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CaptureDevelopments in the two weeks I was away suggest that the government is, a year before I expected it, hurtling towards its end. Or rather I should say towards its end as we know it, since the manner in which the Elections Bill was changed at whim suggests that we are back to the days of J R Jayewardene and his manoeuvers to stay in power at any cost. We can therefore expect strategies on the lines of the first few amendments to the Constitutions which

  1. Stymied the Courts which had delivered a judgment in favour of Mrs Bandaranaike when J R was engaged in stripping her of her Civic Rights
  2. Allowed him to have a Presidential election at a convenient time whereas the Constitution had earlier had fixed terms which is the norm with regard to an Executive Presidency
  3. Permitted a Referendum to extend the term of Parliament even though the Constitution itself specifically laid down that the term of that Parliament, elected under the first past the post system, ended in July 1983

Unfortunately the Joint Opposition is not very good at dealing with such manoeuvers, and we will see much sleight of hand with regard to perverting democracy in the months to come. The only positive aspect is that this President I think has a conscience and will not be the lead plotter, as Jayewardene was. But his conscience has not always triumphed. And as we saw when he dissolved Parliament before fulfilling his solemn promises, or when he sacked the secretaries of the parties he headed, including the coalition group which allowed him no such authority, he can be panicked into behaving badly.

The fact then that his heart still seems to be in the right place, as shown by his robust defence of the Attorney General’s Department against UNP calumnies, may not prove enough to save us from a repetition of the horrors of the mid-eighties. But the behavior of others suggests that they too know that sticking with the Wickremesinghe formula of lopsided and selective development will destroy the last vestiges of popular favour. Read the rest of this entry »

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Rajiva Wijesinha

September 2019
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