If the events of last week were vital or momentous in charting the course of Sri Lanka’s future and history, then what happens this week and the weeks or months to come may be even more important.
Last Monday the Supreme Court’s full ten-member bench gave a unanimous opinion on two vital Constitutional issues.
Though the full text of this opinion on an important national issue has still not been made public, House Leader Nimal Siripala de Silva read from a piece of paper to proclaim that the SC had said ‘yes’ to President Mahinda Rajapaksa.
That means all the judges of the SC are of the opinion that Mr. Rajapaksa has the right to call an early Presidential Election during his second term in office and he also has the right to contest for a third term.
Speaker Chamal Rajapaksa, responding to Opposition protest, assured he would make the full text available to Parliament as soon as he received it. Former Chief Justice Sarath N. Silva and other Constitutional experts have expressed grave concern over the whole process saying there should have been an open and more substantial public hearing on such an issue that could affect the destiny of the 21 million people of Sri Lanka.
Last Wednesday, leaders or frontliners of several opposition parties were seen for the first time on a common platform at the Muttiah Park in Colombo.
Ven. Maduluwawe Sobitha Thera, convenor of the National Movement for Social Justice played a major role in bringing these opposition parties together for the common aim of abolishing the Executive Presidential System or drastically reducing the powers of the Executive President mainly by reviving the 17thAmendment and the Independent Commissions for elections, the Judiciary, the Police, the Public Service and for the battle against rampant bribery and corruption.
According to our sister newspaper the Sunday Times a mysterious and disturbing incident took place on Wednesday night. Ven. Sobitha Thera was taken to a Borella residence where he met President Mahinda Rajapaksa, Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa and senior minister Nimal Siripala de Silva who also heads a Parliamentary Select Committee on the national question.
At the President’s request the Minister had explained that the PSC hoped to take up issues relating to constitutional changes which all the Opposition parties and even the government’s coalition partner the Jathika Hela Urumaya were seeking. Whatever happened or did not happen at this secret meeting Ven.
Maduluwawe Sobitha Thera has been silent since then and was admitted to a private hospital in Malabe reportedly for a check-up. Meanwhile, leaders of several opposition parties are scheduled to meet at a five-star hotel in Colombo today to sign a memorandum of understanding for a common programme, as a prelude to deciding on a common candidate for the next Presidential election.
Amid conflicting reports about the Ven. Sobitha Thera the main opposition United National Party’s assistant leader Ravi Karunanayake said he had visited the prelate in hospital and the venerable monk had told him he hoped to be at today’s meeting.
On or after Wednesday November 19, the President could issue a proclamation for an early Presidential Election. The joint opposition has said it would announce its common candidate after this proclamation is issued. In terms of the Constitution, most of the options and the trumps are on the President’s table. He can issue the proclamation on November 19, any day after that or even continue to hold office for two more years. As usual there are widely and wildly conflicting reports on what might happen. Most reports indicate the election may be early January. But with the Vatican confirming the visit of Pope Francis from January 13 to 15, there are also reports that the election may be put off for March. In any event one of the most negative and unjust features of what is happening or not, is that the sovereign people are being denied their right to be fully informed of what is happening so that they could make an informed choice at any election.