2 October, 2020

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Resist Return Of Executive Presidency 

By Kumar David

Prof. Kumar David

The time to influence citizens voting intentions or make futile election forecasts is past. There is one comment, however, that I must make. The JVP has shot itself in the foot and lost perhaps 100,000 votes by failing to aggressively call for a second preference for Sajith. Disillusioned UNPers, who were mulling a 1-for-Anura 2-for-Sajith formula, now confused by the JVP are reverting to the UNP in Gothabila panic.

What tasks does Lanka face after the elections? One challenge is to resist attempts to bring back the executive presidency (EP) by the winner, or to roll back limitations imposed by 19A. Have no doubt both candidates would like to be free of constraints such as imposed by the division of powers. There is a healthy division of power in the US between the executive, legislative and judicial and though there is friction from time to time the arrangement functions well. Any attempt by one branch to overstep are rebuffed. The US Constitution has endured and the arrangement is stable; Sri Lanka’s is neither.

Our experience with EP has been deplorable. JR was not a president but a Bonaparte who rode over parliament; his party had a huge majority which enabled him to treat it like an assortment of vassals. He interfered with the judiciary and during his tenure the rule of law degenerated. Premadasa and Chandrika were worse as executive presidents than they could have been as prime ministers who functioned within civilised constitutional norms. The nadir was Mahinda’s two terms remembered for unchecked corruption, gross violation of human rights, interference with the judiciary, arbitrary abuse of power, and finally an attempt to perpetuate power as president for life by the lifting term limits. To the extent that 8 January 2015 removed Mahinda and the enactment of 19A reversed this irregularity and introduced other limitations on the EP, it is an outstanding achievement. 

Whoever is elected will attempt to reverse this. Neither manifesto contains a pledge to entirely abolish the executive presidency and revert to a ceremonial Head of State. Both are written as though the president is be a monarch whose manifesto will run without constraint. There is no mention of going further along the road that 19A inaugurated; both manifestos are pronouncements of men who wish to rule. As the pressures of office and conflicts with opponents grow during the term of office, both will attempt to enhance power and to override the people. A task the people of Lanka will face in the next period is to confront and defeat such attempts and to constrain the clout of whoever becomes the new president.

There are several measures that can be taken. First, in the next election we can opt for MPs who will stand up to authoritarianism and resist encroachment of parliament’s powers. We need a more democratic constitution but the new incumbent will use his victory shine to try and get a parliament of yes-men to help him enact a less democratic one. Second, professionals must do their bit; lawyers and law societies have to resist attempts to encroach on the independence of their profession and of the judiciary. Third, political parties outside government can mobilise themselves and the people. Fourth the media must help propagate the slogan “Don’t enhance authoritarian powers!” Finally, the people must gird themselves to defend democracy instead of deluding themselves with festivities; they must not abdicate rights or be seduced by the gloss of a newly minted president. That’s a list of five good things to do.

There are some internal dynamics in our favour. If Gota repeals term-limits he is paving the way for Mahinda to ride again. Do he and his military-business cabal want to go home in just 5 years? Sajith has served notice that he will fire Ranil as PM. His backers have shredded Ranil as a crappy impediment round Great-Sajith’s neck – for example Sarath de Alwis in a fawning piece “A Centrist Social Compact”, Colombo Telegraph 3/11. In doing this are Sajith and his toads shooting themselves in the foot by showing their hand too soon? Or is Mangala’s greed obtruding? Or, and this is most likely, are they plain stupid? By playing Judas with the compromise that won him UNP nomination just weeks ago, has he not turned himself into another back-stabbing aapaya? I have noticed cooling towards Sajith in sections of the UNP and among Ranil loyalists. If Sajith wins but is a eunuch inside the UNP, it will part castrate aspirations of autocracy. Good!   

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    While the principle of checks and balances between different arms of governance is a fundamental requirement of a functioning democracy, 19A for a large part is a crappy & retarding exercise. It was primarily geared towards targeting one political family. For one the argument of term limits is crap. It deprived the electorate of their ability to pick their choice. The country should be able to trust it’s citizens intelligence. MR was defeated in a situation where there were NO term limits. By taking MR’s civic rights these buggers have paved the way for GR though they tried to prevent it through citizenship laws and “karumakkara” (per Dilrukshi Dias) court cases. Even Namal’s civic rights were taken away with the increase of age limit (may be a good measure with regard to Namal’s specific case). These are all parochial measures which backfires when they are targeted at individuals and not systemic with longer term enduring capacity.

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    Prof. Kumar David – re Your Statement below:-
    “” Neither manifesto contains a pledge to entirely abolish the Executive Presidency and revert to a ceremonial Head of State.””
    The Problem is; that Most Voters do not understand that there is a Difference between ‘A Ceremonial Head of State’, and an ‘Executive President’!

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      @Rationalist ..true. lot of hard word is needed and for some sinister reason the big time media’s are not going to promote it .
      No media has so far had the sense of responsibility to educate the people of the danger in continuing the Executive Presidency even under 19A , though the 19A has it’s own short commings ,it was a great welcome and did prove its power when it was put to tests , none of us can deny that. And 19A is a good start to finally repeal this monster once and for all and am dead against the 20A another crafty political patchwork of the Corrupted , anti Citizen Constitution with plenty of loopholes to even help get away with murder .

  • 2
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    Prof: David Kumar: I started reading your presentation; but completely gave up, on reading that: “JVP shot in the foot and lost 100,000 votes…………call for a second preference to Sajith”. To begin with, let me remind you, there is no JVP in this election. This Presidential Candidate, “AKD” is the “Nominee” of “NPP” of which “JVP” is a constituent party among many others. Taking, JVP a “Constituent”, can this “Candidate” – AKD “Canvass” of a “Second Vote” to “Sajith”? Then, going by your opinion, it must be the “Directive” of the NPP and not JVP. I am happy that, “AKD” has consistently, in keeping with the agreed terms with NPP, took care to avoid identifying himself as the “JVP Candidate”. Have you noticed, even while attending public rallies, AKD was careful to “Dress” suitably . If, for instance, as you suggest, JVP as a single party made that announcement of a “2nd Preference” to Sajith , that itself would have been the “Confirmation” of the “Political Hara-kiri” of a “Rathu Ali Petiya”.

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    Usual Bullshit!!!
    /
    CT, can we draw a line here please?

    • 3
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      Dear Niranjan Abrew,
      .
      How is it that you were fool enough to “waste” five minutes reading “Bullshit” and another five minutes making your comment which doesn’t enlighten anybody.
      .
      Nobody forced you t read this article, surely!

      • 0
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        @Sinhala_man. 👍👍👍👍👍👍👍👍

  • 5
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    Some of the ideas and notions of this writer as expressed here, are questionable. But he is entitled to his point of view.

    Influencing voters’ voting intentions is a wip (some have not yet made up their minds) and is not completed until the day of the election! What is most important at this juncture is not a dissertation about the EP and its powers, but rather ensuring NGR is defeated in order to preserve Democratic traditions in our homeland. Likewise the exigency at the time in 2015 was to chase MR away and that was achieved. Similarly, in 2019, first things first. Let all anti MR&Co factions unite to wipe out this scourge and cancer for good.

    Voters, please use your valued vote to save our motherland by defeating NGR’s candidacy. He is an alleged criminal, fanatic, maniac, bonehead, ignoramus, despot, barbarian, ruffian, hooligan, thug and goon. Do you want such a character to lead our Nation? There is now a controversy as to whether he is infact eligible to run for Presidency. He is carrying so much ‘baggage’!. Voters, please wake up and actively participate in this crucial election!

  • 1
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    Like if you think Sajith will win
    Dislike if you think Gota will win

  • 0
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    This article is a little bit late in the day. By now fellows rightly or wrongly decided whether to take the trouble to go and vote and if so to cross for the candidate they like including a spoilt vote. As per our constitution, President remains the head of state, head of the executive and the commander in chief of all armed forces. It is you or another academic, professor in Engineering of course, who pointed out that the President can yet run the show with Ministry Secretaries who are his appointees. This is true for any candidate winning the elections. What is despicable is the flagrant abuse of power causing loss of lives (disappeared for ever) and scooping out public money. Alas there are no check and balances for this and I envisage the beginning of a dark era for Sri Lanka.

  • 1
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    who is ranil?
    a man of the past not of the future
    no wonder sajith is moving away from him

  • 2
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    Dear Kumar,
    .
    Douglas has made some pertinent comments about how scrupulously the AKD campaign has stayed within their agreement with the NPP. The NPP is possibly an ephemeral entity – I don’t even know what the letters stand for, although I will google the web and find out if the need arises. We all tend to say JVP.
    .
    I was at one of their planning-meetings as a sympathiser, willing to canvass. As such, they had no objection to my explaining preferences to individuals whom we meet. They, themselves, are afraid of that “Rathu Aliya” label.
    .
    A “half-article” under my own name has already appeared:
    .
    https://www.colombotelegraph.com/index.php/two-categories-of-presidential-candidates/
    .
    There wasn’t the time to talk about The Alternatives who will get my First and Second Preferences. Your suggestion of the Sajith safety net will be implemented with Third Preference to Sajith.

    • 0
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      Sinhala_man

      “The JVP has shot itself in the foot and lost perhaps 100,000 votes by failing to aggressively call for a second preference for Sajith”
      You did your best , along with this professor to fool the Rathu Aliyas.
      ONCE MORE , at this last minute, can you kindly explain the readers how this 100,000 of second preference is going to benefit the JVP candidate in his bid to become the president?
      I circulated the following link among my friends and relatives, which I believe is a must for all citizens:
      https://youtu.be/Mrz6RpzDaa4
      Watch “50% ගන්න බැරිවුනොත් මොකද වෙන්නේ ? – Mahinda Deshapriya.

      Soma

    • 0
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      @Sinhala _Man .
      NPP means national people’s power , but what am afraid is , will it later change to No power – people 🤔?

      Who knows ? The once loved and respected EC by all people for being non biased and standing up for justice too seemed to have lost his path .
      After all he did warn us during the Political unrest of 51days .
      His words , nothing is certain in this uncertain world , seems so with him too.
      Sri Lankan people as a whole deserve better is my sincere belief.

  • 0
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    Ah goodness ,gracious ! BLESS THE HEART OF THIS WRITER !

    Everytime I read inbetween your article the warning of the possible return of the ruthless Excutive Presidency , honestly I felt a goose run over my grave.

    I am still holding on to the only hope; That is The JVP to rally the people around them by visiting every inch of the entire island and educate the people the importance of burying the dictorship , the executive presidency once and for all , they must educate the people the importance of a people supreme parliament, the importance of people being able to participate in everything about the Country ,from writing a new constitution, laws , regulating all our resources from every pebble , sand, grantites , rivers , ocean , forests to every single Archaeological heritage, the non Buddhist Children should be educated about the value of our ancestors heritage , the value and the emotions and deep sentiments attached to everything of the heritage to all the the Sinhala Buddhist.
    Enough is enough, it’s time people make decision and the politicians work to implement them , people should be thought, it’s the Politicians who should be saying Sir-
    and saying madam and it’s the Young politicians who should be going on their knees to the feet of our poor elders and seeking Ashirvadas( blessings) and not other way about , their Children touching politicians feet for blessing must end.
    The Farmer must become the Royal of this nation, it is they who feed us.
    Next General election we must bury the Executive Presidency permantly and bring in a parliament where people’s voice will always be the deciding one and with a system all politicians can be well locked in a 100% transparent and 100% accountable Constitution where no one is above the law .

    I am sure the people are well informed today , all JVP need to do is polishing that knowledge ,.

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