What has Freedom to do with having more Cabinet Ministers?
I ask this because just three days before the 71st Independence Commemoration Day, the proposal has been made to have a ‘National Government’, which means more than 30 Cabinet Ministers.
Those who brought the 19th Amendment to restrict the number of Cabinet Ministers to 30, going down from the huge numbers allowed by the JRJ 1978 Constitution, are using their own trick of a so-called ‘ National Government’ to beat the people in the Cabinet race.
There is nothing national in having more Cabinet Ministers, with all the costs, crookedness and rising corruption it would involve. Can’t we just think of the real needs of Freedom, when we think of celebrating Independence?
The initial failure of Yahapalanaya or Good Governance came with that huge Cabinet, headed by Maithripala Sirisena, who is now very stingy in swearing in new ministers. It cannot be forgotten that the last ‘National Government” was made up of many who had been defeated and rejected by the people at the polls, but brought in from the backdoor by both President Sirisena and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe. SB Dissanayake, Thilanga Sumathipala, Lakshman Yapa Abeywardene of the UPFA/SLFP stand out, just as Field Marshall Sarath Fonseka of the UNP.
Is this the mockery of freedom and independence that we see growing with strength in our country, as we pretend to celebrate three score ten and one more years of Democracy?
The celebrations at Galle Face will certainly have a lot of colour and pageantry, but it seeks to hide the reality of the rapid decline in Democracy, which was the core value of the freedom we won from colonial rulers in 1948. The 21 guns should not mark the decline in freedom and democracy.
Sri Lanka is the oldest Democracy in all Asia, which began with the first State Council election in the 1930s. We obtained equal voting rights for all citizens, men and women, before some European countries, and certainly before many states in the US. But where is our Democracy today? Where is the reality of the Free Education that also came with that rise of Democracy, and where are the free health services our country and people could be proud of for at least two or more decades since 1948?
The debate we are having about the Provincial Council polls is a glowing symbol of this mockery. It was bad enough to delay the last Local Government elections to bring in a huge increase in councillors, which saw the clear direction of a President and Prime Minister united in a strategy against Democracy. They may be divided in political goals today, but their commitment against the will of the people remains.
What is this nonsense of calling for the next PC polls by May this year, and an additional clause of 25 per cent women voters? Does that not mean another parliamentary delay? What about the earlier Court ruling that polls could be held under former legislation that has not been removed. This is remembered as a case won by two journalists who gave a lead to Freedom and Democracy – Varuna Karunaillake and Sunanda Deshapriya. Is the Elections Commission unaware of this judgment?
What is the Democracy where women who are more than 50 per cent in population should be restricted to 25 per cent in Local Governments and Provincial Councils? In a world where “Me Too” is gaining ground very fast and leading to many political changes, should Asia’s oldest Democracy not realize the importance of equal citizenship? Is this the Freedom this country needs?
Nearly ten years after one major war against the State was ended, there are big noises about another war – a war against Drugs – in keeping with the Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte’s killer guided War on Drugs. Fighting the Drug Menace is of vital importance, but are there no better strategies than widespread killing? Is the fight against drugs an aspect of giving pleasure to a political leader who loves to see the hangman’s rope throttling necks again? Is this the Freedom our fighters for Freedom thought of in the days of colonial rule? It may be exciting for a political leader with rapidly declining public support, to be able to order the hanging of those drug dealers convicted to death for their offences. The death sentence given by the Courts is stalled by the same leader. Should there not be other and fresh cases to find them guilty of new ‘prison house’ offences? Is this too much of democracy to ask for after 71 years of Freedom?
How much of our Freedom and Democracy will be strengthened if the commemoration of freedom is used to free a convict – monk or any other – who has spent less than a quarter of a jail term, ordered by the Court of Appeal and confirmed by the Supreme Court, on yes- Contempt of Court?
Do we not see a trend where the Independence of the Judiciary is looked at with increased contempt by the powers of political crookedness, especially after the recent judicial defence of the constitutional rights of the people? Are we stepping on to a new road of contempt for the judiciary, with the wave of a soiled yellow robe?
The celebration of the 71st Independence Day must be with a commitment to strengthen the fight against corruption, save parliament from the corrupt forces that are making it a charade of democracy and the new seat of crookedness in power. It must be an attempt to keep alive the Spirit of Democracy that made our national leaders of the past fight for the Freedom we are fast losing, under those who are committed to the politics of corruption and violence.
Long Live the Freedom we are fast losing!