Arbiters of democracy
Introduction of the 18th Amendment to the Constitution has brought about
a situation where different parties are bemoaning the death of
‘democracy’ and the birth of ‘dictatorship’. This is because; despite
the fact that democracy means ‘Government of the people’ different
parties have given different expedient interpretations to this term to
justify their own perceptions
Prajathanthravadayaye Malagama (Death to democracy) says the JVP’s
characteristic islandwide poster pasters. The UNP wanted black flags
hoisted all over the
Patricia M Butenis
country to signify that it is black day for democracy. And on top of
all that the US Ambassador for Sri Lanka, Patricia M Butenis too joins
in the fray declaring that the ‘Presidential term limits play a vital
role in democracies’.
Of all the people it is the JVP that has an intrinsic brand of
‘democracy’ that made them stage two armed attempts to ‘democratically’
seize power in this country. In 1971, it was the Che-Quera style
revolution to capture power that resulted in the death of at least
25,000 young lives. Then in 1984, the JVP was proscribed by the UNP
Government (their present comrade’s in ‘democracy’) and hence had to go
underground only to sprout out staging that ‘anti Indian revolution’
inebriated with patriotism.
That again cost the country not only about 35,000 young lives but
also politicians, lecturers, announcers and artists. The target segment
of JVP politics is the disenchanted university undergraduates and often
their politics starts and end in the universities. They appeal to the
emotive crowd because they wish emotions to take the better of human
reasoning. The majority of the people in this country certainly would
not mind the death of that brand of democracy because when alive it
could spell doom to young lives.
Aamendments to Constitution
The UNP has a still better version of its own ‘democracy’ and most of
that was composed after JR assumed the party leadership. Within the
first six years of the 1978 Constitution 10 amendments to that
Constitution were moved and six of which were politically expedient in
character. JR brought in legislation to make his principal political
opponent persona non grata and dreamt of being in power forever. But in
the process he earned the ire of Mrs Gandhi (Mrs B’s best friend) who
hastened to teach a lesson to ‘Yankee Dickie’ by surreptitiously
training the Tiger rebels. After sawing such ‘democratic’ seeds JR
reaped the black July of ‘83 and terrorism for the next 30 years.
Stranded commuters affected by a JVP Hartal in the 1980s. File
Then came the referendum of 1982 which extended the life of the same
Parliament with 2/3rd majority for another six years and JR thus
fraudulently over enjoyed the power that was bestowed for six years
denying the people the right to chose. Then the 13th Amendment was
equally ‘democratically’ passed with emergency and bringing the whole
country under a curfew to facilitate its ‘democratic’ passage.
The 13th Amendment ensued a period of real ‘democracy’ in this
country by bringing civil life to a standstill. Shops were closed, banks
were closed, transport did not transport, hospitals functioned
intermittently and the public service was rudimentary.
The country dragged on in this state almost for an year with about
60,000 lives lost and billions worth of property destroyed with
tremendous damage to the economy. There were two battles raging in the
country and in the North it was the IPKF vs the LTTE and in the South it
was the JVP vs the Sri Lanka Army making the country one ‘democratic
JR’s nephew Ranil unfortunately had no turn at the top to show off
his democratic credentials to the country. But with the leverage he
received as the Prime Minister he entered into a bipartisan agreement
with the word’s most ruthless terror leader calling him the ‘Sole
representative of the Tamils’ thereby implying that he is the ‘Sole
representative of the rest of the people’ in this country.
The concept of ‘sole representative’ could be as democratic as Hitler
or Mussolini was. Yet, as if to compensate for Ranil’s inability to show
his democratic wears to the country he has introduced enough ‘democracy’
in to the UNP under his leadership and as a result there is a mutiny on
board and the ship is fast sinking.
If that is the ‘democracy’ UNP was lamenting the death of, such a
death would be no bereavement but a solace to the majority in this
We fully agree with the sentiments expressed by the current US
ambassador that people in US uphold the tenets democratic principles.
The issue we have with the US however, is that while they practice
democracy in their own country well when in it comes to foreign
countries, especially under developed countries, their actions have been
quite contrary to what they believe for themselves. They have supported
regimes like Shah of Iran, Marcos of Philippines, Pinochet of Chile, Zia
and Musharaf of Pakistan and Din Diem of Vietnam; and even Saddam
Hussein of Iraq and Mujahideen in Afghanistan at a certain time. In
Central America, no democracy survives for long and in Latin America
according to US media all the democracies are headed by ‘dictators’.
This creates the impression that ‘US loves democracy in US and
undermines it abroad. To that extent we have to cast aspersions on the
sentiments expressed by the US ambassador with regard to the removal of
limits on Presidential terms. We have experienced two Presidents who
served the second term with constitutional ultimatums and their
performances have not been satisfactory.
Therefore the Parliament in this country, just as the Congress in USA
passed the 22nd Amendment, has passed the 18th Amendment to offer the
people a wider choice in electing the President. The 18th Amendment does
not extend the term limits of the President. All it does is to let the
people, instead of wordings in the Constitution, determine the same.