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How about some avurudu in Parliament?

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Three years ago, ‘The Nation’ observed the following editorially: ‘Common and commonality are an integral part of who we are. Tolerance and accommodation are integral to our world view. This is true of all communities living in this island. Whatever hardships we face, we find time for one another, find ways of giving and sharing. That is what the Aluth Avurudda is about. We rejoice together and mourn together. We understand ‘times of need’. We know how to put aside the petty and objectionable. We know how to embrace, how to reconcile.’

‘If a key is missing in the larger processes of getting over and past the conflict, then the Aluth Avurudda is a moment, an event, a celebration, an idea and symbolic of a way of being in which that missing element can be found,’ it was also observed.
Today, three years later there is a palpable need to rediscover and privilege ‘common and commonality’. We are speaking here strictly of the worthies we’ve elected to represent us in Parliament. We are speaking of common ground with respect to correcting flaws authored by JR Jayewardene almost 40 years ago, endorsed by the United National Party, made use of by the Sri Lanka Freedom Party and which have wrecked democracy in spirit and practice to the point that we should be surprised that we can still vote people out of power. That’s the rub. Politicians come and go, parties are brought to power and ousted, but the people have to make do with just the crumbs of democracy.

This year the people celebrate the Sinhala and Tamil New Year as they always have. They will put the past behind, do their forgive-and-forget, care-and-share, rejoice and hope that things will be better. Parliament will not be in session. But Parliamentarians as they privilege their non-Parliamentarian personas and affirm the avurudu sirith can reflect on the true worth of these things and how important it is to affirm the same in their public lives, especially in Parliament.

We are talking about the 19th Amendment. The JRJ Constitution is a robust document and one which resists amendment. Until 1989 when the UNP lost the two-thirds majority secured in 1977 and pick-pocketed via the 1982 Referendum, the Constitution was amended 16 times. The party interest dominated in 14 of these. The 6th was a gut-reaction to the rise of the LTTE. The 13th was a toilet-wash that Rajiv Gandhi forced down JR’s throat. Since then there were two amendments. The 18th was an SLFP or rather a Mahinda Rajapaksa version of all those ‘By the UNP, with the UNP, for the UNP’ amendments of the 1980s. The 17th was in this context an anomaly and flawed though it stands as the one pro-people amendment to the JRJ Constitution.


And now we have the 19th. Its passage has been marked by a lot of bickering across the floor. If it was all one-upmanship it would be understandable. The problem with the arguments from both sides is that what is being sought is not ‘more democracy’ but more ‘piece-of-pie’. Ranil Wickremesinghe has clearly sought an amendment that would replicate that of the United National Party. It’s an all-about-me amendment that he came up with, with hardly any qualms about making and breaking promises to coalition partners. The SLFP, for its part, has pointed to their number-edge in Parliament, less to infuse good sense to the amendment than to stop Ranil. They obviously have the advantage of logic at this point.

The JHU and others went to court. The Supreme Court made its determination and Ranil has been forced to back off somewhat. What is important is that dictatorial powers have been shaved. Balance has been restored.

No, we are getting ahead of ourselves here. They are yet to be shaved. Balance is yet to be obtained. The Amendment has to be passed. If passed those who aspire to rule like royalty will be disappointed. The people will benefit.

If avurudu is about ‘ganu-denu’ (give and take, essentially) may our politicians do a bit of ‘give’ for all they’ve taken from us for almost four decades. May that swallow pride, lose ignorance and see the 19th through.

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