Three hearty cheers!
Yesterday’s landmark Supreme Court judgment
on the next presidential poll date should be hailed by one and
all. The learned judges of the apex court have, once and for
all, healed a festering constitutional wound on the body
politic, on which political maggots had been thriving for
months. All credit to the JHU, which, when in doubt, went to
court without trying to ‘march it out’! It has added a feather
to its cap or, to contextualize it a little, a flower to its
The other parties to the dispute tried different
methods to cut the constitutional Gordian knot. The government
resorted to evasion and the UNP to coercion. Many were the
constitutional experts who treated us ad nauseam to a
plethora of opinions on the matter. From eminent lawyers to
humble fishmongers, opinions were being expressed. The political
windbags made the biggest noise. Some of them could be heard
bragging that the President would go on till next year, while
others went all out to oust her through people power.
Interestingly, many of the charlatans posing as constitutional
experts didn’t know the Constitution from the Highway Code! They
were just viewing the dispute through political prisms of their
choice, feigning objectivity.
The poor Elections Commissioner, who is not in
good heath, underwent the same suffering as the poor baby in the
Caucasian Chalk Circle. He was almost torn apart by the
government and the UNP over the disputed date. The media did no
better. It kept bombarding him with questions, which the
seasoned mandarin ducked adroitly with a smile.
But for the JHU’s decision to evoke the
jurisdiction of the Supreme Court, which alone is empowered to
determine the constitutional matters that give rise to doubt and
confusion, the dispute would certainly have developed into an
unwanted crisis. This achievement of the JHU wouldn’t have been
possible through a death fast. Remember Ven. Dr. Sobhitha’s fast
against P-TOMS? The JHU, which Ms. Kumaratunga took for a
presidential ride over the P-TOMS, apparently, resorted to a
legal tit for political tat.
The thrust of the argument for a presidential
election in 2005, was that President Kumaratunga had been sworn
in for the second term in December 1999 and as such the next
election should be held after a lapse of six years from that
time. Lieutenants of the President held that the oath in
question had been a counter to the propaganda campaign by her
political foes, mainly the UNP, which claimed that she was not
physically fit to hold office after the assassination attempt.
By coming before the public and taking the oath, they claimed,
she had sought to refute the claim of her opponents. A claim of
a second oath taken subsequently was also being flaunted. It is
sad that the fallout of the LTTE’s barbarous act later became
ammunition in the hands of her political opponents.
Celebrations were on in the streets following
the announcement of the judgment, though nobody knew who was
going to be the winner. The question that needs to be asked is
whether the people will be the winners, whoever is going to win
the election. We have our doubts. The executive presidency is
the bane of Sri Lanka politics. We as a nation have proved
beyond an iota of doubt that we are not mature enough to have
such a powerful institution. Put anyone behind a counter, Albert
Camus has said, he becomes all important in no time. What
happens to an ambitious politician, when he or she is put in the
executive presidential seat, goes without saying. It is a kind
of machine into which we put democrats and take dictators out.
We are going to do so in a few months time, once again—faute
de mieux, of course! Abolition of the executive presidency
as well as making the head of state answerable to Parliament is
a prerequisite for safeguarding the democratic rights of the
people. Those who are disporting themselves in celebrations
today may be the very ones who will face water cannon, rubber
bullets, tear gas and baton charges in the future.
There are obviously some who are disappointed
and resentful over their captain’s innings being brought to, in
their opinion, an abrupt end. Like in cricket, they should be
told, in politics, too, DuckworthLewis like methods are called
for, in extraordinary situations. They have no alternative but
to console themselves and hope for a better innings with a new
player. All good things, as is the way with this mundane world,
come to an end. So do bad things, too. And whether it is good
things or bad things that have come to an end, only time will
Three hearty cheers to the judgment!