Strong leadership is very important for any country, was proved in Singapore that was transformed from a third world country into a thriving metropolitan city in just three decades under the leadership of Lee Kuan Yew, the first and longest-serving Prime Minister of Singapore, who proved that the impossible can happen. Then under the leadership of Mahathir Mohamed, the people turned Malaysia into a rich country from a poor agricultural based economy. With his leadership ability and many dynamic reforms was able to lead the community to grow from lower to an upper level; this breakthrough was achieved in a short period of time. These are just two good example seen in the neighbourhood of Sri Lanka after it gained independence in 1948.
Sri Lanka has had strong leadership from many strong Kings and the country did prosper, one was King Parakramabahu II, whose period of rule is still considered as one of the brightest eras in the country’s history. Also the great warrior King Dutugamunu, who reigned from 137BC to 119BC from Anuradhapura; upon capturing the throne became king of the Anuradhapura Kingdom bringing the whole country under one rule. All were history with dawn of colonial rule, which impacted negatively on the people imposing drastic changes to their cultural and religious values and from which the country never fully recovered. Yet it is a fact that under British rule the economy did flourish after merger of various kingdoms and introduction of new system of rule with provision of modern system of education and health care. When the British brought to finish the colonial rule and granted independence, the local elite began ruling the country under a Parliamentary system where the Parliament became the sole instrument of state power.
Though under the one man one vote system of election the control of the government as expected went to the majority community, there were sufficient protection clauses in the constitution to protect the interest of the minorities in the country. The rulers began with a holistic rule and soon realised that the stability of government depended on the stability of the political party that exercises the unbridled power given to it by the parliamentary system. Regrettably, without accepting this reality, they began working outside the constitution, dilly dallying for almost for three decades to impact on the basic rights of the minorities.
Then the country was made into a republic with a new constitution, with it introduced a Presidential system to replace the Parliamentary system of rule; though it did give kick start to boost development activities; it failed to address the rights of the minorities due to absence of a holistic rule. This situation deteriorated with the many referred ‘Draconian Constitution’ and it was amended nineteen times and today the current political system is a mix of the two systems, i.e., the Parliamentary and Presidential Systems. The President as the Head of the Executive and directly elected by the People is responsible for exercising the Executive power of the People, while the Legislative power of the People is exercised by Parliament elected by the People at a General election. This jumble is not workable as the Executive and the Legislature represent two different ideologies and this arrangement by its very nature encourages corruption with Cabinets being formed to reward political loyalty and to consolidate political power, violating the fundamental principle of separation of powers. It happened in 2015, where the President from one party was the Head of the Executive his Cabinet of Ministers including the Prime Minister from other party drawn from Parliament.
The intention of the new constitution must institutionalize separation of power to ensure greater political stability and minimize opportunities for corruption by separating the organs of government; in addition empower the People at the Provincial level to make the devolution more effective. Already the half backed system has caused more harm than good. The current structural arrangements both at the Center and the periphery are organized to further the interests of the political elite at the expense of governance and the interests of the public. As for the periphery, the devolution of power to Provincial Councils is another political arrangement initiated to pamper the political elite in the periphery is not workable as it far too remote from the people to make a difference to their livelihoods. Therefore, it is imperative that the structure at the Center and at the periphery be all constitutionally amended to improve governance in a manner that serves the interests of the People.
For too long the ethnic and religious issues have be left to brew, for the politicians to exploit the corrupt system of rule that has dragged the country to waste and destroyed the moral of the people. It is in this scenario the country has a new President in Gotabaya Rajapaksa, who is capable to giving the leadership the country needs, to keep the less able politicians under control and do what needs to be done. Of the many reforms needed getting the present Draconian Constitution amended is a MUST, using as a basis the draft prepared already over the past four years by the constitution assembly, made up of all the politicians in Parliament in consultation with experts, civil society members and other stakeholders.