Daily News Editorial
Former President Mahinda Rajapaksa these days is given to issuing copious statements on the various topics. Yesterday, in one of these statements that have now come to be frequent, he has called on the government to abandon the idea of a new constitution. He says that the government has no mandate to replace the present constitution.
It is the selfsame Mahinda Rajapaksa who led countless campaigns, such as pada yatras and janagoshas to, among other things, replace the JR constitution which was described by the SLFP as the fount of all evil that has beset the country. His then leader famously described the constitution as the bahubootha viyawasthawa and even attempted to replace it with the equally famous packejaya. On that occasion Rajapaksa meekly went along with supporting that packejaya though putting up a ‘show’ outside parliament, meeting with Buddhist monks, in a bid to pacify them and guaranteeing that no harm will visit the country. The draft constitution, of course, was made a bonfire in parliament, by the UNP, with the packejaya stillborn.
Now Rajapaksa is singing a different tune and insisting that the bahubootha viyawasthawa be retained, with all its obnoxious features that were repugnant to him in a different avatar. Under the circumstances, can any right thinking individual attach any value to the plethora of statements that are being issued by Rajapaksa on different topics.
Mahinda Rajapaksa is opposed to the ceding of more powers to the periphery and is hammering on the federal theme, saying that the country is headed for division, if the proposed constitution is enacted. Did he not promise the international community, and, India, in particular, that he was willing to go beyond the 13th Amendment (13 plus)? Why, then, sing a different tune now, in an obvious double game played by him and younger brother Basil. On the one hand we have Basil, going out of his way to woo the Tamil vote in the north, even admitting to crimes committed by the security forces during the war, and is insisting that land held by the forces be handed back to the owners, while elder brother Mahinda is back to square one playing communal politics, pandering to the hard line elements in the south.
Rajapaksa cannot have the cake and eat it. He must come clear on his stand on devolution of power. On the other hand he cannot try to woo the Tamil vote through the agency of his younger brother. In any event, the Tamil vote will not come into the equation, in his case, now that he cannot contest for the presidency. If it is Gota he has in mind, the chances of the former Defence Secretary getting the Tamil vote is zilch. That is a no go zone for the Rajapaksas, Basil’s attempts notwithstanding, particularly after the treatment of the Tamil community, following the war, when the Tamils were made to feel a conquered race.
Rajapaksa also says that he was bent on abolishing the presidency during his third term and that it was to expedite the process that he called for an election two years in advance. Speaking to journalists, outside the Tangalle Prison, where eldest son Namal was being held, Rajapaksa said; “I did not have sufficient time to abolish the Executive Presidency and it was with a view to speeding up the process that I called for an early election.”
MR did not need a second invitation to abolish the Executive Presidency, in which he was comfortably ensconced, since 2005, in his second term, when he was equipped with a two thirds majority, after engineering the crossover of over a dozen UNP MPs. Nay, he bought over the MPs to make up the two thirds majority for a specific project – to have him hold Presidential office for life, or at least until young Namal came of age, to pass over the baton. Is Rajapaksa expecting any sane person to believe that he extended his Presidential term, going to the trouble of buying over Opposition MPs, to have it speedily abolished in the course of his third term? Why did he opt for a third term, if he knew, all along, that the Executive Presidency would be history anyway? He could have easily done it during his second incumbency, when he had the wherewithal at his disposal, since 2008, during his first term, when the mass crossovers took place?
Granted that the war was on and the nation needed a strong executive with untrammeled powers to prosecute the war to its ultimate end. But, when he entered his second term, the war was over and he had the best chance of abolishing the EP. He did not need to curtail his second term and extend his Presidency for a third term to do this. In fact one recalls Udyaya Gammanpila urging the voters to elect Rajapaksa for a second term since he (Rajapaksa) is wedded to abolish the EP and since he will be the last Executive President, this was guaranteed. A third term never came into the equation.