Election: Only way out of the national crisis?

Since the Gota regime is quite unlikely to hold an election soon, could the activists declare ‘a revolution’ and hold a parliamentary election for the people to decide under the normal laws of the land?

by Gamini Weerakoon

Diogenes, Greek philosopher and one of the founders of Cynic Philosophy is said to have roamed the streets of Athens around 300 BC, carrying a lamp in broad daylight, and holding it to the faces of fellow citizens in search of an honest man.

Those men and women in Gotagogama in 2022 AD seems to have gone through the exercise of Diogenes with our parliamentarians unsuccessfully in their search, for they are demanding that all 250 of them plus One (the President) quit politics and ‘Go Home’ immediately because they have been dishonest with 21 million Sri Lankans.

That all the representatives on the banks of the Diyawanna Oya can be painted with the same brush has been disputed. But voting patterns on their own constitutional amendments indicate the dishonesty of the majority of MPs (two-thirds majority required to adopt these obviously contradictory legislation).

The 18th Amendment to the constitution was approved on September 8, 2010 with 161 MPa voting for and 17 against it. It conferred wide powers on the Executive Presidency giving it an unlimited number of terms in office, replacing the 10-member Constitutional Council by five member parliamentary committee which could be manipulated by the President.

The 19th Amendment drastically reduced the powers of the Executive Presidency cutting back the period in office from 6 to 5 years and conferring much power to the Prime Minister heading the Cabinet of Ministers. This was passed with 215 MPs voting for it and one against.

The 20th Amendment reintroduced certain 18th Amendment provisions such as giving power to the president by weakening the power of the Prime Minister and the Cabinet. The President can also use executive powers to appoint any person to government offices at his sole discretion without the consent of Parliament.

After the Presidential Election victory of Gotabaya Rajapaksa followed by the Parliamentary Election Victory of the SLPP (Rajapaksa Party), the Cabinet drafted the 20th Amendment which after being manoeuvred through the Attorney General’s Department and on being reviewed by the Supreme Court after public petitions, was approved by Parliament after a two-day debate with a two-thirds majority.

True, Gota did not pledge to abolish the Executive Presidency as all other SLFP Presidents including Rajapaksa had done but he did promise a democracy and visions of ‘Splendour and Prosperity’, only to bring the country to bankruptcy and a point of starvation while he is impotent to alleviate the political and financial crises.

There is now demand for the 21st Amendment to the constitution to abolish the Executive Presidency which Gota’s new Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe had indicated he would support and Gotabaya Rajapaksa himself had said he would consider. In spite of days of acute suffering Sri Lankans have gone through since then, Gotabaya doesn’t seem to be going. He is staying put.

Meanwhile, on Wednesday Mahinda his son who were reported to have gone from Temple Trees at dead of night by a ‘Hela-Caputa’ — not home — but to a naval base in Trinco had briefly manifested themselves at the Diyawanna and so did fellow brother Kaak-Kaak although he did not crow about it. Indications are that Gotabaya and his Rajapaksas are not ‘Going Home But staying put with the fellow Rajapaksa cheer squad in Diyawanna Oya revealing their true colours in secret ballot voting.

The paradox of the current political scenario is that despite the Constitution of JRJ being exploited, abused and misused as a deceptive political facade by the Rajapaksas, it is claimed that it provides legitimacy in that it cannot be violated.

The protestors against the Rajapaksa regime apparently want to go through the constitutional process. They call their movement an ‘aragalaya’ instead of a ‘viplavaya’ (revolution) and are stuck in the constitutional process.

Perhaps some political and legal fiction could break through the impasse like what Colvin R de Silva produced after the United Front victory in 1970. He went through legal and physical distortions in the Constituent Assembly claiming that the political mandate received by the United Front conferred it the power to separate the ‘umbilical cord of British imperialism’ and declare Sri Lanka an Independent Republic from being a Dominion of the Commonwealth. No doubt the Republic of Sri Lanka was welcome but it did away with a good constitution that held the country and its destruction resulted in three subsequent bloody insurrections.

Since the Gota regime is quite unlikely to hold an election soon, could the activists declare ‘a revolution’ and hold a parliamentary election for the people to decide under the normal laws of the land?

Decisions made by the people at Parliamentary and Presidential elections have been decisions accepted by the people even though in some instances with reluctance.

(The writer is a former editor of The Sunday Island, The Island and consultant editor of the Sunday Leader.)