An Orwellian Replay: As elections were not held, Democracy is saved



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By Jolly Somasundram


Two days would be considered black in modern Sri Lanka, one, the horrible events which took place on 25th Friday, July 1983 and the second, a declared election not taking place on 5th January, Saturday, 2019, despite all proper conditions for the conduct of free and fair elections having been met by an independent National Elections Commission. The constitution laid down that sovereignty inheres in the people, specifying a hegemonised triplet, the powers of government, fundamental rights and the franchise. These three were the super- stars of the constitution, all others being logistics for their delivery.


The franchise, exercised in Sri Lanka since 1931, has a long pedigree and a redolent history. It is on par with motherhood. Denying the People their right to exercise their franchise in the 2019 parliamentary elections, the denial having strong support from politicised civil society, marks the beginnings of an anti-democratic creep mimicking current trends in Europe and America. The next round may be that voters would not count but counters certainly would. The non-holding of the election is a precursor of what could happen, possibly ending by rescinding the electoral gains made since 1931. Who would have thought the throwing the Quit India gauntlet in India, would lead to India’s independence? From microscopic seeds, mighty oaks grow. Beware of geeks bearing gaffes!


5th of January 2019, would be a day for ecstatic celebrations by politicised civil society- a catch all term for political scientists, unrepresentative self-appointed do-gooders and media journalists. Politicised civil society seem to have arrived at a faustian bargain with anti-democrats. It is not surprising that staunch democracies, like US, UK, Canada, who preach the virtues of elections the world over, are part of the anti-election movement in Sri Lanka. One is judged by the company one keeps. Never in the history of representative democracy has a declared election not been held or celebrated. 5th January is a day of mourning, for those deeply concerned with safeguarding their sovereign civic rights, the highest of it being the right to exercise their super-star right of franchise The President is the only person in the country who is directly elected by the People and the only one who could dissolve Parliament. He takes necessary steps to stabilise the country. He is held responsible to Parliament and his electors. No other person, institution or agency could extract an accountability for actions of the president, even if there is a feeling that they are misguided: he has unfettered discretion.


The new Parliament was scheduled to meet on 17th January, with a fresh cabinet in place. It was hoped that many of the Members of Parliament (MPP), who brought infamy to this once hallowed institution and, against whom politicised civil society appeared to carry out campaigns. These have turned out to be faux. By not having an election, these MPP have been given a further lease of life. A fake face must hide what a fake heart doth know. The hope that these MPP would be cleared out in the wash in a 5th January election, is no longer tenable.


The elections did not take place, as the dissolution by the President was held to be inappropriate, since President Sirisena, had advanced the election date by 1 1/4 years. (Normally authoritarian Heads of the state wish to postpone elections). The People of the country have now to wait 1 1/4 further forlorn years, to cast their franchise. Far from being ones endowed with sovereignty, they have become political footballs, ready objects to be kicked around. MPP have been given a fresh lease for their depredations.


Motherhood and the Franchise are immanent endowments with which no human, in a civilised society, should interfere. Motherhood cannot be postponed only advanced and under the closest medical supervision. The franchise has similar restrictions. It can be advanced, as happened when there were two elections in 1960 within six months. In 2018, Sri Lanka postponed a dissolution, shifting elections by 1 1/4 years. Politicised civil society, who claimed to be the embodiment of civic virtue, were delirious.


They, possibly, would now let out an Orwellian cri de couer, "No elections: democracy is saved".


 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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