28 September, 2020

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Dissolve Or Be Dissolved

By Malinda Seneviratne

Malinda Seneviratne

Constitutions are not always made with good intention. Even when the intention is good the unexpected trumps the word. They are supposed to be documents of the ‘forever’ kind, but if one thing is certain it is the fact that the sum total of human knowledge is but a speck of dust compared to the universe of human ignorance. And so we have amendments, some pushed through to further narrow political and personal objectives and some to correct flaws showed up by unexpected developments.

Those who authored the 19th Amendment were quite rightly seeking to reverse the anti-democratic 18th Amendment. They reintroduced term-limits, which was good. They restored and added to the 17th Amendment, i.e. the establishment of the Constitutional Council and independent commissions.

They erred/subtracted when they wrote in the composition of the Constitutional Council. They were narrow and self-seeking when they used the notion of a ‘National Government’ to get around the election promise of downsizing the cabinet. And they didn’t anticipate the February 10th result, just as J.R. Jayewardene didn’t anticipate Sarath N Silva’s determination to enable crossovers or the sway that someone like Mahinda Rajapaksa could have in obtaining a two-thirds majority regardless of the outcome of a parliamentary election.

So what have we got now? In a word, confusion. We have a parliamentary composition that is at odds with the sentiments of the people. Throw in what was always an iffy union between two parties that are so alike but have been at each other’s throats for more than half a century and a pact that started coming apart even before the local government election, and it’s a bloody mess.

The unity-pact, so-called, expired on the 31st of December 2017. As such there is no formal agreement that gives credence to the notion of a ‘national government’ which, by the way, has been ill-defined in the 19th Amendment. One might argue that the Cabinet has lost legitimacy.

It is against all this that the United National Party (UNP) and the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) mull their respective political futures. The UNP leader, Ranil Wickremesinghe claims that he has constitutional legitimacy. He has avoided speaking about the cabinet and in particular its size. Given the now openly admitted rift, his task would be to secure support from SLFPers not inclined to go along in a possible but uneasy and even dangerous alliance with the Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP). He can probably count on the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) not to side with his political opponents should there be a vote in Parliament.

The leader of the SLFP, President Sirisena, indicating that he’s broken off the engagement with Wickremesinghe, has deployed loyalists to woo UNPers disenchanted with Wickremesinghe. Naturally, Sirisena has the harder task. Around 25 MPs would have to defect, provided of course that only around 7 or 8 would go over to the UNP and that the Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) will back him.

His party ended a distant third behind the UNP and the SLPP. His political fortunes are on the wane, to put it politely. To the extent that the local government election was also a contest about who owns the SLFP (it’s parliamentary group, members and supporters), it is clear that Mahinda Rajapaksa is the clear winner. The 1.5 million votes that the SLFP/UPFA received (just over 13% of the total votes cast) are more likely to gravitate to the SLPP rather than the UNP.

Sirisena, then, is not in a position to demand. He could, however, keep things in limbo, hoping that it would feed discontent within the UNP, leading to Wickremesinghe being ousted. A long shot, though.

The SLPP is in a very strong position, in contrast. It is reported that the party’s de-facto leader, Mahinda Rajapaksa, who is also a ‘Senior Advisor’ of the SLFP, has indicated that the SLPP would support the SLFP if it manages to cobble together a working majority. The SLPP, it is reported, will not seek cabinet portfolios in such an eventuality. In effect the SLPP would hold the SLFP/UPFA as well as President Sirisena hostage, politically. In any case, the SLPP can step back and enjoy the bitter fight between the SLFP and the UNP for control of the government and indeed for political relevance at least in the short term.

Whoever ends up in control will have to reduce the size of the cabinet to 30. Therefore loyalty would have to be purchased through means other than offering a portfolio. Few if any are in this for ideological reasons. Politically, there’s nothing attractive that either party can offer anyone from the other side. Since there is no provision for the dissolution of Parliament apart from the death, resignation and the rejection by Parliament of the government’s policy statement or budget, things may very well trudge along in this muddled manner until March 2019.

While some UNPers have claimed that the election loss was because the party wasn’t allowed to implement its policies, rank incompetence and a blind-eye or complicity in monumental corruption cannot be ruled out as factors. Going solo is unlikely to change public perception regarding the party, especially since an embittered President can and probably will move on prosecuting those responsible for the Central Bank bond scam. An SLFP/UPFA government would find it even tougher given terribly reduced circumstances.

All things considered a dissolution of Parliament would be best at this point. Theoretically it is possible to obtain the two-thirds majority required to pass through enabling legislation. The immediate beneficiary would of course be the SLPP since it owns the political momentum following the unexpected and unprecedented victory at the local government elections. This could dissuade both the SLFP and UNP from considering such a course of action.

The alternatives, however, could be worse. The more muddled and confused things are, and that’s what is reasonable to expect considering the track-record of the ‘Yahapalana’ government and the peculiar circumstances it finds itself in, the longer dissolution takes the worse would be the result. Rajapaksa and the SLPP can afford to wait, for they alone can continue to work at the grassroots mobilizing support for the cause of getting rid of a UNP-SLFP regime that doesn’t seem to know if it’s coming or going.

Those who are blind to the recent and all-time track-records of the UNP and what’s left of the SLFP might shudder at the thought of Rajapaksa returning to power. The truth is there is little to choose between the UNP, SLFP and SLPP when it comes to corruption, power-abuse, thuggery and murder, unless of course one deliberately blocks out massive chunks of post-independence history.

The argument for constitutional amendment (of the 19th) to enable dissolution stands not on such things but the simple fact of legitimate representation or rather the lack thereof. This Parliament, as the results of the local government election demonstrates beyond a shadow of doubt, is illegitimate. It does not reflect the popular sentiments of the people. Its continuation amounts to a travesty of justice and a deference to everything that rebels against the spirit of democracy.

The silence of the so-called progressives in certain NGO circles, ‘informed academics,’ political commentators and other activists on all this is deafening.

Dissolution. That’s what needs to be agitated for. If nothing else, it would involve correcting a constitutional error in the 19th Amendment.

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Latest comments

  • 6
    3

    The local government elections does not nullify the results of Central Govt elections or supersedes it.
    It is of course a protest vote. It is absolutely bonkers to ask the PM to resign or dissolve the parliament on the basis of the local govt results.

    • 10
      2

      At this LG elections MR polled 4 mil 981 thousand votes. Both RW and MS polled 5 mil 94 thousand votes leaving the rest that was not for MR anyway. Had MR polled more than RW and MS then calling for a general election would have been justified. Failing to, what is the justification to call for any elections? This MR bum sucker Linda seems paranoid trying to interpret otherwise. Damn Shame, trying to pay back for the free Laptop.

    • 1
      0

      The only reason why the “bond scam” guys are not being prosecuted is that there is no case against them. Maybe a bribery case against Ravi, but the rest is massive media-inspired overkill.

  • 2
    1

    Parlaiment dissolvement is out of question. Even if the elelctions of the central govt were held, until this problem is solved President has to continue it may be under emergency. some one should be there to look after the affairs. If not that will affect financial markets and everything else in Sri lanka. this is not about local elections. this is about the PCOLI report that is in hiding and removing thieves. do not mix everything. Why the report is not public yet.

  • 0
    0

    Malinda doesn’t know the English meaning of the phrase “legitimate representation.” Local government election does not create central government legitimate representation. It creates only Local Government representation. Only central government election creates Central government legitimacy. SLFP, TNA and UNP have got votes more than what the opposition got in Local election. This has preserved the moral authority of Yahapalanaya to remain in government, because the current government in not UNP government, not by SLFP government, not by TNA government but a National Unity government all of the three and a deed signed between UNP and SLFP.

  • 0
    0

    I heard there is a plan to dissolve the Parliament because that would be the only way to make Ranil steps down or remove from the position.Ranil’s new argument is appoint another 20 ministers then he can survivie. But the president says list is full and there is no more space. Ranil had prepared. so, he wrote the 19th amendment to suit his needs and in case law enforcment tries to arrest him, that is also under his perview. there is more to this but cnnot b written because there are people who are regreting this. Earliar he was saying he wanted to stay until 2019 and when he was asked why he had said that Ravi the LIAR wanted to become the PM. Ravi the LIAR and the former King had promised Tamils they would give the 13th amendment in full. I think there is more to it. RAVI the LIAR had tried to recuirt a Buddhist monks in Jampata Veediya who has left now.

  • 3
    0

    Let the current GoSL continue its course till 2020. But it should become a REAL Yahaplanaya (Good Governance)
    —successfully prosecute the Swindlers; Murderers
    —Bring in the New Constitution
    —Ban speeches of HATE by politicians and Monks
    —Reconciliations expedited

  • 0
    0

    sira does not have to dissolve
    he can get rid of ranil by sacking the whole cabinet

    he can then ask the unp to appoint a new prime minister and with his help reshuffle the cabinet to make it more rational than ranils hodge podge and satisfy the slfp’ers
    ‘,
    the slfper’s will then be happy to continue with the unity govt as mahinda will take his revenge in 2020 by denying them nominations even if they leave now

    they have burnt their boats as they are traitors as far as he is concerned

  • 2
    0

    what a load of BS as usual from third grade jouno.

  • 0
    0

    There is a national impasse here. What have our pandithayas self styled as The Friday Forum got to say? That bunch of publicity seeking pseudo intellectuals simply display their bias and their dishonesty with their deafening silence. It is time all of them got together in unison and make a loud cry of Mea Culpa and ask for forgiveness. That is if they understand the meaning of the phrase.

  • 0
    0

    I have no personal issues with any of the political leaders, but for the simple exercise of adding a little spice to this discussion, I don’t think the President needs to physically remove the present PM. He could achieve the same result, if he chooses to reassign the portfolios currently held by the PM. The President could also reassign certain cabinet portfolios if need be and exercise his constititutional right as the Head of State, Head of Government and Head of Cabinet. These past 3 years, he has by his own choice permitted the PM to ‘drive’ government policy and agenda. However, the President could now decide to exercise his constititutional rights and head the government through cabinet with a completely different policy agenda. Then, the current PM would be left with the options of either ‘eating humble pie’ or exiting the government.

  • 2
    0

    THIS writer has gone crazy. The mandate for this government was received by the General Elections of 2015 and it is legally valid until 2020. A local govt election held in between cannot invalidate that mandate. Ridiculous.
    This is what happens when journalists become activists for one side or another. Same with Dayan Jayatilleka. Both these men have transgressed the boundaries of professional journalism by writing partisan muck. These two are merely hired charlatans

    • 1
      0

      Ransimala,
      “Both these men have transgressed the boundaries of professional journalism by writing partisan muck. These two are merely hired charlatans”
      Please do not insult hired charlatans. These two belong in the “hired jackass” group. Oh, BTW, Imean no disrespect to the braying ones of Puttalam.

  • 2
    0

    This country cannot be governed by its people. Get some other power like India or China to take over. British will not touch it

  • 2
    0

    Malinda Seneviratne
    Surely, you do not expect us to take your reasons for “Dissolve Or Be Dissolved” seriously do you?
    Malinda, please do not forget what happened to Lasantha for expressing contrary views. And to Prageeth?
    The language/religion-divide is still a trump card. Do you think that MS/RW should go thataway?
    You pointed out that there is little to choose between the UNP, SLFP and SLPP when it comes to corruption, power-abuse. You added thuggery and murder in the list. We know who is better in this! Are we to forget white vans?
    Your partisan thinking is simply disgusting.

  • 1
    0

    Malevelent malinda has missef a point. All rw has to do is appoint fonseka as law and order minister and the rajapakses and slpp core members can have an enjoyable spell in jail for a long time.

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