"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
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
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
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
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.