8 December, 2019

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“Isn’t Democracy All About People’s Choice Through The Ballot Box?” – No

By Laksiri Fernando

Dr. Laksiri Fernando

Dr. Laksiri Fernando

The question in the title is from K. A. Sumanasekera to my last article on “President Reduces Democracy to Elections and Human Rights to Defeating Terrorism!” The simple answer is no, but the present is an explanation in addition to what I have already said. Answering the question is important not as a polemic against the questioner, but because this appears to be a confusion or misconception even among the supposed to be educated people in the country. There may be reasons for the situation. One may be an excuse for increasingly anti-democratic or authoritarian tendencies in the country. Another may be simple ignorance.

There was a time, even internationally, where democracy was defined mainly on the basis of elections. That was before the end of the Second World War. This changed thereafter, because of mainly Hitler’s or fascist experience. Hitler came to power through the ballot. Not that I am equating anyone in Sri Lanka to Hitler, but there can be some traits. There can also be the other extreme, like what was argued in Egypt recently. The bullet or chaos should not replace the ballot either. The ballot is fundamentally important, but it should not be left to abuse or reduce democracy.

Among the prominent scholars, Joseph Schumpeter was one who gave a minimalist definition to democracy in his famous Capitalism, Socialism and Democracy in 1942 as follows.

…the democratic method is that institutional arrangements for arriving at political decisions in which individuals acquire the power to decide by means of a competitive struggle for the people’s vote. (p. 269)

Schumpeter was articulating the traditional view which was partial. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) in 1948, on the other hand, redefined representative democracy within the broader context of human rights. Article 21 was on representative government, elections and ballot, but they were only one aspect of human rights among many other principles. I am not initiating the argument, whether ‘human rights are part of democracy’ or ‘democracy is part of human rights.’ In reality, it is both. Both aspects are dialectically interconnected.

There are many contemporary interpretations or definitions of democracy. Among them, perhaps, what articulated by David Beetham and Kevin Boyle (2009) in their Introducing Democracy: 80 Questions and Answers might be the best and clearer as follows:

Democracy belongs to the sphere of collective decision making. It embodies the ideal that such decisions, affecting the association as a whole, should be taken by all its members and that each member should have an equal right to take part in such decisions.

Democracy, in other words, entails the twin principles of popular control over collective decision making, and equality of rights in the existence of that control.

I had occasion to translate the above book into Sinhala in 2010 and it is available as a Marga publication. The above definition/interpretation was given after making a distinction between private decision making and public decision making. This definition is broader to what Schumpeter said. It applies to any type of public decision making organizations including political parties, trade unions, religious organizations or NGOs. Therefore, democracy is not only about the state but also about the society.

Another important point that they have made elsewhere is that democracy is not an ‘all or nothing’ affair. It is a matter of degree. What it says is not about the basic threshold but the larger horizon. The distinction between public sphere and private sphere is also hazy at certain points. The task of democratization is never ending and it might in the future even encompass the business sector. Already there are inroads made through human rights. ISO 26000 is an example.

In such a context, how could we limit democracy only to elections?

There is no question that regular and free and fair elections are primarily important in a democracy. Chartists in the mid-19th century asked for elections in annual frequency. The reason being that between elections, the elected can abuse power. Major distortions in our political system took place when elections were not held for local government institutions (1978-1991?) and Parliament (1977-1989). The life of Parliament was extended through a manipulated referendum. Even today, free and fair elections should not mean just people going to the booth and voting. They should be free from violence and intimidation. People should be able to access all necessary information through free media. The state institutions should not be used to influence election results.

Many critics and primarily Marxists have continuously questioned the fairness of ‘bourgeoisie’ elections world over. The reason has been the possibilities of manipulation of vote through money, influence and power. The Soviet Union and other communist states also misused elections to remain in power. Of course there are possibilities of overcoming these odds when people are well organized like what happened at the NPC elections last September. However, under normal circumstances, there should also be other devices, institutions, traditions and principles to safeguard democracy. Human rights and institutions to safeguard them are primarily important.

There are many studies conducted particularly pertaining to post-communist societies on this subject. For example, after critically reviewing the views of traditional minimalists (i.e. Schumpeter), the following was what Erik Herron said in his Elections and Democracy after Communism? (2009).

While subsequent scholarship has not seriously challenged the inclusion of free and fair elections as a necessary condition for democracy, researchers have acknowledged that the existence of elections alone cannot guarantee citizens a full set of rights to express themselves, compete for office, and cast ballots meaningfully. (p. 5)

The pertinent question in Sri Lanka at present is that when the President attempts to limit democracy mainly to elections, and does not look or allow beyond, whether the citizens have “a full set of rights to express themselves, compete for office, and cast ballots meaningfully” as Herron asked.

It is also important to briefly highlight what are the other conditions and/or institutions that are required for a functioning democracy. In this context, it may also be important to quote what Lincoln Mitchell said in this respect in his Uncertain Democracy (2009). This is more to the point of what Mr Sumanasekera has asked.

Elections are understood by most practitioners of democratic development to be only a part, albeit a critical one, of a necessary battery of democratization activities that seek to strengthen democratic institutions such as courts, legislatures, local governments, political parties, civil society, and the rule of law. (p. 144)

In the context of Sri Lanka, a country which is also multiethnic and unevenly developed, devolution and provincial councils also should be added to this list of democratic institutions. There is a greater understanding today, internationally, that democracy should be horizontal than vertical.

Among many other requirements, Sri Lanka also needs decent politicians and who should not threaten the critics as traitors. The newest threat is now levelled against the former President, Chandrika Kumaratunga, who has been named as the “country hating ex-President that has palpably joined hands with the enemy” by a stooge Editorialist, Rajpal Abeynayake (Daily News, 30 January 2014).

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Latest comments

  • 4
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    Laksiri’s article of democracy etc. boiled down to worst ever president/PM this country ever had, CBK; So no need to elaborate further, just a waste like CBK.

    • 2
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      John, Colombo Telegraph is not for morons, or mercenaries, poodles, toplappers and sycophants of the jarapassa regime. Please go away.

      • 2
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        Tolco

        “John, Colombo Telegraph is not for morons, or mercenaries, poodles, toplappers and sycophants of the jarapassa regime. Please go away”

        If it is not for “morons, or mercenaries, poodles, toplappers and sycophants of the jarapassa regime” surely it is for Native Vedda only.

      • 0
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        Tolco,
        Are you licking [Edited out]

  • 3
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    I would think that Democracy is a system entailing checks and balances where there is an independent judiciary to uphold the rule of law and a free media to ensure trasparency. Without these two having elected morons who play the merry hell and are not responsible to anyone is anarchy.

    Worse still to have an all powerful executive to control and decide everything and minions playing out right and left. Even Vermin boasts that as Deputy Minister he has Rs 300 Mn to spend. Good for a few more Lamborghinis? Who is there to question?

    • 0
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      What happened to Merwyn’s Bribery case? and the allegations against the Chief of Bribery itself.

      • 0
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        These they have to respond in upcoming UNHRC sessions.

        Why those investigations die down without revealing anything to the public ????????????????? Maha Kalakanniya (time waster number one1) should be ready to bring constructive responses.

        • 0
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          They may have all tactics to manipulate locals, but they have no idea about the what IC would think about MR regime. They redicule out MR regime whereever they can. So, things get its way bad for the bad guys – in few weeks now :)

    • 0
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      Dear Safa,

      This just an observation and a question arising out of it.

      Parliament agreed on 17th Amendment without a division. It was meant to put in place systems for ensuring independent checks and balances. Parliament passed 18th Amendment with 2/3 majority. Systems put in place still remain but procedure for appointing persons for managing the systems is different. The difference between decision making; unanimity in passing 17th Amendment and 2/3 majority in passing the 18th Amendment. Voting in both cases apparently conforms to principals of democracy.

      How do you look at it in the backgrounds of your interpretation of democracy and the content of Prof LF’s article?

  • 5
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    A very good lecture that we very much needed. Thanks Prof. Laksiri. Emotional intimidation/ blackmail of citizens in the name of language, religion, caste, flag, external threat, sovereignty and community to vote for an individual or party, as often happens in Sri Lanka also negates the value of the ballot in our so-called democracy.

    Dr. Rajasingham Narendran

    • 0
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      All your points which you claim to negate Democracy are “Reactions to Actions”..Right?…

      Wouldn’t negating those Actions nullify the Reactions?…

      • 0
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        Actions beget reactions and these reactions become actions, which cause further reactions. The process goes on in a never ending manner that we forget what were the initial actions that set off the chain that followed.

        This is why actions have to be very well considered, wise and unimpeachable.

        Dr.RN

  • 3
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    Laksiri Fernando,

    Your article is enlightening the concept of modern democracy in in a clear manner.

    Many a politician from the majority community, and the population in general need to be educated on this as there is a misconception that the ethnic majority decides everything and the other communities must follow suit. This has gone on for 66 years and appears to be the norm.

    Sooner it is done the better it will be. The country has become virtually authoritarian with manipulated elections with the electorate being ignorant of the concept of democracy.

    In view of the impending UNHRC meeting and possible international investigations on war crimes, this becomes urgent to avoid chaos and mayhem in the country,

  • 0
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    Thanks very much Laksiri for a very informative and useful article.
    In addition to all that you have discussed, elections in Sri Lanka may have a further and disturbing aspect.
    In the authoritarian and quasi-monarchist polity that Sri Lanka has now become, elections have come to be used with some enthusiasm for a perverse and anti republican purpose. They are employed primarily as a means of demonstrating and affirming the power and control that the rulers have over the ruled. At the provincial and municipal level, the chiefs who control the local political fiefdoms use it to demonstrate their clout and usefulness to the ruling family, delivering the votes through a mix of patronage, bribery, media control and intimidation.

  • 0
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    Democracy should be like an old Padith Amaradeva classic isn’t it really hmm..?

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L1hqPFEQGTg

    • 5
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      Vibhushana

      Thanks, for the brilliant Indian recital.

      Here is Benn test of democracy.

      If you meet a powerful person – ask them five questions:

      What power have you got?

      Where did you get it from?

      In whose interests do you exercise it?

      To whom are you accountable?

      And how can we get rid of you?

      If you cannot get rid of the people who govern you, you do not live in a democratic system.

      Tonny Benn
      Grand old advocate of democracy.

      I love the fifth question.

      • 2
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        NV
        That is fantastic! I’m going to immerse myself in Benn one of these days!
        Cheers
        IB

      • 1
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        Did you ever put these questions to Uruwarige Wanniyalaththo, the Chief of your clan?

        • 1
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          The Professional

          “Did you ever put these questions to Uruwarige Wanniyalaththo, the Chief of your clan?”

          We have been practicing direct democracy for millennia hence no need to ask whoever is leading my people.

          I suppose you do know what direct democracy means.

  • 1
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    Thanks for a good article.

    Democracy is a much used – and much abused – word. And for a lot of people it simply means rule on the basis of what the majority decide. But a crude arithmetical majority does not necessarily deliver a fair outcome for all concerned. We need to bear in mind that democracy also seeks to deliver fair and just outcomes.

    What the majority decides is fair only if ALL the electors are similarly empowered and stand to gain or lose by the outcome in equal degree. For example, if we have a group of ten persons made up of 7 males and 3 females and a vote is taken on a proposal which, if carried , will be detrimental to the 3 females, is it fair even if all 7 males, who comprise a majority, vote for it?

    Unfortunately, many people fail to appreciate the point. And so it is that there is the view that because the Sinhalese are in the majority their view point, because of their majority status, must prevail. Similarly there is the view that religions other than Buddhism because the adherents of those religions are in a minority, have lesser rights than the majority Buddhists.

    A majority vote, of itself, does not guarantee a sound outcome.

  • 1
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    Sri Lanka has never had a Free and Fair election.
    Every election was flawed.
    The independent Elections Commission envisaged by the 17th Amendment has been negated by the 18th Amendment.
    The Elections Commissioner is unable to prevent election malpractices before and during elections.
    Earlier,the then Commissioner was ‘abducted’ and held incommunicado in an unknown venue,from the evening of a presidential election,till the evening of the next day. His wife and daughter were similarly held.
    The counting of ballots was alleged to have been severely flawed,and the wrong candidate elected.

    All this talk of elections is thus mere bullshit.
    We need an powerful Elections Commission like in India,and electronic system of voting.

    • 1
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      Justice: I like to correct your comment. Sri Lanka did have fair elections till 1977.It was only after all this muck set in.

  • 0
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    There does not seem to be any rebuttals by the person named by the writer above, and for whose benefit also, the article seemed to have been written…

  • 0
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    Rajpal Abeynayake will never comment. He will only throw filth in his third grade rag

    • 0
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      It is just he is a spineless man, that is it. So long perks would allow him to spend Savaris to Puket, thing will work for him, but future is not brightful for him. .. believe me

  • 2
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    Sri Lanka also needs decent politicians and who should not threaten the critics as traitors. The newest threat is now leveled against the former President, Chandrika Kumaratunga

    Dr. Laksiri Fernando has great hopes for CBK. I have no idea what he sees in this women.

    She was pathological liar then, still is now and will be for foreseeable future. Who does she plan to fool when she says she finished 90% of the war? What an insult to all the soldiers who died and others who scarified their limbs to finally put an end to that megalomaniac?

    When she was the president, she refused to make Sarath Fonseka the army commander but after she left office, supported him as presidential candidate just to get rid of Mahinda (did she care about what happens to the country?)

    She talks about democracy but fired Ranil Wickramasighe’s entire government when she new it was unpopular. Is that democracy Dr. Laksiri Fernando? Is it? You just said she has an important role to play few days ago? Hasn’t she done enough already? What more do you want her to screw up in this country?

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      Navin

      “She talks about democracy but fired Ranil Wickramasighe’s entire government when she new it was unpopular.”

      Hindians got her to fire him as he was looking for safety net outside Hindia’s orbit.

      She was under constant pressure from within the party hardliners, mostly people like you, Hela, Abhaya, NAK, Outrider, Banda, ………. to rescind the cease fire agreement.

      Later in early 2005 Hindians offered to help her with all kind of military support to take on VP. She had no choice but to tow Hindian line. Rest is history and MR clan is enjoying the fruits of CBK/RW era.

      • 1
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        Correction:

        CBK did not fire RW to appease Sinhala people. She took advantage of Sinhala fears over CFA (which were quite legitimate) to come to power. Ranil’s CFA was far better than what she offered to LTTE — 10 years of rule in N/E! How stupid must have VP been to reject such an offer!

        She hates Mahinda not because he is abusing power. She did that to the same extent and beyond when she was president. Her dislike is because he displaced her Mallo and herself. She won’t rest until a Bandaranaike or a Bandaranaike puppet is at the helm of the blue party. Do you think I have any interest in such battles?

        CBK meeting prelates to create religious harmony? Oh give me a break. She should have met the prelates when she signed PTOMs!

    • 0
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      Navin,

      What is directly relevant to my present article is what I said about the Daily News Editorial naming her as a ‘traitor.’ Do you approve that?

      Yes, I did say that she has a role to play, whatever the mistakes in the past I must add. She is already late. Among the incidents that you have mentioned, I never approved her dismissal of RW government. My position was to have a national coalition to resolve the ethnic problem. You seem to be looking for ideal persons, not policies or platforms. Instead of always criticising people, why don’t you propose your own solutions even under the cover of a pseudonym?

      • 0
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        Dr Laksiri Fernando,

        Do you remember how CBK ridiculed UNP MP K.N Choksey in public over his apparent facial paralysis? Is that a civilized act? I don’t care what they call her.

        I have voted for CBK and I have observed CBK’s conduct over her two term presidency and thereafter. What I listed above are things that immediately come to my mind when anyone mentions CBK. Now give me a good reason why I should consider, that involving her in politics again will bring any good? Haven’t you heard “Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me”?

        I have advocated in these forums that in order to make way for devolution that one needs to address the concerns of Sinhala people as well. To that end, my proposition is that Tamil polity needs to accept a degree of demographic change in the North/East. This will not alter the political majority of Tamils in N/E or change cultural heritage of those areas. Please read the discussion I and few others recently had with Dr. Rajasingham Narendran under article “NPC Chief Wigneswaran Wants Sri Lanka’s History Rewritten”. I’m not talking about just creating settlements but a holistic solution that involve development, devolution and change in demography. FYI, I also put this question to Rajan Philips but no response.

        • 0
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          Navin,

          No, it is not a civilized act. She might regret now. I say might. I am referring to the Choksey affair and even others. I also have my own recollections but I am not going by those or those alone. But I frankly don’t think however you are correct in saying that “I don’t care what they call her.” We should care. One wrong does not right the other. You have asked me to give a good reason to involve her in politics. My reason is to save the SLFP from the family grip and bring out a broad front for democracy and reconciliation assuming development is something we all agree.

          I don’t have a disagreement with you when you say “I have advocated in these forums that in order to make way for devolution that one needs to address the concerns of Sinhala people as well.” However, it is a very broad statement and it should not only be for devolution. At the same time the benefits of devolution is beyond ethnicity; it is for democracy, development and fair distribution of resources etc. etc. I understand that you say these things in response to my request that you should come up with solutions. I appreciate that. On your point on demographic alteration, I do have reservations because it implies something artificially done or forced. There are some historical reasons for the Tamils to resist this. I think we should allow these emotions to settle down. I don’t think Sinhalese have any right or reason to say unless you tolerate demographic change there will be no devolution. That shows domination. At the same time there is something inhibiting the Tamils to move beyond their very rigid homeland concept. That is the concept which says that the Tamil nation is unique. This was there in Thimphu principles and this was there in Federal Party program in 1952 if I am not wrong about the year. We are however, taking the Sinhalese and the Tamils as monolithic entities in this conceptualisation. In reality it is not the case. All they are porous. What we have to do is to take the political hardlines/liners or political power projects away and we might see that most of the problems that we fight for or killed each other are not there.

          • 0
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            Dr Laksiri Fernando,

            N/E provinces are sparsely populated areas. Though LTTE is no more its ideology thrives both here and abroad. It would be extremely unfair to the rest of the people if Tamils were to establish some type of self-rule that would make these areas off bounds to non-Tamils.

            It doesn’t necessarily have to be an independent state. In such an eventuality neither India nor any western power will come to the assistance of Sinhala people. In fact they may arm twist the government to give into Tamil demands to win over diaspora votes.

            The only way to avoid this is to settle Sinhalese in the N/E. Today TNA says it is not opposed Sinhala people settling in N/E by themselves but who is going to move to N/E on their own? People move by themselves from under-developed areas to more developed areas. IMHO this is a ruse to buy time to setup a political structure that favors Tamils. Any devolution granted in this climate including police/land powers will be used to further these interests.

            This doesn’t mean we should not address Tamil demands for devolution of power. If we are inflexible then that itself will be used to by those vying for an independent state to their advantage.

            Hence my suggestion that while granting powers to N/E, you include change in demography as an integral part of the political agreement. I do not see how anyone can argue that settling Sinhala people in unused uninhibited land in the N/E violates human rights of Tamils!

            Government sponsored migration of people can stop once new immigrants reach a certain threshold of the population (say 25%). This should be sufficient to allay fears that there is an attempt to challenge the political majority status enjoyed by Tamils in N/E. Other more practical issues include whether arid conditions in these parts of the country could sustain a population increase. This could be overcome by development.

            What I suggest is a compromise. IMO, unless you include something for everybody in the political solution I do not see it passing no matter who is in power.

            • 0
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              Navin,

              Your assumptions for the argument of a demographic change are farfetched to say the least. However, you appear to be committed to a reasonable solution for all sides and it is in that light that you have expressed your views, I believe. To come back to your assumptions, it is not correct to say that the ideology of the LTTE and, for example, the TNA is the same. At least that is not a correct assumption to begin reconciliation. Even after defeating the LTTE, to talk about a danger of a ‘self-rule’ would completely be self-defeating for the Sinhalese. We have to work on the premises of the existing devolution, without starting to open the Pandora’s Box again. These areas are not off bound to non-Tamils, not at all. However, the state induced settlements in these areas would create new conflicts. It is not mainly a question of human rights but ethnic sensitivity. To resolve the present problems, apart from human rights, a good understanding of ethnic questions is necessary. The identification of sparsely populated areas is quite relative. Not only the North and the East but the NCP and Uva are also sparsely populated. Apart from the ethnic issues, agro-climatic conditions also give rise to social unrest in these areas. Development combined with reconciliation is the solution. At the UN General Assembly in September 2010 President said “development and reconciliation will go hand in hand.” But he didn’t walk the talk. That was my breaking point apart from the 18th Amendment. The NPC as a necessary element for reconciliation was not constituted until last September. Didn’t he talk about 13+. Let me conclude this dialogue on my part with this note. There are countries who have attempted to resolve problems through forced demographic change. Former Yugoslavia was one. Israel was another. Both were disasters. Do we need one disaster after the other? Or do we take more sober approaches and convince the Sinhalese that there are no dangers for them by reasonably agreeing for equal status (I mean qualitatively not quantitatively) for the minorities? Devolution is not only for the Tamils, it is for all. I have always maintained that ethnicity should not be the only criteria for devolution. While we recognize ethnicity, we also try to transcend them through broader democratic solutions. Your demographic proposal very dangerously reinforces ethnicity of all sides.

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                Dr Laksiri Fernando:

                Thank you for your response.

                “Your assumptions for the argument of a demographic change are far fetched to say the least.”

                I’m not cooking up reasons to thwart devolution of power. I don’t think you or anyone can provide guarantees as to how the Tamil or Sinhala political leadership will act in future.

                “Even after defeating the LTTE, to talk about a danger of a ‘self-rule’ would completely be self-defeating for the Sinhalese.”

                If the Tamil people in N/E want to revolt against the government today and demand self-rule, they can do that without LTTE. Colombo may have been able to crush the LTTE using military but it cannot do the same with civil disobedience. If the people demand independence, Colombo government will have no option but to grant that. In such an eventuality, to which side do you think India, US, UK will lean? “People” are sovereign not countries.

                “Devolution is not only for the Tamils, it is for all.”

                Are the Sinhalese asking for power devolution? Do they want police and land powers devolved? NO.

                Then why champion devolution for all just to make it appear we are not devolving power to N/E only? Devolution like democracy comes at a price and that needs to be justified. We do not need provinces outside N/E managing land and police when it could be done more efficiently at the center.

                The reason why you are unable to go for asymmetrical devolution of power is because today N/E is dominated by Tamils. So let us address that issue up front instead of proposing complicated, inefficient, unwanted, cumbersome political structures that will not work.

                If there is a visible Sinhala presence in the N/E, there won’t be any opposition to devolving power or merging N/E. Isn’t that what the Tamils want? Now what problem do they have with “some” Sinhalese being there? If they have a problem with that, then that is different issue.

                “The identification of sparsely populated areas is quite relative. Apart from the ethnic issues, agro-climatic conditions also give rise to social unrest in these areas.”

                Mannar, Kilinochchi, Mullaitivu and Vavuniya have the lowest population densities in the country. Mannar and Hambantota have the harshest climatic conditions. If the barren land cannot sustain a population increase let us address that through development. Increase in population and creating suitable living conditions has to go hand in hand. If we can develop Hambantota, we can develop any part of the country.

                “While we recognize ethnicity, we also try to transcend them through broader democratic solutions. Your demographic proposal very dangerously reinforces ethnicity of all sides.”

                I’m arguing for an increase in population diversity. Diversity will reduce ethnic tensions not increase it further. Developed countries have embraced diversity which is one the pillars in their immigration programs.

                Democracy requires at least two political parties. Do we have that in the N/E today? N/E needs parties which will represent Sinhala/Muslim communities and they need to have enough bargaining power for there to be a healthy administration. That is why the population diversity needs to be increased. As long as N/E remains exclusively Tamil country, there will always be elements dreaming of a mono-ethnic Tamil state. NPC will continue to rebel instead of functioning as it was intended.

                The final solution has to be a win-win for both Sinhalese and
                Tamils. Sinhalese will get settlements and Tamils will get devolution. Nobody will get everything they want but everybody will get something.

                How can we pass a solution that has nothing to rope in the Sinhala side? Then you will end up appealing to their generosity. Has that worked so far?

                Alternatively, we could hope for a leader who will fool the Sinhalese to get the votes and yield to Tamil side completely once in power. This is exactly what happened with PTOMs and CFA before. But is that democracy? Is it right to go against the people’s opinion when “we” think people are wrong? More importantly will it last?

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    Is it fair to castigate our inhabitants as ignaramous, simply because they haven’t voted for the Elitist Party, or its appointees and associates for the past ten years ?.

    Is it a valid reason to imply that they have a diminished Democratic ability?.

    Don’t the voters , cast their ballots to the Politicians who offer them a, better
    deal?.

    Aren’t these deals involve offering the ordinary punters better living standards by creating jobs, job security, good infrastructure, better schools good health cover , good retirement living and good environment?.

    Or Is it different in first world countries where these Democracy Tutors have now taken up residence?

    In addition, our inhabitants were craving for freedom from terrorism and freedom to travel to their birth places, places of worship and freedom for them and their children to travel to meet their daily requirements?.

    Wasn’t this an additional factor, these inhabitants have considered and still consider before they exercise their fundamental democratic right which is the right to tick the correct box?.

    Have the full on Democratized Institutions which these Text Book Tutors recommend, given the inhabitants their desired outcomes in the past?.

    Shouldn’t the Governments elected by the inhabitants work for the benefit of the majority of the population?.

    If not would they be re elected again?.

    Is Egypt which the West “liberated” from bad Mubarak for the benefit of the inhabitants in good shape now?.

    Can the inhabitants on $1000 a year income do Democracy the same way as these Western Tutors where their inhabitant mates rake in between $16-20 000 each even without lifting a finger?.

    Shouldn’t these Democracy Advocates seriously think of having two streams one Pure and the other Applied as we have in Science?.

    • 0
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      Mr Sumanasekera,

      I’m frankly sorry about your way of thinking. However, I never called the Sri Lankan voters ‘ignoramus’ or they have a ‘diminished democratic ability.’ They may be your own suspicions. Most definitely, most of our politicians do have both traits unfortunately. I don’t need to name them but you can easily guess. People vote on different reasons and some of the reasons can be what you say.

      But voters or people are not just ‘rice eating robots.’ Did you ever value freedom, justice, equality and fair-play, apart from material facilities? Can’t you even see how unevenly and unfairly these facilities are distributed? That is why a country needs a vibrant democracy beyond just voting and say hurrah! Sri Lankans do have that tradition and if they have lost that tradition temporarily through misinformation, manipulation and thuggery, they will soon rise up to that occasion.

  • 1
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    K.A Sumanasekera

    “Can the inhabitants on $1000 a year income do Democracy the same way as these Western Tutors where their inhabitant mates rake in between $16-20 000 each even without lifting a finger?.”

    According to you the inhabitants’ per capita income was/is $4,500 comparable to middle income countries.

    Within a week or so how did they manage to lose $3,500? This must be another miracle of Asia.

  • 0
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    For me, Laksiri Fernando is [Edited out].

    Because his articles are very narrow minded.

  • 0
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    ‘Decant politicians’ like CBK run sate power headless and without democratic task and mission that had been undertake nothing, accountability under her 11 years her rule for “Democratic of weak leadership’.
    Her 11 years rule of governance,that discredit country sovereignty, independence and democracy and its institutions. Her heinous crimes of rule was by only aimed to blowing foundation SL system had be corrupt overall. CBK weak leadership that helps generate inadequate courage, wisdom, which incapability to delegate power make breakthrough a cleaver path of political/economic development in SL.
    Laksiri has to realized when democratic politicians and it system fail to introduce new policy innovation in the future ,then problem is in NOT that they are too democratic, the problem is that many nominally democratic political system are NOT democratic–enough. Like CBK her ruling put much to power in hands of FEW.

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    Dr.Fernando:

    Isn’t Democracy All About People’s Choice Through The Ballot Box?” – No

    The answer would normally be a “Yes” in a Country where there is Seperation Of Powers , Rule of Law and Due Process. But sadly the above three important elements for Democracy to Function are absent in Sri Lanka.
    The problem is that all these powers have vested in one persson namely MAHINTHA RAJAPAKSE. And any one who dares to challenge his authority will understand the meaning of Etra Judicial Killing.

    Added to this difficulty in Sri Lanka is the Race Card which is a vote winner and every politician in Sri Lanka has played it to varying degrees MR being the most extreme.

    **** I am not sure if I agree with you on the following as I am sure you are confusing the readers. .

    There is a greater understanding today, internationally, that democracy should be horizontal than vertical.

    If I understand you correctly what you are saying is that every democratic decsion is or should be excersied in the same manner ( Horizontal) as opposed to being excersised by different bodies with varying degrees of Power such as Local to National level ( Vertical ).
    That surely cannot be right.

    Among many other requirements, Sri Lanka also needs decent politicians and who should not threaten the critics as traitors. The newest threat is now levelled against the former President, Chandrika Kumaratunga, who has been named as the “country hating ex-President that has palpably joined hands with the enemy” by a stooge Editorialist.

    The above is nothing new as we know what happened to SF, Dr.Shirani and many others which is a Hall Mark of MR.

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      Kali,

      I am particularly answering one question, what I said about horizontal and vertical democracy. I have written on the subject before in several places and following is one link. It was titled “Strengthening Horizontal Democracy Can be a Way of Reconciliation in Sri Lanka.”
      http://www.asiantribune.com/news/2011/07/01/strengthening-horizontal-democracy-can-be-way-reconciliation-sri-lanka

      Now don’t jump on me (!), in that article I was emphasising the importance of strengthening the local government system, but as I have said in that and say now, the most important institution in horizontal democracy in Sri Lanka, if we utilize the potential, is the provincial council system.

      Horizontal democracy is quite different or opposite to what you have understood. I derive the theory from S. L. Hurley (1999) who argued that our way of thinking in resolving problems or creating institutions for decision making should change or changing. Hurley is also a political scientist. He derived that inspiration from cognitive science. A parallel development was what we popularly call lateral thinking (Edward de Bono). The term horizontal democracy also became popular during the ‘Arab Spring’ movements in a rather anarchist way. What they meant was ‘no one leader but several or all as leaders.’ I don’t go to that extreme.

      In the case of Sri Lanka, 1972 Constitution is a vertical structure. 1947 Constitution was also the same but the 1972 Constitution spelled it our clearly and moved further. It is like a pyramid, one pyramid. 1978 Constitution strengthened that pyramid with an executive president. A vertical structure is also highly centralized. The LTTE tried to create a similar pyramid in another part of the country. Then the 13th Amendment partially changed the situation and installed some other small pyramids. They at present stand uneasily. Vertical democracy is pyramidal, hierarchical and centralized. Horizontal democracy is flat, non-hierarchical and decentralized.

      In representative democracy, pyramidal structures cannot be completely avoided but can be balanced with more and more horizontal structures. The concepts of separation of powers, checks and balances through various independent institutions, federalism and/or devolution of power are some of the devices of horizontal democracy building into perhaps at the moment unavoidable vertical representative democracy at present.

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        Dr Fernando:

        Thank you for the clarification and in an Ideal World it is not only desittrable but also essential. But I am sure you will be the first to admit and that for devolution of power to work ( especially in Sri Lanka ) it should be enshrined in the Constitution but also there should be checks and balances to prevent abuse.Just look at the NPC where the elected representatives hav no power and they are being dictated to by the Governor and the Military. We all know from eperience what happened to our Dr.Shirani and although under the contitution there was Seperation of powers she was ousted following a botched up Inquiry because she was a Stumbling Block to MRs agenda. Just to give you one example of Checks and Balances look at India. The Federal System has not only kept the Indian Union together but has also thrived because Contraints were imposed ( self)on the Central Government by there being so many different Federal States and any meddling by the Central Government would have resulted in the collapse of the Union.
        We dont have that in Sri Lanka and only an Interantion Gurantee will sufice but that is not Practical although it can be achieved after an Interantional Inquiry.

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    THOUGH WE ARGUED, WE ALL HAVE A PRIME OBJECTIVE. THAT IS GOOD GOVERNANCE.
    LET US VOICE FOR A NEW CONSTITUTION. IT SHOULD BE FRAMED BT THE PROFESSIONALS NOT POLITICIANS.
    BAD THINGS LIKE PRESIDENT,S IMMUNITY,ELECTION SYSTEM,18A ARE INCORPORATED IN THE PRESENT CONSTITUTION & GOOD THINGS LIKE 17A. WAS THROWN OFF.

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