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Family democracy, Lanka style
Rajapakse is turning the Lankan constitution into a useless shred of paper

Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapakse brought in a landmark change in the country’s constitution on September 08, 2010 by scrapping the two term limit rule for serving presidents in the midst of both protests and cheering across the country. Consequently, Rajapakse, who is serving his second term as president, can stand for another term in the next voting to be held in 2016!

Apart from this, sweeping powers were handed over to him as a result of this amendment, by which previously autonomous institutes have been brought under his control. He will now directly appoint the main officials in judiciary, election commission, human rights commission and the central bank. Ending all controversies spurred up by the opposition, who stressed for the need of referendum to change the constitution, the Supreme Court ruled that such requirement is unnecessary. This has paved the way to end all possible legal roadblocks to Rajapakse.

By destroying the self-governing nature of key institutions and reducing them to puppets, Rajapakse is obviously not going up in global popularity ratings. To further cement his hold over the government, Rajapakse is also employing dynasty politics. Now, he is also in charge of various ministries – defence, finance and ports and aviation – and has appointed his brother (who is not an elected member of parliament) as defence secretary, in charge of all three divisions of armed forces. Two other brothers have portfolios and his son is also an MP; this is apart from many cousins getting plum bureaucratic postings.

Not only can Rajapakse now easily manipulate the state machinery to keep himself in power, he has also managed to leave little of what the contemporary world knows as democratic governance. Yes, elections are still held – the last opponent (Fonseka) has been jailed and a court martial is in progress. Long live Sri Lanka; long gone democracy!


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