The Sunday Leader

“People Have The Supremacy And Every Govt Must Listen” ” -Ven. Sobitha Thero

  • No More Amendments, Only A Complete Constitutional Change

Chief incumbent of the Naga Vihara in Kotte, the Ven. Maduluwawe Sobitha Thero, who recently formed a movement to fight for social justice, says the country is in need of a new constitution in order to solve issues that are plaguing the society. He called for the abolition of the executive presidency, which he observed was the root cause for issues in many areas. Speaking of the impeachment motion against the Chief Justice, the Thero noted that the Movement would fight for the protection of the judiciary.

“We have no intention of trying to save Dr. Shirani Bandaranayake, but we need to save the judiciary,” he said, adding that the opposition political parties have been ineffective in raising a voice against issues faced by the people and country.

Following are excerpts of the    interview:

Q: What made you form the National Movement for Social Justice?
A: We organized this movement without any political affiliations. We have looked at intellectuals, university lecturers and other professionals to form this movement. The 1978 constitution by the then president J. R. Jayewardene has created many unfair situations in the country. The main issue is the executive presidency that holds unlimited powers. There are also other issues that need to be addressed as well. These issues in turn have created an unjust society. Therefore, our main focus is to abolish the executive presidency in order to create a just and fair society and establish democracy in the country.
Veteran politicians like Dr. N. M. Perera and Dr. Colvin R. de Silva warned of the ill effects of this legislation at the time it was being passed. Then head of the SLFP, Sirimavo Bandaranaike also said in her speech that the move to establish an executive presidency would bring an end to democracy. She continuously spoke of the matter. When President Mahinda Rajapaksa was a member of the opposition, the entire SLFP stood against the executive presidency. They said the executive presidency was not suitable for the country. The LSSP, Communist Party, the SLFP and the JVP are against this executive presidency. Even the UNP that passed this legislation says it is bad for the country.
Then the question is who really wants this. Everyone accepts the ill effects of the position and these needs to be changed to build the country. Therefore, the executive presidency that holds unlimited powers has today taken control of the legislature and judiciary.
Former President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunge promised to abolish the executive presidency when she assumed office, she objected to the whole constitution. President Rajapaksa’s Mahinda Chinthana and the Mahinda Chinthana Idiri Dekma both say that the executive presidency would be abolished and a prime minister who is responsible to parliament would be appointed.
Everyone accepts that the executive presidency is bad for the country. An effort was made to address this issue through the 17th Amendment, by established independent commissions. However, that too was lost with the introduction of the 18th Amendment. The police, public service, elections, judiciary and most sectors have now become politicized. People could not expect a fair society in this backdrop. Hence, we need to address these issues. I think this is a good time to bring about a change since the President himself has accepted that the current system needs to be changed. It is a policy of the SLFP and other coalition partners of the government, which also has a two-thirds majority in parliament.

Q: You have played an active role in many movements. What is different about this movement?
A: There’s no difference. We have always stood against wrong. Wherever and whenever there has been any wrong, we have pointed it out and opposed it.

Q: Do you plan to focus only on the executive presidency and campaign against it? What about the judiciary?
A: Apart from the executive presidency, we also oppose the preferential voting system. The past few elections, especially the last provincial council elections have shown that this system needs to be done away with. Candidates also have to spend a large amount of money to contest elections. They then get pushed towards corruption by accepting bribes due to this reason. However, some areas with regard to the preferential voting system have been amended. The adverse areas in this system have now come out into the open. I don’t think the solution to all these issues is another amendment. There needs to be a complete change in the entire constitution. Only such a move could be beneficial to the country.
As for the issues faced by the judiciary, the movement would also take up the issue. There was an independent judicial services commission; the President now makes appointments to this commission. The President appoints even Supreme Court judges. There’s no independence in the judiciary then. All this needs to change.

Q: What action do you plan to take through this movement?
A: We plan to make a firm point to the government through the people of the issues that needs to be urgently addressed. It would be the people who would call on the government to take action against issues. People have the supremacy and every government has to and would listen to the people’s voice.

Q: How confidant are you of ensuring the protection of judicial independence through your movement?
A: The threat to judicial independence has been caused by the current constitution. President Jayewardene appointed Neville Samarkone as the Chief Justice. The President then expected partial verdicts from the Chief Justice and when it did not happen an impeachment motion was brought against the Chief Justice. All these are due to the constitution. There was an independent judiciary in the country, which was lost through the 1978 constitution.
Even the current impeachment motion against the Chief Justice has brought about a large number of issues. There are petitions filed before court questioning the Parliamentary Select Committee and the constitutional rights for the committee to probe the motion. Therefore, there’s action already been taken to fight to safeguard judicial independence.

Q: Are you satisfied with the actions taken by opposition political parties to address the issues faced by the country?
A: Not at all. The opposition has forgotten all these issues due to their personal conflicts. They have in-house battles and do not have tome for the problems faced by the people and country. Therefore, at least the people need to take up a strong position and raise a voice. Even the Speaker addressing the LSSP convention said the executive presidency needs to be changed to build the country. Therefore, this is the best time to push for a change since everyone is of the view that there’s a need for a change.

Q: What implications do you think the impeachment motion against the Chief Justice would have on the judiciary?
A: We have no intention of trying to save Dr. Shirani Bandaranayake, but we need to save the judiciary. The issue is that the next person to be appointed to the post would also face such a situation if the line were not towed. These problems would continue until an independent judicial services commission is set up though a change in the constitution. Otherwise, this is like a cancer that cannot be cured. Regardless of whether the Chief Justice would resign from the post or not, it would not resolve the bigger issue.

Q: What implications do you see for the country?
A: The judiciary is like a place of worship; it is the final bastion of justice, where people look to find justice and fair play. People always seek legal redress for justice. But where would the people go if the place of worship were not clean any more? The judiciary should be a sacred area that is sans political influences. There should a proper system for appointing Supreme Court judges. It should not be done according to favoritism.

Q: How do you see the country’s future?
A: Now people have started to speak of a need for changes to address the issues faced by the country. Even coalition partners of the government like the LSSP, Vasudeva Nanayakkara have said the executive presidency needs to be abolished and a new constitution needs to be introduced. If this campaign is strengthened, I believe President Mahinda Rajapaksa would also pay attention to the call.

3 Comments for ““People Have The Supremacy And Every Govt Must Listen” ” -Ven. Sobitha Thero”

  1. Psycho

    Your place is in the Temple, politics is for us.

  2. P.L.J.B.Palipana

    Every out dated system should be changed for the benefit of the future generations. In the 1960s Douglas McGregor formulated theories X and Y to analyse the Human Side of the Enterprise and in 1980s William Ouchi changed it to theory Z to suit the American Enterprice.
    The Time is Relative and the entire Politico-Economic system of SriLanka must undergo a drastic change as mentioned the most Ven.Monk.

  3. ALSITEN

    Golbless Srilananka and Monks. They are going to be vicitm of Srilankan government soon.

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