It was indeed a fascinating period of time. The Executive branch of our government ran amok; it did not understand the fundamentals of democracy, leave alone its nuanced constitutional interpretations. He did not bend the rules; he broke them. On whose legal and constitutional instructions and guidance, one may never know. Yet he did it, almost at the cost of the country’s precious democracy. For fifty long days, before the country’s populace on whose tired and weary shoulders he ascended to power and before the world whose sympathy he needed most at this hour of crisis, he chose to play a very partisan game. Apparently, the survival of his beloved political party, Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP), was uppermost in his limited scope of governance. Political priorities overshadowed the grim realities of the moment.
When the Executive was expected to exercise his stupendous judgment on matters of governance-affairs, that judgment not only came into question, it was proven to be unequivocally deficient. Irrational conduct of the Executive took the country by surprise; all the respect and honor one would bestow upon the office of Presidency was not to be; its glamour and luster gone, the holder of office became a laughing stock, not only in the social media, but it was even more evident among his own close supporters. The social media went to town on him. The ‘Smart Phone’ fraternity was busy, sending either on Whatsapp or Viber many a creative cartoon or musical clip that made the highest officeholder in the country a minion subjected to disparage and mockery. A deplorable behavior on the part of the Executive did not do justice to either the Legislature or the Judiciary, the other two pillars of our government structure. But for 50 days the people had to suffer this pitiful melodrama of willful violation of our Constitution.
No one enjoys eating humble pie. Yet the Executive was forced to eat it, not at the behest of his conscience; he was compelled to do the right thing by the country’s Judiciary and the Speaker of the Legislature. All in all, the Executive’s dissemination and his crazy conduct, specifically in relation to the unconstitutional dissolution of Parliament of our Constitution without any due regards for due diligence for wise governance speaks volumes for the lack of understanding of the nuanced aspects of constitutional matters and challenges to democratic wellbeing of the country. Wisdom is not a talent one is born with; nor is it a product of association with those who are below one’s grade in life and education. Wisdom is a human quality that is, as George Bernard Shaw remarked: ‘We are made wise not by the recollection of our past, but by the responsibility for our future’. The Executive seems to be bogged down in the past. His unwinnable battle to save the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) from extinction has taken priority surpassing the winnable wars against rampant corruption, nepotism and erratic exercise of powers to suppress and overturn the rightful dues form the ordinary men and women in the country. Wisdom has not dawned on the Executive and one cannot expect for such a miracle in the context of what occurred in the last fifty (50) days.
The Speaker and the Legislature
One conspicuous and hopeful side of the confusing drama that was played before our eyes during the last 50 days is the courageous and spirited part played by Karu Jayasuriya, the Speaker of the House of Parliament. He, in arguably the darkest days of our Parliamentary history, stood his ground and showed the entire world that the spirit of our constitution was indeed alive and pulsating without any breakage. Such courage is indeed rare and calls for praise and applause. The unruly bands of parliamentarians who claim to be loyal cohorts of the shameless Mahinda Rajapaksa went berserk; they resorted to the lowest of human behavior and were successful in making Madávi Some and Choppe of a bygone era look like Mahatma Gandhi and Mother Theresa. Armed with chili powder and water, they soiled and desecrated the floor of the House of the People, Parliament; knowing very well that they did not have the numbers to defeat the resolution which was before the Members, an utterly uncouth and despicable conduct as was displayed by petty thugs who were elected to Parliament, managed only to reaffirm the general opinion of the Mahinda Rajapaksa loyalists as puny representatives of a culture that was nurtured and nursed by the Rajapaksa family and their immediate bedfellows.
It was against such anarchical and pagan behavior of the Mahinda Rajapaksa-supporters that Karu Jayasuriya made a gallant effort to uphold the fundamental values and ethos of a human fraternity which we call Parliament of Sri Lanka. However, he was not alone in his fight. The members of the United National Party (SLFP) backed by the other members of the Opposition too exhibited some guts and poise in the face of these marauding armies of parliamentary hooligans unleashed by the Rajapaksa clan. Parliament used to be an educative institute which had within its hallowed walls some giants and luminaries who were role models for the younger generation of that era. We have bidden adieu to that domain some time ago. A new culture has replaced that particular powerful force of our society. Holding one’s own stead, keeping calm at all times and delivering legal and constitutional deathblows to the opposition is indeed a very daring and fearless act. Karu Jayasuriya did just that.
The Supreme Court
The Supreme Court of the country is the last refuge for those who seek justice and the rule of law. It is the sacred institution in which many a gallant and heroic argument is made for and against one’s position on any given supposition. During the years of the Rajapaksas, this institution came under severe criticism and disparage. Many a member of this ultimate arbiter of the law of the land is usually held in highest of esteem and honor. Considered to be in the elite of the country’s social pyramid, members of this small group of professional men of law, in the past have written and interpreted some complicated legal issues and passed judgments on them without any prejudice to the men and women whose arguments for and against a distinguished attorney would argue.
The infamous 50 days witnessed the splendor of our Supreme Court; its conduct and delivery of orders in each of the cases put before them represented a microcosm of an independent court of justice. They justified their very presence in the Court with honor and admiration. Some wonder whether the Supreme Court during Rajapaksas would have been so impartial and just. But to pass judgment on the Supreme Court for a mundane writer would amount to questioning their intent more than the very substance of the issues involved. I would leave that to legal luminaries of a future time. Yet one cannot disregard one reality: What was placed before the Supreme Court in the last few days of November, 2018 was of great value in the legacy that each of the decisions would have left behind. Each and every member of that court would be remembered for the decision they made.
‘Legacy’ value of that decision would certainly have played an unambiguous part in their decisions. They certainly left a grand legacy of right against wrong; legal against illegal and constitutional against unconstitutional. As a matter of fact the Supreme Court saved the day for democracy and its continued sustenance in Sri Lanka.
One cannot forget the role played by the people in Sri Lanka during these 50 days. Each party to the arguments for and against the Ranil Wickremesinghe-led government has its fringe elements. However wrong their party’s stand, these fringe groups would not desert their political allegiances. But a great part of the electorate does not belong to these fringes. They inhabit in the middle; their allegiance is basically to the more sensible and conventional principles of democracy and fair-play. Those people still chose to trek in the middle without reaching the threshold of the fringes. They were patient and thoroughly poised; their demeanor did not change and they lent their ears to everyone but made no comment or pass judgment. That is a mark of a mature nature of character.
That character stood tall. That is the most remarkable feature in the midst of broken down Executive and the Rajapaksa-legacy. That character of our people deserves undiminished admiration and applause.
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