By W. Vishnu Gupta –
It appears that leading oligarchs, usurpers and the political elite has begun to play no-holds-barred politics in Sri Lanka without any regard to people aspirations. Some of them recently have ignored the danger of Covid-19 pandemic and violated the health rules and regulations that must be followed by every citizen; by conducting political agitations and campaigns and by violating the quarantine guidelines and nationwide curfew. Consequently, the nation may slip into a political abyss that none of us want. Despite the absence of a new parliament, the government of incumbent president seems to have managed to control the spread of Covid-19 remarkably well compared to other countries. Also, it is a foregone conclusion that the president must enjoy the support of majority in the parliament to fulfill his election mandate; therefore the elections to the new parliament must be held without further delay. Unfortunately, dysfunctional election commission and the proponents of flawed constitution have become the main forces of irritation.
Dysfunctional Election Commission
It was reported President’s Counsel Saliya Pieris appearing on behalf of the Chairman of the Election Commission Mahinda Deshapriya and its Member Nalin Abeysekera, has stated before the Sri Lankan Supreme Court that there are no possibilities of holding an election on June 20 under the current situation in the country due to Covid-19. This was the view of the Election Commission expressed officially when multiple Fundamental Rights (FR) petitions filed before the Supreme Court challenging the date set by the Elections Commission to hold the General Election 2020 were taken up for consideration.
With or without the above position taken by the Election Commission, judging by the behavior of the commission members, it is not that difficult to conclude that Sri Lankan Election Commission as one of the enemies of democracy in Sri Lanka. This particular organization is known to make highly controversial public statements such as that they are not duty bound to verify the authenticity of candidate’s application with supporting documents and for requesting police to use maximum power and “shoot right on the head” of anyone committing forceful actions in a polling booth.
Furthermore, this is the most dysfunctional independent commission. The renegade member S. Ratnajeevan H. Hoole had proven many times that his agenda is different from that of the commission. He has proven it again by stating his stance on the parliamentary elections that must be held according the election rules and our constitution. This pompous member of the commission declared his private opinion through his lawyer before the same Supreme Court.
Obviously the institutions of democracy in the country is in crisis, it has been made acute by the country’s election commission, Deshapriya and Hoole are the reason; their adoring adulation of democracy and disgust and debunking were always done publicly to gain cheap media publicity and to undermine our sovereignty. Saving the voter-rights has never been high on their leadership skills. Supporting the status-quo by shifting the responsibility to political leaders or seeking the shelter of judiciary has been their modus of operandi.
The third clause of the constitution of Sri Lanka clearly states that; “In the Republic of Sri Lanka sovereignty is in the People and is inalienable. Sovereignty includes the powers of government, fundamental rights and the franchise” Unfortunately, for the Election commission third clause of the constitution may be irrelevant. It is true; “proof is in the pudding”; the election commission has conveniently neglected the responsibility for holding the Provincial Council Elections for a long time and appears that they have forgotten the objective of holding any election to ensure the sovereignty of people of Sri Lanka. The ranting centered on pending parliamentary elections is nothing but a media show. Despite the adulation, disgust and debunking very often carried out by this commission, they have never acknowledged that they have been appointed on behalf of the people. People have been denied the chance to elect their representative to the various legislative bodies and their sovereignty has been challenged. The declarations made by P.C Saliya Pieris and the personal opinion of Hoole before the Supreme Court reflects the nauseating behavior of the election commission of the country.
The constitution initially designed and developed by UNP oligarchy and subsequent amendments by other oligarchy branch and Jayampathy; a socialist residual left behind by N.M.Perera is imperfect. It has left the nation paralyzed many occasions and polarizing citizens. The constitutional pundits have failed to safeguard the sovereignty of people when a crisis like pandemic engulfs the nation. It is reasonable to assume that these pundits have deliberately avoided stating the options of governance available to the “supremacy of people” if the elections were not held due to a local or global calamity. Similar crisis was precipitated in the parliament in October 2018 due to flaws in the constitution and presented two concurrent Prime Ministers to the people. It made sovereignty belonging to people a mockery.
Judging by the events taking place in the political arena and recent comments made by politicians like Jayampathy, Mangala, Rishard and Hakeem on national issues, it appears that the Sri Lanka have inherited a biased or distorted democracy. Transforming this biased democracy is not going to be easy. Hence unsavory politicians always seek the intervention of the Supreme Court knowingly that vile politicians and their cohorts with legal credentials have made our constitution to be incomplete document and hard to change; achieving change requires a two-third majority in the parliament.
In the meantime, the oligarchs and the elite enrich themselves under the policies passed with the help of flawed constitution that entrench their power, such as rigging economic regulations to make their lot richer and deny sincere and patriotic entrepreneurs to compete on a level playing field.
Those outgoing rulers and incumbents want to protect their own lives and welfare, avoiding accountability. Both groups are driven by vested interests and not by an iota of concern to misery endured by vast majority of the citizens. Today the citizens may be free from censorship and outright repression — but they are not equal and important players in deciding public policy.
In an imperfect democracy, opportunistic politicians often will try to agitate the masses, urging them to vote out the “corrupt” elite and overturn their “rigged” institutions. The irony of this political scenario is that demagogues will then be able to use power to ride roughshod over deliberation, consensus building and civil liberties. It will be a dangerous game until the electoral reforms as promised are passed in the new parliament.