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Wednesday, February 28, 2024

Seven Measures To Move Towards Good Governance – Rajiva Wijesinha

By Rajiva Wijesinha

After Rev Sobitha’s very inspired remarks about the need to fulfil our promises rather than think about elections, I had a searching interview with ARTV, which helped my ideas to crystallize. I was also a bit upset, because I gathered that the UNP hierarchy was meeting at Temple Trees to discuss election strategy all day, and this meant that Ministers involved were not working in their offices.

I believe we need to strategize sensibly, not about elections, but about how to fulfil our promises. I believe that these would be easy to fulfil if we worked with commitment. It is also important not to try to reinvent the wheel.

There are seven measures that I believe are essential if we are to at least begin to move towards good governance. In the absene of commitment on the part of my colleagues to some of these, I have already taken steps to initiate action, and I hope young Ministers and Parliamentarians who wish to change the current culture will help me.

1. The system of election should be changed – I will table a constitutional amendment, which was surprisingly easy to draft, to replace the current system with a mixed system. This will have 100 seats for which there will be individual MPs, and another 100 seats which will be allocated so that Parliament as a whole will be proportionate to the votes cast for each party. There will be one vote for the constituency, and one vote for the party, since otherwise small parties are not likely to gain votes in the individual contest for each constituency.

2. The law to restrict the Cabinet to 30 should be introduced immediately. The amendment should also divide responsibilities in a scientific fashion. The amendment already proposed by Vasantha Senanayake should be tabled, and passed after amendment. The suggestion that we might have up to 100 Ministers after the next election is disgusting, and a betrayal of the people and what we stood for.

3. Parliament should be strengthened by amendment of Standing Orders. The proposal I made eighteen months ago was put to Parliament earlier this month, and seconded, so it will now go to the Standing Order Committee. I objected to efforts to postpone this, and it will now meet on the 20th.

4. The Right to Information is essential, and I hope the Bill will be presented soon. However I think we should also work towards improving the Rights enshrined in the Constitution, and to this end I have proposed a Constitutional Amendment to incorporate the Bill of Rights that was prepared by a Committee chaired by Jayampathy Wickremaratne when I was Secretary to the Ministry of Disaster Management and Human Rights. I tried to persuade him to make this part of our manifesto and though he demurred, I see no reason not to at least put a draft before Parliament and the people.

5. The excessive powers of the Presidency must be got rid of. This should be done immediately, instead of tying it to abolishing the Presidency. That is a contentious issue now, given that none of the possible candidates for the post of Prime Minister is a statesman who can rise above party politics.

6. The new Audit Bill must be introduced, and financial controls strengthened, with mandatory provisions for legal action in the case of abuse.

7. A Code of Conduct for politicians and public officials needs to be introduced soon. Since there seems to be no concern about this, I hope those who are concerned will prepare a draft that can be fine tuned and presented soon to Parliament and the Cabinet.

These seven measures are vital, and I think we should devote all our energies to pursuing them. I hope those who read this will embark on a movement to persuade those in authority in such areas, in particular Karu Jayasuriya who is I believe dedicated to Good Governance, to start pushing for change.


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