Colombo Telegraph

Constitution-Making Process & The Pressure From The Buddhist Clergy

By V. Thirunavukkarasu –

Vallipuram Thirunavukkarasu

The Venerable Mahanayake Theros of the Buddhist Chapters suddenly met in Kandy on 4.7.2017 under the leadership of the Mahanayake Thero of the Asgiriya Chapter, Most Venerable Warakagoda Gnanaratna Thero. The purpose is to stall the ongoing Constitution-making process which is already more or less half way through. First of all, the million dollar question is as to why such a concern on their part arose after nearly one and a half years, and not at the beginning of the process.

As is well known, the National Unity Government, with the two traditional arch rivals, happily joining hands for the first time in the country’s long term interest, secured the people’s mandate to form the National Unity Government, inter alia, to enact and operate a new Constitution. Hence, it is irrevocably incumbent on the Government to carry out the sovereign people’s mandate, and there shouldn’t be any let or hindrance from any quarter in this respect. Of course, all sections of the people of all races and religions have had the opportunity to present their views and ideas from the time the Public Representations Committee headed by a political leader and Attorney-at-law, Lal Wijenayake started functioning at the inception. What has to be borne in mind by one and all is that the people’s mandate cannot be jettisoned.

Now, it is common knowledge that the former President, Mahinda Rajapaksa who had pledged in 2005 to abolish the Executive Presidency, reneged on that pledge. On the contrary, having gone half way through his second term, he got the infamous 18th amendment passed in Parliament to remove the mandatory 2-term limit to seek election to the Presidency, insatiably aspiring to become the first 3rd term President, but of course it misfired, thanks to the will of he people which is the most paramount factor. Presently, of course, he is a Member of Parliament as well as the foremost leader of the Joint Opposition (JO) representing the dissident wing of the UPFA, including the Mahajana Eksath Peramuna (MEP), the National Freedom Front (NFF) and the Pivithuru Hela Urumaya (PHU) led by Parliamentarians Dinesh Gunawardena, Wimal Weerawansa and Udaya Gammanpila respectively. The notorious propaganda of the JO is that (a) Federalism has all but been conceded, putting paid to the Unitary State system, and (b) that the foremost place given to Buddhism is being compromised. Such a bizarre, misleading propaganda is nothing but an insult to their own intelligence, besides taking the sovereign people for fools.

Well, the National Unity Government appeared somewhat taken aback by the sudden moves of the Buddhist Chapters which might well erode the Government’s 2015 mandate to take the country along the path of peace and reconciliation, to fast-track economic development for democracy to thrive, so that people of all races and religions could live in peace and amity.

Meantime, President Maithripala Sirisena has met with the Mahanayake Theros in Kandy and assured them that that there will be due consultations with them once the final draft Constitution is ready. Of course, the Mahanayake Theros can have their say even at this stage of the Constitution-making processes, but at the end of the day, the National Unity Government should boldly act in accordance with the people’s mandate handed down at the two elections in 2015. What is of most paramount importance is that there should be no question of pandering to the whims and fancies of any segment, apparently driven by a hidden hand. It is quite appropriate in this connection quote a journalist of yore of no mean repute, Tarzie Vitachchi, from his book titled “Emergency ‘58”. Here is what he said on the question of the price paid for pandering:

“When a Government, however popular, begins to pander to racial or religious emotionalism, merely because it is the loudest of the raucous demands made on it, and then meddles in the administration and enforcement of law and order for the benefits of its favorites, or win the plaudits of a crowd, however hysterical it may be, catastrophe is certain”

What is historically relevant to remember in this connection is the situation that led to Bandaranaike’s unilateral abrogation of the Bandaranaike-Chelvanayakam pact in 1958, that is well-nigh six decades ago. Chelvanayakam had consciously accepted the pact, knowing well that it was a half-way house, even though some of his confidants had their own reservations. The fact that Bandaranaike found himself meekly abrogating the B-C pact pact due to extraneous pressure especially from the Buddhist clergy, is history, and a real tragedy; for had the BC pact been fully implemented sans any obstructions, the chequered problem could well have been well and truly finally resolved as the years went by, and there would certainly have been no war and the colossal destruction of life, limb and property.

Let lessons be learnt. Let wisdom prevail. Better late than never.

*V. Thirunavukkarasu – Former Member, Colombo Municipal Council 

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