What are the deciding factors at the presidential elections that will be held within a month on the 8th of January 2015, the 47th anniversary of the death of Ven. Dambarawe Ratanasara Thera. It is certainly not the killing of the Thera while he was going on a demonstration against a bill on usage of Tamil by the UNP government. Many people have forgotten the incident and it would not be an issue at the elections after nearly fifty years. January 8th happens to be the birthday of the late Mr. S W R D Bandaranaike but it is very unlikely that even Chandrika Kumaratunga remembers the day though she is fond of referring to so called Bandaranaike phobia of Mahinda Rajapaksa. If at all, it will be Mahinda Rajapaksa or his supporters who would mention the two anniversaries during the election campaign.
It is mainly the diehard UNPers, few academics and some so called educated people who would pay lip service to democracy and good governance. It has to be said that they only pay lip service as they would not compare the SLFP led governments with the UNP governments of yesteryear on good governance and democracy. The UNP is not a paragon of virtue as far as good governance and democracy are concerned as Ven. Maduluwawe Sobhita Thera himself knows. There is no so called good governance or democracy anywhere in the world and the UNP was not an exception. The seventeenth and eighteenth amendments are good for after dinner speeches as the common man is not bothered by any of these. The removal of Dr. Shirani Bandaranayake will not be an issue at all, as it was done legally even by the standards of so called democracy. It is good as a conversational topic for the so called educated people and if the former Chief Justice, I forget the serial number attached to her by the pundits who still believe that she is the CJ of the country, comes in support of the uncommon candidate Maithripala Sirisena, it will only devalue further her doubtful credentials.
The common man whom I meet in three wheeled vehicles and among the traders along my road at Maharagama are not at all interested in democracy and good governance. However they know that there have been more elections under Mahinda Rajapakse though it may not be a yardstick of democracy as far as some “intellectuals” are concerned and they talk of the tarred/concrete roads, highways, their job opportunities, electricity and water supplies to their homes, and of course the freedom to travel to any part of the country without any fear. They know that their spouses and the children will return home from workplaces and schools as the case may be and that they do not have to guard the schools of their children on a rotational basis. The average Sinhala person may not have read the thirteenth amendment but he knows that Prabhakaran wanted a separate state and that he resorted to terrorism that was defeated by Mahinda Rajapaksa or in their language Mahinda Mahattaya or Janadhipathithuma. He also knows that the former Presidents including Chandrika Kumaratunga could not defeat Prabhakaran and terrorism. However he knows that Ranil Wickremesinghe signed a pact with Prabhakaran which is called a ceasefire agreement and with that the latter got the upper hand. However, the average person does not know that according to the constitution only the President can declare war and peace as stipulated in Article 33 (e) and Chandrika Kumaratunga as the President could have annulled the ceasefire agreement if she wanted using her powers as the President. Thus he is not aware that Ms. Kumaratunga was party to the ceasefire agreement, and Mr. Wickremesinghe had to carry the blame by himself. It is a case of blaming the father only while leaving out the mother for the birth of the ceasefire agreement.
The average Sinhala person knows that the thirteenth amendment is on separatism though the pundits will claim that it is not so. The average person may not have heard of little now more later policy of Chelvnayakam but he knows by intuition that the “coming colour is no good” with respect to the thirteenth amendment. He is against the thirteenth amendment and would like to see it abolished and not the eighteenth amendment that has no relevance to his day to day life. The eighteenth amendment has relevance to the lives of even the pundits only in the abstract and its abolition is only a good conversational topic as has been mentioned earlier.
If an amendment to the constitution is going to have some impact on the Presidential Elections it is the thirteenth amendment that affects the lives of the people and not the eighteenth or the seventeenth amendments. The average person may know neither the intricacies of the thirteenth amendment nor that it was hatched by Indira Gandhi on the instructions of England and US but he knows that it was foul and that it undermined the sovereignty (freedom or nidahasa in his language) of the country. However, he also knows that the provincial councils based effectively on the thirteenth amendment (he is very unlikely to be aware of the provincial council act) cannot be abolished with so many Chief Ministers, Ministers and members, but would like to curtail some powers given by the thirteenth amendment, such as land powers and police powers. The average person unlike the “intellectuals” is not interested in abolishing or curtailing the powers of the executive presidency but would be happy to see that some powers of the provincial councils are curtailed. The average person knows that the LTTE could not have been defeated without an executive president who could stand up to pressure. He may not know exactly who applied pressure but he is aware of “parippu diplomacy” of the Gandhis and Solheim who considered Sri Lanka as his kitchen. Though he may not formulate in the same words he knows that executive presidency is only a necessary condition but not a sufficient condition to safeguard the sovereignty of the country. He knows that neither JR Jayawardhane nor Chandrika Kumaratunga could stand up to pressure from various forces but Mahinda Mahattaya could do so. As far as Maithripala Sirisena is concerned the average person knows his record as the Minster of health who could not stand up to the pressure of the doctors. The average person, unless he is a diehard UNPer would not think of Maithripala Sirisena as a strong personality even in his dreams.
The average person by this time has lost his faith in the Parliament. The crossovers are not going to help him to have any confidence in the Parliament, and if those who spend money over the crossovers think that they could manipulate the destiny of the country with their wealth and funding then they are mistaken. The crossovers only undermine the authority of the Parliament if it had any, and would increase the confidence in a strong executive president. Those who encourage crossovers only help Mahinda Rajapaksa unknowingly or knowingly. The individuals associated with crossovers may think that they have a mass base that depends on their “personality” but they will learn their lessons after the presidential elections. It applies across the board from Maithripala Sirisena to Hirunika Premachandra through Tissa Attanayake. Most of the crossovers are not based on any policy but on personal reasons. The average person by now has realised that the crossovers only undermine his vote at the elections and he would like to see that his vote has a value over the entire period of any Parliament. With respect to a strong President he knows that his choice would not be bought by any agency and by selecting a weak defector as the so called common candidate of not one common opposition but of different oppositions with different policies the oppositions have failed.
The average Sinhala person would not think of good governance or democracy when he votes but of the “nidahasa” of the country and of a person who would defend the “nidahasa” against all the powers. In short the presidential elections are only another step in the struggle against vijathika balawega (non national powers) and not on defending some abstract concepts imposed on us by the very same non national powers.
Nalin De Silva