round the corner. Everybody is talking about democracy, human
rights, good governance etc. Perhaps they may be marketable
commodities. At least they are good subject matter for election
Though everyone pays lip service to democracy, the gap
between word and deed is so large that the discourse does not go
beyond the surface. Besides, there is democracy and democracy.
What one perceives as democracy is different from what another
That is why our attention was drawn to a thoughtful comment
by Export Development and International Trade Minister Prof. G.L.
Peiris on the dangers to the democratic way of life and the
democratic value systems.
Prof. Peiris is an internationally recognised scholar on Law
and Constitutional Affairs. His words cannot be dismissed
offhand. Let us try to understand what he says.
The party system, he says, is the cement that binds the
different institutions of the constitutional system such as the
Executive Presidency, the Parliament and the Cabinet of
Ministers. It is this common binding factor that gives stability
and continuity to the democratic system.
The appearance of a contender for Presidency from outside the
party system brings him into dispute with these various
institutions, the Professor points out. A party man has the
constant support of the party and its institutions. It gives him
strong links in civil society too. In the absence of such
contacts and support a non-party contender, if elected could not
In the present instance, the Opposition candidate has to
perform a tight rope walk on account of the diverse and
contradictory positions taken by his different promoters. For
example, the UNP is for neo-liberal economic policies as was
epitomized in the Regaining Sri Lanka project.
The JVP, the other principal supporter of the contender is
opposed to neo-liberal economic policies. In politics the UNP
holds conservative and pro-capitalist positions as opposed to
radical pro-socialist policies of the JVP. The UNP welcomes
Robber Barons and the JVP opposes them. On the National Question
the UNP is for the 13th Amendment plus while the JVP is opposed
even to the 13th Amendment.
The UNP is for closer cooperation with the West and imperial
powers while the JVP is against it. The UNP is for privatization
of state enterprises but the JVP opposes it. Even on matters of
culture the diverse constituents of the United National Alliance
It is unbelievable for them to agree on a common minimum
program except on matters of a personal nature, decided more by
emotions than by reason. Even if they do so the trouble will
begin the moment the program is being implemented. What would
follow would be anarchy and chaos. An outsider trying to reshape
the system without the mass base of party support would surely
be inviting anarchy.
There is another factor. The Presidency is the highest office
in the land. One must have good political acumen and experience
to deal with both local and international issues that affect the
country. Just as Rome was not built in a day a politician who
could perform at the highest level cannot be nurtured overnight.
Making of a President is not like hatching a chick. The good old
professor is perfectly right, the democratic system is at stake
in the current election.
Knockout the cut-outs
Rajapaksa has ordered the IGP to remove his cut-outs and posters
displayed in public places. He has also instructed the IGP to
strictly enforce regulations to this effect in the Elections
President Mahinda Rajapaksa is known to everybody including
children. There is no need for such massive display of his
cut-outs and portraits. A pertinent question that arises is for
whose benefit are these cut-outs. In most cases the local
politicians place their own images also in the display. Actually
they are promoting themselves under the guise of promoting the
President. When politicos with dubious records place their
images by the side of the President it is the latter that gets
affected. Such images tend to associate the President with
actions to which he was not privy to or which he does not
They should instead of embarrassing the President who stands
tall anywhere, earn for themselves public respect and affection
through service to the community. When will they learn to stand
on their own without leaning for support on someone else?