Apr 19

Considering that April represents the beginning of the New Year for around 80 per cent of the peoples of Sri Lanka, and considering the number of customary rites which have to be performed at specific times during this month, we wonder whether our astrologers might be persuaded that AMaking New Year Resolutions and Promising to Honour Them should become one of the essential rites to be observed by the President and all Parliamentarians who belong to the classification ASinhala or Hindu.  Muslims and Christians would, hopefully, do the same at their respective New Years even though it would probably be without the aid of the stars and the planets.  Despite the open confession of a very senior parliamentarian not long ago that the public accepts the reality that election promises are not meant to be taken as being truthful undertakings, most of our politicians might perhaps be persuaded to make a more positive commitment to the people’s welfare by banking on their faith in astrology, namely, that making false promises at auspicious times is bound to cancel out much of any merit points they might otherwise have gained towards attaining Nirvana or Moksha.  It is a forlorn hope, but we are forced to clutch at straws.

Ever since the implementation of the 17th Amendment was wilfully torpedoed by Parliamentarians of all colours, there has been no independent safeguard for the public against the blatant disregard of the Rule of Law by our political bandits.  Therefore, we would suggest that the first New Year resolution should be AWe shall not continue to deceive the public about the difficulties of implementing the 17th Amendment as it stands.  We promise to ask the Supreme Court to look into whether the JVP or the TNA should be allowed to nominate the tenth member of the Constitutional Council, there being no dispute as to who is entitled to nominate each of the other nine.  After the Supreme Court gives its decision and the Constitutional Council (CC) is constituted without more deviously-contrived delays, we shall give whatever assistance is called for by the CC to help it to get on with appointing the members of the various Independent Commissions – such as the Public Service Commission, National Police Commission, Elections Commission, Human Rights Commission etc.  Whilst the CC is getting on with its work, we shall appoint a multiparty committee to receive and consider carefully, without undue haste, proposals from civil service organisations and concerned individuals regarding the question of removing those shortcomings in the 17th Amendment which have been highlighted in the media over the past two years or so.  We shall only accept those changes that will further strengthen the Independent Commissions against political and Treasury interference.

The second resolution that commends itself relates to the freedom of the media.  Currently, Apatriotism, Anational security and other bogey terms and expressions are being employed freely by various groups to frighten the media from reporting certain items of news or from giving expression to independent views on policy and other matters.  It is to the credit of most of the media that they manage, in sensitive cases, to publish at least some bits and pieces of importance so as to help the perspicacious to work out what is really going on.  But what about those who have less time or experience to read between the lines?  Whilst we have to acknowledge that each news organisation does tend to slant the news to suit its editorial or ownership goals, there are some other more insidious forces at work as well.  The fear of becoming victims of the misuse of powerful emergency and other laws to apply the screws on the media – that is, by the threat of acquisitions, deprivation of advertising revenue, financial hamstringing by the abuse of banking system rules, non-issuing of newsprint, physical threats against investigative reporters, failing to follow up on disappearances and murders etc – compels our media to be much less revealing of the truth than they are, say, in India.  This brings us to the resolution AWe shall protect the rights of the media to tell the truth to the people, and have a powerful independent Press Commission to inquire into false reports and punish offending media in an appropriate manner.  We shall, like mature politicians of the years gone by, meet criticism with open, well-documented rebuttals and not by abusing the editors, owners, their antecedents and associates, or by threats of other kinds of reprisal.

The next resolution is a simple one to make.  AThe concept that the President, after taking an oath to protect the Constitution, is free to violate any of the provisions of the Constitution or its subsidiary laws, even though great injustice might be caused by such violation, is so illogical and stupid that we shall waste no time in getting the relevant articles re-worded so as to give immunity only to the person of the President whilst he is in office but to allow all his actions to be subject to judicial review, and revocation as and when required.

Our representatives also need to resolve that AWe shall not continue with the great offence to democracy that has been practised over the years by continuing to deprive hundreds of thousands of our expatriate citizens from exercising their vote from wherever they are.  We shall take steps to pass the necessary legislation to get this injustice corrected without any further procrastination.

Although there are many more fairly urgent resolutions which offer themselves for adoption, we shall not tax the goodwill of either the editor or the reader.  Whereas we have to accept that our astrologers would very likely not offer their cooperation in promoting the suggested New Year resolutions, there is no reason why each citizen who reads this should not write to every one of his District MPs urging them to work towards implementing the recommendations contained in the suggested resolutions.