Some constitutional proposals

30 January 2008

The following PDF document is a compilation of constitutional and legislative proposals for Sri Lanka from several sources: Some constitutional proposals for Sri Lanka

Readers who have read the original APRC majority report may find a few of the proposals familiar while others are wholly unconventional (e.g. the Department of Government Invigilation and the method of electing the Regional Council).

Table of Contents of the document 

1. Explanatory Notes

1.1. The nature of this document
1.2. Principles
1.3. Notes on the Parliament
1.4. Notes on the Executive
1.5. Notes on Regions
1.6. Notes on Regional Governor
1.7. Notes on the Civil Service
1.8. Notes on Revenue
1.9. Notes on the Department of Government Invigilation
1.10. Notes on the Concurrent Exercise of Powers by the Central and Regional Governments

2. Nature of the State

2.1. The Republic
2.2. Language

3. Fundamental Rights & Limits to Government

3.1. Laws
3.2. Life
3.3. Property
3.4. Universal Suffrage
3.5. Religion, Beliefs and Ethnicity
3.6. Freedom of Speech
3.7. Privacy
3.8. Transparency
3.9. Separation of Powers

4. The Legislature

4.1. The Parliament

5. The Executive

5.1. The President

6. The Judiciary

7. Regions
7.1. The Nature of Regions
7.2. Regional Council
7.3. Governor
7.4. Regional Courts

8. Elections

8.1. Conduction of elections

9. The Police

9.1. The Police Commission
9.2. Regional Police
9.3. The Central Police Agency

10. Taxation

10.1. Collection of Taxes

11. The Civil Service

11.1. Appointments

12. The Department of Government Invigilation

12.1. Purpose
12.2. Appointments
12.3. The Office of Records
12.4. The Auditor’s Office
12.5. The Office of Public Evaluations
12.6. The Office of Investigations
12.7. The Office of Prosecution
12.8. The Office of Operations

13. A Partial Legislative Program for the First Administration

13.1. Departments
13.2. Need based subsidies
13.3. Motor traffic
13.4. Littering
13.5. School accreditation
13.6. School maintenance and funding
13.7. Tax voting
13.8. Crime

14. Concerns Pertaining to the Proposals

Note that this is not a final document and that implementation details (especially numbers) may vary depending on practicality and conditions prevailing. Authors do not expect some proposals to be politically feasible in the near future.

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Politicization and personal choice

23 January 2008

An excerpt from this article.

I like the Lexus LS 460. I also like Dell computers. Many other people have a different set of preferences. Some might prefer a Cadillac and an HP computer while others prefer a Chrysler and IBM computer. With these strong preferences for particular cars and computers, we never see people arguing or fighting in an effort to impose their preferences for cars and computers on other people. There’s car and computer peace. Why? You buy the car and computer that you want; I do likewise and we remain friends.

There’s absolutely no reason for car and computer choices to remain peaceful. Suppose our car and computer choices were made in the political arena through representative democracy or through a plebiscite where majority ruled. We would decide collectively whether our cars would be Lexuses or Cadillacs or Chryslers. We also would decide collectively whether our computer would be a Dell or HP or IBM computer.

I guarantee you there would be nasty, bitter conflict between otherwise peaceful car and computer buyers… How would you broker a peace with these parties in conflict? If you’re not a tyrant, I’m betting you’d say, “Take the decision out of the political arena and let people buy whatever car and computer they wish.”

The principle applies to most choices that don’t involve the government in its TRADITIONAL roles (justice and defense). The way to minimize conflicts is to allow for PERSONAL choice instead of group choices.


The rise of TV intellectuals

28 November 2007

Attention seeking ‘TV intellectuals’ are increasingly replacing real intellectuals in the Sri Lankan media. These ‘intellectuals’ are often featured in group discussions on TV and interviews on the radio. The usual format involves a group of chairs set in front of the camera. In one sits the host while the others are occupied by various ‘intellectuals’ who a) blame all problems on the standard ‘bad-guys’: the West, businessmen, modernity and the younger generation, and b) are more concerned with demonstrating their (alleged) intellect and learning rather than educating the public (notable exceptions exist).

These are not debates. No dissenters are invited to the panel. No opposing viewpoints are entertained. There is no one to challenge the dominant viewpoint. The ‘discussion’ is really a group of individuals patting each other on the backs in the absence of any meaningful resistance while play-acting at being intellectuals.

Arguments are brought in to explain why every aspect of our culture is somehow superior to the western versions, be it language, society, customs, sometimes even scientific progress. For example, a university academic appearing on a certain TV show took several obscure phrases from Buddhist scripture and interpreted them as descriptions of light modulation (LASERS), knowledge of the difference between the speed of light and the speed of sound, and knowledge of distant interstellar objects. This absurdity is frightening as it came from a PhD holder. Neither the host nor the callers chose to challenge the claim.

The West is represented by examples taken from the worst and the most deviant segments of western society and is compared against imaginary local virtues. The West is painted as decadent, drug-dependent, TV-addicted, consumption-driven, AIDS-infested and materialistic for Sri Lankans who have never set foot outside the country or have no accurate knowledge of western life. Sri Lanka is painted as a country of ‘cultured’ and ‘hospitable’ people molded by Buddhist values. This illusion, however, is not entirely robust. All but the most delusional Sri Lankans know the following unspoken truth: all the ‘vices’ that exist in the West exist here too. Only in the West it is done in the open; here we do it in hiding. Drugs and pre-marital sex are the best examples.

Excluding a few notable exceptions of genuine intellectuals, most TV intellectuals are transparent in their motives. The entire exercise is an attempt to compensate for self-esteem deficiencies by playing a make believe game of erudition: the stereotypical TV intellectual adopts a slow, deep, saint-like voice and assorted mannerisms that are conspicuously not present off-air. He also tends to quote religious scripture and provide religious rationalizations for his arguments in at attempt to both demonstrate his ‘holier-than-thou’ status and to inoculate his arguments against criticism. The technique, pioneered by a recently founded religio-nationalist party, is now alarmingly common: the argument is presented with a religious coating. Any attempt to counter the argument is portrayed as an attack on the religion. For example, the said political party publicized all criticism against it as ‘threats to the religion’ or ‘attempts to split the Order’. It is only one of the tools in the pop-intellectual’s repertoire.

The callers who gravitate to such TV shows are often a variant of the same type of attention seeker. Most such callers unknowingly embarrass themselves on air by attempting to demonstrate their own intellect instead of posing questions. Before or after a token question which they do not expect to be answered anyway, they launch into long monologues in an attempt to mimic the pseudo-erudition of the panelists themselves. Often, they have to be interrupted by the host. It is difficult to determine what is more embarrassing: the shows themselves, or the fact that they continue weekly with little or no public laughter or outcry. As a gauge of viewer intellect, the popularity of these shows is saddening.

It is the duty of a true intellectual to broaden the public’s minds and open them to newer, bolder ideas that they would otherwise fear to consider on their own. Yet these pop TV intellectuals are doing the exact opposite in an insidious way: even crude, prejudicial viewpoints are given intellectual ammunition in the form of obscure, convoluted arguments that the average person cannot decipher. Viewpoints that would not even hold under a mere common-sense attack, such as racism, religious supremacy and oppression of individual freedom, now have pseudo-arguments to back them up.


Polarization & Swing Voters

26 November 2007

For any market place to work properly demand must be proportional to the QUALITY of that which is demanded. If we think of voting as an economic activity, then clearly we in Sri Lanka have a market failure, in that our preference for a political party (the demand) does not seem to be strongly tied to its performance in government (the quality of the supply).

Sri Lankans’ irrational loyalty to their preferred political parties, their blindness to the blunders committed by politicians of their respective parties while only finding issue with blunders of the opposing party, is hampering the proper operation of democracy.  Sri Lanka does not have a sufficiently large swing voter base compared to developed nations. Where party loyalty is inelastic, an election does not make sense. Instead, you merely have to take one census of party loyalty and base all future political appointments based on that proportion. This is the value of swing voters. It is the swing voters who punish politicians who fail to deliver.


Education and Maturity

5 November 2007

The goal of education is to equip children with the ability to effectively function as an adult. I believe this process involves two things:

1) Endowing practical knowledge and skills
2) Cultivating a proper mindset

Most crises are due to a lack of the latter than the former. When we think of the former, we think of things like the sciences, humanities, arts and practical/technical skills. Arguably, our (Sri Lanka’s) education system may be deficient in dispensing these to the general population. Yet we see time and again that, even in cases where a good education is present the person tends to be deficient in other ways. In fact, one may observe that certain personality/character deficiencies are MORE common among the highly educated than the average person. This may very well be due to an imbalanced education: education where the improvement of skill and knowledge is sought at the expense of mindset.

While many educators would agree the need for both knowledge and mindset, there are differences in opinion as to what should constitute mindset. Socialists/communists/totalitarians would like to create a citizen who is docile and holds the good of the state and the ‘will of the people’ above his own. A religious dogmatist would like to create a citizen who is pious, selfless and commits himself to unquestioning servitude in the name of that particular religion’s highest good.

Therein lies the danger of this second goal of education. If we are in any way uncertain as to how we should approach it, we should not approach it at all. A purely knowledge/skill based education is better than a one that creates an improper mindset. We should avoid “mild brainwashing” at all costs.

Maturity

We may attempt to discover aspects of the proper mindset by considering what the goal of education is: to equip a child with the ability to effectively function as an adult. By this, we see that one necessary aspect of the required mindset is MATURITY. The hallmark of maturity is the ability to do what one knows is beneficial despite one’s emotions; and conversely, the ability to not do what should not be done, even under compelling emotions. As children, we all learn BASIC maturity: that we cannot have every toy we see in a shop window; that we need to study even if we do not like it; that we cannot eat sweets for breakfast. Beyond this, differences of individual maturity begin to emerge. Some will refrain from cheating, even if they feel like it and opportunities present themselves; others will not; some will afford equitable treatment even to those they personally dislike (other ethnicities, for example); others will act on their dislike; some will make it their own responsibility to earn their livelihoods; others will prefer handouts, and will work only because the alternative is starvation.

One of the ways in which this country’s destiny may be changed is to endow the next generation with maturity: train them to not act on destructive emotions; teach them that nobody is fully immune from destructive emotions (e.g. hatred/dislike of other ethnicities/religions; fear of government); teach them that the discomfort of enduring such difficult emotions without acting on them is the price we pay for civilization (as opposed to living in the wild); teach them that with practice, such discipline becomes second nature and cease to feel like ‘discipline’. Perhaps then we may see and end to our ethnic crisis and our economic crisis.


A Capitalist Manifesto

12 October 2007

The author of this work has granted permission to reproduce it freely, provided that the content is neither distorted nor quoted out of context:

A Capitalist Manifesto

Note of credit: Some of the articles on this site, notably Capitalist Apologism, has drawn from this work.


Divorce

12 September 2007

If divorce in Sri Lanka had the same level of social acceptance as in America, our divorce statistics would be off the chart. Comparing Sri Lanka’s divorce statistics to that of America leads to a sense of false social superiority.

A low divorce rate is not an indicator of marital success. It is an indicator of BOTH marital success and a society’s willingness to suffer unhappiness in order to conform to social norms. In the U.S. more and more people are unwilling to be unhappy. And western societies tend to accept and support divorcees while we shun them and frown upon them, adding insult to injury. Divorce is blasphemy. People remain locked in unhappy marriages and children grow up under the influence of unhappy marriages. A civilized split is better than family strife. (It is better to seek statistics than trust the television: not every divorce in the America narrowly averts murder. Sometimes it is just “irreconcilable differences”)

But there may be another force at work. Americans in particular seem less and less willing to compromise and accept flaws in a potential partner. Many Americans are single because their standards of Mr. and Ms. Right are too high. But that part of the equation is not my concern. My concern is how the statistics lie about one of our most serious social problems. I will go so far as to say that the majority of Sri Lankan marriages are unhappy. Even if we cannot be certain of that, we can be certain of this: most Sri Lankan married WOMEN are unhappy. It is often the wife who is left “holding the short end of the stick” in a marriage. Also, in our Indian/Hindu-descendant culture, even after a divorce or breakup it is the woman who is often considered at fault. Surprisingly, women themselves perpetuate this system. Until she herself has to face family strife or divorce, the average Sri Lankan woman is the chief component in the system of ostracism against divorcees.