State of the Sri Lankan Republic

by Neville Ladduwahetty

The bizarre political collusion between the two major coalitions the UNFGG and the UPFA has caused the UPFA to become a constituent of the UNFGG-led Government. The unintended consequence has been for the TNA to claim leadership of the Opposition on the grounds that it has the third largest majority in Parliament. This, despite its stated claim in the TNA Manifesto that the Tamils are a distinct people in a contiguous predominantly Tamil speaking Northern and Eastern province but with the right of self-determination to the Tamil people (not to the Tamil speaking and non-Tamil speaking) and for a power sharing arrangement within a federal structure.The TNA, having sought a mandate from the Tamil people on the above basis,to claim and to accept leadership of the Opposition of a Parliament, and take an oath to uphold the constitution of a unitary state reflects a serious moral deficit.

msenadhirajah_tnaNotwithstanding the conduct of the TNA the focus should be on the circumstances that brought about the current situation. The implications of the unusualand hitherto unprecedentedunderstanding between the UNFGG and the UPFA are set out below. They are premised on the inviolability of the franchise of the People and the violation of the Will of the People that forms the basis for the authority of a Government.

* The majority of the People voted either for the UNFGG or the UPFA. They represent contrasting constituencies.They did not vote for any of the constituent parties of either coalition. Consequently, the People’s franchise has to be honoured accordingly.* Since the understanding isbetween ONLY two of several recognized political parties that contested the August 17th Election it is not a National Government. Instead, it is a Government formed by the UNFGG with the participation of the UPFA albeit as a junior partner.This arrangement does not meet the threshold for a National Government as stated in Article 46 (5) of the 19th Amendment because the arrangement is not between the UNFGG with the “highest number of seats in Parliament together with other recognized political parties”.Therefore, the number of Cabinet ministers has to be limited to 30 as per the 19th Amendment.Those who voted for a cabinet larger than 30 should be held accountable for violating the 19th Amendment to the Constitution and the oath they took to uphold the Constitution.

* Since the current arrangement is NOT a National Government as defined by the 19th Amendment, the allocation of cabinet posts in a Government made up of UNFGG and the UPFA should be based on the ratio of their respective representation in Parliament, meaning firstly in the ratio of 95 (UPFA) to 106 (UNFGG) and secondly in the ratio of 82 (SLFP) to 95 within the UPFA if the franchise of the People are to be honoured and not violated. This means that out of the 30 cabinet posts 14 (95/201times 30=14) should be assigned to the UPFA and 16 (106/201times 30=16) to the UNFGG. And within the UPFA it should be 12 to the SLFP (82/95 times 14=12) with the remaining 2 to the other constituents of the UPFA. This is what the voters expect. Any variation is to discredit and dishonor the franchise of the People.

* Any arrangements with constituent political parties in the UNFGG and UPFA coalitions are illegal because no voter cast his/her vote for a constituent party in eitherof the 2 coalitions, but to the coalitions themselves.

* Since the UNFGG has the largest majority it could legitimately form a Government with individual members of constituent parties of the UPFA, or any other political party that opts to cross over. However, individuals who do not cross over should be in theOpposition. However, the UPFA leadership has denied its members to be in the Opposition and exercise their due responsibilities as members of a legitimate Opposition in order to protect the interestsof the People who voted for them. This amounts to a violation of the People’s franchise because their interests are unrepresented; a violation that should be legally challenged. It is the abdication of a key tenet of democracy by the UPFA leadership that has enabled the TNA leader to be the leader of the Opposition. In permitting such an outcome, the UPFA leadership has violated the trust and devalued the franchise of the voters who voted for them.

CURRENT ARRANGEMENT

The UNFGG with its 106 members and the UPFA with its 95 members in Parliament represent contrasting political constituencies. The choice for them is either to govern jointly or be separate. There is no in-between. If the two major coalitions decide to govern jointlythen it must follow that they are not only represented proportionately in the Cabinet but also that they reflect proportionately, the composition of the constituent members of each coalition. Furthermore, it is imperative that a joint agenda that reflects the aspirations of both constituencies is formulated for implementation. No other arrangements would reflect a Unity Government.

The current arrangement is flawed because it is skewed in favour of the UNFGG, compelling the UPFA to settle for a disproportionately small representation in the Cabinet with the rest functioning as a silent majority. This violates the concept of a Unity Government.Furthermore, it constitutes a serious dereliction of duty and abdication of responsibility by the leadership of the UPFA for which they should be held accountable because they have abused, devalued and disenfranchised the electorate that voted for the UPFA, thereby leaving the interests of the latter unrepresented.

If on the other hand,the UNFGG is to form a Government by arranging the cross-over of hand-picked individuals from other political parties/coalitions such as the UPFA, therest of the UPFA should be free to be part of the Opposition. The current arrangement where hand-picked individuals from a constituent party of the UPFA – the SLFP – are with the Government and the rest are NOT with the Opposition has made the majority of the UPFA impotent because their only function appears to be silent enablers in the furtherance of the UNFGG agenda. This devalues the franchise of the People who voted for the UPFA.Therefore, the majority of the members of the UPFA have an obligation to the millions who voted for them to free themselves of the straight-jacket they have been subjected to so that they are free to exercise the Will of the People they represent. The right of the representatives of the UPFA to act free of constraints should be legally enforcedin the name of the People.

 

CONCLUSION

The state of the Sri Lankan Republic today reflects a very poor understanding of the fundamentals of governance leave alone what constitutes good governance. The current arrangement denies the UPFA elected representatives the freedom to choose whether to be true partners of a UNFGG-led Government or to lead the Opposition. If this denial is because of restrictions imposed either by UPFA or SLFP Party Constitutions, they should be legally declared as subordinate to the sovereign rights of the People’s franchise.If this violation of fundamental rights is not legally corrected,the franchise of millions would be devalued by being relegated to a status lower than the rest. The only avenue open for the People to regain their dignity and self-respect is to seek refuge in the halls of justice, via a Fundamental Rights case.