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Malinda Seneviratne © July 2001


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"Her Excellency the President of the Democratic Socialist Republic". That, we are told, is the official designation of Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaranatunge. The grandiose title started spinning in my head last week when she "prorogued" parliament. It occurred to me that we are neither a democracy, socialist nor by any means a republic. The happy land referenced in Chandrika's name-board is probably somewhere else on this earth, but certainly not a few miles off the southern coast of India. Even if the description of the political profile of Sri Lanka is a bit skewed, we can at least be happy that whoever was responsible for the moniker got one thing right, the "excellency" of the President. That, at least, is not a lie, for she has surpassed all and sundry in our post-independence history in the vast field of political machination.

Her mastery of politics extends to a Kissingeresque honesty. Rather than suffer falsehood, she stripped the constitution, the parliament and the general political culture of the lie it has been living for the past seven years and put things back in their proper perspective. In other words, anyone who entertained any concern about the net worth of the people's right of self determination and the dictatorial character of the political arena can now relax. For from now on until this illegitimate regime is removed, all that will matter is who is more powerful, and in this it is common knowledge that the state has a running start.

Let's consider the context briefly. The PA lost its parliamentary majority. An executive president, who came to power promising to abolish her post, sat on the matter for a full seven years. She now blames the constitution. The same constitution, incidentally, that helped her become president and allowed her to abuse the powers vested in the office. After seven years, she prorogues parliament and calls for a referendum asking the people to give her a mandate to change the constitution. She then allows electricity to flow so that she can address the nation over television, making sure that such an opportunity is not made available to anyone who holds different views. And, given all that has happened, she expects the people to believe that she has some happy surprises for them in whatever funny piece of legislation that she will put together after 21 August.

"What a state of affairs!" one might say. I, however, say, "Fine, Madam!" For I prefer a transparent political system to a heavily veiled one. That way it will be easier for people to know whose political bodies are the ugliest. I would actually go further than the distance that the President has travelled so far. I suggest she hold many more referenda.

First, how about a referendum asking if the people want the location of parliament shifted? A few kilometers away to Mulleriyawa would be nice, wouldn't it? In fact, why stop with parliament, we can move the Presidential Palace too to some place where the navigation of road blocks is not necessary whenever MPs want to consult the President. Or vice versa. This of course would be under a different scenario. Right now no one seems to be on talking terms with anyone else.

Perhaps the President might want to know if all elected officials should be better dressed. If the people vote "yes," she can go ahead and ask them to wear fancy dress when they deliberate on the urgent concerns of their respective constituencies.

Maybe the people want to a "better" smelling Beira Lake. If she holds a referendum, and the people say "yes," she can shift all the muck to where it really belongs. There is a well-fortified, forbidden territory near the GPO in the Fort that comes to mind. After all, all she needs is the people's "go-ahead" to change things. What exactly those changes are going to be? That's a secret that the hoi polloi need not know! This goes for the above-mentioned fancy-dress parade, the location of the Presidential palace and other things too.

Her Excellency pleads with us thus "Say 'Yes' to change". I predict the PA will have a hard time coming up with ideas of transformation. So I thought of helping them out, especially since they seem to be short of competent advisors.

The main edicts of the New Constitution, if she so wishes, could include the following:

a) All citizens, big or small, will be required to kiss the Constitution in order to show allegiance to the sacred document.

b) There shall be referenda held for each and every decision that the political leadership has to make, even if it is a simple matter of opening a public lavatory, in order to ensure that the will of the people prevails at all times.

c) Anyone who does not have the guts to say "Yes Ma'am" (or "Yes Sir" as the case may be) will be summarily sentenced to five years doing community service cleaning public lavatories. If more than one person has slipped on these grounds, then the number of cleaning days/minutes will be evenly distributed among the culprits.

d) All citizens will be required to subject themselves to an examination by a team of medical officers appointed by the President. If they are found to have a back-bone, it will be surgically removed.

e) All the resources of the country, its water, its minerals, its trees, its labour, its archaeological remains, its traditional knowledge, shall be deemed the private property of the existing cabinet of ministers who can, if they so wish, dispose of it as they see best.

That should do for a "working document". G.L. Peiris and other legal luminaries will hopefully "get the language right" so as to please the International Community "Gonibilla".

Today the people have to decide. No, not about constitutional change. They have to decide where they want to bury their children, i.e all those who have children born in the seventies and early eighties. If that is too horrible a prospect, there is another option. WRITE YOUR OWN CONSTITUTION! And be liberal about interpreting that line. No, be Marxist.




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