10 December, 2018

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The Right To Franchise & To Vote Is From The Constitution: No Constitution, No Franchise

By S. Ratnajeevan H. Hoole

Prof. S. Ratnajeevan H. Hoole

Who is against motherhood? No one. I owe my existence to my mother who bore me. I can never be against motherhood. However, that does not mean we make every girl a mother through forced marriage, artificial insemination, or whatever other means we have. There are broader systemic rules to consider – is she willing, is she of child-bearing age, if she is a minor does she have parental consent, etc..

Likewise elections. Elections, like motherhood, are great. But our right to vote and our fundamental right to franchise both come from our constitution, which prescribes the rules under which elections are held and our franchise exercised. There is a minimum period of 4 years and 6 months of stable governance where a new government has the time to implement unpopular decisions that are good for the country. That time given to a government is also from the constitution, the same constitution that guarantees our franchise. There is no way in which we can demand elections without honouring the constitution that lets us choose our government.

After years of living beyond our means, we have gone through necessary belt tightening measures and prudent financing. Now we are promised elections and given cheaper petrol, cheaper onions and potatoes, and cheaper what-not. A signature campaign demands elections, violating the constitution that gives us the right to our franchise. People like Sarath Silva who should know better claim that the Court of Appeal has destabilized the country and people are being deprived of voting rights. 

Ordinary folk seem bamboozled, signing petitions by the hundreds and thousands at the behest of monks and politicians, who trick them into thinking that elections are like motherhood. Indeed, arguing against elections is like arguing against motherhood. So few are willing to make that argument. Liberal newspapers that carried stories for and against the then government like on Tamils’ lands being colonized and political prisoners being still kept in hiding, now ac as boring government mouth-pieces. Great, liberal editors, like Dharsha Bastians of the Sunday Observer and Lalith Alahakoon of the Daily News, are out of jobs after the coup of 26 October. We are fed with one-sided opinions without choice as to which side to believe. We are reliving the experience of the rats of Hamelin, where the Pied Piper with his mesmerizing music led rats to their death by drowning in the river. The onions, potatoes, and low trishaw fares are our mesmerizing music. Politicians make speeches that defy all logic. Given their education and experience in politics, I do not believe they believe their own puerile arguments. They are tricking the masses, just like the Pied Piper, and leading us to the death of our rights and democracy. The death of democracy indeed is worse than physical death because it takes away any pride and standing we have as a nation.

The Pied Piper of Hamelin

Let me give a parallel to what is going on from my personal life. My grandmother’s sister from Singapore, Ammachi, would come to Jaffna like clockwork every July for the Cholaha Winds and luscious Jaffna mangoes. She was an excellent cook. On occasion, she would cook dinner and prior to that give a long list of expensive ingredients. Although my parents had seven children and had a tough budget to balance, they happily complied. Aged 10 or so, I remember lots of onions and butter. Her chappathi sandwich, for example, would ooze with butter and puff up to look like a poori, and the stuffing was amazing. The point is this. We children would often during her stay demand that she do the cooking and not our mother who would relent. She did not mind. My Ammachi was her Chinnammah (Little Mother/Aunt) whom she loved dearly. But the new government, purporting to be a government, has been breaking budgets and bankrupting the country. It is not a lovable Chinnammah. It is planning to stay forever without any prospects of going away unlike Chinnammah. The country asking for elections is like us children asking our mother not to cook even though as mater familias she should not be displaced. Ranil Wickeremsinghe’s position has prallels.

Today, 3 Dec., I came by train to Colombo for the Constitutional case at the Supreme Court tomorrow. By 3:50 pm or so, despite the poor signals on the train, I got the good news that the Court of Appeal had issued a stay order preventing the present purporting government from functioning.

This is a country where many are opportunists. They see which quarrelling side will win and take that side. The fear all round was that, with all respect to our Justices, they too might play the same opportunist game. After all, we have seen “Justices” Sarath Silva and Mohan Peiris at their worst.  I was worried as friends had asked me what I would do if I lose the case. Others told me, “You are a father with children. After you married you lost your choice to be principled and must think of your family.” So naturally I too was worried. It therefore was so vindicating and liberating that serious judges of the Court of Appeal had thought exactly as I did. As a nation we no longer have to be so opportunistic in our judgment on issues.

The news from the Court of Appeal vindicated the faith with which I went to the Supreme Court. Just now (10:00 pm) I heard that the UNP had just met the President, who had said, “Give me a name for PM and I will think about it. But even if all 225 MPs ask for Ranil Wickeremeshinghe to be PM, I will not relent.”

So what does the franchise by which we collectively elected the party led by Ranil Wickeremsinghe mean? Democracy is dead if the will of Parliament is thwarted so. Even after the Appellate Court order, the President does not seem to have learnt anything, not even humility. 

My going to court, in the event, was right. As a member of the Election Commission with the mandate to safeguard the people’s franchise I must speak up and not hide behind the empty rhetoric of neutrality when the country is being hijacked. It is time for all Sri Lankans to stand up for the system of constitutional governance. Elections are merely a corollary that flows from that system of Constitutional Governance.

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Latest comments

  • 19
    0

    Thank you Professor Hoole, you have done your bit on behalf of all of us. If we have few more courageous people like you this would have been a better place.

    • 3
      4

      PCOI into Bondscam Report must be released in Full.

      Bottom line is: Bondscam Ranil and Mahinda Jarapassa must be held accountable for looting Central Bank of Sri Lanka and financial crimes against people of Lanka and share a prison cell

      Bondscam Ranil has put Lanka into a debt trap, was asset stripping and selling land, transport and energy security infrastucture to his foreign handlers and this must stop

    • 1
      0

      What options we have now, if the citizen got elected through the votes of people behave not respecting the least ?

      Either he is mentally ill as nothing can help him behaving so.

      Or he is a tinpot dictator.

      Forces should come forward if SC deciions being neglected by the man.

    • 3
      1

      what should be paramount than respect the laws prevailing in the country ?

      Unfortuantely, so called first citizen is obvioulsy not respecting anything today.

      We should clearly bring reforms to the constitution about how we could punish a President of SIRISENA nature.

      It is the funds of PEOPLE , that is being wasted for his abusive rule today.

      Actually, if a leader behaved the way SIRISENA and RAJAPKASHE have been doing in the EUROPE, people would NOT have allowed him to BEHAVE so: Since people are knowledgeble and they are empowered by their CORRECTIVE preventive actions. And lawyers as is the case in SL would never mislead the nation this way.

    • 5
      0

      Professor,

      Thank you for what you have done personally as a member of the election commission and as a private citizen in the petition against the dissolution of the parliament unconstitutionally. Thank you also for this write- up.Yes, we citizens need to stand up to preserve the constitution.

  • 8
    0

    Prof Hoole should realize that what the constitution confers to all Sri Lankans is the sovereignty, which is inalienable. Voting is considered a part of that sovereignty. Here is a classic case where two organs of state who happen to wield the executive power of the people and the legislative power of the people at loggerheads. Clearly the people as a whole must intervene as say this is what it is and stop bickering. This bickering will stop the floor of money. Even Judges who give orders on current political matters will not have their salaries paid. If a referendum is not held to end this bickering we are paving way for some Master Sergeant Samuel Doe (The Liberian head who took things to his hand) in Sri Lanka to takeover. Neither did Prof. Hoole nor I in our wildest dreams expect the MY3+RW team put forward in 2015 for our consideration for office at the elections to split like this. This is because we as people did not have adequate checks and balances to control this lot for possible excesses. In 2015, we were only interested in chasing away an existing regime and clearly the 19th amendment passed did not give adequate mechanisms for people as a whole to step forward. We as people should, even at this late stage, make a claim to use our sovereign power.

    • 0
      0

      DWikka: Well said. Prof Hoole has a valid point too. The hodge-podge Hybrid is not working. Best to go with one or the other. Election is not the way to go. But as you said, a Referendum of the people on the 19th A -which should have been held before but SC and Parliament maneuvered to avoid it. That was where the problem started. The forced marriage between a groom and a forced Divorcee who was promised the bribe of the highest office planted the seed for the break-up. It is broken because one party scrapped the gold of the bribe. Let the people who voted them in have the chance at a referendum to make the decision on the 19th or on a new election.

    • 6
      0

      The ‘CREATOR’ of our trouble is Srisena. But we are talking more about Ranil and Mahinda. May be Ranil was the initial cause by not taking action against Mahinda &Co as promised before the elections. Ranil would have learnt a lesson? as to how things could boomerang.
      But Srisena is Aiyo Srisena . Although he hopped out after the hopper feed his love towards Mahinda did not diminish. It was only dormant. Further, he was with Mahinda when the murder of Thajudeen ,Lsantha and others took place. Whether Srisena also aided and abetted in covering the sins, may have to be looked into. His action and activities appear to confirm his involvement, especially after his rekindled love for Mahinda. There is a Tamil saying that ‘ Printhavar Koodinal Peasvum Venduma’? Meaning when the parted friends meet once again there is no words to describe it. In short their Actions Speak Louder than Words..
      After sorting out the problems created by Srisena an impeachment motion should be brought against the president. TNA who speaks so much about democracy, should support this motion. Their contention that President would stretch his hands release the lands and political prisoners is another fragile promise never to be kept- like the promises made prior to his elections.

    • 1
      0

      Good Sense

      I am sorry I never understood the idea of Sovereignty.
      Could you explain it to me/us what is sovereignty, where did we get it from, how did we get it, what is the purpose of sovereignty, how one protect or preserve it, can we trade it for something else, ……………. what does it give us the lay people, …………………….
      By the way can I sell my share of sovereignty to anyone who is willing to buy, how would I value my share in monetary terms, ……………….

      I am sorry to bother you.

  • 0
    0

    I heard Former Jaffanishthan CM WIgneswaran will be appointed to the Election commision in order to restructure it.

  • 0
    9

    Dear Professor Hoole,

    You are still member of the Election Commission and you have been appointed to that position by the UNP. The Election Commission duty is to conduct elections and not to postpone elections . Not holding elections , and covering up that by hiding under the 19 amendment is a violation of the public right to determine who should govern them and make the laws and regulations of the country. Therefore, please do not write biased articles to postpone the elections.

    People of Sri Lanka will express their views (accept or reject) any political group or party in a general election. We need an election. We do not need a government comprised of UNF and TNA (proxi party of the LTTE). As an academic you need to understand that .

    • 8
      0

      “Therefore, please do not write biased articles to postpone the elections”

      Nonsense. You are asking to break the country’s sovereign law to have illegal elections to bring your guy to power.

      Four and a half years is the term of an elected government by our constitution as even MR and GLP went round saying then.
      Aiding and abetting in illegality couched in treacherous language is not worthy of a citizen or human.

      Likes it or not Ranil was appointed PM legally.. Sirisena is a backward man lacking the basic capacity for the job. The rest are the biggest rogues this country suffers stooping down to barbarianism.

    • 6
      0

      “E lection Commission and you have been appointed to that position by the UNP”

      Members to the independent commissions are not appointed by any political party. It beats the purpose.

      As an academic Professor Hoo le maintains his academic integrity. He understands the principle of the constitution He will not be duped by liars.

      Election commission must be above party and do the correct thing by the law of Sri Lanka. Not bend down to even the President when he is so
      Wrong for selfish gain and does not know to act professionally.

    • 6
      0

      Dear Sunil Dahanayake,
      I don’t know whether you understood what Prof. Hoole’s argument. His argument is right. His argument is about that elections should be held according to the constitution, not according to the wishes of individuals. Every one understand that public has the right to determine who should govern them. It is the public who decided on August 2015 that UNP government should govern the nation for next five years. The court has to decide whether the Srisena’s call for prorouge parliament and call for election in January 2015 is legal or not. People never asked for election now. Bribing the people, bribing the members of parliament, bribing of public servants is a crime according to law and it is proved undoubtedly that is the caseof Mahinda Rajapakse & Co. Even president sirisena acknowledge that fact. TNA is a officially registered political party. If you don’t know that you should go and ask your boss Mahinda. You should also know that Mahinda paid a bribe to a TNA MP (LTTE proxy MP) to vote for him. Facts and Truth are important for Srilanka.

    • 2
      0

      Sunil!
      Prof Hoole is not fool to act blindly in conducting elections. It must be legitimate in accordance with the constitution. It is true that that elections have to be held. but not every week,every month every year or at the call of every Dick/Tom/Harry.’ The constitution has clearly indicated as to when and how elections should be held. Not conducting the provincial council in time in time is a crime but the General Elections has to be held only after 4-1/2 years or at the request of 2/3 of the parliamentarians calling for it before 4-1/2 years
      Calling election at the wrong time may result in the members of the election commission reimbursing the cost?

    • 1
      0

      Sunil Dahanayake,

      “People of Sri Lanka will express their views (accept or reject) any political group or party in a general election. We need an election. “

      Yes, but there is a process for that defined by the constitution and the amendments, like 19A. Every, public servant and the appointee to a public position, is required to defend the constitution. The current current constitutional process requires

      1) .4 1/2 years from the last election for a general election, if the president elects to do so. If not 5 years.

      2.) Earlier if 2/3 of the Parliament approves for an earlier general election.

      This is the constitutional process. So, Sirisena has nor followed the constutional process, and he cannot circumvent the constitutional process based on his dislikes ad lies f the Prime Minister or the Part of the Prime Minister. Furthermore, the Parliament is supreme, elected by 100% of the people, and the President comes under the Parliament

      The President can be impeached by the Parliament with 2/3 votes, and not the other way around.

      The country does not be to Sirisena, Ranil, Mahinda or anybody else. They all are elected or appointed Public Servants taken oaths to defend the the constitution.

  • 7
    0

    Dear Prof. Hoole,

    My appreciation for obeying God’s gift of Conscience. Hope you will do same until the last breath. We are with you!

  • 8
    0

    It looks like that Tamils are more principled and dedicated than the Sinhalese. Perhaps the Ravana blood in us makes us behave like that. Of course, even the Ravana blood does not explain the erratic way that the imbecile who goes as our President. What a shame. Certainly right now history is being made. But what kind of history it is! A history that one would wish to erase.
    .
    It is time that we tried out a Tamil PM . From there it is a hop step and a jump from that to a Tamil President. King Parakramabahu was not a Sinhala. Nor were so many other great Kings of Lanka. So let us start thinking about widening our choices.

    • 1
      0

      This is unfortunately the truth Edwin. Surprisingly, most of those sinhalayas come from buddhist walks of life.

      How come them to be that malicious and vicious even if real buddhism is purely based on non-violence. It should be the culture than any thing else. You may have noticed it, those live in urban areas in the country, are found more anti-ragging. Ragging culture is much more connected to varied upbringng of local students.

      I have met with our tamils brethren in Europe after I met them for the first time at Peradeniya.
      Most of them respect dignity of the life, law and order and other norms that we ought to keep as civilized folks.
      But our sinhalaya as I happened to learn out of the country are more uncivilized. Even BSc degree holders that I have come to abroad for their PG studies behaved against their own staff members in front of foreign colleagues. Their intriguing nature was displayed in university libraries.
      To tell you, I got to know a group of local graduates in Europe, that displayed their bitter disputes infront of foreign nationalities. No matter others would criticise them, but they failed to behave collectively. As i got to know, some books in the library were hidden for their use permamently, while totally ignoring that their colleagues too would need to study the same books. However, librarians had instructed these abusive PG students not to behave injustifiable to own colleagues since there are lot more books availabe but upon the request. This culture had been familiar and practised in lanken libraries for not having enough books.

      But the had forgotten that EU country liabraries provide the students with enough books. And there are rigorous laws, that the same student cant keep them by force. There are rigorous laws against those who would not respect book borrowing books.

  • 3
    0

    Prof: Ratnajeevan,in case you have not read about Ex:CJ; Victor Ivan alias Podi Athula, has written a book on Sarath.Nanda Silva who in recent times has turned out to be rebel without a cause.
    I cant remember the title, but it gives the sordid details of the man.At onetime he was also a TV Buddhist!

    • 0
      0

      I think the title of Mr.V.I.’s book you are referring is ‘Unfinished Mission’.

  • 2
    7

    Nonsense Prof. Hoole. The people of the country are not babies with a Chinnammah making butter-puffs. The governance of a country is like a marriage where both sides have the right to divorce if one is unfaithful to the other. And there is no mandated term bound time. The constitution is very clear in article 33 (2)(C) that the President (who the people elected) has supreme right to dissolve parliament if the call of duty presents itself.

    • 5
      0

      ramona grandma therese fernando

      ” The governance of a country is like a marriage where both sides have the right to divorce if one is unfaithful to the other.”

      The partners/spouses are not bound by marriage and could have other relationships in an open marriage/relationship.

      “The constitution is very clear in article 33 (2)(C) that the President (who the people elected) has supreme right to dissolve parliament if the call of duty presents itself.”

      What is the constitutional position on president if he/she has already gone complete gaga?

  • 3
    1

    The title of S. Ratnajeevan H. Hoole’s article includes the words ~ “…No Constitution, No Franchise”.
    Suspension of Constitution follows a putsch.
    .
    Yes SRH H, we have had a coup d’état.
    Your Singapore Chinammah will tell you that.
    It is ominous. We must not allow this to occur again.
    .
    We are in full agreement with your ~ “……It is time for all Sri Lankans to stand up for the system of constitutional governance”

  • 4
    1

    “This is a country where many are opportunists. They see which quarrelling side will win and take that side. “
    Could not agree less.
    Some have the luxury of joining the winning side, irrespective of where they stood during the quarrel.

  • 0
    0

    SJ.
    Could not agree more.
    By the way ideal time for you to dispose of your USD, Pound Sterling, JPY, Euros AND whatever other currencies in your possession: In a couple of days the SLR will appreciate exponentially. 10% for me for the tip-off!

    • 1
      0

      Pygs,
      Thanks for the tip.
      But what do I do with the few rupees that I collect?
      I am not even a New Year’s party-goer!
      Also the deterioration of the rupee will catch up by mid 2019.

  • 1
    0

    Dear Professor Hoole,
    .
    I saw this heart warming article of yours at 2.00 a.m. on Tuesday, the 4th.
    .
    This is the third response I’m making to it, but there seem to be some gremlin preventing it.
    .
    Shall elaborate later.

  • 0
    1

    The Hoole has to understand that Ceylonese and Sri Lankan was oldest country vote to elected their represtattives system of Democracy since 1931. We won universal Franchise 86 years ago.
    Is that Hoole want to be suppressed Right to Vote of electing their members of House is origin of function of govt. last several decades >

    We are regret that Hoole has been an appoinmented Members of Election by Ranil Wicks of UNP leader is that greatest cataspory for the history of Principle of Democracy .
    While Hoole is having different political agenda is not that majority accepts democracy, by and large that his an ideology of political separatism of split Island and undermined the unitary character of
    Sri lanka state.
    If that Hoole back to accepts right to vote is key pillar of sovergerity of Parliamentary Democracy.
    The dissolution of the Parliament is pave way for right to vote? Is Hoole an opposed that ? Why is that ?

    While Hoole has only one option is that he should to leave Election Commission gracefully.
    Being in members of Election Commission, that>
    Do not undermined and jeposidized and Election Commission right to vote by doing hose trading of Politics. It is shameful of his credibility and credential as persons.

  • 1
    0

    Wonderful article for reasons which I laboriously typed in; not much point repeating it all.
    .
    Consider how fast it was written and submitted. He got hold of the picture of the Pied Piper, and based a paragraph on it.
    .
    He also thought of the “mother analogy”; nobody has resented the reference to the grand-mother’s sister who turned up from Singapore, partly because of Prof. Hoole acknowledging that it was tough economic going for his parents who had so many children. A universal experience for our generation! And note that he travelled from Jaffna by train.
    .
    However, what really sets this article apart from others written at this time, is the sincerity and commitment of a man who decided before any others, that he would go to courts on the issue.
    .
    Some Maldivian friends have told me how they were fortunate to have the “proper result” after their Presidential Election:
    .
    https://www.colombotelegraph.com/index.php/nasheed-requests-sri-lankan-government-to-engage-robustly-in-transition-of-power/
    .
    All observers, including Hoole, had said that it had been a fair election; Hoole alone had stated that while they saw fair-play during their three days there, the Election as a whole could hardly be considered either fair or free given the number of people who were incarcerated, and the fact that the most prominent politicians were not allowed to contest. Please see what the most popular Maldivian politician (not allowed to contest) has said by clicking on that link I have given.
    .
    What those Maldivians now say, is that the report of the Elections Observers contains many interesting observations by Hoole, but that it will not be published because they don’t want to heap further burning coals on the defeated Yameen for all his devilish cheating.
    .
    We are fortunate to count Prof. Hoole as one of our three Elections Commissioners.
    .
    Let us see what tomorrow brings us from the Supreme court.

  • 0
    0

    What my Maldivian friends say is that had Yameen succeeded in rigging the elections, and won, the observer’s report would have white-washed the cheating, with Hoole alone standing up for Justice, however much of a lost cause it was.
    .
    Such persons are very rare.> I’ve just had to counter the nasty Kumar R here:
    .
    https://www.colombotelegraph.com/index.php/sirisenas-casual-remarks-on-bribing-mps-in-parliament-sets-off-firestorm-on-social-media/comment-page-2/#comment-2234160

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