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Does Sri Lanka need a Magna Carta?


We did not experience any political or military coups in Sri Lanka. Burma, Pakistan and Bangladesh all had military coups in the past, but Sri Lanka has been protecting its democratic tradition and rule of law until Mahinda Rajapaksa came to power.







by A Sri Lankan Patriotic from London

( November 3, 2018, London, Sri Lanka Guardian) In old days, kings in England thought they had divine rights to rule. Kings exploited people with land taxes and levies. People’s freedom and liberties were limited. They were forced to live as salves in those old days in England. People fought for their basic human rights and liberty. In 1215, King John of England agreed to compromise and reconcile with church leaders and barons. As result of this compromise a peace treaty was singed between king John and the rebellious barons of his time. This was called Magna Carta or Maga Charta: the great charter of liberty and freedom. This charter was designed as a “practical solution to the political crisis” King John faced in 2015. One of the main principles of Maga Carta was “everybody, including the king, was subject to the law and it is argued that Magna Carta remains a cornerstone of British constitution and Parliamentary system. It has been described as “The greatest constitutional document of all times- the foundation of the freedom of the individual against the arbitrary authority of the despot”. Since establishment of this Charter, kings and public developed some kinds of mutual understanding. Moreover, this charter laid some legal and political precedents to be adopted in successive ruling system in British politics. It is argued that US constitution is designed on the political and legal values derived from Maga Carta.

Many European countries managed to put their politics right. The most important component of the success of the western civilization are “democratic tradition, the rule of law, freedom, liberty, and civil society”. All these political concepts are developed in many western countries and yet, we in third world countries do not have such historical democratic traditions. We Sri-Lankans need some disciplines in our politics. We must follow rule of law in Sri Lanka. We do not have any historical document such as Maga Carta in Sri Lanka and yet, we have been protecting democratic traditions for more than 70 years now. Even before the independence, we had some good political and administrative systems based on British westerniser political model. Unlike many other Asian countries, we have been protecting democratic traditions since independence. We did not experience any political or military coups in Sri Lanka. Burma, Pakistan and Bangladesh all had military coups in the past, but Sri Lanka has been protecting its democratic tradition and rule of law until Mahinda Rajapaksa came to power. He changed all democratic traditions and introduced some dictatorial traditions in Sri Lankan politics.

There is no point in hiding those facts. The entire Sri Lanka knows how and why he manipulated political, legal, economic and administrative made up of Sri Lanka. Since he came into power, democratic traditions and the rules of law are buried under the carpet. Politicians are bought and sold in public market for money from one political party to another to win the majority in Parliament. This is nothing but a mere political deception. This is nothing but mere political fraud. Unfortunately, this is done openly in this virtual world of modern information technology. Unlike in the past, politicians cannot hide their wrong doings in these days. Social networks, and media expose all these political corruptions every minute so, they cannot hide them now. The entire world knows what they do and how they do it.

What is happening in Sri Lankan politics these days clearly illustrates that we do not follow any democratic traditions and rule of law. From the executive president to ordinary local councillors in Sri Lanka do not respect democratic traditions and rule of law. Each politician takes law into their hands and manipulate letters of the constitution to suit their political greed and power grip. What takes place in Sri Lanka now is nothing but mere political manipulation without any regard to rule of law.

It is not my intention here to judge which party is right and which party is wrong, but my intention is to highlight the implications of the continuous political uncertainty in my mother land. I’m one of Sri Lankan expatriates who love to see a flourishing Sri Lanka. It is my humble opinion that Sri Lanka is one of the best countries in the world with huge rich natural and human resources and potentialities for further rapid progress and development. We would not need more than a decade (10 years) to make Sri Lanka one of the fast-developing nations (developed nations) in Asia. We could have been far better than Singapore by now, yet, unfortunately, Sri Lanka did not get good political leadership since it got impenitence in 1948.

To be honest both UNP and SLEF parties used their political manifestos to strength the political interest of their parties rather than national interest of Sri Lanka. For the last 70 years, the Sri Lankan national interest is undermined or overlooked by both political parties. Moreover, recently politics has become as a money-making machine in Sri Lanka. Politics has become a huge business enterprise in Sri Lanka. Billions of public monies are looted by members of both political parties. The so called “Yahapalana” government came into power with a promise of punishing all who are connected with corruption and fraud and yet, “Yahapalana” government become more corrupted government than any previous governments. For M. Sirisena his political survival is more important than national interest of Sri Lanka. For Mahinda his family’s political survival is more important than the national interest of Sri Lanka. I do not how and why Ranil made a terrible mistake on the central bank issue. I know Ranil is an honest and able politician than Mahinda and Maithri yet, he made some political suicide in the last 3 and half years. First, he failed to punish all corrupt people as he promised and secondly, he made a terrible mistake on the issues of Central bank. With the Central bank problem, he lost his credibility in politics. He misjudged shrewdness and craftiness of Maithri. Yet, Ranil is far better than MS and MR in protecting democratic values and traditions. His talk at Oxford union recently illustrate what kind of government he wants to establish in Sri Lanka. He has been emphasising that Sri Lankans must uphold democratic values and rules of law. Yet, MR and MS want to grab power by any means.

Maithri is making a political suicide. Maithri will be regarded one of ungrateful politicians in Sri Lankan history. He won the last presidential election in 2015 with the support of 6.2 million UNP voters. In fact, he is an UNP elected president. To go against the wishes of 6.2 million people is not acceptable at all. In fact, 19 amendment is made to limit the power of executive president. Without the majority support in Parliament he cannot remove PM as he likes. But, to protect his personal political interest, he went against his wishes of people and parliament to dislodge PM in an-undemocratic way.

Unfortunately, Ranil and his UNP cohort failed to gauge the shrewdness and craftiness of Maithri. Maithri is not a clear politician and yet, he is a good political opportunist to exploit political loopholes. He managed to make use of UNP support and some SLFP faction to be elected as a president and yet, he is ungrateful to all this support now. He is applying the political dictum that says, “We do not have eternal friends or eternal enemies in politics, but we have eternal interest in politics”. That is what exactly happening in Sri Lanka. Politicians put personal interest over national interest. What is why Sri Lanka ended up in this wrong political road map. Since the independence we could create an efficient political culture in Sri Lanka. Both parties are milking the system for their personal gains at the expense of the national interest of Sri Lanka.

Today, in this modern today, the political stability is a must for development. Without good political leadership we would have seen any rapid development in Singapore or Malaysia. Bad politicians can robe the national wealth as we see in many Middle Eastern countries. Yet, good politicians could create wonders of development in any countries today in this modern world. Singapore does not have land as we have, it does not have natural resources as we have and in 1965 GDP was better than theirs. Today, where do they stand in world economy and where do we stand in world economy? It was a good political leadership that ushered the country into right direction of development and progress. I will give you just one example to illustrate this point.

We and Singapore built national airports in 1960s, but can we compare Singapore Air port with Sri Lankan Airport today? How many flights land in Singapore international Airport today? How many flights land in Sri Lankan international airport? It is said that one of the main secrets of Singapore’s rapid development is its International Air ports. He earns millions of dollars from landing fees from European airlines that land at Singapore for refuelling. The Singaporean political leadership had a vision in their minds how to develop their country. They put the national interest over their personal interest. But what did our politicians do? They put their personal and family interest over national interest. Our politicians do not take experts advice when they do mega projects in Sri Lanka. Sri Lankan geographical location is ideal location for refuelling for far-East flight from Europe and yet, we failed to develop Colombo International Airport with all facilities to land modern big flights. Singapore with its good political leadership made use of this golden opportunity to develop their Airport and their country. Good luck for them but we do not have such efficient political leaderships to take this nation forward as Singapore does have. This is a glimpse of all other development programs. Today, political leaders could develop countries or destroy countries. Politics controls every aspects of human life in modern day. Today, each citizen engages in politics willingly or unwillingly. Therefore, each citizen looks for a good government to protect basic human rights and needs. Unlike in the past, today public knows about politics, they know about their rights, and their freedom. Politicians no longer can fool public.

It is a duty of each Sri Lankan to clean up Sri Lankan politics. University academics, students, school teachers, school students, civil societies, professional societies, monks, priests’ other religious leaders, doctors, health professionals, Engineers, accountants, civil servants, and all other public have a moral duty and responsibility to elect good MPs. Today, we do not have a viable system to elect MPs in Sri Lanka? Any one with or without qualification could stand for any election in Sri Lanka. Now we have more than 50% MPs in Sri Lankan parliament without good academic or professional qualifications. Consider Singapore parliament members. How are they qualified?

Continuous political uncertainty could ruin the country and therefore in the interest of Sri Lanka, public ought to act fast to make sure good and honest political leaders come into powers. If we do not do that, the country could end up in a dictatorial rule that would destroy the future of next generations. Failure of UNP and SLFP will be exploited by any third political parties. Today, there is no any single political party is stronger than JVP. I compare them with Imran Khan’s political party in Pakistan. No one expected his party would better in the last election, but he did. Why? People in Pakistan were fade up with two major political parties. Both main political parties did not work for public rather party members accumulated wealth and most of them were corrupted politicians. People wanted to teach them a good lesson in politics. They sent most MPS home in the last election. I compare this with Sri Lankan politicians. People are fade up now. In any future election I predict many JVP members will be elected. They have skills, qualifications, talent, above all, dedications to change the political map of Sri Lanka.

The wrongdoings and blunders of UNP and SLFP are exposed to public now. People have no confidence in both parties. People know that many MPS are crooks today. People will replace them soon with many JVP MPs in the coming election. People can no longer tolerate the political mismanagement. We are living in this modern world and politicians no longer hide the truth from publics and political systems must have honesty and transparency in this modern world. There is no place for crooks and thieves in this modern world. Sri Lanka does not need any Arab spring, but it needs some political revolution and perhaps, it needs some thing like Magna Carta type declarations to honour promise made by politicians during election campaigns. Both UNP and SLFP tell lies to win election and many election promises are broken now.

All what Sri Lankan people want is to have a good governance. People want to have a stable government to see prosperous Sri Lanka. Yet, it looks that Sri Lankan will descend into political chaos. As Shyamon Jayasinghe argues that “The Issue is not about keeping Ranil Wickremasinghe or getting Mahinda Rajapakse back, that issue can be fought in the normal battle of competitive politics. The battel can not be done through medium of conspiracy to violate the constitution and democratic process”. If MR succeeded in this political manipulation it will imprint a bad political precedent in the hearts and minds of Sri Lankan youths. It will give them a bad impression about Sri Lankan politics. Politicians will lose their respect and dignity not only among public in Sri Lanka but also among Sri Lankan forces. Sri Lankan forces will not respect political leaders if they grabbed power unconstitutionally. Sri Lankans live with consciousness of their hearts. They do not like to go against their consciousness. So, even if MR and MS formed a government, it would not last for a long time, people go against it at some points. People will not go against their consciousness to support corrupt political leaders in Sri Lanka. It is against their instinct to do so. Each Sri Lanka knows who steals public money and who loots public fund.

Therefore, I do not think that MR and MS could last for a long time. Moreover, many political parties are against them. They would not be able to sustain their rule for a long time. After all, they buy many MPs with money.

We all know that Sri Lanka is trapped in geopolitics of Asian nations. China and Pakistan have already congratulated appointment of Mahinda as a new PM. It tells us how countries around us want to make political gains from government changes in Sri Lanka. Recently, Ranil Wickremasinghe outlined some of his foreign policies in his talk at Oxford University. He outlined that there are 4 major political alliance in the world today: Western alliance, Chines and Russian alliance, Asian alliance and the Arab and Muslim countries. He argues Sri Lanka as a small country needs the help and support all these 4 political blocks. He argues that it is imperative that we maintain a healthy diplomatic and business relationship with all three blocks without ignoring any of these blocks. Yet, Mahinda does not care about this, all what he needs is power at any cost. He does not care about democratic tradition and rule of law. That is why he goes along with China to grab power in Sri Lanka with Chinese support.

I personally think this chaotic political situation will increase vote banks of JVP. I expect that JVP will get 20-25 seats in the next general election. JVP will be come one formidable political force soon with this political uncertainty. More importantly, educated youths will join JVP in thousands. That is what exactly happened in Pakistan. People are fade up with main political party and they voted for Imran Kahn’s party. That could happen in Sri Lanka too. All what JVP needs is the support of academics, religious leadership, civil groups, and other professional groups. JVP is gaining popularity day by day at speedy rate. So, there is no doubt this political chaos will give birth to an honest political force. Now in this modern age of information technology, changing the minds and hearts of people in politics is not a difficult task. Unless UNP and SLFP set good example and follow the rule of law, they will make a collective political suicide in Sri Lanka. I expect many unqualified MPs will lose their seats in the coming election. It is imperative to Sri Lanka cleans its politics soon, if we want to compete in this modern competitive world. Otherwise, we will soon become one of failed nations in Asia.
It is a duty and responsibility of learned religious leaderships to act swiftly on this issue.

It is a duty of responsibility of honest academics, political scientists, legal experts and intellectuals to guides political leaders honestly in the interest of nations beyond their personal interest.

It is a duty of military leadership to be vigilant and maintain law and order. Moreover, not to take any side in politics. They must act objectively without any prejudice.

Above all, Sri Lankan politicians of all parties should use their common sense and behave with responsibilities. They should not play with the lives of 22 million people for their personal interests. They should not think that Sri Lanka is a piece cake to eat as each political party like. All of them so have some moral duty to act with social responsibility in this crucial time in Sri Lankan political history. All this chaos begs one important question about the quality of people we send into parliament in Sri Lanka. The quality and academic qualifications of MPS have dramatically gone down in Sri Lanka. All these issues must be taken into account if we really want to see any meaningful change in politics in Sri Lanka. I hope and pray Sri Lanka comes out of this political mess soon.

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