Sri Lanka, in dire need of a New Constitution

Sri Lanka, in dire need of a New Constitution

Saturday, August 5, 2017

The former Finance Minister is not bending or yielding. Anybody concerned can go to courts. This Yahapalanaya has brought him before a powerful commission and he gave his answers; those concerned or the government as a whole can go on correcting the situation if that is necessary. Today, even at village level, people desire the truth and leaders to account.

The President took a tough decision, may be in the greater interest of the people, and he and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe should decide now without delaying further. However decisions on crimes committed by fascistic elements are pending in courts of law. Firmly committed anti racists should have the right to demand to take him before the law before damaging his personality. This meant Yahapalanaya taking correct decisions in the greater interest of people.

People were anxious during the oil strike. Suffering of the poor was terrible. There were no trade union demands but so called patriotic demands put forward by the fascistic front. Several organisations of workers, fishermen and peasants commended the decision taken by President Sirisena to declare fuel distribution as an essential service when petroleum workers were on strike.
It is tragic that finally, after the military took over, the fuel distribution issue came to an end. TU leaders responsible, made a terrible mistake by yielding before deployment of army. They should not have started anti-poor action in the first place. Of course it shouldn’t have been allowed to happen. The President used to consult all sides for the past couple of years. It has brought nothing much, but sudden anarchy.

Market economy

In a country where market economy is functioning; it is foolish to expect bourgeoisie to send their children to fight for a share in the free education basically meant for the not so wealthy. In Lanka already there are many private universities for other subjects such as engineering, accountancy, management etc. In this context it is crazy to claim that private medical college, SAITM should be demolished. Of course it should be up to the standard as estimated by the Medical Council.

Investors are responsible to put more money and resources for that purpose. Of course private investors expect a profit. However those can be regulated by the grants commission. Thus, it will be open for bright students with means or scholarships, but unable to enter the state medical faculties, as an option to pursue their medical studies. This is the solution offered by the President.

With these interventions many activists believe that the SLFP should stand together with the President if it is to form a government led by their party. They all should come under one leader. One minister said “the President should be our leader. If we stand in the middle of the road, we would be knocked down by the vehicles moving from both sides. We should be on the side. He should be able to think on behalf of his party. Unless it is done, the SLFP would go from crisis to crisis. It would entail a series of defeats at the hands of the UNP.

There were decisions taken by the Finance Minister earlier on which were detrimental to the country. He introduced a Super Gain Tax. Though it was not implemented, it antagonized people against us. Then, a Capital Tax was proposed. It was not implemented too. Yet, it alienated local entrepreneurs from us.” So now we know who were against the anti-capitalist proposals of Ravi Karunanayake!
Judicial independence

President Sirisena quit the previous rule as he could not stand corruption, as explained by himself. Of course there were other more criminal issues involving the Rajapaksas. Apparently he protested in all that. Ranil helped him to come out and people rallied behind him. They sought a government which is not burdened with corruption, but offers democracy and good governance.

Constitutional reforms, electoral reforms and judicial independence are all linked with the change expected. However removal of Executive Presidency and devolution of power put together was the main demand. During the first term, the President was able to do away with some of his Executive Powers considered draconian. Besides, he managed to get the 19th Amendment enacted making way for independent commissions to be set up.

Constitutional change

Picture by Sudam Gunasinghe

However people are expecting fundamental changes. President has not spelled out his proposal for constitutional change.

Nevertheless he was able to build up Sri Lanka’s image in the international arena. As mentioned above, the controversy surrounding the Bond issue turned out to be the first affront to this government; with much publicity, it became so injurious to the government only a couple of months after its formation in 2015. Some claim that it caused a multi-billion rupee fraud to the country. Yet, the Yahapalana was elected not for the sole purpose of rooting out corruption, though it had to grapple with the same charges.

The President started with dealing with those responsible. He was supported by the Prime Minister. Central Bank Governor Arjuna Mahendran was removed. After that, the Presidential Commission was appointed to look into the charges. Today, it is public knowledge that those responsible for mass scale corruption are exposed. The President said in a recent meeting that he had no way forward with corrupt elements. He vowed to form a government without corrupt elements.

No one has accused Ranil for corruption. So, this new Yahapalanaya could come out with the support of the UNP. It should happen, undoubtedly. President can consider the fact that Minister Tilak Marapana resigned from the Cabinet once because he was just accused of something. He was the lawyer retained in the Avant Guarde case by the defence.

This policy will be continued says the UNP General Secretary. There are accusations against prominent UNP leaders. Prime Minister Wickremesinghe is accused of safeguarding these people. The UNP cannot remain mute in this regard. Obviously prominent politicians either from the UNP or the SLFP should make up their minds to go home if their names are tainted with corruption allegations.

In the meantime Mahinda claims that he could form majority in the parliament and form a government. Can he do that without the help of the President? President already said that he will not help any corrupt person to come to power.

Hence Mahinda cannot say anything like that exactly. First, he has to secure a simple majority by getting 113 MPs on board. It is the second move to secure two-thirds. Currently, the UNP has 106 seats. SLFP front has 95. The JVP has six and the TNA with 16. There are contradictions and confusions within the pro SLFP front. On the other hand Parliament cannot be dissolved for four and-a-half years. If the President wants to form a new government he has to decide whether to form a government using the members in the present coalition or proceed to make a new political front within the parliament, with it as it is.

Mahinda group

On the other hand there was a dispute about the manner in which economic affairs were handled. The suggestion to form an economic council were both the President and the PM participate is a way out. Both have to find a solution to the economic problems. Two years have passed now; according to economic pandits it is a period that is long enough for a government to turn around the economy. It is true that Lankans have a debt burden.

Today, Mahinda group say the economy is collapsing with the rising cost of living and the unemployment rate. They are accusing Yahapalanaya for the debacle; but who is responsible for leading the country on such a downward spiral? Of course one can blame the Mahinda regime, but this government is responsible to revive it. However, the greater problem is forming a constitution acceptable to all nationalities in the country. Except Mahinda group all are united for a democratic constitution that could satisfy all nationalities in the country. Hence we must together go forward.

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