18 September, 2019

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Why A General Election Is Not A Solution To The Present Crisis 

By Ranga Kalugampitiya –

DR. Nandaka Maduranga Kalugampitiya

There is no question that Sri Lankan democracy is in grave danger.  One of the solutions that is being proposed, particularly by the Mahinda Rajapaksa camp, is to dissolve the parliament and go for a general election. Many government ministers (or, are they?) have been emphasizing this solution over the past couple of weeks not only as the best solution to the problem but also as the only way out of the present crisis. Their argument is that the members of the current parliament have failed to figure out a way forward and that therefore the only way to solve the problem is to give the general public the opportunity to elect a government of their choice. Such a move, they argue, is nothing but an affirmation of the sovereignty of the people. 

Although this argument looks fine in itself, it is deeply problematic when read in its proper context, for many reasons. The reason, which I wish to discuss in brief here, concerns itself with the very nature of democracy. Everyone knows that elections are an essential component of a democracy. Elections are so central to the idea of democracy that, in the eyes of many, democracy equals holding popular elections. (It was this thinking, which the Mahinda Rajapaksa government [2005-2014] appealed to in justifying the scattered elections held during that time.) Those who either genuinely believe in this understanding of democracy or simply side with it and use it to achieve narrow political objectives often raise the question, “What is wrong about giving the people the opportunity to decide?” They are usually quick to brand those political forces that do not share the same understanding of democracy as forces that fear the verdict of the people. 

The general understanding that democracy is mainly about holding elections is important to the extent to which it underscores the role that elections play in democracies; nevertheless, the reduction of the idea of democracy to holding elections, which this understanding entails, is deeply problematic. In representative democracies, like ours, people elect representatives at elections to represent them. Technically speaking, such representatives represent the will of the people as expressed at the time of the election. This does not in any way suggest that the representatives should not take into consideration the changes, including any shifts in the popular will, that take place after the election. In an ideal setting, the representatives should always be sensitive to the changes that take place on the ground level, and their conduct should demonstrate that sensitivity. Nevertheless, it is also important to note that any developments that take place after the election do not necessarily nullify the mandate expressed at the election. The changes and new developments, including those that impinge on the will of the people, need to be accounted for necessarily within the parameters of the existing mandate.  In other words, if it is important in a democracy to seek a mandate from the public it is equally important to ensure that a mandate, once issued, is respected and upheld. 

This, however, does not mean that a mandate should be respected and upheld at all costs. If there is a widespread need to change a mandate before it expires there are ways of doing it.  Many countries have provisions built into their constitutions that enable them to seek fresh mandates before the expiration of the current one. The Sri Lankan Constitution lists a couple of ways in which the parliament could be dissolved before the expiration if its term. Any attempt at dissolving the parliament in a manner that is not provided for by the Constitution is to defy the basic law of the land. In this sense, although elections in themselves uphold the idea of democracy, a general election as requested by the Mahinda Rajapaksa camp at a historical juncture like the current one can only undermine the very idea of democracy. In no way is it a celebration of democracy. 

The crisis that Sri Lanka is going through right now is undoubtedly going to have an irrevocable impact on the democratic system of the country. If the country survives this crisis, the way the crisis is handled today is going to determine how the concept of democracy is going to be understood in the future with regard to the Sri Lankan state. It is going to define how important the Constitution of the country is going to be in the eyes of the people. It is also going to define the degree of seriousness with which the idea of the rule of law should be viewed. When the situation is such, to go for a general election violating the Constitution in both letter and spirit would be the gravest damage that we as a people could do to democracy and, in turn, to ourselves and the future generations to come. 

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Latest comments

  • 14
    44

    It is because you are scared RW will lose :)

    • 32
      5

      sachooooooooooo

      “It is because you are scared RW will lose :)”

      Are you saying Dr Mahinda never lost elections in the past and will never lose one in the future?

      • 14
        0

        This is a very intelligent and relevant input by a person who has understood the subject of political democracy. It is a valuable contribution to consider by a sensitive electorate when it comes to decide which party has the best program of action and the committed leadership to implement that program for the benefit of the people.

      • 5
        16

        Native Vedda,
        Ranil is scared of going for an election because he has gone into the Guinness Book of Records as the politician who has lost highest number of elections in his political career.

  • 14
    0

    when you have born less leader like Maithri. He is better to be village man than president. Sorry to say.Why he is behaving like a child in politics. He must act impartially. But twice Ranil has shown his majority. Maithri fear impeachment. He is mentally unfit Like Trump

    • 9
      0

      Dear Sri Lankan,
      .
      I agree with you on almost all counts. My3 is a stubborn lunatic who’s got certain ideas into his head, and has neither scrupules nor principles about how he achieves them.
      .
      The tragedy is that that he does have values, and unless we recognise the validity of that way of life that he’s trying in his crazy and unprincipled way to safeguard, we are in danger of alienating a huge section of the electorate..
      .
      The guy is certainly unfit to lead the country, but we’d be culturally impoverishing ourselves if we stopped listening to him.
      .
      He, and his son, require psychiatric treatment rather than jail.

    • 4
      0

      Sri Lankan – Pea-brain MY3’s mouth (cesspit) is overflowing and he is under constructive control of the monster, Jarapaksha.

  • 8
    0

    Part One
    .

    Thank you, Sach, for giving the stock reaction of the manipulators. What you say may even be true.
    .
    That is just the reason why such an election would be in every way wrong. It would represent an effort to dishonestly sway the electorate with short-term benefits to dupe the gullible.
    .
    The best known experiment of direct democracy was in Athens in the 5th Century B.C. It didn’t last long, and was unsuccessful. I’m hardly a scholar, and details of what I say may not be quite correct; but my arguments are surely valid. Athens became rich and powerful under a benign dictator, Pericles. After him came Democracy, where all the citizens used to gather in the market place and vote on every single issue. This seems to be what the supporters of the SLFP are now advocating.
    .
    Around 430 BC, Athens got drawn into a war with Sparta, which was a thoroughly militarised state; it was a long drawn out war of attrition, rather like out Eelam Wars I guess. And Athens lost. All the great intellectuals were in Athens, and they realised that the tragedy was caused by “Democracy”. It was only the male citizenry who gathered and voted. It was a slave-owning society, but those poor guys never had a say. In some ways similar surely to Sri Lanka. The average woman here is powerless, as are the Tamils and the Muslims.
    .
    What are the problems created by a government of the strong and the virile – what guys like Gotabaya and Cleon pretend to be?

    • 10
      0

      If you’re wondering who Cleon was, he was the Athenian demagogue whom Aristophanes lampooned so mercilessly.
      .
      We need neither mob nor military rule. Democracy is with us, but it should be regulated by adherence to a sensible constitution. Apparently My3 has some legal grounds for acting as he has. Without having had a referendum, his powers as President remain unimpaired.
      .
      He has no moral right to impose his will on all of us. He must be removed, and removed fast. But an asylum rather than a prison for him.

  • 11
    0

    This is the most accurate and sensible article I have seen so far. Unfortunately, people live sach, the previous commenters, cannot understand or appreciate democracy. I guess it is time to have a qualifying exam with multiple choice questions for voters.

  • 2
    10

    Under which rock did this genius come from?

    We have so many Mahadenamuttas hiding under rocks, no wonder we are in a democratic shit soup!

    My comment to the writer is, go back under the rock and go to sleep again. Take Ranil with you.

    • 5
      1

      Queen’s Ass – What the f… are you talking? Why don’t you try your own “Jarapaksha Shit Soup” and take pea-brain Sillysena with you!

  • 2
    2

    Elections should never be postponed! The election we had this year clearly indicates that the people are not happy with the current UNP policies. Ranil promised to change the policies but didn’t change his strategy! The constitution at the moment will not allow the parliament to be dissolved for four and a half year. The only way to dissolve parliament is through a two third majority from the corrupt politicians who some how want to retain their seats in the house! They will never want elections as most of them are making maximum use of their position to become overnight millionaires! We have to have another mechanism to get rid of an incompetent set of parliamentarians. If the ruling party loses an election that is a clear indication that people are not happy with the ruling party policies! Then the president should be able to call for fresh elections!.

  • 2
    6

    DR. Nandaka Maduranga Kalugampitiya,
    “When the situation is such, to go for a general election violating the Constitution in both letter and spirit would be the gravest damage that we as a people could do to democracy and, in turn, to ourselves and the future generations to come.”
    You should have waited until the SC gives their verdict to write this. Until they say, no one else can say President has violated the constitution or has not followed the correct procedure in dissolving the Parliament and calling for a General Election. This is like putting the cart before the horse!
    SC has made a blunder by taking a long time to give their verdict. When AG asked more time to study the petitions, they said this matter is urgent and declined his request. [edited out]

    • 6
      0

      Dear Eagle Eye,
      .
      I have been told by a staunch but rational supporter of Mahinda Rajapaksa that the Current Chief Justice, Nalin Perera, who has to retire in February 2019, is a man of unimpeachable integrity. This he bases on something done by the young Nalin P. when he was a young magistrate.
      .
      DR. Ranga Kalugampitiya’s, is a very balanced point of view. As for you – what is your attitude to the Supreme Court? According to you, what has eternally to be regarded as infallible is the Supreme Court, yet you say that they had “blundered” in making the interim order too fast. So, in one short comment you say that your Gods are both fallible and omniscient.
      .
      Never mind. The chances are that if Sajith is again offered the Premiership, he will accept it if Ranil blesses him, since he could realistically lead the UNP to victory. But Sirisena will not now want him, or even Madduma Bandara. No other UNPer of standing will accept a two month Premiership, since the chances of UNP victory in early 2019 Elections under anyone else will be remote.
      .
      My3 may keep suggesting guys, for months. Nimal Siripala, Mahinda Samarasinghe, Sarath Amunugama, G.L. Peiris, etc.
      .
      Whom would I welcome, other than Sajith? Mangala Samaraweera (who is honest, but lacks tact), one of the Pathiranas – Buddhika of the UNP or Ramesh of the SLFP. They may not accept, since they may have greater expectations – later.
      .
      I wonder whether the Constitution will allow somebody from outside Parliament to be appointed, provided he gets approval? If so Nagananda Kodituwakku, or Imtiaz Bakeer Markar. Otherwise, only worthless stooges, or those who feel that they may be able to lead to victory next year, will accept.

    • 3
      0

      Dear Eagle Eye,
      .
      Despite all that I have said, what would be best would be for unprincipled Sirisena (whom I don’t dislike as an individual, but can no longer respect) ? This Sirisena must resign. He is now incapable of playing any public role.
      .
      The possibility of two thirds of MPs approving a 2019 Election, are remote. We will have to hobble along till the four and a half years are over doing immeasurable damage to the country. Let the average Sri Lankan voter, who is an uneducated yokel (for all his vaunted “literacy”), learn the hard way that they have to take voting seriously.
      .
      We, the readers of Colombo Telegraph, are not the “average voter”. But many of us are dishonest sophists. We, too, have to be more honest. We have to educate those whose thinking is too narrow. Like Sirisena! But they hopefully can be persuaded to show more principle – they don’t usually. They sell their vote for short term personal gain. That’s what we have taught them. We have to educate them, by reaching out, in Sinhala and Tamil.
      .
      So, thanks, Maduranga. Let us respect the Constitution.

  • 3
    6

    Dear Writer,

    [edited out]

    Best solution for this crisis is the Parliamentary Elections where people of the country will select the people who want to govern the country.
    [edited out]

  • 7
    0

    Dr Nandaka Maduranga Kalugampitiya (Ranga): All countries have gone (or are going) through ‘crisis’. All countries have elections and versions of democracy.
    .
    The ‘democracy’ and ‘elections’ in SL evolved over some seventy years. We sailed past several crisis. The present crisis is somewhat unique.
    .
    The working relationship between the President (MS) and the PM (RW) turned bitter. The other day MS sacked RW without trying an NCM. He then appointed MR as the PM. We, lay-Lankans had two PMs. Then MS dissolved the Parliament. We were lulled into debating the legitimacy of all this. Things only got curioser and curioser. The matter ended in the Supreme Court but the verdict could not bring a settlement.
    The Speaker called the original parliament and could only take a vote by voice. MS demanded a vote by names. But this is impossible in the acrimonious atmosphere prevailing in the Parliament.
    The actions of MS suggests that he did (and is doing) everything towards a preconceived result.
    .
    To cut a long story short, we have had a coup d’etat.
    Ranga submits here ~ “Why A General Election Is Not A Solution To The Present Crisis”.
    Yes yes yes.

  • 3
    0

    shit sena should be taken out by the people and done a musoloni with .

  • 1
    0

    Elections are so central to the idea of democracy

    When there is no majority The parliamentarian is not carrying pen and there intelligent with them to solve problem but chili powder and thuggery mode all Political thuggery has gone digital world wide,in future continued intimidating political opponents will prevail.Fame changes everything, Be Humble: Don’t Let Success Go to Your Head.

  • 6
    0

    Yes, donkeys mad hats, all fight to ruin and destroy the country for good. Man, thirty years war cost the people USD halfer trillion, five hundred thousand million, the is 500, 000, 000, 000. With this sum of money the country could have been made a living paradise for the people. So all bastards finish off the rest and make it again the next Somalia so that Shitsena and Mafia King MR could rule for it ever with their band of dirty goons.

  • 5
    0

    Thank you Ranga, you have explained it well. But we are dealing with a herd of wild buffaloes as evidenced in parliament the last few days.

  • 3
    0

    The only argument against a general election is the horrendous cost, direct and indirect.

    Soma

  • 2
    0

    there is no point theorising on this subject lets talk of practicalities
    if ranil continues to be the leader of the unp and an election is held in the near future the slpp will win with a two third majority
    .they are not interested in democracy as the events in parliament shows so lets forget about democracy in sri lanka

    • 3
      0

      The point the author tries to make is that elections should be held strictly in accordance with the provisions outlined in the constitution. In other words, no one may call for elections just because the timing is convenient to them or because it will suit their personal agendas, or because they are in a big hurry to get elected to a position of power, or for any other whimsical reason. What the author says makes perfect sense.

      • 0
        1

        We had island wide PS elections in February. Results clearly shows 2015 mandate is no more. If Ranil or UNP is real democrats he should have gone for fresh elections by now like western countries.
        Current issues are result of not respecting peoples voice and it will continue no matter who governs until we elect a fresh parliament with people support.
        Author knows this and trying to undermine the basics of timely elections strengthens the governments because of his loyalty to RW.

        • 2
          0

          Dear Lekam,
          .
          A major problem in our country for a long time has been the fact that there is no democracy within the UNP. I don’t approve of Ranil’s way of doing things. I’d have liked to see Parliamentary Elections before the Sinhala New Year in 2015. Now it’s too late to correct that.
          .
          I voted for Sirisena in January 2015; one reason was to be rid of the Rakapaksas because I didn’t like the way they ran the country. How dare My3 now impose the Rakapaksas on us. And that without parliament even meeting properly.
          .
          If you want your election early, please get two thirds approval in Parliament. I know that there is a problem with that clause because a referendum was not held on the reduction of Presidential powers.
          .
          Why I want elections only on due dates I have dealt with in other comments. I don’t like anonymous comments suggesting otherwise.

  • 2
    0

    Great Scot, Estate Labourer,
    .
    You guys have received better education than any of us! You have made all the points that I have and more, using only a fourth of the words that I have.
    .
    Thanks to both author and you

  • 0
    0

    In democracy, the reps are selected to rule, for two main reasons. All cannot get together and rule simultaneously. All cannot rule – nor have the ability to rule. Because of these practical problems, people ended up pledging their sovereignty to reps to act for them. The reps represent the wish of the people and the faith they have on reps. Then the other question pops up, in if one’s the sovereignty is surrendered to another to be ruled, which is a never ending process hereafter, how the person who surrendered the sovereignty gets it restored. If the sovereignty is not coming back, it is not democracy, it is slavery. Interrupting a “continuous government process” is also not a solution. So the governments can be formed only for certain years and then they expire. Then people reelect the government while Ruling continuing. One of the beauties in US election is even though they have presidential election; they never conduct any full elections. All are partial and every two years. So the Congress is always a continuous body; Elections doesn’t affect its existence.

    But the election is only to change the reps. Elections are not direct tools for citizens fine tune the parliamentary ruling process. An election cannot be used to discipline incumbent government for not being up to the standard. Further there is no provision possible if the people have come up with a better option in between, so they want to replace incumbent with the new option. Whether the people have “good or bad” options, they still select their reps and get ruled by them. If in one session the people have no good options, they don’t elect only a provisional government and tell them leave as soon as the good option is found. We use the “Ruled by” because the term limit protection on the reps prevents people from interfering into their governmental ruling process in between.

  • 0
    0

    The rule is “don’t change the rule during the game”. To change the rule, new game has to be started. But as the democratic principles keep advancing or growing or developed, now there are many practical methods are built in constitution. There are many ways to dismantle a government. Government’s budget defeat, NCM all is remedies to compensate the surrendered sovereignty.
    Referendum is choice, to feel the pulse of the people, seeing the mass as a single unit. Beyond what in the constitutions, in this electronic age, induvial MPs are asking people to sign up in numbers, (say 1,000) then they will take up that issue.
    Further, these days, minority groups get their things done by peaceful protests. Though the protest is always carried out by a small minority, but it is taken as the people’s opinion. We saw UNP and their partners trying to stage two or three rallies to demonstrate that they have people’s acceptance and confidence.
    Democracy rule can stem out only when the rep and voter mutually come in the same wave length & resonate. Throwing a glass of arrack and Biriyani in the elections doesn’t create this environment. This metaphoric arrack means even the goodies thrown in the pre-election budgets.
    The Old Idiot, believing a horoscope reader’s word, conducted the election two years ahead, lost, planned to stage a coup and was chased out of the Temple Tree House by the Western diplomats. If he is not vacating the power he grabbed by the latest coup, that person has to remember, Ceylon is signed with UN and the West is not going to sit and watch he hijacking a whole country to excessively feed and entertain an indulged life for his extended family.

  • 2
    0

    What’s the point of having elections under this anarchy. This is why the JVP, SLMC and smaller parties strongly oppose the elections under this dangerous climate. Such parties fear not the election result or outcome but the fairness of the election for them and their constituents. If so, these elections would not mean a damn thing under this lawless and pathetic state of affairs when every single democratic check and balance of democracy is being flouted, the independence of the Police, election, judicial and civil commissions are being systematically destroyed and the Police and military is used and abused for political purposes. We experienced the worst of time in this country where even law enforcement and the military intelligence was used to assassinate, torture, kidnap and disappear journalist, NGO workers, government dissidents. Even athletes, sportsman and referees were not spared. We experienced all this tragic murder and mayhem helplessly as the Rakapaksha tyrants went about their family MAFIA. Do we want the the tyrannical rule of the Rajapaksha regime back in this country? To me, the most dangerous phenomena was the militarization of the armed forces to operate as their family fiefdom. Where in the world would anyone find this except in the worst dictatorships in the world. I think even Zimbabwe, Venezuela, Honduras was better off when they had their military intervene to clear the government stand- off in those countries. As Hon. MP Anura K Dissanayake said, there is much doubt that the election will bring an end to this deadlock because elections can be rigged, ballots tampered or stuffed, people’s votes suppressed, voters disenfranchised, voters, campaigners and dissidents threatened and intimidated, the state apparatus, property abused or misused for one parties benefit and hijacking the media and the Buddhist clergy for one parties benefit. Democracy has fallen down the Sill Reddha. Even though elections are fundamental to democracy, the unfair election practices is a mainstay in our Banana Republic’s democracy.

  • 0
    0

    This question of an “Election” depends on the “DECISION” to be given on Dec. 7th by the SC. Before that, however much the cry is loud, it cannot be done. Why? The President’s “Decision” to dissolve the Parliament has been challenged at the proper Forum- the SC. If the SC agrees that “Decision” is “Correct” , “Legal” and “Constitutional” then there is no “CRY” and NO LOUD cry could stop going for an Election. If on the other hand, if the SC says, the “decision” of the President is “Wrong”, “Illegal” and “Unconstitutional”, then there should not be ANY cry, but go on with the present Parliament. I would have appreciated very much, if the writer discussed these two scenarios together with the “FIGHTS” that are carried out inside the Parliament. Those “FIGHTS” are, in my opinion, “WELL PLANNED” and “ORCHESTRATED” by the “Power Hungry” – the “GROUP” who vowed to establish a Government or “Capture Power” setting up dates of so doing for the last 3 1/2 years. Why? Perhaps, that “GROUP” must be thinking if the country is brought to a situation of “No Government” & “No Parliament” & “No Public Service”, that would PROMPT the SC to announce a “VERDICT” in their favor , taking into consideration the “SOCIAL, ECONOMIC & POLITICAL DISORDER” of the country In that context, this “FIGHT” will be carried out till Dec. 7th. Mind you that “VERDICT” is much waited by the International Community ,as that would decide the “FATE” (another VERDICT) of our Legal System and the Democratic set up of Government. At this critical moment, it is best to forget “INDIVIDUALS” in Politic; but understand the gravity of the situation and bring in a SOLUTION.

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