Government spokesmen are like pavement hawkers plying their wares in Pettah by hollering and babbling many things simultaneously to confuse buyers out of their wits. The two media ministers` casuistry is a case in point. They are obfuscation personified, to say the least. Something one Yapa says this moment the other Yapa contradicts in a short while. However, together, they serve the government`s purpose they cleverly muddy the water and leave the public in a state of utter confusion.
Minister Janaka Bandara Tennakoon, like the proverbial monkey that cut his royal master to death in sleep with his own sword in trying to kill a mosquito feasting on him is campaigning for changing the Constitution to grant President Mahinda Rajapaksa a second term on a platter. Tennakoon seems to be trying to ingratiate himself with his political boss with his harebrained campaign at the expense of democracy and his leader`s image. President Rajapaksa has sought to put the matter to rest by declaring that he won`t try to secure a second term without a presidential election. But, the ministerial mumbo-jumbo continues, if press reports on Tennakoon`s statements are anything to go by.
Now, we have Leader of the National Freedom Front (NFF) Wimal Weerawansa telling us that President Rajapaksa will not implement the 13th Amendment to the Constitution fully! But, that is the very antithesis of what we hear from other government worthies. It was only the other day that Weerawansa made a song and dance about a government move to grant police and land powers to the provinces only to be collared and put in his place by an irate President during a meeting at Temple Trees.
Weerawansa`s hope that the government won`t go ahead with the full implementation of the 13th Amendment is grounded entirely in some promises the President has made in his much advertised policy document or Mahinda Chintanaya and belief that the 13-A stemmed from India`s desire to neutralise the LTTE politically and now that the LTTE has been destroyed, there is no need for that failed Indian remedy! The NFF leader is either fooling himself or trying to hoodwink the public. Has Weerawansa obtained an assurance from the President in this regard?
Interestingly, Chief Minister of the North Central Province, Bertie Premalal Dissanayake (UPFA), has said land is already a devolved subject! He has asked the critics of the 13th Amendment to try to change the Constitution and abolish the provision in question with a two-thirds majority, if they so desire. What would Weerawansa say to that? Will he campaign on a platform of abolishing the 13th Amendment at the next general election?
Both the JHU and the NFF, effectively silenced by President Rajapaksa, who has reportedly vowed to bulldoze his way through, are in an unenviable position. Earlier, the CP, the LSSP and other anti-war campaigners in the UPFA had the government`s war effort rammed down their pacifist throats. Power they enjoyed by virtue of being part of the ruling coalition was too precious for them to let go of for the sake of their socialist ideals. They, therefore, did not want to pull out of the government. Nor could they openly subscribe to the war. They resorted to dilatory tactics by taking refuge in a muted campaign to evolve a political solution. The end of war has come as a great relief for them, because they are now in a position to promote their political solution project openly of course, within the confines prescribed by the President.
Inveterate advocates of total war like the JHU and the NFF, are in a worse predicament in that their anti-terror campaign was without a political plank.
The war is over and the government has had to adopt a realistic approach to conflict resolution obviously under Indian pressure. On the other hand, it has no alternative but to eliminate the political causes of the conflict. President Rajapaksa has promised an autochthonous solution. Breaking ranks with the government over devolution is out of the question for the JHU and the NFF as such action amounts to political suicide. If they dare do so, they will fall between two stools with neither the government nor the UNP-led Opposition to lean on for survival. The JHU will end up being a mere pressure group competing with the JVP in opposing devolution and the NFF will simply wither away like the SLFP (M). This is a frightening proposition for the two parties.
Therefore, the JHU and the NFF have chosen to run with the hare and hunt with the hounds. But, they cannot go on running and hunting forever and will have to make a stand on the issue sooner or later, probably after the next Presidential and Parliamentary elections to be held anytime after Nov. 19, 2009, when the President will complete his fourth year in office and be in a position to go for a premature presidential election, which will precede parliamentary polls. The President has told The Hindu that he would unveil his solution after his re-election. He is more likely to do so after the general election as well, where he will strive to obtain a huge majority in the hope that he could secure a two-thirds majority in the House by engineering some defections from the UNP parliamentary group. In other words, in the new Parliament, it is the President who will call the shots and not the constituent parties of the coalition government.
Weerawansa has read the President`s strategy fairly accurately as evident from his statement in this newspaper yesterday that the next Parliament would see a smaller Cabinet as President Rajapaksa was now less dependent on coalition partners for his political survival.
The NFF by accepting two ministries and changing its tune and the JHU by withdrawing its recent threat to pull out from the government, have arguably indicated their willingness to toe President Rajapaksa`s line. The President has given them something in return to flaunt to prevent loss of face: He has ruled out federalism as a solution.
As for Weerawansa`s statement that the President won`t implement the 13th Amendment fully, he is only hoping against hope. If that is the real position of the government, let that pronouncement come from President Rajapaksa and not anyone else.