SRI LANKA: Public relations, corruption agenda and new quarrels about the 17th Amendment to the Constitution

Last week when the JVP announced the consensus of the several minority parties to nominate their candidate, to the Constitutional Council, former Auditor General, Mr S.C. Mayadunne, a public officer of unimpeachable integrity, some naively believe that the Constitutional Council debate should be over. However, a new quarrel has been initiated by the JHU which does not dispute the new nominee for the council but the manner in which the consultations for selection were held. Such a quarrel is now necessary to delay appointment of the Constitutional Council the existence of which goes against the agenda of corruption that has spread like a cancer to all areas of national life. The existence of an authentic Constitutional Council would at least go to some extent against this corruption agenda.

In fact, the entire dispute on the 17th amendment has been a well constructed design to keep a quarrel going for the purpose of undermining the Constitution itself in favour of absolute power which is a precondition for repression as well as for corruption. In a democracy it is the duty of the head of the state to resolve all problems that obstruct the implementation of the constitution. The constitution stands above the head of the state, not the other way around. If some issue arises like the delay by the minority parties to make a nomination for the candidature for the council it is the duty of the head of the state to use all his negotiating skills to ensure a solution to such a problem within the shortest possible time. In a functioning democracy such a short time would mean just days, not months and years. A head of the state that is unable to carry out the fundamental duty of having the constitution operative at all times simply fails as head of the state.

The debate on the 17th amendment provides considerable material for any research on how devious the propaganda industry of the state can be. The undermining of an independent Constitutional Council required a double strategy. One was to find an excuse for the non appointment of the members as required by the law. The other was to arbitrarily appoint members disregarding the measures expected to be taken by the constitution in order to ensure checks and balances for the selection of members who would have the confidence of the people as persons of the highest integrity that they could trust.

The fear of the people of integrity is no surprise within any system designed to entrench corruption for the purpose of private gain as against national interests. Any government that would want to resurrect the confidence of the people in the public institutions and also a government that would want international credibility would go to any extent to ensure that consensus of all parties exists regarding the integrity of the persons selected to the important commissions which fall under the 17th amendment. However, the present political establishment does not care about inspiring the confidence of the people. If there is a regeneration of confidence within the country the people will make their voices heard on all matters that affect their lives. If this were to happen in Sri Lanka this would create perhaps the richest political discussion that has ever taken place in this country. To those who believe in making corruption the central reason for their involvement in politics would naturally do all they can to avoid the people’s participation in the affairs of national life. For this purpose petty quarrels must constantly be created to feed the propaganda industry who shamelessly defends the country’s failure to honour its own constitution.

The state propaganda machinery which the Asian Human Rights Commission on an earlier occasion likened to the character of Squealer in George Orwell’s Animal Farm has to exercise its creativity to find excuses as to why the country has rejected its own constitution. Naturally, it must find external enemies; that was also the role of Squealer in Animal Farm. The attacks on human rights arise out of this need to find a scapegoat for not only the failure on the constitutional front but also to avoid a discussion on the all-embracing corruption which among other things has also lead to the down grading of Sri Lanka’s Human Rights Commission from Category A to Category B and depriving it of its voting powers.

Defending the abandonment of the constitution can only be done by renouncing the use and authority of reason. Thus, to enter into an argument on that score serves no purpose. As Thomas Paine once an opponent:

“To argue with a man who has renounced the use and authority of reason, and whose philosophy consists in holding humanity in contempt, is like administering medicine to the dead, or endeavoring to convert an atheist by scripture. Enjoy, sir, your insensibility of feeling and reflecting. It is the prerogative of animals. And no man will envy you these honors, in which a savage only can be your rival and a bear your master.”

It is unfortunate, however, that those who engage in this propaganda industry have their entertainment at the cost of citizens who are suffering the worst brunt of corruption that the country has ever experienced.

See also: WORLD/SRI LANKA: A group calls for a broad alliance to fight against lawlessness and corruption –

Document Type : Statement
Document ID : AHRC-STM-012-2008
Countries : Sri Lanka,