With the topic of reconciliation among communities in Sri Lanka keeps coming up again and again during discussions in both local and international forums, the constitutional amendments are seen as the path towards reconciliation, but nothing could be further from reality without consensus among communities. For reconciliation should be the outcome of coming to terms and finding a model to live with the cultural differences that exist on account of language, religious practices, historical prejudices and a host of other humanistic issues brought about by the civil-war.
Earlier, with the 1972 Constitution and disbanding the Ceylon Civil Service to replace it with the Sri Lanka Administrative Service; appointing political authorities to districts; ignoring the political rights of the minorities; extending the term of the government to seven years were some of the ill-considered decisions in the seventies of a government made possible with the two-third majority in parliament. Worse still from decisions taken by the 1977 government having promulgated a new republic with a five-sixth majority introduced an all-powerful Executive Presidency that consigned the Prime Minister and Parliament to the status of virtual office assistants. In order to maintain the parliamentary supermajority of the government decided to extend the life of parliament without holding direct elections in 1982. Such misuse of power increased community tensions aggravating them that led the country to in a civil-war.
In later years without adequate discussion and debate in parliament, the same government, passed the 13th Amendment to the constitution that introduced a half-baked Provincial Council governance structure. All done under duress from India that was taking in hundreds of fleeing refugees from Sri Lanka entering their shores. Further the proportional representation introduced by the government in selecting members of parliament, deprived people of the right to elect their electoral representatives.
Today, those administrations of the two governments are remembered more for the said negative impacts on democracy rather than their positives. Incidentally, these flawed major political decisions were possible for the two governments to take because they had two-thirds or more majorities in parliament. In this backdrop, people must think twice about giving any future government a two-thirds majority as it is a serious economic and political risk and certainly give the opportunity to curtail democracy rather than advance it, to increase the dependency on other nations.
As special procedure has to be followed for passing Constitutional Amendments, Bills inconsistent with the Constitution, Investment Treaties and Agreements, for which a two-third majority is required on the first reading and it should be taken not only on the second reading but also on the third reading and at every committee stage amendment should receive a two third majority vote. Such consensus were not reached when constitutions were changed in 1970 or in 1977 for in both situations people had granted two-thirds or more majority to both governments. Thus judging from history, a two-thirds or more majority in Parliament to any governing party would be counter-productive in bringing about ethical and moral behavior and advancing democracy; as it created more reversals than advances to the cause of democracy, equality and fairness.
Whereas, democratic principles will be better obeyed if a two-thirds majority or more is the outcome of discussions and consensus amongst all parties in Parliament. But consensus is attainable all political parties consider the interest of the country and leave out their self-interest including religious and ethnic partisanship as representatives of the people in the Parliament.
Whereas, at the forthcoming General Elections due in April, keeping with the long standing practise no doubt all these political parties will field candidates with its simple ‘yes’ men who have served the party in parliament to form its own inner circle and to make up the number bring in new candidates prepared to serve the leadership of the party and importantly capable of collecting votes by any means. Thus once again parliament will end up with poor quality ‘representatives of the people’ not contributing to any discussion or debate; incapable of compromise or arrive to consensus on matters to move forward as a democratic nation.
In this backdrop, with the country seeking reconciliation among communities to move towards formalising its majority rule, the government should discuss openly and with all concerned a governance model that is best suited for Sri Lanka. For reconciliation with the Tamil and Muslim communities must be based to remove their sense of insecurity caused by the power of majoritarianism forced on them for decades. The need of the day is to make political and administrative structural adjustments that would help in easing fears amongst the Tamil and Muslim communities about their safety and security, enabling them to veer away from fundamentalism and move towards moderation that would underpin the mutually beneficial relationship with the majority community. To develop a contemporary Sri Lankan political model that recognises the realities in the country with regard to its demography, ethnicity, culture and aspirations drawn from history applicable to all communities. To this the Tamil and Muslim communities in particular must work towards a political and administrative model that has the acceptance and support of the majority community.
As Head of State having declared to serve all communities the President needs to spearhead to find a model of rule where all communities could live with equality, security, harmony and pride within a Sinhala Buddhist dominated Republic. The Sri Lankan ruler’s milieu on two-thirds majority in parliament, will end when quality representatives of all communities share their thoughts to arrive at a model of governance. For this to happen all voters irrespective of the the community they belong or political party they support must return quality representatives to parliament at the forthcoming general election due in the later part of April this year. Then President will be guaranteed more than two-thirds majority in parliament for passing Constitutional Amendments, Bills inconsistent with the Constitution, Investment Treaties and Agreements, his government makes to provide a holistic rule fit for all communities in the island nation Sri Lanka.