Former Sri Lanka President Chandrika Kumaratunga said on Sunday that she still ‘agonizes’ over not using full presidential powers or authoritarian rule to implement the then draft constitution that would have ended dictatorial presidential rule.
“I still agonize over this, over and over again as to whether I should have used full presidential powers or authoritarian rule to implement the proposed constitution (which had then been blocked by Parliament),” she said delivering the memorial oration of the late Justice K. Palakidnar, former President of the Court of Appeal in Colombo on Sunday. The event was organized by Justice Palakidnar’s family.
In a speech, filled with anecdotes about her tenure of office, history of the conflict and the faults and weaknesses of past leaders and the ruling UPFA, she told a distinguished audience including judges, politicians and civil society dignitaries that if the draft constitution was promulgated and presidential rule ended, Sri Lanka may not have faced the current rejection of the international community, that prevails today. “At the time I didn’t want to do this (to be a dictator).”
In a hard hitting speech often directed at her successor, President Mahinda Rajapaksa, the former President said the government today was resorting to authoritarian rule. “We are a divided nation where the Sinhala Buddhists are projected as the dominant force and others excluded (from decision-making),” she told a rapt audience.
Speaking on the topic “Economic Development, Inclusive Societies and Peace”, she said development means good governance with transparency and accountability which is lacking today.
“In the absence of this, the country is deteriorating to a level of anarchy,” she said. Her strong comments against President Rajapaksa and his administration comes a week after former Chief Justice Sarath Silva told a public meeting that people have a right to rise up against dictatorial rule like the way people rose against the (ruthless) kings many centuries ago.
Political analysts said that the former President’s comments are likely to anger President Rajapaksa whose efforts to win the Tamil vote in the North failed after the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) won a resounding victory at Saturday’s local council elections. The Government and the President promised international sports stadiums, economic centres and other infrastructure to woo Tamil votes in the north.