13 November, 2019

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The Proposed New Constitution: Some Suggestions & Thoughts

By Rajasingham Narendran

Dr. Rajasingham Narendran

Dr. Rajasingham Narendran

The Executive Presidency instituted through the 1978 Republican constitution and subsequently amended nineteen times (the 20th was on line) has to be faulted for most of the myriad failures in Sri Lanka’s democracy and governance. The Executive Presidency of Sri Lanka is a badly designed institution within a badly designed and subsequently further distorted constitution.  It is probably the strongest office in the world! The constitution of 1978 was designed to bestow unbridled power on one man to do everything but change a man into women and vice versa, and ensure permanent governance by the UNP. It was designed to make the Executive Presidency dictatorial and unprincipled in the hands of the wrong person holding that office.

In the process all other institutions , the parliament, judiciary and public services, were deformed beyond recognition and made subservient to the Executive Presidency.  Accountability, rule of law and everything else that define good governance had been comatose by January’1915. The impunity bestowed on the Executive Presidency, had reached and polluted every mound and crevice in Sri Lanka. Democracy had become a sham. Governance was/is no doubt at its poorest

A nation that had universal franchise 85 years (1931) back- much before other British colonies in Asia- and had a vibrant democracy at independence (1948) has since the 1977 constitution, sold the sovereignty of its people to elected tin pot dictators.  The 18th amendment  dealt a death blow to constitutional norms, principles of governance even as laid down, ethics, political morality and established principles of democracy.

The questions we have to ask are:

1.  Is the concept of a Republican Constitution wrong or is OUR republican constitution deliberately designed wrong?
2.  Is the concept of an Executive Presidency wrong or is OUR executive presidency deliberately designed wrong?

My answer to both these questions is the same. The constitution and the executive presidency within it have been deliberately designed wrong. They have been designed to elect a monarch, to whom all other institutions and the people are subsidiary and subservient. It also has paved the way to establish a familial monarchy of sorts. It has paved the way for elected Executive Presidents to assume pseudo-democratic legitimacy through various devices that breach moral and ethical principles, rule us with an iron fist, hiding mala-fide intent with smiling faces and what Nilantha Ilangamuwa (Sri Lanka Guardian. August 5, 2014) quoting Walter Lippmann chooses to call ‘Manufactured Consent’ in an article.

The concept of ‘manufacturing consent’ is not an innovation of the last government, but has been practiced by all governments before it, though the last government has made it a very sophisticated exercise.  Money power, hired muscle power, mob squads led by yellow clad thugs, white vanning, murder, media manipulations , the police and armed forces, the parliament and the judicial system were used as never before to manufacture this ‘manufactured consent’. The manner in which Chief Justice Shirani Bandaranayake was removed from office will forever stand as an example of this ‘manufactured consent’! The manner in which the two thirds majority was constructed and the 18th amendment to the constitution passed is another. There is a multitude, more. What was ‘manufactured consent’ steadily morphed into ‘consent by the quiet and silence of a morgue’ enforced by blatant use of pressures of various types. We were made into the four monkeys that do not see, hear, speak or show!

The parliament we had elected was controlled by a majority that owes personal allegiance to the Executive President. The first Executive had pre-signed resignation letters of the members of parliament who supported him! It was/ is also mediocre and is designed to make even the most qualified, mediocre. They bear no allegiance to the people who elected them. The higher judiciary had become a kept institution and dared not stand up to the Executive President. The lower judiciary of course had lost its backbone and independence, and is yet quite mediocre.  The public service and police service were under the total control of politicians and their mafia. Political patronage extending from recruitment, promotions up to retirement and beyond has rendered our public service mediocre, inefficient and corrupt. Public servants have become self- servers, time servers and bootlickers of politicians. The police service has been corrupted beyond imagination and is a handmaiden and doormat of politicians. Every other institution including the education sector, have suffered a similar fate.

However, the larger question that concerns me is whether the Soulbury constitution of 1948- the Westminster style constitution under which we attained independence- and the first Republican Constitution of 1972 instituted by the Sirimavo Bandaranaike headed leftist coalition were ideal and provided us better quality governance. The Soulbury constitution was stripped of its soul and vision on many an occasion. Towards the end of its life, it was rendered an empty shell for all intents and purposes. It’s institutions were also politicized or paralyzed. The 1972 constitution legitimized and institutionalized the damage done to the Soulbury constitution.  It was a document designed to satisfy the objectives of the coalition government of the day to have its way, come what may. This was despite retaining the Westminster model at its core. The checks and balances that were on paper to strengthen democracy, were also degraded under this constitution.  The 1978 constitution was the natural outcome of a process that empowered politicians at the expense of other institutions and further advanced to the extent that one politician was made a constitutional dictator- an elected monarch, who had the choice to be a benign dictator or a malignant one. What we had until January 2015 is one who became with time the most malignant, but with the immense ability to pretend otherwise.

What our politicians have demonstrated is a singular inability to function within what have been illustrated to be the empty but illusory words enshrined in our constitutions. Those who we elect to govern us do not want to be constrained by the boundaries set by any constitution.  We have tolerated this and have permitted constitution making the job of our narrow minded and self-seeking politicians, who had no exalted vision for this country. Constitutions are mere pieces of paper for them. It is a fig leaf to hide their hideousness. The current government has made many improvements in practice and through the moth-eaten 19th amendment. It has shown what is possible and this has made an undeniable positive impact on this country.

We have lived with the Executive Presidency and a full-fledged Republican Constitution for 38 years- for little longer than half the period we have been independent. A whole generation has grown under it and knows no other.  We have got used to how it functions and know how it has been abused.  If permitted, the informed sections of our citizens have the knowledge and background to contribute to reforming the Executive Presidency and the constitution that it is part of.

There is no doubt; we have to substantially reform our constitutional framework. It should be a brief, visionary and principled document that can withstand the test of time and be capable of being interpreted according to evolving societal values, the future that is unfolding in myriad ways quite fast and a population that has very high expectations. It should be the guiding light as we go forward and capable of having its batteries recharged time to time by interpretations that suit the times by enlightened persons who man our Supreme Court. This process should have no place for nibbling rats and poaching mongooses. It should be a process to evolve persons to lead and serve us, according to a vision formulated in our constitution.

To read the full document click here

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Latest comments

  • 1
    6

    It looks British Tamils are not happy in East London , [Edited out]

  • 1
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    ” It should be a brief, visionary and principled document which can withstand the test of time”

    Yahapalana PM Batalanda Ranil has surely appointed the right dudes to fulfil Narendran’s ambition.

    In fact 225 of them…Hehehehehehe….

    • 4
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      KASmaalam KA Sumanasekera

      “n fact 225 of them…Hehehehehehe….”

      I believe

      Mahinda Rajapaksa,
      Vasudeva Nanayakkara,
      Mahindananda Aluthgamage,
      Pavithra Wanniarachchi,
      Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena,
      Wimal Weerwansa,
      C.B. Ratnayake,
      Udaya Gammanpila,
      Dullas Alahapperuma,
      Chandrasiri Gajadheera,
      Salinda Dissanayake,
      Rohitha Abeygunawardena,
      Namal Rajapaksa,
      Niroshan Premaratne,
      D.V. Chanaka,
      Wimalaweera Dissanayake,
      Jayantha Samaraweera,
      Tharaka Balasuriya,
      Shehan Semasinghe,
      Indika Anuruddha,
      Prasanna Ranaweera,
      Weerakumara Dissanayake,
      Sanath Nishantha, Kanchana Wijesekera,
      Field Marshall,
      Champika Ranawake

      are also part of the 225 Hehehehehehes.

      • 2
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        Dear Native,

        I hear those 225 are getting inputs from their electors to put in to Batalanada’s new Constitution.

        Wonder how the hell your Field Marshall, Dilan Perera , Samrasinghe and a few others are going to get this input?.

        Pity Bodhi Sira or Batalanda didn’t pick uncle Dr Merve alongside Hirunickers to be part of this historical gathering ..

        Dr Merve has a solid following in Kelaniya which has the holy UNP Temple, Rajaamahaviharaya.

        Dr Merve could have got even the UNP there, to contribute to the new Constitution.

  • 1
    2

    Now wait.

    Kumar R/ Rajash K (gone to sleep to become Kumar R) got something to harp on Dr Rajasingham Narendran.

    Let us see how wonky he will be to quack, quack, quack….on this serious subject.

    I like to read the interesting comments of Nirmala N as well. She is hilarious. Hope she too will engage.

    • 0
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      I always make objective analysis.
      But I admit I do provide some entertainment as well.life is boring otherwise.
      I haven’t read this article yet to comment.
      I have nothing personal against Rajasinhsm brothers. I only know them in CT.

      • 0
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        [Edited out]

        • 1
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          Rag haven That is also a very objective comment .

    • 0
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      Dankottuwa Manike,

      Your rather mistaken Sherlock Holm aspirations aside, you vindicate my position rather astutely when you say “Let us see how wonky he will be to quack, quack, quack….on this serious subject.”

      Highlight “ON THIS SERIOUS SUBJECT”!

      My point exactly – most, if not all previous writings of The Rajasinghams have not been serious – instead, they have been self-serving, condescending, often stupid extrapolations and self-congratulatory mostly. Not serious! Thus my relentless cautioning just for those who might take those writings as serious subjects. I am relieved you were not one of them!

      Comprehende Dankotuwa special?

      PS: Your sense of humour (what you find hilarious) is of course one for the books!

      • 1
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        Kumar R.

        ‘You have vindicated your position rather astutely?’ What a QUACK, QUACK, QUACK and a Gonuballa.

        Rajash said, ‘I do provide some entertainment as well.life is boring otherwise’. I give him pass marks for him.

        Reply from my precious ‘Rajash K’ is awaited. Where has he gone. Has nature called him off permanently to be forgotten. Is his fate foregone if he does not give his response. Let his sole rest in peace. AMEN.

        My sweetheart Nirmala N is silent too. When is full moon dat?

        Native Vedda! I need your advise in the native spirit. You are the wisest of the wise in the CT to respond on these matters.

        .

      • 0
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        Kumar R

        Well done Raja, well done.

        Nalla Adida, Nalla.

        But why are you replying to Dankotuwa Manike. She is a Sinhala lady.

        You must target Rajasingams. They are our target. It must be precision targeting. Scandalise and finish them off. Pick the right words from the Thesaurus and pin them down.

        Dankottuwa Manike

        Who the hell are you to come and haunt me.

        Do you know who I am. When Tamils hear my name they shiver.

        Be careful. Do not interfere in my affairs. Just because your are a Singalam you cannot take the liberty mess around with me.

  • 3
    1

    “It should be a process to evolve persons to lead and serve us, according to a vision formulated in our constitution.”

    so don’tyou agree that persons to lead and serve us should be of high quality.They should have leadrship qualities and the necessary skills to do the job of serving our needs.Now Dr.N.R can you tell us how you are going to make a constitution where that kind of people are going to enter parliament instead of the crap we get now,with all the idiots with family connections coming in.Also how can we better control the process of selecting the candidates who are supposed to serve us but over the selection we have no say at all.

    i suggest

    1.if the voter turnout is less than two thirds of the registered voters then the election declared null and void.This will compel the parties to put better candidates and policies in order to induce the voters to come out and vote.

    2.A selection criteria is formulated in the constitution for candidates.For example he or she should have passed the ord level and adv level as a minimum requirement.We ask it of students for all other jobs,why not for this only.

    3.If any candidate gets less than 5% of the registered voters he is automatically disqualified from representing us.In otherwords sufficent numbers of us have not selected him to represent us.It is the registered voters that should be taken into account not the ones who voted,because when voters don’t come out and vote due to apathy either the candidates are so lackluster or their policies are so stale.

    we have to have some sort of control over the selection of candidates for are supposed to be representing us.What is the point of a constitution that does not fulfill that obligation.A worthless piece of paper that has shown so far after independence that it best used for the toilet to wipe our backsides.

  • 2
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    Dr RN,

    “There is no doubt; we have to substantially reform our constitutional framework. It should be a brief, visionary and principled document that can withstand the test of time and be capable of being interpreted according to evolving societal values, the future that is unfolding in myriad ways quite fast and a population that has very high expectations. It should be the guiding light as we go forward and capable of having its batteries recharged time to time by interpretations that suit the times by enlightened persons who man our Supreme Court. This process should have no place for nibbling rats and poaching mongooses. It should be a process to evolve persons to lead and serve us, according to a vision formulated in our constitution.”

    I agree with you. Thank you for the article.

  • 3
    2

    Shankar and Inspector Dirty Hari,

    Thank you for the relevant comments.

    As to qualifications, experience and lessons learned indicate that political parties should select and groom potential politicians and political office holders over years. Britain for example does it. Tony Blair and David Cameron came up that way. Singapore being largely a one party state does it in a very professional way, like civil servants are selected and trained.

    I think in Sri Lanka the basic qualification should be a university degree plus ,10 years work experience and unsullied reputation.

    I would like to hear opinions on the broad recommendations I have made. Please see the full proposal by clicking ‘here’
    in the article above.

    Further, I prefer the Executive Presidency being retained because it is only office for which the whole country votes as one. It is a unifier.
    Dr.RN

  • 2
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    Further to the above comment;

    The nominating political party should be also called upon to certify that the candidate has not committed criminal offenses and is of unimpeachable character.

    After being elected the CID should investigate each member and provide a report the Election Commission, which should have the authority to nullify the election of the member concerned.

    Only strong measures of this nature will cleanse our political stables.

    Dr.RN

    • 0
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      “After being elected the CID should investigate each member and provide a report the Election Commission, which should have the authority to nullify the election of the member concerned.”

      Crimes , specially corruption, are committed after being elected to office.
      Not all aspire to become an MP to serve the country and people, most of them seek parliamentary office to milk the state.

  • 2
    1

    Sri Lanka should revert to CEYLON as to a common ownership of all communities.

  • 5
    1

    An e-mail with some questions relating to my proposals were forwarded to me last evening. I thank the author for his response. I list below the questions and my answers to each question:

    1. If we use the word citizen -it excludes foreigners , foreign workers and people living with permission of the government on long term basis such as journalists and business people.
    Therefore rather than citizen a common word may be suitable.

    Ans: I think this aspect need not be covered within a constitution, as they will come under our international and UN obligations.

    2. When it comes to Human rights, it is appropriate to incorporate the regimes regimes of the UNO.

    Ans: This once again will come under protocols and agreements we sign and will be part of our international obligations.

    3. Hate crime :- It has positive and negative consequences.
    It may be used against a genuine right claim. However it is a controversial issue.

    Ans: Depends on how it is worded. Hate need not be the factor that drives disputes, debates and recriminations in a social or national context. Disagreements between ethnic or religious groups, need not be driven by hate.

    When hate becomes a factor in our social or communal discourse, then we lose our humanity. When it does, it should be dealt with by special laws that are aimed at prevention and future deterrence.

    Demands for rights or protests against injustice, are a human right that has to be defended, provided they do not decend into physical or verbal violence.

    This distinction should be clearly laid down.

    The Oxford online dictionary defines hate as: Feel intense or passionate dislike.

    When personal disputes between individuals drives them to violence it is dealt with by other provisions in our law books.

    4 Prevention of economic crimes , —- . Armed rebellion. Nowadays , armed resistance of citizens is recognised as a democratic right!

    Ans: Under extra-ordinary circumstances sanctioned by international convention.Yes.

    5. cabinet and ministries/ powers of president.

    He is proposing very important changes including MPS losing their post in the parliament when they become ministers.

    ans. This requires no answer.

    6.Tiers of governnance

    Village Committees—-It seems to me the proposals are non-democratic. He has reasons for his suggestions. However, rural areas have to be governed by elected bodies similar to the towns, urban and municipalities

    Ans: It will be by elections based on the village and the persons living there.They will vote for individuals in the village who are interested and caoable, and will campaign as independents. The villagers will vote as in any election, which will be supervised by the Election Commission.

    7.I will be intersted to know the ideal model for aotomy of the N&E.

    Ans: The N&E should not be treated any diffrently from the other provinces. There should be greater devolution of political and administrative powers to all the provinces and the villages, towns and cities should be mobilized to be the main cogs that drive the system.

    If there are special needs in the N&E as results of the war, requests for additiona finances should be addressed by the NPC and the EPC through the National Finance Commission.

    I am also not in favour of the merger of the NPC and EPC. Both provinces are large, different and have the capability and resources to function as independent units.

    At the core of my proposals and suggestions is the desire to de-ethnicize our political structure and governance, while getting the people of the various provinces, including the villagers involved in their own affairs to a very large extent. This will be in keeping with the ‘Third Wave’ in human civilzational progress, identified by Alvin Toffler.

    Dr.RN

  • 4
    1

    The Tamilis in the north and east were ruled by Portugese , Dutch, and British, for 500 years. There were restrictions for free expressions to bloom and as a people they were stifled due to various factors and forces.

    The frugally and cumulatively acquired wealth, wisdom, culture, and character, were lost during the last fifty years due to the ethnic conflict.

    Lots of people asked, what are the aspirations of the Tamil people, community?

    The front line articulators gave voice to the concerns of the Tamils only on political and historical terms, but not in terms of the present, future and expected 21st century perspectives which are supposed to be the Third Wave, as defined by Alvin Toffler.

    It is these limitations and obstructions, that prevented the full blooming and manifestations of positive and creative, innovative energies in practical dimensions.

    The front liners had only spent their energies only on platforms rather mobilizing people for positive actions.

    Unfortunately, the power packed energies had found their way into conflict, in unexpected, unfortunate ways and i time manifested into a full-scale war and terrible destruction.

    Having depleted all wealth, and muscle power, which we had cumulatively acquired , we also lost, sober thinking. Sober thinking is now dawning on both sides, due to futuristic compulsions,

    World having lived through all aspects of the manifestations and the underlining causes, has learnt all the new norms to be developed to find expression in the future.

    Everyone is pondering as what should be done. Mindless crows had quietened and are not crowing anymore.

    Serious work had started in the form of Constitution making

    Only a few serious knowledgeable, skilled and wise writings have appeared so far. The innovative minds are at work, to avoid the episode of tragic failures repeating.

    Not many have anything to offer to find solutions, execution, except being as repetitors and slogan shouters.

    Only one notable writing appeared to be seriously considered for inclusion after discussion, at the highest levels, to work out to satisfy the aspirations of the Thamils. Avoiding the features which will prevent the progress of the country, taking note of the speed dimensions of the 21st century, negative energies include positive features for positive energies, piercing the frontiers of time tunnel and synchronize with world trends and shatter the narrow walls of the obsolete past.

    World had experienced so many avalanches and episodes, which are lessons and lay foundations for progress of human kind.

    Let us reflect soberly, meditate on noble ideals, to get out of the misery of darkness and welcome change imminent to bloom

    Old Yarlppanathan
    7/3/2016

  • 7
    0

    Well said RN. Executive Presidency may produce Ace con-men to make their way to that position.It would be better to have ceremonious President selected from civil service with unblemished carrier and nobility for a specified period. Mainly assigned with the independent authority to approve laws that are passed by parliament among others. He also should be assisted by professional advisers on each discipline and should not belong to any political party.

    Shankar and IDH comments too are good. However my observation is that Politicians are mostly unprofessional. With the ‘manufactured consent’ in action, the Ministers and MP’s are saturated with unnecessary power and the departments and govt. controlled institutions become money spinners for all of them. As such politicians must retain strictly only the power to make policies in regard to their Ministry and all management responsibility be invested with powerful regulatory institutions to control, manage and audit the ministries’ operations. e.g. All appointments should be made by PSC or JSC etc.. which comes under Human Resources Ministry based on strictly followed principles. This Ministry should be vested with the task of evaluating performance of Ministers, MP’s and report to Election commissioner and other to assess suitability for the next term. CID should come under Security council and the candidates must produce an affidavit assuring innocence of crimes and a clearance certificate from CID to contest elections, i.e. before being elected.

    However, RN must note that if the intention is for good Governance then a new constitution is welcome. If the intention is to make the people more weaker, that is to make the Politicians Stronger, then the whole exercise is for deceptive objectives. Trojan horse to carry more manufactured consent.

    • 1
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      Adrian,

      Thank you for your well thought comment.

      Dr.RN

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