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Oh Come, Arise … “A Prince”!!! PDF Print E-mail
Whilst my idling mind was in a “daffodilian mood” as Wordsworth puts it, the devil at work in it homed in my thoughts on the following few selected sentences of the American declaration of independence –  
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal…that they are endowed with certain unalienable Rights…Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness… to secure these rights Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed…whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government…Prudence indeed will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes…But when a long train of abuses and usurpations pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism…it is their right, their duty, to throw off such Government…”
Strong words indeed, much loved, equally debated amongst commentators. Indeed some record that the framers were considered to be committing the offence of High Treason for even advocating such a thought process, of severance from the British government as it existed and raising the people up to declare a new Republic; much like some allegations we hear in present times, where one is named a traitor and another a patriot within a very ambiguous and grey demarcation that is not that clear or defined.
RIGHTS of citizens Vs the LAW of this Republic:
The framers of our own Republican Constitution (2nd – 1978) have guaranteed to all citizens of Sri Lanka the following Fundamental Rights/Freedoms:
·        Freedom of Thought & Conscience under Article 10
·        Freedom from discrimination on the grounds of political opinion under Article 12(2)
·        Freedom of Speech and Expression under Article 14(1)(a)
·        Freedom of Association under Article 14(1)(c)
Whilst ensuring the above freedoms to act independently and freely in terms of one’s own political freedom and thought, the law also enforces certain limitations, by its operation, on some of the freedoms in order to protect and preserve the status quo of the Republic.
Chapter VI of the Penal Code sets out several offences that one can commit against the State, commencing from waging war (Section 114) to attempts to excite disaffection on the government (Section 120). However the explanation to the latter also provides that it would not be an offence to show that the President or the Government have been misled or mistaken or even to excite the people and procure the alteration of any matter through lawful means.
Several of these provisions were tested in an interesting series of cases reported in the Sri Lanka Law Reports, in its 2nd Volume of 1994; that of the case of Channa Peiris (and several others) Vs the Attorney General & others. The facts (very briefly) were that the Petitioners were participants of a movement called the “Ratawesi Peramuna“ formed around November 1991 under the leadership of one Athureliye Rathana who convened a meeting at a temple, at which one Champika Ranawaka introduced a manifesto. Some police officers who had been covertly listening in from a window and having formed the impression that they were engaged in a conspiracy to overthrow the government arrested several persons.
In delivering judgment their Lordships of the Supreme Court were pleased to cite Jefferson appearing in the above declaration of 1776, and went on to hold as follows (excerpts only due to space constraints):
“…the Ratawesi Peramuna was an anti-government organization. However as a matter of law, merely vehement, caustic and unpleasantly sharp attacks on the government, the President…are not per se unlawful…legitimate agitation cannot be assimilated with incitement to overthrow the government…the call to topple the President or the Government…was to bring down persons in power…if (that tumble) had shocking or traumatic effects on those who might fall is of no relevance…”
Machiavelli’s “Prince”:
This 16th Century Florentine political philosopher’s celebrated treatise on statecraft and the circumstances in which he articulated those ideals allows me to draw a mental parallel to my own country at present. The works are almost a prayer by Niccolo, yearning for his ideal ruler to rise up from amongst the rubble and restore his beloved nation to the serenity which he believes it must return. Amongst the several ideals that he advocates as necessary qualities for such a Prince, he also bases the very foundation of such expectation on the absolute hopelessness with which he perceives his country at the time. At chapter xxvi he writes (extracts only):
“…many things conspire to favour a new prince…I cannot imagine there ever was a time more suitable than the present…if the Israelites had to be enslaved in Egypt for Moses to arise as their forceful leader…if the Persians had to be oppressed by the Medes for the greatness of Cyrus to be recognized…if the Athenians had to be scattered to demonstrate the excellence of Theseus…then at the present time, in order to discover the true Italian spirit…it had to be brought to her present extremity…she had to be more enslaved than the Hebrews…more oppressed than the Persians…more widely scattered than the Athenians…leaderless, lawless, crushed, despoiled, torn, overrun…she had to ensure every such desolation…”
It was only in such absolute and irreversible hopelessness (wrote Machiavelli) that his “Prince” would rise to the challenge, and bring back the Republic they deserved!
Well, not claiming to be even within leagues of such erudition and intellect of this unparalleled socio-politician, in my own humble opinion I too can safely say that if there ever was a need for such a ruler to arise and deliver in my own little Sri Lanka; THIS is the moment of truth, it just cant get any worse than this!
So arise oh Prince…wherever you are…your land awaits you…WE await you!!!
Chrishmal Warnasuriya
22nd February 2010 – Colombo, Sri Lanka.
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