19 September, 2020

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Resisting 20A & The New Constitution: The Right Way & The Wrong Way 

By Dayan Jayatilleka

Dr. Dayan Jayatilleka

There is a right way and a wrong way to fight any battle. The right way is the way to win or at least accumulate as many gains as possible, and to do so in  a manner that is universally recognizable as ethical, so that even if you lose the battle you would have won the moral high ground,  giving you a good chance to win the war. 

The 20th Amendment battle is far too important not to fought in the best and smartest way possible. While the broadest coalition of the most diverse forces is a commonsensical approach, that should not be the main criterion. The chief consideration should be to take a stand on 20A that will help secure the largest number of votes at the inevitable referendum on the new Constitution. In other words, it would do little good to construct a coalition that is wide on paper but doesn’t bring in sufficient votes, especially from the Sinhala majority. 

Let us grasp the nettle. Building a coalition that involves elements and arguments that are anathematic to the Sinhala voters will not help and will in fact do more harm than good to the anti-20A cause. With enemies like the residual neoliberals, the regime’s 20A effort doesn’t need friends.

Most important is the political stand or as they say on the left, the political line, that has to be adopted, and the one that has to be avoided, in fighting 20A. 

The first – but not the most important—thing to do is to avoid a blanket defense, still less a proud glorification of 19A. The all-important campaign against 20A must be acutely sensitive to the mass sentiment. 

19A is not merely seen but has been experienced as part of the dreadful experiment of Yahapalanaya; a an experiment so dreadful that one of its main players, ex-President Sirisena has turned against 19A and the other, ex-Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe is clinging to a piece of wood which is all that is left of his sunken ship.  

Yahapalanaya sank the UNP and almost sank the SLFP. Any attempt to uncritically celebrate 2015 and 19A will only doom the resistance to 20A.

Disastrous as that is, that’s not the worst mistake that can be made by the resistance to 20A. Understanding that worst of possible mistakes takes us right to the heart of the unresolved issue in the ranks of the democratic opposition and the democratic movement as a whole. 

That is the interlocking issue of the executive Presidency and the Sri Lankan State. 20A can be resisted from one of two standpoints, just as 19A can be defended from one of two standpoints. Trying to do so from both standpoints will cause a deadlock, cancelling the efficacy of each standpoint. Trying to remain uncommitted to one of the two standpoints will only result in falling between two stools. 

In politics as in life, when it comes to serious matters, one simply has to choose, and be prepared to live with the consequences of the wrong choice.        

So, what are these two contending standpoints? What do we have to choose between? 

On the one hand we have the line of criticizing 20A and defending 19A from the standpoint of a commitment to, or assuming the desirability of and showing a preference for, the abolition of the executive presidency and the adoption of the Westminster model or some variant. 

That is the line of supporting the original draft of 19A presented by Ranil Wickremesinghe and tossed back with strictures by the Supreme Court. 

It is also the line of supporting the various attempts at a new constitution, be it by Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga in 1995-2000 (mainly the so-called ‘Package’) or that of Ranil Wickremesinghe and the TNA in 2015-2019. 

It short it is the line of the neoliberals. 

On the other hand, we have the line of resisting 20A and defending the pluses of 19A while admitting its minuses, from the standpoint of supporting an executive presidential system but one that ensures the separation of powers as in every presidential system in a democracy—especially in the USA and most of Latin America.    

The advantage of that line, is not only that it is true and scientific but it enables the anti-20A campaign to avoid the charge that it stands for the weakening of the state and is opposed to strong the national leadership. 

Lenin once said that serious politics begins where tens of millions of people are. Redrawn to the Sri Lankan scale that would mean that serious politics begins where millions of people are. Serious politics and political parties have therefore to factor in what millions of people think and would think—not what a few hundred or thousand would.

Serious politics must be realistic. How can one fight a referendum which will come up in a few months, while entertaining in one’s ranks those who proclaim from platforms that the Presidential system should be abolished? 

Why does anyone think the presidential system has not been abolished despite pious promises to do so? Surely it is because public opinion trusts a President elected by the majority of the country, rather than a parliament? Surely it is because the people have consistently shown a preference for a strong center, a strong system as represented by the presidency? Surely it is because the masses sense that the elected presidency is a symbol and guarantee of national unity?

Any campaign tainted by the old anti-Presidential propaganda spouted by the same personalities who pasted posters in Colombo calling for endorsement of the ISGA as well as those who pushed for a non-unitary, ‘Orumittanadu’ Constitution and the Geneva 2015 resolution, will not get anything like the percentage of votes that a moderate nationalist, statist campaign, which stands for the separation of powers could get.  A neoliberal ‘abolitionist’, ‘Back to 2015’ campaign will generate yet another landslide for the regime.

The campaign must focus on the dangers of 20A and the coming Constitution, so that it can be stepping stone to a strong fight at a referendum. The effort must be the raising of reasonable doubt in the minds of even those who voted for the Pohottuwa at two elections. If on the contrary, the same old voices are heard saying the same old things that they did from 2015 to 2019, the vast majority will vote decisively against them and for the government which strikes a chord with the theme of a strong national leadership. 

Practicality and logic are important criteria. How can the Opposition and its Leader position themselves for the Presidential election of 2024, in the company of those who openly continue to call for the abolition of the Presidency? 

Hasn’t the disastrous experience of the last quarter-century been absorbed? The UNP under Ranil shifted to a position of the abolition of the executive presidency and in consequence the party never worked in a such a manner that it was geared to win a presidential election. In any case why should anyone select you for a post that you have promised to abolish because you think it is bad?

The Opposition must take a clear-cut stand against 20A because it makes for a dictatorship, while at the same time it must take no less clear-cut a stand in favor of the executive presidential system. 

To conclude, it must be recognized that the choice is between neoliberalism on the one hand and liberal, progressive and social democracy on the other.

Look the USA today: according to the Trumpian right, who are the liberals, progressives, leftists, democratic socialists and social democrats? Those who are for the state, the intervention of the state in the economy and as a guarantor of social welfare. 

Conversely, who are the neoliberals? Those who think the state is a problem, or the problem, and should be weakened, rolled-back, in politics and economics. 

That is the dividing line between liberal democracy/liberal democrats on the one hand and neoliberal democracy/neoliberal democrats on the other.

In Sri Lankan too, for a quarter-century it is the neoliberal, state-weakening Constitutional agenda that has dominated UNP and para -UNP politics. It has been the ideology purveyed by so-called ‘civil society’. It is the ideology that made the Chandrika Government fail; miniaturized the SLFP, wrecked Yahapalanaya and destroyed the UNP. The masses of voters have rejected it utterly. 

The neoliberal remnants must not be allowed to similarly wreck the anti-20A campaign, the Referendum campaign against the coming Constitution, and the fate of the New Opposition and its promising young leader.   

Don’t take it from me, take it from Prof Robert Reich, formerly Secretary of Labour in President Clinton’s administration and one of the world’s leading progressive-liberal thinkers in Economics and public policy. In his latest book, Reich says: “Forget left versus right. It’s democracy or oligarchy… There’s either authoritarian populism (Trump) or democratic populism…” (Robert Reich, The System: Who Rigged It, How We Fix It , Knopf, $24, 224 pp.)

It is way past time for the democratic movement in Sri Lanka, especially the new democratic Opposition, to dump what remains of the failed, rejected neoliberal constitutional agenda and fight President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s ultranationalist Alt-Right authoritarian populism, with the only viable alternative agenda: democratic populism. The New Opposition and its leader, the son of President Premadasa, are uniquely equipped to do so. 

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Latest comments

  • 7
    9

    “The New Opposition and its leader, the son of President Premadasa, are uniquely equipped to do so. “

    Yes Yes I heard he had learned a magic chant to stop rampaging elephants. I think that will come in Handy.

    • 12
      18

      Dr. Dayan Jayatilleka,
      .
      This is like Presidential election.
      One of the Election commissioners wanted to make GR stateless.
      Civil society pundits wanted to make GR a US citizen.
      Then all of a sudden they changed their minds and they also wanted to make GR stateless.
      Then out of the blue they themselves took GR’s “certificate of loss of nationality of the United States” to courts and undermined their own case.
      Then MS wanted to cancel presidential election.
      Then RW wanted to postpone presidential election.
      Then MS / RW / JVP all wanted to change the Executive Presidency.
      Then some of you wanted to make MS common candidate.
      After that those same people wanted to make Karu common candidate.
      And those same people tried to put RW in the race.
      And then JVP appointed themselves as common candidate.
      And then people who was in JVP national list wanted us to “Vote JVP to make SP president” using second preference.
      .
      .
      Common man looked at this picture…
      And they looked at the credibility of the people who are campaigning against GR….
      .
      .
      There was only one solution for the common man. To make GR president.
      .
      .
      Make up your mind first.

      .

    • 6
      0

      Dr Dayan’s
      In my opinion, this article is not
      Understood by .00001% of our masses.If so whats the use of this
      article.
      It better , Dr Dayan writes article in simple english & sinhala so that it
      goes to the common man.

  • 26
    0

    Dayan is panicking the Frankenstein’s monster that he helped create is just about to establish a fascist garrison state with 20A. He sees no future for him in that dispensation. It would be all over for him. So he’s desperately trying to cobble up a campaign to fight the impending danger. He’s now shamelessly invoking liberal values and democracy that he denigrated when he tried to ease his way into Gota’s Sinhala-Buddhist authoritarian in-group. Well, it’s too late now. The poor chap cannot knock his head against a rock. But he can hope to get a consolation prize – special advisor to Sajith on what is happening in the world.

  • 3
    8

    If 20A helps in genocide of terrorists (the word terrorist as defined by the majority) then it will be passed at a referendum.

    Otherwise it will fail.

    Will 20A actually help in the genocide of terrorists with better impunity to the political-military organization? That is the only question that needs to be answered to predict the fate of 20A.

    If the answer is no, then SJB can mobilize people across the ethnic divide against 20A and defeat it at a referendum which will also signal the end to legitimacy of the government.

  • 9
    2

    Thero is sneaky. He wants 20A.This is highly toxic material. He did not read what consultation of SC in 2015 was. He wants to stop any constitutional change that would devolve the power to Tamils, if one is coming. He wants Lankawe to continuously sunk the way it happened from 2005 to 2015. He is right; just because you want to oppose the 20A, you should not collaborate with brainwashes like Thero. US, India, and China are getting new Ambassadors. He is recalled from Russia because he is highly unreliable for Royals. But he has to work for Royals to get at least Cuba. So he is taking this position of fooling the Modayas. Nobody has head should be participating with Thero on opposing 20A.

  • 1
    12

    4/21 is a living example of why president’s powers must not be clipped.

    19A clipped the powers of the president and made him answerable to the parliament. Disaster!

    STF, SF, Sri Lanka Marines, LRRP and DPU are answerable to the president only. If the president’s action can be questioned what is there to save those war heroes? They also need complete impunity to fight terrorism. If the president’s action cannot be questioned by anyone (20A), he can bring all those top war heroes under his impunity umbrella.

    Dayan should stop opposing 20A if he is a patriot.

  • 6
    2

    Part 1
    To Great men of Sri Lanka

    Hammering and shaping the future constitution.
    The present constitution shaped / drafted couldn’t last for fifty years. Mainly drafted by lawyers from the legal wisdom of the past on the principals of democracy and related establishments created 260 years back.
    The world, knowledge had exploded which no one had imagined from the time of agricultural society. Now the world had come through agricultural to industrial to electrical to electronic and information Tectronic age and relevance of principles of democracy had failed, not developed to keep phase with the needs of Tectronic age requirements and had already become inadequate to deliver questions of the past and present, says Alwin Toffler – futurologist social thinker who had written number of future trend books on changes.

    Old Yarlppanathan

  • 5
    1

    Part 2
    It is important that present Constitution drafters / framers should / must be aware of future of change to avoid conflicts for progress and harmony.
    Late Dr.Narendran had written an article (Ref archives of col.tel) sometime back on this subject, relevant to future.
    21st centaury change relevant to future democracy and future governance.
    This is a master piece writing thought for the present for all concerned polition, lawyers and people at large.
    Deng zhio ping who had shaped the china, banned this Book power shift of Alwin Toffler and later made an obligatory reading for all interlectuals, politions, party policy makers and people of china to shape the future destiny of china, which made the transformation of China.
    I request everyone to read and understand this great book to shape the future of Sri Lanka.

    Good Luck.
    Old Yarlppanathan

  • 6
    9

    Dr. Dayan Jayatilleka,
    .
    Resisting 20A & The New Constitution :
    The Right Way…
    The Wrong Way…
    And…
    Best way is the “No Way”

  • 10
    5

    There in only one way!
    Bloody Resist it !
    At work places!
    At public places!
    National and International Media!
    Lobbying foreign countries and International Organisations
    Educating the rural Masses Sinhala/Muslim/Tamil/Kalathoni/etc!
    Mass protest!
    Satyagraha!

    All political parties opposing 20A regardless of caste/colour/creed/ region/language/religion should come together and Bloody organise a mass scale resistance via all above avenues!

    • 7
      10

      Are you joking Mr. Rajesh,
      .
      At work places! – We “THE PEOPLE” approved it.
      At public places! – We “THE PEOPLE” approved it.
      National Media! – We “THE PEOPLE” approved it.
      International Media! – Who cares.
      Lobbying foreign countries and International Organisations – Who cares.
      Rural Masses – We “THE PEOPLE” approved it.
      What political parties….. – UNP just got reduced to 3% in the road you are proposing.
      .
      Just look at the results of last 4 elections..

      • 8
        2

        S. C. Pasqual ;Are you joking Mr. Rajesh,
        —————————-
        its the Rajapkases who are joking – the voters like you are the clowns!

  • 11
    3

    The writer, whose credentials are dubious in terms of loyalties and fidelity, sounds like one of those salesmen who flog unnecessary extras. He does not say what he wants to say, until a whole lot of hot air has been expelled beforehand. It does tire the reader, as convincing has to come from the word go..anyway, what to do, huh..

    • 9
      1

      Lasantha Pethiyagoda

      Imagine reading all his typing for the past 40 odd years?
      The secret is no one actually reads these recycled hotchpotch.
      He is a fun figure for most of those who pretend to read his typings as you may have noticed he too pretends to write.

    • 3
      0

      Lasantha…”.he had dinner with so and so or was there with so and so is the thread in all his article”

      if you want to protest the right way turn right
      if you want to protest the wrong way turn left

      but lets protest!

  • 1
    5

    There is no point in resisting it. I thought this path was chosen by the majority in foolish ignorance but when you read about Islamic expansion you understand why the liberal democratic path was spurned by the majority for the extreme right wing Sinhala Buddhist way. I wouldn’t put it past the Rajapakses to have deliberately encouraged Muslim expansion, knowing what the result would be. http://www.sundaytimes.lk/190505/news/unravelling-growing-arabisation-348076.html
    Why didn’t Ranil and Sirisena do something about this?

  • 2
    5

    When did Tamils agree to a SL constitution? Never.

    • 6
      1

      GATAM,
      Have you not heard of the Soulbury Constitution. If you would have, you wouldn’t have answered your own question, so ignorantly, with a ‘Never’.

      • 1
        2

        Nathan,

        I expected that!!

        So you fully agree with the laws legally passed under the Soulbury Constitution.

        1. Citizenship Act 1948
        2. Sinhala Only Act 1956
        3. Prevention of Social Disabilities Act 1957
        4. Sinhala public service act 1961

        Great!

        • 1
          0

          Thank you Nut han for supporting,

          1. Citizenship Act 1948
          2. Sinhala Only Act 1956
          3. Prevention of Social Disabilities Act 1957
          4. Sinhala public service act 1961

          that were duly passed under Soulbury Constitution, the only constitution Tamils ever supported.

      • 2
        1

        Yes Nathan,

        Do you know how the voting for the Soulbury Constitution went in the state Council?

        50 for and 3 against. Thus the then state council voted overwhelmingly for the Soulbury Constitution

        Among the03 voted against were Dr W.Dahanaike and 02 members from the Indian Community.

        G.G .Ponnambalam was away in London canvassing against Soulbury Constitution.

        None from the North East voted against the Constitution. some abstained.

        Dr N.M.Perera and Philip Gunswardene were absent, either in prison or out of the Island.

        It is a false assertion to claim that Northern and Eastern Tamils had never voted for Unitary Constitution

    • 7
      3

      GATAM

      “When did Tamils agree to a SL constitution? Never.”

      When did the rulers seek consent from PEOPLE for any of the constitution in referendum? NEVER.

      Aren’t you a stupid Tamil asking all sorts of stupid questions?
      Are you a secret admirer of VP, Pottu Amman, Karuna, ………………. ?

      • 1
        2

        The rulers are/were elected by the people.

        Called representative democracy for your information.

        Aliens didn’t make constitutions. People’s voted representatives did!!

        • 1
          1

          GATAM

          “The rulers are/were elected by the people.”

          A Cunning answer.
          Stupid man once the constitution has been drafted people were not asked to study and approve it in a referendum, that would have been the only time people individually could have expressed their general will. I know this is too much for you.
          At the time of drafting and passing the 1978 constitution there were less than 160 elected representative. 160 Dumb corrupted asses should have been allowed to vote on behalf of 15 Millions.

          When people voted and elected those 160 dumb asses there was no draft constitution in 1977. People would not have known what was in store.

          Please stop being irritating dumbass or clever dick.

          • 0
            0

            NV,

            So you lost the argument (when you start calling others your names).

            The leaders who passed constitutions were elected by the people. Too bad your choice was always defeated!

      • 1
        4

        Like you.

        Soma

        • 1
          0

          somass

          How are you?
          What are you trying to say?

          There is already a shortage for many things in this island, I didn’t know people are being restricted to use words. Like beef and egg we must find foreign sources who can supply us with words.

  • 7
    3

    Sarath the Veerakuddy Rear Admirable is saying Northerners have no pride or civilization because their great great Grandma didn’t sleep with lion like his one. Even Bald Eagle switch to Veda ID thinking Veda are more better to claim as forefathers than claiming that they are wild lion’s Veerakuddies. Every year the whole world see the War Criminal’s civilization in front of UNHRC building in Geneva. He needs not to drum it.

    • 4
      6

      Mallaiyuran,
      Did Northerners great great Grandmas slept with Tigers to produce Liberation Tigers of Tamil Elam?
      —-
      Sarath the Veerakuddy Rear Admirable is saying Northerners have no pride or civilization
      because their great great Grandma didn’t sleep with lion like his one.

      • 5
        1

        Are telling your great great Grand mother spelt with Vultures? Is that you named your self as Bald Eagle?
        Tigers got that name because Cholas’ Army carried tiger flag. Cholas never said they spelt with vultures or Lions.
        (Talk something meaningful)

        • 0
          4

          Mallaiyuran,
          “(Talk something meaningful)”

          This is something the descendants of Dravida slaves brought by Portuguese should do instead of unloading all sorts of fabricated stories ridiculing history of Sinhalayo, Sinhala Buddhist culture and heritage, Sinhala heroes Mahinda Rajapakshe and Gotabhaya Rajapakshe who eliminated LTTE terrorist barbarians, Buddhist monks and Sri Lanka Armed Forces.

        • 1
          3

          No one said anyone slept with a lion. The lion story is introduced as a North Indian myth in Mahawamsa. It clearly calls the lion story a myth. Just like the Ravana myth. Just like gods look like aliens. Not real. Myths. Just stories. You have mixed up myth and fact.

          Sinhala has nothing to do with a lion. Sinhala means “siw” + “hela” (all parts of the Hela island). Lion symbol is used by many countries including SL. Even India’s state symbol is 3 lions.

          Cholas were a South Indian group, not SL. That makes Tamil Tigers South Indians, not Sri Lankan. Chola and LTTE symbol was only a chopped head of a tiger. No body. Just a chopped off head only. Please check.

          • 4
            0

            GATAM, not only lion story, but also claim of Aryan prince landing in the island, Buddha making three flying visits are all myths. Then why Mahavamsa is being taught in schools when it is full of falsehoods and distortions. Rewrite the history taking into account geological, archaeological and genetic findings. There was no “Hela” but “Elu” as there was no H in ancient Dravidian languages to which Elu belongs. It was made to Hela by Sanskrit influence. You are saying Sivhela means all parts of the island, while others say Sivhela means four divisions of Hela occupied by Nagas, Yakkas, Rakshasas and Veddhas. Again all these are myths. Scientifically it has come to light that only two ethnic groups lived in the island on pre-historic times viz, Veddhas to east, south and central hills and Dravidians to North and west. All these so called Sivhela people were Dravidians demonstrated by genetic findings of Sinhalese. Recent discoveries in India has proved that it was the same people who lived in both Indus valley and Vaikai valley and that Aryan theory is a myth with only 11% of north Indians having Aryan gene. It is time Sinhalese come out of their racist mindset and accept the truth.

      • 1
        2

        Good one!

        May be ameba.

  • 0
    2

    My attention is drawn to two areas in this article. The first, “Yahapalanaya sank the UNP and almost sank the SLFP. Any attempt to uncritically celebrate 2015 and 19A will only doom the resistance to 20A.”. How true. It is perceived by many that 19A and RTI act etc. were only an icing that covered a lot of mud. The sum and substance of Yahapalanaya (A noble concept now reduced as a brand name) is to rob banks and not to govern resulting in 04/21 disasters. The second “The New Opposition and its leader, the son of President Premadasa, are uniquely equipped to do so”. Is it? What if the Father’s son got elected as President? He too would consolidate his position and will not tolerate any opposition. As I have said repeatedly both NGR and SRP have something in common, namely, the pronouncement “I know what is best. Now shut up and carry out my instructions”.

  • 2
    0

    After the 20 amendment take place the new constitution takes place is it the final Achieving the milestone required. That means the to extend those loans or even write them off, that the coutries has or some contries has had a track record of taking over assets when countries indebted to it go under.

  • 2
    1

    Dr.K.Krishnananthasivam,

    Thanks for reminding about Alwin Toffler .and his trilogy.

    He as a futurologist had made valid predictions.

    Agriculture- Industrial- electronic to Tectonic age.

    We are still in the feudal age.

    Our constitutions continued to be prepared by our Politicians and our Lawyers.

    Let them come after our constitutions are formulated and passed.

    They have no business in drafting a constitution.

    Let them continue to do research till the world ends as to who came first to Sri Lanka.

    The Sinhalese? The Tamils? The Muslims? Or The Vedas?

  • 0
    2

    Tamils never supported any of the 4 constitutions SL had. But it did not matter. The fifth constitution will be the same. Not everyone can be a decision maker.

    (Pretty soon after 1947 Tamilians complained to Lord Soulbery that the Soulbury constitution buried the soul of Tamilians!!)

    • 2
      0

      GATAM

      “Tamils never supported any of the 4 constitutions SL had.”

      Where is the fourth one?

  • 1
    2

    I normally do not waste time reading these articles. However, it is only too logical to do away with the Parliament altogether. The taxpayer would save bundles and bundles if only one individual has his or her pair of hands in the Public Purse instead of 225 pairs of hands.

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