Sri Lanka’s public administrations including key strategic sectors are now under the control of eight task forces in the purview of 13 military officers on the direction of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, the International Truth and Justice Project claimed.
President is ruling Sri Lanka, as if he is autonomous, through powerful militarised task forces that bypass the usual checks and balances of a democratically elected parliament, ITJP alleged.
Not just secretaries but Ministers (currently 16) and ministerial committees will have to serve and obey these unelected bodies and if they don’t will be referred to the President with unspecified consequences to their careers.
This is made more worrying because of the forthcoming parliamentary elections in which the President hopes to gain a two thirds majority to be able to alter the Constitution, the international forum added.
“The Task Forces risk creating a parallel state and potentially give the President, his family and former military comrades unparalleled control over patronage networks and the use of public assets,” said the ITJP’s executive director Yasmin Sooka.
“More worrying is that this new schematic for exercising control could survive beyond the next elections, which are anyway expected to return a parliament compliant and subservient to the Rajapaksa family”, she pointed out.
“The latest developments centralise power and give even more untrammelled authority to the President’s key military allies who already enjoy enormous power through formal appointments,” said the ITJP’s Executive Director.
Lawyers in Sri Lanka have argued that the establishment of the Task Forces is legally questionable and administratively murky. The task forces have no time limit, while the drafting is sloppy and ungrammatical.
The name itself – task force – is redolent of militarism and the composition of the bodies is overwhelmingly military, male, Sinhala and unelected, save for the bureaucrats who are included, whose only role is to execute the commands of the Task Forces, they said.
They alleged that some of the bureaucrats in the Task Forces were under investigation reportedly for corruption during the last government.