Core program for responsible political parties
The violation of the oath to honour and safeguard
the Constitution has become a tragic joke. Hopefully,
the forthcoming Parliamentary elections will provide an
opportunity for the more responsible political parties to put
the brakes on the current culture of ever-growing impunity and to
get good governance back on the rails again. If this country is not to
go further down the road to complete disdain for the Rule of Law, there
is no choice left but for these parties to work out a consensus on at
least the more fundamental issues of importance to the Nation. An
agreement to do may be called ‘A Core Program for Responsible Political
From the time, in 2002, that the letter and spirit of the
Constitution were violated by the then President refusing to appoint to
the Elections Commission the nominee recommended by the Constitutional
Council (CC), good governance went on a rapid downward slide in Sri
Lanka. Infractions of the law by the people’s representatives at all
levels have now burgeoned into a comprehensive disregard for most of the
important checks and balances which are found in the Constitution.
The violation of the oath to honour and safeguard the Constitution
has become a tragic joke. Hopefully, the forthcoming Parliamentary
elections will provide an opportunity for the more responsible political
parties to put the brakes on the current culture of ever-growing
impunity and to get good governance back on the rails again.
If this country is not to go further down the road to complete
disdain for the Rule of Law, there is no choice left but for these
parties to work out a consensus on at least the more fundamental issues
of importance to the Nation.
An agreement to do may be called ‘A Core Program for Responsible
Political Parties (CPRPP)’. On matters falling outside the CPRPP, each
party would be free to follow its own individual policies.
It must not be assumed, as a blind article of faith, that the
Government party/parties for the time being will necessarily get a large
majority, or even a nominal majority, in Parliament at the forthcoming
In the past, there have been large unexpected swings against the
incumbent government, proving many political experts and astrologers
wrong. In passing, it may be noted that there may be a valid question
here as to which of these professionals have proved to be more reliable.
It would, therefore, be in the interests of both the country and all
responsible parties that a CPRPP be agreed upon without delay because
such a consensus for legislative action would prove equally useful
whatever the result of the elections.
If the electoral results prove favourable for a group of parties that
has agreed on a CPRPP, that group could get on straightaway with the
task of governing, without having to dither and quarrel on every single
If, as it turns out, this group ends up in the Opposition, it will be
able to act much more effectively than the Opposition has done in recent
There is, unfortunately, very little time left before the elections
are held, making it improbable that all interested political parties
would be able to find the time to sit round a table to work out an
acceptable CPRPP speedily from scratch.
Accordingly, the Citizens’ Movement for Good Governance (CIMOGG)
offers, with the object of having both a Government that respects the
Rule of Law and an effective Opposition in Parliament, to make some
suggestions in this regard for inclusion in a CPRPP.
CIMOGG’s recommends that the parties to a CPRPP commit themselves to
the following positions:
1. To act in strict conformity with the Constitution at all times.
2. To select candidates of good character, academic background and
experience, while keeping in mind the long-felt need to increase the
number of women and persons below the age of 40 in the ranks of future
MPs to at least 20-25 percent each.
3. To spend more time and effort on constructive endeavours rather
than the schoolboy- level of smart cracks, crude mud-slinging and
generally uncivilised behaviour that is now witnessed on election
platforms and in Parliament.
4. To insist that the Speaker actively works to have the 17th
Amendment, as presently set out in the Constitution, implemented and the
CC appointed with all possible speed.
5. To get Parliament to provide the CC with all necessary resources
to enable it to name without delay all members to the Elections
Commission, the Public Service Commission, the National Police
Commission, the Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka, the Permanent
Commission to Investigate Allegations of Bribery and Corruption (Bribery
Commission), the Finance Commission and the Delimitation Commission.
6. To have the Press Council replaced with a Media Commission, in
consultation with the CC, initially outside the ambit of the 17th
7. To empower the CC, outside the ambit of the 17th Amendment, to
appoint a Constitutional Reform Advisory Committee, of whom not more
than one-third shall be lawyers, to prepare a new Constitution which
will, inter alia -
a. Maximise the separation of powers between the Legislature, the
Executive and the Judiciary, with Parliament having full control over
b. Limit the number of Cabinet Ministers to not more than twenty-five
and all other categories of Ministers (Deputy, Project, District etc.)
to not more than fifteen;
c. Remove the right of the President to dissolve Parliament as and
when he wishes and, instead, fix specific dates for all elections at
intervals of either four or five years;
d. Remove Presidential immunity from prosecution;
e. Provide, as in the case of all State employees, for the automatic
suspension of any elected representative from functioning in his office
if he is faced with criminal charges, until such time as he is
f. Provide more realistic Constitutional procedures for dealing with
a President or Member of Parliament or Judicial Officer who violates his
oath or affirmation to honour and safeguard the Constitution;
g. Remove all significant shortcomings in the 17th Amendment.
8. To revoke the Prevention of Terrorism Act and lift the Emergency
9. To bring before Parliament a Right to Information bill, including
in it comprehensive protection for whistleblowers.
10. To appoint a number of three-man Committees to examine all major
items of State expenditure in order to identify rapidly the large number
of those which do not add significant value or which are responsible for
major losses, and eliminate them so that the savings so effected may be
used to cut taxation on essentials such as food, fuel and medical items.
11. To get the aforesaid three-man Committees, thereafter, to monitor
concurrently the implementation of all remaining items costing over Rs10
Million so as to check whether they are being carried out with due
regard for social justice, transparency, accountability and financial
soundness, and not wait to carry out post-mortems like COPE and PAC do.
12. To have the Declaration of Assets and Liabilities Law amended so
as to make such declarations compulsory when submitting nominations for
any elected office, with provision for annual updating, all of which
would have to be submitted through the Elections Commission to the
Bribery Commission for effective monitoring, and to have these published
on the Elections Commission web site.
13. To present a bill to provide the Bribery Commission with its own
Investigation and Prosecution Unit and all necessary resources to
examine the Declarations of Assets and Liabilities of those who are
required to submit and update them, taking into account all information
received from whatever source, and to take steps to have legal action
instituted against those who do not submit the annual updates or cannot
explain how they came by their assets.
14. To take an early decision on whether to implement the 13th
Amendment in full or have it amended or have it removed from the
Constitution, without allowing its provisions to be violated as at
15. To have a multi-party Parliamentary Committee set up with
responsibility for ensuring that the 16th Amendment (relating to
Official Languages) is implemented properly.
16. To appoint a Parliamentary Commission to recommend specific
programs to reverse the damage done to national unity by the separation
of school children into different ethnic and religious streams.
17. To get Parliament to pass laws conforming to the International
Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and its Optional
Protocol, both of which were ratified by Sri Lanka in 1976, and the
Second Optional Protocol, ratified in 1991, which would, inter alia,
protect the rights of ethnic and religious minorities, and create a
favourable ambience for building national unity.
18. To publish the full contents of the reports of all the
Commissions of Inquiry which have been paid for from State funds from
the date of Independence.
19. To pass the necessary laws and make the requisite administrative
arrangements to enable our expatriate citizens, who contribute so much
to Sri Lanka’s economy and knowledge base, to vote in the Presidential
and Parliamentary elections.
It is hoped that each of the parties with representatives in
Parliament, and even those outside, will take up any other issues that
they consider to be of similar or greater importance, before meeting
together on an early date and agreeing on as many of them as possible.
In the absence of a substantial measure of agreement on the
fundamental issues raised above, our worst fears regarding freedom of
speech, freedom to hold views different from those in power, freedom
from fear of arbitrary arrest and torture, right to life and so on may
become increasingly justified.