27 July, 2021


Orphaned 19A; Cut-Throat Duumvirate

By Kumar David

Prof. Kumar David

Nobody now admits full paternity of 19th Amendment; everybody says “Well I may have had a bit of a hand but others mucked it up”; “Me? Who me?” and so on. Constitutional lawyers disagree about what it adds up to. Some declare the next (second) president will be powerless, ceremonial in all but name. He can have no ministries assigned to him, not even defence. His powers of appointment to key positions, even service chiefs will be circumscribed. The PM will tell him who to make ministers. He will chair the Cabinet but god knows why. His actions can be challenged in the courts – remember the 51-day comedy. The title Head of State will be his as is usual; incomprehensibly, the Head of Government title will also belong to the second president

Other constitutionalists swear the opposite. The next president they say will have much hidden power, chief among them he will pick secretaries to the ministries. The PM selects minister and the president promptly castrates them by putting in place the person who will run the show thus making ministers eunuchs. 19A, it is not unfair to say, is a right royal cock-up; the best thing it did was restoring presidential term-limits and setting up independent Commissions. Newspaper columnists savage the PM/Pres power sharing arrangement as an unworkable diarchy. Two kings parking half a posterior each on the same throne and very likely a dagger stuck in each other’s back, unless they are from the same party and are blood brothers.

Gotabaya and Ranil |File Photo | By Harsha de Silva MP

Ah and there’s the rub! Even blood brothers from the same party have started feuding. After sour-grapes Sirisena’s harangue on how shabby the powers of the next president would be, Mahinda told reporters, “No ways, my brother the next president will be all powerful”. What was he fishing for, a response from Gota to the effect “No ways aiya, 19A gives you greater power than I will have”? Well Gota did not take the bait, or rather his military handlers did not permit him to say it. MR’s advisors would not have missed the signal of silence. The militarism versus corrupt-politico-populism tension in the SLPP will become more pronounced as polling day nears. (I am assuming no legal challenges debar Gota’s candidacy).

Will Gota send parliament packing in February? Vultures (also known as MPs) will cross over in droves to the winner. The next president, whoever he is may not need to dissolve in February since flocks of vultures will cluck around him; perhaps even sufficient to make the 2/3 needed to repeal 19A and bring back 18A in some form. But does MR really want an all-powerful GR? How will that dynamic play out? And if its Sajith he want Ranil as all-powerful PM? Will Mangala’s salivating game pay off? It may, since the UNP hierarchy and the Colombo 7 platoons have cut Ranil’s throat slice by slice in the last two months. But this gutter lot may squirm round and somersault tomorrow; these people are as firm and as reliable as greased eel. 

And now there’s another twist to the comedy. Ranil, as per still-to-be-confirmed reports, says he wants to be the candidate and Sajith and his lot can go stick it up. If he has his way Sajith’s lot won’t split and decamp into the wilderness. If his bunch quits and puts up Sajith as a non-UNP joker candidate it will ensure Ranil’s defeat but Sajith himself, with say 300,000 votes, will trail behind Anura in fourth place. But the Ranil-Sajith theatre will remain watery till nomination day.

This is all the stuff of gossip, not the business of this column; it’s only a means to lead up to the point I want to make. The two major formations (UNP and SLPP/SLFP) are not only corrupt but also squabbling and rent by personal and family feuds. This is no accident but a consequence of crisis; no vision, no programme that they have a commitment and capacity to deliver, and in the case of Gota the thinly veiled military doppelganger of return to Rajapaksa era authoritarianism. A priority then is to nurture an alternative. I see it its first shoots in the People’s Power movement. Which the next period it will undergo its own convulsions and transformations, unavoidable in any political dynamic. Hopefully out of this will emerge a credible alternative basis of state power. The other challenge is to ensure that all who give their first-preference to Anura do not fail to cast a second preference vote to foil a Gota presidency.

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Latest comments

  • 5

    Here comes Kuma!
    The architect of one issue (abolition of executive presidency) candidate even addressing Sobitha without ‘himi’ to lead the campaign to ever ready foolish sinhalese budhists in last election,
    Cheer leader for bogged down middle east people’s revolution predicting it is the ‘revolution’ nobody could stop.
    A ardent stubborn marxist backed capitalist UNP to send the country to the bottom economically to fulfill his lifelong ambition to divide the country,
    the guy who roamed around the faculty of engineering, Peradeniya as a flamboyant king among students (no discrimination at him what so ever) but always hatching separatism,
    Utterly failed his life long ambition of 4th revolution and trying to create troubles to Sri Lanka to divide the country,
    What a character! Always promoting 4th revolution but do his best to keep uncle sam and their obedient servants in power across the globe…
    Long live revolution, Comrade … Your comrade, Wickramabahu Karunarathna is also trying his best to put UNP in power.
    But Feel like u guys have come to the end of the road regarding Sri Lanka this time.
    I do not see any more ugly ‘brilliant’ ideas coming out except second preference voting which any fool could propose.

    • 2

      Can we not stick to the subject rather than make vile personal attacks?
      You say: “I do not see any more ugly ‘brilliant’ ideas coming out except second preference voting which any fool could propose.”
      Then, how come that you did not?

    • 1

      Bruno Umparto,
      I agree. KD is trying to force a group of camels to evolve as humans. But, KD must understand that evolution would not allow such a drastic change. Marxists can never make their dream come true! It never happened; it never will happen either!

  • 1

    It is clear that the 19A is a novelty full of loopholes and contradictions. If ever there is a tussle between the President and the PM it has to be tested in courts. In fact as pointed out by Prof Kum the Prez need not have single Ministry or an Institution under his hand as the Secretaries of Ministries are presidential appointments and can be removed by him as well. LET THE COURTS DECIDE.

  • 0

    Whether Old Brother Prince will be an emperor or cannot be even a prince when he became an EP is a difficult question. There many, many variables to write a comment on that.
    As usual we will, unsystematically, arbitrarily look at few. Kegalle Jayamanne’s death was used by media to explain where the Old Royals influence in military stood at that time. They said by the fear to Old Royals launching a coup, New King dismissed Dilrukshi. If we extend that to until now, sure, Old Brother Prince will be an emperor after he is crowned as EP. But the developments after Jayamanne are very fast. Yahapalanaya has also shown its strength on ISIS attack on Tamil Christians Churches. In that, Sainthamaruthu home was bombed by the organizers to hide their role. Now the Only witnesses on that is the modified house for tourist and the stunted child by bombs. Nobody is going to go & ask that child “if that uncle asked you also to take part in Suicide”. The driver got 50 M cash for part taking in the drama. The woman and the driver are not good for anything. Until that is cleared, it is going to be suicide not a bombing at that night. These are telling the might of the current Yahapalanaya. So, whether Yahapalanaya and Chitanta are going to be unified even after the EP election or not, the army may not be at the sole disposal of Old Bother Prince, unlike in the time of Jayamanne. So we can leave behind the army on the future administration of Old Brother Prince.

    • 0

      Then, if we can list the main constraints, US’s leash, 19A, Old King’s control through Slap Party and Ranil as PM. 19A has set its new limits to the New EP. If the Laws are broken the court can stop like it did during the coup. But the problem on that is, during the Coup, though Ranil was willing to hand over the PM position to Old King, Court had to act like that to save Old King and New King from external interference. To predict how that formula is going to work out after election, we have no clues. We are not sure of if Old Brother Prince is a US candidate or Chinese candidate, either. To take the rest, one by is no use as everybody knows what is happening in Lankawe. But, still, we can say one word about Ranil PM-ship.
      As per Ranil, his parliament is ending only in August 2020. Parliament cannot be dissolved by New EP. So if EP wants to change the PM he has to have majority in Parliament. Working out which way the majority will be at this time is difficult & too erroneous. So, if Vaalaiththodam didn’t win, let us assume he will support Ranil. So there is some chance Ranil continuing as the PM. If Old Brother Prince tried to manage Ranil, he too will end up going to Thailand to manage his disease. At the same time, Ranil may like to form again a unity government with the Prince. If New King’s SLFP is not cooperating with Ranil, Old Brother Prince’s Slap Party would go for that. The he cannot dictate UNP.

      As there are so many permutations-Combinations are possible and result of the formulas are suggesting that Old Brother Prince would be out done, he cannot be a dictator after the election.

  • 0

    Cool bit of writing. The only Hamlet-tragedy is that Ranil flouts the constitution breaks the law, and becomes executive PM. Otherwise 19th A is perfect for balance of power. Hey, good to know PP/JVP is going to be a first-tier party.

    • 0

      r t fernando,
      I feel sorry to see your hope crumbling soon. According what i hear, there are several discussions within the PP for different options. For example, some are with the opinion to support Sajith in order to defeat GoRa. Others are proposing to replace AKD with a non-party name. It looks like that the Aug 18 crowd may not be together after the nomination!

      A movement is not a party; for, movement is always composed of medley of wide-ranging interests which will eventually have to compete for dominance leading to destruction of smaller groups by one dominant group. The history of Marxist movements are full of such horrendous tragic stories.

      • 0

        D. P. ,
        Oh boy….guess the discussions will be about PP-hierarchy opting to take taxpayer money for their kids to go Cambridge and Yale. Oligarchy wins yet again! This comment will be removed by a moderator.

  • 0

    The tragedy of 19A was that it was created by people with conflicting interests.
    The ‘Good G’ team had no solid programme with clear goals, except to out MR and his government.

  • 4


    You are wasting your time. What difference is it going to make wheter you abolish it ot not. Gothas presidency will be a disaster for the Majority except for the minoritise although there will be fear amongs the minorities. and rightly so. But Gotha will be a LAME DUCK President wings clipped and Power Curtailed. as no one will engage with someone charged with murder. at least until the Trial is over.

    Gotha being a Hard man and MR & Gotha being the Architects of winning the War is a lot of rubbish. The onle credit due to them was that they were the learders at the time. The Driving Force behind defeating the LTTE was India for two sets of reasons out of self interest.

    1) The Prime factor was India saw LTTE as threat to its Union . If LTTE succeeded in creating Tamil Eelam that would have encouraged Ramil Nadu to follow suot and there were singing the songs of praise for Prabakaran . So India decided to end.ot Without India provding Men and Weapon LTTE would never have been beaten
    2) Sonia taking the opportunity to avenge the killing of her dear husband.

    I stand by what I have said above and . Prabakaran in his moment of madness by killing Rajiv threw everything.Opportunity lost

    • 0

      You are right about India’s important influence for the defeat of the LTTE, but Sonia’s motivation for involvement may be reasonably plausible but in the absence of proof is extremely remote.
      That is my view. Subramaniam Swamy may differ.
      The seeds for defeat of LTTE was cultivated and germinated by it’s own fascistic megalomaniac leader.
      It is possible that some other foreign hand which had a desire for the unraveling of the Union of India was involved in the killing of his mother. It could have used Prabakaran to murder former Indian PM Rajiv.

  • 1

    the circus has come to town. all must stop the strong man from putting the masses to jail.

  • 1

    Kumar, Lankans in general including readers here are talking as though we have been having intellectually stimulating discussions and debates prior to elections.Has any leader in past 30 years or so ,other than promising anything and everything including the moon, really discussed or presented their plans to cut deficits, bring new jobs, address inflation, balancing budgets, their goals for the future, what may be their priorities,saving environment, preventing and managing disasters (including annual droughts, electricity/water shortage), international policies and reasons behind it —-etc. I do not even remember seeing a manifesto other than usual BS .(pseudo patriotism/nationalism.) From what I remember, initial 30 years was about how to screw the minorities (creating a war)and next 30 years was about managing war and last 15 years or so was all about one family called Rajapaksas (and keeping them in power) and the last was about getting rid of the menace called Rajapaksas. . Our public seems to be content with this revolving door “SHAM process” (called elections)

  • 0

    select malik samarawickrema for president

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