By Sumanasiri Liyanage –
One particular of the main reasons why the folks in Sri Lanka decided to topple Mahinda Rajapaksa regime on January eight was its excessively authoritarian character in governance. Hence, individuals expected far more democratic governance from the new regime. What we realize by ‘democratic change’ may possibly be problematic as democracy is, as Wendy Brown says, “among the most contested and promiscuous term in our contemporary political vocabulary” (Undoing the Demos). She further writes: “In the political imaginary, ‘democracy’ stands for every thing from free of charge elections to cost-free markets, from protests against dictators to law and order, from the centrality of rights to the stability of states, from the voice of the assembled multitude to the protection of individuality and the wrong of dicta imposed by crowds.”
It is correct that at macro level the new regime was capable to implement lengthy overdue constitutional reforms minimizing the power of the executive presidency (19th Amendment) and altering the electoral method (proposed 20th Amendment). These two amendments, albeit half-baked in nature, could have good implications in macro-democratic atmosphere in the nation that was paralyzed by the enactment of the second republic constitution of 1978. Nonetheless, the query remains as to what extent these macro-democratic reforms would modify the basic atmosphere of governance. Has the way in which politicians, judiciary, police and the bureaucracy operate in actual practice changed as a result of these reforms? If I place it yet another words: Can we see a starting of a procedure of inversing the ‘real’ globe practice of almost 4 decades? Of course, it is as well early to forecast what would really take place in the future. But my submission in this report is that the present trends signify not a reversal of the method but a continuation of the past process.
Prof Carlo Fonseka, in a recent article in The Island, has shown that the way in which President acted in the appointment of the Prime Minister and the removal of Chief Justice was undemocratic and contrary to the current rules and procedures. A single might argue that the appointment of the Prime Minister is constitutional as the constitution does not explicitly say that a individual who has the majority in the Parliament be appointed as the Prime Minister. Though the 19th Amendment was enacted by the Parliament, it seems that the way in which the President operates right now is not qualitatively various from the way in which the previous presidents had operated. The executive presidential program, despite the fact that offers huge and unchecked power to the elected President, she or he is bound to get the support of the Parliament as it has the power to pass monetary bills. Only brief-term confrontations can take place, either the President wins or the Parliament wins. What we have seen in the recent previous, especially under President Mahinda Rajapaksha, is that the President used both and carrot and stick in taming the energy of the Parliament for which the celebration mechanism was not sufficient. Party mechanism of the two principal parties had been developed following the executive presidential program. So President and the president/leader of the celebration to which s/he belongs have grow to be the same individual. Like Mahinda Rajapaksa, the current President, Maithreepala Sirisena is trying to sustain his hold on energy by throwing many types of bread crumbs to either silence the opposition or to win their support. The current appointments of minister from the SLFP and the appointment of SLFP stalwarts, Rathnasiri Wickramanayaka and DM Jayaratne as Senior Presidential advisors also demonstrates anti-democratic continuation of presidential system that legalize the method of bribes. Similarly, like Mahinda Rajapaksa, he has been trying to crush pro- MR components within the SLFP by employing his celebration presidency.
1 may possibly argue that although the actions taken by Maithripala Sirisena seems non-democratic by themselves, in the context of prior powerful authoritarian rule its reversal could not be feasible with making use of the identical high-hand tactics. So the usual logic ‘end justifies mean’ can be deployed to legitimize the non-democratic actions painting them as conjunctural. Though it entails some amount of truth, it is feasible for it to be a hazardous proposition. Does the President stand for democracy? Two statements ha has not too long ago produced put a robust query mark on his understanding of democracy. The 1st statement was produced at the ceremony that announced the selection of producing all the private belonging to civil armed force permanent. At this meeting, he proposed that all young individuals should be offered a compulsory military instruction in order create a disciplined society. Following president JR Jayewardene, he praised Lee Kwan Yu of Singapore not due to the fact his achievement in the economic front (as JRJ did), but because of his action to disciplined the nation. This is significantly more that the methods taken by the previous government to give military education to school principals and induction to university students by military persons. The second was his proposal to extend capital punishment to more offenses.
It is important to note that it was not only the actions of President that show the continuation of non-democratic tendencies. The prime Minister and some cabinet ministers have been engaging in old undemocratic practices. The greatest example of the way in which the government encountered student protests and other peoples’ protests. Two student leaders were white vanned some were arrested students protests have been faced by the so-named minimum force. We have witnessed the same in Wellampitiya, Jaffna and a lot of other areas. Some folks could argue that these protests have been to provoke the government so that it is forced to take repressive measures. This is an absurd argument. Democracy is tested when men and women are offered the appropriate to protest. If all are hunky dory, protests are not required, and even a few ‘provokers’ contact for a protest, other will neglect the get in touch with. The Open University has enhanced its fees by 120% last year. The continuous student protests had been ignored. The distinct region must have method to manage its waste not to make it a problem of other individuals. When compared with the prior government, the present government is not improvement. It seems that the police and judiciary as soon as again is applying the same function procedure following the government’s line as it did beneath preceding regime.
The exact same trend can be seen in judicial action. Arrests and keeping them in custody are a serious affair. The power to arrest is a key supply of corruption and taking revenge. Several arrest in the current past provides the impression that these decisions had been not taken only on legal grounds. Right here the warning offered by Indian Supreme Courts appears to far more proper.
In the Joginder Kumar v/s State of Uttar Pradesh case (air 1994, SC 1349), the Supreme Court observed: “No arrest can be produced because it is lawful for the police officer to do so. The existence of the power to arrest is a single thing. The justification for the workout of it is quite one more. The police officer have to be in a position to justify the arrest apart from his energy to do so. Arrest and detention in police lock-up of a person can result in incalculable harm to the reputation and self-esteem of a individual. No arrest can be made in a routine manner on a mere allegation of commission of an offence produced against a particular person. It would be prudent for a police officer in the interest of protection of the constitutional rights of a citizen, and maybe in his personal interest, that no arrest should be produced with out reasonable satisfaction via some investigation as to the genuineness and bona fides of a complaint and a affordable belief, each as to the person’s complicity, and as to the want to effect arrest.
“Denying a individual his liberty is a serious matter. The recommendations of the National Police Commission (NPC) merely reflect the constitutional concomitants of the basic right to private liberty and freedom. A person is not liable to arrest merely on the suspicion of complicity in an offence. There must be some affordable justification in the opinion of the officer effecting the arrest that such arrest is necessary and justified. Except in heinous offences, an arrest must be avoided if a police officer issuing notice to particular person to attend the Station Home and not to leave the Station with out permission would do.”
“If, from info received or otherwise, an officer in charge of a police station has cause to suspect the commission of an offence which he is empowered under section 156 to investigate, he shall forthwith…proceed in person, or shall depute 1 of his subordinate officers not getting beneath such rank as the state government could, by common or unique order, prescribe in this behalf, to proceed, to the spot, to investigate the details and situations of the case, and, if essential, to take measures for the discovery and arrest of the offender.” Note that the words “and, if necessary” have been deliberately utilized, indicating that the law does not authorize the police to arrest in every criminal case. But the reality is that the moment an FIR for a cognizable offence is lodged, policemen rush to arrest and frequently demand funds for not doing so.
How do we explain the continuation of non-democratic practice although men and women count on a “change” on January eight, 2015? Of course this phenomenon may not be attributed to a single course. In fact, the nation was not offered on January eight a new set of political leaders it was the very same group with the exact same ‘habitus’ are controlling the government and the state. Maithripala Sirisena and Ranil Wickremesinghe defended the technique as it existed prior to January 8. The track records of the new ministers have been not greater compared with the ministers of the prior government. The second cause is completely “uncritical nature” of the civil society. Even some has attempted to portray student protests and Inter University Student federation as “provokers”. This is tantamount to legitimization of repressive action by the government.
This brings us to an situation of basic nature. Is there a simple contradiction amongst political conjunctures and democratic procedure? In some context, political conjunctures might justify imposing limits to democratic method if the unabated democracy itself becomes hindrance to expected and accepted goals. Nonetheless, any justification on this ground need to raise the problem what defines the political conjuncture. Some civil society individuals could argue that the political conjuncture is defined these days by growing Sinhala Buddhist nationalism. Even so, this argument does not hold water stronger version of Sinhala Buddhist nationalism can be observed within the government. My reading of the scenario have made me feel that the democratic alter is being blocked by the political conjuncture of neo-liberalism that this government intends to stick to much more vigorously.