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Of that election anxiety



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The article ‘General Election 2020: A Defining Moment for Sri Lanka’, by Friday Forum, published in The Island newspaper, on 27 May 2020, deserves a response.


It is hard to believe that a respected academic forum, like Friday Forum (FF), could have been in slumber, for the last five years or so, unaware of the reasons for the demonization of the old parliament, and for a call for parliamentary elections, even though many of the members, contesting the new parliament, are that of the old. Apart from the undemocratic processes, used to manipulate parliamentary business, frauds and scams, deceptions, economic degradation, from a GDP of 7%, in 2015, to less than 2%, in 2019, within a matter of four years, deals, such as the sponsorship of UNHRC resolution, the sale of national assets, Trade pacts, and MCC, without parliamentary approval, terrorist attacks, etc., are more than sufficient reasons for the dissolution of the previous regime.


Also, the Govt., on many occasions, has given reasons for not recalling the dissolved parliament. Some of them included the inability to operate in a hostile parliament where the Govt. has no majority and in circumstances where, in particular, funding was denied for the payments incurred by the said parliament. The Govt. is therefore well justified in calling for an election of a new parliament that can be supportive of the current mandate.


The more appropriate question that needs to be asked, however, is as to why the previous yahapalana Cabinet resigned after the Presidential election on their own volition. The obvious answer was the difficulty of an ultra-right neo-liberalist Cabinet to work with a Centre-left people-oriented President, whose agenda was explicitly promulgated in the Presidential election manifesto. In such circumstances, it stands to reason that a recall for the dissolved parliament can only exacerbate the issues, rather than resolve them, despite the copious assurances!


It is disappointing that FF has resorted to rouse a sense of insecurity, within the electorate, with unsubstantiated claims, by saying that Sri Lanka will be called a ‘Republic of Sri Lanka, instead of Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka.’ Their assessment was based on the claim that ‘…the political leaders in government and their assorted supporters, jurists, scholars, professionals, business leaders, and opinion makers, express views indicating that they want to bury parliament – some for six months, some for five years, and others for all time’. I do not think any government spokesperson has ever said that they would bury the parliament. It is indeed regrettable that FF had to resort to such unsubstantiated claims, to mislead the electorate.


It also appears the FF is not very happy with the accolades given to the armed forces as ‘Veerodhara Ranaviru’. In referring to the pandemic, they say that the recognition given to the "Veerodhara ranaviru" should be on par with any other frontline workers, such as the members of the police and public service. It should be noted that there is no argument on this assertion, except that the police is a part of the armed forces and the accolades given to the armed forces were in the context of winning the 30-year terrorist war. I am sure FF is aware that all civilized countries in the world support and protect their armed forces, as their services are at the cost of their own lives, and limb, as opposed to other public servants, and they are the last port of call, for any country, when facing dire circumstances. Examples are Theresa May’s (British) and Donald Trump’s (American) attempts to save their respective war heroes from war crime allegations, even though the alleged crimes were in the international arena and not restricted to internal conflicts.


It is unfortunate that FF’s comments reflect a kind of anxiety, or a phobia, against forthcoming elections, instead of an unbiased and professional analysis, backed by evidence. Perhaps the ‘Defining Moment for Sri Lanka’, right now is to have parliamentary elections so that people can exercise their most fundamental right in a democratic government.


JANAKI CHANDRARATNA


 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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