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Letters


Paradise Island Sri Lanka

January 28, 2007 will be written in Sri Lanka’s history books as one of the most dramatic events in the political arena and it was all because of Ranil.

Ranil may be the excuse that is being used to defect but the reality is that these strings of jumbos, federalists, green-blooded politicos couldn’t resist the plum portfolios and perks that Mahinda, the genie was ready to offer.
It seems quite a waste of any reader’s time in drawing attention to the history of corruption and misdeeds that these defectors have been party to not to mention the parliamentarians in the government. It is rather like a big tea party where all the merry men and women have now joined to fill their stomachs at the expense of the public. That really is the ground reality and undoubtedly the truth of the matter.

What will the ardent UNP vote base now say? Some of these voters can only see green and are oblivious to any other colour in the political arena. Will they excuse the defectors and put the blame on Ranil? What good would it do anyway?

The carpet has slipped from Ranil’s feet and some of UNP’s best men are now holding very lucrative positions in the ‘Chinthana Government’. The very one they were laughing at not so long ago.
The genie is definitely having the last laugh even though it will eventually be at the expense of the poor public who will once again have to suffer to upkeep the lifestyles of these new ministers, non-cabinet ministers, deputy ministers and possibly more defectors for whom the genie has still kept some vacancies. Would it not be amusing if even Ranil as Prime Minister of Sri Lanka in the Chinthana government!

What any voter today should take serious note of is a simple truth. ALL politico’s have no principles, no shame and certainly no integrity.
With the present reshuffling Sri Lanka has the most number of ministers in the Asian region. India with a population of 1.1billion has only 73 ministers.

Pakistan with a population of 168 million has just 16 but Sri Lanka with a population of only 20 million has 104 ministers (46% of the total membership of the House are ministers – 104 out of 225)
What more can we expect from sons and daughters of avarice!
Shenali Waduge

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Open letter to Bryan Nicholas

In a letter to the editor published in ‘The Nation’ of January 28, 2007, Bryan Nicholas professed nephew of the late President J. R. Jayewardene addresses an ‘Open Letter’ to Mahinda Rajapaksa, current President of Sri Lanka, who governs under the 1977 Constitution fabricated by his Uncle Dicky.

Bryan Nicholas is concerned that roads are closed whenever the Presidential entourage and that of ministers get onto the roads. Bryan has obviously forgotten that no vehicular traffic was permitted past the J.R. Jayewardene residence in Ward Place, Colombo. Pedestrians were questioned by security and directed on alternative routes. Even the sick on their way to hospital were not allowed.

Bryan is cheekily addressing his request to the first in the Land, whereas it should be directed to the Inspector General of Police who has to answer for the safety of the executive head of Sri Lanka and his ministers.
Presently there is a security problem. A failed Attempt was made on the life of the Army Commander, Major General Sarath Fonseka. The LTTE foolishly had a swipe at the life of the Pakistani Ambassador because his country supplied arms and weaponry to Sri Lanka. The supply still continues. India is bashful and diffident because Tamil Nadu is cautious. India does not want two sovereign states in Lanka.

J.R. Jayewardene having had his Constitution passed by Parliament commented that the document gave him all the power except the power to transform a man to a woman. Utterly cocky with all that power in his pocket he did not realise that his power was confined to a Lankan Yankee Dick as he was nick-named was an admirer of the USA. He despised giant India. Not satisfied with his victory he ventured out to insult India’s Prime Minister Indira Gandhi. In laconic abuse he called Indira Gandhi a “cow” and her son Sanjay her “calf.” The allusion was to India’s venerated animal the cow.

The abusive remark got to the ears of Indira. She lost no time in meeting out retribution to arrogance and decided to destabilise the Lankan government. Young Prabahkaran a Sri Lankan was picked up with friends in Madras where he was absconding in search of greener pastures. With the promise of hoisting him to greatness in Lanka, Indira gave him and his associates a training in guerrilla warfare which he greedily lapped up in readiness to destroy the Sri Lankan polity.

If he were to lead Tamils to the promised land he had to break with other ethnic groups and set himself as the sole leader. A terrorist problem was born in peaceful Sri Lanka.
Progressively all contenders for Tamil leadership were physically eliminated, including many TULF members and its leader, former Opposition Leader, Appapillai Amirthalingham.

Having recited Prabhakaran’s doings this writer hopes that Bryan Nicholas will free himself of all misgivings. He undoubtedly must be aware that a war of attrition is on and shouldn’t give advice that would create chaos and a state of anarchy and lawlessness in the land which is maintaining relative peace.

In the context of bedlam and a state of pandemonium that will arise with Bryan’s advice it will be easy to assassinate any leader. Those in the pay of the terrorist will not balk at committing any felony.
Douglas Samarasinghe
Dehiwela

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The role of the Opposition

In a parliamentary democracy an inherent feature should be the existence of a dynamic and vibrant opposition. The Opposition performs two roles; namely, it seeks to expose the deficiencies of the government and secondly, to ultimately replace the government. Gilbert Champion having in view of a two-party system defines the Parliamentary Opposition as, “The party from the time being in the minority, organise as a unit and officially recognised, which has the experience of office and prepared to form a government when the existing ministry has lost the confidence in the country.”

Sir Ivor Jennings observes that, “The duty of the Opposition is to oppose .... that duty is the major check which the Constitution provides upon corruption and defective administration.”
Harold Laskie points out that two and only two parties are essential for a successful functioning of parliamentary democracy viz. the Party in Government and the Party in Opposition.

An effective Opposition generally means an Opposition which performs two basic functions in the set up of Parliamentary Democracy. Firstly, to provide constructive criticism and corrective to the policies and programmes of the party in power and secondly, to show that it is able to form an alternative government when the party in power goes out of office.

Thus, the concerted action of the Opposition is one of the surest means of controlling a government. The responsibility of the Leader of the Opposition and the Members of the Opposition is to be objective and pertinent in their criticism.

Another functional role of the Opposition is that of innovation. This means that, the representation of new groups or interest and as a spokesman for their demands and the adoption of new ways of organizing or mobilizing voters. In this situation, the Opposition with a dynamic Leader of the Opposition should be able to harness group loyalties in the interest of the nation.

Thus, an effective and a dynamic Opposition generally means an Opposition which performs the functions of Parliamentary Democracy by constructive criticism of the policies and programmes of the Party in power.
In analysing the ‘Role of the Opposition in Sri Lanka’, since independence, it would be prudent to note that to date we have had 13 Parliaments meaning that we have had 13 Oppositions. Since Sri Lanka is a parliamentary democracy with a multi-party system, the Leader of the Opposition is always the Leader of the Party who holds the most number of seats in the Opposition.

Going on this tradition from October 14, 1947, from the time the first Parliament under the House of Representatives was established to the time of the 13th Parliament currently in session we have had 16 Leaders of the Opposition. This does not mean that we have had separate 13 individuals as Leaders of Opposition. Dr. N. M. Perera held this position in the first Parliament from October 14, 1947 to April 8, 1952 and in the 3rd Parliament from April 19, 1956 to December 5, 1959. Then S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike assumed the role of the Leader of the Opposition from June 9, 1952 to February 18, 1956. In the 2nd Parliament C.P. de Silva performed this role from March 30, 1960 to April 23, 1962 for a brief period in the 4th Parliament. Then we see Dudley Senanayake becoming the Leader of the Opposition from August 5, 1960 to December 17, 1964 in the 5th Parliament. Sirimavo Bandaranaike was Leader of the Opposition in the 6th Parliament from April 5, 1965 to March 25, 1970. Under the 7th Parliament which incidentally becomes the House of Representatives and the first National State Assembly under the first Republican Constitution of 1972 from June 7, 1970 to May 18, 1977, J.R. Jayewardene was Opposition leader.

During the 2nd National State Assembly and first Parliament (8th Parliament) under the 1978 2nd Republican Constitution, A.Amirthalingam was the Leader of the Opposition from August 4, 1977 to October 24, 1983 and thereafter, Anura Bandaranaike was Opposition Leader from November 8, 1983 to 20th December 20, l988.

From March 9, 1989 to June 24, 1994 in the 2nd Parliament (9th Parliament) Sirimavo Bandaranaike was the Leader of the Opposition. Gamini Dissanayake functioned as Leader of the Opposition from August 25, 1994 to October 24, 1994 and thereafter Ranil Wickremesinghe performed the role of the Leader of the Opposition from October 28, 1994 to August 18, 2000 and from September 14, 2000 to October 10, 2000 under the 3rd Parliament (10th Parliament). Ranil Wickremesinghe performed the role of the Leader of the Opposition from October 18, 2000 to October 10, 2001 in the 3rd Parliament (11th Parliament). Ratnasiri Wickremanayake and Mahinda Rajapaksa were leaders of the Opposition from December 18, 2001 to January 31, 2002 and February 5, 2002 to February 7, 2004, respectively under the 5th Parliament (12th Parliament). In the 6th Parliament (13th Parliament) which is currently in session Ranil Wickremesinghe is performing the role of the Leader of the Opposition. The role of the Opposition in real terms is the role of the Leader of the Opposition. The Leader of the Opposition in a Parliamentary democracy is the ‘Sun’ around which all other parties in the Opposition revolve like planets. As the rays of the sun, an opposition leader should be able to cast his rays on the Opposition to make it a binding unit to confront the government as and when required. For this purpose a Leader of the Opposition should be dynamic, vibrant and if the requirement arises should be able to take on an oppressive Government headlong even by leading the people to the streets.
Nihal Ratnayake
Dehiwela

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The right to dissent by an MP

The right to dissent is an essential pre-requisite for a democratic society. This right should be exercised not only by citizens but by MPs as well.

In more than 34 countries MPs are permitted to dissent from their party decisions even to leave the political parties from which they are elected. In these countries MPs cannot be expelled from parliament for voting against party dictates.

There are two main theories of representation:-
1. The Free Mandate Theory (F.M.T.)
2. The Imperative Mandate Theory (I.M.T)
In F.M.T. MPs can exercise a free mandate in the national interest. In some constitutions there is specific provision which reflects the Free Mandate Theory.
Eg:- 1. French Constitution Article 27 states, “Any mandatory instructions shall be null and void. MPs shall vote according to their personal opinion.”
2. Swiss Constitution Article 91 states, “Members of both Councils shall vote without instruction.”
The I.M.T. specifies that MPs are obliged to act in accordance with the mandate they received from their voters. The issue of the reflection of the wishes of the party does arise even in the imperative mandate theory.
There are several reasons why the Free Mandate Theory, sometimes referred to as the theory of uninstructed representation, is preferred to the Imperative Mandate Theory or the Theory of Instructed Representation.
One reason is that the IMR theory s impracticable. It is impossible for voters to be aware of the MP’s views on all issues. It is immoral, for it demands the sacrifice of judgment and conviction of the representative in favour of others. It will adversely affect the quality of the legislature. Persons of superior intellect and integrity are unlikely to seek election.

It undermines one of the most important functions of the legislature, in a representative democracy. Parliament is meant to be a ‘Deliberative Assembly’.

The dangers of ignoring the deliberative function of Parliament, is reflected in a observation by a Jurist:
“Indeed, as Burke rightly saw, it would result in an absurd state of affairs in which the determination precedes discussion, in which one set of men deliberates and another decides, and where those who form the conclusion are far away from those who hear tile arguments.

It seems clear, therefore, that the Free Mandate Theory enables Parliament to realise its full potential as the paramount lawmaking institution, and as an effective check on the executive branch of government. That is why the free mandate theory has been accepted in most liberal democracies. There had been judicial recognition of the Free Mandate Theory in a number of reported cases.
Anton Fernando

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