The Sri Lankan citizenry wakes up to a day to find the country’s democracy feebly drawing its last few breaths; or perhaps, it was already dead, though the people were too busy basking in the threadbare glory of war victory to notice the demise.
It died on the day people stood in endless queues to wave Lion Flags in support of the draconian 18th Amendment; was it the day the Right to Information Bill was defeated in Parliament or when the crucial 17th Amendment was put on the back rack-- one could not be too sure.
The persistent public hanging of what is left of country’s democracy has become a way of life with the present government, whose power seems capable enough to perform what was initially thought impossible by the creator of the 1978 Constitution.
Adding another insult to the fatal injury, it is reported that the constituent parties of the ruling United People’s Freedom Alliance (UPFA) had decided to bring an impeachment motion against Chief Justice Shirani Bandaranayake. The government had collected 118 signatures from MPs for the motion that is to be handed over to Speaker Chamal Rajapaksa shortly.
If a government resorts to impeach the head of the Judiciary whose appointment had been signed and approved by the head of the same regime, it says a lot about the mechanisms under which it operates. Especially at a time when the country is facing the jitters of the Universal Periodical Review in Geneva, a government with a few grey-heads would not think it is wise to raise a hand against the courts of law. Perhaps it was the penance for not heeding to the arbitrary biddings of the government. Whatever the reasons the regime cooks up to justify its course, an ordinary citizen cannot help but feel that by pressurizing the Judiciary the government is aiming to silence the independent voice of the people. Throughout history, the judiciary has been the guardian of democracy and the fundamental rights of people. It was in fact the only solace an ordinary citizen had at the hands of injustice.
Though elected by a majority vote, the obduracy of the incumbent government can hardly be mistaken to exercising the power of people; nor should it be dubbed as safeguarding the sovereignty. The ideal parliamentary democracy which ought to have been enriched with checks and balances has turned into a presidential democracy with nominal liberality. The checks are checkered and the balance is dismantled.
Eulogies will hardly suffice where unity needs to speak aloud. And as history bears witness, silence could be misinterpreted as approval. As Acton said, absolute power corrupts absolutely and the present government is no exception to the rule. It may be the country’s highest administrative body. But the country is not the regime; at least not yet!