By Dayan Jayatilleka –
It is bad enough that the Yahapalana 2015 ‘regime change’ project planted Mr. Sampanthan as a settler in the post of Opposition Leader, a post in which he continues to be a squatter, demanding ‘internal self-determination’ and the full implementation of the Geneva resolution. Now, another de facto member of the Yahapalana 2015 regime change coalition, the JVP, is attempting to do to the Sri Lankan State and Constitution, what its serial assassin did to Vijaya Kumaratunga in February 1988: shoot it in the chest and face. In the 1980s the JVP waged a barbaric war to destroy the Sri Lankan State. Today it is trying to do the same by means of a constitutional Cold War, taking aim at the executive power. Instead of a T-56, it is using 20A.
Our generation went through two civil wars, and civil wars within civil wars—in the South and the North and East. In the 1980s we had to defend the state as the bulwark against barbarism and anarchy, against the JVP onslaught. Today we are called upon to do the same in the political, constitutional and ideological arenas.
The JVP tends to excuse its massacres of the late 1980s by saying it was fighting against Indian intervention. This is a lie. Daya Pathirana was killed before any Indian set foot on Sri Lankan soil. The JVP’s trigger issue (pun intended) was devolution. Wijeweera’s magnum opus on the Tamil Eelam problem was a report he presented to the Central Committee, worked up into a book which he published while underground. It contained (in its concluding part) a blistering critique of every single form of autonomy/devolution whatsoever, including the modest district development councils (for which the JVP had contested). So the JVP massacred people in a civil war against devolution; a war it lost.
The JVP had no real antagonism towards the Executive Presidential system, because if it did, Rohana Wijeweera would not have contested the executive presidency in December 1982, now, would he?
What’s happening now is that the JVP proposes to abolish the executive Presidency which it did not oppose and actually sought election to in 1982, and uncage the power devolved to the Northern and Eastern (and other) provinces against which it waged a Pol Pot like civil war of extermination in the late 1980s, murdering Sri Lanka’s closest approximation of Bobby Kennedy and Barack Obama, namely Vijaya Kumaratunga!
Anura Kumara Dissanayake (AKD) says the Prime Minister and President will be elected by Parliament– and the President elected by Parliament will not be an Executive President. This is not the case in South Africa which has autonomous provinces. There the President is elected by Parliament but has executive powers.
Anura Kumara forgets that devolving much more power to already semi-autonomous Provinces while there is an overarching Executive Presidency is quite different—and much safer—than such devolution once the Presidency is downsized and elected by Parliament rather than deriving its power and legitimacy from the people of the country as a whole. Let alone a generous replacement, even the present 13th amendment without the overarching Executive Presidency, will be tantamount to federalism, or in our case, a dangerously centrifugal ethno-federalism!
AKD’s abolitionist formula eliminates any political office being elected by the whole of the country and thereby from representing the whole of the country. Instead all we shall have are representatives of parts of the country. The whole will be undermined and atomized!
Anura Kumara deliberately overlooks the fact that a Prime Minister and President elected by the Parliament will be dependent upon and the captive of the minority parties, especially the Tamil nationalist parties in that Parliament.
AKD’s formula (intentionally?) undermines economic stability and rapid growth which was JR Jayewardene’s rationale for the introduction of a nationally elected executive Presidency “free from the whims and fancies of the legislature”.
Even though AKD may not know it (and I am being charitable here because he is well-informed and literate), we must know where this dangerous nonsense came from, most recently: the insidious Singapore Principles of 2013, which were the launch-pad of the regime change project of January 2015.
The recent incarnation of the idea of abolishing the executive Presidency does not date back to the Maithripala Sirisena candidacy. His was an utterly ambiguous pledge. The recent revival of the ‘abolitionist’ slogan dates back to a conclave and a document dating from 2013, when Maithripala Sirisena was a loyal Minister of the Rajapaksa administration with no idea of breaking away and running for the country’s top post.
The abolition of the Executive Presidency is in actuality, a vital part of an agreement between Mangala Samaraweera, MA Sumanthiran, Jayampathy Wickramaratne and representatives of the Global Tamil Forum (GTF), arrived at in Singapore in 2013. TamilNet (Thursday, 22 January 2015) released the text.
“Mangala Samaraweera came as a ‘beggar’ urging Tamil support for regime change and abolition of the executive presidency. It was 2013,” said one of the participants, reflecting on the Singapore meeting.’ revealed the TamilNet report.
The new AKD proposal clearly reflects the agreed upon 10 point Singapore text, of which I reproduce the crucial line:
“The Executive Presidency shall be abolished and the form of government shall be Parliamentary.”
Quite clearly, the abolition of the Executive Presidency was a top priority for the 2013 Singaporean conclave because Sumanthiran and the GTF knew that without it, any devolution including the existing 13A, would automatically federalize the country!
AKD says that all provisions pertaining to 13A and the Provincial councils, the Governors etc. will remain as they are, vested in the Presidency. He must take us for fools. What is the earthly use in the powers remaining as they are when their repository, the executive presidency, is itself abolished? What acts as a check and balance on the 13th amendment is the fact that the Presidency represents the sovereignty of the people as a whole since it is directly elected by the country as a whole and requires a majority of votes to occupy the post. This gives the Presidency greater legitimacy than any province. The part is subordinate to the whole. But a castrated Presidency wielding the same powers is as if an eagle were substituted by a chicken but had an eagle feather. As Fidel once said (in 1967) about the Venezuelan CP “even a chicken can stick an eagle feather in its back and call itself an eagle, but it doesn’t become one”.
I must say that unlike AKD, the young politicians of the Frontline Socialist Party (FSP), the most significant breakaway in the JVP’s history, and which is now in control of the university student movement, engage in straight talk. Duminda Navagamuwa raised the question at a media briefing as to why the JVP, “having relegated its slogan of the abolition of the executive Presidency to the toilets of its party headquarters for several years, wishes to abolish it now?”
Whatever may be said by the anarchic ‘abolitionists’ in both Government and Opposition ranks, a social movement will and can defeat the 20A trap at a Referendum as a prelude to the launch of a powerful anti-Establishment Presidential candidacy next year; a heroic candidacy that society is hoping for and waiting for.