26 May, 2019

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Many Are Striving But Only One Will Be Chosen: Single-Issue Challenge Gains Momentum

By Kumar David

Prof. Kumar David

About two months ago I mooted the concept of a Single-Issue (SI) challenge and the need for a SI candidate committed to abolishing the Executive Presidency (EP) forthwith upon winning the next presidential elections. The idea has gained momentum, won the attention of a diversity of political formations and stirred some individual ambitions. Every opposition party, even the UNP, has been smoked out into the open and been compelled to pronounce opposition to EP. Even within the UPFA some make no secret of their aversion to the Executive Presidency. Socialist Alliance leader DEW, though a Cabinet Minister, does not conceal that he detests the EP. Senior SLFP Ministers agree that EP is a curse but are silenced by the dangling carrot of a Prime Ministerial appointment when DM takes his trip to the land from which no traveller returns.

Some hopefuls, salivating after the presidency, have shown their hand. If rumour is to be believed that includes Kuru, Sajith, the two Saraths and even Chandrika, though some rumours may be untrue. Sarath Fonseka is ineligible to run unless Rajapakse pardons him in the hope of subduing him again. The other four do not have a chance in hell; Rajapakse can tame a challenge from any even in a few years’ time, though the economy may then be crumbling. Ranil is a slim possibility if people trust him to keep his word and abolish the EP; but that’s the problem because he was an architect of EP as an original JR-team member; he never called for its abolition in the first thirty years of the JR Constitution. Even now he croaks only half-heartedly against EP and smuggles in terms like Executive Prime Ministership (EPM) which betray a desire to retain as many EP powers as possible in the unlikely event he becomes new style PM.

Since he is a potential looser people should not trust Ranil with the SI challenge. He is a man lost for direction and knows not his front from his back. Where has he ever spoken in support of the Single-Issue concept anyway?  If, after the EP is abolished, he has hopes of leading the UNP in a parliamentary election and becoming Prime Minister in a conventional parliamentary setup, sure let him try. Let Mahinda Rajapakse, Sarath Fonseka or anyone else try too. Once EP is gone it’s a new ball game; no obstacles should stand against anyone striving for a parliamentary majority.

A rain soaked rally at Hyde Park on 18 October to oppose the Executive Presidency drew a crowd of about 5000. General Fonseka as the de facto mover though convened in the name of the Eksath Bikku Peramuna. My name was included in the posters because I told Srilal Lakthilaka that I was committed to forging a Rainbow Coalition to take forward the SI challenge. I was not invited to any preparatory gathering, but still named on the posters as a speaker! If the left too had also been invited, if the idea was to explicitly grow a Single-Issue challenge, and if there was no intention of promoting unrealistic candidates, it would have been a very good thing. The organisers lacked clarity of purpose and organisational maturity; hence they fritted away what could have been a useful opportunity to develop the Single-Issue challenge to abolish the Executive Presidency.

Maduluwave Sobitha

When I first proposed the SI concept I also suggested the name of Ven Maduluwave Sobitha as a candidate who could live up to the three essential conditions that an SI challenger must possess: (a) the person must be seen by the people as a trustworthy and quick in abolishing the EP, (b) he or she must actually be trustworthy, and (c) the challenger must have a realistic chance of defeating Mahinda Rajapakse. What is meant by a trustworthy candidate is someone who will without delay, upon election, abolish the Executive Presidency (the procedural and constitutional details can be worked by any good team of lawyers within two or three weeks). After that, the person must simply get out of the way. In any case he/she has to soon get out of the way because, after abolishing the EP, the job goes up in smoke; there is nothing left for the ex-EP to do.

I have discovered from many in different forums that the only person who enjoys a degree of trust is Sobitha hamuduruwo; actually nobody else is trusted at all. Therefore he does satisfy condition (a). I have never met hamuduruwo and cannot personally vouch for him, but people who know him, and whose judgement I trust, have assured me that Sobitha is a man of his word, hence he fulfils condition (b) as well. In respect of condition (c), as a political animal, my engagements have persuaded me that a Rainbow Coalition (reds, greens and blues, Sinhalese, Tamils and Muslims, petty bourgeoisie, workers and urban elites) can be mobilised around his candidature. I do not say that there is only one man across the length and breadth of Lanka who can measure up to criteria (a), (b) and (c), but among the names mentioned, Sobitha is the only one worth taking seriously. I am unacquainted with him and have no idea whether he has the courage, determination and willpower to accept the responsibility; we will have to wait and see.

I did step back for a month from naming candidates when people advised me not to jump the gun and to focus on explaining the SI concept first. Now we have passed, or largely passed that stage, the concept is broadly understood and momentum is rising. A new complication is that all sorts of shoddy riffraff are pushing their names forward in private discussions (I guess that is why I was excluded from the preparatory gatherings for the 18 October event). This is leading to quite unnecessary conflicts within the potential Rainbow Coalition; for example the UNP, JVP and Frontline Socialists boycotted the 18 October meeting. Hence we have passed the stage where naming a candidate can be deferred; its time, without any further delay, to choose the best person to carry the SI burden on behalf of the nation. Despite the excitement of the last several weeks, no better name than Maduluwave Sobitha has surfaced. To me the choice is conclusive.

In an interview published in the English language press ten days ago Sobitha lashed out: “(It) is time to scrap the Executive Presidency . . . the destructive Executive Presidency . . . the Executive Presidency has created an authoritarian system which is not answerable either to parliament or to the law”, and so on. However, when he was pressed on whether he would accept nomination as a presidential candidate, he was evasive saying he had no wish to enter politics. An SI candidacy does not amount to entering politics; it is the logical culmination of the very process of demanding a just and law abiding society that the thero himself has started; nobody asks or wants the good thero to run a government or enter politics. But it is pretty silly to launch a wave of mobilisation, as the thero has done, and then drop it all at the final stage without seeing it through to its logical culmination.

Understanding Ranil

Ranil is tying himself in knots. He says, correctly, that the UNP is the largest opposition force in the country and therefore does not wish to be a mere invitee on the stage on such an important issue. There is some justice in this statement, but the point is this: If the UNP does not wish to play second fiddle to anyone else, then why does it not organise and lead the Single-Issue campaign itself? If the UNP had been bold and taken the lead, others would have come to consultations convened by the UNP and a larger and more representative campaign could have been mobilised. Why then Mr Ranil are you not doing it?

The UNP can point to a few recent, reluctant, pronouncements about its love-hate attitude towards EP but in its current state of political confusion Ranil is not prepared to boldly come forward and lead a national campaign to rid the country of the hated Executive Presidency. So is it surprising that commentators suggest that Ranil and Mahinda have a deal or an understanding; Ranil and the UNP have a great deal of explaining to do.

The Corporatist State

I have been arguing persistently for several weeks that the type of authoritarianism that is being brewed by the Rajapakse siblings is neither classic fascism of the Nazi form, nor a military dictatorship like Pinochet or till recently Burma and Egypt. What is brewing is a state form in which the military is a mere hound, albeit a fierce one, but on a tight leash in the hands of the siblings. Good historical parallels to the putative the Rajapakse Corporatist sate of the future, if the siblings get their way, are Mussolini, Peron and Marcos; a dictatorship with a political base, not a military state or a fascist regime. I need to repeat this because many, who I had thought would think through their political categories and analysis of the state methodically, have neglected to do so.

The Divinaguma Bill, if enacted, would raise to 64% the share of the 2013 state budget in the hands of the siblings (MR/GR Defence and Urban Development, 24%; all MR’s other Ministries, 22%; Basil’s Empire post-Divinaguma, 18%). If Divineguma fails, Basil’s Empire remains at 11% of state expenditure allocations. Therefore one crucial aspect of the Rajakapse Executive Corporatist Project is to size control of a dominant share of government finances. The other two aspects are to subjugate the judiciary to the executive, and to enact a slew of repressive laws. The subjugation of the judiciary is being attempted by a combination of physical intimidation, moves to impeach judges, and constitutional amendments now in preparation. The objective of the much dreaded 19-th Amendment is said to be bringing the judiciary firmly to heel, curtailing its independence. The legislature, that is parliament, is already a poodle, a two-thirds lap-dog obediently doing as it is told to by an all powerful Executive President. Corporatism is founded on a monopoly of power.

The first instalment in a new wave of draconian legislation was tabled in parliament; the Criminal Procedure Code (Special Provisions) Amendment Bill. The Bill seeks to double the time a person an be detained in custody before production before a magistrate, it severely curtails a suspect’s right to interrogate an accuser, gives a special status to statements purportedly recorded by the police (that this is code for confessions extracted under torture), and includes other dreadful provisions. This is but the opening salvo, more legislation to entrench an executive dictatorship in constitutional guise while playing upon populism – a Mussolini or Peron like Corporatist charade is unfolding. It can and must be defeated!

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    White collar criminals are not normally boasting … This is weird …
    To hatch a scheme to change a regime without a policy driven opposition is almost a crime towards a country .. Because, it would definitely push the country into chaos and misery and there would definitely be loss of life …
    Look at the parties and individuals to be united to form the next goverment ….
    UNP, JVP, TNA, SLMC, Bahu’s party, Sirithunga’s party,, Monk Sobhitha, Sarath Fonseka …..
    What a disaster!
    Does KD think that the people in SL are dumb fools to do a ‘regime change’ on a single issue without thinking about the next day? You are sadly mistaken, KD … I think time has come for the prof to go to the drawing board again to hatch a another ‘brilliant’ scheme .. Problem is that the prof is already exposed …

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      so your idea is only Mahinda [ your boss] and family can develop [loot] this country.

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        Good stuff KD and excellent analysis of the Rajapassa agenda! As you say it can and must be defeated.
        Ironically to do so it will be necessary to get rid of Ranil, Karu and Sajith the wanna be dictators in the UNP- and find a genuine alternative to them in the UNP – Rosy or Dayasiri to lead the fight against the Rajapakse dictatorship because once Sobitha abolishes the Presidency someone will have to form a govt!

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    ‘THE CORPORATIST STATE..”COPORATISM FOUNDED IN MONOPOL POWER”…’BASIL EMPIRE’..’EXECUTIVE DICTATORSHIP’How do we assess the goals of proposed democratic order of our constitutinol power? The empire Dr David mention has diffrent histrocail roots and modern version…the development of capitalist mode of producation..concept and pratice Empier progress in evlouation and revoluation by Eurpope and United State.The rule of logic empire domination thorughout the GLOBE.
    The empire we had been faced with wield enormous powers of oppression and destruaction of war & misary.
    Dr David post-modern of globle economy,the ceration of wealth tends ever more towards will, call multi- poltical producation of democratic system in various forms in society.
    The recently appear in Empire- capital seems to be faced with smooth globe expansion and defined by new and complex ruling classes of regimes of diffrernations.The declined NATOINAL sovereignty of indepandance state and thier incresaing, are unable to regulate political,economic and cultural exchange of the basic symptoms of the ongoing Empire order in globe.
    What you have said in your essay, there is not single featurs are appear in Mahinda Rajapsake ruling governace in Sri Lanka,to become anti-PARLIAMENTRY DEMOCRAY in our island.
    I think most of your arguments baseless,and THE REAL POWER IN SRI LANKA IN THE HANDS OF GENERAL PUBLIC.BUT THERE ARE EVIL FORCES OF OUTSIDE & ANTI-DEMOCRATIC, SEPERATE MOVEMENT ARE IN MASSIVE EFFORTS TO CONTROAL and UNDERMIN IT, BUT BY RIGHT THINK FORCES TODAY HAVE WON AND REALIZED THE GROUND REALITY OF MR RULING PARTY AND ITS DEMOCRATIC CHATCTER IN DEEDS.

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      What on earth are you babbling about? Can we get an English translation??

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    Dear Kumar,

    Ever since memebers of the Sangha camped outside Tintagel and demanded SWRD to tear up the agreement with SJV, ethnic Tamils have identified the political activism of the Sangha as an impediment to interethnic unity. Now, we have an erudite ethnic Tamil, of some repute, proposing a member of the Sangha to contest an election for the Presidency. My questions which have not been addressed in your earlier pieces are;

    (1) If anyone can widen the polarization, this guy can. Kalinga Magha, Dravida invasions, forced conversions so on, are sure to be part of the election rhetoric as this is member of the clergy. How to deal with that?

    (2) If Buddhism has foremast place in the country as per the constitution, then SL is not a secular country, Am I wrong? If so there is bound to be some ‘creep’ to his mission once he gets elected. Returning SL to it’s glorious Buddhist past or some other anachronistic project.

    (3) Since it is the house with 2/3rds, that is required to change the constitution, cannot a parliamentary coalition be forged just for this one issue? meaning via general/parliamentary election. Seems safer than electing someone and crossing your fingers.

    (4) More than the presidency is it not the 18th amendment that is the problem? Term limits and such. Things seemed to take forever to get done in the old parliamentary system.

    (5) Are you setting up Sobitha Thera for a good laugh at the end at the end of the day? This could end up being a comedian’s wetdream.

    Anyway if you have the time please respond.

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    I think Ven Sobhitha doess not aspire to enter the filthy world of politics. He merely wants to support and give leadership to a mass movement to abolish the executive presidency.
    The response by the opposition has been lukewarm. Only Sarath Fonseka remains like the boy who stood on the burning deck.

    ‘The boy stood on the burning deck
    Whence all but he had fled;
    The flame that lit the battle’s wreck
    Shone round him o’er the dead.’

    It depends on the mass support this movement will garner or will the public decide to ‘mind their own business’ and trust the Rajapakses. Our freedom sold to the Rajapakses for the blood of the martyrs.

    Meantime the family continues to amend the constitution, undermine democracy, undermine the judiciary, control the media etc. 70% of the economy controlled by the family without any transparency or accountability. A gigantic mafia which makes the laws and breaks the rules.

    The opposition in shambles with RW presiding over his own tinpot dictatorship. He is resigned to be the perpetual leader of the opposition as long as he enjoys his perks and publicity. No danger to anybody.

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    It is NOT surprising at all that commentators suggest that Ranil and Mahinda have a deal or an understanding.Ranil hasn’t a ghost of a chance of winning an election, the position of opposition leader acting to all appearance without any sense of responsibility but enjoying the perks of a Cabinet Minister and more is surely more than comfortable.

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    With a track-record of State terrorism, what guarantee has this SI
    candidate even surviving the role – for just say 100 days? What will
    be the alternatives – food for thought.

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    Prof.Kumar David’s article gives much food for thought. His SI concept is laudable. I think the concept is fast gaining ground. However, the campaign advocating this concept will gather momentum only after Ranil Wickremesinghe is thrown out of the UNP leadership. He is a typical dog in the manger. He is unable to feel the pulse of the people. He does not possess the communication skills to effectively put across his message to the people either. Anyway, his approach towards solving the ethnic problem is commendable. As a result, he commands the respect of a sizable section of Tamils,Muslims and the intelligentsia of the country. Those at the vanguard of the campaign promoting the SI concept too should win the hearts and the minds of the minorities by demonstrating a genuine understanding of their grievances. I also feel that Ven. Sobhita is capable of giving leadership to the campaign calling for the abolition of the Executive Presidency and running as the Presidential candidate for the sole mission of doing away with the accursed office.

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    Dr Kumar David first and formost you should request to TNA to become National political party.TNA and most Tamil Political seems to Brachhes of Rupublic of Indian POLITICAL parties.As long as Tamils Politicians and leadership under the supervision by ADAMK and DMK of Tamil Nadu is quite impossible to address Tamil National quesation of Tamil community in our Island.
    You have very good influance of Tamil Community to for such role.
    Then dicatorship of any type of MR Ruling party can sort it out.
    We can togather resist as team against anti-democracy move by RULERS OF THIS LAND.
    Tmail parties must first RESPECT SOVEREGNITY OF PEOPLE OF SRI LANKA.

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    The Sinhala leaders alienated the Tamils by resorting to acts of discrimination against them at various times to gain political mileage – to win elections. The Sinhala leaders deceived their Tamil counterparts, went back on promises made to them, abrogated the Pacts entered into with them time and again to placate the Sinhala extremists. There was a time when the UNP and the SLFP won at elections held in the North. More recently, SLFP candidate Hector Kobbekaduwa polled more voted than G.G. Ponnambalam (Junior)at the 1982 Presidential elections. We have to stop branding the Tamils and their leaders as racialists and start at least now looking for the root cause for the birth of Tamil political parties and finally that of a man like Velupillai Prabhakaran.

    Ruwan says that the TNA must first respect the sovereignty of the people of Sri Lanka. But are the people the TNA represents not people of Sri Lanka. Shouldn’t their sovereignty too be respected?

    Ruwan exhorts Prof. KD to request the TNA to become a national political party. Why don’t you ask the SLFP, MEP, JHU and Wimal’s party to become national political parties. By the way, I think you don’t mind the SLMC being an ethnicity-based political party as long as they support the present regime!

    As regards, the charge that Ruwan makes about the Tamil politicians here being “under the supervision of ADAMK and DMK”, he appears to be either blind to or totally ignorant of geopolitical realities. There is no difficulty in solving the festering ethnic tangle if the political parties in the main stream start functioning at least at this late stage as truly national political parties.

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    The crux of matter is seperatism undermine sovergnity and terrorial intergrity and Independance of the people of Sri Lanka.As long as TNA seek suport form Indian Authortites and Western Power to intervenation internal problems of island,we are reached outside and assiatance we loose the grip of independence of whole nation and nationatilities RIGHT OF SELF-DETERMANATION.
    What happen in 1987 JRJ- Rajive Gandi accord slowlay penetreted into our natioanl politices,nation had been demacated by foreign interventaion.Any country foreign intervenation shapern the ethanic conflicts and racial differances more than ever. That lesson had not leran by TNA.
    Result of that 13th Amededant came into being.Country move towards for division into TWO NATIONS.The occupied by foregin forces over the independance of nation, complled to RESIST AGINST PROCETED NATIOANL INTEREST. TAHT WAHT LTTE DID UNTIL IPKF LEFT SRI LANKAN TERRORITY.
    IN STRUGGLE AGAINST INDIAN OCCUPATION OF INDIN ARMY LTTE HAD BEEN PLAY MORE PROGRESSIVE ROLE ON BEFALF OF WHOLE ISLNAD.DUE CREDIT SHOULD GIVE TO LTTE WAHT EVER SAID AND DONE OF POLITICAL AND ANACHIST EARRORS OF PRABRAKEN.
    IN MY OPINOIN TNA HSA NOT LERAN LESSONS FORM POSITIVE SIDE OF LTTE POLITICS IN PAST HISTORY.My argument is TNA should join as NATIONAL POLITICAL and political PARTY leran past lesson since SJV- FP politics sinae 1949.Dependent on BIG POWER BULLY by OWN NATION IS NOT DEMOCRATIC OR NATIOANL POLITICES IN SRI LANKA ON THE BASIS OF RACISAM.

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