Where does Sri Lanka stand today in managing the crisis it is facing? Superficially it appears that the President is moving forward successfully in managing the crisis regardless of the obstacles posed persistently by the opposition political parties and trade unions. There is some truth in it, but I do not perceive it as the complete truth. Even with firm determination coupled with necessary knowledge and acumen in managing the crisis, it is only a certain distance that could be pursued alone. Hence, a large amount of unity and integration at the political level is indispensable to overcome the entire crisis facing the country.The crisis that Sri Lanka is facing has reached a point where the reformation program initiated to solve it has to be perfected by including other significant aspects, if any, which have been overlooked or ignored, and carried it forward uninterruptedly. Even a change of the government at this stage that may disrupt the continuity of this process could result in pushing the country to a great destruction. It implies that if the people want to change the government, even an election for that should be held under a common program created by the majority consensus at the political level. In this process, the constitutional responsibility of the new government should be to continue the reform program that has been established by common consensus.
No matter who comes to power at the next election, a reform program that is unalterable and possible to be carried forward without interruption could be adopted only by making the two major elections aimed at causing the transfer of ruling power also an essential element of the same reform program and also making the entire reform program a mandatory component of an interim constitution adopted exclusively for the purpose as was done in South Africa. Then, not only the current government, but also the next government that comes to power following the election should work in accordance with the terms specified in the interim constitution.
President Ranil cannot carry this burden alone for long
The need for a common/concerted effort
The reform program should not be a program of the President alone. It should be a program negotiated and reached with a common consensus of all political parties and groups joining the common reform program. All the basic and main issues in Sri Lanka are in a completely dilapidated or weak state. In this backdrop, it would be possible to identify at least some basic reforms that will serve as the necessary transformative and driving force to stand up with confidence and reach a general consensus to implement them. To achieve that and also to overcome the fragmentation and collapse of the social system, reforms can be made to give equal human dignity and equal rights to all the groups and communities that constitute the social system.
It is also extremely important to bring about reforms to end the oppression and discrimination based on caste system. Along with that, reforms can be introduced to remove the existing anxieties between ethnic groups, religions and gender groups. Similarly, introducing reforms to safeguard the rule of law remains one of the main conditions to be fulfilled to ensure a wholesome and profound change in the subject of governance. For that, it is essential to make the Head of State, the President subject to the law and to confer the power of review to the judiciary: authority of the courts to examine the actions of the legislative, executive, and administrative arms of the government and to determine whether such actions are consistent with the constitution.
People’s representatives and government officials should be proscribed and prevented from transacting business with the government which is contrary to the law. It would be possible to create a situation where corruption can be suppressed positively by strengthening the Declaration of Assets and Liabilities law and revising the existing Commission to Investigate Allegations of Bribery or Corruption following the model of the Independent Commission against Corruption (ICAC) in Hong Kong or the Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau (CPIB) in Singapore.
A desirable change can be made in political parties, professional organisations and trade unions by introducing rules and regulations leading to ensure the practices of internal democracy in them. Other necessary reforms may also be included in the program. If an early election is required, that too, could be included in the reform agenda. The reform program can then be made into a two-phased operation linked together by an interim constitution. The reforms program can be completed with the formulation of a People’s Participatory Constitution
Future of the country
Such a reform program will not fall spontaneously from the sky. The Government could produce a rough plan or a prototype for it, and after a public discussion it can be made into a comprehensive framework that will be acceptable to all. An international organisation like the United Nations can be made an observer of the reform program to give it international recognition. Further, a suitable country can also be selected to play the role of a facilitator if required.
What could happen if the country’s political parties fail to reach a common agreement for a reform program? I can claim myself to be an objective critic who has been watching carefully about the turning of the cogwheels of the socio-political system of Sri Lanka for a long time, and studied it extensively and made a prediction about a great danger that may befall on Sri Lanka, which in fact has come true. The prediction I made persistently and with a firm and unwavering voice was that if the necessary reforms were neglected and avoided continuously, there will be a big breakdown in the entire system of Sri Lanka and eventually the country will be plunged into a state of bankruptcy and anarchy. It is an idea that I have expressed unequivocally in every public address and in many written articles published by me for about three years.
However, my prediction has come true not with the same intensity as I have forecasted, but in a slightly different way. For whatever reason, Sri Lanka did not fall to the bottom of the abyss during the crisis. Instead, it got stuck halfway in a lump in the middle of the abyss preventing it from falling into the bottom of it. Consequently, Sri Lanka has got a rare opportunity to prevent itself from being dragged into the abyss; and if it wants to, Sri Lanka could come out of the dilemma by reawakening the critical wisdom which it has lost and making a strong concerted effort. That is the only way to overcome the challenge that Sri Lanka is facing. President Ranil cannot carry this burden alone for long. If he does not receive the support of the others, at some point, the Government along with Ranil and the opposition political parties which, without smearing the ugly dirt on their bodies, could have supported a reform program acceptable to everyone, but failed to do so, and the whole country will fall into the bottomless abyss.