Feature Article

'Colombo teaches lessons of political culture for South Asia'

[TamilNet, Wednesday, 08 September 2010, 14:22 GMT]
The 18th Constitutional Amendment was passed in Sri Lankan parliament Wednesday with a majority of 144 votes. The Amendment, which has been passed in a rush by the government without pubic debate enables Mahinda Rajapaksa to contest presidential election for any number of terms besides bestowing additional powers in the appointments of key government posts. What is happening to state and democracy in the island of Sri Lanka is a warning to people who are deceived in the ‘democratic’ practices of dynasties and families in the rest of South Asia, political observers said. Sometimes back, a key diplomat of a leading power, looking after South Asia, tolerantly sounded that family rule in the island is typical of contemporary political culture in the region.

The timing of the visit of the Indian foreign secretary and military chief to the island coinciding with the current Rajapaksa manoeuvring heading towards one-time democracy also has raised eyebrows in political circles.

In the meantime, many Tamils are made to believe that war crimes justice and political justice would come from the powers.

In addition to removing the limits on Presidential term, the 18th Amendment gives the Sri Lankan president more powers over commissions such as Elections Commission, Public Services Commission, Judicial Services Commission, National Police Commission, Bribery Commission etc.

In the parliamentary voting Wednesday, 161 members voted for the Amendment while 17 members of the opposition, the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) excluding one and Democratic National Alliance (DNA), voted against it.

TNA Digamadulla MP P. Piyasena voted with Rajapaksa government.

The main opposition United National Party (UNP) boycotted the sittings but 17 of their members defected to vote in favour of the Amendment.

8 Sri Lanka Muslim Congress (SLMC) parliamentarians and two Tamil members elected on UNP ticket, Prabha Ganeshan (Colombo district) and Palani Digambaram (Nuwara Eliya district), who had crossed over to UPFA side, voted for the Amendment.

Meanwhile, the main opposition conducted a protest close to parliament while pro-government demonstrators rallied outside parliament in support of Mahinda Rajapaksa.

The Amendment, which obtained 2/3 majority, was undemocratic, the UNP said while the UPFA government defended the Amendment claiming that it would strengthen the powers of the SL president to expedite 'development' as if he already lacked such executive powers.

The Communist Party of Sri Lanka (CPSL) led by SL minister D. E. W. Gunasekara, Lanka Sama Samaja Party (LSSP) led by minister Tissa Vitharana and Nava Sama Samaja Party (NSSP) headed by Vasudeva Nanayakara, the constituents of the ruling United Peoples Freedom Alliance (UPFA), supported the 18th Amendment.

The leftist parties in the opposition including the New Left Front (NLF) led by Dr. Wickramabahu Karunaratne and the United Socialist Party (USP) led by Siritunga Jayasuriya, declared September 8 a Black Day.

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