The Liberal Party began as a think-tank called the ‘Council for Liberal Democracy’, the first institution to criticize the all embracing statism of the colonial and immediate post-colonial periods. In espousing free economic policies together with wide-ranging political freedoms, the Council, and then the Party, opposed both the authoritarian crony capitalism of the United National Party and the socialism of the Sri Lanka Freedom Party. Both major parties are now in theory in favour of wide freedoms, but to ensure that these are understood and entrenched there is still need of coherent Liberal activism.
Geneva 2014 – A Liberal Perspective on Rights, Pluralism and National Sovereignty
Text to be delivered at the commemoration of Chanaka Amaratunga at the Liberal Party Headquarters on April 19th 2014
Today, April 19th 2014, would have been Chanaka Amaratunga's 56th birthday. In remembering him this year, it seemed appropriate to apply to recent events the sort of analysis that he had engaged in when there was a similarly momentous challenge to Sri Lankan sovereignty, way back in 1987.
Then the problem arose because of what seemed an assertion of Indian hegemony. While, as we noted in the editorial of the 6th issue of the Liberal Review, 'the Liberal Party has always advocated friendly relations with India', we deplored the fact that 'some aspects of the annexure to the Accord give the impression of an acceptance by Sri Lanka of Indian tutelage'. In short, as we had often said elsewhere, while we deplored the adventurism of the Jayewardene government in provoking hostilities with India, and felt the various excesses which the Accord stopped short should never have been embarked upon, we thought it inappropriate that subjection to another country had to be formally acknowledged.
This time round it seems to me entirely satisfactory that India herself has asserted this principle, in objecting to external intrusions into Sri Lanka. At the same time India has made clear, as the Liberal Party has often asserted, the need for Sri Lanka to get its own house in order, in terms of our own Constitution and the commitments we have made. It is our failure to do this that has provoked efforts at international intervention. That is why though the Liberal Party deplores the resolution that was passed in Geneva, as India does, we also believe it imperative that we move swiftly on those aspects of the Resolution which – long before any such Resolution had seen the light of day – we pledged to take forward.
Political Machinations 19 - A multiplicity of Ministers
In getting ready material for the consultations I have been having with the young people concerned about constitutional reform, I finally counted up the number of Ministers we have. In fact the figure comes to less than 100, far fewer than the number of Ministers President Jayewardene had in his heyday, with far fewer Members of Parliament, on his side and taken as a whole.
His record included District Ministers too, so that 2/3 of Members of Parliament were Ministers in the eighties, and ¾ of the Government Parliamentary Group. Contrary to the hype of those critics of the current government who have forgotten completely the excesses of the past, things are better now.
But this still does not make them good. It is quite preposterous that Sri Lanka should have 65 Cabinet Ministers (along with 2 Project Ministers) plus 27 Deputy Ministers. In addition there are 4 Monitoring Ministers, as far as I know. This is fewer than I thought, but I realize now that the claim that Members of Parliament were asked to apply for these positions was not correct. I was under the impression, when I was told that I had failed to ask when applications were called, that National List MPs had not been included in the notice, but I find that others were left out too.
International Relations and Security 17 - Inductive Processes
I was finally spurred, by the enormous effort made by a few expatriates to take a careful look at the casualty figures for the conflict, to try myself to put together some figures systematically. Long ago I had made some estimates, based on the details I had got from Tamilnet as well as on figures from the ICRC of the sick who had been taken to hospitals in government controlled areas. But though government has now accepted what I said, at the time I was even criticized for my candour by those who should have known much better.
I should note that I was not entirely on my own, for the army, understanding better than most what was at stake, helped me with visits to the sites where the fighting had taken place, and in particular to the hospitals which were largely undamaged, contrary to the propaganda put out about them. But when the books I produced were ignored, I thought it better to concentrate on reconciliation with regard to the future.
Recently though I have been heartened by two envoys who have done well in dealing with the media telling me that I had been their initial inspiration. And when Michael Roberts and the Marga Institute produced 'The Numbers Game', and the remarkably sharp journalist Kath Noble assessed this positively, I thought I should make yet another effort.