Yesterday August 21, 2015 will form another important chapter in Sri Lanka’s history with the newly elected Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe being sworn in by President Maithripala Sirisena, followed by the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding for the two major parties to work together for the first time since Independence in 1948.
On the opposite page today, we carry an article by one of the world’s most eminent jurists Justice C. G. Weeramantry who gives historical evidence that from ancient times--even as early as the 4th century BC-- Sri Lanka had been an example to the region on how to have an orderly and peaceful government and parliamentary democracy. One reference is to a beautiful isle where all people had equal rights, lived in harmony, took turns in administration, the wealth was shared and Nature was bountiful. He says Sri Lanka’s democratic procedures were so advanced in ancient times that a former Viceroy expressed the view drew that modern democratic parliamentary procedure was foreshadowed in the Buddhist council of 2000 years ago.
Justice Weeramantry has appealed to the newly elected leaders and parliamentarians to remember and re-live these hallowed traditions and usher in an era in which there is judicial independence, integrity of the public service, transparency of public transactions, inter-religious and cross-cultural understanding, right to information, freedom of expression, and universal human rights which form the foundation of government policy and action.
In the light of these glorious traditions, what happened in recent years is horribly tragic. After the imposition of the 18th Amendment in 2010, Parliament was devalued to a virtual rubber stamp, judicial independence and the Rule of Law broke down, accountability and transparency were degraded to such an extent that what existed or survived was an insult to our ancient culture and civilisation.
We hope that the silent people’s revolution of January 8 and the clear mandate given again by the people on August 17 to continue the Yahapalanaya of the Sirisena-Wickremesinghe administration, will mark a new era in our political culture so that in future passages or chapters similar to those quoted by Justice Weeramantry could and would be written of our Motherland.
One of the key issues at the elections on January 8 and August 17 was the need to restore the dignity of politics and to ensure that the people’s supreme legislature, which had virtually become a den of robbers and other criminals, would be cleaned and we would have a parliament without ‘horas’, though some gave a decent definition to it. Judging by the elected MPs list gazetted yesterday and the national list MPs of the two major parties, there is some cause for concern. The list include too many of those against whom there are allegations with substantial evidence of involvement in the massive plunder of public resources and involvement in criminal activities such as heroin or ethanol smuggling, casinos and gambling businesses.
We may not have a political Hercules to clean in a few months a place marked by a massive accumulation of filth or corruption. But we hope that the Sirisena-Wickremesinghe administration comprising members of both major parties will if possible in two years or during its five-year term restore our ancient culture and build a new Sri Lanka. As a first step we believe most people would support our appeal that anyone against whom there is substantial evidence of involvement in financial or other crimes must not be appointed as Cabinet Ministers, Ministers of State or Deputy Ministers. This would be a major step in restoring a culture where the politicians would sincerely ask not what they could get from Sri Lanka but what they could give to this blessed land which has given so much to them. If the spirit of giving instead of grabbing begins at the top then people down the line, people of all races and religions, would also be inspired to follow and with the immortal Ameradewa we could sing, “Rathnadeepa Janmabumi, Lankadeepa Wijaybumi”.