‘The Government’s Hobson’s Choice’


The then opposition was campaigning to abolish the Executive Presidency, as most of the Govigama Buddhist majority and even the Christian minority could not accept the reality that Premadasa had been elected as the Executive President of Sri Lanka. Virtually, all powers of the Executive Presidency had been conferred upon Ranasingha Premadasa, the first Non-Govigama Head of State. The opposition could not stomach such an insult. In answer to the campaign carried out in an utmost vicious manner, Premadasa responded by telling one of his admirers, the novelist and play-writer Simon Nawagaththegama, that "those very people, if they come to power and sit on the throne created by J. R. Jayewardene; they would far from abolishing it, strengthen it and usurp more power to themselves." Today, in hindsight, one could observe how wise Premadasa was.

After Chandrika Bandaranaike-Kumaratunga’s assumption to the throne, her main propagandist tool, to abolish the Executive Presidency together with "Dooshanaya" and "Beeshanaya", was relegated to oblivion and the government was then considered the most corrupt in history. Chandrika was accused of having cronies like Ronnie Peiris who was amassing wealth through various corrupt deals. Even Lakshman Kadiragamar was not spared of accusations relating to the infamous ‘Thawakkal’ deal.For politicians corruption was a way of life. Most of them came from poor backgrounds and money was their God.

Mahinda Rajapaksa‘s solemn pledge at the elections to the nation was to abolish the Executive Presidency. Ultimately after winning the war he became a virtual monarch and as the Presidents in this country enjoyed immense power of the Executive Presidency. The 17th Amendment was hastily brought in, during the time of the Chandrika Bandaranaike government by Ranil Wickremasinghe, to clip the wings of the President in making appointments to the important commissions like the Elections Commission. But, the very first appointment made by the Constitutional Council, in nominating former Supreme Court Judge, Justice Deerarathna, was aborted by Chandrika Bandaranaike. To avoid this crisis, an application was made to the Supreme Court, where Chief Justice Sarath Nanda Silva held with Executive President as then it was obvious Sarath Silva was acting as the nominee of the Government and he gave a judgment in order to permit Chandrika to make 17 Amendment a farce. Thus the matter remained unresolved. Mahinda Rajapaksa, thereafter, to avoid this anomaly presented the 18th Amendment to the Constitution, ostensibly to repair the constitutional crisis created by the 17th Amendment. But, in actual fact, he reserved so much power that he virtually became a monarch.

After the war the sycophants and toady fawners churned out cheap platitudinous songs praising the saviour of the nation and the unquestionable monarch of the 21st century. How politicians love their subjects singing praises of their deeds or misdeeds was so apparent that most people, who benefited from the Rajah regime, had these vulgar cheap political pollutants as their ring tones so that it would be reported to the "maharajah" and in turn they polluted the atmosphere of decency. Only a man with a steely integrity, the late S. L. Gunasekara had the guts to openly denounce Mahinda Rajapaksa’s mental aberration of the Executive Presidency and blasted charlatans for transforming him to become a King. Then, there was the unbelievable depth of sycophancy, when to the great admiration of the the President found the greatest upgrade a son of humble peasant could ever aspire to; Jackson Anthony found the umbilical connections of the Maharajah to King Suddodhana thereby making Mahinda Rajapaksa a member of the Sakya clan and relative of Gautama the Buddha. Jackson Anthony overnight became a millionaire.

This was the charlatans power that made Mahinda Rajapaksa, truly believe that not only he was an absolute monarch for all whom he surveyed, but also transgressed the path of various cults and other manifestations of the world of gods and demons, which guided him to advance the election by two years before its schedule. The country was relieved of the possibility of Mahinda Rajapaksa amending the Constitution to become a constitutional monarch.

The campaign, to abolish the Executive Presidency reignited by the members of civil society, took hold of the masses for the first time. Ven Maduluvave Sobitha spearheaded this camping and drafted Amendments to the Constitution to abolish the Executive Presidency. This election promise was circulated and propagated through various media channels.

The Election, which was held on 08 January, was unique. For the first time people in this country voted to establish democracy and good governance, which included the abolition of the Executive Presidency and prosecuting all those who were involved in corrupt activities during the past regime. What the propagandists did not envisage and it did not come into their calculations, was how many members of the parliament in the Mahinda Rajapaksa government would escape from the net thrown to catch the corrupt.

No one believed that MR could be defeated. But, in the unlikely event of MR being defeated no one ever thought of how, under a new government, the newly elected president could fulfill his final obligation to the country, to wit, the abolition of the Executive Presidency and even if the country overwhelmingly voted for a change, how the much talked of constitutional amendments could go through parliament with the 2/3 majority. I don’t think the advisers of Rev. Maduluwave Sobitha and the other of various political colours, who united to achieve their main objective, the amendment to the Constitution, saw how it could be achieved. In the meantime, the media was up in arms against the lackadaisical manner in which the government approached the corrupt politicians to apprehend and bring them to justice.

The ill-conceived, unrealistic propaganda of the present government induced a false notion, that by 09 January, many members of the public believed that the so called crooks, embezzlers and cheats would be prevented from going abroad and would be jailed. This did not happen. Instead, some politicians went abroad and no one has so far been arrested, remanded and convicted over criminal offences. But, various agencies were conducting investigations and a number of politicians’ statements had been recorded. Everyone in the opposition felt that they could not believe that the government would protect them against any charges of corruption, that may be leveled against them, through the myriad investigations that had been carried out.

For them, who constitute the majority in parliament, the Constitutional Amendment or any other piece of legislation, which would enchance the prospects of good governance in Sri Lanka was secondary. What is important for them is to preserve their parliamentary seats, as any investigation into their previous conduct, would throw them in to an abyss of no return. The Hobson’s choice faced by the government is whether it wants the Constitutional Amendment to go through with the help of the so called corrupt politicians, or proceed with the investigations and get the 19th Amendment thrown overboard as it requires a 2/3 majority.

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