The country witnessed a major uproar after the Steering Committee released its interim report outlining proposals for constitutional changes.
The political forces and Maha Sangha, sensitive to the character of the Constitution in the making and the status to be accorded to Buddhism, took up cudgels against the process arguing that the proposed changes, if enacted, would relegate the primacy of Buddhism enshrined in the current Constitution, and give a new lease of life to separatist forces.
Upheaval reached its climax with people taking to the streets at the behest of these political parties, mainly the Joint Opposition.
As things unrolled in this manner, President Maithripala Sirisena, who kept himself aloof from any direct involvement in Constitution making, entered the scene last Monday as he said he would call for an All Party Conference to initiate discussion with all the stakeholders.
It appears that it is his political strategy that he would not directly become party to any process dealing with controversial matters, yet intervene at the last moment to subdue flaming fires if it spins out of control. More or less, the President acted in the same fashion during the last couple of years in the office when and where such issues, controversial in nature, arise.
It was the very same strategy he adopted in regard to the issue involving South Asia Institute of Technology and Medicine (SAITM) commonly called the private medical college of Malabe. The protests raged in for months in the country, with university students, backed by their teachers, parents and some trade unions, demonstrating and holding protest marches almost on every single day. The police had to expend a lot of tear-gas canisters in their arsenal to disperse the protesting students, and on occasions, it led to the arrest and incarceration of student leaders. Doctors were striking work constantly over the SAITM issue.
Finally, the President’s committee offered a solution, and it was accepted, though with scepticism, by the Government Medical Officers’ Association (GMOA). In that sense, the President subdued the fire to an extent rather than allowing it to snowball further. It is not Higher Education Minister Lakshman Kiriella who could do something about this.
More or less, the President acted in the same fashion during the last couple of years in the office when and where such issues, controversial in nature, arise.
His latest intervention in the constitutional making process is looked at seriously by political watchers. The move comes in the wake of heat mounted by Maha Sangha representing all the chapters against the proposed constitution. The intervention would have been meant to cool the heat in this regard. Or else, he would have intended to take over the constitution-making process, leaving out the Steering Committee from the task.
It has created a fear psychosis that the President‘s move would supersede the current process. But, most were unaware of what the President is up in this regard as of now. The fear has gripped those keen to have the new Constitution enacted.