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How long is the 100 days?



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‘Purawesi Balaya’ was one of the main NGO umbrella organizations that spearheaded the campaign that brought President Maithripala Sirisena into power. Last Wednesday when they held a public meeting titled, "Dina 100 kethram durada?" (How long is the 100 days?) this writer assumed it to be a critical self evaluation of the failure of the government to deliver on its promises particularly the constitutional promises that formed the pivot around which the whole opposition alliance revolved. But what we heard was very different. The first to speak was K.W.Janaranjana of Ravaya fame. One would think that someone like him would see something wrong in the way Chief Justice Mohan Peiris was removed and in the way Kshanika Hirimburegama was forced to resign from the UGC chairpersonship. But he didn’t talk about those matters but fulminated against the defeated Rajapaksa government making no criticism about the performance of the government in the past six weeks.


From the speech made by Gamini Viyangoda the Co-Convenor of the Purawsi Balaya organization, it became clear that the reason for organizing the meeting was not to evaluate the successes and failures of the new government but to counter the Nugegoda rally organized by some loyalists of Mahinda Rajapaksa. He in fact said that more meetings of Purawesi Balaya would be held throughout the country to counter the ‘jaathiwadaya’ that was apparent at the Nugegoda rally. Be that as it may, it was Dr Jayampathy Wickremeratne’s speech that this writer wishes to comment on here.


When he addressed the audience, Jayampathy W did not refer to the abolition of the executive presidency, but to the ‘transition’ from a presidential form of government to a prime ministerial form of government. He very correctly pointed out that this was the one slogan that united all opposition forces against Mahinda Rajapaksa.  He explained that the constitutional reforms have been planned in two stages. The powers of the executive presidency would be taken out first and the electoral reforms will be introduced at the second stage. His message was that it would be foolish (modakama) to insist that both these reforms should be brought together. He wanted everyone to agree to bring the reforms in two stages.


The question is why should anyone agree to bring these constitutional amendments in two stages? If by some chance the executive powers are taken away from the president but the electoral reforms are not implemented, then Sri Lanka will never again have a government that has a clear majority in parliament. So the suggestion that Jayampathy W was making. In the view of this writer, was a very dangerous one. Of course he gave reasons for his suggestion by saying that the electoral reforms had run into problems with some parties not being able to agree to the exact form it should take. That however is the very reason why these constitutional reforms should be brought together or not at all. If the first succeeds and the other fails, the whole country is done for. Furthermore, no country can formulate an electoral system designed to keep all marginal political forces represented in parliament. If the UNP and SLFP can agree, they should just go ahead on that basis.  


In the new situation that has arisen since last Thursday, with the SLFP being used to scuttle plans to abolish the executive presidency, the only way pressure can be brought on both the government and the opposition to go through with constitutional reform would be to stick scrupulously to the pledges made in the Sirisena manifesto and abolish the executive presidency while at the same time reforming the electoral system. You can’t create public opinion for the reforms to be brought in two stages, but you can create public opinion demanding that both the abolition of the executive presidential system and the introduction of a new electoral system should go together.


 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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