Lack of Common Sense Of A Time-Expired President
By Sunil J. Wimalawansa –
Part 32: Sri Lanka—Changing Pillows to Cure Headaches: Lack of Common Sense of a Time-Expired President
With the previous president becoming a fugitive, there was a window of opportunity for the parliament to rectify the political crisis, but they miserably failed. Single-handedly and deliberately, the situation was made worse by the then-unelected prime minister, who became an unelected president.
Such a mockery of the democratic process is happening only in Sri Lanka. He promised the parliament and the country that on receipt of the resignation letter from the former president, he would also resign from his position as the prime minister. Refusing his resignation, he lied to the parliament and the entire nation.
Resignation of the chief executive and next presidential election
With the president’s resignation, rightly per the constitution, the speaker should have become the interim president for a maximum of two weeks, allowing him to appoint an interim president from the majority of MPs. If the parliament had acted according to the constitution and prevented an unelected prime minister from becoming an unelected president, it would have avoided the current political chaos, loss of credibility by the international community, and unnecessary arrests and killings of innocent civilians by the police. Most people believe the president should be made accountable for the ongoing thuggery and killings of unarmed civilians.
Sneaking into the presidency by a person rejected by the public
However, it got from bad to worse because of the crocked actions of the current president from day one in his unelected office. Instead of resigning as he “promised,” he, by force, assumed the position of ‘temporary’ president to buy time to make a deal (by hook and crook) with the majority party in the parliament for him to be elected as the interim president by MPs (not by the people): what a crookery—freebie for nothing. If there had been large sums given as bribes to get the votes of MPs, this must be exposed: and bring both bribe givers and takers to justice. Instead, electing an interim president among the MPs should have coincided with the president’s resignation or elimination: the interim president apparently prevented that legal process.
Failure to act democratically as per the constitution led to the current political upheaval and instabilities in Sri Lanka. The cabinet got automatically dissolved when the prime minister became the unelected president. Political and social crises escalated: the situation became like jumping from the “pan to fire,” with more questions than solutions.
Political instability and the rotten system
The same selfish lot of MPs promised the public (as usual with misleading big talks and false propaganda by them) to immediately repeal the disastrous 20th amendment through either the 21st or 22nd amendment, which requires a two-thirds majority in the parliament, failed to materialise. This would have enabled either to reactivate the 17th or the 19th amendments. Instead, MPs enacted a half-hearted 22nd amendment that failed to take any of the executive powers from the president (hence the theme of this series of articles—changing pillow to cure a headache). More such parliamentary drama is yet to come—that can be used for public entertainment, such as teledrama.
Cash-crazy politicians are not much different from dishonest businesspeople or underground drug dealers: all of them are breaking the law. Given the opportunity, these untrustworthy politicians jump from one party to another like frogs for money and positions. If these jumping frogs were apparently given millions of rupees, as widely discussed in the media, is that not amount to bribery? If so, why aren’t they brought to justice under bribery laws? Their priority is to get the most benefits for themselves and their clans: not the country or the public.
The necessity to eliminate corruption
Unfortunately, during the past few years, Sri Lanka has been pushed into countries with the most corrupt practices worldwide. These internationally identified politically-corrupt countries, such as Uganda, Nigeria, Kenya, and Ukraine, Sri Lanka, also got into a vicious cycle of corruption and associated poverty with others. This was primarily due to enacting laws to steal resources without consequences and legal protection, misappropriation of funds and loans, and the lack of transparency and accountability of executives, legislators, and senior government administrators.
Just because some have resigned or been dismissed does not preclude them from being prosecuted later. Examples include fraudulent deals, misappropriation of loans and other funds, taking unwarranted loans at higher interest to obtain commissions, crimes, bribery, and demanding commissions to get things done. Is this a familiar (routine) set-up in Sri Lanka?
Corruption, the pilferage of national resources, and bad governance are the root causes of national debt and bankruptcy. Despite this, even to date, there is not a hint about taking action to eliminate such—instead, corrupt practices by ministers and other government hierarchies continue unabated. Despite the declaration of bankruptcy, Sri Lanka evidently has not yet fully declared the magnitude of the fiscal deficit. Why the government continues to hide financial figures of certain loans taken previously but have not been officially declared and those they are trying to take now is a puzzle.
Corrupt practices continuing
Even though the country is bankrupt and not yet engaged in debt restructuring, the administration seems to be attempting to obtain additional unconventional loans underhand. Those outside the ruling party consider these as attempts for other fraudulent deals to collect more commissions and/or to steal loan findings. People are questioning whether these politicians have embezzled additional loans that have not been declared. Or perhaps, are they embarrassed to show the actual values of loans siphoned out of the country? The answers are unknown at present.
Until stopping the corrupt practices, establishing firm policies to prevent corruption that benefits Sri Lankans, and re-establishing the independence of the judiciary, as with other corrupt nations, it will remain a developing country. The old-fashioned idea (many taking Singapore as an example) that a strong leader needed to succeed in a country was proven flawed in Sri Lanka. We need an honest and transparent leader with a backbone to make the right decision for the country leading to sustainable development for future generations.
President’s time has expired
With continual governance failures, the current president should have resigned immediately, as in most other democratic countries. However, his ego, protecting perpetrators, and power craziness seem to prevent such. Neither he nor his failed ministers have yet to accept their miserable failures in governance and handling the crises they created themselves. This also extends to maintaining law and order and peace and solving the financial crisis in the country. Instead, he and his accomplices are accusing innocent youth who protested within the rights given to them by the constitution as scapegoats and unfairly punishing them by abusing the PTA.
This president, with no heart, is preoccupied with creating or using harmful laws and violating existing laws in the country. In the interim, his unconstitutional actions need to be restricted. The current failed egoistic president is proven capable of only causing political anarchy, uncertainty, and destroying political parties. He single-handedly annihilated the SLFP as the PM of the previous government, demolished UNP in the last general election, and is now dismantling Pohottuwa on the pretence of protecting culprits. The latter may be a blessing in disguise, allowing new political movements at the next election.
Sri Lanka does not need dictatorship, authoritarianism or an extension of militarisation. Instead, the country needs to return to order, have a common sense vision for the economy and sustainable development, and re-establish the democratic (not social democratic) and traditional values it lost over the past few years.
Instead of taking care of themselves, the government should focus on the country, solving the financial crisis, the needs of the public and its future, and resolving the frustrations of youth, unemployment and poverty. President not only is conveniently ignoring but also made worse the lack of order and crime and the basic needs of working-class families and daily wage-earners while creating sustainable development and maintaining sovereignty. These amount to crimes against humanity.