The coalition Government of United National Party [UNP] – Sri Lanka Freedom Party [SLFP] calling itself as a Government of ‘Good Governance’ took office in January 2015 with Mithiripala Sirisena [SLFP] as President with Ranil Wickremasinghe as Prime Minister [UNP]commanding 105 members of Parliamentand Mithiripala Sirisena [SLFP] holding 97 members. Two major political parties who were battling against each other in all parliamentary elections joined to form a historical Government giving high hopes and optimism to all sections of the people in Sri Lanka particularly for the Tamils. Plenty of vote catching promises were made. The most important being the elimination of bribery and corruption and prosecuting past corrupt politicians particularly the former President Rajapaksa clan, who amassed wealth unprecedented in the history of Sri Lanka. The other promise was to offer a just, and permanent political settlement to the 70 year old ethnic problem with promises to take steps to redress the other grievances due to war and after the war. Another important promise was to replace the old JR Jayewardene’s constitution with a new constitution engaging the public from all walks of life with a consultative process. The mandate of the people was obtained to carry out the above commitments with the approval of 6.3 million voters during the elections, including the majority of Tamil and Muslim voters.
The Government acted on the promised steps to set up a Constitutional Council, independent Police Commission, and independent Judicial Commission while clipping some powers of the President under the 19th Amendment. The extent of independence and impartiality is far from satisfactory when looking back at some of these Commissions’ past conduct of functions which appear to be falling in line with the ruling Government’s thinking.
The Government after more than 30 months in power is still grappling with power struggle, inner divisions and personal clashes in and outside the Parliament particularly between the UNP and SLFP ministers and high ups. Doubts as to who runs the Government, President or Prime Minister also are cropping up due to lack of co-ordination and consultation or even personal communication. The recent meeting of the UN Special Rapporteur for Human Rights and Counter Terrorism with the Tamil political prisoners in Anuradhapura irked President Mithiripala Sirisena who was unaware of it until knowing the UN Rapporteur’s scathing comments on Sri Lanka made by him in a Press Conference.
The Joint Opposition Group initiated by Former President Mahinda Rajapaksa has also become a veritable irritant threatening to scuttle the Governments move to enact a new constitution, not to mention his venomous opposition to increased devolution of powers to Northern Provincial Council, a permanent political weapon used to sway the Sinhalese voters. PM Ranil is also accused by some in the Maithiri’s quarters for the soft approach in the prosecution of Mahinda Rajapaksa associates as a check mate to SLFP’s electoral ambitions and gains. The net result is a government which is running only to survive and last until the next Parliamentary Elections. This corroding instability has resulted in many failures for the ‘GOOD GOVERNANCE’ which has progressed to a Government of “NO CONFIDENCE’ and ‘NO GOVERNANCE’ hoping to survive until the Parliamentary Election in 2020.
1. All the recommendations of the UNHRC Resolution 30-1-2015 remain unimplemented except the Office of Missing Persons Act which was passed in August 2016 without adequate powers to ensure culpability for the offenders but only ensuring impunity for them.The Internal Judicial Mechanism is yet to be conceived and with the declared statements of President, Prime Minister and Foreign Minister not to prosecute any security personnel for war crimes, even holding investigations, the principles of justice and accountability have got their good byes in no uncertain terms, while burying the reconciliation process.
2. The proposed new constitution could be an aborted or child of miscarriage. The all powerful Maha Sanga with its three Chief Prelates landed their knockouts for any new constitution, calling on the Government to look after the existing constitution with suitable amendments which should be confined to reduction of Presidential powers and electoral reforms, with Buddhism and unitary system remain as it is. The government has also yielded to the demands of Maha Sanga by declaring that any changes or amendments to the constitution will be submitted to Maha Sanga for their pre approval. This is nothing but a slap on the face of the 6.3 million voters who gave the mandate for a new constitution and who only have their right to exercise either to approve or reject it based on the sovereignty of people over everything else.
The statement of the Joint Opposition Group “No one should act against Maha Sanga and its stand”. And the statement of UNP member Kajantha Gunawardene “Consent of two parties is required to enact a new constitution, one is the consent of Maha Sanga and the other is the consent of people. Without these consents a new constitution cannot be enacted”. These statements are the writings on the wall as to the fate of a new constitution.
It appears that Sri Lanka holds the unique distinction of having two states with the veto power, being vested with the Maha Sanga.