ISSN: 1391 - 0531
Sunday February 24, 2008
Vol. 42 - No 39
Columns - Lobby  

The right man in the wrong place at the wrong time

By Chandani Kirinde, Our Lobby Correspondent

Former Auditor General S.C. Mayadunne

Procrastinate on an issue long enough and leave it to die a natural death. That has been the attitude of this Government towards many an issue that it has been confronted with in the past two years be it the issue of human rights violations, cost of livng, devolving power and now the appointment of the Constitutional Council (CC).

Strangely a government that is suddenly passionate about implementing the 13th Amendment to the Constitution which became law more than 20 years ago; it is far less enthusiastic about implementing an equally important constitutional amendment – the 17th, which was unanimously passed into law in 2001 with the aim of depoliticising some important institutions.

In fact the Government has been side stepping the issue since the minority parties in Parliament agreed on former Auditor General S.C. Mayadunne as their consensus nominee to fill the last remaining position in the 10 member CC.

Chief Government Whip Jeyaraj Fernandopulle was the first to state that Mr. Mayadunne is unqualified for the post as he has been employed as a consultant to the two Parliamentary oversights committees, the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) and the Committee on Public Enterprise (COPE) since his retirement and is paid for by the Treasury for his services. Mr. Fernandopulle’s contention is that since Mr. Mayadunne is employed under the Secretary General of Parliament, his appointment to the CC would compromise the integrity of the Council which is also entrusted with the task of appointing the SG.

Maybe what has gone against Mr. Mayadunne is the timing of his nomination, particularly because the term of the present Secretary General of Parliament is due to lapse in March after which a new SG has to be appointed. Given the importance of this appointment and opposition allegations that the Government is interested in naming a person of its choice prior to the setting up of the CC as the new SG, Mr. Mayadunne, with all the accolades he has earned from people from all sides of the political divide for his honesty and integrity, may be the right man but sadly at the wrong place at the wrong time.

It is not every day that the JVP and the JHU would agree on anything with the TNA but in this rare instance they have agreed on naming the former Auditor General to the CC and if his nomination is rejected by the President, it would mean the CC may not be appointed for a along time given the fact that these parties would take a long time to find another consensus candidate.

The JVP which was very vocal in parliament last week in expressing its displeasure that the Government is delaying appointing the CC. “The argument that Mr. Mayadunne is unqualified because of the position he is holding as a consultant is a very weak one. Every person who has been named has held some position or the other in the past and if one goes by the government argument, only a child born yesterday will be suitable to hold a position in the CC “JVP parliamentary group leader Wimal Weerawansa said.

Opposition leader Ranil Wickremesinghe too spoke out on the need to speedily appoint the CC now that the one nominee who’s naming was what caused much of the delay in appointing the CC, has been sorted out. “The Government knows it cannot interfere in the workings of the independent commissions if the CC is appointed which is why it is delaying it”, Mr.Wickremesinghe said.

Be it investigations into killings of MPs or allegations of bribery and corruption, no investigations can be concluded in a fair manner until the CC is appointed, he said. In his election manifesto “Mahinda Chintanaya”, President Rajapaksa pledged that he would attend Parliament once a month to endorse the responsibility that the President has to Parliament. Even if he does not attend Parliament monthly, the President now has the opportunity to prove the responsibility that the Executive has towards the Legislature of the country by appointing the CC without delay.

Procrastinating on its appointment will certainly take the heat off the issue in a few weeks but it will undermine some very important government institutions such as the judiciary, the police department and the public service, the people ‘s faith in which are declining rapidly.

It has taken 20 years, but the Government now says the much maligned 13th Amendment which created the Provincial Council system is the best way of devolving power in the country. We can only hope that it won’t take 20 years for them to realize the importance of implementing the 17th Amendment to the Constitution.

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