By Sarath de Alwis –
I did not have sexual relations with that woman.” ~ Bill Clinton
“Everybody in the country knows I am not a lawyer” ~ Maithripala Sirisena
After the unenthusiastic reinstatement of Ranil Wickremesinghe as Prime minister the President delivered a belligerent broadside to the UNF hierarchy. He made some revealing pronouncements and remarks.
They represented the core values of the man we mistakenly elected as our President to abolish the executive presidency. They insinuate deeply held beliefs – cultural traits or taken for granted intrinsic values, stubbornly held and powerfully expressed, that they are beyond debate and negotiation.
“… there are certain very strong and powerful forces related to religion, customs, language etc. Mostly, it is those cultural forces, more than political forces, that make or break Governments. I clearly pointed out this out in the recent past, in the matter regarding filing cases against Bhikkhus need to be done carefully.
There were no elephants for the Perahera from temples or Dewala, and that resulted in a major socio-religious and cultural resistance over this. As such, I asked to study the legality and release the elephants. Over this issue, we lost the support of the entire Bhikkhu community.”
He expounds these views after the Supreme Court gave its ruling that gave “tangible and effective life and meaning to the sovereignty of the people.’ It is an exculpatory explanation.
In short, they explain why Sirisena decided to unmake Ranil Wickremesinghe and break his government with a cavalier disdain for constitutional good order.
If you can get the endorsement of those powerful forces that make or break governments, you can do whatever fiddle diddle with the constitution !
The proclamation dissolving parliament was in violation of the constitution. When the President insists that there are other social forces whose power to make or break governments that need to be appeased, it is time for us to take note of where he intends to go.
Are we saddled with a law breaker at the helm of our republic? If so, what are we doing about it?
Politicians parade a put-on piety when addressing the ‘Maha Sangha’. President Sirisena relies on two adjectives – Vandaneeya and Poojaneeya. Sajith Premadasa adds a third ‘Gavuraneeya’ to beat him to the post. Mahinda Rajapaksa is content with ‘Apey Hamudurwane’. His style of piety is his own patent and patently proprietary. He has them in the bag. Others are compelled to compete.
This is pure fraudulent religiosity customized to serve individual political interests.
The submissive humility is devout roguery. Sajith Premadasa has a vast repertoire of adjectives for all occasions. After the presidential outburst following the swearing in of the Prime minster, Sajith decorously addressed the president as ‘Srimath Janadhipathi thuma’. After the harangue it was an odd hurrah!
The purpose of this essay is to demand that parliament must now instruct the president on the sanctity of the constitution. That the sovereignty of the people too is a Vandaneeya , Pujaneeya and Gauveravaneeya concept that cannot be trifled with.
The president must be informed that the prefix ‘ Srimath’ has to be earned by upholding the constitution in both letter and spirit.
To understand the truth about 26th October 2015 we must expose its falsehoods. It is only by stripping away the false claims that we can reveal the truth about the constitutional coup.
Only a motion to impeach or censure the president can make the plain truth plain enough for the people. A parliamentary resolution to impeach or censure the president is a bottom-line imperative to secure our parliamentary democracy.
“Everybody in the country knows that I am not a lawyer. I didn’t issue the Gazette on my own. Eminent President’s Counsel were involved in this. All these Gazette notifications were released after holding discussions with them.”
“When I issued some Gazette notifications recently, I did so with the advice of expert lawyers and constitutional experts. All what I did was done with utmost good faith. I didn’t do any of those acts with malice or with an intention of violating the Constitution.”
Clearly the man is impervious to logic and reason. These are value determinations by the president of our republic. They must not be ignored.
Information that properly belong to the public should not or must not be withheld by those in power. These presidential pronouncements call for a detailed scrutiny by a competent body. A motion of impeachment or censure signed by 113 members of parliament is the only means that will make it happen.
He did not take our democracy by its throat and strangle it. He did better. He demanded obedience and compliance from parliament. One hundred twenty-two parliamentarians resisted.
They refused to become accomplices of Maithripala Sirisena’s constitutional jiggery-pokery. He now claims that all his actions were based on good honest advice of erudite jurists. We have a right to demand who they are.
First things first. Maithripala Sirisena the President presents a clear, defined, deliberate threat to our democracy and constitutional order. Not moving a resolution to impeach or censure him places an errant president above the law. He attempted violence on our constitutional order.
The parliamentary majority that resisted his intimidatory manoeuvring to bend its will, may not have the 150 votes required to pass a resolution to impeach and remove him from office. But it can pass a motion of censure by a simple majority.
The parliament has the numbers to initiate proceedings. That must be done forthwith irrespective of its outcome.
The Supreme court demonstrated that the rule of law can supersede the rule of power.
It is a decade of the rule of power that we ended on 8th January 2015. That we only managed to inscribe it on a slippery slate with the 19th Amendment is neither here nor there. What mattered is that it served its purpose. We must preserve those gains.
Rule of law resists the rule of power. The attempted dissolution of parliament was ‘outside legal limits’ and a violation of the citizens right to be ‘protected from any arbitrary exercise of power”
This idea has clearly evaded the grasp of Maithripala Sirisena the president. He continues to insist that his powers are not subject to constitutional constraints.
By remaining silent instead of moving a resolution to impeach or censure the president, the 122 parliamentarians who defied the president are now turning in to expedient accomplices of Sirisena’s holier than thou hocus pocus.
In addition to making them opportunistic cowards, the failure to move an impeachment will make the 122 parliamentarians willing collaborators of Sirisena’s claim that he acted in good faith.
They would be condoning his duplicitous conduct of insisting that the Speaker should strictly comply with parliamentary procedure, while he studiously avoided restraining or condemning the hooligans who threw bell book and candle at the speaker’s rostrum.
He made the Bible throwing Weerawansa a cabinet minister and appeared with him on the same platform at a public event held at the Sugthadasa stadium.
There are lessons to be learnt. Ravi Karunanayake regaining cabinet rank or Sajith Premadasa minding the cultural portfolio has no relevance to our constitution good order.
One is the deputy leader of the UNP and the other is the assistant leader of the party led by Ranil Wickremesinghe the acknowledged, undisputed bête noire of Maithripala Sirisena the president.
Every politician has a self-serving bias. The assistant leader and the deputy leader of the UNP are believably blessed with more than the usual dose of self-serving bias. Self-interest is what drives those practicing the vocation of politics.
Self-interest can and does alter a person’s assessments of policy. It can and usually does succeed in changing a person’s mind about what is right and wrong.
Ranil has retained his acolytes Sagala, Akila and Malik in his cabinet. Range Bandra who exposed S.B.Dissanayake’s shocking palm greasing attempts on tape has been left out.
Ranil has decided that John alone can straighten up the leisure and pleasure sector. The plain-speaking parliamentarian from Putlam- Rangebandara has publicly stated that somethings are decidedly rotten in the UNP.
There is a difference between Range Bandara and Ravi Karunanayake. One records conversations. The other’s capacity to recall conversations is constricted.
I refuse to believe that either Sajith Premadasa or Ravi Katunayake greeted the unfolding events of the evening of Friday 26th October 2018 with paroxysms of disbelief.
Their reactions were far removed from the indignation expressed by other seniors such as Mangala Samaraweera or Ranjith Madduma Bandra.
The closing of ranks by UNP backbenchers and the accurate reading of the dangers of constitutional gerrymandering by the JVP and Tamil and Muslim minority parties no doubt surprised the deputy leader and the assistant leader of the UNP.
It is reported that both Sajith Premadasa and Ravi Karunanayake wanted to boycott their swearing in ceremonies for their own reasons but took the trouble of informing the President that they meant no disrespect to him.
Such commendable propriety on their part seems peculiarly disconnected with Ranil Wickremesinghe body language during Sirisena’s sermon where his rolling eyeballs appealed to high heavens to spare him the humbug of the preacher.
If Sajith Premadasa is serious about his added assignment as Minister of Culture and National Heritage, he should print the Sinhala version of the 88-page main Judgment of the Supreme Court and the 20-page Judgement of Justice Sisira de Abrew for distribution to all members of the ‘Poojaniya Vandaneeya Mahasangha.
By doing so, he would be heeding the advice of the President whom he addresses with such decorous servility – “Srimath Jandhipathithuma.”
The rule of law is the opposite of the rule of power. The rule of law rejects the supremacy of the will of an individual.
This dreadful man did not force himself on us. We elected Maithripala Sirisena as an interim replacement for Mahinda Rajapaksa who planned to rule for life and thereafter entrench a dynastic rule of his family.
The pernicious presidency of Maithripala Sirisena is a product of a deeper crisis. It is the still unresolved and unaddressed crisis we confront in grappling with the monolith that Mahinda Rajapakse built on a foundation of tribal hatreds, unreason and an all-pervasive corruption of our political discourse.
The great American jurist Felix Frankfurter said it with luminous lucidity.
“There can be no free society without law administered through an independent judiciary. If one man can be allowed to determine for himself what is law, every man can. That means first chaos, then tyranny.”
Maithripala Sirisena has violated the constitution. When he states brazenly that there are other social forces whose power to make or break governments that need to be appeased, it is time for us to take note of where he intends to go.
Are we saddled with a law breaker at the helm of our republic? If so, what are we doing about it?
A resolution to impeach or censure President Maithripala Sirisena must be moved in parliament and debated. The resolution must be voted on by name. We owe posterity that duty.
Let justice be done though heavens may fall. Sirisena the president is a reaffirmation of the epigram – ‘man is not what he thinks he is. He is the man he hides.’ What is Man? Man is a miserable little pile of secrets.