15 December 2018
How the President became Minority Power
Roman poet Lucretius said ‘one man’s meat is another man’s poison’. In democracy the poison is recognized as minority. If both sides believed – then they are both right but are of different cultures. This is the core value of democracy.
The Supreme Court of Sri Lanka delivered the verdict that the President’s dissolution of Parliament was unconstitutional – i.e. – bad in law. But as stated by the president, if the president believed that he was doing good for the nation, then as per the ruling which has been accepted by majority Parliamentarians, the president represented minority power. In essence this is what Mr Sirisena has been complaining about – that he was a minority power in that government.
Alan Keenan of Crisis group, who is recognized as a political expert - made many suggestions to bring about closure to the current political crisis. One of them was that Mr Wickremesighe should magnanimously step down because Mr Sirisena is not able to work with him. On hearing that, I cried out ‘Oh No!’. The reason is that Sri Lanka would lose the confidence in the Judiciary as an Equal power to political powers. If Mr Wickremesinghe stepped down that would have the effect of pampering Mr Sirisena. Pampering is as bad as abandoning. The Supreme Court verdict that the President’s decision was unconstitutional restores faith in ordinary citizens that they have the ability to use their heads to regulate their emotions. The fact that there were no commotions at public level – and the president also contributed to this – confirms that we have, as a Nation become more accepting of the head ruling over emotions. Mr Keenan in this instance lacked insight into the common Sri Lankan.
Mr Sirisena as an individual is a little more than a year younger than I. Mr Wickremesinghe is about a year older than I. Hence as Sri Lankans we grew up as common generation. When common is distributed it becomes base of Equal Opportunity. As an independent person of that generation, I identify with both sides as they are – i.e. equal opportunity to choose to be on one side or the other but not both at the same time. As per my current status as global citizen I have the duty to add myself to one side or the other to preserve my own heritage. That was Mr Wickremesinghe in the political development in which I did not have direct say. But after a long time I felt even. In 2009 – when I sought approval to go to the camps the senior Health official stated to me ‘Don’t go there and claim separate state’. I felt hurt but the need to get there was deeper and therefore manifested majority thoughts in my mind. I submitted my pain to Lord Buddha in that room. Some of it was offset by the Hon Rajitha Senaratne’s Administration in 2016 when recognition for war affected women health workers’ needs was acknowledged as per my representation. The Supreme Court verdict – 9 years later finally balanced the equation for me. To my mind, Buddha in leaders who delivered the decisions, delivered that verdict.
I learnt through my Australian experiences that we do influence through the commonness we feel. I have realised that I do this with my family also. Often when nothing else seems to work, I am able to work the system. I believe that that is what happened in the Sri Lankan issue also. We must therefore not wish for this or that – directly as per the Court ruling. The court ruling has confirmed the restoration of the Independence of the Judiciary at the top. This needs to now be shared with the juniors in Judiciary also. That is when the common Sri Lankan would reap her/his return for investing in higher laws that connect us to wider world.
In true politics, no one is wrong. We are all believers who divide as minority and majority. The Parliament through belief showed majority support for Mr Wickremesinghe as Prime Minister. If Mr Wickremesinghe steps down now – he would be insulting the Parliament. As per article 42(4) of the Constitution:
‘The President shall appoint as Prime Minister the Member of Parliament, who, in the President’s opinion, is most likely to command the confidence of Parliament.’
The stepping down of Mr Rajapaksa – as announced by his son would, in the eyes of the President, leave that position vacant. He then has to confirm the new person as per the above section. It’s his duty and not an option. If he fails – the members of Parliament have the option of filing another Fundamental Rights petition in Court.
If the president appoints someone other than Mr Wickremesinghe, the Parliament has to then continue to outvote such decision but not stop supply.
Now that Mr Sirisena is minority power – he has the opportunity to better appreciate how other minorities – especially Tamils felt when our belief in ourselves as a community was dismissed by law-makers who used majority power to make laws that would prove we were wrong – bad in law.
This was the basis of the 6th Amendment (August 1983) to the constitution. Accordingly Article 157(A) of the Constitution includes the following:
[(1)No person shall, directly or indirectly, in or outside Sri Lanka, support, espouse, promote, finance, encourage or advocate the establishment of a separate State within the territory of Sri Lanka.
(2) No political party or other association or organization shall have as one of its aims or objects the establishment of a separate State within the territory of Sri Lanka]
In Australia, State is the parallel of Province in Sri Lanka. The Constitution of Sri Lanka, defines Sri Lanka as Republic in Article 1 and as State in Article 2. :
[1. Sri Lanka (Ceylon) is a Free, Sovereign, Independent and Democratic Socialist Republic and shall be known as the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka.
2. The Republic of Sri Lanka is a Unitary State. ]
I did not find a definition of ‘State’ in the Constitution. If State is country – then by recognising it – the group that recognizes it – also becomes guilty. That is catch 22 in this instance.
The timing of the sixth amendment confirms the anxiety felt by the then government led by Mr J R Jayawardene. One who is committed to Truth will read this as fear of ‘takeover’ by minorities who become majority through their belief – as Tamils and/or as Hindus in this instance – invoking India’s powers. The parallel of that is the RAW Terrorism accusation by the current President. If one becomes Mr Sirisena without the frills – one would identify with this fear – which was expressed through Mr Wickremesinghe as the agent of India.
Most Sri Lankan leaders who use the system of autocracy to ‘tell’ rather manifest independently – as per democracy - would fear Tamils and Hindus due to India’s power. To the extent they lose Tamils and Hindus – India includes them and they become India’s agents in Sri Lanka. The training in India of Tamil militants after Black July 1983 experience which intensified due confirms how this worked. More and more Tamils felt motivated to join because they felt backed by Indian government – which to them confirmed that they were majority power at regional level.
Likewise, relatives of Christian emigrants who are able to realize more freedom in Western Nations naturally influence Sri Lankan voters to the extent of common belief. The gap between our investment and return is our ownership capital – confirming our ownership in Sri Lanka. Unjust takeovers through physical powers - actually deepen the value of such minority ownership until minorities work the system through the roots. Once we are part of the roots – the power is universal.
Now it is President’s turn to keep fighting to establish his belief as being of equal value to that of Mr Wickremesinghe’s. Without Mr Wickremesinghe the President’s mind would not become active.
In this instance from a Tamil perspective – Mr Wickremesighe represented the global Tamil while Mr Sirisena represented the local / traditional Sinhalese of highest status– strongly attached to seniority / majority power and its complacency.