The foreboding I feel on learning that the 1978 Constitution is to be revised is best illustrated by a line from the Roman poet Virgil: “Quae tanta insania” – What utter madness is this?
The line comes from the Aeneid, and the context is the occasion when the Greeks sent the gift of a wooden horse across the sea to Troy. The Trojan seer Laocoon uttered those words on seeing his fellow Trojans joyously celebrating. Sensing the deception of the Greeks, he threw his spear at the belly of the horse.
The President is first and foremost a politician, and he will naturally look after his own political interests and those of his party. Giving the power solely to the President though he in consultation with his comrades in arms) to make appointments to the public service – and more dangerously, to the judiciary – would compromise the principles of democracy on the separation of powers, fairness, equity and justice.
After all the establishment of the Constitutional Council by the 17th Amendment was intended to minimise the creeping rot of politicisation. The incumbent President, who was a Cabinet Minister at the time, supported this Amendment. Now it seems that there is a volte face – a complete reversal of what a decade ago was regarded as a necessary piece of legislation to protect democracy by preempting excesses of the political executive.
If this change is effected, it will be, to use a pithy Sinhala saying, a case of “naduth haamuduruwange, baduth haamudurawange” – there’s no one to prove that the wrongdoer has done wrong.
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