By Kusal Perera –
A new Rajapaksa campaign is now given unofficial prominence. That of impeaching the Chief Justice. It was reported a few days ago, some Ministers have put their signatures at an auspicious time, last Friday. Of course it was also said the signatures were on blank paper. But, the reports indicated the signatures were meant for impeachment of the CJ.
This comes in the wake of a Court indictment against Pradeep Kariyawasam, husband of Chief Justice, Bandaranayake. Kariyawasam as chairman, along with the entire board of directors of the National Savings Bank resigned, over its investments in the The Finance Company, turning out into a massive scandal. The regime it seems have already worked behind scene to align retired Director Administration, Abeygunasekera, to provide evidence against Kariyawasam, Now the next question that is posed is, “can the Chief Justice continue when her husband is hauled before the Courts as an accused in a big fraud case ?” There is going to be opposition to Bandaranayake continuing as CJ and President of the JSC, while her husband is tried in a Magistrate’s Court. The issue of “conflict of interest” will be raised publicly. Beyond all that, what if he is remanded over the case, for further investigations, if the Police say they want to ?” Anything is possible when it is not an elected government that makes and bends rules, but a family cabal.
One stinking stupid in fact went on record with privileges, saying the Courts should be stoned. There is the more plausible possibility of some eccentric politician, the UPFA has many of them in different shades and shapes, taking to the streets in front of the Fort Railway Station or at the Lipton Square, demanding the “CJ should Resign !” That would then turn out as public opinion. The State media is on the prowl looking for any such video clip that could make their headlines. Meanwhile the impeachment initiative would be kept, on the roll.
Such would have very serious repercussions in Sri Lankan politics that is now being tested in the judiciary in terms of Constitutional provisions. This would have a damaging impact over all issues from that of Mannar Magistrate’s issue and Minister Bathiudeen’s contempt of Court case to the “Divineguma Bill” and the Provincial Councils. In fact, it is the “Divineguma Bill” that lies at the bottom of all these crises. The “right” of the Royal family cabal to rule as they please.
All these years from after 1990, any Bill that needed the consent of the Provincial Councils, had the North-East Provincial Council Governor, putting his signature to it and none questioning his right to do so. Since 2008 August when the bifurcated North-East gave way to the Eastern PC, the Northern Province Governor continued with such unquestioned power. It was so in February this year (2012) when the government moved in parliament the Amendment(s) to the Town and Country Planning Ordinance of 1946. The Supreme Court determined it should have the consent of the PCs. The President accordingly sent it to all PCs including the North, which was nothing more than the Governor, appointed by the President. That Amendment was withdrawn in April, not because the right of the Northern Province Governor consenting to it was challenged. That was not challenged then. But the Amendment was withdrawn, because the elected Eastern PC deferred its consent and more because from within the family cabal, there were second thoughts about giving unprecedented land powers to the Minister of Buddha Sasana, that could be any one and not necessarily a man of the clan. The consent of the Eastern PC and its Chief Minister Chandrakanthan if indeed was required, wasn’t impossible to have. The Rajapaksa’s know the way, with the EPC.
In real politics, “Divineguam Bill” comes out the first cropper, after 22 years of PCs, where the Constitutional right of a Governor is challenged in the Courts. North is where, even if the President holds an election, “DDC Election’s UNP Strategy in ’81” would not halt the TNA from forming a stable Council. That Northern PC if elected, will not have the same manipulative and coercive space as in the Eastern PC, is any guess. Therefore, both the Judiciary and the Northern PC has turned out to be a “gangrene” for the Royal family clan, in doing what they want, the way they want. Nothing but an amputation is the cure, they’ve decided and they are perfect in “line and length” from their own thinking and from how they understand politics and governance as a family business for profits. That with a parliament, where they “own” the two thirds majority, right now.
Therefore comes the call for repeal of the 13th Amendment and abolition of PCs. That comes from none other than the Retd. Colonel who runs the Ministry of Defence with Urban Development. None but he decides politics in this family cabal where President gives it a public face, thereafter. Immediately, HMV it becomes, with Weerawansa and Champika’s JHU playing the song of abolition as their own rendition.
It is in such a volatile situation, Sri Lanka leaves no space for “single issues”. It is in such context that politics of today decides the birth of politics for tomorrow. Today, it is serious politics for democracy that can not ignore how and what the government is trying to achieve by forcing its own former Chairman of the NSB in front of a Magistrate. How that would be linked to the CJ and in getting the Supreme Court back under its control, through sheer manipulation and coercive tactics. It is thus about a powerful Executive Presidency, utilised unconditionally for steam rolling any dissent anywhere. That in fact is the extension to politics of tomorrow.
Today, if the Royal family and its clan could prove it still has enough clout to get the Sinhala sentiment on to the street, they would then make a public case against the CJ and the judiciary. There is little doubt, they can not. Weerawansa’s NFF and Champika’s JHU with State patronage, could muster street power equal to the JVP, though three years after the war was declared over in May 2009. There is little variation now in the media, whether State or privately owned, when Sinhala slogans against the judiciary are shouted by goons on the streets.
That would not be challenged or condemned by any in government benches. So, lets not feel shy to say those “Leftists” in the Cabinet of Ministers, Senior or not, would never ever decide to leave this regime in such foaming power. Unlike those minions who think they can throw stones at Court Houses, these “Left” oldies are not of unsound minds, who can not understand politics of the day. They do and they did come out with well phrased political criticism when the 18th Amendment was being initiated by the Rajapaksa regime. In fact it was they who opened up the social debate against the 18th Amendment, but was comfortable in the House, voting for its passage. They are not of any mettle to at least honour their comrades like L.W. Panditha, P.D. Wimalasiri, George Rathnayake and dozens of local “left” activists who gave their lives for devolution of power, the 13th Amendment and the PCs on the basis of the Indo – SL Accord. This leaves Sumanasiri’s assumption of the first Rajapaksa defeat in parliament over repeal of the 13th Amendment, just wishful thinking.
This also brings the more complex issue of abolishing of the Executive Presidency through a loud mouthed political vagabond, into a more serious and committed platform. Abolishing of the Executive Presidency today can not ignore the question, “What next ?” and raise the question, “What, parliament again ?”
We have had 02 parliamentary Constitutions with a PM, the Soulburry and the Republican, that served absolutely no purpose, in any sense. They failed in establishing a pluralistic and a secular, democratic State and they failed in delivering the common aspirations of the ordinary people. They could not take care of any minority political aspirations, paved the way for armed Sinhala politics in the South and in the North-East. They helped Centralise power in Colombo that in turn politicised every State agency, led to a growing debt and devaluation of the Rupee. Their failures finally gave way for the present Executive Presidency and this third Constitution.
The abolition of the Executive Presidency is therefore not one that can be left to the fancy of a vagabond soldier or to rhetoric of a robed cleric. It has to be taken on a platform that talks of decentralising and de-secularising of accrued power in Colombo. Abolition of Executive Presidency therefore can not be a single issue. It certainly has to be a double issue. That of Abolishing Executive Power and of Devolving Power. The need to establish a governing system that guarantee a viable democracy, a system that could find answers to socio economic development and dignity of people as citizens who could have better access to political power and denies the legislature in accruing and centralising power in Colombo hereafter, has to be the duality in the issue of abolishing Executive Presidency.
We have therefore to strategise, how such politics could play effectively to the needs of today and that of tomorrow. Today it is the right of the judiciary to exist without interference from politics of the Executive and tomorrow it is about establishing a new State structure backed by a new Constitution that leaves the Executive Presidency out and Devolution of Power in. Complex as it is, this will not be an issue that can be sorted out in parliament. Not with this uncompromising Royal family clan. But certainly on the streets, on Galle face green, perhaps like in the olden days of Mark Bracegirdle. Wishful thinking again ? But this would have to begin and the ice has to be broken. As some one said, we don’t need old leaders any more. We only need one from the new generation to throw the first stone !