US President Joe Biden
- Challenges to sustain democracy and freedom
By the Patriot
Democracy and freedom at most times are privileges for citizens which are generally intangible until it is taken over by evil forces. No, I am not talking about Myanmar or its brutal military dictatorship that is crushing freedom and human rights of the people of that country.
We in Sri Lanka has had a roller coaster ride until 2009 even with a brutal war enjoying the freedom of expression and human rights except for short periods in the early 1970s and late 1980s. However, since the end of the war, Asia’s oldest democracy instead of further strengthening its democratic values and institutions, started showing signs of authoritarianism and strong-arm tactics challenging freedom of expression.
With the greatest difficulty and challenges, in 2015 people of Sri Lanka back again moved towards establishing constitutional reforms to bring back and strengthen democratic rule of law.
However, certain forces continued to destabilise the reforms process and were adamant to change transparent and accountable governance and used tools such as nationalism and religion to undermine freedom and democracy.
This fundamental failure is not only the people’s failure but the actions of former President Maithripala Sirisena and former Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe. They both forgot the people’s mandate, though they did certain reforms, they could not sustain it and explain to the people the values of freedom and democracy through a new constitution.
Communication failure and in-fighting fell to the forces of nationalism and religion fuelled with the Easter bombings to change the landscape of Sri Lanka once again into an autocratic model and only to be a country that is a non-aligned neutral nation by lip service.
Although democracy was born in Greece, we all know that today the free world and democratic principles are led by the people of United States of America. We do have a multipolar world today, but with the rise of China as an economic and a military power, the world is also seeing an administrative invasion into countries where China is pumping and investing hard and soft infrastructure to showcase economic growth through debt with long-term political ambitions.
The China way
We all know that while China adopted a market driven economy in 1978 with support of the US, it never gave up on its political structure to democratise or expand freedom to its citizens on the governance side of politics. In fact, Hong Kong now sees its vibrant democracy coming under reversal and a Chinese model of governance being established.
The strategy of China cannot be a surprise. It does what it knows best. It does not believe in freedom of expression or democratic rule, but it wants friends to access markets and resources. Therefore, it obliviously wants its allies to be a similar model and its strategy is to gradually but in a friendly manner to conquer world power through this model of political influence.
Sri Lanka is one of the key but a small island that this strategy is being clearly experimented upon. Today it is openly announced that the governing party of Sri Lanka the SLPP will be linking with the communist party of China to build bridges in administration models.
Knowingly or unknowingly many of the population who opposed the J.R. Jayewardene Constitution of 1978 that excessively had constitutional powers to a single person, after 40 years renewed and voted back the same system along with a country tilting towards dependency on China. This is an ideal mix for Chinese administrators to further strengthen the foot hold on the Indian Ocean island. This is more than evident with the draft of the PORT CITY law that is being challenged in the Supreme Court.
The Port City law excludes the political geography of the country by purposefully removing Municipal, Provincial and the Parliament from its governance structure, which is once again handed over to only the Executive branch of Government, indirectly removing the Legislature and the Judiciary. This clearly exceeds 1978 J.R. Jayewardene Constitution. It is an extension of Hong Kong to the Indian Ocean.
It will be a test on democracy in a faraway island from Beijing on its long-term strategy of Belt and Road, strangle hold through its dragon identity. Can one call the Port City a part of the ‘Democratic, Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka’ as we have defined the country in the Constitution? Certainly, it is a backward step to the freedom we got from the British in 1948 and a new order of third country intervention of the sovereignty beyond business economic zone.
US has a role to play
Sitting on all this, the leader of free world and democracy has been far less active. In fact, its communication strategy to the free world has been extremely poor to say the least as the Trump administration misunderstood and underestimated the challenges faced by the new order placed by China through its economic dominance slowly entering democratic nations and spreading its influence with a long-term eye of becoming the global superpower.
The experiments that are going on where a tiny island like Sri Lanka can be the virus that would wipe out freedom and democracy around the world and unknowingly US might see that the same values will be attempted to be planted in the US too.
The United States of America is being perceived by Chinese allies as an evil force, simply because those rulers are not questioned on transparency, rule of law, justice, and human rights, elections etc. by China. This makes a comfortable tool for nationalists to work against the free world and democracy itself.
It is time that the US realises that the US itself will be under threat of these unknown, unseen governance force conquering the world. The day that freedom of expression, speech is lost then only people will realise the value of the Greek origin modernised way of life which we call the “West” today.
The United States of America has a duty to support democratic forces around the world with financial assistance to re-establish strong democratic institutions and support develop public communication strategies to counter the enemies of freedom at the cost of few people who gain economic benefits out of the controlled model.
Theoretically the free world still accounts for well over 65% of global economy and two-third of the global population. The US cannot afford to ignore this strength, but at the same time cannot be complacent that freedom and democracy will prevail forever.
Therefore, the developing environment in the small island of Sri Lanka although may not attract US for resources, it may be an unforeseen challenge to the free world itself and show the world that Asia’s oldest democracy too can be bought under an authoritarian regime that will disregard good governance, democracy, and freedom. What starts small can be the biggest threat to the world and its people.
Hope this tiny island will open the eyes of the free world!