Reforms Without Referendum, Or Referendum Without Reforms?
N. Sathiya Moorthy 2017-04-18
Thus, no national newspaper (read: English) got to highlight a recent statement of Upcountry Tamil leader and Minister, Mano Ganesan
Mano Ganesan indicated that the ‘Big Two’, namely the UNP and the SLFP, were happy to confine the constitutional reforms processes near-exclusively to electoral reforms
SLFP representative at the meeting made it abundantly clear that they were prepared neither for wholesale constitutional reforms nor a referendum to make it happen
Foreign Minister Mangala Samaraweera of the UNP said that they could not afford a referendum-centric Constitution, just now
Whether or not there is a national consensus of some kind for pushing through constitutional reforms, as promised by the present-day rulers, there are already differences if any consensus has at all been achieved. On that would also hinge the question if any of the proposed constitutional amendments, including a new constitution, if agreed upon, would require a nation-wide referendum.
The current phase of the issue started with TNA’s M A Sumanthiran claiming that the parliamentary steering committee had arrived at a near-consensus on contentious issues such as State and Executive Presidency, power-devolution and electoral system. He said that they could now move on to the next stage, and address minor issues as also the details. Joint Opposition leader, Dinesh Gunawardene has promptly denied the emergence and existence of any such consensus. Specially, he has said that the JO and the official SLFP faction of President Maithripala Sirisena (forming a part of the incumbent Government) had not agreed to many/most of the propositions and formulations put forth at the steering committee. What Sumanthiran said was untrue, Dinesh G was quoted as saying. Interestingly, senior leaders from the ‘Sinhala majors’ have ceased saying anything of any consequence. The last time anyone said anything of the kind, President Sirisena and UNP Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe said that they were not ready for a referendum-centric initiative of any kind. For the first time in months thus, the two leaders were talking in unison on any issue pertaining to Constitution-making. Whether or not it’s helpful or useful to their combined political/electoral agenda from 2015, Sirisena has once again proved that his style of tiring out the ally would pay off better than trying to take on the other.
It’s a quality that the UNP leadership does not seem to have encountered, either against the party or even within the party. So much so, there is also no knowing what the traditional challengers to the UNP throne are thinking, doing or whatever else they are occupying themselves with in political, self-promotional terms. Convenience of ignorance It’s a convenience of ignorance that the national media and national leaders have often given themselves to, with the result their readers and cadres have no easy way of knowing, what was going on in matters of ‘minority issues and consensus’ Thus, no national newspaper (read: English) got to highlight a recent statement of Upcountry Tamil leader and Minister, Mano Ganesan. In his statement, Minister Ganesan, who is the leader of the Democratic People’s Front, spoke about a meeting of all the parties that had backed this government in the presidential polls of 2015 (barring the JVP). President Sirisena and PM Ranil participated in the meeting, so did representatives of all the Muslim and Upcountry Tamil parties that are with the Government. The TNA too was present.
Mano Ganesan indicated that the ‘Big Two’, namely the UNP and the SLFP, were happy to confine the constitutional reforms processes near-exclusively to electoral reforms. They were not keen now to introduce reforms to the character of the Sri Lankan State or the Executive Presidency and the extent of power-devolution. But the political parties representing the ‘minorities’, including the TNA, Sri Lanka Muslim Congress and his own DPF, would have none of it, Minister Mano G reiterated. In this context, the minister clarified that the SLFP representative at the meeting made it abundantly clear that they were prepared neither for wholesale constitutional reforms, which meant a new constitution, nor a referendum to make it happen. President Sirisena and PM Ranil endorsed the views, as according to them, a referendum at this stage could cause avoidable embarrassment to the Government.
In this context, Mano Ganesan asserted that all minority parties that were present at the discussions and even others who had backed this Government would have none of it. “The Supreme Court cleared the 13-A on power-devolution by the narrowest of margin, 5-4,” he recalled, adding, “Only a new Constituton could thus serve the purpose of power-devolution.” Referendum-centric Outisde of the Government parties’ meeting, if it could still be called so, Foreign Minister Mangala Samaraweera of the UNP said that they could not afford a referendum-centric Constitution, just now. Sympathethic sections of the civil society organisations would want the nation to believe that he was the one that had got the recent two-year reprieve for the nation at the UNHRC? Truth be sought, did the UNHRC really have any option – looking as it did into human rights affairs through the eyes of the West? The West, in turn, cannot hope for anything more than what the incumbent government leadership was willing to offer, if at all, they have burnt the bridges with the predecessor Rajapaksa regime on the very same issues. To the TNA and the rest, President Rajapaksa too had said that he could not be seen as giving the Tamils whatever that would not clear a referendum.
In political terms, the Sirisena leadership of the SLFP could not yield more space than already to the Rajapaksa camp. To the extent, the UNP ally has to be sympathetic to the Sirisena plight. Otherwise, too, whether Sirisena or Rajapaksa, the SLFP could not afford a referendum-based power-devolution. Not that the UNP could risk it, now or ever. While piloting 13-A in his time, UNP’s JRJ as President, would not try or test his luck with anything requiring a referendum. Should the UNP go ahead on that course now or later, it would imply that the SLFP, whether under Sirisena, Rajapaksa or any other, would be pitted against them. The problem before the Government leadership is not power-devolution or other contentious issues involved in Constitution-making that would require to be passed in a referendum. As PM Ranil and others have outlined in recent times, the focus of such a referendum could well shift. It would thus boil down to outside of the constitutional issues, and become a test of the people’s confidence in the current leadership. Any loss in the referendum could mean the end of this Government, one way or the other – or, at least an overnight advancement of the parliamentary elections, but only as a political principle. Under 19-A, President Sirisena is authorised to dissolve Parliament and call fresh elections only six months ahead of the full five-year term of the present one. It would thus mean that any loss of face for the Government leadership in a Constitution-centric referendum, and of power, would force the President to call in the Rajapaksa camp to try and form an alternate government.
Such a course has consequences which neither Sirisena, nor Ranil, not certainly the UNP as a party can afford. Having not considered an anti-defection law when their popularity was still high, they cannot stop cross-overs from the present Government camp if they were to name a referendum, face it, and lose it. Survival and denial It’s thus not about Constitution-making, or referendum, either. It’s the question of political survival and/or political denial – survival of the present leadership, and denial of the nation’s leadership to the Rajapaksa camp. Fair enough, the nation denied power to the Rajapaksa camp twice in six or seven months, January and August 2015. But the nation’s calculations did not contextualise to the present-day calculus, either.
It’s no different in the case of the UNHRC, and ‘accountability probe’. There again, the ‘Sinhala consensus’ is not for going ahead with the probe, with or without foreign judges, as mandated by the UNHRC. Some may say it loud and clear, others may let the rivals say it for themselves, too. It’s as much a question of political survival as it’s an issue of addressing international commitments. For honouring an international commitment after the other side had been certified as being insincere, it’s not always necessary that one has to show himself as being equally insincere. It’s enough one showed up the alternative, which is the ‘certified insincere’ rival. A merry-go-round of sorts, yes, first in the case of ‘accountability probes’ and now with power-devolution and other aspects of Constitution-making. So much so, even vocal sections of the nation’s self-styled civil society have stopped looking their faces in the mirror any more. They are either looking for new mirrors, or are borrowing mirrors that they had said would not present the nation’s face in the proper light.
http://www.thesundayleader.lk/2017/04/09/reforms-without-referendum-or-referendum-without-reforms/ (The writer is Director, Chennai Chapter of the Observer Research Foundation, the multi-disciplinary Indian public-policy think-tank, headquartered in New Delhi. Email: email@example.com) This article first appeared on The Sunday Leader, Colombo 9 April 2017.
N Sathiya Moorthy,2017-05-09
The Government’s decision to increase and improve the recruitment of Tamils in the nation’s polcei force should be welcome, especially by all those that have only complaints in the matter and those of the kind. It would still be worthwhile ....
N. Sathiya Moorthy ,2017-05-03
Independent of G. L. Peiris’ reference to the subject, and the Opposition-driven attaching to it, the British court’s verdict on the ‘self-inflicted’ torture by a Sri Lankan to obtain political asylum in that country needs to be probed for other ....
N Sathiya Moorthy,2017-04-20
In what is seen as a none-too-unsurprising yet unscheduled visit, Indian Foreign Secretary S Jaishankar was in Male, and met with President Abdulla Yameen, Foreign Minister Mohamed Asim and senior officials. The visit came in the ....
N. Sathiya Moorthy ,2017-03-27
In contrast, the predecessor Rajapaksa regime might have been unlucky. As incumbent President, Barack Obama got a second term. Though a one-term Senator before become President, by the time the first US resolution on Sri ....
N Sathiya Moorthy ,2017-03-22
Possibly for the first time, media reports have spoken about investigations into the death of a Tamil Nadu fisherman, K Brijto, 21, allegedly in a firing incident involving the Sri Lanka Navy (SLN). The Special Correspondent of The Hindu ....
সৈয়দ তানভরী নাসরীন,2017-03-21
যোগী আদিত্যনাথকে নিয়ে ব্যস্ত ভারতীয় মিডিয়া আপাতত ডোনাল্ড ট্রাম্পকে ভুল গেছে। উত্তর প্রদেশের নতুন মুখ্যমন্ত্রী রাজ্যের সাংবিধানিক প্রধান হয়ে যাওয়ার পরও দাঙ্গায় উসকানি দেবেন কি না বা মুসলিমদের বিরুদ্ধে বিদ্বেষমূলক বক্তৃতা চালিয়ে যাবেন কিনা। সেই নিয়ে চর্চায় আপাতত বিভোর ....
N Sathiya Moorthy,2017-03-08
This is not to say that NAM as a concept has failed. It only means that the nation does not have the wherewithal to lead it from the front-line. In a world dictated by the power of the money and of the military that nations can flaunt at ....
সন্ত্রাসবাদ দূর করতে ভারত-রাশিয়ার যৌথ উদ্যোগে নিউদিল্লিতে ৩১ জানুয়ারি একটি বৈঠক হয়। রাশিয়ার প্রতিনিধিদের নেতৃত্ব দিয়েছেন ডেপুটি ফরেন মিনিস্টার ওলেগ সিরোমোলোটভ এবং ভারতের পক্ষে উপস্থিত ছিলেন ডেপুটি ফরেন মিনিস্টার পঙ্কজ সারণ। আন্তর্জাতিক সন্ত্রাস প্রতিহত করতে ....
সম্প্রতি রাশিয়ার বিদেশমন্ত্রী সেরগেই ল্যাভারভ সিরিয়ার রাজনৈতিক প্রতিনিধি দলের সঙ্গে মস্কোতে একটি বৈঠক করেন। সিরিয়ান ওই দলের নেতৃত্ব দেন কাদের জামিল। তিনি একজন ‘পপুলার ফ্রন্ট ফর চেঞ্জ অ্যান্ড লিবারেশন’-এর জনপ্রিয় নেতা। এছাড়া আস্থানা গ্রুপের প্রতিনিধি রানডা কাসি, যিনি বহুধা ....
কিউবার প্রাক্তন কমিউনিস্ট প্রেসিডেন্ট ফিদেল কাস্ত্রো প্রয়াত। বয়স হয়েছিল ৯০। ভাই রাউল কাস্ত্রো জানান শনিবার সকালে তিনি বিদায় নিয়েছেন। পাঁচটি দশক ধরে তিনি বিরোধীশূন্য কিউবাকে নেতৃত্ব দিয়েছেন। ২০০৮-এ ভাই রাউল কাস্ত্রোর হাতে শাসন ভার দিয়ে তিনি অন্তরালে চলে যান। তিনি অন্ত্রে গ্যাসের.....