Speak out and act now before it's too late
Daily Mirror Editorial
Nov 16, 2011

Despite widespread protests from civic rights groups and even from two parties in the ruling UPFA, the government last Wednesday politically bulldozed its way to push through parliament the Bill to "Revive Underperforming Enterprises and Underutilised Assets" or in blunt terms the acquisition of any private business enterprises or assets.

President Mahinda Rajapaksa at a meeting with the Federation of Chambers of Commerce and Industry and other business groups reportedly assured them that the acquisition bill was a one-off act and only the 37 enterprises listed in the Bill would be taken over. But when the controversial if not explosive bill came up in parliament last week there was no amendment to restrict the acquisition to the 37 mentioned in the Bill and reports indicate many more have been listed for take over. Significantly only the Economic Development Minister Basil Rajapaksa dubbed by opposition critics as the supper minister, and one other minister spoke on the Bill. Even more significantly for the first time since the Rajapsksa Regime took over in 2005, Upfa-partners the Jathika Hela Urumaya (JHU) and the National Freedom Front (NFF) led by Minister Wimal Weerawansa abstained from voting amid speculation that they had serious reservations about the implications or agendas behind this acquisition Act.

It is now clear that in terms of the acquisition act the government can takeover any business enterprise that does support the ruling party or supports opposition parties. This is a serious threat to democracy because in all genuinely democratic countries any business enterprise is free to give financial or other support to any party and not be taken over or otherwise victimized for doing so.

Other than this sad reality one wonders whether this government's think tanks - if there are any without leaks -- have failed to see that the passage of this Bill will discourage direct foreign investment, which Sri Lanka urgently needs to bolster its economy. This is another case of power corrupting and absolute power corrupting absolutely. Now it is time for those in Mother Lanka to follow the example set by the Bar Association President and challenge the manner in which this Bill was rushed through parliament and virtually forced down the throats of the people. It seems that no private enterprise is safe and as an opposition MP quipped even parliament could be considered as a underperforming or underutilized asset because it is not being allowed to play the role that a legislature should in the system of checks and balances of effective democracy. As another cynic quipped, ten years ago the United States had Steve Jobs, Bob Hope and Johnny Cash. Now it is in a crisis where an unprecedented nine per cent of Americans have no jobs, there is little if any hope for millions of people and the cash crunch has sent the biggest of companies plunging into bankruptcy.

Source: Daily Mirror - Sri Lanka