Sri Lanka News

The most talked about news on Sri Lanka

Will President Rajapaksa show courage of his convictions?

Constitutional and legal expert Rohan Edrisinha wonders whether the President will move away from the Mahinda Chinthana, in the national interest

In a recent interview with business programme BENCHMARK, legal and constitutional expert Rohan Edrisinha raised a host of issues pertinent to MOUs, the peace process and the putative north-east de-merger. Will President Mahinda Rajapakse risk antagonising the JVP and JHU by moving away from commitments made by his party in the run-up to the last presidential election? Would he be willing to supersede the Mahinda Chinthana in the national interest? Will he have the courage to do all of this – feeling, perhaps, that he is entitled to do so?

Edrisinha, the Director of the Legal and Constitutional Unit at the Centre for Policy Alternatives (CPA), commenting on the recent MOU between the SLFP and UNP, said that as the two main political parties have agreed to collaborate on a cluster of issues the UNP would essentially remain in the opposition.

“But they will work with the government on specific issues, so there will be a working majority in parliament to deal with those issues. The hope now is that the President will not feel dependent and beholden to the JVP and JHU – and, therefore, be free to adopt more flexible policies… particularly on issues vis-à-vis the peace process and governance,” he told BENCHMARK.

However, Edrisinha observed that the text of the MOU was “rather vague” and “ambiguous”. He surmised that the actual implementation of the pact would have to be worked out over time, emphasising that whatever impact this MOU is to have on governance would not be made manifest in the near term.

The Senior Lecturer at the Law Faculty – University Of Colombo also told BENCHMARK that he was “a little concerned” that the UNP had accepted the logic of the government on the 17th Amendment to the Constitution, without insisting on its full implementation.

“I think it is really shocking that an important constitutional amendment, designed specifically to promote good governance, has been observed in the breach for such a long period of time,” Edrisinha opined. He noted that the government tends to justify its failure to address this issue by dint of citing certain shortcomings in this vital piece of legislation. But the constitutional expert advocated a view that the amendment should be adhered to, first – and then, the shortcomings could be duly dealt with, he recommended.

BENCHMARK noted that the once-hackneyed phrase “a federal solution” appears taboo with the government – with even President Mahinda Rajapakse shying away from talking about ‘unitary’, ‘devolution’, etc. vis-à-vis power sharing. In response, Edrisinha noted that in most countries where this model is relevant, federalism is seen as a way of working towards preserving the unity of the country.

“Unfortunately, in Sri Lanka, federalism has been attacked by people who suggest that federalists are actually aiding separation. I think that in years to come, we need to understand that people who advocate federalism are really working towards preserving the unity of the country. Sooner or later, they will have to come to terms with a federal type of constitutional arrangement as the basis for a political solution to the island’s ethnic conflict,” he postulated.

Commenting on the Supreme Court’s recent ruling that the merger of the Northern and Eastern Provinces was invalid in law, Edrisinha asserted that the issue was essentially a political one. He told BENCHMARK: “Whether we like it or not, it is very clear that the merger of the north and east is fundamental – a main demand of all Tamil political parties, not just the LTTE. So if we are to have a negotiated political settlement to the conflict, it must necessarily include a joining of the north and east.”

He inferred from this that the Supreme Court’s decision is going to make a final solution to Sri Lanka’s ethnic conflict “that much more difficult, now”. Edrisinha conceded that from a strictly legal perspective, one might agree with the reasoning of the Supreme Court; but viewed from a political perspective, he intimated that this makes movement forward – especially on matters that had appeared resolved up to now – that much more challenging. The legal expert also suggested that a tinge of populism was evident in the Supreme Court’s ruling on this politically-sensitive matter.

Responding to a query as to whether a redrafting – or even an entirely new – Ceasefire Agreement (CFA) was a possibility to be explored, Edrisinha said: “However much we may like to have a new CFA, the political reality is that introducing a new agreement now would be enormously difficult.” He suggested, however, that an attempt should be made to “salvage what exists of the current CFA and, then, build on that”.

Commenting on the peace process, the CPA director also told the widely-watched business programme: “The widespread popular disenchantment with the peace process of the Wickremesinghe government had much to do with the fact that the whole process was seen as not attaching enough significance to issues of human rights, democracy and pluralism. I hope these issues are seriously addressed when we do get round to the next phase in the peace process.”BENCHMARK is presented by LMD and produced by ‘the wrap factory’. It airs on TNL every Sunday at noon, with a repeat at 9.15 p.m. -Financial Times


November 15, 2006 - Posted by | Media Journalism, News and politics, South Asia

No comments yet.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: