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Colombo Flood Protection



by N. V. Gooneratne

There were several articles on ‘Colombo flood protection’ in your newspaper and I would like to mention the following. The following fact should be placed before the public:

The Madiwela East diversion canal was constructed under the Greater Colombo Flood Control and Environment Improvement Project (GCFC&EIP) Phase 1. A little upstream of the Malabe Athurugiriya Road there was a deep excavation. For earth canals, the slope of the sides of the canal must be at least 1:1.5. i.e. for one foot vertically it should be 1.5 feet horizontally. If the earth is week, it should be 1:2 or 1: 2.5, depending on the earth. Also, in the case of deep excavations, one or two horizontal sections are required. The Consultant of the project requested sufficient land to be acquired. The officer in charge of the project gave, in writing, to construct the canal with the available land. Thus, this section was constructed with a slope of approximately 1:1. Hence, this section collapsed in a short time and the canal became ineffective. Either the required land should have been acquired or some other alternate method, such as a concrete structure, should have been constructed, in this section of the canal. I am not aware of the present condition.

In the early 1990s, a Senior Engineer decided to buy and install two 25 cusec pumps near the Elvitigala Mawatha Bridge and pump the water across the road as there was a flooding problem in the Torrington area and the pumps were bought. When the other Engineers explained that more than 50 cusecs would flow under gravity these pumps became redundant. At that time there was the problem of pollution in the canals and then the Engineer who ordered the pumps decided to install them at the North Lock at Nagalagam Street to pump water from the Kelani River to flush the canal system. For this, a gate was installed with the bottom of the gate at 6.0 feet above mean sea level when fully opened which was the designed high flood level. During the 1992 floods, the water level, at the North Lock, was about 7.0 feet above mean sea level. There were several complaints that the gate was obstructing the flow. Dr. Obeysekera, who was the Chairman, contacted a high officer in the Navy (I remember as Mr. Tissera) and instructed me to go and meet him to get the gate demolished. I went to the Navy Camp, in the Mutual area, and met the officer who sent two Navy Officers with me to the North Lock. When we went there, we observed that the water was flowing as the bottom level of the canal was 4.0 feet below mean sea level and the gate was fully opened up to 6.0 feet above sea level. However, there was an obstruction as the water level was 7.0 feet above mean sea level. As the gate was a wooden one, the two Navy Officers removed the bolts and nuts from the timber obstructing the flow, removed the timber and the water flowed without any obstruction after that. The claim that the gate was blasted is false.

There were a large number of structures in the canal system. During the 1992 floods, the salt water exclusion structure near the Havelock Road Bridge, in the Wellawatte Canal was a major obstruction. There were wide piers and less than 30% of the width of the canal was flowing when all the gates were open. The difference in water level, on either side of the structure, was about five feet. Colombo had not experienced such a heavy rainfall for a very long time and also a large extent of land had been developed increasing the discharge to the canal system. The Corporation was very fortunate that Dr. Obeysekera was the Chairman at that time. He immediately brought the Corporation machinery and staff and demolished the structure within two or three hours. This enabled the water level to be reduced considerably although it took some time for the water to discharge to the sea, as the volume of water, collected in the catchment area, was large. The Wellawatte Canal is the main outlet when it rains, at present, and it is important to maximise the discharge to the sea when it rains.

Colombo developed mainly due to the Port, and most parts of it are at a low level. Most of the rain water was earlier retained in the large marshes which have been developed mainly during the last 50 years and has resulted in high levels of water when it rains. The Parliament floor level is about 7.0 feet above mean sea level and some Committee Rooms are about a foot below that level. The Galle Road is around 30 feet above mean sea level. If you look at the water in the canal, near the Galle Road Bridge near Savoy Cinema you can see how deep it is. However, if you look at the water in the lake at Battaramulla Bridge you can observe that it is only a few feet below the bridge although there is very little difference in the water levels during dry periods. When Parliament was to be constructed, the Corporation requested, in writing, that the Parliament floor level be raised by at least two feet. At that time the Corporation was dredging the lake and the person in charge of the project rejected the request saying they only knew how to pump chocolate mud and did not know the effect of seeing the water when anyone is in the Committee Rooms. The result is that Parliament has been under water several times and a large sum of money is spent to protect the Parliament when the water level in the lake rises.

The Beira Lake is an artificial lake, constructed at 6.0 feet above mean sea level, to transport goods from the harbour to the warehouses that were constructed around the Beira Lake. Now goods are transported in containers. Hence, the Beira outlet, near the old Parliament can be used as an outlet when it rains, as the necessity to maintain the water level at 6.0 feet above mean sea level is not there. After some studies, the water level can be reduced, at least during the rainy periods, by constructing some gates at the outfall. Then by connecting the St. Sebastian Canal near, the Technical College, to the Canal, leading to the Beira Lake, the water level in the main canal system can be reduced.

When the Parliament was constructed it was decided that there should be a green belt on either side of the canals. Also the canal reservation, when the Irrigation Department handed over the canals to the Corporation, in 1979, was one chain (66 feet) in some sections and half a chain (33 feet) in some sections of the canal. However, the Corporation has reduced it to 6.0 meters (20 feet) and 3.0 meters (10 feet). Thus, there is hardly any green belt and insufficient room for maintenance.

In the report prepared for the GCFC&EIP Phase 1 it was proposed to have 980 acres of retention around the Colombo Canal System and in addition it was stated that there is 3.8 million cubic meters of retention around the Parliament Lake of which 95% should be kept for retention. The Corporation through the government acquired about 1,200 acres of which some areas were fairly high and some low areas had not been acquired. The acquisition should have been done according to some level such as those less than four feet above mean sea level.

People, whose land had been acquired, wanted them released and when they knew that more than the requirement had been acquired in an unreasonable manner the demands increased. The Corporation decided to release a maximum of 20 perches to an original owner and keep 980 acres, but people with influence obtained in acres whereas some did not get anything. Now, out of the 1,200 acres acquired there must be less than 600 acres. The land around the Parliament Lake had been acquired by the UDA and hence the Corporation did not get it acquired as the UDA, which implemented the Parliament Project, agreed to keep it. With the development that has been carried out around the Parliament Lake definitely the retention available is very much less than the requirement.

At present, the Wellawatte Canal is the main outlet and it is important to maximise the flow in the canal. The width of the canal under the Galle Road Bridge is very much less than the canal on either side of the bridge. When it rains you can see a difference in the water level on either side. The Consultants of the GCFC&EIP Phase 1 observed this but did not consider it as reconstructing the Galle Road Bridge was not allowed due to the traffic. However, after the Marine Drive Bridge Construction and the Duplication Road Bridge Construction this was possible. Similar to the Baseline Road Bridge construction, it could be done even half at a time. In 2005, after Colombo experienced some floods, the government agreed to fund it with local funds. As this bridge is under the RDA, a decision was taken at the meeting for the Corporation to prepare an estimate with the RDA. The Chairman at that time was a politician and a Board Member advised him not to get RDA involved and that the Corporation could construct the bridge on its own. Hence to date this has not been done. If anyone stands at the Galle Road Bridge and looks towards the sea, you can see that there is no reservation and how people have encroached on the canal bund. On the other side, when the Irrigation Department handed over the canals, between Galle Road and Duplication Road, the Wellawatte side was Canal reservation and there were only trees. Today, the entire section is occupied and some have even constructed buildings up to the canal with no reservation. Hence the widening of the canal by reconstructing the bridge will be difficult.

When the tunnel was constructed under the GCFC&EIP Phase 2 along 5th Lane, in Colpetty, there was a concrete structure along Duplication Road and the bottom of it was about 9.0 feet above mean sea level. The inside of the pipes used for the tunnel was 8.0 feet in diameter and with the thickness of the concrete was nearly 9.0 feet. As the tunnel had to be below this structure and satisfactory investigations had not been done before awarding the contract, at the sea outfall, the bottom of the pipe was at sea level. It would have been better if it was at least a foot higher, but could not be done. The concrete structure, along Duplication Road, is very likely to be the sewerage line from Colpetty to Wellawatte. If it is the sewerage line, it will cross Bullers Road also. I observed that a new tunnel is being constructed along Bullers Road. According to the plans displayed, it is 10.0 feet in diameter. In that case, either the outlet will be below sea level or the pipe will have to be raised and the full capacity cannot be utilised. This will be a waste of funds.

The Corporation handles only the main canals. The drains taking water to the canals are maintained by the CMC. Sometime ago a study was done and over 150 problem areas were identified and the CMC was to solve them. However, during recent rains it was observed that very little had been done. They also do not follow up when anyone creates obstructions and it is seen that more areas are flooded when it rains. In the recent past, the RDA constructed drains on either side of the Marine Drive. Some sections were rectangular drains and others were hume pipes. The drains were covered and paved for people to walk. Now the people have a nice walking path on either side of Marine Drive. However, the drains are blocked and never cleaned. When it rains, all the sea side roads, in Colpetty, Bambalapitiya and Wellawatte, are flooded. For the recent rains, people living close to Marine Drive found the roads and their gardens flooded and a few even may have had water in their houses. In addition, all the garbage bins were floating and people had to clean everything. The CMC and RDA are aware of the problem as it has happened several times, but do not clean the Marine Drive drains. The main problem is that officers are attending meetings and do not attend to the work.

Getting foreign aid and implementing projects seem to be what everyone wants. When foreign aid is given the country that gives the funds, although it is a loan, always sends their people at least as Consultants and sometimes to implement the project. Very often these Consultants have little experience and learn implementing projects here at our expense. I have seen a large number of Consultants and I am sure our local companies can do a better job for a fraction of the cost. It is only for specialised fields that we require Consultants. For the GCFC&EIP Phase 2 tunnel, at Colpetty, the Corporation had a Consultant. The Construction period was about eight or nine months. He was stationed at Thailand and during the construction he came about five times and stayed about a week each time he came. He was the only person that deserved to be called a Consultant. In the GCFC&EIP Phase 3 there was a large canal excavated at Attidiya. When this was excavated there was no access to six lands. The Consultants proposed six bridges on piles. Then a Corporation Engineer suggested to construct a 20-foot road on the other side of the canal which was implemented instead of the six bridges, which resulted in a large saving. This indicates the experience of the Consultants that we get paying large sums of money in foreign currency obtained as loans. Very often these inexperienced Consultants prepare preliminary designs for a project within one year. Thus, what is implemented is not the best solution as they are inexperienced and do not consult the local people sufficiently. In most projects, the local staff do not do sufficient checking to get a better job done.

I can write more, but will conclude here mentioning that we must carry out the drainage improvements utilising the funds carefully and implement the best solutions. It is important that all projects are monitored to see that incorrect decisions that can be avoided are not taken. We must also use gravity drainage as much as possible and avoid pumping, which is expensive and we do not have proper maintenance experience and sufficient funds which is essential for pumping schemes. Besides, all responsible authorities should see that they do not allow any organisation or person to create additional problems. When the GCFC&EIP Phase 2 was implemented it was observed that in a road off Jawatte Road a house had been built over the drain. Hence it would not have been cleaned and there was no way to improve the drain. How this has been allowed defies comprehension. Hence, it was not possible to widen the drain. Fortunately, a civic-minded resident allowed to construct a drain through his garden and divert the water.


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Long-term generation expansion plan – Legal barrier against implementing the Electricity Act



By Dr. Janaka Ratnasiri and Eng. Parakrama Jayasinghe

A retired Professor of Electrical Engineering has claimed that “the CEB’s long-term generation expansion (LTGE) plan is the best strategy for this country to follow at this time, which is revised once or twice a year” in a write up appearing in The Island of 03.09.2020. Obviously, the learned Professor does not seem to be familiar with the CEB plan because it is not revised once or twice a year but only once in two or three years. Nor has he studied the proposals made by the CEB in relation to the current developments in the energy sector worldwide. The LTGE Plan has some importance for Sri Lanka because compliance with it has been made mandatory for capacity addition both in the Act as well as in the Power Ministry mandate.


This Act, which is an amendment to the Sri Lanka Electricity Act No. 20 of 2009, governs the addition of any new power plants or expansion of existing power plants in Sri Lanka. This amendment to the Act requires that such addition of generation capacity needs to comply with the CEB’s LTGE Plan which has received the prior approval of the Public Utilities Commission of Sri Lanka (PUCSL). There are six instances in the Act where reference has been made to the CEB’s LTGE Plan making it mandatory that any new capacity addition or expansion has to meet the requirements specified in the CEB Plan.

Some extracts of sections of the Act where reference has been made to the LTGE Plan are given below.

“A transmission licensee shall, based on the future demand forecast as specified in the Least Cost Long Term Generation Expansion Plan prepared by such licensee and as amended after considering the submissions of the distribution and generation licensees and approved by the Commission, submit proposals to proceed with the procuring of any new generation plant or for the expansion of the generation capacity of an existing plant, to the Commission for its written approval”.

“Upon obtaining the approval of the Commission under subsection (2), the transmission licensee shall in accordance with the conditions of its transmission licence and in compliance with any rules that may be made by the Commission relating to procurement, call for tenders by notice published in the Gazette, to develop a new generation plant or to expand the generation capacity of an existing generation plant, as the case may be, as shall be specified in the notice”

“Upon the close of the tender, the transmission licensee shall through a properly constituted tender board, recommend to the Commission for its approval, the person who is best capable of meeting the requirements of the Least Cost Long Term Generation Expansion Plan of the transmission licensee duly approved by the Commission”, among others.

“The Commission shall be required on receipt of any recommendations of the transmission licensee, to grant its approval at its earliest convenience, where the Commission is satisfied that the recommended price for the purchase of electrical energy or electricity generating capacity meets the principle of least cost and the requirements of the Least Cost Long Term Generation Expansion Plan and that the terms and conditions of such purchase is within the accepted technical and economical parameters of the transmission licensee”.

“For the purpose of this section- “Least Cost Long Term Generation Expansion Plan” means a plan prepared by the transmission licensee and amended and approved by the Commission on the basis of the submissions made by the licensees and published by the Commission, indicating the future electricity generating capacity requirements determined on the basis of least economic cost and meeting the technical and reliability requirements of the electricity network of Sri Lanka which is duly approved by the Commission and published in the Gazette from time to time”.



The recently established Ministry of Power has stipulated as a key mandate of the Power Ministry the following:

Meeting the electricity needs of all urban and rural communities based on the long-term generation expansion (LTGE) plan prepared by the Ceylon Electricity Board (CEB).

Among the special priority areas identified for the Power Ministry is the Implementation of the long-term generation expansion plan.



Since the Electricity Act as well as the Ministry of Power mandate require that the generation capacity addition needs to be carried out meeting the requirements of the LTGE Plan, it is necessary to examine closely what this plan is. The CEB prepares a long-term generation expansion (LTGE) plan once in two or three years outlining the least cost options of generation plants that need to be added to the system annually for the next 20 years to meet the forecasted demand. The latest plan is in respect of the period 2020 – 2039 but it is still in the draft form yet to be approved by the PUCSL as required by the Sri Lanka Electricity Act No. 31 of 2013. As such the LTGP in effect is the 2018-2037 plan which has received the written approval of the PUCSL.

Being a rolling plan updated once in two or three years, the types and capacities to be added in a given period keeps changing with the plan. Hence, a potential developer is at a loss to know which plan to follow in planning a future power plant development project. This becomes clear when the capacities recommended to be added in the three recent plans covering the periods 2015-34, 2018-37 and 2020-39 (Draft) given in Table 1 are examined. For simplicity, only the additions of large thermal power plant capacities are included in the Table.

It is seen that the 2015-34 Plan has included only coal power plants amounting to 3,200 MW up to 2034. The 2018-37 Plan, on the other hand, has included addition of 2,700 MW of coal power plants together with 1,500 MW of natural gas (NG) power plants, up to 2036. Whereas the 2020-39 Plan (Draft) has included addition of 2,100 MW of coal power plants together with 3,000 MW of NG power plants up to 2039. When the capital cost of power plants and fuel costs keep varying year to year, it is impossible to forecast accurately 20 years earlier what the cheaper option would be in 20 years hence.




If the CEB Plan was implemented in 2016, by 2025, coal power of capacity 1,400 MW, including the proposed coal power plant at Sampur, needs to be built according to 2015-34 Plan. However, according to the 2018-37 Plan, 3×300 MW of coal power plants, together with 2×300 NG power plants, need to be built by 2025. On the other hand, according to the 2020-39 draft Plan, 3×300 MW of coal power plants together with 4×300 MW of NG power plants need to be built by 2025. When a plan keeps changing in this manner with so much divergent recommendations, it cannot be called a long-term plan. There is no unique recommendation for a given period for an investor to pursue. If the 2015-34 Plan decided that coal power plants are the cheap option up to 2025, how is that the 2018-37 Plan decided that NG power plants are the cheaper option for this period? This shows the weakness of the planning methodology.

If an investor wishes to build a power plant in 2015, he is required to follow the capacity additions as specified in the 2015-34 Plan and will decide to build a coal power plant. After spending the first two years on the preliminaries such as feasibility studies and environment impact studies, he finds that an updated 2018-37 Plan released in 2018 recommends NG power plants, instead. Is he then required to change his plans and start building a NG power plant instead? In view of environmental consideration, a NG power plant is always preferred to a coal power plant. It should be noted that a 300 MW coal plant will generate about 100,000 t of ash annually which is an environmental hazard.

There is also an ambiguity in applying the condition laid down in the Act that the capacity additions shall meet the requirements of the LTGE Plan. The Act does not specify whether the Plan to be applied is what is in force at the time of commencing the power plant project or what is in force at the time of commissioning the power plant. Within a matter of four to five years’ time taken to build a coal power plant, the requirements in the Plan could change widely during this period. Hence, it is essential that this be clearly specified or this condition removed altogether enabling implementation of the Act without leaving room for it to be questioned in a court of law.



The Electricity Act requires that the LTGE Plan prepared by the CEB shall be approved by the regulator, PUCSL. However, the approval of the Plan for 2018-37 ran into a problem when the original draft submitted by the CEB was not approved by the PUCSL who in turn proposed an alternative Plan which was not accepted by the CEB. This dispute went dragging for over a year and settled only after the intervention of the President. Even in the case of the current draft for 2020-39, the CEB had submitted it to the PUCSL for approval last year, and is still awaiting approval. Possibly, the PUCSL may want the Plan to fall in line with the Government policy of giving priority for renewable energy sources as described in the writer’s article appearing in the The Island of 25th and 26th September.

This dispute was brought to stark reality in respect of the CEB plan 2018-2037 both by the evaluations of the PUCSL and in the submissions made during the public hearings. The blatant errors and misrepresentation sin the draft submitted by the CEB which was obviously done to force the adoption of further coal power plants ignoring the world wide rejections can be seen in the submissions made to the PUCSL during the public hearings and is available in the PUCSL web page ().

Accordingly, an amended LTGP was formally issued by the PUCSL which should be considered as the LTGP in force until such time a new plan is approved after going through the processes including the public hearings as done in the case of the 2018-2037 LTGP. The fact that the CEB refused to accept this plan and the fact that the Government decided to force the PUCSL to issue an approval for the flawed plan submitted by the CEB makes a mockery of the entire process and the role of the PUCSL as the regulator of the Electricity Sector. As such, it does not make sense to incorporate such a flawed variant plan as mandatory for capacity addition in the Act as well as in the Ministry mandate and to describe it as the best strategy. As a matter of fact, it is the worst strategy for power sector development in the country.



To get over the problem of the Act and the Ministry mandate not being able to meet the requirements of the LTGE Plan in view of the uncertainty of the technologies which the Plan recommends for different time periods, it is necessary to amend these two documents. The first reference to the LTGE Plan in the Electricity Act described previously says that procurement of generation capacity shall be based on “the future demand forecast as specified in the Least Cost Long Term Generation Expansion Plan”. This is in order because there is little variation in the demand for a given year between different Plans.

The rest of the references say that future capacity additions shall meet the requirements of the LTGE Plan. Since the requirements include the technology whether a coal plant or a NG plant should be installed and this changes from Plan to Plan causing the uncertainty in implementing the provisions in the Act or the Ministry mandate, it is best if these sections are amended. It is proposed that the words “meet the requirements of the LTGE Plan” appearing in the Act be amended to read “meet the demand forecasted in the LTGE Plan”, wherever the term “requirements” appear.

The Act says that “Upon obtaining the approval of the Commission the transmission licensee shall in accordance with the conditions of its transmission licence and in compliance with any rules that may be made by the Commission relating to procurement, call for tenders by notice published in the Gazette, to develop a new generation plant or to expand the generation capacity of an existing generation plant, as the case may be, as shall be specified in the notice”. Hence, it is logical to keep the fuel option open when calling tenders at the time capacity addition is required giving sufficient time for the procurement process and construction of the plant. The bids received would show which fuel option is the cheaper.

It is important to issue a set of specification with respect to performance and emissions which should be met by the plant offered. The tender should also be required to specify the levelized cost of generation including the amortized annual cost of the plant, cost of operation and maintenance and the fuel cost for generating a unit of electricity giving a formula to work out the fuel cost depending on its price in the international market. The price should also include the cost of externalties. It will be then possible to select the best and cheaper option, whether coal or gas, meeting the specifications.

It should also be noted that the Electricity Act has interpreted “least cost of generation” to mean “least economic cost of generation”. Economic cost should include the cost of damage to the environment due to emission of fly ash as well as from accumulation of about 100,000 tonnes of bottom ash annually from a 300 MW coal plant. It should also include the cost of health damage to people exposed to gaseous emissions and release of toxic substances from the plant. The current plans do not include these and if they are included, all the coal plants included in CEB’s LTGE Plans need to be changed to NG power plants as such plants do not cause emission of toxic gases or other substances.



Though the Electricity Act and the Ministry mandate stipulate that capacity additions be carried out to meet the requirements of the CEB’s LTGE Plan, practically it is not possible to follow this in view of the fact that the type of plants to be added keep changing with the Plan. It is therefore proposed that the Act as well as the Ministry mandate be amended suitably. It is also proposed that the type of plant be selected after calling tenders keeping the fuel option open a few years ahead when the capacity addition is required and not 20 s years beforehand.

It is important to recognize that the basic purpose of the LTGP is to ensure the long-term energy security of the country using means and technologies that enables realization of the least economic cost of generation, which should include the cost of externalities. As such, unless a firm binding feed in tariff over the life of the plant cannot be guaranteed via suitable tender procedure accepting the above premise, making any long term plans using numbers such as parity rate and price of coal or gas is a futile exercise.

Furthermore, the changes occurring in the energy sector practically every day which helps to realize the above objectives must constantly be factored in to the planning process. Thus, the CEB plans available currently certainly comprise the worst strategy to follow in developing the power sector in the country, as they completely ignore the very progressive advances made the world over which are of great benefit to Sri Lanka.

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The 20A:



A very wrong approach to Constitution-making

by Jayadeva Uyangoda

The proposed 20th Amendment has several major defects. One of its key faults is that its sponsors and framers have chosen a very wrong approach to constitution-making.

There are several reasons why this approach is wrong.

The first is their refusal to learn constructive lessons from the past constitutional reform experiments. The lessons that seem to have been learned are all partisan, narrow-mimed, politically short-sighted, and therefore, wrong ones.

The second is that the framers of the 20A are not animated by the larger democratic interests of the political community which Sri Lankan people constitute collectively. Instead, the primary motivating factor seems to be political self-interest.

The third is that the proposed Amendment is totally devoid of a democratic normative framework relevant to our society and its own progressive-modernist legacies of constitutionalism. Instead, in disinheriting the progressive legacies of our society’s modern political and social life, it builds itself on one or two dreadful and destructive experiments of constitution-making in the recent past.

Lessons from the Past

Sri Lanka has a relatively long history of unmaking, making and amending constitutions. They offer a rich array of lessons about what to be avoided as well in constitution-making.

Both the First and Second Republican Constitutions of 1972 and 1978 together and individually offer the following lessons:

(a) Any popular mandate for a new Constitution should not be interpreted as licence to undermine or remove the democratic checks and balances in the exercise of political power. The reason is quite clear: it would encourage rulers and bureaucracies to violate with impunity citizens’ freedoms and liberties. Such misuse of the popular mandate is certain to produce tyrannical consequences and ultimately will erode the legitimacy of the government itself.

(b) Undermining the rule of law, weakening the independence of the judiciary, and making the accountability institutions subservient to the executive will initially please the egos of the politicians and officials, but in the long run are bound to create a deep chasm between the government and the citizens, rulers and the ruled.

(c) The eventual political cost of ignoring minority demands for political equality and equal citizenship rights in a constitutional scheme can be quite high. It will create a condition of unending ethnic tension in society as well as between the state and the alienated minorities.

(d) Constitutions with undemocratic intent as well as content will harm the legitimacy of not only the government in power, but also the prevailing system as a whole.


Lessons from 1978C and its 18A

Both the original 1978 Constitution and its 18th Amendment, together as well as individually, offer us the following crucial lessons:

(a) Any ruling party or government that ignores the golden rule of democratic governance that (a) political power is NOT unlimited and that (b) the right to, and exercise of, political power has inherent limits will do so only at its own peril.

(b) Any new Constitution, or any major alteration to an existing one, should not be designed to please the personal desires (‘whims and fancies’) of an individual, however powerful he or she may be at the time of constitution-making. A constitution thus designed is certain to come into conflict with the actual and objective needs of society as well as aspirations of its citizens.

(c) A new constitutional scheme should not be designed to serve only the interests of newly emerged wealthy elites in society. When a Constitution becomes an instrument of a narrow class of wealthy elites, who are suspicious of the dispersal of political power among citizens in a democracy, and entertain political ambitions to capture the state, it runs the risk of providing legality to despotism.


Lessons from 19A

There are four key lessons, among many, to be learned from the process of making the much-maligned 19th Amendment:

(a) Wide consultation in the drafting process is not only useful, but also helpful to improve the level of democratic health in the polity.

(d) It is always better to build consensus across all political parties in Parliament for a major amendment or a new Constitution. Constitutional consensus-building in a deeply divided polity like ours is a frustrating and time-consuming political exercise. Yet, it enables all, or a majority of, the stakeholders to take part in the process, make their inputs, and claim some ownership to the outcome although for partisan political reasons, some might later withdraw from the consensus.

(e) If the consultation and consensus-building in constitution-making is not politically managed with clarity of purpose, the overall goals of the constitutional compromise may run the risk of producing a constitutional scheme with potentially harmful internal anomalies and contradictions.

(f) A democratic constitution-making exercise today needs, more than ever, an unwavering political leadership to champion it through to the end by innovative and imaginative democratic means. The reason is a paradoxical one. Alternatives to democracy are also competing with democracy, with enormous material resources, to gain popular support and loyalty through democratic means. In this age of right-wing populism, media-manufactured popular consent and manipulation of public perceptions through information pollution, post-democratic alternatives tend gain easy currency and public legitimacy.


Constitutions and the Political Community

A Constitution is in the final analysis a Constitution for the entire political community within a country. Although the basic nature of that constitution may be conceptualised by a ruling party, to be sustainable and be able to survive post-regime change shocks, it should not reflect only the agenda of that ruling party or an individual leader. Experience in Sri Lanka as well as other countries shows that such constitutions have been the first step to despotism in some form.

Rather, a Constitution should embody the highest democratic goals and aspirations – ‘noble ends’ — of the political community, that are open to be shared voluntarily by the vast majority of members of that political community, notwithstanding the momentary shifts in their political judgment occasionally expressed at periodic elections.

A Normative Framework Needed

A good Constitution is always a democratic one. A good democratic Constitution for Sri Lanka should be guided by a value framework embodying a synthesis of the normative ethics which the people of our political community have inherited from our own liberal democratic, republican and social-egalitarian traditions, evolved through our own political and social modernity.

The Indian and South African Constitutions are model post-colonial Constitutions that are guided by such a value synthesis, derived from the best traditions of modern constitutionalism as well as egalitarian and social-justice impulses inherent in their local cultures and histories.


What legacy? What inheritance?

Finally, Sri Lankan constitution-makers should not consider the South-East Asian developmentalist authoritarian state model as a new constitutional template for Sri Lanka, because it goes against our own progressive constitutionalist legacy evolved during the past century or so.

What needs to be inherited and further advanced is that progressive strand of constitutionalism which we can claim as authentically modern and local. It appears that the framework of 20A have sought inspirations from wrong constitutional models, at home and abroad, that are devoid of any democratic normative content.

The Supreme Court, where the constitutional validity of the proposed 20th Amendment will be examined and debated, is an eminently suitable forum to raise these points as well. In a number of previous judgments, and as recently as December 2018, our Supreme Court has repeatedly validated the inherent normative framework of Sri Lanka’s own tradition of democratic constitutionalism.

Alerting our Honourable Justices, who make up the much revered public institution that is the last bastion of citizens’ freedom and democracy, should also be a part of the struggle for re-inheriting and defending our own best legacies of political and social modernity.

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Using heart to beat cardiovascular diseases



World Heart Day

By Dr. Mohan Jayatilake
Consultant Cardiologist
(A former President of Sri Lanka Heart Association)

Cardiovascular diseases (CVD) including strokes cause nearly half of all Non-Communicable Disease (NCD) deaths making it the world’s number one killer. Every year, over 17 million people die from heart diseases. The World Heart Federation in Geneva introduced the World Heart Day every year on the 29th September. It is therefore the perfect platform for the CVD community to unite in the fight against CVD to reduce the global disease burden.

This year on the 29th September, our campaign is asking the world to “USE HEART TO BEAT CARDIOVASCULAR DISEASE” FOR YOUR LOVED ONES, SOCIETY AND YOU.

World heart federation (WHF) is a Non-Governmental Organization, in Geneva, Switzerland. WHF in conjunction with the World Health Organization (WHO) announced the establishment of World Heart day in 1999.

WHF commits to unite its members and lead the global fight against heart disease and stroke. The WHF focuses on the vulnerable areas of the world, low and middle income countries. WHO targets for non-communicable disease mortality reduction by 2025 reducing premature deaths from CVD by at least 25%.


CVD and COVID-19 pandemic during World Heart day

We are living in an unprecedented time where the COVID 19 pandemic has brought a spotlight on the healthcare profession, national healthcare system and our own health.

We do not know what course the pandemic will take in the future but we do know that taking care of our hearts right now is more important than ever. COVID- 19 posed a particular risk to patients with underlying issues such as heart disease, which is already the leading cause of death in the world.

CVD patients are more susceptible to severe COVID-19. In the time of COVID 19, CVD patients are faced with a double edged threat. Not only, are they more at risk of developing severe life threatening viral infection, but they may also be afraid to seek ongoing care for their hearts. Reassurance should be given to visit hospital or emergency room if the need arises. The risk of heart attacks and stroke outweigh the risk of contracting COVID 19.


Use heart to thank the healthcare profession

The pandemic has led to an outpouring of support for nurses, doctors, researches and carers. As we build towards World Heart Day 2020, we will continue to showcase the stories of these frontline heroes and their patients as part of our “Heart Heroes”.


Creating awareness about the risk factors that lead to heart disease

Risk factors that lead to heart disease and stroke include, high blood pressure ,cholesterol and glucose level are


Unhealthy diet


Lack of exercises

Increased stress condition

Hence the World Heart Day celebration plays a very important role in changing all of this. It helps to raise awareness and encourage individuals, families, communities and governments to take action now. Various events and activities such as fun runs, walks, concerts, public talks, sporting events, fitness sessions, science forums, stage shows, and exhibitions are organized worldwide to reduce the fear of heart disease and strokes. Every year more and more people participate in these events showing their support for World Heart Day.

In Sri Lanka, public seminars and heart walks are being organized by the Sri Lanka College of Cardiology. In view of the COVID pandemic these activities are also limited to a minimum. Furthermore, the WHF says that whether your environment is urban or rural, this is our chance to transform our neighbourhood into heart healthy environment so that we can achieve 25% reduction in premature death from CVD by 2025.

We call on individuals to reduce their own and their family’s risk of heart disease and strokes.

You and your family can take the following steps:

1. Stop tobacco smoking to improve your own and your children’s health. Tobacco use and exposure to passive smoking kills six million people a year and are estimated to cause early 10% of CVD. Within two years of stopping smoking the risk of CVD is substantially reduced. Exposure to second hand passive smoking is also a cause of heart diseases in non-smokers. Female smokers run a 25% higher risk of heart disease than male smokers.

By quitting you will not only improver your heart health but that of those around you. It’s a good thing to note that the habit of smoking among Sri Lankan men and women is significantly reduced due to aggressive campaigns against smoking.

2. Healthy food options at home

a. Cut down on sugary beverages and fruit juices, and choose water or unsweetened juices instead.

b. Start a day with a piece of fruit and take your own prepared lunch from home to ensure healthy meals.

c. Be careful of processed food which contains high cholesterol ,trans fatty acids, salt and sugar.

d. Make sure every evening meal contains at least 2 to 3 servings of vegetables.

e. Drink plenty of water.

f. Try to eliminate or cut down the amount of alcohol.

3. Be active

a. Families should limit the amount of time spent on watching TV for less than 2 hours a day.

b. Aim for at least 30 minutes of moderately intensive physical activity 5 times a week.

c. Playing, walking, housework, gardening, dancing, they all count.

d. Be active everyday- Take stairs, walk or cycle instead of driving.

e. Stay fit at home- workout for the whole family

4. Mange stress levels through meditation, yoga, effective breathing techniques and counselling.

5. Know your numbers

a. Visit your doctor or health care professional to check your blood pressure,

cholesterol and glucose level together Body Mass Index (BMI)

6. Identify and manage the other causes of CVD

a. Diabetes

b. Hypertension

c. Obesity –which is an alarming risk factor in the world causing heart disease and strokes

Strict lifestyle changes can make a significant difference to our heart health. Burden of CVD can be reduced if everybody takes prompt action now.

a. Everybody must take control of their own heart health and act to improve it.

b. Government must support and encourage the CVD surveillance and monitoring.

If everybody “USES HEART TO BEAT CVD” for your loved ones, you and society people all over the world can have longer and better lives through the prevention and control of heart disease and stroke.

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