16 December, 2017

Blog

The Indispensable World

By Tisaranee Gunasekara

“Suppose, per impossible, there had been international human rights conventions in force…. How could Torquemada have fared? Or Calvin….? Or the Vatican and its Inquisition?….. How would the United States have fared in connection with slavery?” – AC Grayling (Towards the light of Liberty)

It is becoming a habit – this discovery of uncounted ballot-papers, discarded in some obscure corner, post-election. The first time was after the Presidential election, when 67 ballot-papers were discovered, marked for Gen. Fonseka and abandoned in a ditch. Initially the government claimed that these were photocopies, and hinted at an ‘Opposition/International conspiracy’.

Almost two years later, the Election Department confirmed that the ballot-papers were genuine.

This week, another batch of uncounted ballot-papers was discovered in Puttalam. The Elections Commissioner, in a continuance of his blasé attitude to electoral malpractices, acted as if the find was a mere bagatelle, claiming that the uncounted ballot-papers would not have caused a change in the final result.

A free, fair and a just election means, ipso facto, an election in which every single ballot-paper is counted. An election, in which a thousand ballot-papers are found, uncounted and abandoned, is a flawed election, by definition.

As the turnout figures indicate, the Southern voter is beginning to lose interest and/or confidence in elections. Malpractices such as the non-counting of ballot-papers would cause an even greater dent in the already fractured public confidence in the electoral process. Value of values tends to change, especially in conjunction with the dominant commonsense. Many malpractices which would have caused anger and shock once – such as the abusive-use of state resources by the governing party – have become ubiquitous and thus near-normal[i]. If his process continues, elections will lose all meaning and become nothing more than costly shows put up by the Rajapaksas to give despotic rule a democratic sheen.

An International Shield?

The recent round of elections proves, again, that international involvement is of critical importance in any successful national effort to check the Rajapaksa juggernaut.

Without international pressure, there would not have been a Northern election. Without international monitors, the military would have been able to downgrade the nature of the TNA’s victory from phenomenal to marginal.

And many an uncounted ballot-paper would have been discovered in the North as well.

Even with the presence of international monitors, the military (plus the Tamil-acolytes of the Rajapaksas) attempted to browbeat and cheat the Northern voters. Commenting on the attack on the house of a TNA candidate the day before election, the head of the SAARC group of observers stated, “I am 101 percent sure that the army was involved….”[ii] In its post-election statement the Commonwealth team observed, “We learned that opposition candidates and their supporters, as well as voters at large, faced instances of intimidation and harassment, and that the freedom to hold campaign meetings and openly interact with the electorate was restricted”[iii].

The problem areas identified by SAARC and Commonwealth observers fits in perfectly with the macro issues highlighted by the UN Human Rights Commissioner: militarization, constraints on fundamental freedoms, media self-censorship, abuse of state resources….

And the 18th Amendment; the re-empowering of the Elections Commissioner is a key recommendation made by international observers.

The Elections Commissioner’s Department functioned as an ‘independent government department’ since its inception. It was turned legally into a presidential appendage by Mahinda Rajapaksa, via the 18th Amendment. When previous election commissioners allowed political interferences in the electoral process, they were unambiguously in derelict of their duties and responsibilities. Post-18th Amendment, the Election Commissioner’s primary duty is to obey his/her legal-master, the President. Prior to the 18th Amendment, elections commissioners could not use the cowardly excuse of ‘following orders’ to justify political-partisanship. Post-18th Amendment, the Election Commissioner’s first duty is to follow presidential orders.

The replacement of the democratising 17th Amendment with the anti-democratic 18th Amendment was prioritised by the Ruling Siblings precisely because of its seminal necessity for their political future. Without that execrable measure, President Rajapaksa would have had to retire at the end of his second term (as his predecessors did) and Lankan politics could have returned to its familiar groove.

The Rajapaksas were able to remove presidential term-limits while enhancing presidential powers – just as they were able to impeach Chief Justice Shirani Bandaranayake falsely and illegally – because the international community was not committed to the preservation of the 17th Amendment. The battle against the 18th Amendment was purely a national contestation, between a ruthless marauding government and a weak embattled opposition. Given the structural unevenness of the battlefield and the total imbalance in the disposition of forces, that battle could have had only one conclusion.

The 13th Amendment has survived, so far, because it has a powerful regional patron (India) and because the West is interested in its fate.

This is the context in which President Rajapaksa’s New York diatribe against ‘international intervention’ should be considered. The Rajapaksas do not hesitate to accept anti-people economic conditionalities from the IFIs in return for loans for their pet-projects. They rage against ‘international intervention’ only in matters political because such ‘intervention’ acts as constraints (however marginal) on their capacity to violate the fundamental rights of Lankan people.

The Rajapaksa obsession with a successful Commonwealth extravaganza has made them extra-vulnerable to Indian/Western pressure. But this is a purely conjunctural opening. Once Mahinda Rajapaksa sits on top of the Commonwealth-heap, the Siblings will feel free, once again, to flex their anti-democratic muscles.

The world may not be able to have its way with the Rajapaksas, post-Commonwealth; but it will continue to have a say. And we will need that voice.

It is not just Tamils or Muslims who need international help to safeguard their basic rights from Rajapaksa assaults/encroachments. Sinhalese do as well, though many would not realise it until they themselves are at the receiving end of Rajapaksa wrath or injustice.

Accepting the need of international help in national struggles does not mean supporting military intervention or socio-economic sanctions. Both are absolute non-options. The best international reaction is the sort which makes a clear distinction between people and the leaders and is carefully calibrated to punish the leaders and not the people. Thus, not a boycott of Lankan exports (the cost would fall on the people) but a boycott of the Rajapaksas and their closest kith and kin. If the Rajapaksas and their nearest and dearest cannot fly to this or that Western country (often at public-expense) for everything from education and health to shopping and sight-seeing, that will cause far more sleepless-nights to the Siblings than all the homilies, resolutions and sanctions put together.

The Siblings seemed to have won the Commonwealth battle, unsurprisingly. After all, the UK and Australia had no problems allying themselves with more abominable tyrants, from Pinochet to Suharto. But the world will begin to react to Rajapaksa-excesses with more than mere words, someday. When that moment arrives, it is better that the world opts for such measures as travel bans and asset freezes targeting the Ruling Family and their cronies rather than imposing blanket economic sanctions. Non-targeted measures will hurt ordinary Lankans while giving the Rajapaksas a golden opportunity to strut about in the guise of nationalist and anti-imperialist heroes.


[i] This practice is a threat not only to a free and a fair election vis-à-vis the opposition but also to the free and a fair expression of candidate-preferences. Those candidates who have a powerful kin or kith invariably get an unfair advantage over the more ordinary UPFA contestants.

[iii] Ibid

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Latest comments

  • 0
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    Somersaults of MARA:

    He went to Geneva with human rights complaints against the UNP govt in handling JVP revolt (while his brother GORA was a culprit too – may be he didn’t know at that time, but he knows it now).

    In 2009 he is alleged to have committed massive war crimes and crimes against humanity.

    He opposed the Indo-Sri-Lanka pact of 1987, now when it is being rammed down his throat, he is swallowing it with hiccups.

    I am sure he has done many such Somersaults; he will do anything to stay in power.

  • 0
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    A travel ban on Ranil,his WC members is long overdue.

  • 0
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    THE PERCY JILMART PRAYER
    Our PresiDunce who art in Hotel de Temple Palace,
    Percy Jilmart be thy name,
    Thy KingDumb come, thy election will be won,
    And thy Royal Family of 300+ will be in 7th Heaven Give us this day a packet of biriyani rice, and a 500 rupee bribe
    And urge us to vote for you, as we voted for you in 2005 and 2010,
    And lead us not into inflation
    But deliver us from international conspiracies
    For thine is the army, navy, air force and police,
    And the judges and the jury
    And the power and the glory
    Forever and ever
    Amen and Jaya HOO!

  • 0
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    “This week, another batch of uncounted ballot-papers was discovered in Puttalam”

    Tisaranee

    According to the election commissioner they were not uncounted ballot-papers. they were in fact counted ballot papers and the officers have forgotten to load them to the lorry to be transported to the main head office. This election commissioner is another puppet of MR although his brother is hiding in Switzerland for no reason.

  • 0
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    Tisaranee’s is one of the few voices of sanity and sense that is not despondent.
    Thank you, madam, this nation owes you a huge debt of gratitude.

  • 0
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    The explanation of the Election Commissioner is acceptable. If the ballot papers were not counted it would have come to light when the ballot box figure and the issued ballots were reconciled.This episode is one of criminal negligence and a disgrace on the whole public service. Tisaranee as usual has distorted the whole issue.

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    Two moves by the MR government particularly in the context of the results of the NPC elections should be of concern.

    1. The extension of the term of the EPDP-led Jaffna Municipal Council by one year, a month before the NPC elections.
    2. The proposal/ decision to appoint 25 District Ministers.

    What are hidden intent and purpose, other than to create obstacles for the nw NPC?

    The ‘ New Democracy’ our President is forging! An unelected EPDP at the centre of affairs in the city of Jaffna! Official status for the individuals who have had a free reign in the five districts in the north, post-war, as District Ministers, to carry on with their interference ( & profiteering) in local affairs through District Secretariats/ Kachcheries, not withstanding the installation of an elected PC! The feeble 13th amendment is being prepared for multiple rape on many fronts.

    The battle lines are being drawn up by the government in its now well known devious ways.

    Dr.Rajasingham Narendran

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      Narendran,
      You are correct.
      EPDP is given a ‘breather’ in Jaffna when it is totally defeated in the provincial polls.
      But,cannot the elected provincial government control the municipal council?
      The creation of District Ministers may be to please those without portfolios and give them the usual perks.
      We have to wait and see.

      • 0
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        Throw those B T D goons EPDP to the Sea.

        And Please Give me the Solo permit to do Sand Mining and Transporting,
        do not worry, I know what you are going to Ask????.

        { I can arrange the bribing process to bribe Forces and police thru Gotta].

        Note to Thisaranee;
        After Mandana A , next target is you.
        Obata Thisrana Saranai.

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        The local government institutions do not come under the PCs.

        Dr.RN

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      These changes will take place after the CW Mtg. which will not be graced
      by Indian PM – he has his local perogatives to cater first.
      The MR cabal is out and out to put a spanners into the cogs!

  • 0
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    When you unceremoniously dump the election commissioner (a post supposed to be held by an honest neutral official) and replace him with your handpicked golaya, it smells of dirty business. Rajapaksa and company have done all they can to keep the dictatorship going, and their crimes covered by their servants,
    bought by rewards, but eventually the international community will demand for answers to the dodging and
    total BS. While the dictators enjoy their ill gotten gains, it will be the Sri Lankan people who will suffer any
    economic sanctions. Shame on the UK and Australia for kissing the Rajapaksa ring.

    “When that moment arrives, it is better that the world opts for such measures as travel bans and asset freezes targeting the Ruling Family and their cronies rather than imposing blanket economic sanctions”.

    We have seen this happen time and time again around the world.

  • 0
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    Dear Tisaranee ,

    please tell me what is the significance of the above MR’s photo , it reminds me an old advertisement of ” tikay honday -preethi (Condom) ” , are you referring it to his condom theory ?

    • 0
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      THis Thisaranee character has nothing else to do other than Rajapakse bashing.Of course [Edited out]

      • 0
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        So, finally got irritated and frustrated? Come on Max, it is fair game – just try being a good sport and argue your points legitimately with Tisaranee, instead of displaying your stupid ignorance.

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        Max Silva

        “THis Thisaranee character has nothing else to do other than Rajapakse bashing.Of course [Edited out]”

        Rightly so, we want more MR bashing, not less. MR deserves more bashing than what he gets now. Why don’t you join Thisaranee in bashing, MR, his brothers, his children, his step brothers, his extended families, which I believe will drain your energy and at the end of the day you will be exhausted and go to bed with clear conscious.

        Try MR bashing for couple of days you will begin to see the difference.

        You will feel good about yourself.

        • 0
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          The more you bash him, more his vote count goes up ;D

  • 0
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    “When that moment arrives, it is better that the world opts for such measures as travel bans and asset freezes targeting the Ruling Family and their cronies rather than imposing blanket economic sanctions. Non-targeted measures will hurt ordinary Lankans while giving the Rajapaksas a golden opportunity to strut about in the guise of nationalist and anti-imperialist heroes.”

    I absolutely agree with the above. I would also add the wish that the world would try the Rajapakses’ for war crimes and crimes against humanity. It will definitely isolate Rajapakses’ from the rest of the Sinhalese who, although are against Separate Nationhood for Tamils, do not really want to hurt them physically.

  • 0
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    Why no action has been filed by any democratic body in Sri Lanka against the Elections Dept for the uncounted ballets? Is the civil society in Sri Lanka still sleeping?

    Governance by international bodies is an accepted practice in the free world. Yes the governance does not treat all the countries equal, but it does not mean that there should be no governance by international bodies.

    There have been much stronger rulers who were militarily more powerful than Rajapakses’ who have been dragged before the International Criminal Courts. Further Navi Pillai has been a Judge in South Africa, a Judge in the International Criminal Court and above all she has been the President of the International Criminal Tribunal of Rwanda. This vast experience gives her enough knowledge and ability to drag Rajapakses’ to the International Courts, if she decides. We do not want our President to face this humiliation. So it is important for the President to take the corrective steps now.

    With regards to the Commonwealth conference, why should China be invited to the Commonwealth Trade Forum? China is not a member of the Commonwealth. Unless China has now accepted as parts of China were at one time governed by the British and they are members of the Commonwealth?

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    “It is not just Tamils who need international help to safeguard their basic rights from Rajapaksa assaults/encroachments. Sinhalese do as well, though many would not realise it until they themselves are at the receiving end of Rajapaksa wrath or injustice…”

    We are already there.

    Senguttuvan

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      It is your Sambandan’s mate Ramil who need the help of the West right now to save his ass ,in light of the UNP team on Sinhala Tamil Vellala,Anglican and rich Catholic turf,the WPC planning a Ceaser, on him.

      Just imagine what is going to happen to the blue blood prince in waiting to lead the Elite in the 21 century.

      Perhaps you should start an on line petition similar to the ones which we often see here from the HR NGOs in the Harbor City.

      It should be addresed to Cameron and Harper with a copy to the good lady in the US embassy.

  • 0
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    Travel bans to developed and industrialised countries by despotic rulers in developing (poor) countries will mean that those who enrich themselves at public expense in poor countries would not be able to splurge on shopping sprees, medical extravaganzas etc in the best centres of the world, while their subjects suffer and die at home.

    However, the ideals that drive politicians in much of the Western developed nations are similar in essence, to those practised by their tin-pot counterparts elsewhere. Hence that commonality will prevent such sanctions against parasitic tyrants in Asia, Africa and Latin America.

    • 0
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      There have been exceptions and what about Mugabe?

  • 0
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    The problem areas identified by SAARC and Commonwealth observers fits in perfectly with the macro issues highlighted by the UN Human Rights Commissioner: militarization, constraints on fundamental freedoms, media self-censorship, abuse of state resources….

    And the 18th Amendment; the re-empowering of the Elections Commissioner is a key recommendation made by international observers.

    All the Democratic people who wants to spread the foreign cultures in Sri Lanka wants Sri Lanka to listen what ever foreigners say.

    Why ?

    Is it because you believe you are nurturing foreign philosophies ?

  • 0
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    Good stuff! I agree that the best the international community could do to help would be to enforce travel bans and freeze assets of this regime – the Rajapakse’s and our ministers. However, this isn’t a road capitalist-driven western countries would like to go down given that all spending is welcome and none should be turned away.
    I disagree that we should invite the ‘international community’ to act as referee in our elections or involve themselves in our domestic affairs – other than when it is something that we have signed up to ie UN membership and other international bodies, treaties. But the track record of these ‘international’ organisations are not really that encouraging, are they?
    Remember the Portuguese, Dutch and British – it took 450 years to get them off our backs. Don’t encourage them; No, never again!
    Are you suggesting that we do not have enough capable people to step up and provide opposition to this regime and to be able to convince the voters to elect a better government?

  • 0
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    [Edited out] TG.

    You have written an article here about Sri Lankan elections.

    Did you write a book when US screwed up the election between George Bush
    and AL Gore.

    I don’t think so. Because, you are that disgusting and you can not understand it.

    They did not know how to separate ballots because of defective chads ?

  • 0
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    “And we will need that voice.” I see Mangala Samaraweera speaking :D

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