The abolition of
the Executive Presidency was supposed to be the main theme of
the joint Opposition during the Presidential election that
concluded last week. It was also the single most important point
in the agenda of the NDF candidate Sarath Fonseka.
A retrospective glance at the campaign, however, shows that
it was one of the least discussed subjects at the Opposition
election platforms. The contradictions in the nature of change
to be effected as well as the willingness of the presidential
candidate to accommodate those changes made the abolition of the
Executive Presidency a non-issue half way down the campaign.
Besides, it should never have been an issue for the simple
reason that the Executive President cannot change the system.
The task of effecting Constitutional reforms, including the
change of Presidency falls within the ambit of the legislature,
the Parliament. This slogan of its abolition had nothing more
than a cosmetic value at the presidential poll. The hypocrisy of
the Opposition in purring forward that slogan could be seen from
the fact during the past five years none of its constituent
members tried to bring up the issue in Parliament.
The only candidate who had put forward a meaningful proposal
on Constitutional reform was President Mahinda Rajapaksa. The
UPFA has now a real chance of taking its Constitutional
proposals before the public at the forthcoming general election.
The Mahinda Chintana Idiri Dekma outlines the proposed
changes including the change of the Executive Presidency to a
system under which the President is answerable to Parliament.
Further, the establishment of a Second Chamber or a Senate is
another very important proposal. The UPFA has also decided to
ask the people for a two-thirds majority so as to consider the
election as a referendum for Constitutional change.
The country has been unified after a lapse of nearly three
decades. Any Constitutional change should also consolidate that
unity. Unity means unity in diversity. The best way to
consolidate this unity in diversity is through proper devolution
of power from the grassroots level. It should guarantee equity
and equal opportunities for all peoples irrespective of class,
creed, ethnicity or status.
The Constitution of 1978 has acted as a constraint on many
occasions. There are also many deficiencies in it. For example,
it does not guarantee right to life of citizens, a right that
was enshrined in the 1972 Republican Constitution. Whatever it
is and however deficient it is the way to change is to use its
provisions for change. The general election would provide an
ideal opportunity for those interested to educate the people on
the proposals put forward and the methodology to be adopted for
Question of a certificate
Government is persisting with its request for Velupillai
Prabhakaran’s death certificate. It says it is vital for the on
going proceedings in the Rajiv Gandhi assassination case. What a
bizarre turn of events. Here is man who butchered nearly 60,000
innocents and sent them to their premature graves sans any
documentary evidence of their existence on earth. But the man
himself is given a grand send off with a death certificate
tucked under his arm. What irony!
With all the atrocities committed against it Sri Lanka still
managed to keep him in one piece so that a death certificate
could be issued. Not so fortunate was Rajiv Gandhi himself who
was blown into smithereens. Prabhakaran wherever he would be
grateful to India for according him due respect to his dead body
by insisting on such niceties as a death certificate, bringing
him into the realm of civilized existence although this may not
be a comforting thought to the next of kin of thousands of Sri
Lankans who were blown out of existence.
So Prabhakaran wherever he may be will be grateful as he was
not made to suffer the fate of most of his victims by the Sri
Lankan Army so that he was sufficiently presentable in death for
a post mortem and a death certificate.
It may look like gallows humour to some. But the fact remains
the world’s most dangerous guerrilla leader was spared the fate
of his countless victims so he is accorded respectability with a
death certificate. Small consolation to them though.