooth passage of the 19th Amendment. For the first time, after 1978, we had elected a President who was not only willing, but also determined to shed most, if not all, of his dictatorial powers as President.

In broad terms the People expected the 19th Amendment to
(1) Abolish the Executive Presidency.
(2) Restrict the Cabinet to 25.
(3) Bring back the provisions of the 17th Amendment and re-establish the Independent Commissions, and
(4) Review the Proportional Representation system.

Eschewing a Referendum, or any form of Public consultation, the draft 19th Amendment was gazetted as late as 16th March 2015. Sadly it fell far short of the people’s expectations.

The key issue of whether to abolish the Executive Presidency outright or to severely curb the powers of the President and institute adequate checks and balances, has not been addressed. Apart from reducing the President’s term of office from six to five years, it merely suggested some contradictory and/or impractical provisions, for transfer of some of the powers of the President to the Prime Minister, the Constitutional Council and the Independent Commissions.
Article 30 (1) which provides that the President shall be the Head of State, the Head of the Executive and of the Government and the Commander in Chief of the Armed Services, remained unchanged.

The provisions in proposed Articles 42, 43 and 45 which require the President to act on the advice of the Prime Minister, were clearly inconsistent with the aforementioned provision in Article 30 (1), that the President shall be the Head of the Executive and of the Government.

Proposed Article 35 continued to provide the President with immunity from civil or criminal proceedings. Even the President’s spouse is prohibited from instituting a civil action for divorce or maintenance. Such immunity is enjoyed only in Monarchical States, and not in Democratic Republics where everyone is equal before the law and subject to the equal protection of the law. Even in the US Constitution, the President has not been granted any such immunity.

Proposed new Article 37 provided that in the absence of the President, the Speaker shall act in that office. Under both the 1946 and 1972 Constitutions, provision was made for the Chief Justice to assume that office. Article 66 read with Article 91 of the 1978 Constitution provides that the seat of a MP becomes vacant if he is the President even for a day. In an earlier case, when the Speaker staked a claim to act as President, Raja Wanasundera, then Attorney General, was of the view that the combination of offices of Speaker and President would be against the whole spirit of the Constitution.

Articles 41 A to 41 I seemed to indicate some unanimity on the re-establishment of the Independent Commissions.

Article 46 provided that the number of Cabinet Ministers shall not exceed thirty.

What seemed to be a progressive feature was the inclusion of the Citizens’ Right to Information as a new fundamental right. However this provision appeared to negate the Right to Information Law.

The National Government, which was formed as an answer to the country’s political ills, had blurred the separation between ‘the Government’ and ‘the Opposition’. President Sirisena strenuously advocated the concept of a National Government but faced an uphill battle. To prevent party stalwarts from regrouping with the ousted President, the pledge to restrict the Cabinet was broken. Vociferous opponents, (not only of the President but also of the 19th Amendment) who even had questionable records, were among those appointed. The only justification for such appointments seemed to be that their votes were needed to obtain a 2/3rd majority.

The determination of the Supreme Court, pronounced in Parliament in Thursday, 9th April 2015, stated inter alia that:
(1) The President is not “the sole repository of Executive Power” or “an unfettered repository of Executive Power unconstrained by other organs of governance”,
(2) The Cabinet of Ministers collectively, and not the President alone, is charged with the direction and control of government”, and
(3) The President as well as the Cabinet of Ministers are answerable to Parliament.

Clearly, the exercise of unfettered power by former Presidents, without checks or balances by other organs of government, was a violation of the Constitution. This was tantamount to an admonition by the Supreme Court to the present and future Presidents that under the Constitution a President should have no more executive power than a Prime Minister should have in a Parliamentary system.

The proposed change, making the Prime Minister (as in the 1972 Constitution) and not the President (as in the 1978 Constitution) the Head of the Cabinet of Ministers with attendant powers and functions, involves Articles 4 and 43 of the Constitution. Neither of these articles require people’s approval at a Referendum, for amendment.

However, perhaps reasoning that Article 4 should be read as part of Article 3 which relates to the unalienable sovereignty of the People, the Court held that this specific change will require direct approval by the Sovereign People, in a Referendum. To us the People, this was a welcome assertion as to where exactly sovereignty was vested.

However it was a significant setback to a swift return to the pre – 1972 Parliamentary system.
Straightway, the Prime Minister informed the House that all amendments which require approval of the people at a Referendum would be withdrawn from the 19th Amendment – the 1st casualty.

The watered-down Bill, due to be introduced in Parliament on 20th April 2015, was further delayed by a sad display of the culture of our politicians. The once-hallowed Chamber of Parliament was reduced to the status of a cheap motel. Strong men (and women) of the former regime, vociferously swore to prevent the adoption of the 19th Amendment and threatened to disrupt the pada yathra initiated by the NMSJ. Quiet, but firm, action by President Sirisena thwarted such moves.

The 2nd Reading debate of this amendment was held on 27th and 28th April, under the watchful eye of the President. The Government all too readily compromised on several issues and agreed to patently unreasonable amendments, perhaps to ensure the passage of the Bill. On April 28 itself, the 3rd Reading was taken and passed with 212 voting for, one voting against and one abstention.

The compromise in respect of the Constitutional Council, in my view, is a disaster. The 17th Amendment was a result of Civil Society’s endeavours to depoliticise governance. The Chairmen and members of the Independent Commissions were to be selected and appointed by a clearly Independent Constitutional Council consisting of, the Speaker, Prime Minister and, the Leader of the Opposition ex-officio, and seven persons of Eminence and Integrity who have distinguished themselves in public or professional life and who are not members of (or overtly connected with) any political party. This was exactly what was proposed in the 19th Amendment. However, what was all too readily agreed to was that four of the seven independent members should be replaced by four members of Parliament. The Constitutional Council was therefore totally politicised. Going by the conduct of our parliamentarians, particularly during the past decade, can we reasonably expect them to make any serious attempt to depoliticise government? The answer is a resounding “No!”

Article 41A (1) provides that there shall be a Constitutional Council consisting of the Speaker, Prime Minister and Leader of the Opposition ex-officio and seven others appointed by the President – one MP as his nominee, five (including 2 MPs) on the nomination of both the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition, and one MP nominated by agreement of the majority of MPs belonging to Parties or Independent groups other than those of the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition. There is no requirement that the nominations of these four MPs are subject to approval by Parliament.

Article 41A (6) provides that “The President shall, within fourteen days of the receipt of a written communication specifying the nominations made, make the necessary appointments. In the event of the President failing to make the necessary appointments within such period of 14 days, the persons nominated shall be deemed to have been appointed as members of the Council, with effect from the date of expiry of such period.

The proposal in Article 41E (2) that “Where the Chairman (Speaker), the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition are all absent from any meeting of the Constitutional Council, the members present shall elect a member from among themselves to preside at such meeting” has been dropped by agreement.
Article 41E (3) provides that “The quorum for any meeting of the Council shall be five members.” This provision has thereby presumably been deliberately amended effectively to say that the quorum of five must include at least one of the Speaker, Prime Minister, and Leader of the Opposition. This will surely, contribute to an unnecessary and even dangerous curbing of the activities of this Council.

Article 41E (8) provides that “The Council shall have the power to act notwithstanding the fact that it has not been fully constituted or that there is a vacancy in its membership, and no act, proceeding or decision of the Council shall be deemed to be invalid by reason only of the fact that the Council has not been fully constituted or that there has been a vacancy in its membership or that there has been any defect in the appointment of a member.

For a variety of reasons the 19th Amendment passed by Parliament on 28th April 2015, was certified by the Speaker only on 15th May 2015. However, the all important amendment replacing four persons of eminence and integrity who have distinguished themselves in public life by four MPs was well known to the Prime Minister and Leader of the Opposition from 28th April 2015. In these circumstances the four MPs nominated by the Prime Minister and Leader of the Opposition were presumably formally nominated immediately after 15th May 2015. They are all at the very least, deemed to have been appointed as members of the Constitutional Council by early June. Together with the 3 ex-officio members viz. the Speaker, Prime Minister and Leader of the Opposition, they constitute two more than the required quorum. Their failure to meet and initiate the process of inviting applications or nominations for appointment to the Independent Commissions seems to be a deliberate ploy or at the very least, a serious omission resulting in a delay of the Independent Commissions being activated.

The failure of the Constitutional Council to meet at the earliest opportunity and initiate action to select individuals for appointment to the Independent Commissions, together with the refusal (without any valid reasons) to approve the nomination of the three non-MPs is perhaps an indication of the impending politicization of the Constitutional Council, the Independent Commissions and the Institutions to which they will make appointments.

In retrospect, after it received the Speaker’s assent on 15th May 2015, the 19th Amendment has been discussed at many fora. As reported in the media, some of those views are nothing short of being hilarious. One might have been forgiven for enjoying the fun, if not for the vital importance of the issues involved.

Without any dispute, these were matters of vital importance to the supposedly sovereign people of this country. It was for that reason that it was urged that, without referring the proposals to the present Parliament for approval, they should be referred to us, the people in a Referendum, and Parliament dissolved immediately thereafter.
With our sovereignty recognized for the first time after the 2010 elections, we the people, who are admittedly not as innocent as we may have been in 1948, would have revealed in our new found freedom and considered the issues in depth. Having done so, we the people would have elected representatives who were likely to represent as faithfully in respect of our views on the issues involved. Those now in Parliament have proved, time and again, to be indefatiguable when it comes to elections of any sort. It was to minimize the possibility of the sovereign people being fatigued by this rare exercise of their sovereignty that it was proposed that the General Election and the Referendum both be held on the same day.

The several rejections by the Supreme Court and the numerous amendments meekly accepted at the 2nd Reading of the Bill, suggest that the drafters of the 19th Amendment had been overcome by fatigue.

Another view correctly identified the Executive Presidency as being the poison in the 1978 Constitution and lamented that the views of the people who had to decide on these matters, had not been sought by a Referendum.

Another view was that the substance included in the 19th Amendment was disappointing and that never again should the process carried out to pass it, be followed again.

He lamented that the 19th Amendment was debated and discussed and numerous amendments proposed without consulting the people, by means of last minute, closed-door, deals.

There is near – universal acceptance that the sovereign people should have been consulted by way of a Referendum. The President was compelled to exercise his special skills to ensure he passage of a distorted version of the 19th Amendment, which itself was admittedly riddled with lapses.

What impact will this adopted 19th Amendment have on us, the sovereign people?

President Sirisena was compelled to obtain the support of those who, honestly and consistently are described by the media as being “the dregs of society,” to pass this amendment in this form. Has he unwittingly thrown us from the frying pan to the fire or to another frying pan which he intends to cool off at the earliest opportunity.

Unless the composition of the Constitutional Council is restored, at least to what was proposed in the 19th Amendment, the future of this country is indeed bleak.
Whether or not he wants to do this, and if he does, whether he can do with the newly elected MPs what he failed to do with the present bunch, is a question.

He seems desirous of doing so. We all wish him success in his endeavour to do so. It is incumbent that we, the People, should strive to ensure that most, if not all, of the dregs in Parliament will be washed away.

Only time will tell. Thank you for your patient hearing.

*Elmore M. Perera-Attorney-at-Law, Past President O.P.A. and Founder CIMOGG

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