By M.M. Janapriya –
Standing in the soldiers’ war cemetery in Pennsylvania, the 16th President of the US Abraham Lincoln addressed the funeral gathering of the dead soldiers. He said, “These dead have not died in vain, the country shall have a new birth of freedom and the government of the people by the people and for the people shall not perish from this earth”. This is indeed the birth of modern democracy even though this is based on that famous speech of Abraham Lincoln made as far back as in 1816. The fact that “………..shall not perish from earth is an absolute truth.
Perish thy will not. Look what has happened to communism? They have fallen like dominos. Perestroika in the then USSR, Polish communism, Yugoslavian communism and even communism in China are gone but democracy will live on as long as there is human life on earth.
The trouble is that in different countries, in different times by different politicians Democracy is being adulterated to serve their political needs. Even in 5 star democracies like in Westminster, though rare, politicians juggle with democracy but because of their guardian angel of the legal system Democracy bounces back with a vengeance. This was the case when Boris Johnson a few weeks ago, prorogued the parliament for 5 weeks in the guise of wanting a queen’s speech when indeed his motive was to evade parliamentary scrutiny of his Brexit machinations. People sought legal redress to decide if Johnson acted in contravention of the unwritten constitution of Britain by misinforming the queen about the need to prorogue parliament. The eleven judge bench of the country’s most senior judges unanimously concluded that the Prime Minister indeed acted illegally in proroguing the parliament as he seems to have misinformed the queen of the need to do so. So Britain remains a five star democracy and as I saw written on the back of that man with dermographism in Samson Wright’s Applied Physiology, I read all those long years ago, There Will Always be an England. Can we say that of our motherland? Yes we can. How? If we can get rid of 70 years of misrule by both the Blues and the Greens.
In the `wild east’ politicians make merry in countries where the poor and the extreme poor are absolutely powerless to contain the antics of their elected representatives. First thing these governments do is to amputate the long arm of the law very much like the gypsies (the ahikuntakayas) who make a living out of snake charming, uprooting the fangs of the cobras they carry in their baskets. These shameless creatures (I mean to politicians of all colour) seem to get the judiciary at their beck and call so that all their dastardly acts would be interpreted as `constitutional’ and the gala goes on with negligible resistance for yet another 5 years. Country plunges from frying pan to fire.
What is meant by the Lincoln definition is that democracy elects a majority parliament. But not necessarily so. In Sri Lanka except in 2010 all governments from 1994 till now have been minority governments helped by ethnic minorities. Having to appease coalition partners has been the biggest bugbear of these weak governments. Even the 2010 majority government of Mahinda Rajapakse doled out cabinet portfolios to people like the recently spoken of controversial Muslim leaders, to keep Muslims `happy’. Eventually some of these men continued to be ministers in cabinets of almost all governments till now as they were weak governments. It appears as if it is under the umbrella of such people that the Muslim extremism grew. Hence all governments from 1994 have got blood on their hands as per Easter Sunday bombings. Due to their failure to ensure security of the people neither the Government nor the opposition nor anybody closely associated with either of these parties should prove electable ever again.
The phrase people reign supreme that is being thrown around freely in political platforms is a myth. Peoples’ supremacy is just rhetorical and seems to end at the polling booth. It is not wrong to say we have cast our votes and returned home giving our rogue rulers an open cheque.
Just take the instance of minority governments. Either the blues or the greens are the largest party in parliament but hasn’t got an absolute majority. They talk to other parties mainly nationalist minority parties and form a coalition government. This is in fact a weak government which necessarily has to subjugate the interests of the people who elected them and accede to demands of their coalition partners. So where is democracy? The right thing to do would have been to return to the electorate and ask them for an absolute majority in parliament but it never happens because of the hunger and craving for power and their cobbling up a government at the earliest opportunity no matter how.
When one is governing a country like ours it is necessary for the government to have an absolute majority. It is only then that the government can rule from a position of power. No government shall rule from a sad position of weakness. Take Buddhism the religion most Buddhists would die for. (I will not) Lord Buddha to be, from the heavens looked down on earth for the correct timing, the country, the province to be born in, the caste to be born in to and the mother who would bear him in her womb.. Siddhartha Gauthama was an exceptionally tall, and a handsome person born to a royal family. In short he started life from a position of strength and this helped him a great deal in his later endeavors to propagate the doctrine behind the state of mind he attained. Had he been born to rich parents of a Rodiya caste he would have struggled to make people listen to his sermons let alone convert them to get ordained as monks of his tutelage.
This is indeed true in politics as well. A majority government led by an intelligent, honest educated and a fearless leader would command the respect of the country inclusive of all ethnic minorities. It is easy for him and his government to do what is right for the country. What we need is a one nation country and a one nation government. Right now ethnic minorities are crying foul from the fringes and are not engaging in politics as a nation. They are coming forward as political parties that would look after and safeguard the interest of the ethnic minorities they represent and in the present political atmosphere not a lot can be found wrong there. Often they hold and will continue to hold weak governments to ransom and this is a recipe for disaster.
A standalone government on the other hand is strong and does not have to cow down , bow down or bend backwards to appease ethnic minorities who are in no mood to join main stream politics as at present. Unless elected on a government party ticket there is no need to offer ethnic minority MPP any cabinet portfolios. There is no need whatsoever to appoint individuals from ethnic minorities to the cabinet to “satisfy” these sectors of the public. If the person is the right man for the job he should be given it independent of his ethnicity. All what they and indeed the country at large need is to deliver by the nation.
Neither George Osborne, nor Phillip Hammond nor indeed present Secretary of State for Finance (like the Finance Minister here in Sri Lanka) Sajid Javid were economists to hold the portfolio of finance. Similarly none of the guys who held portfolio of Health like Andrew Lansley, Jeremy Hunt and Matt Hancock are health professionals. What we need are educated honest and efficient people who would have the country’s interest topmost on their agenda working hard to deliver by the one nation. It is then and only then will the ethnic minorities will feel they are a respected part of the electorate and will necessarily get involved in mainstream politics. Portfolios like Buddhist Affairs, Muslim Affairs, and Hindu Affairs should never be there. If one want one can have a single portfolio of religious affairs and in my opinion even that is not necessary. All ultra nationalist parties like Jathika Hela Urumaya, Tamil National Alliance and Sri Lanka Muslim Congress should be banned. There need to exist will cease with the advent of proper governance.
In summary, Sri Lanka needs a standalone majority in parliament to form a strong government which can govern without any fear or favour. First thing the new government will have to do is to reinstate the law of the land in its deserving place, restore the independence of the Judiciary and bring to books all law breakers including all parliamentarians. The rest will fall in to place automatically. The time is now opportune than ever before as there is a massive public outcry for good governance and a change for the better. It is the duty of all right thinking people to unite under one banner and go knocking on doors to remind the slumbering people that time has come to wake up and launch the fight of their lifetime. We have got to redeem Sri Lanka, her might, her respect, her goodness and her broadness to accommodate all people as one nation.