By Kumar David –
There is not a soul in the country who does not see that a new constitution will not be enacted by parliament in its current term (max August 2020) and the JVP’s Twentieth Amendment repealing the semi-Executive Presidency will get nowhere unless Mahinda wants it. Neither can carry without a deal between the UNP and Mahinda as the latter can without difficulty pull together the minimum 76 parliamentary votes needed to block them. Who doesn’t know this? Ranil knows it and has said so, the UNP, TNA and JVP know it, so do the SLPP (plus or minus the SLFP), the Buddhist prelates and the racists outfits, and to folks like you and me it’s plain obvious.
Why then is everybody getting hot under the collar about a non-issue? The JVP tables 20A though it knows it has no chance, Ranil with pomp and ceremony tables a Steering Committee Report, a sort of draft constitution at the Constituent Assembly and the few members present struggle to keep awake. MR thunders that he will not allow the country to be divided by evil “separatists” hand in glove with UNP traitors though he knows he is thumping an empty drum. Who wants to divide the country except the phantom he is conjuring up for sale on election platforms? It’s all shadow boxing where everybody is punching someone and no two contestants punch in symmetry. To make sense you need to see that everybody is playing a different tune, dancing before a different audience and nobody, but a few deadly serious liberals give a hoot about the draft. For a good overview of the discussion in the Sinhala press see Verite Research, ‘The Media Analysis’, January 7-13, 2019.
Mahinda and his brigades are fanning plain-vanilla Sinhala chauvinism, as are innumerable chauvinist, Buddhistic and Gota-backing outfits. Acquaintances who know Mahinda well say, like SWRD and unlike JR, he is not a racist personally, but for power people sell their mothers. Says MR ‘The TNA and Ranil are in cahoots to divide Mother Lanka; the war victory which I delivered and for which so much precious Sinhala blood was spilt is being subverted by separatists, imperialists and their UNP agents. Never, never (lights, action, camera, beating of chest) will I Mahinda Rajapaksa permit it? Trust me, vote the way I tell you’. It’s as transparent as that.
And why is Ranil going through these weary motions on behalf of a constitution that will not be? First, he has to fulfil or appear to fulfil an election pledge; second, he has to show the Tamils (and the TNA) that he wishes to grant a degree of devolution in exchange for the support the community and TNA threw behind him; third, a UNP candidate will be the frontrunner for Tamil votes in a presidential election or runoff. However, at the same time to soothe agitated or incited Buddhists he wears himself thin affirming, reaffirming and tri-affirming the foremost place of Buddhism in this pristine land. He bums every mahanayake he sets eyes on. Such are the travails of political leaders in this land of deep religious devoutness and profound tolerance.
The TNA is caught by the short and curlies. For ever so long it promised the Tamils that constitutional progress was around the corner; but Sinhala polity led the FP/TULF/TNA round and round never-ending corners. The Tamils have remained rooted in exactly the same spot since 13A. The TNA helped defeat Sirisena’s screwball mischief and the Mahinda-Sirisena plot, but after so doing it has to protect its flank against wacky Tamil ultras Wigneswaran and Gajendran. Hence it lets the Tamils imagine that in return for favours done substantial goodies may be thrown their way. But many Tamils see that given Sinhala-Buddhist hegemony this is a daydream for now. The TNA has to welcome the promised constitution but Tamils who envision substantive goodies are fantasising about a land where no racism roams, no Rajapaksa soars and no Weerawansa, Vasudeva or Gamanpila roars “beware the Jabberwock, my son; the jaws that bite, the claws that catch!” The hegemony of extremist ideology is not unique to Lanka; Hindutva in India, Burman Rohingya hatred, white supremacists, Israeli contempt for Palestinians and dozens more fit the mould.
The other two sizable political entities are the JVP and the Muslim parties. The former has to feint as revolutionary champion of the battle against the executive presidency. The Muslims don’t really care too much and are split, mostly for the UNP, a few for MR. I am entirely in support of the JVP’s 20A proposal but I also know it is symbolic. So, you see how teams are fanning out all around the sports field, each playing a different game, all talk through each other and the cacophony is amusing if you could venture a smile in bedlam.
Mergers, rumours and chambers
The TNA and nearly all Tamils know that a merger of the North and East will not happen unless you frog march the East (about 60% non-Tamil) into a forced marriage. Frankly I doubt if even Batticaloa Tamils desire matrimony with the North sans a contiguous border. What for, what’s in it for them not only materially but even culturally and emotionally? Merger is a hot topic in Sinhala dissertations and among chauvinist rabble rousers; it is rarely mentioned in Tamil social circles.
There are three other substantive constitutional issues on the table; the Second Chamber, the choice of representative system and the choice between a ceremonial and a current-style president. Let me dispose of the last matter first. As things stand it depends on what Mahinda Rajapaksa wants. If he prefers to retain the present arrangement, he will block 20A and a new constitution for the term of this parliament – QED number 1. Right and wrong to one side, this is plain vanilla. He will opt for the current semi-executive presidency if he hopes one day to have term-limits lifted, or if he has deep trust and strong preference for a candidate from his camp. There is no way he will endorse executive power in the hands of a pluperfect idiot – he has been asinine enough to get himself burnt twice. Since I think MR will block 20A or a new constitution it follows the current-style presidency will stay. In that case Sirisena has as much chance as an ice-cream cone in a blast furnace of securing SLPP support for another round of aerobics – QED number 2. Mahinda is not such a clot as to stick a knife into himself a third time by entertaining a hare-brained coot who will be a danger to everyone.
Don’t tell me “Sirisena will be gone after one more term, but Gota or Chamal may have two-term ambitions and greedy progeny, and that’s a plus point for MR/Namal”. How Lanka will look and smell in 2025 is hopelessly hard to say now, and Namal is too thick to be a front runner 10 years after his papa crashed out. And don’t tell me MR wants Ranil (or a UNP candidate to win) to circumvent two-term ambitions of his siblings. What about two-term ambitions of Ranil or Karu or Sajith?
Let me in passing make a not carefully thought through remark: It seems Karu is the UNP’s best choice, be it current-style or ceremonial presidency. He has conducted himself with dignity and won a round of applause all round. He will be a strong sell against a Gota now arraigned on several criminal charges, and against pale and flaccid by comparison previous Speaker Chamal. But true the party machine is behind Ranil and UNP youth are enamoured of Sajith; so, let’s see. Mahinda on the other hand faces a genuine dilemma how to even start thinking about choosing a candidate.
The electoral system, proportional, first-past-the post or hybrid is in the air. While there is a year and a half to parliamentary elections and only a UNP with brain-fever will advance it to before the presidential elections, the electoral system has to be sorted out for the long overdue provincial elections. It is tactically advantageous for the UNP to delay provincial polls till after the presidential poll but I don’t know whether it can get away with such a ploy. I am not in the know of the UNP mind but an obvious line of thought is: “If we win the presidential election (the most favourable of the three for the UNP) then we can sail through provincial and parliamentary elections afterwards whatever the electoral system”. Let’s see if that’s the reasoning that eventually prevails with the hierarchy.
The Second Chamber is a complicated issue. The draft tabled by the PM specifies four members elected, from and by, each provincial council plus the chief minister (5×9=45) and 10 persons of eminence and integrity who have distinguished themselves in public or professional life elected by parliament, but not parliamentarians. Hence the Second Chamber will have 55 persons. The powers of the Chamber are not clear, for example when it rejects a bill can parliament override the rejection by a super majority (in the US, the Senate can override a presidential veto with a two-thirds majority). The role of the Senate in making constitutional changes is also unclear at first sight.
The Steering Committee Report tabled by the PM is a good starting point but a lot of work remains to be done. It is detailed and one may even think it too prescriptive. After the Sirisena shenanigans it is natural to want a constitution that ties eccentrics firmly down to earth, but that’s the wrong way to set about it. The right way is to not to put oddballs in office in the first place, not to tie down good presidents inflexibly. But no worry, we have three to five more years to sort all this out.
K.Pillai / January 27, 2019
Kumar David, we have got used to being lulled to sleep by hullabaloos.
Recently we were woken by a coup d’état and we started shadow boxing.
We were told “It is a ‘crisis’. Go back to sleep” and………..we did.
Who has seen this ‘Constitution that won’t be’, you are referring to?
A constitution that never was?
A constitution that never is?
A constitution that never will be?
Sarrij / January 29, 2019
K D is fun to read.
Sl’s are too petty minded accommodating all the nationalities in an unbiased constitution.
Foreign help from mature functioning democracies in the framing is the answer.
S. Palendira / January 27, 2019
You have written the plain truth, Kumar. All politicians of all hues are continuing to ride the merry go round while the ordinary people whether they be Sinhalese, Tamils or Muslims are continuing to suffer. No problem will get solved. But the merry go round will keep revolving!
JD / January 27, 2019
In Sinhala Sri lanka, YEsterday, I was listening to a Tamil UNP saying he learned upto grade three in Sinhala. since then until the University he learned in Tamil and there after in Colombo Univeristy in Tamil. He is an estate Tamil he wants more Tamilization of up country. I say give the Tea estate to People moving to middle east for work. Sinhal is for Sinhala people. It is Minorities who have overpowered Sinhala people. Sri lankan parliament should be repalced with a new lot.
Many games are required because the Ruppee is worth nothing. Country is in a debt trap and take some foreign loans every week. Mangala Samaraweera signed even to a very disasterous loan recently. So, expect more troubles. Some Tamils may win but Hindus will not win.
Sadhu / January 27, 2019
Excellent article. Thanks Professor.
But my workmate says ” your great TNA leader Aladdin and his genie promised to bring their sarva loka nivarani ( panacea) before next Deepavali. So wait till next Deepavali”.
After a short pause he says further ” Deepavali jokes are meant to laugh and forget but you tamil morons always treat it seriously.”
Thanga / January 27, 2019
Two Constitutions have been thrown overboard. The third constitution is struggling to be born. What this shows is the politicians are simply incompetent. This is really what is ailing Sri Lankan politics from the word go. The Soulbury constitution lasted for 24 years, the Srimavo/Colvin constitution lasted for a mere 6 years. In contrast, the 1978 constitution has managed to survive for about 31 years. Thus in a short span of 70 years, Sri Lanka has jettisoned two constitutions
In contrast, the US constitution (1788), Canada (July 01, 1867), Netherlands (March 1814) Norway (May 17, 1814) Belgium (February 1831) Denmark (June 1849) Argentina (May 1853) Luxembourg (October 1868) and Australia (January 1901).
Among countries that gained independence at the same time as Ceylon, Indian Republican constitution was enacted on January 26, 1950, with 61 Amendments. Myanmar January 1948, Pakistan on March 23, 1956.
In terms of constitutional stability, Sri Lanka is a failed state. So what went wrong? The Sri Lankan politicians are a set of imbeciles? I think so.
With over 90 MPs not passed even GCE(O) what do you expect?
Mahinda Rajapaksa who promised to improve 13A + is now saying the draft constitutional proposals will divide the country into 9 federal states. Thus it will weaken the parliament and strengthen the Provincial Councils. Pray what is wrong with that?
Should we not take the government closer to the people? Especially in a country that is multi-ethnic, multilingual, multi-religious and multi-cultural?
In a democratic state, everyone must feel that he is a proud citizen of his/her country.
He/She should be able to salute the national flag and sing the national anthem with pride and passion?
Just look at Singapore, a city-state, with 4 official languages is now a mini-super in South Asia with GDP- per capita (ppp) USD 93,900 (7/228) compared to Sri Lanka USD 12,800 (128/228).
Mallaiyuran / January 27, 2019
Prof. Kumar’s analysis is too simplified for Lankawe political maneuverings like Appa Diplomacy, shooting Kathirgamar after he finishes the job, tearing off Pacts, Constitutional coups go to court in selected manner, political crime impunity, unusual political laws like 13A, 18A and 19A, matching international super powers like China, America, Russia, and India, one against the other…… The outcomes of these cannot be contained in laptop. A million variables interact with one another in chaotic manner. This is for a job for super computer. The nominators ultimately guide the results the way they want, but they neither predict how it would go.
We cannot produce here anything better or worse here. All what we can say is CC predictions went disastrously wrong. Many times it was defended that the minimum, white van are eliminated. But Feb 10 and Oct 26 of 2018 strongly indicated that they are delayed, but not removed. We don’t want to go into that. Neither have we wanted to make predictions relevant Secret Solution. It is in no way any indication that our opinion is Secret Solution will come or not come.
All what we want show here is why the prediction can be notoriously wrong. We all remember, here, numerous articles written about the Slap Party and a candidate from Old Royals for EP. We repeatedly insisted on those that their static prediction has no hold on the final result that could come out. As matter of fact Old Royals did not vote for NCM. But they were the dominant partners in the coup and Donkey Trading.
It took long time to realize that the coup was a joint drama of Ranil, Old King and New King. Nobody was punished though some kind illegal actions were pointed out by SC.
I didn’t read the 187 pages yet. But how it will look at the end and who will vote or not, specially, on the Old’s side is not something to predict.
soma / January 27, 2019
Being close to (a member of?) TNA think tank the good professor can give us the reasons why big heads like Sumathithran is engaged in this shadow business. What is the catch? Only Prabhakaran gave a practical way out for the Hindu/Christian Tamils in the North – there is no other way to win an illogical demand.
Eagle Eye / January 27, 2019
Is there a Demala problem in Sri Lanka? Yes there is a problem created by Demalu to majority Sinhalayo. From time immemorial Sinhalayo have lived in this country with Aadiwasi people. No conflict reported between these two communities.
After Sinhalayo developed this country creating a unique language, culture and tradition Aadiwasi people got assimilated and lived in harmony. The problem started after Dravidians (Sinhalayo called them Demalu) from Hindusthan started invading this country which is called Seehala Nadu (country of Sinhala people) by Tamil historians in Tamil Nadu. According to well documented historical records of people in Seehala Nadu, there have been 17 invasions before 1505. During periods Seehala Nadu had weak rulers Dravidians colonized northern part of the country, brought Dravidians from Hindusthan and settled. Although Dravidian rulers were chased away when a strong Sinhala ruler came to power some of the civilians brought by Dravidian rules were allowed to stay. They were only a tiny minority in the country.
Eagle Eye / January 27, 2019
In 1505 Parangi landed in this country and established their rule in coastal areas. These Parangi brought thousands and thousands of Dravidian slaves from Hindusthan to work in their plantations. Then came Olanda and Ingirisi ‘Awajathayo’ and they too brought Dravidian slaves to work in plantations, dumped them in this country and left. A large majority of Demala people who live in this country are descendants of the slaves brought illegally and dumped in this country by Western colonial parasites.
The problem in this country now is these Demalu who are only about (11%) are trying to distort the history (started by racists Kallathoni Chelvanayakam) and coming out with a fake history to claim one third of the country as their ‘Traditional Homeland’ which is total humbug. The irony is, a small section of these descendants of slaves is now taking a leading role to tell the majority Sinhalayo, how this country country should be governed. In the recent past, the only country where such a situation prevailed was South Africa and that has changed. Unfortunately, this tiny minority is trying to impose a system that destroys the ‘Unitary System’ prevailed in this country. Sinhalayo have a fear that there is a group with vested interests behind these tiny minority of minority Demalu.
JD / January 27, 2019
Verite Research…. Another CPA.
N. Ethirveerasingam / January 27, 2019
Unarmed David has a lot of realistic points for voters to digest. But I doubt whether voters will even look at it. Nevertheless it is A good intellectual discourse. So is the current draft constitution that got much input from a cross section of the people. Or those small percent who wanted to express their thoughts on the subject.
It appears Tamil votes may determine who the next president will be. Tamils with the encouragement of LTTE voted in Mahinda. Tamils with the encouragement of Sumanthiran and TNA voted for Srisena, Ranil and their encouragers. Neither approach worked. Tamils have one more option. Try to engage the Asgiriya and Malwatte prelates. What they Will will come to pass. What they Will may not what Tamils would want.
Alternatively let Mahinda win. And expect the West to pay attention.
soma / January 27, 2019
If you are going to discuss with Mahanayakas be prepared with a proposal document which satisfies political ambitions of 90% of Tamils (all Tamil speaking people irrespective of their religion, caste or the date of arrival). Presently they are of the opinion that no ‘political solution’ exists so long as +50% of them live outside NE and no agreement to relocate them into the envisaged Homeland has been proposed so far. They are simple minded people. They may agree for a separate Homeland OR the right to live anywhere, definitely not both. They will welcome you with open arms if you agree for the latter option.
JD / January 27, 2019
Tribalist socialist living in a Capitalist State, Prof Kumar David: Why There is a ministry of Animal products for the Chauvanist Sinhala Buddhist State. State Languages in the Sinhala buddhist StAte, social progress and Social something else and Hindu Religious ministry are all oneministry run by a Low Caste Estate Tamil. ou shouldhavegot it. You are at least well educated. Another good one. In the Sinhala buddhist Chauvanist State foreigners cheer up only the cheevaradharis who take money from minorities (thatis a safe word, so CT won’t delete it). On the other hand, a bhikku talks about what has happened to the Sinhala buddhist State he is prosecuted and jailed by the very Low ministry of Law and order Referres. NOw, even the your country man Nagananda is silent. what a democracy and how fair it is. bAll in the Sinhala buddhist Cahuvanist estate. I here some LAtin american countries also havethe same including the CKDu. Ranil, Mangala and their cabinet, and some of your enemy politicians are blind and deaf to those. Within the next five years Mangala gives you all you want.
Sadhu / January 27, 2019
Sampanthan Aiya has told to the central committee members of F P when it met in Colombo yesterday that ” the draft constitution has elements of federalism. If powers are in one place then it is unitary. But here powers are going to be decentralised. So it amounts to federalism. Furthermore Central govt cannot take back the powers given to PC. Appropriate word ( federal) is not mentioned there but we should see the substance. We all should see that this constitution comes into force “
It appears that Sampanthan aiya still believes that this constitution ( unitary or federal ) will get 2/3 majority votes in Parliament and succeed in referendum in spite of the opposition from monks in all Nikayas and southern politicians. Can someone closer to him enlighten him on these points, please.
Mallaiyuran / January 27, 2019
That is what I tried to explain. 8th graders vote only what their bosses dictate. These dumb pieces are olden days’ computers, have no brain. Leaders checkup with Malayalee Sabrimalaiyaan and Telugu Thiruppathiyan for their advice before declare elections. They couldn’t hold Hangbangtota or Mahinda Bachan Naked International Airport. Old King who didn’t wanted Joint Comedy Club Leadership, SLFP Leadership, Slap Party Leadership, Opposition Party Leadership and PM Position, but went for coup to grab PM position and swing upward to EP.
Simple thing is Old King, who didn’t wanted to come to parliament during NCM and called & told to Ranil at TTH not to resign, lead the coup in 6 months’ time, negotiating the terms in a appointed MP’s house.
He took up an unwanted Opposition Leadership position and hopefully, soon finds out somebody to spin it off or he pay price for it.
You know why Britain put Goon Brigadier Priyanka Fernando’s name on wanted list and now why it is giving green signal to remove it.(God London Muruga!)
Mrs Udubaddewa / January 27, 2019
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Plato. / January 28, 2019
Prof: You were and I BELIEVE YOU STILL ARE an admirer of Dr:Colvin.R.de.Silva who was the ARCHITECT of the Republican Constitution of 1972. What made him drop Section29 of the Soulbury Constitution, even though the PM-Mrs.B.was agreeable,to its inclusion? The man who THUNDERED[ to use your own term] in 1956 – One language two nations, two languages one nation ended up like how Vasu has ended up! Vasu, I can understand; He always wanted his goblet brimming! But Colvin?
Naman / January 30, 2019
Don’t we need the New Constitution or an amendment to abolish the Presidential Rule in Sri Lanka. We all saw how MR and MS behaved as Presidents.
These people did NOT have country’s interest at heart but only hell bent to create massive wealth to themselves and their stooges. Both the rural and urban voters have to wake.up soon to bring in solutions to the problems faced by Sri Lankan.