16 May, 2022


To Break The Impasse

By Harindra Dunuwille

Harindra Dunuwille

The rhetoric emanating from the political leaders do not inspire much hope of an early resolution to the political impasse, notwithstanding the two No confidence motions. There will be allegations and counter allegations, posturing, play acting leading to more acrimony and polarization. The island wide mass agitation has ended the mandate given 2 years ago and demands a change of guard. Delay will further exacerbate the rapidly deteriorating economic woes of the masses. It is not surprising at all that all the leaders are trying to gain some advantage, to advance their own political futures and that of their parties. A “higher intervention” that will have clout with the political leaders and that will have the ground swell support of the masses is required to intervene.

We are trapped by the constitution that dictates that it is the Parliament that can come up with a solution. The members of Parliament do not seem to be in any hurry, quite happy to play politics even in this hour of dire need. A positive step would be the repeal of the 20th amendment to the constitution and the re-introduction of the 19th with agreed amendments in the form of the 21st amendment. This is an achievable first step, a way out of the current impasse.

Once that is done and out of the way, and the Presidential wings are clipped there is the remote possibility that the President may resign. If he does, it’s well and good. But let’s take the more likely scenario, that he will not quit.

A radical and unprecedented move is called for. This where the ‘higher intervention’ becomes necessary and it could be in the form of the religious leaders, i.e. the 4 Mahanayakes, the Cardinal representing the Christian Churches, the Heads of the Islamic and Hindu Religious Organisations. They must come out strongly to prevail upon the Party leaders and the Parliamentarians, who need to make a short term sacrifice.

My suggestion is as follows:

1. That all 29 National list members are made to resign.

2. That a group of eminent persons, not more than 5, nominated by the said religious leaders will pick and recommend 20 (or less) non-political persons who are unaffiliated to any political party or organiasation and who are experts in their fields with knowledge and practical experience to be nominated to Parliament by the secretaries of the relevant political parties, who shall be appointed Ministers. Of them, one shall be picked to be the Prime Minister. There shall be no State or Deputy Ministers.

3. The balance National list slots may be filled by former National list members or outsiders as shall be recommended by this same group of eminent persons.

4. These recommendations shall be endorsed by the Religious Leaders and given effect to by all political parties represented in Parliament.

5. This 20 (or less) member Cabinet will administer the country with the guaranteed support from the present Members of Parliament for a period of one year for which duration they shall continue as members of Parliament.

6. The P.M. and Cabinet Ministers will have no political agendas or aspirations, but will serve purely as a National service, with no frills and trimmings of office. They will set a new standard of how to serve not themselves but the country and its people. One official vehicle, for official purposes only, one Security officer, no official bungalows, no personal staff in the ministries etc.

7. This administration will give the highest priority to provide the bare essentials such as food, medicine and fuel to the people, specially the ones in most need of it. It will incentivize the livelihoods of farmers, fisher folk, small businesses while resurrecting and stabilising the economy. They would be free to take unpopular decisions, which those who aspire to win political office will not.

8. In that one year, Parliament will enact a new electoral system combining the first past the post and proportional representation. There is general consensus on this already. In order to make it work, as a transitional provision, it is suggested that we go back to the 1977 electoral map that would elect 168 members and the balance will be elected on a National PR basis to make up the 225. (If a fresh delimitation is to take place, it will never see the light of day in that period of time.) It is hoped that this will lift the quality of members. A minimum educational qualification, a maximum age limit, of say 70 on the date of nomination, provision for Independent candidates to run for office and a 2 or 3 term restriction could also be considered.

Failure to break the impasse

The possibilities of such a situation is frightening. Given the mass agitation in all parts of the country and the power it is generating, something has to give. Procrastination by Parliament to act decisively will only play in to hands of the Rajapaksas, who are clinging to the hope that the agitations will run out of steam. There is also the distinct possibility of the agitation being turned into violent acts at some point of time. This may be the signal that the President, as Commander in Chief, is waiting for, to clamp down a state of emergency and likely go beyond, declaring martial law, suspending the constitution and ruling by dictate.

The masses have realised what “Peoples power” is for the first time. The lion has been awakened and it will roar. Saner counsel now, can prevent a state of anarchy.

*Harindra Dunuwille is a senior Lawyer in Kandy and has served as a M.P., and State Minister of Constitutional Affairs. 

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Latest comments

  • 2

    The masses have realised what “Peoples power” is for the first time. The lion has been awakened and it will roar.
    Hopefully that lion will devour all freemasons, including the controlled opposition agents within these protests, pretending to ‘care about humanity’.

  • 2

    This is solely designed, engineered and manufactured by the Singhalese/Buddhists according to the specifications invented by their Royals and sure to be sucked into the sinkhole for the relief of the rest of the world. The Lord God can rest his head at last having annihilated his mistake.

  • 1

    So far we have not seen any discussion among political parties, Religious groups, Civil societies or any independent professionals how to break the cycle. I don’t know why these groups are not willing to come forward for discussion and come with a proposal to resolve the existing problems and bring peace and unity among people. You cannot expect protestors and public can give such proposals.

    It is very clear from the protestors and the people that the country and politics need a complete restructure and those who failed the country and people should be replaced immediately. In other words, people do not want the same parliament and Presidency to handle the economic crisis. The economic crisis is a function of aggregated mis managed political, religious and economic culture.
    Within the past 75 years, this country had number of riots/ethnic cleansing, two Sinhalese youth armed struggle/terrorism, Tamil youths armed struggle/terrorism, 30 years of war, Easter Bombing, natural hazzards (Tsunami), Corruption, Corona and now bankruptcy.

  • 2

    The writer seems still fixated on conventional wisdom and legality of a system which has remarkably failed the people miserably. What is required is a radical change in how people see the country and its problems. The political vermin over several decades have only served themselves and gentle persuasion will never dislodge these blood-sucking leeches. Their lives need to be made miserable within the limits provided by present laws so that they start wishing they are better off resigning and staying home. Mere partying at Galle Face will not achieve the required goals, and if violence erupts due to frustrations of starvation and deprivation, then the maniacal leadership will use guns and bullets ‘with legitimacy”. They have to be scared enough to shit their pants before such a tragedy unfolds, and being the cowards they are, will hopefully scoot..

  • 1

    Harindra Dunuwille : I have been reading Colombo Telegraph for some time. I read so many article and opinions. In all these you are the one made sense to me. Your approach is very well thought out. I will even add few things to put into the constitution.
    1. Government residents only for President, Prime Minister and Speaker. No one else.
    2. All member of parliament, government workers, all Ambassadors and including commissioned military officers should submit annual report on the income, assets, bank balances. Not only for them for their wife and children.
    3 Three terms for all elected officials including local government.
    4. All politicians will have at lease a High School certificate.
    5. All Generals appointment, governors, ambassadors, commissioners have to be confirmed by the parliament.
    4 Only one 7 year term for supreme court judges with no exception.
    5. All Military officers does not get extension but have to retire at 55 years old. All politicians age limit is 60 years.
    These will make the Ministers and Government servants to feel the pain of a regular citizen housing and other cost of living issues. No cars for ministers and government officials. Sell all the government quarters to people and spend the money on Education. Hope you are called to write the amendment to the constitution. Hope Mahinda and Gota go away. But people should go after all the money of Rajapaksa family

  • 0

    To break the Impasse it is simple President Gota and Prime Minister Percy MaRa should resign and rest on their laurels……………….
    So that the decks are cleared for a new start; This is what the Protests are about………
    There would then be no need for the Lions to roar or the Tigers to prowl……………..

  • 1

    Typical suggestion of a politician.

    First of all, lets get educated people in to politics, not yobs, thugs, murderers & opportunists. Stop all perks & pensions of politicians forthwith & reduce the number of Parliamentarians. Most importantly, keep religion out of politics. The mahanayakas have done enough damage promoting racist yobs & thugs. The mahanayakas don’t even know the fundamentals of Buddhism & has rewritten Buddhism to hoodwink the gullible. Cardinal Ranjith tried to join the band wagon only to realise that he was a pawn in political games & the Rajapakses don’t’ give a monkey’s. The Anglican church deserves credit for keeping out & ethnic minorities are well aware not to get religion involved in SL politics.

    Whatever the religion, religious leaders should have one objective, to provide spiritual guidance to those who need it. No need to save the country by dabbling in politics. Save the people & the country will be saved by the people

  • 1

    First of all, an age limit should be brought in that any member of parliament over the age of 75 years be deemed, retired, or vacated his or her service. When public servants are retired at the age of 60 years or before to give chance to younger generations of serving the country; why shouldn’t there be an age limit, for politicians who enjoy themselves until death though their health and minds partly deteriorated!

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