By S. Sivathasan –
Rarely in history do we see leaders of various hues seeking to fuse together for a singular purpose. Rarer still is for a very wide political spectrum to secure a Presidency through a consensus candidate only to terminate it. It is a mode chosen advisedly to obtain a mandate from the polity and to have legality in addition. Strange as it would seem, this is a course to seek and to destroy. Stranger still the endorsement will be given. Such is the level of rejection to which the Executive Presidency has been trashed by the present incumbent. He had the mandate, the authority and the goodwill to make a heaven of hell.
The President is neither angel nor brute as the people know him. “And the unfortunate thing is that he who would act the angel acts the brute”. This truth became incontrovertible and it has made abrogation inevitable.
‘Force of 9’
Five political formations, a respected monk and a former Chief Justice, all with credentials for nationwide appeal are now together and in the forefront. Two more weighty entities, Muslim and Indian Tamil may be in the process of discarding their sold away spokesmen in a bid to select responsive leaders, burn the dross and to join the new national leadership. With such solidarity the ‘Force of 9’ will be too formidable to retract at a show of force. It will be adequately powerful to galvanize the masses and to break the government’s current monopoly of the street.
The amalgam of 7 has taken about 8 months to form. The ‘Force of 9’ may take a month more. Nothing unnatural. From pollination to fruit, puny coffee takes 9 months. SWRD’s MEP took but a few months to assail and to dislodge the UNP which seemed to many to be immovable then. Sir John ridiculed the MEP as achcharu (pickle) but it gave him a good taste of resounding defeat. Just 3 months were enough for Modi to give a foretaste of his mettle in the 5 state elections. In May, 5 months of electioneering placed him in unprecedented power.
Modi and Executive Premiership
It is now well known the world over that Modi carried forward his parliamentary campaign in characteristic Presidential Style. Can Sri Lanka’s Presidential Campaign be worked out in parliamentary style? Never. The five months of Modi campaigning was path breaking for organization, financing and leadership. Little or no space was given for democratic shibboleths. Modi knew all too keenly that Nehru was not for India. “A man of compromise” Bose called him in an uncomplimentary sense. “He was like a banyan tree giving shelter to all and underneath which everything grew” was Indira Gandhi’s description of her Father. She was the first to fit the bill for India. Modi is the second to be so minted.
Institutions and Values as Restraints
What the writer has been able to see in the first two months of his stewardship is Executive Premiership, at once forceful and dynamic. He is Primus without Pares. The hour has produced the style. The same mode of governance is what Sri Lanka cries for. Checks, balances and democratic restraints cannot be and need not be through constitutional prescriptions. They are for institutions like a public service proud of its stature, a judiciary uncompromising about its independence and an ever alert press with transnational networks to evolve and to foster values and norms. Above all a freedom loving polity eternally vigilant in safeguarding its liberties, should at all times promote the public weal over private priorities. A leader to whom such concerns are articles of faith will make a success of governance in Sri Lanka.
Brand New Forge Without Tinkering
The need of the hour is for the ‘Force of 9’ to be cast in the same mould, to remain compact throughout, to move together in the same direction and to speak with one voice. To catch the worm the Force has to be the early bird. Victory will seem assured then. Never otherwise. After victory is secured, what next? Three indications are clear. No more of the Executive Presidential system of governance. No truck with the much reviled 36 year old constitution and no 13th Amendment.
Dr. Udugama has asserted pointedly and quite correctly that there cannot be any tinkering with the present constitution. Yes, as the country is aware it has become too frayed and brittle. It is all rust and no metal to permit of tinkering. To the Tamils there need be no mention of 13th Amendment because it is beyond tinkering. It needs total replacement. If perceptions be so strongly held, academics and legal circles can set out on the arduous task of a new draft for the newly elected President and the cabinet. Working it out will be by the Prime Minister and the cabinet.
After the Meiji Restoration of 1868, in a bid to frame a good constitution for Japan, experts in the field and who had an orientation in politics fanned out to the west. It is said that the most dynamic had gone to Germany and was greatly impressed by the country, the constitution and their governance. Above all was the personality of Bismarck. Ultimately Japan’s constitution displayed more features from Germany. Their development too has been parallel. Growth, militarism, war and destruction. Most remarkable is post war economic miracle in both countries placing them on top of the scale.
If constitutions make for realizing deeply felt priorities, then they should conduce to ethnic peace and religious amity in Sri Lanka, above all others. Where will the country be if there was no internecine warfare for so long from 1956? Is it not time to turn a new leaf? This is the greatest challenge before the new leadership soliciting the people’s mandate.
The immediate task demanding single minded devotion however is to mobilise all the strengths of the constituent formations into a composite whole. From now to the elections it will move like an iceberg. Visibility will be a fourth and subterranean will be three times more. Concerted and tireless action can give it momentum. If the emerging leadership plays its cards well, the incumbent regime will tremble at the impending upsurge.