26 August, 2019

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On The Single Issue Debate, A Clarification

By HL Seneviratne

Prof.H.L. Seneviratne

I do not think I have any real disagreement with Professor Kumar David on the idea of a single-issue election. For no fault of his own, but solely due to inadequacies in my expression, he seems to have construed my term “multi-issue” to mean the entire gamut of social, political and economic challenges that confront us, to be addressed in one stroke. When I wrote the brief comment I did, it was furthest from my intentions underestimate the primacy of the Executive Presidency (EP) as the source of our national woes, or to defend or hope for its continuity. I share the view that the  EP, and the abandonment of the Westminster model in general, is a large-scale constitutional blunder. What I meant was to express my anxieties about the success of the single election strategy, precisely because I want it to succeed. If Professor David other perceptive citizens are optimistic about it, it should by all means be pursued as vigorously as possible. I said as much in my previous comment when I emphasized the need for a broad and inclusive coalition, so that the idea gets every vote it can possibly get. The idea also has the merit of being a concrete proposal in an environment where the problem is talked about, probably sincerely, with no attempt at any practical step towards a solution.

It’s too early to imagine the aftermath of a single issue victory. But I am taking the liberty of touching on it because that’s part of my concern when I used the term “multi issue”. In any case, irrespective of whether the single issue idea succeeds or not at this time, the malaise afflicting the country cannot be exorcized until the moral foundations of governance are restored, which in turn necessitates the crafting of a new constitution. The utmost care needs to be exercised in that task. Since the abolition of the Soulbury constitution, constitution making in Sri Lanka has been based not on the national interest but on consideration of petty partisan advantage. The 1972 and 1978 constitutions were motivated not by reasons of the national interest, but political expediency. Good constitutions take time and are based on expert opinion as much as open public discussion. The impulsive changing of the constitution in Sri Lanka contrasts with the stability and sanctity of the constitution of India. The new constitution should enshrine, among other guarantees, democratic freedoms, secularism, separation of powers, and checks and balances against the abuse of power. It is way too early to talk about details at this stage, but one thing that is clear is that no devolution is necessary outside the North and the East. Devolution to the Sinhala majority provinces would be a waste of public money, and a legalization of provincial thuggery. For the Sinhala majority provinces, the old Kachcheri and DRO system coupled with the old system of local government would work, as they did so well under the Soulbury constitution. This is important, because, to no one’s surprise, the Sinhala right wing has just started a campaign demanding the abolition of the 13th Amendment. It certainly should be abolished, for all provinces except the North and the East, which deserve more. Anyone heard of “13th Amendment Plus”?

To read related articles on single-issue candidate debate click here

Sobitha The Only Horse In The Draw? Of Course Not  by Kumar David

On Kumar And Nimalka: The Single-Issue Debate by H.L. Seneviratne

Response To Nimalka: Can A Monk Be Secular And Non Sinhala?” Of course he can by Kumar David

Can A Buddhist Monk Be Secular And Non Sinhala? by Nimalka Fernando 

Can Sobitha Pull Off Victory Where Fonseka Flunked? by Kumar David

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Latest comments

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    While I appreciate the sincerity of the writer, I believe that a new constitution will only be as good as those who abide by or are contemptuous of it in their actions, demeanour and attitude.

    The political culture that has evolved through the years might have some relationship to the politically expedient nature of the substance of those constitutions, but certainly does not form the crux of what has been unfolding in Sri Lanka over recent years.

    There is some serious retrospection that is presently warranted, to better understand what solutions may lie ahead, given the nature of tumultuous events in other parts of the world.

  • 0
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    Professor says “..Devolution to the Sinhala majority provinces would be a waste of public money, and a legalization of provincial thuggery. For the Sinhala majority provinces, the old Kachcheri and DRO system coupled with the old system of local government would work, as they did so well under the Soulbury constitution…”
    Whether the provinces are sinhales majority or otherwise, devolution led to a waste of public money and a legalization of provincial thuggery.. Old system worked well as you said …
    The ‘devolution’ was forcibly thrust upon SL by the neighborhood thug to satisfy separatists, west, NGOs , racist minority polticians, UN etc and to keep the country under their eternal influence/interference …
    This learned professor must have given a rest to his brain to suggest a devolution on the basis of race … What a foolish way to solve ‘the problem’ …
    Should anybody be surprised at this race based suggestion? No .. Not at all … What else could expect from these guys?
    One even suggested Monk Sobhitha to be the winning horse … Could anybody be more desperate than that?
    The professor is talking about the Sinhala right wing … I do not know this wing is right or left or neutral … But, I know one thing for sure …. Not for this ‘Sinhala right wing’ and it’s success in forcing the government to eliminate terror, country would still be bleeding heavily with or without eeellllaam … Country has a future because of this wing … People of the country should think throughly about their suggestion of abolition 13th completely not part by part .. The day it is abolished would mark as the beginning of a golden era for the country after centuries of foreign domination and interference …

  • 0
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    No, NOT the 13th Amendment.
    The day the 18th amendment is abolished,would be marked as the day of political emancipation and just governance in sri lanka.
    Those who oppose this, want the dictatership entrenched,and live as slaves.

  • 0
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    I thank Professor HL Seneviratne for clarifying several issues.
    Now the task is to turn the message of abolishing the Executive Presidency into a vigorous campaign and focus on the best strategy and tactics.

  • 0
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    I wish to see the thug president and the system done away with.

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