Gamaralalage Maithripala Sirisena, it seems, is a specialist in betrayal. He first betrayed his former leader and former President, Mahinda Rajapaksa. He had a hopper feed with Mahinda the very morning of that act of deception and was, soon after, seen at Sirikotha announcing his “sacrifice… for the sake of the nation”. Over 62 million people didn’t mind that because the beneficial outcome could not have been achieved without that
Next, he betrayed his principal coalition partner and its leader – the UNP and Ranil Wickremesinghe. During the Local Government elections, Sirisena went round after doing a U-turn and attacking the UNP and Prime Minister. He waved a metaphorical sword against what he pretended was corruption. “I want a Government free of corruption,” Sirisena cried, “and “I will not hesitate to use my sword against anybody, including those in the UNP.”
After all the effort campaigning heavily throughout the island, Sirisena managed to get a measly 4% of the electoral vote – although, by his acts of vilification he reduced the UNP votes, too. Since that experience he is called “the 4% man”.
The third betrayal is what is now going on in dastardly and shameless manner with the help of his former enemy, Mahinda Rajapaksa. He has “sacked” the sitting Prime Minister, Ranil Wickremesinghe, and “appointed” Mahinda Rajapaksa to replace the former.
Serious repercussions of the third betrayal
This betrayal has serious repercussions for the country and its people because it clearly constitutes the undermining of the Constitution. A constitution in any country is the basic and fundamental law of the land. Citizens treat that with sanctity. This is why one needs a special and rigorous procedure to make changes to a constitution unlike in the case of ordinary legislation.
A constitution embodies the fundamental democratic right of citizens. It is the ultimate bulwark of freedom. The fair rules of the broad political game is set out in a constitution. It must never be touched unless it needs be and even then an ironclad procedure has to be followed – often requiring a referendum.
One can imagine how serious it is when the highest in the land takes it upon himself to violate the Constitution. It is never done. However, Gamaralalage Sirisena has been brazen enough to do that. National confusion follows. International censure is passed. This is what is happening now. Not a single foreign country leader has conveyed the routine congratulations to Mahinda. I am informed the deposed Male leader has. Well, not even Swaziland. Normal civil order is seriously disrupted. Sri Lanka becomes a pariah nation in the face of foreign countries. This can have a negative impact on foreign aid.
Furthermore, lesser men take the law unto their hands. We have already seen how the Rupavahini Corporation was attacked allegedly by some Ministers of the former regime. Rupavahini went off the air. Lake House was taken over. Public fears of further contravention spreads. The stable environment is rendered unstable. Foreign investors and travellers get cold feet. The economy cracks and the burden of living of ordinary persons is threatened, as uncertainty expands.
With regard to the legality of what has occurred, I quote an authority: “The 19th Amendment to the Constitution took away the discretionary powers of the President to remove a residing Prime Minister. (For those who are justifying it saying the 19th Amendment gives the President the right to appoint a PM as he wants, my god, learn to read.) This is found in article 46 (2).
The Prime Minister can only be dismissed if:
1. Cabinet is dismissed (also the Cabinet cannot be dismissed by the President FYI)
2. She/he resigns
3. She/he stops being a Member of Parliament.
[Again, 46 (2)]
The President can appoint a PM under Section 42 (4), only if the above has happened.”
That hasn’t happened in this instance. Hence the President cannot appoint a Prime Minister at all.
The above means that President’s sacking of the standing Prime Minister and his appointing a new individual are both prohibited under the Constitution. President Sirisena has pathetically violated the Constitution which he swore to uphold at his swearing-in. Mahinda Rajapaksa, too, by collaborating, has violated the Constitution. There is a strong case to impeach both individuals in one blow.
In doing so, the President and Mahinda cannot plead ignorance because there was precedence a year ago when Sirisena tried to sack Ranil Wickremesinghe and install someone else. At that time, Mahinda wasn’t willing because he felt he was strong enough to recover power on his own merits at a campaign. Those days, Mahinda Rajapaksa was perceived as a lion who could walk with head held high in stately confidence.
Mahinda’s self-confidence shaken
By now, Mahinda’s self-confidence has shaken. Why? Because, with the setting up of the new Special Courts, the fate of his family members and his ruffian cronies are imminently in the balance. Mahinda’s private secretary, Senerath, will be taken up in a few days over charges of embezzling 500 million. Mahinda’s former powerful brother, Gotabaya, will be next taken up.
Others are in line, including Mahinda’s wife, Basil, Namal, Yoshitha, his several cronies like Prasanna and so on. Mahinda himself is saved because of the legal immunity that the Constitution gave the President. The charges are serious – embezzlement of public funds, money laundering, bribery, murder. The sceptres of Lasantha Wickrematunge, Ekneligoda, Raviraj and the many journalists who met with death at the hands of hit squads. A sordid story was Mahinda Rajapaksa’s 10-year regime.
President Sirisena had announced he wanted a Government that is not corrupt. He has, indeed, got it!
(The writer can be reached via firstname.lastname@example.org.)