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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 2346

Consensual Governance in Sri Lanka

By Oscar E V Fernando

Several problems have beset this country since the crossover of a group of MP’s from the then UNP government to the opposition, thus originating the SLFP by its leader the late S W R D Bandaranaike together with another stalwart leader late D A Rajapakse, the father of the present president.

Apart from introducing national ventures in the midst of a thriving private sector left behind by the colonial rulers, there were no significant economic, ideological or political differences to cause the crossover—the real cause for which was an open secret at the time. Much water has flown down the bridge since then, and it is certainly an irony of fate that the separate waters seem to meet under the same bridge with the leadership of a Rajapakse—taking its full cycle back to square one!

With many a twist and turn of the economy, going private to national, and then from national to private, and further from a bit of private to a bit of national, the country is now heavily indebted to the world mainly because of the so-called national ‘ventures’ that some want to retain at any cost. This is the price paid for experimenting with the bullock and donkey tied to the cart of the economy!

Costly experience would show that only consensual governance that would imply a contract by both parties, based on consent, leaving the individual identities intact, of the parties that once separated will bring unity, sanity and vigilance in the south—the only way to face the growing dictatorship in the north and also develop the economy of the north, south, west and east. Fortunately it would seem that the said dictatorship has simmered down with the recent fighting—good so far and to a point, but could the fighting be sustained in the present state of our economy?

Let us hope and believe that the president is anxious to invite the major opposition for consensual governance and also invite the LTTE for talks precisely because he envisages that a war cannot be sustained for long due to our economy and also with no encouragement from the international forums including US and India. Let those who demand for war to an end as a first priority realize that no man is an island and no island can live in isolation—but however the whole world would realize that a war to an end is a must if at the end of negotiations the LTTE is stubbornly sticking to its demand for separation.

What really is lost by letting the world know that the south has given them a fair chance—it is this very chance that the LTTE leader has been side stepping from the very beginning and allowing some in the south to get caught to his trap by making them repeat and stick to the notion that during a ceasefire and negotiations, the LTTE would prepare for war—the avoidance of which is by manning the seas heavily with our navy and air force patrolling even with foreign assistance. This was so during the last CFA and the then ongoing peace process where several shiploads were caught with weapons. Prior to the CFA and the last peace process there were several crisscrossing of men and material on mid seas to play havoc in the country—the same would happen with the escalation of war that will make it difficult to man the seas with the land battle to the fore!

The UNP and some in the SLFP including the last president were for negotiations with the LTTE and also were for a private sector economy. It is certainly opportune that these two parties get together at this stage to implement such common policies.

There are certain packages beneficial to the country that one party can deliver but not the other and vice versa—this way both sides could complement each other, as long as the hard core vote bank remains split right in the middle. If this stark fact is not realized by politicians of both sides, in the context of a conglomeration of political views that has put our society into a boiling cauldron; both sides will miss the point for good. As long as the two sides are in opposite camps, the cauldron will boil to a busting point of no return—and this way, both sides will rue the day!

Other reasons for forming consensual governance are; the huge indebtedness of the country to foreigners contributing to further inflation with more debts and stagnant production; the frequently escalating brink of war; state of poverty that is engulfing the country; putting into practice global trends in regulated private sector; to contain terrorism in the north and now south; to curtails the cost and cumbersome efforts to have further elections; to ensure that such institutions as the Board of Investments and other private sector oriented establishments run with no further policy clashes; to ensure discipline in parliament, soon getting eroded with indiscipline—to maintain the dignity of the chair; to arrest the failing impression of the country in the eyes of the world; to make that clear distinction between a socialist government (may turn out to be good by itself, although it has failed the World) and a private sector oriented government—never the twain shall meet.

Further points to be met by consensual governance are; an agreement on a national policy passed by two thirds majority that can never be compromised or reversed as has been done in the past to the detriment of the country; electoral reforms doing away with the present electoral system; correcting the juxtaposed executive legislative bungle; revamping the rural sector with modern methods of agriculture so that rural youth will not be fodder for further revolts; completely de-politicize the government bureaucracy by implementing the 18th amendment to the constitution in its true form and content; this to be consequently followed by the 18th amendment; to introduce regulated private sector economy replacing unbridled capitalism so that all political parties would have consensus on the working of the economy; de-nationalize unproductive debt burdening government ventures with a stronger political will that can withstand other political uprisings; whilst maintaining the due place to the oriental languages to give a prominent place to commercial English to enable a link language in society as well as to enable youth to conduct business. Further;

Revamp infrastructure with foreign aid and soft loans instead of proceeding with the present newly introduced practice of obtaining commercial loans for infrastructural development; make immediate use of the 4.5 Billion dollars down the pipe line; with the probable solving of the ethnic issue address the consequent attention to rehabilitating cadres let lose from the LTTE and other paramilitary forces, that may otherwise swell the underworld; Take all steps to wipe out corruption--appoint a strong Bribery Commission and Police Commission; strengthen the Auditor General and COPE in parliament--give them sufficient teeth; take special steps to clean up law enforcement and regulate the administration of the judiciary; arrest the increasing religious animosity and bigotry.

It may be observed that the bigger the private sector the lesser becomes the state machinery and lesser the opportunities for corruption with tenders etc and less work for Ministries other than to concentrate on regulatory measures.

Both major parties combined can take very stern action against 'Political Trade Unionism' through military might in the absence of war--of course workers must be given their due share through regulated private enterprise.

These and much more could be put into practice with consensual governance.

- Asian Tribune -

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