Abolishing of the Executive Presidency, thus becomes irrelevant in a society that does not demand accountability in governance
Some “promoters” in the “Wickremesinghe camp”, think they caused Turkey’s recently held Referendum to frighten off Sri Lankans from continuing with the presently reshaped Executive Presidency.
Turkey’s President Erdogan is being painted as a new “JR” for adopting Constitutional Reforms with sweeping powers to the Presidency that was all this time, more ceremonial through a referendum.
Turkey’s Erdogan is a powerful head of State with his pro-Islamist politics backed by a stable economy and not through a dictatorial constituency.
He crushed the 2016 July military coup after people came on to city streets against rebel forces. He purged the army. Thousands including top commanders, middle level officers and soldiers were arrested.
Thousands of public officers including clerks and teachers were sacked and over 200 journalists were put behind bars.
That was not Recep Tayyip Erdoğan the Executive President with sweeping powers.
He would become Turkey’s all powerful Executive President only after the Turkey Parliament adopts the Constitutional Reform package, the April 16 Referendum approved with a 51.4% “Yes” vote.
But even without that, he is now the all powerful Islamist leader with usurped political powers, the Parliament will not be able to challenge hereafter.
Therefore the Turkish “JR” is no Executive President like in SL.
There is also no political logic and justification in the claim the Executive Presidency here in SL is the reason for all major evils.
For over 10 years before the 2015 January Presidency, from the time Chandrika Kumaratunge promised the JVP in writing in September 1994, she would abolish the Executive Presidency if elected, the argument for its abolition was “centralising of powers” in a single person.
Yet the ordinary people never felt it as a burden and SL was still considered a democratic country. In 2014, abolition of the Executive Presidency was made the rallying call to oust President Rajapaksa and was projected as the “single issue” to field a “Common” candidate.
All “solid waste” from Rajapaksa misrule was thus dumped under the “Executive” Presidency.
All allegations on mega corruption, heavy nepotism, rule by thuggery, white vans, disappearances, extra judicial killings and even rabid Sinhala racism were dumped under this Executive Presidency.
The UNP fell in line with the call for a “Common” candidate to abolish the Executive Presidency, as it had no serious candidate popularly accepted as one capable of defeating Rajapaksa.
During the 2015 January presidential election campaign, abolition of the Executive Presidency was coupled with election reforms. Proportional Representation with a preference vote, was promised to be changed through a 20th Amendment to the Constitution, to clean up parliament of smelly rotten eggs. Together the two amendments were argued as the golden prescription for all ills.
India proves this whole argument hollow and absurd. India has neither an Executive Presidency, nor a preferential system of voting. Yet, on 05 April 2011, much before our “civil” society activists came public against Rajapaksa’s corruption, Kisan Baburao “Anna” Hazare went on a hunger strike demanding stringent anti corruption laws.
Indian urban middle class rallied along with him in millions against mega corruption under PM Dr. Manmohan Singh’s government. This anti corruption campaign led to a permanent political party against corruption; the Aam Admi Party (AAP) led by Arvind Kejriwal.
The Indian irony is, the Anna Hazare campaign against mega corruption splintered and fizzled off, while the AAP now running the City of Delhi is accused of corruption.
Mega corruption in India has seeped into all its governing systems and wheeler dealer funders have direct influence over major political parties too, even without an Executive Presidency and with a parliament elected on the “First Past the Post” electoral system.
Political parties and politicians in India are so corrupt and into so many criminal activities, the corrupt and the criminal get elected in hundreds.
In the present parliament elected in 2014 April with a huge majority for Narendra Modi’s BJP, 186 MPs have criminal records including murder, attempted murder, rape, kidnapping, robbery and extortion. In the ruling BJP, 63 MPs have serious criminal charges against them. It is a heavily increasing trend with 2004 parliament having 24% and the 2009 parliament having 30%, with 35% having criminal charges against them in this Lokh Sabha,.
This present Indian parliament is said to be the “richest” parliament with 82% of the MPs declared as Crorepathies. While the average BJP MP’s assets total Rs.11 Crore, the average Congress MPs assets total Rs.16 Crore. Here again the trend is on the rise. In 2004, only 30% had more than Rs.01 Crore and in 2009 it was 58%. (myneta.info/ls2014/index.php?action=show_winners&sort=default)
This in a country that not only is without an Executive Presidency, but has a “FPP” electoral system.
It also has one of the best RTI Acts in place from 2005 with thousands of RTI Volunteers active across the country. By October 2016, the Delhi-based CHRI, an advocacy group reported, 56 RTI volunteers have been killed and there had been 311 attacks on RTI volunteers “for targeting corruption and malpractices”.
It is no different under this Yahapalanaya rule too. There are no “Mr. Cleans” any more in this government. All heavy corruption in this government, even heavier than the Rajapaksa corruptions has very little or nothing to do with the present Executive Presidency. The Bond scams, the largest corruptions investigated to date certainly was not committed with Executive Presidential powers.
Nor was the building rented with the dinosaurian rent of Rs.21 million per month and two years rent paid upfront for the Agriculture Ministry arranged through Executive Presidential powers.
Cabinet paper for that incredible deal was presented by the PM. All allegations on mega corruptions under this “yahapalana” government have to be answered by the Head of the Government, the PM. And there are too many to be answered too.
All police excesses in baton charging university students, tear gassing, using water cannons to disperse protests, using Court orders to suppress democratic agitations and workers’ strikes and protests, differ very little from the Rajapaksa rule, except in that, here the Minister for Law and Order is directly responsible to the PM and not to the President.
Recently when media reported on possible cabinet reshuffles, the President went on record to say, he could not shift ministries without the consent of the PM.
The major problem in Sri Lanka is that this society does not hold any of the “culprits” answerable to the damages they leave on society.
This society does not go beyond pointing fingers, blaming, demanding compensation and questioning or opposing “solutions”. This society allows the “culprits” to continue the same way, thereafter.
If one recounts how the top bureaucracy and the political hierarchy react to man-made disasters, in late October 2014, Koslanda experienced a massive landslide that buried 150 houses, killed at least 16 people and the missing numbers were disputed. Some claimed over 300 were missing, but the number was later reduced to 192. The NBRO claimed it issued a warning. DMC was accused of not broadcasting the warning in time.
Then Minister for Disaster Management, Mahinda Amaraweera told media, people had been advised to leave the area in 2005 as well as in 2012.Compensation in rupees was what the government offered to the devastated families. It proved, the disaster was in the making from before 2005.For almost 10 years, the State authority and the political hierarchy had taken no steps to even relocate people.
People cannot simply move out. There has to be planned relocation when the State knows a danger is looming.
The Koslanda tragedy was under the Rajapaksas and it is now conveniently forgotten, not only by the bureaucracy and the politicians, but by the society as well. The Aranayake land slide that killed 162 people and displaced over 1,600 was in May 2016, under this Yahapalana rule. Compensation was paid to next of kin of persons identified as dead. The tragedy is now forgotten with all who have to be held responsible and punished, continuing in the same style as before.
It was no different with the people affected by the Salawa ammo dump explosion. It is not going to be different at Meethotamulla. It’s the same answer.
Compensation worked out with taxpayers’ money. People relocated to some place for some time and all those who messed up the Meethotamulla waste dump issue continuing with lies and bluffing.
Whether with an Executive Presidency or with a PM and a parliament, the elected politicians and the bureaucracy continue without being held responsible and punished for their negligence, their corruption and for the damages they heap on society.
The fact remains, this society, those who are educated and expected to be conscious of rights and civil responsibilities, are as irresponsible and selfish as the rulers. They don’t question the neglect, the irresponsibility and the arrogance of the bureaucracy and elected political leadership. Both the bureaucracy and the elected political leadership live on tax payers’ money. They wash their hands off all these man-made tragedies by settling for compensation also paid out of tax payers’ money.
Should they be allowed to go scot free after every tragedy? Don’t they have to be held responsible and punished for neglect and irresponsibility that results in deaths, in damage to public and private property and environment, in denying decent and safe living to people? Don’t professionals, the educated urban middle class have a responsibility to demand the “culprits” be immediately removed from their posts? Demand they be prosecuted?
The problem lies in there, more than in the Executive Presidency. Abolishing of the Executive Presidency, thus becomes irrelevant in a society that does not demand accountability in governance.