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Friday December 9th, 2022

20th Amendment: End to Sri Lanka’s Democracy: Shouldn’t it be Resisted? – Uyangoda

Opposition Samagi Jana Balavegaya activists protest against 20th Amendment

ECONOMYNEXT – The debate on the proposed 20th Amendment to Sri Lanka’s 1978 Constitution is gathering momentum. The proposal, which has been published in the Government Gazette, is indeed a constitutional bombshell, literally. Its provisions are very destructive in their objectives as well as consequences. Perhaps, the management gurus and media moguls who advise President Gotabaya Rajapaksa may have successfully converted him to the somewhat naïve and politically dangerous doctrine of ‘creative destruction.’

Objectives

Even a hurried reading of the draft 20th Amendment tells the reader that its framers are motivated by the following two immediate political objectives:

• Creation of a new office of ‘executive presidency’ and granting to the holder of that office unfettered and unchecked powers over the Cabinet, the legislature, the judiciary, the political system and society. The office of the President will once again be, as it was in 1978 and 2009, the central institution of state power which will stand above, and superior to, everything, and everybody, else in our society and polity.

• Assigning and securing to one ruling family the monopoly of political power in Sri Lanka.

Consequences:

There are many negative consequences of the proposed 20th Amendment if it is passed into law by Sri Lanka’s parliament. Some are short-term and others are both medium and long-term. It has the most destructive potential to create conditions for:

• Bringing an effective end to Sri Lanka’s much-venerated parliamentary democracy and liberal democratic traditions and institutions.

• Creating a political system in Sri Lanka similar to the one we have had under the pre-1931 colonial state, thereby ignoring and erasing all the achievements and advances the Sri Lankan people have made in term of political progress since 1931. The framers of the 20th Amendment and its well-wishers have also closed their eyes to the bloodbath which the J. R. Jayewardene project of despotic constitutionalism caused soon after the enactment of 1978 Constitution.

• Making it difficult, if not impossible, to dislodge the incumbent ruling family or whomsoever who occupies the office of President, from power by peaceful and electoral means.

• Depriving the people of Sri Lanka their sovereign right to change governments and remove rulers who violate their trust by peaceful means available within the framework of open, competitive, multi-party and electoral democracy.

• Granting constitutional sanctity to the arbitrary exercise of political power by the Executive, with only very restricted, if not non-existent, opportunities for society to exercise any control within the framework of Rule of Law which has so far been the cornerstone of Sri Lanka’s constitutionalism.

• Eventually establishing a one-party state in Sri Lanka in line with the much dreaded South-East Asian developmentalist state model.

• Making liberty and freedoms of citizens vulnerable to arbitrary executive action in a situation in which new law reforms would seek to severely restrict (a) freedom of thought, (b) freedom of expression, (c) freedom of association, and (d) right to dissent and disagree.

• Facilitating a swift transition from a weak democracy to an autocratic and tyrannical system of government.

With those consequences, Sri Lankan citizens will have to watch a rather tragic situation in which:
(a) Parliamentary democracy is used to facilitate its own negation, that is, ending parliamentary democracy itself, (b) One hundred and fifty or so Members of Parliament would be asked to sign their symbolic death warrant collectively by voting for the new constitutional amendment as envisaged by the proposed draft.

That is why the proposed 20th Amendment is politically and constitutionally so destructive. It will destroy the most precious political legacy of Sri Lanka’s modernity and progress, parliamentary democracy and rule of law, and create in its place a post-democratic leviathan.

That is why the proposed 20 Amendment should be critiqued, opposed and resisted. That is also why President Gotabaya Rajapaksa should be asked by all his critics that he also has a duty to exercise some degree of political sanity and prudence in his capacity as Sri Lanka’s ruler. (Colombo September 20, 2020)

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Sri Lanka bond yields end higher, kerb dollar Rs370/371

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka bonds yields ended up and the T-bills eased on active trade on Friday, dealers said.

The US dollar was 370/371 rupees in the kerb.

“The bond rates went up, however more interest was seen in the short term bills by the investors” dealers said.

A bond maturing on 01.05.2024 closed at 31.90/32.20 percent on Friday, up from 31.25/70 percent at Thursday’s close.

A bond maturing on 15.05.2026 closed at 30.30/31.30 percent steady from 30.30/31.00 percent.

The three-month T-bills closed at 30.75/31.30 percent, down from 32.00/32.25 percent.

The Central Bank’s guidance peg for interbank transactions was at 363.18 rupees against the US dollar unchanged.

Commercial banks offered dollars for telegraphic transfers between 371.78 and 372.00 for small transactions, data showed.

Buying rates are between 361.78 – 362.00 rupees. (Colombo/Dec 09/2022)

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Foreign minister, US ambassador discuss future assistance to crisis-hit Sri Lanka

ECONOMYNEXT — In a meeting in Colombo, Sri Lanka Foreign Minister Ali Sabry and US Ambassador to Sri Lanka Julie Chung discussed ways in which the United States can continue to support Sri Lanka going forward, the Ambassador said.

Chung tweeted Friday December 09 afternoon that the two officials had reflected on the “twists and turns” of 2022, at the meeting.

Minister Sabry was recently in Washington D.C. where he US Secretary of State Antony Blinken.

A foreign ministry statement said the two officials held productive discussions at the Department of State on December 02 on further elevating bilateral relations in diverse spheres, including the 75th anniversary of diplomatic relations which will be marked in 2023.

Incidentally, Sri Lanka also celebrates the 75th anniversary of its independence from the British in 2023, and President Ranil Wickremesinghe has given himself and all parties that represent parliament a deadline to find a permanent solution to Sri Lanka’s decades-long ethnic issue.

The US has been vocal about Sri Lanka addressing concerns about its human rights record since the end of the civil war in 2009 and was a sponsor of the latest resolution on Sri Lanka passed by the United Nations Human Rights Council. Unlike previous resolutions, this year’s iteration makes specific reference to the country’s prevailing currency crisis and calls for investigations on corruption allegations.

In the lead up to the UNHRC sessions in Geneva, Minister Sabry Sri Lanka’s government under then new president Wickremesinghe does not want any confrontation with any international partner but will oppose any anti-constitutional move forced upon the country.

On the eve of the sessions on October 06, Sabry said countries such as the United States and the United Kingdom, who led the UNHRC core group on Sri Lanka, are greatly influenced by domestic-level lobbying by pressure groups from the Sri Lankan Tamil diaspora.

These pronouncements notwithstanding, the Wickremesnghe government has been making inroads to the West as well as India and Japan, eager to obtain their assistance in seeing Sri Lanka through the ongoing crisis.

The island nation has entered into a preliminary agreement with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for an extended fund facility of 2.9 billion dollars to be disbursed over a period of four years, subject to a successful debt restructure programme and structural reforms.

Much depends on whether or not China agrees to restructure Sri Lanka’s 7.4 billion dollar outstanding debt to the emerging superpower. Beijing’s apparent hesitance to go for a swift restructure prompted Tamil National Alliance MP Shanakiyan Rasamanickam to warn of possible “go home, China” protests in Colombo, similar to the wave of protests that forced the exit of former pro-China President Gotabaya Rajapaksa.

The TNA will be a key player in upcoming talks with the Wickremesinghe government on a solution to Sri Lanka’s ethnic issue. (Colombo/Dec09/2022)

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India smogs out Sri Lanka’s China tower observers

 

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s Chinese-built Lotus Tower has halved visitors to its observation deck an official said as dirty air flowing from India triggered air quality warnings and schools in the capital closed.

“Masks are mandatory at the observation deck and roughly around 50 to 60 can go up to the observation deck at a time, time limits have not been altered and still persists at 20 minutes for observation,” the official told EconomyNext.

Prior to the smog, 120 observers were permitted at once to the deck.

However, even after limitations the Lotus Tower has continued to draw visitors, and revenues are coming in, the official said.

The tower built with a Chinese loan by the cash rich Telecom Regulatory Commission has been described by critics as a white elephant that eats the money earned from telecom operators mainly as spectrum fees.

Sri Lanka’s National Building Research Organization (NBRO) said India air heavily polluted with particulate matter was flowing across the island into a depression in the South West Bengal Bay. (Colombo/Dec09/2022)

 

 

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