Columns - 5th column

In the making of a writ fit for a king

By Rypvanwinkle

My dear JR,

I thought I must write to you not only because it would have been your one hundred and fourth birth anniversary had you been around still, but also because there is a lot of talk about you these days, all because of the Constitution you masterminded some thirty two years ago.

What is funny about it is that only you acknowledged the ‘greatness’ of your Constitution; all the others criticized it. Preme once said he was only a peon under your system, Satellite called it a ‘bahubootha viyavasthawa’ and promised to do away with it in six months and Mahinda maama also pledged to abolish it not once, but twice. But when in office, they all seem to like it more than anything else!

But what I really wanted to write to you JR, is about what has happened to your Constitution recently. Remember, your proud boast that all that you couldn’t do with your Constitution was to turn a man into a woman? Well, I think even that is possible now!

Remember JR, you always assumed that under your proportional representation system no one could get a two-thirds majority to change the Constitution-which is also why you held a referendum in 1982 instead of a general election, to retain that massive majority which you had enjoyed from 1977.

Well, Mahinda maama too didn’t quite get a two-thirds majority, but being the clever chap that he is he got eleven MPs more than the required number by using more ways than one to win friends and influence people. Now, even you couldn’t quite manage that, could you?

After that, Mahinda maama went on to amend your masterpiece not only extending the number of terms he could hold office but also conferring on himself some other powers to make appointments to key posts in the government as and when he wants with hardly any checks and balances thrown in.

That is quite reasonable, don’t you think? Remember the difficulties you had with a Chief Justice daring to criticize you publicly and having to appoint commissions of inquiry to deprive your rival, Mrs. B, of her civic rights instead of doing it through the usual courts? Little things like that can be sorted out easily if everything is under your absolute control and that is a lesson that Mahinda maama seems to have learnt very well.

Believe me JR, they are already comparing Mahinda maama to you - if at all, he seems to be one step ahead of you. He has already removed the limit on the number of terms he can hold office and he doesn’t have anyone snapping at his heels from his own party unlike during your time, when you had Preme to contend with. Then, you had only one brother HW, to help you in your work but he has three. Then, just like you had Anura as the Leader of the Opposition, he has Anura’s classmate doing the same job - and you know what that means!

And Mahinda maama is so clever that he has even been able to find some spineless leftists-including Vasu, who contested you in the first ever presidential election-to raise their hands and agree to give him unlimited powers through your Constitution. Now you could never have got N.M., Colvin, Pieter or even Sarath Muttetuwegama to do that for you, could you JR?

Now, if you are pleased with all this I must disappoint you with some other news: the party that you transformed into a victorious team in the seventies is no more. Instead we have an outfit that is disorganized, disunited and preoccupied with in-fighting. As a result, they have allowed Mahinda maama a free rein and he seems to take some delight in poaching your party MPs, a half dozen at a time, every now and then.

Of course, many people are pointing fingers at your nephew for being responsible for all this and now some are openly calling for his resignation-and the irony is that just as you had to constantly look behind your shoulder because of Preme, he has to constantly be vigilant about Preme’s son!

But what is sad about it is that these disputes seem to be never ending. Although it is only fair that Mahinda maama should be given at least a second term because he won the war, I think even he would do well if he has to deal with a strong Opposition-remember how you messed up your second term, because there was hardly anyone opposing you?

But anyway, JR, you can comfort yourself with one thought: no matter what people say about you and about how you ruled the country during your reign, the two things that are your legacy to the nation still survive to this day: the Open Economy and of course, your Constitution!

Yours truly,
Punchi Putha

PS-And when it came to commemorating your birthday, who do we have as the chief guest along with your nephew? Yes, Satellite herself, the lady who labelled your Constitution as a ‘bahubootha viyavasthawa’ and whose husband you put in jail, calling him a ‘Naxalite’-life certainly has gone a full circle in your absence, hasn’t it, JR?

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