4 July, 2022

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What The President Can Do Before He Goes

By Jehan Perera

Jehan Perera

The situation in the country has become so dire that the government has decided that government workers should stay at home for two weeks. Government schools too have been directed to shut down along with government-supported private schools. Only a few of them would have the capacity to conduct online classes as was seen during the Covid lockdowns. In addition to being physically stunted, the way is being paved for a younger generation that is deficient in the growth of their mental and intellectual faculties.

The crisis has become a great leveler. The rich and poor together are in the kilometers long lines for gasoline at the fuel pumping stations. Although those in the urban areas have higher incomes on average than their rural counterparts they are likely to be affected more by the sharp price rises in food. The UN system has issued a call for international humanitarian assistance for Sri Lanka. A country that at the time it attained independence was the second most prosperous in Asia, and said to be the Switzerland of the East, has now become a basket case. It is ironic that what exploitative colonials did not do, our own national leaders have done.

The UNICEF spokesperson for Sri Lanka has said on international media that children in Sri Lanka are the 7th most malnourished among the world’s 195 countries. He said that he had been to countries such as Yemen, Somalia and South Sudan, but Sri Lanka was a country like no other. There is no place within the country that those who were poor and hungry could go to. They could only hope to go abroad, he said, in response to the international media’s question about Sri Lankans migrating to other countries.

The warning signs of the disaster that has struck the country were seen as far back as three years ago. The then governor of the Central Bank, Dr Indrajith Coomaraswamy, warned that Sri Lanka was going to face a foreign currency crisis in the near future. He pointed to the massive loan repayments that had accumulated and would have to be paid soon. He said that the country could take remedial action, such as by going to the IMF, so that the effects of the crisis could be mitigated and with financial discipline the country could come out of it.

Failed President

The well considered words of Dr Coomaraswamy were not heeded by the government and the president appointed another governor who went on a borrowing and money printing spree. It is likely that he convinced the all-powerful president that this was the way forward. With great power comes great responsibility. It is also said that power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. It is in this context of unprecedented economic hardship that the slogan “Gota go home” resonates throughout the country.

The presidency is an institution that has been much criticized by every party out of power and by civil society from its inception IN 1978. It is rejected today by the main political parties including the ruling party whose ostensible position is that it should be abolished. The major opposition parties too support the abolition of the presidency. Previous presidents even campaigned and won presidential elections on the promise of abolishing the institution. But as stated by the 18th Century English poet, Alexander Pope, “Vice is a monster of so frightful mien, as to be hated needs but to be seen. Yet too oft, familiar with her face, we first endure, then pity, then embrace.”

The worst feature of the presidency is that it can be used to enforce arbitrary and ill thought policies as state policies. The president is the head of the government and head of the cabinet of ministers and has the power to appoint and sack ministers at his pleasure or displeasure. These decisions cannot be questioned in a court of law as it is provided by the constitution. This makes it difficult to challenge his decisions even when they are obviously ill advised and wrong. Thus, when the president decided to ban chemical fertilisers and pesticides and go in for 100 percent organic agriculture overnight many who should have known better failed to correct him.

Unfortunately, the full power that he displayed in implementing his vistas of prosperity has driven the country towards a panorama of hopelessness being displayed island wide. The decision to go in for organic agriculture was to ruin the country as we see today with agricultural production plummeting by 50 percent. This single decision has impoverished the agricultural sector, contributed to the malnourishment prevalent in the country and even threatens mass hunger and food riots in the months to come. Only access to foreign aid, such as generated by the UN appeal for humanitarian assistance, can ward off the inevitable. The goodwill of the international community is key to the nurturing of Sri Lanka’s younger generation.

Abolishing Presidency

Perhaps in recognition of the policy disasters he has presided over, President Rajapaksa has declared that he does not want to go as a failed president. This seems as an acceptance of failure at present for which the president has apologized and his wish to continue to stay may not be the best option for the country. He has expressed resolve to continue at the helm, come hell or high water, until his term of office ends in two plus years. However, the president has also said that he will not seek re-election. This suggests a way forward for the president to redeem himself and leave behind a positive legacy.

Every person’s life goal is to be successful in what they do. By using pillars made from the knowledge of our failures, we can erect a bright future for ourselves. If he so chooses President Rajapaksa can be the president who finally abolished the presidency which is now widely seen by the people as the root of political abuse of power and which most political parties also want abolished. The president has provided the justification of the abolition of the presidency. He said that his observation has been that it is not possible for an executive presidency to coexist with an empowered prime minister. Either the presidency should be abolished or the parliament is kept out of governing. “My personal opinion is that if you have a presidency he must have full powers. Otherwise abolish executive presidency and go for full Westminster-style parliament.”

If it is to be one or the other, the answer is clear that it should be the presidency that goes. Parliament is the more democratic, stable and safer option, as it provides a forum for debate and discussion, rather than relying on the sanity and judgment of one man. As seen in other countries also the president can decide in isolation with disastrous results as evidenced in the fertilizer ban. Even as the government seeks to find the foreign exchange and international assistance to sustain the economy, there is a way for President Rajapaksa to convince the world that his government is worth supporting. This would be to work towards the abolition of the presidency, and provide a time frame, so that he is the last executive president of Sri Lanka.

Ethnic Conflict

The other would be to find a political solution that gave rise to three decades of war and destruction that has contributed to the present plight of the country. Both of these, the executive presidency and the ethnic conflict, are problems that the country has been burdened with for decades and been unable to resolve. The ethnic conflict gave rise to war and a large part of the country’s resources were diverted to the war. The country fell into the debt trap partly on account of expenditures devoted to the war.

Even today, more than 13 years after the end of the war, the military budget is the largest single component of the national budget, dwarfing the expenditures on health and education combined which is unacceptable in the context of economic collapse. President Rajapaksa has cultivated the reputation as the leader who kept the country united even though it was through warfare and not by winning the hearts and minds of all the people. He has assets he can utilize for the purpose of a mutually acceptable solution to the ethnic conflict. One is that the very youth who wage the Aragalaya or struggle against him have been publicly eschewing racism and ethnic divisions.

Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe is an astute politician who has never used communalism to win elections. Foreign Minister Prof G L Peiris is a legal expert who, along with Dr Neelan Tiruchelvam of the main Tamil political party of that time, devised the most liberal constitutional formula to end the ethnic conflict and share power between the ethnic communities. Opposition leader Sajith Premadasa and JVP leader Anura Kumara Dissanayake are both in favour of abolishing the executive presidency and are non-racist in their politics. A roadmap to both resolve the ethnic conflict and abolish the executive presidency prior to the next election is need not be a mirage.

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Latest comments

  • 16
    3

    “Perhaps in recognition of the policy disasters he has presided over, President Rajapaksa has declared that he does not want to go as a failed president.”

    Sure, he is adamant that that he can reverse his massive failures in only a few years in power so far, and make it successful.

    He, sure was successful in the mass murders of Sinhalese and Tamils with his state given fire power. That is the only exceptional ability he has.

    But he does not have the brain power to lead the country out of the mess he and his familial rule has created.

    If he is honest about putting things right for the country, let him give back all his ill-gotten wealth to the suffering masses.

    He is a humbug who wants to use the remaining years of his power to plunder the state coffers.

    • 3
      13

      Thiru,
      “He is a humbug who wants to use the remaining years of his power to plunder the state coffers.”

      Wrong. Not to plunder the state coffers. Now he is forced to stay as President (Puppet) to finish the work started by Ranil Wickramasinghe in 2015 to ruin this country and allow sharks to grab vital assets of this country so that Basil Rajapakshe can get the commissions, return to USA and have a comfortable life.

      • 6
        0

        EE
        Oh My My!
        … so that Basil Rajapakshe can get the commissions, return to USA and have a comfortable life…..
        Why I thought R’s were saints defended by a lone Eagle. How come you admit their wrongdoings now – change of heart to accept the truth.

  • 3
    0

    Well said, Jehan !

    “A roadmap to both resolve the ethnic conflict and abolish the executive presidency prior to the next election is the way out” is a gem of an advice.

    However, it is a necessary condition, but not sufficient.

    The necessary and sufficient condition is to have a comprehensive package with the executive presidency along with the entire 1978 constitution repelled and replacement with a new constitution with extensive power sharing along with institutional arrangements to have principles of good governance institutionalized.

    Of course the new constitution has to be formulated by an elected constitutional assembly elected for the sole purpose of formulating the new constitution and vanishes thereafter into thin air once the task is accomplished.

    Our country has learnt necessary lessons and an enlightened outcome is a certainty.

    • 2
      12

      srikrish,
      “…new constitution with extensive power sharing…”
      —-
      Power sharing with whom?

      Do you know that low cast Tamils (Panchamar) in Yapanaya told the Sub-Committee on Power Sharing of the Constitution Drafting Committee appointed during ‘Yahapalana’ Government not to give Land and Police powers to NPC because they know the outcome?

      • 11
        2

        Eagle Dumbo Eye

        “Power sharing with whom?”

        Do you know what is meant by democratization?

        • 4
          1

          Thanks Vedda,

          Thanks,

          Power sharing with the citizens enhances participatory democracy.

          • 4
            0

            srikrish

            Democracy is the least worse system of governance by which one can get rid of the ruler, unlike in dictatorship.

            Here is Late Tony Benn (UK Labour party) MP’s tests, which he believed should always be asked of those with economic, social and political power:

            • What power have you got?
            • Where did you get it from?
            • In whose interests do you use it?
            • To whom are you accountable?
            • How do we get rid of you?

            Unlike SJ for me the final question is most important.
            For learned people like SJ dictatorship of Proletariat is far more important than people’s freedom. He was an admirer of Mao, Siri Mao, Pol Pot, VP, Abimael Guzmán, … maybe Stalin….

          • 0
            0

            Native , is retard EE scripting post Rajapaksa chapter of Mahavamsa to promote the next kleptocracy in line. If the President can leave without doing a thing , will be of great help. Isn’t it?? Right now I am in Lanka witnessing the misery unfolding right in front of me.

  • 5
    1

    What The President Can Do Before He Goes

    Sometimes the most important to do is nothing so that he will not say it is a wrong decision, knowledge for failures,end of each day, the country have no smile moment of emotional storms, sarcasms.

  • 5
    1

    …. Every person’s life goal is to be successful in what they do.
    What a meaningless cli·ché! – Even a robber wants to be successful.

  • 12
    3

    What The President Can Do Before He Goes?
    The First thing that he can do is to resign the presidency and Tell the people Truth. There are number of questions he did not answer ever. Some are;
    Who headed the white van group?
    Who murdered or ordered to murder Lasantha & other Journalists?
    Who master minded Easter Bombing?
    Why he came forward to become President?
    What is the relationship between him and President?
    How many White flag LTTE surrended fighters he ordered to kill and how many of those who were handed by relatives after the end of were murdered?
    What is the deal between you and LTTE KP?
    ……

  • 5
    1

    Title of the article is “What The President Can Do Before He Goes.”
    There were so many constructive things that previous president Maithripala Sirisena could have done before he left his post but he was not willing to do any of those. It is even more unlikely that the current president will do anything positive before he gets booted out!

  • 7
    2

    “What The President Can Do Before He Goes”

    Hopefully he doesn’t set Sri Lanka on fire, like what Hanuman did, before he goes!

  • 7
    0

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  • 9
    0

    Within the context of the Srilankan political culture an executive presidency is only good for subduing the minorities or minority views.
    When the country was economically stronger it was a good pass time for the majoritarians. But that double edged sword also chipped away at the democratic institutions until it came to the dire situation that we are in now.
    As long as that wish for subduing others exist among the majority the EP will not go away and these disasters will repeat time and again.

  • 3
    2

    Jehan Perera “The crisis has become a great leveler.”
    ====
    you failed to mention that unfortunately its a downward leveller and not a upward leveller.
    However upper class and to some extent middle class are not yet going without a meal or two.Some even get fuelled delivered to them.
    ====

  • 12
    1

    What The President Can Do Before He Goes??
    ====
    First he announce he is going.
    Resign and set a date.
    If he has the balls he should do the following
    abolish the executive power and Presidency
    before he does that use the executive power to take some positive steps
    1. Demilitarise the NE
    2.Cut down the army
    3. demilitarise all political administration and sack all the generals holding portfolios
    4. Ensue equal rights to all religion, language cast etc in the constitution
    5.Empower the minorities
    6.Kick out all corruption and 10%
    7. Bring back all independent institutions – independent of Govt
    8. Kick out corrupt media
    9. legislate that snagha and monks , cardinals,immans, priests clergies out of politics
    10. Finally return all money stolen by the Rajapaksa
    11. bugger off to USA

    • 10
      2

      They should also ban and kick out racist Chingkalla ministers and MPS, who come to the parliament and openly make racist and rabble-rousing statements like this is a Chingkalla Buddhist land only and the land-only belongs to them and they take on a primary position in everything and anyone who disagrees with this position or does anything to prevent this primary position of the Chingkalla Buddhists like preventing Buddha statues being installed in ancient Hindu temples or anywhere in the Thamizh North and East, ancient Hindu temple being converted to Buddhist temples, using fake history and archaeology, will feel the wrath of the powerful Chingkalla Buddhists.

      • 9
        2

        Imagine if this sort of rubbish was spoken in another so-called democratic country now. Eg Australia or New Zealand for whites only, India for the Hindus only, two people stated some anti-Mulsim rubbish and were kicked out. These people will lose their position, be kicked out of their position and party and the general public, other than a few racist rightwing nut jobs will not allow this sort of rubbish talk. This also applies to the Yellow pets and Racist Chingkalla Christian priests, bishops and cardinals, both of the Catholic and Protestant varieties. Requesting Thamizh Christians if they do not like it to go to India. Why cannot they also go back to India, from where their ancestors also arrived. This land has never been a Chingkalla Buddhist land only, large parts of it were Thamizh and Hindu and still are and now some parts are Muslim or Christian. It belongs to everyone, where the Chingkalla Buddhists are in a majority but this does not mean it is their land-only and people who advocate this in and out of parliament, should be severely punished ministers, MPS., generals, ex-generals, yellow or scarlet robed pets.

  • 3
    6

    “What The President Can Do Before He Goes”
    All of us have to go one day from where we are.
    So GR will go too, but not in a hurry.
    Perhaps he will not do any more harm, if he could simply do nothing until then.

    • 4
      0

      “Perhaps he will not do any more harm”

      This is from his advisor!

    • 4
      1

      Jehan Perera

      “What The President Can Do Before He Goes”

      Can’t he sell the entire island to China, at least it will make few people happy and some rich?
      Forget Sovereignty (whatever that is).

  • 6
    0

    “It is ironic that what exploitative colonials did not do, our own national leaders have done.”
    The leaders present and past were NOT national leaders but were the Sinha-le Leaders with their mind set to break the economic and educational capabilities of the TAMIL SPEAKING PEOPLE of the Independent CEYLON. By packing off the hard working up-country Tamils to India and by systematically maiming and killing of Tamils, the Sinhala leaders brought down the entire country.
    If we are to solve both economic & ethnic issues bring in the Tamil speaking security forces to the North and East of the country. We need to greatly reduce the number of defence forces in those areas immediately

  • 3
    0

    This president will never listen to anyone other than his army comrades who were appointed to all-powerful posts as long as he is in power. Sri Lankan politicians are all of the same breeds. They do not bother about the people’s grievances, instead, help only their king-pins. The country has been ruined by all presidents and prime ministers in the past 74 years. Until s this is not changed by eliminating political – nepotism, favoritism, and racism, and bringing trustworthy, well-educated, and honest young people, the country would have to depend on foreign countries.

    • 0
      6

      “eliminating political – nepotism, favoritism, and racism, and bringing… “
      Are non-ruling political parties free of such problems?
      Why was Neelan Thiricelvam appointed MP Chavakacheri when the post was morally due to the Tamil Congress? Why was SC Chandrahasan shunted out of the FP? Why was a second Tamil candidate allowed to contest the Batticaloa seat which was multi-member to accommodate a Tamil and a Muslim?
      Have you done a caste analysis of the parliamentary candidates of the FP?
      Why are children of MPs being promoted to leading positions in the TNA?
      Parliamentary politics is about powr over people and not anything for the people.

      • 0
        0

        “Parliamentary politics is about powr over people and not anything for the people.”

        “Are non-ruling political parties free of such problems?”
        So only FP and TNA are non-ruling political parties in Sri lanka?
        what a balanced comment from some one who teach communism that shouts “masala vadai” mantra?

  • 5
    1

    Could someone close to him remind him how Hitler ended his life in an underground Bunker? At the moment even Gota is in a “Bunker”. Gota could do the same as Hitler and “Demonstrate” to the young generation of Sri Lanka what that “History” was.

    • 5
      1

      Simon

      “Gota could do the same as Hitler and “Demonstrate” to the young generation of Sri Lanka what that “History” was.”

      Are you encouraging him to commit suicide?
      You are giving him an easy option.
      He should confess to all crimes including financial, his incompetency, stupidity, fake claims to being a Sinhala Buddhist patriot, kept people in fear, …… lack of accountability, strengthening the hands of saffron brigades, …. … protecting war criminals, …..

      • 2
        1

        NV. I am not “encouraging” but WANT him to do it. That is the best CONFESSION he could make for all the “CRIMES” that were committed and are committing at present. As a final wish, he could have the “Saffron Clothed Brigade” including those “Mahachariyas” and “Achariyas” not forgetting the “Vice-Chancellors” (both at Abayaramaya & Kelaniya (Naga-Aramaya) by his side to chant a newly formed “Pirith” chanting.

    • 3
      0

      Simon,
      .
      Best would be your suggestion…..
      .
      Now with almost 99% srilankens would not respect them, can you imagine, what could go through their heads ? This reminds me of ” the last days of GADAFI family”:
      .
      My wish is, not just Gota but MaRa above all will get their just deserts- … people in this country waited that long..

    • 3
      0

      Simon,
      .
      I think avant garde play boy (Nissanka Senadhipathi) or Delete Jayaweera could open his eyes.
      Why the bugger et al stay further deaf is the million dollar question.
      .
      The very people (your Kadamandiya style), Derana Fans continue watching bp’s programs to the same frequency as had been before.

  • 1
    0

    Allmost all essays of Jehan on these pages have the hallmark of sobriety. However, even he has come to the point of saying enough is enough…………….

    Let me be blunt; what the President should do or not do does not bother me.
    All what most of the citizenry expect him to do is simply vamoose without any further delay………..

  • 1
    13

    “He has assets he can utilize for the purpose of a mutually acceptable solution to the ethnic conflict. “

    Ethnic conflict or economic conflict? The 30 year civil war should have lasted only 2 or 3 years max, as a civil uprising or guerilla insurgency. Because of Indian interference and the incompetence of CBK, the war dragged on 3 decades or so. Executive Presidency had to be created, PTA put in place, armed forces restructured, new weapons bought, etc. The economic conflict is real, as the primary revenue generator (tourism) has been decimated due to a Chinese virus and foreign exchange reserves are very low (due to Easter Attacks), meaning access to essentials is limited. Economies go through cycles. A developing economy is more susceptible to macro-shocks, which means citizens will feel the effects harder when the cycle is to the downside. There are global macro-shocks at the moment, virtually no country is immune. A government that is alert and well-prepared has some kind of buffer to deal with the macro-shocks, for example, a sovereign wealth fund, obviously not the case in S. Lanka. The best case scenario is to wait it out and hope tourism comes back.

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