Why this sudden concern for following the Constitution?
Posted on November 3rd, 2018

Since President Maithripala Sirisena officially dismissed his own hand-picked Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe last Friday (26th October) and installed his bête-noir Mahinda Rajapaksa in his place, more than the surprise element inherent in this action, there have been endless debates as to whether the President acted according to the Constitution or not. Interestingly, the EU, the USA, Britain, India and a few other countries have even urged Sri Lankan leaders to follow the Constitution as if they were the guardians or god fathers of this country. Still worse, one British Member of Parliament has gone even to the extent of saying that the so-called “international community” (which is a carefully coined Western term to refer to the Western countries themselves) recognizes Ranil Wickremesinghe as the Prime Minister. Mark the implication: it is they the so-called “international community” or the West that would decide as to who the Prime Minister of this country should be, and not our own Sri Lankan citizens! When he faced the exit orders last Friday from the Executive President, Ranil Wickremesinghe himself did not first turn to the citizens of our country or the judicial system or the constitution of Sri Lanka but to the so-called “international community” by calling their ambassadors for a special meeting at Temple Trees. Thus he has not only shown his true colours but also revealed who his real allies and sponsors are.

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What amazes and amuses this writer is the sudden awakening in some vociferous quarters – both local and international – to the central issue of whether the events unfolding in Sri Lanka since last Friday are in accordance with the Sri Lankan Constitution or not. More or less the same voices could be heard before January 2015 too, crying foul with the then government of Mahinda Rajapaksa and haranguing that democracy was at peril in Sri Lanka, so much so they dared to call the eventual election of the common candidate Maithripala Sirisena as President “a non-violent revolution in Sri Lanka” that saved democracy in the country. However, the same voices could not be heard at all since 2015 till last Friday, simply because they had simply assumed that those who came to office were immaculately clean in upholding democracy and the Constitution in Sri Lanka. One wonders where they were really in Sri Lanka, somewhere else in the world or in a remote corner of outer space? Where were they when democracy was threatened and the Sri Lankan Constitution was openly flawed by the government under President Sirisena and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremasinghe. Suffice it to enumerate and highlight just the following undemocratic and unconstitutional events/issues that were carried out in broad day light by the so-called “yahapalanaya” without a whimper from those who were vociferous for democracy before their election to office in January 2015:

The installation of Ranil Wickremesinghe as Prime Minister with just 46 seats in a parliament of 225 members. The then Prime Minister D. M. Jayaratne and his party enjoyed 141 seats at that time. Let us not forget that what we had on 15th January 2015 was a Presidential Election (to elect a President) and not a Parliamentary Election (in which the leader of the majority of members elected would be nominated as Prime Minister). Simply put, in January 2015, people elected a new President and not a new Parliament or a Prime Minister. But Ranil Wickremasinghe with just 46 seats was appointed Prime Mininster by the new President!

The betrayal of the millions of UPFA voters who voted (against the UNP) at the last General Elections in August 2015 when the leaders of the UPFA (headed by President Sirisena) undemocratically and unilaterally decided to join the UNP to form what they themselves called a “National/Unity Government”. To do this, they did not have a mandate of their supporters (who voted against the UNP just as the SLFP asked the voters to do at the general elections), and so, it is undemocratic and a betrayal of the voters of the SLFP/UPFA.

The deprivation of the post of the Leader of the Opposition to the Joint Opposition which had some 54 seats as against 16 held by the Tamil National Alliance whose leader nevertheless was given on a platter the post of the Opposition Leader, violating all traditions of parliamentary democracy.

The undemocratic appointment of those candidates rejected by the voters to the parliament through the back door by both Sirisena and Wickremesinghe within their respective parties.

The establishment of the non-democratic and extra-judicial institution of FCID to investigate the alleged crimes of only those who opposed the National/Unity government.

The shameless efforts of the ruling UNP and its leading Ministers and Deputy Ministers to sweep under the carpet the Report of the COPE (with their now well-known footnotes and appendices to that Report!) which first found the then Governor of the Central Bank Arjuna Mahendran (who was a personal friend and special nominee of Ranil Wickremesinghe) allegedly guilty of serious financial fraud linked to the biggest financial fraud in the history of Sri Lanka.

Arjuna Mahendran himself testifying before the Bond Commission of Inquiry that the Prime Minister was directly involved in recommending the immoral and faulty auction method that was at the base of the Central Bank Bond Scam. Moreover, the appointment of the same Mahendran as an advisor to the Ministry of Finance by the Prime Minister.

The secrecy that surrounded the Bond Report of the Presidential Commission of Inquiry and the missing parts of it (some 103 pages) that were hushed up thanks to the dedicated efforts of the yahapalana government of Sirisena/Wickremesinghe to keep the obvious culprits safe. Even non-political civil societal organizations such as CaFFE raised the issue with the government in January 2018 but without any success.

The sidelining of the Elections Commission in the process of enacting the Provincial Council Elections Amendment Act as alleged by no lesser person than the chairman of the Commission, Mahinda Deshapriya himself.

The utterly undemocratic and anti-Constitutional way in which the Provincial Council Elections Amendment Act was finally bull-dozed through the Parliament in March 2018 which the Island Editorial of 9th March 2018 called “The Rape of Democracy”! The Bar Association of Sri Lanka (BASL) too pointed out that the due parliamentary process was not followed in passing this Act.

The above-mentioned Act was rushed through and passed in parliament when the Supreme Court had given a clear ruling that the extension of the terms of the Provincial Councils or a postponement of their elections would require a referendum in addition to a two thirds majority in parliament. The yahapalana government completely sidelined this Supreme Court decision and had their way in order not to have provincial council elections, thus robbing in broad daylight the franchise of the people guaranteed by the Constitution.

The continuous and shameless postponement of the holding of Provincial Council elections with all sorts of whimsical reasons though it is already overdue with regard to at least six Provincial Councils. It was just last week that no lesser person than the Chairman of the Elections Commission himself who said such undue postponement of elections and letting the Provincial Councils to be run by government officials tantamount to a sort of a “dictatorial” style of governing!

The postponement of the holding of local government elections with all sorts of flimsy and ludicrous reasons given by the government till they were finally forced to hold them in February this year.

The government’s efforts to bring in a new Constitution (to suit their own whims and fancies) without a mandate to do so when they, the rulers (of the past three years) could not muster even a proper, decent mandate to rule the country!

The tear-gassing and suppression of peaceful protests for just causes such as the most recent protest by the up-country tea plantation workers to raise their daily salary to 1000 rupees.

The refusal of granting the venue to the Joint Opposition for their recent protest rally in Colombo by the Colombo Municipal Council controlled by the ruling UNP a couple of months ago, though the organizers of the rally had booked the place long before with all the payments, reservations,…etc. made weeks ahead.

The reader ought to note that the events listed above are not mere subjective opinions but objective facts that unfolded in this country since January 2015 till last Friday. But ironically (it has been this writer’s experience) whenever such objective facts are mentioned, the immediate reaction of those self-appointed “defenders/advocates of democracy and the Sri Lankan constitution” is invariably: “Are you a Mahinda supporter?” Why one of my fellow Catholic priests even went to the extent of saying: “Yes, all those are true, but when you mention them, you are supporting MR (Mahindata Kade Yanawa)”. Such emotional, highly prejudiced and one-sided remarks are the main reasons for getting blinded deliberately to the above-mentioned objective facts that are clearly undemocratic and anti-Constitutional.

Let us not forget that all those above-mentioned events happened under the government that was headed by the same President who now claims that he acted according to the Constitution last Friday in removing and installing the persons for the post of Prime Minister. The now eloquent voices clamouring to uphold the Constitution, both local and foreign (including the religious, political and civil organizations who claim to be independent politically and the NGO’s) were all silent when these glaring aberrations and serious violations of democracy were in full swing during the last three years under the same President with the able support of Ranil Wickremesinghe. Did any of them find fault with the then government for not holding local/provincial government elections on time, for example? Did any of them ever openly state the need to implement justice fully in the case of the Central Bank Bond Scam that was allegedly hushed up by the then government? Did any of them ever raise even a feeble voice for the democratic need to give the post of the Leader of the Opposition to the group that enjoyed a majority in parliament as it has always been done? Most of all, did those who are very vociferous today about following the Constitution with regard to removing and installing the Prime Minister ever utter a single word when a party leader with just 46 seats was installed as Prime Minister while the incumbent had already the support of 141 members, and thus, seriously violating the Constitution? In short, during the past three years where were those champions of democracy who are now shedding crocodile tears for democracy and the upholding of the Constitution? One cannot resist but raise the question: why this sudden concern for democracy by these voices while they were in deep slumber when democracy and democratic institutions were seriously throttled and threatened in recent times? Is it because their favourite political party is now in apparent danger of losing power? Or else, it ought to be pure political hypocrisy, on the part of both religious and political/civil leaders (both local and international) who now make a loud cry all of a sudden for democratic values and the upholding of the Constitution. After all, the same President who allegedly “violated the Constitution” last Friday was the head of the government when the above-mentioned anti-democratic things were done violating the same Constitution during the past three years. Things could not be simply right then and wrong now! Such an attitude would lead us to moral relativism. Those who had decided to conveniently and deliberately be indifferent during the past three years when the Constitution was violated openly, have now become very alert and concerned about upholding the Constitution. Those who had decided to forget the need to uphold the Constitution have suddenly remembered the utmost need to uphold the same Constitution! Talk about selective forgetting/indifference and selective remembering, and here we are! Such persons seem to have had a miraculous healing of their self-imposed, selective Alzheimers’ last Friday with President Sirisena’s unexpected decisions. But then, was it really a ‘miracle’ or was it the dire need to support their political cronies which has now healed such a deadly disease as selective Alzheimers’ of those who are very vociferous about democracy and the upholding of the Constitution?

6 Responses to “Why this sudden concern for following the Constitution?”

  1. Vaisrawana Says:

    Well said, Rev Father Tirimanna. The best the so-called international community could do at the moment is to keep clear of our country, and, just let their local stooges perish as they must.

  2. ranjit Says:

    Well said Father Thirimanna. We appreciate your fine article at this hour very much. We see nowadays that Christian community is very much involved in politics than before. It’s good for the country but it should be in good faith without barking on behalf of groups and organisations which are against our beloved country. NGO’s are the worst poison for a country. They spread lies and send false information to the outside world. This evil characters must be stopped and send off from our soil for good as it was done by the then Mahinda government. We need unity at this hour to save Motherlanka from traitors to motherland within and from outside specially from the so called International community comprises of western hypocrites and the Indian parasites. Maha Sanga cannot take sides and do nothing. They should in one voice support the twosome Sinhala Buddhist leaders Mahinda-Sirisena and show them the correct path way forward for peace and prosperity for all Srilankans irrespective of party,color or religion. Let’s all get united and built our land of paradise. May God bless our blessed land and it’s inhabitants.

  3. Ananda-USA Says:

    Rev Father Thomas, you are distinguished from most of your fellow Catholic priests by your fealty to the indelible truth.

    I thank you for it, and revives my belief that my Catholic friends are not beyond redemption.

  4. Nimal Says:

    Clergy or priests have no say in this matter. Everyone must respect the constitution and the normal rules and well meaning international community should observe the happenings for the sake of voiceless taxpayers like us where 75% of out tax revenues are squandered by the thieves in our parliament and it seems that they are all at it.

  5. nilwala Says:

    Fr. Tirimanne always has a somewhat different point of view that does not pontificate, but rather takes pride in and understands the local majority viewpoint which he clearly articulates. It is always a pleasure to read his writings.
    If, after all, the UNP is so concerned about the Constitutionality of what was done by the President who felt that a course correction was needed after the withdrawal of the UPFA from the Govt., why does it not go to the Supreme Court and have it decided through the Constitution itself,which had been so ineptly tinkered with via their own 19th Amendment, rather than attempting to internationalize the situation via the on-going drama at Temple Trees?

  6. Ananda-USA Says:

    All of this makes CRYSTAL CLEAR that our Constitution is FATALLY FLAWED through the tinkering power hungry LOCAL POLITICIANS and FOREIGN POWERS eager to mold Sri Lanka to their liking irrespective of our wishes as citizens!

    We need a PATRIOTIC CONSTITUTION that

    STRENGHENS the EXECUTIVE PRESIDENCY instead of PRUNING it, by REPEALING 19A and giving the Presidency even additional powers,

    ELIMINATES Term Limits on the Presidency to allow the VOTERS to FREELY ELECT their President as they see FIT,

    ELIMINATES the REDUNDANT POSITION of (Executive) Prime Minister to PREVENT the kinds of INTERNAL WARS BETWEEN EXECUTIVES we witnessed in the last 3 1/2 years,

    RELIES on the SPEAKER to manage and moderate the House Proceedings (as in the US House of Representatives),

    REPEALS 13th Amendment now to PREVENT a SEPARATISM PRONE Federal System of Government emerging in Sri Lanka. and

    DISSOLVES and REPLACES ELECTED Provincial Councils with District Administrations led by District Governors APPOINTED by the National Government. This will ELIMINATE MUCH of the over 8500 tax-supported do-nothing PARASITES of Provincial Governments, and deliver streamlined government tto the people under a national government administration. It will HALT SEPARATISM in its TRACKS and REDUCE the multiple barriers that EXIST NOW to getting anything done in our country.

    FOSTER ONE National Parliament with 225 MPs, and perhaps CREATE a Senate with ONE Senator per DISTRICT to give each DISTRICT equal representation in Parliament irrespective of its population size.

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