|The primary function of the Constitutional Council will be to form a Technocratic Cabinet of Ministers. The Constitutional Council is responsible for inviting willing Sri Lankans to serve the motherland, sharing their expertise in any chosen field for an interim period as a provisional Cabinet Minister
The current predicament of Sri Lanka is not drastically different from the other popularism embraced representative democracies in the world. This author has highlighted how the elections are manoeuvred by managing misinformation through digital media in the current popularism-driven culture. Electorates are deceived to the greatest extent, resulting in widening distrust between the citizens and the politicians. It is sad to observe many of the political parties lacks original thinking stimulating novel ideas to address the socio, economic challenges confronted by the communities.
Many are confused in the neo-liberal dogma, which professed on the mythical belief, maximum consumption generates maximum well-being to the communities. Instead, we experienced the debt-ridden economies still believing in the alchemy of money and the unconventional potent monitory policies that have failed the progress of humanity as industrial capitalism has lost its vigour and is now looking for reincarnation. And the warning signs emerged with the COVID-19 pandemic, as the world has now reached a new turning point in human civilisation. Indeed, success in the past, be it politics, economics, or business, will not deliver success in the future.
In this essay, the author wishes to discuss a few options for Sri Lankans to consider out of the current unprecedented crisis. Over-reliance on policymakers who exploited the country's natural and human resources to their benefits saddled in an unsustainable administrative and economic system are causal factors to the crisis.
In straightforward terms, the Sri Lankan elected people's representatives are neither accountable to taxpayers nor responsible to the electorate. Politics and elections have become a massive industry by themselves. Political parties and elected leaders are not concerned with policy-making for the good of the people and the country's development. Instead, they want to enjoy the privilege and power at the expense of the tax-paying working poor. A handful of privileged people close to the policy makers make merry and drive our democracy towards plutocracy, abusing the electoral power of the marginalised.
The situation further aggravated with the introduction of the Executive Presidential system in 1978 and the delegation of political power to the provincial councils setting up of wasteful parallel administration to govern an island nation of 25,000 square miles. By 2013, there were 160 elected peoples’ representatives, per each district serving the same group of electorates providing the same public services.
The Executive Presidential system completely anaesthetised one of the best functioning Civil Administration systems in Asia. Since then, the country has not seen a true statesman emerging out of the political systems, instead of some self-serving petty politicians without any expertise in the chosen administration areas, except unleashing the tongue harangue serving as their political master’s voice. Their main aim is to deceive the electorate into garnering the preferential vote to get elected to the Parliament.
Therefore, this author affirms that all political parties are driving the representative democracy in Sri Lanka, functioning beyond their expiry dates and stale. None of the political parties' leadership has the vision or a system of administration that is compatible with the 21st Century Technoculture and equipped with the policies to stimulate the growth in the real economy to come out of the debt-ridden status of the country. Many of the so-called leaders of political parties, with decades of experience, lacks original thinking; they are merely egoistic; either fighting the lost battles of the past or daydreaming about getting elected to power, utterly aloof from present realities.
What is the way forward? A unity Government as an interim measure
Our colonial masters, be it Portuguese, Dutch, and British, set boundaries of the current provinces, not even putting a foot onto the island. The existing nine provinces was a creation of the British in 1804 for conveniences for trade by the British East India Company. Gunboat diplomacy ruled the centre from seashores. The divide and rule started from then onward. We, Sri Lankans, have failed to understand the rationale and science of dividing the country with 22 districts by the British.
Since then, after independence, we followed the colonial administration structure with the nationalistic mindset and embraced the representative democracy widening the ethnic disharmony inviting racial politics. The existing electoral administration system has its flows from the colonial era, which needs corrections to suit the participatory democratic models compatible with the 21st Century digital age burying the analogue era systems and structures.
But this is not the right time to rectify those historical drawbacks. To come out of the current unprecedented crisis of our own making needs thinking beyond any accepted frameworks. Sri Lankans need to re-think beyond the box and not get boxed in any frameworks. We need unbiased, critical thinking for the good of the country its future generations and not to benefit outdated political parties or bankrupt political dynasties.
Hence, let all of us be hard on the problems to find creative solutions being soft on those people who made this mess. Finger-pointing and blame games will not help us in any way knowing who is responsible for the deterioration of our nation.
First things first: No elections
Many of the outdated political parties are getting ready to form alliances to contest for elections, with the plummeting unpopularity of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and his Government. On 16 March, the President addressed the nation and conveyed the message that he needs to absolve from the current crisis as it is not his own making. That indicates not acknowledging the gravity of the situation the Government is grappling.
Nevertheless, we should respect the democratic mandate of the people with its all misinformation and deceptions. Sri Lanka should not call for elections. We need to find creative and innovative ways to push the existing structures to propose corrective measures to restore the economy first, re-schedule the debts and postpone all avoidable development projects immediately.
Lobbying the Government to move out of the comfort zone for an interim solution
The current term of the President and the Parliament, all local Government elected bodies to continue till the next General Election. The provincial Government elections postponed indefinitely. The first step is for the current Parliament to move a resolution to request all MP's nominated from the national list to resign with immediate effect.
The second step is to repeal the 20th amendment, re-introduce the 19th amendment, and reinstitute the Constitutional Council. The 19th amendment modified suitably as an interim measure to accommodate a Technocratic Cabinet of Ministers as a de facto Government. The proposed Constitutional Council headed by the Chief Justice comprises the following and constituted within three months.
Chief Justice – Ex -Officio – Chairman
Chief of Staff of Armed Forces – Ex Officio
Inspector-General of Police –
Nominee of the President – Eminent Person not a member from a Political Party
All political alliances in the current Parliament nominate ONE Eminent Person as their representative to the Council as an interim measure to overcome the current crisis. (Not all political parties represented in the Parliament to nominate, the nominees must be eminent persons with a professional background) The configuration does not contradict the people's mandate in the presidential and Parliamentary elections held in 2019 and 2020.
The primary function of the Constitutional Council will be to form a Technocratic Cabinet of Ministers.
The Constitution council is responsible for inviting willing Sri Lankans to serve the motherland, sharing their expertise in any chosen field for an interim period as a provisional Cabinet Minister. As a temporary measure, the current Executive President serves as the head of the Cabinet and Government. Specific provisions in the 19th amendment will be suspended purely as an interim measure - such as the President serving as the Head of the Government instead of the Prime Minister.
The Constitutional Council will nominate a 30-member Cabinet of Ministers based on their merits expertise. Prospective applicants to serve in the Technocratic Cabinet will recommend policy alternatives supported with growth and distribution policies to address the current crisis. Subject to the approval by the Parliament with a simple majority. Once approved, the Technocratic Cabinet will join the Parliament to fill the vacancies created by the resignation of the MP's joined from national lists of the various political parties. The process is to complete within a time frame of six months.
Technocratic Government will have to develop action plans to be debated in the Parliament and approved in a simple majority. The Technocratic Cabinet of Ministers will continue till the end of the term of the Parliament as an interim arrangement to overcome the crisis. Once the current situation is under control and the economy shows resilience, the Constitutional Council can call for elections.
Proposals for a new Constitution compatible with the 21st Century
The Constitutional Council (CC) is responsible for developing a new Constitution for the country and the next elections held under that Constitution. To draft a new Constitution, CC will nominate an inclusive group of eminent persons representing the cross-section of all communities subject to the Parliament's approval. A Constitutional Assembly constituted inviting the public to express their opinions and views as independent citizens, not protecting the interest of political parties who want to thrive in their political industry serving the self interest above the nation's interest. The President will call for a referendum to adopt the new Constitution by the people.