Oct 13, 2017

Can 'Yahapalana' leaders face their children?

The oft repeated and comfortably levelled allegation(s) against the Rajapaksas on mega corruption and autocratic rule when kept aside without dispute, how does the track record of this "Yahapalana" team now in government for 02 years and 09 months since 09 January 2015 look like?

From the first mega Bond Scam engineered in less than 03 months, to the latest shameless manipulation in passing amendments in parliament to the Provincial Council Elections (Amendment) Act about 03 weeks ago, the entire period of this "Yahapalana" rule is a complete fraud on the people. All top leaders including the President and the PM have serious allegations on mega corruptions. From procuring an old Russian Offshore Patrol Vessel (OPV) for 135 US dollars on a renegotiated credit line, while SL was gifted with 02 modern OPVs by China and India, to the now exposed information on the first mega Bond Scam still under investigations with the total value of the scam yet to be calculated, fraud and corruption is more rampant under the first 33 months of this "Yahapalana" government than during the first 36 months of Rajapaksa rule.

Mega corruption is everywhere from tendering for expressways to leasing buildings, contracting consultancies, heavy misuse of EPF and most high level procurement. On top of it, insulting every sane mind, the Opposition leader Sampanthan wants the people to trust this yahapalana leadership. MP Sumanthiran goes shamelessly still further too. For him totally unethical and arbitrary passing of any bill is legal, never mind parliamentary democracy. This heavily corrupt government lives on smuggling amendments to bills in the most undemocratic and authoritarian manner. Not just once but at least twice for now.

Let this be said right now. A government that begins with one of the worst mega corrupt deals in post independent history and continues with a string of heavy corruption, cannot and will not live different to the Rajapaksas. They are proving it in parliament in connivance with the TNA leadership and the JVP now. And in the most arrogant and undemocratic way. They've turned parliamentary democracy by now into a 'headless chicken' on the run.

It is now a habit of yahapalana leadership of rushing altered amendments and bills through third reading, circumventing SC rulings too. This was evident when the 19 Amendment was rushed through with last minute amendments during the third reading. MP Prabha Ganeshan was shouted down "You shut up and sit down" by the PM, when the MP asked for a Tamil translation of an amendment. A right any Tamil speaking citizen has in this country. For the TNA leadership, violations of rights and how constitutional provisions are brought, debated and passed is not the issue. It is what's in the amendments that suit them what matters. So was it with the JVP. The process however arrogant and undemocratic is no issue. What matters for JVP is the opportunity to go public and say "we helped abolish 18A".

This wholly undemocratic and immoral practise with TNA and JVP in it, allowed amendments to the Provincial Council Elections (Amendment) Act to be adopted at the third reading, as a completely different Bill to what was gazetted. It gave what this dual leadership in government wanted. Three PCs were to conclude their terms before 01st October (2017). Elections for them had to be fixed for within 03 months. But the Yahapalana leadership has no confidence in facing elections. They were discussing ways to postpone elections by way of an amendment to hold all PC elections on a single day. This proposal was gazetted on 03 August as an amendment to the PC Elections (Amendment) Bill and presented in parliament by PM on 19 September (http://www.documents.gov.lk/files/bill/2017/9/243-2017_E.pdf). The amendment on half a page said, [quote]Section 10 of the Provincial Councils Elections Act, No. 2 of 1988 is hereby amended in subsection (1) of that section, by the substitution for the words and figures from "Within one week" to "an election to such Council.", of the words and figures "Within one week from the date specified in terms of Article 154DD of the Constitution, theCommissioner shall publish a notice of his intention to hold an election to all Provincial Councils.[unquote/emphasis added]

The SC ruled this would need a two thirds majority and a Referendum to make it law. A political leadership that runs shy of facing a PC election, obviously cannot face a national Referendum. The yahapalana leadership thus adopted a string of unethical, undemocratic amendments that made way for postponement of PC elections using the provision for delimitation. There was no moral justification nor ethics in what was done. Changing of the electoral system, irrespective of its technicality, has to be endorsed by the people at a Referendum. This underhand method in legislating law insults the judiciary and the Supreme Court as well. How and when the people could exercise their right to elect representative bodies and to change same, is the right of the people. For that sovereign reason, the SC ruled, postponing elections needs people's approval through a referendum. With the Attorney General whose main responsibility is for the people deciding otherwise, has left himself open for serious questioning on his professional integrity.

Parliament as a collective of people's representatives needs to have all draft legislation in public domain before they are taken for discussion. Thus all draft legislation has to be gazetted at least two weeks in advance for public scrutiny and constitutional validity before it goes to parliament for debate. No bill can be introduced at the third reading as amendments, even if those party to such unethical and undemocratic practise could use the sanctity of the same parliament that violates people's sovereignty in arguing for justification on technical terms.

These legal and technical arguments apart, it is a political fact that this government violated fundamentals of parliamentary democracy by introducing a long list of amendments to the PC Elections (Amendment) Act at the third reading, virtually changing the entire amendment that was gazetted and presented in parliament by the PM himself. That half page amendment, now runs to over 20 pages of amendments. It is anyone's guess, the whole exercise had been pre meditated and the amendments drafted accordingly as it was common sense the first amendment would have to have a two thirds majority and a Referendum.  (http://www.parliament.lk/uploads/acts/gbills/english/6055.pdf)

This extremely immoral and unethical manoeuvring is now sold to the public on the strength of women's participation made mandatory with "not less than one-sixth of the total number of candidates to be nominated on the electorate list, and not less than fifty per centum of the total number of candidates in the district list, shall be women candidates" under Section 3(1). It does have validity in terms of "abstract theory" but not when rushed through in the most unethical manner. More because, all political parties are not only bastions of patriarchal authority but are very undemocratic and heavily centralised too, for democratic participation of women in politics. Thus for such amendments to be progressive and valid, they need to have good publicity, dialogued and debated in society to create awareness and social acceptance when made into law.  

So is that on PC electoral reforms and delimitations. There was no public demand for electoral reforms. That was only a creation of these yahapalana leaders and their "hurrah boys" for their own political interest. Yet, if that is to be made into law, it is a public right to debate and decide the ratios. How the PR and the "first past the post" system should be mixed. But that needs time. The yahapalana leadership had no time for serious debates and social dialogues. They had to beat the Elections Commission's decision on the 03 PC elections before end of September. And they did that in the most unethical, undemocratic manner.

That this style of arbitrary and arrogant rule is also endorsed by the TNA leadership and the JVP proves this parliament has no legitimacy and the right to legislate anymore for a sovereign people. This parliament in short has no moral right and credibility, apart from their limitations in capacity to legislate for the future. All 225 of them in government and in Opposition benches have only been playing dice for personal stakes with not just the present, but the future of this country too.

Yet parents they are, once they get back home. As parents the most important question is, can they look in the eyes of their children and advise them to grow as honest, civic minded, decent citizens of this country? Can they go before their children and say they have been honest and sincere in all what they did as politicians? Can they honestly tell their children, they as politicians have been making policy and deciding for a peaceful, stable and a comfortable future for all children? That this country is been turned better than what it was, for future generations? Simple logic is that, politicians who cannot face their children as honest parents, should not be entrusted with the serious responsibility of ruling a country.

[This article which appears in the early provincial edition of the Daily Mirror today (13 October), was removed in all later editions including the City Edition as instructed by the Chairman, Wijeya Newspapers. Reason given is said to be "too hard" according to what I was told.]

- Kusal Perera