AN OPEN LETTER TO MR. MAHINDA RAJAPAKSA, FORMER PRESIDENT OF SRI LANKA RE THE JVP’S 20A AND ALSO CONTINUING ATTEMPTS BY THE GOVERNMENT TO BRING A NEW CONSTITUTION
Posted on May 29th, 2018

DHARSHAN WEERASEKERA, Attorney-at-Law

Dear Mr. President:  The newspapers report that the JVP has filed the 20A with the Speaker.  Independently of this, there are reports that the Constitutional Steering Committee has requested its ‘experts’ to prepare a Final Report and Constitutional Proposal.[1]  The Steering Committee filed its Interim Report in September 2017, and at least as far as is known to the public, debate on the said Report in Parliament was put off indefinitely in January 2018.

The point is this.  Having studied the tactics of Sirisena and Ranil (‘Siri-Wiki’) for nearly three years now, I am confident these latest attempts at amending the Constitution are their last ditch effort to postpone elections in 2020, and either stay in power till 2025 or beyond, or at any rate ensure that the ‘Yahapalayana’ agenda, so devastating to the interests of the Sinhalas as well as the country as a whole, continues beyond 2020.

You are the undisputed Leader of the Sinhalas.  I am convinced that, what is now shaping up is the ‘Final Battle’ between Siri-Wiki and those backing them on the one hand, and the Sinhalas on the other.  Your conduct will be the decisive factor in who ultimately wins this battle.  The question is whether you take a rock-solid stance against these attempts to change the Constitution, or waver, hedge and equivocate?  I would like to take a few moments to bring the following five matters to your attention:

  1. The Peril that the Sinhalas are facing
  2. Siri-Wiki’s options at the moment
  3. Siri-Wiki’s Plan
  4. The tactic they have used to trap you during these past three years, and what I think will be done this time also
  5. My appeal to you

1).The Peril of the Sinhalas

I’ll confine myself to just the 20A because it is not yet clear how the Steering Committee will play its hand.  The fact that the JVP with four seats in Parliament has even dreamt of bringing a constitutional amendment means that Ranil is behind this attempt.

If Ranil is behind it, then the UNP will back it.  Also, if Ranil is behind it, it is a safe bet that Sirisena is behind it as well, or at any rate will provide his 45 SLFP’ers – I have called them ‘sleazebags’ in a previous article and that judgment still stands[2] – to help Ranil get a 2/3 majority and push the amendment/s through Parliament.

To digress a moment, at the 10th February 2018 LG polls, SLFP voters gave Sirisena a terrific body-blow, making it absolutely clear that he had no right to use his 45 ‘sleazebags’ to carry on a ‘National Government’ with the UNP.  However, Sirisena has managed to survive this setback because of the Joint Opposition’s (JO’s) debacle with the Vote of No Confidence against the PM.  He has cleverly divided his forces, keeping about 10 with him, ‘releasing’ about 20 to the UNP, and sending 16 to you.

It is my considered opinion that, Sirisena still has as firm a grip over the ‘45’ as he ever did, and will use them to his advantage as and when he chooses.  That leaves your 50 JO’ers.  Of this, I think about 10 – 15 are shaky, i.e. they might back Sirisena under the right circumstances.  That means you (along with the Sinhalas) are left with roughly 35 MP’s on whom to rely in a crunch.

In short, if the 20A or any other constitutional amendment that Siri-Wiki table in Parliament goes to the wire, it will pass.  That’s the reality.  I hope I am wrong in this, but it is better for the Sinhalas to mentally prepare for this nightmare scenario.  It means that, the only safeguard left for the Sinhalas is the Referendum.  Unfortunately, there’s a huge problem with this as well, to which I will turn in a moment.  But first, let’s look at Siri-Wiki’s options.

2). Siri-Wiki’s Options

I take as a premise that, at the 2020 Parliamentary Elections, Siri-Wiki will suffer a crushing defeat.  If Siri-Wiki lose in this fashion, a) they will have nothing to look forward to in their respective retirements but endless trips to courtrooms and/or jails in order to account for their actions during the past few years, and b) the Sinhalas will finally get a chance to put the country on the right track by inter alia bringing fundamental constitutional changes including the repeal of the 13A.

Needless to say, Siri-Wiki can’t afford to let the above happen.  More important, the Foreign Powers – the U. S., India and the U.K. along with the Tamil Diaspora, that, each for their own reasons helped bring Siri-Wiki to power – cannot afford to let it happen.  They will therefore put their full weight behind Siri-Wiki to ensure that the latter continue in power beyond 2020, or at any rate the main thrust of the ‘Yahapalanaya’ agenda continues, albeit even with a change of faces at the top.

There are only two ways to prevent the aforesaid crushing defeat of 2020:  a)  to somehow or other postpone the 2020 Elections, or b) have those Elections held earlier than 2020, that is, when the Sinhalas have not yet fully mobilized, and also when they have not yet fully formulated their post-elections plans including constitutional changes.  Siri-Wiki can achieve either of these goals by pursuing a constitutional amendment such as the 20A followed by a Referendum.  In my view, they have three options, as follows:

a) Go for a referendum and win.

Siri-Wiki have a good chance of winning a referendum if they can marshal the same coalition that got Sirisena elected, plus, rig the referendum just to be on the same side.  If they win the referendum, they can claim that the people have renewed the ‘January 8th Mandate’ or some other such excuse and postpone the 2020 Elections, for instance by way of another referendum, the tactic J.R. used in 1980.

b)Go for a referendum and lose, and hold early elections.

If Siri-Wiki lose the referendum, they’ll have to dissolve Parliament and go for elections.  But, this is not such a bad idea at the moment, if one looks at it from their point of view.  The simple fact is that, your Party the SLPP is not in a position to win a national election at the moment.  One would have thought they were, but the No Confidence Vote fiasco proved otherwise.

If the UNP fields a strong team, and also has the support of the minorities, it will probably come out on top.  This is especially so if Sirisena’s ‘sleazebags’ contest under the SLPP banner.  The simple fact is that, most voters simply can’t stand the sight of these ‘sleazebags.’  I can’t speak for others, but I for one will not vote for the SLPP if a single ‘sleazebag’ of Sirisena’s contests under the Party’s list.  At the very least, they should sit out a term as penance for their ‘sins.’

The point is that, if the elections were held today, the SLPP will not crush Siri-Wiki, which is what the Sinhalas need, and what Siri-Wiki want to avoid at any cost.

c)Cut a deal with the JO that if they support the 20A there will be early elections.

This is the deal that was dangled in front of the JO a few weeks ago, and if I’m not mistaken a JO’er had even said they might be interested in it.  That was before you shut it down.  Anyway, this option leads to the same results as point ‘b’ above.  I will now turn to the trap that I think they will lay for you in order to get you to take one of the above routes, preferably ‘A’ because that is the best one from their point of view.

3). Siri-Wiki’s Plan

The trick for Siri-Wiki is to get you to support the 20A (or whatever other amendment they bring) or at any rate to be lukewarm in your opposition to it, so that  it sails through Parliament with a 2/3 majority and even a number of JO’ers will vote for it.  This will set up the referendum, which is where Siri-Wiki plan to bury you.

Siri-Wiki hope to confuse, divide and demoralize the Sinhalas in the run-up to the referendum, while they (i.e. Siri-Wiki) along with the minorities and the NGO’s with their unlimited funds from foreign backers mount a focused campaign.  For the Sinhalas, imagine the following scenario at any given JO rally in the run-up to the referendum:

On the same stage, the 16 ‘rebels,’ many of whom were rejected by the voters in 2015, (as I said earlier many voters can’t even stand the sight of these ‘sleazebags’), a good number of JO stalwarts, who made complete asses of themselves in the No Confidence Vote against the PM, and finally, the Left ‘intellectuals’ all braying at the top of their lungs against the 20A, or whatever other amendments Siri-Wiki put on the table.  Who will believe this lot?  It’ll be a complete circus.  This is exactly what Siri Wiki want.

On the other hand, if you fight the amendment in Parliament, it’ll give the Sinhalas time to mobilize, and also, more important, set out from the very start the main points on which the amendments in question must be rejected.  That way the arguments that will be made in the course of the campaign are clear from the very start.   The line that divides the ‘For’ camp from the ‘Against’ camp is absolutely clear from the very start.  Siri-Wiki can’t afford to let this happen.  This is where the trap comes in.

4) The Trap

In order to understand the trap, I must briefly review the tactic that they have used to trap yoo on at least 3 key occasions in the past three years, to wit:  a) get you to contest the 2015 General Elections under the UPFA banner with Sirisena’s blessing, b)  to get the JO to sign on to the Framework Resolution that established the ‘Constitutional Assembly’ on 9th March 2016 so that the resolution could be adopted unanimously, and c) get the JO to file a No Confidenec Motion against the PM.

I have discussed the tactic used in ‘a’ and ‘b’ above in an article titled, ‘The Constitutional Deathtrap,’ published on lankaweb.com on 23rd August 2016, and refer you to that for more details, but in brief, the tactic has 6 steps, as follows:

  1. By way of an interview or an article, a mole (usually an ‘intellectual’) working in cahoots with Siri-Wiki puts out the desired goal: for instance, that the best thing for MR to do is to contest under the UPFA, that [the aftermath of the 10th February 2018 LG Pools] is the perfect chance to get rid of Ranil, etc.
  2. Then, a faction within the JO also takes up the aforesaid position.
  3. Then, a group of Sirisena’s men make a pretense of quarrelling with him over the matter in ‘ii’ above. They subsequently leave Sirisena and go over to the JO, to pursue ‘ii’.
  4. Many rounds of ‘discussions’ between the ‘rebels’ and the JO follow, until finally the ‘rebels’ also embrace the JO’s position in ‘ii,’ with a few minor changes.
  5. The JO adopts the position in ‘ii’ and acts on it, the result being that Siri-Wiki get exactly what they wanted all along.
  6. After a few days, the ‘rebels’ go back to Sirisena.

I invite you to consider how the JO came to file a Vote of No Confidence on the PM.  First, recall that SLPP voters – who were in effect UPFA and SLFP voters of 2015 – never called for Ranil’s head either going into the LG polls or immediately afterwards.  I was a Pohottuwa voter, and I couldn’t care less if Ranil continued as PM.  My concern was that Sirisena had no right to continue with the ‘National Government’ because his 45 ‘sleazebags’ did not have a mandate from their voters to engage in such action.

So, the idea that Ranil should be got rid of, rather than the ‘National Government,’ was put to the people:  it was planted in a very clever way.   Next, a number of JO stalwarts began to make a hullabaloo calling for Ranil’s head.  It seemed as if, all of a sudden, these JO’ers couldn’t live a single second if Ranil remained PM.

Then, predictably, a number of Sirisena’s men also started calling for Ranil’s head.  To make a long story short, the JO’ers filed the No Confidence Motion thinking that Sirisena’s men were firmly behind them, which they were not.  No doubt the JO’ers were also assured (by Sirisena’s men) that a significant number of UNP’ers would join the plot at the right moment.  And so the JO filed the motion.  Sirisena’s men left them holding the bag.  The promised UNP defections didn’t happen.  And it was a disaster.

The result:  Sirisena lived to fight another day.  I won’t belabor the point.  Now, Sirisena has moved his men into place gain, and is poised to strike again.

I predict the following.  In the coming days and weeks, there will be a steady barrage of articles and interviews by various pundits suggesting that the 20A is the perfect chance to get rid of the Government.  All that needs to be done is to go for a referendum that [we will be told] the Government will surely lose.

Next, there will be a group of JO stalwarts who start saying the same thing.  And then, Sirisen’as ‘16’ will join the chorus as well.  Then, the JO stalwarts and Sirisena’s 16 will start having ‘discussions.’  And so, the farce will go…until the 20A or whatever other amendment Siri-Wiki want sails through Parliament with the JO’s tacit backing!

5)My Appeal

My appeal to you is, ‘Please do not fall into the aforesaid trap!’   Instead take an unequivocal stance against the 20A or whatever other constitutional amendment Siri-Wiki or their agents put on the table.  This will:

  1. Keep the ‘shaky’ JO’ers within your ranks.
  2. Perhaps get Sirisena’s ‘Sleazebags’ to vote against the amendment/s in Parliament, which will deprive Siri-Wiki of a 2/3 majority for once, and end the amendment/s in Parliament itself. This is the optimal result for the Sinhalas.
  3. Most important, give the Sinhalas time to mobilize.

Some people might say, But, isn’t it a good idea to at least discuss the pros and cons of abolishing the Executive presidency, devolving more power to the Provinces, etc.?’  I reply, ‘Certainly, but not at the moment.’ The Sinhalas can discuss all those questions and more when they have a Government of their own.

The only question right now is whether it is in the interests of the Sinhalas to trust a Government as corrupt, dishonest and scheming as the present one to meddle with the Constitution.  As far as I’m concerned any person who thinks the aforesaid is a good idea is either an idiot, a glutton for punishment, or in on it with Siri-Wiki.

Those then are some of my thoughts on the related issues, Mr. President.  I apologize for asking so much of your time.  I trust this finds you well.

[1] I am relying for this on an article in the Daily Mirror of 26th May 2018, titled, ‘Constitution-making Experts’ Committee Asked to Submit Paper Within Two Weeks.’

[2] An article in the Daily Mirror of 26th May 2018 titled, ‘Yes, I Received 1M Cash Cheque,’ details how a prominent member of this group of ‘16’ has now admitted that he received a million rupee ‘donation’ from disgraced bond scammer Arjun Aloysius’ Company.  From what I understand, the position of the aforesaid member is in essence, ‘Yes, I took the money, but I was not the only one.  Other people took even more.’  In short, ‘Everyone is a crook, so no one is a crook!’  I repeat, my judgment as to the ‘sleazebags’ remains.

4 Responses to “AN OPEN LETTER TO MR. MAHINDA RAJAPAKSA, FORMER PRESIDENT OF SRI LANKA RE THE JVP’S 20A AND ALSO CONTINUING ATTEMPTS BY THE GOVERNMENT TO BRING A NEW CONSTITUTION”

  1. Dilrook Says:

    It is in the best interests of Sinhalese to abolish executive presidency. In 2015, over 60% of Sinhalese rejected Sirisena but still he became EP. In 2005, 63% of Sinhalese rejected Ranil but he would have easily won it had the north voted. What type of ridiculous system is this? The majority has no say!

    It gets even worse if the north and east cast fraudulent votes again as in 2015 or if voting in the south is disrupted. In 1999 Venerable Soma launched a campaign to boycott voting at the presidential election. If it had succeeded, Ranil would have won the election as only Buddhists heeded his advice. But it failed.

    Once elected the EP appoints PM, ministers, chief justice, central bank governor and even the opposition leader.

    This is dictatorship and a fraud on the majority.

    Mahinda promised to abolish executive presidency in 2005. That was how he got JVP support which won him the election. Chandrika promised the same in 1994. Sirisena made the same promise. It is excessive greed for power that changed their mind. It is foolish to keep EP for Gotabaya. That is very short term thinking. Gotabaya is already roped in by the minorities! Even if Gotabaya wins in 2019, how about 2024? He cannot win it as economic problems will turn the majority away from him. Then UNP will want to keep EP.

    EP ruins even the most patriotic person. Who thought Sirima would try to come to a deal with the LTTE but the 1988 presidential election did! Her representatives Anura, Ponnambalam and Lasantha Wickramatunga were caught by the IPKF when they were returning from a meeting with the LTTE. Sirima was far more patriotic than Gotabaya and if EP could ruin her patriotic credentials, I have no doubt it will destroy Gotabaya too. We are all fallible humans after all.

    Sinhalese had their interests protected until EP was introduced in 1978. Thereafter minority kingmakers are the rulers behind the EP.

  2. Charles Says:

    Executive powers of the President should not be removed. It is a danger to give those powers to the PM or distribute them amoung the PM,the Cabinet and the Parliament. The Presidents who promised to remove executive powers did not do so, because once elected they saw that the Executive powers are useful to be retained in the interest of the people and the security of the Country. So far the executive powers had not been used by any previous President except perhaps by JR and RP(both UNP) to the detriment of the Country. Mahinda Rajapakse became the President at a very difficult period of Sri Lanka’s history and he had to face many problems and in trying to solve some he may have taken firm decisions. But that does not mean he was a Dictator. Can one imagine a PM like Ranil having Executive powers with a powerless President. Mahinda Rajapakse is a very patriotic man and he was a Patriotic President too. It is the silly reconciliation madness of Yahapalanaya which has given power to the Minorities not the EP of the Presidents.

  3. Dilrook Says:

    Reconciliation madness was started by Rajapaksas in 2011 with the LLRC. Minorities were allowed a free reign by them. Vigneswaran and Najeeb became Chief Ministers under Mahinda and Bathurdeen was given Wilpattu by Basil (a court case is pending). LTTE leader KP was turned into a VVIP and war winning army commander Fonseka was sent to prison by Mahinda. Hakeem was made the minister of justice by none other than Mahinda! He called Buddhist monks ‘Saffron Terrorists’ and Mahinda didn’t even remove him from his ministry.

    Sinhalese who support both EP and Rajapaksas will regret it soon and foolishly blame the 40% Sinhalese who oppose Rajapaksas at the election. This is a well known fact and unwise to blame them for not voting for a Rajapaksa. This is a fact that was there even before Rajapaksas were born.

    PM cannot have executive powers. Executive powers vest in the Cabinet. Ranil became PM only because of EP Sirisena. Otherwise Mahinda would have won the 2015 parliamentary election and become the PM.

    If we miss this chance to abolish EP, there will not be another if UNP wins in 2019 (by foul means of course). If Gotabaya or Chamal wins in 2019, UNP + TNA + JVP and 25 SLFP MPs can still pass a resolution to abolish EP. Parliament cannot be dissolved until March 2020. If Sirisena contests and feels he cannot win the presidential election, he will get parliament to pass a resolution to abolish it pending the presidential election. He will use it to prove that he is genuine about abolishing it.

  4. Charles Says:

    It is easy to put every thing to Rajapakse as if Yahapalanaya is doing every thing correct. That is what the Yahapalanaya UNPMinisters keep trelling every time they appear in the TV, that things are better than what it had been under Mahinda.

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