By Ameer Ali –
Democracy was rescued only a couple of weeks ago from brink of extinction, threatened by a constitutional conspiracy engineered by President Maithiripala Sirisena and his cabal. It was rescued partly by a combination of calm but resolute opposition from the public and more importantly by the Honourable Judges of the Supreme Court. The president’s immediate disgust at the judiciary, in degrading its judgement and comparing the dispute between him and Supreme Court to one of between a senior Buddhist prelate and a village temple monk deserves utmost condemnation from any lover of democracy. It only shows how ignorant the president is about the intricacies of law.
The President is now taking his disrespect of the judiciary to a dangerous point by undermining the Constitutional Council itself and by pushing his own nominees to the Supreme Court. In this he is apparently in collusion with Mahinda Rajapaksa, his co-loser in the current power struggle. Is the President’s office becoming a den of conspiracies? It is very clear that Sirisena wants dictatorial powers to have only his way all the way and no other way to cross his way. He is certainly on a collision course with democracy and its constitutional protector, the judiciary. An independent judiciary is the ultimate fortress to defend democracy and it is also its ultimate asylum.
People therefore cannot afford to remain complacent and the struggle for democracy has to continue until the Executive Presidency – JR’s evil child – is removed from the constitution altogether. The stand that JVP has taken to move a motion in parliament and initiate legislation to this effect is admirable and should be supported by all those who stood against Sirisena’s cunning manipulations. Ranil Wickremesinghe and his UNP battalion together with TNA, SLMC, ACMC and representatives from all minorities must rally behind JVP to complete the task. The country must go to the next polls only after abolishing the executive presidency and not before it, otherwise NM’s warning of a madman becoming a president will continue to remain a strong possibility.
The economy of the country was plunged into abyss by the president’s earlier action and it is in danger of falling into it again by his second manoeuvre to undermine the judiciary. This will be the unavoidable consequence if the president continues to create political uncertainty and instability. Sri Lanka is an open economy and therefore its fortunes are closely tied to the confidence and expectations that foreign investors and businesses have on the country’s political stability and developments. Never before in the history of Sri Lanka has democracy faced such an existential crisis as now under this president and his co-conspirators. If democracy goes the economy will also go down with it. Already there is a case for impeachment of the President. That case will become even stronger if he triggers another economic crisis.
There is however one more danger that may be deliberately unleashed by the SLFP/SLPP desperados and which may plunge the country into another communal bloodbath. Already, Rajapaksa supporters are pointing fingers at Messrs. Sambanthan, Hakim and their colleagues for holding RW government for ransom. This is total rubbish. In doing so, what the MR mob is trying to imply is that the Tamils and Muslims are manipulating the crisis to the advantage of their respective communities and that RW Government has fallen victim to this so called cunning scheme. One should remember that MR was ousted in 2015 partly because the minorities turned against him, and he carries a grudge against them even now. His supporters are not reluctant to use this trump card if it could bring victory. A desperate Sirisena may even welcome such a turn of events if he sees that he also could achieve through that convulsion a second term of office by default. JVP must spearhead a counter-campaign to expose this dirty manoeuvres and convince the people that the ongoing struggle is not to benefit any particular community but to save the nation from falling into the hands of would be dictators. A strong, dedicated and patriotic leadership from JVP at this critical time will certainly absolve that party from any blame some people may still carry about its past.