24 April, 2019

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The Maharagama Saga: Is Democracy In Serious Trouble?

By Sankalpa Marasinghe 

Sankalpa Marasinghe

The best argument against democracy is a five-minute discussion with the average voter” ~ Winston Churchill.

Churchill would have gleefully nodded his head followed by a puff of his cigar had he seen the results of the Maharagama electorate after the local government election on February 10, 2018.

Democracy is (supposedly) the supreme product of mankind in governing a civilized community, upholding justice, equality and freedom. It is the mode of governance by the people via elected representatives. What Churchill points out is that the annihilation of the system is due to the very component, the voter, whose knowledge and awareness of how the system functions are the keys to its success.

Known to be an electorate with a population mainly comprising the “educated” upper middle class and middle-class, Maharagama would be an ideal reference sample of how democracy works, one would have imagined. But, can anyone explain how a set of individuals who have no exposure or experience in politics and a majority of whom don’t even reside in Maharagama got elected by an overwhelming majority to the Maharagama Municipal Council?

If you follow the instruction of Churchill and engage in a five-minute discussion with a voter in Maharagama, who had voted for the, now famed, ‘motorcycle’, you will realize that they were unaware of whom they were voting for. In fact, they were not actually concerned about the very fact that their use of the franchise actually elects a person to the Maharagama Municipal Council which is supposed to serve their needs in next five years.

Reference 1

Local Authorities Elections Ordinance

8. General qualifications for membership.

Every person who is not disqualified as provided by section 9 shall be qualified at any time for election as a member of any local authority if—

(a) he was, on the date of the commencement of the preparation or revision of the parliamentary register for the time being in operation for any electoral district in which that electoral area or any part thereof is situated, qualified to have his name entered in that register; and

(b) he was, on the first day of June in the year of the commencement of the preparation or revision of that register, ordinarily resident in that electoral area.

So it is very clear that the aspirations in establishing democracy are lost and the people who are supposed to protect democracy have actually caused it to be destroyed.

But is it an isolated incident which should not be generalized or is it a phenomenon that is spreading around the world?

Example – 1

In the United States of America, people elected Donald Trump as President. Once a real-estate agent who became a business mogul, he was never a member of the Republican Party. In fact, his political career started with the run-up to becoming the Republican Party’s Presidential candidate. Known to be an arrogant, rude, racist and self-centred man with a very bad tongue, Trump became the leader of the most powerful country on this planet and through a democratically held election.

Has democracy really worked?

Example – 2

In an election to choose 4 members for the Sri Lanka Medical Council (SLMC) held among doctors who are registered with the SLMC, a group of candidates representing a trade union were elected. During the campaigning stage as well as the two-day election, doctors who voted were not concerned about the identity of the four candidates. In fact, on the two days of the election, busloads of doctors who were “persuaded” to travel from far were seen voting for candidates 1,2, 3 and 10. Many didn’t know whom those numbers represented even after voting. Seems as if they didn’t care.

There is a strange similarity between the voters of Maharagama and the voters at the SLMC election. On both occasions, the voter was not concerned about whom their franchise would elect. Their only concern was “defeating” a presumed “enemy” by voting for some symbolic representation. The end result in both instances didn’t fall much apart.

For some of us, it is unfathomable that in this age of advanced communication and a vibrant media, people who are supposed to be “knowledgeable” would utilize their franchise in such a primitive and ill-informed manner. However, as the three examples from three different places demonstrate very clearly, Churchill was absolutely right when he said: “The best argument against democracy is a 5-minute discussion with the voter.”

*Dr Sankalpa Marasinghe – Medical Officer in Neonatology, De Soysa Hospital For Women

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Latest comments

  • 4
    0

    Fine article to describe the voters mentality. Might is not always right.

    • 3
      0

      Am I the only one thinking that the odious Champika Ranawaka may be contemplating changing sides?

      • 1
        1

        oldcodger

        “Am I the only one thinking that the odious Champika Ranawaka may be contemplating changing sides?”

        Please refrain from insulting him for his ancestors invented ZERO which is a very important number in your line of business, IT. He could legally(?) stop you from using the number ZERO. The entire world would come to standstill or you could end up sharing a room with him if the world system went haywire.

      • 0
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        His agenda is to rise to a position that “automatically” qualifies for a Nationalist List entry. As at present his future position is secured with UNP.

    • 1
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      K & S M
      C also implied the “other systems of government” were worse`

  • 0
    0

    This is Sri Lanka politics. I heard some members are from Dehiwela, Kesbewa and surrounding areas. Are these all educated men with no brains and memory And are the Maharagama eductaed masses are so stupid?. They just voted for the motor bike.

    • 3
      0

      Govinda Go-vinda

      Education has nothing to do with Wisdom.
      Wisdom is in short supply in this island.

  • 0
    0

    This is nothing but the typical behavior of “Acute Frustration”, where they go Hysterical . This voting at Maharagama in particular and the entire Local Government in general comparatively with also the Presidential Election in USA could be described and assigned to that typical behavioral pattern. This “Psychological Disorder” is a very dangerous and could lead to social, political and economic disasters, unless addressed and taken corrective measures by the authorities. In this particular case of political turmoil it is nothing but the creation of upheaval by the very politicians who manipulate the system for their own benefits. In the end the real VICTIMS are the voter population who suffer from this “Acute Frustration” disorder; but not the politicians. Those who engineered the turmoil are the BENEFICIARIES .

  • 2
    0

    So true protest voting happened only in Maharagama?

  • 0
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    Here the main offender was government biased election commission chairman, you dont see that side as you have the green blood, pathetic isnt it?

  • 0
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    The UNP that received 41.98% in Maharagam in August 2015 was defeated by an unknown independent group and reduced its vote base to 26.7%. Worse! they couldn’t even get a single seat.

    To say it all about this writeup in nutshell, I say writer didn’t understand the concerns of Maharagama voter. They neither aim to elect the right man nor improve their local amenities but to show their displeasure to rulers.

    Right now, Maharagama voter couldn’t care two hoots about writer bragged saying by ex-colonialists or their present day war mongering begats. Maharagama voters wanted to show their anger at ‘yahapalanaya’; nay, miss-rule by the banditory gang.

    Like it or not, that’s the present day trend at our villages. You can see it increased at coming-up elections.

  • 0
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    Democracy in serious trouble because the rulers holding in to their power. The famous ruse created about MR will hold to power, he is corrupt and he is a dictator did not materialize when he handed the government even before all the results were out. So may are talking about the 62 million votes he got. But we know it was Tamil and Muslim votes twisted to this number. All what is said is not true and if we go by these standards JRJ would be lamenting in jail. Mr. Sampanthan should have been tried for sympathizing with tigers creating such a colossal loss to the country.

  • 0
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    Doc so called Herd mentality or Herd behavior has always been a hall mark of Lankawe. Wisdom, education and knowledge , really dose not matter when an individual is blind. These are people who are sitting ducks to be exploited and manipulated for political gains. Lankans are not only very happy to be taken for a ride but take pride to be blissfully ignorant. Long live Lanka, How many time we had witnessed this parody since our so called independence.Enjoy until it last.Yes in U.S people did make a mistake and it did not take long to face the consequence. But in Lanka?????

  • 0
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    Unfortunately Democracy has evolved into different versions the world over. There is very little of the original DNA and we have Species
    To find out about the Lankan Democracy Sankalpa Marasinghe will save lot of time if he were to talk to the 225 Lankan MPs. Without beating about the bush Sankalpa must ask them “How come you are so very rich – some filthy rich?”

  • 0
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    Elected members are not aware of the provision in the constitution that allows people to trust their representatives and to expect them to exercise the sovereignty of the very people, who elected their representatives, through the democratic process. When the the leaders of elected representatives show signs of ignorance, then it is no surprise that the members, who follow such leaders, behave like rabid dogs.

    The sad story is when Docs behave like that who are going to treat them.

  • 0
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    Herman

    Are not Tamils and Muslims citizens?Do they not have the franchise???

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