Colombo Telegraph

Democracy Or Dictatorship: Choice For Sri Lankans

By Ameer Ali

Dr. Ameer Ali

If the Supreme Court fails to overrule the president’s unconstitutional and premature dissolution of the parliament and if general elections are be held, then, there is only one issue and no other on which Sri Lankan voters have to go to the polls: democracy or dictatorship. No other election in the history of this country since independence ever presented a critical choice like this. Sri Lanka’s reputation in the civilized world as a democratic country and its future survival as a cultured nation with economic prosperity solely depends on this choice. In a sense, the voters should thank President Maithripala Sirisena for forcing them to make this choice once and for all. One cannot emphasise the importance of the choice any further.  

How did the nation come to this point? The story has to start with JR’s all powerful presidential constitution, which, according to its creator, could do anything under the sun except changing physiologically the gender of an individual. Had the minority communities at that time who were destined to suffer under JR’s cunning but monstrous political scheme joined hands with the progressive and democratic elements within the majority Sinhalese that constitution would not have become a reality. They missed that opportunity and the rest is history.

Every president elected since Ranasinghe Premadasa assumed office with the solemn promise to abolish the executive presidency. However, power is like a drug and once you get addicted getting rid of it demands extreme will power and determination. None of the presidents who tasted the joy of executive powers did not have that determination and therefore failed to keep to their promises.  History repeated until Maithripala Sirisena took office promising to remain there only for four years. Joy of power was so alluring to him he wanted to extend his stay for another two years. That was where the trouble started. 

In the meantime there was a side show in the form of the infamous 19th amendment. From whatever angle one interprets that amendment and the events that followed till the premature dissolution of the parliament that amendment was only tinkering the powers of the president only at the margin. The real problem lies with the fundamental assumptions of the constitution. Years ago Dr. N. M. Perera of LSSP with great sense of perspicacity warned the nation of the hidden dangers of this all powerful presidency.  His warnings have become reality in the hands of a capricious Sirisena.  A total dictatorship in the guise of an executive president is only a small step away. 

The preponed election if eventuates offers another opportunity to Sri Lankan voters to elect a coalition of progressive and democratic forces with a solitary mandate to get rid of the executive presidency and re-establish democracy. The onus of realising this falls very heavily on shoulders of the two minority communities. Over the last few weeks one was able to witness elected and nominated parliamentarians from all communities crossing sides in return for money, ministerial positions and other privileges. In doing so they have unashamedly exhibited their selfish motive of accumulating wealth through parliamentary positions and privileges.  Some of these turncoats do not even have the necessary credentials to compete in the employment market outside the parliament. They deserve to be punished by their respective communities at the forthcoming election. The solidarity of the minorities with the progressive and democratic forces from the majority will decide the future destiny of this paradise island.  

In the meantime, it is heartening to see the Mahanayake of Malwatta Chapter, Thibbatuwawe Sri Siddhartha Sumangala Thera, openly demonstrating his disgust at the unconstitutional acts of the current president. This is an exemplary illustration of an enlightened leadership, which should be followed by leaders of other religions in the country.    

The forthcoming election is unique in the history of Sri Lanka, and in it lies the unity, tranquillity and prosperity of the country. It is a contest between democracy and dictatorship, between freedom and slavery and between civility and barbarity.                 

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