In early September 2010, the Citizens’ Movement for Good Governance (CIMOGG) wrote: “The DECLARATION OF ASSETS AND LIABILITIES LAW was passed in August 1975. ………. The scope of this Law is such that it applies to a vast range of persons, of whom Members of Parliament are mentioned first. ………. (T)he aforesaid Law states that ‘… a person to whom this Law applies ………. shall be deemed to have complied with the provisions of this sub-section if he makes a declaration of his assets and liabilities ……… on the date of …….. nomination or before he functions, or sits or votes, as ……… a Member of Parliament ………..’”.
In simpler language, the point that CIMOGG was trying to make in 2010 is that laws were being passed by MPs who had not declared their assets and liabilities, and that this was in open violation of the Constitution. Later on, again in September 2010, we pointed out that the undemocratic 18th Amendment was in danger of being passed with the support of a large number of MPs who had no right to vote for the reason given above. Ignoring this legal bar as well as diverse legitimate objections from many other concerned individuals and institutions, the Government pushed the Bill through with the blessings of an amazingly quick and cooperative Supreme Court. For his part, the Speaker acquiesced in the unconstitutional passing of the said Amendment by turning a blind eye and allowing MPs to vote, regardless of whether they had failed to submit their assets-and-liabilities declarations or not.
The 18th Amendment has the distinction of being the most undemocratic of the provisions in the Constitution insofar as it effectively places all the sovereign powers of the People (other than the franchise and fundamental rights) in the hands of one individual, namely, the Executive President for the time being. We need to recall that all the MPs in Parliament, less one abstainer, had voted in the year 2001 to pass the 17th Amendment, which was intended to limit the arbitrary exercise of Executive Presidential power in many important areas of government. Yet, by the year 2010, a large number of the very MPs who had voted so patriotically and responsibly in 2001 had been given sufficiently extravagant inducements to make them abandon the 17th Amendment and vote for the abhorrent 18th Amendment. To put it bluntly, these MPs ignored their consciences and hastened to sacrifice the freedom that they had won in 2001 for the People of Sri Lanka and themselves. They chose to enslave the People and themselves for ever by voting for the 18th Amendment, obviously because the rewards for doing so were too much to resist.
President Mahinda Rajapaksa is a man in 20 Million or, perhaps, even 2,000 Million. He is a wily political tactician, who has got the Opposition eating out of his hands without getting his fingers bitten. He has demonstrated, over the past eight years, an even more brilliant talent for marketing himself to the Sri Lankan public. So much so, that over one-half of the voters in the Country have shown no reservations about having handed over almost all their powers to him personally without thinking about the day when a less avuncular figure may well take over the Executive Presidency from him. They do not realize that it is getting dangerously late to put this mistake right. Not too far into the future, it may well happen that there will not be enough time to rectify the position by peaceful means. The key question now is how many months or years do we have?”
In the last two or three years, media relations personnel in the State sector have been going a step even further than the 18th Amendment, which stripped the People of most of their powers. Now, whenever a project of any kind is completed, the information releases given to the media have begun increasingly to include a sentence that reads more or less as follows: “Project X has been completed and has now been vested in the public”! Are the officials who spout out this rubbish so ignorant that they do not know that State assets of the Country belong to the People – and that the Legislature, the Executive and the Judiciary have only been delegated by the People to exercise certain powers to carry out specific tasks? Never have politicians or anybody else been given the ownership of State assets to distribute these to those who support them, or to purport to “vest” any of these assets in the public. It is, after all, the public that not only owns such assets but also pays the taxes used to carry out projects, including the inevitable hidden commissions. With a public service that has descended to this level of bootlicking, those who want deliverance from the Country’s sad plight have a hard job ahead of them to remove the gangrene from the system.
We see the funds and assets allocated to MPs, Ministers and the President being lavishly distributed in cash and in kind to members of the public and various institutions in highly-publicized ceremonies. Computers, building materials, books, sports equipment, musical instruments, free trips to foreign countries, scholarships, and even plots of land with and without buildings are just a small sample of what are being given away. Whilst the recipients may often be deserving cases, the language used by the hangers-on of the “donors” at these ceremonies is usually designed to give the impression that these acts are the fruits of the generosity of the politicians concerned in drawing upon funds and other assets which had been bequeathed to them by someone, presumably to do with as they please. Often the recipients fall at the feet of the “donor” and worship him. In short, assets belonging to the People are being gifted to all and sundry, to gain their loyalty at election time, without even the faintest hint that it is the People’s hard-earned wealth that is being given away. This kind of subterfuge is being increasingly resorted to without the slightest pangs of conscience in the well-founded belief that members of the public who are the object of such munificence are not worried about the ultimate source of the goodies with which they are showered.