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Defining adaptation


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As the constitutional deadlock moves towards completing its seventh week, President Maithripala Sirisena has sought a decision from the Supreme Court as early as possible on the gazette to dissolve Parliament. The move comes after the President’s pledge that the political turmoil triggered by his appointment of MP Mahinda Rajapaksa as Prime Minister on 26 October would be resolved in one week lased on Wednesday with no indication of when the Supreme Court decision would be given. 

Arguably the biggest concern is over how public finance may be accessed legally as Sri Lanka remains committed to repaying a $1 billion international sovereign bond in mid-January. Without a budget and a functioning finance minister, the President cannot authorise payments from the Consolidated Fund. Even the hard core pro-Rajapaksa camp is slowly coming around to the realisation that without a Vote on Account and a Cabinet virtually suspended by the interim order given by the Court of Appeal there are serious practical problems that need to be ironed out. 

President Sirisena earlier this week went on record saying he would accept the decision given by the Supreme Court regardless of whether it aligned with those hoping for a general election. The very fact that he needed to say this is both surprising and disappointing. The President of a democratic country is legally and ethically bound to follow the decisions handed down from the Supreme Court. He cannot pick which decisions to follow and which to ignore, much like he cannot pick a prime minister according to his wishes. The disgraceful actions of Rajapaksa during his time as President when he ignored Supreme Court rulings should not be allowed to return for the sake of all Sri Lankans. The law applies equally to everyone. 

President Sirisena had also insisted the constitutional crisis was created not because of Sirisena’s refusal to work with MP Ranil Wickremesinghe but rather because of clashing foreign and local ideologies. The idea that Sirisena embodies a homegrown ideology which is good while the opposite is bad is simplistic and misleading. Not everything that is adapted from external ideas is bad, by that measure even the democracy that President Sirisena claims to be upholding by paving the way for general elections is wrong because it originated in Athens and was later evolved by the West. 

Economic policies, whether they support open economic policies or closed ones, inherently create winners and losers. President Sirisena has steadfastly stuck to import substitution, price controls, State-run ventures and subsidies that are generally aimed to make his vote base happy. The opposite of policies that reduce tariffs, increase competition, improve exports and investment are followed by many countries around the world that understand connecting to global value chains is the most effective path to growth. 

Sri Lanka, long used to rigidly-controlled structures, and battling with bureaucratic and administrative challenges would understandably struggle to make these crucial structural economic changes. Most people would readily agree that both sides are to blame for the Constitutional impasse.  

It is not surprising that given the widening gap between Sri Lanka’s economy and public aspirations there will be increasing pressure exerted on politicians by masses to meet their expectations. However, attempting to shore up popularity by deepening divisions can only be seen as reprehensible.


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