By Lal Bandara, Colombo.

Why the Chandrika government has decided to hold a referendum is not understandable.

The basic question coming to ordinary citizen’s mind is that, over a matter where the entire nation is agreeing unanimously, is it necessary to have a referendum?.

I do not think the President’s television address on 12th July answered this fundamental question.

In 1994, the nation gave her an overwhelming mandate to change the country’s constitution, obviously to a more suitable one. Let us turn back and see the how events got unfolded.

In 1994 President received approval by over 62% of the votes of the country, after she gave clear promises

(a) to change the constitution,

(b) to abolish Executive Presidency

(c) to bring in a fair electoral system

(d) to strengthen institutions standing for democracy, human rights, and against corruption , and terror, etc.,

The country cannot forget that in most of the promises she was very specific on when, how and where the promises would be implemented. (Viz. July15, German system, re-demarcating province boundaries, revitalising Commissions etc.)

However when it came to materialising the promises, one by one reasons of excuse started to surface . The end result was indefinite postponement of action, and by the end of first term in power PA had delivered nothing.

The government spokespersons often talk about ending the period of terror ”bheeshanaya” . People of the country know that nothing was done by the P.A. in this respect.

In late eighties people saw youth of the country dying on the road side tyre piers . They were burnt on tyres either pre-killed or alive. Most of them undoubtedly were those apprehended unarmed. The youth who faced this tragic deaths, or their mothers and fathers, did not get the due justice they deserve to date. The law of the country enacted at the time via emergency regulations did not leave any right for the mothers to question the death of their beloved sons and daughters even in a court of law at a future date. The law simply named them justifiable deaths. Several times during this period of terror the parliament met to extend the brutal emergency regulations. This was at a time when the laws could not be passed with out the support from the SLFP led opposition. The opposition approved the tyre piers by raising the hands in the House! At least they forgot to request the UNP government to send the young people captured from their homes unarmed, to a rehabilitation camp. Our present president was not in the parliament at that time. But later she managed to carve a nice stepping stone to come to power using Suriya kanda. Therefore the president still owes justice to the deserved. Even after the killing of JVP leader the slaughtering went on for several more months. Came next , the time for the adventure, of stopping the killing. The general elections were forth coming. The UNP it self gave a near stop to mass killings. The 94 elections took place after the tyre piers were discontinued. After coming to power PA had nothing more to do, because the killing rate was already reduced to about 0.05 %. It still remains at that figure and never became zero!. Even today victims who get killed on political grounds do not get justice. So, Chandrika failed to deliver anything she promised.

In 1999 the intelligent people of the country gave a perfectly correct judgement by readjusting their 94 verdict


Reducing the strength of victory to from 62 to 51 for the president,

Making a wonderful new composition in the Parliament.

By this verdict people reminded the rulers that constitutionally President is given only executive and not legislative powers.

Deciding what to do will be the result of mutual respect, compromise, and consensus in the parliament.

No body can blame or insult the people of the country for forming an “unstable “ government. Why should the EXECUTIVE wish to have a legislative body of own complexion? This is not a requirement in terms of the constitution. People never made, never make unstable governments.

What ever promises the president may have given, people knew that president has only executive powers. They chose the right (in a relative sense of course) blend of promises given by all parties, as is finally reflected by the composition of the House. Needless to say, people also expect the house to respect president’s wishes to the best possible extent. This is true mutual respect between the president and the representatives both elected by people.

Now the President once again is promising to abolish the E-presidency, establish Commissions, implement a fair election system. Aren’t we moving back to square one?

It is time now to respect the people of the country. All parties Please take one step back. See that people’s 1999 verdict is acceptable and is still valid. Even if fresh elections held today and government changed, the near 50% power balance will re-emerge.

In such a context, proposed referendum is unnecessary, Parliament Election is meaningless. Both can only waste public funds and time. A colossal waste the country cannot afford right now.

I think there does not exist any single step way out of this mess. In this situation only the compromising approach will bring down tension, and bring up wisdom.

These steps are proposed.

Reassemble in the reconvened House, Let the house be cosmopolitan. President should start feeling comfortable with a mixed parliament and there is no way out. At the same time the parliament too have the inalienable responsibility to find ways to resolve the deadlock paying due respect to the President’s promises to the nation. Come to a consensus on the constitution. How ever much we try now, formulating a permanent future-proof constitution will definitely take more time. We need a interim one, probably for several years at most. Today is the time for the three institutions of governance to explore ways and art of working in harmony .

Such a patiently tried exercise will in due course open new ways to reunite the divided nation.

I am very optimistic. Because in my observation, Sri Lanka is an accelerated model of , Social , Political and therefore human evolutions.


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