By Yoshitha Fernando The cost of living, cost of development and various other costs are what everyone talks about today in Sri Lanka. Basic survival has become a heavy burden on the average citizen. Eking out a meagre living in very trying circumstances in a country recovering from a close to three decade war on [...]

Sunday Times 2

Does Sri Lanka need a new constitution?


By Yoshitha Fernando
The cost of living, cost of development and various other costs are what everyone talks about today in Sri Lanka. Basic survival has become a heavy burden on the average citizen. Eking out a meagre living in very trying circumstances in a country recovering from a close to three decade war on terror is no mean feat. And so, the politicians have decided everything will be hunky dory with a new constitution.

Left party leader from the opposition meet the President to discuss the new constitution.

Why the powers that be figure reinventing the wheel as it were, will end the struggle for all of the average citizens of this country is a mystery. Why is there a need for a new constitution? Cannot the existing one be amended, just the parts that seem to ruffle the feathers of a few and give or take executive powers from the position of presidency and hand them over to the provincial councils if that is what is really needed? Why spend money, time, energy and resources consulting “experts” and all sorts of foreign “specialists” who seem to want something “extraordinary” for Sri Lanka, even more than what they are experiencing in their own systems? Is it out of the goodness of their hearts, one wonders.

Globalisation has lost its appeal, democracy as we know it, is on a downward spiral and nationalism under benevolent dictators is gradually becoming the norm in the world today. People in many nations have taken a stand and demanded an end to mass corruption by a few in power. There is a call for developing strict social norms, enhancing customs and traditions, enforcing less working hours and more family time, working towards establishing sustainable energy sources, establishing wholesome education systems with more playtime for children, environmental conscientiousness and developing traditional trades, arts, crafts, cuisines and all that is indigenous, preserving resources etc. in many societies across the globe.

But for Sri Lanka, the “experts” promote regression, i.e. “devolution of power” to the minorities, facing a “national problem”, who apparently require more privileges than the majority for “peace and reconciliation”. Segregation of land based on ethnicity and religion is how this objective is expected to be achieved.

The “majority” is expected to “share” their portion of the country with all and allow privileges to the “minorities” in selected areas so as not to be deemed “racists”. And the best way to go about it, according to all the experts from “developed” Western countries and their local counterparts “selling” this concept to our powers that be, is to have a spanking new constitution with federalism. It is apparently needed in order to enable “peace and reconciliation” and alleviate the distrust which was deemed the cause for “terror” during a 27 year period. However, it is noted that the people ran away from their “liberator” to live amongst the “racist” majority for safety or even from the country itself to get away from the wrath of the self-effacing “freedom fighters” or terrorists. Therefore, how segregating people based on ethnicity brings about peace and reconciliation is beyond this writer’s comprehension.

There is a need to amend the redundant aspects of the existing constitution, i.e.

  • have an electoral system of electing citizens’ representatives from the smallest administrative sections of the country in order that all segments of society are represented in parliament. Efficient, uncorrupt, independent representatives will then be voted in by the relevant constituents
  • do away with many layers of elected officials of Pradeshiya Sabhas, Village Councils, Town Councils, Municipal Councils, Provincial Councils etc.
  • enhance the administrative services with professionals who are knowledgeable, dedicated and efficient to carry out the required work.
  • develop national policies for relevant aspects of governance and for resources with strict timelines, key process indicators, bound by law, which are strictly enforced.

The country has been running very well for almost a year without some layers of bureaucracy/elected officials and there is no reason why this cannot continue, albeit with a more structured system.
We survived spineless leadership in the face of terror which prolonged armed treason and rampant crime reigning supreme with the spoils of war shared on all sides, while the average citizen was scarred for life or dead trying to outrun the terror. We voted out the almighty power that ruled with an iron fist, in spite of threats of abductions, torture, intimidation and even death and disappearances of dissidents. We persisted for over 2,600 years and will survive beyond 2,600 years more with or without our “fair weather friends” who are trying to manipulate us towards a future of instability in order to control our resilient people and this region for economic gains, our strategic location and to use our many resources to their advantage.

The whims of various Western dictates, which appear to be feeling slighted by this tiny inconsequential island eradicating terrorism when they cannot fathom how to in spite of all their pretensions, it seems, is a “ransom” of a new constitution or else it is indicated that without their investments and with their sanctions, our country is expected to “wither away”.

Stop wasting our precious assets on a new constitution to appease these few, as ulterior motives which will adversely affect all our citizens will never allow for successful implementation. The people of this country will rise united to make a change for the better, against all adversity. A glance back at our recent history for evidence of that probability reiterates the power of the vote, even though it only seems to have changed one set of talking heads to another set, without a lot of action to show for it, this time.

We are a unitary and sovereign state and will embrace our diversities within it with pride not leaving room for discrimination between races, religions, castes or languages. Writing in black and white to keep our people segregated based on intangible differences will not unite, but divide us by law.

There is no need to reinvent the wheel. We need a few strategic amendments to the existing constitution. Our values should remain steadfast while we continuously improve ourselves for sustainable progression. We should not allow our values to be changed to assuage those rapacious few with various ulterior motives.

Advertising Rates

Please contact the advertising office on 011 - 2479521 for the advertising rates.