|Tuesday, 3 June 2003|
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A Code of Ethics for MPs
It is the experience of many Third World states that the power of politicians increases steadily at the expense of the power of the people.
This is the sad result of the politicization of a State and Sri Lanka has not shaped-up any better than most Third World states in this respect, although the democratic system of governance in this country is well over fifty years old. In fact Sri Lanka was one of the first countries in Asia to acquire Universal Adult Franchise.
However, for reasons which are complex and ramifying - some of which are well known and are the subject of public debate - Sri Lanka came to be deeply politicized. Most areas of public life have suffered this painful blight and it is to retrieve them from this malaise that the 17th amendment to the constitution was passed some months back.
The 17th amendment was not meant to be a panacea for the ill of politicization but the National Commissions which were established under it were expected to help in a big way in this task.
While it is saddening to note that the Commissions are yet to make a significant impact, some hope has been inspired by the ruling UNP's efforts to put their house in order, reportedly at the behest of the Prime Minister.
Misuse and abuse of power by politicians are a direct consequence of the lack of a sense of accountability on their part. It is vitally important that strict legal limits are imposed on those wielding and capable of wielding power. The humiliation and degradation that the public tends to suffer at the hands of some politicians could be traced to this short-coming in our legal framework. While these limitations are traceable to flaws in past constitution - making efforts, it is hoped that similar exercises in the future would address these needs.
Meanwhile, we welcome the UNP's efforts to formulate a Code of Ethics for its MPs. It is incumbent on the UNP to lead from the front in this respect and it is likely to be the wish of the people that the screws will indeed be tightened on errant ruling party politicians who tend, to take the law into their own hands, in particular.
Drawing-up Codes of Ethics or Conduct is one thing, implementing them another. Our sad experience of the past is that very little effort is made to enforce these codes. However, it is the wish of every citizen that a new beginning would be made to put our house of state in order. We call on the UNP's ruling hierarchy to make a clean break with the past and to crack the whip on those politicians in their ranks who breach the laws of the land.
However, the public too has a vital role to play in the safeguarding of its rights and interests. Over the years the local public has come to depend very heavily on politicians for the satisfaction of a variety of needs. Although this too is a measure of the degree to which Sri Lanka has been politicized, some improvements can be made in this regard.
For instance, we do not see any reason why politicians should be allowed to play a prominent role in social events. Nor should their succour be sought in spheres where collective solidarity among the people would help in relieving the people's lot. These are some roads to relative public independence.
Produced by Lake House