The Sunday Leader

After the 18th Amendment… What?

Reading what passes for analysis and comment with regard to the Rajapaksa Regime’s (RR’s) effort to place the seal of respectability on what can only be described as a travesty of democratic practice, the term that comes to mind is “Theatre of the absurd.”  If it isn’t, there sure are a huge number of idiots being published who have pretensions to intellect above the average!
We had the spectacle of the United National Party (UNP) seeking to discuss/negotiate the proposed changes to the constitution with the United Peoples Freedom Alliance (UPFA) government, or, rather, His Majesty Mahinda Rajapaksa. Given the history of previous discussions of this nature, one might justifiably ask, “For God’s sake, why?”  We had a UNP loyalist immolating himself in front of that party’s headquarters while the behaviour of the leaders of the party to which he had been loyal for more than half a century could well be described as the political equivalent of that fiery end, except the behaviour of Ranil Wickremesinghe and his cohorts was pathetic rather than dramatically tragic.
It is a matter of record that this Government has consistently acted with complete and absolute impunity, ignoring those provisions of the constitution that it found inconvenient when trying to impose its will on its subjects, and I use the word ‘subjects’ deliberately.
The only explanation is that, while bread and circuses have been a staple of every dictatorship at least since Roman times, there is also the need to constantly reinforce the fact that the regime will do as it pleases even if that means making seemingly meaningless gestures.
What practical consideration requires that you remove what you have a track record of deliberately ignoring in the first place? Just as the 13th and 17th Amendments have been completely ignored, why would Mahinda Rajapaksa want to remove the limitation on the number of terms that he serves?  It is not logical.  He could simply have offered himself for a third term, ignoring the requirements of the constitution and electoral law as he has done often enough.
Around the time of the end of ‘The War,’ in May of last year, Montage magazine printed a submission of mine which spoke to the fact that Sri Lankans had acknowledged the rule of the Rajapaksa family, in a manner that more than suggested a recognition that liberal democracy had no real legitimacy in Sri Lanka despite the passage of more than half a century of Westminster-style democratic practice. They saw Sri Lanka’s place as one in the pantheon of benign oligarchies. Unfortunately, the populace did not seem to recognise the fact that ‘benign’ and ‘oligarchies’ constitute an oxymoron.
All of that said, what fate awaits those of us seeking an existence free of harassment and the need to genuflect (literally and otherwise) to the rulers and their sycophants, even those several levels divorced from the top?

There aren’t many choices.
Particularly for those of us in the ‘boondocks’ of this country who are seen by an increasingly deprived rural population as ‘rich’ by virtue of having three square meals a day, a roof over our heads and, perhaps, a private means of transportation, life can suddenly take on new risks. One would have to be blind and deaf not to see what’s in the cards.
Not so long ago, I contacted the local police about a theft-in-progress by armed thugs where there was the real risk of someone being seriously injured or killed.  I was told that it would help if we brought the location of the crime closer to the police station! This was not simply a facetious ‘Gum-Butta’ at the end of a police telephone line indulging his sense of humour. It reflected something far more serious because minions don’t say these things unless they know that there is no likelihood of adverse consequences from above for such behaviour. Do I have to even mention the ongoing Sri Lankan soap-operas/teledramas called “Mervyn Silva” or “Wimal Weerawansa” in confirmation of this reality?
Out in the village and in rural Sri Lanka generally, you are, essentially, on your own unless you have the exceptional situation of a police officer in charge of a station who believes in those old-fashioned rules such as the need to protect law-abiding citizens from the thugs who are often close associates of the politicians who wield ultimate power in our society. Those politicians, of course, are assured of the ultimate in personal security at our expense.
How does one survive in this jungle? With great difficulty, I would suggest.
The simplest form of protection is to invoke ‘connections’ to those with ‘clout,’ something I was implored to do from the time of my return to Sri Lanka. As someone who had never done this either here or in the land I chose to call home for better than 30 years, I haven’t and have, instead, tried, mostly unsuccessfully, to prevail upon those with whom I’ve had to deal to act fairly and legally. I am reliably informed that this is a stupid, counterproductive way in which to try to do business in Sri Lanka. No matter. It’s hard to teach old dogs new tricks, particularly of the slimy variety.
Many friends are persuaded that there is going to be some kind of Sri Lankan revolution and the people will rise up and throw off the fetters of slavery that are descending upon them and that we will then return to some kind of utopia where everything will be sweetness and light once more.

What we are going to see is the continuing dominance of the oligarchs; a sycophantic horde who will share in their aggrandisement; a middle-class that will be satisfied with picking up a steadily-decreasing supply of crumbs from the table and the vast majority of Sri Lankans who will walk around in a daze saying, essentially, “Woe is me!”
The rapacious and criminal elements in Sri Lankan society will flourish, because their success will be predicated on their ability to stay close to the rulers, a skill they have already demonstrated in ample measure.
To invoke an analogy: we are going to be another Haiti except that we will have three Baby Docs instead of one!

11 Comments for “After the 18th Amendment… What?”

  1. izzy

    …. Suggest we rename “Sri Lanka” to “Sri Rajapakoosistan” in keeping with the Rajapakoo Dynasty???

  2. Ratna

    Lankans should get used to the habbit of calling His Majesty Mahinda Rajapaksa, and his son Prince Narmal Rajapaksa.
    Only those who are good at boot licking should get into politics.

  3. Naseeff

    People have different opinions about this issue. Srilankans are divided on this debate: Some argues that let us give the country to Rajapaksa family and as long as they do good for the country and for its people It will be OK. after all they have liberated the country after 25 years old war. Is not it a thanks giving for this president to be elected one again as a president or for that matters as long as he likes: after all he is good greedy man to accumulate money from Politics. I personally feel that Srilanka needs a strong President at this time; there are a lot to do in development and He is a man of words and actions: Who believe during the war that Tigers will be defeated within a short spell of time: It is his determination that this president guided the war for a victory: Suppose Tigers still alive what would have happened to this country: So why not we give one more change to see his words and action in developments: Sometimes country like ours needs some long terms to develop its: It is good to have one leader for sometimes to continues same development policies for at least one or two decades: Otherwise, a new leader will come and change all policies ups and down. This has been going own in Srilanka for a long times: For instance, It has been a tradition of UNP and SLFP to change policies when they come to power: some times politicians put party interest above national interests: many examples can be cited for this: from transferring school teachers, principals, Police officers and other professionals to changing names of buildings: This trend has indeed been one of the obstacles for development. I will support his president as long as he got good economic policy and good policies for developments: free from corruptions. On the other hands, this power struggle could damage country’s image in international arena. it could create chaos in Srilanka if all other parties such as UNP.JVP and others united to oppose this new political system and they could bring the country down: We do not want to have another JVP uprising or similar political unrest in Srilanka: it needs a peaceful environment to lead forward to development: Now for the time we all have to wait and see: Time will tell us how honest is Rajapaksa family to Srilanka: Time will tell us how patriotic is Rajapaksa family to Srilanka: or Time will tell us how what a political blunder was made by this President or Time will tell us what a political milestone was achieved by this President: Now we all have to be optimistic about the future of Srilanka: Naseeff

  4. murugs

    Good to hear that Naseeff, but the way our Prez doing things are really making us many shiver & worry. This is not the way good things are done in the first place.
    Hoping for the best is good, but only the good politicians can deliver good stuff, not these ruling family . You know when you see a good one. This is all a bad, very bad start for any good thing , but surely for a nasty fall.
    Let us pray !

  5. naseeff

    Yes, mr Murugs. I agree with you. Politics in Srilanka is going out of hands. It is sad is not things are like that. first place it should be done in right way. But if things are bad. How do we fix it? Do you make anarchy to fix it? Do you consider lesser evils? I mean if there two evils? one is most bad and other one is less bad? Which one we should choose? That is the question here? among bad politicians I think Rajapakse may lesser harmful man than any others given his records in the past? That is why people like him? or suggest me someone who could run the country right now? We do not have Lalith or Gamini today. even in SLFP there is no good leaders now except this MR who could do something until some one come forward.

  6. punchnilame

    “Srilanka needs a strong President at this time; there are a lot to do in development and He is a man of words and actions:” says Mr. Naseeff.

    The question is if he can develop Hambantota, the way he has done, under the pre 18A Constitution, why this hurried amendment is the question. This is one example.

    The greed to hang on to Power is very obvious and the amendments are not in keeping with current world democratic principles?

  7. I Hussein

    We dont need a strong leader at all. All we need is a wise leader with a vision.

    BY the way what does this ‘strong’ leader means? An Iron Gloved Leader? That is not ‘STRONG’ – Thats a ‘WEAK’ leader with inferiority complex.

    • izzy

      What we need is a leader like Mervin???

      • I Hussein

        Izzy – Dont we have one now?
        Whats the difference? WW did death farce and whole world laughed at us with his saline. And you know how he ended up with sugar daddy.
        Mervyn did some other farce and he is been sacked and reinstated for the socond time. entire country saw what he did and SLPF cleared him from wrong doing. So who actually responsible for this and who actually instructing? Its another Mervyn. This Mervyn has been created liek this for reasons well known.

  8. 19th, 20th……..!!

  9. naseeff

    Dear Punchnilame. It is true that it is human nature that human beings love power and position: Let me tell you suppose you are in that position what will you do. I reckon you will do same thing. that is human nature: It is called chair psychology. No one wants to give away power/influence/positions. May be a very few will follow the letters of law and many may manipulate laws: After all this president used be a lawyer. Srilanka is not a matured democracy it is still a child in terms of democratic values are concerted. a long way to go in that right direction. With regard to Hambantota development. I do not blame him for that. It is true that as a President of Srilanka. President should not discriminate district to district or province to Province in development and focus of development should cover the entire country but it is again human nature that every one loves their birth place: This president happened to be born in that area and naturally he will develop that area: Do not you love your village or your town that we are born in? that is natural ? I do not blame that. what happened in the past. People in Colombo/Gampaha/Kandy got all developments and rural and villages were neglected. but I agree with you that 18 constitutional amendment is rushed through: People are not given enough time to think about it and professionals and academics are not given time to discuss. Political pundits may have to think twice about their political theories now in Srilanka: They may teach one thing in theory and students may see another thing in practice: Politics becomes a joke in Srilanka now.

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