Here we have covered both the editorials of 19 feb 2018 :
Alliance divided: on Sri Lankan politics
Sri Lanka is in the throes of a political crisis (संकट) after the two main parties in the ruling coalition (गठबंधन/संघ) suffered a dramatic defeat in the recent local government elections. Fissures (दरारें/फटन) between the Sri Lanka Freedom Party, led by President Maithripala Sirisena, and the United National Party, led by Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, have deepened. The fragile ‘national unity’ government they run together is beset(घेर लेना/रोकना) by instability and uncertainty (अनिश्चितता/संदेह). The local council polls, won resoundingly (गूंजते हुए/प्रतिध्वनित होते हुए) by the Sri Lanka People’s Front, which has the backing of former President Mahinda Rajapaksa, have brought to the fore popular disenchantment (मोहभंग/मायूसी) with the ruling parties, particularly over unemployment and rural distress caused by drought. Even prior to the elections, Mr. Sirisena disagreed often with his Prime Minister over policy measures. In his campaign (अभियान/सैनिककार्यवाही), he highlighted an inquiry report that indicted some associates of Mr. Wickremesinghe in a mammoth scandal in the sale of government bonds by Sri Lanka’s central bank. It was no surprise when the parties contested separately (अलग से/भिन्न), but neither of them foresaw the outcome, which could mark the return of Mr. Rajapaksa as a major political force. After the results were out the alliance came under stress as Mr. Sirisena wanted the Prime Minister to resign, but the latter has made it clear he will stay on. Amidst (मध्यम में) efforts by each camp to form an alternative regime that would exclude the other, Mr. Wickremesinghe has said the coalition stands. There is talk of a Cabinet reshuffle as a means of settling their differences, but the durability(सहनशीलता/स्थिरता) of the alliance remains in doubt.
The coalition rides on the moral strength of the twin mandate of 2015: Mr. Sirisena’s victory in the presidential election over Mr. Rajapaksa, and the alliance’s decisive(निर्णयात्मक/कड़ा) win in the parliamentary elections held later. It is imperative to Sri Lanka’s interest that the President and Prime Minister remain faithful to the originalmandate(शासनादेश/आज्ञापत्र), which was for good governance and institutional reform. Mr. Wickremesinghe says he is committed to it, and that he will take “corrective measures” on the economic front. The fact that economic disillusionment had in the past led to social unrest, conflict and extreme nationalism should not be forgotten. The alliance had obtained public support for its reform agenda and for showing a path away from authoritarian trends and institutional decay(संस्थागत क्षय). It would be unfortunate if partisan interests are placed above the people’s aspirations(आकांक्षाओं/महत्वाकांक्षा). The two leaders should seek to sink their differences and win back popular confidence. The coalition should continue to pursue the process of framing a new and inclusive constitution. It should fulfil its promises on reconciliation(विरोध की शान्ति) to the war-affected Tamils, whose backing proved crucial in their march to power. One electoral setback should not result in the project of national reconciliation falling victim to narrow (तंगसंकुचित political interests.
Directing reforms: on candidates disclosing sources of income
Adding to the growing body of judicially inspired electoral reforms, the Supreme Court has imposed an additional disclosure (प्रकटीकरण/भंडाफोड़) norm for candidates contesting elections. It has asked the Centre to amend the rules as well as the disclosure form filed by candidates along with their nomination papers, to include the sources of their income, and those of their spouses(जीवन साथी) and dependants. The court has also asked for the establishment (स्थापना/गृहस्थी) of a permanent mechanism to investigate any unexplained ordisproportionate (असंगत/बेमेल) increase in the assets of legislators (विधायकों/कानून निर्माता) during their tenure. The verdict (विचार/निर्णय) of the two-judge Bench on a petition (याचिका/सिफ़ारिश) from the NGO, Lok Prahari, is one more in a long line of significant verdicts aimed at preserving(संरक्षण) the purity of the electoral process. These include the direction to provide the ‘NOTA’ option in voting machines, and another striking down a clause that saved sitting legislators from immediate disqualification upon conviction (सजा/आस्था). It has ruled that the act of voting is an expression of free speech, and that it is part of this fundamental right that voters are required to be informed of all relevat(संगत/उचित) details about a contestant. This led to the rule that candidates should furnish details of any criminal antecedents, educational qualifications and assets (संपत्ति). If disclosure of assets is mandatory, it is only logical that the sources of income are also revealed. And as it is often seen that there is a dramatic increase in the assets of candidates at every election over what was disclosed in previousaffidavits (हलफनामों/शपथ-पत्र), it stands to reason that any rise should be explained or probed.
Few will dispute that lawmakers amassing(एकत्र करना) wealth or gaining unusual access to public funds and loans are concerns that need to be addressed through new norms. To give teeth to its order, the court has made it clear that non-disclosure of assets and their sources would amount to a “corrupt practice” under Section 123 of the Representation of the People Act, 1951. Lest a question be raised whether the court’s order toamend(संशोधन/सुधरना) the relevant rules amounted to legislation, the Bench has said it sees no “legal or normative impediment(बाधा/अवरोध)”, as the Centre is empowered (सशक्त/शक्ति प्राप्त) by the Act to frame rules in consultation with the Election Commission. The idea of a permanent mechanism to collect data about the assets of legislators and periodically examine them is laudable (प्रशंसनीय/सराहने योग्य), but it is not clear which authority will run it. The court envisions(कल्पना करना) a body that would make recommendations (सिफारिशें/गुण-कीर्तन) for prosecution or disqualification based on its own findings. The Centre and the Election Commission will have to jointly address the issue. The larger message from the verdict is that a fully informed electorate and transparent candidature will be key components (पुरज़ा) of future elections in India.