The title of the President under the 1972 Constitution was ceremonial in the workings and ritualistic in nature. J.R. Jayewardene, with a 5/6 majority in Parliament, desired to vest executive power on equal proportion to the strength vested on him by the voters. This made the office of the President omnipotent from 1978 onward.
The prime ministerial post was downgraded to that of an office peon. The president played the role of a mighty Goliath. Such was the glory associated with the post. Two previous incumbents of two terms - who desired to run for office for the third time - unofficially are debarred by the JVP insurrection and orders of the Supreme Court. Avarice for office was present among its holders from the beginning.
Simple; the greed to secure permanency made the two-time president Mahinda Rajapaksa (MR) revised the Constitution [18A] to give him an opportunity to gamble on his fortunes. Since MR could not make it it’s unlikely any other would make this change so that a president who held the post twice can have a third term.
The fame and affection MR derived, by defeating terrorism, was immense with the populace in the south the jewel in his crown. Yet sadly he had to preside over a corrupt and decadent Government. MR was overwhelmed by a corrupt regime and never sought to clean it.
The 18th Amendment carries wisdom in a country devoid of sufficient leadership material. Fair enough, the decision of continuation was eventually left in the hands of the people.
Old faces will form the next administration if MR is elected. He is familiar with party veterans or children of kinsmen. People may have to live under worse conditions with likely economic upheavals. They may take to the streets voluntarily without food or booze and remember the lessons learned during the showdown sponsored by MR. It was a disciplined show that made the bystander indecisive. The question is posed as to what was achieved during this show given the money spent by MR? Was this money spent to make Gota look feeble?
The focus is now on the 20th Amendment. Not being able to draft the 20 Amendment in English, the JVP adopted NGO folk and left-minded church oriented forces. They took cover under the JVP, without the saffron shield held previously under Rev. Sobitha in 2015 for protection. All the good work done by JVP over the years may evaporate if monks enter the scene to preserve the role of a future President.
The 18th Amendment carries wisdom in a country devoid of sufficient leadership material. Fair enough, the decision of continuation was eventually left in the hands of the people. They shot down MR by outvoting him and swept the 18th amendment out of the rule-book. Blame the same people as much as MR, being convinced - in believing he is a mighty king that did no wrong and on this false premise simpleton Mahinda ruled as a despot would, while his family made merry. This family suffers to date, deservingly for doing wrong.
MR, the despot, sincerely loved his country and his countrymen, but cared little for national assets, allowing it to be plundered. The present Government thrives on the errors of the last; so would the next government? MR from 2015 has not learned much from errors committed or the company he keeps and appears to be greedy for offices of power around him. Hopefully is not as stupid as the learned Professor of Law (‘I know the law’) in seeking a third term from the Supreme Court which cannot grant it, having not challenged it before the enactment of 19 A, should gracefully settle for the Prime Minister’s post, leaving the more powerful Presidency to Gota - an attractive ‘fresh old familiar face’ among the ‘old and ugly’. Gota is sadly surrounded by the evil names of the last regime and finds it hard to discard them, being entrenched, calls for an downfall.
Third occupier of office in 2005 and 2009 of two terms, Mahinda Rajapaksa realised his time was up - made it a bottomless pit by the 18th Amendment. He overestimated his popularity in overcoming dreaded terrorism, attained affection of a divine proportion in the South, yet, left it at the discretion of the people of extending his term of office. That was not to be: The people did not desire to give him a third term. If MR, loved immensely, failed in an attempted third, any other in the future will do likewise. Leave it as a safe and sure route for a graceful retirement for a two term President.
The present Government is unlikely to obtain a second term and has made life extremely hard and uncaring for the voters. MR undoubtedly did better, after breaking the back of northern terrorism, with the reduced security providing partial satisfaction to an insecure society that uplifted a dormant economy.
Did MR, after defeat, realise that he did not acquire as many votes as Chandrika did, after her first term of office; maimed at the hands of the LTTE while her main rivals were killed in assassination bids? MR never realised that he failed to carry the minority votes after defeating terrorism; something which Chandrika did after her first term in office. MR established by his defeat in 2015 that no other could aspire for a third term without a substantial section of the minority votes without corruption and poor governance-pleased none; lost the confidence of the North and East densely populated with the minorities, with it his third term. He could not carry the South as he did in 2005 and 2010 comprehensively with huge majorities to offset losses elsewhere.
If MR runs for a third term as President instead of forwarding a new candidate and fails to find an honest team to make the dynamic changes in 2020 he may be termed a lame duck in record time. If this happens crowds may take to the streets and initiate a revolution of a unknown colour.
The winner is determined by the floating middle vote. Question is whether they will vote substantially for MR or stay at home or spoil their votes or vote for the JVP?
Government desiring a return to office should have left the third term open as contemplated in the 18th Amendment - leaving Gotabhaya- the fastest rising candidate for the office of Presidency, out of contention. The demand would have been, in such a circumstance, for MR to obviously seek Presidency for the third time. Doesn’t MR combining with Gota make them a more formidable outfit? Provided the powers of the Presidency is not emasculated and makes way for a resurrection of another insurrection by a road show after a JO style ‘satyagraha’ with or without the JVP. The recent road show was an attempt to display to the public that MR is the top dog. Gota was presented as an insignificant character and this was accepted by him tamely. Gota showed a kid brother mentality saluting the maestro.
Much is owed to him for defeating the LTTE not forgetting the stupidity of JR who made the President an over-bearing object. The need is to have a President from the 1978 constitution and a Prime Minister from the 1972 constitution with powers being balanced. An amended 19th or a helpful 20th can keep the equilibrium alive of both offices which is badly needed for checks and balances and exchange of power between the holders of such offices meaningfully. We would never have won the war and the JVP insurrection unless the President held executive power. Pleasing the minorities is game the UNP and the NGOs desire. Is that the game plan of the JVP, now in the arms of the NGOs?
Combined UNP/JVP sponsored 20th Amendment drawn by the church based NGO units hope to eliminate the supra powers granted to the President by the JRJ Constitution of 1978. This is the litmus test to determine whether MR will sail with the proposed 20th or try to demolish it or will he sheepishly visit another country and absent himself during the debate.
Very few realise that there are five mounds of vote banks –(A) SLFP (now split between the two fractions within the SLFP with Sirisena being presently insignificant) (B) monolithic UNP (C) TNA powerful in the North/East mildly divided with the entrance of Wigneswaran (D) Undecided Floating voter (E) thin cadres of the JVP with an evaporating vote bank (f) Muslim voters stay with a winner unless extremist gets into the act.
The winner is determined by the floating middle vote. Question is whether they will vote substantially for MR or stay at home or spoil their votes or vote for the JVP? Results at the Provincial Council are the best readers. Will it be held for the said reason?
Where should Gota stand? First chum, convince the voters by jettisoning the dual citisenship and you are a rightful candidate. Sorry, you may otherwise be a footnote!