A real national government after this election? (Daily Financial Times (Sri Lanka))

After 67 years of independence and three Constitutions and 19 Amendments of the last 1978 Constitution, and from the experience gained therefrom, it is now generally accepted that we should now give ourselves yet another new Constitution because of the changes that have occurred in our country, as we are a new country now after the war was over. We do need to transform our next Parliament into a Constituent Assembly to prepare a new Constitution.

But before that we are today in the throes of an election. It appears from all the studies done by the experts that we would have ‘Hung Parliament’ as no single party would win more than 115 seats to form a government of their own and we would therefore have to settle for a ‘coalition’ government; we do hope the two main political parties would once again come together as they did this year, have a power sharing agreement and also with the other political parties in Parliament, and form a ‘National Government,’ which is the need of the people and the country. Let us have a government as was formed under the Donoughmore Constitution, yes a genuine participatory democracy is indeed the need of the hour to take our country forward.

Adversarial, confrontational politics

The post-independence political culture of this country has been built on adversarial, confrontational politics without regard to the national interest. There has also been an erosion of human values. Our politicians have missed the wood for the trees. This is the unfortunate tradition which we seem to want to perpetuate. The cement that has held this form of confrontational politics together has been, the vulgar pursuit of political power, for with it goes the opportunity to mount the gravy train and get rich. Have we not become a morally degenerate society?

We need to usher in the age of cooperation and leave behind us the age of confrontation, which has done immeasurable harm to this country. Let us seek to build a caring and considerate humane society where values, principles, ethics and discipline form the foundation. Whilst other countries are galloping ahead we are moving backwards. The disease of confrontation has spread to all levels of our society including the family. The politician is at the bottom of this; we must pull back from the abyss. Our political parties must learn to co-exist and make political cooperation an art form.

We must effect a change

We must effect a change, let us do it now. Appamado Amatha padan – ‘Don’t postpone, do it now’ as the Buddha himself preached.

The recent attempt to totally abolish the executive presidential form of government failed but we have seen with the 19th Amendment that at least the excessive powers of the President removed. We can now form a national government comprising of all the main political parties, to establish a truly democratic system to ensure good governance and the supremacy of the Rule of law, to ensure Justice for all.

A national government, if formed, should consider reintroducing a revised and improved version of the Executive Committee System that existed under the Donoughmore Constitution; we could then reintroduce Cabinet government with a separation of powers and also have the 17th Amendment back, in content, ensuring independent institutions such as the Elections Commission, the Judicial Services Commission, the Anti-Bribery and Corruption Commission, the Elections Commission, the Police Commission, etc.

I wonder as to whether the envisaged Constitutional Council would effectively perform the functions as was envisaged in the repealed 17th Amendment. Under a revised system all members of Parliament irrespective of their political parties should be members of oversight committees of Parliament. We should also reintroduce Article 29 from the Soulbury Constitution to safeguard the minorities of our country for they are also our people and they MUST be involved in the decision making process at the centre.

Under the Executive Committee system power would be shared and we would have true participatory democracy, it would also make for consensus building and serve to end confrontational politics as we know it today. The system must be taken to the Provincial Councils too.

We must also reform the electoral system which is a caricature of what it should be.

Doing away with the political party system

We should also give thought to doing away with the political party system, which came to us from Britain and was a copy of the British Parliamentary system which they bequeathed to us. It may have its advantages but let us reflect on a situation where we had no political parties but elected individuals to our Legislature in their personal capacities.

A former Government official and later a Member of Parliament U.B. Wijekoon, wrote a book titled ‘The Curse of Party Politics,’ it would be most useful to take account of what he had to say. Yes let us seek to end confrontational politics in our country. We must in the first instance ban all communal parties as they do in Singapore and Malaysia.

The two main political parties and also the JVP and the JHU are pledged to furthering a multi ethnic, multi-cultural, democratic political system. The UNP and the SLFP profess to pursuing a social market economy as in China; their foreign policies of the two main parties are identical, we are for a multi polar world; the social policies of the two parties are the same; the approach to the ‘national problem – is also identical – devolution of power in a united country, there may be differences regarding the extent of ‘devolution’-but they have both accepted that ‘devolution’ should be the answer to our problem in the north by empowering the people in the north and east in a United Sri Lanka not in a federal Sri Lanka.

National government

The verdict of the people of this country at the next general election will once again not be absolutely decisive, but when the people vote for the two major parties they also endorse the above-mentioned policies. At an election they may want either of these parties to govern but since it is most unlikely that any single party would win 113 seats, it is best for them to come together with the Muslim Congress, the Tamil United Front, the JHU and the JVP to have a true national government for the governance of the country.

No branch of the government should be placed in such a position as to be able to dictate policy or control government. Power sharing should be the fundamental basis for governance, any departure there-from would make a mockery of the will of the people as expressed through an election.

This government has adopted as its creed good governance, let us see it become a reality; let us see our politicians enthrone dialogue, persuasion (diplomacy), consultation and consensus building as the fundamental tenets or doctrine of the good governance.

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