“We have decided to include the responses of political parties in the interim report so that MPs could study them before coming for the debate. Some MPs utter things without knowing the details.”
The Prime Minister said referring to comments made on the framework resolution for a Constitution presented to parliament by the Steering Committee.
The PM is right. There is only a framework for a Constitution proposed and there is no draft Constitution per se. Yet, it is within this framework resolution, the proposed new Constitution is expected to be drafted. Not necessarily though. Thus it is the duty and the responsibility of the government to provide political leadership for serious social discussion on the proposals and concepts laid out in the framework resolution agreed upon in the 21 member Steering Committee. This Steering Committee includes MPs Dinesh Gunawardne and Prasanna Ranatunge from the JO, along with Ministers Nimal Siripala de Silva, Susil Premjayantha and Dilan Perera representing the SLFP controlled by President Sirisena.
As for the JO, they have no moral right to oppose this framework resolution. In the Steering Committee Dinesh Gunawardne and Prasanna Ranatunge had consented to the framework resolution. At the audience Dinesh Gunawardne had with the Malwatte high priest, he could only murmur “Eheyi” when the high priest Ven. Thibbotuwave Sri Siddhartha Sumangala Thera told him, “You were there in those committees, weren’t you?” The JO have no right now to mislead the public.
Within the SLFP that is part of the government, there is no clear stand on the Executive Presidency. The solemn promise given by candidate Maithripala Sirisena of stepping down after the end of the first tenure is now dead as wood. President Sirisena would be a candidate at the next presidential election in 2020. The only issue he would want sorted out is how the next President would be elected. He would certainly wish to be elected from the parliament. There, he believes, he could once again strike a political “deal” with PM Wickremesinghe. That would only be possible if the presidency is further pruned, with the premiership strengthened for Wickremesinghe to be next PM.
Sirisena’s dilemma is in facing elections. He cannot go before the public now as a SLFP candidate having contested against the SLFP candidate at the 2015 January 08 presidential elections. Among SLFP voters, he is seen as the sole obstructer who denied the SLFP forming a government in 2015 August parliamentary election. If as President he refrained from disturbing the election campaign, the UPFA that won 95 seats, could have easily cleared over 100 MPs and reduced the UNP to less than 100 MPs. That would have allowed the SLFP led UPFA to form the government. Having denied the SLFP that opportunity, President Sirisena now cannot face any election as SLFP.
For the UNP while being in this hybrid government and most of its MPs also playing for Sinhala Buddhist votes, they have been party to stifling investigations into alleged war crimes. They have been delaying the forming of the OMP for well over one year. The UNP leadership too has not intervened in any way to release Tamil youth detained for many years without any charges. In short, the UNP too goes along with the Sinhala Buddhist “war hero” politics of President Sirisena. They too shy away from social discourse when it is politics for an inclusive, secular society. When it is politics that has to challenge the Sinhala Buddhist “supremacy”. That keeps the total process of making a new Constitution within parliament. All efforts by this government therefore are to keep MPs well looked after to collect the required two thirds for passage within parliament. They believe Tamil and Muslim votes would tilt the balance in their favour at a Referendum, as it did against Rajapaksa at the 2015 January presidential election.
This timid effort in trying to avoid any engagement with the Sinhala South has allowed Rajapaksas to take the lead against the new Constitution that is in the making. They are left with an empty ground, they could dribble, pass and kick their utterly racist football to any corner of the ground they wish. And they have been allowed to choose their own goalkeepers, referees and cheer leaders too. Thus the ground is being filled by Rajapaksa campaigners who are now rallying not only the Buddhist clergy against the passage of a new Constitution, but the rabidly racist GMOA leadership, middle class Sinhala professionals and the “anti SAITM” street fighting IUSF to impress upon the Sinhala South, this proposed new Constitution would not only undermine “free health” but would definitely divide the country, the Sinhala war heroes fought to save for future generations.
In such an awfully racist build up, Ven. Bellanwila Wimalarathana Thera, endorsing the Karaka Sabhas of the Malwatte and Asigiriya chapters and the Kotte Samagri, provides legitimacy not just to the campaign of the Buddhist monks, but to the filthy hate campaign orchestrated by Gotabaya promoting “Viyath Maga” gang too. Those who propose “federalism” and a “secular” State would be “traitors” from what Ven. Wimalarathana Thera says. For the Ven. Thera, all provisions that are “subtly introduced” without using the term “federal” would by implication lead to “separation”. Thus for Ven. Wimalarathana Thera, this “is a national crisis situation that is developing”. He therefore makes a call for “all patriotic forces” to “join hands to reject the proposals for a new constitution”. Those who would not heed his call for “patriotism” would therefore be “traitors” the “Viyath Maga” hate campaign says should be killed and buried the way the JVP promoted during the 1987 to 90 savage insurgency.
Ironically as it was during 1987 – 90 JVP savagery, I and the like minded who are now living a “bonus life” as their hit squads could not lay hands on us, could once again be “traitors” listed to be “killed”. For the same political reason of accepting a “federal system” of governance in a “united, undivided” country. For stronger democracy reaching the provinces, where not only the Tamil and Muslim people in the North and East, but also the Sinhala Buddhists in the South, Uva, North-Central provinces could “have the authority to take their own decisions” for their own benefit.
It is for this benefit we stand for greater devolution to the provinces. Seventy years of continuous centralising of power as a “Unitary” Sinhala Buddhist State has only left the ordinary Sinhala Buddhists, struggling to live a decent human life. This Unitary Sinhala Buddhist State has continuously eroded the quality of life of over 70 per cent of the people living in rural Sri Lanka. In the name of Sinhala Buddhism, these leaders have allowed heavy corruption, nepotism, politicisation of public administration and law enforcement at local level and drained the rural economy in creating a “filthy rich” urban life. The latest CBSL Report on Socio-Economic Data (2016 June) says while the Western Province’s share of income is Rs.42,100 per household, it is Rs.28,921 in the South, Rs.24,228 in Uva, Rs.29,343 in Wayamba and Rs.27,775 in Sabaragamuwa. The North-East is far worse.
The solemn promise given by candidate Maithripala Sirisena of stepping down after the end of the first tenure is now dead as wood. President Sirisena would be a candidate at the next presidential election in 2020
It is this continuous neglect of rural Sinhala South that prompted Dr. Rajitha Senaratne, Minister of Health, Nutrition and Indigenous Medicine to make the public statement, “We must ask, why Federalism to Tamils? Why not to the Sinhalese in the South? We need Federalism for the South because centralised power from 1947 Parliament to 2017, for 70 years, have failed to develop the rural Sinhala society” delivering the keynote address at the S.J.V. Chelvanayagam commemoration. (DM - 28 April, 2017)
This “Unitary” State with Buddhism given the privileged status under Article 09 of the Constitution from 1972, has not given the rural Sinhala poor anything worth to live on. All those who claim to be Sinhala Buddhist “patriots” have only left the larger majority of the Sinhala Buddhists in poverty. This Sinhala Buddhist Unitary State the Sinhala “patriots” want to continue with, during the past 06 years from 2010 to 2015 (both years included), had sent at an average 117,274 young mothers and women to the M-E as house maids, despite hyped publicity about women being nailed, stoned, sexually abused and physically harassed.
Thus I wrote “The Sinhala South has never asked themselves, why they should leave their districts in search of jobs that are nothing but menial-jobs that only or mostly provide temporary living and no secure future. They don’t ask why only exploitative manufacturing factories come to rural towns and not modern private hospitals, high-end shopping complexes, condominiums and jogging paths. There isn’t any cash flow in these rural areas for those investments to go rural. There’s only cheap labour.” (DM - 28 April, 2017)
None who want a Unitary State with Buddhism given the privileged Status takes responsibility for that miserable poverty in the provinces. They don’t even talk about the rural poor. They in fact are not the poor and despite some who claim to have come from the “village” are affluent urban middle class consumers. This utterly rabid Sinhala Buddhist racism has therefore to be debunked at least for the sake of the Sinhala Buddhist rural poor and all provinces including North and East given “the authority to take their own decisions” to break out of poverty they have been left with during all these 70 years since independence.