President Mahinda Rajapaksa who once walked from Colombo to Kataragama calling for the abolition of the executive presidency could become another Mahasen if he only listened to reason, a constituent member of the UPFA government said yesterday.
Leader of the Jathika Hela Urumaya (JHU) Omalpe Sobitha Thera addressing a rally at Muttiah Park in Colombo, organised by the Peoples Movement for a Just Society, headed by Sobitha Thera and his very own party member and Chairman of the National Council for a Clean Tomorrow, Rathana Thera calling for an end to the executive presidency, observed that Rajapaksa was similarly placed as King Mahasen
Though Mahasen was today remembered as a great leader towards the latter stages of his rule he did a lot of wrong things and many in his inner circle including his trustworthy Minister and friend Maghavannabaya had launched a public campaign to oust him. Even as public protests gathered steam, Maghavannabaya visited the King taking along with him some of his favourite food, which prompted Mahasen to query why he was working against him and also trying to be his friend, to which Maghavannabaya replied: ” You are a great King, but of late you have been treading a wrong path. We, have no personal vengeance against you. It is our love for the country and its people that has forced us to agitate against you. The King having listened patiently apologised and changed his ways. That is why Mahasen is even today remembered as a great King.”
The JHU leader said it was true that the LTTE’s eventual defeat occurred under President Rajapaksa’s watch, but the abuse of his executive powers in the post war era, left much to be desired and there was no doubt that he had to change his ways.
“We are willing to help the President mend his ways and the first step in this direction has to be the abolition of the executive presidency which, with its unbridled powers is the main cause of undemocratic rule, rampant corruption, breakdown in the law and order situation and the unprecedented crime rate,” the Thera stressed, adding that it was hoped Rajapaksa would listen to good advice and in the process ensure that he will be remembered as a great leader in the mould of Mahasen.
Sobitha Thera emphasised that yesterday’s meeting was not an anti-government gathering organized by the UNP, SLFP, JVP or any other political party, but by organizations that were genuinely committed to restoring democracy, good governance and the rule of law.
It was Mahinda as a firebrand Opposition MP who had led a walk from Colombo to Matara calling for end to the all powerful executive presidency. His Mahinda Chintana, too, made the same pledge. Therefore, the president has a duty to honour his own words for which had risked life and limb at a particular stage of his career, the Thera said. “Even the constituent members of the UPFA such as the LSSP, the CP and the JHU have called for the abolition of the executive presidency.”
Referring to their demand for a change to the electoral system, the Thera noted that it had come from Minister Dinesh Gunawardena whose party the MEP, was a member of the government.
The Thera said that at the recent LSSP convention, Speaker Chamal Rajapaksa, who was the brother of the President, had stressed it was imperative that the excessive Presidential powers be pruned. “Even the 17th Amendment to the Constitution was enacted during SLFP rule. So, our demand for reviving the 17th Amendment which was abolished by the 18th Amendment cannot be considered to be anti government, but a reminder that it was an essential piece of legislation, which even the SLFP had been committed to.”
Thanking the large crowd that had gathered at Muttiah Park, Ven. Rathana Thera expressed satisfaction at the response despite the decision to hold a ‘Janaralle’ being taken only on November 7. “All these people came here of their own free will. We did not bribe them with Kassipu and money as some do.”
The Thera stressed that the executive presidency had to be scrapped for the greater good of the country and its people. He hoped that President Rajapaksa would listen to reason.
“The government has alleged that we are being backed by NGO’s funded by Western powers, but they have failed to realize that what you hear today is the people’s genuine voice. Our movement is gathering steam. It has the backing of a cross section of political parties, civil society, professional organisations and the masses. Many Ministers have told me that they would quit the government the day that Mahinda announces a presidential election. He will then realize the strength of our mission,” Ven. Rathana said.
The President, he noted, was trying to take all the credit for the war victory but he has forgotten that it was “One man cannot take all the credit for the sacrifices made by millions.”
Leader of the UNP Ranil Wickremesinghe said that the objective of the J. R. J. Jayewardene government in introducing the executive presidency was to develop the country and not any individual.
Unfortunately, under the Rajapaksa regime, Presidential powers had been abused to develop one family, he observed, adding that the time had come to establish a system where the Prime Minister and his Cabinet of Ministers were answerable to parliament for their actions.