Asanga Welikala, courtesy of CONSTITUTIONNET, where the title is “Sri Lanka after the Elections: Challenges and Opportunities for Further Reform”
photo credit: AFP, Getty Images
On 17th August 2015 Sri Lankans elected a new Parliament with a mandate for a series of far-reaching constitutional reforms, which if implemented successfully, could extensively change the institutional form of the Sri Lankan state. In the presidential election of 8th January 2015, the sitting President Mahinda Rajapaksa had suffered a shock defeat by the common opposition candidate, Maithripala Sirisena. The common opposition had fought that election with the promise of abolishing or substantially reducing the powers of the executive presidency and re-establishing an institutional framework for de-politicisation and good governance. The reforms that focused on limiting presidential powers and establishing the Constitutional Council along with various independent commissions were enacted in April by the Nineteenth Amendment to the Constitution, a democratic milestone, even though it fell short of a complete abolition of the executive presidency. By returning the minority government headed by President Sirisena and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe (which had served since January) as the largest party in the legislature in the parliamentary election, the electorate endorsed the Nineteenth Amendment and mandated the reform proposals outlined in the United National Front for Good Governance (UNFGG) manifesto. Sri Lanka’s constitutional reform process therefore looks set to continue for the foreseeable future. This raises a number of substantive and process challenges that are well illustrated by the two major constitutional restructurings undertaken by the last Parliament in the first and last six months of its life. Continue reading
Filed under accountability, constitutional amendments, democratic measures, governance, historical interpretation, legal issues, plural society, politIcal discourse, power politics, power sharing, Presidential elections, reconciliation, Sinhala-Tamil Relations, sri lankan society, tolerance, world events & processes
I. Nira Wickramasinghe: “It’s No Revolution …. more a revolt within the ruling classes, courtesy of the Indian Express, 23 August 2015
When Sri Lanka’s parliamentary election results were announced on August 18, there were few celebrations on the streets of Colombo. Many Sri Lankan citizens had voted for the incumbents simply for want of something better. On August 17, when they cast their votes to elect MPs, they had a clear choice: A return to the iron grip of former President Mahinda Rajapaksa, or a mandate to continue and consolidate the changes set in motion in January 2015.
A sizeable number of citizens (45.7 per cent) opted to continue the partial changes brought about by President Maithripala Sirisena and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe’s minority United National Party (UNP) government. The UNP-led coalition, the United National Front for Good Governance (UNFGG) won 106 seats. If this was a victory for change and a verdict that stymied Rajapaksa’s hopes of staging a Vladimir Putin-style comeback, it is not as resounding a victory as the UNP needed. Still, a UNP-led government — with Sirisena’s Sri Lanka Freedom Party as its coalition partner — with Wickremesinghe as PM was sworn in. Continue reading
Filed under accountability, american imperialism, citizen journalism, communal relations, democratic measures, devolution, foreign policy, governance, historical interpretation, Indian Ocean politics, legal issues, life stories, LTTE, parliamentary elections, plural society, politIcal discourse, power politics, Rajapaksa regime, reconciliation, Sinhala-Tamil Relations, sri lankan society, truth as casualty of war, UN reports, war crimes, world events & processes
Asanga Welikala, courtesy of South Asian History and Culture, 2015, vol. 6/5 where one finds Welikala’s review of A Political Legacy of the British Empire: Power and the Parliamentary System in Post-Colonial India and Sri Lanka, by Harshan Kumarasingham, New York and London, I.B. Tauris, 2013, 297 pp., (hardback), ISBN 978-1-78076-228-9. [Special lower priced South Asia edition (2014) available from Viva Books: http://vivagroupindia.com/frmBookDetail.aspx?BookId=10884&Status=N%5D
The comparative study of India and Sri Lanka – the only two uninterrupted post-colonial democracies in South Asia – makes for promising investigations in any branch of the social sciences including comparative constitutional law and politics. The convergences and the divergences in the two countries’ constitutional forms and traditions, the character of their democracies, their trajectories of post-colonial nation-building, the nature of the state, the contrasting ways in which they have responded to the challenges and opportunities of constitutional modernity, and for lawyers especially, the functioning of the two common law Supreme Courts, yield insights that are relevant far beyond South Asia. From the point of view at independence from the British Empire, the one is an improbable success as a secular, pluralistic federation and constitutional democracy; the other was the most promising prospect among the decolonising states which nonetheless deteriorated into conflict, authoritarianism and ethnocracy. The Indian republic rejected the monarchical forms of the British inheritance early, while ardently embracing its liberal democratic substance, whereas Sri Lanka, much later, repudiated both.
Filed under British colonialism, constitutional amendments, cultural transmission, democratic measures, devolution, governance, historical interpretation, Indian Ocean politics, legal issues, modernity & modernization, parliamentary elections, plural society, politIcal discourse, Sinhala-Tamil Relations, sri lankan society, world affairs
Simon Jenkins, in The Guardian, where the title is “Refugees: this is the human tide the west doesn’t want”
The global crisis engendered by people fleeing war seems unstoppable. But open borders carry an unacceptable political price for national governments Who now cries, “Give me your tired, your poor, / Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, / The wretched refuse of your teeming shore”? We stand appalled as boatloads of refugees wash up on the beaches of the northern Mediterranean. Men, women and children scramble up rocks and plead: “Is this Europe?” We arrest the traffickers, yet aid their task with rescue and shelter for their clients. We know this only adds to the flow, but in truth we have no clue what else to do.
Syrians force their way through border fences to enter Turkish territory illegally on 14 June. ‘Is it nemesis for Europe’s history of economic supremacism? It is even stoppable?’ Photograph: Bulent Kilic/AFP/Getty
This week the UN declared 2014 the worst year since records began for refugees: 55 million people worldwide were driven from their homes by force. Of those on the move, 40,000 have reached Italy through Libya this year and 30,000 have reached Greece. Continue reading
Filed under accountability, asylum-seekers, atrocities, economic processes, legal issues, life stories, plural society, politIcal discourse, terrorism, the imaginary and the real, welfare & philanthophy, world events & processes
Christina Lamb, courtesy of The Sunday Times & The Australian, 1 September 2015, where the title is “Europe’s asylum-seekers form a human tide of desperation
It took perhaps an hour for them to die. The children would have suffocated first: the baby girl of around 18 months, the three boys aged about eight to 10, watched by their anguished mothers, helpless to give them air inside the hot, sealed truck. By the time it crossed the border from Hungary into western Europe where the asylum-seekers must have hoped for a new life, all 71 were dead: 59 men, eight women, four children. The Austrian police who found them said their bodies were piled one on top of the other inside the vehicle as if they had tried to climb up. With four bodies for every square metre, they had been so desperate to get air that the side of the truck was bent out of shape.
Blankets hide the chicken delivery truck in which 71 people, believed to be Syrian, suffocated in Austria last week. Continue reading
Filed under accountability, asylum-seekers, centre-periphery relations, economic processes, immigration, life stories, people smugglers, politIcal discourse, population, self-reflexivity, the imaginary and the real, welfare & philanthophy, working class conditions, world events & processes