Multiple organ failure
Posted on September 27th, 2017

Courtesy The Island

The Sabaragamuwa Provincial Council stands dissolved and its powers have been transferred to the provincial Governor. There is no guarantee that provincial council elections will be held in the foreseeable future in spite of a government undertaking to conduct them early next year. The yahapalana promises are like the pie crust; they are made to be broken. The fate of the Sabaragamuwa PC is bound to befall other PCs as well sooner or later. The crippling of the PC system is symptomatic of an advanced stage of multiple organ failure Sri Lankan democracy is afflicted with.

The circumstances under which the Sabaragamuwa PC has been brought under gubernatorial rule remind us of an offer made by Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga (CBK) to the LTTE after capturing power in 1994. CBK, keen to end the armed conflict through negotiations, offered the entire Northern Province to Prabhakaran for a period of 10 years without elections on the condition that the latter would eschew violence and be amenable to a negotiated settlement. Prabhakaran rejected the offer out of hand and reverted to mindless terror. The rest is history. Today, under the yahapalana rule, a province has been handed over to a governor without elections indefinitely! The entire PC system will be paralysed before long with governors exercising devolved powers.

The local government institutions have been crippled without elections. Bureaucrats are controlling them according to their whims and fancies. Only rates are collected on time and the public receives no service in return.

Lawmaking is a process where people in whom sovereignty is said to reside, the executive, the legislature and the judiciary should be able to have a say. But, the yahapalana government has now adopted a novel way of making laws while keeping the public and the judiciary in the dark. It seeks only the Attorney General’s nod for draft Bills to be rushed through Parliament!

Judicial independence has been seriously undermined. The government has hit the judiciary in the solar plexus by passing the Provincial Council Election (Amendment) Bill after stuffing it with some sections contained in the proposed 20th Amendment which the apex court deemed inconsistent with the Constitution. The yahapalana rule began in 2015 with the Executive President ‘vapourising’ the then Chief Justice.

There are complaints that the anti-graft commission does not probe allegations of bribery and corruption against government politicians and their cronies. The police continue to be an appendage of the government. Some of their special units are functioning as shock troops of government leaders who are hell bent on silencing their opponents.

The National Election Commission has lost its raison d’etre to all intents and purposes. It has been in suspended animation for a long time. There are no elections for it to conduct. Its officials, no doubt, don’t approve of the way polls are being postponed, but they are helpless as they cannot extricate themselves from the yahapalana tentacles which throttle all democratic institutions on the pretext of giving them succour.

The much-hyped Constitutional Council has become a mere rubber stamp of the government. The way the IGP and the Attorney General were appointed has left a bad taste in many a mouth. Both of them have incurred much public opprobrium for their failure to remain independent.

Only a few organs of the state remain healthy while some others are battling the scourge of political interference. The Auditor General’s Department has shown remarkable resilience thanks to its intrepid, no-nonsense head, Gamini Wijesinghe, who tells politicians where to get off. But, the yahapalana leaders are all out to enervate his department as well by throttling the National Audit Bill. The Attorney General’s Department is lucky to have some officials like the counsel assisting the bond probe commission. They have stood up to arrogant politicians and taken up cudgels for the voiceless public who have suffered huge losses due to the bond scams. The Central Bank is also blessed with intelligent professionals with integrity and courage to withstand political pressure and expose crooks in the national interest.

However, the institutional health of these outfits is of little use as they have to work in tandem with other diseased democratic organs. There’s the rub.

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