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.


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.


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.


Separation of Concern

10 September 2007

Separation of concern between the legislature (parliament) and the executive (the president and the cabinet) cannot be maintained if there are links between the two – especially if both comprise the same individuals. Members of the legislature should not hold ministerial positions. I have failed to find any provisions in the Sri Lankan constitution that forbid such intermingling. It should not be allowed. The concept of Balance of Power which is central to modern democracy can only work if the powers of the legislature, executive and judiciary are set AGAINST each other. Both the legislature and judiciary should be able to question the actions of the executive. This cannot happen if the branches are friendly to each other.


Economy vs. Security

22 August 2007

There needs to be two types of government monitors among citizens: those who monitor security without economic concerns and those who monitor economics without security concerns. Using security concerns to distract people away from economic failures is one of the oldest tricks in a politician’s repertoire, because economics and security represent the two most basic concerns: one is concerned with the gaining or production of value while the other is concerned with the prevention of their loss (by values, I mean lives and property).

If we were to appoint someone to evaluate this administration’s economic performance without letting himself be influenced by security issues, he will report that economic performance is unacceptable. It is important that not all concerned mount the mainstream media bandwagon. When an issue appears on front page headlines, we automatically assume it is of highest priority. If the coverage involves an incident, then it IS of highest priority as long as the event is in progress. However, as soon as the situation subsides, coverage MUST return to long term issues. If short term issues receive too much coverage, then by the time one is finished, another would have arrived to fill the headlines. This may be acceptable to mainstream media that depend on action-packed headlines for sales and ratings. But the non-mainstream and citizen journalists must keep covering the longer term issues. In fact, some can afford to concentrate SOLELY on “standing” issues while allowing mainstream media to cover sensational news


Government as an arbiter/representative

4 August 2007

The failure of democracy in third world countries is largely attributed to the average third world citizen’s tendency to view the government as a caregiver, rather than an arbiter/representative. This is why communism is an Eastern phenomenon (most third world countries being concentrated in the eastern hemisphere).

It is not the government’s job to supply bread, water or housing. It is not the government’s job to take care of citizen’s needs. In a proper democracy that responsibility lies with each individual. The government is a third-party that comes into play when individual desires clash and an arbitrator is required. The law performs this function. The government can also be a hub for resources that are best pooled. National defense for example, is a common goal that is best vested in a single representative entity (rather than each citizen bearing arms).

When citizens become dependent on the government for needs other than this, tyranny arises. Fulfillment of needs is the bait through which tyranny takes hold. Tyranny and abuse of power can never arise in a nation where the majority of citizens understand the true purpose of government. The road to turning Sri Lanka into such a nation is a long one. We need to educate the public on the true mechanics of politics.