The Constitutions and their subsequent amendments since Independence have progressively regressed into ones purely to suit the Government in power at the cost of democracy and will of the people. Even the requirement of a 2/3 majority for amendments were abused by the buying of votes for positions and money, questioning the suitability of those elected to Parliament and also the fitness of the elected representatives and their Governments to govern, where the will of the people was subservient to the will of the 2/3 members in Parliament voting for the amendments. Subsequent ruling cabals ensured that both Constitutional amendments and new Constitutions were designed for their longevity, rather the basic purpose for which the Constitution is written or interpreted by Law.
Firstly it is with regret that a majority of MPs in the current parliament were themselves responsible for some of the amendments passed flouting all democratic traditions, such as the now much maligned 18th Amendment. It is the case of asking the Fox how to protect the hen house from Foxes!
It is therefore important that the people directly, present their views on what MUST be enshrined in the Constitution so that there is at least a chance that the final draft before the House, will reflect society’s requirements, and not merely a smoke and mirrors attempt at fooling the masses yet again.
Sri Lanka’s recent history has been dogged by conflict in both the North and South, that has resulted in over 250,000 deaths directly attributed to them, ostensibly for different reasons but essentially the same, when one reduces it to the basics, which is this: “The needs and aspirations of a significant minority (disaffected students are also a minority) have been ignored, leaving open their grievances ripe for exploitation, by an opportunistic few”
It is also now commonly accepted that most legislation since independence took the Country backwards instead of forwards, in an attempt to correct perceived flaws in previous Constitutions and Constitutional Amendments, which have actually resulted in barriers to economic development, resulting in the state of the nation today. It is ironic that the only true contribution to the growth in the recent past, of the US$80B inward remittances in the last 15 years has had no assistance from any amendment in the Constitution, and has been generated (though at a high social cost) independently of Government!
In short Government has been the reason for slow growth, and the ruination of the Economy. Putting it simply, without elected government and ONLY the enforcement of the rule of laws already in place would have been sufficient to have taken Sri Lanka to the level of high GDP by this stage.
The change in the language policy, for purely political gain, immediately stopped the fluency of the Citizenry in English, which is seen as a severe impediment to our Global contribution today. Even our citizens in foreign lands would have had a chance of higher earnings with such fluency.
The increasing employment in the Public Service, not out of need, but out of pure Political Expediency has saddled the State to an unimaginable degree, that has both impacted the efficiency of the Public Service, but more importantly deprived the Private Sector of the needed labor to grow. A country with 250,000 vacancies in the private sector, with NO takers is evidence of this treachery. Ironically, politicians have fooled the people into believing that the provision of Govt. jobs is a good thing and take credit for increasing employment in this sphere! With a significant minority having such an opinion, it is still used for political gain, making it very difficult to change public perceptions.
The option of increasing the wages currently offered to fill vacancies will result in the whole payroll structure having to be revised upwards, and so the alternative is to close the businesses and move to Countries where there is labor at lower rates.
The two examples above are shown merely to illustrate a point, that unless old attitudes are replaced in their entirety, a new Constitution will merely go the way of the old, adding to the woes instead of being visionary and relevant to the times.
Stakeholders whose opinions are essential
There are arguments that the Constitution MUST provide guarantees for certain minority groups, to protect them from abuse by the majority. I completely disagree with the logic there. Actually only the citizen’s rights should be enshrined, and all are entitled to the same rights, be they young, old, women, racial groups, castes, religion, sexual orientation and disabled to name a few.
So for example, this means that reasonable attempts within the means of rationality, must enable disabled people to enjoy the benefits that normal people do. It is not the Constitution that must determine that a certain size of location provide disabled access, or Companies with certain employee numbers that is left to Legislation which can from time to time, be amended according to need and economic strength of the society. This logic should hold true for language rights too without having it enshrined in the Constitution.
So for example when at present we show Buses with destination in three languages, legislation may deem it more practical that it be ONLY in English, so that if the letters are sufficiently large, they can be seem from a far, assisting those commuters in identifying location, more than at present. This compromise may be more acceptable to all instead of ONLY showing it in Sinhala. The current system of having it in all three DOES NOT SERVE THE PURPOSE of having a destination board! It cannot be read from afar making it truly worthless! (Legislation made by those who don't travel in buses)
A significant stakeholder for whom the Constitution is relevant, as it is being drafted with their interests at heart (or it should) Youth born after 1990, who are now coming up to 26 and who would be 76 or less in 50 years when it is mature. Currently their needs are not included, as there is NO mechanism of identifying them and including them, as this age group has few who are able to communicate this effectively, partly due to relative immaturity of our education system in developing these skills pertaining to civic rights and obligations.
The significance of this need is LOST on those who are drafting the Constitution, as they are not as tech savvy as this new generation, and are unable to understand what it is that the future generation wants. IN them there is NO racial, caste, language, political divisiveness.
What does that mean? There is NO NEED in the Constitution to look at the current flaws in the system and correct them, as it is a completely new concept, even devoid of political parties. The two party politics does not mean a hill of beans for the youth of today, and in fact it has been the bane of our legacy, which I have shown above to have caused such misery in Sri Lanka. What is relevant in the UK is not necessarily relevant here.
Our youth want a trusted person to send to parliament, not a person from a particular political party. It is something only the PM understands at present, and one of the main planks of the National Government Concept, that NO OTHER Country on earth has adopted. Hurrah for Sri Lanka to be the first. It is time that the Constitution reflects that and permits people to seek office on their own merits, to represent their Constituency as being the person most likely to assist in ensuring his electorate is key in his personal priority in parliament.
The new technology embraced by youth MUST be taken account of in all matters of Constitution making, as it is going to have significant influence on the way we live, vote, make decisions, and behave towards our fellow citizens.
After all what is the Constitution for? It is simply a set of rules by which the Country is governed. In exceptional conditions in order to live amicably with our fellow nations, the Country is subservient to International Treaties it signs such as the UN Charter, which permit interference in our affairs, if it is shown that we have broken conditions of that, and we are sometimes bound by external courts, such as the ICC, to which Sri Lanka is currently not a signatory, but should be soon.
We must go back to basics here and set up the rules as it relates to the next 50 years, where all voting will be electronic from our finger print or more sophisticated identification mode, smart phones where we can vote on any legislation from any part of the world, if we are citizens of Sri Lanka, a privilege NOT currently allowed to the 2.5M Sri Lankan citizens living overseas.
These are sea changes in procedures, that are not even thought about by island mentality legal fossils currently in charge of drafting. We can therefore (all citizens) vote on each bill, not the MP, and ensure that the legislation is far more democratic than at present where only partisan self-interest is enacted!
It is quite clear from the aforementioned preamble, that we should NOT merely prepare a Constitution to correct the mistakes of the past, and tick off one by one once we have done so, in the belief that all past mistakes have been corrected, so the new Constitution will be better than all that have gone before.
It is time for a complete re-write and for this task, get the best and brightest of the Nation under age 25 to write it, and it can be amended by those with knowledge to cover the shortfall that ensures the flaws of this draft are corrected.
In this way, the New Constitution, will be a document in keeping with the times, presented by those who will have to live under it for their lifetime, fully corrected to take account of past fundamental errors, and be a visionary document enshrining the ONLY 3 main ingredients for life, clean water, clean air and clean food. This is the ONLY route for the survival of this Island into the next century.