Kusal Perera, in Daily Mirror, 16 November 2018, where the title is “Geopolitics of resolving conflict with a redundant Constitution”
The SC decision has pushed Rajapaksa into back foot defence on a daily basis, reacting to the Wickremesinghe strategy of taking decisions in a Parliament that remains prorogued but accepted by Western interests as Constitutional.
The Supreme Court (SC) decision to issue a stay order on the Gazette notification dissolving Parliament is given a completely distorted interpretation by Yahapalana Experts, to be in line with the Western power bloc. Their accredited envoys in Colombo act firmly in legitimising the Government of their choice. On that strength, Speaker Karu Jayasuriya convened the prorogued Parliament, though constitutionally the Speaker has no such power.
The US AmbassadorMs Teplitz, who went to the Parliamentary complex with a few other diplomatic colleagues to watch over the proceedings on 14 November, later told media, she was glad the institution was once again fulfilling its constitutional role. That said much about Wickremesinghe believing he could assert himself as the PM and muster a majority, with some MPs bought over, and some MPs crossing over for the second time in two weeks.
Geopolitics and the Constitution: For the Western diplomats that included the US, Germany, Canada, who on October 27, went to Temple Trees and then made their way to Parliament last Wednesday (India that sent its Deputy HC in Colombo to TTs on Oct 27. was a conspicuous absentee among diplomats in Parliament), act on their own geopolitical agenda. But that does not allow the stay order decided by the Supreme Court on the Gazette notification dissolving Parliament to convene Parliament.
The SC did not rescind or squash the Gazette notification dissolving Parliament as illegal and unconstitutional. All that remains to be decided upon, after the SC accepts objections and deliberates on them before finally deciding on the legality of that Gazette. Therefore, the previous Gazette convening Parliament on November 14 cannot be operational as argued by the Colombo interests.
This Parliament sitting is another illegal act, as prorogation was NOT challenged as unconstitutional, but was only appealed to be immediately convened by the President. A prorogued Parliament can only be convened by the President after which a new date has to be fixed for Parliamentary business proper to begin. The Speaker becomes the authority in Parliament, thereafter.
The Constitution is being used by both sides in usurping power, leaving out the People.
The SC is called upon to decide the legality of constitutional jugglery. It leaves aside intrusions of the Western power bloc on their geopolitical interests, that create the tug-O-war between Wickremesinghe backed by them, and Rajapaksa with Sirisena counted as anti-West, pro-China agents. This type of political coups with external factors involved in internal politics can only be engineered in a society where the citizenry is very much distanced from democratic participation, where democratic traditions have faded off through two or three generations.
Democracy as an empty shell: They raise major issues on democracy and Sovereignty of the People, here in Sri Lanka. Ever since the 1978 Constitution that was amended 19 times, the Sovereignty of the People became a mere Article in the Constitution. Democracy came to be promoted as unrestricted consumer freedom in a free market. Freedom of choice and the individual right to compete in this free market evolved as a democracy.
The sovereignty of the people and democracy is thus reduced to holding elections. These elections are also held as procedural events in a calendar, dates for which Parliament keeps altering, with the Opposition including JVP and TNA compromising. Truly immersed in a consumer market struggling to improve on their incomes, people show no decisive opposition and interest in these elections. Apathy with which even procedural democracy is treated was in public display when the National Elections Commission (NEC) member Dr Hoole, went to SC with an FR petition against the dissolution of Parliament with elections fixed for January 5, 2019.
He did not go to the SC pleading for LG elections that were postponed for over two and a half years and PC elections postponed even without a date announced.
Electoral democracy is being ridiculed and degraded with politicians, the urban middle-class including professionals, academics and at times the Judiciary, focussed on procedure and not functionality. Democracy is not elections only. Democracy includes all fundamental rights enshrined in Article 14 of the Constitution.
They are nevertheless left to remain as statements with no independent mechanisms to challenge violations, other than within the higher judiciary. A means, too costly and far outside the reach of ordinary citizens.
Though Article 11 in Chapter III guarantees No person shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment that often times is blatantly violated with impunity. Freedom from torture thus remains irrelevant.
“No citizen shall be discriminated against on the grounds of race, religion, language, caste, sex,….” also remains on hold with Tamils, Muslims and even Sinhala Christians being heavily discriminated against “
Article 12 (2) No citizen shall be discriminated against on the grounds of race, religion, language, caste, sex,….” also remains on hold with Tamil, Muslim and even Sinhala Christians being heavily discriminated against with Sinhala Buddhist extremism oppressively dominating social space and often selectively treated by law-enforcement agencies themselves trapped within Sinhala Buddhist dominance.
For the war-affected, deprived and suppressed people in the North and the East, Article 14(1)(f) the freedom by himself or in association with others to enjoy and promote his own culture and to use his own language is irrelevant with regular complaints on Sinhala colonisation of their areas. Sinhala colonisation brings with it forced cultural interventions, the Tamil people are unable to resist with ITAK leadership in the TNA playing Colombo Politics with the UNP and with Western diplomatic interests.
Almost all employees in the export manufacture sector from among over 2.4 million workers in the private sector are denied their Fundamental Rights as guaranteed in Article 14(1)(c) and (d) of the Constitution that says: “Every Citizen is entitled to (c) the freedom of association” and “(d) the freedom to form and join a trade union”. BOI of Sri Lanka Act has allowed the BOI to restrict organised labour through administrative guidelines and the vision and mission of the 95-year-old Labour Department have over the past few decades changed to decide in favour of the employer instead of safeguarding the rights of the employee.
In this unfettered free market, with foreign direct investments intensely promoted as the only way Sri Lanka could develop within this global economy, even the Judiciary tends to give the employer the benefit of exploiting labour.
Sri Lanka has thus drifted into a pathetically agonising situation where the Constitution is flouted for vested interests by rich and powerful political blocs in the city. Fundamental Rights have little meaning if any in functional terms. Workers are left non-unionised for the benefit of the filthy rich in an unrestricted free market.
Privately owned media are used for political bargaining by big-time funders of immensely corrupt political parties. State media are controlled by those same corrupt political parties in Government. In a heavily atomised high-frequency urban consumer society, the middle-class professionals, the English speaking elite, NGOs and the anti-Rajapaksa social activists who by default present themselves as saviours of democracy live out of this free market economy.
They dominate social opinion through Colombo based mainstream media.
Democracy, therefore, remains the property of the powerful with a Constitution that is overridden with ambiguity and contradictions.
Geopolitics of democracy
This outdated and warped Constitution is what these vested power blocs in the city and few Western diplomats claim should be honoured and abided by.
The term constitutionality is thus given more importance than democracy. Functional democracy would not allow their involvements in the internal life of the country. Functional democracy in the first place, would not have allowed this Yahapalana insanity in power politics. Yet, for the Western powers deeply involved in the internal conflict, it is about keeping Rajapaksa-Sirisena combine out of power at whatever cost.
They perhaps regret they were not rich enough to fund the Wickremesinghe Government all through these years, other than through the IMF that comes with conditions attached. That pushed the Wickremesinghe Government to compromise with China on a weak wicket. They fear China would come back stronger, building on what Wickremesinghe compromised on if Rajapaksa was allowed a comeback.
Thus, it is now a serious geopolitical issue for the US-led Western diplomacy to keep Rajapaksa out, and strengthen a Wickremesinghe Government politically and economically, to gradually wean out Chinese influence.
It is geopolitical supremacy played out in the Indian Ocean. With pro-Chinese strongman Yameenin Male ousted and Mohamad Nasheed going back home, Western geopolitics have regained space they now need to consolidate. That is about saving Sri Lanka from pro-Chinese dominance. This Western involvement in Colombo is about taking advantage gained in the Maldives, a project India does not want to burn its fingers with but welcomes as big brother in the sub-continent. Thus, it is not about an election for people to elect a government of their choice, but about installing a government the Western power bloc is comfortable with.
The danger lies in this Colombo alliance being projected in the majority Sinhala South as anti-Sinhala Buddhist; Western interests with the Colombo political lobby and the ITAK leadership that campaigned for war crimes investigations, back again in full throttle, working together.
Unfortunately for the people, this provides Rajapaksa with the most comfortable platform for his comeback.
What is being fought for by both sides is not going [to be resolved] with a Supreme Court Ruling. This now needs a people’s movement for constitutional reforms, in drafting a constitution the people could own as their supreme law.