19 April, 2024

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Regular Elections Are The Foundation Of Democratic Society   

By Jehan Perera

Jehan Perera

There is a time frame beyond which those in power may not go, except with the consent of the people. President Wickremesinghe’s appointment of a commission of inquiry to investigate existing election laws and regulations and recommend changes has come without prior discussion or warning. It was a carefully kept secret until brought to the notice of the general public by the president’s appointment of the commission. The commission has been tasked with examining all existing election laws and regulations and making recommendations to suit current needs. According to its terms of reference the factors to which special consideration would be given include increased women and youth representation, introduction of electronic voting using modern technology instead of printed ballot papers and providing facilities for voting by Sri Lankans overseas. These are commendable. But the timing gives cause for concern.

The changes proposed are major ones. With the commission given time till April to come up with its recommendations, it means elections are unlikely in the coming six month period. There would also be a time lag before which the changes can be given legal effect. The Commission’s recommendations would have to go before the cabinet of ministers. Upon their approval, it would have to be presented to parliament for its passage. There again, the contents are subject to challenge over their constitutionality before the supreme court ahead of the final passage of the recommendations. According to former Election Commissioner Mahinda Deshapriya, “It would be very difficult for the Commission to complete its task in just six months. There must be hours and hours, days and days of public discussion. This takes time. It could go on for even a year.”

The president’s sudden appointment of the Commission of Inquiry to investigate existing election laws and regulations and recommend changes becomes perplexing in the light on another surprise announcement by Minister of Justice Dr Wijeyadasa  Rajapakshe earlier last week that he had prepared a draft law on electoral reform that was all set to go. These reforms would see the election of 160 members to Parliament under the first-past-the-post system. The remaining 65 members in a 225-seat Parliament would be appointed from the National list and the District list depending on the number of voters under the proportional voting system.” Minister Wijeyadasa’s proposals may fall within the remit of the newly appointed presidential commission. These two near simultaneous announcements would be recipes for confusion in the minds of the general public. When the time for elections falls constitutionally due, the electoral reforms and required electoral delimitation process could still be in process and constitute a volatile mix for political confrontation.

IMF Support

Apart from regular elections, the other foundation of society is its economy. The speedy release of the IMF funds last week would be welcome news to the government as the need for both the money and the credibility that accompanies the IMF-led recovery process is of critical importance in an election period. It would help to impress the general population that the government continues to be in a position to access international resources on a large scale and better than its competitors in the political arena. It is indicative that the government has powerful backing within the international system of which the IMF is a part of. Government ministers have said this will enhance confidence in the economy and help to speed up the debt restructuring process with international creditors.

The IMF’s release of the second tranche of its loan to Sri Lanka came sooner than expected. It had informed the government that its revenue collection was inadequate to get the second installment of the IMF loan. The problem on the governance side seemed even more formidable. The IMF had recommended sixteen priority actions in its recently released Governance Diagnostic Assessment (GDA) on Sri Lanka to address systematic and severe governance weaknesses and deep-rooted corruption. The government’s performance has been less than impressive with regard to these prerequisites for development. The government’s track record of conforming to democratic norms and to the rule of law are not reassuring after it postponed the local government elections despite the Election Commission’s best efforts to hold them and failed to heed even a supreme court ruling that the money withheld from the Election Commission for the purposes of holding the elections should be released.

It is significant that the IMF release of the second tranche came shortly after the announcement by the Chinese government that it had reached preliminary agreement with Sri Lanka regarding debt relief that would be acceptable to other international creditors. It was also interesting that IMF personnel felt obliged to state that the agreement reached between the government and the Exim Bank of China did not have an impact on the IMF decision to reverse its original decision taken a little over a fortnight ago which was not to give Sri Lanka the second tranche for the time being. This would add to the stature of President Ranil Wickremesinghe as a worldly wise leader when it comes to negotiating with international power blocs. But within the country the challenge remains to win the trust of the general population. This requires winning the mandate of the people through free and fair elections in place of beefing up the security forces and security laws to suppress them.

Postponed Elections

Swift on the heels of receiving the IMF second tranche, President Wickremesinghe has moved to address the concern in sections of the population that the government is planning to stay on in power without conducting elections for the foreseeable future. This line of reasoning is being sincerely urged on society by some business leaders and economic planners, quite apart from political allies, as being necessary to consolidate the economic improvements they see as taking place. Although not the full story, the grim reality for the majority of people is that their living standards are deteriorating as evidenced by World Bank figures regarding the rise in poverty levels to 25 percent this year and 28 percent next year and World Health Organisation figures which show the rise in malnutrition. Public opinion polls which show the government getting less than 20 percent of the popular support consistently show the writing on the wall.

Different statements about elections made over the last few weeks have given rise to speculation. Speaking from the heart as if it were UNP Chairman and Member of Parliament Vajira Abeywardena recently said that no one should contest the next presidential election for the sake of the nation. “The incumbent President can continue in office in such a scenario and see that the country moves forward. Also anyone who is contesting can submit an economic programme to the budget office which is instituted in the parliamentary complex. Budget office can go through the proposals and then state whether any proposal is realistic or not. No candidate can present to people any programme at any election when such a programme is rejected by the budget office. Besides it is also clear that there is no alternative in a situation where it is officially declared that Sri Lanka is bankrupt. In such a situation one could wonder whether it is wise to spend funds for a presidential election.”

Addressing the UNP’s national convention as its party leader President Wickremesinghe said that the presidential election is scheduled for 2024 followed by parliamentary elections. However, his declaration that the local government elections are expected to take place only in the first half of 2025 needs to be reconsidered as those elections should have been held in March and not two years into the future. Not even a president has a right to unilaterally postpone or cancel elections. In addition, there are other statements regarding the abolition of the presidency, referendums and electoral reform that could singly, severally and jointly have the impact of negating elections. Arbitrary decisions with regard to elections should not be taken as those in power need to realise their power is temporary and they do not have a right to deny the people their right to vote and participate in the governance of the country for whatever reason.

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Latest comments

  • 5
    0

    The underlying principles of Democracy are,
    * Participation of citizens. (Free and fair elections.)
    * Control over the abuse of power.
    * Rule of law. (Independent courts.)
    We have turned Democracy into a circus using and abusing Elections.

    • 2
      0

      Nathan

      Late British MP Tony Benn’s five important questions:

      What power do you have?
      Where did you get your power?
      In whose interests do you exercise your power?
      To whom are you accountable?
      How can we get rid of you?

      The last one is very important.
      nimal does not like it at all.

  • 3
    3

    Seeing the Title of this article, together with the photograph of Our Emperor, I shouted out , “Hurrah”, (although there was nobody to hear me, with all regular readers knowing that Panini Edirisinhe [NIC 483111444V] lives alone in Bandarawela.)
    .
    In fact, for the better part of the year, the said Panini may be said to be “a yellow pet“. There! You see, I have picked up the lingo of some commenters on CT (not the more worthwhile ones).
    .
    I thought that it was the Emperor who was now saying this, to the great surprise of his uncomplaining subjects. Try to appreciate Panini’s disappointment on discovering that it was the Chief Sycophant (now a favourite word of the most boring commenter) of the Emperor who is saying this.
    .
    Jehan is likely to imply the very opposite in the article, and tell us so in more explicit terms in his next essay.

  • 2
    1

    “This would add to the stature of President Ranil Wickremesinghe as a worldly wise leader when it comes to negotiating with international power blocs.”

    That’s the only thing he is good at – smugly holding Damocles swords over major powers’ heads. No country in the world does this like our shameful leaders. Other countries are busy working hard to create secure conditions for their people….foreign loans and grants for future development, a secondary element especially in time of bankruptcy.

    Ranil and his Rajapaksa clan on the other hand, revel in their power-play (shameful Lankan trait for short term gain). Guess IMF has instructed him to conduct elections asap (that’s why Sajith is shouting about it……hope he starts beating the drum soon to lead the neo-Aragalaya). Ranil will dangle the Belt-Road Silk Noose over IMG heads and attempt to stall the elections.

    • 2
      2

      Ranil will dangle the Belt-Road Silk Noose over IMF heads and attempt to stall the elections.

    • 2
      0

      Ramona AKki,
      /
      youth from universiity , the way they abused the President’s House and swimming p;ool became known and made the nation such a monkey like lawless nation. They questioned that if the university students had such a behaviour, what would be the general condition of the country.
      /
      So now there is no more shortage of gas and fuel. There will be no room left for ANOTEHR ARAGALAYA. I don’t mind JVPs entertaining their crowd anymore. But last-minute voters will do the job as usual.

      • 0
        1

        leelagemalli,

        You’ve got to admit that those youth in the President of a bankrupt-for-a-long-time nation’s Mansion looked Glorious! Ranil looked like a monkey playing the race card begging for loans in Germany (what a place to look like a monkey).

        No long lines for fuel is about nobody using fuel anymore, like nobody using electricity anymore. Nation-in-groaning will vote 95% for JBB, – the other 4% joining in the ranks of the billionaire 1%, having squeezed the life blood of the Nation…..these 5% last minute voters probably rigging the elections.

        But hey, if you don’t like JBB, Sajith would do also. He got the loans from ADB for the luscious paddy-fields. UD$$$ Billionaire Dammika Perera on the other hand wants to do away with paddy-fields because the returns will be low on his investments (money he accumulated on squeezing the money off the Masses without paying taxes) . So it’s : destroy the useless traditional farmlands for industrial development by foreign companies…. cleaning jobs in Port City to be done by 10% farmers.

  • 2
    1

    Dear Sinhala_Man,
    I commend your punchline!
    – Jehan is likely to imply the very opposite in the article, and tell us so in more explicit terms in his next essay.
    Had you had said just that what you would have received is all thumbs up!

  • 3
    0

    Until the elections are held I will not trust Ranil’s words.

  • 1
    1

    Ranil is working very hard to convince the IMF, China, India, and the West. The number visits he and Gota’s rep Ali-Sabri made within a year and the amount of money they spent for these trips clearly proves that he is not bothered about the people of the country or economy or the problems faced by the country. The power he dreamed for nearly half a century and the financial and moral support was not given by the people but only by Gota, and USA. So, the elections are not a priority for him or his masters .

  • 0
    0

    “ The second tranche of the International Monetary Fund’s (IMF) Extended Fund Facility (EFF) was delayed as the country failed to meet some of the program targets including the Government revenue target.”
    https://www.ft.lk/columns/Reforming-the-tax-incentive-structure-in-Sri-Lanka/4-754432
    _
    Wait…What?!!! I thought it was already released. Looks like it will be released in 2048!

    Excellent report on Sri Lanka’s tax structure. Shows that Ranil and the Rajapaksa Gang in their burning desire to join first world nations, don’t realize, or forgot that our tax structure is based on caste-class stratagems of low-intellect.

    More excerpts : “Sectors such as wholesale and retail trade, real estate and transportation which account for more than 25% of GDP, contribute less than 2% in CIT. Tax holidays and concessionary tax rates to selected sectors have eroded the CIT tax base, leading to lower CIT revenue collection. Ad hoc tax concessions complicate tax administration, distort resource allocation and provide opportunities for rent seeking and corruption.”

    • 0
      0

      “More recently the Colombo Port City Economic Commission Act, No. 11 of 2021 was given the authority to grant tax incentives within the Port City……..Even though the Act provides a descriptive definition of a business of strategic importance, the rationalisation for these industries to be selected for special incentives is unclear. Especially as some of these industries already exist in Sri Lanka, which puts them at a disadvantage. Moreover, under section (4) subregulation (3) of the Extraordinary gazette 2343/60, one of the criteria for granting incentives is the ability of the business to demonstrate to the Port City Commission the potential contribution to Sri Lanka’s economy and social development by fostering innovation, knowledge transfer, technology transfer, research and development. This criteria is vague and subjective, thus allowing the Commission to grant incentives at its discretion.”

      In the event of their low-unevolved, yet greedy intellect, current Gosl can only whip the suffering Masses to fulfill their perverse and unholy cravings to join the first world.

  • 0
    0

    I did not see anywhere so far that the second tranche is authorized by the board. Indian FM said Langkang had got its employee level approval faster than some other countries. I cannot know if Langkang will encounter any new problems at board level because this was the procedure that took place for the first tranche and Langkang got it. The IMF wants to lend, anyway. Period! Some accused America of trying to divert Langkang to the IMF away from its favorite lender, China. In that situation, Jehan PhD’s description that Evil is an extremely smart negotiator and has won the IMF loan, is absolutely an exaggeration.
    So far Exim bank has not released its final deal publicly. That need not mean China may refuse. One of the holdups was the Chinese spy ship coming to Langkang. Ali Sabre, the Amitabh Bachchan, was issuing a thousand fake statements on that. Those statements were directly aimed at the IMF & India. Now the ship is finally coming to Langkang and will stay for 15 days as originally China had asked for. This is why some countries very confidently state that the Hangbangtota port is only a Chinese Military harbor even though Evil had denied that many times. But the noticeable part is that Neither Old Rowdy King nor Hitler King had denied.

  • 0
    0

    The denial was so far only by Evil administration. Old Rowdy King had condemned the sale of the harbor.
    Yesterday Media reported that the American Ambassador, in meeting with Nandalala, advised him to be equal among lenders on the restructuring deals. We can take this as one case with the way Appe Aanduwa treated EPF and state banks. While evil and his parliament treated State Banks as preferred debtors, hard hit the EFP. That may hurt the Slap Party Modayas at the coming election, but they support Evil, to ensure their pension benefits. We wrote here when the murder of EPF was taking place, “Why are they killing the EPF, but the IMF had asked to stabilize the state banks, removing the fictitious assets “. The state banks’ balance sheet is good for nothing because their assets are overloaded by non-performing loans for ministers and families. Out of the 16 conditions (GDA) Jehan PhD mentioned above, one more, the sections 14 & 15 are about EPF and State Banks. Practically IMF, this time wants to be very specific on how to restructure EFP investments and Bank loans. I don’t know how Evil is going to fool all this time. I am sure Evil does not care to fool the IMF as many times as he wants. These are going to show up until the final tranche is released.

  • 0
    0

    Regular Elections Are The Foundation Of Democratic Society

    Through democracy, Ranil cannot come into power that why he dont like election.

    Unsuccessful people are always asking, “What’s in it for me.
    Successful people are always looking for opportunities to help others.

  • 1
    0

    Nathan

    Late British MP Tony Benn’s five important questions:

    What power do you have?
    Where did you get your power?
    In whose interests do you exercise your power?
    To whom are you accountable?
    How can we get rid of you?

    The last one is very important.
    nimal does not like it at all.

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