By Dr.Vickramabahu Karunaratne
The Parliament ‘debated’ the PSC Report, an illegal document according to court decisions, on January 10 and 11. The MPs (with an artificial majority) of the government voted by a 2/3 rd majority to impeach the Chief Justice on the evening of January 11.
Accordingly, the President was able to ‘sack’ the CJ and appoint a ‘new CJ’ or an ‘Acting CJ’.
The whole thing amounts to a conspiracy to undermine the Constitution; provided one accepts the interpretations given by the Supreme Court. As the Supreme Court is the sole authority for interpreting the Constitution the CJ cannot accede to her dismissal without violating the Supreme Court and Appeal Court rulings. She continued with her duties on Monday. Parliamentary government is based on the principle that the law is king; the Constitution is supreme and it cannot be violated even by the Parliament. Any change to the Constitution has to follow the procedure given in the Constitution. However, we have seen in the history of Lanka instances where Parliament converted itself to a constituent assembly to construct an entirely new Constitution dismissing the existing fundamental law of the country. In both occasions the Parliament leaders claimed that a people’s mandate was given, as they campaigned in the preceding election requesting a mandate for changing the Constitution. That is entirely a different question. Merely because an illegitimate report was passed with over two-thirds majority does it become a part of the law?
There were more extreme cases in the history of Europe where Parliament powers were taken over by ruling elites backed by military power. Cromwell was responsible for the death of King Charles 1 in 1649. As a member of the Rump Parliament he dominated the short-lived republic of England. On 20 April 1653 he dismissed the Rump Parliament too, by force, and ruled as Lord Protector of England and its territories. More drastic steps were taken by Hitler in Germany. After his appointment as chancellor in 1933, he transformed the Weimar Republic into a single-party dictatorship based on the ideology of Nazism. The “legal measures” taken by the Nazi government in February and March 1933 commonly known as “coordination” meant that the government could legislate contrary to the constitution. The republic nominally continued to exist until 1945, as the constitution was never formally repealed. However, the measures taken by the Nazi government in the early part of their rule rendered the constitution irrelevant. Thus, 1933 is usually seen as the end of the Weimar Republic and the beginning of Hitler’s dictatorship
In the first case, Cromwell as a leader of war against reactionary pro-royal forces, in addition to the loyalty of a strong section of the army, had the backing of the English middle classes both urban and rural. Hence, in spite of his dictatorial politics he is considered a leader of the English democratic revolution. In the case of Hitler, he was backed by desperate German middle elements that were in a frenzy of hatred against Jews and communists. Three important features of Hitler’s propaganda were, firstly, the theory that the Jews and communists were anti-German and were trying to dominate Germany, which was a conspiracy. This conspiracy theory was considered a joke but the leading Nazis took it seriously.
Secondly, endless claims were made that the Jews were “born communists” and that by “eliminating” the Jews from German life he would get rid of the “biological root” of Communism. Thirdly, public pronouncements that Jews and Communists are pests, rogues and traitors were made regularly. Hence Hitler led a reactionary counter-revolution against freedom and democracy of the people.
In the present case President Mahinda has reiterated that “There are attempts to topple this government backed by the spirit of separatism and those who supported the LTTE”, this propaganda is carried on by the State-owned media. Also posters appear throughout Lanka denouncing leftist and Tamil leaders for launching a conspiracy to divide the country.
Already these threats have helped to create a climate of fear. It appears that a CJ who is willing to manipulate and violate the law on demand is what Mahinda wants. Such a CJ can help to construct a fascist style Judiciary which will give judgments according to the Mahinda Chinthanaya. We are witnessing history repeating itself though in a different place within a different background. Mahinda has to play the game within the frame work laid by his global masters including India. As such Mahinda’s small scale Nazi drama may become part of history very soon.
Because of resistance by the CJ and the Judiciary combined with the mass agitation of trade unions and the Protest of the Opposition, the plan of Mahinda may be short-lived. Mahinda wanted an easy impeachment victory; that has already been denied him. He wanted to depict the impeachment as a legal if not a legitimate measure but he failed miserably.
It has already ceased being either legal or legitimate. The impeachment marks the end of the fraudulent populism of Mahinda. Devoid of legitimacy and with its democratic façade in tatters, before long the Mahinda regime will go into the dustbin of history