13 April, 2024


Loathsome Are Those Who Voted For 17A, 18A, 19A & Now Will For 20A: Challenges After 20A

By Kumar David

Prof. Kumar David

Just as everyone thought 20A was a done deal the President and PM seem to have got cold feet about mounting opposition. On board seemed to be not only the SLPP but also the Dead-Left – a one-time firebrand seeking Cabinet perks, a nephew who defiles the memory of his illustrious uncle and a nondescript ex-Stalinist. Do you remember jellyfish GL who in 1994 said: “The PA Govt. has received an overwhelming mandate for the abolition of the Executive Presidency”? But inside in recent weeks there has been much hand wringing about how deplorable the draft is. But I should not waste words on the unceremonious reburial of these lumpen elements; this piece is about other things. 

The reprehensible features of 20A have been widely discussed. An excellent summary by Bimal Ratnayake can be found here:

It is a pity that video does not include contributions by Lal Wijenayake and Harini Amarasuriya at the same event. A critique by Jayampathy Wickramaratne’s argues that 20A requires a referendum. The Island Editorial “Machiavellism” of 9 September is hard hitting, spares nobody and is short and easy to read as editorials need be.

A point form enumeration of the worst in 20A is as follows. 

1. Division of powers between Executive, Legislature and Judiciary will become a fiasco

2. Powers of the Executive Presidency are strengthened beyond the powers JR abused.

3. Presidential immunity is enhanced beyond what JR harboured.

4. The judiciary, not admired in any case now, will be snivelling on a firm short leash.

5. President-PM-Parliament will be in a position to misuse and abuse public monies.

6. Friends, jokers and clowns will be appointed to high places and diplomatic posts.

7. Chillingly, trenchant critics of GR, MR and the State will be expeditiously disposed of.

Specific erosions: The Constitutional Council, Attorney General, Auditor General, Audit Commission, Procurement Commission, Bribery Commission, and the appointment of CJ and SC Judges have been messed around with despoiling their independence, clipping their wings and making them beholden to the Executive President. All will be extensions of an elected autocrat and we will have government without accountability. The appointment of car salesmen and property vendors from LA as diplomats and Cook’s Tour operators from the same town as airline chairmen has not gone unnoticed. Some Viyathmaga dunces have been made State Ministers or corporate chairmen. In the context of (b) the Army “orientation-training programme” for 50,000 graduates newly recruited to the public sector could well be the groundwork for recruiting fascistic Brown Shirt brigades.

Both (a) and (b) have been explored in the media and I need only emphasise that the Gotabhaya presidency is also a sponsor of militarisation unlike JR who was his own master; nor was JR a patron of a family clan based ruling dynasty. The GR-MR regime is transitioning to a Gota-Kamal Gunaratna regime; this makes it more dangerous. JR was unquestioned leader of bourgeoisie and elite; he was Yanie Dickie, you know what that meant. Gota carries no such rank. In the mass mind he shares the stratosphere with Mahinda; parliament despite being more menial than in JR’s time is not his; his ideological footstool is semi-educated Viyathmaga of self-important plebs, he is not on the inside track of the true-blue domestic bourgeoisie, the West, China or India. Hence Gota’s Administration needed one more footstool – retired and active Brass. Hence his is an administration with dangerous proclivities, but one that can be challenged if it fails to keep step with Mahinda, Cabinet, the SLPP trash-bag and with mass expectations re costs and living standards. 

Convicted murderer Premalal Jayasekera has been sworn in by the Speaker on whose instructions we know not, but with a nod from the courts. A convicted murderer of seven Tamils including little children whose appeal was dismissed by a panel of five judges has been pardoned by you know who. Recent SC decisions on fundamental rights challenging the President’s powers in election matters and use of public monies are gravely flawed. Like it or not is the way things will go for the next five or worst case ten years. Those who oppose dictatorship or the regime will get short shrift from cops and judges. We have to plan and strategize in full knowledge of this.

There is strength in size. Though the government secured two-thirds the other one-third, if it unites and organises, is also strong. If the economy is in distress, if grumblings that some in the SLPP-SLFP, the lumpen Dead-Left and pro-government Tamils and Muslims are worried that 20A goes too far is correct, if trade-unions and the liberal middle classes are energised and if, and this is a big if, the judiciary sprouts the semblance of a backbone, then the regime will come under challenge. Though even in the best scenario the combined opposition is weak the balance may float in time. The regime’s strength is mass faith “Gota will do something” – “janadhipathi mokak hari kerala dei”. There was desperation in the voice of one youngish professional who said to me, in Sinhala, “If this time also it does not work out, we are finished”. It is when confidence declines that splits become manifest. Anti-authoritarianism discontent will surface in the near-term only if the economy deteriorates fast and if 20A is challenged on the streets. 

I am making no predictions, only pointing out that a dicey economy, inability to address Muslim and Tamil concerns, the unmitigated mess in arranging return of 60,000 Lankans stranded overseas enraging their relatives, and universal condemnation of the political motives of 20A, are the downside facing an apparently strong regime. I have on a few previous occasions presented the view that there is a psychological manifold embracing the Rajapaksa ethos and the Sinhalese mass. Behaviourally it manifests as political consciousness (explicit support) and in voting patterns, in the subconscious it is a deeper bond such as we have seen in history at other times in other places. Most interesting for this essay is the subliminal slice of this embrace; a willingness to overlook and forgive, corruption, crime and crudeness. Analysts can wait to see how this pans out; political activists can’t. The need is to get down to work now, not after the ship of state starts sinking. It is the subliminal that will fracture first if there is turmoil in the economic domain.

 Let me divert to science for a moment. Martin Hairer, a University of Geneva PhD and currently an Imperial College professor, won the Fermat Prize (2013) and the Fields Medal (2014) the highest prize for a mathematician. He has just secured the $3 million Breakthrough Prize in maths. His field, stochastic partial differential equations, examines how randomness throws process into disorder; fluctuations throw what was intended into chaos. Two examples, not Hairer’s, are wind turbulence and politics in “interesting times”. Hairer showed how his equations could be “reframed and tamed”. Good mathematics but not enough for real world politics; quantitively we remain stalled.

I had a brush with similar matters from an engineering perspective in the 1980s with a few Proc. IEE papers on stochastic sources (wind and solar) and a three-month graduate course I taught at the Royal Institute of Technology, Stockholm. An engineer wants to add the output of several hundred wind or solar units together. The point is that the outputs though correlated are not simply summable because wind and sun fluctuate randomly across a 500- or 1000-acre energy farm. A method to sum correlated random variables was the answer, but in politics this is tough. How to model Sajith, Ranil and Ruwan, as corelated random variables? Or the TNA, Vigy and Gajendran? They are correlated, but the complexity is excessive and discourse remains qualitative. This is why I stopped my thoughts about mass psyche and the Rajapaksa phenomenon where I did.

We need to turn to proposals for action. A coalition of diverse forces is the urgent and common-sense starting point. A huge mistake would be to imagine 20A can be defeated in parliament, or at a referendum if one is granted. The perspective has to be a durable campaign against attacks on democracy and people’s rights; a campaign that has to be sustained for years after 20A is enacted. The priority is to nurture broad multi-class and multi-party alliances. Separately or jointly, oppose the common enemy. Unconditional defence of 19A is unwarranted, its defects arising from conflicts in the Sirisena-Ranil government must be critiqued. En passant however, I need to add that the epitaph of most creeps in this Parliament will read “This skunk voted for the 17-th, 18-th, 19-th and 20-th Amendments. Phew!”

18A reversed the gist of 17A; 19A repealed 18A deeming it an abomination. Now 20A emasculates 17A and 19A. Scores of opportunistic MPs supported all four! To call them skunks would be unfair by these relatively harmless stink badgers. The gist of the four amendments are:

17A: Created the Constitutional Council and some Independent Commissions (IC)

18A: Removed Presidential term-limits. 

19A: Repealed 18A, created more ICs, trimmed Presidential executive powers.

20A: Goes back to the JR Executive Presidential system and worse.

Autocatalysis in chemistry is when two processes support each other and together gain in strength and momentum; in engineering it is called positive feedback. Gota’s victory catalysed the general election victory, parliament is autocatalyzing more power to Gota via 20A, in turn there will be more ministerships and opportunities for enrichment which will bind these beneficiaries and Gota tightly. But politics, like ecosystems – unlike chemistry in a test-tube – is an open system where energy and influences flow in and out from the surroundings. What may break this incestuous arrangement will have to be from the outside; protests against rising costs (economy), awakening sensitivity to the perils of 20A (politics), anger at the shameful neglect of refugees quarantined in appalling conditions overseas (crisis subsequent to Covid-19 successes), unified opposition militancy (organisation), or foreign meddling (not serious). It is fusing of a two or three of these impositions that may implode the innards of the autocatalytic cauldron. To this extent I should amend my previous remark that we are stuck with autocracy for the next five or ten years.    

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Latest comments

  • 4

    The need for life-time immunity (especially the Rajapakse Brothers) has been granted under 20A ?

  • 5

    Ha Ha JVP murderers talking good governance what has the world come to. Cheered on by our commie author. He says 69 million are wrong.

    • 10

      “his ideological footstool is semi-educated Viyathmaga of self-important plebs” What an apt description of the likes of Channa Jayasumana and Kamal Gunaratna.
      There is no doubt that there is bi-partisan opposition to 20A building up.
      Even Hiru TV did an interview with the arch-racist and Pohottuwa supporter Elle Gunawansa, who is alarmed at the line the Gota regime is taking. He has realised that the Pohottuwa only used his extremist services to get power for themselves. Gota doesn’t care two hoots for their opinions now on MCC, Port City or whatever. Which is not a bad thing really. It’s about time these sacrosanct thugs were told where they get off, no matter who does it. Expect interesting times ahead, people !


  • 4

    [edited out]

    The Facts are that 20 A still keeps some of the few good things of 19 so it could be called 18+ . But instead of saying that these retired senile authors are trying to show some sinister plan by GR. And it is all clouded with the hatred they have for GR. Simply he is a successful Sinhalese who will not kowtow to the Tamils

    The facts are as follows.

    1` Sri Lanka will never go back to a Westminister style parliament
    2 GR ran on a platform to remove 19
    3There are these revisionists like KD and DJ who would like to go back to 1
    4 That will never happen.
    5 The people want a strong leader who will implement a system for the people
    6 There is no guarantee GR will succeed
    7 but by goodness the people of the country would want to see the results

  • 6

    They have no shame!

    The only justification for 20A is Tamil Tiger and Muslim extremist terrorism threat.

  • 7

    Prof: Kumar David in his inimitable style has used Science and Engineering to illustrate the dangers of the 20thA AND THE CONSEQUENT POLITICAL FALLOUT.

    Has Gota read The Prince [ Machiavelli ] ?

    • 5

      Indeed. Has he even read Plato?

    • 7


      “Has Gota read The Prince [ Machiavelli ] ?”

      He does not need to read The Prince nor any other books because he stated “Sacred Tooth Relic protected Nation right throughout “

      Here is the excerpt:
      President Gotabaya Rajapaksa said the Sacred Tooth Relic protected our Motherland and its people right throughout. http://www.dailynews.lk/2020/08/05/local/225117/sacred-tooth-relic-protected-nation-right-throughout-president

      If that is the case is he now conceding that he, his clan, war criminals, ……… didn’t have any claim to winning the war?

      How stupid the people were when they voted for this man with no gray matter? By the way 58% of the eligible voters didn’t vote for his party at the last parliamentary elections.

      • 0

        Dear NV,
        How to get the 58% to actually turn out is the problem! Oh, I know that many of them did and, and voted for Sajith, but I tell you again, that this Sepal Amarasinghe guy with his NOTA is a threat to our ever running this country properly.
        [edited out]

  • 11

    Thanks, Kumar David,
    The new moto is Animal killers to gallows and human killers to parliament.
    We are trying to taste sugar in the salt.
    1. Constitution not fit for the country. Examples, too many ministers, ministers are very expensive, the president is above the law, no basic standard for politicians, there is no system to evaluate politicians and remove them when they are not performing, political influence on administration including the judiciary, there is no legal relationship of the proposals they made for elections, easy to make amendments, etc. 2Oa is only filling a leaking container.
    2. Discipline is the second important thing. Discipline and governance going together. There is a lack of discipline-based on practical knowledge. That is why politicians and voters have the wrong objectives. We need a revolution from right-thinking to the right constitution.

  • 1

    Dear Prof

    Excellent analysis and I get it with the “mass and energy balance & catalysts” as a Chemical/Process engineer.

    Should this “runaway reaction” needs urgent understanding as you made the case in the article then all the “minority parties” need to go back and do some “risk analysis” with regard to their contribution since “Independence” in the form FP/ITAK/TULF and all other Muslim parities based on the “feed back” historically??

    The Sinhala Nationalism reactor is in a “runaway” state since day one because of the incorrect application of Tamil/Muslim Nationalism as a “correct catalysts” to be added to the reactor for the equilibrium needed/nation building??to overcome the incorrect design that was left behind by the colonial powers??

  • 1

    Therefore if you point to “opposition” being formed from the current political “parliamentary composition” then it will always be the “wrong additive” to stop this type of reaction until the “feedback” is used by the respective “minorities” themselves to alter what they manufacture and sent to the parliament as their representatives in the first place??

    It is a matter of QA/QC issue that is causing the problem as even the help arrived in the form of “fuel” (as suppose to suppressants) to be added to the fire one can “judge” for themselves from the “history teachers in language matters” with very little Chemistry background cause can not understand the reaction process??

    The “Auditors” the minorities ever had are all dead already killed by the Ratha Pottu Mafia a Long time ago??

  • 1

    One reactor/pot that is “Sri Lankan Land Mass” and several reaction makers. Some find themselves living throughout the land? due to good mixing pre colonial time and the majority composition yet to be evenly distributed throughout the land because the mixer itself was tampered with by the minority for a long time.

    The Majority has figured out not just the fault and how to fix it for good thorough trail and error?? the check and balance that is being put in places only applicable to the mixer working properly in the future and will not fail due to the negligence of the well distributed the minority in the future.

    It is matter of training the operators (some are the ghetto makers/insiders who has misused the mixer trecherously) by the maintenance crew so they do not have to be called back every so often away from other important tasks that is to prevent them from ensuring this “batch or the continuous process” of Nation building be as smooth as possible without the “hullabaloo minority representatives unruly operatives” be educated on the job function/relevance of operating the mixer for a great product with progress report summoned. We need the powers to summon people in a democracy at time too??

  • 2

    Would not the politics of all nationalists fall into some class of “autocatalysis”?
    They wind themselves up endlessly.

  • 0

    To understand the politics of SL one need to understand the worldly “design criteria/code & standards” for the operation of reactors (daily running of SL post war requirements just as so many other so called developing countries forever) otherwise we will always keep on adding the incorrect ingredients/catalysts without knowing the end product……one need to work backwards here….since all are deceivingly packaged as “autocatalysts” but purposely designed geo political versions termed “proxy” catalysts??

    The Coming War On China (China Documentary) | History Documentary | Reel Truth Historyhttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ot-acn1whrc

    FP/Ratha Pottu was a purposefully designed runaway reactor seeded a long time ago to keep the Strategic Space opened for business as and when required (the proxy minority versions played a part in the colonial trial period a civil service function then the mercenary function sacrificing Mother Lankan children and now fulfilling the toilet washing requirement around the world…….so the land mass can form part of the “ring” countering the road& belt.

    Any constitutional changes could mean multitude of things just as an elected talking about which language came to the island first after all the lifes lost a “feed back control loop” failed miserably???

  • 2

    Indeed why not??? They (politicians) have been promised vistas of splendor. Empty heads who elected will go empty handed. Bye, Bye Democrazy.

  • 0

    If we ever understood any geo politics the JVP would have completed their education to serve the Nation as suppose to trying to topple the GOSL & invited foreign boots into the Nation then….set president for things to come??

    The minority politicians would have analysed the stress when hon Late SWRD was assassinated and found other ways to relief pressure from the reactor?? The opposite was done…

    I even wonder how GG would have performed his job function as an Industrial Minister in the first GOSL ever formed??…as an industrial Minister what were the check and balances put in for the operations of the reactor by the same stress makers??

    The above then connived with the FP/ITAK/TULF followed the same “devils advocacy” operating the reactor to Chernobyl state even failing to understand 1977/1981 & 1983 feed back control signals not picked up and the blow out continued until 2009 big bank??.

    One would never allow the same to ridicule the system/incident reports not risk analysed during design reviews….because the the Ratha Pottu Mafia used the Baby Brigades prepared in Tamil Nadu to do the rest of the operation with no such maturity/training/responsibility of operating this very critical item/mass?? the Reactor the contained the entire Mother Lankan children future a treasure that was not cherished ??

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