Mega mess 19A

MAITHIRI RANILNo shame facing the truth

Personalities and individuals don’t provide answers. We need to have an alternate programme to begin anew

Urban middle-class is not willing to accept they blundered and messed up not just for them but for the whole country

The society is left numbed and those in elected offices have failed to prove there is in fact a Government running the country now.

What is thus on the cards is more crises and chaos and not cleaning up the systems for good governance.

Law and Order Ministry also becomes important in this battle for dominance over who runs the Government

I wish to honestly thank the people of this country who elected me with a clear majority on the basis of our election manifesto and the principles laid before the people, at the presidential elections held a few days ago on January 8, to choose the supreme servant to serve the people…… From this most sacred and venerated land here, I wish to pledge to my dearest people, citizens of this country, as mentioned and promised in our manifesto, we would work towards transferring the unrestricted powers vested with the ‘Executive Presidency’ to the parliament, to the cabinet of ministers, to the judiciary, to the independent commissions and to public administration…..In our country, within development there is corruption, fraud, bribery and misappropriation that will be totally eradicated in establishing a society that is clean and morally noble.

 

-President Maithripala Sirisena addressing the nation from the precincts of Temple of the Tooth Relic
Three years after this first official address to the nation by President Sirisena, all that was promised and all that was expected from this Government have come to naught. Corruption of the previous Rajapaksa regime was a major issue that was hyped during the Presidential election to win votes. Corruption given many labels such as “commissions, brokerage and agent’s fee” became part of business ever since the economy was opened up by President Jayewardene in 1978.
What later became corruption was called “mega corruption” and it was mega corruption during the Rajapaksa regime that was promised to be dealt with on a high priority agenda.
This mega corruption that stole the election show was argued as the result of almighty power vested with the Executive Presidency that allowed for family rule by the Rajapaksas. Executive Presidency was therefore promised to be replaced with 19A for Parliamentary rule. That was what President Sirisena meant when he said, “…..we would work towards transferring the unrestricted powers vested with the ‘Executive Presidency’ to Parliament, to the Cabinet of Ministers, to the Judiciary, to the Independent Commissions and to Public Administration” within a week after swearing in as President.
While the election promise was to abolish the Executive Presidency to give Parliament its due importance, the election outcome was a compromise to prune down powers and not abolish the Presidency.

Held together by the Constitutional provisions of 19A, disunity in this alliance is best seen in how the economy is decided and handled. Economic programme of this ‘Unity Government’ that had no ‘unity’ from day one was on the increase, with further liberalising of the economy under
UNP control

The 19A was thus hurried at ‘break-neck’ speed, without any open discussion in society. The chaos this country is now facing was thus built into 19A in a bid to keep a wholly incompatible political alliance together, on Constitutional Provisions and not on any principled political programme.
Most obnoxious clauses in this hurriedly adopted 19A were smuggled into the Amendment with only English copies made available during the 3rd Reading of the Amendment, a practice never adopted in Parliamentary democracy. In Parliament, this was questioned only by Prabha Ganesan, who requested for Tamil translations and was shouted down by PM Wickramasinghe in a very ugly scene that said much about the “democracy” this Unity Government would offer to the people.
Held together by the Constitutional provisions of 19A, disunity in this alliance is best seen in how the economy is decided and handled. Economic programme of this ‘Unity Government’ that had no ‘unity’ from day one was on the increase, with further liberalising of the economy under UNP control.
Moderate with the layman’s aspirations in his understanding of economics and leading a pack of SLFP Ministers in a Government no less corrupt than the Rajapaksa Government, President Sirisena was pushed to intervene in all decisions that were taken under PM Wickremesinghe’s guidance.
From the first budget proposal of this ‘Unity’ Government presented by then Minister of Finance Ravi Karunanayake, most proposals adopted by Parliament after three ‘readings’ were withdrawn on Presidential Directives and “requests”.
The second budget was changed so much, it was joked in public that what was eventually left in the budget was Minister Karunanayake’s address to the Speaker as “Hon. Speaker, Sir”.

 

Held together by the Constitutional provisions of 19A, disunity in this alliance is best seen in how the economy is decided and handled. Economic programme of this ‘Unity Government’ that had no ‘unity’ from day one was on the increase, with further liberalising of the economy under
UNP control

 

The reshuffling of Ministers in May 2017 was also due to these conflicts on economic issues. Ravi Karunanayake’s exit from the Finance Ministry and Mangala Samaraweera’s entry was only a compromise and was no permanent answer to what the two sides actually battled for; dominance over deciding economic issues.

There is a good reason for economics to be one major conflict in this unholy, unprincipled alliance.
The SLFP depends very much on rural Sinhala vote than the UNP which is more urban based. Further liberalising of this “free to loot” economy, further marginalises the rural sector that plays negatively on the SLFP, which President Sirisena wants to take hold of.
Thus the battle for dominance over economic decisions was not over even after the May 2017 Cabinet reshuffle that changed the Finance Minister. In less than three months, President Sirisena appointed his own National Economic Council (NEC) termed a high powered committee to decide on all development projects, ignoring the Economic Management Committee that PM Wickremesinghe had established under him.
President Sirisena had the Economic Management Committee under PM Wickremesinghe, disbanded on a decision taken at the last Cabinet Meeting, further strengthening his hand on the economy.
This would not end just there. It also leads to mega corruption against the Rajapaksas under investigation.
Therefore, “Law and Order” Ministry also becomes important in this battle for dominance over who runs the Government.
PM Wickremesinghe holding on to the Ministry of Law and Order even temporarily proves the UNP does not want to let go of that Ministry.
Their proposal as reported in media to have Field Marshal Fonseka as the Minister of Law and Order has reportedly run into a conflict with President Sirisena disagreeing.
What PM Wickramasinghe, the UNP and the President while disagreeing on that proposition, do not address is the fundamental issue of how a fulltime military officer be in politics when security forces and the Police are barred from politics.
That being totally illegal and unconstitutional, it would also create a major cold war between the Law and Order Ministry and the Police Department.
More because the number of top Police officers, who are accused, suspected and taken to custody for numerous crimes from former IGPs to DIGs to Senior Superintendents prove all talk and any change in responsibility of Law and Order would not go beyond rhetoric for publicity.
What is thus on the cards is more crises and chaos and not cleaning up the systems for good governance.
Within all those conflicts and contradictions, all through these three years what was very clearly evident is a growing battle between the Presidency and the parliamentary rule.
Presidential rule the President promised his “dearest people, citizens of this country” he would transfer to “Parliament, to the Cabinet of Ministers, to the Judiciary, to the Independent Commissions and to Public Administration”.
In contrast, what is clearly evident is the Presidency overruling most decisions taken at Cabinet meetings and adopted in Parliament.
It has also become the pattern in attempts to resolve issues to short circuit relevant Ministers and approach the President, as the long dragged and muddled SAITM issue proves.
This mess was evident from day one of the campaigns for a “single issue – common candidate” begun by Colombo middle-class pundits.
Reason for UNP compromising for that was its lack of confidence in facing up to Rajapaksa at a Presidential Elections and UNP agreeing for a “Common Candidate” did not justify that “single issue” campaign.
Thus the compromise to hijack a group from Rajapaksa rule and plug them with the UNP under a Common Candidate with or without a clear programme was destined to end up with this mega mess.
This chaos the incompetent opinion makers in Colombo still try to justify by parroting their old hacked slogan “Out with Rajapaksa”.
It is no shame at least now to accept the formula used to oust Rajapaksa was a total lie and he has in fact not been ousted from political power, though removed from presidency. Leaving out the recent LG election results in calculating the Rajapaksa factor, this is very clearly evident in everything this President’s Executive Power to Parliamentary governance has been trapped in.
The society is left numbed and those in elected offices have failed to prove there is, in fact, a Government running the country now.
Where do we go from here?
It is a long and a serious trek to sanity in politics, the urban middle-class is not willing to accept-even now.
They yet don’t want to accept they blundered and messed up not just for them but for the whole country and this country has now to discourse the programme that can put things to right instead of finding “honest and credible” personalities yet again.
That is tested and failed approach. Personalities and individuals don’t provide answers. We need to have an alternate programme to begin anew.