Opinion

Methodology of a binding national consensus governance

The Kandy Litigants’ Association in an open letter addressed to the President and the Prime Minister states:

We beg leave to place before you jointly the following proposals for a government of binding national consensus, now being demanded on all hands, humbly believing they well prove a positive contribution to the present discourse.

The required methodology would be as follows.

Firstly, Parliament to be required to vote at all times, and on all issues big or small, on a basis of consensus, construed to mean an overwhelming overall majority (with a margin of tolerance for conscientious dissent) to be fixed at any figure between 60% and 75%.

Second, the foregoing to be rendered imperative under pain of the following sanctions in the event of a vote short of the requisite majority, i.e.

i. Immediate dissolution of Parliament, combined with,

ii. The entirety of the then membership being debarred from standing for re-election, either for life or a minimum of 10 years.

This will have the following effects:

i. Subordination of personal/ sectional idiosyncracy to the highest common factor of agreement on the real and practical issues of both day to day as well as foreseeable future governance, in a spirit of toleration and compromise, the overarching spirit of democracy, and without disruption, or ‘rocking the boat’, of the normal life of the community. Also to be recognised as the undercurrent of such a regime, the harsh but necessary admonition to legislators to ‘govern or get out’.

ii. Greater care and respect for the processes of democratic governance - periodical elections, the upkeep of Parliament itself, on which colossal expenditure have to be incurred which the taxpayer is called upon to meet.

iii. Specifically eliminate the recurrent problem of divisiveness in the settlement of the North-East problem.

iv. The methodology is such as to place such consensus on a permanent footing, and would signify a dramatic advance in the evolution of the theory and practice of parliamentary democracy which not even the mother of Parliaments in Britain has succeeded in achieving, by eliminating the instability of Parliamentary government as a result of the fluctuating fortunes of ephemeral majorities. Adoption of the proposal would make Sri Lanka a role model to the world.

We would also suggest that in order to keep the political mandate constantly vibrant under such a regime, the present 6-year term between elections be staggered to provide for 3 biennial elections of 1/3rd of the membership at a time, on a ‘least to poll, first to go’ basis.

In the absence of any other working model calculated to secure, rather than merely wish for consensus governance, we would earnestly commend the above proposals to your serious consideration.

At this opportunity, we would also urge that steps be taken, also by consensus, to phase out the existing conflicts arising from the duality of power centers as divided between the Executive Presidency - which all have at one time or another deprecated - and Parliamentary Executive of the Cabinet, by phasing out the former to restore a single chain of command under the regular doctrine of the supremacy of Parliament as an invariable characteristic of parliamentary democracy.

To stimulate public interest and comment, we are taking the liberty of releasing this ‘Open Letter’ to the press.

We respectfully wish you all success in your high deliberations.
S. Costa, Attorney-at-law
President, Kandy Litigants’ Association


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