By Kusal Perera –
“I am no Messiah ! No fortune reader !! I am only proposing, no matter where, events from history can be chosen to be replayed in the future, if the people decide, wise !!!” – Wonder who’d said it, before.
Anyway, the BIG FIGHT over the Impeachment is now over and so is the “call” from the legal fraternity, not to accept a new CJ. The BASL backed out on that call and so did President of the BASL. The new CJ is selected, appointed, sworn in and has assumed office. All Courts are now functioning, as they did for many many years. Hulftsdorp is as normal as it was, before JSC Secretary Thilakaratne was attacked by goons on 07 October last year. How does the political map of Sri Lanka look like, now ?
- What ever there is as follow up to the LLRC Recommendations in the government’s “Action Plan”,
– the military still controls all aspects of life in Jaffna, in the Vanni and very much in the East too. Arbitrary arrests, disappearances, assaults on every protest, land grab, illegal armed groups continue, unabated. Civil administration and now even schools are entrenched and embedded with security forces personnel. Extensive intelligence networks haunt civil life.
- President’s 07 year old offer of a “home grown” governing system to the Tamil people’s demand for democratic life in their majority areas, is yet to come as a proposal for any worthy discussion and instead is now overtaken by the demand for annulling even the existing 13 Amendment, a token Constitutional acceptance for provincial administration.
- While Sarath N Silva as CJ was using the judiciary for his own personal agenda, the cross-overs and buy-overs in parliament was made possible on a SC determination. That allowed President Rajapaksa to create his now available 2/3 majority in parliament, after which the 18 Amendment was made into the Constitution.
- Emergency regulations though lifted, the PTA was further strengthened and it is the PTA that works for this regime for all arrests and detentions, with the special unit in the police department, the TID given priority in all political suppression.
- The new bill “Code of Criminal Procedure (Special Provision) Bill” becoming law (after 22 January, when passed in parliament) would provide the police the legal right to hold any person in police custody for 48 hours without an arrest warrant, as a suspect. Legally, this is only 24 hours as at present, though there are previous reports of persons being held without any written records that can then end with custodial killings, or even involuntary disappearance.
- A gazette notification in August 2011 allows this government to establish security forces camps in all 25 districts, out of which the 08 Northern and Eastern districts already have security forces camps in all types and sizes and in plenty. Therefore this gazette notification in effect is for other districts in Sinhala South.
That list needs other inputs to have a more detailed map of political power as usurped and accumulated with the Rajapaksa “plundocracy”. A very brief addition would thus be as follows.
- As provided for by the Jayawardne Constitution, Rajapaksa sits as President and Head of State with all executive powers under him and with total immunity from law that allows him to violate the Constitution and still continue without any legal challenges. That did happen many a time during the past few years.
- With such unchallenged power under his belt, the parliament is maintained with a set of 150 plus government MPs who take “orders” as decided by the Speaker, the elder brother. That was how the whole impeachment process rolled out in parliament as planned and decided by the Rajapaksa regime, turning Ranil W into a “parliament joke” with his politically ignorant, but stubborn insistence for “parliamentary supremacy”.
- The whole of urban Sri Lanka is under the Ministry of Defence that has no Deputy Minister, now given the tag, “…. and Urban Development”, handled unchecked and unquestioned by the Ministry Secretary who is a younger brother. The Coast Conservation Department initiated in 1963 under the Ceylon Ports Commission and left with the Ministry of Fisheries since 1978, is under the MoD controlling the entire 1,340 km coast with the navy stationed where ever it wants. The MoD also has the UDA, the Land Reclamation and Development Board, all handled with security forces. Added are, Registration of Persons Department, The Rakna Lanka Security firm, the NGO Secretariat, the Civil Defence force, also under the MoD. With an annually increasing budget allocation after the war now reaching USD 2.2 billion, of which only 05 per cent goes for urban development, whole urban life is under MoD.
- Rest of the country, the whole of rural Sri Lanka is now completely centralised under the other brother, Minister of Economic Development, with the passing of the “Divi Neguma” bill in parliament, a week ago.
- Finance ministry has with the 2013 Budget usurped the power the parliament had in controlling public finance, with Ranil W agreeing to debate and vote on the budget without the amendments the SC determined as necessary to keep the budget proposals within the Constitution.
Summing up all of the above into one single, descriptive sentence in introducing this Rajapaksa regime, it would read as, “A Constitutionally assembled Presidential family rule that has taken control over all finances in the country, keeping parliament under the elder brother, the whole urban and coastal life including security forces under another brother, rural life in its entirety centralised under yet another brother, now has the apex of the judiciary firmly under its dictates in addition to the Attorney General’s Department, also bringing organised thuggery on to city streets to break up protests and opposition to its rule, that treads beyond the Constitution as a “Plundocracy”, with an impotent Opposition leadership both in and outside parliament.”
Sounds too bleak and pessimistic ? For those who think this regime has to be defeated at the next parliamentary elections, “YES”, it is a bleak and a disappointing political mapping. But stands justified, when considering the fact that this impeachment concluded, not only within parliament, but also in the chambers of the Presidential Secretariat and in the Hulftsdorp SC Complex, had all muscles flexed from the police to the security forces to mobilised urban goons taking to the streets, to ensure the exit of one CJ and the entry of the pre selected other, purely as a calculated political gamble.
Bringing everything under their family dictates in establishing a constitutional rule with an almighty Executive Presidency, the Rajapaksas have started loosing their urban Sinhala power base, President Rajapaksa is now willing to give up on. The 100 day long second FUTA struggle within an year, left a disappointed, disgruntled middle class both urban and rural. The policy issue of 06 per cent for State funded education raised by FUTA, did have its impact on parents, especially the middle and not very low social segments who take education as the most important requirement for social mobility. On the heels of it came the impeachment against the CJ, that dislodged the urban middle class from the Rajapaksa “fan book”. This time even the pro War Sinhala elements were jolted out of their “patriotic” comfort of supporting this Rajapaksa regime. The post war decency these urban gentlemen thought they could have under this romanticised Sinhala Buddhist Rajapaksa, is now proved indecently impossible.
President Rajapaksa is one who would not miss such shifting of loyalties and alliances. Yet he went ahead with his choice of appointing Mohan Peiris as the new CJ, despite his closest stooges publicly crying out against that choice. From Weerawansa to Vasudeava to Sarath N Silva and Dentist Amarasekera, this retired AG and Advisor to the Cabinet, Mohan Peiris a Christian, was not the favoured and the best choice. Yet it was, for Rajapaksa. He was after proven talent in stooging.
Peiris was the Rajapaksa appointed Attorney General (AG) who amended charges in 02 court cases. One, to have Duminda Silva freed from being examined in a Court case for sexual abuse of a minor and two, to have Kesbewa SLFPer Kathriarachchi’s murder charges removed, for Kathriarachchi to have a 05 month suspended sentence. He is the Legal Advisor to the Cabinet of Ministers, who had the audacity to go in front of the UN Committee Against Torture as the official representative of this Rajapaksa regime and say, missing media activist Ekneligoda “….has taken refuge in a foreign country. .. it’s something that we are reasonably certain of.”
Later questioned in a Magistrate’s Court on a “habeas corpus” case filed by Ekneligoda’s wife, the same Mohan Peiris had no qualms, saying on oath, “I have no information that the corpus is alive or not and I do not think the government does either and that God only knows where Ekneligoda is”. Mohan Peiris is also accused of professional misconduct and for misuse of public office in a case that involves over 75 million rupees as tax and surcharge due to Sri Lanka Customs from Royal Fernwood Porcelain Ltd. He was retained by the company as its legal Counsel before Peiris was appointed AG. Its that quality the Rajapaksa regime now wants as CJ to sit over their issues on political power.
Rajapaksas know for sure, they would never have another election victory that could give them the possibility of putting together 150 MPs as government benchers for a two thirds majority in parliament. May be with all State power in their hands and with no effective opposition, they would still form a government. But with a government that can only have a very slender majority, the possibility of a few MPs exchanging loyalties would be too much of a risk for Rajapaksas. The safest therefore would be to go the JRJ way and if possible, even without a “Referendum”. That’s when the CJ and his SC becomes extremely important.
The same office becomes important again if President Rajapaksa decides to have a presidential election in 2014. As it is, with very conspicuous shifting of social loyalties against the regime and the economy clearly proving it is not growing as Cabral says, it would not be too surprising if Rajapaksa decides early presidential elections instead of a parliamentary election. The Constitution allows for presidential elections in 04 years and that would be after January 2014 or November 2014, depending on how he calculates his advantage. It would be safer to have the presidential elections early in a constituency that now has previous loyalties sliding away. It would be safe to get over elections before other social forces like the already agitated working class gets mobilised over wages and cost of living issues. He also knows best, the UNP can not field a presidential candidate more formidable than Wickramasinghe. A candidate, Mahinda Rajapaksa believes is no match for him in Sinhala peasant society, where numbers decide the winner. Thereafter his third term could commence, as interpreted by his own CJ appointee. It could be in November 2016, he swears to begin his third term.
This is what this whole impeachment saga was, politically and left all legal, constitutional and parliamentary supremacy irrelevant to the Rajapaksas. It may be a political gamble, but one this regime can not afford to avoid, if they wish to continue in power. Power is what matters and not how it is gained and maintained.
This leaves the question, “What can the people do, then ?” An answer has to be found. The present UNP and the JVP proves they don’t have answers, only rhetoric. The next step is thus a “people’s step” that needs a popular discourse on a programme.
“Besides the fact that tourists are not coming back in huge numbers, there are also many deep structural problems such as dependence on tourism over trade … Much of the Tunisian uprising was about jobs and social issues, but there was no sufficient change to really address the deep economic and social issues which is really fostering ‘Islamic radicalism’…(‘Saffron robbed fundamentalism’ is how this should be read here – KP)” Quotes on Arab Spring – [Source: Mike Hitchen online 2013-01-18 06:41:00]
That provides the reason why a realistic programme that could provide answers to fundamental issues – Democracy, Devolution and Development – is necessary here in Sri Lanka.