Dec 11

President Rajapakse is reported to bemoan the fact that he does not have even the powers of a magistrate. This, of course, is exactly how it should be, because the President, his ministers, MPs and public servants have sworn Ato uphold and defend the Constitution of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka@, where the President is assigned to the Executive, and magistrates to the Judiciary. All reasonably well-informed citizens are well aware that our Constitution provides for the People=s sovereign powers to be split into four components, three of which are delegated to Parliament, the Executive and the Judiciary, to be exercised independently of each other but within the terms of the Constitution. There are a few overlapping delegations of power, such as the provision for ministers (the Executive) to be chosen from those MPs in Parliament (the Legislature). We should like to assert straightaway that such overlaps should be removed from the Constitution if we are ever to aspire to establish a clear division of responsibilities, transparency, accountability, maintenance of public trust, good governance and, above all, the Rule of Law.

Meanwhile, Mr Karu Jayasuriya has resigned his ministerial post on the purported grounds that he is disillusioned with the failure of the government to make any serious effort to secure the cooperation of all the parties in Parliament to implement the 17th Amendment, and to get the Constitutional Council appointed. We employ the term Apurported@ because at least one newspaper has opined that this was only an excuse on his part to advance himself politically. Whatever be the correct position, the simple fact is that, by their deliberate actions and/or their negligent attitude, the Speaker, the Prime Minister, the Leader of the Opposition, the President and MPs continue to cooperate actively or passively in the gross violation of the 17th Amendment. It is not that we are unaware that various political figures occasionally express their anxiety about the non-implementation of the 17th Amendment but their lack of conviction and action leads us to conclude that these noises are made solely for future electoral purposes, where those who make these feeble sounds can one day claim that they tried their best to get the 17th Amendment implemented.

We are indeed grateful to the Supreme Court for its proactive stance and earnestly hope that all the parties concerned will respond positively to the call of the Court to appoint the Constitutional Council without any further delay, as the first step back to good governance.

We need a really independent Election Commission, Public Service Commission, National Police Commission, Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka, Permanent Commission to Investigate Allegations of Bribery or Corruption, Finance Commission, Delimitation Commission, Attorney-General, Auditor-General, Inspector-General of Police, Parliamentary Commissioner for Administration, Secretary-General of Parliament and Judiciary. However good any of the persons now appointed to these Commissions and posts might be, the public cannot be expected to treat them with the respect that they would enjoy if their appointments had been made with the concurrence of the Constitutional Council.

Before anyone rushes into print to point out that there are significant shortcomings in the 17th Amendment, we should like to state that the Constitution and other existing laws cannot be permitted to be violated to suit anyone=s political requirements. The position of the Citizens= Movement for Good Governance (CIMOGG) has always been AComply, and then complain@. In other words, obey the laws that you have sworn to obey, and then take steps to amend any of them that are unsatisfactory by following the procedures allowed by the Constitution. The recommendations made by numerous institutions and individuals in this regard should be amalgamated and refined by a committee chosen consensually by these parties. The final recommendations should be forwarded to Parliament for its consideration and early implementation.

As for the President=s role, not only must he give leadership to winning the war against all divisive forces but he must also take the lead in passing and implementing laws that are good for the country and not specially for the benefit of his party and those close to him.


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