The Supreme Court interpretation of the petition against the Presidential Proclamation of the dissolution of parliament has been welcome in so far as the uncertainty has lifted a tad.
The wider issues are that for all intents and purposes the intention of the 19th Amendment was on several issues primarily. Clearly one was to cancel out the 18th Amendment and return to the two-term limit of the President.
Secondly the 19th Amendment effectively precluded Messer’s Basil Rajapaksa and Gotabaya Rajapaksa and any others from seeking election because of their dual citizenship.
The fact that this particular item is an anomaly in a wider format seemingly has gone over the head of Ranil Wickremesinghe. Except of course that Wickremesinghe is far too educated street savvy and articulate to know that this item of the 19th Amendment sits uncomfortably for those of us Sri Lankans who moved out of our country in the main because of security concern rather than economic gain.
For example Wickremesinghe’s long-time associate Malik Samarawikrama and others too, constantly seek investment financially and expertise based, from persons of Sri Lankan heritage. Yet whilst it appears ‘OK’ to ask those persons to risk their new capital and new lives and return to Sri Lanka, everyone is silent on the fact that thanks to the 19th Amendment they cannot participate in politics if they so wish. For that they must do so in their adoptive states.
This very aspect of the 19th Amendment stinks to high heaven especially when one looks at the hypocrisy of it all. And it is typical and vintage Wickremesinghe. It is almost as though as far as Wickremesinghe is concerned, it is the notion, “you scratch my back and I will permit you to scratch my back”.
Another aspect (the third) which helps us to understand that the 19th Amendment is not much more than a bill of crucifying the opposition whilst the ‘masters’ accumulate power, position and the keys to state finances, is of course the raising of the age limit for leadership. We did not dwell on this for much because the principal apparent beneficiary would may have been Namal Rajapaksa and not many people thought of him as a credible candidate for leadership just yet.
The other feature of the 19th Amendment of course was to reduce the plenary powers of the President. After several instances where the President (Jayewardene, Premadasa, Kumaratunga Rajapaksa and Sirisena) pulled rank and rode rough shod over parliament, there was clearly a need to rein in some of those powers. Principal amongst that of course was the Presidential power of dissolving parliamentary term after just one year.
As has been evidenced by the current scenario where the Supreme Court has interpreted that Presidential right to be effective only after a term of four and one half years, questions however do arise as to the exercise of the franchise of the people which has become fixed for at least every four and a half years.
To change the peoples’ expectation of having a parliament fixed at a minimum of one year to a term of four and a half years without first seeking the peoples’ opinion remains a question unanswered. Gomin Dayasri did pose that very question to the apex court headed then by CJ Sripavan. Unfortunately that was not answered with any clarity then and it appears that neither has the current order.
It is clear that with these rules in place no President of the republic can function effectively and with authority. It is clear that a whole new amendment encompassing issues that we have all learned the hard way from the present constitutional crisis needs to come to fore.
Several issues became highlighted during the current impasse including the acts of utter partisanship by the Speaker Jayasuriya. However wide angled one views these actions, the only conclusion one can reach is that Jayasuriya acted out of character and in a manner that belittled the peoples’ expectations.
The announcement of his resignation as Prime Minister of the republic by President Mahinda Rajapaksa will be welcomed by many as a necessary implement to resolve the current deadlock. However the large numbers of supporters President Rajapaksa enjoys will feel even more empowered and clearly any future parliamentary cum presidential poll will be followed keenly by Rajapaksa supporters eager to see him ascend to the leadership once again.
For the moment it appears that the historical obstinacy which is synonymous with Wickremesinghe has worked in his favour although sadly not so in the interest of the people.
We shudder to think what else the Wickremesinghe flowery club members will get up to in the balance period available to them.
We hail President Sirisena for his single minded purpose of mind when it comes to addressing brute stubbornness and cheating the republic of its finances a la bond, highways, coal, investments, telecommunications, infra structure development and even changing the rules that will put an end to foreign exchange violations past present and future. The current rules lend itself open to a vast array of possibilities for money laundering, terrorist financing and only God knows what else.
At the end of the day the rules are so loaded in favour of the Prime Minister his lackeys and his wider support base, that it is high time Wickremesinghe stopped hiding in the closet and came out with a call to go to the people at least by March 2019.
Let the people decide – and choose a brand new leader who will work for the betterment of our nation even if the most immediate path to that end is fraught with the most immense legal obstacles.