GUARDING THE GUARDS

Once upon a time in a land named Ceylon that was renamed Sri Lanka peace prevailed or rather there were Kings who ruled the people largely for their personal benefit and comfort. The subjects were just that: devoid of respect and power reduced to being mere peasants.

 

Something then came along as the free world realised it was very much needed and that a monarchial system was inequitable to the masses. Democracy was a great word to express hope and desire in.

 

President John F Kennedy famously (‘ich bin ein Berliner’ etc.) said that freedom has many difficulties and democracy is not perfect but in Sri Lanka although in 1948 Britain gave us our independence and let our politicians lead us towards a scenario where we would be masters of our own destiny and Captains of our own ship, the net result has been anything but just.

 

Democracy has been hijacked by our politicians where throughout the years we have observed a growing trend towards authoritarianism. President Jayewardene although entrusted with a 5/6ths majority in parliament by the people, nevertheless traversed a route of questionable democracy even ignoring judicial opinion in securing the removal of Mrs. Bandaranaike’s civic rights. Several years later Dicky may have turned in his grave when his own party remained silent in parliament when Chandrika Kumaratunga caused the repeal of the act that saw her mom lose her civic rights.

 

True the UNP were in the minority in the house at the time, but to demonstrate their party’s probity and their collective integrity and their firm belief that what was done to Mrs. B was equitable and not politically motivated, it would have been far better received had the UNP voted against that motion in parliament.

 

Successive governments in Sri Lanka largely ignored the development of the North where the majority is made up of the Tamil speaking minority. Rather like toddy left to ferment the outburst caused this entire nation – not just the North – to suffer significant setbacks that lasted for over thirty years.

 

Nothing – other than the death penalty perhaps – focuses the mind better than inequity and pure racism in everyday life.

 

The period between 2005 and January 2015 was remarkable for a variety of reasons. One namely was that the fight against terror was conclusively ended. The same period is remarkable for the unhealthy rise towards authoritarianism. The limited opposition together with media institutions owned privately, highlighted excesses of power, departures from due procedure and nepotism. Enough concern was raised to become a catalyst for a disparate group of 47 to form themselves into a movement known as ‘good governance’ or yahapalanaya.

 

Using the claim of corruption as their mantra and having chosen a nondescript contender to be their ‘common candidate’ the movement achieved what most would not have dared imagine: the removal of Mahinda Rajapaksa as President.

In the euphoria of that improbable victory there was a wholesale departure from due process, the promises to the people in terms of investigation and accountability were placed on the back burner and the ‘new’ government seemed hell bent on filling their party coffers as well as their own pockets with proceeds from essentially, the public purse. The most infamous of these episodes was of course the so-called ‘bond scam’.

 

However with a growing disillusionment the Presidential benevolence towards the United National Party especially its hierarchy including the leader Ranil Wickremesinghe, the much awaited delivery of yahapalanaya has left the shores barren.

 

It appears now that not enough thought was put in to the drafting of the 19th Amendment which meant that the people of this country ended up with in essence a fixed term of parliament – fixed for four and one half years.

 

Another anomaly of the 19th Amendment appears that the executive president has been reduced to that of an eunuch (as described by the late legal personality Hemantha Warnakulasuriya) but certainly the President is unable to sack his Prime Minister.

 

However the 19th Amendment did carry one aspect to which the people did subscribe in large numbers to. This is that in pursuit of addressing wanton wastage of limited financial resources, the 19th Amendment placed a fixed number of Ministers in cabinet, limiting that to 30.

 

The United National Party who now have the somewhat dubious pleasure of being a minority government is now attempting to circumvent the 30-member limit of cabinet ministers.

 

The party explains that they are forming a ‘national’ government for the sake of development. If ever there was an unbelievable story this must carry the prize!

 

The people will appreciate an honest response from the Prime Minister – something on the lines that he is so happy that all is well on our island but RW must also point out that he needs extra spaces in cabinet in order that he can become the next President. Therefore he needs to hit the hustings running. That means that he needs to purchase the services of those MP’s who have no place in the Cabinet because that is also limited by the provisions of the 19th Amendment. Therefore the real plausible reason for the ‘national government’ is not development of the country but further development of Mr. Wickremesinghe’s career.

 

There is a real need for the Prime Minister to come clean about the attempts to extradite Udayanga Weeratunga and now ‘Madush’ and any others in the United Arab Emirates. The Prime Minister said what he said in parliament last Wednesday but it is what he did not say that has become important.

 

Ranil Wickremesinghe is the master at the art of being economical with the truth. He ought to have brought it to the notice of parliament that there is no functioning extradition treaty with the United Arab Emirates. Although signed the Foreign Office in the UAE baulked at the idea of extraditing their citizens to Colombo if the need arose. Along with that, the treaty has only been collecting dust.  . And Prime Minister is ever so busy that he has missed out on this. On the basis of his conduct over the BOND scam, we would aver that the Prime Minister missed out by design.

 

In this context the people must now start looking for a set of guards – in order to be guarded from the mechanizations of politicians in the mold of Wickremesinghe and others. In short to be guarded from the guards.

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