Who wants a new Constitution?
Posted on April 27th, 2017

By Ananda Ariyarathne Courtesy Ceylon Today

“It is needless to say a ‘Constitution’ is not just a set of rules for a game for amusement or passing time but a basis for a framework that would affect the people, capable of creating a hell for the very people for whom it is supposed to be meant. More it is thought about, more it becomes convincing that the Soulbury Constitution the British gave Sri Lanka had more honesty than in any other Constitution which came by including the one under which it has become more or less like an effort to make a simple game more confusing and complicated.”

The editorial comment that appeared in the ‘Sri Lanka Guardian’ of 17 January 2017, which was used by Laksiri Fernando is definitely thought provoking. The excerpt highlighted has the following to say: “There are some people who are afraid of change by nature. Some may be perennially conservative and lazy to undergo change. This laziness could easily come from the bureaucracy or the public servants and particularly the mandarins in the legal establishments. For a new constitution, they have to work hard. Their incompetency may get exposed.”

Twists and turns

It went on to draw the attention to the genuine realities in “…capturing the questioning minds of the ordinary masses on the dubious ‘twists and turns’ of politicians and other public figures on the question of a new Constitution…”

Whether we like it or not, this issue of a new Constitution has come into our middle. Geographically Sri Lanka does not provide for any kind of divisions with demarcated areas to contain political authority as the political authority has to be common and its services have to be available freely and fairly. That does not mean that the administrative divisions are also not possible.

Administration has to be unbiased and set in a workable circuit.

Constitution does not have to be confused about administration. In other words, having ten divisions will mean ten different administrations which would be functioning in ten different ways making a variety of obstacles everywhere. Self determination can be achieved, but for what purpose? What is wrong with the existing mechanism?

Undue influence

Due to undue influence, we got Provincial Councils, but do they have the required features to be independently administering their own regions? If it is the well-being of the people in the Provincial Council that matters, why do they need Police powers and land powers?

The Constitution that brought in a system of a special kind of Executive Presidency was not definitely what voters wanted and it was clearly visible with the other developments which took place such as the fate of the first woman Prime Minister of the world, Sirima Bandaranaike who had started showing signs of power that was not going to be shaken easily. Compared to the excesses this helpless nation was destined to witness later, the real reasons behind such a ruthless action did not prove anything other than the fear of her coming to power again.

Such a change became possible due to the main maladies linked to what was described as the inherent reluctance to changes, aggravated by the lethargy of the bureaucracy led by the so-called mandarins, which resulted in a vacuum where more positive and progressive thinking and activities were needed.

Easily manipulated

Our system depended mainly on a voting base that could be easily manipulated. In general, Sri Lankan voters are a highly emotional set of decision makers who would not think twice when it is a case of an election. It was very easy to punish the tormentor by rejecting him. That rejection happened only by voting the main party opposing. It was never because voters accepted the principles, but that was the way to get rid of the unwanted.

Therefore, our talking about the mandates of the people is only an attempt to sugarcoat a bitter pill. It may be amusing but very educative to know about what happened at such mandate seeking elections in the past. Vijayananda Dhahanayake from Galle was addressing a public meeting in Kandy. That time the biggest issue was the ‘Chinese Problem’. He said the problem had become so acute with Chinese coming to dominate the country. He sounded very serious when he uttered a thing like “…Now dear friends…the Chinese are everywhere and in Galle there is a place called China Garden called ‘Cheena Koratuwa’. How many of the crowd could know that China Garden in Galle was an area where Chinese lived for more than three centuries.

It was no different at any other mandate seeking election meeting we saw. The clearest mandate was the desire of the people to get rid of those who lost their trust. Mahinda Rajapaksa had to go. Even some within the UNP wanted to see the very maker of the executive presidency J.R. Jayewardene and the even Ranasinghe Premadasa go.

Who wants mandates?

They were mostly, those who were not in power, except for situations like Gamini Dissanayake and Lalith Athulathmudali’s rebellion within the UNP and the most recent are the developments that took place in the recent political history of Sri Lanka where the people wanted to get rid of Mahinda Rajapaksa and his team. We are still fresh with the memories of that drama that were linked to the mandate we are talking about.

The last mandate we are talking about was a result of joint efforts by so many stakeholders and it is very clear that it was not the opinion of the people. Even if we agree that it was the opinion of the people, it is just an attempt to make ourselves not guilty of manipulations.

Although, the former President Mahinda Rajapaksa and the strategists who have been around tried to maintain the position that it was the votes in non -Sinhala areas which changed the fate, it is conveniently forgotten that why should there be such a justification in the first place. What if the Tamil votes were also cast for Mahinda Rajapaksa? The picture would not have been what they are lamenting now about. Also, what if he got more out of non-Tamil votes? The fact is that there were more people rejecting Mahinda Rajapaksa. That became possible due to the blunders made under his leadership. His negligence was aggravated by his incurable over-confidence. Well, again, those are not the issues of the people.

Stakeholders

All the stakeholders had their own agendas and one common factor was the unanimous need to get rid of Mahinda Rajapaksa and his government. All the enemies had a solid reason to be friends. That was what decided the basis to seek a mandate. It was not to seek a new Constitution but to get rid their common enemy. A new Constitution emerged as a consequence sparked by the so-called need to trim the powers of the executive presidency. They had other reasons related to all parts of the country. Peace and harmony could be identified as what all the people cherished.

Those who got European help knowingly or unknowingly played into their hands strengthening the Tamil Diaspora. Those who solicited help from European countries and India did so in the same manner. Those who wished to use the United Nations mechanisms to get rid of Mahinda Rajapaksa did so feeling highly confident. In all those negotiations, there could have been many commitments and all those could easily be merged into one common effort and that was to pave way for Tamil extremists’ aspirations. If anyone says that there is no such aspiration, it will amount to hypocrisy. As it is the case, where is that mandate?

Mixing up inherited realities

The continuous drifting of Sinhalese Kingdoms from the North to the South can be understood by trying to learn how and why the Tooth Relic of the Buddha ended up in Kandy. The Sinhalese population remained over 70 per cent.

The efforts made by the Tamil Diaspora, show that it has become a strategy not to allow Sinhalese to settle down in the North and East. On one hand, the Sinhalese people want to live in many provinces in the country. However, the minority communities are not in favour of such a move.

For instance, Muslims have been living in harmony with the majority community. They led a very peaceful life for centuries engaged in trade. When they were harassed by the Portuguese, it was King Senerath who provided them with sanctuary in the South-Eastern Sri Lanka. Now, the extremists among Muslims want them to be entitled to their traditional lands. They also want a separate province. This is nothing but absurd.

Concentrated effort

There is a concentrated effort to corner, subdue and intimidate the Sinhalese. The Tamil National Alliance (TNA) and the Sri Lanka Muslim Congress (SLMC) are trying to create as much divisions as possible in society. Those political parties are not allowing their community members to live in harmony with the Sinhalese.

The pressure brought on the majority community ended up in an inevitable backlash eliminating the world’s most ruthless terrorist organization. Could it have happened if the LTTE had the support of the Tamil people?

Should the armed forces be penalized for doing an efficient job? They have been accused of human rights violations. However, the government does not counter such allegations, but pushes for Constitutional changes.

When we have proof to show that the Tamil Diaspora is actively behind the Constitutional change, can it be ignored?

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