Jathika Hela Urumaya parliamentarian and the Pivithuru Hetak founder the Ven. Athureliye Rathana Thera has ideologically taken on the protagonists of the executive presidency in the United Peoples Freedom Alliance (UPFA) head on.
At a meeting organised by the Peoples Movement for Democracy in Nugegoda on Thursday the Thera said the unlimited powers of the executive president were the main causes for terrorism to originate in the country.
Countering a claim by President MahindaRajapaksa that the executive presidency was essential to defeat the LTTE, he said that the executive presidency was the reason for the birth of terrorism in the first place. The Thera was referring to a statement by the President during the latter’s recent visit to the North. At a ceremony to distribute title deeds to the farmers in Kilinochchi, the President had said that he was prepared to forego the executive presidency if the Tamil diaspora and the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) gave up the demand for Tamil Eelam.
The statement was initially challenged by the TNA which said it had already given up the Eelam demand and now it was the turn of the President to abolish the executive presidency. Now the challenge has come from within the ruling coalition itself in the form of RathanaThera’s dismissal of the President’s contention. Also interestingly this follows another challenge by the Thera that he would do his utmost to defeat President Mahinda Rajapaksa at the next presidential election unless the President implemented the constitutional reforms including a proposal to scrap the executive presidency that were presented by his Pivithuru Hetak National Council.
Now that the leaders of the government have tied up the executive presidency with the Tamil Eelam demand, they would not hesitate to find traitors in those who agitate for the abolition of the executive presidency. However, it would be difficult for the UPFA leaders to brand RathanaThera as an agent of the West or an Eelamist, because the Thera is well known for his outspokenness and for his stand on the West as well as separatism.
In fact the point that had been put forward by the Thera at the Nugegoda meeting was worth pondering over in the present context where the executive presidency has been the bone of contention and a presidential election was around the corner. True, unlimited powers accumulated in one person or a few persons have the potential to create resentment among various groups which ultimately might push them to resort to unwelcome actions.
On the other hand there are many countries which had successfully defeated terrorism and won wars with other countries, without the Executive presidency being the mode of governance in those countries. For instance, India eradicated the Naxalite movement in 1950s and 1960s. Half a century on, the current isolated incidents in the name of Naxalites in some states in India do not have even the remotest capacity to challenge the democratic polity of that country. India also fought several wars with Pakistan and China. The ten week war fought by Britain in 1982s with Argentina over the Falkland Islands was another case in point. Britain has also contained the IRA rebellion.
Ironically President Mahinda Rajapaksa who now wants the Tamil diaspora to give up the Eelam demand for him to scrap the executive presidency promised to abolish it in 2005 while there was not only a demand for Tamil Eelam, but also a war over it. Therefore finding a justification for the current mode of governance amid the Tamil Eelam demand is nothing other than flogging a dead horse.