The Guest Column by Victor Ivon

9th April 2000

Self interest in making constitutions 

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As a nation we are on the verge of a great abyss. But the behaviour of the leaders of the country is like that of a group of crabs who dance in the water until it boils. They are so blinded by their hunger for power that they do not see the extent of the danger that they themselves are facing to say nothing about that which the country faces.

A democratic form of government means a convention reached by the people for a political system and a popular administration conducted under that convention. A loss of the people's confidence in that general convention leads to an erosion of the political system. The political crisis in our country today has led to a collapse of the people's confidence in the political system. However we are looking at it not as a collapse of the people's confidence, but as a collapse of the confidence of one of the parties to the convention (the Tamil people). That is why there is a relief in the country that the crisis can be overcome through a solution to the ethnic problem alone.

It is true that the obvious and prominent feature of the crisis is the ethnic crisis. But it is only one of the main and obvious reasons that has contributed to the crisis. While lack of confidence in the political system affects the minority communities in a very powerful way, it has also affected the majority community too in an equal manner. That is why violence has not been confined to the North-East provinces alone where there is an ethnic crisis but has been expressed by the rural Sinhala youth in the South where there in no ethnic crisis. 

That is why the practice of violence for winning has not been confined to revolutionary movements outside the democratic stream but has been used as a trump card by the political parties of the democratic stream too, to win elections. The balance that should exist between the legislature, the executive and the judiciary has broken down entirely and almost every institution which should be in a position to take action independently for a democratic system has become a tool of every government which comes to power. 

However, D.S. Senanayake, who had come to power even before the verdict was given on the agreement on the understanding, deprived the Indian estate workers of their citizenship rights in violation of Section 29 of the constitution in order to weaken the strength of the Left which was becoming a serious threat to his own party. S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike too, who came to power at the next round got a Language Bill passed which led to the oppression of the Tamil people in violation of Section 29. On both these occasions, the Judiciary, instead of defending the principles of a general convention, followed a policy of defending the ruling class. 

The SLFP-LSSP-CP United Front government which came to power later in 1970, abolished the old constitution and enacted a new one on the pretext of completing the Freedom that had been received, in total disregard of the Tamil aspiration. 

Still later, J.R. Jayewardene who came to power in 1977, made use of the massive parliamentary majority he had got, abolished the constitution of 1972 and introduced a new constitution that paved the way for a political system that was to his own advantage. 

President Chandrika Kumaratunga brings in a new constitution, not for the purpose of effecting a solution to the general crisis which the country is facing, but to introduce a system that will enable her to win the next parliamentary election. Ms. Kumaratunga is now planning to effect her act of political fraud, too, using the grievances of the Tamil people as a disguise. 

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