There is nothing that a politician does not compromise in trying to retain or gain power. They are ready to give up anything to achieve that goal. Most of them even desert their spouses. They change parties like footwear.
The SLFP campaigned against the executive presidency for 16 years from 1978 until it secured it in 1994. Now it is defending that institution to the hilt. Strangely, the UNP which created the executive presidency and held it under three different Presidents has suddenly become averse to it. Yesterday, UNP and Opposition leader Ranil Wickremesinghe renewed his call for a new Constitution sans the executive presidency.
Sovereignty is vested in the people and if they wish to have a new Constitution, so be it. However, constitution making is not like baking hoppers and it requires a broad national consensus if the basic law of the country is to survive regime changes.
The UNP and the JVP have, in a rare show of unity, made common cause to try to repeal the Constitution and introduce a new one. They have a democratic right to do so, though it is patently clear that they, caught up in an electoral whirlpool, are clutching at political straws to remain afloat. The two parties must, first of all, obtain a popular mandate for doing away with the present Constitution. It is also imperative that they take all view points on board and adopt a conciliatory approach.
First of all, the UNP and the JVP ought to make their position known on some aspects of the existing Constitution without equivocation. They are speaking of the executive powers and the 17th Amendment with special emphasis on the Elections Commission, which is, no doubt, a very healthy feature in a democracy. But, the two parties have apparently stopped short of addressing the devolution of powers or the controversial 13th Amendment.
The question that must be posed to the JVP and the UNP is what they propose to do with the 13th Amendment in their constitution making project. The JVP is dead against that constitutional provision and has been opposing an alleged move by the incumbent government to implement the 13th Amendment fully.
UNP and Opposition Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe has declared that if Gen. Sarath Fonseka were to be the common presidential candidate of the Opposition, he (Fonseka) would have to make his stand on the `Tamil issues` known and it must be acceptable to the Tamil National Alliance branded as LTTE proxies. UNP Spokesman Lakshman Kiriella said the other day that Fonseka knew how to attract the TNA. Is the TNA willing to accept the 13th Amendment? What is Fonseka`s stand on the 13th Amendment?
None can seek to introduce a new Constitution without addressing the devolution issue which is of pivotal importance not only because the middle tier of government is based on it but also because of India`s concerns. The 13th Amendment cannot be wished away.
The Rajapaksa government might be able to dodge the issue of devolution for the time being as it does not propose to change the Constitution or unveil its devolution model immediately but it will have to concentrate on the 13th Amendment or its home-grown devolution model after the Presidential election. The Opposition alliance consisting of a m lange of strange bedfellows bound by a single issue-toppling the government at any cost-will have to declare what it proposes to do with the 13th Amendment, as it has declared its intention of writing a new Constitution. It cannot afford to prevaricate or dilly-dally on this vital issue, as it can never scrap the existing Constitution without addressing it.