Interim government is sleep-walking back to colonial era
Posted on January 19th, 2015
The apparent fascination of the new interim government of Sri Lanka with colonialism is beginning to surface in key areas. All the promises to introduce good governance appear to have fallen victim to the colonial traps designed to fool the former colonies through brain-washing them to think and operate only within the parameters set by the former colonisers.
Two of the key measures introduced so far – the declaration of strong commitment to Latimer House principles of the Commonwealth and the establishment of an Executive Council show a disturbingly intense slavishness to colonial ideology. The new rulers seem to have forgotten that we are an independent republic entering the 67th year of independence from the colonial yoke.
It is important to note that the name “Latimer House” and the list of signatories to these so-called “principles”, announced following the 2003 Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting in Abuja, Nigeria gave good indications of the forces behind them and their motives.
The Latimer House mansion, under which the principles are named, was the original home of the Cavendish family of Buckinghamshire who represented the worst of British colonialism. The original Latimer House of the Elizabethan era was burnt down in the early 1830s and the present Tudor style mansion was completed in 1838. They were made barons by Queen Victoria, in return for their services to the colonisation of Southern Africa.
The Latimer House is now a conference centre with 44 event rooms and 147 en-suite bedrooms. It was rated UK’s second “most secret, surprising and intriguing home” on ITV television’s Britain’s Secret Homes show in 2013!
The Latimer House “principles” were not signed by a single representative from a newly independent country but by four white masters – Colin Nicholls, President Commonwealth Lawyers’ Association, Professor David McQuoid-Mason, President Commonwealth Legal Education Association, “Lord “Hope of Craighead, President Commonwealth Magistrates’ and Judges’ Association and Denis Marshall, Secretary-General, Commonwealth Parliamentary Association.
The Latimer House principles have been described in the original document as “a set of Guidelines on good practice governing relations between the Executive, Parliament and the Judiciary, in the promotion of good governance, the rule of law and human rights”.
In reality they are nothing but a scheme designed to force reconfirmation by the former colonies to remain loyal to the neocolonial designs. The principles will keep them tied to a verbose separation of powers and accountability agenda. Such priorities are introduced to distract the former colonies from focusing on economic development that will help them become truly independent.
Without expressing any such concerns however, the interim Justice Minister Wijeyadasa Rajapakshe has told The Island that the relationship among the three branches of the new government will be governed by Latimer House Principles of” Commonwealth values”. Previously, Opposition and UNP leader Ranil Wickremesinghe had advocated adherence to the same principles and core values in an article to the Sunday Times on the impeachment of Shirani Bandaranayake. He had thought it important to avoid being labelled a “pariah state” by the international community.
Such ideological slavishness to colonial ideology introduces fear in the minds of those genuinely wishing for progress of Sri Lanka as a truly “independent” nation.
The second uncritical adoption of colonial methods is apparent in the establishment of a non-representative, un-elected body of people above the level of the Cabinet of Ministers chosen from among the elected representatives of parliament.
The history of Executive Councils in Sri Lanka goes back to April 1829 when the coloniser King George IV appointed his Major W.M.C. Colebrook and Charles Hay Cameron to recommend a suitable Constitution for Ceylon. Their main responsibilities were to study the Laws of the country and to recommend necessary amendments to the existing legal system. In other words, repaint the traditional system that had been in equilibrium for thousands of years. The Colebrook – Cameron Commission travelled through the country, met with their chosen representatives such as the “trusted” Ehelepola Maha Adikaram, and made their recommendations .
The first Executive Council was formed on 13 March, 1833 by the British colonial administration on the recommendations of Colebrook-Cameron. They also recommended the establishment of a Supreme Court that happened much later in 1862. They served as the legislative body until the creation of the Board of Ministers in 1931 that was replaced in 1947 by a National Cabinet.
At its creation the Executive Council was headed by the Governor, along with five members – the Colonial Secretary, the Attorney General, the Auditor-General, the Treasurer and the General Officer Commanding, Ceylon – appointed by the Governor. The Council exercised executive power and advised the governor how to oppress the people more forcefully.
Later on the Council was expanded to include established British land-grabbers like John Reed, Johannes Godfrey Felix the Interpreter of the Supreme Court, J.P. Hilband a Burgher Lawyer, P.H. Bhird and the lackey A. Kumaraswamy the Interpreter of the Royal Revenue Commissioner to nominally represent the Tamil Community. The colonisers were of the view that the Ceylonese were not matured and knowledgeable enough to have elected representatives in the Council.
The current 2015 Executive Council, probably through ignorance than through conspiracy, is a throw-back to the original Council of the 19th century in that it has been given powers exceeding those of the Cabinet, and is made up largely of non-representative members.
The current membership of the National Executive Council includes President Maithripala Sirisena, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, Rev Maduluwawe Sobhitha Thero, Mrs Chandrika Kumaratunga, JVP Leader Anura Kumara Dissanayake, JHU leader Patali Champika Ranawaka, Democratic Party leader Sarath Fonseka, and Muslim leaders Rauf hakim and Rishad Bathiudeen, the TNA leader R. Sampandan, and Mano Ganeshan.
The only member of the Council who can boast of true representation through election by the people to head the “new era” is President Maithripala Sirisena. Rev Sobhitha and General Fonseka have not been elected in anyway and Mrs Kumaratunga and Ranil Wickremesinghe have been rejected by the people on previous occasions. The JVP, the chief rallying force behind the Council has not even contested the Presidential election and their role at the 2010 election has been limited to supporting General Fonseka.
Such a non-representative body has been given the responsibilities of introducing:
- Reforms to revive and restore the supremacy of the law;
- Reforms via the Institution to establish good governance;
- A methodology aimed at providing relief to the nation; and
- A mechanism to stamp out corruption
Speaking to media following the first meeting of the Council on January 15, the leader of the non-elected – JVP leader Anura Kumara Dissanayake has said the meeting was “successful”.
The trends are worrying. They seem to be sleep-walking to the colonial era thinking of the colonisers, introducing their administrative structures, ignoring the fundamental requirement of democracy of the need for being elected to represent public interest.
What we have at the moment is many people “piggy-backing” on President Maihripala Sirisena, on the strength of pre-election understandings. The system is likely to implode before the 100 days are over.