Two Constitutional Coups applauded by two different social segments

29 October 2018 12:36 am - 0     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}



eather would be stormy and rainy in the next few days to come, said a forecast last Saturday. It would not be much different in the political arena as well. Opening up more and better space in promoting the “Crown Prince” began with a “Constitutional Coup” on Friday last week in the night, that seeks to oust, sitting PM Wickremesinghe and his government. Whole world was caught unawares when the de facto leader of the Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP), more popularly known as the “Pohottuwa” party, Mahinda Rajapaksa, was sworn in as PM, by President Sirisena. The path to power is thus widened for Namal Rajapaksa, this time with more grooming and better positioning in all probability. Yet in a way, it wasn’t surprising either. Sirisena played “Judas” almost four years ago, and he played it once again. No change of principles here.

The process began with a letter signed by Minister Mahinda Amaraweera as General Secretary of UPFA, informing the PM, the UPFA would no longer be a partner of the present government. This was in fact to say, the ‘yahapalana’ government is no more a “National” government, and that PM Wickremesinghe will thus have no majority on his own. Yet the MoU for a “National” unity government was signed between the UNP and the SLFP and not between the UNP and the UPFA. But the political factor that goes beyond the technicalities and legal interpretation is that, once the UPFA withdraws, SLFP a constituent party that contested under the UPFA goes along with it and out of the “National Unity Government”.

With that it is assumed, PM Wickremesinghe is restricted to 106 votes in parliament including the 12 MPs from SLMC and Rishad Bathiudeen’s ACMC, which is not the majority in the 225 member parliament. For Ranil to prove he has a controlling majority, he would now have to depend on the TNA, while the JVP has already said, they would not support either side in this Constitutional conflict. TNA itself is in a dilemma. Though Sampanthan and Sumanthiran blindly believed Ranil Wickremesinghe led government would deliver on the promise for a new Constitution with more devolved power than under the 13th Amendment, especially the Northern and Vanni Tamil people live with much disappointment and growing frustration with this government, as they were with the MR government. Thus, with Wigneswaran, now tipped to lead a new political party in the North with a campaign on Tamil people’s unsolved issues, how many TNA MPs would now vote with this government to save Ranil is very much a riddle.

All that counted, President Sirisena went ahead with the “deal” that was worked out over dinner at S.B. Dissanayake’s residence, early this month. Mahinda Rajapaksa was sworn in as PM under clause 42(4) that says,“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.”Most “democratic and civil rights” campaigners forget, that this very same clause was used on January 9, 2015 to swear in Wickremesinghe, then Leader of the Opposition as PM with only 43 MPs behind him and while D.M. Jayaratne was still the PM with a majority in parliament.


"For Ranil Wickremesinghe to prove he has a controlling majority, he would now have to depend on the TNA, while the JVP has already said, they would not support either side in this Constitutional conflict"

It is now known that in January 2015, PM Jayaratne was coerced and manipulated to provide a back dated resignation letter to fit in with Clause 46(2)(a) of the Constitution, while this time, President Sirisena removes Ranil Wickremesinghe with a single sentence using the same Clause 42(4) that has to be read along with Clause 46(2)(a) to have Constitutional meaning proper. It wasn’t done that way then in January 2015 and it wasn’t done now. And in both occasions, it remains a “Constitutional coup” in changing political power without the consent of the people and by using the Constitution the wrong way that violates the “sovereignty of the people”. In these “Constitutional Coups” it is always pre-decided to get back to the Constitution thereafter with a majority negotiated and manipulated in parliament to be in line with Clause 42(4). In January 2015, this blatant violation of the Constitution was applauded and accepted by the Colombo “civil society” leaders while the Sinhala Buddhist majority was left numb and helpless. Now in October 2018, the lower layers of the Sinhala Buddhist society light crackers and enjoy “kiribath,” while the Colombo“civil society” leaders remain dismayed and helpless. In both instances, the “sovereignty of the people” wasn’t even thought of as non negotiable.

There is yet a political factor that makes October 2018 different to that of January 2015. In January 2015, the Constitutional Coup was played out with the euphoria in Colombo over ousting President Rajapaksa, whose rule was painted black in a single stroke. That violation of the Constitution was applauded and accepted by the urban middle-class as a step towards furthering “democracy”. In October 2018, the Constitutional Coup is still in play endorsed by the Sinhala Buddhist majority and with the Colombo middle-class, though frustrated and betrayed by this “Unity” government, still prefer the Wickremesinghe-government to any led by Rajapaksa. Unfortunately for the UNP this urban middle class remains passive and would not intervene as a political force to save the UNP government.

This ‘October Constitutional coup’ is thus played out within the parliament, for which the parliament now remains prorogued. It is certainly a time buying factor to increase numbers. It cannot be now turned around with “international pressure” as the UNP leadership wants to. Every hour Rajapaksa is consolidating himself as PM though outside Temple Trees. He probably had India and Modi neutralized with his most recent trip to New Delhi. He was greeted as PM and wished by the Chinese Ambassador in Colombo. Statements made so far by other important Western countries that the UNP banks on, have only asked for peace and to adhere to the constitutional process. Sadly, they mean very little to a PM who banks on the Sinhala Buddhist majority.

In short, with the UNP not pinning faith on their own supporters to challenge this Constitutional Coup and the urban middle class stay grumbling in their comfort zones, while Rajapaksa fiercely usurps power within a seemingly constitutional process, the final result is almost there at our doorsteps. He is with 95 MPs that he campaigned and brought to parliament in August 2015. Whatever is being said about Muslim and plantation sector representations in parliament, with Rajapaksa consolidating himself, they can and will change positions. This parliament is not one with firm loyalties. We have politicians who have not only jumped over fences, but have crept through fences. Politicians who have crossed over to be Ministers in every government since 1994. Politicians the people vote to parliament every time they cross over. 

This certainly would leave us with a Constitutional coup that would be endorsed in parliament with a manipulated majority that in essence is a violation of people’s sovereignty, the people do not perceive as such. The promise therefore would be to give the people their sovereign right to elect a new government, perhaps early next year. That would be applauded too in this society.

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