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.
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.