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Two-thirds majority and responsibility

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It was widely believed that under a proportional representation system, it was difficult, if not impossible, to get a simple majority. A 2/3rd majority under the circumstances would be an extraordinary victory. Therefore, this phenomenon has to be carefully discussed because it reflects a total loss of confidence and trust in a party that had been a major political force since Independence.

People have watched its decline in the last five years, particularly the UNP’s servility to foreign powers at the expense of the country’s sovereignty and the treachery of cosponsoring a UNHRC Resolution against the country, and twice cleaning up the Central Bank. People were determined to teach it a good lesson and, if possible, relegate it to the political dustbin. The author of the above betrayal had capitulated and withdrawn from the contest knowing well the fate that would befall him. This is a good lesson for all politicians who think the masses are asses and take their political party loyalty for granted. It is also a lesson for small communal parties who hold the major parties to ransom and ask for the impossible.

The main reason for this victory, however, was confidence and trust that the new President has earned, first as Defence Secretary and then, in these few months, as the President of the country, with his no-nonsense approach to governance and the efficiency he demands, as shown in the way the Corona pandemic has been controlled. The Prime Minister’s personal charisma and proven ability and leadership has also contributed quite significantly. Their team consisting of several talented Rajapaksas, each with different expertise, had helped to create history in the political arena, and in this sense it is unparalleled anywhere in the world. They must, however, remember they cannot afford to fail; people have placed so much faith and trust in them. Serving the people would be their holy vow and they must remember the mistakes they did in the 2010 – 2014 period that brought about their downfall and avoid repeating them. They could fall again, however big their victory may be.

What is of importance now is to consider what the voters want from a government with a 2/3rd majority. First, what they don’t want to happen, yet which has always happened, has to be remembered. This aspect of the problem assumes greater importance as most of the old faces known for various evil deeds, misdemeanor, ill decorum, and even serious crime are back. They have to be kept on a short leash, if the new President is to steer the country away from the precipice that has opened up in its path, due to the ills of the previous government and the coronavirus pandemic.

Corruption and waste

It is well known that poverty in this country could not be alleviated mainly due to the rampant corruption and waste. The country is blessed with a clement climate, fertile soil, rain in good time, ample sunshine, good literacy and an intelligent workforce. What we lack for development is honest, capable, decent politicians, who are not in politics to make money, but for the satisfaction of developing the country. If corruption and waste in government institutions, beginning from the Parliament could be controlled, the present leadership would have won half the battle. It is the top that must show the way. If there is corruption and waste at the top there is no one who could stop it at the bottom. Cannot they spend less on Parliament sessions to begin with. Cannot they do away with the commission racket at the top before they pick on lesser rogues. Cannot they punish the Central Bank robbers to begin with. Cannot bribery, drug dealing, and crime be stopped at the top so that the police can look after the bottom.

People have hope in the new President, the present political leadership and the government that the miscreants who may have been swept in with the political tsunami would be kept in check. Some new faces also have come in and the voters expect them to contribute meaningfully in the Parliament to keep things under order and control. They owe it to the people and the youth to save this country from the corrupt, the criminal, the drug dealer and the commission crook. They must form themselves into a group who would stand up for fairness and justice, integrity and honesty, decorum and behaviour. Decency in dress, beard and hair style. They must not allow the thick-skinned seniors to have their way and bungle and bumble for five years and go down yet again. These young new faces have their entire political career in front of them. They must not squander this opportunity by living it up, having a good time, nightclubbing and running around in fast cars, while their brothers and sisters, who voted for them, suffer without education and employment. They must make an effort to educate themselves on good governance, parliamentary procedure, basic economics and also develop patriotism and a love for the country so that they will develop into good leaders and statesmen.

The responsibility of the 2/3rd majority would be to change the political culture in this country, which has become so dirty that there are people, including the former Prime Minister who would like to throw politicians into the Diyawanna Oya. Fortunately, he would be spared of the watery inconvenience, courtesy the Colombo voters. Another responsibility is to see that politicians, rejected by the people, are not brought into the Parliament, via the national list.

Constitution

The two-third majority provides an opportunity to reform the constitution which has been badly mutilated by the 19th A, and which was introduced mainly to clip the wings of the then President and strengthen the hands of the then Prime Minister. It was not meant to improve the rights of the people, strengthen democracy, and attain balance between the three arms of the government. Further it has brought in confusion into the constitution when what is needed is clarity.

While the 19th A has to be gotten rid of, the presidential powers, which perhaps may be excessive, as the former President, the late JRJ famously claimed, may have to be appropriately changed taking care not to render the executive presidency meaningless, which the 19 A does. The electoral system, which has been muddled up by the previous government, also has to be revamped, to enable the voters to elect a stable government while reflecting the will of the people. Due to this muddling, the last local government elections produced almost double the number of members it was meant to elect. The independent commissions, which the 19th A introduced, may have to be retained, but a mechanism to restrict political appointments into these commissions may have to be worked out, as experience shows these units are full of LTTE sympathisers, which may have been one of the reasons for the defeat of political leaders responsible for it.

The 2/3rd majority is a clear endorsement of the need to preserve the unitary state and single sovereignty of the country. Communal politics, which unfortunately form the basis of existence for ethnic based political parties, have held the mainstream parties to ransom and taken the country to the threshold of ethnic federalism and secession. Those mainstream political leaders who colluded with these minority parties, hopefully have been relegated to history. Hence it is time the minority parties realized their mistake of overestimating themselves and believing that no major party could win without their support. They have found that if they push too hard the majority community will close rank. It is this myth that had all along prevented them from participating more actively in the governance, and also denied their people the opportunity to contribute more towards the country’s development.

The 13th A, with the threat of its full implementation in relation to land and police powers, is the Sword of Damocles that great India hung over the tiny head of Sri Lanka. This sword could cut the neck of Sri Lanka given the right conditions. The conditions were right, during the last four years, and they almost succeeded. The 13A is an incongruity in a unitary constitution. If fully implemented – there is no reason why it should not – it would give more powers to the periphery than the states of federal India have. It was forced on Sri Lanka as a solution to the ethnic problem of the Tamils, but their leaders did not make use of it to develop the North. The Tamils seem to be in a state of transition, if the results of the 2020 election is an indication. The North, East and the Central hills are showing signs of change and a disillusion with the parochialism of their leaders. Moreover, the Tamils seem to be getting on fine without any devolution, the Provincial Councils were non-existent for the last two years, yet the Tamils were not complaining.

The Provincial Councils do not serve any useful purpose other than being another obstacle that people have to overcome to solve their problems. All the communities are called upon to carry this burden for the sake of devolution of power, which in a poor tiny country is unnecessary and ill-affordable. Sri Lanka has four tiers of political administration; president, parliament, provincial councils and local government councils with thousands of members whose emoluments, perks, and corruption would be a huge burden on the poor people. Such a huge system of political administration, and representation is superfluous and unnecessary for a country of Sri Lanka’s size and population, leaving alone the cost. The aspirations of the Tamils, for political power sharing, should be addressed by more realistic means, and with opportunity for greater integration and participation both at grass-root level and the centre. The failure of Tamil leaders to realize this need has been the bane of the Tamil community and the country too.

Reconciliation

Reconciliation cannot be forced on people. It must come naturally. It had existed in early times and had been destroyed by politicians in the pursuit for power. It cannot be achieved by foreign intervention or UNHRC Resolutions that seek to investigate and punish one community. It cannot be achieved by the establishment of the Office for Missing Persons, Commission for Truth and Justice, and Commission for Reparation, etc., which are packed with supporters of terrorists and separatists. It can only be achieved by allowing people to forget the past and come together in a natural process. Tamil politicians, western powers, and their local stooges do not want people to forget the past for which one side only could not be blamed. The new President did the right thing in withdrawing from the co-sponsorship of the treacherous UNHRC Resolution 30/1. He has also said he will not hesitate to withdraw from any other world body that engages in activity detrimental to Sri Lankan interests.

The 2/3rd majority gives all communities the opportunity to work together to overcome the problems caused by Covid-19 and develop their country. Such an attitude would help them to forget the past.

In Lord Naseby’s words: “This is a new dawn for Sri Lanka, a fresh era creating the opportunity for the country to come together and finally put to bed the idea of any Tamil Eelam independence movement.

“Now is the time for the West to understand the new mood in Sri Lanka; the desire on all sides for reconciliation to become realistic without any interference from the West or the UN Rights Council”.

N.A.de S.AMARATUNGA

 

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Opinion

Youth battle against drugs needed

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Twenty-one-year-old student Panusaya Sithijirawattanakul read a 10-point manifesto aimed at reform of Thailand’s politically powerful monarchy

If our university students are daring enough to challenge the government for their rights for a clear-cut education policy, that no government could change, according to their whims and fancies or for the benefit of corrupt ministers, and state officials, then our university students’ unions could also challenge the government, regarding the drug mafia.

They should follow the 21-year-old. Thailand girl, from Thammasat University, who stood up against Royalty and called for a monarchy change, saying all humans have red blood and called for various reforms, as she fearlessly delivered the manifesto, including the call to change the constitution and education. This speech could have sent her to jail for 15 years, but she stood her ground.

Our university students, for the sake of our young generation, and those to be born, could challenge the government to take genuine action, as promised at the recent election, against all those who are involved in the drug mafia, be they ministers, officials or relatives. It is a well known fact that such an amount of drugs, etc., cannot be imported without the help of VVIPs.

Only the challenging from the young generation of all fields could induce positive action to expose the culprits. Mr. President, you asked the people to give you the strength to fight all corruption. You got it, but the people are worried about the outcome. Was it an ‘election gundu’? Do it, though you may not get the goodwill of corrupt ministers and officials, but the people, the honest and the hard working parents will be thankful to you.

Save the children before introducing any long term plans. Remember this drug mafia is very much worse than terrorists, because ministers did not get commissions from the war, but drugs bring in millions of rupees.

 

Barbara Seneviratne

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Opinion

Reduce number of vehicles on our roads

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Please allow me a short comment on the perceptive article by George Braine, in The Island ( 4th September, page 6), on renationalizing the private bus service. I hope it catches the eye of our President.

Firstly, his observation about how in Hong Kong and (Singapore too), buses are washed every day, and trains are comfortable and clean. Let alone comfort, couldn’t the “higher powers” provide us AT LEAST with CLEAN public transport, despite the now ingrained lack of hygiene in Sri Lankan society (it’s now part of Sri Lankan culture!). We have become an unhygienic people immune to uncleanliness – if you doubt this, tell me the name of ONE South Asian country which is as filthy as us. (Singapore, Indonesia, Japan, Thailand, Myanmar, Hong Kong …?). Habits such as spitting betel leaf in public, onto the pavement, throwing “Buth Parcels” on to it for the purported purpose of obtaining “merit”, by feeding the disease- infected stray dogs and cats (I almost forgot to include the rats) – this is us!. If you still doubt, go have a look at the state of our Public Toilets ANYWHERE, including the “international” Airport. Our children should be taught at an early age, how to use a toilet correctly – obviously most parents don’t know this skill.

Forty years ago, the belching buses with people hanging onto the footboard for dear life, were a common sight. It remains so today – in what aspects did we lopsidedly “Develop”? Highways – for whom?

Recently I travelled from Colombo to Galle, and last week, from Colombo to Nuwara-Eliya by car. On the Galle trip, I saw private buses tearing along, racing each other on the wrong side of the Galle Road. It was reported the following day that three had died in a head-on collision. On the Nuwara-Eliya trip, even up in the dangerous winding hills, private buses were engaged in a permanent roadrace to gather passengers.

In the very same newspaper (September 4th), on page 3, headlines read – “Three persons killed, three others seriously injured in car mishap”. It goes on to say that due to speeding, two young men sent themselves to a premature death. At least three die every day in fatal road accidents. The country’s Traffic Police are out of touch with reality. Dishing out parking fines (for the ulterior motive of collecting revenue!), watching idly as trishaws (a law unto themselves), cut across the line of traffic, allowing motorcycles to “short-cut” along the pavement, Mr Braine’s suggestion that vehicle imports should be BANNED (including Duty Free ) for five years is absolutely right! I hope the President will firmly refuse to bow to pressures in this regard, in the public interest.

He will receive fervent thanks from the public at large if he can reduce the number of vehicles on our already clogged roads. By prohibiting vehicle imports he also creates jobs for the numerous vehicle repair shops needed to keep existing vehicles in good order.

 

JAYANTA KURUKULASURIYA

 

 

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Opinion

A true People’s Company for a People-Centered Economy

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By JUSTIN KEPPETIYAGAMA
Jdkgama02@gmail.com

 

As per the policy manifesto of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, ‘Vistas of Prosperity and Splendour’ (‘Rata Hadana Saubhagyaye Dekma’), the main objective of the government is creating a people-centered economy through rural development.

In achieving these expectations, Sapiri Gamak, a community-based development programme is being implemented, anticipating to convert the entire country to one development zone, by building a people-centric economy that will be fully owned by the people of the country, and strengthen the local entrepreneurs; instead of selling and mortgaging national resources and financial assets of the country to foreigners.

The objectives of this programme are, improving employment and livelihoods through development of rural facilities, and thereby uplifting the socio-economic condition of the rural economy. These development projects should facilitate the income pathways of villagers and generate self-employment opportunities.

Under the guidance of the Prime Minister through this programme, projects for development of roads, infrastructure facilities required by the agriculture sector, facilities required to uplift the economy at rural levels, facilities required for development and upgrading of rural health, development of education by providing electricity, water and sanitary facilities for schools and other priority physical infrastructure facilities that are directly attributed to development of rural economy will be implemented.

Under this programme, Rs. 2 M. will be spent to implement development programs at each Grama Niladhari Division, covering 14,021 Grama Niladhari divisions of the country. At present, under this program, 37,862 development projects worth of Rs. 27,920 M. are being implemented island-wide by the Divisional Secretaries under the supervision of District Secretaries.

Divisional Secretaries and District Secretaries are not the stakeholders of these projects. To implement this project there should be a mechanism that should include all villagers as the stakeholders of this project. It should not be a mechanism, operated by bureaucrats, or one dependent on budgetary funding. It should be a mechanism, funded by the people, entrepreneurs, farmers, producers, consumers, living within the G.N. division and supplemented by the Government. It should be a mechanism, owned by the villagers and operated by the villagers and for the benefits of the villagers. This should be a self-financing mechanism; a legal entity having its own identity. It should be a village-based mechanism to address the problems faced by the villagers. It should be a mechanism that leads to a self-sufficient economy.

The situation prevalent today must be changed. The course of development followed so far must be reversed totally. It must be village-based. All modes of production must be village based. The villagers must be given the knowledge to improve all their economic activities. Any industries facilitating all economic activities of villagers should be commenced in the village itself and by the villagers themselves. All technological knowledge we get must reach the villagers. This mechanism should transform all villagers to stakeholders in the village economy.

1. To create a people-centered rural economy I propose to promote one co-operative society per G.N area under the Co-operative Societies Act. It should be an enterprise of villagers, by the villagers for the benefit of the villagers. There should be 14,021 co-operative societies covering the entire island. The objectives of these co-operative societies should include:

a. Buying, stocking, selling and supplying all forms of industrial, agricultural and trading inputs and consumables and livestock required for raising the living standard of villagers.

b. Accepting deposits from members and providing venture capital or debenture capital to them to carry on their business activities. It should be the Rural Bank.

c. Providing credit, in cash, or in kind, to members to meet their other needs.

d. Undertaking the promotion, management, control and supervision of any enterprise or scheme using identified deposits of members for the benefits and advancement of such members or a group of members, and charging a fee, commission or a share of profits for such services.

e. Making investment of identified deposits of members in stock, shares or securities, on behalf of such identified members

f. Carrying out survey and research, issuing publications, and maintaining a database helpful for improvement of economic conditions of its members.

g. Providing professional services to the members regarding investment in income generating activities.

h. Promoting all types of business entities as sole proprietorships, partnerships, joint ventures, limited liability companies, or cooperative societies among or between members and be a partner, shareholder as the case may be, of such business.

i. Consulting, promoting, issuing, organizing, managing and administering mutual funds of any type or character for the benefit of their members.

j. Rendering managerial, marketing, technical and administrative advice to members to carry on any form of commercial or economic activity.

All government development projects relevant to a particular G.N. area should be contracted to the relevant co-operative society. They also should be agents for state owned enterprises such as Paddy Marketing Board, Sathosa, Milk Board, Fisheries Co-operation and State Banks.

2. To create a people-centered national economy the government should promote one Peoples Company making all 14,021 G.N level co-operative societies and all State Owned Enterprises as its shareholders. Government’s all national level development projects should be contracted to this company.

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