The termination of Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) did not mark the end of miseries in Sri Lanka. When most of the countries in the world are favoring democracy; Sri Lanka recently opted to be governed by dictatorship. On 8 September 2010; the Parliament headed by Mr. Mahinda Rajapaksa passed the much criticized 18th Amendment of the Sri Lankan Constitution. The amendment makes substantial changes in the political structure of Sri Lanka transforming it into a de-facto dictatorship. Criticism of the 18th Amendment
1. The Amendment not only uplifted the restrictions posed on the president by the 17th Amendment but also abolished the two-term limit on presidency. Thus a president may contest elections any number of times.
2. The President is given wide-discretionary powers to make political and constitutional appointments.
3. He has the power to appoint the Chairman and members of all independent commissions including the Election Commission, Public Service Commission, , Finance Commission, National Police Commission, Attorney General, Auditor General, Chief Justice and Judges of the Supreme Court, the President and Judges of the Court of Appeal, Members of the Judicial Service Commission, Human Rights Commission and Secretary General of Parliament.
4. President has power to attend the parliament regularly and exercise his powers and privileges.
5. The Constitutional Council has been replaced by the Parliamentary Council which is accountable no other institution.
The amendment grants absolute power to the President. In fact, the President would control all the wings of the state. The unlimited power in the hands of the President may result in dangerous consequences. The government in past has been alleged to be involved in mass killings of the Tamilians in Sri Lanka.
Presently, three important political positions are headed by President’s brothers. It is feared that the powers bestowed by the amendment would further worsen the situation. The most disturbing part is that the opposition did not play a constructive rule in criticizing the bill. The opposition leader remained absent from the parliamentary debates regarding the 18 Amendment.
Replacement of democracy with a dictatorship would further harm the interests of the people in Sri Lanka. The irresponsible attitude of the opposition and the haste of the government clearly demonstrate that both the government and the opposition conspired against their own people.
The people on the other hand have resorted to peaceful protests. Organizations like Bar Association and National Peace Council have supported these protests.
It is not the corruption and concentration of power that concerns the Sri Lankan population today. From the past one year several attrocities are being carried on the people. During the war against L.T.T.E thousands of innocent Tamil civilians went missing. The armed forces misuse their excessive powers to traumatize the ethnic minorities in the state.
The main opponent of Mahinda Rajapaksa in the Presidential elections was arrested and convicted by military court on grounds of fraud. Empowering the President to make judicial appointments would further worsen the situation. The judges so appointed may have colored opinions which would defeat the very purpose of independent judicial system.
Sri Lankans deserve a democratic and accountable government. The cause needs support of other countries around the world. The steps taken by Rajaskpa should not only be criticized but he should also be diplomatically pressurized to revive democracy in the country.