15 June, 2024


JRJ, The Arrogant Man Whose 1977 Constitution Started The Ruin

By Asoka Seneviratne

Asoka Seneviratne

Just think…

A land where a 45-year political hack who not only lost his seat at the elections but his entire party being appointed the executive head of a broken, bankrupt nation by the very crooks who ruined it! A land that was proud of being the more prosperous of the few in South Asia not so long ago is now classed as a failed and bankrupt nation.

A land where people has gotten poorer to the rock bottom and any anger they display at the main Street is crushed with water cannons and tear gas. A land where screaming hungry can land you in jail. Land where politicians and henchmen violate laws wholesale, but none are even indicted. A land where those who looted are in parliament and taxes are raised to eye brows to cover the losses.

A land where a former President personally had flown in and chased away the narco police when a drug lord parliamentarian’ s house was raided. A land where an honest parliamentarian was jailed just for merely calling some judges “rogues”. Where equal justice under the law is a mirage. A land where a former President plead 8 years ago pre-election that central bank robbers would be prosecuted to the fullest, but none are in jail. A land where a powerful Finance Minister who was charged in this crime lived in a Rs.1.2 million free rental given by one of the accused of the CB robbery was later exonerated and went underground. This man used to run around in a motor bike back in the 80’s but got fabulously wealthy later on in politics. He was unheard of when RW lost elections in 2019 but now that his boss in the President he has started to lecture the public of much needed reforms!

A land where10th trade used car salesman in USA was appointed chairman of the Porst and later Petroleum by his famous younger brother under Sira/RW and both happened to be million-dollar money making enterprises. This is extremely common and hence all our government run businesses are in millions dollar losses while kith and kin rake up those million to their pockets. So today Ranil Rajapaksa wants to sell them! Why not recover the loot ?

A land where mainstream media proudly displays large hauls of smuggled narcotics but no one ever knows what happens to these narcotics nor the country sees anybody found guilty or jailed.

A land where a former president cut sugar taxes by Rs 49.875 a kilo and allowed his political financier to overnight profit Rs 15 billion and hit another 15 billion to the public while denying the treasury of the same Rs 15 billion that went to the business buddy. No charges were filed. A land where an idiotic president cut taxes to the tune of Rs 650 billion while not figuring out how to pay for it! So on and on…

A land where last week a former justice minister and the current foreign minister openly declared in parliament that pretty much all of them had dirt in their closets. A dignified implication that they were all corrupt at various degrees. And last week also in parliament, Prime Minister Gunawardena was screaming at the opposition leader Premadasa not to demean the respect of the parliament! Gunawardeneamust be living in ether! What parliament respect is he talking about? The house of the most hated and ridiculed group at the Bogambara house? Has he not been listening to the screams of anger against all of them to the point that Ranil is scared to hold local elections, the most fundamental ingredient in a democracy?

The whole justice system stinks to high heavens! Rule od law is the pre-requisite for civilized living and economic progress. Our beloved land has none, and JRJ was the architect of this hole.

Coming back to my heading… Let me explain why I called JR’s constitution horrible. He famously bragged about the creation of 3-independent co-equal branches of the government; executive, legislative, and judicial that would be the basis of the checks and balances. The goal was that each branch will check each other to create a clean and uncorrupt system.

The executive power is checked by the parliament with its power of the purse. The justice system checks the action of the executive and the parliament to ensure their action is legal. Yes, this concept has worked specially in the USA that is the longest representative Democracy with an actual written constitution. Each branch checkmates the other to ensure clean administration.

Yes American Democracy too is somewhat tainted by big money but dozens of high powered politicians from all branches of government has been thrown in jail when laws were broken including from the Executive branch. And the last President is facing dozens of federal and state prosecutions. Far cry from SL where no politician or a goon of worth has ever being jailed.

But going back to JRJ constitution, see where JRJ blundered. He appointed members of his cabinet – Executive branch-from the parliament. By this simple misstep, he violated the separation of powers between the executive and legislature. By appointing hundreds of ministers of varying grades, he bribed them with public money. There goes JRJ”s separation of powers between these two branches

Then his constitution called for a Minister of Police in charge of police. Also provided for an IGP appointed by the President. So Police minister gets control of the police who provides evidence to courts and to AG. AG too is appointed by the President who decides what goes to trial. So the posts of all three key members who gets the justice system rolling is under the control of President all the while the parliament who is supposed to check the President is also in his/her pockets.

One might say the AG and IGP are vetted though the constitution council after 19th A. But the system is so designed that the President has indirect control of the CC decisions. It is all a joke!

Added to that bis another hole. The party leader becomes the President, so any member of the party who crosses the President’s path does so in peril to his political future. He will never represent the party in his seat-ever. JRJ could have easily addressed this by having a Primaries system like in the USA, but his design was to give a huge amount of power to the President. He proudly claimed that his President is only incapable of changing the sex of a human!

JRJ could have required that the key public positions would be vetted via open public hearings televised live with the participation of eminent public members (cannot entrust to MPs as they are already compromised) so the process would be somewhat transparent to say the least.

Evidence of criminal cases disappearing or AG withdrawing cases. Either way dispensing of justice is compromised. It is a simple mirage!

Countless are the cases of high-profile corruption day in and day out. None of them end up courts. None of the culprits who broke the law and stole nation’s wealth are jailed even for a day. Mainstream corrupt media shows high profile crooks walking into CID or CCID but that is simply a photo op to fool the masses. Poor of the poor with a few ounces of dope, a policeman who took a tiny bribe or a villager who stole something not only end up in jail but displayed by corrupt media to fool the masses that wheels of justice are in full play.

Not only this, selected Ranil use his police force to stifle any and all public dissent who are simply screaming hungry. Drug lords and those who give them political cover to them continue to live on.

Non existing Separation is powers leading to no checks and balances is the culprit.

All this ugliness can be attributed to a very poorly done JRJ constitution. One thing for sure. JRJ was right. He created a near monarch!

Frequently we hear calls for the abolition of the executive presidency and revert to the Westminster model. It is like changing the pillow for headache. No matter what system, unless a robust system of checks and balances are enshrined, either system will lead to corruption abuse of power.

When former US president George W Bush after leaving office was asked if anything surprised him at the White House, his response was “how little power he had “as president. That is because the power was divided co-equally between the two other branches. Ministers were not MP’s. That is what JRJ bragged about. That was the ultimate lie. His left hand did not know what the right was doing!

In 1977 JRJ won a mammoth 2/3rd victory. He was invincible. Nobody would question his wisdom. They say in a roomful of blind men, one eyed man was king. Such was JRJ who got his ill designed blueprint for the nation passed.

Since then, our political culture started going downhill until one corrupt and money-hungry family rose to the top. They used the immense power JRJ presented coupled with the war victory to rob, mismanage, and borrow the country into the ditch. As if that was not enough damage, they appointed an unelected political hack to the top job. Thanks to JRJ, he could run till mid-2024.

Why didn’t JRJ mandate that any vacancy to the Presidency due death or abandonment should be filled only for a period of 3 or 6 month until an election would be held? That was the icing on the cake for this man’s lack of wisdom.

Let’s pray for a new and smartly done constitution in 2024.The need of the hour is not more suppressive laws, anti- corruption laws (wink wink), more select committees, cabinet shuffles etc. Is there anybody who gives an iota of   respect these laws and committees? Until we clean up our democracy and political culture, no worthwhile investor will invest in SL. Until we get large scale investments, our economy will suffer hitting poorest the most!

All major political parties have contributed to our current crisis. People have lost faith of the President and the parliament. Almost none of them can be trusted. They look after each other.

A smartly crafted new constitution is a must but Executive presidency must stay.

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Latest comments

  • 16

    Asoka, this makes bankrupt failed SB Lanka / country, “like no other.”. 75 years of utter rubbish. Advantage Palestine.

  • 11

    This country was destroyed by few families of the high class Sinhala, Tamil and Muslim political leadership and by Buddhist Fundamentalists leadership. The 1972 Constitution gave Buddhist Fundamentalism to go above the law and 1978 constitution gave a man to become dictator/destroyer of the humanity and made all parliament to elect suitable candidates on corruption and Rajapaksa family made every institution towards racism and fundamentalism. Today, members of parliament discuss who is better in robbing the country and we have president who accepts only those who violate the rules and law and use military all those who are not violating the law. He and his foreign minister rarely appear in Sri Lanka but going around the world tourism.

  • 10

    Indeed, SL is a country like no other & the people are like no other too. The injustice faced by the average citizens, the blatant corruption that has trickled down from the very top to the bottom, the ever increasing gap between the haves & the have nots, are all accepted as normal but what disgusts me most is the fact, that, not only those responsible for the destruction of the country are still governing or pulling strings behind the screen, they have a comfortable lifestyle to boot, paid for by the poor tax payer. These punks have armour plated hides, no shame or conscience & probably sleep soundly at nights without sleeping pills. Who says crime doesn’t pay?
    The saviour in this hour of need seems to be the JVP in the guise of socialist NPP. Can a mish mash of (former violent) communists, trade unionists, ‘academics’ & a ‘bhikku’ front, among others, be any different?

    • 11

      Agreed, JR was autocratic, selfish, arrogant, allowed racism in his cabinet but, at least, did not loot public funds, although, he didn’t stamp out corruption. On the other hand, the Bandaranaykes are also to blame with CBK in the forefront. MR, the loyal SLFP pet dog, was her initial protege, who probably learnt the fine art of corruption from her. When the worm turned, she backed an uneducated & useless yob, slimy Sira, whose objective was to out perform MR, the most corrupt politician in SL history.
      So yes, all major political parties have contributed to our current crisis. So, it’s time voters started asking questions & hold politicians accountable. It’s time these punks are put where they belong, in jail.

      • 1

        Raj-UK ,

        The only things JR looted were , his name Jayawardane and
        Sirimavo’s civic right ! And there was a story doing the rounds
        that he went to Gamini’s house in Alfred house garden and
        shouted in excitement , ‘ Mahaweli starts right from Alfred
        house garden ‘ !

  • 3

    Raj-UK: Thank you for driving sense into the minds and hearts of the S/L voters.

    I have mixed feelings about your statement: ” The savior in this hour of need seems to be JVP in the guise of socialist NPP”. “JVP” has gone through a “Clean Up”, (not in disguise) in my opinion. They have gotten enough of a beating over the years and I trust they have been humbled enough to contest the last Parliamentary election under NPP (giving up the name JVP and symbol “Bell” and adopting “Compass”) That I trust is a BIG change. In addition, enough CONTROLLING tools are in place, to avoid repetitions of the past.

    Still, in my opinion, the people must not RUSH in desperation to “Change” and also EXPECT heavenly results. I don’t expect NPP or even another “Group” to do “Majic” to clean up the mess. What I want is to say enough is enough for CORRUPTION and START afresh a “Political Culture” that drives away the “Family Bandits” and “Arrogant”, uncultured, insensitive politicians/bureaucrats from the Governing functions.

    • 1


      Thank you but let me touch upon my scepticism of the NPP.
      JVP was a terror organisation responsible for destruction & the murder of innocent people but now mainstream in politics, they should first of all, apologise to the people of SL, particularly, to the families of those murdered. JVP still venerates its murderous leader as seen in their website & is openly communist. Its leader is also the leader of NPP. Isn’t that a conflict of interest? The parties which form the NPP are wide ranging but it can be assumed of their overall socialist leanings. However, can a party with so many factions come to a consensus to provide a synergy? Mrs B & Samasamja party, JVP CBK, RW Sirisena partnerships didn’t work, so aren’t we being optimistic about NPP? Finally, why are they cagey about who will be the key officials responsible for important areas, such as, economy & finance, health, education, social welfare, etc. irrespective whether they are elected or not & what is their strategy & sources of funding?
      Words alone are not enough & people should vote with their heads, not hearts.

      • 2

        Raj-UK: Thank you.

        My policy is LIVE NOW – THIS MOMENT!

  • 3

    We attribute the 1978 constitution as the beginning of all the illnesses in governance. Those with a good memory will tell that in the 1977 elections, there was 168 seats in the Parliament for grabs. Therefore, the majority was 84+. JRJ made it clear that he would not form a government if does not have at least 100 seats and that is not the 2/3 majority. The reason is that he expected some MPs to defect and 100 was a safe buffer to continue under the 1972 constitution. Therefore, even he did not dream of a constitutional change though the preamble of the 1978 constitution states that people gave a mandate for its enactment. The point I wish to make is that even under the 1972 constitution the lot that came in could have laid the foundation for all evil, the major component was the commissions and kickbacks, which was possible only after opening the economy and international funds started pouring in. Prior to that it was unthinkable because there was no big money coming in. Note that JRJ became President on the second amendment of the 1972 constitution and the 1978 constitution came in thereafter.

  • 5

    please don’t call him arrogant.The only mistake he made was that he thought he was julius ceasar instead of junius.It is very human to make such errors when the names are so close to each other.

    • 5

      You know what happened to Julius ….. ol’ Junius suffered a similar but less painful fate at the hands of Brutus Premadasa ……..

      Ranil’s famous last words ………. Et tu, Native? …….. OC? :))))

      That’s life.

  • 3

    Raj-UK: The main article deals with JRJ – No doubt it is a “Long History”.

    Pl. see this link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XCaMYs74H60

    If not available, go to Google and search “kaarige channel eka”. Watch the video under the heading:
    Gonawala Sunil.

    This is all about how JRJ granted a “Presidential Pardon” to a man named “Gonawala Sunil” who was sentenced to “15 years” in jail by SC and the Court of Appeal for “Raping” a 17-year-old girl at Galle Face in 1979. I am one who saw the “Procession” that carried this “Pardoned” criminal mounted on an elephant along the streets of Kelaniya. The entire “COST” of the “Procession” was met by the funds released from the Ministry of Education and Youth Affairs held by Ranil W.

  • 8

    The litany of crimes committed by the series of leaders in the past 75 years, and more specifically commencing with JRJ by enabling constitutional process, is indeed mind boggling.

    How could a society that was well educated within the British Empire’s evolving nations be so silly to throw away such an abundant wealth of people and the treasures of the land to become a bankrupt nation?

    The seeds to slide were sown well before independence. Unlike SJV, Samuel James Veluppillai Chelvanayakam, the only Tamil leader, Junius Richard Jayewardene, an Anglican, switched to Buddhism for power just like SWRD, Solomon West Ridgeway Dias Bandaranaike. The Christian Chelva didn’t have to shed his belief system to get into the hearts and minds of the Saivite Tamils.

    Those who came to do trade, the British, switched to ruling the people and, after the independence, those who got elected and got the power turned the government business for their business, thus founding of the moral and ethical corruption in the land. An unfathomable tragedy for Ceylon that received independence on a silver palate when it was a struggle for India.

    Along line came the Rajapakses and they reaped the most by being corrupt on a large scale and made the country bankrupt.

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