Sri Lanka Parliament: The revolution will not be televised.

Right or wrong, it is important to have an opinion. That’s one of the reasons why I admire people like Castro, Gaddafi and Putin – or even Obama to some extent. But not the lot that sound like Blairs and Browns.

One’s opinions and beliefs may not necessarily agree with someone else’s, but having an opinion and sticking to one’s beliefs are of paramount importance. This sets apart a leader, and a follower.

I was thinking. Yes, sometimes I do that. Why does the entire Sri Lankan populace seem to harp the same tune in unison – most often than not? Today, it would be the arrest of Fonseka, for example.

The biggest mantra in the last few elections has been “abolishing the Executive Presidency” and everyone seems to get so gung-ho about it. But, hang on a second, is that the biggest problem in our parliamentary system today?


In my humble opinion, the biggest problem we have with our “elected representatives of the people” is the A-C-C-O-U-N-T-A-B-I-L-I-T-Y.

Or, the lack of it, rather.

We appoint the MP’s and give them responsibilities. But no one seems to monitor or evaluate their performance. True, the whole country – even the private sector – is not used to setting annual objectives and conducting evaluations on progress or performance, but then why is that everyone ganging-up on the President to criticise everything he does – be it right or wrong for the country? Who is holding the opposition responsible for their failure to keep the government in it’s rightful place? Why does media give us their opinion, not the facts (we know which is on whose side, don’t we?) so that you and I can make-up our own minds and form our own opinion?

Leave that aside.

Who is holding the hundreds of MP’s responsible or accountable for what they do, or don’t?

Accountability is what we need. That is what would clean-up the country, not a retired military man with a big mouth.

One solution would be to dissolve the Provincial Councils and revert to the electorate system where there is one solitary MP for each constituency.

An MP for every electorate, who will be responsible and accountable for the development of his area. If he doesn’t deliver his promises, voters have the ability and the power to throw him out, like we used to do in the 70’s.

The good old way would bring back a lean and mean Parliament, backed by a Civil Service that runs the administration of the country. The grama seveka’s, DRO’s, AGA’s, GA’s... they were part of an effective mechanism, which was much better than the current – politically appointed – provincial council system.

That would also bring back one responsible minister for education, not a handful. It would take the many different ministries responsible for healthcare under one roof, to make up one ministry.

And it would pave the way to downsize or minimize the Cabinet and let the MP’s do the work, instead of the talk.

I’d say, go back to the system of one constituency for every MP. Either dissolve, negate or relegate the Provincial Councils. The powers conferred upon the Executive President doesn’t mean much if the power of the parliament is back in the hands of the people.

What say you?

*The Revolution Will Not Be Televised is a poem and song by Gil Scott-Heron.


  1. True, but MPs and presidents could be voted out. They are therefore accountable to the people once every 6 years.

    The NGOs (who have the sole franchise on our civil society) are not at all accountable to the Sri Lankan people. Many of them are failed politicians, and their only accountability is to their donors. "Politicians" like Wickramabahu, Wije Dias etc are the same. Their involvement in our politics is more dangerous than anything else you've discussed.

    Provincial councils are a while elephant. Power devolution to the provinces has proven to be nothing but inefficient, corrupt, bureaucratic red tape. This would never have worked in a small, developing country like Sri Lanka.

    What we need is a strong centralised power structure with a single member constituency based, first past the pole electoral system.

  2. Exactly.
    I've always felt that it was a better system. Also there is the added advantage that you'll be able to elect someone from your own area to be the MP unlike today where Colombo elite trying to be an MP of a rural area where they don't know a thing about. That is, I believe, a serious problem. You need people from those areas who knows the local problems of those areas.

    But, oh well, I think this'll only be a dream...

  3. The government is planning to go back to the seat-based system, but parliament's term has run out so it had (or has) to be dissolved. The lack of accountability is a major problem, even in parliament, when government MPs regularly sidestep the hard questions asked by the opposition. (I'm not trying to be partisan, just saying that those questions deserve an answer) I think a lot of Sri Lankans watch parliamentary procedures these days (or rather condensed versions of them) thanks to various broadcasters having weekly programs about them, so that's a good thing. I agree that the PCs are useless, but then again, we're not ready to properly devolve power and we end up with white elephants like that, don't we?

    And tbh, I don't think people 'gang up' on the President that much. Whatever said and done, people still respect the man. People like Nimal Siripala and Bandula Gunawardana get blasted much more than the President, I think. But people do protest when the President goes above the law, like he usually does, defying the Supreme Court and what not?

  4. Oh yes, everything is the fault of the executive presidency. A man gets arrested for drunk driving, its the president abusing power. A man gets arrested for 'possibly' planning a coup against the present, it's the Pressie man abusing power.

    Do people even know what a big deal even a hint of talk about murdering the president is?! In most other countries, the citizens would probably fear for their president and judge the accused but no, in Sri Lanka, you blame the president for being paranoid. Ungrateful shitbags most of us have turned out to be.

    I prolly went out of line here, apologies. When the internet is spammed with such stupidity, it's a bit hard to think impartially.

    Good post, good arguments. I say we burn all the MPs at the stake!



  5. @Bardo Flanks, yes indeed. I think there is lack of accountability in every front, including the private sector, NGO’s, civil society... every where. Sad, really.

    @Sach, Oh well... It’s good to keep our dreams alive right?
    I remember how Thilanga Sumathipala and Earl Gunasekera were moving seats during the last election in areas like Dambulla – crazy, stupid! Yes, most MP’s don’t know a thing about the area!

    @Chavie: I hope they would.

    I think a country like ours needs a very strong man at the top. The parliament has the right to impeach the President, that is how the Executive Powers are meant to be kept in check. Unfortunately, when the parliament is also corrupt and useless, there is no help for the people.

    @Sabby: LOL. Yes, agree whole heartedly. I’ll make the fire!

    BTW, people living in Sri Lanka have absolutely no idea about the freedom they enjoy. Well spotted Sabby.

  6. @Sue: See, I’ve already got the mothers of the nation on my side.
    Now, all we need is a revolution! LOL.

  7. SI, I agree.
    No offense to Sue, but these Sri Lankan mothers are a very dangerous bunch. I know only too well!

  8. Serendib - In countries like America, the President cannot dissolve parliament. So that maintains a permanent check on the President's use (and abuse) of power... It would be better if our own system was a bit like that, without being completely biased towards the President's right to use his executive power... I also respectfully disagree with you on the 'strongman' point, I hope you'd understand why... :)

  9. LOL @Sach.

    Chavie, American democracy is different from the French, and the French from ours. The level of freedom the citizens enjoy, or the level of power the Presidents enjoy, is very very different, even within “democracies.” A comparison will not make much sense because the level of sophistication of the average citizen is very different. Power is something dangerous in the wrong hands, yes I understand what you mean.

    Then again, I believe Sri Lanka is a nation that needs to be led, we are not capable of finding our own path. Hopefully this point of view would be explained later in another post.;)

    Thank you for your view, much appreciated.

  10. you say the sri lankan people don't hold their elected officials accountable in one place and later on you say we need to be led. i smell a contradiction.

    yes, we as a country seem to uninterested in what our politicians are doing in our name, supposedly for our "benefit", but you can't dismiss the problems caused by the executive presidency, no? the problem with that is that it focuses too much power in the hands of a single individual, which is dangerous in the case of even the most benevolent, far sited, intelligent leader. and let's be honest, none of our leaders, from JR onwards, have been any of those.

  11. Thank you for the comment PP.

    At a very basic level - humans are groupies, pack animals, that need to be led. That doesn’t mean to say that the leaders have the freedom to do whatever they fancy. At a micro level, MP’s should be answerable to their constituency. At a macro level, the President should be answerable to the Parliament that is made of MP’s who are answerable to the people.

    No contradiction there. And yes, there has been no great leader since JR.