Posted on March 16th, 2019

By W.A.De Silva Courtesy The Daily Mirror

Constitutional reforms to whose benefit? Will it provide any consolation to the national economic crisis? Was there a demand from the masses for a new Constitution? You may find answers to these questions once you peruse this article.

Article 3 of Chapter 1 of the Constitution states that in the Republic of Sri  Lanka, sovereignty is in the people and it is inalienable.” Article 4 of same chapter states that sovereignty of people shall be exercised and enjoyed in the manner that legislative power through Parliament consisting of elected representatives of the people and by the people” and executive power of the people through President elected by the people” and judicial power of the people shall be exercised by Parliament through court.”

In terms of the above articles, it is absolutely clear that the legislature and the executive could be considered as arms to be used by the people to exercise sovereignty. In that context, it may be noted that the concept Supremacy of Parliament” is applicable in our Constitution subject to the sovereignty of people. In our Constitution, people are supreme. Accordingly, the legislature and the executive should act and exercise people’s sovereignty delegated to them essentially in congruence with the interests and aspirations of the people of this country. In that process, parliamentary democracy priority should be given to the interests and aspirations of the masses with due consideration being given to the interests and aspirations of minorities. What is happening in our legislature is quite contrary to the above proposition. Once elected to the legislature (Parliament), politicians simply assume the role of masters of people and their performance gives an impression that they act in accordance with their personal agendas, totally disregarding the interest and aspiration of the people. A classic example of this irresponsible behaviour is an attempt to introduce a new Constitution, disregarding protests against the same from people, political and religious leaders and various segments of our society.

The campaign for a new Constitution has been initially launched by architects of Yahapalanaya together with their supporters at the last presidential and general elections in order to oust the Rajapaksa regime

It is worth to analyse from that point of view as to what the leader of the incumbent government is trying to do through constitutional reforms and the proposed new Constitution. It may be noted that an aggressive campaign for a new Constitution, in the present context, has been launched by the leader of the present government, the JVP and the TNA. The government leader has shown extraordinary interest in this process despite hundreds of national issues which require utmost priority over and above so-called constitutional reforms.

The campaign for a new Constitution has been initially launched by architects of Yahapalanaya together with their supporters at the last presidential and general elections in order to oust the Rajapaksa regime. It is a strategy adopted for that purpose to coordinate and consolidate the support of those who were against the Rajapaksa Government namely the international community led by the US and allied forces and the TNA. Who are the active supporters of the architects of Yahapalanaya in this process? It was not a secret that international forces led by the US and its allies through UNHRC and TNA have played a very vital role in the process of ousting the Rajapaksa regime and to establish a new government under leadership of Wickremesinghe. In reality, the need for a new Constitution has been brought up by Wickremesinghe in order to satisfy these parties that rendered their support to oust the Rajapaksa regime.

Joint UNHRC Resolution 30/1 of year 2015 could be considered as vital evidence available to corroborate the above presumption. Joint UNHRC Resolution 30/1 could be identified as a tripartite agreement in which the US and allied forces play the role of first party, the TNA as second party and Wickremesinghe (being the co-sponsor) could be considered as third party. These three parties have their own agendas to be realised through implementation of proposals set out in Joint UNHRC Resolution 30/1. The agenda of the US and allied forces seemed to be setting up of a conducive environment for their global power politics in this country. The agenda of TNA is nothing but devolution of power up to the level acceptable to UNHRC and TNA based on separatism. Agenda of Wickremesinghe seems to be consolidation of power with the support of the TNA and international forces led by the US by implementation of their agenda through constitutional reforms.

The agreement entered into with the leader of the LTTE outfit Prabhakaran – with the intervention of foreign forces – reminds us that Wickremesinghe had kept a record on the betrayal of people’s sovereignty even in the past.

It is a fact that it is not possible to give effect implementation of proposals set out in Joint UNHRC Resolution 30/1 of year 2015 under the present Constitution such as delegation of power up to the extent acceptable by the UNHRC and TNA, setting up of the hybrid court mechanism to investigate so-called war crimes, human rights violations, missing persons and so forth though Wickremesinghe has given a firm undertaking to the UNHRC, US and allied forces and the TNA, to do so having assumed the role of co-sponsor to Joint UNHRC Resolution 30/1 on his own violation for which no mandate had been given by masses of this country at the presidential or general elections. This act of assuming the role of co-sponsor to Joint UNHRC Resolution 30/1 could be considered a great betrayal of people’s sovereignty of this country by Wickremesinghe for his survival in power politics in lieu of the reciprocal support extended from UNHRC,  US and allied forces, and the TNA. In other words, a new Constitution would be an instrument which facilitated the implementation of agendas of aforementioned three parties.

The abolition of executive presidency is considered one of the vital requirements in the proposed new Constitution.  It may be noted that the executive presidency was created by President Jayawardena due to some shortcomings he experienced in the Westminster system of parliamentary democracy, in which the prime minister is considered one among equals elected to Parliament. In case of a hung Parliament, the prime minister would be under obligation to satisfy self-centred interest of party leaders, who made pulls and pushes in different directions disregarding national interest. The executive president being a single person not one among equals elected by the people can avoid such shortcomings confronted by the prime minister when exercising power vested in him in the Constitution. It is our experience that unprecedented achievements such as the Mahaweli Project, liberalization of the Sri Lankan economy from the grip of closed economy, creating export processing zones under President Jayawardena, eradication of terrorist outfits which had caused devastation to this country over a period of thirty years, huge development projects such as Port City, Hambantota Port, Mattala Airport, highways etc. under President Rajapaksa couldn’t have been achieved without power vested in executive presidency.

Apart from the proposed new Constitution, there are some constitutional reforms implemented under the 19th Amendment to the Constitution.

Although there are some progressive steps taken on constitutional reforms through 19A such as restricting presidential immunity to some extent, restoration of number of terms a person can hold and contest the post of executive president to two, setting up of a Constitutional Council and independent commissions there are some intrusions in 19A that have adversely impacted on unity, stability and sovereignty of the people. The provisions laid down in Articles 46(4) and 46(5) of Chapter VIII of the 19th Amendment for the formation of the national government and a Jumbo Cabinet” have paved way for political parties that were elected to Parliament to abuse the mandate given to them for their own benefit disregarding public interest.

One of the cardinal principles of parliamentary democracy is that there should be a government party and an opposition in Parliament. This principle has been flouted in the so-called national government, formed under the leadership of Yahapalanaya by appointing the TNA leader who is considered a vital partner of the government party who secured only 14 seats in Parliament, rejecting the party that had secured majority of seats next to the government party.

This mechanism adopted by the Yahapalanaya Government is considered as a kind of bonus offered to the TNA in lieu of support extended to the government for its survival. This mistake has now been rectified by appointing MR as the opposition leader.

From the foregoing facts it may be observed that there is a sinister attempt to give effect to hidden agendas of the US and allied forces and the TNA on the pretext of urging for a new Constitution. The commitment given to implement proposals set out in Joint UNHRC Resolution 30/1 being assumed the role of co-sponsor thereto is considered the first step taken in that direction by present government.

Implementation of those hidden agendas would extremely be detrimental to the unity, integrity and sovereignty of this country. People should take appropriate measures to arrest this situation through the general elections sooner than later.

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