By Mahinda Rajapaksa –
The government has gazetted the 20th Amendment to the Constitution with a view to postponing elections to the provincial councils. The Sabaragamuwa, North Central and Eastern Provinces were to stand dissolved in a few weeks time, in early October. If passed into law, the 20th Amendment would allow not only the postponement of all PC elections, but also the extension of the terms of all existing PCs up to September 2019 in a direct violation of the franchise and the sovereignty of the people. The proposed postponement of the PC elections comes in the context where the local government elections which were due in March 2015 have also been indefinitely postponed. This is the latest in a long list of outrages against democracy perpetrated by this government which came into power through a conspiracy aided by interested foreign parties on 8 January 2015.
The dismantling of democracy began on 9 January 2015. The UNP leader who had 44 MPs in parliament was made Prime Minister and the UPFA Prime Minister who had the support of 144 MPs was sacked. The President who contested against the UPFA and SLFP as the candidate of a coalition of political parties including the UNP, TNA, JVP, SLMC and ACMC among others, seized control of the SLFP and UPFA as well after assuming power. The incumbent Chief Justice of the country was sacked from office with just a chit from the President’s office. Even though the 2015 presidential election had been fought on the platform of abolishing the executive presidency, the 19th Amendment to the constitution was a farce perpetrated on the people and the executive presidency still remains as it was.
We fought the 2015 August parliamentary election under the banner of the SLFP and the UPFA in the name of maintaining the unity of the political party through which all of us had entered politics. But on the eve of the election, the President used his executive power to skew the election result by stating publicly that he would not make me Prime Minister even if the UPFA won the election and by sacking the General Secretaries of both the SLFP and the UPFA, 48 hours before the poll. Can an election held in such circumstances be declared to be free and fair? After the election, more than 40 MP’s of the UPFA who were elected to parliament on an anti-yamapalana platform, were given ministerial portfolios of various rank and taken into the government.
Loyalists of the President who had been defeated at the poll were brought into parliament through the UPFA national list. Though 51 parliamentarians of the UPFA remained in the opposition the position of leader of the opposition was given to the TNA which had 17 MPs and the position of Chief Opposition Whip was given to the JVP which had 6 MPs. Thus both the government and the parliamentary opposition are dominated by political parties that had been on the same side at the 2015 Presidential election. In this situation, the Constitutional Council which makes appointments to the most important offices of the state, and is appointed by the government and parliamentary opposition together, was also made up entirely of people who had been on the same side at the 2015 Presidential election.
This resulted in the independent commissions and important offices of the state being filled with yamapalana sympathisers. There has never been such a perversion of democracy in this country under any previous government. Even though the yamapalana government won only 106 seats at the 2015 parliamentary election, this has increased to a two thirds majority due to UPFA parliamentarians accepting ministerial portfolios. Executive power is being misused by this government not just to hold on to power, but also to sell strategic national assets to foreigners without consulting the people or even parliament. When two bids are received, the unfavourable bid is selected in a manner that makes it only too plain that vast kickbacks are involved.
All members of the SLFP in this government were elected to parliament through an election campaign led by me. I wish to remind them that they were not elected to Parliament to help the UNP to dismantle democracy in this country. Every member of the SLFP and the UPFA in Parliament should oppose the proposed 20th Amendment and the Amendment to the provincial council elections law brought with a view to postponing the forthcoming provincial council elections and to extend the terms of the existing provincial councils without an election. The SLFP/UPFA group in parliament can deprive the government of the two thirds majority needed to pass this Amendment. Because this 20th Amendment impinges on the people’s sovereignty and the franchise, it will require a referendum as well. We will be petitioning the Supreme Court in this regard. But the SLFP/UPFA parliamentarians acting together can block this in the legislature. They are duty bound to do so to safeguard the rights of the people. If the need is to hold all the PC elections on the same day, the government can bring forward the elections to all Provincial Councils to 2017, instead of postponing the elections till 2019.