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A government full of bright ideas

world Updated: May 10, 2011 23:50 IST
Sutirtho Patranobis

Even Mahinda Rajapaksa’s worst critic cannot accuse his regime of lacking bright ideas or the righteous will to execute them.

It hardly matters if implementing these plans would seemingly darken the chief executive’s office with a deeper authoritarian tinge or further militarise Sri Lankan society. Or maybe that’s the whole idea.

For one, the government’s favourite pastime quite clearly is to update the Constitution for a more stable and secure Sri Lanka; more than cozily so for some citizens at least. A new alteration, the 19th amendment, is apparently underway though justice minister, the suave Rauff Hakeem has dismissed this claim made by former chief justice Sarath N Silva. If passed – and there’s no way it cannot be if the government determines so — it will limit the Chief Justice’s term to five years and give Rajapaksa — who else — the power to appoint the secretary to the Judicial Service Commission (JSC). At present the JSC appoints the secretary.

“Removing this power from the JSC and vesting it in the President would compromise the separation of powers and invite executive interference in the administration of justice,” Centre for Policy Alternatives (CPA), a civil society group working on public policy, warned. Hakeem said the amendment was Silva’s ``figment of imagination’’.

It’s not clear who is imagining things, but Rajapaksa on Monday nominated members for the Bribery and Public Service Commissions — using the sweeping powers vested on him by the last change to the hapless Constitution, the 18th Amendment.

What is also worrying many is the move to make leadership training under the military compulsory for students who qualify for university. Higher Education Ministry Secretary Sunil Jayaratne was quoted by the Daily Mirror newspaper as talking about the move, and saying it was all about bringing out leadership qualities in students. “The training programme would be conducted by the military under the supervision of university authorities,’’ the newspaper said.

The move comes months after several universities saw student unrest. At that time, the government said the gullible students were instigated by the extreme Left. So, under military supervision naïve students will no longer be exposed to wayward influences. Err, but isn’t a general in jail for having his own bright ideas about leadership?