What’s with the plus sign in ‘19+’?


The SJB must SPELL OUT THE DETAILS OF THE 19+ its leaders talk about. The good, the bad and the ugly.

The Samagi Jana Balavegaya (SJB) says the draft 20th Amendment is ‘selfish and undemocratic.’ Okaayyy. It is amusing when the bigwigs of the party (well, leaving out the UNP add-ons like Champika Ranawaka, Rauff Hakeem and Rishard Bathiudeen) use words like ‘selfish’ and ‘undemocratic’ as though they were cuss words. After all, what was the 19th (which they cheered) if not selfish and undemocratic? It was about political expedience. It was about subverting popular will AND undermining the Supreme Court recommendations.

Sajith Premadasa says, ‘the proposed 20th Amendment is largely targeted at individuals and personalities focused on adding or subtracting powers and privileges of a particular individual or individuals.’ Excuse us, but isn’t that what the 19th was all about?

However, if the SJB has turned over a new leaf, it should be applauded. So here’s a pause for applause…..HOORAY!  Maybe the likes of Rajitha Senaratne and Sajith Premadasa who happily belonged to a party that gave us the JRJ Constitution, unleashed the worst kind of terror in remembered history, hooted judges of the Supreme Court, openly invited ‘the robber barons,’ rigged two key elections (Presidential Election 1982 and the Referendum the same year) and wanted to roll up the electoral map have suddenly woken up and become enlightened. Another pause…HOORAY.

And now, they claim that they will not only defeat the 20th Amendment but will bring in a different amendment, ‘19+’ as they call it, which is ‘people-centric’ and ‘truly patriotic.’

Love it. BIG step in the right direction, as far as rhetoric goes. After all, these people virtually ceded the country’s sovereignty at the UNHRC not too long ago. They weren’t very patriotic back then. In their yahapalana avatar these people weren’t people-centric. Colombo-people centric, perhaps, but nothing more. They were more ‘US Embassy people centric,’ than anything else.

So, 19+ would open the door to a better kind of politics, we hope.

They can now go ahead and detail it. What’s the ‘plus’ in 19+ about? Is it a negation of the negatives? The SJB has vowed ‘to fix the shortcomings of the 19th while preserving its merits.’

What merits? Term limits? The 20th retains that. The RTI? The 20th retains that. Five year terms? The 20th retains this. Constitutional Council instead of the proposed Parliamentary Council? Well, BOTH give the government in power numerical edge. You can retain the CC and have the government appoint politically loyal ‘independents’ from ‘civil society’ to the CC (as the Yahapalanists did). Only, like in the PC, such people cannot be held accountable.
What are the demerits? The SJB talks of funding for independent institutions. Nothing about the absolute confusion at the top that the 19th lends itself to. Nothing about the pernicious inclusion of the undefined ‘national government’ clause.

The SJB must SPELL OUT THE DETAILS OF THE 19+ its leaders talk about. The good, the bad and the ugly. Maybe Champika Ranawaka could do it. IF he’s still in the thick of things as far as Sajith, Rajitha and others are concerned. 

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