2 December, 2020

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Healing Divisions Post Election Is The Challenge

By Jehan Perera

Jehan Perera

In 1961, shortly after his election victory, President-elect John F Kennedy quoted one of the first colonists of the US, John Winthrop who, in the year 1630, said “We must always consider that we shall be as a city upon a hill—the eyes of all people are upon us”. This was one of the first examples of the belief that America would be exceptional, and that it would become a country that would set standards for the world to follow. The significance of the United States throughout the world and the protracted vote count and the roller coaster nature of the recently concluded presidential election ensured that it was keenly watched throughout the world.

President Donald Trump demonstrated an astonishing tenacity and will-power to retain the presidency. He has not displayed the graciousness displayed by former losers in previous presidential polls in accepting the verdict of the majority of voters. He utilized the power of chauvinism, bigotry and fear and stormed back into the presidential election even after being diagnosed with coronavirus. He defied predictions to rally those millions that backed him, and almost made it in the end. In one state the difference in votes is wafer thin, which has generated an automatic recount. However, the president’s inability to come up with solid evidence of irregularities that would make a difference to the result has led the courts to decline to act on his protests.

In President-elect Joe Biden’s victory at the 2020 presidential elections, overcoming the politics of racism and chauvinism which many other democratic countries worldwide are succumbing to, the US has reaffirmed the value of democratic values through education and the strength of its democratic institutions. The election was closely contested to the end. At the beginning when the regular votes cast at the polling stations were being counted, President Trump ran up a lead which contradicted the pollsters even as his election victory in 2016 had done. When this lead dissipated with the counting of mail-in ballots, the president found fault with the electoral process. But the courts of law in various states rejected his call to stop the vote count.

Inclusive Governance 

Although President Trump continues to hold the most powerful position in the most powerful country in the world there have been two key factors that ensure he does not get his way in ensuring that his will rather than that of the majority of voters with more enlightened views prevails. The first is the strength and independence of its institutions. The second is the layered nature of US democracy with power being shared at different levels of government. This has meant that issues were resolved speedily at the level at which they arose without needing to go to higher levels where power is more concentrated and presidential power might have prevailed. This is also the contrast between the US system and its system of independent institutions and multi-layered democracy and the direction in which Sri Lanka is heading following the passage of the 20th Amendment.

In Sri Lanka, unlike in the US, the centralized nature of the polity, which the 20th Amendment has exacerbated, will ensure that the president’s decisions can go right down the line to the lowest level. The failure to institute the Province Councils as envisaged, and to strengthen them adequately, also prevents a multilayered approach in our country. Sri Lanka has opted for a system where the president will select the heads of all national level institutions. The president has strengthened this top-down system of decision making by bringing in the military to implement coronavirus containment strategies and also by deploying retired military personnel within the government administration. This centralization of power is being justified on account of the need to resolve the many crises that beset the country. Sri Lanka’s historical experience is that imposing a top-down strategy of governance without adequately assessing the needs of communities at local levels would lead to frustrations and negative consequences.

One of the reasons why President Trump could not win the election was his unwillingness to hear the voices emanating from the opposition political entities and the scientific communities including WHO, which could have reduced the high levels of fatalities in one of the richest and most developed countries in the world. Likewise, the cost will be very high if Sri Lanka does not take the best path right from the outset. The most pressing would be to contain the spread of the coronavirus into the community. The role of community-based organisations and groups becomes important when it concerns preventing or limiting community spread. Decisions taken at the top need to be conveyed to the community level to elicit cooperation of the community.

Consensual Decisions 

In divided societies it is important to have consensual decision making to the extent that is possible. This can be through the setting up of forums for dialogue and discussion that bring inclusivity into government as often stated by Justice Minister Ali Sabry but is not yet manifested in the country’s political and administrative life. The greater the participation that people have in the decisions that are made, the more likely they are to understand and cooperate with them which differs from a military compliance or demand to obey instructions.

The manner in which the incoming Biden administration deals with the deep divisions in US society in the immediate post-Trump period may offer lessons to Sri Lanka as it grapples with its own internal divisions. Especially during the period of President Trump, US society began to polarize not only on the long standing basis of race and colour, but also on the basis of political ideology. These fissures will continue into the future and President-elect Biden and his team will need to address them. The situation is not unlike that which took place in Sri Lanka in 2015. A rainbow coalition which included breakaway factions of the Republican Party combined forces to defeat President Trump. In Sri Lanka, a similar coalition was unable to cohabit successfully other than for a relatively short time after it came to power, and thus lost an opportunity to provide an example to the world.

The issue of the UN Human Rights Council and the US role in it vis-a-vis Sri Lanka would be a sensitive one to the government. There is a likelihood that the US will rejoin the UNHRC which it left with President Trump denouncing it as a “cesspool of political bias”, and other international institutions such as the Paris Agreement on climate change, in the aftermath of the change of administration. In March of this year, the government announced that it was withdrawing from the co-sponsorship of UNHRC Resolution No 30/1 of 2015 that was backed by the US and which its predecessor signed. At the time of withdrawal from those commitments the present government also committed itself to developing a nationally driven reconciliation process. By starting to implement it, the government can speed up the healing process all round.

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Latest comments

  • 1
    4

    Dear Jehan

    Thank you.

    Comparing any other Nation specially America with Sri Lanka is inappropriate…I say this with no parity politics. With our comparison we are putting the cart before the horse once again.

    Our nation should focus on all the good things to have in the “upcoming constitution” to be united one Nation of people with no divisional politics for a prosperous future. Therefore 20a is a critical part of this planning. Whoever elected will get the same opportunity.

    Alternatively

    We should have (for starters) 4 Nations…divide it as you like under Separatism or Federalism or any other gimmickry- (1) Upcountry Indian state (2) Sinhala state (3) Muslim State in the East (4) Sri Lankan Tamil State in Jaffna……resettle all the population accordingly and electrical fence/50 feet walls (Mexican or Israeli version) then invite all the security Council Nation permanent members and India to represent each one of the futuristic Sri Lankan community and set up military bases/coast to be divided for all the Navy ships of the above to park around the Island. Whoever live there can work for all the Military settings to do the toilet washing so they do not need to travel overseas to do the same as we do now. Whatever you folks do please reset the Indian embassy in Jaffna to Upcountry Indian state please.

    • 4
      1

      Dear Jehan,
      .
      Yes, without such pressure being exercised on current leadership, human rights violations would become conditioned next days in srialnka. By 2015, even children knew Rajakashes did lot of unestimable harm, to the own folks, be them prisoners or others, not necessarily only MINORITARIAN srilankens…. there are whole lot of numbers that would clear how EXTRAJUDICIAL MR regime 01 had been. Some known to me in Europe, named it … as no different to Zimbabwe under Mugabe… or Lybia under Gadafi…. however, the myths controlling srilanka, though cornered Rajakshe criminals … defeating them in 2015, but paved the way them to come back in volumes… by 2020….. it is the people s WEAKNESSES made them allow return…. and MEDIA mafia speeded up the process because HIRU and DERANA TV channels came into being in the high days of MR-aka Mafia bosses,… period.
      :
      I agree witih you fully having said…
      .
      In March of this year, the government announced that it was withdrawing from the co-sponsorship of UNHRC Resolution No 30/1 of 2015 that was backed by the US and which its predecessor signed. At the time of withdrawal from those commitments the present government also committed itself to developing a nationally driven reconciliation process. By starting to implement it, the government can speed up the healing process all round”

  • 0
    3

    Another alternative is to let the Indians/Muslims/Jaffna Tamils to settle the score amongst themselfs later could also sustain the Industrial Military Business Empires to sustain their own economies producing more advances population control/killing technologies/their children to bum around the world on holidays/NGO’s/UN peace workers/intellectuals doing compassionate work flying in and out of Sri Lanka (sorry not sure what the names to be of the new Nations to be registered at the UN) and other successful Nations children from Malaysia/Singapore/Western countries (just like Harris origins) coming to represent the same Nations as they look a bit like the locals and more acceptable faces etc.

    These are fantastic choices we should continue to entertain/endorse as local intellectuals promoting superior peoples wish from other Nations and should not bother with the wishes of the local people (who democratically elected the current GOSL and how dare they choose not to let their children die?). JVP/Muslim/Indian parties and TNA is more importent and have a lot to offer as their masters will be on the ground for all the required assistance to deliver “peace”and their versions of democracy as you explained eloquently above.

  • 3
    4

    No.

    Challenge 1- overcome COVID
    Challenge 2 – economic revival

    For that Biden has to work with China. Otherwise the US economy is doomed. Trade benefits everyone. Too bad some losers can’t take it.

  • 1
    3

    Please also ensure the JVP/Muslim/Indian/Tamil children will get to do wild west on each other Clintieswood style killings for entertainment now they will have no causes to fight from the age of 13/14 etc. Bring some BLM folks from the “hood” who do the regular killing of their own than the Whitman historically which we are familiar in SL too? will build bridges to better human values now we do not like the 20a hence the entire article doing the pre emptive strike to save guard human dignity in Sri Lanka correct??

    I wish the JVP leader Rohana finished his studies in Russia (a free scholarship) and came home to take care of his people/serve them better may have saved our Nation and the snow ball effect that paved the way for FP to reevaluate their survival/relevance (as we were removing them from their existence in Jaffna) and to become the TULF arming my children in Jaffna for the real killings fields that ensued until 2009??

  • 0
    3

    Thank you JVP for real revolution that has delivered human rights beyond any imaginations…..did you ever check with the Indians/Muslims/Tamils how conflicting they are to your fight in the first place?? it is not too late and please find out…may you realised to it too late..hence the separation of the North and East perhaps on your initiative….

  • 4
    0

    Jegan,
    This is not the government of people, it is the government of family. That is why the 20th amendment made to bring another US citizen to share the ministry. So, reconciliation, healing divisions of people are not important to them than sharing the wealth within them.

    • 2
      5

      Ranting of guys suffering from Rajapakshe-phobia due to humiliating defeat they gave to Tamil terrorists who were bragging that they cannot be defeated militarily.

  • 0
    2

    Jear Jehan

    this may complement your article

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4Rnb0j-bNmM
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S4ugBZmctKA

    THE ESSENCE IS DO NOT BE BAD LOSSERS…that is the only think I take from the American election I could possibly compare to Sri Lanka

  • 0
    4

    [Edited out]

    tell you what MR Jehan go to FOX news / Newsmax these are the only outlets that show you what majority world is not seeing thanks to the widespread media blackout created by CNN-BBC-MSNBC-NBC….etc….bottom line you went on to title your article as Post election – MR jeahan if know the US Election process ..biden hasn’t been officially confirmed by the US legislature as the 46th president? Then who Did ? Media did…CNN-MSNBC-NBC…repeat Biden hasn’t been certified….

    Mr. Jehan be very careful do not insult the Conservative voter bass of America Over 70 Million have voted for this man and they adored Trump You have no right to take that in to granted…Conservative America is the backbone of US. Betraying them is like playing with fire.

    • 1
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      Dear PSF

      In middle America they never even heard of any other network other than the Fox and the Murdock (I am not sure they even know that is foreign owned).

      If you a SL settled in America and support Trump no issue as I think Trump had some interesting thoughts different from the conventional parties……not sure of the Voter base being KKK/Tea Party though?? this is where my issues come with Trump but not for his policies which requires considerations too in any democracy ??

      I think what they did in USA was to ensure the Tea party and other fringe groups such as the White supremists who felt left out for a long time and wanted to bring them on board which they did and fix some American debt issues with China they did…is the good cop and bad cop game play at its best…in the process allowed Israil to inch further and shut down on Iran too. There are few games being played in the interest ion America who can complain??

      We on the other hand kill each other in SL and why??

  • 3
    3

    “post-Trump period may offer lessons to Sri Lanka as it grapples with its own internal divisions.”

    There are dumbos who always think that ‘THEY’ can give lessons to Sri Lanka. Actually, US can learn few lessons from Sri Lanka.
    These dumbos fail to see the positive things that have taken place after eradication of Tamil terrorism. Sinhalayo who were the main target of Tamil terrorism do not make a fuss about the life they experienced for three decades. My guess is a large majority of Tamil people also have the same attitude. The problem is a tiny minority in Tamil community who want to keep on digging into the past for their political survival. They get backing from invisible hands who want to use them for achieving their agenda. Unless and until this tiny minority who has become a cancer to Sri Lankan society is removed this will drag on as Sinhalayo say ‘Higannage thuwalaya wage’ (like beggar’s wound).

  • 0
    1

    Dr Jegan,

    Another excellent article, But your expectations are not realistic.

    USA had developed as a matured democracy under the capitalist system, but now in crisis.
    .
    The performance of Donald trump in the current presidential election has amply demonstrated that victory at the in 2016 Presidential Election was not a fluke, but USA is suffering from deep-rooted internal contradictions.

    The four years long Trump Presidency had demonstrated the futility of expecting the two party systems in USA will strengthen the US version of democracy.

    On the contrary, it will move from to crisis-to-crisis. If Joe Biden fails to resolve the conflicts in the short term the challenges posed by China will make it worse and USA might collapse under its own contradiction pulling down the entire international community towards chaos and uncertainty.

    What is happening in USA is not an example for Sri Lanka to follow.

    Beware, Gota is another Trump!

    • 2
      0

      What a load of garbage you are peddling in CT
      You assume people in SriLanka
      are dummies. Wake up man. You think you are an expert on East-West relations. Your argument doesn’t portray same
      Please stick to what you know
      Good luck. No offence intended

  • 1
    0

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  • 3
    0

    Dear Jehan
    The last paragraphs captures the essence of what is needed by the SL regime
    “United we stand divided weSrilanka can ill afford to be complacent.
    The economy is precariously going down hill.
    With the balance of payments at all time low
    Development, diversification,digitisation are some of the areas the regime should address. With the top talents heading the SOE’S
    Expecting a bit too much perhaps
    But I a born dreamer
    Ratnam Nadarajah

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