THE ‘CONSTITUTION’ AND THE ‘CRISIS’ Part 2.
Posted on January 15th, 2019

KAMALIKA PIERIS

To the surprise of the nation, President Maithripala Sirisena suddenly turned against the Yahapalana government which had made him President and decided to dissolve Parliament. On November 9th 2018, President Sirisena issued a Gazette notification dissolving Parliament and declaring a general election on January 5, 2019.

This was challenged in Supreme Court by several parties, most of whom belonged to the ‘minorities.’ There were ten fundamental rights petitions. They came from UNP, TNA, SLMC, JVP, Tamil Progressive Alliance, All Ceylon Makkal Congress, and also individuals such as Pakiasothy Saravanamuttu of the Centre for Policy Alternatives, and Ratnajeevan Hoole, a member of the Elections Commission.

These petitioners were in a quandary. There were two opposing clauses in the Constitution, one which said ‘can dissolve’ and another which said ‘can’t dissolve’. Therefore, the petitioners avoided the text of the Constitution and went on Fundamental Rights. They appealed on the grounds of Fundamental Rights, citing Article 12 which declared that all persons are equal before the law and are entitled to the equal protection of the law.”

The petitioners said the Fundamental Rights of the MPs to stay on in Parliament for four and half years was affected by this Gazette.  They were entitled to complete their term in Parliament. The dissolution also violated the rights of the voters who had sent them there. Critics said that these petitioners were in effect saying that they feared an election.

The Supreme Court verdict was given on December 13, 2018. The judgment was a unanimous one. The judges said that the decision to dissolve Parliament prematurely was unconstitutional. The Gazette was illegal. It was a violation of the rights of the petitioners and all Members of Parliament. The MPs were entitled by law to complete their respective terms in Parliament and have been denied this. The Gazette also violated the rights of the electors who sent this lot to Parliament.

The election set for 2019 was also unlawful.   A General Election can only be held   when   Parliament was dissolved within the terms of Article 70, otherwise it will not be a lawful election. It will not be a true exercise of the franchise of the people.  ‘Any exercise of franchise, must be at an election which is duly and lawfully held and which satisfies the results of an ensuing election’.

The decision rests on the  manner in which Article 33 (2) (c), Article 62 and Article 70 of the Constitution are to be read, understood and applied, said Supreme Court. Article33 (2))(c) vests in the President the power to dissolve Parliament, but  the  manner in which it can be done is specified  in Article 70, which says Parliament cannot be dissolved till 4 ½   of its five year term  had  expired.

The judges observed that ‘our Law does not permit Court to review or question the validity of a statute which has been enacted by the Legislature’. Supreme Court is not permitted to review or question   any law passed by Parliament. The duty cast on this Court therefore is to read and give effect to the provisions in the Constitution, taking into account intention, without twisting the clauses and arrive at a conclusion which would uphold democracy and the Rule of   Law.

Critics had observed that what went before Supreme Court is not a determination of the constitution, but a Fundamental Rights”    application.  The panel of judges recognized this. They agreed that these petitions were for the protection of the MPs Fundamental Rights.

They said every citizen had the inalienable right to invoke Fundamental Rights in Supreme Court and the foremost duty of the Supreme Court, is to protect Fundamental Rights  They also added that Fundamental Rights   was linked to sovereignty, using Clause 4 of the Constitution. Actually   Fundamental Rights   has nothing to do with sovereignty.  Fundamental Rights   are absolute rights.

The decision of the judges seems to have been known before hand, because we saw on television a small group of UNP supporters assembled before the Courts complex, waiting to hear the decision, and the first we knew of the judgment was when we saw this group erupt in cheers. This judgment was not what the SLFP, Pohottuwa and the general public wanted but no one protested, since it was a relief to have the matter settled.

The Supreme Court judges have rendered a pedestrian judgment, said critics. The judges   had simply decided between the two opposed alternatives, ‘dissolve’ or ‘not dissolve’ and opted for the latter. Critics said that the judgment had ignored the pulse of the people. People must be given the chance to choose a new set of representatives with a fresh mandate.

If reading the constitution is relegated only to simple reading alone with no consideration for what the Constitution is intended for in the first place,  there is no point in going to Supreme Court, continued critics. Supreme Court should have take the whole picture into account and arrive at a ‘noble decision’ that would benefit the nation and create a valuable precedent. One critic took a novel approach. He said Supreme Court has ignored the fact that the masses did not vote for the 19th amendment.  The 19 amendment was not in the Constitution at the time the electorate voted Yahapalana government in.

Critics drew attention to India, where the Supreme Court of India in December 2018,   refused to interfere with the decision of Governor of Jammu and Kashmir, to dissolve the state assembly of Jammu and Kashmir. Critics observed that in the case of Kashmir, it was the decision of a governor of   just one Indian state.  ‘In Sri Lanka we are talking of the decision of the Executive President.’

There were many contemptuous comments on the use of word ‘democracy’ when preventing an election. An invigorating national debate capturing the essence of democracy and upholding the rule of law” took place, said one NGO.  This was laughed at. Denying, or postponing, the right to vote was seen as a positive sign of the triumph of democracy observed H.L.D Mahindapala.  The vast majority has been denied their right to express their will through the exercise of universal franchise.

it is comical to witness the sudden discovery of the virtues of democracy  by  the upper-crust of the middle class  and by  the cabal of self-appointed, unrepresentative civil society interventionists    and NGO activists  , funded principally by  the west   who support a disruptive unchangeable government. They are opposed to Mahinda Rajapaksa re-gaining political power, not democracy.

A lot of undemocratic things were done by the Yahapalana government, pointed out critics. There was the appointment of Ranil Wickremesinghe as the PM in January 2015 with only 42 members, the recognition of the TNA leader as the Leader of the Opposition, the recent holding of Parliamentary sessions without Standing Orders, freezing of elections for local government and then provincial councils. These are all undemocratic.

The call for a general election continued throughout and after the Supreme Court judgment. A petition with 5 million signatures requesting a general election was collected by Ven Muruthetuwe Ananda of the Abhayarama, Colombo. Derana television news of 7.12.18   showed persons signing this at the Abhayarama. Derana news of 29.11.18 showed foreigners signing the   NGO appeal against the dissolution.

The Maha sangha were very active in this matter. They continuously addressed the public through media conferences.  They had one at SEMA building in November 2018, where there were seven of them seated on the platform in a row. Vice Chancellor of the Buddhist and Pali University, Colombo Ven. Prof. Gallelle Sumanasiri presided. Ven. Kegalle Rathanasaara Nayaka, incumbent Monk of the Veherahena Temple, Matara and President of Sasanaarakshaka Mandalaya, Matara, Ven. Paraduwe Jinarathana, Ven. Athuraliye Indrajothi and Ven. Hegoda Vipassi, Director of the Paramadhamma Research Centre, Ratmalana were among those present at the media conference.

The ‘Dissolution drama,’ helped to expose the countries that were propping up the unpopular Yahapalana government. USA, EU, UK, Canada and Australia came out openly for Yahapalana. Having ‘invested’ heavily in Sri Lanka to install an administration in 2015, free of Chinese influence, the US reacted angrily to President Sirisena’s 26 October move,” reported the media. US and its allies are openly supporting the side that does not want an election. They claim this is to restore” democracy in the country, the media said. Why did USA not speak of democracy when Provincial Council elections were delayed for more than two years.

The U.S. Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs said that the United States was “deeply concerned by news the Sri Lanka Parliament will be dissolved, ” It said democracy needed to be respected.” European Union also saw the action as a challenge to democracy. “Mark Field, the British minister of State for Asia and the Pacific, tweeted his concern about the dissolution of Parliament. Canada’s Foreign Policy twitter feed said that it was “deeply concerned” about the decision.” Australian Minister for Foreign Affairs said the move “undermines Sri Lanka’s long democratic tradition and poses a risk to its stability and prosperity.”

The  ambassadors for Britain, Netherlands, Norway, France, Australia, South Africa, Italy, and Canada did not attend  a meeting called  by the new Foreign Minister as a way to  ‘register their protest’ over President Sirisena dissolving Parliament. US, EU, India, and Germany sent junior representatives to the meeting.

However,  representatives from United Nations, Germany, Canada, European Union, the Netherlands and Norway were present in the VIP gallery of Parliament to witness the No Confidence Motion against Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa being taken up. Speaker Karu Jayasuriya had invited them to the gallery to see the day’s proceedings.

A local TV channel broadcast images of the ambassadors cheering when the vote count, in favor of Wickremesinghe, was announced by the Speaker. Diplomats from US, UK, UE and Canada were also in Supreme Court when the fundament rights petition was heard. They were seen sending messages across, said critics.

The US and its allies  strongly opposed Rajapaksa’s appointment as Prime Minister. They applauded the return of Ranil Wickremasinghe as Prime Minister. US said it welcomed   the  appointment. Sri Lanka is a valued partner in the Indo Pacific.  The European Union,  and Norway,  said we welcome the peaceful and democratic resolution of the political crisis, in accordance with the Constitution..” Five days after the resignation of Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa  Japan welcomed ‘the return to political stability’.

Analysts observed that a section of the diplomatic community in Colombo openly sided with the UNP  throughout the eight weeks of political dispute, and in doing so, they violated the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations (1961).These diplomats made public statements on domestic politics, issued veiled threats of sanctions and were present in the Parliamentary gallery when Speaker Karu Jayasuriya controversially accepted a no-confidence motion on the newly-elected PM Rajapaksa.

This active involvement of certain Western diplomatic missions in Colombo and of the United Nations regarding the actions of the President of the country cannot be justified, said Palitha Kohona and Tamara Kunanayagam. There are no gross and systematic violations of human rights, politically motivated violence or the breakdown of social norms in Sri Lanka.

By interfering in the domestic affairs of the receiving country, these diplomats are directly violating the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations . US, Australia and some EU ambassadors have been involved. Special mention was made of the heads of mission of Canada, Norway and Germany.  It was reported that the German Ambassador even sought a public confrontation with a Sri Lankan parliamentarian.

Palitha Kohona and Tamara Kunanayagam charged that the UN   also was joining the countries which were supportive of Ranil Wickremasinghe, such as UK, Germany, Canada, and EU. This was contrary to the neutrality expected of a UN official. What  happened in Sri Lanka was a domestic matter and the UN representative should stay neutral.

Soon after the judgment was declared, Ranil Wickremasinghe was reappointed as Prime Minister and the same old UNP cabinet was also reappointed, by a grim faced President Sirisena. But things were not the same. The return of the Yahapalana/UNP government was not welcomed. Analysts said that we should be very watchful as to what Yahapalana government is going to do in the coming 1 ½ years.  The boisterous, cocky Yahapalana government was now somewhat subdued. It had got an awful fright. Also its action of opposing the Gazette had spoiled its image. Yahapalana government had succeeded in preventing a much wanted general election.

President Sirisena   and former President Mahinda Rajapaksa now acquired greater stature. President Sirisena   was not a newcomer to politics, though he looked  utterly  diffident at his swearing in as  President. He has been a Member of Parliament from 1989 and had been the Minster for agriculture, health, irrigation, Mahaweli and  Rajarata development.  He has been Leader of the House, and General Secretary of the SLFP. Sirisena is now backed by SLFP, Pohottuwa and the Rajapaksas .He looks resolute. He keeps complaining about Prime Minister Ranil Wickremasinghe.

After Ranil Wickremesinghe took oaths before him as the Prime Minister, at the Presidential Secretariat, President Sirisena spoke to United National Front Parliamentarians. In that speech, President Sirisena said, inter alia, the statement he made that he would not appoint Ranil Wickremesinghe as Prime Minister even if all 225 Members of Parliament should present a signed request was his political opinion. “I still stand by that statement, but as a leader who respects Parliamentary traditions and democracy, I offered him that post,” he said.

Neither Parliament or the Judiciary have the power to name a Prime Minister, but since a majority of Parliamentarians had expressed the view that Ranil Wickremesinghe should be given the Premiership after casting 117 votes in his favor, had he agreed because he respected Parliamentary tradition.

The President said he took steps to dissolve Parliament, prorogue Parliament, and appoint a new Prime Minister, after consulting legal experts. Those decisions were taken with good intentions putting the country’s interest first. He had not the slightest intention of breaching the Constitution. The President said he believed the best solution to the unrest was holding a general election, because, the opinion of 15.5 million voters was more important than the opinion of 122 Members of Parliament.

“The President criticized the government for the way it acted for three-and-a-half years, indefinitely postponing the enactment of the Bribery Commission Act which aimed to penalize the accused in the Central Bank bond issue and to recover the money lost by it. Failing to apportion ministries on a scientific basis as stated in the election manifesto, failing to implement the recommendation of the Presidential Commission which investigated the Central Bank bond issue, losing the confidence of the Maha sangha, and the imprisonment of war heroes were the other issues that he had objected to. These factors influenced my recent decisions. “Whatever people say, I took my decisions in the interests of the public, he said. Now, a political movement that is against fraud and corruption is needed in the country to rebuild its economy.

During the time Ranil Wickremasinghe was out of power, critics had much to say about Ranil Wickremasinghe . Ranil Wickremasinghe holds the record for the most number of elections lost under a party leader, they said. Ryp Van Winkle observed that Ranil Wickremasinghe had been the leader of the UNP for almost 25 years.  ‘Under your leadership the UNP has  never won a simple majority. Also you have never served a full term of office,’  Ryp Van Winkle pointed out.

Wickremesinghe has relied on former Sri Lankans including Arjuna Mahendran (Singapore), Razeen Sally (Singapore), Suri Ratnapala (Australia) as well as prominent foreign personalities in the Economic field such as George Soros, Professor Ricardo Hausmann of Venezuela, Joseph Stieglitz (who came as the chief guest of the former Prime Ministers 2023 agenda for economic prosperity) for his Vision to build Sri Lanka, said Rusiripala Tennekoon.

Tennekoon listed the institutes that were used by Ranil Wickremasinghe to further Yahapalana economic aims. They were, the  institute of Policy Studies, . Advocata Institute, launched at the Lakshman Kadirgamar Institute as an independent Public Policy Think Tank working towards a free and prosperous Sri Lanka,  and Millennium Challenge Corporation  a unit located within the Strategic Policy Development Unit of the Prime Minister’s Office. The objective of this MCC is to influence the regulatory environment and rule of law in the South. former Prime Minister Wickremesinghe created his own team, the Cabinet Committee on Economic Management (CCEM). This CCEM took decisions bypassing Cabinet.

Pradeep Jayawardene,  said in an interview in November 2018, said that Ranil Wickremesinghe brought in a gazette to close down the  JR Jayewardene Centre, continued  Pradeep,  who is  JR’s grandson. Ranil stopped the Centre’s rental income and said he wanted to establish an institute to train Parliamentarians with funding from a German political group. The Act for this was drafted and brought into Parliament, but cancelled due to  the recent events. Ranil also held a meeting at the JRJ Centre and said this is the last meeting of the JRJ Centre, concluded Pradeep.

Mahinda Rajapaksa continues to be popular. He  has not lost face despite getting and losing the post of Prime Minister within a matter of months. In fact his popularity seems to have increased and so visibly, has his confidence. Rajapaksa cannot even take a sea bathe in peace. Television cameras showed  Rajapaksa receiving the greetings of supporters   when he emerged from the sea,    at Galle,   in swimming trunks with a   towel wrapped around him.

Mahinda Rajapaksa arrived late at a Nelum Pokuna function in January 2019.  President Sirisena and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremasinghe were already there. When it was announced that Mahinda Rajapaksa was now in the audience, there was a round of applause.

A test run on the Matara-Beliatte stretch of the southern railway extension, took place amidst cheers and boos, in January 2019. A group of protesters, holding photographs of former President Mahinda Rajapaksa, delayed the start of the train at the Beliatta station by blocking the line. A   second   group stopped the train midway, demanding compensation. A third group of Rajapaksa supporters protested at the Bambarenda station.

People are now    saying how effective Mahinda Rajapaksa has been as President. Sarath Obeyesekera recalled, I remember attending a meeting of the Southern Development Committee chaired by Minister  Sagala Ratnayake. When the issue of re-commencing the Galle Yacht and Boat Repair Industry was taken up, I pointed out that the Sri Lanka Ports Authority did not allow me to proceed. At another meeting in the CECM, chaired by the Prime Minister, I again took up the same problem expecting a decision to be made. The PM instructed the Minister to allow the project, despite some ludicrous reasons the Minister had given for not permitting it. I argued about it, but once the meeting was over I knew that the Minister was against it” Business leaders want firm decision from the political leadership..  This was conspicuously absent during the last three and a half years, said Obeysekera.

When I was in UK, continued Obeyesekera,  the current Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa visited the London Buddhist temple just before his first presidential election, to attend a religious ceremony, where I was also present. He had seen me after 10 years. He beckoned me with a wave. When I went near him, he held my hand and asked when I was planning to return to serve the country. One of my friends, while returning from Kataragama happened to meet Rajapaksa, who was the President at that time. The President did not know him but cared to talk to him.

We experienced labor unrest when Mahinda Rajapaksa was the Minister of Labor, continued Obeysekera.  We had been compelled to close the shipyard temporarily in view of trouble. The workers met the Minister, who called me for a meeting. He asked me why I had resorted to such drastic action. I told him that I wanted to maintain discipline. Apparently annoyed, he told me that I did not even listen to the Minister, under whom I worked as Chairman.

Minister Rajapaksa asked me whether I wanted to fight him. He said he was a street fighter and if I was ready we could fight it out, outside the ministry. Then, he winked at me and I realized that he was joking. A three-year collective agreement was signed and the strikers returned to work. Rajapaksa sorted out the issue to the satisfaction of both sides to the dispute. A leader should have these qualities to win the hearts of the people if you want him to lead the country. We need a leader capable of making firm decisions, concluded Sarath Obeysekera.”

Yahapalana thinks otherwise. In January 2019 a group of persons clad in black and calling themselves civil activists demonstrated outside Capital Maharaja Organization, Hiru , Derana, Sirasa , Maubima newspaper office and several other media organizations.  Earlier, a row of protesters clad in black  sat protesting at Railway station, Maradana against the gazette and Mahinda Rajapaksa. They were there for days.

This new group handed over a letter which said, “Owners of media organizations and Mediamen, you  became a part of the anti-constitutional and anti-democratic coup of October 26. Your conduct after October 26 showed how unethical the media can be.  By taking the side of a specific political group during the coup and justifying it, you flouted the expectation among the public that the media would conduct itself ethically.

The letter objected to the manner in which the media had reported the Supreme Court judgment against the dissolution of Parliament, They  had misrepresented facts said the letter.  No , said Chandraprema, the media had  reported the matter accurately. The letter also accused the media of promoting jathiwadaya by which was meant Sinhala jathiwadaya .  However, some of the media   organizations were owned by Tamils and non-Buddhists, commented Chandraprema. The letter ended with the warning “We are watching you.”

The  letter   accused the media of not reporting  both sides of a story. That was not so. Chandraprema point out that none of the mainline media organizations demonstrated against, can be accused of having reported one sidedly during the political crisis following October 26, 2018. The press conferences held at Temple Trees were given wide coverage by all TV stations and newspapers. Since the mainline media is doing a good job of reporting on both the government and the opposition, there is no room for an alternative media to make headway. That is the problem, he said.

The  organizations that participated in the protest were: Sri Lankawe Kanthavo, Aluth Piyapath, Aluth Parapura, Maruthaye Handa, Didulana Hadawatha, Prajathanthrawadaya Sandaha vu Samanallu, Yuththeeya Web Madhyawedeenge Sangamaya, Sadhu Janarawa, Negee Sitimu Sri Lanka, Chitrapata Adhyakshakawarunge Sangamaya, Athurudanvuwange Pavul Ekathuwa, Prajathanthrawadaya Sandaha vu Neethignayin, and  Samabima Organization. Among the prominent people seen   among the protesters were the film director Vimukthi Jayasundera, actress Samanalee Fonseka, Brito Fernando , also one Dhanushka who  was identified as a JVP activist.

The persons demonstrating  were mostly employees of NGOs funded by the  foreign countries that  had openly backed the move to block the holding of a general election, said Chandraprema. The whole country saw the manner in which diplomats of Western embassies in Colombo went to Parliament to express support for the move not to have a general election and even sat in the court rooms to ‘observe’ the proceedings. When people paid by the countries  that  these diplomats belong to demonstrate in front of local media organizations, what are we to understand from that, he asked.

The media stations did not take this challenge  lying down. They said that  this was the work of the  UNP government,  because UNP felt that the media had backed the Oct. 26 government change.  Yahapalana government had launched the protest campaign. Maubima   staff came out of their office with placards of their own and held a counter demonstration charging that the demonstrators were from foreign funded NGOs. The Maubima staff  hooted and jeered as the protestors left.

The UNP has recommenced its attacks on the media, said Chandraprema. Some time ago Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe threatened journalists and media organizations mentioning some by name. this included  Divaina. Since the restoration of the UNP government some weeks ago, these attacks have assumed a more sinister aspect. There has been a stoppage of advertising from government owned institutions to the two premier private TV stations in the country Hiru TV and Derana TV.

The silent masked black clad demonstrators are a warning of something sinister said Chandraprema.  These deliberate planned actions are carried out by educated, English speaking middle class persons.  alarm bells  should start ringing throughout the country. The entire nation should stand up and take notice.

Sri Lanka is now in the middle of a full scale neo-imperialist, neo-liberal invasion with a determined attempt to whip the local media into submission. After January 9, 2015, the media has been the only democratic institution still holding out. Until just days ago, both the government and the opposition were dominated by the same Yahapalana group. The genuine opposition in the country, the Joint Opposition with 53 MPs was given less time to speak in Parliament than the JVP which had only 6 MPs.   It was the media that enabled  the  Opposition to be heard by giving them coverage in the news bulletins. This was why the media has earned the wrath of the UNP and the neo-liberal mafia supporting them.

The Tamil National Alliance (TNA) came into unexpected prominence due to the Dissolution issue.  In December 2018, Parliament passed a vote of confidence in Ranil Wickremasinghe  to show that he  should be the  Prime Minister. Ranil Wickremasinghe obtained 117 votes. UNP had only 106 votes   of its own.  The winning votes came from TNA. Ranil musters 117 with TNA support” said Daily News on  13.12.18.

United People’s Freedom Alliance said  the UNP today is dictated by the TNA.TNA MP Sumanthiran is dictating terms on the UNP,” he said. The Opposition charged that ousted UNP leader Ranil Wickremesinghe had received Tamil National Alliance (TNA) backing for a Confidence Motion presented on his behalf in return for  promises. The Tamil National Alliance (TNA) put forward four main conditions along with a few other conditions in order to extend their support to the United National Party (UNP) in Parliament. The TNA wanted the UNP to give their consent in writing, said informants.

The conditions laid-down by the TNA  included the following, Solutions without any delay to the pressing problems faced by the Tamil Community, Release of political prisoners, free all the lands now under the Sri Lanka Army and assign all important posts to the TNA in the North and East development projects and programmes.

United People’s Freedom Alliance said   TNA has offered its support to the UNP because Wickremesinghe had agreed to their terms, he will agree with anything and anyone to stay in political power, irrespective of policy, national security or integrity of the country.

We have reasons to think that Ranil has already signed an agreement with the TNA to give away the provisions for Police Powers and Land Powers to the North. This is no big deal for him, if he sees an opportunity to stay in power,” said UPFA. PLOTE  also thought that Ranil Wickremesinghe would have given in writing that he agrees with the proposals made by the TNA, to support him in Parliament.

United National Party (UNP) and the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) categorically denied signing any secret, private or political agreement between them about the 13th Amendment, releasing ex-LTTE cadres from prisons, or withdrawing Army from the North.

TNA admitted that they  had  discussed their problems with UNP leader Ranil Wickremesinghe.We discussed particularly releasing our people’s lands from military occupation, freeing those political prisoners held in government custody, and being vested with more governing powers to the Northern and Eastern Provinces,”  but we never signed any agreement with the UNP.”

With the  TNA supporting UNP and voting with it, another issue came up. Is the TNA with the government or the opposition?  When Parliament reconvened after the Supreme Court judgment the post of Opposition leader was   taken away from TNA leader R Sampanthan and given to Mahinda Rajapaksa.

The loss of the Leader of the Opposition position was a major political blow to the TNA., said Jehan Perera. TNA  did everything they could do to ensure that the government was restored after it had been sacked by President Maithripala Sirisena.

The Leader of the Opposition’s position  gave the TNA, which represents a minority community, a position within Sri Lanka’s hierarchy of political leaders. The Leader of the Opposition is a prestigious position that gave the TNA an official status both within and outside the country and made its leader one of the topmost in the pantheon of the country.

There was   also a very practical reason why TNA wanted  the Leader of the Opposition position., the Leader of the Opposition is able to get more things done than can be done by an ordinary MP or even  a  leader of a political party. A request by the Leader of the Opposition would carry more weight and get more things done especially from the government bureaucracy and even the military.

In addition, the Leader of the Opposition is provided with a fully equipped office with staff. Over the past three years the TNA enjoyed this  source of state power that the Tamil community has seldom had the opportunity to enjoy, said TNA regretfully.

The  Dissolution debate  was based on the 19th Amendment to the Constitution. The 19th Constitutional Amendment  Bill was presented to Parliament by Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe on 24 March 2015,   just two months after Yahapalana came into power. 19 petitions were filed  in Supreme Court, with regard to this amendment. Five for and 14  against the amendment. The petitions were considered and the amendment was reviewed by a panel of Supreme Court Judges led by Chief Justice K. Sri Pavan  and recommendations sent back to Parliament.

Yahapalana government  changed the bill several times to get the backing of parliamentary opposition parties. It amended the relevant clauses and removed the sections that needed a referendum before presenting it to Parliament. 19 Amendment   was enacted In April 2015. This  law was passed by a nearly unanimous vote in parliament with only one MP Sarath Weerasekera opposing it.   UPFA later said that UPFA was not prepared to support it but President Sirisena wanted them to do so, so they did.

The 19th amendment introduced clause 70/1 which said that Parliament cannot be dissolved for 4 ½ years out of its five years, unless  Parliament  decided to  dissolve itself. But the same 19 amendment also brought in article 33/2/c  which said,  ‘in addition to the powers given by the Constitution or any other law, President  shall have the power to dissolve Parliament’ .These  contradict each other. The 19th Amendment also said that the Prime Minister cannot be removed , he has to resign.

The Dissolution Issue” brought the ugly aspects of the 19th amendment before the  public. This Amendment was designed to do three things, restrict the power of President Sirisena, make Ranil Wickremasinghe secure in his position as Prime Minister and keep Yahapalana government going for 90% of its term.

The current constitution is an imperfect document full of holes, lacking even simple logic, brought about to safeguard not the people, but a few politicians and deprive certain others of their legitimate rights,  said one commentator. For this reason alone, people must be given the chance to choose a new set of representatives with a fresh mandate” he said.

Our Constitution  does not permit Supreme Court to challenge  a law passed by Parliament and has received the Speaker’s assent, analysts observed.  Improperly enacted laws must not to be protected in this way. If a law is passed by surreptitious means, it should be possible to challenge it in Supreme Court even after it has received the Speaker’s assent. Legislation pushed through without proper examination of its provisions  surely, cannot be    considered valid law.

The Dissolution debate also tried to use the notions of ‘Constitutionalism’ and the ‘Rule of Law’. These two concepts usually stay  inside the disciplines of law and political theory.  For a proper Rule of Law there must be, inter alia,  just laws, not   biased laws like the 19th amendment. For Constitutionalism, which means ‘adherence to a constitutional system of government,’ the constitution must be a good one, well thought out, meaningful and without howling contradictions and dangerous clauses.

The Dissolution debate, also gave a new slant to the concept of sovereignty.”  Yahapalana supporters complained that the concept of sovereignty is now interpreted as a concept outside the framework of the Constitution, when it should be firmly lodged inside the Constitution.

Sovereignty is defined in all sorts of ways, but this is the first time I have come across this argument. Of course sovereignty is outside the constitution.  The Constitution derives from the sovereign state, not the other way round.   We, the sovereign people of   Sri Lanka, or wherever, herewith declare this to be our Constitution etc etc .”

There is a related matter which has not been debated and that is the right of Parliament to pass amendments to the Constitution. Parliament is created by the Constitution. It is a creature of the Constitution and it is under the Constitution, not the other way round.    Parliament should not, therefore have the right to make any amendments at all to the Constitution or     tamper with it in any way

The intelligentsia have been trained to think that  the notions of ‘state’, ‘constitution’, ‘rule of law ‘   originated in the west in the 17 century , This cannot be accepted.  There were successful centrally ruled states   from ancient times in Asia. In Sri Lanka the Sinhala king was expected to rule according to ‘pera sirit.’ There is also the concept of Dasa Raja Dharma which is found in the Mahahamsa Jataka of the Khuddaka Nikaya. Gautama Buddha, who lived in the 6 century BC, was able to comment on governance because the north Indian states around him were republican states. However, only the    organization in the Lichchavi republic is known to day.

Around the same time as our Dissolution  drama, a strong reaction against the government  developed in France, the  ‘yellow vest” demonstrations. These   began over fuel taxes  and  ballooned into a wider revolt against President Emmanuel Macron’s policies and governing style. It appears that many in France were starving, their salaries were insufficient to live. This protest is now in its ninth week.  Yellow Jackets want the right  to  make the government  repeal a law,  amend the constitution or remove a public official from office.

THIS ESSAY ENDS WITH SOME EXTRACTS FROM  CASSANDRA CRY” They give the opposite point of view.

  • Sirisena and Rajapaksa ignominiously had to eat crow, dished out by the ruling of the seven judge Bench of the Supreme Court and loudly crowed over by the right seeing citizens of the land. Mahinda Rajapaksa now stands disgraced in the eyes of many.
  • The government is now composed of UNPers, the Muslim Congress and a Tamil Party or two. You could say they stood tall, closed ranks and held their heads high; to express staying loyal and committed to a person, Party or principle and being proud of it. They gathered at Temple Trees.
  • Karu Jayasuriya was voted as Gentleman of the Year. You will surely recall that Cass had unlimited and unrestrained praise for him who thought right about the President’s moves in appointing a new PM and all that, withstood verbal and physical barbs, Bibles and bound volumes of the Constitution and conducted the affairs of the august House with rioting Ministers and MPs of the blue and pohottu variety and stood strongly firm like a teak tree in a storm.
  • Ranil W was also voted in as a Gentleman to be honored. Yes, even for the one act of staying calm, unmoved, unflinching when so many in the House were behaving like hyena-heathens. That unflinching non-combative resistance was excellent. He also restrained the elephants in his herd, some straining to retaliate, and note – he never hits below the belt in giving voice to his opinion of other politicians.
  • Voted in to the 2018 Gentlemen’s Gallery are Mr. Sambandan and his close ally Mr. Sumanthiran. Some say they have an agenda in propping the UNF government. Of course all have agendas; no politician is completely altruistic and open. These same say that their ultimate aim is a separate state. Cass does not want to believe that though she believes they will ask for more and the UNF will have to give if giving is justified. But we cannot listen to harbingers of separatism for their aim is to cause racial disharmony.
  • Mahinda Rajapaksa’s minions of the likes of Wimal Weerawansa keep accusing foreign powers, especially Western States of “interfering” in the affairs of our country and even accuse the UNP of being willing stooges.
  • Representatives of the UN and countries, in Colombo, were naturally perturbed at the happenings of October 26 and thereafter and expressed concern about the stability of Sri Lanka. Admittedly they are not completely altruistic but they were perturbed for the country and not worried about their organizations or countries being affected.
  • Small minded, loudly pontificating men behind Mahinda Rajapaksa are so narrow in their view both of the world and our land. They are also, as the Economist writer mentions, bringing in the twin issues of our armed forces and races. They have been beating their drum on punishments given to armed forces personnel and inalienable rights being restored to the Tamils of the land – to them unjustified benefits. They could not comprehend that the TNA and other non-Sinhala Parties joined hands with the UNP to restore democracy in the country.
  • Mahinda Rajapaksa’s sycophants have already seen a division of the land and the so called minorities becoming the majority. Raising the ire of people about armed force personnel being convicted of crimes and igniting the dormant flame of racial animosity are unforgiveable sins.
  • If armed forces personnel are guilty of having committed crimes they HAVE to be punished, no two words about that. ( concluded)

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.

 

 


Copyright © 2019 LankaWeb.com. All Rights Reserved. Powered by Wordpress