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Its Time UNP Takes to Serious Politics in Constitution Drafting

Its Time UNP Takes to Serious Politics in Constitution Drafting

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Published by: Thavam on Jun 05, 2013
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By
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June 5, 2013
 The 
as the main opposition in parliament for almost 19years for now, except for the 02 plus years when
was PrimeMinister during 2001 December to 2004 April, slid into more and more factionalismin the party, over electoral defeats. With in-fighting done outside the party, the UNPlost its public image and credibility too. Faced with frustrated revolts,Wickramasinghe used the party constitution to impose heavy strictures on internalparty democracy at every turn and came out as an unquestionable, authoritarianleader for 06 years to come.This political party leadership with all its dictatorial regalia, has now come up with a draft sketch of a proposal for a“democratic” Constitution and boasts, it has space for people’s participation in completing the draft. TheConstitution proper would be presented for a referendum it says, IF and WHEN the UNP comes to power. According to party General Secretary
,how the UNP would come to power at the next general electionis by organising people to plead with God Vishnu at every Hindu kovil in the island (in a statement made to Ran FM – 03 June, 2013 morning). The UNP leadership is no doubt at its lowest and most primitive, irrational level of theSinhala mindset. Followers and not leaders, living with intellectual poverty, they have an equally primitive sketch of a constitution, put out for discussion too.Why did the UNP come up with such a draft sketch ? Was there any urgency or necessity for such a sketch ? Of course there is a need to revamp the present Constitution, which is now far different to what was actually adoptedin 1978 with an Executive Presidency and far worse too. It has unsolvable contradictions between different Amendments brought for different reasons. Some may not even allow, interpretations possible. That necessitytherefore for a new Constitution has been met by the 
 Final Report handed over to the President in June2009, which is no mere sketch. The APRC Final Report is also the only detailed draft for constitutional making sinceindependence 63 years ago that has with it a Sinhala political consensus on abolition of presidency, a compromiseon the “unitary State structure”, on devolution and for a new legislature.Why did not the UNP take it up, if it actually wants a new constitution for democratic change ? Technically one couldsay, they were not in the APRC process and therefore no party to its Final Report. So was the
.The TNA yetcan not refuse to sit for any discussion on the APRC Final Report as that has far reaching Constitutional proposalsfor devolution with a broad political consensus from South and beyond the
 proper. So is it for theUNP, if it really wants to answer such political issues within a democratic State structure. But the UNP does not gothat way.This sketch for a draft constitution proves, the UNP leadership is only trying to pre-empt the proposal for theabolition of the Executive Presidency patronised by the Sinhala dissidents of the UNP, with Rev. 
Thera kept at the head of the campaign. Through Sobhitha Thera they had managed to give their “Movement for a Just Society” a fairly independent façade, a few middle class professionals dragged in too. In apolitical context the Sinhala urban polity shows signs of tiring out with this 
, Wickramasinghefears the Sobitha Thera campaign for abolition of presidency may propose a “Common Candidate” for the nextpresidential hustings, in outfoxing him. This sketch for a draft constitution therefore is a paranoiac reaction. Any Constitution has to be a social contract for legitimacy. If any section of the society does not accept it, then therewould not be any legitimacy for the Constitution to be the “supreme law” of the land. But in most majoritariansocieties, when a minority section (the Tamil people) refuses to accept the constitution, the majority (
by now) takes it as their right to safeguard the constitution though with no social contract for it to be
Kusal Perera
 
held as legitimate. All three words, “oppression – repression – suppression” then become key words in majority(Sinhala) politics, accepted as the right of the majority to hold on to a “people’s sovereignty” there isn’t any more.That is where we are, as a fractured nation and that is the main and the most important reason, for a newconstitution. To renegotiate a new social contract, for peace and stability as a single, sovereign country. Any draftsketch therefore needs to have credible space for a new social contract with every social segment in Sri Lanka.Has this draft sketch put out by the UNP, such possibility ? To begin with, it has not even gone through a seriousdiscussion within its own membership. There was no report of the UNP parliamentary group discussing it. Even itsleading figures in the Western PC did not know the contents, the day after the launch (29 May). LG councillors aremuch more ignorant about all these. Wickramasinghe’s definition of party democracy stands as, what ever heproposes or launches is adopted by the Working Committee and that becomes the party. This draft sketch istherefore accepted as the party draft, though most can not defend or discuss it in public. It is strictly a leadershipaffair, but promises to make it a public constitution.Far worse is their populist approach and the contradictions and confusions they’ve got entrenched in. Whileproposing abolition of the Executive Presidency, Wickramasinghe does not accept the Executive Presidency as themain problem. In fact this draft sketch, justifies the Executive Presidency. [quote] The Second RepublicanConstitution was adopted in 1978 to provide for the economic, political and social development of the country. Itachieved the expected objectives including the socio-economic transformation of the country, to a great extent.[Thetwo opening sentences in Preamble-from
official website / unquote].UNP’s only reason to abolish the Executive Presidency is, [quote] During the last several years under MahindaRajapaksa’s regime, the office of Executive President has been completely desecrated, by destroying all the checksand balances that were built into the system. The dignity and the integrity of that office has been reduced to adespicable state………. [ibid / unquote] The problem therefore is 
 and not the 
.If that is the only reason, then it is only a matter of replacing Rajapaksa and restoring the lost glory.Why then abolish the Executive Presidency ? Such is the political stupidity of the UNP leadership.The rest is no different. Under the heading “Legislature”, its clause 02.5 on cross overs or any who looses the partymembership, loosing the elected seat, is again playing into popular sentiments. There is in society a wrong thinkingthat “cross overs” and “buy overs” from the opposition into the government fold, is one huge folly in the presentConstitution. The UNP is trying to capitalise on that social fault. The 1978 Constitution does not allow any cross-overs. Dr.
,the architect of the first republican constitution of 1972 wrote, [quote] There will beno by-elections: a vacancy will be filled by resorting to the lists put forward at the elections, and it being awarded tothe next in order on the list. There can be no cross-over or even changing of parties, because it entails automaticunseating. Membership and party proportions are frozen for the life of a Parliament: the constitutional maximum issix years. [Constitution for Dictatorship – July 1978 / unquote].Colvin was not wrong. That is what the 1978 Constitution has. But large numbers could still cross over from theUNP and retain their elected seat in parliament. The UNP could not unseat any one who crossed over fromWijayapala Mendis, Nanda Mathew, Dr. Sarath Amunugama and Susil Munasinghe in November 1999 and thenBogollagama who crossed over to 
‘s government in November, 2004, Karu Jayasuriyaand his 17 member entourage that crossed over in 2007 January to Mohan Lal Grero who crossed over to thisRajapaksa government, again in late November, 2011. The fault is in the UNP Constitution that has no democracyand no natural justice in their disciplinary procedure and not in the Republican Constitution. Then CJ Sarath N Silvapicked on that deficiency in the party constitution to allow cross overs to stay on. UNP leadership therefore shouldstop playing for empty public applause and have their party constitution in order that makes Clause 02.5 in their draft sketch irrelevant.Surprisingly this draft sketch influenced by the fair sex has a special clause for “Women’s Rights”. But this is aclause that could go under a well written Article on Fundamental Rights, which is not there in this draft sketch, avery conspicuous omission. So are provisions for “Right to Information” (R2I). Sri Lanka can not go any further ingovernance, unless its citizens have the R2I. In India, R2I has become a strong tool with the ordinary people,getting their daily issues moving and challenging local corruption. Very much at Panchayat and LG levels.

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