10 August, 2022


Second-Rate 19A Better Than No 19A

By Kumar David

Prof. Kumar David

Prof. Kumar David

History Will Award Ranil-Sirisena 100-Days A ‘Pass without Distinction

If one were to make a fair and sober evaluation of the RanilSirisena (R&S; the order is intentional) administration, the judgement of history would be that it was not a failure but it achieved less than it could and should have. The big achievement of course was that it happened at all, it was a vehicle that by its mere happening ended the abominable Mahinda Rajapaksa proto-dictatorship. The credit goes to thousands, including Ranil and Sirisena, who stuck out their necks and fought abuse of entrenched power and astronomical amounts of money. January 8 in itself was the apogee of this achievement. Further achievements are the change of provincial governors and the dismissal of a rat donned in the mantle of a CJ, a malevolent UGC Chair and rotten eggs in the state and corporate sectors. The Weliamuna Board of Inquiry into corruption in Sri Lanka Airlines is an exemplar of more that could have been done but was not. High marks must be awarded for the suffused but significant change in the long prevalent mood of Sinhalese-Tamil hostility which has been noticeably alleviated. And finally, President Sirisena and his charming and dignified wife have enhanced Lanka’s image in the foreign capitals they visited.

No one can achieve much more than circumstances permit. The impediment confronting R&S is that the balance of power was only slightly in their favour. Sirisena’s winning margin was modest and he polled less than MR among the muscular Sinhalese majority. Problematically the R&S combo does not command a parliamentary majority. On the subjective side, R&S’s character weaknesses (aversion to mobilisation, abstaining from risk taking), poor judgement (choice of Defence Secretary and Governor of Central Bank) and the silence of the radical and leftist allies who should have rebuked Candidate Sirisena when he reneged on abolishing the Executive Presidency, all contributed to the under achievements of the administration. The two big shortcomings, nay let us call a spade a spade and say failures, of this government are first that 19A is a disappointment, and second that R&S have not set about systematically uprooting the Mafia State per se but confined only themselves to exposing a few egregious cases – actually only one, Sri Lankan Airlines.

19A: Today’s flop, tomorrow’s hazard

I am a puzzled that no other commentator in the print or electronic media, as far as I know, has picked up on the terrible Achilles of 19 Amendment; its design for the coexistence of two equally strong centres of state/governmental power. I am puzzled that no one else perceives that future constitutional deadlock is staring Lanka in the face. The system proposed in 19A has been compared with, but it is worse than the French system of government. In France too president and parliament (National Assembly) are separately elected by direct mass suffrage. When the two are from different parties and ideologies, not much gets done in government. France has a long (albeit four times interrupted) democratic tradition going back to 1789, hence De Gaulle’s post-1958 Fifth Republic has survived through compromises. But when crisis arrives in Lanka it will be destructive partisan attrition.

Ranil MaithriConflict is softened by the existence of the French Senate with powers similar to the National Assembly. Legislation may be submitted or amended in either house. A Senate with muscle can ease conflict between president and parliament. Senators are elected by 150,000 Regional, Departmental (these are smaller regional units) and city councillors, mayors and members of the National Assembly. It has bargaining power; it is not a shadow or a phantom. In Lanka the Council of State (CoS) proposed in 19A is a feeble spook endowed merely with an advisory role. Over 80% of its members will be dummies nominated by the prime minister and the leader of the opposition.

It is a pity that there has been no discussion of what will be major impediments to the stability of the state in time to come – the creation of two equipotential power centres in president and parliament and an emasculated CoS. Nevertheless a lousy 19A is better than no-19A if the alternative is to allow the current constitution to survive unchanged. Repealing 18A, reintroducing presidential term limits and bringing back the checks and controls envisaged in 17A are small mercies worth two cheers though the president now stands taller than in the Gazetted version of 19A.

The ruling of the Supreme Court stripping the prime minister of certain powers over the Cabinet, unless approved at a referendum, is impeccable. The supporters of constitutional change landed in a mess by accommodating Sirisena’s backtracking on his pledge to abolish the Executive Presidency (EP). As father of the Single Issue (abolish EP), Common Candidate (this has been successful), strategy, I find myself unhappily vindicated. After the Supreme Court ruling the government with a neither-here-nor-there muddle on its hands naturally has funked a referendum. A single minded strategy to abolish EP and restore the essence of 17A (18A falls by the wayside) would have been doable. The forces that would have mobilised if campaign promises were kept were substantial and a referendum could have been won. It is of course certain that the Supreme Court would have insisted on a referendum for the complete abolition of the executive presidency.

I will move on after one tangential comment. I do not think President Sirisena will precipitate a conflict with parliament if after the next election the SLFP fails to secure a majority. He is not overtly power hungry and has said he will not seek a second term – maybe he will keep his word this time. The perils emerge later, after Sirisena, after the Sirisena-Ranil honeymoon.

The mafia state plods on

The electronic media is replete with salacious humour after the Weliamuna BoI report. One says the airline should rebrand itself Airborne Bordello for Highflying Hookers; another asks if the Big Boy dipped in the honeypots too. In all this spice and levity two important concerns are in danger of being lost. Firstly, so far as cases of transgression go, the airline example is but one of many and though the most lurid, not the worst case of financial sleaze. The country has been purloined of far greater amounts in the Highways Ministry (expressway projects) and in schemes handled by Basil. It is not the Weliamuna BoI report, important as it is, that should be our focus but the other, bigger cases that have not been addressed. The second point is a bigger picture. These phenomena are studded into a nationwide statist network of fraud and violence of high leaders in cahoots with an army of cronies – the Mafia State.

The Ranil-Sirisena government has not taken on these two big challenges and been content with a piecemeal approach to some politically less sensitive cases; that is cases not involving the three younger Rajapaksa siblings (the Speaker is not a party to any alleged criminal offence). One or a combination of three reasons are ascribed to this hesitation; there was/is a tacit understanding among leaders not to hound each other, or R&S lack the guts and balls to go for a big kill in circumstances where their power is constrained by political reality, or thirdly maybe they need to sustain a working relationship with sections of the SLFP to secure votes for the passage of, an albeit now castrated 19A, by the requisite 2/3 parliamentary majority.

For one or a combination of these reasons the government is fighting the corruption issue with one hand tied behind its back and it is not motivated to make a broad frontal attack on the Mafia State. It made a wide platform of election promises that it cannot deliver within 100 days; instead it should have focussed on an ‘Abolish EP’ slogan, winning a referendum, and dissolving parliament; economic issues, cost of living and the national question should have come afterwards. Yes this is too simply stated; of course there would have been some mix of targets, but the focus on abolishing EP should have been retained. Experience now shows that this would have needed less than 100 days. If drafting new electoral bill was included, only a little more time was necessary – not including new electoral delimitation and preparing registers which together take about a year to perfect.

I am persuaded that history will not judge Ranil and Sirisena’s 100 days too harshly, but it will also mark it down as opportunity missed on some long-term issues.

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  • 2

    Prof. Kumar David

    RE: History Will Award Ranil-Sirisena 100-Days A ‘Pass without Distinction’: Second-Rate 19A Better Than No 19A

    A’ Pass Without Distinction? They Got the job done!

    What would you give Mahinda Rajapaksa over the past 5 Years? His Buddy LTTe “Maveeran” Velupillai Prabakaran? A Distinction in Stupidity?

    Why don’t you write the common sense Phamplet, Prof?

    • 1

      How revolting!

      Thieves who conspired to get the Neha-palanaya cabal Chandicar-Sira-Ranil in to power are saluting and greeting other of their “success”.
      useless uni teacher and failed Marxist he ever was, is giing a “pass without distinction” to this cabal of rogues who haven’t kept any of their promises to the gullible people.

      The country is floating around leaderless, with mounting travel bills of Samaraweera and his boys, and Ravi Karunanayaka going with his begging bawl to meet his friend Nisha Biswal! They offering a visit of John Kerry as compensation! Where are their back bones and front bits that matter?

      What a joke? Where is Maduluwawe Sobhita and his demand to remove executive presidency.

      Pass without distinction? Bullocks.

  • 1

    KD should be also contented with the democratic space provided by the R&S 100 days administration to conduct a nearly democratic Parliamentary election.
    Moreover, it has also provided the freedom of speech and independent judiciary to discuss all issues regarding the success and failure of Government actions which was not thinkable in the previous regime.

    KD also wold have appreciated the achievements by a minority Government against a revengeful former Ministers and Rajapakse loyalists hell bent to sabotage any prospective reforms.

    RW is doing the right thing by calling for the Parliamentary election where he is hoping to secure a majority in the new parliament to conduct a decent administration.

  • 1

    In an earlier comment of mine on an article written by the author, I did say about his capacity to write long essays.

    His statement “I am persuaded that history will not judge Ranil and Sirisena’s 100 days too harshly, but it will also mark it down as opportunity missed on some long-term issues” summing up his long story, to me is a white wash. Ranil-Sirisena combine is the leadership that sought the mandate to overthrow the MARA regime. It is the leadership’s obligation to get a good team to deliver the quality goods in the time stipulated. Was a good team selected? That is the million dollar question.

    Prof. Kum talks of the coexistence of two powers elected by the people directly. As the per the constitution, the first power is the President, who exercises the executive power of the sovereign people and the second power is the Parliament which exercises the legislative powers and the judicial powers through a system of courts. But what was attempted to boost the power of the Prime Minister which naturally requires a referendum. Reading the judgement of the court it is clearly seen that the team entrusted to draw the amendment to the constitution failed to identify the full meaning of the existing constitution.

    As I have commented before, the real issue is if a President in this current context has political ambitions then he can play hell. Why? like MARA who had no proper majority in parliament (so much so the speaker was elected from the opposition) can buy legislators so that he has a clear majority and ultimately it became a two thirds majority. With this the Parliament becomes the executioneering president’s rubber stamp. Therefore Prof. Kum should not look for France’s Political presidency and its senate but for a Singaporean Presidency which has nothing to do with party politics but directly elected by the people.

    Prof. Kum talks of the virtues of 17A. But why is it that the constitutional council could not ever go off the ground? Aren’t we having the same provisions, word for word, instituting and allowing to repeat the same incident to disable the functioning of the constitutional council? That it self shows that the team involved in 19A was a set of copy cats (They never catch rats.) without studying the subject much. The real question is supposing say the constitutional council is unable to perform then must the rest of the government go aground? Supposing say the Public Service Commissioners are not appointed for a very long time then who can do its job? Under MARA the cabinet arrogated its powers. But I cannot advocate such unconstitutional remedies.

    The truth of the matter is the team entrusted by the leadership failed on the following:

    (1) To have a fool-proof draft amendment to the Constitution well before the elections, so that by this time it would have been passed.

    (2) Did fail to collate all the evidence (real ones) well before the elections so that investigating bodies by now would have launched court proceedings.

    Incidentally because of these delays certain web sites report that the Chief Executive of an Investigating arm is supposed to have told his/her staff that prosecutions must be launched against at least 5 people whether there is evidence to stand or not. That by any standards is not “Yahapalanaya” but “Yamapalanaya” for which the blame would fall on the leadership (for whom I casted my vote) and would secure the interests of such Chief Executives waiting in line for further promotions and perks.

  • 0

    Old King’s government was about to take it final step before it completely merge into the middle of the ocean. Three professors, too nervous to witness it, promoted the CC concept. Now, not simply the Old King was saved from the International action for all the crimes committed, a New King has been created. Now, it has been fully ensured only bandit kings and queens will be ruling Lankave. Chandrika was one first to feel like she had ascended to family throne. But because west was in the scene by the actions of the traitor Kathigamar, she never was able to show it. She started the first Chinese corrupted deal of Nooraichcholai. Even for Chinese money, to seat Chandrika properly on the throne, it was too early.

    Old King was the first one to assume the royal responsibility. Now the future competition, between whoever it is,(Ranil, New King, Old king, Atthanakala Princess) it is going to be a pure Royal competition to the throne. Election will be, basically, calling the Sinhala Makajan to decide who has the right to the throne. Janatha will seat the King and the queens, with the guidance and approval of the Lankave’s Ayatollahs.

    In this whirring wind, common candidate the humming bird was a bad idea. It did not survive. The immortal,Sinhala Intellectualism has come out like a phoenix again from the ashes of the burned down humming bird, the CC. What is the meaning of the 19A in this? In fact in what it is difference from the 18A for Tamils? In fact the 18A may be better than the 19A for Tamils.

    Ehelepola and Pilimathalawa groups should have been allowed to take the ship Lankave and sing it in the China sea, the way they did it three hundred years ago to British empire. Tamils had no right at all to interfere in that January 8th election. Now that, natural Sinhala Intellectual process has been disturbed and prematurely ethylene has been pumped to straighten the dog’s tail. It is going to hurt the Tamils, Sinhalese, Muslims, Vedaas.. all

  • 0

    Prof:Kumar David.

    You say,
    High marks must be awarded for the suffused but significant change in the long prevalent mood of Sinhala-Tamil hostility which has been noticeably alleviated.

    Would not this therefore constitute something above an Ordinary Pass?
    Perhaps,a Second Upper?

  • 0

    …The electronic media is replete with salacious humour after the Weliamuna[BoI?] report…..writes Prof:David.

    Young Nishantha Wickremasinghe [I envy him] is now busy writing his Memoirs,under the caption Desire far outlives Performance.

  • 0

    Kumar David become adviser of thinking tank of Indian-RAW, US-CIA and UK-MI-6 line of advocating ‘pivot Asia’ policy that Sri Lankan cannot solved that all their National issues by themselves along .

    The so-called 100 days solution for all key issues stories are fabricated by ruling clique in power center of Colombo , that led by MS, Ranil W.of UNP and CBK bent on acting as West and Indian-RAW proxies just turn a deft ear to advice.

    While David nevertheless ,though he that rejected applying national solutions to Sri lanka problems, however last 100 days with its decaling strength ,the more it foreign interferes in Island ,the more terrible the country situation will become and the more disorderly the Sri lanka will be.

    People like David of Trotskyist argue that they are fear of China will grow strong ,so that they turn to Indian, US and UK -westerners powers to counter the peaceful rise of China and strike a balance in Indian Ocean- nations of Asia. This methodology of David think problems can be solved in this way quite impossible, but as a result that Colombo installed regime only mess things up. Needless to say, even now, West installed ongoing regime of MS UNP-Ranil and CBK has been reached that level of disorder by mismanagement of democracy and its economy.

    In fact which dismantle many development of Mega projects by MS and Ranil of UNP click and result of that millions are out of Jobs ,GDP growth rate decline to 8% to 6% and lost of foreign reserves from US $ 9 billions to $ 6 last less than 100 days.

    Obviously to escalate the prolonged political, economic and social conflict instead of mitigating it.
    Democracy at risk that only Tamils and Muslims of separatist of politics are in gain, political power parliamentary privileges has only mess things up.
    David seek assistance from Indian political power to regain new constitutional reform that again created weak and poor State of affairs in Sri lanka.

    David is blind on inside that disparity and vast gap between Indian Republic of ruling BJP-RSS and People of India.
    As per the Forbes 2014 the 100 RICHEST people in India are all Billionaires( $ 1 billion is equivantent Rs 6200 crore)combined wealth of these 100 Billionaires comes to $346 Billions. Share 1% top percent total wealth ,that increased 36.8% year 2000, that 49% year 2014.
    This is major power of BJP-RSS ‘democracy’ and ‘good governances’ in Republic of India, which that David want to building new type of cooperation with west in Sri lanka after 100 days in New regime installed by RAW of Indian by big capitalist.

    Whenever our is a crisis of politics, twist or a turning point the relation of national democratic forces the public starts to doubt about ruling classes the duty of elites will powerfully set a tone and get relationship on the Right track. But David act entirely different way to be created and inject more anarchism among the people of Sri lanka.

    There is what monetary policy has to come, last 100 days in Sri lanka that is what we have in a $ 70 billion dollar economy.We are worried about whether the version of ‘good governed’ will appear and how the UNP-Ranil and MS regime defines the terms of rule of law. and simple law of capitalist economy.

    Since the banks have reserves are less now, rate of borrowing near 11%,the increasing money supply in the next couples months, we will see our growth and development of economy at high risk. As well as we have lost FDI remarkably that will be negative impact of our growth. David totally blind of real time of economy, because that is not his national interest.

    To be sure the 100 days somewhat MS and UNP-Ranil W… ambiguous decision made by Indian RAW does not decisively answer the Sri lanka problems. Nor does it provide as like David says any sustain economic growth and plan for a fast recovery of the Sri Lankan political-economy-social system that has not cured the structural crucial issues of our social order.

    Indeed the history will judge of UNP-Ranil and MS real term of politics of democracy ,but not that by David reactionary theory of uninterrupted revolution of Trotskyism.

  • 0


    You seem to be some sort of a Political Analyst,Economic and Social Scientist and above all expert on RAW,CIA,MI5[Jamis Banda] and what not!

    Are you by any chance Dayan Jayatilleka?
    Also,you take on only Prof:David?

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