Dr. Jayampathy Wickrama-ratne said recently: “The Sub-Committees were mandated to develop constitutional principles for the consideration of the Steering Committee in respect of the designated subject areas. The Sub-Committees functioned independently, in determining the manner in which sittings were organized, and were at liberty to engage expertise and to invite representations. The deliberations before the six Sub-Committees were consultative and interactive in nature and included shared experiences and insights on various aspects of the subject matter discussions. The six Sub-Committees submitted their reports in the end of September, 2017 to the Constitutional Assembly and as expected different political parties had aired their different views in these reports.
I must admit that after the submission of Sub-Committee reports, the progress on the Constitution making process has not been fast tracked. The Local Government Polls and the No-Confidence Motion against Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe also played a role to slow down the progress. However, in May 2018, the Panel of Experts of the Constitutional Assembly requested to prepare a document – an initial legal draft – based on proposals of the six Sub-Committees that includes various views expressed by various political parties.
The Experts’ Panel has been working tirelessly and on last 18th met once again and requested two more weeks and it was given.”
In that scenario the masses must keep hope on a new Constitution instead of the next Presidential Election due before the end of next year. The possibility of an early election is only a dream.
At the felicitation ceremony for Health Minister Dr. Rajitha Senaratne on his obtaining an international honour, President Maithripala Sirisena mentioned the possibility of Rajitha becoming the Presidential Candidate from the Government side! The Opposition has not been without its share of contestation too. The statement issued by former President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s Office that he had not yet decided on who should be the Opposition’s Presidential Candidate, and to disregard the claims that he had already selected his brother Gotabaya, is an indication of the tensions beneath the surface which are not limited only to the Government.
Having given priority to resolving the national democratic problem in the past period President Sirisena has embarked on a programme of development projects under Pibidemu Polonnaruwa, in his home district. He hopes to implement similar projects in other districts too. He has already asked SLFP members to organize their propaganda machinery to face either a referendum or elections. The UNP is following suit with the Gamperaliya project for development. The Government is currently implementing three major accelerated development projects namely, ‘Enterprise Sri Lanka’, which is being spearheaded by Prime Minister Wickremesinghe, and the Gamperaliya and Grama Shakthi with the aim to develop villages. However, this policy of co-existence between the Government parties might not be sufficient to win the hearts and minds of the people. In particular, in case of a referendum absolute victory is necessary to defeat the violence of racists.
In a country like ours where numerically the petite bourgeoisie exceed the urban working class, strong populist leaders override political parties; they dominate like tyrants. As such the village masses look to strong persons to solve their problems rather than to institutions.
Whenever people have a problem they will look to the mass leader to intervene and dominate officials, if not some contact they have within the system to whom they can appeal to, or bribe, rather than rely on the system to deliver formally according to AR and FR. The common discourse today regarding politics is the need for a hierarchy of strong leaders.
The primary aspiration of a disillusioned population who vote for change in the hope of their betterment is that they are looking for stability and order and for a strong political direction that will not waver. To most of those people the current Government has been a disappointment. As a coalition of two parties, each of which is going on their own ideologies, the Government has only been able to move by fits and starts. Only recently has common determination been established.