The 19th Amendment to the Constitution is the desire and goal of Pohottuva politics today. It is now more important that the economic crisis faced by the country and people, especially in the Covid19 situation.
The strongest voice against 19A today is that of the highly learned Professor Gamini Lakshman Peiris, the GL swinger in governing politics in Sri Lanka; whose leaps to and from political parties and policies is a display of political manoeuvre with hardly any matching.
The two-thirds majority the Pohottuva government obtained, thanks largely to the UNPs disastrous leadership and party breakup, stands against the 19A, which is shown by GL and anti-19A players as the biggest threat to democracy today.
Let’s take a look at how the parliament at the time – in April 2015 – voted for 19A. In a 225-member parliament, it was passed by 215 voting for. One voted against, One abstained, and seven members were absent. That shows a huge parliamentary majority, much more than the small and shaky majority the UNP-SLFP – Maithri-Ranil – government of the day had.
The 19A was a constitutional amendment that obtained the huge support of the then opposition, who are now the leading and even hanging on members of the current Pohottuva regime, the hurray and hosanna ranks of the Rajavasala.
The principle purpose of the 19A was the dilution of many powers of the Executive Presidency, which were available since 1978 under the JR Jayewardene drafter and adopted constitution. Isn’t it strange that shouts against the 19A today, which was ranged against the Executive Presidency, come from the Rajapaksa rankers, especially GLP and players, who were all for the total abolition of the Executive Presidency and the 1978 JRJ Constitution? The election manifestos of Chandrika Kumaratunga and Mahinda Rajapaksa – fully supported by GLP- were for the abolition of the Executive Presidency.
The GL players are wholly against Independent Commissions that got new life under 19A. They see it as a threat to democracy, easily forgetting the threats to democracy that came from the Mahinda Rajapaksa bred 18th Amendment, when ‘independent commissions’ were all brought directly under the President.
Do these anti-19A forces realize that the two-thirds power they have is because of the wholly free and fair election we had this year, organized by the Election Commission? There were many attacks of the EC, mainly against its single Tamil member, but the three-member team performed their role by and for the people, and saw what was the most peaceful and fair election in recent history.
But the call today is against such Independent Commissions, which is very learned GL thinking.
The other threat to Democracy and the sovereignty of the people as seen by the GL players is the Constitutional Council, tasked with maintaining and monitoring independent commissions. The goal at the time it was passed was depoliticizing the public service.
If that is what the 19A did, which has earned so much dislike today, let’s look at what the earlier 18A brought by President Mahinda Rajapaksa – with a ministerial position held by GLP – did.
The 18A introduced the Parliamentary Council, moving away from the 17A, which had powers only to recommend persons to the independent committees, and sole authority of appointing members of the independent committees was vested with the President of Sri Lanka, and while he is needed to seek the observations of the council, its decisions are not binding. What a wonderful display of democracy!
It is also necessary to remember that the 10-member Constitutional Council under 19A, has a majority of MPs – mainly because the call for such MP presence in the Council was what the then UPFA and now Pohottuva players in Parliament. The necessity of larger parliamentary representation was called for by none other than the present Speaker of Parliament, the leaders of the MEP and Democratic Left Front – Dinesh Gunawardene and Vasudeva Nanayakkara, among so many other opposition MPs. That was their view of Democracy in April 2015, but the power of a two-third majority has given them cause for new thinking, and agree with the GL punditry that such Commissions were not divine to be worshiped as some portray them to be.
We must also understand what the Pohottuva punditry of today was wholly supportive of way back, when Mahinda Rajapaksa acquired – promised/purchased.promoted – the two-third majority in Parliament. They saw a ‘democratic’ necessity for the Executive President to have more than two terms in the presidency. It was not a move to three or four terms, but to any number. The most desirable goal of Dictatorial Democracy, still seen in some parts of Africa that are escaping Democracy.
It is the perfect Rajavasala desire to keep in line with our 2,500 year history of regal power.
They did not want to remove the Executive President’s power to dissolve a people-elected, sovereign parliament at any time just one year after its (then) term of six years.
The GL punditry of the Pohottuva is now all in favour of the dominant power of the Executive Presidency. Even the currently powerless Maithripala Sirisena who promised the people in the 2015 presidential election to repeal the 18A has forgotten the pledge to reinforce democracy in the country.
The learned and learn-lacking thinkers and movers of the Pohottuva today – ranging from GLP to Maithripala and the power crazy supporters of an Executive Presidency – with much more power than Donald Trump – are singing the song for the burial of Democracy.
In the weeks ahead as the drum beats of a “Democratic Dictatorship” gets louder, and the learned like GL join the politically ignorant and crooked, we will hear many more calls for the restoration of Democracy, without the evil of the 19A. It won’t be long till we hear the knell and toll of the Death of Democracy through 20A and a whole new Constitution. Will we sing praises to the deities with Haro-Hara, for this restoration of the Rajavasala Balakeliya?