1 December, 2020

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Constitutional Coup Without Democratic Precedent

By Dayan Jayatilleka

Dr. Dayan Jayatilleka

Dr. Dayan Jayatilleka

“I fought in the old revolution

On the side of the ghost and the King…” – Leonard Cohen, The Old Revolution

My profound thanks to Prof. Susirith Mendis for his critical observations (‘A Random Thought’, Opinion page, The Island, January 15th) on the appointment of the new PM and his Cabinet. My thanks also to him for his kind, and ideologically accurate, mention of me. His critical lucidity is no surprise to me given not only his own heavyweight academic credentials but also the intellectual tradition of which his late father LNT Mendis and his father-in-law Godfrey Gunatilleke were/are such stellar exemplars.

The core of Prof Susirith Mendis’s argument is as follows:

Is what has happened a world’s first in a functional democracy? Is there a parallel anywhere else in the democratic world, or as a matter of fact, anywhere else in the world? …Where the presumptive Executive Head of a democratic country is a person who was neither elected by the people nor was his party given a mandate to govern as the largest party in the Legislature? All I understand happened on the 8th of January 2015 was that in accordance with the existing Constitution of Sri Lanka, the people elected an Executive President. They did so, on the basis of Chapter One Article 3 and 4 of the Constitution of the DSRSL where the “inalienable sovereignty” rest with the People and their Executive power is “exercise and enjoyed” through the “President of the Republic elected by the People”.

But we find, when we wake up now, that for all intents and purposes, (as happened between December 2001 to February 2004) a pliant and weak President without a party of his own, appointing a UNP Prime Minister and for all intents and purposes a UNP cabinet. But at least on that last occasion in 2001, RW and the party which he led, contested a Parliamentary Election and won a mandate to govern. They were the largest party in Parliament. The moral and constitutional legitimacy for RW to form a UNP government was never in question.

But what happened on January 8th? Not having the confidence to lead his party and garner the right to govern through a direct contest for the Presidency, he has performed a ‘constitutional coup’. The People, using their inalienable right of sovereignty by exercising their franchise (Ch. 1 Article 4(e)) elected MS as President…Let me say this again for emphasis. RW, who knew that the People would not give him the democratic mandate to rule, backed away from facing the ‘will of the People’, and supplanted a more acceptable person who will do his will. A constitutional sleight of hand to gain power that he would not have been directly given by the People. His maternal uncle, the ‘Old Fox’ would have been proud! He has outdone JRJ! I am sure that the ‘Old Fox’ could not have thought out such a political manoeuvre to grab power. But maybe he never had the need. He could come forward confidently on his own. (By the way, I just remembered! The ‘Old Fox’ too was trying a constitutional manoeuvre to become the President for the third time. Remember? The JVP revolt and Ranasinghe Premadasa prevented him. Sorry for that aside!). Let us get back to what I was saying.

So, I question RWs ‘right’ to govern. I believe that the ‘will of the People’ has been manipulated and thwarted. I feel the ‘spirit’ of democracy has been violated.” (‘A Random Thought’, Prof Susirith Mendis, The Island, January 15th 2015)

Not only am I in complete agreement with Prof Mendis’ view that it is a Constitutional Coup, I would add that it is entirely without precedent in a democracy. When I read Prof Mendis, I had already expressed these views in a one and a half hour radio broadcast, on Neth FM’s program “Balumgala Unlimited” on Tuesday January 13th. The fact that the election manifesto of the common Opposition candidate mentioned it, does not excuse such a move because an election manifesto cannot supersede the Basic Law. Furthermore, one may have voted for Mr. Sirisena or against Mahinda Rajapaksa for many reasons, not always due to agreement with the full contents of the manifesto.

The correct democratic method of transition would have been for President Sirisena to preside over the existing cabinet, re-shuffle it, incorporating Mr. Wickremesinghe into it, and later to invite Mr. Wickremesinghe to demonstrate that he enjoys the confidence of the House, after which he could have been appointed PM. Instead the cart was quite deliberately put before the horse. One can imagine the howls from Colombo’s ‘civil society’ that would have followed had President Rajapaksa (or indeed President Premadasa) had done any such thing or even attempted it.

Prof Susirith Mendis’ and my argument and critique would be true of the upcoming fast-track or ‘shock therapy’ Constitutional changes. Neither the UF in 1970 nor the UNP in 1977 rushed through basic constitutional change at break-neck speed. The idea of a new constitution was in the UNP manifesto of 1977 and had been canvassed by Mr. Jayewardene since 1966. The new Constitutions of 1972 and 1978, flawed as they were, issued from a process of transparent deliberation.

I have not expressed my concerns (as I did in Sinhala on Neth FM Radio) in the English language because the urban English language reader is currently (and temporarily) domiciled in the same bubble of elation and false consciousness that it always finds itself whenever the UNP wins—and my memories date back to Esmond Wickremesinghe’s end-’64 crossover plot and the UNP’s “Hath Havula” of 1965. My most recent recollection of this urban middle class blind-spot is of course Prime Minister Wickremesinghe’s Athuruguriya Millennium City move and the CFA. I have therefore decided to give myself a break from writing to the English language newspapers until the reality of the continuing crisis, most especially, the national factor, rudely and indelibly impinges as it always does.

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  • 20
    6

    Susirith Mendis, as quoted by Dayan de Silva, says: “So, I question RWs ‘right’ to govern. I believe that the ‘will of the People’ has been manipulated and thwarted. I feel the ‘spirit’ of democracy has been violated.”

    When an intelligent person hides obvious facts, that is not ignorance. It is plain dishonesty.

    Anyone who had even the slightest awareness of the Presidential Election 2015 would have known, before the election, that, if MS won, RW would be appointed the PM by the powers vested in the President by the constitution of Sri Lanka. MS and the leadership of his coalition publicly announced, before the election, that RW would be made the PM. Both Susirith and Dayan are trying to hide this fact. Those who voted for MS – the majority as it turned out – wanted RW to be the PM. If I am allowed an aside at this point, it is very likely that a majority of Sri Lankans (not just the Sinhalese) may have wanted RW to be the President in 2005, but thanks to Prabhakaran, a section of Sri Lankans were prevented from voting. That was a true “manipulation and a thwarting of the will of the people”, and a “violation of the spirit of democracy”. Any comment about that Susirith or Dayan? Better (10 years) late than never! But let us get back to the topic.

    Contrary to Susirith’s biased and lop-sided analysis, had MS defaulted on his undertaking to the voters to appoint RW as the PM, that would have been a blatant violation of the faith of those who voted for MS, a real “thwarting of the people’s will”, and “a violation of the spirit of democracy”. That would have been a broken promise right at the start, a pudana kotama kapi yaka!

    I am not surprised that an intelligent person like Susirith is confused about the appointment of RW as PM. The blow that was dealt on the 8th would have been enough to confuse even a superbrain like Einstein! I am surprised that an intelligent analyst and commentator like Dayan fails to see that Susirith is overpowered by an obvious dislike of Ranil.

    President Sirisena may go the same way that everyone of our leaders, since independence went – utter failures except, perhaps, for DS. But we Sri Lankans have a right to be optimistic at least in the early days of the presidency. If I remember right, Dayan once referred to himself as the eternal optimist.

    Come on Dayan let us enjoy some of your optimistic side. Tell us about a few good things that may come our way.

    • 13
      7

      MR won the 2005 presidential election by paying off the LTTE.
      Otherwise, Ranil W would have been our President in 2005.
      If that is not sleight of hand and extreme dishonesty, what is?
      I can’t believe that so-called “educated” men can be blind to this glaring
      instance of power-hungriness and all the corruption, vicious vindictiveness, murder etc that followed as a result of power being usurped.
      So unfortunate for our beloved country.

    • 9
      2

      Dear Learnt Doctor,

      This comes to my mind when I study your archives to this day:

      The Torment of Tantalus

      Tantalus was a figure in Greek mythology. Forced to stand in water that receded when he tried to drink.

      Knowing (subjectively), seeing (subjectively) something (which is to get you posted to new diplo post) right in front of you and knowing that however much you try (you try to acheive your personal agendas through all your efforts being made by your) you wont get it. And even that doesn’t make one stop.

      I think that’s the message I take out of that story.

  • 6
    12

    RW will be the nominal PM as promised, but with the SLFP regrouping under Sirisena (with MR’s blessing) the new government will become a near mirror image of the old. RW will remain politically castrated, but within the government unable to carry out his wishes.

    • 9
      0

      You seem to know a lot about castration, is it from experience?

    • 1
      3

      In the end it will be Sri Lanka that is castrated. Such a pit when this country has the potential to grow fast.

    • 0
      0

      Ram,

      It is obvious that you want to get back to MR’s racist platform; I am very sorry to disappoint you that MR is history by his own making. The Sinhala electorates are changing for better and eventually racism will not play a part in grabbing power!

  • 17
    1

    Can someone identify the similarity between the following

    SB, DJ, Rohitha A, Mahindananda, Gammanpila, Wimal etc

    • 13
      1

      All corrupt bar stewards.

    • 20
      1

      SB, Rohitha A, Mahindananda, Gammanpila, Wimal – Telling utter lies in Sinhala.

      DJ-Telling utter lies in English .

      • 3
        0

        I am contra political revenges, but i wish SB deserves an another jail sessions for all what he has done during the recent months.

        His thuggish talks almost killed the thousands of undergraduates. Those who listend to his speeches telecasted through lankens TV senders angered many in and out of the island.

  • 6
    1

    English is the language of Sudhas and in protest dear DJ stops writing it.What a releaf.

  • 10
    1

    The term “Constitutional Coup” is an oxymoron.

    I thought the great political scientist Dayan should know that.

  • 7
    9

    I think the damage Maithreepala Sirisena done to the country and SLFP will take long time to recover, This is a coup and I believe cunning Ranil is planning to do the last laugh.

    The 100day bonanza they offer will turn the people to UNP and SLFP; bye bye for a long time, Chandrika madam did the deed to the PA unless she does another manouvere to behead Ranil.

    The bunch of thieves who were with MR will change the side silently and start eating the country,
    Here we are again, will write against the corruption!
    We are the losers again. There will soon be a day that we should have sticked with the known devil, At least he was a consistent devil,

    • 7
      1

      You sound to have got up from the wrong side of the bed. SLFP was brutally damaged by MR and his thugs for the last few years. Did not you listen to the video added by PVT bus company today, added how many billions of poor mans funds have been abused by UPFA thugs in the form of bribes. These were known to MR but he did not utter a single word about that instead, he protected those high criminals. It is all because he is the number crmiinal. A man that has lived politics for a period of 45 years should have learnt it by heart – the way SWRD worked then. Just telling something palatable to twist the stupid people and live on that was the agenda of MR. Populitic politics practised by him made the general public so blind. His media men covered them so that he could show the word the opposite of the ground reality.
      On the 29th – people will see it clear how bankrupt the govt has been – as Navin Disanayake once said, we called it ” LOOTING AND PLUNDERING” – what has his long term experience brought to be away from his goons – if only the goons were responsible for the mess created by MR.

  • 6
    1

    The mandate requested by the Democratic Front is for MS’s presidency and RW’s premiership. And the mandate given by a majority vote on 8 Jan 2015 is for MS’s presidency and RW’s premiership. I don’t think we need PhD degrees to misinterpret this fact.

  • 12
    2

    Mr Jayatileke is a partisan advocate for a racist and chauvinistic regime composed of drug dealers and murderers. He wishes to present himself as a Marxist and an intellectual, but this pseudo-intellectual bereft of any moral or ethical principles belongs to the same degenerate Mafia.
    Mr Jayatileke boasts about getting through resolution A/HRC/S-11/2 through the Special Session of the Human Rights Council in May 2009. But he does not state the promises that he made to the international community and especially India seeking their votes. These were all exposed in good time and all his mates were exposed as inveterate liars and actors.
    Let him dare go to any international fora and try to represent the hopeless regime he so strongly defend. He has become another rat jumping ship when the country is purged by the decent citizens who did not heed to this insane prostitute.
    Now he is coming up with another canard claiming as a Political Scientist stating that there has been some constitutional improprieties in appointment Mr Ranil Wickremasinghe as the Prime Minister describing it as a Constitutional Coup without a democratic precedent. Laugh out Loud at this pseudo intellectual who would no longer write in English but in some other language to the ignorant.

    Well Mr Jayatileke, I wish to remind you that your King Mahinda corrupted the Constitutional arrangement in a big way and people like you who were on the gravy train did not raise your voice either in defence of the people or on political or constitutional principles. President Maithripala held out to the electorate that he would appoint Ranil the moment he was elected as president. The whole country was aware of it while you were sleeping conspiring your next move. When he won the election he duly appointed Ranil. Hey pseudo Political Scientist, this election established our Magna Carta. If you did have half a brain you will latch on to the cleansing power of this election and write something profound. But you have no such capacity.
    Now coming to the Constitutional issue. Maithripala can appoint whoever he wishes as the Prime Minister. It is up to the Prime Minister to show in Parliament that he has a majority capable of getting his legislative programme through. If he cannot command a majority when parliament meets then his government will fall down.
    Was not that you were taught on democratic political institutions. May be you forgot to practise your last piece of deception. So where is the Constitutional coup without democratic precedent? What a title and what deception. Even when you are dead you will rise up to utter fal;sehood. It is a pity that this is your life. You are a disgusting pervert.

  • 13
    3

    DJ, this is good news that you have stopped writing to the English newspapers. I suggest you do the same with CT, no one is going to miss the crap that you write. The EP has the right to appoint whomsoever he wishes, you academics are in cloud 9- get real.

  • 1
    1

    2015 January 08 ,which Presendintal election held that was only elected MS as President of Republic of SL.

    MS mandate by people not for UNP which being to be an appointment of PM of Ranil W..is governing body.

    That is totally unconstitutional and anti-sovereignty move by against principle right of People elected of democratic system.
    This is happen in the first time modern democratic political history of Sri lanka, since that 1948 independence.

    In fact that the BILL OF RIGHTS 1689 was not —even in form–a grant from sovereign, it was an instrument framed by the representatives of the people.

    Without promising to respect sovereign of people which that MS, an appointment RW as PM of Republic, which against will of people and anti-sovereignty new innovation of Sri Lankan type ‘good governances and rule of law’.

    This is political coup,d led by ongoing so-called ‘good governances’ ruling alliances. PM has no legal powers to run democracies governances according to Republic Constitution norms by 1978.
    How can MS & RW maintain of rule of law by violating sovereignty of the people by elected wrong person as PM of our soil?

    In so far the examination turns on the matter of special political experience by very beginning of MS’ has discarded the RULE OF LAW.

    Therefor the decision of all such questions at issue have to be put clearly and carefully by independence Judiciary of court of Law.

    The 100 days work programmed by MS led alliances said that “…In order to strengthen democracy..” by and large 2015 January very inception that undermine whole democratic structure of Sri lanka by that mode of RW that UNP type of authority rule of hipcoracy.

  • 3
    3

    DR.MODAYN JAYNATHITILLAKA STOP WRITTING BULLSHIT GO OUT OF SRI-LANAK MEDIA TO SHARE YOUR SOUR GRAPES.

  • 3
    1

    What this “Puss Pundit” Dayan does not understand is, the People of SL did not listen to him, to Gel Wimal Weerawansa, Keli Keheliya, Nimal Siripala, Baya Gotha – Gothabaya, Game Gamanpilla and others, and made up their own minds from what they have seen.

    Maithree to govern the country with the UPFA cabinet and to incorporate RW. What a joke. How can you rule the country with a bunch of thieves?

    I begin to wonder if the embassy renovation saga was started by Dayan and was palmed on to Kshenuka!

  • 2
    0

    The people voted for a person as their choice for the presidency.
    They DID NOT vote for any PARTY.
    They chose him in place of the incumbent tyrant who along with his family and those who wished to exist in his shadow for only their benefit, and disregarded all norms of human rights, rule of law and democracy, to amass wealth for themselves and their future generations.

  • 0
    0

    According to Dr. DJ it is democratically offensive for Parties to join
    hands to defeat a Political rouge like MR, who went in for a 3rd Term
    with his CJ + 10 Judges consenting, that too 2 yrs. ahead !!.

    Every intention of this CC was presented to the Voters and a National Govt. was promised in the MS Diary for 23-4-15, in the short time they had for canvassing. Bringing Ranil, the Leader as the major shareholder was that Parties right as a Partner, and his post as PM was canvassed along with that of MS as EP. Therefore the Voters made their democratic decision given this chance – that too correctly.

    DJs & HLDMs hate for RW is so very evident in their writings.

  • 1
    2

    “…My profound thanks to Prof. Susirith Mendis for his critical observations (‘A Random Thought’, Opinion page, The Island, January 15th) on the appointment of the new PM and his Cabinet. My thanks also to him for his kind, and ideologically accurate, mention of me. His critical lucidity is no surprise to me given not only his own heavyweight academic credentials but also the intellectual tradition of which his late father LNT Mendis and his father-in-law Godfrey Gunatilleke were/are such stellar exemplars…”

    For heaven’s sake man – stop writing this type of rubbish! I think you have stooped to very low levels by this type of hubris and self-congratulatory non-sense! Don’t tell me you are an academic – because you are NOT! You called your own father a few days ago “The Doyen..” or some kind; let others be the judge of that! Your failure to understand these simple things indicate to me, perhaps you are losing it. For months on end, you tried to get yourself another posh job by talking up MARA despite the utter corruption that MARA was responsible for. If you had any decency, you should have stayed out of that stuff and remained aloof. Why do you think many of us (true academics) did not get involved? You disgust me so much, and I am wishing that I don’t run into you anywhere!

  • 1
    1

    Dear Prof Mendis (via pus-pandit Dr D Jayatilake):
    The last time I checked, it was fairly evident to me that the common candidate’s 100-day plan was disclosed as far ahead as was possible, and it was very much in the public domain. In this 100-day plan, it was also clear that the common candidate stated clearly that Ranil W would be appointed Prime Minister.

    What the common candidate has done, after he was duly and legitimately elected by a majority of the populace, was to follow up diligently on one of the key aspects of his 100-day plan. Remember, it WA previously disclosed, and he kept his promise.

    Unlike his predecessor, who has failed to keep his promise on more occasions than we can bother to remember.

    Academics like the two of you are an absolute disgrace to civilised society in Lanka (and you call yourself a Royalist?)…… your hero has manipulated his way into the presidency by allegedly fraudulent means following the 2004 Tsunami (or did you fail to notice?) and once there, defeated the LTTE allegedly by committing war crimes that his predecessors could not possibly justify doing, and thereafter manipulated constitutional changes to permit cross-overs, bribed opposition parliamentarians to cross-over, then engineered more changes to the constitution to give a contrived legitimacy to his autocratic rule, wrongly impeached a supreme court judge and planted a pliant nincompoop in her place, who proceeded to bow and scrape to kingdom come and then permitted some of the most egregious and wanton acts of racial hatred ever seen in this country.

    And you are concerned that the new President has executed a constitutional coup that frankly, has saved the nation???

    Where is your sense of honour or lajja, guys?

    I rest my case.

  • 0
    0

    This comment was removed by a moderator because it didn’t abide by our Comment policy.For more detail see our Comment policy https://www.colombotelegraph.com/index.php/comments-policy-2/

  • 2
    0

    Dr. DJ

    You are coward and a scoundrel! Coward because you are running away from the forum after standing by MR all these years and do want to defend yourself whan the chips are down. Stand and fight is not the trait of cowards like you.

    You are a scoundrel because you tried to lie and distort the truth and slander MS on TV openly when there was no iota of truth in what you said.

    Shame on you!

  • 0
    0

    Dayan,
    You are so strangely silent on the corruption of Rajapakse Regime and their denial of minority rights. Are you too so corrupt?

    It is best that you quit from all forums and stop writing and talking both in Sinhala and English. Pin sidda vechchave!
    MJA

  • 0
    0

    Probably Professor Susirith Mendis would have gone rather unnoticed with what DJ says was an ‘ideologically accurate’ mention of him (the latter) in his Island newspaper article. But, for DJ who has become intellectually bankrupt following his support for defeated MR and who would have had no one to read his write-ups in the English media due to serious lack of analytical credibility, Professor Mendis has come handy at the right time, “to quote and go”. Most of the English language media may even be richer with their more intellectually challenging contents, with his absence. One time leftist firebrand Vasudeva Nanayakkara, DJ and Susirith Mendis seem to have been caught in the same ideological muddle now a days. Someone has mentioned in the reader comments that the term “constitutional coup” is an oxymoron. Dead right. There are three ways in which government can be changed (I do not want to call ‘regime change’): popular revolution, coup d’etat, democratic transition. Where does ‘constitutional coup’ figure in here. The argument based on constitutional coup made by MR and his lackeys propped by pseudo intellectual heavyweights like DJ et al has been roundly rejected by the people for the fallacy that it was. It was fallacy because that if MS won, Ranil W would become PM was out there before the public from day one. Nobody stages a coup, DJ, after giving public notice. It is timely and natural that you should find a different audience.

  • 0
    1

    Baloney, that’s what I would tell this arrogant Dayan dude…Some of your favorite words of the English language are Intellectual, Academic, Political Scientist, Constitutional Expert to name some. You think every one who reads your articles are impressed about your academic intelligence. Well I am sorry to say that most people have a good laugh at your expense. Go try getting a job working outside the Island to see if you would be lucky enough to get anything other than a clerical job. Sorry to say, you will have to languish in SL and hope some one throws you a bone! Your entire political analysis about the just concluded elections was for naught! Wonder what the crooked Rajapakse family enticed you with?

  • 1
    1

    Watch carefully, cos whilst writing this poppycock, Dayan is simultaneously trying hard to worm himself into the new admin. Scumbags are like that.

  • 0
    1

    These are the kind of [Edited out] the country should get rid of. This s*b comes on sirasa during election time and goes to town condemning the then government’s foreign policy and the then government’s hierarchy.[Edited out] When it’s very rightly & flatly refused (fortunately for the country, present government under MS & RW does not accommodate [Edited out] he starts his usual rhetoric.

    The last thing this country need at this time is hypocrites of this type. Thank god SL is a blessed country.

  • 0
    0

    The stupidity of the arguments of these two so called educated “idiots” are that they ignore the fact that it was clearly explained to that the voters that in the event of MS victory RW will be made the PM. The votes clearly showed that the majority of voters have endorsed it.
    This Susirith has had not objection to MR taking MPs from other opposition parties (by offering ministerial posts and other bribes) to get a two third majority in the House, which the people had not given a mandate at the Parliamentary elections. Isn’t that a Constitutional Coup by MR. What has these two Charlatans have to say?

  • 0
    0

    Dear DJ

    You now a days do not want to go alone, either picky back some ladies Tamara, Srinivasan or, this time this guy Mendis, not sure about his exploits, but when you brings heritage or family tree into forth I have some issues. Let him to stand on his own. You seems to excited to see his quoting you and vice versa. This trend of late brings PHD strings into questions, because I know what you write and when you praise some one else it makes job easier. There was an attempted coup, but because of some committed staff, it didn’t catch fire further. You don’t want to write about it, because that is where you all were kept your hope when you decided to somersault to side with the previous government putting out some convoluted reasons- MR will hold on to the power doesn’t matter whatever it takes.

    What I like most in your this writing is that is “I have therefore decided to give myself a break from writing to the English language newspapers until the reality of the continuing crisis, most especially, the national factor, rudely and indelibly impinges as it always does.” Alas, thanks you did that. You deserve a break and take a stock of your selves and find a way out to get the respect of the readers- do not take them for granted. Say hello to GLP if happens to see.

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