Sri Lanka’s convicted murderer Premalal Jayasekara (C) signs a paper after he sworn in as a member of parliament from the ruling party, in Colombo on September 8, 2020. (AFP)
The state affirms that these moves were taken to stabilize the exchange rate, increase domestic value adding and avoid depending on imports
The present regime is doing a lot to raise the country’s image, but not knowing the thin divide that separates what’s accepted and what’s not certainly won’t help this government.
The theme that defines this regime is hiring people who are performers. President Gotabaya Rajapaksa underscored this point when he canvassed for the Pohottuwa Party in the run up to the recent Parliamentary Elections. All what the president said about hiring people who have track records of performing is accepted without debate. What’s debated is what happens after the law takes its course in this country.
But now we have come across a second occasion when certain decisions by the government make us pose questions regarding how the state promotes ethics and fair play. The first was the release of a former Army Staff Sergeant who was on death row for his involvement in a massacre of civilians; that took place in Mirusuvil, Jaffna in year 2000. Now we saw the swearing in of Premalal Jayasekara who is also on death row for his role in a shooting incident which resulted in a murder.
The parliament is the institute where laws are passed. Hence it is hilarious to say the least when politicians who are convicted are allowed to attend sessions. This fact was underscored by JVP Leader Anura Kumara Dissanayake recently in parliament.
The majority of the people who voted for a change in regime, last November, didn’t do so to witness such questionable decisions to be taken by those who walk on the corridors of power.
The present regime is hellbent on driving home the point that there is a Rajapaksa way of doing things. This was the way administration took place between 2005 and 2015 and now that trend has resumed without any opposition coming its way.
The present regime is attempting to show the world that it is trying to clean up the country of all the vices. The drug rings are busted, drug lords are arrested or bumped off and very recently we heard that even couples kissing or holding hands were summoned and warned by the law enforcement authorities who wear the khaki uniform. Our law enforcement authorities must be reminded of past incidents where policemen the world over were taught in overseas courts that a kiss is a sign of affection and not an unappropriate act which must be avoided in public. For the record on September 6 as many as over 100 couples were arrested by the Anuradhapura Police for behaving in, what was said to be, an improper manner. But after rights activists, adults and media personnel posed the question as to what the police termed as ‘improper acts’ there has been no response from the police to date.
This is the type of governance that people of this country will witness and have to bear for the next five years. Those who are powerful will take decisions based on what’s right for them rather than follow the norms and the outcome of the rule of law. The president has time and again affirmed that what ever decision he takes is the right decision and requests the people and state institutions to support him.
A few weeks ago there were concerns raised about a road being cut through the Sinharaja Reserve. There were conflicting reports regarding this issue with environmentalists blaming the construction for posing a threat to the fauna and flora in the forest reserve and those supporting the government initiative hailing the efforts because it would boost the transport facilities of less affluent villagers. What the present regime must try to do is win the hearts of both the downtrodden masses and the educated affluent people in doing the accepted thing rather than work with an elbows out attitude.
It is in this backdrop that the 20th Amendment to the Constitution is to be amended. If the changes proposed in a bill get passed with a two-thirds majority in parliament it would set a dangerous trend where checks and balances are not needed when governing this country. The Centre for Policy Alternatives (CPA) has stressed in a recent newspaper article that ‘if the bill is passed it would set in motion a process that’ll seriously undermine the separation of powers, the rule of law and fundamental freedoms’. What’s of serious concern is that the proposed amendment would remove the checks and balances on the president and clear the present limitations also on the executive in relation to key appointments to independent institutions through the process of the Constitutional Council. If the 20th is passed it would replace the Constitutional Council with a Parliamentary Council.
Now the regime has specified a place for displeased people to gather at an protest. How many people can such a site hold? Isn’t this a form of controlling dissent? Recently students of the Centre for Distance and Continuing Education at the Kelaniya University staged a protest at this site urging the government to grant them jobs. What the state must do is raise the economy which will give rise to more employment opportunities. But is the government doing enough to boost business?
But we have heard of the government’s attempts to halt the import of certain crops and be self-sufficient in producing the same. The premier spoke of the probable ban on the slaughtering of cattle, but intends giving the green light to import beef. History, the time period between 1970-77, shows what hardships people had to endure when the regime decided the price of goods and what had to be produced in the country. Sri Lanka embraced socialism and it led to a scarcity of goods and the eventual birth of a black market; where goods were available at sky high prices. Do the present trends suggest that Sri Lanka is returning to a dark past which the country was once familiar with? For the record the regime has banned the import of motor spare-parts and vehicles; hence the virtual crash of the automobile industry. The state however backs its economic decisions stating that these moves were taken to stabilize the exchange rate, increase domestic value adding and avoid depending on imports.
This regime, if it values receiving the blessings and support of everyone, must read the pulse of the market economy and not necessarily confine itself to a ‘socialist’ type of ruling which takes pleasure in squashing the capitalist. Businessmen can work along with this regime as long as they don’t take the selfish stance taken by the popular rice mill owner from Polonnaruwa because what he did forced state interference in the paddy industry. What everybody needs to be reminded of is that state interference is the preferred tool of this regime.