THE HODGEPODGE CONSTITUTION: LAST LAUGH IS FOR JR & MR
Posted on April 10th, 2015
By Gomin Dayasri
J.R.Jayewaradane will sigh a relief and break into a wry smile if he finds his constitution is dislodged. As it is, he may have to live with it – a life after death. Shove altogether now, but presidency keeps bobbing up and down
Those with wafer thin majorities exploited the 1978 Constitution to the maximum that Jayewardane set for himself with a 5/6 majority in Parliament. Unelected Prime Minster Ranil Wickremasinghe (Is the ½ mark a bridge too far for him to reach?) is aiming to ditch a constitution his uncle baked and over-iced to make it look fancy. Is a caretaker trying to become the master of a mansion having crept through the backdoor while JR rests in peace seeking to rid his luggage? Alas, Ranil and Sirisena await a whopping whipping by the next generation for their amateurish work on a constitution entrusted to a few unskilled hands.
Mahinda Rajapakse must be laughing his sides out. Executive Presidency was on parade when Sirisena took oaths as a peoples’ President – treats the Prime Minister in awe and the UNP with respect. That will make Rajapakse do a run Mahinda run in search of the premier post.
Constitutionally the man, who won the presidential election – may have to play second fiddle – to the man who lost. Gravestone of the constitution ‘78 will carry the epithet: “A President took his life under the helpful watch of a Prime Minister who encouraged him to extinguish himself”.
The impediment Rajapakse carry is the horror stories originating out of the family chronicle sufficient to disqualify a candidate. If the naval episode of the son is bad the aviation tale of his brother-in-law is worse – both under his watch. Is the hero of 2009 the villain of 2015? A victory that went to the head, led to his undoing, as he fashioned it wrong. A supreme victory in the 2010 election was the undoing in 2015, over estimated gratitude to overlook much. Understandably people voted him out: was it to make a comeback triumphant or rest eternally in the backwoods? Yearning for him is buoyant as the successors are more of a hindrance.
Makes Rajapakse’s ‘fourth-coming’ resourceful, with the office of the PM, in an amended version looks superior to a President, under an earlier edition. More benefits with fewer liabilities accrue to the Prime Minister under a new constitution with a reversion to collective responsibility that spreads the fault element among cabinet colleagues.
If he returns, are we to witness the re-emergence of persons under investigation from the Central Bank to Sri Lankan Airlines and from there to former envoy’s in the embassies abroad; bunched together as in the wicked old days in a cuddly cockpit? Voting for recurrence means endorsing corruption – be honest with yourself for the sake of the country.
Mahinda Rajapakse will sure run for the enhanced office of PM – so unlike from the time he was an insipid PM and was called a reporter [Mahinda] and taken for a peon [Premadasa]? Sirisena needs to flee to the arms of Ranil and ensure he remains Prime Minister; otherwise Sirisena could be chained to a kennel under the 19th amendment.
The judiciary by choosing to tango with Presidents – especially Chandrika and Mahinda, distorted the 1978 Constitution. Judges became slaughtered lambs to politicians and issued licenses for MPs to cross party lines that were strictly prohibited in the constitution. Not by one, not by many, but by a few during a queer judicial epoch of you know whom?
Being vested with the right to interpret the constitution they made a carriageway permitting traffic to cross party aisles in parliament. There lies a cause for the downfall of a nation.
Speaks sufficiently for a judiciary that comes out heroically in calling for a referendum on the 19th amendment. Chief Justice Siripavan is a welcome module to a kind that made Mohan Pieris, Shirani Bandaranaike, Asoka Silva and Sarath Silva. Sometimes you need just one brave man to show the way- others obediently take the same route. Indeed a sunshine story amidst the prevailing gloom.
The patchwork constitution is not a home for a government that finds it difficult to function as when it was in the opposition; and now being compelled to govern, does it no differently as when in the opposition. Its lifetime might be restricted to around a hundred days- being merciful to our countrymen.
JR knew a presidential and general election were due six years hence from 1977. Held an illegal referendum instead of a general election to secure his 5/6th hold on parliament and then held a mock presidential election where his opponent Kobbekaduwa’s vote was impersonated! Indeed a dark period in the annals of the franchise when NGOs made no noise except for a shriek heard from Amnesty International. NGOs have suddenly gone dumb and Friday Forum opens out rarely to talk of the past more than of the present. Naturally their head boys are gainfully employed otherwise.
Under presidential voting pattern, the worth of the vote is equally factored whether exercised in Point Pedro or Devinuwara, in reaching the required winning number of over 50% of the vote. It enables the minorities to make a call at the presidential election – proved beyond doubt when Sirisena won the presidential election comfortably by sweeping the North after losing the South by a considerable margin. It makes the President deferentially obliged to the Northern voters. If the Presidents wings are clipped the vote is registered for a man of straw. Therefore the 19th amendment, which overhauls the constitution, weakens the minorities, unable to impact a President on their loyalty vote.
In stripping the President of his powerhouse, the main thrust in support of the amendment, came from the TNA lawyer cum MP Sumanthiran when the 19th amendment was taken for argument in the Supreme Court. Was he in the draftsmen’s pool?
JR’s vision in setting the ’78 Constitution was to govern, holding the office of President with the help of the minorities and keep the parliament in check by prohibiting MP’s from switching sides and reaching a majority through proportionate representation. A selfish exercise that Wickremasinghe is now bent on correcting. Is the TNA voting for it blindfolded? No, they are thinking of a step beyond.
No doubt TNA prefers the emergence of a weak President enabling them to usher the 13th amendment under a Modi Plan and unite the North and East. They see the difference in the role models between J.R.Jayewardane with a 5/6th majority in Parliament succumbing to terrorism and Mahinda Rajapakse with a slim majority became the President and within 4 years eradicated terrorism and increased his parliamentary hold. TNA has made its mind – Mahinda Rajapakse’s superman image should never again be superimposed and be expunged from the constitution. Purge Jack to live with Jill can be a gamble for the TNA.
The architects of the 19th amendment desire to take Sri Lanka on the same journey as when N.M.Perera of the LS.S.P held hands with J.R.Jayewardane of the UNP that led to the 1977 UNP administration. This left/right combination unwittingly brought forth the 1978 constitution that was too late for Dr Colvin R de Silva (of the L.S.S.P) to defang it, been ousted from Parliament. The 1978 constitution irrespective of its infirmities is a work of art compared to the crude workmanship by the artisans of the present constitution. Do we see the paw marks of LSSP rebels in this draft too?
We are in an era of fledgling governments of limited duration made more prolific by an intended constitution: still it does not hurt much as Sirisena and Wickremasinghe are assured of a long life as their guardian deities, USA and India, will protect them from impending evils.
Yet the will of the people can overcome all other competing sources if the South without getting fragmented, stands together and elect a leader and a party that sits on its own and governs.
Recent events showcase the deficiencies of a coalition – leads to shadow boxing among sparring partners. People won’t tolerate nonsense for too long. Rajapakse learnt it the hard way and to come back is not easy. Goofy successors do make the impossible – a possible.
Face it – we are in a right royal mess. Yet Sri Lanka has come out smelling roses out of a worst mess as when terrorism held sway. Next election will aggravate the existing muddle more.