A sad day for democracy in Sri Lanka under so Called Yahapalanaya

(Courtesy of The Island)

Yahapalanaya reminds us of a tale from Greek mythology about a ruthless bandit, named Procrustes, who either lopped off the limbs of his captives or stretched them so as to fit them into an iron bed. The yahapalana leaders are doing to the country’s laws what Procrustes did to his victims; they lay constitutional provisions on the Procrustean bed of expediency. All laws must conform to their political agenda or be amended.

Wednesday was a sad day for Sri Lankan democracy or what remains thereof. The Sirisena-Wickremesinghe regime audaciously gazetted one of the most undemocratic constitutional amendments to postpone provincial council elections until 2019 for fear of losing them. The 20th Amendment is as despicable as the 18th Amendment Mahinda Rajapaksa hurriedly introduced in a bid to secure a third term as President.

Ironically, the yahapalana leaders who vehemently condemned Rajapaksa for the 18th Amendment are trying to stay in power by amending the Constitution to put off elections which they are scared of. They would have us believe that the aim of the proposed amendment is to conduct all provincial council elections simultaneously. But, if they are genuinely desirous of getting rid of the practice of staggering polls, why can’t they amend the Constitution to dissolve all PCs and conduct elections thereto in a few months? If they do so, the question of Parliament being empowered to take over the duties and functions of dissolved provincial councils won’t arise.

We bet our bottom dollar (or rupee) that the yahapalana leaders will never consider that option because of their mortal fear of elections. Now, a wag says the election secretariat can be closed and Polls Chief, Mahinda Deshapriya, sent into a deep sleep like an astronaut on a space journey, until 2019 .

Condemning the 20th Amendment, the Joint Opposition has argued that it will have to be approved by people at a referendum besides being passed by Parliament with a two-thirds majority because it impinges on the franchise of the people. This argument, in our book, holds water; it will be interesting to see what the Supreme Court says.

Prabhakaran used bullets and bombs to deny the people their right to vote and the yahapalana leaders are using gazettes and constitutional amendments to achieve the same objective. While Prabhakaran was alive only some parts of the country were without elections. Today, he is pushing up daisies but the entire country has been without elections thanks to yahapalanaya.

Ravi Karunanayake has resigned as Foreign Minister over the penthouse controversy and some other issues connected to the bond scams. The circumstances that led to his resignation show that the best way to make the present government heed public opinion is to crank up pressure thereon. He would not have resigned but for media pressure which compelled the Joint Opposition (JO) to hand over a no-faith motion against him to the Speaker. The Sirisena-Wickremesinghe administration has flaunted Karunanayake’s resignation as an act of good governance. It has only made a virtue of necessity. Anyone who really practices good governance must remain above suspicion.

Karunanayake is lucky that he is a prominent member of the ruling coalition. Else, he would have been arrested and remanded like the UPFA dissidents.

The ‘government-appointed’ Opposition proved yesterday once again that it was a mere appendage of the yahapalana regime. Opposition Leader R. Sampanthan, in his speech, stressed the need for respecting the age-old legal tenet of presumption of innocence as regards the allegations against Karunanayake. One can’t but agree with him. Karunanayake should not be prejudged. But, the Opposition, save the JVP and some of the SLFP dissidents, has completely ignored the bond scams. The TNA is a single-issue Opposition party. It is preoccupied with having more powers devolved to the periphery. It, no doubt, has a right to champion causes of its choice democratically, but it must not turn a blind eye to the burning issues that affect the people in all parts of the country. Anyone who soft-pedals the bond rackets has no moral right to campaign against corruption under the previous regime.

The Karunanayake affair is only a sideshow. The spotlight should now be turned on the masterminds of the bond scams. They are trying to make a smokescreen out of the penthouse episode and make good their escape. Their plans must be foiled.

The bond racketeers won’t baulk at anything to cover their tracks. There is a pressing need for the Central Bank (CB) to be brought under the purview of the President pending investigations into the bond scams. It was only recently that we reported an incident where a senior CB official allegedly in league with the bond racketeers removed a whole slew of files from the bank at night.

Meanwhile, what has been the Attorney General’s opinion on the JO’s no-faith motion? The government claimed it was sub judice. Is the AG’s view in consonance with the government’s? People’s right to information must be respected.

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