15 September, 2019

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Gota And I Are Not politicians – Political Machinations

By Rajiva Wijesinha –

Prof Rajiva Wijesinha MP

The urge to win elections rather than institute reforms

Over three years ago I told the President that he should not have Presidential election early, but should rather hold the Parliamentary elections first. Needless to say he ignored my advice, even though I sent him a detailed paper on the reasons for the view I held. He told me that it was only Gota and myself who thought it unnecessary to have the Presidential election so soon.

He said this jovially, implying I think that Gota and I were not politicians, and others knew much better. But, leaving me aside, he should have realized that the Secretary of Defence is the only one of his close advisors, excepting only the Secretary to the President, who has no personal agenda. And as it turned out, many of the problems we face now spring I think from that early election, though no one could have predicted the divisive effect – in an unexpected fashion – of Sarath Fonseka’s entry into the fray along with his insistence on being a common opposition candidate. As an aside, I should note that only one point in my paper was later addressed, namely the lame duck effect. But the remedy put in place caused worries of another sort, and it does not seem to have helped very much, if current reports as to continuing maneuvers are correct.

I was reminded of all this when I saw that the United National Party has declared that it must get ready for a Presidential election in 2014, because it believes there are plans to amend the Constitution to make this possible. As it stands, the election cannot be held before 2015, because the President has to complete 4 years in office before he can offer himself for re-election, as President Jayewardene quaintly put it when he introduced the 3rd amendment to the Constitution.
That amendment was outrageous, and it is a measure either of the control he exercised, or else of their incapacity to understand the salient features of a Presidential Constitution, that the Supreme Court did not recognize how such an amendment affected the franchise. Usually Executive Presidents have fixed terms. Under the Westminster system the Prime Minister can ask the Head of State to dissolve Parliament early and have an election, a prerogative which is obviously used to have elections when they are convenient to the party in power. I think that is a regrettable advantage that should be done away with, given the more and more obvious ways in which ruling parties offer sops to the electorate that are damaging to the nation.

But the effect of such an advantage is generally less in a Parliamentary system, given the numbers involved, than when an incumbent President can decide entirely in terms of his own interest. Incidentally, in addition to this manifest unfairness which the Supreme Court should have struck down, the 3rd amendment also had the ridiculous provision that, depending on who won such an early election, the next Presidential term commenced on one of two possible alternative dates. This provision, based entirely on greed, so that an incumbent President could go on for a bit longer, was drafted so preposterously that it seemed ambiguous and led to President Kumaratunga losing a year of her second term of office (a precedent the President ignored when he decided his second term would begin when the Constitution said it did, on an obvious reading that the previous Chief Justice had ignored).

Under the 3rd Amendment, the President could exercise only once the option of calling an election early if it suited him. The 18th Amendment makes it possible for him to do this again and again. Unfortunately this results in unpopularity setting in earlier and earlier, which the government seems to have realized might happen, if what the UNP assumes is correct. So it seems necessary to have the third election after three years, and doubtless, if a fourth ever occurs, that will happen after two. This means that the Constitution will need to be amended again and again.

When that happens, though, it will be clear to the electorate that the President is afraid of serving out his full term, or even the slightly truncated term the 3rd amendment permits. Indeed we saw that Jayewardene suffered from heightened unpopularity when he brought forward the election, since he won far less comfortably than he had expected. He had knocked out the principal opposition candidate, Mrs Bandaranaike, and the SLFP had obligingly split, with Anura Bandaranaike and most of his friends in the party (though not Mahinda Rajapaksa, who stayed loyal to the SLFP) in effect supporting Jayewardene. Nevertheless Hector Kobbekaduwa did surprisingly well, and indeed beat Jayewardene in the North.

The UNP effort to dragoon the President then into changing the Constitution again, and having an election next year, should be resisted. They claim that the excuse that will be proferred is that the President has decided the current term of six years is too long, and must be reduced – which is a good idea, though it should be brought down to four, as the Liberal Party has long suggested, rather than five. But it is absurd to suppose that the electorate will believe that it is for this laudable purpose that an amendment is being introduced, and it is only incidentally that the election can now be held after three years rather than four.

Why all this is absurd is that it is based on the belief that the President will necessarily have the election early, and would prefer it after three years rather than four, whether for astrological reasons or worries about electoral unpopularity at a later stage. But the simple fact is that the President does not need to go to the polls until early in 2017, and for him to risk three years of his Presidency – as well as the two thirds majority which it is wholly unlikely he will ever get again – would be foolish.

Rather, what he needs to do is to use that two thirds majority, not to consolidate power, but to introduce the reforms that will ensure the electorate continues to support him. The courage he showed in concluding the war against terrorism in his first term has to be matched by courage in ensuring a durable peace. No one will believe that he will take necessary measures when he has less support in Parliament than he has now, which is why instead of succumbing to the UNP’s desire for a quick election that must necessarily weaken him, he should move now to fulfil the positive measures in his manifesto and his budget that the massive Cabinet he has established have failed signally to promote.

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Latest comments

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    If I might paraphrase that old saying, “Opportunism (and the pursuit of violence) make strange bedfellows.” Namely Goata and this slipperiest of Rajapaksa acolytes.
    To describe what he continues to dribble as drivel would be to elevate it to a stellar level which it certainly doesn’t deserve.

    • 0
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      True indeed!
      Rajiva has gone mental and lost the plot entirely in his greed for power and recognition!. [Edited out]

      • 0
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        Dood Rajiva needs to [Edited out] instead of using it to support the Rajapassa military dictatorship!

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    Divineguma law was the best chance he had to help the country. But Basil messed it up. Creating another layer of officers was not the country needed.

    People should have been empowered at GSN level with a committee of ten people elected without party politics. Even now this can be done by modifying the Divineguma law.

    Also GSN units should be based on natural ecological boundaries which will be language-blind.

    RPremadasa did a stupid act of increasing 4,000 GSN units to 14,000 to give jobs to his catchers. This must change.

    !3-A must be removed and replaced by village/GSN level empowerment of people.

    Like Samurdhi officers Basil also thinks that Samurdhi and Divineguma are created to give jobs and not for the purpose of serving people. Basil did not want to copy what is already a successful model, the Gamidiriya program where people at the village not officers who take responsible decisions.
    We must destroy the politician-officer-NGO evil triangle operating at local and national levels.
    We must go back to pre 1977 electorate. That was also a Premadasa blunder.

    This is what LLRC also said. Rajiv should read the evidence I gave before LLRC.

    If MahindaR fails to do these changes he will face what Mrs. B faced in 1977. As a person who supported MahindaR since he was fighting with AnuraB for the Leader of the Opposition job I feaal very sad that in domestic civil matters he is in a big mess. War was due to Gota’s determination.

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    Every few days you seem to write a article to tell us all how you told the president to do this and that ……….and as usual he ignores you !
    If I were you, I would take the hint and quit and stop advising the president !

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    I as one who appreciate the writers articles, but this time, I really dont know what he intends to pass through the current article.

    However,Quoting from the article:

    “courage he showed in concluding the war against terrorism in his first term has to be matched by courage in ensuring a durable peace”

    In the course of post war scenarios so far he has shown the locals and IC that not even 10% of the courage in his first term has paid in the process of durable peace – the latter is a though a long process. But along the fact the LLRC- so called report prepared for SOLELY to satisfy the IC not the Locals and THE LACK OF THE PROGRESS MADE IN THE DUE IMPLEMENTATION THOUGH PROMISED TO INDIA as they reiterated prove us all his courage.

    This is again a valid reason for me and the ilk to feel that COURAGE he showed to eradicate terror within the country was a collective deal that all the sacrificed should be given the due credit.

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    There it goes again ” I told the President”! Hello Rajiva once again you sit on the fence. More and more I read your articles I get the feeling that you are trying to jump into the lap of Rajapakse and you are begging to do it. Come on be honest to yourself, resign from the UPFA government and be like Dayan.

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    Rajiva says”But the simple fact is that the President does not need to go to the polls until early in 2017, and for him to risk three years of his Presidency – as well as the two thirds majority which it is wholly unlikely he will ever get again – would be foolish”

    How by having early presidential election he is loosing two third majority in parliament.

    Unless parliament is dissolved prematurely,it could continue for the whole six years from the date of the last Parliamentary election!

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    Dear Rjive;

    I fondly remember a SHEPHERD with a fairly big heard of buffaloes with a big horn leading buffaloe in eastern province at Kanthale tank basin.

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    Rajiva,

    Here is an opportunity to save your and perhaps even Dayan/Tamara’s credibility in term of the criticisms of many comments above.

    You now claim you all had better foresight about the futile path the Government was taking.

    Can you specifically list one or two articles you (and Dayan) have published in Public Forum that you think are most illustrative of your critical view and insight of any aspect of the Government’s policies?

    Please limit it to publications between 2010-2011 or perhaps even till mid-2012, and not the more recent ones written after things started falling apart for the country and for you all personally.

    If not, your current criticisms may count as mere whining, having lost favour. Perhaps your nose is by now desensitized: but believe me, wild claims such as “I told the President so… ” reek of hog-wash.

  • 0
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    Rajiv, Both of you are certainly not politicians, but political animals. Animality in both of you has surpassed the rationality in both of you.

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