SPEAKER, A SYMBOL OF DEMOCRACY - MANGALA | Daily News

SPEAKER, A SYMBOL OF DEMOCRACY - MANGALA

The Constitutional Council is primarily aimed at de-politicizing the state and public service, and within the brief period that it has been in operation, it has proved to be successful in its intended objective, Minister Mangala Samaraweera said.

He said Sri Lanka drew as much praise and applause as they did both from citizens and the international community than on the occasion of the passage of the 19th Amendment to the constitution in 2015. “In fact it is the greatest single achievement of this house in recent times and it stands as President Sirisena’s single greatest achievement since his election to office in January four years ago.” During the adjournment debate on the Constitutional Council in Parliament yesterday Finance and Media Minister Mangala Samaraweera said when at some point in the future Sri Lanka pauses to reflect on history this piece of legislation perhaps stand as a milestone and beacon that heralded change in Sri Lanka towards good governance and strengthening of democratic institutions that facilitated our nation’s advancement as a strong vibrant and stable democracy and prosperous and peaceful nation.

“The 19th Amendment that was signed into law on May 15, 2015 and I believe only one member of this house opposed this motion by the then Speaker Chamal Rajapaksa and after being voted by virtually every single member of this house was not the personal agenda of a single person or a group of individuals. It was a dream for many years that finally came into fruition.This was the realisation of the vision and the will of the majority of our people who are pro democratic and progressive minded. It was a result of a movement that a broad collection of people breathed life into.”

He noted that this was a huge victory for Sri Lanka considering the time the judiciary operated on what he termed as telephone judgements, adding that the judiciary was controlled by remote control where all judges were appointed by one single man. All ministers were chosen by that same man and in that time the executive, legislature and judiciary all operated in service to this one man. “If you were with that man you could never be charged or convicted whatever crime. However, if you ever went against that man or his family, you could be charged and charges were fabricated against you, even accused of terrorism sometimes and convicted or worse,” adding that during that era, the man was invincible and the country was helpless.

“However, in November 2014 Maithripala Sirisena as the General Secretary of the SLFP risked his life and brought this self made god to his knees. We know what a huge sacrifice Maithripala Sirisena, the General Secretary of the SLFP made to bring this freedom to our country and we must appreciate it. All of us united under his leadership, defeated that man on January 8, 2015 and ushered in a new era of true democracy, liberty and independent institutions to this country. Under our government we fortified our nation’s constitution against the tyrants of tomorrow. We took politics out of the appointment of judges and took key government ;positions and created a political process where representatives of all political and eminent persons from civil society would vet judicial candidates.

For the first time in decades, judges of every level could travel the country and the world with their head raised high. It became clear to the public that they were nobody’s lapdog, that their appointments and promotions were removed from politics.

Today, independent judges give independent verdicts. One former Member of this house has already been sentenced to death for a number of murders,” Samaraweera noted.

The minister stated that the independence of the judiciary is clearly evident and even a former DIG has been sentenced to death for running a contract killer squad.The former president’s secretary has been sentenced for misappropriating public funds.

“During the 56 days in which Mahinda Rajapaksa purported to serve as Prime Minister, we all got to see what their intentions really were. Several police officers and witnesses involved in cases against ‘budding flowers’ received calls suggesting that they put their lives and the lives of their families before their commitment to their jobs. Suspects waltzed in and out of the FCID wearing shorts and t-shirts. A man under investigation for robbing our national airline was reappointed as the head of that airline.”

Then, he said all of a sudden, after the October 26 attempt to seize power was ripped apart by an independent judiciary on the Court of Appeal and Supreme Court, they realized that their true enemy was the very existence of an independent judiciary, and the Constitutional Council and its chairman who guard that independence.Suddenly they realized that the judges and the Speaker will not bow down to their threats.

Samaraweera noted that an independent judiciary, or an independent Speaker, is a deadly poison to the Rajapaksa way of governing. “Such critical positions must be entrusted with “Sahodarayas” in their world, not patriots like Karu Jayasuriya who will put the country above all else.

The President and Prime Minister must be proud of having promoted a Speaker who is the symbol of democracy in this country. This former army officer does not travel around the island climbing on stages, thumping his chest and bellowing about how much he loves this country. Instead he shows us how much he loves it by fighting to defend and strengthen our democracy,” he said.

This is also why, he said, they are targeting and maligning the Speaker, Karu Jayasuriya. They learned the hard way that he is fearless, honest, and truly independent.

“It is no secret that, since the establishment of the Constitutional Council, our country has witnessed a remarkable improvement in the quality of delivery of justice. I am confident that this is a cause for pride for our learned judges themselves when they interact with their peers in other countries. As the Hon. Speaker has clarified, seniority, while being one of the criteria employed by the Constitutional Council in nominating and approving persons for appointment, is not the only criteria. For a country to develop, meritocracy is essential.

If, on occasion, the Constitutional Council had not approved a nominee submitted by the President, which had resulted in the President having to submit fresh nominations to the Council, this is not a reason to feel slighted. It must be a reason for the President to feel proud that our democracy is becoming stronger. This is what checks and balances are about. This is what democracy is about. This must be a reason for pride to see that what one set in motion is actually yielding the intended results. If an impasse were to arise in the course of business, then the Constitutional Council and the President must work together to find a solution rather than engage in action that would exacerbate a situation. This, to me, is the beauty of democracy and what sets us apart from an autocracy or dictatorship.”

Samaraweera in his address said that since January 2015, the elected representatives of the citizens of this country have managed, despite hindrances and obstacles, to achieve remarkable progress in terms of strengthening systems of checks and balances, thereby curbing unbridled power vested in the executive. Some of the mechanisms that have been set up, such as the Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka and the Police Commission perform a commendable role in protecting the rights of the citizens and empowering them. “This, in turn, strengthens us as a nation.”

The Human Rights Commission in particular, which has been accorded Grade “A” status by the Global Alliance of National Human Rights Institutions, has become an institution that all of us as Sri Lankans can be proud of, said Samaraweera, adding that, “Any reversal of these good governance gains will not only make our citizens suffer in the hands of autocracy, it will isolate us internationally and plunge Sri Lanka into isolation once again. It will have a detrimental impact on Sri Lanka’s potential for economic development and the achievement of prosperity that all our citizens yearn for and deserve.”


 

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