The next steps | Daily News

The next steps

The Supreme Court on Thursday delivered the highly anticipated verdict on the dissolution of Parliament as per a Gazette notification issued by the President. The Court ruled that the dissolution of the House was unconstitutional, as the President can do so only after the lapse of four and a half years into a Parliamentary term.

All political parties have respected this decision, regardless of their own viewpoint on the dissolution. This is a good sign that restores our faith in the political system despite the recent incidents of acrimony witnessed in Parliament and elsewhere. There were occasions in the past when the houses of Supreme Court judges were pelted with stones after they gave verdicts unfavourable to the Government in power.

Thursday’s verdict is yet another instance of the Courts ruling against the Government in power in recent times. The credit for creating a climate for courts to function independently must go to President Maithripala Sirisena, who promised independence for the Police, Judiciary and the Public Service upon his ascension to the Presidency in January 2015. The President has humbly accepted the verdicts of the Courts, regardless of whether they were in favour of or against the Government’s actions. This too is a welcome sign.

The separation of powers among the Executive, Legislature and the Judiciary is a time tested principle in functioning democracies. These checks and balances are necessary to curb any excessive use of power or authority by any of these instruments of the State. It is essential to retain these features of our democracy lest the people lose faith in the governing structure. There is a healthy debate in our society and in the media on whether Sri Lanka needs a Presidential or Parliamentary system of Government but what matters in the end is that one component should not become too powerful.

It is also heartening to note that in spite of the recent political developments, there were almost no acts of violence apart from the sad deaths of two Ceylon Petroleum Corporation employees. Leaders of all political parties must impress upon their supporters and activists the need for calm and restraint, regardless of the outcomes in Courts and Parliament. It is quite acceptable to celebrate what is perceived a victory by one camp, but it must be peaceful. A few black sheep who overstep the boundaries of decency can ruin the reputation of a party or individual.

It is into this category that those who created an unruly scene in front of Lake House on Thursday night belong. This posse of provincial level politicians, who were probably acting on their own without any instructions from their leaders, tried to attack Lake House employees and worse, even forcefully grabbed a crutch from a disabled individual who was passing by with the intention of attacking someone with it. The timely intervention of a policeman saved the disabled person from falling over on the pavement, which would have resulted in certain injury. The UNP has promised an inquiry into this incident and stern disciplinary action against any UNPers involved. Indeed, any individuals in any party who do not respect the rights of the disabled, leave alone their other offences, must actually be barred from politics for life.

All political parties must ensure that their members behave responsibly, respecting the rights of all others. There should be no place in modern politics for violence as we are a mature democracy now, where recent elections have been conducted without any major incidents. We must set an example for other countries in the region where election and political violence is the norm rather than the exception.

It goes without saying that the present political impasse must be ended soon, at least by end January next year as some of the lawsuits filed in connection with the various political developments have been postponed for that month. Many options have been discussed – a referendum, a General Election or even a Presidential Election. A Presidential Election makes no sense at the moment because according to the Supreme Court verdict, whoever becomes President will have to work with the present Parliament for nearly two more years.

It has been pointed out that there is a way out for the Parliament itself to circumvent the four and a half years rule – by calling for dissolution with a two-thirds majority. Given the fracas and the bad blood that were evident during recent Parliamentary sessions, going in for a brand new Parliament may be a sensible option. Granted, a General Election is a very costly exercise for an emerging economy like ours, but that could be one of the options. That way, the people will be able to decide on a new Government to guide their fortunes for the next 5-6 years. If such an opportunity is granted, political parties as well as voters must ensure that only educated, honest, hardworking men and women are sent to the Hallowed Chambers to speak on their behalf. This will start a new political culture in the island. 


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