Sunday, October 22, 2017

PURSUING JUSTICE

President Maithripala Sirisena
Saturday, October 21, 2017

One Tamil intellectual said “Later, when the President and the Prime Minister formed Common Governance despite their political differences – my respect for Mr. Sirisena went up. It is not easy to maintain such a partnership in the current disorder in Sri Lanka.
When I read the following passages in the news paper articles, my respect for Mr. Sirisena went up many notches: it said - President Maithripala Sirisena took his security detail by surprise after he threw caution to the wind and abruptly alighted from his official vehicle to confront a group of protesters in Jaffna yesterday. The President was in Jaffna to inaugurate the National Tamil Language Day celebrations at the Jaffna Hindu College when the incident took place. “If you stage protests against me and I am weakened, the devil will get an opportunity,” President Maithripala Sirisena told a gathering in Jaffna yesterday. President Sirisena was heard as saying: “Come let us discuss and see how the matter can be solved. The Tamils voted for me, you must remember.”
Sivajilingam replied: “So how do you pay back your gratitude to the people who supported you.” Sivajilingam told the President that 160 Tamil prisoners held under the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA) are languishing in prisons without trial.” - Mr. Sivajilingam was defeated by Mr. Sirisena who has endured and continues to endure pain to remain in that marriage with a party that has been for a long time, the Political Opposition in his mind. My Energies are with Mr. Sirisena in this issue.”

It was impressive from both sides as Tamils weeping and angry but not even word of abuse thrown to Sirisena. However, Defence State Minister Ruwan Wijewardene insisted recently that prisoners kept under PTA cannot be released.

Hartal campaign in North

He reiterated that the remanded LTTE suspects, who had allegedly committed serious crimes, will not be freed without a judicial process despite the Hartal campaigns in the North and elsewhere. However it is not clear whether he meant the few who are charged with some evidence or the entire 158 Tamil prisoners who are kept under PTA; because many of them have only their confessions ‘against’ them. The State Minister observed that the Hartal campaign in the North is politically motivated and a group seeking political mileage is behind it. Obviously keeping prisoners, years and years without formal charges, will automatically become serious political issue in a situation of nationality discrimination is involved.

Wijewardene made these observations speaking to the media after an event at a school in Biyagama. The State Minister pointed out that several TNA members are trying to disrupt the day-to-day life of the people in the North by organising a Hartal campaign. It is true that these prisoners have become political problem not only in the north but also in the south. They are prisoners accused of fighting for liberation of Tamil home land using violence and terror.

The Minister pointed out that there are no ‘political prisoners’ as claimed by the TNA, explained that the investigations have revealed that those prisoners were involved in serious crimes during the time of war. That is not true; several of them are already accused of crimes against the state while others have not been charged so far. He noted that those prisoners could not be released without a judicial inquiry. “If there are delays in the judicial process, those must be rectified. However the prisoners must go through the judicial process and either be convicted or released at the end of it,” he said.
However Minister Rajitha did not agree with Wijewardene. Rajitha said “Apart from those who face legal issues for their criminal activities, the government should take legal steps either to charge them or release them. The issue of political prisoners should be resolved once and for all.” Health Minister Senaratne’s remarks have come as the families of these prisoners stepped up their protest campaigns in the north and in the south demanding for the early release of their loved ones. Rajitha indicated “The delay in releasing the Tamil political prisoners will seriously hamper the efforts for national reconciliation.”

As a top Cabinet Minister he insisted that the government should act fast on releasing the Tamil political prisoners who are being held for several years without proper charges. “The government has to take an urgent decision in this regard. They cannot keep these political prisoners forever,” Cabinet Spokesman Minister Rajitha Senaratne told the media. Pointing out that similar political prisoners of the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) were released under general amnesty after its 1971 and 1988 insurrections in the South, he said “therefore, it is incumbent on the government to take a faster decision on the release of Tamil political prisoners.”

Tamil political prisoners

Meanwhile, the Leader of the Opposition R. Sambanthan raised the issue of Tamil political prisoners in Parliament recently and demanded the government to take a flexible approach to this issue. He said although the Foreign Minister has given a pledge to the UN Human Rights High Commissioner to repeal the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA), “the Tamil political prisoners are still being held under this draconian law.”

“Only 19 people have been released in the past. Many others are still being held under the PTA despite many protests. How can the government detain them under the PTA when Foreign Minister himself is highly critical of it? The PTA is against the law and we cannot accept any legal action under it,” Sambanthan said. An unnecessary complication has been created by the transfer of some cases from Vavuniya to Anuradhapura. If witnesses needed protection, such protection could have been provided without the cases being transferred.

He very strongly urges that these Prisoners be released without any further delay.

At the same time Sambanthan the Leader of the Opposition wrote to President Sirisena on behalf of the above category of prisoners who have been agitating for their release for a long period of time. It said

“I wish to state the following: –

l These persons are held in custody under the Prevention of Terrorism Law irrespective of whether they have been convicted, have been charged, or have not yet been charged. They have been arrested under the Prevention of Terrorism Law and all action taken against them has been in terms of that Law.

l It has been accepted by the Sri Lankan State both domestically and internationally that the said Prevention of Terrorism Law is draconian, obnoxious, and should therefore be regarded as obsolete.

The Sri Lankan State has made several commitments

l It has been accepted by the Sri Lankan State both domestically and internationally that the said Prevention of Terrorism Law is draconian, obnoxious, and should therefore be regarded as obsolete.

The Sri Lankan State has made several commitments both domestically and internationally that the said Law will be repealed, and that a new Law will be enacted in keeping with acceptable domestic and international norms.

l The Sri Lankan State is yet to fulfill this commitment, but that does not derogate from the Sri Lanka State’s commitment that the said Law should not remain on the Statute Book.

l The only evidence available against most of these persons are confessions extracted from them against their will under the Prevention of Terrorism Law which would be inadmissible against them in normal Court of Law. Many of the cases have been postponed because the Prosecution is not ready to proceed with the Cases.

l Almost all of them have been in custody for very long periods of time, for as long as, they would have been sentenced, if sentence was passed on them shortly after being taken into custody.

l The families of these persons in custody have suffered for very long periods of time, without the support of their bread winners. This vitally important factor has not been given due consideration.
l Quite apart from the pernicious nature of the Prevention of Terrorism Law, persons in similar situations such as persons taken into custody during the insurrections of the J.V.P have been granted an Amnesty and released. It is not understood why the same principle cannot be applied in regard to these prisoners.

l These cases cannot be considered as coming purely under the purview of the Attorney General’s Department. With due respect to the Hon. Attorney General as the Chief Legal Adviser of the state, these cases have a certain political dimension and cannot be addressed as a purely legal issue. It can be justifiably stated that if the Sri Lanka’s national question had been reasonably addressed in time, many of the persons in custody, would not have been in their present position and would have been useful citizens. This circumstance makes it obligatory that you address this issue politically too. The issue not being addressed politically is a strong impediment to reconciliation and the restoration of goodwill and harmony.

l An unnecessary complication has been created by the transfer of some cases from Vavuniya to Anuradhapura. If witnesses needed protection, such protection could have been provided without the cases being transferred.

I have to very strongly urge that these Prisoners be released without any further delay.”

The transfer of cases from Vavuniya to Anuradhapura raises the hilarious question whether Lanka got district wise divided judiciary, at Anuradhapura Dutu Gemunu judiciary while Vavuniya is still under Elara judiciary! 

Death of Jacintha Peiris

By Manekshaw-2017-10-21

A few days ago 58 years old Jacintha Peiris of Mannar died of heart attack following her futile attempt in search for her husband Amalan Leon and son Roshan Leon. Jacintha was in Colombo to attend a Court case hearing last week over the disappearances of her husband and son.

The case hearing was on some identity cards found at an alleged secret camp believed to have been operated by the Navy and the identity card of Jacintha's son Roshan Leon was also seized by the investigators who are currently investigating the issue with the arrest of former Navy Spokesman D. K. P. Dassanayake who is a prime suspect believed to be involved in the abductions carried out in the suburbs of Colombo.

Jacintha was one of the hundreds of persons from the Northern and the Eastern Provinces who have been in search of their beloved ones who were involuntarily disappeared when the separatist war was in progress.

Even now for the past several months agitations have been carried out in the form of hunger strikes and marches in various parts of the Northern and the Eastern Provinces by the family members of the involuntarily disappeared persons seeking justice from the Government over the disappearances.
Jacintha who died of a heart attack had come to Colombo last week and after attending her case hearing had come out of the Court House and shouted that it was going to be her last appearance and she won't be coming to the Court in the future.

According to the Association of Family Members of Involuntarily Disappeared Persons, Jacintha was the seventh person to die, disheartened over the disappearance of their loved ones.

Former President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga was the first to appoint the Presidential Commissions covering every province in the country to look into the complaints received on involuntarily disappeared persons soon after she came into power in 2004.

However, the final reports of those Presidential Commissions presented to former President Kumaratunga were considered as another political 'gimmickry' with no constructive outcome from the sittings chaired by eminent persons of the legal fraternity and the academic field.

The previous regime, of President Mahinda Rajapaksa, appointed a Commission headed by retired High Court Judge Maxwell Paranagama in August 2013, on the complaints of abductions and disappearances.

The Maxwell Paranagama Commission lasted for two years and the Commissioner in his final report released in October 2015 mentioned categorically that the Commissioners listening to the complaints and the grievances of the family members of the involuntarily disappeared persons were very conscious of the fact that those giving evidence were traumatized and in some cases were giving evidence for the third or fourth time.

So it is clear how far the 58 years old Jacintha from Mannar would have been traumatized and the manner she shouted finally at the Court saying that she won't be coming hereafter in search of her husband and son to Colombo, had proved that the Maxwell Paranagama Commission had very rightly pointed out the traumatic mind frame of those who appeared before the Presidential Commission and how they were tired of appearing before the Commissions and other legal institutions for more than two to three times.

The involuntary disappearances were the order of the day from the time the separatist war started in the North and the East.

At the early stages of the war when law and order collapsed in the North and the East the rivalry among the Tamil militant outfits also led to enormous amount of abductions and disappearances.

However, it is sad to understand from the evidence recorded in a mega scale at the Presidential Commissions given by the family members of the disappeared persons that most of the people including young women disappeared after they were arrested or taken into custody when they surrendered to the Security Forces.

The disappearances of a large number of persons who surrendered to the Armed Forces at the final phase of the separatist war in May 2009 still remain a mystery.

Even the relatives of those who surrendered to the Armed Forces claim that they had seen them, having been taken in buses and trucks to undisclosed locations.

Jacintha Peiris's death occurred at a time when three Tamil LTTE suspects in remand custody staged a fast unto death at the Anuradhapura Prison demanding that their cases should be taken up at the Vavuniya High Court and they should also be released as early as possible.

In the meantime, former President Mahinda Rajapaksa was in tears when he saw his eldest son Namal in remand custody at the Tangalle Prison before he was released on bail last week.

Namal who is a lawyer by profession and a parliamentarian commenting on his remand custody said that it was terrifying with rain water coming into the cell and there were even bugs inside his cell.

So while a few days of detention of Namal Rajapaksa, highlighting the plight of the Tamil political prisoners put behind bars for years without any legal action, the death of Jacintha Peiris of Mannar clearly indicate how far the cry of the traumatized families of the involuntarily disappeared persons remains unheard.

Tense situation after shooting of Tamil man in Ariyalai

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22Oct 2017
A Tamil man has been shot in Ariyalai, creating a tense situation in the area with Sri Lankan army and Special Task Force troops deployed.
24-year-old Don Bosco Rikman, a fisherman from the Uthayapuram village of Ariyalai East was shot this afternoon by unknown persons.

Mr Rikman is currently receiving treatment for his injuries at the Jaffna Teaching Hospital.


Ranil-Sirisena V2025 economic vision

Social vs Socialist Market Economy


The meanderings of a haphazard and unplanned economy
(Source: Colombo Page October 2016)

by Kumar David-

The Government’s Vision 2025 document is titled a Dynamic Social Market Economy (plus sexy adjectives Knowledge-Based and Highly-Competitive added for good measure) in addition there are three subtitles; A Country Enriched; Hub of the Indian Ocean; A Modern Dynamic Economy. If wishes had wings, pigs would fly. But no more uncharitable comments, this essay will be measured and meticulous.
Socialist Market Economy is how post-Deng China describes itself. The word ‘Socialist’ is chosen to appease tens of millions of Communist Party cadres. The Ranil-Sirisena duumvirate chose ‘Social’ so as not to annoy much sought after foreign investors, pacify domestic business lobbies and mollify the liberal middleclass. No harm is done, words are not that important; my task is to apprise V2025 and reflect on how likely it is to succeed.

I have studied the Chinese economy for two decades – rather intensively from 1997-2000 when I had to prepare a lengthy paper. For want of a better term I employed the appellation state-capitalism; but this is misleading. It denotes capitalism (the principal noun) with meek adjectival state influence. State-capitalism does indeed describe features of the early Singaporean and Korean experiences, and fits fascist Italy, Germany and Peronist Argentina to a tee. In China, however, the Party-State leads, capitalism and the capitalist class are subordinate.

Chinese economic architecture has six cardinal features.

* Management and decision making is dominated by the Party-State

* Power is monopolised by the Party which dictates to Central and Provincial governments.

* Basic factors - land, banks, finance, energy, mining and large industry are state owned.

* Village land is de-facto peasant owned but nominally administered by county/village entities.

* A dynamic, technically vibrant, capitalist sector drives growth and dominates exports.

* Rich and super-rich classes devour economic riches but want of political power.

Paradise Island

This introduction was necessary to make the point that though labels Socialist and Social sound similar, the Chinese economy and the vision in V2025 are dichotomous. A ‘Social Market’ is defined in V2025 as an efficiently functioning market plus social welfare for the "vulnerable". Leave aside whether you think that good or bad, the two models are different. I will next summarise V2025; what the text says, challenges to implementation, and credibility of the vision.

V2025 is a vision-driven manifesto; it is not an implementation plan. We have had no discourse on economic perspective for 30 years, hence the document will initiate dialogue at three levels: (a) priorities and perspectives, (b) are targets realistic and achievable within proposed time-frames, and (c) what about the fundamental outlook. In the next subsection I will deal with (a) and (b) in the subsequent one. Readers who have done me the kindness of perusing my pieces will be prepared for differences on (c). I will reserve that for the closing paragraphs.

Perceived as a vision document initiating discussion of development perspectives, the drafters have to be congratulated for coverage. They have enumerated and broadly grouped Lanka’s economic concerns. True, you will find all the issues touched on explored someplace in a thesis or study, reported in some NGO or IMF publication, or discussed at a conference or seminar. What makes V2025 useful, at least as a study tool, is that it has brought them together into a single short report and assembled them in categories. V2025 does not advocate concrete plans for taking forward the vision, but it contains many topics useful for PhD study – there, there, the stupid academic in me is getting the upper hand.

In order to give readers who do not have the patience to read through the document a flavour of its scope, let me enumerate some important chapter titles.

* Constraints on growth (Chapter 2)

* Strengthening the macroeconomic framework (Chapter 5)

* Growth framework (Chapter 6)

* Land, labour and capital markets (Chapter 7)

* Social infrastructure (Chapter 8)

* Technology and digitisation (Chapter 9)

* Agriculture and sustainable development (Chapter 10)

This is only half the story; there are seven more chapters on delivery, governance, coordination, a social safety-net, an introductory chapter on vision and a conclusion. To delve a little deeper allow me to list the bullet points defining Chapter 5 on the Macro-economy: Fiscal consolidation, fiscal reforms, rationalised expenditure, reducing debt to 70% of GDP, prioritising capital expenditure, ensuring price stability and sanctioning market driven exchange rates.

A similar deconstruction of Chapter 6 on Growth reads: Ease of doing business, investment policy predictability, encouraging private-public partnerships, integrating small and medium enterprises into the formal sector, simplifying and clarifying trade policy, expanding use of Free Trade Agreements, encouraging and diversifying exports and emphasising service sectors. Tourism gets considerable mention. Making Lanka a global and an Indian Ocean logistical hub gets a bullet point. I was surprised it did not get a whole chapter as it is a subtitle of the main document. The elephant that was absent was coverage of industrialisation and industrial policy – the opposite of Modi next door.

The Chapter on Technology and Digital advances was a disappointment. It starts by flaunting the term "disruptive innovation technologies" – a term fashionable with business types for artificial intelligence, data mining and business computer applications. Palpably, the chapter is not the handiwork technologists but of business people familiar with computer applications in business. The chapter title is Technology but there is no reference to energy*, power*, industry, or productivity enhancement except via ICT (Information & Communication Technology). *Power and energy are mentioned in Chapter 11 under Sustainable Development.

Time Compression

I have difficulty in believing that the drafters intended their target dates to be taken seriously. To raise per capita GDP from the current $4,000 per annum to $5,000 by 2020 (2.5 years; start 2018 to mid-2020)) requires an annual growth rate of 9.3%, assuming constant population. Currently growth is running below 5% and Central Bank Governor Coomaraswamy told a Madras Hindu reporter: "We want growth to be close to 6%, if possible. This year it is between 4 and 4.5. There is a temptation for people to try to accelerate growth through unsustainable macro-economic policy". He was demurely hinting at the Rajapaksa government’s antics with the Chinese credit driven splurge which induced a brief high, trailed by a painful debt overhang. To put it bluntly; an annual growth rate of 9.3% in the immediate years ahead is pie in the sky.

To become a "rich country" by 2025, as promised, begs the question what is rich? The lowest per capita income in all of rich-Asia, that is omitting Japan, Singapore and Hong Kong, is Taiwan’s $24,000; surely this is no realistic target. Or are we looking at Turkey, Argentina and Hungary? Today (2016) the average of these three is $11,850. But to rise from an optimistic per capita $5k in 2020 to $12k at end 2025 (constant 2016 dollars), that is a full six years, calls for an average growth rate of 15.7%! A glacial improvement in growth rates is credible but the authors of V2025 are gazing at the stratosphere!

We have no choice but to discard stargazing and settle for growth (net of population change) of 6% for two years up to 2020. Then if all goes well let’s hope for 8% for the next six years though that’s ambitious. Then nominal GDP per capita in constant 2016 dollars will rise from $4,000 in 2017 to $4,490 in 2020 and reach $7,125 in 2025. This will make us, in 2025, about as wealthy per capita as a poorer Eastern European country, say Bulgaria, today.

I have spent time on growth to make a point. The same decompression has to be done for other targets; employment, expansion of exports and foreign investment. V2025 envisages one million new jobs (not unreasonable; the document says 430,000 have been created since 2015); expansion of exports from today’s unimpressive $10 billion to $20 billion; and FDI of $ 5 billion by 2020 from its base of less than $1billion in 2016 and 2017 (projected). There is no point asking questions like "how are you going to achieve this?" in the face of so much irrationality. Mind you, this doubter prefers the yahapalana lot to the vile Joint Opposition and he aligned with the Jan 8 Movement to overthrow the Rajapaksa presidency.

The doable alternative

V2025 is a vision not a plan. That’s ok; you must have a vision (preferably with realistic targets) before planning execution and organisation. I would like to believe that data gathering, implementation studies and organisational structures, backup the V2025 vision. It would be uncharitable to say this background does not exist; but I am not aware of it. What I do know is that there is no national planning agency and no units empowered to drive implementation.

My deeper critique is that V2025 is located on the wobbly terrain. Its unvarnished expectation is that the private sector will deliver and that entrepreneurship, not the directive role of the state, will be the determinant. ("Private investment will be the key driver of growth in Sri Lanka, complemented by increased inflows of FDI" – Ch. 6. "We will (provide an) incentive regime for private investment led … growth" – Ch.4). The government is to implement tax and labour reforms and create a conducive environment for domestic capital and foreign investors, who are envisioned to take the ball and run. Now leave aside ideology; I will back off if this is likely to work. But the lesson of decades is that this is a dead end. Even in the last three yahapalana years domestic capital has been impotent. Meanwhile the IMF "finds no evidence that making the rich pay more tax leads to lower growth" – IMF half yearly Fiscal Monitor, Oct 2017. Need I say more?

The success stories of recent decades are when government led by directing and intervening, in albeit capitalist development – vide early Korea and early Singapore. Then non-capitalist Vietnam, Central Asian ex-Soviet -stans, and recently a few East African countries. V2025 contains too much hangover from JR; it does not boldly break free of the umbilical cord. The January 8 Government did restore democracy, but in the economic arena it has been unsuccessful.

Nevertheless I do not wish to conclude on a sour note because as a vision, though not a plan, the document has virtues. An outward-looking approach, knowledge-based activities, capital market management, preventive health care, youth empowerment, transport systems planning, sustainable development, these are attractive keywords.

After the intellectual sterility of Rajapaksa desertification and decades of toxic neo-liberalism V2025 is a stimulating upgrade. Next should come concrete planning, building organisations and the cardinal requirement, directive intervention.

Restoring the relevancy of the bar

Sri Lanka moves towards national unity government


The Sundaytimes Sri LankaThe simmering anger by the majority of the country’s legal practitioners in response to the executive’s unceremonious sacking of the 43rd Chief Justice of Sri Lanka came to a fairly predictable boil this week when an outspoken anti-impeachment lawyer resoundingly defeated a government backed contender in the elections to the Presidency of the Bar.

A message to the political leadership�

It is difficult not to be heartened by the categorical warning that this election conveys to the political leadership of Sri Lanka. The Government may have sent its army and its police into the very heart of Hultsdorp. It may have intimidated or induced the then leadership of the Bar and others to engage in their great betrayals which, at a most crucial hour, sapped the strength of a movement that had challenged the executive head on in a most shameful political witch hunt of a Chief Justice. However, despite this ruthless stamping out of dissent, this election shows the core of determined anger that remains intact.


As this column has stated on a number of occasions, the most remarkable demonstrations of outrage to the Presidency’s assaults on the judiciary during the past few months, came from the provincial Bar Associations, ranging from almost the entirety of the Southern Bar to the far flung zonal divisions of the Central, Uva and Northern provinces. This outrage transcended political loyalties in what was undoubtedly a rare show of unity. This unity, displayed again at this election, is what needs to be sustained.

Challenges lie deeper than merely opposing the Government

And the challenge lies not in a pure opposing of the Government alone. Instead, the larger issue is about bridging the divide between the legal profession and the rest of society.Lawyers in Sri Lanka are perceived as being occupied only in their individual practice rather than being concerned about the larger issues of social justice Modern day lawyers have, as is indeed acknowledged by them, neither the time nor the inclination for wider social accountability, let alone love for the law. But as long as phrases such as the independence of the judiciary and the independence of the Bar are perceived as abstract preoccupations only of the elite, whatever struggles that are initiated will have their inherent limitations. Thus, even if the then leadership of the Bar had kept its backbone and resisted the executive to the last during the furore over the impeachment, the movement would have ultimately petered out if it had been confined to the lawyers alone.

We do not have to look far on this sub-continent for examples of positive experiments to the contrary. We should ask ourselves as to why, despite commonly inherited practices of adversarial litigation coming from a colonial heritage, other jurisdictions in South Asia have not been subjected to the ravages that have rendered us so vulnerable. The legal professions in India, Pakistan and Bangladesh are formidable forces in the political process of those countries and no Government would dare antagonize them beyond a point. The danger in provoking such antagonism was well seen in the Pakistan example when the lawyers’ movement transformed itself into a vibrant pressure group that is still able to use people power against threatening political forces. This transformation of formal legal systems to “living law” by a vigorous social action oriented Bar was backed by public interest groups together with an investigative press. The public humiliation of a Chief Justice along the lines of what we saw a few months ago in Sri Lanka, would have led to a huge social uproar in any of these countries. We are, in that sense, unpleasantly singular.

Current state of dysfunction not always the case

Yet this state of dysfunction in Sri Lanka had not always been the case. For example, the report of the Bar Association of Sri Lanka (BASL) for 89-90, acknowledges the events of that period thus; “At the end of such a year of turbulence in the affairs of State and our profession, we are happy to see the profession stronger, its independence strengthened and its position as a bulwark in defence of rights recognised even more�. This report will place on record that the Bar Association of Sri Lanka was required to foster and preserve the Rule and the Rights of the Citizen in this country, as well as to hold high the honour and dignity of the legal profession. Our aim was to be just by all members of the profession and also take the necessary steps to protect their personal lives and liberty and their freedom to practise their profession in keeping with the high standards of the Bar.”

The commendable strength that the Bar displayed at that time had its own political impact. As would be recalled, when one of then President Ranasinghe Premadasa’s Ministers referred to the Bar Association as being a terrorist association, President Premadasa compelled the Minister to publicly apologise to the Bar (see the Sunday Times, July 5, 1998).

Negative impact of a corrosively politicized Bar

During recent decades however, a corrosively politicised Sri Lankan Bar impacted less and less on public life. When the Bar was cowed by the highly temperamental (to put it mildly) behaviour of a Chief Justice during 1999-2009, it stayed meekly silent. When attacks were carried out by government goons on its own members, it only engaged in ineffectual protests and issued bland statements. It displayed no initiative in regard to internal and external subversion of the institution of the judiciary and only resorted to appointing useless committees when far reaching constitutional reforms that reduced liberties were pushed through.

Rather than challenging these stupendously unjust actions, the main effort of the Bar Association was to function as a social welfare organisation and cajole the executive to provide greater facilities and privileges for a chosen few. Unsurprisingly, public respect for the Bar greatly lessened and the time became ripe for a frontal attack by politicians on once sacred legal institutions as we saw during recent months. The possibility of a Minister apologizing in regard to name calling the Bar or a judge would be unthinkable now. In fact, as we saw, the Bar and the Bench were both crudely and repeatedly insulted by this Government’s henchmen with no consequences during the witch hunt of the country’s 43rdChief Justice recently.

Granted, the great expectations with which the Bar had elected candidates to the Presidency previously have yielded to compromise, capitulation and finally utter ignominy. These are all lessons well learnt. Now it is the time to look forward. The primary task facing the new President of the Bar is how to productively harness the support displayed at this election and collectively bring the Bar Association of Sri Lanka back to a state of politico-legal relevance in this country. Certainly this is a struggle that needs to be carried out with resolute conviction and no compromise.

Response from New York to Geneva

By Manekshaw-2017-09-23

President Maithripala Sirisena's speech, at the 72nd United Nations General Assembly sessions, in New York on Tuesday (20), could be considered more as a response to the comments made by the UNHRC High Commissioner Zeid Ra'ad al Hussein on Sri Lanka at the beginning of the 36th UNHRC session in Geneva last week.

Unlike his predecessor Navanethem Pillay, facing a bad experience when she arrived in the Sri Lanka during the previous regime, Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein was given a warm welcome when he arrived with the formation of the National Unity Government in 2015.

In his lengthy speech in Geneva, this year, the UNHRC High Commissioner had covered several countries on their human rights situation which still remains in a very pathetic state.

However, pointing out the UNHRC Resolution of 2015 co-sponsored by Sri Lanka, the High Commissioner has emphasized on the necessity of expediting the process to implement the Resolution by Sri Lanka without further delays or excuses.

The present National Unity Government's approach towards the international community is commendable and it is important even to note that several countries including India realize the constraints faced by Sri Lanka towards implementing the UNHRC Resolution of 2015.

Therefore, at the beginning of the 36th UNHRC session in Geneva last week, UNHRC High Commissioner Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein's comments on Sri Lanka had sounded more a wakeup call, to alert the nation, to prevent further delays in improving the human rights conditions by implementing what had been agreed upon with the UNHRC in Geneva in 2015.

The UNHRC High Commissioner in his address in Geneva, last week, urged the Government of Sri Lanka to swiftly make effective the Office of Missing Persons and to move faster on other confidence-building measures, such as the release of land in the possession of the military, and also resolving long-pending cases registered under the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA) and the High Commissioner also appealed to draft a new law in line with international human rights standards.
The High Commissioner has also expressed concern over protests carried out by families of victims and pointed out the growing frustration over the slow pace in resolving issues.

As far as the families of the involuntarily disappeared persons are concerned it was soon after President Maithripala Sirisena left the island to attend the 72nd United Nations General Assembly session a few days ago, the family members of the involuntarily disappeared persons warned that they would embark on a fast unto death if the Government delayed further in addressing their plight.

The UNHRC High Commissioner has also urged the Government to act on its commitment, in Resolution 30/1 to establish a transnational justice mechanism and to set up a clear timeline and benchmark to implement the commitments.

'This should not be viewed by the Government as a box-ticking exercise to placate the Council, but as an essential undertaking to address the rights of all its people. The absence of credible action in Sri Lanka to ensure accountability for alleged violations of international human rights law and international humanitarian law makes the exercise of universal jurisdiction even more necessary", the UNHRC High Commissioner said.

The 36th session of the UNHRC takes place in the backdrop of Sri Lanka's military leader Field Marshal Sarath Fonseka even agreeing on carrying out investigations against those who had committed the alleged war crimes during the final phase of the separatist war.

The Field Marshal had also mentioned that he was even prepared to give evidence against those who committed war crimes.

In the meantime President Maithripala Sirisena in his carefully worded address to the UN General Assembly urging the international community to be patient pointed out that Sri Lanka needed more time to establish lasting peace and reconciliation in the country.

As a country which had faced a ruthless separatist war for three decades, addressing the post-war humanitarian issue as well as focusing on the peace building process remains an arduous task.
However, since the present Government led by President Maithripala Sirisena is a creation of the people directly affected by the separatist war in the North and East, addressing their grievances should be prioritized in a manner where justice is meted out them.

President Maithripala Sirisena even addressing a public rally a few months ago in the Eastern Province categorically said that if it was not for the people of the North and East he would have perished after the Presidential poll of 2015.

In the past two years significant developments could be witnessed as far as the resettlement of the internally displaced persons as well as releasing of lands are concerned.

However, the reduction of military presence in the North and East as well as releasing more lands from the possession of the Armed Forces still remain problematic issues, in the back drop of the families of the involuntarily disappeared persons threatening to stage a fast unto death.

On the other hand, the need of releasing the Tamil political prisoners by expediting the legal process has also been emphasized by the families of the Tamil political prisoners.

President Maithripala Sirisena's address to the UN General Assembly remains a response, from New York, to the views expressed by the UNHRC High Commissioner in Geneva, last week, on Sri Lanka. In reality the High Commissioner's observation has clearly indicated that the international community could be patient, however, Sri Lanka cannot escape from the commitments it had made to implement the UNHRC resolutions it co-sponsored in 2015.

Can Sri Lanka be Great again?

The most powerful main feathers of the Sri Lankan federal constitution are the police and land powers vested under the 13th amendment which has not been implemented by successive Presidents (including CBK) after JRJ knowing the drastic/disastrous consequences leading to separation.

by Sarath Wijeisnghe- 
Fall of “Sinhala Rule” and the Consequences
( October 22, 2017, Colombo, Sri Lanka Guardian) 2358 years of the Sri Lankan Kings rule fell on 2nd March 1815 due to the coup of the Chief tens headed by “Ehalapola “who signed the disputed historic and decisive Convention to hand over the country and powers of governance away to the colonial power despite the silent protest of the common man. Robert “Brownrig” and” Ehalapola” were the first signatures of the agreement/convention in which the main clause amongst others was to give foremost position to Buddhism and to protect “Sasana” Buddha, Dhamma, and Sanga. Before the ink got dried of the agreement, British violated the Convention by letting down the chief tens who expected to be rulers, and contravention of the contents of the agreement which is still in force under international law akin to Indo Sri Lanka Accord of 1987!. Sri Lanka became a British Colony until independence was gained on 4th February 1948 with the destruction of the culture, imbalance of the economy and agriculture the colonial power overrun us due to naval power and power of the gun then. Nothing more could have been expected from “sea pyrites” looking for wealth from the colonies for the King and the British Empire with intention and agenda to propagate the Christianity in which King is bound to protect and foster. Disunity of the King Chief tens and “Sanga” caused the disaster that could have averted by unity toughed by “Lichcihevi” way of practice in Buddhism they practiced. Jaffna came under the Sinhala King. Had we survived like Thailand we world have been a unique /great Nation.
“Sri Lanka was transformed to a Federal State by Indo Sri Lanka Accord giving power to the periphery”
It is our duty by the nation not to hide the truth and not to be shy to speak the truth for the future generation. 13th Amendment of the constitution certified on 14th November 1987 was promulgated in pursuance to the Indo Sri Lanka Accord passed by the Parliament while the country was in flames and the Members of Parliament whose undated letters of resignation was in possession of JRJ brought to the Parliament to vote with armed protections from the hotel they were imprisoned. Legally there should have been a referendum on 13th amendment as it amounted to be a change of the “basic structure” of Unitary to Federal. Changing basic structure is prohibited according to the Indian full bench judgement of “Kesawananda Barati Vs State of Kerala” In a full Bench decision it was decided that even with 100% agreed decision, the basic features embodied in the Indian constitution cannot be changed which are entrenched which as a principle applied to Sri Lanka. In India while there are five entrenched feathers, in Sri Lanka the foremost position to Buddhism and the Unitary Nature in Sri Lanka cannot be changed even with a referendum as this principle is entrenched. Indian constitution is mainly a federal constitution with distribution of powers among coordinated bodies, unlike in a Unitary State where “one single unit exist with all powers top bottom”. Indian system was imported to Sri Lanka forcibly as the 13th amendment under “duress” thereby Sri Lanka was transformed to be a “Federal State” with units of devolution fortunately tied together in a string/thread of powerful presidential powers.
The most powerful main feathers of the Sri Lankan federal constitution are the police and land powers vested under the 13th amendment which has not been implemented by successive Presidents (including CBK) after JRJ knowing the drastic/disastrous consequences leading to separation. Most important are the lists reserved for the central government, Provincial Government and concurrent lists which leads to complications such as sharing of water, Education, Archaeology, law and order leads to complications controversies and blood sheds again which has to be avoided. India has 19 states and a Union City Delhi with full population of 1.32 billion with 199 million in Uttar Pradesh alone where a federal system is a necessity due to enormity of size and other logistic complications, unlike the Sri Lankan situation where the population is only 21.2 million which is easy to control and manage with a “Mega Computer” (like NHS System in UK a Unitary State erroneously stated as Federal in IRSC)) with access to one corner to other physically in few hours. India is massive and it needs a federal structure such as USA Canada and largely populated massive countries where plans and helicopters are used for transport. Future amendments to the constitution is an impossibility, as it requires 2/3 majority of both houses and the approval of the powerful provincials in which the Governor is appointed by the Chief Minister. Second Chamber consists of majority Provincial council members who are as corrupt and dirty as the main legislators mad over luxury vehicles perks and bribe. If the IRCS is implemented complete separation is imminent and definite in no time.
Architects of Indian and USA Constitutions and applicability
The architect of the Indian Constitution in “Dr Ambedkar” who pioneered the process which is still in power with only 101 amendments when George Washington and Benjamin Franklin too forward the p2reparation of the constitution by “James Medsion” the chief architect who pioneered for the people which is in force with only 33 amendments. They took great pain in the drafting of the great living documents amended from time to time according the needs of the day but never wanted to explore new constitutions which are complicated and leads to unnecessary divisions and blood shed they have averted permanently with a static and stable constitution mechanism. Change of constitutions are seldom takes place in the world unless newly born states mainly due avoid unnecessary complications and divisions. Both great nations changed and adopted themselves with new challenges with amendments which are most practical and sensible. Then what/why is our mighty hurry to change the constitution to commit suicide? Is it Geneva, NGOs Regime Change forces diaspora or any other evil anti Sri Lankan forces? Therefore we do not want to get into further tragedies and let us live with the known devil!
Constitution Making
Constitution is a set of fundamental principles constituting the supreme law of a state from which all other laws derive. India has the longest constitution with 444 articles and 118 amendments whereas Monaco has the shortest with 77 articles. Sri Lankan Constitution of 1978 consist of 179 Articles and nineteen amendments with the Article one (1) declaring that it is a free sovereign independent democratic republic of Sri Lanka which is declared as a Unitary state (art2) transformed to be a federal state by the 13th amendment by changing the “basic structure” and outlook of the constitution without constitutional due process. The Unicameral “Saulbury” Constriction came to force on 4th February 1948 was abolished and the new Republican Constitution was introduced in 1972 with a peaceful constitutional revolution and a constitutional Assembly which was replaced by the current 1978 “JRJ constitution” which is a mixture of Executive Presidency and Parliamentary model running smoothly with some concerns on the Executive presidency and centralized powers now in a compromised situation out of necessity to keep the provinces together tied in a strong string” without separating from the Central Government with the power of Presidential powers.
Armed struggles of disappointed youth as a result of denial of franchise
Fourth Amendment of 1982 extended the life of the Parliament until 4th August 1989 subject to a referendum brought disastrous effects which led to two JVP Insurrections and emergence of LTTE due to denial of democratic institutions and periodic elections the citizens were used to. Two (bloody) JVP instructions cost the nation lives of over 60,000 youth and destruction of property and retardation of the economic growth by decades. LTTE struggle continued for thirty years with deaths from the forces and those took to arms until “MR” was able to win the unwinnable war against the most ruthless terror organizations in the world. It is a sorry state that we have not learnt from the history and mistakes made by blocking the democratic process (by JRJ) of exercising franchise periodically. Hurriedly passed Ad Hoc 19th amendment blocks elections for 4 and half years and the postponement of elections continually nearly three years takes country towards a volcano in brewing under with no signs of any elections until the end of the period of the governance. In the IRSC fatal mistakes are made without learning from previous mistakes by forcing the Government in power for 4 ½ years ( S11) and PM and Government not to be removed for 2 ½ years (S12 are repeating the same fatal mistakes undermining the power of franchise and ability to change governance. To the credit of MR he continuous elections 29 successive occasions with victory though lost at Presidential on a suicidal tour of politics. Like the loss of Winston Churchill after winning the world war “MR” lost the Presidential election to his former Health Minister MS who suddenly crossed over to “SWAN” led by controversial “Shalill”, was backed be India, West, local and international NGOs, and the Tamil diaspora with the majority of minority votes in the north and west. MR’s cronies, relations, wrong advisers contributed to his down fall.
Who wants the new constitution in the making?
Country is not in a good shape and in financial and political crisis admitted by all blamed the previous regime the SLFP and JO are parties to. There are open and close differences and infighting in the unholy union of SLFP and UNP ( leads to dictatorial one party system against democracy with weak and racist opposition confined to N/E) traditional enemies for decades joined together for perks,( ex 3.1 billion for vehicles alone to all ) privileges, facilities, power and fear of being run over by charismatic MR who is still popular but continuously attacked by the enemies who ousted him from power and blocked to contest by 19th amendment especially enacted aiming at him and block him and the family clan claiming to block further family rule. Joint Geneva resolution is a sell-out of the nation promising a new constitution and giving away the forces responsible for freeing the nation from terror engulfed for thirty years mainly beneficial to the citizens of North and East lived in fear terror groups. Opposition leader is the leader of TNA demanding a de facto federal state supported by JVP (one time nationalistic party opposed vigorously to Indo Sri Lanka Accord of 1987) some minority parties NGO’s/INGO’s, and brainwashed part of international community backed by the diaspora still active on internal/international issues. Common man is sandwiched with many issues including cost of living, un/under employment and various threats and constitution is least important to them.
Way forward
It is time for the Nation to be united today by shedding all differences as Sri Lankans for a better day for the future generation. The “Dead Silence” of the Professionals (including OPA and BASL), other sectors are sad, alarming, and worrying when the unpatriotic and undemocratic foolish politicians take unilateral decisions against all norms of good governance rule of law and democratic norms and practices. The statements by clergy, intellectuals, writers, artists, and working class, against the proposed “IRSC” are very encouraging (despite the press conferences of INGO’s and NGO’s depending on dollars) and in the right direction. Time has come to the professional’s educated young and the citizens to take over reigns of the governance and oppose proposed draconian and dangerous constitutional changes which will lead to blood shed again proposed by dirty politicians miserably failed and destroyed our loving and beautiful Granary of the East to be great again.
(The author is a Solicitor, Attorney-at-law and former Sri Lankan Ambassador to UAE and Israel The author takes responsibility to the contents and could be contacted on sarath7@hotmail.co.uk)

Can CBK revive the 2015 common front to save yahapalanaya from electoral wreckage in 2018?

Chandrika Kumaratunga


by Rajan Philips- 


By all accounts the much delayed local government elections will likely be held in January 2018. It will be a couple of weeks after January 8, the day SWRD Bandaranaike was born and the day Mahinda Rajapaksa was defeated – with the long century of Lanka’s modern history in between. In all likelihood, the elections for 335 local bodies – stretching from the power-hub of Colombo to the smallest drought-stricken Pradeshiya Sabha, will be seen as a national referendum. Except for the President and the Prime Minister who, after apparently planning on a constitutional referendum before the local elections in which they would have been on the same side, are now getting ready to fight it out between their two national-unity parties (the UNP and the SLFP) and the new third-party of the Rajapaksas (the SLPP). It is not going to be a dramatic high-noon shootout between the good, the bad and the ugly. It would instead be an ugly brawl among the bad, the worse and the worst – depending on which side you are on, that will leave everyone wounded, with some more than the others. And the body politic – to recall a grandiloquent phrase from the 1950s parliament – will lie prostrate in electoral debris.


The President’s SLFP has got off to a sputtering start. By some method or madness the party went on a purging and filling spree involving 50 SLFP district offices. Obviously, President Sirisena’s left hand and his right hand did not know what each other were doing. With one hand, the President appointed Chandrika Kumaratunga as SLFP organizer for Attanagalla, and with the other he picked a notorious Provincial Council sexist bully and convict as the former President’s counterpart for Anamaduwa. Hopefully, the latter blunder will not last long, if it has not been rescinded already. Either way, it is not going to bring in a good harvest of votes either in the January local government elections, or later in the staggered Provincial Council elections.


A politically significant outcome of the President’s actions, however, is the ushering in of Chandrika Kumaratunga to the electoral fray, as the SLFP organizer for the Attanagalla electoral district and the larger Gampaha District, and with that the potential for the former President to reactivate the old Troika of herself, President Sirisena and Prime Minister Wickremasinghe. The ‘hope’, I am suggesting here is premised on the assumption that together the three of them have a better chance of thinking and acting politically wisely, than when they are left to their individual resources and compulsions. There is no guarantee that Ms. Kumaratunga will try to or succeed in reactivating the troika, and that the three will act wisely, but what can be guaranteed is that without the troika getting together and acting collectively wisely, the Sirisena-Wickremasinghe government is on a fast track to foundering, electorally and otherwise.


Take the electoral arithmetic or algebra, not to mention the electoral vectors. In the 2015 January Presidential election, Ms. Kumaratunga went flat out to make sure that Attanagalla and Gampaha both registered a majority vote for the Common Opposition candidate, the current President, and against her nemesis successor, Mahinda Rajapaksa. She managed a small majority in Gampaha, but it was still a big victory after what the Rajapaksas had been doing for ten years to usurp the political estate of the Bandaranaikes. But the small majority that Kumaratunga worked hard to win for the Common Opposition candidate was largely made possible by UNP votes. Take the UNP votes out of the equation, and where will the President’s SLFP stand in the upcoming local and provincial elections – not only in Attanagalla and Gampaha but also nationally, in seven of the nine provinces excluding the Northern and Eastern Provinces?


As for the UNP, it must not count its chickens before even the eggs have been collected for hatching. The UNP’s calculation that it could come up the middle, with the SLFP vote divided between the President’s SLFP and the Rajapaksa SLPP, is just calculation and not proof it has victory in the bag. The more likely scenario is a smorgasbord of an electoral map with control of local bodies in seven provinces distributed among all three parties, their alliances, and even the JVP. In the North, there will be local arm-wrestling between the TNA and its detractors – a Tamil referendum writ small. The East - the provincial microcosm of national plurality - will be a three-way split (not quite 50-50) between the Muslims, the Sinhalese and the Tamils – going by the alphabetical order in neutral English. Provincial elections will invariably lead to different coalitions in different provinces. Electoral entropy (disorder) will be released nationally, thanks in no small measure due to the prevailing constitutional interpretation that rather mistakenly renders the exercise of the franchise - coeval, coequal and co-extensive, at the national, provincial and local levels.


Even if the UNP alliance were to secure the largest number of local government councils, it will be a Pyrrhic victory at best. At worst, it would be a disaster for the ‘national-unity’ government in Colombo and whatever positive energy it still has left in its tank before it runs out of its term in Colombo. How can the President and the Prime Minister and all the Ministers in the grand cabinet drawn from their two parties cohabit in the government in Colombo for another two years after proxy-fighting in the local elections in January 2018 and Provincial Council elections thereafter? How can they, after tearing themselves apart throughout the country in the local/provincial elections, present a united front in a constitutional referendum before the same voters? Wouldn’t that be the height of political, and even constitutional, cynicism? And what role, if any, can Chandrika Kumaratunga play in the unfolding disorder of elections?


Saving yahapalanaya by ‘devolving’ it


There is a necessary and legitimate question to be asked first. Could the Sirisena-Wickremasinghe government be saved at all, or does it even deserve to be saved? The inveterate school of CBK detractors will raise the corollary question as to whether she can save anyone from anything. The prima facie answer to the first double-question is – the government could be saved, but it does not at all deserve to be saved. Not after all the full-serial exposes from the ongoing Central Bank bond scam inquiry. Not after the government’s parliamentary chicanery of passing laws by abusing the committee process. And not after a government minister insists that no one should question the legitimacy of tender awards in his ministry because he is incorruptible owing to his large bank balance and the tens of thousands acres of land his and his wife’s grandparents owned by divine blessing, or had come into possession of through human (mis)appropriation. In other words, a government of superrich ministers must invariably be considered super-clean. This is not evidence of ministerial smartness but manifestation of open-mouth-idiocy (OMI).


If the government does not deserve to be saved, why should it be saved at all? It is because the alternatives are worse – especially when the choice is between throwing out the lesser rascals and letting back the bigger rascals. Equally, the present government, given its two-party structure, is more vulnerable to public pressure between elections than the family-monolithic Rajapaksas ever were, or would be, if they were to return to power. The Rajapaksas have shown no intention of changing but only the calculated readiness to cash in on the copycat blunders of the present government. On the other hand, the ongoing Commission of Inquiry into Central Bank bond scam is clear evidence of the government’s vulnerability to pressure. There should be more of them for the government’s own good.


To ‘save’ the present government at the local and provincial elections is to subject the government to even greater public pressure. The first indication of successful pressurising would be the government replicating the 2015 ‘common opposition’ strategy in the 2018 local and provincial elections by launching a common platform and fielding a slate of ‘common government’ candidates rather than UNP and SLFP candidates. The second indication of success would be to force the government leaders to field ‘clean candidates’ and avoid corrupt and deadwood candidates.


Put another way, a potential strategy is to carry over the yahapalanaya movement and momentum that emerged in the January 2015 presidential election to the 2018 local and provincial elections. In the current contentions over terminology, you might even say yahapalanaya could be saved only by devolving it. The intended direction of intervention is appropriate because the yahapalanaya movement arose from the people and their organizations quite spontaneously and quite independent of the political calculations surrounding the dramatic emergence of Maithripala Sirisena as the common opposition candidate to challenge the incumbent president. That movement arose because the people were disgusted with the Rajapaksa government and wanted it gone.


There has been plenty of theorizing that Maithripala Sirisena would never have left the Rajapaksa government if he had been made Prime Minister by President Rajapaksa. That theory misses the point that if it was not Maithripala Sirisena who defected, it would have been someone else. It misses even the greater point Pieter Keuneman made in 1952, speaking dialectically during the vote of condolence to Sri Lanka’s first Prime Minister, that the measure of politics is not in the subjective intentions of political actors but in the objective results that flow from their political actions. Objectively, therefore, in 2015 the common candidacy of Maithripala Sirisena came into confluence with the common urge of the people for a change not just in government but for changes in the ways of the government. The ways of government badly in need of change are at the local and provincial levels, as much as they are at the national level.


The new government, for reasons well known, has not changed its ways. But the yahapalanaya movement is still unfinished business. But it does not have the luxury of choosing from a range of politically promising alternatives. It has to work with the same old bandicoot within the country’s constitutional and electoral constraints. The thrust of my argument is that people interested in changing the ways of government could use the upcoming local government elections to save the present government in spite of itself, by reviving the old momentum of 2015 for good governance with renewed commitments by government leaders. Chandrika Kumaratunga is the acknowledged architect of the coup that precipitated the common opposition candidate in 2015. Now she has the opportunity to play a more open but catalytic role in launching a common platform for the government parties to contest the local and even the provincial elections. The logistics of working that out is for the party operatives to figure out. The alternative is collective shipwreck.

Two parties that ruled the country for 70 years made it a ‘begging country’

 

The two political parties that ruled the country for 70 years have made this a begging country says the Leader of the JVP Anura Dissanayaka. He said this speaking at the Kalutara District Convention of ‘Dhiriya Purawesi Societies held on the 19th at Puttalam as a part of the series of summits being held by the JVP throughout the island under the theme ‘“Gamata Diriyak – Ratata Balayak” (Boost for the Village & Power for the Country).

A large number of representatives of ‘Dhiriya Purawesi Societies’ in the District headed by the Leader of the Puttalam District Samantha Koralearachchi participated.

Speaking how the country has been dragged towards an economic crisis Mr. Dissanayaka said, “The country is confronted with the gravest economic breakdown. We remember Mr. Ranil Wickremesinghe saying what Rajapaksas did was filling the pockets of the family and when his government comes to power these pockets would be emptied and people’s pockets would be filled. How are the pockets now? Pockets were not filled. The economy has broken down. The main reason for the breaking down of the economy is the colossal debt crisis the country is confronted with.

Today, the debt we owe is about Rs. Rs 618.3 billion. Since 1985 our debt has increased by several billion. However, this debt did not increase peoples assets but rulers’ and their henchmen’s assets increased. If so, do we have to be responsible for this debt crisis? People in this country need not be responsible for the debt crisis. The funds earned by the Treasury are not adequate to pay the loan instalment. No one gives loans now. They would give a loan in exchange for our resources. The government could get money if it sells a people’s asset.

The money obtained after selling Hambanthota harbour has dwindled now. The Central Bank had stated that they didn’t receive a single cent from this money. Next, Maththala Airport would be sold. It is to be sold to an Indian company. With the money that would get selling the airport would be sufficient to manage for a short period. Next, the East Jetty of Colombo Harbour would be sold.

Once, the money received for it is exhausted the islands in Kalpitiya would be sold. Next, the mineral sands deposits at Pumoddai would be sold. Once that money is exhausted the five year period of the government would be over.

They maintain their economy by selling a people’s asset every three months. This is what happens when the country becomes a begging country. These two political parties ruled the country for 70 years and made this a begging country.”

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Proposed constitution facing stillbirth?

BY GAGANI WEERAKOON-2017-10-22


Last Saturday President Maithripala Sirisena who was in Jaffna to inaugurate the National Tamil Language Day celebrations, took his security detail by surprise after he threw caution to the winds and abruptly alighted from his official vehicle to confront a group of protesters in Jaffna. The President was in Jaffna to inaugurate the National Tamil Language Day celebrations at the Jaffna Hindu College when the incident took place. According to eyewitnesses the President had calmly walked up to the black flag waving protesters and inquired into their problems.

The protesters numbering around 75 and led by former MP M.K. Sivajilingam, along with Eelam People's Revolutionary Liberation Front (EPRLF) Leader Suresh Premachandran and Attorney Gajendrakumar Ponnambalam told the President to settle the issue of the LTTE prisoners who are being held without charges.

The President later revealed that he asked the protesters to bring white flags of peace and unity instead of black flags. Though the protesters led by Tamil politicians were reluctant to have any discussions, a group of people led by Northern Provincial Councilor M.K. Sivajilingam met President Sirisena on Thursday (19) at the Presidential Secretariat in Colombo.

During this meeting, they presented their demands to the President and requested him to provide presidential pardon to the Tamil prisoners detained under the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA). Their demand involves the release of those who have not been prosecuted yet and of those whose trials have already begun.

The delegation also requested to keep these suspects separated from other prisoners who have been convicted for various corruption charges including drug smuggling and provide them vocational training.

They said the case filed under the PTA has been taken up for hearing at Vavuniya Court and later transferred into Anuradhapura Court. They requested the President to transfer that case back to the Vavuniya Court. After this meeting, representatives of the Tamil Students Association of Jaffna University met the President. They also requested to transfer that PTA case to Vavuniya Court again. They pointed out several protests are carried out there due to this reason.

Taking this request into consideration, the President directed the Attorney General's Department to examine the possibility of taking the required action in this regard. At this meeting, the President pointed out that both parties can get a clear idea by discussing the issues. He said it helps to avoid misunderstandings. President Sirisena said he would make a statement on the measures that could be taken to resolve the matter after discussing it at length with the Attorney General, Police and other relevant authorities.

Minister Sagala Rathnayake, Governor of Northern Province Reginald Cooray, Secretary to the President Austin Fernando, Defence Secretary Kapila Waidyarathne and the Attorney General Jayantha Jayasuriya were among those participated at this meeting.

Protesting Constitution

Government's plans to bring a new Constitution or introduce major amendments to the current one, seemed to have reached a deadlock by last week with those with strong Sinhala Buddhist ideologies protesting alleged attempts to make Sri Lanka a secular country, Tamil groups led by the TNA demanding the Northern and Eastern Provinces to be merged as one administrative unit and Muslims who do not want to compromise, voicing their concerns about Eastern Province being merged to the North.

It is in the midst of this that President Sirisena urged all the citizens of the country to be aware of the attempts by some sections of society to mislead the public regarding a new Constitution which is still not drafted.

He said: "We had to face a nearly three decade long, brutal war as a result of not providing solutions for the issues in the country in timely and appropriate manner." President Sirisena requested all the Sri Lankans, as true human beings who love the country, to join with him to build peace and reconciliation among all the communities.

He made these remarks while addressing the Deepavali Festival 2017 organized by the Presidential Secretariat to mark the Festival of Light at the President's House in Colombo on Thursday (19) evening.

"When the current government is re-building the friendship and mutual understanding which were lost due to thirty-year long war, some extremists are trying to destroy this process," he said.
The President explained the importance to recognize the identities of all cultures in the country.
"We haven't drafted any Constitution so far. What was submitted to Parliament was only a report based on drafting a Constitution.

We only want to take ideas and proposals in that regard," he stated.

His remarks came following Prime Minister's outburst against media (especially mainstream newspapers) for allegedly spinning a news story about Chief Prelates of Malwatte and Asgiriya Chapters 'deciding' once again that the country does not need a new Constitution.

Visibly annoyed Prime Minister Wickremesinghe who accused mainstream media of being irresponsible and misleading the public, stressed he will question Diyawadana Nilame of the Dalada Maligawa in Kandy on the matter in which the Chief Prelate of Malwatta Chapter has been wrongly attributed in media as being opposed to the new Constitution.

"When I reached out to the Mahanayake of the Malwatte Chapter, he told me that he had made no such statement and that he was not even in the country. How can the media claim he made such statement? The media is clearly misleading the public".

He said that the Mahanayake had made a sound statement concerning the new Constitution on an earlier date and that the latter was well aware that a new Constitution had not been drafted but was still in the stages of discussions.

The Prime Minister then noted that he had later been informed that it was in fact the Diyawadana Nilame that had called the press conference and made statements regarding the new Constitution.
"If it was the Diyawadana Nilame who made these claims then his name and picture should have been carried and not of the Mahanayake's and I will be questioning the Diyawadana Nilame regarding this matter soon".

He then called on the media personnel present at the occasion to call their editors and inquire as to how such a story about the Malwatte Mahanayake was published when the Prelate was not even in the country.

However, the Mahanayake Thera of the Malwatte Chapter is yet to make a statement on the matter. Nevertheless, it is unlikely that he would go against the views of the majority in the governing body - a necessity in a democratic body - which the Prime Minister may find difficult to relate to.

The Karaka Maha Sangha Sabha, of the Malwatte and the Asgiriya Chapters which met in Kandy on Wednesday (18) with the participation of Anunayake of the Malwatte Maha Viharaya, Ven. Dimbulkumbure Wimaladharma Thera; the Anunayakes of the Asgiriya Maha Viharaya, Ven. Wendaruwe Upali Thera and Ven. Anamaduwe Sri Dammadassi Nayaka Thera, said that there is no need for a new Constitution or even amendments to the present Constitution, and urged the Government to stop the Constitution drafting process immediately.

Anunayake of the Malwatte Maha Viharaya, Ven. Dimbulkumbure Wimaladharma Thera, after the meeting that went on for about two hours, told the media that the proposed Constitution will lead to a division of power going down to the level of Pradeshiya Sabhas or local bodies.

"The present Constitution is good for us. We will express our protest after briefing the Mahanayakes of the Asgiriya and Malwatte Chapters, and the Ramanna and Amarapura Nikayas. We urge the Government to stop the drafting process immediately. The President's powers should be intact. However, an electoral system based on first-past-the- post system is necessary," the Thera said.
Lekhakadikari of Asgiriya Chapter Dr. Medagama Dhammananda Thera said introducing a new Constitution at this juncture will lead to communal and ethnic divisions.

"The proposals made in the proposed Constitution are detrimental to the unitary character of Sri Lanka. Decentralization of State power will create a serious situation. It is evident that the country will be divided," he said.

Though many have criticized the Maha Sangha of getting involved in national politics and intervening in decision making, it is quite evident that not only the Maha Sangha but other religious leaders in the country also have a massive say in the decision making process of the government and the State.

The Catholic Bishops Conference of Sri Lanka on 25 August 2017 overwhelmingly condemned the Government's decision to legalize abortion.

Catholic Bishops Conference President Rt. Rev. Dr. J. Winston S. Fernando in a letter said the matter was discussed in depth during a plenary meeting held recently.

"We say no to abortion under any circumstances. We believe that the precious life of a human being starts at the very moment of conception and is sacred," he said and underscored the fact that no one had the right to tamper with human life in any way.

On the other hand Archbishop Malcom Cardinal Ranjith in February clearly said that he is completely against legalizing abortion as it is considered a sin. Many attempts made by moderate Muslim civil groups and the legal fraternity to amend the Muslim Marriage and Divorce Act came to an abrupt end due to massive protest against it by Muslim political leaders, religious groups and conservatives.

Amidst this chaos, were also witnessed indirect attempts by certain individuals who are pushing for a new Constitution offering 'ransom' to President Sirisena. They have now begun a campaign to emphasize that the President could continue in office till 2025 if the proposed reforms come into effect.

This may have triggered due to the uncertainty of the President giving into the decision by the Maha Sangha, as he (President Sirisena) vouched that he will not give his consent to anything against the wish of the Maha Sangha.

Irrespective of whether there is any truth to President Sirisena seeking a second term, the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) which backed the common Opposition candidate at the 2015 Presdidential Election, last week vowed to defeat any attempt to seek a second term, saying President Sirisena had no moral right to seek another term.

"He [Sirisena] won the last Presidential Election, promising to abolish the Executive Presidency. On the day of his inauguration, he again pledged that there would be no Presidential Election again. He reiterated that promise at the cremation of Ven. Maduluwawe Sobhitha Thera. Now, his faction of the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) tells the country it wants President Sirisena to contest again.

They could hold any opinion, but President Sirisena cannot backtrack now on his promise made at the last election. If he comes forward to contest a Presidential Poll again we will go all out to defeat him the way we defeated former President Mahinda Rajapaksa" JVP's Propaganda Secretary MP Vijitha Herath said.

He noted that even though the SLFP claimed that the incumbent President would be their best candidate at the next Presidential Election, the President had to clarify his position on the matter.