Could ramshackle government enact new constitution?
Posted on September 8th, 2017

N. A. DE S. AMARATUNGA  Courtesy The Island

Opposition is emerging to the new constitution. Former Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa speaking at the inauguration of a movement against the government’s constitution making process

The idea that the country needs a new constitution is a construct of the Tamil separatists and opportunist politicians who need their votes to come to power, and the imperialists and the regional hegemonic powers also in this game for geopolitical gains and strategic reasons. Thus, there is enormous pressure from all these forces on the Government to install a brand new constitution with virtual federal features. The people of Sri Lanka, on the other hand, are not interested in a new constitution, but would want a less heavy burden on their day to day lives. These poor people are also concerned about what is happening to their money, which is systematically and fraudulently robbed by ruthless bank robbers and finance ministers making them destitute overnight. These people bent in two by the heavy burden of life do not want a new constitution. Even when they were up and about and timely elections were available to them to show their dissent, they did not ask for a new constitution. Certainly there is no demand from the majority of people in this country for a new constitution. But a new constitution is offered by bank robbers et al as a panacea to these poor hapless people.

The country does not need a brand new constitution because the existing one, though it may have a few weaknesses which could be corrected by consensus in the Parliament, is good enough for our purposes. With regard to minority rights, it must be said that our constitution has granted more to the minorities than in any other country in the world. For instance, the Tamils in the North and the East can give evidence in Tamil in a court of law, which facility is denied to the Tamils in Tamil Nadu. In the same breath, it could be said that all the issues related to Tamils: language, education, employment, house- hold income, and culture etc. have been addressed, and in fact the Tamils are performing much better than the Sinhalese in all these aspects at the moment. The 13th Amendment cannot be implemented in full and police and land powers cannot be devolved because of the danger such a step would cause to the security of the country. Going by the recent happenings in the North and the increasing power of the Tamil Diaspora and its influence with the western powers, it is obvious that the LTTE is not dead and is regrouping both locally and abroad. To give police and land powers to the North and the East under these circumstances would be suicidal for the Sinhalese, Tamils and the Muslims. The country would be torn asunder.

The evil elements that clamour for a new constitution say the government was given a mandate for it. This government has no mandate even for its very existence in its present form. Then, how could this deformed creature sired by a marriage of convenience between two different species, born out of malice, this ramshackle of a government struggling to survive, wobbling according to its own members, consisting of people’s rejects and purchased members, undertake such a critical and crucial mission and responsibility like formulating a new constitution? When a new constitution is contemplated, particularly when changes in political power and the nature of the state are being considered in this country, people’s lives are at stake. Thus the issue assumes immense critical and existential importance for the people. Only a government held in the highest esteem by the people with an outright 2/3rd majority could claim to have the right to formulate a new constitution, and not a government which has a contrived majority. Neither the UNP nor the SLFP on its own has even a simple majority. These two parties, according to their core philosophy, cannot converge on critical issues in the constitution such as unitary state, devolution of political power, federalism etc. They have come together as mentioned earlier for political expedience. Constitution making and political expedience must be kept apart as cotton wool and fire. Constitution making should not be allowed to be undertaken by a government which boasts that it has a 2/3rd majority which we know has been contrived by many horse deals and paid for with public money.

Another matter of grave concern is the interest shown by the imperialists and the regional power, and their unwelcome assistance and interference in our constitution making. People must understand how this came about. This government came into being with the assistance of those powers and was obliged to co-sponsor the UNHRC Resolution against its own country, which committed this government to carry out constitutional changes that met the demands of the Tamil separatists. The Tamil separatists are an important cog in the wheel of the imperialist agenda and its design on the Indian Ocean. The regional power has aligned with the imperialists necessitated by their common need to keep China at bay. Thus, unfortunately for us, the Tamil separatists are the darling of both the imperialists and the regional power. Hence both send their emissaries to twist the arm of the government, most recent being the highest in the land with regional power who came to worship on Vesak and helpfully reminded us of our constitutional obligations, and also addressed their descendants disregarding the fact that they are citizens of this country and are obliged to abide by the common interests, and indirectly gave them ideas about aspirations they could possibly develop. But what is worse is the obsequious silence of the government, which seems to have forgotten it has a duty by the people of the country to look after their interests. It must have no truck with those powers ganged up to dismember this country. But the government is probably helpless in this regard as it is obliged to them. Further, they depend on the Tamil separatists’ vote to win future elections and keep the common enemy at bay. Thus the people are caught up in a no-win situation.

In this seemingly hopeless situation the Joint Opposition, which is the only hope that people have at this critical moment, has a momentous responsibility and role to play. It is the vital remnant of the SLFP, which always stood for nationalism and national interests, such as sovereignty and territorial integrity, anti-imperialism, national assets etc. The other part of the SLFP that joined the government is colluding with the UNP, which has opposing views on these matters of national interest and therefore does not qualify as genuine SLFP material. People have placed enormous trust on this faction of the SLFP if the recent May Day rallies are an indication. If the JO also abandons the people at this juncture, the people will lose the confidence and trust it has nurtured over the past two years. The previous regime overestimated its popularity and neglected the peoples woes related to cost of living and paid the price. The JO which is the only surviving offspring of that regime is in danger of committing a similar blunder. If it does so, it will end up in the dustbin of political history and the intelligentsia of the country will have to build another SLFP. The trouble is there doesn’t seem to be an intelligentsia in Sri Lanka worth its salt at present. Intelligentsia by definition is not just the intelligent people, but intellectuals who have the national interest at heart.

The JO by consenting to participate in the Constitutional Assembly has endorsed the dubious cock-brained view that the country needs a new constitution. A constitutional assembly is required only for the purpose of drafting and finalizing a new constitution. It is not as simple as appointing a committee to inquire and report on some matter or other. It is not an everyday occurrence. It is a momentous occasion and of paramount importance with far reaching implications. Depending on the intentions it may auger well or ill for the country and its people. Further, it is obvious that the structure of the various sub-committees of the Constitutional Assembly is so designed that there could be only one outcome, and it is not favourable to the country. Further, the advisory committees are full of known Eelamists. The reports of these various committees have come in and they do not look good from the point of view of the people. The final draft proposal produced by the Steering Committee headed by the prime minister have several clauses which dilute the unitary status and the place granted to Buddhism. The deletion of the Concurrent List renders the provincial governor powerless and removes the president’s control of the provincial councils, which makes the constitution virtually a federal arrangement. The PCs will also probably have police and land powers and all this will ultimately pave the way for a separate state.

The JO cannot play the innocent game for they were part and parcel of the process that produced these drafts. Have they objected to these proposals that are obviously inimical to the country? Do the minutes record their objections? Have they said in any of their media conferences that they did object to these proposals? Nobody has heard their voice in this connection. Did they propose amendments to these proposals? Nobody knows of any such useful action by the JO. Their position is that they are fighting against these trends from inside and that is why they still remain in the Constitutional Assembly but there is no evidence of their fight. The worst fear is that they have a hidden agenda which the people hope is not true, because if it is true the gods also have forsaken this country.

What should a responsible opposition do under these circumstances? The JO has already blundered by voting for the formation of a constitutional assembly whereby they endorse the hare-brained view that the country needs a new constitution. If they are in the Assembly, it cannot be for anything else but formulation of a new constitution, which must have several important changes from the present one. Going by the above mentioned drafts these changes do not conform to the stated policies of the SLFP or its philosophy of origin. The claim of the JO that their intention is to fight from inside has no credence, given the fact that so far they have not been able to stem the trend and prevent the introduction of unfavourable clauses. Moreover, their presence in it gives the proceedings further credence and license to go for the kill. That is the only purpose their participation in the assembly serves and hence they have no claim to be the original SLFP and appear before the people as their saviors. They had an excellent opportunity to correct their mistake and get back to their inherited path, when the Sangha made the proclamation that there is no need for a new constitution and consequently Wimal Weerawansa’s party left the assembly. They must follow suit before it is too late. Such an action would also galvanize the people and make them aware of the peril that waits in the wings and rally round the JO. If they do not, there is nothing to prevent the people suspecting that the JO is playing a waiting game or worse a double game.

N. A. DE S. AMARATUNGA

One Response to “Could ramshackle government enact new constitution?”

  1. Nihal Perera Says:

    Well said..! Both Yahapalanaya idiots and the useless Joint Opposition (JO) are playing games, while the country is going to hell in a hand basket. The only person I trust, who is still a true patriot is Gothabaya, in my opinion.

    The rest of the politicians are opportunistic, self-serving, and unreliable. MR may be the most popular politician right now, but he needs to get his act together soon if he wants to save the country. Playing political one-upmanship may be clever, but not going to help the country, unless he gets organized and rally the troops to beat the present yahapalanaya idiots.

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