The Sunday Leader

Constitutional Reforms Don’t Need Tainted Discards

The announcement that 26 MPs of the former Rajapaksa regime had been sworn in as eleven cabinet ministers, five state ministers, and ten deputy ministers, made a great many independent members of the public and veteran UNPers openly declare their utter disgust, revulsion and exhibiting nauseating reactions.

Such ordinary people had been at the receiving end of that regime for a near decade and when Maithripala Sirisena broke ranks, declared his intentions of contesting presidency, teamed up with the UNP led by Ranil Wickremasinghe, they saw it as the way to liberation from the dictatorial family rule they were being encircled.

The hard core of the regime may have comprised the ‘kitchen cabinet’ but the ‘people’s representatives’ too were very much a part of the regime exploiting the people devoid of political, police or judicial protection. These representatives were the ladies and gentlemen who sang ‘bakthi gee’, telling the people of the ‘rising GDP’ and the patriotic tasks performed by their government in exposing and protecting them from  ‘international conspiracies’. They grew richer and richer while some of the people kept their heads above water with remittances of their near and dear slaving in the desert sands. Others got temporary respite from easy loans of ‘laysiyeng leasing’ companies at ‘Chinese rates’ of interest while the poorest of the poor pawned their meager jewellery, probably never to be redeemed.

Not one word was spoken of the plight of the working class or the abjectly poor by these ‘people’s representatives’. They had their perks and privileges and were living far beyond even these means.

When Mahinda Rajapaksa was defeated at the last elections, the wrath of those who voted against him was not only directed against him but his party MPs who were enjoying the ‘la dolce vita’ (the good life) solely at state expense.

For some inexplicable reason last week President Maithripala Sirisena and made some 26 such MPs cabinet, state and deputy ministers. Some of these ‘new’ ministers were targets of criticism by Maithripala Sirisena and UNPers themselves during the election campaign. They singled out such representatives who made uncouth statements on those supporting candidate Sirisena such as former President Chandrika Kumaratunga. Some of the latest ‘cross- overs’ were veteran double and treble ‘cross- overs’ from party to party and back. Shamelessly these people’s representatives had not cared two hoots for those people who had elected them on another party ticket.

Veteran politicians President Maithripala Sirisena and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremasinghe must be well aware that they have the great potential of jumping back to the other side when the occasion suits them.

These ‘cross-over’ ladies and gentlemen are supposed to comprise the ‘National Government’ with others envisaged by President Sirisena and PM Wickremasinghe.  How such disparate and desperate individuals will get together to form a government in the interests of the nation, we leave it to the imagination of Sirisena and Wickremasinghe.

Perhaps developing political circumstances and political expediency may have compelled President Sirisena and Premier Wickremasinghe, whose political integrity has been beyond question, to temporarily resort to the formation of such a cabinet. There are instances in Sri Lankan politics when such seemingly absurd and illogical political moves have been resorted to. But it is important to keep in mind that this present government, unlike any previous government, was elected on a call for a return to moral righteousness (Yahapalanaya), restoration of human rights, establishment of law and order, eradication of corruption and dispensation of justice for political assassinations, particularly of journalists. It is a government elected on high political morality and not party loyalties. It simply cannot resort to political skullduggery for survival or expediency.

President Sirisena obviously did not have enough time to plan out the just form of governance he envisaged. He had only a month between nomination day and being elected president. No politician has been bestowed with power in so short a time.

On being elected, he attempted to bite much more than he can chew. His 100-Day Programme, which calls for radical reform of the Presidential System of government and change in the system of electoral representation, requires much more time than a mere 100 days. The Opposition points out that the short-cuts envisaged to amend the constitution clearly violates the constitution.

The system of National Government President Sirisena envisages is not even clear to constitutional pundits. The electorate is still confused on what he hopes to do and how they are to vote at the forthcoming parliamentary election close at hand.

There is still enough time left for a parliamentary election to be held and the tight time table President Sirisena has set need not be followed to the letter.

Those knowledgeable about constitutional making as well as those with smattering knowledge of such matters, attribute much of this country’s misfortunes to the constitutions we have had. Let it not happen to the constitution that can take us out of the woods that we are desperately trying to formulate.


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