Subscribe

Hypocrisy in the name of Democracy

2018-11-08 00:00:20
0
982

 

This was a poster or rather sentiments that appeared to be popular at the demonstration in Kollupitiya last week following President Maithripala Sirisena’s decision to sack Ranil Wickremesinghe and appoint Mahinda Rajapaksa as Prime Minister.   

Hafeel Farisz posted an interesting rejoinder on Facebook: ‘Why haven’t the “ democracy “ activists called for an election yet? If they weren’t there for Ranil but for democracy, then this really should be the call no? ‘HOLD THE DAMN ELECTION NOW - PARLIAMENT IS HORSE TRADING’ should’ve been the slogan innit? Or am I reading democracy wrong?   

One of the better definitions of democracy is that it refers to ‘a government in which the supreme power is vested in the people and exercised by them directly or indirectly through a system of representation usually involving periodically held free elections.’ And yet, this definition does not speak to the political economy in which the democratic process unfolds. For example, we know that people have to vote only for those who actually contest, and candidacy is not a squeaky clean matter. Only a certain kind of person can contest or rather only a certain kind of person has a good chance of winning. There are exceptions, but this is the rule.   

Different countries have different systems where representation is obtained. The United States of America, for example, selects rather than elects its Presidents. There are other realities which rebel against the fundamental tenets of a sound democratic process best exemplified by the outright robbery that took place in the 2000 US Presidential Election. Malcolm X saw this early. Well, it was not a secret as far as African Americans and other non-white peoples in that country were concerned. Malcolm X didn’t mince his words: ‘This is American democracy and those of you who are familiar with it know that in America, democracy is hypocrisy.’   

More caustic was the following observation which factored in the reality of an uneven, unequal and unjust polity: ‘Democracy is an exercise in which the majority of people choose the sauce with which they are to be eaten’.

Nevertheless, ‘democracy’ is the word in the streets. To put it more accurately, ‘democracy is the word in the Opposition Street.’ Democracy does not begin when parliament is dissolved and does not end when results are announced. However, since it’s representation through elections that’s being talked of it is good to think about how democracy has been played (and ignored) over the years.   

When the first post-Independence elections were held, the Father of the Nation, so-called, stood at the ballot box with a club in hand ‘to protect democracy’. Intimidation, tampering with ballot-boxes and such became part of the story thereafter. And yet on that occasion and thereafter whenever democracy came under threat or was subverted, the beneficiaries and their loyalists were quiet for the most part. Many have to say ‘sorry’. Indeed it would be possible to come up with a list of the ‘sorrowful’ IF remorse was part of their civic make-up.   

 

Democracy does not begin when parliament is dissolved and does not end when results are announced

 

Note: For reasons of space, we will not detail abuse that’s common such as intimidation of voters, violence against opponents, misuse of state resources etc., and we shall leave out the ‘squeaky clean’ gurus of Democracy and Decency in the International Community who are no different from the kinds of people mentioned below. We will not talk of those for whom extrajudicial killing of thousands upon thousands in the eighties was ok. We will not talk of those for whom similar excesses in the North and East during the war against terrorism was ok. We won’t talk of those who uttered not a word when the LTTE blew up buses, trains and carried out suicide attacks on civilians].   

So, here goes: the COLLECTIVE APOLOGY TO DEMOCRACY.   

‘Those of us who knew of D.S. Senanayake’s strange notions of democracy and were silent…   

‘Those of us who were silent when Mrs Sirimavo Bandaranaike abused parliamentary numbers and constitutional provisions in 1975 to extend the life of Parliament by two years, are sorry. Democracy, please forgive us.   

‘Those of us who were silent, on account of political loyalty, when J.R. Jayewardene and the United National Party promulgated the Second Republican Constitution in 1978 which is widely recognized as being responsible for much of the democratic deficits on account of which there’s been much suffering, are sorry. 

Democracy, please forgive us. Forgive us also for silence over the skulduggery and horrendous violation of basic democratic principles in the Referendum and Presidential Election of 1982.   

‘Those of us who were silent, on account of political loyalty, when the Constitution was amended no less than 16 times during the J.R. Jayewardena years, mostly for partisan reasons, including the 13th Amendment that gave credence to Eelamist myth-modeling among other tragedies…   

‘Those of us who were silent, on account of political loyalty, when the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) warned that the first person who dared vote at each polling station in the various elections held in 1988 and 1989 would be shot dead and did in fact shoot hundreds…   

‘Those of us who were silent, on account of political loyalty, when the Chandrika Kumaratunga regime orchestrated a move to get Chief Justice Sarath N Silva to facilitate crossovers in Parliament…   

‘Those of us who were silent when a group of Parliamentarians crossed over to the UNP in 2001, thereby tilting numbers against the elected government…   

‘Those of us who were silent, on account of political loyalty, regarding the flaws of the well-intentioned 17th Amendment in 2001…   

‘Those of us who were silent, on account of political loyalty, when the United National Front (UNF) Government of Ranil Wickremesinghe, with the support of President Kumaratunga, bypassed Parliament and the people to sign an agreement with the LTTE in February 2001…   

‘Those of us who were silent, on account of political loyalty, President Kumaratunga took over three key ministries and thereby scuttled the UNF Government in 2003…   

‘Those of us who were silent, on account of political loyalty, when Mahinda Rajapaksa introduced and got Parliament to pass the patently anti-democracy 18th Amendment in September 2010…   

‘Those of us who were silent, on account of political loyalty, in all party elections under constitutions that favored the particular leader, especially that of the United National Party…   

‘Those of us who were silent Those of us who were silent, on account of political loyalty, when President Sirisena appointed Ranil Wickremesinghe as Prime Minister in January 2015 when, at that time, he commanded a parliamentary strength of only a little over 40…   

‘Those of us who were silent, on account of political loyalty, when parliamentarians of the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) expressed support to the Yahapalana Government, again in January 2015…   

‘Those of us who were silent, on account of political loyalty, when the Yahapalana Government Sirisena and Wickremesinghe in April 2015 promulgated the horrendously flawed 19th Amendment and especially the deliberately vaguely-worded term ‘National Government’ which is at the heart of the current political and constitutional imbroglio…   

‘Those of us who were silent, on account of political loyalty, when the Yahapalana Government dissolved Parliament in June 2015 to stop the damning COPE report on the Central Bank bond scam was to be presented to Parliament…   

‘Those of us who were silent, on account of political loyalty, when President Sirisena arbitrarily sacked the Secretaries of the SLFP and the United People’s Freedom Alliance (UPFA), appointed loyalists in their place and effectively crucified the relevant Central Committees through a court order days before the General Election in 2015…   

‘Those of us who were silent, on account of political loyalty, when President Sirisena arbitrarily sacked Ranil Wickremesinghe and appointed Mahinda Rajapaksa as Prime Minister on October 26, 2018…   

‘Those of us who were silent when Ranil Wickremesinghe (on behalf of the UNP) and Maithripala Sirisena (on behalf of the SLFP) postponed local government elections and provincial council elections…   

‘All of us, without exception, individually and collectively, are sorry. Sorry, democracy, we have abused your name, we have ranted and raved about you being violated only when we found ourselves at the receiving end of villainy and were silent and indeed not averse to cheering when such violence benefited the camps we belonged to or supported.’   

Perhaps every single citizen who has voiced objections in the name of democracy and good governance selectively, can converge on Galle Face Green one of these days, each carrying a placard with the following legend: ‘I ONLY SAY “I’M HERE FOR DEMOCRACY AND GOOD GOVERNANCE, BUT I AM REALLY HERE FOR ’.   

Bottom line, if you are serious about democracy, you just cannot be a hypocrite. It just sounds stupid.   

Malinda Seneviratne is a political analyst and freelance writer. malindasenevi@gmail.com. www.malindawords.blogspot.com     


  Comments - 0

Add comment

Comments will be edited (grammar, spelling and slang) and authorized at the discretion of Daily Mirror online. The website also has the right not to publish selected comments.
Name is required

Email is required
Comment cannot be empty