Protect democracy

Thursday, 22 August 2013 00:00 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

Clashes between candidates were expected far before the election dates were even announced and these predictions have come true, showing yet another disappointing trait of Sri Lanka’s ‘democracy’. On a Poya day, the National Workers’ Union (NWU) alleged that its political offices in Hatton, Norwood, Bogawanthalawa and Talawakelle had come under attack in the wake of clashes between its supporters and members of the Ceylon Workers Congress (CWC), at the Commercial Junction in Kotagala. Readers will no doubt know that the CWC and NWU are both constituent parties of the United People’s Freedom Alliance (UPFA), led by President Mahinda Rajapaksa. NWU Leader P. Digambaram had told the media that the gang responsible for the attack on the main office consisted of about 200 goons and this is not the only incident to have taken place since campaigning began last month. An NWU organiser was also stabbed in a related fight on the same day. The Police said that anti-riot squad personnel had fired warning shots to disperse the mob and subsequently four persons had been arrested. Candidates are freewheeling through electorates abusing State property, using illegal vehicles and enjoying a ridiculous level of impunity. Matters are no better elsewhere. Election monitors on Monday called on the political leadership to prevent candidates from attending events organised by the security forces after UPFA candidate for the northern provincial poll M. Remedius was found attending an event organised by the Army in Nawanthurai in Jaffna. Campaign for Free and Fair Elections (CaFFE) has insisted that the Army is responsible for ensuring security and should not involve themselves in elections, which is an intrinsic part of civil administration. This was reiterated during a discussion between the Commissioner of Elections and leaders of political parties, where it was agreed that security forces should not be involved in election-related activities. The Department of Elections also agreed not to involve Army personnel in any part of the electoral process. The monitors said when Elections Department personnel arrived at the meeting to investigate a complaint they received, there was a conflict of opinion between elections officials and Army personnel. Clearly matters are far from ideal and the Tamil National Alliance hopes to raise the issue during their meeting with United Nation’s Human Rights Commissioner Navi Pillay during her much-hyped visit next week.  Events have come to such a pass that the Election’s Commissioner is undertaking a tour of the north but it is unlikely that his presence will provide a more conducive environment. There is no indication that the ruling party will actually worked at disciplining its members, making a long overdue start with Public Relations Minister Mervyn Silva. Continuously sweeping offences under the carpet, excusing offending colleagues and, worst of all, not allowing them to be independently investigated by the Police, have made the situation untenable. As campaigning hurls closer to the election date, more and more questions are being raised about the actual worth of Sri Lanka’s democracy and whether accountability will ever find even a toehold in the entire messy, corrupt and disgusting process. Whatever else these candidates are interested in, it certainly is not serving the people.