We Sri Lankans are very happy when anyone praises us. However, when someone criticises us, we usually react by abusing the critic. We do not look at ourselves to see whether there might be some truth in such criticism but rush to attribute unfriendly motives to the critic. For example, we recently learnt that a US Athink tank had carried out an extensive study, from published material in 146 countries, of twelve aspects pertaining to what are principally issues of governance and human rights. Based on this study, Sri Lanka has been identified by this organisation as belonging to a group of twenty-six Afailed states.
Some commentators have questioned the bone fides of the think tank instead of analysing our ranking in respect of the specified criteria, examining how valid they are, and deciding on the appropriate steps to be taken to rectify whatever is found to be wanting. Whilst we may question this organisation’s motives and competence, the inescapable reality is that important foreign institutions are likely to be guided in their assessments of Sri Lanka’s standing by the position our country occupies in the ranking of Afailed states. Such assessments could have very adverse repercussions for our international relations and trade, foreign investment, tourism etc.
CIMOGG is certain that the primary reason why states fail is the progressive erosion of the Rule of Law, compounded by the exercise of arbitrary power by those in positions of authority. This erosion assumes frightening dimensions when the powers that be start breaking ordinary laws and later begin to breach, abuse or ignore the Constitution itself. Once the Constitution is treated as a mere piece of paper, the downward slide towards becoming a failed state will accelerate so rapidly that there will be no way to halt our descent into inevitable anarchy.
We, at CIMOGG, fear that Sri Lanka has begun to enter the last phase of the dismantling of the Rule of Law, with increasingly blatant violations of the Constitution, and the inability of the government to maintain law and order or apprehend armed persons who resort to extra-judicial killings, bypassing judicial processes.
We have to remind you that, when you assumed office, you solemnly affirmed that you would uphold and protect the Constitution. Whereas there is no bar to your endeavouring to have the Constitution changed to suit your requirements, it must necessarily be done in conformity with the relevant provisions contained in the Constitution. The powers conferred on you by the Constitution do not permit you to do otherwise or to violate it with impunity, claiming blanket immunity. If persons at the apex of power renege on their word of honour, all oaths and affirmations will lose their sanctity. Would not any governments or parties with whom we attempt to enter into written treaties or agreements of a commercial, political or military nature become very wary of accepting our assurances that we would scrupulously honour the terms and conditions of such treaties and agreements? How would continued our violations of the Constitution be regarded by the Co-Chairs, India and the UN with regard to the North-East problem?
In the light of what we have said above, we earnestly request you, on a most urgent basis, to appoint forthwith to the Constitutional Council (CC) the six persons who have been identified by you, the Prime Minister, the Speaker, the Leader of the Opposition and the Aminor opposition parties in Parliament. These six persons, together with the three Aex officio members, could then proceed to perform their constitutional function of recommending persons to be appointed to the seven independent Commissions referred to in Clause 41B of the 17th Amendment. There is no need whatever to hold up the appointments of the said six members pending any agreement among the JVP, JHU and the TNA about the tenth member. After all, it would not be first time the CC has functioned with less than its full complement of ten members. Moreover, as has been pointed out repeatedly in the media, the quorum for meetings of the CC is only six members.
If you particularly wish to help fill the tenth place in the CC, CIMOGG calls upon you to request the Speaker to hold a secret ballot of all minor parties who claim to belong to the Opposition to elect one from among the names submitted, including that of any distinguished person whom the Speaker might be willing to nominate as a compromise candidate. But this exercise should not in any way delay the appointment of the six persons referred to above.
Failing all these, the issue of which party is entitled to nominate this member could be referred to the Supreme Court for an advisory opinion.
The purported resort to Athe doctrine of necessity to justify the appointment of your own personal choice of members to the independent commissions, without getting the recommendation of the CC is entirely self-serving. There is no perceivable need whatever for the much-abused doctrine of necessity to be invoked, as is understood to have been proposed by some, when a constitutional remedy is available.
We wish to remind you that the objective of the 17th Amendment, which you yourself voted for whilst in Parliament, was to insulate the Public Service, the Police Service etc from politicisation. Therefore, it is completely unacceptable that you should act in total contravention of the primary purpose of the 17th Amendment when a constitutionally correct alternative is there before us.
The Aappointments made by you recently to the Public Service Commissions and the National Police Commission are null and void ab initio and should be rescinded by you with dignity and without delay. The more rapidly this is effected, the less the damage that will be done on all counts.
In conclusion, we wish to state with the greatest possible emphasis that tinkering with and flouting laws and the Constitution is not acceptable democratic practice and is bound to bring the State of Sri Lanka and its peoples to ridicule in the eyes of the law-abiding nations of the world. If you wish to be remembered in the future as a great President, you have no choice but to respect the Constitution which has conferred so may powers and privileges on you, and act accordingly. Your choice will decide in which direction the future of this country will lie.