The new Constitution has not yet seen the light of the day. Only an interim report of the Steering Committee of the Constitutional Assembly has been presented to Parliament. An interim report is obviously not a final document. It contains only draft proposals. They include ones that has consensus as well as independent individual proposals. All views are presented so that Parliament could choose what the majority desires. This is the democratic way.
Yet the so-called Joint Opposition and its boss former President and Kurunegala district MP Mahinda Rajapaksa have been opposing the new Constitution even before its contours became visible, even before it was conceived. It is clear as crystal that their opposition is based on ethno-religious extremism. They are not ashamed to use communalism and religious animosity to bolster their campaign against the new Constitution, which they want to sabotage at any cost, even at the cost of communal violence.
This is not to say that all opposition to it is groundless. There are enough reasonable grounds for fair criticism which should be welcomed. It is not blasphemous to criticize the new Constitutional proposals.
In the forefront of those who seek to spread national discord and hatred and push the country to brink of a disaster is former President Mahinda Rajapaksa. One should not be surprised since he is the person who benefitted by the existing Constitution even personally. He used it to consolidate autocratic power like a monarch, to reinforce his family power, to bestow favours on his clan, to cause involuntary disappearances and deaths to journalists and others in the Opposition and to virtually extend his term indefinitely by means of the 18th Amendment.
We came across a press statement issued this week by him. There, at the beginning he says that at the elections the Yahapalana camp did not pledge to bring in a new Constitution. This is said by one who pledged to do so twice and reneged on the pledge. Apart from it, during the election campaign President Sirisena repeatedly expressed his desire to have a new Constitution. He repeated the same at the funeral of Ven. Sobhita Maha Thera. To deny it is an untruth.
|In the forefront of those who seek to spread national discord and hatred and push the country to brink of a disaster is former President Mahinda Rajapaksa. One should not be surprised since he is the person who benefitted by the existing Constitution even personally. He used it to consolidate autocratic power like a monarch, to reinforce his family power, to bestow favours on his clan, to cause involuntary disappearances and deaths to journalists and others in the Opposition and to virtually extend his term indefinitely by means of the 18th Amendment|
He says that the word ‘unitary’ in English has been dropped in the English version. He alleges that the result would be that the international community would no longer consider Sri Lanka as a unitary state. This is a subterfuge to hoodwink the people. However, neither the international community nor the Sri Lankan people are babies that can be hoodwinked. The steering committee cannot be unaware of it. Perhaps it may not be strange for a person who usually resorted to subterfuges during his rule to consider everything as a subterfuge!
The interim report offers several formulations for consideration. The English version of the above mentioned proposal runs as follows: “Sri Lanka (Ceylon) is a free, sovereign and independent Republic which is an aekiya rajyaya / orumiththa nadu, consisting of the institutions of the Centre and of the Provinces which shall exercise power as laid down in the Constitution.
In this Article aekiya rajyaya / orumiththa nadu means a State which is undivided and indivisible, and in which the power to amend the Constitution, or to repeal and replace the Constitution, shall remain with the Parliament and the People of Sri Lanka as provided in this Constitution”.
The Constitution is not a document in which the articles therein stand in isolation. It also has the following proposal: “No Provincial Council or other authority may declare any part of the territory of Sri Lanka to be a separate State or advocate or take steps towards the secession of any Province or part thereof, from Sri Lanka.”
Where is the subterfuge here?
Rajapaksa MP says that the interim report on page 4 says that the North East should be considered as one unit. Besides it is stated in the same page that it is only a suggestion for consideration. However, there is also the following formulation just above the aforementioned proposal. It says, “The Constitution should not provide for merger.” Why did he hide this formulation? Besides it is stated in the same page that they were suggestions should be further discussed to arrive at a final formulation.
Who is misleading the people?
Another criticism of his is that the report does not state the number of districts as 25. He says it is also a subterfuge. They may change due to administrative necessities as well as demographic factors such as growth and concentration of population. Constitution is the fundamental law of the land. It cannot be amended every time the number of districts increase or decrease. Such changes could be effected by laws made under the Constitution. What is the motive behind criticism based on matters of little consequence?
He also alleges that the principle of subsidiarity facilitates separation. Actually it is an expansion of democracy, of making governance cheaper and closer to the people. But to an autocrat democracy is taboo!
The Kurunegala district MP is also opposed to small electorates and multi-member constituencies. They are necessary due to practical reasons. They are not new to the country. They exist even at present. It is to give fair representation to all communities with a multi-national population. Obviously it shows that he prefers hegemony of the majority Sinhala community.
What is it, if not chauvinism?
He opposes not only proposals for the new Constitution but also wants to go back on certain provisions of the existing one. For example, he wants to do away with provincial police powers. He who quotes the Indian Constitution to his advantage is silent here about provincial police powers in India. Isn’t he repeating the usual allegation of communal forces? Now this is from a man who promised “Thirteen Plus” to placate the international community!
He is opposed to the Constitutional Court too. There was a Constitutional Court under the 1972 Constitution too. It did not devalue the Supreme Court. Many countries have Constitutional Courts. On the other hand it is during his regime that the Supreme Court was devalued to an unprecedented extent.