Government has decided to make serious changes in the 13th amendment. These changes, if implemented will negate the expectations of the Tamil people. The 13th Amendment was brought in primarily to satisfy the demands of the Tamils. It was considered to be a step towards autonomy for the Tamil home land in the north east. The clause which allowed the merger of the adjoining provinces was included, to keep that option for the north and east provinces. Because it allowed the merger of these two provinces provided Tamils could get the consent of Tamil speaking Muslims to, be together. Now, the government has removed that clause making it clear that devolution is not meant for giving autonomy to the Tamil homeland and there cannot be such recognition. The second alteration removes the right of Tamils to stop the central government bringing in laws in relation to devolved subjects, without a two thirds majority. That means if the government makes these changes in the 13th Amendment, the dream of Tamils to move forward in the reformist constitutional path will perish, leaving only radical and revolutionary options. They will have to abandon the hope of any progress under this government. Democratic constitutional reforms could be won only after a change of the government. Or else they will have to wait for the victory of the revolutionary left that recognizes equality, autonomy and the right of self determination of the Tamil people. Ok, if the revolution is not behind the corner who is the last knight of liberalism!
Ludwig von Mises was born in 1881, he taught liberal economics in Europe and the Americas during his life time, and died in 1973. Colleagues in Europe called him the “last knight of liberalism” because he was the champion of an ideal of liberty they consider dead and gone in an age of central planning and socialism of all varieties. But he was not deterred in any respect: not in his research work, not in his writing or publishing, and not in his relentless fight against every form of ‘statism.’ Some said, with the rise of free economics and neo liberalism that a new epoch that would validate his life and ideals in the minds of millions of people around the world, has dawned. The last knight of liberalism triumphed, they shouted. But unfortunately that did not happen. In Lanka today, middle classes are looking for the liberal democrat who could create a constitution that could give a liberal democratic way out to the problem we are facing. They are looking for a credible person with a track record against racism, religious sectarianism and with a programme to remove the executive presidency. Who is this last knight of liberalism here?
While the most critical aspect of a democratic struggle turned out to be the issue of devolution, there are pundits who give prominence to the dictatorial nature that naturally come with an executive presidency. In reality the dictatorial nature of the executive presidency was arrested by the 13th and 17th Amendments. Devolution, if properly implemented, would pass the executive power in the selected areas, to the chief minister. That will check and balance the executive president in that selected areas. On the other hand establishment of the constitutional council, with powers such that no person shall be appointed by the President as the Chairman or a member of any of the Commissions specified, except on a recommendation of the Council, limited the power of the president substantially. It should be noted that the specified commissions included the Election Commission, the Public Service Commission and the National Police Commission. However by the 18th Amendment all these democratic aspects were changed. With the neglect of 13th Amendment the situation became worse. That was a fascist styled political act of President Mahinda using the chauvinist mass power mobilised through the repressive war. Hence what is urgently needed is a mobilisation of democratic forces against the chauvinist forces of Mahinda. Ranil maintains that he is doing it inspite of opposition and sabotage of a few members of the party. Then the question arises whether the separate campaign to remove the executive presidency without mentioning devolution and national unity is also engineered by the same group of saboteurs!
Now it is clear that making noise about the executive presidency without participating in the struggle to implement the LLRC report recommendations is irrelevant to the task before us. Ranil has put forward a proposal for a constitution which is committed to the abolition of the executive presidency. The powers of executive president would be divided among the Head of State, Prime Minister and the Speaker’s Council and three different ways of doing it is given for discussion. However this change has to be done according to the recommendations of Reconciliation Commission –LLRC. Ven.Maduluwawe Sobitha Thera has expressed “The Executive Presidency is one factor. We can expect the justice that we are looking for when the district electoral system is abolished and when we can obtain a responsible public representative, when the preferential vote system is abolished, when due position is provided to an Elections Commission and when a free and fair election is held under a caretaker government. Then we can expect the justice we are looking for.”
Does that mean the last knight of liberalism, Ranil, has been selected to face the Mahendra dragon in the coming election?