New Constitution, a long felt need | Daily News

New Constitution, a long felt need

Sri Lankan High Commissioner to India, Austin Fernando, has said that Sri Lanka needs the refugees to return from India. This he has said after Fernando, paid a visit to Chennai to obtain first-hand knowledge of the situation pertaining to Tamil refugees. He told TheHindu that Lanka needs its citizens. “We want them to return. And, after a disastrous situation, people do not get the best of things which they would like to have. But we will try to give the best offer to everyone who returns,” he said. Austin is considered to be a strait state servant with a sympathetic view on Tamil national question.

Commenting on the package which would be offered to the returnees, Fernando said it has several components. “The basics have to be attended to, like a house, a land to live on and assistance for resettlement and rehabilitation. When Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe was in New Delhi in October 2018, a decision was taken that the verification of people - 3,815 names of the refugees - should be undertaken by the Indian Government. The returnee package has to be worked out and that is the job of the Sri Lankan Government. I am not sure how far the verification process has progressed. As we are trying to get refugees back to their home areas, there must be some package, which has to be upgraded,” he said.

Some Tamil leaders condemn this project stating "Do these sick, insane mentally ill diplomats want them back without good reasons? Returning to Sri Lanka for what? No homes. No jobs. Continuous and none stop harassment, torment, torture, thuggery, hooliganism, racism discrimination rape murder? What more?" It may be the reaction of suffering Tamils displaced from their homeland. But on the other hand we must come back to the homeland even under difficult conditions to fight for our rights.

In today’s politics moral equivalence is confined to bribery and corruption, while suitability for public work and social–political leadership are confined to arguments and debates over corruption within the country. Media bosses dominate the show with enslaved media professionals. When the main political parties are all corrupt ‘all are the same’ becomes the argument of everybody. There is also no moral equivalence, in intellectual honesty or social ethical training and family heritage to be count, false or otherwise. There are only immoral equivalences; based on sinister stories plenty of ‘what about the other’; as there are now in Lankan art, music and other artistic commitments. When political choice is narrowed to choosing between similar immoral public figures, the only way to positively move forward is to break out of the choice of immoral equivalents with only limited choices, and positively expand the people’s choices in real mass actions.

Presidential candidate

Some political pundits say that all leaders are immoral and no political party can nominate a presidential candidate, hoping presidency will remain, with clean hands and honest intentions; the idea of independent candidate becomes important. In that sense Maithripala Sirisena was an independent candidate supported by the UNP in last presidential election. Many UNPers today say that they made a fundamental mistake by selecting Sirisena. Though presidential elections not in the card it came out unexpectedly in the Civil Society Mass meeting on February 8 at Kadirgamar Centre. Isn’t it time for the people to clean out the whole bunch? It is that simple as an idea, and it is that difficult to execute. But it is not either inevitable or impossible.

Political change cannot be brought about by chanting prayers, chasing planets, or breaking coconuts. Nor does Lanka need a bloody violent revolution through terror. Simple elections with mass backing are good enough to effect big enough changes. That has been the experience from 1931 to 2015, even though the outcomes have been mostly mixed and often short-lived. It depends on the mass actions during and before elections.

Lanka’s current problem is that the same old problems have been passed over from the hands of the sublime to the hands of the ridiculous. Prof. Sarath Wijesooriya attacked mercilessly not only on President Sirisena but also Premier Wickremesinghe too. That shook the meeting that expected the coming back of PM Wickremesinghe will point the march for victory. Meeting was crowded with Tamils, Muslims and Christians in addition to anti-racist Sinhala. Shocked by negative approach, one got up supported by many, raised humbly the apt question ‘who will be our new messiah!'

That is how in the past, we came upon the obnoxious 18th Amendment, we concentrated on that and finished it by 19th Amendment. However we could not change the constitution and bring a new constitution. That is the most urgent task for which we pushed Ranil to forefront; and after not getting that, we are stuck with the imperfections of the 19th Amendment. And the debate between the two sides has become the proverbial tale of the pot and the kettle calling each other black. It is not only in regard to the constitution, but also in regard to acts and allegations of corruption and instances of abuse of power. When both sides have immoral equivalences, neither side can claim a high moral ground over the other. Any allegation by one side against the other provokes the retort – what about your side? End of discussion. Who would have thought that in January 2015, an obscure common opposition candidate would get the better of a governing juggernaut that too had stolen the national limelight after starting in obscurity and was hell-bent on taking out Lanka on a 99-year lease? The people made it happen in January 2015. They can make it happen again. But they need a candidate who can best represent the most of what they want. This is the shallow thinking of Sinhala pundits. The country needs a people’s candidate as opposed to party and family candidates!

People’s constitution

The idea of a people’s candidate sits well with the recent initiative for people’s constitution- following the consensus reached by 46 people’s organisations at a meeting in Colombo convened by the Punarudaya Movement on Saturday, January 19, 2018, to launch a ‘Movement for Making a People’s Constitution’ based on a 'grand alliance' of people’s organisations. The gathering of 46 organisations and the launching of a broader movement for a ‘people’s constitution’, demonstrates two political facts irrespective of who started and paid expenses for the project.

One, the dissatisfaction with the existing constitutional system and the desire to overhaul it might be more deep seated and widespread than what most constitutional experts and political commentators might be willing to concede. This was shown by the people’s uprising in the last 53 days democracy movement. And, two, the new movement demonstrates the determination to take the task of constitution making beyond the hands of politicians in parliament and incorporate it to become a genuinely participatory constituent assembly.

The real question is what the associated organisations will do to advance their project in this year of elections, 2019? It should be obvious to them that what happens before the upcoming presidential, parliamentary, not to mention provincial elections, will undoubtedly have serious implications for the constitutional project. The project itself is an extension of the single-issue movement for abolishing the executive presidency launched by late Sobitha Thera in 2014. The project is also the result of the people’s frustration with what has transpired after the January 2015 election victory that was a direct outcome of Sobitha Thera’s movement.

It is incumbent on everyone who did the political legwork in 2015 to make sure that the expectations of 2015 are not further stalled or totally reversed by the upcoming elections in 2019 and 2020. Democratic movement should put all efforts to change the constitution in the coming months. We can expect only stalling and backpedaling from the candidates who forget the task of democracy. Rajapaksa’s mission is to reverse the verdict of January 2015 and take the country back to the 18th Amendment and unlimited presidential powers and terms for the Rajapaksas.


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Civilized society every citizen born has a place with peace and hope right to birth place is vital


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