Content digest: Full coverage of the 18th Amendment, 1 – 9 September 2010

Groundviews was read well over 22,000 times from 1 – 9 September, when content and debates around the 18th Amendment to the constitution reached their peak. Over 170 comments were featured in the site during this week alone, totalling around 65,000 words. In addition to the content on the site, our Twitter feed posted well over one hundred and fifty updates during the course of the week.

Content on Groundviews was republished or referred to by the Sunday Leader, the New York Times, Le Monde Diplomatique dozens of other local and international Twitter accounts of leading journalists and others, Livemint.com published by the Wall Street Journal in India and a range of other blogs and websites.

Around one hundred highlights from our tweets anchored to the 18th amendment are now archived in four parts.

A full list of content on the 18th Amendment published on Groundviews can be accessed by clicking here, which includes podcasts, videos, photos and text, some of which were reduced in collaboration with Vikalpa. Other content includes statements from Leftist parties and opposition to the 18th amendment by civil society, including law students, academics, lawyers and citizens from the East.

Groundviews published for the first time in Sri Lankan media a web-based interactive timeline to highlight various promises and statements made by the President and government over abolishing the office of the Executive President. In The pathetic capitulation of the organised Left in Sri Lanka the site catalogued clear pronouncements by Left political parties against the present form and continuation of the Executive Presidency available on the web to flag the hypocrisy of leading Leftist politicians.

More than any event in the past, our Facebook fan page, independent of the debate on this website, also generated a lot of commentary amongst its 1,600+ members.

In bearing witness and recording dissent, Groundviews was acutely aware that whatever little informed and principled debate and discussion on the 18th amendment was limited to a few able to access sites such as this, the English mainstream print media and a few independent websites in Sinhala and Tamil (e.g. Perambara, Vikalpa, Vikalpa’s YouTube video channel). Responding to the comments left by a reader on the site, Sanjana Hattotuwa, the founding Editor of the site noted,

“…but even as such does flag the question as to why so few people around Sri Lanka are agitating against such a harmful amendment. I know of no protest movement – spontaneous of party political in nature – outside of Colombo against the 18th amendment. When I was asked this question in the morning by BBC Radio, I put it down to the general apathy in our country, which has more voters than it has citizens.

A timeline of duplicity: Promises to abolish the Executive Presidency records Susil Premajayantha as saying “75% of the people in rural areas are not worried about the Executive Presidency or the 17th Amendment”. This applies to the 18th amendment as well. With mainstream media still fearful of robustly interrogating the implications of the 18th amendment for what they might have to face once it is passed, a supine opposition facing an enduring crisis in its leadership, NGOs that have never really galvanised public opinion, much less sustained public support and with politicians who are opportunistic and with a marked lack of principled politics, one can argue that the President merely uses what is fundamentally a dysfunctional democracy for parochial gain. Hence for example the genuine belief on the streets, and outside fora such as this, that the 18th amendment will actually hold, inter alia, the President more accountable to Parliament and that elections henceforth can actually be conducted in a free and fair manner.

This is why I appreciated very much reading Resisting the Loss of Citizenship in Sri Lanka, for simple actions citizens can take against this government long after the furore (or is it führer?!) over the 18th amendment has passed.”

After the 18th Amendment was passed by parliament on the 8th, we questioned via our last tweets for the day whether Sri Lanka was in fact a breeding ground for authoritarianism and noted that what we published during the course of the week was a hard to erase and courageous record of critical dissent and principled opposition to a heinous constitutional amendment.

  1. Groundviews
    groundviews Sri Lanka’s literacy is as high as its civic consciousness is low. Breeding ground for authoritarianism, not democracy? #lka #srilanka
  2. Groundviews
    groundviews The beauty of bearing witness on the web is that a few years hence, we can use the material today to say I told you so. #lka #srilanka

Though these were penned in the context of the 18th amendment, they undergird a vital reflection and debate that needs to ensure Sri Lanka’s democracy is not hostage to the whims of any Executive President, be it the incumbent, or someone far worse in the future.

  • http://- sarwan

    The Sinhalese never ever realised that MR was using Sinhala ego to get votes for his election victory and then abuse against the freedom and rights of others.

    What a person sows he reaps. One does not harvest corn if he sows rice !!.

    The abuse of Tamils by Sinhalese by legislation, sowed by the Sinhalese is bringing a harvest. Enjoy it !!!

  • Travelling Academic

    @Sarwan
    Your’s is a nasty comment and you are forgetting two things: (a) these ugly trends — of centralizing power so much and treating the Constitution as if it were a tax form — will affect Tamils in Sri Lanka as much as it will affect the Sinhalese; my cousins and nephews (Tamils) who want to live in Sri Lanka, see themselves primarily as Sri Lankan and enjoy living there are as worried about these developments as my Sinhala friends there; (b) When we Tamils wanted to do our political business ourselves, we didn’t exactly follow a democratic path amongst ourselves, did we? Large parts of the Tamil population did support the rise of an authoritarian leader (to put it mildly) who brutally suppressed any opposing view, wanted to be leader forever and probably thought of his offspring as next in line. If you think MR wants to be king for life, he might be taking lessons from VP who wanted to be God for life. So there isn’t much of a moral high ground for us, Tamils, to stand on and mock, like what you are doing. We are all in it together!

  • Burning_Issue

    Travelling Academic,

    I say here, here to your post. MR is a Sri Lankan problem; it is not an issue for me that he can contest more than two terms, but securing powers to appoint election commissioners and senior judges alarm me. This means that, elections can be rigged at will and no one can do anything about it. Even there will be no malpractices; the government/president will be stand accused of autocracy!

    Certainly a cause for sadness for all Sri Lankans!

  • http://www.groundviews.org Groundviews

    “The timeline… reflects both the genesis of the heinous 18th Amendment and also the occasions mainstream press reported that the President attended / “visited” Parliament.

    It was no easy task to compile this. Only a handful ordinary citizens would have the expertise to search for this information online, or elsewhere. There is no easy record retrieval of the President’s attendance in Parliament on its official website. But what is immediately obvious when the scattered media reports are taken as a whole is that the 18th Amendment has in no way at all contributed to a more accountable Executive. ”

    Excerpt from ‘Months after the 18th Amendment: Is the Executive really more accountable to Parliament?’, http://groundviews.org/2011/06/11/months-after-the-18th-amendment-is-the-executive-really-more-accountable-to-parliament/