It appears that the intention of all main political leaders has been to maintain, in one way or the other, the instability that prevails in the country till the forthcoming Presidential Election – Pic by Shehan Gunasekara
As the President has abandoned his earlier decision to consult the Supreme Court opinion on the commencement of his official term, it is now clear that the Presidential Election will be held on 7 December.
While nearing a Presidential Election, the country is on the ebb of a volcanic eruption. Perhaps the eruption can occur before the Presidential Election or both can take place simultaneously.
The present situation of the country is not normal. It is on the verge of complete anarchy. Owing to anti-Islamic sentiments, in addition to two Governors resigning from their posts, the Muslim MPs in their entirety have resigned from their ministerial positions. It is evident that a certain organised group is intent on sustaining anti-Muslim tensions in order that the prevailing situation may not ease. The manner in which these things are currently unfolding is similar to the situation that prevailed in the aftermath of the death of Venerable Gangodawila Soma Thero. I wish to call upon those interested in knowing about the sinister program that was launched to create anti-Christian tensions in the country following the death of Soma Thero to read the book titled ‘Revolt in the Temple’ authored by me.
It would not be possible to implement a similar sinister program based on falsehood with similar success for the second time. The first program of this kind was aimed at creating an impression that the death of Gangodawila Soma Thero was not due to natural causes but an outcome of an assassination. It helped the unscrupulous sinister movement behind this move to reap successful results. Consequently, nine Bhikkus of Jathika Hela Urumaya (JHU) were able to secure nine seats in Parliament at the general election held in April 2004. However, this political movement led by Buddhist clerics was not been able to sustain the power it gained through falsehood – so much so that it failed to bring about any lasting benefit, except for causing damage to the order of the Buddhist Sangha in Sri Lanka.
Those who are trying to repeat similar experiments for the second time may sometimes be able to ignite a much larger conflagration that could burn down the nation entirely. Yet, it will not help achieve their political ends, as happened in the first occasion in the aftermath of the death of Venerable Gangodawila Soma Thero, except that those who are engaged in the act shall be devoured fully, along with the nation, by the flames they themselves have fanned.
Making the country unstable
The crisis created by the Easter Sunday attack by the Islamist terrorists aggravated the crisis that already existed in the country. It was a common calamity that the country had to face. In a situation like this, ideally, what ought to have happened was for all the leaders to get together, forgetting their differences for a moment and work towards restoring the country, as early as possible, at least to the level it was before the attack. But what really happened was that all the political leaders opted to work towards exacerbating the instability of the country for their narrow political gains, rather than containing the situation. It is rather unfortunate that even the conduct of media too was not different from that of the political leaders.
There is a discernible similarity between the conduct of President J.R. Jayewardene during Black July 1983 and that of the present-day leaders in the aftermath of the Easter Sunday attacks. Jayewardene remained aloof, letting the fire that burst out in July ’83 spread. He addressed the nation only after five days after the incident. But he did not express a single word of regret for the victims among Tamil people.
Though JR survived the fire that he fanned, his most favourite close associates and confidants were killed before his eyes. It can be considered a much greater agony and a painful death than actually being killed. What JR did was afflict and injure ‘Mother Sri Lanka’ for parochial political gains. What the present leaders are doing is attempting to kill ‘Mother Sri Lanka,’ who is in a frail condition, by subjecting her to untold atrocities. It will be unavoidable that all the leaders will be compelled to pay a big price for their untoward act.
Society is not in a static state; it is in a rapid flux. While people will be able to understand the reality of the evil things happening around them, they might not tolerate it any longer and will come forward to mark the end of the old system which is evil and exploitative.
The route of history
The modern history of Sri Lanka is moving in a spiral route. It has now entered into a historical crossroad which will probably mark the end of the dark and destructive period it has been passing through. There is high potential for defeating all exploitative leaders who were instrumental in the old wicked system and removing them completely from the political scene instead of defeating one party and empowering another party as has been done in the past.
The Yahapalana Government can be described as the most unfortunate, most absurd and superbly idiotic government ever produced by Sri Lanka at the tailend of its disastrous historical route. During the previous Presidential Election, the Leader of the Opposition (UNP), who had the potential to defeat the Rajapaksa regime and acquire ruling power, opted to select a candidate from the Rajapaksa regime itself and bring him to the scene as a common candidate to contest the Presidential Election, merely because he lacked self-confidence to contest against Rajapaksa and win.
Evidently, there had been no proper agreement based on a formal discussion on the issues concerned between the Leader of the UNP and the common candidate so selected. The UNP Leader might have thought that he would be able to manipulate the common candidate whom he had brought to the scene, according to his whims and fancies as a political puppet in his hand, as the victory of the common candidate depended not on the candidate’s political power, but on the support extended by the UNP, the political party headed by the UNP Leader.
Yet, following the victory of the common candidate, things took a different shape, upsetting his calculations. The consequent power struggle that arose between the President and the Prime Minister has eventually culminated in making the Yahapalana Government a caricature of a feeble, cranky and comical government.
The main aspiration of Prime Minister Rail Wickremesinghe was to appropriate all powers of the president for himself and reduce the powers of the president whom he brought to power to a nominal level. All changes and amendments required for this change had been made in a devious manner.
In this process he was more concerned about the reforms that would help consolidate his power and position than the reforms the country needed badly. By doing so, he let the crisis the country was facing stagnate and intensify. Though he was able to appropriate executive powers for himself through the 19th Amendment in an extremely devious manner, this amendment led to the entire system of governance and the constitution becoming disorganised confusion.
Consequently, the country which was in a big crisis was plunged into a bigger crisis rendering it a country without a formal constitution and a formal system of governance. The ugliest among the repulsive features of this disordered and confused constitution is the selection of a nominal president through a general election conducted by treating the entire country as one single electorate, incurring an exorbitant cost, rather than selecting him from a simple system like an election committee.
In his conflict with Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, the first thing the President did was sack him from his position and take the UNP into his control in an informal way. In doing so, using the controversial Central Bank bond issue as a reason, he asked the Prime Minister to step down from his position. However, the Prime Minister who had already lost his reputation over the Central Bank bond scam declined to resign from the post. In terms of the 19th Amendment the President did not have powers to remove the Prime Minister from his post either.
Following his failure to remove the Prime Minister, the President joined the camp of Mahinda Rajapaksa, whom he considered his arch rival. However, his anti-constitutional attempt to form a provisional government with the Pohottuwa party (SLPP) with Mahinda Rajapaksa being appointed the prime minister and dissolve Parliament failed because of the decision of the Supreme Court that declared the procedure adopted by the President was not in conformity with the Constitution.
Though the Pohottuwa party (SLPP) agreed to enter into a strategic alliance with the President, forgetting the sustained enmity it had with him, it was careful not to make him an acknowledged leader of the party. The President, upon realisation that the Pohottuwa party would not welcome him as an acknowledged leader of the party, fell into the level of a solitary elephant compelled to fight alone for his future political survival. The role played by the other political leaders and also the role played by the solitary elephant have aggravated the unstable situation of the country.
Avoiding essential reforms
It appears that the intention of all main political leaders has been to maintain, in one way or the other, the instability that prevails in the country till the forthcoming Presidential Election. Its outcome can be extremely serious and unfortunate. The country now stands at the brink of a big economic tsunami. The instability that exists and is being persisted with in the country will invariably aggravate and expedite the situation. It can also lead to a complete breakdown of rule and create a complete state of anarchy. It can also affect the Presidential Election.
Before talking about the Presidential Election, it is important that we consider, at least briefly, a major issue at this stage, which is of paramount importance for the survival of the country, but is consistently being ignored and avoided by political leaders.
With the ending of the internal civil war, the social system and the State plunged into a state of deformity and frailty. The structural reforms required for healthy existence and for recreation of the social system and the State became an essential condition. But, the Rajapaksa regime which won the war defeating the LTTE did not make any attempt to fulfil this historic need. It was as a result of this failure that the country has fallen into a crisis which is greater than the crisis that existed when Prabhakaran was alive. That was the very reason why the Rajapaksa regime was een defeated in spite of its victory of the internal civil war.
The Yahapalana Government which came to power as a result of this crisis also did not attempt to introduce necessary structural reforms to overcome the deformities and the decline in the system. Instead, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe gave prominence to appropriating executive powers on himself, completely ignoring the structural reforms required to avoid the serious decline in the social system and the system of governance. This situation aggravated the problems the country was facing. The Easter Sunday attacks can be considered a punishment imposed by history for their negligence.
The ignorance of the leaders
The Easter Sunday attacks can be considered as another opportunity provided by history to make our leaders realise the extent of putrefaction of the State and the social system. It is evident that the Government authorities received the necessary intelligence reports on the operation of an extremist Islamist organisation in Sri Lanka at its early beginnings through informants of the Muslim community itself. But, there had been no attempts to take action and implement the law against it.
Even after a haul of explosives was detected from Wanathavilluva area, security units had not made any positive attempt to chase after culprits and take adequate precautions. Not even the ruthless shooting incident, in which the Coordinating Secretary of Minister Kabir Hashim was shot in the head, did not wake up the security authorities from their deep slumber.
It was after this that the warning against the possible terrorist attack on Catholic churches on Easter Sunday had been passed on to the Sri Lankan Government, weeks before the incident, with all information about those who were attached to this organisation by India’s external intelligence agency, the Research and Analysis Wing – RAW. Our security authorities miserably failed to realise the seriousness of the issue and act on it when all information including the names of terrorists was available.
In the light of the facts being revealed so far, the Security Council which can be considered the most important arm of national security seems to have come down to a pathetic level of a court of jesters. There wasn’t even a single formal meeting of the Security Council being held following the abortive attempt by the President to change the government. The Easter Sunday attack took place when the President was away from the country and an acting minister of security had not been appointed. After the attack, the Prime Minister had attempted to convene a meeting of the Security Council, but the senior security authorities had declined to abide by his request.
The extent of degeneration of the State of Sri Lanka in the sphere of security can be understood from this incident. It is not a situation confined only to the security units. It can be considered as a feature common to every unit of the State sector. This deterioration and breakdown in the social system can be understood from the disordered and confused state that prevailed in Tamil society following the end of the internal war as well as the current situation that prevails in Muslim society following the recent Easter Sunday incidents.
In fact, if Sri Lanka was an intelligent country, after the Easter Sunday attacks all the leaders ought have reached a common consensus and made a rational assessment of the massive deterioration and the decline of the State and the social system and orientated the country towards adopting an effective program of action to effect structural reforms which are conducive to recreating the State and society. It was only after that the country should have gone for elections.
Why can’t the political leaders of the country perceive the extent of deterioration of the State and the social system? How could Sri Lanka get over the crisis it is facing without effecting a profound change in this situation? Is it because they know that a policy leading to explore the way things happen in the country will not be to their advantage that the political leaders of Sri Lanka are not in favour of initiation of a program aimed at effecting structural reforms on society and the State?
All those who steer the ship of State, from the President and Ministers to MPs, are not engaged in a wholesome role. Ostensibly, it is a predatory role that they play. They don’t want to lose the opportunity they have received to amass wealth through undue means. That is why they are not inclined to initiate a program of structural reforms. Their main concern is their own survival and not that of the country.
It is not clear whether the incumbent President will contest or not for a second term. Even if he does not contest, he may not stop his political game. Probably he might find a member of the UNP or Gnanasara Thero as his candidate.
Though Gotabaya Rajapaksa has affirmed that he will contest the Presidential Election, it is doubtful whether he will be able to resolve the issue of the removal of his American citizenship. In this backdrop, the Pohottuwa party will be compelled to find a new candidate. While it is not easy to find a candidate as strong as Gotabaya, it will not be possible to prevent disputes arising in the party on the issue of selecting a suitable candidate.
Even the UNP will have to face with explosive problems in selecting its candidate. There is a rumour that Ranil Wickremesinghe had asked Dhammika Perera, a multi-billionaire businessman, to be prepared to contest as the candidate of the UNP. However, this selection may not be to the satisfaction of the members of the UNP.
Despite the JVP having made comprehensive preparations with the intention of contesting the Presidential Election, it is not clear whether it will field a candidate of its own in view of the depletion of its recognition in the face of the current crisis of the country.
Nagananda Kodituwakku and Rohan Pallewatta can be considered as two other contestants who have declared their intention in advance. Nagananda will have to give up his British citizenship if he is to contest the Presidential Election.
Whoever contests the Presidential Election, the contestants have to swim not in calm waters but in an unclear and disturbed sheet of water. It is questionable whether the winner will be able to exceed the 50% limit of the votes polled. Even if the election is won achieving the 50% mark, there is hardly anything effective and strong that the winner could do as the President would be only a nominal Head of State.
The elected President will not even have powers to dissolve Parliament and call for a Parliamentary Election immediately upon his election. In this backdrop, it is unavoidable that the winner of the Presidential Election will become a political joker in the eyes of the people.
If the people want to, they can deviate from the traditional system of casting their vote and defeat all the candidates contesting the election and make the forthcoming Presidential Election an opportunity to demand the adoption of a people’s constitution that would pave the way for a structural transformation in the entire system. In doing so, they can express their consent for such a structural transformation by invalidating the vote.
Perhaps such a program can be used as an effective platform that will pave the way for inspiring the people for larger and far-reaching changes that will help transform the entire system of the country for good.