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.


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.


Update on Indian blog censorship

21 July 2006

BBC: India bloggers angry at net ban

Indian government lifts ban on websites

Slashdot discussion on subject


Hello world

18 April 2006

I am an advocate of radical social and political reforms for Sri Lanka. This blog will shock most Sri Lankans. Expect nothing less. I will make no apologies for the things I say here. I may play devil’s advocate and defend ideas that I don’t personally endorse, but I will not mention which are which.

Reformation vs. Metamorphosis

The social/economic/political problems this country is facing cannot be solved by any single administration because solving them will take longer than the maximum term any administration can serve. It cannot be done in six or even twelve years. At minimum, it will take one generation — approximately 25 years.

Political and economic reforms by themselves will not solve the problem. The core of our problem is social. The political and economic systems that we’ve allowed ourselves to get trapped into are a symptom of this core problem, not its cause. Ours is a problem of ideology — the way we think. Until that is changed in a drastic and radical way, we cannot hope to sustain any sort of political or economic reform even if we manage to actually implement them. What we need is not reformation, but a complete, gradual metamorphosis.

Reformation: Personal and Systemic

A society is reformed through two converging movements of reformation: one, personal reformation and two, systemic reformation. Neither can achieve any lasting success without the other. A brilliant social/economic/political system will fail in the hands of scoundrels. Even the most virtuous person will be eventually broken by an improper system.

There are different degrees or levels in each type of reformation. For example, it’s easier for you to change the way you brush your teeth each morning than to change your deepest beliefs about good and evil. Similarly, it’s easier to change the way a license application form is processed at a government office than to change the constitution or develop a new one based on new moral principles. Between these two extremes (under both types of reformation) we get a whole spectrum of reforms of varying degrees of difficulty.

I believe that we should start at the lower levels of each of the two ‘avenues’ of reformation. That is the realistic and practical thing to do. Dramatic changes will be quickly reversed if either the people or the ‘system’ is not ready for them. Lasting changes depend on firm foundations, not on coups or revolutions. When revolutions DO work, it’s because they’re the culmination of years of foundation-laying.

The biggest challenge in making reforms is to not choose the wrong ones. No reform at all is better than a bad reform.

Comments: Please send comments, thoughts and ideas to greenhornet.lk AT gmail.com. I may choose to either ignore them, answer them, post them on the blog in part or in whole, expand on them or refute them, depending on how relevant I think they are to my objectives.