Thursday, August 3, 2017

Is the Constitution coming?

DR.Vickramabahu Karunaratne-2017-08-03

DR.Vickramabahu Karunaratne-2017-08-03

President Maithripala Sirisena quit the previous rule as he could not stand corruption, as explained by himself. Of course there were other more criminal issues involving the Rajapaksas. Apparently he protested against all that. Ranil Wickremesinghe helped him to come out and the people rallied behind him. They sought a government which is not burdened with corruption, but offers democracy and good governance. Constitutional reforms, electoral reforms and judicial independence are all linked with the change expected.

However, removal of executive presidency and devolution of power put together was the main demand. During the first term of the Government, the President was able to do away with some of his executive powers considered draconian. Besides, he managed to get the 19th Amendment enacted making way for independent commissions to be set up. However, the people are expecting fundamental changes. The President has not spelled out his proposal for constitutional change. Nevertheless, he was able to build up Sri Lanka's image in the international arena. The controversy surrounding the Bond issue turned out to be the first affront to this government; with much publicity, it became very injurious to the government only a couple of months after its formation in 2015.
Some claim that it caused a multi-billion rupee fraud to the country. Yet, the Yahapalana Government was elected not for the sole purpose of rooting out corruption, though it had to grapple with the same charges.

The President started with dealing with those responsible. He was supported by the Prime Minister. Central Bank Governor Arjuna Mahendran was removed. After that, the Presidential Commission was appointed to look into the charges. Today, it is public knowledge that those responsible for mass scale corruption are exposed. The President said in a recent meeting that he had no way forward with corrupt elements. He vowed to form a government without corrupt elements. No one has accused Ranil for corruption.

So, this new Yahapalanaya could come out with the support of the United National Party (UNP). It should happen, undoubtedly. The President can consider the fact that Minister Tilak Marapana resigned from the Cabinet once because he was just accused of something. He was the lawyer retained in the Avant Garde case by the defence. This policy will be continued says the UNP General Secretary. There are accusations against prominent UNP leaders. The Prime Minister is accused of safeguarding these people. The UNP cannot remain mute in this regard. Obviously prominent politicians either from the United National Party or the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) should make up their minds to go home if their names are tainted with corruption allegations.

A new political front

In the mean time Mahinda Rajapaksa claims that he could form majority in the Parliament and form a Government. Can he do that without the help of the President? The President has already said that he will not help any corrupt person to come to power. Hence Mahinda cannot say anything like that exactly. First, he has to secure a simple majority by getting 113 MPs on board. It is the second move to secure two-thirds. Currently, the UNP has 106 seats. SLFP front has 95. The JVP has six and the TNA with 16. There are contradictions and confusions within the pro-SLFP front. On the other hand Parliament cannot be dissolved for four and-a-half years.

If the President wants to form a new Government he has to decide whether to form a Government using the members in the present coalition or proceed to make a new political front within the Parliament.

On the other hand there is a crisis in the manner in which economic affairs are handled. There is a suggestion to form an economic council where both the President and the Prime Minister participate. Both have to find a solution to the economic problems. Two years have passed now; according to economic pundits it is a period that is long enough for a government to turn around the economy. It is true that Sri Lankans have a debt burden. Today, they say the economy is collapsing with the rising cost of living. So does the unemployment rate. Mahinda group is accusing Yahapalanaya for the debacle; but who is responsible for leading the country on such a downward spiral? Of course one can blame the Mahinda regime, but this government is responsible for reviving it.

However, the greater problem is forming a Constitution acceptable to all communities in the country. Is it coming?