19 September, 2018

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Sobitha Hamuduruvo: A Voice Of Sanity

By Kumar David

Prof Kumar David

The Constitutional Reform Proposals (CRP) published under Hamudurovo’s leadership by a group close to him (National Movement for Social Justice, NMSJ) is the most important such intervention in Lanka’s political space since the scuttled year-2000 Draft Constitution. “At last a voice of sanity” is the way it has been greeted. This is not surprising; I think Jayampathy Wickremaratne chaired the drafting committee, while he and Neelan Thiruchelvam wrote the year-2000 Draft, though GL, as is his style, tried to take the credit. Nevertheless, it should be noted, with some regret, that CRP envisages constitutional reform, not for a new constitution ab initio. This draft, after discussion and amendment, can evolve into the all-party, all-community, multi-class manifesto of a “Rainbow Coalition”, to borrow H.L. Seneviretne’s term. Communities (say Tamils), parties (say the JVP), or organisations (civil society and religious) with reservations about blanket endorsement, or unwilling to enter formal electoral alliances, can use it as a template, amend sections, and insert it in their manifestos while retaining the framework. The Tamils can endorse the generic draft, but propose amendments such as devolution, thus retaining their position in the democratic struggle, while keeping up pressure on issues important to their community. CRP is related to, but not the same as the Single Issue (SI) proposal to abolish the Executive Presidency (EP) that I mooted last year. My proposal, took as its point of departure, the argument: Put together the widest possible alliance on a minimum programme, viz: “A single presidential candidate, on an abolish-EP and restore a parliamentary system, platform. Then a constitutional assembly to write a new constitution; thereafter the SI President will step down”. CRP is not inimical to my proposal; it lays down guidelines, to be endorsed by the electorate, as instructions to the envisaged constitutional assembly. No problem I say, except that SI is an indispensable first step to getting there. No new constitution is possible till the Rajapakses are turfed out. Secondly, the more detail you lay down now, the greater the prospect of someone disagreeing on some triviality and dropping out. This may be why CRP is silent on devolution. Was there no consensus among drafters, or was it tactical? Either, points to the quandary I refer to. The devil is in the detailsWho the SI candidate should be remains unresolved. Ranil is hopeless, but more seriously, he has never committed himself to abolishing EP and his relationship to Mahinda is suspect. Chandrika, with a full opposition behind her, is a potential winner, but cannot be trusted. She lied barefacedly, twice, about abolishing EP. Hence Sobitha remains the trustable and winning candidate of choice. Furthermore, he has the political credentials and religious prestige to persuade Sinhala-Buddhists to accept devolution and fair treatment of the minorities. You may deem my fear of divisiveness in Lanka’s political culture excessive; but experience is on my side. Doing the work of the future constitutional assembly, nagging and niggling over irksome details, prior to cementing a unified opposition, is a sure-fire way of clouding-out the Rainbow. Let me quote an e-mail I received, in response to my invitation, from a sharp minded person of sombre judgement. The issues are important, but excessive debate on such details is premature.

 “(1) In my view the substance and spirit of the Soulbury constitution should be the basis of any new constitution (secularism plus, protection for minorities). (2) I am opposed to the mix of the FPP and PR systems. My preference is for a 100% FPP system. The argument against FPP was that it leads to destabilization of policy. If policies are good, the people will re-elect the government, so there is no room for undue destabilization. Combined with elections every FOUR years (not 6 or even 5), FPP will be a good bulwark against corruption, entrenchment and the arrogance of power. I think FPP, combined with the abolition of the EP, will help the structural dismantlement of the present despicable political culture. (3) I think cabinet size should be 15 maximum and not 25 as the Sobitha proposals state.”

Yes, the Soulbury Constitution is superior to the 1972 Republican Constitution on secularism and minority protection, and a discussion of the advantages and disadvantages of FPP versus a PR or a mixed system is most relevant. But I am terrified that Lankan politicos, the opposition included, are of sparse cranial capacity and will wrestle to death over such issues instead of expressing a view, and then leaving it to future public consultation. The same goes for the ceiling on cabinet size; given a choice I too would opt for Ali Baba and 15, instead of 25 thieves. My correspondent, in expressing these views, is too bright to push them to the point of divisiveness. But this may not be the same with everybody. The ageing Vickremabahu Karunaratne has advanced to senility or his attachment to Ranil has matured into an addiction. He has circulated a statement decrying CRP for remaining silent on devolution; this criticism I heartily endorse. Then this one time Vama Samasamajist rants on to condemn it for the: “(F)raudulent ultra-left demand to do away with the Executive Presidency”. Phew! Ranil imagines that one day he will occupy the throne; so, as the scriptures say, John the Baptist has arrived before Him to prepare the way. The need of the hour is to focus every sinew on the primary task of abolishing the Executive Presidency, which is the pedestal of autocracy and the Corporatist State venture. In passant, of course the Rajapakses will have to be ejected. An outline replacement constitution will facilitate the journey, but let us not bicker over details or be distracted from our objective. To modify Samuel Johnson a little: “There must be progress in every debate; the mind opened by degrees; one truth lead to another; error disentangled; and hints improved to conclusions”. Taking the SI challenge forward, and perfecting Hamuduruvo’s CRP document, must proceed in like manner. The missing elephantThere is a huge hole at the heart of CRP. Not a word about devolution! What does the document say about the national question? It declares that both Tamil and Sinhalese should be declared official languages, and English a “link” language. This misconstrues the role of English; primarily it is a window into modernity and the wider world, more than a link – vide modern India. But in keeping with my principle of not quibbling over details, I only mention this and pass on. What does the document say about state power and the minorities? Precious little, and a reflexive tilt towards assuaging Sinhala-Buddhist paranoia is evident. I quote:

“The peoples of Sri Lanka who together constitute the People of Sri Lanka have the right to develop their own language, protect their own religion, to develop and promote their culture, to preserve their history and the right to their due share of State power including the right to due representation in institutions of government, without in any way weakening the common Sri Lankan identity. This shall not in any way be construed as authorizing or encouraging any action which would dismember or impair, totally or in part, the territorial integrity or political unity of the Republic”.

The first phrase up to “. . . institutions of government”, is fine but plain vanilla; you will find it in any decent constitution. Then the paragraph doubles over, repeating phraseology which is only a shade short of explicitly endorsing a unitary state. The double avowal first says “. . . without weakening the common Sri Lankan identity”, and then follows up with a pronouncedly aggressive repetition (“This shall not . . . the Republic”), obviously inserted to reassure the Sinhalese reader that there is not a whiff of the Tiger among the drafters. It would have been entirely different if this sturdy reassurance had been tied to a clear and explicit declaration of devolution of power to minorities. Sans devolution, and sans specific references to the concerns of Muslims, Upcountry Tamils and religious minorities, this section deserves censure for pandering to narrow Sinhala-Buddhist sentiments. The emotional underpinning of the paragraph is hostile to devolution and unsympathetic to the minorities. It would be good to know how many Tamils and Muslims were among the drafters, and how authentic they were as representatives of their communities. However, there is also a separate NMSJ document which is broader based and includes a call for implementation of LLRC recommendations, which recommendations imply a degree of devolution. Hence there still is scope for discussion and amendment. Let us give the benefit of the doubt to the drafters when they say this is only a first draft. I plead that I have not violated my principle of not quibbling about details in raising the devolution issue aggressively. In the context of past ethnic and present anti-Muslim tensions, this is not a detail; it is a serious defect in Hamuduruvo’s CRP document. As Sam Johnson says, let us put it right through discourse and development.

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Latest comments

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    Sinhala home guards– comparable to LTTE
    Sinhala Army- criminals —100% Sinhalese
    Changing the demography of Tamils in their Home land- Unitary state of Srilanka— Then the Tamils become minority in Srilanka. (Did not consider their existence as a separate nation, language, culture)
    changing the name of Tamil villages in to Sinhala villages
    in the name of development, destroy the territorial boundry of Tamils home land
    Tamils are displaced while expanding the High security zone and colonising the criminals from south
    Buddha appearing overnight from the ground in Tamil areas
    Freedom of speech —Irrelevant
    Criminal commanders as governors in Tamil area
    Still mass grave areas as out of bounds to Tamils but tourist place for Sinhalese from south

    Having crushed the LTTE, set up the LLRC- diversionary tactics and buying time to complete the mission

    Another delaying tactics- Constitutional reform

    I do not agree with the unitary state. However any Tamils do have any optimistic view, it would be waste of time

    Any Tamil! just ask yourself. There will never be justice as long as 100% sinhalese in th arm forces and Sinhalese criminal carry AK47 in the name of homeguards

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      Sinhala Friend, first accept the reality. Sinhalese are the Majority in Sri Lanka. This country will never be allowed to split by race or religion. So a separate state by race or religion will never be a reality. Now what is the problem that Tamils have in this country. Do they have the same access to Education as Majority does? Can they buy a land or rent a property in any part of the country if an individual decides to do so? Can they contest to be a member of a pradehiya saba / town council / Provincial council / parliament? Can they do a legitimate business in any part of the country if an individual decides to do so? Do they have any restriction doing business and living in the commercial capital of this country? As I have seen and experienced except contesting for presidency a Tamil has the same right as the Majority. Now what’s the demand that they make. “Need to determine their own way of doing things (own affairs) than been ruled by majority” Well if you have a majority in any pradeshiya saba / town council or any other, then you can. But obviously it should be in line with the constitution of the Country and the law of the Country. (Now don’t argue with me whether such law prevails here & if it doesn’t then it’s same for me as well as for you; it’s not been determined by race or religion but based on political clout that one has. Hakeems and Thondamans are more powerful than Dingiri Banda’s today. So it is obvious it’s not race or religion but one’s political alliance.). So this self determination is a more an egoistic requirement than an answer to a real problem, a problem that really doesn’t exist.
      I am too for equal rights of all Sri Lankans without considering there race, religion or cast or any such divisions. The question that lingers in my mind is are all Sinhalese enjoy equal rights? Are every Tamil treats other Tamils equal? Are every other race treats the men, women & children of the same race equal? If not how do we ask any men, women and children of another race to treat men, women and children of our race equal? Don’t you think it should be started within the same race first?

      In my concluding note what I have to tell you is that me being belonging to the majority has the same legitimate issues that you face being minority. Unfortunately I can not get the sympathy of rest of the world for my problems as I belongs to the Majority and I can not call my problems racist issues.

      Hope you will accept the reality one day! I mean everyone who thinks in lines of race, religion, cast etc. ….

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      Thanks Prof. Kumar David for this analysis which points out in a constructive manner the lacuna in an otherwise excellent road map to turn around the political rot in the country. Three points:
      1) Perhaps these reforms at the CENTER which is the problem in the first instance, may meet and vitiate SOME of the rational for devolution of power to the PERIPHERIES? Because currently devolution has not worked because of a corrupt and greedy CENTRE.
      2) As a Buddhist my sense is that monks should stay out of politics and Sobitha Thero should be the moral leaders of the Rainbow Coalition, but that a young and clean leader should be found.
      3) Kumar Sangakkara would be the ideal candidate to win the next presidential elections and I am totally serious. Just take a look at his Lords Speech, he is a household name, and does not have blood on his hands like Ranils and the rest who are lining up to be a Presidential Candiadate. Sri Lanka has been ruined by the current generation of politicians and with Sobitha to Guide him Sanga, who is a household name in Lanka would be excellent for the job. Time to recognize youth and talent – after all Barak Obama was 45 when he became President of a Super power and David Camron was not yet 40 when he became PM of Britain.
      Please think creatively and out of the box!

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        Well said Don!
        Sanga is the way to go – guy has brains and talent and a good grasp of what is wrong and how to fix it with Integrity and ethics. Also qualified in law
        Time to hand over and let the younger generation take over, BUT we do NOT want any of the brain dead “younger” politicians like Sajith Premadasa who is also a bloody useless abuser of Buddhism too for political ends.
        Younger generation technocrats and talents with no track record in dirty politics should be given the chance to govern Lanka because the current generation of politicians and NGO karayas have ruined the country.

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          Indeed, rule of geriatrics like dead leftists and nepotism like the Rajapassa dictatorship must end… time for younger generation with clean hands and talent which there is but is not GIVEN THE SPACE by the geriatrics to lead..

          Geriatrics can ONLY give advice but cannot hog posts as they love to do and that includes wanna-has been geriatric Ranil Wickramasinghe – UNP dictator.

          We need, and ONLY young leaders can BE THE CHANGE that Lanka desperately needs. The current generation of politicians and their sons, nephews and stooges need to be flushed down the toilet..

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        Don Stanley,
        At least evangelist Premadasa and gal RanilW knows the games and arts of politics and Sobitha know how to oppose anything and everything; what does Sanga know?

        You seemed to think moving a nation and get things done with MPs elected through a one man one vote parliamentary system is as easy as winning a cricket match with eleven players or getting three cheers at the end of a speech from a bunch of descendents of those that trampled and robbed credulous nations the world over. Good luck to you, keep dreaming.
        Leela

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          A real leader is a team leader and knows that leadership is all about devolving and sharing responsibility, tasks and decision making with EDUCATED relevant subject EXPERTS who are educated, qualified and technically competent. Rajapassa is non of the above – a crude and cunning clown who appeals to the baser instincts of the SInhalaya modaya.

          Sanga is all of the above, a classy cricketer, as well as, has clean hands (ethics and principles) a talented and intelligent team leader who is able to share power and gain the respect of colleagues and the general public. Hope Sobitha Hamuduruwa chooses and grooms and guides him to be Lanka’s next President – to abolish the current military dictatorship.

          The uneducated rajapassa brothers have NO technical competence and at totally insecure and have hence concentrated power in their hands – hence the current national debt crisis and the Hambantota environenatal disaster of white elephant infrastructure.

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            Right on!
            Kumar for Prez. Please prof. Kumar write a piece on why Sanga must be put on notice that he must prepare to serve and lead team Lanka in a different capacity before it is too late to save the country from the corrupt criminal military dictator and his family and cronies…

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            Have you guys heard of something called political acumen? MR has proved he has got a plenty of it. And that’s how he commands 2/3rd majority in parliament without undated letters of resignation letters like JRJ had. Chandrika couldn’t. So, before changing the constitution, tell us, who in your club has political acumen to keep your flock together even for few months.
            Leela

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              Leela, Babe, the name of the Rajapassa game is CORRUPTION, CORRUPTION, CORRUPTION – buying votes sans ethics or principles. PERIOD.
              Political acumen – MY ASS!! Get real!

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              Do you think Bush and Blair had any ethics or principles when they invented WMD story to invade Iraq? Mark my word; whether pseudo intellectual and English smattering Colombans like it or not, Rajapakse is set for another term.
              Leela

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    Ventriloquist Weliyamunne has done a terrific job to convince the anti Govt and pro Diasporians,that his model is the best since sliced bread.

    Here we hear that Ranil is out,Chandrika can’t be trusted.No mention of SF or ex CJ.

    Perhaps court cases confuse the electorate.

    Still, what would be the catchcry the chosen one going to use at rallies?.

    “Elect me to Abdicate”.

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      “Find your boss, Gota to elect
      as NEXT MORON PRESIDENTE” ???????????.

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    Perhaps as a first step the main impediment to the sovereignity of the people and devolution of power, the executive presidency, has to be removed. Thereafter it will be possible to work out the details.

    The reduction of ministers to 25 and appointment minorities to the post of vice president would be a welcome move.

    The unleashing of democratic freedom will lead to a wider discourse within society leading to constitutional reform. Having gone through a full circle of constitutional doubledealing it should be possible to learn from our past mistakes, ommissions and commissions.

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    CRP of NMSJ is a timely initiative. However, it is trying to recapture a long lost past, because the drafters were overtly in favour of the Westminster model, with which they are more familiar and have romantic attachment. It is probably based on a misplaced sense of nostalgia for an era that was better than the present. They have failed to recognise that the Westminister system set the tone for what subsequently evolved. We as a people were incapable of understanding the spirit behind the Westminster model.

    The EP system we have operative now was designed to become what it has. This does not necessarily mean that a better EP system cannot be designed. I personally prefer the American model adapted to our needs. It suits a multi-community nation such as ours. The US constitution has over time permitted the evolution of a multi-hued, equalising and progressive country.

    I am surprised the NMSJ proposals have not become the focus for a wide ranging national debate. The political parties, whether in government or in opposition , are unlikely to take the lead, as they would like to wield power under the present pernicious disposition. The civic society organisations have also been sadly indifferent. Ven. Sobitha Thera should mobilise support for the process he has initiated and set up a civic society group/ Commission to receive opinions and recommendations from a cross section of people in this country. They should also study various models available around the word and our national psyche which favours a elected king or queen of sorts. This group should formulate constitutional proposals in greater detail for presentation to the public. Ven. Sobitha should canvass for these new constitutional proposals at the next presidential elections and the time leading upto it. He should stand as a candidate for the presidency on the understanding that he will hold the position for a fixed period, during which the new constitution would be adopted. if the present parliament does not co-operate, the parliament should be dismissed and new elections held within months of the presidential elections. Once the new constution is adopted fresh elections should be held for the presidency.

    The movement for constitutional reform may not succeed in the first attempt, however it will force the incumbent president to propose an alternative. This in itself will be a major achievement. The focus of the next presidential election will change towards a subtantive issue instead of the usual fantasy-making. The additional bonus would be the birth of a new political formation of idealistic and able persons, to replace the UNP.

    Dr.Rajasingham Narendran

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    This writer forms part of the group who are responsible for creating this monstrous regime. Now they are hell bent in causing further damage in proposing Angels for replacement, while the known devil RW has cleansed the Party UNP of the undesirables leaving out the corrupt, murderous and the violent, thus instilling discipline, to put the house in order first before he puts the Country right. These Devil’s advocates should be avoided and their suggestions ignored if this country is to establish Law and Order with discipline, for the economic emancipation for the masses.

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      How has known DEVIL RW cleansed the party ?

      By being dead silent, leaving marauders to continue further ?

      I really dont know why you have to defend him further ? Your beloved college mate is not an able candidate to drive away the rascals. This is the reason Sobita thero and others feel the emerge of common cadidate.

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        May be he has cleased it to some level, but the question is, is that enough to defeat the most corrupted regime. Besides, specially in the recent months – RW and the opposition have failed to protect democratic values. So RW is complicit in all the problems that the nation have to struggle with today. In a democracy, opposition should react stronger than OUR opposition leader has been sofar.

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    Whatever the Constitution, if the people who are entrusted with its administration are not “DISCIPLINED” and not “cultured” enough to “serve others, but oneself”, nothing will work for the good of the people or the country. Over the years we have seen, experienced and suffered immensely. WHY? All the Presidents we had, excepting perhaps Late Mr. Wijetunga, and to the present day, what have we seen and experienced is nothing but “INDICIPLINE” and “EGO CENTRIC UNCULTURED SELF EPOWERMENT” by the holders of this position granted to them by the people. So what is the use of all the DHAMMA (meaning Constitutional Privsions etc.) if the people are not bent on correcting themselves and disciplined? Nothing will work.

    Yet, this does not mean to give up. The greatest task would be to line up a “TEAM” of people who are capable and disciplined to hold responsibilities of “GOVERNING THE AFFAIRS OF THE GOVERNMMENT” of the people and for the people.

    Ven; Maduluwawe Sobith Thero: Please have the above principle in mind and go about your business. You know better than me the advice of Lord Buddaha” ASEWANACHA BALANAG, PANDITHANANCHA SEVANA”. You know the meaning of “BALANAG” and “PANDITHANANCHA”. So please sort out the “BALAYA” and “PANDITHAYA” in your future endeavours. Good luck.

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      Douglas;

      All these governing BAALAYOs have become PANDITHAYOS, KILLERS,and LOOTERS.

      There is no voice for pandithayos and do not care about PANDITHAYOS.

      so the What to expect from those governing, self styled PANDITHA clan.

      It is better to adhere to ASEVANAACHA BAALAANANG.

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    Shobitha Thero’s group proposal has a flaw. They have not proposed to remove the special status afforded to Buddhism in the constitution and provide equal status to all present and future religions. This is a very important requirement for peace to prevail in the country. Until and unless we have all the other proposals will have no standing. Having said this, I also know that this would be the most difficult amendment to the constitution. But Shobitha Thero has the leadership skills to pull it through. 100% of sri Lankans need not accept it but a majority acceptance such as 2/3 of the population accepting this amendment can amend the constitution. Same goes to the three languages, Sinhala, Tamil and English.

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    Don Stanley, Dude – great original thinking. Sanga as Prez and Murali for pm – a dream ticket but alas…dream on. Unless the stables are cleaned out, top to bottom, it won’t work. Can you you imagine them having to deal with the likes of Mervyn, Maithripala S, and their siblings et al? The goon squads will make mincemeat of them. (It has been tried; ask Imran Khan what the odds are.)The simple fact is that MR and his family have earned the undying, eternal gratitude of the sinhala masses for having freed the country from the pestilential terrorism that was unleashed on one and all by the inevitable futile and misguided search for a tamil utopia. The goodwill amassed by the Rajapaksa dynasty will be good for another seven generations. Much remains to be done; Sinhala must be the lingua franca and much (outstanding) investment must go into its development. Much more investment too needs to go into sustaining a world class higher education system and the nonsense of ‘activism’/disruption that has plagued our universities must be stopped, once and for all. Sri Lankans must dream and work in Sinhala to make their dreams come true. All this confusion and dilution must cease. Tamil and English can be add-ons for specific purposes: import-export, foreign affairs, tourism industry etc. The nonsense where business, shop and other name boards are in mainly overpowering English must cease. Clergy (of all types must be firmly told to stick to their places of worship, and concentrate on ministering to their flocks.) Gotabhaya has embarked on an excellent plan to develop the capital and other areas; these must be seen to fruition. The future for Sri Lanka is rosy. Those who don’t like what is happening, and are unwilling to be supportive, are always welcome to emigrate. Sri Lanka has no time to waste with knockers.
    There is simply no need for this eternal messing with our constitution.

    Ps: Sanga and Murali will always find work on expanding world of cricket – once they have finally, finally, retired.

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    “President Reverend Sobitha” has a nice ring to it!

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      MNZ,
      Archbishop Makorias was president of Cyprus for a long time! While I would accept Ven. Sobitha Thera as an interim president for a short time, I also fear it will set a bad precedent. However, the risk has to be taken in view of our current circumstances. He appears to be an honourable man. Hope he will not let us down, as many have.

      Dr.Rajasingham Narendran

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        My predictions have never gone astray; this whole thing is a non starter.
        Leela

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    What a contrast suddenly Kumar David to sound like this. He has forgotten this same Hamuduruwo was very much alive and a firebrand during the time of JRJ. He nor Kumar never took any action to stop that constitution. Kumar Ponnambalam and Neelan Thiruchelvam were prominent leaders in that cabinet. However, when same powers falls on Premadasa or Rajapaksa it becomes bad. Is it some class distiniction that some people who thinks intellectuals does not want others to share any power. Listen to Mrs. Sarojini Naguleswaran who had an interview with ITN on the 18th. What she says is truth which most of the so called current Tamil leaders cannot digest.

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