More comments on the BT poll:
- There are more important issues upon which the constitution should be changed. This is not one of them. You have to make sure that the changes are for the long term benefit of the people, taking into account the possibility of ‘unsuitable’ people coming into the office and exploiting these changes for their individual benefit. Therefore, personal sacrifices may have been made for the larger benefit of the country. This is a trademark of a true Statesman!!
- Constitutional Change is a must to bring the democratic values and features back into the governance system in Sri Lanka, but not to allow the incumbent individual in power to reach his personal goals.
- Fundamentally, the very idea of a presidential third term for a sitting President disconnects the very essence of democracy from transparent politics. This has the potential of leading the country on a dangerous route towards the creation of a dictatorship. History shows some dictators have been able to reform certain countries as in the case of Singapore. Sri Lanka too may be in need of a dictator, but then it should be a benevolent dictator.
- The envisaged constitutional reforms must be studied by a consultative group of experts in their own right and even go to the extent of a referendum and seek a 2/3 majority before setting about with such a major change in the political leadership of the country. We see what the JRJ constitution has done. Least stated it has been the bane of Sri Lanka!
- The potential for a third term is a sequel to the creation of an era where the Presidential term will run not five years but into ‘perpetuity’.
Even one term is too much for the people when there is a total break-down of the governance structure.
The two primary purposes of a democratic constitution (devised in Western Europe mainly) is to (a) restrain the power of state and arbitrary actions of rulers over the people, (b) provide ABSOLUTE GUARANTEES OF EQUALITY, and INDIVIDUAL FREEDOM to the people, automatically outlawing any bills passed by a simple majority by a parliament/legislature that is discriminatory or unjust so that individuals will be protected from the tyranny of majority (party/coalition/race/religion or otherwise) rule.
Until the people understand these two basic principles Sri Lanka will only have fascist nationalism by majority vote (also a Western European invention e.g. Germany and Italy) and not true democracy.
418 consecutive years for an individual to govern any forum is way too long.
The reason is that - in about eight successive years, a human being as a leader at the top contributes what he / she can. Thereafter, his / her innovative thinking, creative solution designing, enjoying challenges at the top, hunger for serving others etc, start to die-down slowly and is replaced by complacency, arrogance, hunger for power, psychological lethargy, etc. Not only do they become prisoners of outdated framework, but they compel others also to be within the boxed comfort. This is true with any human being and also with any organized mechanism - be it a government, corporate, church or a school. In summary, the mass achievement motive gets converted to personal achievement motive, thus drifting away from the core purpose of leadership.
- It should be changed only if there is a fundamental flaw in it. In that case too there should be an independent judiciary to debate it. I do understand that unfortunately at present the judiciary cannot decide.
- History has shown the unlimited power in the executive presidency as created by the second republican constitution and the attempts to rule beyond the prescribed periods has brought doom to the country as well as to those who attempted to do so.
- Mrs Bandaranaike extended power by two years in 1975 and faced a landslide defeat in 1977. Similarly J.R. Jayewardene’s extension and the enormous power resulted in bloody communal riots that ruined the country for nearly three decades and the southern insurgency that caused similar deaths and carnage. Sri Lanka cannot experiment any further. All these indicate a third term, extending the ruling period to 18 years is not good for the country.
- If a person like Idi Amin (former dreaded Uganda military dictator) wins power in the future, he or she can use this right to establish a destructive dictatorship with the help of the unlimited powers of the office of the President.