30 October, 2020

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Presidential Rigidity On 20A: Ten Lessons For Democratic Resistance 

By Dayan Jayatilleka 

Dr. Dayan Jayatilleka

The President’s gear-shift on 20A, which showed flexibility, followed by his shift-back to the original hawkish position, was in the phrase of Lenin (1921) “a flash of lightning which threw more of a glare upon reality than anything else.” It made nonsense of some basic assumptions of the four streams of the Opposition, and pointed to the imperative of correcting these dangerously flawed notions. What are the lessons of the recent dramatic turnaround?

1. It disproved the nonsensical assumption that the GR regime is a replay of the post-18th amendment MR regime and/or the post-1978 JR regime. It was in the MR second term that he weathered a storm at the longest Cabinet meeting in post-independent Sri Lankan history, and pushed through the decision to hold elections to the Northern Provincial Council, while knowing the government would lose. Can anyone imagine GR doing that? JR see-sawed from 1984 to 1987 on devolution because of crosscurrents in his Cabinet. Can anyone imagine GR doing likewise? 

2. The GR regime is of a very different type. The Opposition must avoid the fatal error of those who regarded Germany in the 1930s as yet another rightwing, reactionary, conservative regime or the not-so-fatal error (unless you are a black youngster) of those who thought that Donald Trump’s administration was yet another Republican one, unaware that the far-Right or the Alt-Right is not just another conservative Right.

3. While familial succession is a driver of the ruling party’s project, it is not the most important factor. This regime is not like the Bandaranaikes nor was it the Rajapaksa family regime of the MR years. If it were so, the 20th amendment would have been modified to provide a bigger role for MR and to accommodate the revisions suggested by the MPs in the report of the Committee appointed by MR.

4. The Pohottuwa parliamentary group and the ruling party and coalition are not the most decisive—hegemonic—fraction of the regime, which is why the MPs 20A revisions, subscribed to by Weerawansa and Gammanpila, were ignored or rather, tossed back by President GR.

5. Even the pro-GR Sinhala ultranationalists and influential Bhikkhus, who had been promised the space for an amended draft by President GR, who later revised his position and sent them back empty-handed and somewhat embarrassed, are clearly not the ones who call the shots. 

6. If the legendary PM, the Pohottuwa MPs and the ultranationalist caucuses including the bhikkhus were turned away disappointed and promises made to them broken, and they in turn backed-down, what is the real driver of the GR regime? Is it the Deep State or the Not-So-Deep-Any-Longer-State, i.e. a Junta, and their civilian ideologues and professionals in the Viyathmaga-Eliya?

7. This is not a ‘populist’ regime by any means; not even a nationalist-populist regime. It is the regime’s nationalist-populists who responded to their base and prepared a revised draft, who were pushed back. It is an ultranationalist-autocratic regime. Therefore, the Opposition’s enemy should not be populism or even Sinhala nationalism; it should be despotism, tyranny, autocracy i.e. dictatorship.  

8. At its core the regime is a quasi-Junta or proto-Junta with the Pohottuwa as its political wing-cum-human shield. The political wing has just begun to be cut down to size in the same way that Prabhakaran and the LTTE cut down its own political wing (PLFT) and negotiators/spokespersons to size. The return of rigidity in the presidential pushback on 20A indicates the exact character and content of the coming Constitution. It will be a mere cover for a de-facto Junta.    

9. The democratic Opposition has to reposition itself so that the regime does not enjoy a landslide at a referendum on the Constitution. On 19A/20A and the new Constitution it must take the middle-ground, standing for an effective democratic presidential system as is the norm in democracies from the USA to South Korea, France to Mexico, Chile to Indonesia.  It must not let itself be misperceived as standing for a weak Presidency. If the Opposition takes the same old neoliberal Ranilist-Yahapalana stand, it will be given the same treatment by the Sinhala voters that the Ranilism received this time—and all prospects of democracy will be buried under an avalanche of Sinhala votes. 

10. The Left – the JVP and FSP—must not continue the suicidal ‘Ranilist-UNP’ political culture of not being seen to be self-critical about and rupture with its erroneous policies and practices of decades –from the killing of leftists such as Vijaya and Daya Pathirana to tolerance of university ragging. It is these memories and images that are being and will be exploited by the regime in its repression (e.g. the SIS into universities) to the applause of the public. These prevent the Left from occupying the moral high ground. As for the ethnic Minority Opposition—the Tamil and Muslim parties- they must grasp that the only option is to defend the presidential system and back a moderate Sinhala candidate who can win a plurality (not a slice, as in 2015) of the Sinhala majority; who can take back most of the Sinhala heartland. All three currents of the Opposition—the new democratic Opposition (under progressive populist leadership), the Left and the Minority Opposition, must unite in a broad Democratic Resistance Bloc, for sheer survival. They must swim together or sink separately.       

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Latest comments

  • 19
    2

    Dayan is quite right in his estimation of GOTLER as an alt-right, fascist, wannabe dictator whose power base is the military, and the rising petit bourgeois professionals of the Viyathmaga-Eliya who want to be the new elites in the country. Ranil Poda, Ranil Poda. Dayan is right again about the deep state. Though Mahinda was ousted from power in Jan 2015, GOTA’S deep state continued to function subverting all attempts by Yahapalanaya to prosecute the Rajapaksas for their crimes. I would add that the Easter Day Bombing was the game plan of the deep state to ensure the return of Rajapaksas to power. In days to come we can see other interesting developments like a power struggle between Mahinda’s Pathala Baiyos and GOTA’s disciplined storm troopers. GOTA will go down in history as the founder of a Buddhist Pakistan in the island.

    • 3
      1

      Ajay,
      You suddenly are waking up enlightened, while Thero is singing you the lullaby to dream only. Thero & Ranil were the ones saved Royals from UN Electric Chair. Ranil was there in Temple Tree House on the early morning of Jan 9th, 2015. The planned coup was abandoned with the solemn oath of Ranil to pledge the UNP’s and his future to save Royals.

      American Under Secretary Biswas many times offered all kind of helps to arrest Royal criminals and prosecute them, including military protection if Lankawe Rapist Army rebel against Ranil. It is not in Media in these words. But all Colombo Media reported that offer was there. But Ranil said he would defeat every effort of New Colonialism and save the Old Royals dynasty. Ranil and whole cabinet did know 4/21. Mano Ganesan openly said it was shame for him to be in that cabinet. All people well understand that Cardinal is part of the game too. He is known as the rogue Cardinal for long time. There is suspicion that Sumanthiran, Sampanthar Ayya like Northern MPs too did know that. Remember India warned one month ago. American Navy ship was watching from Hangbangtota for 6 days. Saudi and some other Middle East countries strictly ordered to Embassies that no staff should be outside without serious business.

  • 9
    9

    I hate Tamil racists, Muslim racists and Sinhala racists. They all have their MPs in parliament. That is called democracy.

    Do you honestly think democratic means can save SL from Medamulana Mafia dictatorship?

    The army has a bigger role to play to save the people and the nation. Wish the army had men!

  • 4
    11

    20A is different. It is not to give Rajapaksa Dynasty more powers as Dayan said.. It is to give more powers to one Rajapaksa. If I say, most intelligent Rajapaksa in the clan. One good thing is Sinhalese can replace that Rajapaksa by another individual if they choose to do so. If 20A gave more powers to PM and Cabinet or Parliament, changing a Government having a 2/3 power to a different one is more difficult. 20A has extreme and absolute powers . It it is on wrong hand, it would be a problem. It is like a knife. How many people have died in the world due to stab wounds. That is not justified not to produce knives or use those for legitimate use. GR will get this approved by parliament. There is a possibility that a few changes if someone goes to court. However, majority of powers will be given to GR. He will use it for one year and show People the good side of having powers. That will prepare the ground for the new constitution and it will be approved by people in a referendum. So, we must give a chance to GR as all other so called democratic options so far failed. Let people to decide at the next Presidential and Parliamentary election what GR delivered.. Please remember general public do not read these articles and comments here are not a reflection of general public.

  • 2
    12

    That’s a lot of fancy political words. Dayan seems to be wanting to find bins, I think the best bin his article belongs to is the dust bin

    • 5
      1

      Who picked you up from a bin?

  • 2
    2

    The truth in this election was that the vote of the majority the 69 million was for one man, not a family not even a party. What most of these political commentators realize is that if GR does indeed succeed there will indeed never be a future for them. because with MR or Sajith these guys can play their game of big words and political favors.

    With GR there is really no hope for them. So you can see this frenzy of letter writing is to guarantee their futures.

    Of course, the odds of GR succeeding are exceeding low. This is Sri Lanka after all Not China or Japan. Everything built can be destroyed by even one’s own party or near and dear.

    But I have to say I like where the country is headed, and I hope and pray he succeeds. That’s all

    • 4
      1

      a14455 you wrote” The truth in this election was that the vote of the majority the 69 million was for one man, not a family not even a party. “
      That is your warped opinion. If you ask the sinhalyo who voted for the present government or president the honest ones will say it was for a bottle of kasippu, Rs 1000, and a packet of chicken biryani. The dishonest ones will say its for the party and against the minorities.Some may even admit its for the old King MR and his dynastry
      Get out of your camp and try to talk to the people then you will know what is real.

  • 6
    0

    DJ, do you have any say on MP Harin ,s explicit statement given to PCol, under oath. He said the CID had called his father on the previous day to warn about the Easter bombing. He also said the churches were aware of this warning too. Can our constitution or amendments prevent such acts , organized by the very same who create it.

  • 9
    1

    This forum gave him the name Gotler. It aptly described this mans character. Unending warnings were issue by some of the commenters including myself taking from the rich History of the Nazis and Fascism. The worst predictions are coming true. I refer all right thinking readers to the movie downfall. The movie is in German with English subtitles. I watched it for the second time recently to remind myself of what happened to the brutal fascist dictator Adolf Hitler after whom the name Gotler was coined and, their rabid followers. Every nasty right wing dictator ended up being spat upon by the people they ruled over without exception. Their countries stunted and backward at best reduced to rubble at the worst. I wish what is left of the opposition well but don’t hope for much. The country is going to go to hell willingly dragged there by its own stupid uninformed moronic Sinhalese voters. After all one cannot blame those that did not vote for this disaster.

  • 5
    2

    “……. The political wing has just begun to be cut down to size in the same way that Prabhakaran and the LTTE cut down its own political wing”

    DJ – in awe of LTTE

  • 3
    7

    Some executive powers are very essential, like for the  security of Mitherland. For business and commerce decisions however, executive action will not produce the best possible outcome.
    *
    For example, executive development at all costs, is killing the beautiful green cleansing forests of the Motherland.
    *
    Such decisions need to have democratic consensus that should  decide on how to clamp down on out-moded development projects (old fashioned techniques that more sophisticated countries are turning away from and innovating in other directions).
    *
    Consensus is needed to curb outmoded attraction to the crumbling Western structures (now only undertaken by China that is building more and more of the crumbling structure to finance the previously installed crumbling structure).
    *
    Consensus is needed for the curbing of the short term adrenaline spike that comes with out-dated Western megaproject development , such that it avoids the meditative process of futuristic, inventive, and innovative reflection. 

    • 3
      2

      Yet we like the Rajapaksa ambition, and we believe they will do the needful to set up the system and structure so natural environment is not hurt and destroyed in the midst of development (and is in fact enhanced). PoSL said something about this in a long speech. Still, greater democratic consensus on county functioning is needed.

  • 3
    2

    Real Thero’s type game.
    “Can anyone imagine GR doing that? JR see-sawed from 1984 to 1987 on devolution because of crosscurrents in his Cabinet. Can anyone imagine GR doing likewise? “ Come on Thero. Devolution was from 1956, starting on Banda-Chelva pact then Dudley-Chelva pact….. It was JR who made the Kandy walks to destroy Banda-Chelva Pact. If JR was wanted devolve power in 1984, he could have well used Vije to mediate with LTTE rather than killing him with JVP. Or he could have received Rajeev like a state head and talked to him his idea, rather than beating him like beating the local opposition leaders Amirthalingam.
    “If it were so, the 20th amendment would have been modified to provide a bigger role for MR and to accommodate the revisions suggested by the MPs in the report of the Committee appointed by MR
    So, is that Thero’s argument that Old King did not stop King becoming an MP, in 2010-2015 era, but brought the 18A to make him as the EP? Didn’t 18A was to keep all his brothers too, out of the race for EP, other than his Son Prince?

  • 2
    1

    “the MPs 20A revisions, subscribed to by Weerawansa and Gammanpila, were ignored or rather, tossed back by President GR. “ What kind of politicians are Lemon Puff Weeraya and Ganapathipillai to somebody listen to them? They only wanted the harsh part only kept from 19A. They did not say to keep the Constitutional Council, but to keep up dual citizenship restrictions. That is their extreme nationalism. If that happens Younger Brother Prince cannot steal the septuagenarian Legendary PM’s job. Lemon Puff has two passports, but why Geetha should not have two citizenships.
    “If the legendary PM,” What legendary in him, Thero is seeing? Hambantota Help, JVP Girls’ help, loved one’s murder in favor of beautiqueen, Murder of the same hitman, paying to LTTE, Suriyachari’s car accident, depositing $18B in foreign bank account, Bringing King from USA and doing citizenship fraud, creating family empire, passing 18A, 2018 Un-Constitutional Coup…………?Tell me the name of another nasty case like him came to power even in Lankawe like country?
    ” This is not a ‘populist’ regime by any means; not even a nationalist-populist regime. “ Come on The populist wanted a tough King stronger than Hitler. No point in populist Modayas already feeling let down! There is time for him to satisfy the populists’ need of Hitler.

  • 6
    0

    Its shameful for a politically astute and experienced “God King” politician Mahinda Rajapakse to be treated like “shit” (sorry for this word, I could not find another more suitable) by Gotabaya.
    As the Constitution stands now based on the 19A, PM Mahinda is much stronger than Gota the President. So why is the PM bending over backward to give power to the President? This is a shameless act.
    The committee appointed by Mahinda to look into 20A gazette clauses consisted of experienced and firebrand politicians, other than G L Pieries who is a “door mat” and a “monkey politician” who changes party like the way he changes his underwear and who changes above all his policies based on the party he is supporting with no credibility. They spent time and prepared suggestion to amend the Gazette. When this was submitted to the President he threw it like a “toilet paper” into the toilet. What respect does the President have for these senior politicians who have tried to soften the blow 20A would bring to the citizens of the country and who have brought Gota and Mahinda to power. What loyalty does the Rajapakses have for these politicians.
    I am not sure where Gammanpilla, Weerawansa, Nimal Siripala, Dilan, Dalas are going to hide their face. May be when they come out of the Parliament they may have to cover their heads with their sarongs.

    • 5
      1

      Buddhist1,
      You are telling me that G L Pieries changes his underwear. I don’t believe it. If he does where does he get his itch – to jump parties- from.
      You ask me, – why is the PM bending over backwards. I ask you: Is that even possible with his girth!
      You also make a lot of assumptions. You think that based on the 19A, PM Mahinda is much stronger than Gota the President. Are you telling me that Gota is mindful of the Constitution.
      ________________________
      MR is a worried man, nowadays. He has to make Shiranthi’s pet a President, someday.
      Understand every move of MR in that light!

  • 3
    1

    DJ quoting Lenin “a flash of lightning which threw more of a glare upon reality than anything else.”

    ——————————-
    I prefer Arjuna Mahendran’s in another blog here in CT

    ‘You never know who’s swimming naked until the tide goes out.’ (Warren Buffett)
    —————-
    I think Gota including they are all swimming naked and at at high seas…thy need the 20A to cover up….with a heavy fist.

  • 4
    0

    I read this same article in Colombo Telegraph and in another block- dbsjeyaraj.com.
    He concluded his article in the CT referring to the principle of United Front, “they must swim together or sink separately”.

    And in the dbsjeyaraj.com the concluding sentence was ”. “As N Sanmugathasan used to say, illustrating the principle of the United Front, “they must swim together or sink separately.-Shamugathasan left out

    Oh Dayan,

    Why this discrepancy?,

    Are you still a racist with a communalistic overtone or You did not want to give due credit to Shanmugathasan- A well renowned Marxist intellectual in a neutral journal like CT?

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