Editorial

The danger of Sir-kiu-laws

Summary

As a former IT professional and army officer, the President must appreciate the importance of systems. He should revert to that logic. President Gotabaya Rajapaksa addressing people in Velanwita, Haldummulla announced that verbal orders issued for the common good of […]

As a former IT professional and army officer, the President must appreciate the importance of systems. He should revert to that logic.

President Gotabaya Rajapaksa addressing people in Velanwita, Haldummulla announced that verbal orders issued for the common good of people be treated as circulars. He also said that if a written inquiry (presumably seeking endorsement of a course of action) from one institution to another is not responded to within 14 days, it should be considered approved.

The sentiment is obvious. He wants to get things moving. He wants to cut through red tape. He wants to sort out undue delays. He wants officials to snap out of lethargy and get cracking. All good.

And yet, there’s a serious problem in this.

First of all who decides what the ‘common good’ is? As a person elected by the entire nation, he does have representative power to decide what’s good and what’s not. On the other hand, in the interest of over enthusiasm leading to error there are ‘checks and balances.’ As a former IT professional and army officer, the President must appreciate the importance of systems. He should revert to that logic.

What the President has essentially done has been cutely articulated by a wit in social media: circular has been replaced by sir-kiu-law, ‘Sir’ obviously refers to the President, ‘kiu’ is the Sinhala word for ‘said’. So we have ‘laws uttered/announced by the president.’

Now it is quite possible that something that the president wants done or done in a particular way could make sense. However, if wish is not then written into the code, we have ‘precedence.’ Bad precedence, really.  

What if it is not this ‘sir’ but some other ‘sir’? What if the ‘said law’ is pernicious and anti-people (although suggested/implemented in good faith)? What if a future ‘kiu law’ is announced by this sir in a situation where he has abused mandate and is only in power because of constitutional binds that prevents elections from being held to test his popularity, a test which could unseat him?

Gotabaya Rajapaksa seems to have vented. His venting on this occasion resonates with people’s frustration, one might argue. He could use the same ‘license’ to make demands that do not resonate with the people or even go against popular sentiment.

Sir, your Kiu-Law thing is out of order. Fix it in some other way!

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