Dec 04

The late Edgar Hoover, Director of the US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), is known to have had files on every public figure in the US, including his own superiors. Apart from a vast store of data on the Mafia and thousands of others, he also had ample records of the frailties of US Presidents. It is said that he used to hint at the existence of such information whenever a President suggested that he (Hoover) had held the post of Director FBI for too long and was thereby holding up the promotion of others in the queue. The Presidents retreated rapidly and Hoover was able to retain his job for around 30 years!

Years ago it was rumoured that President J.R.Jayewardene had in his possession a number of files pertaining to certain persons (principally, members of his party) who were inclined to be uncooperative, and that he reminded such persons in private interviews that, whereas a measure of dissent was conducive to good political decision-making, open rebellion would be highly disadvantageous to the said persons because the contents of the files he had would be published for the edification of the public. As far as we are aware, Jayewardene himself did not ever indicate that he held such secret documentation to be used against those whom he wished to control. Had he done so, it would have amounted to his admitting to the concealing of information that he should have passed on to the Police and associated legal authorities. Moreover, after the end of his Presidential term, he could have been charged with having been either an accessory to a criminal act and/or resorting to blackmail. Being a lawyer, he would have recognized that it would have been a grave error of judgment to disclose to the public that he was doing anything outside the law. Nor would he have been so reckless as to have blackmailed anyone openly regarding their unsavoury dealings.

There is no data as to how many confidential reports were called for by Presidents Ranasinghe Premadasa, D.B.Wijetunga and Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga, and what use they might have made of them.

There is now a situation where President Mahinda Rajapaksa is reported to have proclaimed that he has files in his custody that contain material that could be highly damaging to persons thinking of leaving his coalition. As Mahinda Rajapaksa himself is a lawyer, we may assume that the files he has referred to are not the original files pertaining to any criminal investigations that had been carried out against the affected persons (MPs, in this instance) but are the reports called for by him. In the absence of any evidence to the contrary, one may postulate further that he is neither an accessory to criminal acts nor a person who is capable of blackmail. In the event, the public find the recent revelation about the secret files highly confusing and mystifying.

One cannot lay much store by Minister S.B.Dissanayake’s subsequent explanation that Mahinda Rajapaksa was perhaps alluding to the personal files of members of the SLFP in the possession of the party, which would probably contain their application forms and other innocuous information. If it makes Dissanayake proud of his cleverness in coming up with this kind of plausible-sounding “clarification”, he could not blame us if we respond by saying that he is free to “tell that to pig-tailed Chinamen”, which is a passable translation of a phrase that seems to have become popular with our politicians in recent times, when they want to express complete disbelief. Others may prefer the American version: “Tell that to the Marines!” All in all, we are left wondering about the nature of the files to which Mahinda Rajapaksa referred.

Recently the public was given the opportunity of watching and hearing MP P.Harrison instantly silencing the usually irrepressible MP Mervyn Silva by asking him (MS) to stop disturbing him (PH) if MS did not wish it to be revealed to the House where MS had been the previous evening. It appears that one does not always have to possess a compromising file to exercise control over even those MPs who seem to have been granted wide executive dispensation to disregard the law with impunity.

If there is anyone naive and charitable enough to think that the majority of MPs in a government in power in Sri Lanka do not amass wealth by robbing the People, MP Mahinda Amaraweera has reportedly said a mouthful to disillusion such innocents. He has stated that the MPs of the UPFA have collected enough assets during their past terms of office and would, consequently, be less likely to want to acquire yet more wealth upon re-election, unlike those currently in the UNP who, in his view, would want to make a gigantic killing quickly to make up for the long period that they have been deprived of the chance to indulge in large-scale plunder of the People’s assets! Amaraweera’s proposition that a thief stops stealing when he has collected enough is the opposite of the truth because, in the vast majority of cases, the richer a persons gets, the more he wants to accumulate, irrespective of whether he has earned his wealth honestly or by theft. Although one ought to be grateful for his confession, what is truly astonishing is the brazenness with which he admits to the criminal misappropriation of what belongs to the People by himself and his fellow MPs.

It is crystal clear that we desperately need elected People’s representatives who are not drug-dealers, smugglers, bribe-takers, leviers of protection-money, arsonists, murderers, rapists, land-grabbers, destroyers of the environment, and so on. In order, therefore, to thwart unscrupulous leaders who rely on dubious methods to retain the support of their despicably corrupt party members, innovative constitutional provisions have to be developed to help filter out from the very outset such miscreants from worming their way into being allowed to contest elections. The formulation of appropriate systems and procedures does not require one to be an expert in rocket science or to have a double-doctorate in jurisprudence and constitutional law. Plain common sense can readily provide the necessary answers.

CIMOGG has completed the key chapters of a radical new Constitution that incorporates an easily-implementable screening procedure to enable the public to choose candidates of good quality, commencing with the election of, say, ten People’s Representatives from each Grama Niladhari Division. The 140,600 or so candidates so identified would be re-screened in three more stages for the Pradeshiya Sabhas, District Councils and Parliament (see the SUNDAY ISLAND of 19 October 2014).

In addition, the CIMOGG Constitution incorporates the following features. It will delegate the power of the People among Grama Niladhari Divisions, Pradeshayas, Districts and the Country as a whole in such a way that the first three entities will be allowed to look after their own affairs within their respective geographical boundaries. Parliament would be obliged to concern itself only with matters of a national character – defence, foreign affairs, currency, harbours, airports, trans-District highways, railways, shipping, electricity supply, telecommunications, national standards etc.

Parliament will have 25 Permanent Parliamentary Committees, advised by specialists from a registered Panel of Experts, to formulate laws and to approve programmes and budgets.

There will be a comprehensive separation of powers, eliminating especially the highly contradictory dual role played by Ministers, who now have one foot in the legislature and another in the executive. Instead, Ministry Secretaries will be made fully responsible for running their Ministries efficiently to complete the programmes approved by Parliament, within the approved budgets, and in conformity with the relevant regulations. The selection, appointment and monitoring of the performance of Ministry Secretaries will be entrusted to a Central Executive Council of highly-experienced chief executives from the public and private sectors.

Members of the Judiciary will be selected for appointment, promotion and transfer by a modified Judicial Services Commission which, for the higher posts, will submit a short-list of three names for Parliament to vote on in secret.

A foolproof mechanism to monitor annually the income and wealth of specified holders of public office has also been developed.

Politicians who have been robbing the People will do everything they can to stall the adoption of a constitution that includes the features mentioned above (and many more innovative ones). The negative tactics of such politicians can only be thwarted if enough honest and committed opinion-makers will support a strong initiative to have a rationally-designed new constitution.

A soft copy of the key chapters of the CIMOGG Constitution may be obtained by anyone who furnishes his/her name and e-mail address to – Subash Ranasinghe

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