2 July, 2022


The Need To Pursue Reforms Through Principles

By Rajiva Wijesinha

Prof. Rajiva Wijesinha MP

Prof. Rajiva Wijesinha MP

Mr Speaker, as the Former Chief Whip also said earlier today, it is an unusual pleasure to speak today as the Leader of the Liberal Party in Parliament. In that capacity I extend my congratulations to His Excellency the President on his strength of character in taking up what seemed an impossible challenge, and the eminently civilized way in which he has worked after his victory. We also congratulate the Prime Minister for understanding political realities and thwarting the game plan of the former President by supporting a common candidate. It is salutary that, in addition to being Prime Minister, he has taken charge of economic development, since I believe we need the careful planning and discipline that he will bring to this portfolio.

Mr Speaker, though the Liberal Party is a small one, we can take credit for having first identified the problems of this Constitution and this Electoral system which our government is pledged to change. Though I know the parties of the left objected to the 1978 constitution, they did so on the basis of a return to the Westminster model. This was foolish because they had been victims of excessive power in the hands of a Prime Minister under the Westminster system, during the previous few years.

We, or rather the Founder Leader of the Liberal Party, Dr Chanaka Amaratunga, was the first to clearly identify the dangers of excessive power, and to explain the way in which checks and balances could be introduced. In this regard I am sorry that I received very little support from other parties for the Standing Order changes I proposed over a year ago. Thought the Leader of the NLSSP did raise a question on my behalf, and the then Chief Whip tried valiantly to get some progress, no one else in authority seemed to care. In this regard I hope, Mr Speaker, that in introducing changes we wok in terms of principles rather than engaging in ad hoc measures. We should make sure that Parliamentary Committees are constituted as happens in the rest of the world, with no authority to Ministers, but rather ordinary Members of Parliament being the Chairs. This should be mandatory for finance oversight committees and, while I am sorry that the TNA and the JVP are not in the cabinet, I believe their commitment to financial integrity should find full play in the chairing of those committees.

Hasty legislation was the reason for former President Chandrika Kumaratunga not acting in terms of the 17th Amendment and refusing to appoint the Elections Commission suggested by the Constitutional Council. I am glad therefore that, in getting rid of the 18th amendment, as to which I trust this house will be unanimous, we replace it with something based on constitutional practice in the rest of the world without blindly returning to the 17th amendment.

Similarly Mr Speaker, with regard to electoral reforms, we were the first to suggest change and to advocate a mixed system. We were then accused of trying to introduce foreign customs. However, soon enough all parties agreed on the need for the German system, though twice there were efforts to distort this. I remember discussing this in the nineties with the then Minister of Constitutional Affairs in this Parliament, and him admitting there were slight changes, changes that in fact distorted the principles of the German system. Late in 2002 I urged the Hon Karu Jayasuriya to act quickly, but he delayed, and the government was dismissed. I am glad therefore that the Hon Prime Minister made clear our commitment to swift reforms in this regard.

Mr Speaker, in celebrating the need for reform, the Liberal Party can be proud that alone in government it formally advocated reforms for the last two years. I should mention here though the debt owed also to the Hon Vasantha Senanayake, who along with ,e drafted a formal letter to the former President at the beginning of last year about the need for Reform. Had the former President listened to him and accepted, even with amendments, the constitutional change he tabled, perhaps things might have been different. But, instead of taking advice from moderates in the Sri Lanka Freedom Party, which I hope will return to its traditional moderation under its new leader, he was led astray by extremists and those who thought the state was theirs to plunder.

Mr Speaker, the Liberal Party told the President in writing in October that he should not have a hasty election but instead work on the reforms promised in the manifesto on which the UPFA had won the election. We told him we could not support him in an election without reforms. I know rhat the left parties had also advised him not to have a hasty election, and I am sorry that they, whose integrity I used to admire, did not also stand by their beliefs the way a few of us did.

I have been told I was courageous, but since as the former President said, I was someone without a political future, as a member of the Liberal Party, I had perhaps nothing to lose. The real heroes of today are His Excellency the President, the other members of the SLFP and in particular the Hon Vasantha Senanayake who spoke out so early, and the leader of the UPFA and the per minority members who left government in that tumultuous week after the Election was called. In wishing the government well, in hoping for opposition cooperation now for reform, I salute them for courage which I hope will not be necessary again in our political system after we get rid of the excessive authority of the Executive authority. Thank you.

*Parliament speech January 20, 2015

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Latest comments

  • 5

    Mahinda has many faults but on this he was right
    “I was someone without a political future, as a member of the Liberal Party”
    Have you ever won an election? Ever ? Even a town council?

    A leader is someone with followers, you have none. So how can you be a leader?

  • 3

    Rajiv “The real heroes of today are His Excellency the President, the other members of the SLFP and in particular the Hon Vasantha Senanayake who spoke out so early, and the leader of the UPFA and the per minority members who left government in that tumultuous week after the Election was called.”

    You idiot the real heroes of today are all the Sri Lankans who voted out the Rajapakse regime, the brave election commissioner and those who thwarted the coup , if that story is true.

  • 2

    How many MPs for the liberal party ?

    Only the national list MP.

  • 6

    Rajiva is not that of a honest guy. He was sucking up to Rajapakse, like Dayan and at the last minute when he knew the wind was blowing the other way jumped out of the sinking ship. Rajiva is more like a “late developing” child. He thinks we are all stupid. He was a member of a regime which was not democratic at all. He was part of UPFA which stole money, violated human rights and above all was undemocratic. Today he is trying to show he is a fair person. He has to learn and prove that he is a honest person, we are going to watch him closely.

  • 1

    Correct judgement by MR, you have no political future in this Country. Please retire and follow whatever pursuits you indulge in.

    Your futile attempts to gain credibility are a FAILURE, please don’t continue to torture yourself.

  • 4

    Principles and Rajiva Wijesinghe….? Is there any relationship between these two???

    • 0

      Please don’t ask questions to which the answers are obvious.

      This bugger is a pandankaraya and has been elevated to his new position by his relationship to Ranil Wickremesinghe – his mother and Ranil’s father were siblings in case you didn’t know.

      Not cabinet, he should have been dumped in the closest “kunu baaldhiya” when Sirisena became President!

  • 1

    I agree “The Need To Pursue Reforms Through Principles”.

    Perhaps “… CORRECT Principles” would be better.

    “Former President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s Mahindodaya Technological Lab concept to provide technological labs for 1,000 secondary schools in the country has become yet another money spinning machine for those who are allegedly close to the former first family, The Sunday Leader learns.”

    When are we going to fix this?
    (1) Remove Mahindodya (2) financial irregularities

  • 0

    Good , appears as a member of the Liberal party

  • 1

    The first MAJOR error that this government has made is to appoint this absolutely unprincipled creature to its group of Ministers.
    Is this simply stupidity, pandering to Ranil’s proclivity for moving back to the days of the Uncle-Nephew-Party or an attempt to keep one of the biggest apologists for MR in international forums in the forefront of Sri Lankan politics?
    In any event this man MUST BE REMOVED and today won’t be too soon!

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