Patriotic solidarity to save democracy

Monday, 5 November 2018 00:00 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}


Rauff Hakeem, Rishad Bathiudeen and R. Sampanthan appeared on the same podium with majority Sinhalese parliamentarians, and declared that all what happened since President Sirisena’s premeditated coup is undemocratic and that Parliament should be called into session immediately. In the annals of modern political history, what the President did in Sri Lanka goes against all principles of democracy, and a total disregard for the constitution of the country. An independent supreme judicial body is sure to condemn his action and declare it illegal. The civilised world is no doubt outraged.

It was the Tamil and Muslim minority votes that played the crucial role in ending Mahinda Rajapaksa’s undemocratic and tyrannical regime, to save Sri Lanka’s democracy in 2015. Sirisena, the man who was prepared to backstab Rajapaksa in the name of democracy in 2015, has now backstabbed democracy itself to bring back the one he betrayed, but through the back door. This President, who claims to be a staunch Buddhist, has now lost his moral right to remain in that esteemed office. What Hakeem, Bathiudeen, Sampanthan and the Sinhalese majority have done in this context will be remembered by future generations as an event that saved democracy and freedom in Sri Lanka. 

This is not to argue in support of Ranil Wickremesinghe and his incompetent Government. His inaction and procrastination to deliver on promises he made to the voters mark him the most unproductive Prime Minister the country ever produced since independence. He allowed corruption to rule, the guilty to escape, rule of law to debilitate, and budget deficits to balloon and drive down the value of local currency, while the cost of living shot through the roof to drown his voters in poverty and debt. No wonder the people punished his administration severely at the recent Local Government Elections. However, a Prime Minister elected by the majority should also be thrown out by the majority, and not by a capricious President who treats his office like a village headman, trampling over lives of his fellow villagers. 

Likewise, this is also not to argue against the right of Mahinda Rajapaksa to contest for Prime Ministership or Presidency. What is being argued is that he should seek his position and enter the Parliament through the front door. If the majority supports him who can deny his victory?  

In many of my writings on Muslim politics in Sri Lanka, I have been constantly critical of Muslim politicians for their opportunistic behaviour, status consciousness, and lack of patriotism. On this occasion however, the action of Hakeem and Bathiudeen throwing their weight behind Sampanthan and his TNA, to show solidarity with the Sinhalese majority, is a commendable act. To save democracy and freedom of the people is an act of patriotism, and they should stand steadfast in their decision.

No sooner the backdoor Cabinet assumed power, it has unleashed a series of populist measures in the name of reducing the cost of living. Did any of them think of the impact those measures are going to have on the National Budget? There is no word about how Budget revenue is going to be raised to cover the escalating deficit. Is more borrowing and a higher level of national debt the solution? 

The President also seems to think that by dismissing an elected Prime Minister and installing in his place his former adversary that he has protected his Presidency for a second term. He is going to have a nightmare. True, there is no permanent friend and foe in politics. But the President’s renewed friendship with Rajapaksa does not guarantee a second term for Sirisena, because there is another from the Rajapaksa clan waiting in the wing with presidential aspirations. 

Finally, India’s hand in this coup is becoming clear by the day. How else can one explain Subramanian Swamy advising Sampanthan to join hands with Rajapaksa, in the interest of the Tamil community? How will China react to this drama is another story for another time.               

Sri Lanka has a proud history of engineering peaceful political changes and respect for democracy and justice. That comes from its pluralist culture. Let that glorious past not be ruined by a Gamarala President.

Dr. Ameer Ali, School of Business and Governance, Murdoch University, Western Australia


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