27 January, 2023

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A Democracy In Question

By Suren Sumithrarachchi –

Dr. Suren Sumithrarachchi

Sri Lanka is one of the oldest democracies in the world. It is only second to the United Kingdom to be granted universal adult franchise. In its 74 years as an independent nation, Sri Lankans have elected their legislators through the ballot and ousted them also through the democratic process. After adopting an executive form of government in 1977, moving away from the Westminster system it inherited at independence, legislators progressively veered towards dictatorial behaviour, though elected through a democratic process. With time, the dictatorial instincts of the legislators grew and they began to tinker with the provisions of the constitution to justify autocratic behaviour. In the 44 years since the enactment of the executive rule, the constitution has been thus amended 20 times, mostly to facilitate autocratic rule. This has led the legislators to lose sight of the fact that they are elected representatives of the people, which fundamentally means they are supposed to rule the nation according to the wishes of its people. Progressively, the autocratic behaviour of the rulers became unacceptable to the people, who began to show their disapproval through intermittent peaceful protests, which eventually resulted in organised protracted protests that resulted in the overthrow of the prime minister initially, and the executive president as the next step.

The election of the successor and the intrigues thereof        

With the ousting of the president, the position has been filled through the votes by members of Parliament. The constitution requires that the president be elected by a simple majority. However, the member thus elected is a loner, who even failed to win his own seat in his constituency during the last election, and belatedly entered Parliament through the national list, an act subject to debate. To muster a simple majority, he required 113 votes but the candidate succeeded to muster 134 votes, which leaves room for concern. The current Parliament comprises those who were elected at the 2020 election, and represent the 2020 political will of the country, which rejected this candidate outright. So, the concern is how members of a Parliament who represent such a negative view of this candidate would so overwhelmingly vote in his favour as to appoint him president.

Two views emerge as possibilities. One is that aggressive horse trading took place. The second is that the Rajapaksa ghost is active within the Parliament and it is their will that prevails, not the will of the masses. It is well known that horse trading has been the normal pattern to muster the necessary votes to pass controversial amendments. It is a manifestation of the corruption that has become endemic in the nation and is part and parcel of the electoral process in the country. It also represents the degeneration of the moral values of the peoples’ representatives. For horse trading to be effective, substantial amounts of money need to change hands, and this shows the magnitude of the problem of corruption in the country. Do leaders who engage in horse trading have so much ill-gotten money? Are there hidden hands behind these parliamentarians who seek to fulfil their agendas at the expense of the wishes of the masses? What are the agendas of these hidden hands and where are they driving the country towards? On the other hand, if it is the agenda of the Rajapaksas, are they the key actors behind horse trading? How far will they go to achieve their ends? How deep is the loyalty of these parliamentarians towards the Rajapaksas and to what extent will they go to fulfil them. Does it also mean that the new president will be a puppet in the hands of the Rajapaksas, fulfilling their needs and protecting them from the law? If so, does it also mean that the militarisation of the public sector and all state activities will continue?

The country loses another opportunity

Unfortunately, the country has lost another opportunity to come out of the vicious mess that it has got into due to political manipulations. This being an election held among the elected representatives, and hence did not have the usual biases that operate in a general election, it provided a great opportunity for the elected representatives to abandon their usual prejudices towards one another, their inherent communal and religious differences, and the prejudices they have towards females in leading roles, and go the extra mile for the sake of the country by taking some life changing steps. They could have elected a member of parliament from the north to one of the positions and made history. This is an outcome that can hardly be imagined through a national election in the majoritarian society that Sri Lanka is. (I believe this was even discussed and believe those who mooted the idea should be applauded). They could have appointed female members of parliament to one or both positions and once again made history. (I believe this too was discussed and believe it as a good first step and needs recognition) Had either or both these been done, just imagine the mileage Sri Lanka would have got with the international community. Isn’t this what Sri Lanka needs right now?

Instead, we have opted to appoint a tested and proven failure, one known for his autocratic behaviour, one who is out of touch with the realities of life in Sri Lanka, one who cannot empathise with the suffering of the people of this country, who has no understanding that the spiralling inflation has placed the masses in part starvation, and who believes that people who protest regarding the failure of government to provide basic necessities are terrorists that need to be dealt with. Does the newly elected leader or those who voted to elect him realise the consequences of their actions? Do they believe that it is possible to rule a country against the wishes of the people? Do they believe that the ingredient to success in a highly charged political environment such as ours, is the use of force and violence? Do they not realise that the international community is watching us and looking for a stable government? Is such a stable government possible with a ruler whom the masses reject?

In the past, Sri Lanka has lost several golden opportunities to orbit out of its entrenched issues. One was after the Tsunami, when people across all communities were affected and the international community was generous with relief. The other was after the 19th of May 2009, when the legislators should have used the opportunity to bridge the wide gap that existed in the society. Have we as a nation not lost another opportunity to free ourselves from our present situation and show the world that we are a decent people capable of rational thinking, or do we insist on proving to the world that we are still tribalist in our thinking and behaviour, and hell bent on suppressing the weak?

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  • 4
    0

    It is a commendable piece of writing and I congratulate the Author. Only worthwhile piece of 1978 constitution was prohibition of MPs crossing the floor. Any MP does so cease to be a member. This was abolished by then Chief Justice Sarath N De Silva enabling horse trading. He later admitted, after leaving high office, it was a mistake.

    • 5
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      Chandrametha,
      Good morning.
      “CHIEF JUSTICE SARATH N DE SILVA ENABLING HORSE TRADING. HE LATER ADMITTED, AFTER LEAVING HIGH OFFICE, IT WAS A MISTAKE”
      Not only that he admitted (not in the August Chambers of the CJ) on a political platform, that “when he saw ‘MaRa’ in the Dock, he entirely forgot that it was his singular and bounden duty to be the Chief Interpreter of the “Law of the Land” (Sri Lanka) and give a fair and true judgement in the case before him, based on facts placed before him by the prosecution and defence??!!
      Sarath Nanda should have been impeached on that matter alone, before the ‘Gedera Yana Gamang’ episode at Diyawanna river banks reported by VI, but that process is not easy, when corrupt parliament majority is with Rogues/Looters!! They are always free anyway?!

      • 2
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        (Part II)
        The result is the catastrophic/cataclysmic outcome one and all Sri Lankans are experiencing!!
        So the culprit of this ill-boding is not MaRa, BR NR or Gota??!!
        Primary cause, Sarath Nanda (SNDeS) didn’t do his job properly for which he was paid a princely sum monthly and continues to be paid as pension now, for sustenance!! UNFAIR!!
        He may however claim, it was due to “momentary loss of his scholarly skills at the sight of MaRa” staring at him from the dock and twisting of his moustache?!!
        Should THE REPUBLIC CONSIDER AMORTISING HIS PENSION TO COMPENSATE PARTIALLY the LOSS?!
        If not why not?? After all it is the money belonging to the people!

    • 1
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      Chandrametha,
      Yes, it is a good piece but what effect it is going to have on people who vote for those continued to cheat people again and again for past 74 years? The problem is that people kept in dark and they can be easily cheated again and again. We talk about horse trading which is not only among politicians but also among people because there are no options to keep their life. For example, if you have a family and you don’t have income and their is no opportunity to get an employment to feed your family and when some one come and tell this person will help to get an employment but you have to send your daughter to work in his house. What will you do? Will you deny that offer? Will you able to vote against to him. This situation still remains at all level in our countries and powerful. What Sarath N De Silva did the same but not for the same reason and not at the same status or level. One is in poverty, other is in Power and to enhance the Finance. According to principles of our constitution and law both are crimes but the man in poverty will be punished but man in high level not punished but promoted.

      It is true that the country had always missed the opportunities and it looks that country already missed again even after bankruptcy in the hands of high level horse trading. Ranil has started his brutal Gota face. Now we all understand why Gota ran away. Now even Tamil MPs also openly advertised that they are not different and equal to other horse traders.

  • 4
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    (Part I)
    Good morning.
    Dr. Suren S,
    Congratulate in your thought on the presidential vote in parliament.
    This being an election held among the elected representatives,
    1. HENCE DID NOT HAVE THE USUAL BIASES THAT OPERATE IN A GENERAL ELECTION – true and agree. The issue is not the public and people. The problem lies entirely in the hearts and minds of the elected representatives, and manifests in elections by their cunning speeches!!
    2. OPPORTUNITY FOR THE ELECTED REPRESENTATIVES TO ABANDON THEIR USUAL PREJUDICES TOWARDS ONE ANOTHER – That’s Tantamount to sacrifice their livelihood?!
    3. INHERENT COMMUNAL AND RELIGIOUS DIFFERENCES – Manifest not by Public at large??!!
    4. PREJUDICES THEY HAVE TOWARDS FEMALES IN LEADING ROLES – culture change required!
    5. THE EXTRA MILE FOR THE SAKE OF THE COUNTRY BY TAKING SOME LIFE CHANGING STEPS – they will not attempt that at all as they consider that equivalent to committing ‘HARAKIRI’!!
    6. ELECTED A MEMBER OF PARLIAMENT FROM THE NORTH TO ONE OF THE POSITIONS AND MADE HISTORY – perhaps yes; purpose of making history like Appapillai A., then chased out! Unceremoniously too, amending constitution!!??
    CHANGING GOAL POSTS AFTER THE KICK IS INITIATED – MORONIC!!

  • 4
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    (PART II)
    7. AN OUTCOME THAT CAN HARDLY BE IMAGINED THROUGH A NATIONAL ELECTION IN THE MAJORITARIAN SOCIETY THAT SRI LANKA IS – you said it!! That culture change has been shown in Aragalaya not at all by the exalted representatives of the people except handful!
    8. Discussed and believe those who mooted the idea should be applauded – Fully agree with?!
    9. THEY COULD HAVE APPOINTED FEMALE MEMBERS OF PARLIAMENT TO ONE OR BOTH POSITIONS AND ONCE AGAIN MADE HISTORY – Yes. For purpose of historical element only! That to happen spontaneously, there should be a paradigm CULTURE & religious aspirational change??!! Otherwise it is meaningless!
    10. The Aragalaya has demonstrated all above for near 4 months, wonder, who is the group that is peeved at the progress made IN THAT RESPECT by the Aragalaya??
    11. The answer would be well worth seeking and would be revealing indeed?! Emancipation of the country needs and requires that study to “SIFT THE CHAFF FROM THE RICE” and move forward to achieve the Sri Lankan aspirational Goals and Objectives as a progressive nation in modern world!!???

  • 5
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    SillyLanka is oldest DEMOCRAZY in the world. Hence we insist on proving to the world that we are always retarded in our thinking and behavior, and hellbent on suppressing the weak.

    • 4
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      Suren, both possibilities were in play. 1) Aggressive horse trading 2) Rajapaksa ghost is still active within parliament and it’s their will that prevails and not the masses. 3) Mahinda in his hideout had plenty time to stage this constitutional coupe. 4) Officially Ranil was announced as their candidate by the SLPP secretary. 5) As usual so called rebels, disgruntled promised Dullas, their support and believing “he threw down the gauntlet” 6) After getting some idea who is supporting who, GLP was intentionally send to announce Dullas as candidate to confuse matters and avoid embarrassment to SLPP for picking Ranil as Rajapaksa proxy. 7) Harin added further by saying few SLFP, TNA, SJB members will cross party lines to vote for Ranil. 8) party lines were clear who they were voting for and it was projected that Dullas had 113 to cross the line.

      • 0
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        9) many seasoned politicians were confident Dullas had the majority secured 10)Mano Ganesan the previous day said he will vote for Dullas but Ranil will win. That shows he already knew the results.11) After elections when asked “who he voted for ” Mahinda said the party nominated (not him) Dullas and he lost. 11) Either it was all a SHAM orchestrated by Mahinda or Dullas did not know what he was up to. 12) Ranil is a guy who can help Mahinda on this because he already worked against his own party candidate Sajith as President. 13) if we look at numbers Ranil got 134 where SLPP had 140 members. CVW, Jeevan and a Muslim MP expressed their support to Ranil. that takes to 142, minus Dullas) It is obvious majority SLPP except for very few along with Mahinda voted for Ranil. 14) money was paid to disgruntled SLPP members for vote.

        • 0
          0

          15) being a secret ballot , people could lie as much to confuse public. There was no cross voting as Harin said. If at all, it was few SLFP (who time again had done it in past) members who voted for Ranil. The difference is less than 10.

  • 3
    0

    (Part I)
    The collateral damage of the “foolish, uncultured, childish or childlike act” of a responsible official of this Resplendent Republic in 2005 (Post tsunami), is amply clear now!!
    A Minimum of 34 Billion Dollars of public money, by siphoning off by Nincompoops – the primary person – who was let ‘loose’ – by not passing the due sentence on the culprit who was charged duly by prosecution and defended, which is irrelevant/immaterial!?
    Because, the CJ, the ultimate authority in the legal/judicial process in SL decided to deviate from the standard process of dispensing justice and lacked Jurisprudence??!!
    A. Failed to take into consideration and base decision on factual evidence in the case
    B. Interpret the legal implications in misuse of funds received for humanitarian relief
    C. Take into consideration the legal implications, both criminal and civil law to identify, interpret the law to ensure culpability if any and remediation and also correct the person from faltering in the future?
    D. The accused disregarded the slap on the hand and ignored all norms and continued as nothing has happened or he has made any error of judgement at all?

  • 2
    0

    Mahila
    Do you remember deplorable Judgement delivered by Sarath N De Silva on the case of Squandering Tsunami Aids by foreign governments and Aid agencies by MR?

  • 1
    0

    He was the worst partisan Chief Justice in my generation.

  • 0
    2

    “The election of the successor and the intrigues thereof “
    Intrigue in this business started with DSS fixing succession in favour of his son.
    Then came JRJ’s succession of Dudley. Who would have imagined that the man who wanted to invade Siri Kotha by land and sea to overthrow Dudley as leader and even wanted to join Sirima’a government will be the rightful successor to Dudley to the disappointment of RP.
    Intrigue is part of the game.
    *
    There was horsetrading, but not a lot– only as insurance against any minor upset. The SJB cross-overs had decided to go back to the leader of their old party. Some TNA MPs has other ideas of horsetrading wile Suanthiran and his side-kicks did some horsetrading in vain.
    The SJB MPs did as they were told. the only intrigue was MR proposing Dallas, and both knew the game.
    One could, if possible, check whom Dullas voted for?
    There was this man V Ponnambalam from the Communist Party who contested SJVC in KKS in 1976, and announced without provocation in 1977 from a public platform that he voted for SJVC.
    Voting can be fun if not funny.

  • 1
    0

    “Intrigue in this business started with DSS fixing succession in favour of his son.
    Then came JRJ’s succession of Dudley.”
    I think SJ have some selective dementia and he can’t remember all.
    Intrigue in the business motivated and emphasised by “SWRD with Sinhala only Act. SWRD was murdered to bring his Wife Srimavo with the inclusion of “Buddhist Fundamentalism” with active left players like Colvin and NM with Masala vadai” then their daughter and Son both came in and Raja robbed it from them. Now Raja continues with their “Buddhist Fundamentalism”

    Yes it is funny.

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