By Sinnathamby Sivanandan –
“If Clopatra’s nose had been shorter, the whole face of the earth would have changed”. This passage is said to mean the history of the world would have been different, and a widely used phraseology.
If our genius Junius’s not his conspicuous aquiline nose but the the constitutional amendment to the original master piece of Doctor Colvin was not there the entire political phase of the history would have been altogether different. I do not mean the economic phase under free economy (Nidhahas Arthikaya) of the Just Governance (Dharmista Rajaya). For the said Just Governance he added an ad-hoc ad-just-ment.
After the historic amendment that resulted in hysteric screams by the opposition, it was disregarded and dreaded as the Bizarre Constitution (Bhawbootha Viyawasthawa). The country was at cross roads and at that intersection the trajectory was altered. Amidst inundated with widespread protests, the undated letters of resignation and the steam roller majority did not deter the determined President’s twentieth century cunning maneouver. He carried on regard less intoxicated with greed for power. JR Jayewardene proudly said other than gender bender, changing a man into woman and vice-versa his constitution was capable of and was carrying on his agenda. To the ex Royal cricketer with a robust constitution, who hailed from an elite lawyer’s family his beamers from Ward Place “Beamer” boomeranged on him and he gave his reins to his deputy “Sucharitha” fame R. Premadasa.
This was a ready made outfit for his successor R. Premadasa who was bent on eradication of “Poverty Alleviation” “Dugi Dupathkama” and providing shelter to all, roof above all. “Gam Udawa” ” Village-Re-awakening” was his focus.He took cover under the draconian clauses to achieve his ends and ended abruptly on the May Day after the mayhem. The assasination of nation’s President had the hallmark of the paranoid “Terror Lord” led treacherous outfit. Next unprecedented President was DB Wijetunga who blossomed and bloomed like a may flower in the gloom. He was poularly known as deaf blind and was a Hobson’s Choice.
Politics has many alliterative expressions. President Premadasa had a formula three of the 3C’s – Consultation, Consensus and Compromise – for political tactics. His critics spoke of 3D’s – Division Disintegration and Disunity. After the abortive impeachment motion in Parliament against President Premadasa, Mr. Gamini Dissanayake lamented that the country was ruled by three great P’s – “Premadasa. Paskaralingam and Prabhakaran”.
Simultaneously the accelerated Mahaweli Project “Kadinam Mahaawali Viyapraya” of the Late Minister of Irrigation and “Mahapola Scholarship” the brain child of Late Minister Lalith Athulathmudali were in full progress. Both the stalwarts met their Waterloo in the war against terror and this was cake a walk for the present P.M. to be the mahout at SriKotha.
Wow! with the ascendancy to the presidency the next new widowed President Chandrika vowed to eliminate corruption and violence “Dooshanaya Beeshanaya” but the corrupt deal continued and her 17th Amendment was a farce. Though transparency and accountability were her main themes whilst in authority, little did she achieve in reaching the goal. She ruled the country when the country’s security situation was bizarre. Thank god, luckily she survived an assasination attempt in the hands of the tigers by the skin of her teeth with a permanent impairment in her eye.The President who was always late for public functions never became THE late on the occasion.
Apparently her parents were Prime Ministers and she had a unique distinction of heading the nation which record will remain unbroken in years to come with the dynasties of Senanaykes and Bandaranaike’s crumbling. Her father SWRD Bandaranaike’s “Sinhala Only” claim exalted him to power. After his assasination her mother a house wife in her Rosmead Place residence succeeded to be the first ever woman Prime Minister of the world. She was over the moon when she rose to power and promised rice from moon for masses ” Handen hal”. The election slogan after she introduced some regulatory measures on essentials such as sugar, was “Srimavo Seethevi Seeni Nathuwa The Devi” meaning Srimavo is an angel and she will give tea without sugar. That was the time we started drinking tea with Jaggery.
When the former President became the Prime Minister “Temple Trees” the official residence of the PM was occupied by the President Chandrika for security reasons. The P.M occupied “Visumpya” for considerable length of time at Staple Street adjoining to our Excise Head Office. Believe it or not there was hardly any security a skeleton staff was allocated for him the road was never barricaded and traffic not detoured on a single day. The presence of P.M. Was not felt that means he was never a target of attack up until then. Whereas most of the minsters had a very heavy security cordon. That was a crystal clear indication that he was not in the hit list of the Hitler of the de-facto state.
Then when he became the President too he was passive negotiating as there was strong speculation that the Tiger Supremo was the king maker behind by muzzling the voters from north and east casting their sovereign franchise. One man’s Freedom fighter is another man’s terrorist.The Mawilaru sluice gate matter was the turning point there too he was to some extent tolerant. As the Commandar in Chief with Mahinda will, fingers crossed he triggered the tiger counter attacks and eliminated the globally reckoned and recognized terror outfit who claimed to have won their war with IPKF the 4th largest Army in the world and were in an euphoria they were invincible and indestructible.
The ending of the protracted war escalated the exalted Executive President medamulana to medieval king’s status. That was the time patriotism was at helm.He was more powerful than any of his predecessors and the public gave him a carte-blanche and an open mandate to do anything unlike JRJ who had only the undated resignation letters of the Parliamentarians. That was a right time to grant the reasonable rights to Tamils and he missed it. The war ended but like the begger’s festering wound the perennial problem persists. Perhaps every one now know the reasons for his windfall and downfall.
HE was chin deep in “Chin(than)a with a tilt towards China. Whether his alliance with the giant tiger of Asia was right is left to you to decide. This noodle combination tasted bitter to the global policeman and to its poodle the regional policeman of the Indian ocean. This tectonic tilt and shift in political affairs caused a political tsunami that could not save Hambantota dynasty. The trio of the Tangalle triangle are now entangled facing trials. Many skeletons in the cupboards of Carlton house kitchen cabinet are surfacing causing Carlton disg-races!
There was no formidable opponent to confront the former President, in fact that was the problem for the opposition and there was a bolt from the blues more a revolt when the present HE was named the candidate. It was the beginning of soft power. Many factors like the Civil Society, social media, exiled journalists and expatriates and especially the minority races and manoeuverings of the west and Modi modifications, i mean the vest he wore during election time were responsible for his victory amidst Ma-hindrance which are well known facts.This resulted in historic power shift from the south to the Polonaruwa ruins.
Will it end up in ruins was the next question raised by many but HE exalted as executive President amidst odds and obstacles stuck to his guns lock stock and barrel brought the 19th amendment. H.E never wanted to usurp surpluses, surprisinly diluted his powers, perks and privileges. The real heros and architects right from the inception are Venerable Athureliya Thero, Venerable Shobittha Thero together with JVP chief Anura Kumara Dissanayake. Posterity will always remember their good intention to end autocratic rule.
Having said that will HE the President having diluted his powers and with several hard liners in Paliament raising communal cry, be able to grant any reasonable rights to solve the vexing ethnic problem?
Yahapalanya and yapanaya the President’s surprise visit to the North after the rape and murder of the school girl and letting off the hook Indian fishermen and appeasing Tamilnadu are sending mixed signals. He had within a short period proved he is heading in the right direction having made significant progress, one cannot expect a 180 degree turn overnight and has the panacea for all the ills of the nation and to the previous aspirants who vied for the stake and ran-ill.
Power corrupts and absolute power absolutely corrupts but in our charming charitable Executive President’s case, he is an exception, explicitly exhibiting the simplicity of his personality.
*Sinnathamby Sivanandan – Retired Commissioner of Excise