Objective comments could be more effective

by Milinda Rajasekera

( March 04, Colombo, Sri Lanka Guardian)The recent comments of criticism on the government’s acts of omission and commission, from some ardent supporters of the Mahinda Rajapaksa Government, we believe, would have a desirable impact on the present administration. Eminent lawyer Gomin Dayasri has been in the forefront among those who valiantly defended and promoted the policies of the present administration.

When the government initiated its move to remove the limitation of the presidential terms to two and to modify the 17th Amendment through a new amendment to the constitution – 18th Amendment -, Attorney Dayasiri was among those who solidly supported the move. He says he had strongly supported the 18th Amendment before the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC) a few months ago as he felt the proposed commissions could help bring about positive changes in key sectors. But now he regrets that the government has been dragging its feet on the constitution of the Commissions.

He has said that the seven commissions the Public Service Commission, the Election Commission, the Police Commission, the Human Rights Commission, the Bribery Commission, the Finance Commission and the Delimitation Commission have to be quickly appointed. He points out that the activation of the Human Rights Commission would be an effective antidote to the growing attacks on the country in respect of human rights.

He says that the Election Commission should have been set up before the local government elections and expresses concern over the failure to appoint the Bribery Commission in spite of influential sections in the public and private sectors making money at the expense of the national economy. He is of the view that there should be a mechanism to investigate corruption at all levels to counter threats posed by public-private partnership in corruption, which could be a threat as menacing as terrorism.

The other government front-liner critic is none other than Senior Minister D.E.W.Gunaskera . He says it was a mistake to go into the upcoming local elections without the long deliberated and unanimously accepted electoral reforms in place. The result is that from nomination day, it is money, thuggary and intimidation exerted by criminal elements that have a chance of winning as in the past, he adds. As COPE Chairman, Minister Gunasekera claims that he had examined accounts of about 90 state corporations, state boards, authorities, commissions and all 15 universities. He adds that for the whole of 2009, the parliament had examined only nine cases as against 90 that he examined.

It is this type of objective comments on administrative affairs devoid of political prejudices that could push the country forward in achieving national goals. Such views expressed by government supporters could be more effective than those offered by the opposition most of which are aimed at gaining political party advantage. What we often observe, however, is that ruling party leaders and supporters obsequiously acquiesce in all government policies, proposals and actions without subjecting them to close examination to ascertain how far they conform to national interests.

This attitude makes government supporters pounce on opposition critics with animosity even when they offer valid and reasonable criticism on government policies. This approach, of course, is inevitable in the context of the prevailing political party rivalry sharpened by the current local government election campaign. These supporters are mindful that expression of their candid views and exposure of government shortcomings on administrative matters would be advantageous to opposition parties. Another reason for their restraint is the fear of losing their positions in the present dispensation. They are aware of the aspirations of those at the helm of affairs who want complete loyalty and support from all party members. However, it would serve ruling party interests better if the party high-ups permit and encourage constructive criticism from party members and correct their mistakes.

The 17th Amendment, as it is well known, became a reality with the blessings of all political parties at a time when good governance was declining and nepotism, corruption and abuse of power were gaining ground. There was wide public support for that legislation as people saw how the functioning of institutions like the police and elections department that required a high degree of independence and impartiality was affected. It was, in fact, considered panacea for all ills caused by the continued politicization of the administration. It was, however, a piece of hasty legislation. Certain loopholes were observed and a parliamentary select committee that reviewed it recommended remedial steps. It was at this stage that the powers that be found the implementation of this legislation would be disadvantageous to the pursuit of ruling party interests. The 18th Amendment thus saw the light of day.

Today, while those who supported the 18th Amendment decry the delay in activating it, those who opposed it condemn its provisions as they would not serve the purposes intended to be achieved through the 17th Amendment. The country is thus deprived of the fruits of a rare manifestation of good intentions shared by all political parties paving the way for narrow and selfish political interests of a minority to succeed.

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