28 March, 2020


Essential To Have The People As Priority & Not Those Who Govern Them 

By Thangamuthu Jayasingam

Dr. Thangamuthu Jayasingam

The Power of the People is manifested in an electoral process where the sovereign people hand over “their” sovereignty to the governance they choose to have and contribute. This makes the election and the process a vehicle for democratic values of a society. The most important aspect of it is the ‘process’ and not the result of the election itself  as there would be those who had preferred one form of governance against the others who choose a different form and the acceptance of the majority is also a concept of democracy.

If the process was not accompanied ‘free’ choices of movement, association, expression of opinions etc then the whole process needs to be re-examined under the democratic principles. 

The government declared general elections for the 25th of April 2020 and the nomination to end by March 19th 2020. Unfortunately the period of at least three weeks before the nominations closed from March 1st 2020 had not been ‘free’ for communication, travel, and association. Under such circumstances how democratic would the nominations received be in terms of representing the will/mandate of the people? The larger parties may have had their own ways to make their choices, democratic or not, but even them may have done better if there had been space to meet and discuss without any fear of ‘CORONA’ in the final days when the nominations were finalised. Those who had submitted their names as independent groups and those who wanted to and were unable to submit for reasons mentioned above may have had a better chance had there been ‘normalcy’ in terms of movement and association. 

In fact curfew had been established in a district close to where the nominations took place, may be for entirely different and valid reasons. There would have been those who needed clearances from their offices for nomination, leave etc. Were they affected by the non-functioning of the system over the past few weeks? If so, are these nominations valid under a democratic assessment of law? 

What is the/are the reasons for not postponing the nominations and/or elections?

1. That it is essential to have a stable government for running the country has been the most stated reason.  Little is emphasized on the need to give the best opportunity to the people to select the correct government. How feasible is it to have a proper assessment of the candidates for whom to cast their vote, when there is daily pressure to keep away from CORONA and also  fetch food and essentials to the family? Which is priority? I would consider the second as priority, if so, are we having the right process for democratic free election is a question that needs answering.

2. We cannot fix a date for election as we are not sure of the potential end to the present issues, is another reason mentioned.

If so then let us put our heads together to solve the first before considering the election. We have the executive presidency and the caretaker cabinet to run the state. Why worry?  Little do many realize that many Provincial Councils which are also constitutional bodies of governance have not operated for years but performing under the Executive Governor.  Not a word has been mentioned on the need for the province to have elected representative to run an effective governance. If the need is an elected body then one may even consider the option of utilizing the service of the ‘local governments’ that were elected through properly held elections.

Considering the disaster the prime duty of the State and the President is to handle the COVOID–19 crisis and provide relief to the people who gave the mandate for governance than to  consider having an election as priority for more stable government. An election at present would not have the ingredients of free choice as the people are concerned with more important issues for their life at present. They would rather listen to the CORONA guides and warnings than the election promises and debates. It is the process that matters for democracy and not the result and if the processes cannot be held freely then there are issues of democracy in election.

I see no reason why the election could not be postponed to any date? The Chairman of the Election Commission has now added his weight to this question by stating  that the election cannot  be held  on April 25 as originally planned. Unable  to assess the CORONA’s longevity, he has wisely declined to give a time frame in which the elections may be held. That date may stretch into  the indeterminable future.

If that possibility needs to be taken more seriously, the President could revoke his ruling to dissolve the parliament, which was not based on any criteria but legality of 4 ½ years that comes from the 19th Amendment  alone, to operate the parliament until August 2020 for which period the elected parliamentarians have the mandate of the people. This may sound absurd but as the Sainthamaruthu fiasco, where a local government body was artificially created and made to equally artificially expire, showed there had been revocation of many orders, though retrospective legislation is not a routine legality  in the country. 

From the perspective of democracy it is essential to have the PEOPLE as PRIORITY and not those who GOVERN  them. 

*The Author is a Professor of Botany and former Vice Chancellor of Eastern University and also an Attorney at law

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Latest comments

  • 5

    Dr. Thangamuthu: You asked a very interesting question: ” What is the/are reasons for not postponing the nominations and/ or election”. Here is the answer: All decisions pertaining to political matters (nominations/elections/oath taking ceremonies/assuming duties at Ministries/handing over letters of appointments etc….etc….) are FIXED according to the “Auspicious Dates and Times” decided by the “Royal Astrologers”. Did you not see the “KING” signing his “Nomination Papers” on a fixed date and time , showered by the chanting of “SETH PIRITH” by the “Buddhist Clergy”. If that “CULTURE” is not followed, and maintained, very many “Classes” of people, including the “Clergy” would certainly lose their “Lively-hood”. This is a “FACT”. I always see a “Silver Lining” in a “Dark Cloud”, in that this dark cloud of “CORDI 19” brought about a “Change” – that decision made by the Election Commission. Now once again the “Astrologers” have got to be busy to “FIX” the date of election. I know, those “Royal Associates” would not be able to play around with that “Peoples’ Authority” – the Election Commission. Additionally, another “Silver Lining” of another “Dark Cloud” to the present “Regime” i.e. the “19th Amendment”, brought about this “Independent Election Commission”. That is at least a “Ray of Hope” for the people to dig out of the “Mud Hole” very surreptitiously built over decades by these corrupt and crook “Politicians” , who run the Governing Functions on a “Rotating Basis.” Remember, “Mother Nature” is at work for not ONE but for ALL in the whole of Planet Earth.

  • 7

    Mr. Jayasingham,

    Well said.

    It is the people who are the priority, not those who govern them, during ordinary and extraordinary times.

    Unfortunately those who govern, think that it is the other way around.

  • 9

    Rajapakshe’s are the greediest in the world. Their actions speaks for itself. Greed will eventually bring grief.

    • 1

      Stop all politics. The press and news papers must stop mentioning names of any party politicians. Let the President run the country with the military and Covid task force. No more distractions from the task at hand

  • 4

    The Asian Buddhist culture, you can find evidence from Sri Lanka, India, China and probably from other Asian countries too, that kings and emperors when some uneasy situation occurred, they always questioned their behaviour saying “WHAT DID I DO WRONG IN ORDER MY PEOPLE TO GO THROUGH THIS.

    • 1

      When was China ruled by Buddhist emperors?
      Much of India was ruled by one Buddhist emperor for a time, but the emperor had no need to ask such a question. There were several local rulers under Buddhist influence, but the clergy that had royal patronage was pretty corrupt by the 6th Century.
      Lanka had no emperors, and can one name the rulers who did such serious soul searching? The concept of rulers being faulted for the suffering of the subjects developed in South Asia independently of Buddhism.

  • 2

    Exactly. Unfortunately the stupid. selfish & ignorant politicians of ‘Sorry Lanka’ do not think so.

  • 0

    What is the/are reasons for not postponing the nominations and/ or election”. This question has been asked with a bad heart. Sri lanka got the problem because so many sri lankans are working in Italy and they cam back. Even after this long time, and at present out of 73 patients , only SIX were living in Sri lanka, except two of out of those six without the known origin of the infection, and four got by associating with infected relatives.
    when that is the case, why should election be postponed. when you ask postpone the election, there some jealousy is mixed.

  • 1

    We don’t need a waste of billion rupees for another useless electionto send 22 crooks to get their luxury vehicles.

    What we need is a military administration with the capacity to develop the country like how they won the war.

  • 1

    The principle enunciated as per the title of this article is laudable. But at a difficult time like this when the entire nation is subject to a Coronavirus death threat, any presentation on this noble subject which can be misconstrued having political overtones not only defeats the theme but causes anger among those who are already suffering from this condition, namely, enforced or voluntary isolation at homes, isolation in quarantine facilities (resembling an Army Camp) or being treated in an Infectious Diseases Hospital. While respecting the freedom of speech of the author and as well as lots others a humble appeal to respect the social sensitivities on my part is not out of place.

  • 1

    From the perspective of democracy it is essential to have the PEOPLE as PRIORITY and not those who GOVERN them.
    One cannot disagree, but what is “democracy” in practice? Class interests rule, and democracy is only a facade.
    True democracy is when people govern, and not let any other govern them. People should prioritize themselves, as they will not receive priority from any who rule.

  • 2

    At a time when the World Health Organization declared the outbreak a global emergency, the postponing of the General Election saved Sri Lanka from an international outcry for undermining public health.
    Sri Lanka should seriously consider reconvening the Parliament under the leadership of the Prime Minister, and make the world aware of the unprecedented measures taken by the Sri Lankan government to contain and mitigate the Coronavirus for the greater good of its own countrymen and the entire world.
    The attitude of many people shows that the seriousness of COVID-19 has not reached their heads as yet.
    Therefore, reconvening the Parliament is necessary, so that MPs can raise questions with regard to the measures taken by the government and also the government has an opportunity to explain such measures at length. Additionally, this will allow the message to become widespread.

  • 0

    OK. Reconvene Parliament until Aug:2020, assuming, quite pessimistically, the Corona Virus will die a natural death, by then!
    Next step would be those Parliamentarians who missed out,due to the premature dissolution, will now qualify for the Pension!
    Will there be fresh nominations?
    If so,the essayist could buy more time to include his name in the TNA List!.
    The only problem is that he was Hisbullahs choice to be the Chairman of the Public Service Commission in 2019.
    These altruistic sentiments of People first is a long shot.

  • 0

    In reality DEMOCRACY is what w certain group describe. Other people has to follow it within the limits they describe it. With respect to Jayasingham writings that should be how Tamils or muslims want it from the Colombo govt. Jayasingham, I think his father, is also a cinema theatre owner and may have political ambitions.

  • 1

    At the last Presidential Elections The Chairman of the Election Commission for some reason or other failed in his duty to verify the true nationality of President elect Gotabaya Rajapaksa and it still remains a mystery whether he is an American or Sri Lankan citizen He mentioned that it was non of his business to verify his citizenship. It sounded very ridiculous and to say the least funny . I thought it was the responsibility of The Chairman of the Election Commission to check the nomination papers first and dispel any doubts about his eligibility to contest the last Presidential Elections. As such I believe the Chairman of the Election Commission may have failed to discharge his duties in a proper manner and it still remains a mystery whether the current President of Sri Lanka Gotabaya Rajapaksa is an American or Sri Lankan citizen.

    • 0

      Machan is correct.
      Why did the Chairman of the Election Commission not abide by the constitution and fail in his duty to verify the true nationality of the President elect Gotabya Nandasena Rajapakse?

      How is it that he entirely relied on PC Ali Sabri’s lie without officially cross checking the true position with the relevant US’s authority about Gota’s citizenship?

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