Saturday, 4 September 2010

Why all this fuss about the Constitution ?

The proposed amendments to the Constitution, have raised a political storm. Fortunately the directions from which the storms blow do not predict a danger to the envisaged proposals but may cause irreparable damage to those who started the storm.

JVP and its wind bags like the drowning men holding on to a straw, encumbered with the weight of Sarath Fonseka on their backs are likely to drown in the flood waters of political disapproval, even Lal Kantha the ego centric trade unionist will not be able to save it from its watery gave.

The leftist trio DEW Gunasekara, Tissa Vitharana and Wasudeva Nanayakkara as usual unable to take firm decisions, are preparing the funeral rights of the good old leftist movement, and it remains for them to jump into the funeral pyre as they will have no worth while existence with the end of the leftist movement. Even the President will not have any use of them as he is already assured of a two third majority in the Parliament.

UNP is in complete disarray. It is however heartening that at least a few young UNPers have had a sudden revelation that opposition to a government is not to blow it up, but to make it serve the people better.

When I was reading the President Barack Obama’s book the Audacity of Hope a passage struck me as relevant to Sri Lanka. In that passage he says, that in conversation with an old Washington hand who had served in the Capitol for over fifty years, he asked the difference of the atmosphere then and now, and he had answered that:

“……we might’ve fought like cats and dogs on issues. A lot of us came from different back grounds, different neighbourhoods, different political philosophies. But with the war we all had some thing in common. That shared experience developed a certain trust and respect. It helped to work through our differences and get things done.”

It is a pity that it did not happen that way in Sri Lanka. The senior politicians, and supposed to be people friendly Marxists did not make the war against terrorism the rallying point to combine forces with the government for the progressive development of Sri Lanka. They instead made it an opportunity to make personal benefits to realise their political ambitions, without caring a dime for the country and its people.

JVP is ridiculous in hanging on to Sarath Fonseka as their Leader. He was of course the Army Commander during the most difficult period of the recent history of Sri Lanka . He may have discussed strategies and prepared the army officers for their different assignments. But the war itself was conducted by officers under him.

We saw in video clips during the height of the military offensive against the terrorists, that the Army Officers like Shavendra Silva, Prasanna De Silva and others who in the midst of fighting giving instructions to their soldiers and asking them before they turn away to take care of themselves. They deserve lot of credit for the elimination of terrorists from Sri Lanka.

Sarath Fonseka as the Army Commander should not have used his position to help his family to set up business to sell arms to the army. He should have retired as an army Officer without seeking political power. In seeking political power he did not set an example to the Armed forces of Sri Lanka.

In this respect it is relevant to quote the statement made by Admiral Mike Mullen Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff of USA at a press conference after the former Afghanistan Commander Stanley A. McChrystal gave his resignation, as it was reported in the International Herald Tribune of 25 June, 2010.

Speaking to the military he had said:

“….We do not have the right, nor should we ever assume the prerogative, to cast doubt upon the ability or mock the motives of our civilian leaders, elected or appointed. We are and must remain a neutral instrument of the state , accountable to and respectful of those leaders no matter which party holds sway or which person holds a given office.”

We may recognise Sarath Fonseka as a war hero, but he does not deserve our respect for what he did afterwards bringing discredit to our country, and the President Mahinda Rajapakse who united Sri Lanka under one flag after 30 years of untold suffering from ruthless terrorism.

The 18th Amendment to the Constitution is necessary as that is the least we can do to help a man like Mahinda Rajapakse who has a great vision for the progress and development of Sri Lanka to continue his good work to raise Sri Lanka above its status of a developing nation, if the people would want him and vote for him at the Presidential elections that follows the end of the term of his office.

The Tamils be they politicians, academics, intellectuals or ordinary civilians should not rake the past, call for equality and devolution of power which will only make the Sinhala community hate the Tamils, and who knows result in another spate of terrorism. An aspect of reconciliation is also to forget and forgive the errors of the past.

It was most annoying that Douglas Devananda decided to show his Tamilness by giving evidence in Tamil before the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission. He had made matters worse by stopped several times to dispute English translation by the interpreter. He could have as well given his evidence in English.

In the reconciliation and reconstruction process there should not be communal reference Tamil, Sinhala, Muslim etc. They should all be treated as Sri Lankans in that progressive movement of bringing all people together. This is where the Tamils should take a lesson from the American President Barrack Obama. His was a peaceful revolution.

Mr.Barrack Obama did not separate himself as an ethnic minority. He worked in harmony with the majority whites winning them over with his pragmatic method of campaigning. He made it possible for a man from a minority ethnic group to become the leader of the most powerful nation of the world. Why cannot the showy Pakiasothy Saravanamuttu cannot understand this and change his separatist attitude ?

Every body talks of the proposed 18th Amendment to the constitution as an affront to Democracy. Democracy is something that had been introduced by the West, expecting the developing countries of the third world to respect it, while they themselves act undemocratically. They have introduced” human rights” to out manoeuvre democratic principles, to interfere into internal affaires of the sovereign states of developing countries.

Democracy is good in principle to already developed countries. But a developing country should follow a “middle path” with out making democracy a sacrosanct political system. If China did not keep the west from interfering into its affairs, and adopted authoritative methods when necessary, it would have still remained as it was described by Pear S Buck in her book the Good Earth.

For a developing country to rise from low income economy , to a middle income economy and then to a fully developed economy takes time and disciplining of the population. It is necessary to use high handed methods at times in the interest of the country. That is not to say the methods adopted should be dictatorial, but sufficient to infuse understanding and necessity of sacrifice for the overall development.

Therefore, an executive President is necessary for Sri Lanka, which is now on the correct path to development. The fear of the other political parties about the introduction of the 18th Amendment to the Constitution is that they will not be able to have political power to make their political philosophies workable to hasten the development process.

But the democratic principle of changing Political parties at every parliamentary and Presidential election hampers development. When one political party has introduced a political process of development the results of which could be seen in a certain number of years, another political party coming into power before the end of that time period, will change the whole process to suit their political philosophy and the country as a result will fall from once process to another with out any development at all.

This has to stop, as we have seen that democracy has not helped us from 1948 until now to even come above the lower income economic classification. It is only now thanks to perspicacity of the President Mahinda Rajapakse we have reached the middle income economy status. The country is at peace, infrastructure development is proceeding well, and the foreign currency reserve shows efficient management. The country is socially, economically healthy. The defence and security of the country is assured by an efficient Defense Secretary.

What remains is the reconciliation and reconstruction, which at the way things are turning out will not be difficult if the present political system continues for some more time. Therefore the 18th Amendment is necessary for the present situation. The 17th Amendment as it is, is not workable, and it is best that it is scrapped and a more workable legislation is substituted.

An incumbent President’s right to contest for another term of office under the 18th Amendment does not mean that after the end of the term of office of the President he is automatically allowed to continue in his office. It only allows him to contest the Presidential elections along with other candidates. Mr.Mahinda Rajapakse will not have the guarantee that the people will vote for him. That would not be against any democratic principles

Therefore, why make a fuss about the 18th Amendment to the Constitution ?

The country definitely needs changes to its Constitution, to allow the President Mahinda Rajapakse, who has the correct perception to lead our country to a higher target of development. There had been errors and mistakes in certain ministerial responsibilities, but they are not irreparable, and it appears that the President has an eye every where to take stock of the situation and take corrective steps.

Now if everything goes well and the proposed amendments to the Constitution are adopted, it is left to the other political parties to rally round the President and his government and help them to make a success of reconciliation and reconstruction of post terrorist Sri Lanka. That way they will not be left out of the government’s development projects, and they can have their say on matters of importance.

It is important that the Government Servants do not embarrass the government calling for strikes for pay hikes. Every one has to make sacrifices and rally round the government to develop the country. It does not mean that the opposition parties, and the government servants should not be vigilant.

But recalcitrant Trade Unionists like Lal Kantha should not be allowed to manipulate workers, and University Students for political ends. If they continues their s activities which are detrimental to the country, democratic principles should be overlooked to punish them, or even arrest them.

The public servants should check, observe, report defects, deficiencies, corruptions, undue interferences, slack in work to the proper authorities so that every body overseers the other to enable the machine of administration to work efficiently for the common good of the country.

The Constitutional changes are essential and the Executive President should continue for some more time to come . Therefore the fuss about the proposed 18th Amendment to the Constitution is not necessary.

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