By Harim Peiris
The Mahinda Chinthanya Way Forward, the 2010 election manifesto and indeed political vision and action plan of President Mahinda Rajapaksa has an importance and seriousness which exceeds the average election manifesto in a democratic society.
Now, an election manifesto itself is an important document, because from it flows, the concept of a mandate to rule, the consent of the governed that forms the core value of a democratic system of government amongst a sovereign people. A free and sovereign people, including Sri Lankans do not give their leaders including President Mahinda Rajapaksa, a blank check to govern according to various whims and fancies but support at periodic elections a stated set of policies and principles, which then forms the mandate by the people to their government.
However, the Mahinda Chinthanya in Sri Lankan society has now been elevated, almost entirely by the government’s own propaganda machine to the same status that Chairman Mao’s “little red book” occupied in the pre Deng reforms China as the political guide book to life.
Now the Mahinda Chinthanya Way Forward, issued post war in 2010 in the light of the new ground realities, states totally unambiguously in the section on North and East issues, that ‘elections to the Northern Provincial Council will be held early’. Now almost three years have elapsed; hence it is not early, but broken undertaking does not justify an even bigger violation. It was entirely in keeping with his own Chinthanaya that President Rajapaksa most recently pledged that the Northern Provincial Council polls would be held in September 2013.
What distinguishes Mahinda’s United People’s Freedom Alliance (UPFA) from CBK’s People’s Alliance (PA) is the presence of the Jathika Hela Urumaya (JHU) and its wannabe, the JVP breakaway Wimal Weerawansa’s NFF in the ruling alliance. They have subsequent to comments made by the Defense Secretary proposing the abolition of the 13th amendment, jumped on the bandwagon of that strange policy proposal.
President Rajapaksa himself has, on many occasions, confirmed the policy of his Chinthanaya and started various initiatives to devise a political solution to what the Chinthanaya refers to as “North and East issues” basically the anomaly of imposing a mono ethnic Sri Lankan state, now right down to the singing of its national anthem only in Sinhala, on a multi-ethnic society. It is this political problem, essentially a task of nation building that a solution is sought for.
Towards this end, the Rajapaksa presidency in its first term initiated the All Party Conference (APC) chaired by Minister DEW Gunasekera and the All Party Representative Committee (APRC) chaired by Minister Tissa Vitharana. More recently post war and in his second term, President Rajapaksa commissioned the LLRC, pledged to implement its recommendations including a political solution, went through over an year of an Indian initiated structured dialogue with the TNA and has rather disingenuously ignored those processes and most recently been touting a Parliamentary Select Committee (PSC) as the panacea for all ills. So this current campaign by the JHU and Wimal is completely contrary to the Mahinda Chinthanya.
Whenever the Rajapaksa Presidency wants to take an extreme position on the ethnic issue, it conveniently gets its even more extremist brain trust of the JHU and “his master’s voice” of the NFF to take and promote an even more extreme position thereby allowing the President to create the political illusion of being centrist and less extreme than its fringe elements, a Machiavellian move.
The JHU and Wimal’s NFF are small parties on the fringe of the political spectrum and President Rajapaksa does the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) and the country no good in letting the tail wag the dog. The JHU and the NFF require the SLFP to provide them electoral credibility and not vice versa. SLFP stalwarts and seniors are all moderates who believe that the war victory over the LTTE should be used as a golden opportunity to secure a lasting and just peace through a political solution with the democratic Tamil political leadership, not engage in an endless exercise of triumphalism buttressed by a militarised Northern Province. Post war, Sri Lankan democracy requires that democracy through the provincial councils and the Northern Provincial Council (NPC) be established in the North.
In fact, whether the presidential appointed, provincial governor can unilaterally exercise the powers of the NPC on behalf of the Tamil people has been challenged before Sri Lanka’s Supreme Court. If the Tamil people are only to be allowed presidential and general elections, then the results of the same should be noted and respected, where President Rajapaksa at the Presidential and the UPFA at the subsequent general elections of 2010 were completely repudiated by the electorates of the North and largely in the East, too, where in 2010, Hakeem’s SLMC in a previous political avatar was supporting presidential candidate General Sarath Fonseka and the combined opposition, leading to the credible claim repeated most recently by the TNA’s rising star and Colombo lawyer M. A. Sumanthiran, that the President and the UPFA had no mandate from the Tamil people.
Repealing the 13th endment to the Constitution is not the kind of state or constitutional reforms Sri Lanka requires in this post war period to ensure a national coming together after a brutal decades long war to bring about healing amongst the war affected and social reconciliation through addressing the root causes of our polarised society.