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Parliamentary democracy or dictators: the choice is yours

5 July 2018 12:00 am - 0     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

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With the Untied States yesterday celebrating or possibly commemorating the 241st anniversary of its independence at a time when the dangerously unpredictable President Donald Trump appears to show a liking for dictators in countries such as Russia, China and Turkey, the United Nations last Saturday marked the International Day of Parliamentarism. Mr. Trump elected mainly by a white voter base and known to be advised mainly by right-wing extremist Steve Miller, on Monday again attacked the traditional allies in the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO). He demanded they should contribute at least two per cent of their GDP to the NATO budget though he may not pull out of the alliance just as he pulled the US out of the Paris Climate Change Accord and the Iran deal. Soon after he took office on January 20, 2017, Mr. Trump pulled the US out of the Trans-Pacific agreement and in recent days has criticised the World Trade Orgnisation (WTO) which the US itself helped to create.   

After the NATO Summit later this month Mr. Trump will have a one-to-one meeting in Helsinki with Russian leader Vladimir Putin whom he has praised though the US intelligence agencies and the Senate’s intelligence committee said on Monday there was substantial evidence that Mr. Putin’s Russia meddled with the November 2016 US election and helped Mr. Trump to win. Mr. Trump has also expressed a liking for China’s possibly lifetime leader Xi Jinping though the persistently inconsistent US President is also having a trade war with China. Mr. Trump, a billionaire businessman known to have a desire to win every deal has also expressed admiration for Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and also the North Korean leader Kim Jong-un whom he met in Singapore last month and later described the dictator as a strong and responsible leader who is loved by his people. Most analysts believe Mr. Trump’s tweets and declarations may be based on his dislike of the checks and balances in parliamentary democracy and how these prevent him from doing whatever he wants to do.   

The analysts say that though he may like to be a lifetime President there is no way he could do it because the US Constitution -- known to be one of the most enlightened documents produced by the human beings -- prevents him from going beyond the two four-year terms.   

Abraham Lincoln, known and admired as one of the greatest US Presidents, has declared that democracy is the government of the people, for the people and by the people. So there is no way Mr. Trump can change this democracy where there are checks and balances among the executive, the legislature, the judiciary and the free media -- the four pillars of democracy.   

According to a UN statement, this is the first time the world body is celebrating the International Day of Parliamentarism. It is the 1889 date on which the Inter-Parliamentary Union — the global organization of parliaments — was established. This Day celebrates parliaments and the ways in which parliamentary systems of government improve the day-to-day lives of people the world over. It is also an opportunity for parliaments to take stock, identify challenges and ways to address them effectively.   

In Sri Lanka we saw to a large extent the restoration of parliamentary democracy in 2015 with the 19th Amendment substantially reducing the powers of the Executive President. But almost three years after the August 2015 Parliamentary election what we see today is an unstable situation if not a muddle with MPs going here, there and sometimes nowhere.   

If we could have MPs who have the inner gift of honesty and integrity and the spirit of serving the people sincerely, sacrificially and selflessly then only would we have real parliamentary democracy with a just, fair and all inclusive society. There is a long long way to go, but for the sake of the country and the people especially the next generation, we hope we could do so though unfortunately a religious leader recently suggested even a Hitler-type dictator to run the country.   

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